Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Errant Thought on Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama

Sorry for the absence. I haven't had much to say, or at least haven't been able to adequately express what I want to say, so I've been spending most of my time reading history books.

I've moved on from the Revolutionary period and into the early days of the Repbulic. Garry Wills' description of the Jefferson presidency in Henry Adams and the Making of America is particularly fascinating to me lately.

In Jefferson, you have a man who was, in the public's view, the "mind of the Revolution". Here was the author of the Declaration of Independence in the White House and in charge of the nation! Imagine the possibilities of fulfilling the promise of the Declaration when its primary author is the most powerful man in the nation, his party firmly in charge of two of the three branches of government. Change came to the United States in 1800, and in a striking parallel to today, Americans quickly discovered it was not the change they were looking for.

Jefferson's presidency was a litany of broken promises, of vows "meeting their expiration date". The man who proclaimed, "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government" enacted the Embargo Act. The Act crippled the New England economy, and led to uprisings in several places. The man who said "a little revolution every now and then is a good thing" called out the troops.

Jefferson the politician is fascinating and somewhat horrifying to someone who reveres the Founders. I'm not sure how much he reminds me of Barack Obama in terms of specific policies, but I am struck by the similarity of the hopes Americans placed in both men to transform America. Jefferson didn't get his nation of agrarian philosophers, and he nearly crippled the national economy by continuing to take Napoleon's side against England, albeit under the guise of neutrality. A foreign policy blunder eventually led to the War of 1812... a war we didn't need to fight. Jefferson, the man who said, "Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government" approved of organizing the local militias (typically organized for "the common defense") and invading Canada!

Apparently it's tremendously easy to write in defense of freedom, to in fact believe you are working in the cause of freedom, while at the same time appeasing (if not outright siding with) tyrants in foreign lands and unconstitutionally expanding the strength and power of the federal government. The depressing thing is that even though Jefferson was seen as a failure when he left office, he had already succeeded in diminishing the Federalist Party to a permanent back-bench status, which left the party of Jefferson in charge until Andrew Jackson took office in 1828. Jefferson famously said in his first inauguration, "We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists." 203 years later, Barack Obama proclaimed, "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America." Jefferson succeeded in delivering a death blow to Federalists, but I'm not yet ready to believe that the party of Barack Obama will remain in power for the next 28 years.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Road

I asked my wife last night if she wanted to go see the new movie "The Road", based on Cormac McCarthy's novel. I haven't read the book, and had no idea that the movie has a post-apocalyptic setting until I saw the trailer. I'm always fascinated by this genre, and it looks intriguing. After watching the trailer, however, my wife said she wouldn't go see it.

"Too realistic," was her verdict. The weird thing is, I know what she means. It does feel like something big and bad could happen, doesn't it? A friend of mine told me the other day that he has a constant feeling of foreboding. Now this guy isn't a Birther or a Truther ("Oh good God no!" would be his reaction if you accused him of having sympathies towards either position), he's not a conspiracy theorist, and he's not one who always sees the worst in things.

We're a worried nation, no doubt about it. But are we worried about the right thing? We are so focused on our economic concerns that I wonder how many of us aren't thinking about the national security implications the Obama foreign policy (Obamappeasement, if you will) will certainly have. We are inviting trouble, we are showing weakness, and our enemies will take advantage of that.

Amidst this worry, economic or (less often) national security in nature, can a movie like "The Road" do well? I'm interested to see what the box office take turns out to be. My gut reaction is that it will do poorly, but perhaps a certain percentage of Americans like to soothe their worried minds by seeing humanity survive in conditions far worse than their own. If I end up watching the movie in the theater, it will be for that reason. I too am concerned these days, and a reminder that humanity is persistant would be welcomed these days.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Wrong Way To Sell Conservatism

Typically, telling the press that you're glad you made a little girl upset isn't going to endear you many people... including your fellow conservatives.

Telling her mother that she wanted to come to the aid of a library under attack, 11-year-old Sydney Sabbagha stood at the podium before the Oak Brook village board.

"I used to go to the library knowing there were people there to help me find a book. Now there is no one to help me," Sydney said solemnly. "It will never be the same without the people you fired."

Sydney nestled back into her seat, but that didn't stop 69-year-old criminal attorney Constantine "Connie" Xinos from boldly putting her in her place.

"Those who come up here with tears in their eyes talking about the library, put your money where your mouth is," Xinos shot back. He told Sydney and others who spoke against the layoffs of the three full-time staffers (including the head librarian and children's librarian) and two part-timers to stop "whining" and raise the money themselves.

"I don't care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books," Xinos told them.
"I wanted that kid to lose sleep that night," a grinning Xinos says Wednesday, as he invites me for a nearly two-hour interview in his Mercedes-Benz in the gated Oak Brook community where he lives. "This is the real world and the lesson, you folks who brought your kids here, is if you want something, pay for it."

I won't say I disagree with Xinos's "lesson", but if he thinks he's a great teacher he's out of his mind.

"You may like the library, but when you call 9-1-1, you want a policeman or a fireman before someone to tell you where the books are in the library," says the man who has talked of privatizing, outsourcing or even closing the library.

"I understand that my philosophy is conservative," Xinos says, adding that government just needs to catch bad guys, put out fires, fix the streets and make sure buildings are sturdy.

He campaigned, successfully, against a plan to bring subsidized housing for seniors into town by declaring, "I don't want to live next to poor people. I don't want poor people in my town."

Awesome. Now, by the way, the local librarians are thinking about unionizing... as Teamsters.

And here's a question: how many conservatives would agree with Xinos that government just needs to "catch bad guys, put out fires, fix the streets, and make sure buildings are sturdy"? I consider myself to be a pretty staunch conservative, but I wouldn't expect to win an election on a platform like that, even in the reddest of red states.

Ask Yourself This

Robert Stacy McCain on Hoffman's loss in NY-23 last night.

OK, so Doug Hoffman fell 4,000 votes short of a House seat. But ask yourself this: What will Regnery pay him as a book advance?

Why would I care, Robert? Will a big, fat, book advance from a conservative publisher help me in any way? Will a book deal with Regnery for Hoffman help the conservative movement any more than Joe the Plumber's book deal? I doubt it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dear 23

Well, the results in NY-23 have certainly thrown conventional wisdom on its head. I, like most people, expected a solid Hoffman win this evening. Instead we saw the Democrat pick up a seat they haven't held in 100 years. Already people are saying there are no lessons to be learned from NY-23. That's nonsense. There are lessons to be learned everywhere, including unique circumstances. So what can we learn from this?

1) A Republican district is not necessarily a conservative one, or at least it's not necessarily a Glenn Beck-listening, Sarah Palin-adoring, Red State-reading district. In fact, it's highly likely that there are some Republican-leaning districts where an appearance by Sarah Palin could cost you more than she gets you. Oh, you'll get tons of supporters turning out to see her, and they'll be enthusiastic as can be, but they were already going to vote for you. The tea party celebrities are great cheerleaders, but they're not on the field. Ultimately they can't lead you to victory.

2) Owens was the beneficiary of some pretty ugly conservative infighting. The Scozzafava campaign was so busy filing police reports against reporters from The Weekly Standard, and the Tea Party crowd was too busy trying to convince Republicans to "Dump Dede" that Owens remained largely unscathed. In a perfect world, the argument wouldn't be about whether or not differing strains of conservatism can co-exist in the Republican Party, but how best to determine what strain of conservatism is most likely to work in any given race.

3) New Republicans, I fear, will use this as "evidence" of the Tea Parties failure, and will likely gloat about the loss. Good Republicans should never be pleased about losing a seat, and if we're talking about the need for a strong party, then that means we should all be bothered by Hoffman's loss. Like it or not, he was the standard-bearer of conservatism and Republicanism in the race... and he lost. New Republicans can't realistically claim that Scozzafava was going to win the election without Hoffman's presence, because many conservative Republicans would have simply stayed home. Hoffman was popular for a reason, and New Republicans have to recognize why he nearly beat Owens last night. Many of his positions are very popular, and not incorrect. We do need to spend less money. We do need more accountability in government. We do need the heavy hand of bureaucracy to develop a lighter touch. These are issues that resonate with large swaths of the voting public, but the New Republicans are too consumed by their distaste for the messenger that they give no real thought to the message.

That's the tragedy here. Both Tea Partiers and New Republicans want the GOP to maintain it's ideological purity as determined by them. Both sides seem to forget that conservatism has always had many strains. Conservatism isn't like communism. It has no single author. If the Tea Partiers can find room in their philosophy for both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two men who were political enemies for most of their post-Revolution lives, then why can't they find room in modern conservatism for Sarah Palin and David Frum? And if the New Republicans see that a pro-life Republican can win, even in the northeast, then maybe they'll realize that as long as social issues aren't at the forefront of a campaign, a socially conservative candidate can find success in some pretty "blue" areas of the country.

Frum's Wrong

Lest I be accused of spending an inordinate amount of time criticizing the Tea Party movement, let me lob a few rhetorical bombs David Frum's way.

Frum says that even if the GOP has a good day today, it won't be that big a deal.

In two of the three most watched races in the country, the candidate of the president’s party is running neck and neck against his main challenger – in the midst of the worst recession since World War II.

This is what you call a conservative politics that is “working”? What would it look like if conservative politics were failing?

Considering the identity gap facing the GOP right now, I'd say today looks pretty good for the GOP. If conservative politics were failing, I think you'd be looking at Deeds cruising to victory in Virginia, Corzine ahead by 7-8 points in NJ, and gay marriage enjoying wide support in Maine. None of those things are happening.

Yes, New Jersey is still close. It helps that Corzine has outspent Chris Christie nearly 3-1 in the campaign, with most of that coming from his own personal stash of cash.

Finally, what makes 1993 "so much more successful" for Republicans than 2009? Was it the election of Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan? The election of Rudy in NYC? Frum fails to tells us why those particular races should matter more than the possible election of a Republican mayor in Charlotte, and defeat of gay marriage initiatives in Maine and (less likely) Washington State.

Frum may not like the Tea Party crowd, but he's just wrong in saying that good news for the GOP means nothing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jacksonian Conservatism?

It's rare to find a conservative positively quoting Andrew Jackson. After all, he's the first president who wielded his office with supreme authority, an American Caesar who was derided as "King Andrew" by his opponents (and proto-Republicans) the Whigs. Yet a few days ago at Jersey Conservative, Dominick G. Spadea concluded a Tea Party-esque rant against the Federal Reserve by quoting Andrew Jackson's veto of the Second Bank of America:

"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society-the farmers, mechanics, and laborers-who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles."

As Damon Root pointed out at Reason last year:

On the bank issue, Jackson was something of a libertarian, arguing that the institution granted monopoly powers to politically connected elites. Yet when it came to South Carolina's talk of secession, Jackson was a ferocious nationalist, threatening to unleash steel and fire to preserve the union.

His politics, in other words, were all over the place, held together only by his considerable belief in his own righteousness. But why would anyone accept that as a reason to trust a single, fallible human being with unilateral war making authority?

Andrew Jackson was the closest thing to a despot this nation had ever known, and the fact that he was a populist shouldn't make him any more loveable to conservatives. Yes, I know that Americans of all stripes trivialize history, but there's a certain breed of conservatives who do something very dangerous; they value the past without truly valuing history. It's easy to do. In fact, I constantly struggle with it myself, but I now understand that knowledge doesn't come from memorizing a Patrick Henry quote, or citing Thomas Jefferson. The key, for me at least, was the recognition that the Founders were a diverse group, even during the War of Independence, and not all of them are rightfully called conservative.

Thomas Paine, as I've previously mentioned, wasn't the slightest bit conservative... but now plenty of conservatives (including me until relatively recently) see him as a forgotten Founding Father. Franklin wasn't particularly conservative, and would likely be labeled a RINO if he even felt at home in the Republican Party. Jefferson is a fascinating case. His quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" is as far from conservatism as Marx's "Revolutions are the locomotives of history." Yet the Tea Party movement seems to love Jefferson because of his professed belief in a limited federal government. The reality of his administration is quite different, but what he said is apparently far more important than what he did.

It is the same mistake Mr. Spadea makes in regards to Andrew Jackson. He quotes Jackson approvingly, but fails to see that Jackson was very much like our current president: Old Hickory knew that gaining popular support inevitably requires giving the people what they want, and that if the people are placated, enormous power can we wielded with little public consternation. Jackson could be both a man of the people, and an autocrat... kinda like Hugo Chavez today.

For the record, while it may very much have been in the nation's interest to shut down the 2nd Bank of the United States, the nation still went through an economic panic and 5-year depression beginning in 1837... the year after Jackson issued his quotable veto message.

The Tea Party Grows Up

By all indications, Election Day could serve as a coming out party for the Tea Party movement. NY-23 has been a clusterfuck of epic proportions, but when all is said and done it looks like the Tea Partiers were right: Dede Scozzafava was a wretched candidate, and if Doug Hoffman pulls out a victory tomorrow night, it will be hard to argue that he shouldn't have been the GOP's candidate. By the time dawn breaks on Wednesday, the Tea Party movement will be both hailed and vilified as the new power brokers on the Right.

I've been on the fence about the Tea Party movement from the get go, and I'm not quite ready to hop down on either side yet. I completely recognize the legitimate anger towards incompetent elected officials who seem uninterested in what their constituents have to say, the fear that the country is drifting (or dashing headlong)away from the principles of our Founders, and the

And yet I'm still not convinced that the Tea Party movement is, on the whole, a good thing for conservatism. I realize the tar and feathers are being readied for me after that statement, but hear me out for a moment or two.

First off, the notion that the Tea Parties are non-partisan in nature should finally be put to rest. The Tea Partiers support limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a restoration of our Constitution (as best as I can sum up from the various Tea Party websites out there). And supporting Doug Hoffman is well in line with those values. But why did the Tea Party people care about the RNCC supporting Dede Scozzafava? Why did a blogger/talk show host like Dana Loesch start a "dump Dede" website? Why did the Tea Party go after the Republican candidate and not the Democratic candidate? The answer's blindingly obvious: Tea Partiers are conservative, and they feel a connection with the Republican brand, even if they feel a disconnect with the current Republican leadership. That's all fine and good, but if the Tea Partiers want honesty, they can start with themselves.

That means that the Tea Partiers are waging a two-front campaign against both the progressives in power and the out-of-power (and quite possibliy out-of-touch) GOP. Two front wars tend to be more difficult, and tactically speaking, are to be avoided when possible. It's one thing to go after a bad candidate in a winnable district. It's another thing to go after the existing party structure, especially when the Tea Party movement itself is still very nebulous and unorganized.

I'm very interested to see who, if anyone, starts to become the de facto leader of the Tea Party movement. There are a lot of people, both established pundits and those who want to be the next conservative star, who have and will attach themselves to the movement. Some of them have some fairly wacky ideas about things, and I'm curious to see how the movement deals with the far-right fringe. We know that Dede Scozzafava is too far left to be welcomed into the Tea Party fold. Is it even possible that someone can be too far right to be embraced by the Tea Party faithful? How about "too crazy"? If the Tea Partiers break with a candidate because they're pro-choice, but welcome activists who believe in FEMA death camps, can the Tea Party movement really be considered mainstream? More importantly, can a movement predicated on the belief that The People innately know what is right and best really be considered conservative?*

There are a lot of questions surrounding conservatism and the Republican Party these days, and not every question needs to be directed at the party leaders who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Dede Scozzafava's campaign.

*I plan on expounding on this at some point in the future. I've been mulling it over in my head, and have even attempted to put some thoughts on paper, but I'm not quite ready yet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Worth 1,000 Words

If you ever need the perfect visual representation of the idea that technology doesn't always equal human progress, look no further than the latest cover of the New Yorker.

Just a Thought

I find it amusing that many of the same people decrying the drone-like thinking of our elected officials are themselves guilty of a litmus test of sorts for candidates. I guess I'm with Newt on this. To say that the Republican Party is broken, and that independents and third-parties are the way to go... but then expect that independent candidates are going to toe the non-party line on everything from gay marriage to abortion to gun control to taxes strikes me as absurd.

The problem for Newt (and other non-populist conservatives) is that the GOP candidate in NY's 23rd district appears to be a horrible candidate, and not just because of her policies. Nobody in the establishment seems willing to make the case that Scozzafazza has turned out to be a flawed candidate because of her personality as opposed to policies, but in my opinion it's the best thing they could do. Otherwise, we might as well just admit that the conservative movement is dead (or at least moribund), and that populism has taken its place.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oh Those Glorious Days of Yesterday

In my inbox today, I received an email from a fan of my day job (even Z-level celebrities have their followers). In it, he said:

Maybe the American People are no longer worthy of the Liberty which God bestowed upon our Patriot Ancestors over 230 years ago. Given the current popularity of pornography, drug addiction, child abuse, prenatal infanticide ("abortion") sodomy, government corruption and other behaviors which back in our Founder's time were known as "Sin", an excellent case could be made for that theory.

I've been seeing more and more statements like this, and while they're certainly well-intentioned and passionately believed, I'm not sure they reflect any real historical reality.

Pornography is certainly more popular today than ever before, but it's not like it was unknown in the day of our "Patriot Ancestors". Drug addiction? Back in the day of our "Patriot Ancestors", beer was more common (and safer) than water in many cities. Child abuse? Yes, we have child abuse today, but we also have laws against it. Back in the day of our "Patriot Ancestors", children were put to work, accidents were common, and beatings were sanctioned under the law.

More importantly, while there are things that our Founders considered sinful that we now allow as legal, there were also things that our Founders accepted that we would now consider sinful behavior. It's a two way street. Yes, abortion was illegal in the days of our "Patriot Ancestors". Women also couldn't vote or hold public office. Yes, pornography is rampant in our society. In pre-Revolutionary Boston, prostitution was rampant. Government corruption? It's always been with us, because governments are made up of men, and men are imperfect vessels.

There is a lot to admire and a great deal to learn from our ancestors, but that doesn't mean that they lived in a utopian age of patriotic freedom. When we approach the past from that perspective, we miss the lessons we can learn from their reality.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't Tread on Fox

I've been thinking about the Obama administration going after Fox News. When David Axelrod took to the airwaves this weekend and said, "A lot of their news programming, it's really not news. It's pushing a point of view," why didn't George Stephanopolous ask Axelrod about Ed Schultz getting a front row seat to an Obama prime time press conference? Cleary the White House doesn't mind people who push a point of view, so why hasn't Sean Hannity been invited to a press conference? Why hasn't Bill O'Reilly? Or Glenn Beck?

And when Rahm Emanuel said, ""It's not a news organization so much as it has a perspective," then why didn't John King ask about Obama's appearance on "The Daily Show" or Michelle Obama's appearance on "The Colbert Report"? Certainly hosts like David Letterman and Jay Leno have their own unique perspective. That's one of the reasons we watch them, and Obama's made multiple appearances on both programs.

The White House is now declaring that America's most watched news network isn't news at all. Administrations dating back to Adams have declared certain members of the press to be enemies, but you may have to go back to the second presidency to find a case of an administration declaring war on (arguably) the most popular press. John Adams wasn't sold on the idea of the Alien and Sedition Acts, but he still signed them, and it very well may have cost him re-election. Declaring war on a portion of the press is a statement that you no longer want to hear from them or the people they represent. People don't like their government telling them that they're not worth listening to, and that's exactly what's happening these days. Representatives don't want to meet with constituents because they don't like what they're going to hear. A presidential administration says Fox News is faux news, and asks the other networks to light their torches and storm the castle. Those aren't the moves we expect our elected officials to make. We expect them to listen to us, and we are not being heard. Now the administration wants shut out what is arguably our loudest voice.

I have a feeling by the time this all plays out, the Obama administration will have created a million more fans of the network, and Obama will have lost further standing among the American people, at a time when he needs public support more than ever. Obama's personal approval ratings have been relatively stable, and much higher than the ratings on his handlings of issues. Now he's getting personal against the popular press, and I suspect that his popularity will take a hit as a result. Is there no one in the White House pragmatic enough to tell the president: Don't Tread on Fox?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is Conservative the Anti-Funny?

Maybe my sense of humor climbed into a helium balloon and is now floating over the D.C. skyline (or is hiding in an attic somewhere), but I'm failing to see the funny in Steven Crowder's new video.

I mean, I suppose it's no less funny than SNL's "Dick in a Box" "Jizz in My Pants" (I just can't keep my SNL skits straight anymore), or any of the other "white guy rapping" videos. I don't think it's racist... I just think it's lazy instead of funny.

Seriously, the President of the United States of America wins the Nobel Prize after nine months in office, and the best you can do is a rap about winning a prize for doing your laundry and brushing your dog?

Crowder's a funny guy, and I've liked his stuff in the past. I just hope he's not falling into the same trap that seems to befall so many comedians who come out as conservative: they become less funny. Anybody remember how funny Dennis Miller used to be?

Glenn Beck's Common Sense- A Post Script

I'm hoping to have my review of Glenn Beck's Arguing With Idiots up this weekend, but before I leave GBCS behind, I wanted to make one more point.

I've already pointed out some of the conservative problems with Thomas Paine (and the fact that Beck holds Paine in such high esteem while railing against Progressives still amuses me), but what if Beck had turned to another Englishman instead of Paine. What if Beck had been inspired by Churchill?

While I was reading GBCS, my mind kept turning to some of the speeches Churchill made in the mid and late 1930's. The other day I had the opportunity to peruse some of those speeches, and I found this quote that I think makes Beck's point far better than anything Paine ever wrote.

And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning.This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.

Unemployment near 10%. Acquiesence to foreign enemies. Progressive social programs that will bankrupt our future. A break with the old social contract between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. But do not suppose that this is as bad as it gets. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. It is entirely possible that two decades from now we will look back on this time as the "good old days".

The message in Glenn Beck's Common Sense was ultimately one of optimism, a feeling I fear is misplaced. We may be entering a long winter of discontent, and we are certainly not guaranteed of victory, even if that supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor takes place in the near future.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Far We've Fallen: Gandhi Edition

Back in the 1940's Mohandas Gandhi practiced non-violence as a way to gain Indian independence. Now his grandson wants to use non-violence as a means of control.

This view of a culture of violence is a central aspect to the philosophy that Dr Gandhi shared with the university: "In modern times, we have come to believe that peace can be achieved through the power of the gun and therefore the more weapons a nation has, the stronger a nation is, that they can attain peace through that.

"Now that may be peace of some sort, but that is peace that comes through fear, and that doesn't last very long. Controlling anybody through fear is a very negative thing.

"We need to control people through love and respect, and I believe that can be done between nations as well as between individuals."

We need to control people through love and respect. Could Nancy Pelosi have put it any better?

How Important Is History?

I'm an unabashed history geek, but I fear my generation doesn't really appreciate the story of mankind. Our history is dumbed down and trivialized, and while there are flashes of brilliance to be found in print, online, and television, it pales in comparison to the masses of crap that are churned out by our culture. We even have multiple reality shows airing on the History Channel, which seems rather odd to me.

So, I thought I'd put up a poll to find out if I'm alone in being bothered by our serene and ignorant wanderings through the world, oblivious to what came before us and refusing to contemplate the world we will leave behind. Thanks for casting your vote, and feel free to leave a comment as well.

Is a sense of history important when it comes to examining current events?
Yes, those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it.
Somewhat important. History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Not very important. What's more important is an understanding of how the world works today.
Not important at all. Live in the now, man. free polls

Are We Decadent Yet?

A few years ago, historian Jacques Barzun released his history of the past 500 years. He called it From Dawn to Decadence. I thought about Barzun's book while I was reading Glenn Beck's Common Sense, because I get the sense that Beck would agree we've become a decadent society that cannot change based on legislation or judicial rulings alone. If you believe society is decadent, then you tend to believe that we need a social and cultural awakening so that we behave better, instead of passing more rules and laws to guide a morally anarchic society.

I thought about this while reading Suzanne Breslin's eye-opening essay, They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?. I'm not an anti-porn crusader, but there was something distubing and depressing about Breslin's story. Maybe it was the porn director who wanted to make an actress cry before her scene, maybe it was the actress who reluctantly decided to let a machine invade her "personal space" for the whopping sum of $500, or maybe it was the breezy assertion of a porn producer and director who simply believes that if people didn't want this stuff, nobody would buy it. He's right, of course. People want all kinds of stuff. That doesn't mean it's good for us to have it.

So what do you think? Are we a decadent society?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eugene Robinson: Strawman Slayer

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson really stretches his mental muscles today, opining that conservatives are exhibiting "Hanoi Jane" behavior. Here's a question for Mr. Robinson: I thought Jane Fonda's actions in the 1970's were perfectly fine, or at least excusable now (kinda like Roman Polanski's rape of a 13-year old girl). Yet I doubt 30 years from now Eugene Robinson is going to be okay with Limbaugh and Beck's criticism of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. So is Mr. Robinson just intellectually lazy, or is he hypocritical?

I'm going with lazy. Robinson, rather than accepting the fact that plenty of world leaders (including Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa) didn't think Obama had earned the prize, instead engages in a fight with strawmen.

The problem for the addlebrained Obama-rejectionists is that the president, as far as they are concerned, couldn't possibly do anything right, and thus is unworthy of any conceivable recognition. If Obama ended world hunger, they'd accuse him of promoting obesity. If he solved global warming, they'd complain it was getting chilly. If he got Mahmoud Abbas and Binyamin Netanyahu to join him around the campfire in a chorus of "Kumbaya," the rejectionists would claim that his singing was out of tune.

Let the president actually accomplish any of those things, Mr. Robinson. Perhaps you're right, perhaps you're wrong, but it's telling that even you can't find real accomplishments of the President. Instead you have to invent future accomplishments for the President. How lame.

Of course, having said that, watch Eugene Robinson win a Pulitzer for this column.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Split Decision On Glenn Beck's Common Sense

Glenn Beck's Common Sense is ultimately a book with two purposes. The first is to outline the urgent problems that our nation seems unwilling or unable to recognize, and the second is to tell us how to act. GBCS succeeds brilliantly in achieving its first purpose, but sadly, fails to achieve its second goal.

The book is full of shocking and disturbing statistics about greed, government waste, and Progressivism, presented in a very "common sense" way. By the time I had finished reading, I believed Beck. We have some serious problems confronting us, and if we don't deal with them, our children are going to be the ones paying the price. Of course, I believed that going into the book as well.

Unfortunately, the remedies offered by Beck are vague and exceedingly unrealistic. After carefully and skillfully guiding the readers through what could be a very boring discussion on national debt, Beck's answer to us is: stop spending. His answer to the problem of parties that don't listen to us is to drop out (as opposed to Goldwater's solution in 1964 of getting more involved in the Republican Party). His 9.12 project is full of populist platitudes like, "The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me." Well, populism isn't conservatism, and a nation of honest, reverent, hopeful, thrifty, humble, charitable, sincere, moderate, hard working, courageous, grateful, and personally responsible people suddenly developing overnight in this country strikes me as almost as fanciful as believing that there is such a thing as "free money" to give to people. And the sad fact is, we have plenty of Americans who believe in free money. Those of us who don't believe Obama's "stash" (as one woman in Detroit recently put it) is neverending have to be realistic in our goals and tactical in our thinking.

Glenn Beck has a wonderful way with words, but that doesn't mean that his call to action is on target. If anything, Beck is guilty of expecting too much from his fellow Americans. It's a shame, because as a warning cry, GBCS is desperately needed. And to be perfectly honest, why should Beck be expected to both warn the world of impending doom and be the guy with the plan to save the day? That scenario seems more Hollywood than history to me. After all, Paul Revere warned the countryside that the Regulars were out, but it's not like he helped write the Declaration of Independance. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration, but didn't fight when the British invaded Virginia during the War of Independance. So why should Glenn Beck (or Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity) know best how to save us?

In the end, I have to give GBCS one thumb up. It attempts to be a serious book, but by articulating essentially unserious solutions, it fails to be anything more than words of warning lost amidst a pundit's heartfelt yearning for a new and awakened America.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Glenn Beck's Common Sense- A Multi-Part Review

A friend of mine recently emailed me and asked what I thought about Glenn Beck's books, "Glenn Beck's Common Sense" and "Arguing With Idiots". I told her that since I hadn't read them, I really couldn't pass judgement. Then I thought to myself that since a) I was looking for something new to read and b) Beck is everywhere these days, it wouldn't hurt to pick up the books and give them a going over. So, periodically I'll be sharing some thoughts about the books, starting with Glenn Beck's Common Sense (hereafter known as GBCS).

I have to confess something right up front. I am not a fan of modern day pundits draping themselves in the flags of our founders. I didn't like it when Peggy Noonan did it with Patriotic Grace, and I don't like it when Glenn Beck does it with GBCS. Remember, I was the guy who didn't even want the Tea Parties called Tea Parties. I believe our history is a precious resource, and I'm greatly concerned when people play fast and loose with our history to try and draw comparisons to today.

This brings me to the first problem I have with GBCS. Glenn Beck is a product, in a way that Thomas Paine never was. Right there on the third page of GBCS it even says, "Glenn Beck is a trademark of Mercury Radio Arts, Inc." Thomas Paine, on the other hand, wrote and published the original Common Sense anonymously. Beck charges $11.99 for his book. Paine charged two shillings for the first run, and then one shilling thereafter. He also encouraged the reprinting of the pamphlet by other printers, and did not accept royalties for the sale of Common Sense. Considering the pamphlet is estimated to have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in less than a year, Paine turned his back on quite a bit of cash.

I'll admit, I would probably have a more open mind if Beck's book didn't bow to the altar of Paine quite so often, at least in the early going (I'm reviewing as I'm reading). For instance, in his author's note, Beck calls Paine a "heroic patriot". No, actually Paine wasn't a patriot. He was indeed, as Beck describes him, an extraordinary writer and (at times) a renowned motivator, but he was never a patriot in the modern sense of the word. Paine's cause wasn't freedom from British tyranny, it was freedom from monarchical tyranny throughout the world (Scott Liell's 46 Pages provides a rich and detailed, yet very readable account of Paine's life, as well as the meaning and impact that Common Sense had upon its publication). After the American Revolution, Paine returned to London, and eventually went to Revolutionary France, where he was initially hailed as a hero, but nearly lost his life as the governmental Terror campaign was roaring to life. Paine was also a critic of religious authority, and I'm curious to see if Beck's reverence for Paine extends to Age of Reason. Paine was also the author of Agrarian Justice, which stated in part:

In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity . . . [Government must] create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.

Not exactly the words of a firebreathing individualist, but that's because Paine wasn't a conservative. Paine was a pure radical, more interested in change than what came after it. In fact, his ideas of governance bear an awful resemblance to the modern day liberal twaddle that Beck attacks throughout the rest of the book.

I point this out not to play "gotcha!" with Beck, but because at the outset of reading this book I am already concerned about faulty assumptions and bad history. The half-knowledge most of us possess is enough to make us think we know our history, but not enough to actually serve any useful purpose beyond looking like we're smart. To think that most of us know enough about our history to recognize our mistakes, much less learn to repeat them is ridiculous, and we don't help our cause when we add to the misconceptions many of us have about the Founding generation.

One other point I need to make before I get into the meat of the book. When you're writing that "Today we find ourselves back in 1776", you immediately run into a problem: it's not 1776, for many reasons. Chiefly among them: we're not at war with our government. And to suggest that it is 1776 might make folks think you're advocating such a war. How does Beck deal with this dilemna? Just two paragraphs after saying it's 1776 all over again, Beck stands down.

I lay out several options, but I want to be clear that none of them includes violence. Thomas Paine and his fellow revolutionaries shed their blood so that future generations would have access to weapons immeasurably stronger than muskets or bayonets: the weapons of democracy. Those are the tools that we will use to usher in a second American revolution, a revolution that won't be fought on battlefields, but in the hearts and minds of the three hundred million people lucky enough to call America home.

Here, as throughout the book, Beck is correct in the bottom line (violent revolution is not the answer), but he's completely off in his line of reasoning. Not to put too fine a point on it, but our Founders weren't Jesus, and they didn't die so that we would never have to fight our government again. We can't buy our freedom on the credit of our ancestors' heroism and courage. We haven't even begun to exhaust non-violent remedies that are available to an active and involved citizenry, but the thought that our children or grandchildren may not live in circumstances identical to ours isn't a radical one. In fact, it's just common sense. It's also a much more difficult argument to make, one that, fully fleshed out (as opposed to my own brief thoughts) would take a lot more space than the three sentences Beck spends opposing violence. Again, he reaches the right conclusion, but he gets there via an easy and cheap argument, and one that doesn't stand up to intellectual rigor.

Secondly, I dislike Beck's rhetoric calling for a second American revolution, because Beck doesn't really want a political revolution. I believe what he's calling for is a social Awakening instead, but almost nobody knows who Jonathan Edwards is these days (though Voters in the Hands of an Angry God would make a great title). Still, don't cheapen history. There's a lot of useful knowledge to be gleaned from a survey of pre-Revolutionary American history. Our story doesn't begin with the Founding generation, and Beck may have found a better match in the periodic religious resurgances throughout our nation's history had he looked there.

Having said all that, when seperating Beck's own thoughts from the historical context in which he wants to place them, Beck's message of action ("Do not remain neutral. Do not sit idly by.) resonates with millions of us. He's right when he says many of us feel that something is wrong, even if we can't define it. Now I'm going to read the rest of the book and see how good a job Beck does at defining our problems and articulating an answer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A School Without Books

Cushing Academy in Massachusetts is ditching it's 20,000 volume library. After all, who needs books when you can have a Kindle. I mean, we all know that reading on a Kindle is just the same, or even better than reading an actual book.

The problem is that nobody actually reads a Kindle. You read from a Kindle. It's an entirely different, and much more antiseptic experience. You'll never get "lost in a Kindle", and the head of Cushing Academy should be smart enough to know that.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Time Saving Tips for Presidents

Matt Yglesias says cut the president some slack for not meeting more with his military commanders. After all, there's only so much time in the day.

A major financial crisis and global recession arose last fall. Dealing with that takes time. Obama, unlike Bush, acknowledges the scientific evidence that the world is poised on the brink of catastrophic climate change. Dealing with that takes time. There’s a need for new financial regulations. Dealing with that takes time. A new administration needs to appoint hundreds of people to various jobs and get them confirmed. That takes times. And the administration is trying to pursue comprehensive health care reform. That also takes time. Doing lots of things that take lots of time leaves less time for other things.

Well, in the interest of being a good American, and being part of the solution and not the problem, I would like to offer these handy time saving tips to current and future presidents.

1) Clear up a few hours on Sunday by NOT appearing on every television network except Fox. Stick with one or two at most, and outsource your other appearances to subordinates.

2) Don't take unneccessary foreign trips. Like, to Copenhagen, for example.

3) Kill two birds with one stone by inviting generals to "beer summits" with police officers and college professors.

4) Don't meet with the Dalai Lama. Boy can that guy talk. Looks like the president's already got this one covered though.

5) Order in.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Does Pride Still Goeth Before a Fall?

I have to ask after seeing this story about the formerly affluent who now need assistance.

For the charities, the surge in demand has tested their resourcefulness -- and sometimes their patience. Not only must they stock millions of pounds of additional food in bigger warehouses, but they also must adopt fresh tactics to help the newly needy, who can be more bewildered, more emotional and more selective than their traditional clients.

One intake volunteer at Food for Others in Fairfax County, for example, has learned that the formerly affluent won't wait outside in line for food at evening neighborhood giveaways, lest they be spotted.

They'd rather go hungry than be seen getting help? That's not just absurd, it's pathetic.

Security Over Prosperity?

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"

That thought came to mind after reading this story.

By a ratio of nearly two-to-one, survey respondents say they would prefer a job that offers better security (59%) over one that offers higher pay (33%) but less stability.

There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting a job that's secure over one that offers a greater reward with greater risk. In fact, at some point it's a pretty responsible attitude to have. I'm a husband and a father now, with responsibilities of my own. I'd prefer to have a job with some security, even if that means the chances of me becoming a billionaire are miniscule.

I do worry that this healthy attitude can have an unhealthy extreme, however. When you prefer security over everything else, you might as well just hire yourself out as a servant or volunteer to be a slave.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Building Buckley

Over at The Next Right, I have a piece about the need for our generation to take charge of our destiny.

I'm 35-years old, and I've lived in the D.C. political universe for about five years now. While I keep my identity private on this blog, I move in the same social circles as most of the young conservatives inside the Beltway. The only problem is, we're not necessarily the young conservatives anymore. Neither are we a generation that has created anything to call our own (outside of blogs, which, to be perfectly frank, are as problematic as they are purposeful these days). I worry that my generation is wasting our opportunity. We have become a chattering class, not a creator class, and now seem content to tweet while Rome burns.

I want more from my generation. I want more from me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What Do We Do When We Get There?

Over at the Next Right, Rick Moran sums up the current intra-party conflict among conservatives in his post "Movement Conservatives vs. The Pragmatists: The Battle is Joined"

I could have just as easily titled this piece “Ideologues vs. The Realists” or some other descriptive caption for what boils down to a debate now fully underway among conservatives about the best way back to power.

Honestly, I didn't read the rest of what Moran wrote, beceause I was struck by the thought that Moran (and a lot of others on both sides of the argument) is misreading what this argument is about. This is not about finding the best way back to power. Our politics are cyclical, and the Republicans will have future success if for no other reason than the two party system is entrenched in our society and sooner or later (I'm guessing sooner) the party in power will screw up enough that people vote for the alternative. Want to really know the best way back to power? Just wait for it.

This fight is one of those arguments that flair up, almost generationally, to define conservatism itself. One could make the case that the argument actually started during the 2008 primary season, and we're now witnessing the populist/traditional conservative backlash to the failed candidacy of a moderate/pragmatic politician. Backdating the source of our current disagreement is less important, however, than simply and fundamentally recognizing that this isn't an argument about policy, it's an argument about philosophy.

In other words, sooner or later we'll be back in power. The real argument is, "What do we do when we get there?"

Having quickly scanned Moran's post, here's one more thought.

The "modern" conservative movement was created largely in the 1950's with its culminating victory in the the 1980's. A lot has changed in the world since then. I'm of the opinion that a "post-modern" conservatism (however it may come to be defined) should be taken as seriously as the "modern" conservative movement. The arguments between the "elitists" and the "rubes" leaves out one distinct possibility: neither side is completely right, and neither side is completely wrong.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rewriting History

Retired USAF Lt. Col. William Astore says it's time to demilitarize our culture. There are some points I agree with (our support for soldiers should extend to their return home), some I disagree with (I don't find giant flags or military flyovers to be scary), and one statement I have to correct.

Astore, who's now a history professor, writes:

we shouldn't need reminding that this country was originally founded as a civilian society, not a militarized one. Indeed, the revolt of the 13 colonies against the King of England was sparked, in part, by the perceived tyranny of forced quartering of British troops in colonial homes, the heavy hand of an "occupation" army, and taxation that we were told went for our own defense, whether we wanted to be defended or not.

Actually, as far as societies go, our nation was much more militarized at its founding than it is today. True, we didn't have much of a standing army, but able-bodied men were expected to defend their homes, towns, and country against enemies foreign and domestic.

As for the revolt of the 13 colonies, the quartering of British troops before hostilities happened in one location (Boston), and that quartering took place as a result of the citizens of Boston's outright refusal to obey the Stamp Act. Further escalation of troops into Boston came after the destruction of tens of thousands of dollars in private property (the Tea Party). Yes, clearly the quartering of British troops was something that stuck in the craw of our Founding Generation (which is why we have the 3rd Amendment), but I wouldn't say it was a chief cause of the revolution in Massachusetts.

As for the "occupation army", the British troops weren't seen as interlopers or foreigners, because the vast majority of colonists considered themselves to be British, at least until Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" was released in early 1776 (after Lexington, Concord, Fort Ticonderoga, and Bunker Hill). Paul Revere, despite what you may have read, never shouted "The British are coming!" on his midnight right. Instead, he yelled that the "Regulars" were on the march. This was a civil war, not an invasion by an occupying army.

Finally, the taxation issue wasn't about "taxation that we were told went for our own defense, whether we wanted to be defended or not." Oh, the colonists had no problem with defense. In fact, many of the older fighters in the American Revolution fought in the French and Indian War (including George Washington). The problem the colonists had was with the direct taxation from Parliament, rather than taxation through the state assemblies. Perhaps the professor remembers the phrase "No Taxation Without Representation"?

If Professor Astore wants to make his case, that's fine. There's no need to rewrite history, however.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

We've Found Our "Change"

The iconic poster of Obama has just met its conservative counterpart.

Even better is the fauxrage by Earl Ofari Hutchinson. We now have Los Angeles elitists declaring art to be dangerous.

"Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery," says Hutchinson, "it is mean-spirited and dangerous."

"We have issued a public challenge to the person or group that put up the poster to come forth and publicly tell why they have used this offensive depiction to ridicule President Obama."

Hey Earl, have you ever googled "Bush Hitler"? Portraying the president as a comic book villian? Bush would've loved that in comparison.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Culture of Effort

I'm reading Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason (and mentally rebutting her about every two pages) when I came across a phrase that I really like. Here's the phrase in context.

The larger edifice of middlebrow culture, which once encompassed Americans of many social classes as well as ethnic and racial backgrounds, has collapsed. The disintegration and denigration of the middlebrow are closely linked to the political and class polarization that distinguishes the current wave of anti-intellectualism from the popular suspicion of highbrows nad eggheads that has always, to a greater or lesser degree, been a part of the American psyche. What has been lost is an alternative to mass popular culture, imbibed unconsciously and effortlessly through the audio and video portals that surround us all. What has been lost is the culture of effort.

Maybe our culture of vapid celebrities is what we deserve, considering how little effort most of us put into bettering ourselves these days.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Embarrassed Empire

Is it possible that the United States of America is the first empire in history to be embarrassed by what it is, rather than embrace greatness?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Natives Are Restless

Gallup's new survey has a very interesting figure.

From January 21st to July 7th, President Obama's disapproval rating has tripled, from 12% to 36%. At the same time, his approval rating has fallen from 68% to 56%.

Rasmussen's new poll suggests that more people now strongly disapprove of the President's peformance than strongly approve.

Disapproval has grown enormously, and the President's soft support has grown to account for more than half of his overall support. At the same time, most of those who are opposed to the President are strongly opposed. That's never a good sign.

In short, the natives are restless. Do these numbers suggest a tipping point in the not-too-distant future?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Representation Until You Read the Legislation

We're hearing talk of a new stimulus plan being offered. Obviously, I don't think many of you elected officials would be so foolish as to actually support this, but I also realize that even if the GOP were to oppose such legislation with unanimity, it would still pass.

I think Representative Boehner and the rest of the House GOP did a magnificant job of pointing out that a vote on legislation was going to take place without anyone having read the actual bill. That resonates with me, and it resonates with a lot of other Americans as well. If you're not even reading the legislation you're voting on, this country has a problem.

So here's my request: Have every Republican representative pledge that they will not vote for any stimulus bill or amendments until they, and the American people, have been able to read and study the legislation for some period of time. If the first stimulus wasn't enough, then we can wait a few weeks to debate another one in an informed manner. If Democrats try to hold a vote without elected officials and the American public having had a chance to pore over that bill and examine it closely, then it's time for the GOP to walk out of that chamber. An easy way for the GOP to reclaim its position as the party of grown-ups is to start acting like it. You won't be taking your ball and going home (as critics will allege), you will be refusing to be party to an act that your constituents have told you they find unacceptable. You can't vote on legislation that you haven't read and think that you're representing me. I can assure you, I wouldn't cast a vote on an enormous spending package without having read even the finest of print. I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one that feels that way. How can you claim to represent us until you've read the legislation and know what you're voting for or against?

Which means, of course, that we have to start telling our Republican representatives that we don't want a vote on this legislation until we know what's in the bill. I'm even sending a letter to my Democratic congressman, even though I doubt he'll pay it a second look. Hey, it just means I'll cough up another Andrew Jackson for his opponent.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The National Anthem of the Amehricans

It's all right/It's all right./You can't be forever blessed./Still tomorrow's gonna be another working day/and I'm trying to get some rest./That's all, I'm trying to get some rest.

Let the Amehricans get their rest. For those who want to save the nation, it's time to get to work.

A-meh-rica Rising

The new column is here. Also, Roger L. Simon's latest column might say 90% of what I wanted to say 100% better. It's a tough thing for someone to admit, but it's true.

The main disagreement I have with Mr. Simon's piece is this: I don't think Obama's over; not by a long shot. Someone so familiar with Saul Alinsky's teachings, and someone who so clearly subscribes to them, will not easily or readily cede power. Conversely, the GOP seems to be unable at the current time to mount a serious challenge to Obama's power.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Notes for a Holiday Weekend

I should have a new piece going up at Pajamas Media later today. This was easily the hardest time I've had with writing anything of substance, and I think it was because there was just so much to say. Even reading over the piece now, I wish that I had made it a little longer. Oh the perils of being a verbose kind of guy in a Twitter world!

I do want to thank Roger L. Simon for providing me with the kick in the pants that got me to finish the piece. When I saw him use the phrase dying nation, it affirmed to me that I was on the right track with my own essay.

Tomorrow I'm off to my first Tea Party. I'll be attending one of the smaller events in northern Virginia rather than attempting to head into D.C. I'm hoping to come back full of praise, but regardless of how it turns out, I plan on a full accounting at some point over the weekend.

In the meantime, enjoy your Independence Day. I hope everyone will take a few moments to reflect on the men and women who made it all possible.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy: Status Quo

When President Obama was running for the highest office in the land, his slogan was "Change". His entire campaign was based on that one simple and apparently meaningless word.

I think that's much more honest a slogan, at least when it comes to foreign policy. Despots, dictators, and tyrants take heart!

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Open Letter To My Congressman

Dear Rep. ---------,

I'm very disappointed to see that you voted in favor of HR2454, but I can't say I'm really surprised. This would normally cause me to just complain to my friends about you, and then complain some more online, but this time I've decided to do something a little different.

I'm going to oppose you in your re-election. No, not personally. My wife's already said she'll divorce me if I ever decided to run for office, and I'd like to keep her around. No, I'm going to oppose you by supporting your opponent in 2010.

Of course I voted for your opponent last time too, but you still won. Here's the big difference: last time, I didn't donate any money, and I didn't donate any time to your opponent. This time it's going to be a little different.

Every time you vote against a bill that I consider to be an absolute legislative abomination, I'm going to put twenty bucks aside. All of that money will be donated to your general election opponent come October of 2010.

That's not all. Every time you cast a vote that proves you can't be trusted with the responsibility that comes with the office, I'm pledging to donate two hours of my time to the campaign of your general election opponent. That time will be spent manning phones, licking envelopes, knocking on doors... all of the things that up until now I never really wanted to do. Actually, I'd still prefer not doing it, but I will, because neither I, nor this country, can afford to have people like you taking and spending our money.

Consider yourself put on notice, Congressman. By the way, after I finish sending this to you, I'm emailing it to every friend I have in this district.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

US Threatens Iran: We're Having a Totally Awesome Party and You Can't Come

It occurs to me that telling the Iranian regime, "you can't come to our 4th of July parties" may be as colossal a misreading of a group of people as Marie Antoinette's, "let them eat cake!"

The regime is engaged in a power struggle for their very survival, and we tell them they can't have the potato salad and hot dogs that we were saving them.

The regime is killing dozens if not hundreds of innocent civilians, and we tell them that they're going to miss some great fireworks.

The regime is shutting down the press, and trying to block the release of information from Iran, and we tell them that no matter what, they're no longer invited to our party.

As if that wasn't pathetic enough, none of the Iranian diplomatic staff had ever replied to any of our embassies to accept the invitation.

The world isn't just watching Iran. They're watching us as well, and the actions of the past week must surely have the tinpot dictators and two bit despots rubbing their hands together with glee.

Obama, Bush, and the Price of Stability

Has anyone else noticed that President Obama's response to events in Iran is very similar to the response by President George Herbert Walker Bush to the events in China 20 years ago? Both presidents offered muted responses to the outbreak of freedom, and neither offered much beyond platitudes in response to the violence committed against protestors.

In Bush's case, his treatment of the Tiananmen Square massacre became part of a larger narrative in his re-election bid in 1992. It was Bill Clinton and his campaign who chastised the President for failing to take a tougher stance with China in the wake of the events at Tiananmen Square. Now Clinton's wife is once again standing behind her man. The difference is, her "man" is President Barack Obama, and his policy towards Iran looks a lot like the same policy her husband criticized when he was running.

The chief argument made in favor of the 41/44 foreign policy is that it maintains "stability". It also maintains tyranny. Democrats spoke out against this policy twenty years ago, but they're fully supporting it today. Many Republicans opposed 41's policy at the time, and are at least being consistent in opposing the current policy of our President.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New Sayings Inspired By The Obama Administration

"The only thing we have to fear is another country accusing us of meddling in democracy!"

"All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to speak up against it."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We Will Succeed, Even If We Have To Fight Alone

While the White House blathers on about not wanting to meddle in Iran's affairs, those fighting for their self-determination seem a bit underwhelmed with the logic of President Obama and his spokesperson, Robert Gibbs.

"We are fighting with our lives and the world is just watching," said Ali, a Tehran University student who asked that his full name not be used. "They see how the government is trying to silence us, how they are beating us -- but they don't come to our help. It's OK. We will succeed, even if we have to fight alone."

That's because our president seems to have accidentally mailed his backbone to Gordon Brown along with the bust of Winston Churchill he felt clashed with the other decorations in the Oval Office. If it's any consolation, Ali, there are a lot of us here at home wondering what the hell our government is doing as well.

By the way, Mr. President, if these protestors do succeed, your attitude pretty much guarantees that nothing will be different with Iran's policy towards the United States. That'll be your fault, however, not the fault of the millions of people throughout Iran who are risking their lives in support of self-governance.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Jig Is Up

I thought this comment deserved a post of its own.

We’re broke! There is no money left! The middle class and wealthy, whose tax dollars for decades were thrown around to keep entire peoples from killing each other wholesale, will not exist within ten years in these United States, thus rendering our Treasury empty for a long time to come. The jig is up. Wake up already, and accept that an era has ended. It’s over. Something will take it’s place, for better or worse, but for pete’s sake, stop the mental anguish already. Nobody is particularly happy about it, but that’s the way it is. Something else: did you notice how all the money spent (trillions of dollars), all the diplomacy (manipulation), all the commentary, all the good intentions, decades of it, and people still want to kill each other wholesale and they still hold onto the very beliefs and ways of thinking that leave them impoverished and demoralized? Yeah. It’s a head-scratcher.

As I've said before, I believe that the United States has grown weaker over the last several decades, and much work has to be done to restore this nation to its full potential. Doing that while we face such grave threats to our national security will not be easy. It may not even be likely. Still, it must be done.

I will never believe that this country cannot be great again. I will never believe that we cannot reverse the declines. I will never believe that we have failed, that it is too late to change, that all hope is lost.

I will not allow myself to become a part of a movement that says our best days are behind us. I will fight as hard as I can, for as long as I can, to ensure that my children have a country on a firm foundation of liberty and prosperity, no matter how difficult it may be to get there.

Reaction to "America Sleeps"

It's usually an exercise in frustration to read the comments of any column that gets posted at Pajamas Media. Someone invariably criticizes the headline of the piece (which I don't write, incidentally), there's the usual partisan back and forth, and then the thread usually devolves (or evolves, depending on your perspective) into something only tangentially related to what I'd written.

This time however, there were some interesting comments made. I figure this is as good a place as any to address them.

I enjoyed the energy in which you wrote about the situation in Iran, and how POTUS should respond. However, the America in which you wrote about does not exist anymore.

Our government has sold out to special interests, put us in hock to China, empowered and enriched themselves. We are lead by children.

Until we vote out the likes of BLT POTUS, SanFran Nan, Harry Reed, and Barney back door Frank, do not hope for what you have written.

First of all, I think the name-calling, especially one sentence after saying "We are lead by children" really detracts from what the writer had to say. I don't disagree with his premise, but here's the bottom line: if we're lead by children and we want it to change, then it is up to us to be the grownups. It doesn't matter how emotionally satisfying it may be to point out that Barney Frank is gay (and frankly, I'm not even sure why that matters), but as soon as you start with the juvenile name calling, you lose credibility.

Secondly, it may be true that the America I spoke of no longer exists, but I don't believe that's the case. When conservatives outnumber liberals 2-1, that tells me that the biggest thing we've "lost" is motivation and desire to get our country back on track. I don't deny that there are big problems in this country, problems that date back decades and are deeply entrenched in American culture and policy. None of these problems are unfixable, however, as long as we have the courage and commitment do so.

I see all the people in the streets, being oppressed by Ahmadinejad’s goons, and I feel so much compassion for them.

Until I remember that they are supporting another Israel-hating Jew-annihilationist thug. At the drop of the hat, aren’t these the same mobs that will be burning the American flag and cheering as bombs fall on schoolgirls in Israel? This is no Cedar or Orange revolution, is it?

There were several comments that fell along these lines; that we should not concern ourselves with these events, because the freedom lovers of Tehran are still haters of the United States. That may be true in some cases, I doubt it is true for all of them. Still, I’d much prefer the lovers of freedom be in charge instead of the autocratic despots, even if both groups hate me. The lover of freedom can grow into the responsibilities of self-government, because they have a incentive to do so. The autocratic despots, on the other hand, have no such incentive. Give me a freedom-loving, America hating democracy and in 20 years it stands a good chance of being an ally. Not so much with the America-hating dictatorships.

Dude, I have to disagree with your use of the word opposition, Mousavi & Ahmadinejad are one in the same. Mousavi is more representative of the old guard, while Ahmadinejad is emblematic of the next generation of revolutionaries. Both are ultra loyal to the tyrannical Ayatollah whose mullahcracy controls the governmental, economic, social, military, diplomatic and religious affairs of every Iranian. No free speech, means no free press, means no free thought, means no critique, means no opposition.

Events on the ground would seem to be proving him wrong. Besides, this is less about Mousavi than it is about the millions of people turning out across Iran.

So if Obama goes to the UN and denounces the election. Or if McCain had been elected (I voted for him), he would have rallied international support for the democratic uprising and gave his full unconditional support…..

Isn’t that all forms of diplomacy, which some of you abhor? You can rally all the support outside Iran you want. But how is that going to bring down the theocrats? Or maybe you folks haven’t thought of that?

Of course, if we weren’t still bogged down in Bush’s Iraq adventure, maybe we could place some military pressure on Iran. Or maybe not?

I’ll offer the situation in Iran is far more complex than some of you think. After all, we fought an 8 year proxy war with Iran in the 1980s and there was no change in Iranian government. You all do remember that the Reagan administration supported Saddam in the ’80s and supported the Iranian Mujahadeen, based in Iraq, don’t you?

You can blame Obama all you want. But I have yet to see any solution posted from any of you that will bring about regime change in Tehran.

If we're lucky, the Iranian people can bring about regime change themselves, though I think we should be providing at least moral support. If, on the other hand, the opposition fails, then I believe we (and by "we", I mean you and I, not the politicians in Washington) have to accept the fact that the Iranian regime is committed to waging war against any who try to stand up to them, including their own population... and ours.

We’re broke! There is no money left! The middle class and wealthy, whose tax dollars for decades were thrown around to keep entire peoples from killing each other wholesale, will not exist within ten years in these United States, thus rendering our Treasury empty for a long time to come. The jig is up. Wake up already, and accept that an era has ended. It’s over. Something will take it’s place, for better or worse, but for pete’s sake, stop the mental anguish already. Nobody is particularly happy about it, but that’s the way it is. Something else: did you notice how all the money spent (trillions of dollars), all the diplomacy (manipulation), all the commentary, all the good intentions, decades of it, and people still want to kill each other wholesale and they still hold onto the very beliefs and ways of thinking that leave them impoverished and demoralized? Yeah. It’s a head-scratcher.

Actually, this one deserves a post all of its own.

Monday, June 15, 2009

America Snoring

I haven't forgotten about my post on how Republicans can start to make an impact in our urban areas (in fact, it's turning into quite a lengthy piece), but events in Iran have made me put that topic on the back burner for now.

I'm very pleased that Pajamas Media has posted my latest column. We are now clearly facing a regime, not a country, and our response to the crackdown on democracy in Iran has been, in a word, un-American. The silence from our president is appalling, and I would encourage the American people to raise their voices in solidarity with the Iranian people who demand a free and fair election, since our President evidentally has no desire to do so.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why Does James Carville Hate America?

James Carville's new book 40 More Years might be one of the more frightening books on the shelves these days.

What happens to a society after 40 years of Democratic rule? Look at Detroit, where the last Republican mayor stepped down in 1962. A third of the city is below the poverty line. Nearly half of all children under the age of five live in poverty. The violent crime rate is more than three times the national average. Less than 1/4 of high school freshmen go on to graduate. How's that Democratic majority working out for ya, Detroit?

Detroit's a festering cesspool though. How about Chicago? It last had a Republican mayor in 1931! The poverty rate in 2007 was 20 percent, far above the national average. The violent crime rate is more than twice the national average. The high school graduation rate is 52.2 percent, far below the national average (but good enough that Arne Duncan, former superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, is now our U.S. Secretary of Education!).

Washington, D.C. has never had a Republican mayor. Philadelphia's last Republican mayor was 1952. St. Louis last had a Republican mayor in 1949. Buffalo's last GOP mayor was 1965. New Orleans, Oakland, San Francisco, Camden... not a single Republican mayor within the past 40 years.

I look at that list, and I see misery for the residents, and opportunity for Republicans. Yes, it would be an uphill climb. It may even be necessary to run as Democrats to begin with, but I've always believed that conservatism should work for everyone, not just suburban and rural voters.

What kind of conservative message could sell in these one-party towns? That'll be the subject of my next post.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Administrative Despotism

Eric Scheie notes the fact that people seem afraid to use the term "socialist" to describe Barack Obama's policies, though they certainly bear a striking resemblance to socialism.

Eric wonders who "owns" the word these days, but I think it's less a question of ownership than of our collective mangling of what words like socialism really mean. Regardless, "socialism" is one of those "It-can't-happen-here" words, like communism and facism. This is America! We can't be socialist, or facisct, or communist. We're Americans!

That, of course, is ridiculous. We can be whatever we want to be, or (perhaps more appropriately) whatever we allow ourselves to be. I've been quoting from Toqueville's "Democracy in America" lately, and I find it interesting that when Toqueville was describing despotism in a democratic society, he had a difficult time coming up with a word that would fit what he was describing.

I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.

Toqueville did just that, and I think that chapter of "Democracy in America" should be required reading for every American voter. The entirety of the piece is too long to quote, but here's another snippet.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions only exhibits servitude at certain intervals and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is in vain to summon a people who have been rendered so dependent on the central power to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.

I add that they will soon become incapable of exercising the great and only privilege which remains to them. The democratic nations that have introduced freedom into their political constitution at the very time when they were augmenting the despotism of their administrative constitution have been led into strange paradoxes. To manage those minor affairs in which good sense is all that is wanted, the people are held to be unequal to the task; but when the government of the country is at stake, the people are invested with immense powers; they are alternately made the play things of their ruler, and his masters, more than kings and less than men. After having exhausted all the different modes of election without finding one to suit their purpose, they are still amazed and still bent on seeking further; as if the evil they notice did not originate in the constitution of the country far more than in that of the electoral body.

I'm sure many will disagree, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the United States of America has fallen into such a state. Administrative despotism is in full sway in this country, but Barack Obama is not the instigator. In fact, I believe that I have lived the entirety of my existance in country which has given itself over to that unnamed menace that Toqueville warned us about. This is not Barack Obama's doing, though his adventures are certainly leading us further down the wrong road. Still, he is only vigorously and substantially building on despotic policies that were in place long before he assumed office.

Our republic has been buried underneath the rubble of decades of partisan political battles, to the point that there's not much of the original country and culture left for us to see. When we began healing ourselves with other people's money, paying for our retirement on the backs of our children and grandchildren, placing them further in debt so we can enjoy our own life a fundamental aspect of Americanism was destroyed. When the dream of opportunity for all was replaced with the reality of entitlements for some, when government deemed certain businesses "too big to fail", when "citizen" became synonymous with "resident", when the very framework of our government became subject to not just interpretation, but re-imagining, when we decided that every aspect of our lives, from the food that we eat to the pillows on our beds should be subject to governmental regulation, the nature and purpose of our government became something very different than what our founders put in place.

Our parents and grandparents, even as they fought the biggest external threat to Western Democracy, dreamed an impossible dream: that the United States could maintain its greatness even as it discouraged greatness in its citizens. The schemes they devised gave us an Indian Summer of prosperity and success, but only by delaying the inevitable costs associated with their utopian vision. Now the bill has come due, and we are confronted with a decision: pay now, or force our children into a life of misery and servitude.

Can we get restore our nation? I honestly don't know. Still, that doesn't mean that we are bound to endure the future miseries of a fully failed state. As Thomas Paine said, we have the power to begin the world anew. Other generations have had to make do with admiring men and women like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, James Madison, Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Adams, Eliza Pinckney, Phyllis Wheatley, etc. We, however, are asked to do more than just pay homage to them. Our generation has been tasked with emulating them. Just like our forefathers, who were called to create this nation, and our grandfathers, who were called to defend it, our generation must restore the principles of this nation, and in doing so, dismantle the Leviathan that has grown around our system of government.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Despotism In An Age Of Equality

From Democracry in America:

The nature of despotic power in democratic ages is not be fierce or cruel, but minute and meddling. Despotism of this kind, though it odes not trample on humanity, is directly opposed to the genius of commerce and the pursuits of industry.
I readily admit that public tranquillity is a great good, but at the same time I cannot forget that all nations have been enslaved by being kept in good order. Certainly it is not to be inferred that nations ought to despise public tranquillity, but that state ought not to content them. A nation that asks nothing of its government but the maintenance of order is already a slave at heart, the slave of its own well-being, awaiting only the hand that will bind it. By such a nation the despotism of faction is not less to be dreaded than the despotism of an individual. When the bulk of the community are engrossed by private concerns, the smallest parties need not despair of getting the upper hand in public affairs. At such times it is not rare to see on the great stage of the world, as we see in our theaters, a multitude represented by a few players, who alone speak in the name of an absent or inattentive crowd: they alone are in action, while all others are stationary; they regulate everything by their own caprice; they change the laws and tyrannize at will over the manners of the country, and then men wonder to see into how small a number of weak and worthless hands a great people may fall.

Just something to think about.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Greetings from the Great Divide

Two quick pictures from a recent trip to Barnes and Noble.

I thought it was interesting that the Ayn Rand collection now has its own end cap. Apparently more people are "going Galt" than what the media would have us believe.

In the current events section, I couldn't help but notice that the hyperbole is getting worse.

It might be kind of hard to read, but one of the books on the top shelf is Jack Cafferty's "Now or Never", which says if we don't apply Cafferty's ideas to the country, all will soon be lost.

On the next shelf down is Ross Clark's "The Road to Big Brother", all about the survelliance society that is England, and how it is transforming America as well.

I got the sense, while perusing the latest books, that the Great Divide between left and right is growing bigger by the day, with both sides believing that big changes must come, or else the idea of America could vanish forever. I'm not discounting the possibility, but I'm starting to wonder if our idea of America (the conservative one) isn't already gone.

Toqueville on The Myth of Equality

From Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy in America, Chapter XIII: Causes of the Restless Spirit of the Americans in the Midst of Their Prosperity

It is possible to conceive of men arrived at a degree of freedom that should completely content them; they would then enjoy their independence without anxiety and without impatience. But men will never establish any equality with which they can be contented. Whatever efforts a people may make, they will never succeed in reducing all the conditions of society to a perfect level; and even if they unhappily attained that absolute and complete equality of position, the inequality of minds would still remain, which, coming directly from the hand of God, will forever escape the laws of man. However democratic, then, the social state and the political constitution of a people may be, it is certain that every member of the community will always find out several points about him which overlook his own position; and we may foresee that his looks will be doggedly fixed in that direction. When inequality of conditions is the common law of society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye; when everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked enough to hurt it. Hence the desire of equality always becomes more insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Great Divide

Taking a look at the Gallup Survey polling on gay marriage, I was really struck by the partisan divide. Overall, Americans oppose gay marriage 57-40. Among liberals, however, 75% support gay marriage, while 80% of conservatives oppose it.

Moderates are splity roughly 50/50, which leaves me wondering how on earth we can expect to find a single solution to make every American happy?

As a conservative, I view the pushing of this issue as less of an "equal rights" struggle and more of a "philosophical mandate". Of course I say that as a heterosexual married male, but frankly, my view doesn't matter one iota less than that of any other American (or more correctly, it shouldn't matter less). At some point the governmental meddling in every social issue is going to lead to an imposition of a philosophy that tens of millions of Americans are opposed to. Maybe instead of opposing gay marriage, abortion, etc... the new Republican Party could simply say that these aren't areas in which the government needs to be involved (a pipe dream, to be sure).