Surplus Of Stupid

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is ordering a Banh Mi sandwich at iPho on University.  Avery LIBRELLE enters the store.

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg!   After four years, Minnesota’s economy is rocking under Mark Dayton, while Wisconsin is sucking pond water!

BERG:  How do you figure?

LIBRELLE:  Minnesota has a $2 Billion surplus

BERG:  Right.  After raising taxes by…$2 Billion.  Now, if the economy is humming along, you’d think that the surplus would be bigger than the tax increase, now, wouldn’t you?

LIBRELLE:  At least Minnesota has a surplus!

BERG:  Right – apparetly, entirely due to the tax hikes.  In the meantime, Wisconsin is headed toward a surplus without the need for tax hikes – or, as we call it, a sustainable surplus.

LIBRELLE:  Yeah, but our economy is still better!

BERG:   Most of Minnesota’s growth is in metro-area medical, medical device, insurance and financial services companies – the ones that benefitted from Obamacare and “Too Big to Fail” stimuli.  Things aren’t nearly as rosy in Greater Minnesota.  In the meantime, Wisconsin’s growth is being held back by the slow manufacturing sector – which is a much bigger share of Wisconsin’s economy than Minnesota’s, and isn’t doing all that well here, either.

LIBRELLE:  If Minnesota had elected Tom Emmer governor in 2010, we’d be in the same boat!

BERG:  Right.  We’d have two economies being dragged down by Democrat policies.

LIBRELLE:  What?

BERG:  The parts of Wisconsin that are dragging the state’s economy are the ones that have been run by Democrats for generations.  The decay of Milwaukee’s manufacturing base is the state’s biggest economic problem.

LIBRELLE:  Hah!  But in Minnesota, it’s the Democrat-run cities that are winning…

BERG:  …as a result of national Democrat probrams to transfer wealth from consumers to banks and health insurance companies.

LIBRELLE:  You should issue a rape trigger warning.

BERG:  Clearly.

[And SCENE]

Chu Bad, So Sad

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

In 2008, Obama’s Energy Secretary Stephen Chu famously said American gas prices should jump to European levels at $9.00 per gallon, although President Obama sought a gradual increase, instead.
Used my Cub Foods card at Holiday today.  Eat your hearts out, lads.

And it only took six years…

There Is No Such Thing As “Too Conservative”

Eleven seconds after Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for President, the left and media (ptr) declared he couldn’t possibly win because he was “too conservative”.

Of course, any conservative – especially the ones that provide a legitimate threat to the Democrats, or are endorsed at any rate – will be labelled “too conservative”.

Sturdevanted:  The mainstream media, and parts of the GOP establishment, and for that matter my moderate-Democrat father – are fond of practicing “Sturdevanting”; thinking that all our nation’s problems would be solved if the GOP became “less extreme” and the Democrat Party remained squirrel!   If we just had a GOP like the good old days – the Gerald Fords and the Dave Jenningses and the Arne Carlsons – who were willing to work with the Gus Halls and Rudy Perpiches and Paul Wellstones (and indulge their most wacked-out “progressive” pipe dreams), all would be just hunky dory.

Of course, there’s method to the madness; so much, in fact, that it’s The Law.

Threat Reduction:  Berg’s Eighth Law to be exact: “The conservative liberals “respect” for their “conservative principles” will the the one that has the least chance of ever getting elected”.   (There are a number of corollaries, ending with the Reagan Corollary, which is pretty germane today: “The Media and Left (pardon the redundancy) will try to destroy the conservative they are most afraid of”).

Now, Ted Cruz isn’t my top choice; as I noted the other day, he’s behind Walker, Jindal, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio on my list, so far.

And there may be reasons he can’t win; being “too conservative” isn’t one of them.

And by “too conservative”, I mean in a modern American context; proclaiming oneself king, calling for the re-establishment of the Holy Roman Empire and the re-institution of flogging in the Navy are pretty much off the table, realistically.

But in that American context?

Mitt Romney didn’t lose because he was too conservative; he outpolled Obama among “independent” and “moderate” voters.  No, Mitt lost because 400,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Colorado stayed home.  400,000 Republicans that had showed up for previous elections, but decided they had better things to do on a Tuesday night.

And they didn’t stay home because Mitt was too conservative.

Kevin Williamson at NRO notes that Sturdevanting, and other violations of Berg’s 11th Law, have a long, storied history:

“Reagan can’t win, Ford says.” That’s the 1976 version. The 1980 New York Times version, with the nearly identical headline: “Ford Declares Reagan Can’t Win.” Ford was really quite sure of himself: “Every place I go, and everything I hear, there is a growing, growing sentiment that Governor Reagan cannot win the election.” New York magazine: “The reason Reagan can’t win. . . . ” “Preposterous,” sociologist Robert Coles wrote about the idea of a Reagan victory. The founder of this magazine worried that Reagan simply could not win in 1980, and several National Review luminaries quietly hoped that George H. W. Bush would be the nominee. There were serious, thoughtful conservatives who thought in 1980 that their best hope was to have Daniel Patrick Moynihan run as a Democrat that year, while many others were looking to ex-Democrat John Connally to carry the conservative banner on the GOP side. Things have a funny way of working out differently than expected. (And then much, much differently.)

And of course, if you’re a conservative, there’s another angle to it:

Will he be the nominee? Good Lord, who knows or cares at this point? It’s a question mainly of interest to Ted Cruz and his rivals, and maybe to their sainted mothers. That we are so fascinated by the possibility is further evidence of the corrosive cult of the presidency — we conservatives should know better than to wait for the anointing of a savior.

Take that, Ron Paul supporters.

Anyway – is there such a thing as “too conservative?”  Maybe. Is anyone to the left of Mike Huckabee the one to tell a conservative/republican/libertarian what that means?

No.  Not at all.

In Kolb Blood

First, credit where it’s due; Jeff Kolb is a guy who walked the walk; in a city full of political activists with big ideas, he settled for big accomplishments, running for and winning a seat on the city council in last fall’s GOP sweep in Crystal. Now, it’d be inaccurate to call Kolb a conservative ideologue; he’s a Republican.

And he wants you to be absolutely clear about one more thing:

Let’s get this out of the way right away. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a Tea Party. I’ve never been to a Tea Party meeting. I don’t even drink tea. I know many people who have been involved with the Tea Party in one way or another, and many of them are fine people who care about their country, but choose to show it in a different way than I do.

And let’s be clear; I am a Tea Partier.  I don’t think that there’s any rational doubt that the Tea Party brought the GOP back – to the extent that it is back – from its 2008 nadir, and brought the party a relevance among the limited-government conservatives that had largely deserted the party.

But Kolb’s focus is here in Minnesota – and he gets some things right…:

Here in Minnesota, two opportunists in particular have done a great job of establishing themselves as self-appointed “leaders” of the Tea Party movement, they being Jack Rogers and Jake Duesenberg of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance. They have a sweet URL that makes them seem extra legit, teaparty.mn and they operate the MN Tea Party PAC.

…and a few things wrong…:

Jack and Jake haven’t been as successful as the guys from FreedomWorks, only raising $8,200 in 2014. They spent $8,900. The irony of the deficit spending is probably lost on them. A total of $0 was spent to support the election of any candidates.

…but then that’s true of most Tea Party groups; very few endorsed, much less spent money on, candidates at all.

And he gets a few things that are worth talking about: 

Credit where credit is due, Jack and Jake may not raise a lot of money, but they have perfected the art of over the top symbolic gestures as a way to generate media coverage.

We’ll come back to that.   

A quick search of the Star Tribune archives shows Jack has been mentioned in 12 recent stories, Jake, sadly, only 6. In most of these stories you can find Jack and Jake bad mouthing Republicans. About the only candidate they seemed to like in 2014 was Jeff Johnson. Take from that what you will.

I sure will; I liked and supported Jeff Johnson.  Kolb, if memory (and a quick Google search) serves, supported the Scott Honour for Governor juggernnaut, and has joined in with the avalanche of second-guessing that followed Johnson’s loss.

But I came here not to slag on Kolb.   

Jack and Jake’s most recent stunt was an over-the-top tantrum aimed at notorious RINO Tom Emmer. Emmer, you see, chose to attend an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march in Selma. Or as Jack put it: “a parade in Alabama.” You see, Jack and Jake would have preferred that Congressman Emmer instead attended a small gathering of local Republican activists, so those activists could yell at him about how he is a sell-out who hates the constitution or something because Emmer didn’t commit career suicide in his first vote in Congress by voting against John Boehner for Speaker of the House and/or didn’t think gambling with the safety of the nation was a good strategic move.

I saw Jack and Jake’s attack on Emmer for skipping the BPOU conventions to go to Selma, and thought it was extremely ill-advised; anyone who thinks freshman Congresscritters have a lot of freedom in their votes is either not paying attention, or is demigogueing like mad.

During the 2014 US Senate campaign Jack and Jake infamously told US Senate candidate Mike McFadden to “Go to Hell” during a meeting. I think it’s high time Republicans say the same thing to Jack and Jake. No serious candidate for office or elected official should attend any event sponsored by the MN Tea Party Alliance. The group seems to exist for the sole purpose of promoting Jack and Jake. It’s time other Republicans stop playing along.

Well, no.  That’d be a horrible idea.

Think Jack and Jake are hucksters?  What?  Hucksters in politics?  The hell you say.

But the worst mistake the GOP can make is to try to position itself as “above and better than” the Tea Party.  It’s bad PR, and its just not true.

Engage?  Call on BS?  By all means.

Boycott?

Bad idea.

Funnier Than Thou

As the Middle East spirals into war, the economic “recovery” continues to enrich Wall Street but skip Payne Avenue, and the national debt stands ready to leap from “OMFG that’s high!” to “OMFFFFFG that’s really murtha-farging high!”, our nation’s political class is deeply enthralled with the departure of cable TV star Jon Stewart from The Daily Show, and What It All Means.

Oliver Morrison at The Atlantic confims my thesis that nobody named “Oliver” who isn’t also named “Wendell Holmes” or “Hazard Perry” ever did anything worthwhile, in this bit of brow-furrowing and navel-gazing over why there’s no “conservative Jon Stewart”.

I’m not going to bother pull-quoting the article a whole lot; the guy’s name is Oliver, for chrissake.  There’s really one big thing you need to know about the article.

The One Big Thing You Need To Know About The Article:  It’s wrong.

Three Theses:  To be fair, Morrison takes a game whack at it; the piece is unexpectedly short on much overt condescension and patronization.  Morrison thinks there are three potential reasons that there’s no “conservative Jon Stewart”:

  • There are fewer conservative comedians
  • “Political humor has a liberal bias”
  • Conservatives and Liberals have different senses of humor

None of them is right; one of them is a classic example of self-absorbed tone-deafness.  Two of them come close, but not for the reason Oliver “Who The Hell Names Their Child Oliver” Morrison thinks.

The Number Game:  There are fewer conservative comics.  Indeed, there are fewer self-identified “conservatives” in most “creative” fields; writing, music, art, dance, film, and certainly comedy.

Morrison cites an academic - Alison Dagnes, a poli-sci prof at that home of comedy, Shippensburg University – who says conservatives are less likely in particular to be drawn to the lifestyle involved in getting established in “comedy”; awful hours, lousy pay, a very steep learning curve with rare tangible rewards is just the beginning; “success” adds in endless travel, often crummy working environments, and very long odds of ever being able to support oneself, barring getting that shot at the big time.  There’s probably a point there; given a choice between putting in ten years in crappy nightclubs, or ten years at a bank or factory or software company or pretty much anywhere else, most conservatives will take the, er, conservative choice.

And I think there’s something to this.

And I think Morrison and his panel of experts missed an offshoot of this thesis that illuminates the truth a lot more effectively.

We’ll come back to that.

A National Healthcare Plan Walks Into A Bar…:  The second theory – political satire fundamentally favors the left – is easier to dispatch.  The idea is that the reality of this world is just plain easier for the left to tackle than for the right.

In what I’ll be nice and call “support”, Morrison quotes Prof. Dagnes:  “Conservatism supports institutions and satire aims to knock these institutions down a peg,” she wrote.

Which is true in a sense – conservatism supports tried-and-true intellectual, moral and political institutions – and complete baked wind in another; there is no institution bigger than the government, and networks of governments, that liberals support.

Morrison goes a little further – and comes as close to the truth as this thesis gets:

Theorists have been trying to explain humor as far back as Plato. The ancient Greek philosopher said humor got its power from the pleasure people get when they feel superior over others, laughing at their foibles and flaws.

We’ll come back to that one as well.

Teri Gross Is A Gas:  The third theory; conservatives and liberals prefer different strains of humor.

One of Morrison’s pet academics trots out the claim that liberals prefer irony while conservatives prefer hyperbole.  Morrison’s “evidence”:  the difference between Stewart and Rush Limbaugh; against Stewart’s “deft satire” (big talk for mugging and snark – and I’m a Stewart fan) – Morrison cites Limbaugh’s referring to Sandra Fluke as a “slut” as the apotheosis of his sense of humor.

Which is as patronizing a few as one can take; Limbaugh walked back and apologized for the “slut” slur – and Limbaugh’s humor is a lot more subtle than that.  Limbaugh has a keen ear for affectation, and weaves his impression of it into a very sneaky, deft satire that sneaks up on you if you hear it, and that’s easy to miss entirely (as liberal critics tend to) if your frame of reference is entirely stereotype (as it is with liberals slumming it and listening to Rush).  Camille Paglia gets it - but Camille Paglia is the rare lefty that can park ideology long enough to form a coherent, dissident opinion, and much of the left hates her for it.

But again – there is a grain of truth here.  We’ll revisit that grain in a bit.

Funny People:  There is, however, one thread that all three of Morrison’s theses have in common, that I believe does explain pretty capably why liberals dominate “comedy”.

If there’s one thing I do in fact like less than Jon Stewart, it’s self-indulgent social-”science” studies that torture often sketchy, minimal and/or out-of-context data to reach a self-serving conclusion, usually some flavor of “liberals are smarter, more enlightened and better people”.

With that in mind, I’m going to cite a bunch of research in that general weight class.

This blog has cited over the years – usually with tongue firmly in cheek – numerous surveys showing that conservatives are happier than liberals; they have better sex lives, they’re less angry, more open-minded and accepting of cognitive dissonance.  Again – I mention them tongue-in-cheek…

…while noting that it confirms by (admittedly biased) observations in the real world.

Now, the thing about comedy is is that it doesn’t come from happiness; it comes from pain, anger and hurt.  And it shows; many standup comics are among the most dismal human beings you can imagine – although by no means all; I have some very good friends who are comics, and wonderful people.  Still, at the time of my life when I spent a lot of time with comics – when I was producing Don Vogel, almost thirty years ago – I noticed it; standup comics were disproportionately angry, peevish, churlish, oversensitive and cranky.

If conservatives are happier – and you can take or leave the studies at your leisure – then it’d stand to reason that they’d feel less desire to use humor to pass the anger on down the comedic food chain to the next less-fortunate sap.  Happy people don’t feel the need to pass misery on.

And that, I suspect, is why there isn’t a “conservative Jon Stewart”, and likely never will be.  And never needs to be.

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/why-theres-no-conservative-jon-stewart/385480/

By Degrees

I have a college degree.

And other than writing for some portion of my living for pretty much my entire adult life, I’ve never really “used it”.  My BA was in English, with minors in History and German (and two courses short of a minor in Computer Science, although it was the type of computer science that is pretty obsolete today).  Most of what I use for a living, I picked up on my own – and yes, college certainly helped me “learn how to learn”, which has been the stated justification for humanities degrees among the independently-non-wealthy for decades.

So college was good for me; I’m glad I went.  But a degree doesn’t say all that much about a person.

Least of all an “elite” degree.  The best thing an Ivy League degree says about a person is that between the ages of 14 and 17, they knew enough to play the paper chase with enough excellence to punch all the tickets that “elite” school recruiters were looking for, because they had a sense of the importance of that most important byproduct of an “elite” education; access to the alumni directory.  And that’s the best thing it says.   The other things it says – legacy admission, overentitlement, educational stage parents – are less salutary.

In the meantime, many of the greatest Americans – from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Gates – had no college education (at the least).

So after eight years of stonewalling about Barack Obama’s college transcripts, the media is suddenly obsessed with Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s college career – which was cut short when he dropped out to start his career.

Will that scupper Walker with the American people?  Charles CW Cooke says there are a couple sides to that question:

How effective the approach would be during a general election is anybody’s guess, for at present Americans exhibit a strange and inconsistent attitude toward their dropouts. In theory, this is a nation that was built by the rebels and the nonconformists — more specifically, by the recalcitrant revolutionaries of Valley Forge, the chippy entrepreneurs of the frontier and of Silicon Valley, and by the ambitious Lincolnian auto-didacts who looked at their conditions and sought to improve them on their own terms.

Indeed, many of the great advances in human history came from the self-taught autodidact.

In practice, however, America is becoming increasingly rigid and Babbit-like. When a given individual makes it without school, we lavish him with praise and with adulation and we explain his rise with saccharine appeals to the American spirit; when our own children suggest that they might wish to dropout, however, we tut-tut and roll our eyes and make sneering jokes about Burger King.

There are, of course, two Americas:

This is no accident. Rather, it is the product of an increasing tendency among college-educated Americans to regard the letters after their names as a distinguishing mark that renders them as part of a special, exclusive class. By willfully conflating their established educational achievements and their presumed intellect or societal worth — in Dean’s words, their “education” per se — these people extract every last ounce of social value from their investment, and make it appear as if the only way to compete with them is to join them…Sorry, Mr. Walker, you have the wrong colored dot on your forehead to run for higher office.

I think a person whose life has been focusing on accomplishing things would make a nice switch from a President with all sorts of credential who has accomplished nothing.

Smarter Than Our Leaders

Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain was right about one thing, anyway; despite all of governments foul-ups the fundamentals of the American economy are basically strong.

We have ideas, and entrepreneurial energy, I don’t labor force that (2008 and 2012 elections not withstanding) we’re pretty smart and capable, and one of the worlds larger, wealthier consumer markets. Those, among other things, give the American economy’s a degree of resilience that is going to be hard to extinguish, even after 14 years of flagrant overspending and six years of crypto-socialism.

That’s the economy. Not the governments massive piling up of debt. That’s a whole ‘nother thing.

Why does it matter? Because the fact that the American private market is bigger, stronger, and smarter than its government – for now – may be the only thing that saved it from complete collapse six years ago.

A Farewell To Demigogues

Charles C.W. Cooke, like a lot of conservatives, is pretty much over Sarah Palin.  While the attacks on her from the left were almost entirely the sort of caustic sexism that accompanies the toxic racism that they dish out to apostates in “their” demographic groups, it’s fair to say that Palin hasn’t developed much as a politician beyond, as Cooke says, the leader of a cult following.

You can read the article for the Palin-related stuff.  Because for my money, that’s not the real payoff of this piece.

The real value is its swipe at what’s become, among conservatives and libertarians, the beginnings of a very non-conservative trend (and even if you’re a Big-L libertarian who eschews the “C” word, it’s also un-Libertarian); the subscription to political personality cults, which…:

…is deeply unconservative, too. The Right will likely never agree on how best it should move forward, but we might at least unite against the belief that there exist superheroes who are able to save the country from itself; against the idea that any one person can be the official standard bearer of a whole ideological or demographic group; and against the presumption that conservatism will gain anything much at all from the promotion and advancement of its most erratic champions.

It matters not if your superhero is Palin, Ron Paul, Ben Carson, or any other candidate who’ll “fix it all” through, apparently, the strength of his or her personality and the purity of their principles.

Not only is that not the way government works, it’s not supposed to be the way representative republics work.

Hope

Generally, I keep my powder dry as we ramp up to big endorsement challenges.  And this year might be as good a year as any to keep mum.

But I’m not.  Among a small short-list of GOP candidates I’d like to see running for the Presidency – Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, maybe Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio – the top of my list is Scott Walker.  I’m a Walker guy, and I have been since he survived his recall.

The biggest concern people have had so far about Walker is that “he’s not charismatic enough” – yet another thing that has made me long for the days before television screwed up American politics.

But there is ground for hope that worries about Walker’s charisma may be exaggerated.

Marching Orders

As we get ready for tomorrow’s beginning of the 2015 Legislative session, Senator Dave Hann gave the state a pretty fair look at conservative GOP priorities in an open letter to Governor Flint-Smith…er, Dayton in the PiPress over the weekend.

The whole thing is worth a read.  I’m going to pullquote the bit on education, which sounds like a little Scott Walker might just at long last be leaking across the border, thank God:>

Republicans will also be ready to consider bolder ideas and reforms such as breaking up our large urban school districts into smaller and more nimble organizations, able to better focus on solving our persistent achievement gap. Empowering parents and local school boards through public-employee-union rules reform and expanded school choice options are tools other states are using effectively. Every year there is talk about closing the achievement gap. But the policy of the DFL is always the same: increase spending. Every year we get the same results: flat or declining achievement. It borders on criminal to tell half the parents in Minneapolis we’ve improved education by providing more expensive schools from which their children will not graduate.

The whole letter is music to my ears – provided the GOP delivers on it (and prevails over the DFL majorities in the Senate and Governor Flint-Smith’s…er, Dayton’s partisan obstruction.

Hann was silent about the elephant in the room (for conservatives, at least), and perhaps justifiably so, from his perspective; the need for the GOP majority in the House to hold, or at least work hard to try to hold, the line on spending – especially the mindless pork-mongering that marred the GOP’s generally decent performance in the majority in the 2011 and 2012 sessions.

Wanna fire up the base?  Get the House caucus to chug a down some of whatever Scott Walker has for breakfast, sack up, and tell Governor Flint-Smith…er, Dayton where to put those proposed spending increases; show the “targeted tax breaks” (aka, swag to DFL constituencies) off to a place where the sun rarely shines.

Be, in short, what you were elected to be.  You were sent to office over the peoples’ revulsion over tax hikes, spending orgies, losing our doctors and our clinics and spending days signing up for MNSure, union money-grubbing from childcare and home care providers, and building useless trains while our roads flake away into impassability.

Remember that. Seriously.

 

Thanks, Tea Party!

Federal spending (as a percentage of US GDP) drops close to the historical average

The federal budget is shrinking as a percentage of gross domestic product, falling just below 20 percent in the third quarter of 2014. That’s down four points from its peak of 24 percent in 2011, according to market analysis firm Strategas’ survey of recent Treasury Department data.

 

“That’s a pretty large drop in government spending,” said Daniel Clifton, head of policy research for Strategas.

 

The drop puts current federal spending close to the norm for the last half-century. While the budget has grown in absolute numbers — the omnibus spending bill passed earlier this month totaled more than $1 trillion — federal spending has averaged just over 19 percent of GDP since 1963.

 

The decline is due to a combination of factors, the main one being the restraints that were put on federal spending in 2011 as a result of the debt ceiling standoff in Congress

…for the past half-century.  Which, to be fair, is about when the Fed started its orgy of spending like a crack whore with a stolen gold card in peacetime.

Who’d have thought we’d be talking about the Johnson years as a positive baseline?

At any rate, it’s an incremental step in the right direction – thanks, in its entirety, to the Tea Party.

Low Information

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I stopped for lunch at the Maid-Rite in St. Cloud. The St. Cloud Times article says Michele Bachmann is preparing to oppose Hillary’s run for president. The woman behind the counter wishes Michele Bachmann would just go away. “Obama could say snow is white and Bachmann would say it’s not.” But Obama would not say that: he’d say white snow is a micro-aggression against brown and black people; therefore Minnesotans are racist. I don’t mind having someone speak up against that attitude. Joe Doakes

The left seems to have trouble with the logical initial terms of most arguments.

Jebbed

Nate Silver – in a piece entitled “Is Jeb Bush Too Liberal To Win The Republican Nomination In 2016” – answered the question halfway, after providing a nifty visual of Republicans rated (according to Silver’s choice of ratings on indices: voting recordsdonor base and public statements on the issues.

Here’s the list:

Quibble with the methodology if you want (Mike Huckabee is not “to the right” of Rick Perry or Bobby Jindal, much less Ronald Reagan).

But it does provide an interesting jumpoff point for a conversation; is the GOP screwing up again with the “Jeb is Inevitable” meme? 

The whole point behind John McCain was his “electability”.  Ditto, to an extent, Mitt Romney – both of whom, you may recall, lost. 

As Limbaugh put it yesterday:

So we are, in a blog here at FiveThirtyEight, we’re ranking Jeb Bush against four other men who have lost or failed to succeed in getting a nomination or did get the nomination but lost the election. Now, isn’t there a lesson there? The establishment keeps telling us, “No, no, no, you Tea Party people, look at what happened to Barry Goldwater, we’ll get creamed. You people are extremist kooks! America thinks the Tea Party is a bunch of kooks, and if we have a nominee coming from you, why, we’re gonna get creamed. We’re gonna have a landslide like Goldwater.”

And, of course, the retort is, “Yeah, well, the people you are nominating, I don’t see a W next to their names at the end of the process. You guys can cite one: Barry Goldwater. We can cite every one of your nominees. They lose, every one of them.” But, nevertheless, the process continues here to rank Jeb and other Republicans on this imaginary chart of conservatism.

Upshot: the more I watch Scott Walker, the more I like him.

Grounds For Optimism

It’s an easy time to feel pessimistic about America. 

Forget the fact that we have the worst president in history (althought that doesn’t help much).  Part of the disaffected right would have you believe that our entire political class, GOP and Democrat, are about the same.  I see your objection – Boehner’s depressing cave on spending – and raise you Ted Cruz and Justin Amash and a few good Tea Party Republicans.

But yet I feel some optimism. 

Part of that is I’ve pretty much internalized Kevin Williamson’s The End Is Near (And It’s Going To Be Awesome), a masterpiece from last year about the inevitability of the eventual collapse of the current political system, and how, if we’re lucky and work hard, it could actually free up some space for the free market to actually solve things.

Along those same lines comes this piece from Victor Davis Hanson.  You need to read the whole thing – but this was buried near the conclusion:

America is not saved by our elected officials, bureaucrats, celebrities, and partisan activists. Instead, just a few million hardworking Americans in key areas — a natural meritocracy of all races, classes, and backgrounds — ignore the daily hype and chaos, remain innovative and productive, and dazzle the world.

The silent few of a forgotten America have given the entire country an astonishing standard of living that is quite inexplicable.

The road to that paragraph is well worth travelling.  Go there.

Mandated Equality

Two truisms at play in this story:

  1. If someone has to mandate your equal outcome [*], then you probably really aren’t equal.
  2. Economics 101:  Forcing people to pay more or less for a good or service than they naturally would will distort the market.  Force the price up, and you’ll get a black market.  Force the price down, and you’ll get less of the good or service.

With that in mind, see if you can see both currents in this piece, about developers in NYC and their reaction to being forced (as a condition of a bailout) to include “Market-Rate rentals” which are, in fact, well below the market rate.

A Queens luxury tower that was bailed out by the city is blocking the large terraces of a few affordable units so tenants above with tiny balconies don’t get jealous, one resident claims.

Erin McFadzen chose her middle-income — and rent-stabilized — corner apartment at Long Island City’s new Q41 building because of its wrap-around terrace.

But when she moved in, half of it was fenced off by what she calls a “Jurassic Park”-style barricade.

The ugly 6-foot-high wire barrier also interferes with views from every window of her sixth-floor, $2,186-a-month pad.

“We’re caged in,” McFadzen told The Post.

“Every time someone comes over, I have to explain why the fence is there . . . and tell them we’re rent stabilized, like it’s a badge I have to wear,” she said.

And the tenants aren’t the only innumerate ones; the developers (read the story, for crying out loud) are just as bad.

The innumeracy washes over us in waves in this piece:

  1. Rent Control/Rent Subsidy (as well as the city’s systematic demonization of landlords, much as Minneapolis and Saint Paul are doing, although not nearly as effectively as NYC does – yet) is exactly why it’s impossible to find an affordable apartment in NYC.  ”If you make a good or service worth less than it would naturally be, there will be less of it”.
  2. The city shouldn’t be bailing out failed developers – so the developers shouldn’t be complaining that the bailout comes with strings attached requiring them to include rentals for much lower rates than the market would ordinarily bear.
  3. Real estate in New York being as much about image as value, the “low-income” tenants shouldn’t be surprised that the developers are doing something to give the residents paying the actual market rates some sense that they’re getting something justifying the premium that they’re paying for the upscale places they’re renting.  And in that case, that means making the the full-rent balconies a better deal than the cut-rate ones.  Even just by the seemingly bitchy means they used.

If governnment has to make you equal, you’re probably not.

[*] Civil rights legislation is, of course, not an example of this; civil rights and liberties are not given to us by a landlord, but by our creator.  Nobody can justly take them away.  Housing is not a right – much less a specific class of housing for a specific price.

Reform

SCENE:  Avery LIBRELLE is waiting at the light rail station on University Avenue. 

Seeing Mitch Berg driving past, LIBRELLE leaps and, incredibly, sails through BERG’s passenger side window and lands sitting upright in BERG’s passenger seat.

BERG:  What the…

LIBRELLE:  Hahahahahahahahaha, Merg!    You and your conservative teabagger friends “won” the South!  Now, you can keep it?

BERG:  Um, right.  Mary Landrieu lost, leaving not a single Democratic Senator, Governor or Democrat-controlled Legislative chamber in the entire old Confederacy. 

LIBRELLE:  Yeah!  You got all the racists!    The journey you started in 1968, when you inherited all the racists with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, is complete!  You guys got the KKK vote!

BERG:  You’re still babbling about the so-called “Southern Strategy?”

LIBRELLE:  Yes!  The racists, upset about the Civil Rights Act, all voted GOP!

BERG:  OK – let’s accept for a moment purely for sake of argument that the South is more “racist” than the rest of the country – which is deeply debatable, but again, it’s for argument’s sake – and that people vote first and foremost over racial issues. 

LIBRELLE:  Yep.  Absolutely!

BERG:  OK.  So the South voted for Nixon – but then, so did Vermont and California and, in 1972, Michigan, New York State, and even ultraliberal Minnesota.  So they’re all racists, too, right?

LIBRELLE:  The South were voting their consciences, though!

BERG:  Were they indeed?

LIBRELLE:  Even though these rhetorical questions of your always end up with me falling into a trap that makes me look stupid and uninformed, I’ll say “hell yeah!”

BERG:  OK – so the Democrats controlled every single southern Congressional delegation until 1994.  And the GOP didn’t win a majority of southern Governor’s offices, to say nothing of state legislatures, until well into the 2000s. 

By the way – the Klan hasn’t been a factor in Southern Politics since the sixties, maybe the seventies at the very latest.  So it would be more realistic to say that Republicans oversaw the extinction of mainstream racism in the Deep South. 

(BERG’s car pulls up to stoplight.  LIBRELLE steps out, walks between traffic to nearest train station).

BERG:  Avery?  Avery?

“Adjective: Intense, Acute Or Keen, As Pleasure Or Pain.”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

One reason I love reading Mark Steyn is he has a gift for choosing exactly the right word, or recognizing one when chosen by another.

The Pedestrian Crossing diamond isn’t enough, the government must add the diagonal arrow below. Because without it, motorists would panic, scanning the sky and ditches and rear-view mirror, saying “What? What? Pedestrian? Where? Where?” So road crews add the helpful diagonal arrow pointing at the crosswalk, to let motorists know where to look for pedestrians crossing the street – in the crosswalk.

“The lower sign is an exquisitely condescending touch. A nation whose citizenry is as stupid as those markers suggest they are, cannot survive. But, if we’re not that stupid, why aren’t we outraged?”

“Exquisitely condescending.” Yes. Precisely correct. We, the bureaucrats, are so clever and you, the driving public are so stupid, that we must add the diagonal arrow pointing to the crosswalk lest you mow down an entire class of schoolchildren on a field trip because the diamond sign wasn’t a sufficient hint.

Joe Doakes

i’ve always loved Steyn’s way with the word.

And “exquisitely…” Is one of the most wonderfully effective yet underused adjectives in the book.

It Was Twenty-Five Years Ago…

…that the Berlin Wall fell.

But make no mistake; the Soviets won.

The link is to an article about government’s role in the demise of medicine in America.  The whole piece is a pull quote, and that is not “fair use” by any stretch.  So read it.

And then look at every other area of your life where these same sorts of niggling government interventions happen “for your own good”.

Demographics

 Democrats are fond of claiming that demographics favor them; that as America becomes less white, it’ll become more Democrat.

That presumes two things, of course; that  the GOP never changes, and that demographic groups never change.

The first is always an open, entertaining question. 

The latter?  This past election put that in question, at least among Latino and Asian voters:

2. Hispanics represented 8 percent of voters in 2014 and 10 percent in 2012, and those percentages will rise. But they’re not unanimously Democratic. They voted 62 percent Democratic in House elections this year, but that figure was buoyed by the nearly 40 percent of Hispanics who voted in heavily Democratic California, New York, and New Jersey. Hispanic Democratic percentages were significantly lower elsewhere, including Texas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, and Colorado.

And the reasons?

Well, they’re pretty much exactly what some of us on the right have been saying:

Evidence suggests that gentry-liberal causes — abortion absolutism, gun control, and opposition to fracking — have been repelling rather than attracting Hispanics. Polls also show they’re more interested in jobs and education — and dissatisfied with Democrats’ performance — than in immigration, on which they are miffed at both parties.

And Asians – who are stereotyped as people who value free markets and the ability to be entrepreneurs?

3. Asians, 3 percent of the electorate, have been oscillating wildly in exit polls: 73 percent to 26 percent for Obama in 2012, 50 percent to 49 percent for House Republicans in 2014. These may be small and unrepresentative samples. But note that California Asians squelched an attempt by gentry liberals, Hispanics, and blacks to overturn the state’s voter-imposed ban on racial preferences in higher education.

It remains to the GOP to give Latinos and Asians a better option – as opposed to anger at Obama’s broken promises – to turn this into a trend.

I give it 50-50.

The Speech I’d Like To Hear

For the better part of a decade, I’ve been saying two things:

  • The GOP needs to engage the voters in the 4th and 5th CDs – including the dreaded ”inner city” voter - better.  I’m not the only one to say this, of course – but so far, Dan Severson and his Minority Liberty Alliance have been the only real cow to go with the moo. 
  • While black, Latino, Asian and immigrant voters tend to vote overwhelmingly Democrat (for reasons that are less related to patronage and force of habit than some would like to think), it remains a fact as well as a stereotype that Latinos are socially conservative, Asians do place a premium on education and initiative, and African-Americans are among the most passionate advocates of school choice, and they should be, eventually, amenable to a message that reflects that. 

Below is the outline of a speech that I’d love to see a (presumably white) Republican (although the candidacy of Abdimalik Askar against Phyllis Kahn is a hopeful sign) give to an African-American audience in the 4th or 5th CD.  The candidate won’t be me, natch – there’s no way I’m ever running for office.  I’ve given oppo researchers almost 15 years of smear-fodder.  It’s just not gonna happen. 

But for someone else – someone who actually belongs running for office? 

Here’s an idea.

Continue reading

Firefight

When it comes to stating and defending their points under fire, American politicians are pansies.

British parliamentarians?  They are like the Mike Ditkas of political speech.

And here’s one, courtesy of Margaret Thatcher, that I would love to see some Minnesota Republican, some how, some way, exhume and use in the coming session.

Because it applies to us, here and now.

Election Night, 1984

It was a chilly evening – as I recall, snow was falling in Jamestown.   Or threatening to, anyway.

I walked from my “home” at the time – Watson Hall at Jamestown College – to the polling station.  I turned the decision over and over and over again in my head.

On the one hand, I didn’t see myself as one of “those” people; “fatcats”, “fundamentalists”, “warmongers”, any of the labels I’d been painstakingly trained to believe applied to conservatives.   Truth be told, I still saw Republicans – or at least a lot of other Republicans – that way.   And I believed that government – a rational, “good” government, the kind that a lot of Good People, like me, would elect, if we got the chance – did have a place in making peoples’ lives better.   Four years ago the previous summer, at North Dakota Boys State – a mock state government put on by the American Legion – I’d become the state Federalist Party chairman.  I wrote a party platform, all full of “redistribute” this and “regulate” that, the kind of thing that Paul Wellstone would have just loved.  And we won.

And the press – which was even then liberal, especially the parts of it I paid attention to, “Rolling Stone” magazine and the like, had left me terrified four years earlier at the thought that Ronald Reagan was going to re-institute the draft and send us all overseas to fight for Exxon.

On the other hand, some of my adolescent certainty in my adolescent beliefs was decaying.  I’d felt the first twinges years earlier, reading “The Black Book” – the B’nai B’rith accounting of Nazi war atrocities – and realizing that a disarmed society was ripe for the picking.  And I remembered listening to Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise” speech, and thinking “What – you got yours, and now you’re telling me I have to settle for less?”.

And I saw what had happened in Vietnam, where a liberal majority in Congress had rendered the sacrifice of 56,000 American soldiers utterly vain, and the national humiliation of the Iran Hostage Crisis.  And I read Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, and wondered if, indeed, national weakness and self-abnegation would indeed keep all those missiles that the goverment had planted around me in North Dakota from firing after all.

My high school pal and unwitting political mentor, Dwight Rexin – a real-life Alex P. Keaton in his own way, a fire-breathing radical libertarian-conservative – grabbed me (rhetorically) by the scruff of my neck through 11th and 12th grades and explained to me – very, very patiently – how the stagflation that still wracked North Dakota was a product of wanton government intervention in the economy – the kind of thing I’d been brought up to think was a good thing that benefited real people.

And a year before, a family of Polish refugees, the Krzameks, had moved to town.  And hearing their side of the Cold War – the oppressed “citizens” of the Second World – gave me a perspective on the time that I’d never had.

And at college, at the behest of my English major advisor, Dr. James Blake – who, after a few months of talking with me about politics, current events, faith, life and the world around us, told me in his New York accent ”You’re no liberal, Mitch.  Seriously”.  He had me read “The Gulag”, and “1984″ to learn current events, and “Crime and Punishment” and “War and Peace” and “The Possessed” to learn the philosophical cases for and against the big, “progressive” state, and about Jack Kemp’s free-market reform proposals, and P.J. O’Rourke’s “Republican Party Reptile” to see just how conservatism could resonate with a guitar-playing, grunge-before-it-was-cool fish out of North Dakota water.

And all of this tumbled around in my head as I signed in, and got my ballot.

On the one hand?  I was angry.  I knew what I really was!  A thoughtful, “Moderate”, “good government”…something.

And on the other hand?  None of that seemed to add up anymore.  “Good Government”, the world around us seemed to show, really was the one that governed least, and left the most to the people themselves.

The lady at the desk gave me my ballot – a “butterfly” ballot – and pointed me to a voting “booth”, a little plastic carel.

And I opened the ballot up to “President of the United States”.  Because of North Dakota’s ballot-access laws, there were something like two dozen candidates on the ballot.  And because of a court case that had been filed and won by a Jamestown man, Harley McClain, after the 1980 election, (he’d protested the fact that the GOP and Democrat candidates were at the top of the ballot, and the SCOTUS agreed, and so ballots were thereever-after either alphabetical or random), I had to dig down through the choices.

I got to “M”.  “Harley McClain – Chemical Farming Banned Party” was right above Walter Mondale.

I thought about Mondale – spawn of Carter.  The needle hovered over the chad…

…and I stopped to think.  I came close to punching McClain’s chad as a protest against the conundrum I was in.

And then, in a mental flash of “do it before I regret it”, I punched Ronald Reagan.

I dashed through the rest of the choices.  I think I split my ticket, likely voting for Byron Dorgan for US House as a sort of emotional contrition for voting Reagan.  I turned in my ballot.

I walked up First Street South, then down Main Street to “Fred’s Den”, a bar which had open stage night on Tuesdays.  There was a set of drums and some amps and guitars on stage, but the evening hadn’t started yet.  I ordered a Stroh’s at the bar and had a seat.  The TV in the corner was tuned in to the local cable access station, and they were showing election results from around the US and around town.

As I sat, in came a small group of men, including none other than Presidential candidate Harley McClain himself; a hippie and musician, he was a regular at open stage night.  At Open Stage the previous week, I’d promised him I’d vote for him.

Not only had I not voted for him, I’d pretty much voted diametrically against him; one of the songs he sang constantly at open-stage night, a 12-bar blues song he sang while accompanying himself on the guitar, made his politics pretty clear:

Gonna sing a song about Ronald Reagan

That man is a pagan.

Gonna sing a song about Ronald Reagan,

yeah, that man is a pagan…

“Hey, Mitch!”, he yelled, “Didja vote?”

“Yep! Voted for ya!”, I lied.

As open stage started up, the result started coming in.   I’d voted in my parents ward, Ward 2, where my driver’s license was still addressed.

Cable Access ran the vote totals by the precinct.  Harley Clain got 0 votes in Ward 2.

In fact, he got exactly three votes in all of Jamestown.

“Hey!”, McClain yelled at the screen.  “Don’t you vote in Ward 2?  There’s voter suppression going on here!”

I looked in panic at the screen.  There as a “McClain” vote in the ward containing the College.

“I voted at school”, I answered.  Mollified, McClain relented, and we watched as he racked up exactly 4 votes in Jamestown.

Reagan carried Jamestown decisively, except for the precincts by the College, where he carried Jamestown merely convincingly.   He won North Dakota with just shy of 100% of the vote, as I recall, and won all but two of the states – the greatest landslide in history.

I was happy about my vote.

Not happy enough to tell my parents, of course.

Oh, yeah – open stage night.  Tim Cross, Scott Massine and me (drums, bass and guitar) did a couple of songs.  “Summertime Blues”, “I Will Follow” and something else, I think.  And we each got a free beer.

That was fun, too.

So that’s what I was doing thirty years ago tonight.

So Let’s Say The GOP Wins Big On Tuesday

So what?

The driving conceit of most third party approaches is that there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.  And they have a point.

Half the point is “duh”, of course; politics, especially in legislatures, is all about reaching one degree or another of compromise with the other side.  The closer one’s legislature is divided, the more compromising is going to happen, provided anything happens at all.  If you mix a cup of orange juice and a cup of grape juice, there’s little way around the fact that you’re going to get orange-y grape juice, or grape-y orange juice. 

I get it.  Some compromise is inevitable.

But some of it has added insult to injury.  The GOP got a great start toward standing for conservative principle with the “Contract with America” – but by 2000 the party had largely gone beltway. 

Here in Minnesota?  The GOP legislative majority in 2011 opened weak and conciliatory on Governor Dayton’s budget hikes, and settled for “decreasing the increase”, seemingly almost without a fight.  And then they went on to collaborate with the DFL in capitulating to Helga Braid Nation, and giving Zygi Wilf hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to improve the Wilf investment portfolio. 

Pure principles do, inevitably, get sullied by contact with the opposition – at least if you want to effect policy; Ron Paul and Paul Wellstone both were sole principled dissenters on many fractious votes; neither ever really had much legislative effect on policy.

So negotiation – compromise – is an inevitable part of politcs

But at least make it a freaking fight. 

And I’ll be fair, here; the Tea Party class of 2010 has done a generally good job of making it an actual battle; they’re hobbled by the seniority system; most Tea Partiers don’t have much of it, and had less in 2011.  But they’ve largely stuck to doing what they were elected for.

And it has mattered.  Because who have the Democrats been running against this cycle?  How many GOP candidates has the Democrat noise machine labeled “Tea Party”?  Demonizing the Tea Party has been Democrat Job 1 since 2010.

And the Tea Party are effective conservatives because they know that the larger Tea Party movement is still out there, still motivated, still paying attention.

The entire GOP class that may be going to Washington and to Saint Paul needs to know this.

20141031-110156-39716777.jpg

Just saying – the real job, making sure a GOP majority actually acts like a conservative, limited-government, liberty-restoring majority –  will actually begin on November 5.

The Young Ones

Harvard poll shows that – despite all the fuzzy assurances of magical-thinkers with agendas, especially in “libertarian” circles – Millennials who are “definitely votint” are picking the GOP over the Dems this cycle:

A new and massive poll of 2,029 18-29-year-olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics just released found that of those who say they will “definitely be voting,” 51 percent want the GOP in charge, 47 percent favoring Democratic control.

Because the numbers are close, however, Harvard said the kid vote is “up for grabs.”

Still, it is a huge shift from the last IOP midterm poll. In 2010, younger voters kept to their historic trend with 55 percent favoring Democrats, 43 percent Republicans. That is an eight-point change, very good news for the Republicans who had feared that the Obama generation would show up at the polls and in knee-jerk fashion simply pull the Democratic levers.

On the one hand, it’s young voters.  They are the most driven by self-interest; they almost always vote Democrat; polls that show Millennials tend to have more libertarian beliefs also show they tend to have more socialistic beliefs.  In other words, they’re adolescents and post-adolescents who, often as not, haven’t the foggiest idea what they really think. 

But if the Harvard trend follows through next Tuesday, it’ll be the second time in recent memory, after 1980-84, that young voters have predominantly voted Republican. 

The real challenge?  If there is a GOP wave on Tuesday, it’ll be making sure that GOP majority stays conservative.  Keeping the Karl Rove faction out of the way.  Focusing on why people actually vote conservative (as opposed to Republican). 

As all of that “Jeb Bush 2016″ talk shows us, there’s a big part of the GOP that’s stuck on stupid.

As the Tea Party shows us, there’s a big part that’s not. 

Who will win?

I’ve picked my side.