Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Byrd Feed

Late West Virginia Democrat Senator Robert Byrd's salary for the what would have been the remainder of his term will be paid to his family, divided between his seven children and grandchildren.  While this is apparently a long-standing practice, why, in the case of Robert Byrd, does it not surprise?

Clinton Tops 50%!

Accomplishing something he could never achieve when actually running for the presidency, Bill Clinton has finally earned from the American people a clear majority (55%) positive rating.  The Wall Street Journal/NBC News pollsters did not, however, think to test whether or not this "era of good feeling" was because he was not on a real ballot.  Standby.   

That's Funny, I Think

Jonah Goldberg has a wonderful piece at National Review Online in which he comments on comedian Stephen Colbert's controversial appearance before Congress last week.  It was controversial mostly because the very people who invited him to speak didn't get it and were offended, or thought they should be anyway.  Goldberg argues that the entire episode was an instance of what he calls "ironic rot."

For some time now, an ironic posture has been celebrated as the surest sign of a superior intelligence and wit.  To aver a truth, any truth, and then wink, or better, to be understood to wink, or best, to be thought to wink, meant you were the smartest guy in the room.  And to catch that wink, well, pat yourself on the back, you're nearly as smart yourself, aren't you?

The problem with irony, or perhaps I should say with too much irony, is that it undermines itself.  Once "ironic rot" sets in, what are we to believe, the truth averred or the wink we think we're seeing?

Moreover, I've always thought there was something fundamentally gutless about the ironic pose.  If Stephen Colbert is misunderstood, or just isn't funny, he can always say he was being ironic, can't he?  We should all hope "ironic rot" has indeed set in.

In the meantime, as a corrective, consider for a moment the person of Ronald Wilson Reagan.  Reagan could be, and very often was, engagingly funny.  But was there ever a hint of irony about the man?  I, for one, would much rather have spent a pleasant evening laughing along with the Gipper than share even a cup of coffee with any one of a hundred contemporaries who pass for smart, wondering all along whether I was actually getting it or simply being had.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Balanced" at Last!

It seems President Obama doesn't much care for FOX News.  No surprise there.  I wonder if Oliver Stone and Michael Moore will soon make feature films about him?  I wonder if he plays the piano in the dark?  I wonder...?

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's the Shoes

I was just listening to some report regarding the Washington state senate race between Democrat incumbent Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi (tighter than the Democrats would like) and the corespondent at one point used the now famous "mom in tennis shoes" when referring to Senator Murray.  When I heard that report it occurred to me that when Murray won in 1992, "The Year of the Woman", the fact that she was from a relatively rural, far-western state, woefully short any national experience, and with no Ivy League degree to recommend her, no one, and I do mean no one, suggested for one moment that she was for those reasons in any way unfit for high office.  That she was simply, and charmingly, just a "mom in tennis shoes" was in fact her chief qualification.

Now compare that with the treatment Sarah Palin has already received and Christine O'Donnell is now receiving from just about everyone in the political class, either Democrat or Republican.

Back to Aristotle

There was an interesting piece at National Review Online the other day titled "The Politics of Empathy."   by pollster John Zogby and a colleague of his.  The article is a synopsis of a study they conducted in which they tested the notion that ideological differences between people might be more simply explained by considering not their geography, ethnicity, or lifestyle, for example, but rather their latent sympathies instead. That is, when you measure the degree of sympathy a person is inclined to express toward something, you can go a long way toward predicting their political ideology. 

They presented respondents with seven generic categories (infants, animals, drug addicts, foreigners,  criminals, homeless, and American soldiers) and asked them to express, on a scale of one to ten, their relative degree of sympathy for one category when comparing it to another.  In the case of infants, for example, it turned out that those who expressed relatively more sympathy tended to be ideologically conservative, while those who expressed relatively less tended to be liberal.  By contrast, when they measured their sympathy toward the homeless, they got the opposite results. (Be careful! This did not mean that liberals had no sympathy for babies nor conservatives any for the homeless.)

While this section of the essay was interesting enough, the more interesting part, for me anyway, came when the authors proceeded to tackle another, larger, issue suggested by the study.

As you might have expected, among the biggest differences between conservatives and liberals was the  measure of sympathy they were willing to express toward American soldiers versus foreigners, a distinction commonly associated with relative levels of patriotism.  Sure enough, those who expressed more sympathy for the American soldier, not only tended to be conservative, but also tended to believe their level of patriotism higher than the norm.  The exact opposite was the case for liberals.  It thereby begged the question, why is this so, why are conservatives relatively more patriotic and liberals less so?

Here Zogby and his colleague offered an interesting answer.
A popular idea among progressive intellectuals for many years has been that of the “expanding moral circle,” most famously articulated by Peter Singer. According to this view, the conventional morality of any given era is predicated on arbitrary distinctions that serve to justify our differential treatment of different groups (such as foreigners or animals). On this view, our civilization’s moral progress essentially consists in obliterating these artificial boundaries and expanding the circle of inclusion. Since we were once wrong to draw a morally significant distinction between black and white Americans, the argument goes, “speciesism” must eventually give too. The same holds for patriotism — an inclination to value one’s compatriots’ lives more than those of foreigners based on the concept of citizenship.
Consistent with this observation, our empathic profiles show a greater range of sympathy among conservatives than among liberals, at least when it comes to groups to which the expanding moral circle is usually meant to apply. At the most elementary level, it seems that sometimes where liberals see universals, conservatives see particulars. In fact, one of our surveys showed that conservatives are more likely than liberals to agree that “different people can be very different.”
That all men are created equal has been the bedrock principle of the Western conception of justice for several centuries. Our system of laws has been designed to treat — and is for the most part extraordinarily effective in treating — every individual equally, regardless of his class, gender, or relationship to the judge. This emphasis on equal rights is, at the same time, the cornerstone of formal ethical approaches: The same rules must apply to all.
Yet there is scarcely a single person on earth who treats everyone equally. Adam Smith long ago observed that even a decent man would suffer more if he knew he was to lose his little finger tomorrow than if he knew that a hundred million Chinese he never knew perished in an earthquake. Unlike abstract moral norms based on equal rights, conventional moral norms put great weight on the principle of not treating everyone equally. We expect a mother to care more, in most cases much more, about her own child than about a random child on the street. We expect the American president to care about the good of Americans more than that of the Chinese. (my emphasis)
Here, I think, the researchers go too far.  While their observation about distinctions between universals and particulars may account, in some measure, for the differences between conservatives and liberals with respect to patriotism, it's too much of a generalization to capture meaningfully many other distinctions.  To pick just one easy and obvious example, as we know, conservatives tend to be pro-life, while liberals tend to be pro-choice.  But here the universalizing and particularizing inclinations seem to be reversed.  That is, conservatives are pro-life because they tend to universalize their sympathy towards infants, while liberals are pro-choice as they seem less inclined to do so.

Nevertheless, what the researchers noticed is, I believe, significant, and it was first noticed more than 2,000 years ago by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.  In Book III of his Politics, in a discussion on the meaning of "justice", the preeminent political question, Aristotle noted the following:
For all men cling to justice of some kind, but their conceptions are imperfect and they do not express the whole idea.  For example, justice is thought by them to be, and is, equality, not, however, for all, but only for equals.  And inequality is thought to be, and is, justice, neither is this for all, but only for unequals.
I can almost hear your immediate response to that passage: "Huh?"  The syntax is a bit convoluted, but what Aristotle is saying is that we all cling to a more or less similar notion of justice, we just don't express it adequately.  What we mean to say is that justice is achieved when we treat equals equally and unequals unequally.

Another "Huh?" perhaps?  While I suspect you have no problem with the proposition that justice is somehow about treating equals equally, treating unequals unequally probably makes you flinch.  It shouldn't.

If you'll indulge me for a moment, consider every public toilet in America.  What is common about at least one stall in all of them?  They are fitted for the handicapped, correct?  Why?  Because those who suffer some physical disability and those who do not are unequal and there would be something unjust about not recognizing that inequality and compensating for it in some way.  And as long as we're thinking of bathrooms, why do we distinguish between men's and women's anyway?  Because at least in this respect we are unequal and in order to pursue justice, we must recognize and attend to that inequality.

These examples are of course trivial, but you can see how it would be easy to produce other more serious and controversial examples.  I say controversial because that, in fact, largely explains our political dynamic, the abiding struggles between, for example, liberals and conservatives.  While we hold a common view of justice, to treat equals as equals and unequals as unequals, we disagree, and sometimes do so with extreme passion, about just how equal and unequal we are and therefore just how equally and unequally we should be treated.

Now, if you will, please thank Aristotle, even if he is a dead white male, for pointing this out for us so very long ago.  Class dismissed.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Politically Correct For Now

For every one person I meet who actually defends the latest demand of political correctness, I meet at least a thousand who smirk, shake their heads, and roll their eyes.  Why is that so?  How is it that such a small minority can successfully become the tail that wags the dog?  No, that image is not quite right.  How can they become the very tip of the tail that wags the entire dog?

You've no doubt seen this coming for some time, but now it's official, we're no longer permitted to use the phrase "mentally retarded".  By an act of Congress--by an act of Congress!--we must now use the clumsier, more ambiguous, but less offensive, I guess, "individuals with an intellectual disability."  Apparently this shift is something "Disabilities Advocates" have long agitated for.  (Stop and think for just a moment about that silly title itself.  Do they actually advocate disabilities?)

There is much about political correctness that gets under the skin of the overwhelming majority who must bow to strictures imposed by an underwhelming minority.  In fact, that's one of them, their disproportionate power.  But another is the suggestion, the accusation actually, that the older phrase, mode, or manner was somehow mean-spirited, unjust, and obviously so.  That is not only not true, we all know it's not true.  As a result, when we pretend otherwise, it grates all the more.

Yet another reason this bugs us is that now, with almost 50 years experience with political correctness (yep, it began in the 1960s too), we know, as sure as night follows day, it'll change.  In some relatively short period of time, "individuals with mental disabilities" will become not only passe, but somehow loaded with the same implications of unkindness and ignorance as "mentally retarded" has today.

And we'll gripe, but passively bow to that change as well. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Coast to Coast, cont.

You can't make this stuff up.  The Democrat Party-controlled congress absurdly invites comedian Stephen Colbert to testify concerning illegal immigration and then gets upset when he recreates the act he performs on TV that got him invited in the first place.

Maybe Washington is not only Hollywood for ugly people.  Maybe its also a place for stupid people, ugly or not.

God help us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Outside In

Since January 2009, with very few exceptions, congressional Republicans have remained nearly unanimously opposed to virtually every Obama/Reid/Pelosi-lead legislative initiative.  Hurrah!  Nevertheless, I've wondered for some time now just how they were managing to maintain such extraordinary party discipline.  I wanted to know if that discipline was chiefly the product of party leadership internally, or was it rather mostly a result of pressures being applied from the outside, from the Tea Party, for example.  Now I think I know.

In her bid for re-election, Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski recently lost the state's GOP primary to attorney Joe Miller.  It was close, but she lost.  She could, and should, as a good party member, have worked to ensure party unity for the general election this fall, but she decided to wage a campaign as a write-in candidate instead.  While she has little to no chance for victory, her move is almost certain to create wounds and perhaps leave scars in the party.  As a punishment for her petulance and disloyalty, the congressional GOP leadership began working to remove her from important committee assignments, significantly to cancel her membership on the Senate Energy Committee.  Well, apparently the leadership flinched.  She will retain her position on the committee after all.

My conclusion:  Thank God for the Tea Party uprising!  Without it, nothing, and I do mean nothing would change.  You simply cannot and, moreover, you must not trust most of our current political leadership, Democrat or Republican.  It is well past time to start over.  Throw the bums out!

Coast to Coast

Either yesterday or the day before, I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and he quoted some "bubble-headed bleach blonde" (what's that from?) entertainer who felt compelled to voice her opinion about some issue or other confronting the nation.  Rush paused and said, "You know how they say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people?  Well, it seems to me that Hollywood has become Washington for stupid people."


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Unforced Error?

House Republicans will release Thursday morning without a great deal of fanfare their policy specific "Pledge to America." And that's what has me worried, it's too specific and it's to be released without much fanfare.

The document, though longer and more detailed, is modeled after the 1994 "Contract with America", which many maintain helped the GOP wrest control of the House from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years. But without a big group photo in front of the Capitol, replete with bunting, banners, and bands, means not every Republican, not even most Republicans, are enthusiastically on board. If that's the case, when the media, not to mention their election opponents, begin picking it apart and demanding to know whether or not they support this or that aspect of the "Pledge", many, I fear too many, will demur. That will hurt.

What's the old saw? If your opponent is self-destructing, the wisest course is to stay out of the way. I'm afraid the net effect of the "Pledge" will be to force every Republican candidate to get very much in the way. As a result, the focus will shift from the Democrats' over-reaching and irresponsible legislation to the specific GOP plan for the future.

It makes me nervous, but we'll see.

The Lindbergh Line

Apparently, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman can't help himself. So enthusiastic is he about all things Chinese that in the space of just the past three days, he has filed not only one, but two pieces praising that regime. If you care to do a search and count'em, you'll find published over this last year many more as well.

Tom Friedman is fast approaching the Lindbergh Line. Huh? You know the line the famous American aviator Charles Lindbergh crossed when he returned from Germany in the late 1930s praising them for all the ways in which they were leaving America behind. True, it wasn't held against him at first, but when he resisted America's involvement in the war against Hitler, Roosevelt remembered and exacted a strong measure of revenge when he had the opportunity.

Of course, even if Friedman ever does cross the Line, he'll never have to pay the price Lindbergh justly did. You see Friedman's encomiums are for Communists, while Lindbergh's were directed at Nazis. And, as we know, the difference between a Communist authoritarian murderer and a Nazi authoritarian murderer is all the difference in the world.

"I Never Believed"

Bob Woodward's latest "inside account" of inside the Beltway is the talk of Washington today. This time his subject is the Obama Administration and from the excerpts I've read, very little is revealed that we didn't already know. The very liberal Obama White House doesn't want, even if they must, to take the, uh, overseas contingency operations seriously, or at least as seriously as do much of the military leadership and as a result there's conflict. The backbiting, the boot licking, the self-serving kibitzing? Please, tell me something new.

But it's out there, so I will issue these two advisories for any and all conservatives tempted to jump at the details of the book and scream, "See, I told you so!" First, our contentions do not become any more or less believable or acceptable simply because a reporter with superb liberal bona fides like Woodward confirms them. Our need for such confirmation does, however, make us look pathetic.

Second, Woodward is no longer, if he ever was, a reporter. He is instead a story-teller and as such, he'll do what he has to in order to tell his story. Whatever light that story sheds, if any, should be viewed through extremely jaundiced eyes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brooks on Books

The "Brooks" I'm referring to in the title is New York Times columnist David Brooks. "Books" stands not only books, but arts and manners generally. Among the several items that lead to my previous post about Jonathan Franzen's Freedom was a review of the novel by the same David Brooks. If you read that post, his was one of the "more or less positive" ones. Anyway, I found his review insightful, interesting, compelling even. You should take a look.

If you've read this blog for long, you'll know I've taken Brooks to task on more than one occasion. When it comes to politics, I've found him to be a conservative poseur, a man with more sympathies for, and inclinations like, those on the Left than those on the Right. And one of those inclinations that I just can't abide is the air of elitist condescension.

Nevertheless, I am forced to admit that several people I know, and trust, defend him still. They assure me that he is not only a good fellow, but, at the end of the day, on our side.

So here's the deal: If, from this point forward, Mr. Brooks promises to restrict himself to commenting exclusively on arts and manners, subjects for which he is undeniably well-qualified and well-suited, I'll give him another chance.

I'll betcha he'll be glad to hear about this.

Yet Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

While I've not read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, there are no shortage of reviews through which one is able to glean the gist of it. Most are more or less positive, but one very interesting exception is by B.R. Myers in the October edition of The Atlantic magazine. It may well be that Myers is missing key aspects of the novel's irony and satire, but his critical approach lead me to conclude nevertheless that whatever its structural faults, the book is seriously mis-titled as well.

In his first paragraph, Myers writes that "the novel is a 576-page monument to insignificance." Freedom's purpose, I gather from both Myers' and others' reviews, is to mock the incoherent, overwrought, and finally phony sensibilities of suburban Americans, people living alone together, playing their assigned roles in what is ultimately a meaningless story. Haven't we heard this cynical tale before? Many times before, in fact?

Anyway, it occurs to me that the banal nation of Franzen's creation is actually a product of equality, not freedom. Even when we're not deliberately pursuing equality in the name of justice, our unchecked drift toward it has resulted in a centralized and standardized country of increasingly insufferable mediocrity and sameness, a sameness for which humans are ultimately ill-suited, and against which they must, as humans, rebel. However, and this is key, without recent practice in liberty, in real liberty with its attendant responsibilities, they rebel in dysfunctional ways much like the characters that populate the pages of Franzen's mis-titled book.

Should I read it anyway?

"Mirror, mirror on the wall..."

So, when it comes to charity work, who is the most "superior" former president of them all? Why, if it ain't that Sly Plains Grifter himself, James Earl Carter, Jr. Just ask him, he'll tell you.

Of course, former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative is a pretty big deal too. And former Presidents Bush, both of them, have worked with Clinton on relief efforts for those hurt by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, as well as raising considerable sums of money for earthquake-devastated Haiti just this year.

So, again, who is the superior ex-president? Well, it all depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. While you, and the Bushes, may be confused by that, I'm sure Bill Clinton gets it.

Hear, Hear!

The American Spectator did us all the great favor of posting the full text of Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence's speech on the Presidency delivered to Hillsdale College last evening. Please take the time to read it.

What Congressman Pence says of the presidency could be repeated about the whole of our national government. We are indeed citizens, not subjects, and we must reclaim that understanding.

Monday, September 20, 2010

And They're Pickin' On Christine O'Donnell?

I'll let this pass without comment.

A General Pain in the @%$

When asked if he still considers himself a Republican on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, a surprised General Colin Powell responded with a mildly indignant, “Yes, why shouldn’t I?”

Talk about out of touch.

In case you need reminding, this, uh, Republican, not only voted for Barack Obama in 2008, he very publicly endorsed Obama's candidacy at a critical point in the campaign, and did this after the GOP nominated just his kind of cross-the-aisle candidate, Senator John S. McCain III.

Does he, and NBC too for that matter, think us all fools?

Fade away General. Before you embarrass yourself, fade away.

Br'er Elephant Stories

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. thinks the "Dems Shouldn't Surrender on Taxes."
After listening for a month or more to the debate over whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts, he shakes his head and explodes, "For the life of me, I don't get why some Democrats are so afraid of this vote."

Why they're so afraid? Is he kidding?

I couldn't help but remember that one old Song of the South. You know, the one where Br'er Elephant begs Br'er Jackass to do anything to him, anything at all, just don't throw him in the briar patch.

If this is what passes for liberal wisdom, we're gonna slaughter'em.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hobbes as a Blogger

Alan Jacobs makes an important observation about and offers some good advice for those who perhaps spend too much time on the Internet, especially those who spend too much time making their opinions known there. You know, people like, uh, Bloggers.

Before I started this enterprise back in January, I was determined to avoid too snide and sarcastic a tone. That tone, I had noticed, had become so prevalent as to become hackneyed. I'm not sure I've always succeeded as it's a temptation that seems to go with the medium.

Jacobs notes that the world wide web is essentially a state of nature where commentary that is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" is not only tolerated, but championed. Why? Jacobs:
I have thought a lot about why people get so hostile online, and I have come to believe it is primarily because we live in a society with a hypertrophied sense of justice and an atrophied sense of humility and charity, to put the matter in terms of the classic virtues.
True enough, but I think something more may be at work. In the real world, unlike the Internet, you face the very real possibility that someone may just punch you in the nose. Funny how something like that can socialize and civilize.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Party Time?

Columnist Peggy Noonan thinks that maybe, just maybe, there's something to this Tea Party thing after all. Welcome to the, uh, party Peg!

After two years and more disparaging anything insufficiently "establishment" Republican, she's been forced to concede the obvious. Using the analogy of a yardstick with the political left and right at opposite ends engaged in a perpetual tug-of-war, she notes that the mid-point that should be found at about the 18-inch mark has slowly shifted over time, shifted toward the "left" end of the stick. (BTW, her analogy appears suspiciously one day after my "fifty-yard line" piece. Might the Sage have a secret admirer and reader?)

But before we readjust the chairs to make room for her at the party, remember that I began this with a big "maybe". By the end of her column, apparently afraid to actually go out and buy a new dress for the occasion, she reverts to form.
A movement like this can help a nation by acting as a corrective, or it can descend into a corrosive populism that celebrates unknowingness as authenticity, that confuses showiness with seriousness and vulgarity with true conviction. Parts could become swept by a desire just to tear down, to destroy. But establishments exist for a reason. It is true that the party establishment is compromised, and by many things, but one of them is experience. They've lived through a lot, seen a lot, know the national terrain. They know how things work. They know the history. I wonder if tea party members know how fragile are the institutions that help keep the country together.
Peggy, protecting and restoring fragile institutions like the Constitution itself is what the Tea Party is all about. Come join us!

The Lust for Vindication

I hadn't heard anything about this for some time, much less given it any thought, but it seems the Left, and The Nation magazine as a voice of the Left, won't let it go. I'm referring to the evidently still widely taught ("used" might be a more accurate word) autobiography, I, Rigoberta MenchĂș. First published in 1982, the book was celebrated by the Left almost immediately and the eponymous author, a human rights activist, would later win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The book chronicles the plight of the author, her family, as well as all the indigenous Guatemalans they represent, during that country's long civil war. For the Left it was a story almost too good to be true as it was a tale of rich versus poor, first world versus third, white European versus native culture, etc., etc., etc. You get the picture. Well, as it turned out, it indeed was a story too good to be true and much of it was later challenged and discredited.

You can reconstruct all of this pretty easily if you're so inclined (Google is amazing) and even read the whole of The Nation piece as well, but that's really not my point here.

When I saw the article my first thought was of Alger Hiss, the Soviet spy exposed by Whittaker Chambers in late 1940s, and how, at the time, the Left vigorously defended him against the charge. What has always been interesting to me, and this is the connection with The Nation piece, was how that defense became even more vigorous once Hiss's treason became undeniable.

Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about human nature, or fallen human nature to be more precise, and our, as Augustine put it, "lust for vindication." That nature, as demonstrated by the Left's defense of both Hiss and MenchĂș, is such that if the justifications we construct for a lie are unsustainable, we won't, duly shamed, simply abandon the lie for the truth. Rather, there is something in our fallen nature that pushes us instead to construct new justifications, justifications for the previous justifications, and to cling to them just as stubbornly, maybe even more so.

Sad, ain't it? But then Scripture taught us this, if we had ears to hear, about ourselves long ago: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

As If We Needed Proof

So, former Delaware GOP senatorial candidate Mike Castle chats with President Obama and Vice President Biden on the night of his primary election loss. The next day he petulantly refuses to endorse the victor, fellow Republican Christine O'Donnell.

This was the guy who was going to put us over the top. With him in the Senate, no doubt about it, the GOP would rule. At the National Republican Senatorial Committee they were already fashioning a slogan for the general campaign: "Count on Castle!"

Good riddance! With him, even if we'd have won, we'd have lost.

Moving the Fifty-Yard Line

Ate too much for lunch? Need to, uh, get rid of it quickly? Try reading Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr.'s latest in which he laments how the Republican Party has been taken over by extremists. The inspiring episode was, of course, "genial and courtly" Mike Castle's loss to the wild-eyed Christine O'Donnell in Delaware's GOP Senate primary. The column is gag-inducing to be sure, but he may be more correct than he would like. And thank God he is.

The late Alabama Governor and sometime presidential candidate George Wallace once famously complained that between Republicans and Democrats, "there's not a dime's worth of difference." Others, quite happy with the fact of essentially indistinguishable parties, have sometimes described American politics as a game played between the forty-yard lines.

The problem with that latter understanding, however, is that it gives the impression that nothing is actually happening. It gives the impression that the game is simply one in which one team gets the ball for a few downs then struggles for a few yards only to eventually punt the ball to the other team which merely repeats the process.

But the impression is incorrect. Something is happening, has happened. All the while, as one team had the ball and then the other, the fifty-yard line was slowly and steadily being moved, moved to the "Left" of the stadium. In fact, mid-field has now been moved so far to the left that it has finally dawned on virtually everyone that it is about to be re-established outside the stadium altogether.

So, in protest, one team starts to look quite extreme in its opposition. Go Team Go!

OK, I'll Fill'em In

I ended my last post suggesting an apparently widening divide within the Republican Party, a divide between those who "get it" and those who don't. I challenged you to fill in the blanks.

Well, at almost the same moment I punched "publish", I turned to notice Karl Rove being interviewed on some TV news show. He's not backing down. While his tone was more reasonable than it was the other night during his already famous on-screen explosion, he still insists that Delaware GOP US Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell must quickly and publicly explain her many alleged ethical lapses.

Pencil Karl Rove's name into the "Those who don't 'get it'" column.

Let's assume that Christine O'Donnell is indeed the most ethically challenged politician since, oh I don't know, since Bill Clinton, or, if he's too old news for you, since New York Congressman, Democrat Charlie Rangel. She, and we, who at least initially support her because she's an unapologetic conservative, will have to deal with that fact in due course.

In due course.

But first I want to deal with this: Why do we almost never hear Karl Rove and other professional Republicans and pundits achieve high dudgeon this quickly when they comment, if at all, on the ethical lapses or downright criminal behavior of liberal Democrats? Why are they so spring-loaded, so eager it seems, to attack, to dismiss, and to destroy those who we assume are on their same side?

When Rove and those like-minded focus first on the shortcomings of our candidates rather than on those of the other side, I, for one, immediately shift my focus from the candidate to Rove. "Why", I ask, "are you doing this? Whose side are you on?" I also wonder, "Can I trust you? Should I trust you?"

While there's more to "getting it" and "not getting it" than just this issue, this is a really big part of it to be sure.

Why Mike Castle Lost?

I put a question mark at the end of that, but Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard doesn't. Barnes, who wishes he were explaining Christine O'Donnell's loss instead, lists four reasons for Castle's. One in particular stood out.
[H]e didn’t run as a conservative or at least as someone who’d taken a conservative stand on important issues.
This makes absolutely no sense to me, but it does explain, once again, why professional Republicans and Beltway conservative pundits simply don't get it.

First, by all accounts, Mike Castle is a nice guy, and respected as such. Why would he risk tarnishing that reputation by becoming a phony, by pretending to be something he's not, i.e., a conservative?

Second, why should he pretend to be a conservative when those same professional Republicans and Beltway pundits keep telling us that it's precisely because he's not one that he, rather than O'Donnell, stood the better chance to win the general election in November?

Finally, what were the conservative Delaware Republican rank-and-file supposed to do? Hold their noses, pull the lever for Castle, and then cross their fingers in the hope that he might vote appropriately when the time came? Sure, he's on-record supporting the conservative position on a few issues. But he's also on-record supporting the liberal position on many others. He's not cultivated his reputation as a liberal-to-moderate Republican for no reason. He actually believes in big-government solutions, he is pro-choice, he didn't support the Surge in Iraq, etc. Delaware Republicans finally had a chance to elect a principled conservative and they took it. It's a simple as that.

A blog or two ago I commented on the broadening ideological divide between conservatives and liberals in this country. Sadly, there appears to be a parallel divide developing within the Republican Party. On one side are those who get it, and on the other are those who don't. You fill in the blanks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Give Me Liberty Or...Else!

With Christine O'Donnell's upset victory over establishment candidate Mike Castle in the Delaware GOP primary yesterday, "professional" Republicans across the country, joined by nearly all the nation's elite punditry, quickly predicted a reversal of fortunes for the GOP and a near certain victory for the Democrats in the race for that state's senate seat this fall.

To which your average Tea Party enthusiast remarks, "So?"

What the typical professional pol, who, at the end of the day, it must be said, is more concerned with power than principle, doesn't understand about the Tea Party Uprising is that as a direct result of its supporters' efforts, in Delaware as elsewhere, the people are now presented with a clear choice between electing either a conservative Republican or a liberal Democrat. Either way, the Uprising's larger purpose is served. That is, as the choice is now clear, so also will be accountability.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cuba Libre!

"Cuba to cut 500,000 from state payroll"

Wow! If even doctrinaire communists can finally concede the wisdom of smaller, leaner government, might the Democrats now feel free to follow suit? We can hope. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Democrats Cave!

I can't believe the cartwheels the Main Stream Media are turning over the political corner they think the Obama Administration has painted the Republicans into with its last-minute proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts, due to expire next year, to those earning $250,000 a year or less.

For heaven's sake.

OK you Republicans, listen up! Every one of you, before you appear on any political talk show, memorize these words:

"I was heartened to learn that the Obama Administration and Democrats generally have finally conceded the wisdom of cutting taxes, and especially so during a recession. I and my party only wish they had come around sooner. Perhaps the economy would already be growing, with good jobs being created, with more people back at work, with fewer mortgage defaults and fewer home foreclosures. Of course, this move destroys their silly argument that it was the Bush tax cuts that caused the recession in the first place. But we'll take what we can get, and so will the American people. Now, if we can just convince them to extend those cuts to all Americans, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, rich and poor, male and female, as I say, all Americans and not just those favored by the Democrat Party. In the meantime, you can be sure our party will continue to make that case with them and for the American people. As I say, we're encouraged to see them finally abandoning at least one of their economy-killing policies...for a time. But the only way to ensure they remain abandoned is to vote for conservative Republicans this fall, which I hope Americans across our great country will do. Thank you."

Child's play.

No One Was Fooled

Former New York Republican Governor George Pataki argues in a USA Today column that Americans were misled about the size, scope, cost, and consequences of ObamaCare. By arguing thus I suppose he thinks he's taking on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who last week charged the health insurance industry with using "misinformation and scare tactics" in order to blame their 2011 premium increases on the President's health-care plan.

While the arguments against ObamaCare, as well as those for its repeal, need to continue, I'm sorry, Mr. Governor, but no one can justly say they were fooled. This was from the beginning a giant and deliberate step towards socialized medicine, which is itself a giant and deliberate step towards socialism. The only ones fooled were the already foolish.

While the Governor's tactic may do some harm to the Obama Administration, it'll also provide a host of other elected Democrats with a life preserver. I can hear'em now, "We didn't know, we didn't know!"

They knew and they need to pay the political price for it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why Do We Hate Muslims?

Well, we don't actually, but pollsters tell us we do, and in numbers greater now than during even the immediate aftermath of 9/11. So why is this so?

I'll tell you why. (This'll be a long sentence, so get ready.) After a month or more of the leftist media and leftist elites, both in and out of government, lecturing us with that unmistakable air of moral and intellectual superiority about how we're all bigots because we oppose the proposal to build a mosque too near Ground Zero, and how we're all bigots if we didn't both notice and publicly oppose some Florida pastor we've never heard of, from some church with a membership too small to count, who planned to burn a copy of the Koran in response to the innumerable atrocities committed against us in the name of the religion it instructs, then when some pollster asks us whether or not we have a problem with Muslims we first think, "How dare you pompous SOBs tell us what we can and can't think. This is America, ain't it?" and then we say, without embarrassment and just a touch of challenge, "Yea, I've got a problem with Muslims. What of it?"

Ah, Americans! I lov'em.

Something's Burning

Predictably, the media-fed and public figure-lead circus that surrounded the Florida pastor's original plan to burn a copy of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 has inspired numerous copy-cat burners around the country. As a result, the Politically Correct are confirmed in their insistence that this backward and unjust country is forever one right-wing, gun-totin', Bible-thumpin', bitter, clinger away from being provoked into the mass round-up and lynching of whomever it deems, in its irrational frenzy and fury, the convenient "Other".

It never occurs to them that the copy-cats might not have anything against Muslims per se. That, instead, they are reacting to the Politically Corrects' insufferable posture of moral and intellectual superiority, as well as their not-so-subtle, disgusting, and ultimately suicidal message that it is somehow America that is the problem.

I am increasingly convinced that this nation is divided into two parties that inhabit two entirely different and ultimately incompatible moral universes. Reconciliation between them has become impossible. The only solution, therefore, is victory by one side and unconditional surrender by the other. These are the stakes. God help us.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What He Said!

The incomparable Victor Davis Hanson says it as cogently and succinctly as anyone can. Regarding the maybe, maybe not, book burning Florida pastor, "Enough already!"

Who's the Bigot?

By now almost everyone has heard of the on-again, off-again, on-again,...plan of the Florida Pastor Terry Jones to very publicly burn a copy of the Koran at his very small church on the anniversary of 9/11. I began this post yesterday, so by the time you read it, we'll know what actually transpired. Anyway, not only has almost everyone heard about it by now, but it seems nearly everyone has used the occasion also to just as publicly voice their objections to it, thereby demonstrating to the world, to each other, and to themselves how very tolerant they are.

This all-too-familiar performance, which is what it mostly is, is done now by so many from both sides of our political divide that it has become trite. For those on the Left to be on the lookout for an opportunity like this, to recognize it as such, and then to use it as they have is, well, it's just what they do. Sadly, for nearly as many on the Right, the event affords a similar opportunity. Far too many of them, by objecting to the event, are effectively saying something like this: "Look, look! We can recognize a bigot too. We can denounce him just like you. See, we're not what you imagine us to be. We're not so bad after all, are we?"

Pathetic. Predictable, but pathetic.

Well, I think there is some anti-Muslim bigotry being expressed here, but the Reverend Jones' is the least of it. As I witness the entire spectacle, I am reminded of that wonderful phrase from one of former President George W. Bush's speeches: "The soft bigotry of low expectations." Bush was referring to the subtle inclination to lower educational standards for African-American children, but I believe a similar inclination is evident in our reaction to not only the Florida pastor's plan, but also in our response to the terrorism springing from Islamism.

We Americans all know how very careful we have to be with the use of the "n" word. It's best never to use it all, but if you must, be sure to surround it and infuse it with a host of explanations and qualifications. So many, in fact, that, as I said, it's best never to use it all.

Why is this so? Why must we be so very careful about what is after all only a word? I mean, this is America, right? Besides, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names...."

Well, we all do know why, don't we? And I don't think I need to recapitulate here our history as a nation with respect to race to make it clear. Nevertheless, I have long thought our cautiousness with the use of the "n" word contained within it something else, something that, despite our benign intentions, was more than a bit insulting to black Americans.

I believe that there coexists alongside our desire to be sensitive to the black experience in America, a contrary notion that black people, unlike whites, are psychologically fragile. They are so fragile, in fact, that the mere use of the "n" word in their presence can be so psychologically damaging as to risk destruction of their self-esteem, to cause them, in effect, to curl up forever in the fetal position, useless to themselves and society. Or, they are so fragile that the simple hearing of that word might launch them into fits of uncontrollable rage and violence for which they could not justly be held responsible.

I'm wondering whether or not something similar might be happening here and now in our treatment of Muslims. That is, are we engaging in a national demonstration of "the soft bigotry of low expectations"?

Does the religion if Islam somehow inspire its adherents to behave irrationally at times? Does it teach them that the destruction of one copy of its scriptures by an otherwise anonymous pastor at an otherwise obscure church justifies the violence and vandalism it, apparently, may unleash? Are Muslims, in fact, different from us? If so, is it a difference of which we must take account? And if we don't, does their behavior somehow become our responsibility and not theirs?

If our answer to the last questions is yes, then in our increasingly timid response to the Islamist-inspired challenge facing us, we risk being guilty not only of cowardice, but bigotry as well.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Single Old Idea

As the results of 2o months in power won't support them confidently defending their own agenda, Democrats, lead by President Obama, have instead targeted their rhetoric on the unwillingness of the opposition to offer substantive alternatives. The "Party of No", as they call the Republicans, have not advanced "a single new idea" to solve the problems facing the country.

I don't know about you, but I'm not pining for a single new idea at all, whether Republican or Democrat. Instead, I'm wondering whether we just might try again, for the first time in a long time, a single old idea.

An old idea that government is instituted among men chiefly to secure their rights. An old idea that as government represents both the guarantee of and the principle threat to those rights, it must properly be limited, not only in scope, but also in purpose. An old idea that while it must be sufficiently empowered to secure those rights, it must also be carefully limited so that power can never be used for the purpose of managing the lives of people, if even for their own good. An old idea that this is so because all governments, however instituted and however lead, are always incompetent to this task. An old idea that the such empowerment of government comes, in any case, at the cost of too great a threat to the peoples' rights, which, to close the circle, its chief purpose is to secure.

Do you think, just maybe, that this is an old idea whose time has finally come?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Greening of China

"China blacks out towns to meet energy goal." Well, I guess that's one way to do it.

Nobel laureate Al Gore was unavailable for comment.

Which Way is Mecca from Hartford?

"City Council Meetings to Begin with Muslim Prayers" Hartford, Connecticut is the city of the title. And how predictable is this?

The reports remain unclear, but apparently, after the decision, several Council Members sped away in limousines to attend a meeting of the local chapter of the ACLU. The meeting's purpose is to confirm strategy to prohibit the display of creches on public property this coming, uh, holiday season. (Kidding, of course. Or am I?)

A sickness unto death, I'm telling ya.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

That Dog Won't Hunt

I suspect that by now you've already heard this, but just in case. Speaking to a group of union members in Milwaukee, President Obama paused to comment on his increasing number of critics: "They talk about me like a dog. That's not in my prepared remarks, it's just -- but it's true."

Grow up Mr. President!

For Better, For Worse

Do you find yourself struggling for an answer to the argument for same-sex marriage? You know it's wrong, but it's difficult for you to say why exactly. Moreover, the force of elite opinion is such that you now risk being labeled a bigot as well if you dare to even speak. Well, the editors at National Review have done a great service by making the case for us. You must read this.

The editors get directly to the heart of it as they argue that, "The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children." But as true as that statement is, there is another that precedes and informs it.

Sexual relations of any kind are a decidedly public matter. Think only of that portion of all government budgets that go directly and indirectly towards dealing with the consequences of sexual relations, whether heterosexual or homosexual, married or not. Try also to count the uncountable costs of those relations that have little or nothing to do with the expenditure of tax dollars. Now look me, look yourself, in the eye and maintain that this activity, like no other, is entirely private.

Elected officials, as well as the judges they nominate and confirm, will have much to say about this issue. I remind you just in case you still weren't sure about the importance of this fall's election.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Spoiled-Brat Liberal Punditry

This could be mostly just funny if it weren't so pathetic. Even then, it's pretty funny.

Proud, Obama-defending, Democrat Party apologist and uber-liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, apparently reading what can no longer be called just tea leaves ("Tea Party" leaves, perhaps?) is forced to face the future about his team's almost certain defeat and he blames it all on...? You guessed it, "the spoiled-brat American electorate."

To think that just 22 months ago that very same electorate, when it pulled the lever for Obama-Biden, was celebrated as, collectively, post-partisan, post-racial, post-American savants. Who spoiled'em?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jonah, Jonah, Jonah...

As I've mentioned several times before, I love virtually everything National Review's Jonah Goldberg writes. So I was surprised the other day to find him pining for the presidency of Bill Clinton.

To be fair to Jonah, his nostalgia for Clinton is a result, chiefly, of comparing him to Obama, not to Reagan. But still.... His most egregious paragraph:
Clinton, a political prodigy of the first order, loved the human side of politics. He listened to the hoi polloi more than he listened to the Harvard faculty. It made him a less consequential but more democratic president.
First of all, Clinton is not now and was never a political prodigy. The stars were aligned in both 1992 and 1996 and he was lucky. He stumbled into the Oval Office with nothing more than plurality victories in both elections. Once there, his overreaching was a large part of the Democrats losing both Houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Secondly, he loved mostly the female side of the human side of politics. If his attention was directed at the hoi polloi rather than the Harvard faculty, it was because he knew he was more likely to find a cute face and a short skirt in the former crowd.

Finally, he was a less consequential president because he is a less consequential man.

C'mon Jonah, and all of you over at National Review! Please stop with this effort to rehabilitate the Clown Prince of the Presidency. That task seems to lie with the Bush family, let them do it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Behind Enemy Lines

Well, not really. Actually, I was just listening in on them a couple nights ago. If you were wondering why no posts for the last few days, it's because I've been on the road and otherwise occupied. When I'm away from home I'll sometimes dare to switch the channel to MSNBC and witness firsthand what the other side is up to. I can't do this at home very often as the Mrs. will start sputtering and fuming and using language she really ought not to. (You think I'M conservative!) Anyway, safely distant, I tuned in to Chris Matthews' Hardball one night to watch a segment.

His guests were a couple of labor union apologists and, along with Matthews himself, the three of them were cheerleading for Big Labor and predicting that it will play a much larger role in the election this fall than everyone thinks. (Yawn.) What caught my attention, however, was the way they talked about your average working class voters.

During the course of the interview, they all expressed their frustration with the fact that those same voters could not be counted on to understand and vote their own material interests. Those interests, it was obvious to them, were better represented, protected, and advanced by liberalism, Labor, and the Democrat Party. So why did such a large portion, a majority at times, persist in casting their votes otherwise? Careful not to focus too much on the voters themselves, they instead took aim at conservative and Republican elites who, they insisted, lured them away with appeals to some form of bigotry, whether religious, racial, or national, convincing them by that appeal to pull the lever for the GOP.

How perfectly this all captured the reason why so many Americans are turning against liberalism and the Democrats! And how illustrative it was as to why so very few watch this out-of-touch cable news network!

First, as I said, while they were careful not to attack the working class directly, they may as well have. Are working class citizens really so unsophisticated as to not know their own interests? Are they so stupid that they simply have to be lead, if not by cynical conservatives, then by condescending liberals? Might they just want to be in charge of their own lives?

Second, has it never occurred to them that perhaps these same voters do indeed know their own material interests and have concluded that the Republican Party and conservatism better serve them than do the Democrat Party and liberalism championing, as it does, the ever-expanding Nanny State with its unavoidable confiscatory tax schemes?

Finally, has the thought never once crossed their minds that people might actually be more than simplistic getting and spending economic machines? That just maybe they care about other things as well, care even more about them in fact, things like the right to life of the unborn, like the defense of their country, its territory and principles, like the preservation of the founding constitutional order both for themselves and their posterity, like liberty itself.

Nope, probably never crossed their minds.

Where's the remote? "Honey!!!"