Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"

Even with his predictions of looming apocalypse, Mark Steyn remains still a happy Jeremiah.  Victor Davis Hanson by contrast is just a Jeremiah.

And like the Old Testament prophet before him, he is filled with lamentations, this time for his native California...and for his country as well.

Don't Misunderstand...

I should have been a bit clearer in my last post. 

There is nothing necessarily nefarious about the development of an insular political sub-culture.  I'm not suggesting that the former Vice President is guilty of a bad will.  He no doubt genuinely believes that unless a person is effectively beltway born and bred, they're just not up to high office.

In a country of 300-plus million people, I find that notion at the very least amusing.

But I can also find it dangerous.  One thing is clear:  By and large, the people who got us into our current mess, whether they call themselves Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, have got to go.

"Not worth a bucket of warm piss"

Such was Texan John Nance Garner's famous estimation of the vice presidency, an office he held for eight years under FDR.

Even founder John Adams found the position less than, uh, substantial:
My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived; and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet the common fate.
So when did the choice of a vice president become so momentous? 

Former Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday called John McCain's choice four years ago of Sarah Palin as his running mate a "mistake", thereby insulting not only McCain and Palin, but also untold thousands of conservative voters who not only liked seeing her name on the ticket, but even viewed it as a way of salvaging an otherwise wasted vote.

That's not what this is all about.

(For heaven's sake, can anyone seriously imagine the buffoonish Joe Biden--a previously well-established buffoonery, by the way--as president?  Even his own party never gave him anything more than single-digit support.)

Cheney did not commit an unforced error yesterday; his comment was deliberate and demonstrated once again something very important about the nature of our currently uncomfortable politics.  That is, the struggle is not only between Democrats and Republicans, nor even between liberals and conservatives, it's also a struggle between insiders and outsiders

Cheney, as capable as he is, is a consummate Washington insider.  As an insider, he, like any insider, has over time collected and written innumerable political IOUs, fashioned countless personal and professional relationships, along with the binding loyalties that attend.  As such, he owes and is owed and respect for those debts sometimes, if not often, trumps fidelity to both party and ideology.

I'm afraid what this all means is that Washington wont change until Washington changes.  Like her or not, Sarah Palin represents change...threatening change.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Liberalism Sucks!

First it was trans fats, then it was salt, after that soda sizes, now baby formula.  What's next?  With a moniker so apt it has went from being funny to eerily ominous, Nanny Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, quite simply won't stop until he's stopped.

What you, what all of us, must understand if we don't already, is that this is not a case of liberalism run amok.

This IS liberalism.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chicken $#!+

Who knew the "smell of someone fryin' chicken" could make you dial 911?  Well, the mayors of Chicago and Boston anyway.

If Mark Steyn's weekly column at NRO is not yet a staple of your reading diet, for heaven's  sake, WHY NOT?

Please read his latest as he disects the Left's reliably police-state reflexes in the Curious Case of Chick-fil-A.

Some of My Best Friends Are...

In case you were wondering, the Sage has been otherwise preoccupied with weddings and company and sundry other diversions.

But there's nothing like a comment from the San Francisco Savant Nancy Pelosi to bring one back to this beleaguered planet.

As savvy as Ms. Pelosi is, she just can't figure how a Jewish American could ever be a Republican.  After all, "they're smart people," she reminds us and as such should know that they're "being exploited."

Well, at least she allows that they're still Jewish.  In the case of black Republicans, as we are instructed, they simply cease to be black at all.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Libs and Cons and Guns

Most people do not either embrace or shy away from gun ownership because of their ideology, liberal or conservative. Rather, it's the other way around.

If your reaction to the terrible news from Aurora was a feeling of frustration over the inadequacy of current gun regulation, then you're likely to be a liberal. If, on the other hand, your reaction was to wish that someone in the audience had been armed, then you're probably a conservative.

Is it possible even to "split the difference" between, much less reconcile, these two informing impulses?

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Beer and a Bump

Read this headline and story: "Nonprofit Installs Pregnancy Test Dispensers in Mankato Bar"

Now pray for our country.


They've since retracted the report, but this morning, in the wake of the early and still unclear reports of the shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, George Stephanapoulos and Brian Ross of ABC News suggested that the shooter, one James Holmes, might be a "Jim Holmes" of Aurora who might be connected with the Tea Party.

It turned out not to be the same Holmes.

But even if it had, their reporting would have be shameful still, and all too typical.

It's not just that the elite liberal media want to politicize EVERYTHING.  It's that their politicization is, without fail, deliberately intended to smear conservatives and Republicans, or, if one of them is not available, any handy red, white, and blue American.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Count on McCain

Reminding everyone why the Right does not and cannot trust him, Senator John McCain hustled to the Senate floor yesterday to defend Huma Abedin, aid to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and wife of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner.  If those two relationships were not unfortunate enough for poor Ms. Abedin, it seems her late father, mother, and brother were and are tied to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.  In light of that relationship, a group of five GOP congressmen, to include former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, sent a letter to the State Department's Inspector General among others, asking for a review and tightening of security policies.

Hardball politics?  Maybe.  Probably.

But according to Senator McCain the letters were in effect "accusations" against Ms. Abedin, both "ugly" and "sinister". (Sinister?)

A loyal or even a dependable Republican would have let the matter pass, keeping his mouth shut, or at least reserving his grousing for behind closed doors.  Not so Senator McCain.  Not ever Senator McCain.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Do We Mean By "Political"?

OK, Mr. President, you're right.

We're all in this together. (As if anyone were arguing that we weren't.   His penchant for constructing straw men grates.)  Your problem, however (actually, it's all of liberal-dom's problem), is that you have an extremely pinched view of the political.  Apparently for you, that which is political refers chiefly, if not exclusively, to the activities of the state, and the national state at that, i.e., the federal government.

A more accurate understanding of the political, and a healthier one too, is that it encompasses all things public (res publica) to include not only the activities of the national government, but those of state and local governments as well, not to mention churches, philanthropic organizations, and the uncountable voluntary associations, all of which have in common the addressing of, well, common concerns.

If a common concern is addressed locally by a voluntary association of some sort, that in and of itself does not make it a private instead of a public endeavor.  It is still very much a public effort.  It's just not one being done by the government.

And I suspect that is what really bugs you Mr. President.

Am I right?        


Monday, July 16, 2012

Can There Still Be Any Doubt?

From President Obama's remarks to an audience in Roanoke, Virginia this past weekend:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. 
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
No, the point is, if you have ears to hear and eyes to see, this president doesn't want to mandate what you must do with your property, nor does he want to tax it.  What he really wants is for you to acknowledge that your property is not now, and never was, yours at all.  Rather, it belongs to everyone.  That is, it belongs to the only entity that can reasonably be said to represent everyone:  the state.  And just now, he's in charge of it.

Is Americanization Inevitable?

Mark Steyn writes an interesting piece titled "Islamist Generation"  with a subtitle that captures his thesis: "Today’s Muslim youth are less Westernized than their parents were."

The theory used to be that Westernization, which equaled modernization, which equaled secularization, was an altogether irresistible force that no culture could forever withstand.  Needless to say, when the mullahs took over Iran in the late 1970s, and then elsewhere later, the old theory became ripe for reassessment.

An always important subset of Westernization, and an exception to it as well, is Americanization.  America is exceptional (that word again) for at least two reasons: an apparently recalcitrant religiosity (overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian, to be sure) and while democratic, a democracy that stubbornly persists in privileging liberty over equality. (Or at least a democracy that still gives liberty a fighting chance.)

For those exceptions and more, I used to think Americanization irresistible as well.  Because of that belief, while I was sympathetic with those who insisted on "English only", for example, I never got too excited about its necessity.  In spite of liberals' best efforts to keep immigrants unassimilated (by right, for heaven's sake) and thereby ignorant and thereby dependent, dependent on liberals, that is, I was always confident that the power and appeal of America was just too strong, that in short order, no more than one generation, the large majority of immigrants would simply refuse to be played for the fools liberals took them to be and would become red-white-and-blue Americans after all, insisting on grasping for themselves the American Dream.

I'm not so sure anymore. What has changed?

I fear that now too many elites (don't ask me how many is "too" many), have lost confidence in America, if, that is, they were not already hostile to it.  Since the 60s that ethos of hostility towards or lack of confidence in America has steadily become institutionalized in the Democrat Party and in the person of Barack Hussein Obama they finally elected someone as president who believes exactly as they.

So, back to the point of Steyn's piece, what can we expect of young Muslims in America?

I don't know. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guns and Poses, cont.

The Skinny Blond Bomber Ann Coulter is apparently back from a fast and furious vacation and she refuses to let this issue go.

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that she and, more importantly, we shouldn't either. 

Can You Say "Desperate"?

In case you didn't already know it, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke yesterday in Houston to a conference of the NAACP.  In his speech, he, once again, promised unapologetically to act to repeal Obamacare if elected.  For the remark, he received a chorus of catcalls and boos.

Perhaps contrary to expectations, Romney did not pander in any fashion to his nearly all-black audience, but instead delivered his same workman-like speech and was rewarded for doing so with muted, but genuine praise in some otherwise hostile quarters.  But not in all.

Believe it or not, more than a few on the Left, like MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, argued with a straight face that Romney deliberately elicited the booing in order to appeal to white racists.

You know what this means, don't you?

We're winning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

By the Way...

....I do not mock Barney Frank's unfortunate speech impediment because he's openly homosexual.  Rather, I mock it because he can be, and all too often is, one mean and nasty SOB.

Solemn Rights and Silly Rites

Extending the right of legal marriage to include homosexual couples is, we are instructed by enlightened liberal elites, not only a necessary correction to a long-standing injustice, but the very hallmark of sound social policy.  Seriousness begets seriousness, they argue, and a more formal union can only encourage more responsible behavior.  Win - win.

Availing himself of the new right, retiring Massachusetts's Congressman and "Cwown Pwince of Wibewawism" Bawney Fwank finally made an honest man of long-time partner Jim Ready. (Or was it the other way around?)  In a ceremony worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit, but nevertheless attended by several liberal luminaries to include former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and even presided over by the Bay State Governor himself, Deval Patrick, the happy couple exchanged these example-setting vows:

"Beloved family and friends: We have come together to witness and bless the
joining together of BARNEY and JIM in marriage.

As you might imagine, at the request of the Congressman, this service will
be short and to the point. But there are certain formalities that even a
senior member of Congress must observe. The first is this question.
I ask you both that, if either of you know any reason why you may not be
united in marriage lawfully, you do now confess it.

The Declaration of Consent

Barney and Jim: Do you promise to love each other and be each other's best
In sickness and in health,
In Congress or in retirement,
Whether the surf is up or the surf's flat,
For richer or for poorer,
Under the Democrats or the Republicans,
Whether the slopes are powdery or icy,
Whether the book reviews are good or bad,
For better or for worse,
On MSNBC or on Fox,
For as long as you both shall live?

Barney and Jim: We do."

*Thanks Blue State Patriot

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Death by a Thousand Choices"

I hadn't heard or read anything from columnist Anna Quindlen for quite some time now and so was surprised to learn she'd written a memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.

One mot juste that is among my all-time favorites is from the pages of The American Spectator back in the 1980s, from its "Current Wisdom" section.  It's there that the magazine's editors supply snippets of liberal nonsense that recently happen to fertilize the pages of their own sundry publications.  In one issue of the Spectator way back then--long before the Internet--I was laugh-out-loud amused to find at the end of that month's supply this sentence:  "Anna Quindlen is on vacation."

It was with that in mind that I read in the most recent issue of National Review, Florence King's less than favorable review of Quindlen's new book.  She begins with this and I love it:
A memoir, while not hemmed in by the strict classical rules that define poetry, nonetheless needs a certain amount of control to give it narrative thrust, a modicum of suspense, and something resembling an orderly timeline.  Do not expect such leisurely, reflective writing from Anna Quindlen.  She was born at the perfect statistical moment to experience firsthand the death by a thousand choices inflicted on American women by the feminist movement, and her memoir is a scattershot overview of every conflict, emotion, experience, wish, regret, and opinion she has ever had from her birth in 1952 to her publisher's deadline for this manuscript. (my italics)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Founders' True Spirit?

As we celebrate our independence this week, liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne would instruct us all as to "The Founders True Spirit."   Interesting, but I have a few questions for Mr. Dionne.

He writes:
It's entirely appropriate that the week of our July Fourth celebrations should coincide with a moment when the Supreme Court's health care decision has prompted intense debate over the purpose of our government and what the Constitution allows it to do. 
We are a more philosophical people than we give ourselves credit for. Constitutional questions enter the political conversation in the United States more than in most countries because our diverse nation is bound by our founding principles, not by blood, race or ethnicity.
Might it also be the case that we refer to the Constitution so much precisely because we were founded  as a constitutional republic, and whether or not were were also bound by blood, race, or ethnicity is immaterial?

He continues:
This has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantages are our openness and the fact that we tend to argue on the basis of high principles. The biggest disadvantage is that differences over policy are often disguised as differences over whether a preferred choice is constitutional or not. When we should be addressing pragmatic questions -- Will this approach work? Will it solve the problem it's designed to solve? Is this a problem government should do something about? -- we instead fall back on rather abstract discussions of whether a given idea violates the Constitution.
Could it be that those "rather abstract discussions" occur because absent the constraints on government afforded by the Constitution, the policy differences among us would too often be decided simply by the raw power of the majority to impose its will on the minority, and to do so whether or not the policy will indeed work or solve the problem?
There's more:
It's not a recent habit. When Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton proposed that the federal government establish a Bank of the United States in 1790, his idea was strongly opposed by James Madison, his partner in writing both the Constitution and the Federalist Papers that defended it. 
Madison wasn't just against the bank. Setting a pattern for the future, he insisted that its creation would be unconstitutional. Those who claim we can be so certain of the "original" intentions of the Founders should take note: If two of the original authors of the Constitution came to such a stark point of disagreement so quickly, what exactly does "originalism" mean?
Does Dionne mean to imply (and whether he realizes it or not this is where his logic inevitably leads him) that because even the Founders sometimes disagreed about the Constitution's original meaning, that it never had an original meaning at all?  Is it not possible that Madison or Hamilton or both were wrong about its original meaning?  Might not their partisan passion for their own policy preferences have blinded them to that meaning?
The genius of the Founders is that they created a government designed to act, and so I'd propose a new patriotic ritual involving an annual reading of the preamble to our Constitution:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." 
Yes, the first word of the Constitution is "we," and its purposes include establishing justice and promoting the general welfare. Before we expend enormous energy deciding how many angels can dance on the head of the Commerce Clause, we would usefully keep in mind the broader objectives of our great experiment.
Does Dionne not understand that the Founders, to a man, maintained resolutely that the larger purposes of any good government could only best be achieved precisely by constitutional government?  Moreover, does he not know that the "we" of the very first sentence implies not simply that a mere majority, nor even a super-majority, but rather that the people consented unanimously?  And, that they, and we also, consented unanimously to establish only "this Constitution", not just any constitution, not the constitution of our independent imaginations or convenience, and certainly not no constitution at all?

If our Constitution gets in the way of our government from time to time, it's because the Founders intended for it to do just that, both in spirit and in truth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reflecting on Liberty

It's the Fourth of July after all and I just read with some interest a short New York Times piece on the costs and benefits of liberty.

With respect to liberty, the writer identifies the 1960s as a watershed in American history:
What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It’s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won. 
From the beginning, the American idea embodied a tension between radical individualism and the demands of the commonweal. The document we’re celebrating today says in its second line that axiomatic human rights include “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — individualism in a nutshell.
While I'm usually first in line when it comes to blaming so many of that decade's "triumphs" for what is currently wrong in America, I don't think the author has it quite right.

For two-hundred years and more, no sensible person ever saw a serious tension between the liberty of the individual and the "demands of the commonwealth."  Instead, the liberty enshrined in the Declaration was understood to mean that the individual, regardless of station in life, could, by right, fully participate in attending to those demands.  What happened in the Sixties was a conflation of liberty with narcissism.  In an earlier, more sane period, the latter would have been immediately recognized for the servitude it actually is.  That is, to be a narcissist is to be a slave to one's passions.

No one has ever seriously celebrated selfishness, not even Ayn Rand, I'd argue.  No one has ever maintained that "greed is good" and no one has ever thought that bragging about one's wealth was anything but gauche.  These charges and countless more like them are but the strawmen constructions of those that would in the name of balancing the costs and benefits of liberty, eliminate it altogether.

On the other hand, genuine liberty, liberty born of self-discipline and self-reliance, is perfectly consistent with attending to the "demands of the commonwealth,"  And oh what a commonwealth it would be if it were populated with a majority of just such genuinely free men and women.

Happy Fourth of July everyone! 

Let's Be Clear

Since the Supreme Court ruled last week that Obamacare was constitutional after all, I've been reading and hearing from many quarters that what most upset conservatives about the ruling is that as a result a law we find objectionable will stand.  Not so.

Look, since the Republic was founded we've been saddled quite often with foolish laws.  And, as long as we, or a majority of us, persist in electing politicians who are similarly foolish, not to mention dense, vain, venal, power-hungry, or worse, we'll continue to be saddled with them from time to time.

The problem with the Court's ruling for conservatives is not that it upheld a foolish, perhaps an even disastrous law.  Rather, the problem is that the law it upheld was clearly unconstitutional.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Andy Griffith, RIP

With this blog's title, you just knew I had to comment on this unhappy piece of news, didn't you?

The fictional sheriff "Andy Taylor" of the fictional town "Mayberry" has died at 86.  This is indeed a sad day for Andy Griffith's closest friends and family and it's a sad day for America as well, and should be.

The real actor Andy Griffith and the real town of his youth Mount Airy were always something very different than the TV show's character and setting.  Griffith, a political liberal, supported Obamacare of all things.  But while we knew they were different, we, most of us anyway, nevertheless wanted oh-so-much for them to be the same.  Why?  

The show's abiding appeal is often attributed to baby boomer nostalgia, but I think it's something deeper than that.  Even in the early to mid-1960s when it was first produced, the program was deliberately, even self-consciously nostalgic.  But, and this is key, it was so without guile or even a hint of irony.

Whether it'll withstand strict scrutiny or not, we all seem to need to remember a childhood, a founding, that was simpler not because it was simple, but because it was purer.  In the context of contemporary America, few figures have successfully met that need, recalling "the better angels of our nature": Norman Rockwell, Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan.  "Mayberry", a happy assemblage of innocents, was and remains the Garden of Eden we've lost and desperately want to find again, or, for sanity's sake, at least to remember well.

To be sure, Griffith was an accomplished actor who always could play more than just an easy-going small town sheriff.  If you've never seen it, I'd recommend you watch him in Elia Kazan's still edgy A Face in the Crowd.  But it is for creating "Mayberry" that he'll always be remembered best and for which he rightly earned in 2005 the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Jury's In, cont.

Imagine that the congressional Democrats and the President had passed Obamacare as a tax, but the Chief Jutice had argued that, no, it was really a mandate after all, and then joined the conservative justices to overturn it on those grounds.

Would the chattering class have been just as effusive in its praise of his cleverness?

The Jury's In, cont.

By the way, if Chief Justice Roberts thought his ruling would earn him a reservoir of good will from Democrats, the American Left, or the left-leaning elite media, then, and there's no gentle way to put it, he's a fool.

The Jury's In

I think Chief Justice John Roberts' "switch in time" will achieve precisely the opposite of his reportedly intended effect.  That is, rather than serving to re-establish what he believed to be was the sinking legitimacy of the Court, this ruling will only further discredit it. 

I supppose no one but Roberts himself can say for sure, but the news media is replete with stories that Roberts reversed himself at the eleventh hour, applying head-shakingly clever or crazy, legal or political reasoning to arrive at the result he wanted to begin with which was to uphold the consitutionality of Obamacare.

To be sure, he has his conservative defenders, but I fear they may have fallen victim to the abiding temptation of all "insiders", that is, to value and applaud cleverness over common sense.  Anyway you cut it, to, with a straight face, call a cat a dog, a "mandate" a "tax", is an affront to common sense and as such the Court will only be viewd by the public with an increasingly jaundiced eye.