Friday, April 30, 2010

Fort Sumtinorother

The reaction by the nation's liberal pundits to Arizona's new anti-illegal immigration law made me think of their very different reaction to San Francisco's proud proclamation of itself as a "Sanctuary City".

Consider this irony: San Francisco's city council deliberately thwarts the federal immigration laws and not only pays no price for it, but is actually applauded by the liberal elite for doing so. Arizona's state legislature passes a law that enables it to enforce the national law and it is called effectively secessionist, not to mention racist and all the other usual liberal epithets. It's all a very confusing 21st-century Fort Sumter, but this time it seems it's the Feds who shoot first.

Anyway, I can't do better than National Review's Jonah Goldberg who makes a similar connection and more.


With respect to the new Arizona anti-illegal immigration law, I can't tell by this piece whether reporter Amanda Lee Myers is praising or damning the legislation for its apparent immediate effectiveness. You tell me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

By the Time I Get to Phoenix

I suspect some of you were wondering when I'd get around to commenting on Arizona's new law enforcing illegal immigration. Frankly, I was curious about something. Despite all the over-the-top punditry (I always did think Linda Greenhouse was just this side of nuts), have you noticed that other than President Obama, most Democrat politicians have left the issue alone. Why?

Rush Limbaugh today (Yep, I listen to him. Love him, in fact) corrected the premise of a very worried conservative caller. The caller was nervous that with the passage of the Arizona law, we were handing the Democrats an issue. Rush would have none of it. Instead, he insisted that "we own this issue."

I think he may well be correct. The relative silence of elected Democrats, compared to all the noise from the liberal chattering class, is deafening. We'll see, won't we?

Eat Up!

The road to hunger and poverty, if not hell, is, as they say, paved with good intentions. (Although in this case "paved" would be frowned upon. Too modern, too bourgeois.) With respect to food production and consumption, the Left's mantra for some time now has been "organic, local, and slow." But, as Robert Paarlberg demonstrates in the pages of Foreign Policy this is precisely the wrong way to solve world hunger, not to mention eat well yourself.

But then you suspected this anyway, didn't you? You knew all along that this, like most other celebrity causes, was just another case of moral and political exhibitionism. Admit it and start trusting your common sense. Geez!

Crist Crossed

Win or lose, we owe upstart Florida Republican Senatorial candidate Marco Rubio a huge debt of gratitude. If it achieves nothing else, his candidacy will have served to reveal what Florida voters always suspected: Governor Charlie Crist is no conservative, in fact, he's no Republican either. Had not the pressures of the campaign made this apparent now, the klieg lights of Washington most certainly would have later.

However, one very troubling aspect of this campaign remains, that is, the early and sustained support for Crist by far too many in the national Republican leadership. How could they have been so blind to that which to the average Sunshine State voter was so obvious? This does not bode well for the GOP.

Pressing Problems

It seems the Administration's relationship with a previously adoring national press corps has soured. While the complaints on the Main Stream Media's part are apparently real, they have remained for the most part private.

Here's a prediction that takes neither much imagination nor guts: Media mumbling will remain no more than mumbling. It will not make it in any meaningful or sustained way into print or onto the screen. Whatever their differences, this White House and the Main Stream Media share an overriding ideological bond that neither personal nor professional differences can ever be allowed to challenge seriously. The vow of this marriage, let no man put asunder, is that the country is fundamentally flawed and must be radically transformed. Ah, the ties that bind.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Family Ties

Presently down and out, perhaps Bill Clinton's niece could use a few tips on getting by from Barack Obama's half-brother.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

9/11 and All That

A former Osama bin Laden associate reports that for bin Laden and much of the rest of the al-Qaida leadership the strong U.S. response after the 9/11 attacks was a complete surprise. In fact, Zawahiri, for one, dismissing the possibility of a serious ands sustained response, actually laughed. "What happened after the 11th of September was beyond their imagination."

And to think that if a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling about the vote counting in Florida during the election of 2000 had gone the other way, bin Laden and Zawahiri might very probably have been exactly right.

Signs and Wonders

Let me get this straight: The collective efforts of a bunch of well-heeled liberals, helped over the finish line in their task by none other than Playboy's Hugh Hefner, saved the famous man-made HOLLYWOOD sign from destruction and removal. Who'd a thunk it?

For their next act they'll no doubt pool a portion (but not too much) of their considerable funds to demand the removal of similar road signs nationwide, the very presence of which spoils their uninterrupted enjoyment of nature, pure and pristine. Limousine Liberals ride again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Compare and Contrast

There's little doubt the new anti-illegal immigration law passed by the Arizona legislature will elicit mass demonstrations by the Left. In fact, it's already happening with none other than that irrepressible arbiter of national justice, the Reverend Al Sharpton, promising even more.

In the coming days and weeks compare the tone and tenor of those demonstrations with what happened at your typical Tea Party rally. While the contrast won't convince anyone at the New York Times or MSNBC, for example, it just may serve to sway that average independent voter who, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, nevertheless remains firmly on the fence.


The incomparable P.J. O'Rourke reminds us to remain always sceptical about the prescriptions of our nation's best and brightest.

Immoderate Moderation

There is nothing moderate about the moderation of The New York Times columnist David Brooks. And in his most recent piece he reveals as much...again.

I'll linger for only a moment to note how foolishly naive or willfully blind Brooks must have been to the transparently obvious anything-but-moderate politics of our current president. Everything about Barack Obama, before the election, positively screamed "I'm a true-believing Lefty", from his life experience, his education, his career direction, his party of choice, his biographies, his place of worship, his associations, his voting record, etc. As a result, nothing he has done since the election can justly be called a surprise.

But, as I say, I don't wont to dwell here. Rather, I want you to consider instead this telling paragraph in Brooks' latest missive:
The government war is playing out just as you’d expect it to, strengthening those with pure positions and leaving those of us in the middle in the cross-fire. If the debate were about how to increase productivity or improve living standards, people like me could play. But when the country is wrapped up in a theological debate about the size of government, people like me are stuck crossways, trying to make distinctions no one heeds.
In another portion of the piece Brooks calls the perennial debate between those who believe in constitutionally limited government and those who do not, "stale". He's wrong. What's stale is his, and the far too many he represents, insufferably narcissistic pose of carefully measured, "a pox on both your houses" moderation. I do wish he were a little less extreme in advancing that view on the rest of us.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hot House Hysteria

Just in case you weren't sure sure why these "warmers" should never be allowed anywhere near elected office, political influence, or regulatory authority of any kind. Heck, I wouldn't want this guy in my neighborhood.

Anyway, can you imagine how useless someone like this would be in a real crisis? In the movies, at least, the script usually calls for the leading man to at some point lose his patience and slap the guy violently across the face once or twice, after which he'd slink off to some corner to sulk quietly. If only we could be so lucky.

Bush Bashing

I suspect he already knew it, but Jonah Goldberg attended a Tea Party last week and reports on what the average attendee thinks of George Bush. He manages to capture exactly the frustrations we Conservatives experienced with that very decent and honorable man.

When It Rains It Pours

I've posted before on this growing movement to rid us of the devastating scourge of the white powder, crystals actually, that is, are you ready, table salt. Call it "The Saline Solution." When I first commented, the insanity was confined to the boroughs of reliably goofy Gotham City. But now, unfortunately, it seems the hysteria has spread to our nation's capital. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) (In a story like this could anything be more sure than that a "D" would follow each of their names?) have written letters to the Food and Drug Administration urging it to immediately avert this "public health crisis" by strictly reducing the amount of salt allowed in processed food.

What's next? Can we expect in short order the spectacle of the CEO of Morton Salt being hauled before the appropriate Congressional Committee, with him sheepishly pleading his Fifth Amendment rights on the advice of counsel. What choice does he have? He does represent BIG SALT after all. BIG SALT, you know, the one with the iconic image of the little girl, umbrella in hand, spilling the evil white dust on the street for unsuspecting children like herself to scoop up and sprinkle on their french fries. It's criminal I tell ya! Or it ought to be!

Aaahhhhhh!!!!!! (Primal scream) These people come not only come from a different party, they come from a different planet. In anything like a just or sane America, an act of this nature would not only assure their electoral defeat, it would also inspire in their respective states a movement for their immediate recall out of a genuine sense of collective embarrassment.

"You like me. You really like me."

Apparently, after only one year with Barack Obama cast as the new leading man, America's Nielsen ratings have improved dramatically across the globe. And this matters why? Joe Conason explains.

Does this story, and every liberal bromide it contains, grate as much on you as it does on me?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

If they know that...

Today's USAToday headline reads: "Census Response: 71% and counting" If they know that 71% have responded and 29% haven't, then don't they know, already, the 100% of those living in the U.S.? Just wondering.

Fame, Celebrity, and the Constitution

In Federalist #51, explaining how the constitutional scheme of securing liberty through the separation of powers would actually work, James Madison wrote that "the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others." (my emphasis) While more than 200 years later the "constitutional means" endures, I have come to a place where I wonder, and worry, whether or not the "personal motives" upon which Madison counted remain in sufficient supply.

Presently, the Senate is debating Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Dodd's Financial Reform Bill. The bill is supported by the Obama White House and the President traveled to New York yesterday to encourage its passage. The bill, as it stands, is being challenged for several reasons, but the one that caught my attention was captured in a comment by otherwise supportive California Democrat Congressmen Brad Sherman. In an interview with POLITICO he conceded that there were several problems with the bill and that among them was the fact that, "The Dodd bill has unlimited executive bailout authority." (My emphasis again)

I'm fairly certain this flinching on Congressman Sherman's part will be the exception rather that the rule among most congressional Democrats. But before you conclude this will be yet another broadside on my part against liberal Democrats, as necessary as that always is, you should know that I'm actually curious to see whether any congressional Republican will resist the bill for reasons other than those ultimately informed by partisanship? No, it's more than even that. I'm interested to learn whether or not any congressman or senator of either party will object to the bill in the first instance simply because it relinquishes too much congressional authority to the executive branch?

This willingness, at times even eagerness, by the Congress to cede all or part of its constitutional authority is troubling to me and has been for some time. For years, conservatives have complained about the growing power and practice of regulatory agencies to effectively legislate by fiat. Those agencies, empowered as they are by legislation that is deliberately vague, too often simply make up the rules as they go and as they see fit. It is only when they go too far, imposing arbitrary and capricious environmental regulations, for example, and are met with a loud and sustained public backlash that the legislature becomes sufficiently motivated to reassert its authority.

And this is a problem that goes beyond only those cases where the legislature relinquishes authority to the executive branch. The passage of that affront to the First Amendment that is the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law was essentially an abdication of responsibility by both the Congress and the White House to that third constitutionally separated power of government, the judiciary. Many at the time thought the legislation not only ill-conceived, but unconstitutional as well. But it was passed and signed into law nevertheless with the hope that the Courts would eventually rule as such and overturn it. (Alas, to this point anyway, the results of that gutless gambit have been regrettably mixed.)

Why is this happening? Don't misunderstand. I'm not questioning why so few seem willing to make the principled case and argue that this kind of relinquishing of authority is unconstitutional, although that would be welcome nonetheless. Madison's "constitutional means", as I said before, remain currently in place. What I am referring to is the apparent deficit of "personal motives" to resist.

Founder Alexander Hamilton, famously wrote in Federalist #72 that, "The love of fame [is] the ruling passion in the noblest minds." The quote became additional fuel to the already smoldering fires that were questions about Hamilton's real ambitions. (That calumny, by the way, is admirably refuted in Stephen Knott's Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth.) And, to be sure, there is a disordered and overreaching love of fame that can be dangerous, a very real threat to the republic and the liberty its purpose is to secure. But its absence, given our constitutional scheme, may also be dangerous, and most certainly is deleterious to its proper functioning.

Where, now, is that "love of fame", or those "personal motives" that once defined our executives, legislators, and judges and made them jealous of their prerogatives and resistant to encroachments on their authority regardless of party loyalty or ideological fidelity? Have we produced a generation of political leaders with ambitions so small that there is really nothing in them to counteract, or, if there is, nothing with which to counteract them? Is the guarantee of what is essentially nothing more than an ephemeral celebrity, Warhol's infamous "15 minutes", enough?

If so, then we should not be surprised when our government functions in a manner different than that which it was designed. To work as it was intended, we must look for leaders with the "personal motives" upon which Madison rested much of his case. Those motives, ideally, would be noble. But they needn't be. These motivations may be misplaced, they may even be base. But they absolutely must be large. Or at least a lot larger than they presently are. We live in age unfortunately filled with "men without chests." Is it too much to hope that in a republic of 300 million people at least a few who can be described otherwise abide?

Monday, April 19, 2010

What We Learned about Bill Clinton?

Nothing new.

What's V.A.T. You Say?

With the national debt already huge beyond comprehension, and predicted to grow only more unbelievable still, it should come as no surprise to learn that the political classes are searching desperately for new sources of revenue. And I suppose if we could ever believe that those new sources might actually be used to retire the debt, we just might be persuaded to help them in their search. But as I'm no fool, for now I'll let'em look for themselves. (You can speak for yourself.) Nevertheless, search they do and it is in this context that a new, to Americans anyway, term has been foisted upon them: V.A.T.

What's V.A.T.? It stands for Value Added Tax and the short answer is that it's simply a sales tax of sorts, in this case a national sales tax. Believe it or not, it does have something to recommend it. But before you climb on board the band wagon, know a few things about it.

First, as a supplement to the existing income tax, not to mention the other almost uncountable taxes, fees, tolls, etc., that we are routinely charged by government at every level, it would be an abomination. To use the overused, but no less apt, simile, the federal government spends money like a drunk consumes alcohol. You shouldn't give more booze to a drunk, nor should you supply more cash to the feds. As I already mentioned, you simply cannot trust them with money. Giv'em more and they'll waste more. (If you still believe otherwise, then you suffer from the secular equivalent of what is called in Catholic theology, invincible ignorance. Stop reading here. May God help you.)

Second, but in lieu of the federal income tax, as I say, it has much to recommend it. As a sales tax, you would only be charged if and when you made a purchase. Hence, frugality, self-discipline, and delayed gratification would be rewarded, encouraged even. And perhaps just as significantly, the end of the income tax would remove it as the disincentive to produce it presently is. Simply, with no tax on income, then the more you produce, the more you earn. As such, it just might usher a return to what we used to believe, and also say because we believed it, "It's yours, you earned it."

Third, typically the "value added" part means that the tax is levied on the sale of the good or service at the point of each and every transaction. That is, the tax is levied when the producer sells to the wholesaler, then again when the wholesaler sells to the retailer, and then yet again when the consumer buys from the retailer. Obviously, this raises the price with each transaction. But much more important to understand is that YOU, the final consumer, pays every bit of the tax no matter where it was initially levied.

Before you flinch too much at that last sentence, please know that this is the only way it can be. To think it possible for it to be any way other than that, is to believe also in the illusion that is the current "corporate" income tax. Politicians may call it a corporate tax, and even levy it as such, but in the final analysis, it is you, the consumer of whatever the corporation produces, that pays the tax. It is impossible for it to be any other way. (Sorry for the digression. No, not really, you need to know this.)

Fourth, some V.A.T. advocates champion it as a relatively uncomplicated taxing scheme and as such, much less susceptible to political meddling. But I'm afraid that, too, is an illusion. Think about the state and local sales taxes you already pay. Are some items taxed at higher rates than others, or not at all? Food and medicine, for example. The decision to exempt those items from taxation, or tax them at a lower rate, is a political one. Now, imagine the imposition of a national V.A.T. and imagine also that the Democrats retain control of the Congress. Do you think that just maybe they'll be moved to tax SUVs at a higher rate and windmills at a lower? Hmm? Political meddling is inescapable. (However, I do believe that, as a matter of principle, one party is more constrained in its meddling than the other. I'll let you guess which one is which.)

Fifth, and this aspect is the most worrisome, a V.A.T. is a "hidden" tax. What is meant by that? Consider, for example, the price you currently pay for gasoline. You no doubt know that at least 40 cents of the price of every gallon you buy is a result of the addition of state and federal sales taxes. (In some states it's much more than that.) But does that fact enter into your decision-making process in any meaningful way when you actually purchase the gas? Or, do you, like me, just look for the sign with the cheapest regular unleaded and pull in and fill'er up? The sales tax has simply become part of the overall price and in that way is "hidden" from you the consumer.

Can you imagine, as a result, legislators, almost by nature forever prospecting for more sources of revenue, being in any way constrained in their fiscal habits by the prospect of a taxpayer revolt unleashed because they raised the V.A.T. by one-half of one percent? Not likely. The amount, as a percentage anyway, is small, and therefore not immediately objectionable to the public. Moreover, the cost, as I've explained, will be hidden in the price anyway. With a V.A.T. we could end up with ever higher taxes and ever bigger government and never really be wise as to how we got there. I don't know about you, but that prospect makes me shudder.

In his famous Farewell Address, George Washington commented on more than just the proper direction for the foreign policy of the United States. Among many other things, he also offered some timely advice on the national debt and how best to service it. He wrote that "it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate. (my emphasis)

Frankly, that which ought to vex us the most is the amount of tax revenue raised, and much less so the manner in which it is accomplished. But as taxes are with us no matter what, there are better and worse ways to raise them. The V.A.T. is an interesting proposal, but...well, I'm not so sure. In any case, before we nod in agreement to any new proposal, we ought to ensure, as old George suggested, that we do so with both eyes wide open.

Whistlin' in the Dark

If the work of The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr. is any indication, the Left has decided to shift their strategy from demonizing the Tea Party movement to dismissing it. Of course, for Dionne, as marginal as he insists the Tea Parties are, they remain substantial enough for him to squeeze yet another charge of "racism" out of them.

(Pause for yawning.) Bottom line: We're winning.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bill Clinton Speaks

Breaking his own world record for chutzpah, Former President Bill Clinton on Friday lectured the country once again on the importance of being extremely careful when we speak. The clear but unspecified target of his remarks were those thousands of Americans who attended one of the Tea Parties held across the country the day before, April 15th, tax day. Clinton, chastising them for employing overly heated, even dangerous rhetoric, said that "the words we use really do matter."

"The words we use really do matter." This from the same guy who also said that "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe he knows of what he speaks after all.

Real Support for Israel

Talleyrand, the late 18th- and early 19th-century French diplomat, referring to a particular policy with which he disagreed, famously said that "it's worse than a crime, it's a mistake." While the Obama Administration's spasm of outrage over the announcement of the Israeli plan to build more housing units in Jerusalem, along with its all too public snubbing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent trip to DC, certainly felt like a crime to many of us on the Right. But it, too, was actually worse than that as those episodes are looking more and more like a deliberate shift in U.S. policy toward Israel, a shift that is, at least in part, a product of a mistaken reckoning of core American interests in the Middle East.

For years, much of the American Right's nearly unwavering support for Israel has been explained, as well as criticized, as an idealist departure from an otherwise stubborn demand on its part for the pursuit of a more realist U.S. foreign policy. Critics have insisted that a hard-nosed realist calculation of American interests in that region of the world would have counseled the U.S. to place more emphasis on better relations with the Arab states, even if that emphasis threatened its solid relationship with Israel. Why? Simply because the Arab states possess the relatively cheap oil reserves the U.S. economy desperately needs in order to flourish. In light of that, perhaps a reordering of American foreign policy goals in the Middle East is long overdue.

And maybe just that kind of re-calculating of interests in the region explains the White House's change in policy. The U.S. needs cheap and available petroleum and our relationship with Israel sometimes gets in the way of that sure supply from the oil-rich Arab states. No doubt, that's part of it. (Although, I will point out something I've also mentioned in a previous post. From this president and this administration, governing decidedly from the Left as they do, much of the shift might also be explained by a good measure of old-fashioned anti-Westernism. That reflex is simply part of who they are.)

But, in the final analysis, it really doesn't matter why the Obama White House is doing this. This policy change, whatever its origins, is a mistake and, therefore, as Talleyrand instructs us, worse than a crime.

Contrary to the commonly received understanding, I think it more than possible to make a strong realist case for our continuing support of Israel vis a vis the other states in the Middle East. Quite simply, Israel is our only reliable ally in that region of the world. Because of the very strong historical and cultural ties we share with them, we can count on the Israelis in a crisis. Or, and this is almost as good, if we ever came to doubt their fidelity in a crunch, it's possible for us to shame them back into it.

We have no such relationship, no such leverage, with any Arab or Muslim state. Even now, as we wait nervously for Iran to achieve nuclear weaponization of some kind, posing thereby an undeniably real and present threat to our interests in the region, we remain severely constrained from acting decisively. So, as a last resort, to whom do we turn? Israel, of course.

Idealism may indeed drive much of our relationship with the Israelis. (Idealism? Heck, the bonds are almost as sentimental as those that exist between us and the British.) But a solid relationship with them for that reason does not make it any less the demand also of a hard-line realist foreign policy. This Administration would do well to remember that before they make the mistake that's worse than a crime of thinking our interests are better served elsewhere, or in a different fashion.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Empathy? Bah! Humbug!

It saddens me to have to disparage an otherwise perfectly good word, but what choice do I have? With the impending retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the Obama Administration and liberals everywhere are on the sharp lookout for a replacement justice who will judge with the same capacity for "empathy" that Stevens presumably displayed during his nearly 35 years on the Court.

To come directly to the point, not only is the possession of empathy an unnecessary qualification in a solid and reliable jurist, its presence, at least in the way liberals intend it, is an unqualified threat to our constitutional principle of equal justice under the law.

As we all know, or should know, before the law one is neither rich nor poor, male nor female, black nor white, Christian nor Jew, etc. Rather, our aspiration, consistent with our highest ideals, as well as our formally expressed constitutional intention, is that before the law one is simply equal. That at least there at the bar one's station in life should be neither an advantage, nor a disadvantage.

But the liberal demand for the supplemental ability to empathize turns this principle on its head as it not only permits, but positively encourages unequal justice before the law. For them, rather than striving to be blind to it, one's station in life is precisely what a judge should consider before ruling in a particular case.

I suppose I could be convinced to worry less about this if I were sure the demand for this additional qualification were also a demand that it be applied to both parties in a legal contest. At least then it might approach something like equality before the law. But I'm afraid I can't be sure of that because that is not the way in which liberals mean for empathy to function. What they mean, is that armed with empathy a judge should feel compelled to give an extra measure of understanding and consideration to parties who happen also to be members of privileged groups. Today, those groups include, women, people of color, homosexuals, the poor,....well, you know, the groups of people believed to largely make up the governing coalition that is the contemporary Democrat Party.

As disgusting and dispiriting as that fact is on its face, if you're a conservative, it also presents further legal problems...even for liberals. First, how is a judge to decide between opposing litigants of similarly privileged groups, in a contest between a poor black man and a lesbian, for example. Here, his empathy just might tie him in legal knots. Secondly, we all know that the composition of these privileged groups will change with shifting electoral fortunes. As things stand, white males are definitely out, but in a few years...well, who knows? At that future date, how is a judge to decide? Where will, or should, his empathy then lie?

If this principle of empathy weren't so ridiculous, making it all too easy to lampoon, we might more readily recognize it for the affront to justice that it actually is. And if I didn't possess an unwavering faith in all liberals' capacity for hypocrisy, I just might be tempted to despair over the fate of our country. I mean, as I've described them, equal justice under the law and empathy, as legal principles, are perfectly incompatible. Those who aspire to one over the other actually inhabit different moral universes. Universes so different, in fact, that living harmoniously together is extremely problematic, if not altogether impossible.

But fear not, for as I suggested, a Limousine Liberal is actually the only kind of liberal there is, at least among the elites. What do I mean? Well, liberals' tax attorneys and accountants have standing orders to avoid the very progressive and confiscatory taxes they otherwise champion. Liberals routinely send their children to select private schools while at the same time, in the name of support for public education, push for laws that would deny that choice to their less well-heeled fellow citizens. Liberals regularly build fantastically huge mansions that alone use more electrical power than your average working class neighborhood does. Need I continue? When it comes to themselves, if they happen to be upper-middle class white males, that is, I'm fairly certain they'll want a judge who believes in equal justice and not one who embraces empathy. (Do you think maybe any of the Duke lacrosse players' fathers might have been good liberal Democrats before the NC prosecutor exercised some empathy when deciding to press charges against their sons?)

Will their hypocrisy be their, and our, salvation? I'm not sure. But maybe if I were a bit more empathetic.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lesson Learned

Newsweek's Howard Fineman attended the Southern Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans this past weekend and claims he came away from it with six lessons learned. I read his report and he overstates the number by five. He actually came away with only one lesson learned. And it's the same old one. The one you would expect. The one you can bet the rent on. Are you ready? Here goes. The Republican Party is filled with angry Southern white male bigots.

I'll wait for you to stop yawning first. OK, OK, I know. I didn't really need to read the piece, did I? And I shouldn't have wasted my time. Not to mention yours. Sorry. Lesson learned.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Taxes as Sacrament

Yep, that's what he said. Read James Carroll's short Boston Globe column to believe it. It's not a wonder we are so often tempted to think of contemporary Liberalism as a church. But it's a church so doctrinally incoherent that in the same piece Carroll both praises taxation and their payment as sacred acts, as well as blames them for subsidizing the slaughter of Indians and the peculiar institution of chattel slavery.

But, to return to the main point, to understand taxes as a sacrament is not only vulgar, it is utterly alien to the American mind. May it ever be thus.

You Say Tomato, I Say...

Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul thinks there's a distinction to be made between a socialist, which he thinks President Obama is not, and a corporatist, which he says he is. But I'm not so sure Paul knows what corporatism is as he then identifies it with support for business corporations. Perhaps he's kidding. Actually, corporatism has nothing to do with supporting business and, in fact, is in many ways exactly the opposite.

No matter, because whether in a strict academic sense Obama is a socialist or a corporatist is not ultimately important. The only meaningful distinction here, and the abiding political tension, is between the liberty of the individual and the prerogatives of the state. That distinction is never perfect and any thinking person will find himself, under different circumstances, at one time more supportive of the one than of the other of the two defining poles. But simply because the distinction is not perfect does not make it meaningless.

If in the main you tend to worry more over the protection of individual liberty, whatever the costs to efficient government or social justice, than you do over state solutions to social ills, again, whatever the attendant costs to freedom, then you are safely within the confines of the main currents of the founding American political tradition. If you fret less about that, or not at all, then you are outside that tradition, plain and simple.

Notice that I've said nothing about whether or not that tradition is good or bad, better or worse. Not surprisingly, throughout our political history there has always existed a critique of it. Consistent with the perennial tension I described above, champions of the critique were generally more sympathetic to state solutions than they were concerned over threats to individual liberty. But as alive as the critique always was, it really only found purchase in the twentieth century. And over the course of that century, for a host of reasons, that which we somewhat ironically call liberalism gave voice to the critique, while at the same time the Democrat Party came to represent it.

So, is President Obama a socialist or a corporatist? In my estimation, the answer is an unqualified...yes. He's also, and this is not debatable, a liberal Democrat. Each and all of those labels place him at the beginning of the twenty-first century firmly outside the founding tradition and, what's more, a threat to it. Now that is a meaningful distinction. The question is, does it matter to you?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stevens Hangs'em Up

It looks like the Washington Nationals will not be the only nine-man (er...person) DC squad in search of more left-handed pitching. Justice John Paul Stevens called it quits today after a workmanlike 35-year career spent mostly on the bench. Nevertheless, Stevens' retirement does open a big hole in this season's Supreme Court lineup. President Obama, a lefty in every sense himself, has shown a consistently strong preference for southpaws and will likely, in order to fill the gap, call one up quickly from one of the Democrat Party farm teams.

Cries of "litmus test" from the nation's sportswriters are not likely to be heard, however, despite the strong desire to spice up their stories with controversy. While the term was one they collectively developed in order to disparage the team's previous Republican ownership, it never really fit. The GOP, a right-handed team to be sure, was as likely to call up a lefthander (Stevens, Souter, Kennedy, and even O'Connor at times) as they were a righty.

At any rate, the season is still young and it remains to be seen, whoever the replacement player turns out to be, whether he or she will help the team in this fall's (November actually) championship game.

Food for Thought

Behold the Liberal Mind at work. Who, but a Liberal, would even think of such a thing? Don't they have meaningful chores to attend to? Children to rear? Yards that need mowing? Dishes that need washing?

Fellow citizens, unless and until we revolt against this kind of soft but sure despotism, we're doomed.

Chick-fil-A Stock Plummets!

Bovines are back! Well, at least until the commissars of political correctness decide they're not again. Meanwhile I'll take mine medium rare.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

No Choice at All

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned yesterday that current and looming federal budget deficits are unsustainable and the country faces "difficult choices" over whether to cut social spending or to raise taxes.

Liberal Democrats across the country could be heard collectively smirking, "Why there's nothing difficult about that choice." Can you guess what they were thinking?

Reagan Wrapping

I've already noticed a few Left-wing pundits claiming the mantle of Ronald Reagan in order to defend President Obama's new Nuclear Posture Review and its informing ultimate objective of a world free of nuclear weapons. Reagan, too, they point out, dreamed of a world without nuclear arms. This is cynical political posturing at best, and utterly disingenuous at worst. Don't fall for it.

First, at the time, Reagan was never given credit for his dream by any of these people. On the contrary, he was regularly derided as an undisciplined "cowboy", all too eager to unleash nuclear holocaust on the world.

Second, and more importantly, Reagan's dream flowed from a position of strength and the unapologetic and aggressive pursuit of the same. Moreover, he was moved principally by love of country and a profound belief in the historical rectitude of its purposes.

Can the same be said for any of those now embracing Obama's initiative?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Preening as Policy

Along with Tuesday's release of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review , the Obama Administration announced that it was altering our nuclear declaratory policy by severely limiting the instances in which nuclear weapons might be used. Specifically, the Administration pledged not to use nuclear weapons against any nation that abides by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, no matter what they might otherwise do to us. In other circumstances, and from a different Administration, this dramatic shift in policy might have been interpreted as a bold initiative born of strength, or even a grudging bow to necessity. But sadly, in this case it was neither.

In yesterday's post I shared with you an old saw of mine: Liberals confuse self-hatred for selflessness. In that particular instance, happily, the animating occasion was simply an article published in the Canadian press about the silly consequences of political correctness for that country. Well, my adage holds true, but unfortunately the occasion here is far more serious.

Let me be crystal clear, the twisted rationale for the new policy is precisely this: The United States is a morally culpable nation, guilty for the mere possession of nuclear weapons, even more so for the large numbers. Forswearing the use of them in all but the most severely limited circumstances is an act of penance for the country's innumerable sins. Pledging this publicly and with great fanfare is an instance of moral preening. "I'm a sinner, look at me. I'm asking for forgiveness, look at me. I'm beating myself with a whip, look at me." There is only one word to describe this behaviour. Sick.

You read that correctly, our new policy is chiefly a symptom of a suicidal sickness. It is weak, it invites contempt, and it encourages the very challenge the former policy was designed to deter and to deny. God help us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Great White Supremacist North

An adage of mine (I have so many) is that liberals confuse self-hatred for selflessness. Hence, hating their country, their culture, their religion, their class, and, in this case, their race is a sure sign of their moral superiority. As a result, it's almost impossible to convince them otherwise. And, frankly, a waste of time as well.

Anyway, somehow I missed it, but it would appear that Canada is a white supremacist country after all. Read this piece (if you can bear it) in which the truth of my adage dawns on one very guilty white male Canadian.

As it is impossible to engage the adherents of political correctness in rational argument, I have become convinced that the only proper response is mockery.

The Butler Did It

Many thanks to the little school that could. Hailing from the Tar Heel State, I had to root for Duke. (I do note, however, that there are many here who think Duke is not a North Carolina school, but rather a school which happens to be located in NC.) But over-achieving Butler made this one of the more enjoyable tournaments to watch in a very long time. (Except, of course, last year's when UNC won it all.) Nevertheless, congratulations all around!

Top-Down Feminism

Sorry, but this was irresistible. The organizer of the demonstration was quoted as being "enraged" by the disproportionately large male turnout. At any rate, confusion abounds. I thought maybe they were protesting global warming. One thing for sure, the unemployment numbers in Portland apparently remain quite high.

Picture This

Once again, the Smart Set fails to pick up the tab.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Again, Why are We in Afghanistan?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has complained again about U.S. interference in Afghan affairs, at one point even threatening to join the Taliban resistance as a consequence. As frustrating as Karzai's posturing is to American policymakers and military leaders, it does serve an important purpose nevertheless: It forces us to ask ourselves again, why, exactly, are we in Afghanistan?

That is, why are 100,000 or so American troops posted to this otherwise godforsaken corner of the globe? Is it because that's chiefly where al qaeda is located? If so, is our objective to frustrate al qaeda there and in Pakistan or to destroy it altogether? Insofar as the Taliban supports al qaeda, is it to frustrate and/or destroy it as well? Is winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people essential to either of these efforts? If so, is Hamid Karzai the right man to assemble and assure that public support? Might some other fellow be better suited? Or, perhaps, none at all?

These questions and more need to be asked and answered again and again. And especially so when our presence in Afghanistan is challenged in the manner done so by the current Afghan president. Confronted by what is at the very least an expression of profound ingratitude on Karzai's part, we in the U.S. have a tendency to react by considering whether or not it might be best if we were to effectively take our ball and go home. And that kind of sentiment is even more likely to be expressed if we have come to think that our chief purpose in Afghanistan is to somehow bring a better life to those unfortunate people.

Is that why we're there, to save the Afghan people? I think not. Our continued presence in Afghanistan can, and must, be justified only by a hard-headed appeal to American interests first. Can it be justified by such an appeal? I think so. And if so, then whether or not the Afghan president appreciates our efforts in his country is only important insofar as it helps or hinders those efforts.

This kind of clear thinking is even more important when we are led by a liberal administration. The old saw is that liberals can only feel good about American foreign interventions when they can convince themselves that no vital national interests are at stake. For them, the presence of vital interests somehow sullies the endeavor, making it less noble, less pure. That purity of intention is what they believe will make the world, and especially the people of the country in which we are intervening, not only understand, but actually cheer the intervention.

It's ridiculously naive, I know, but it's the way many of them think. But more to the point, one very serious disadvantage to this kind of thinking is that can lead to an overly emotional reaction when challenged. When charged that the U.S. is not so noble after all, liberal thinking will too often encourage one of two responses. Our national psyche wounded by the allegation, a liberal may be tempted to pursue ever more extravagant gestures to demonstrate the purity of our intentions, hoping thereby to placate Karzai and his minions. Or, provoked to indignation by the accusation, it may prompt him to stubbornly reassert our essential national innocence and effectively, as I say, take our ball and go home. Neither response is likely to be the wisest course for the country.

A far wiser course is likely to be the one suggested by our very first president, who, when he said farewell, advised that we should always pursue a position in which "we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel." Interests first. The rest is distraction.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thank God it's Good Friday

Enough politics already! (Well, at least enough for now.)

As you know, today is Good Friday. That deliberately ironic phrase is understood and celebrated by Christians around the world. If you don't understand it, I beg you to investigate. You'll be richly, perhaps even eternally, rewarded. Among the many good places to start is with a short reflection on the day's meaning and more by Quin Hillyer over at The American Spectator.

While I can't add much to Hillyer's piece, I would like nevertheless to pause and probe the meaning of the day from a different angle.

I am a big fan of the work of the writer Cormac McCarthy. While you may not be familiar with either him or his work, three of his novels have been made into motion pictures: All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and, most recently, The Road. Heard of any of them? The last film was adapted from the short novel of the same name that earned for McCarthy the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. But of the three movies, the second, No Country for Old Men is undoubtedly the most famous as it won for its directors, the Coen brothers of Fargo fame, the Academy Award for Best Picture, also in 2007.

McCarthy's novels are uniformly dark, foreboding, and deeply serious. Whether you like them or not, enjoy his style or not, if you read them you will be forced to deal with profound questions of good and evil, life and death, etc. No Country for Old Men is no different in that respect. But as well-received by the critics as the film adaptation was, if you've read the novel, you were likely to have been somewhat disappointed. (Isn't that almost always the case?)

Nevertheless, the movie does manage to capture one scene from the book very well. In that scene the very evil protagonist is about to kill another of the story's significant characters. It's all very slowly, very deliberately paced. The sure murder looming, they sit across from one another and engage in what for you the viewer or the reader is a very uncomfortable conversation. At one point, just before the terrible deed is done, the assassin asks his victim this question: "If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?"

"If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?" Can you hear those at the foot of the cross, followers and non-followers alike, asking this very same question of the dead figure before them? The former with profound disappointment, the latter with contempt. Was your suffering worth this? Is any suffering worth this?

The silent Christ answered on Sunday morning.

What are They Thinking?

President Obama was in Maine yesterday and used the occasion of his visit to continue to mock opposition to his health-care bill. I've posted on this before, but have begun to think that perhaps this behaviour is not mostly indicative of some character flaw on the president's part, but rather a product of some deliberately pursued White House strategy. If it's the latter, I can't for the life of me figure out the logic of it. In sports, before the big game, coaches and players are typically boringly careful when interviewed not to give their opponents something to post on the locker room wall. Or, conversely, they're always on the lookout for the same in order to give their own team something to get fired up about. It's only seven months until the November elections and with opponents of the president and the Democrats already irate, this can only make them angrier still, and all the more likely to turn out in large numbers. So, I ask, what are they thinking?

Stay Thuned

It seems Republican South Dakota Senator John Thune (pronounced "tune", I think) is considering a 2012 presidential bid. While still largely unknown nationally, I've noticed his increasing presence through the eight years he's served in the senate. He's currently the Minority Whip and you often seeing him standing behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell when he, McConnell, is addressing the press. He is presently seeking reelection to the senate and that will no doubt effect his decision to run for president.

Thune achieved national attention by defeating then Democrat Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004 after having very narrowly lost a senate bid two years before to Democrat Tim Johnson. In the 2002 race there were strong suspicions of voting irregularities that angered conservatives both statewide and nationally. As a result, when he ran again in 2004, this time against a very prominent Democrat, the race received national attention and Thune used that attention to appeal for funds more broadly. I sent him a small check then and have remained on his list ever since. (Once they know you, they never forget you.) The tenacity of those mailing appeals over the years have always kept me wondering about his larger ambitions, and, well, I guess I was right.

Anyway, check him out and keep your eye on him. I mean, who had ever heard of Barak Obama until just a few years ago?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Beyond the liberal chattering classes' insufferable bias that Republican presidents, or wanna-be presidents, are routinely simple and shallow, while Democrats are by comparison relative geniuses, lies a very real question about whether or not what passes for smarts is a necessary component of sound political leadership. Angelo Codevilla usefully points out that absent a standardized measure of intelligence, it's virtually impossible to know how our presidents and presidential candidates stack up on that score. But I would like to take it a step farther and ask whether, even if it were possible to know, would it, or should it make any difference? Are there other, more important, qualities we should look for in those that would lead us?

For example, I'll concede that Bill Clinton probably had high SAT scores. But he also had a high libido. And, as we discovered, the former did little to nothing to compensate for the latter. If one commonplace measure of integrity is sexual self-discipline within the confines of a marriage in which one has promised to forsake all others, then Bill Clinton lacked, to put it mildly, integrity. Was his intelligence of such a superior quality that it ought to have made us indifferent to his integrity? Or, to put it less confrontationally, is intelligence or integrity the more important quality we should look for in a leader?

Moreover, might a superior intelligence not only not help, but actually hinder one's ability to lead effectively? One indispensable aspect of leadership is decisiveness, and particularly so in a crisis. Among the qualities that describe a sophisticated mind, I would include an ability to see, and even anticipate the many sides of a particular problem, to know that the question one must answer is not as straightforward as it may at first seem. But knowing that does not relieve one, if one is in charge, of making a decision nevertheless, of choosing a course, of giving an order. A philosopher can, and should, deliberate, presumably forever. But a leader by definition must choose and act, and often he must do so with dispatch. That quality which would be an unqualified virtue in the former, would be a crippling vice in the latter. Perhaps even a dangerous one.

Thankfully, neither intelligence and integrity, nor intelligence and decisiveness are of such an order that we are forced, by logic, to choose between them. We can, and do hope that our leaders possess all three qualities, and in large measure. But, if we, like our leaders, must choose, is there any doubt which two of three are the more compelling?

Therefore, the next time your liberal friends try to end the argument by pointing out how smart, for example, President Obama is, respond with the not so simple nor shallow, "So?"