Low Expectations

Democrats are fond of trying to find statistics that try to show that the Obama Administration has not been a complete economic disaster.

One way is via a blizzard of charts that claim to show a long series of months with job growth:

Raw Numbers

“It’s Bush’s fault! It’s Bush’s fault!”

Of course, as Mark Twain once said – and it’s a cliche I almost regret to say – but there are three types of data; lies, damned lies, and statistics put out to defend Democrat economic policy.

A graph will look very, very different, and depict very different things, depending on the two dimensions you select, as Philip Bump points out in the Wall Street Journal.

Obama looks best when you compare his job creation record with the day he took office – a graph which, by the way, has some liberals chortling, in that it makes Jimmy Carter look like a boss job creator:

Versus First Month

Of course, Clinton is the champ – he’s the only two-term president since World War II that didn’t have a recession on his watch – thanks, of course, to Ronald Reagan and the Peace Dividend, as well as Newt Gingrich stifling the worst of Bill and especially Hillary’s agenda.  Clinton was a champ in spite of himself, and largely due to his opposition.

We also note that more jobs were created on Dubya’s watch in three years than in six and a half of Obama; remember, Dubya had the 9/11 recession and the housing bubble in his eight years.

But isn’t comparing job growth versus a president’s first day in office a little artificial?

Sure.  Let’s compare presidents with their administration’s low points:

Versus Low



So in other words, Obama’s like Nixon.  I wasn’t very old at the end of the Nixon administration, but we all know what a lousy time that was.

But of course, the population has changed; Reagan added 17 million jobs in a population that was around 260 million.  Obama has added nine million jobs in a nation of 315 million (although nobody’s really counting anymore).  So how about we measure this in terms of concrete percentages?

Versus Population
As anyone who was looking for work back then knows, life under Reagan was infinitely better; the economy added a higher percentage of jobs in the quarter after the end of the’82 recession than it has in the six years of the Obama recovery.

Print out that last graph.  Share it with your liberal friends.

Diagnosis: Idiots

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

An electrician friend had his van broken into, hundreds of dollars of copper wire stolen.  Repeatedly.

The cops wrote a police report so he can report it to his insurance company.  But there’s a $500 deductible for each incident, so the few nickels the thieves make selling scrap wire cost him thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.  Thievery in Minnesota is a “cost of doing business.”

Minnesota is too civilized to punish thieves by cutting off their hands and thereby dissuade others.  We put them on probation to steal again.

Minnesota is too civilized to punish thieves.  Nobody is dissuaded from crime.

Minnesota is too civilized, too afraid of offending the offensive.

Minnesota is . . . doomed?

Joe Doakes

When citizens can’t count on “law and order” to uphold the law and preserve order (and, let’s be honest, also count on law enforcement to prosecute organic civilian efforts to enforce law and order more rigorously than actual criminality), how long can a free society survive?

Follow The Money. And Jobs. And People.

I do a lot of speaking to GOP, Tea Party and Conservative groups around the Metro Area.  And when I drive out to a place like Mound, or Maple Grove, or Lakeville, I often start my remarks with something like “It’s so nice to be here – with that smell of competence, prosperity and success all around”.

It’s at least in part a dig at Saint Paul – a beautiful city with a failed one-party government.

But census data also shows it’s absolutely true; Red states are leading whatever economic “recovery” that’s going on:

The new Census data on where we live and where we moved to in 2014 shows that the top seven states with the biggest percentage increase in in-migration from other states are in order: North Dakota, Nevada, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and Texas. All of these states are red, except Colorado, which is purple.

Meanwhile the leading exodus states of the continental states in percentage terms were: Alaska, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Kansas. All of these states are blue, except Alaska and Kansas.

There’s a reason the left’s noise machine focuses as much “energy” as it does on Kansas; it’s neither a failing Democrat hellhole like New York, nor a booming Conservative success story like North Dakota, Florida or Texas.

The Vortex

The GOP is about to embark on a bruising battle over who’ll succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Kevin Williamson notes that it really might not matter that much, because Congress at the moment is little but a speed bump (emphasis added):

As [Conservative speaker candidate Louis] Gohmert notes without quite saying so, these United States are in the process of transforming the form of their union government from that of a democratic republic to that of a unitary autocratic administrative state. Barack Obama and other progressives have hastened that transformation in no small part because they consider the American constitutional order in purely instrumental terms rather than as a good in and of itself. Sometimes the constitutional order serves progressive ends and sometimes it constrains them, which is why President Wilson despised the Constitution and President Obama simply ignores it when he believes it necessary, adopting as he has — with rather less fuss than one might have expected — a Gaullist rule-by-decree model.

And if you’re a frustrated conservative Republican?  You’ve got reason:

The familiar ratchet effect is in operation: The Left in power expands the state, particularly the executive, and the Right in power does not reverse the turn, in part because conservative politicians like power, too, in part because reversing those expansions is difficult, and in part because even if conservatives win the fight there’s not much juice in it.

Is this part of an eccentric, unpredictable cycle of the ebb and flow of power?  Or an inevitable part of the United States getting just too big and too diverse?

 As my colleague Charles C. W. Cooke points out, the lack of an American king and an American prime minister has not prevented the traditional English contest between crown and parliament from sneaking into American politics. And the crown is winning. The waxing of the president and the consequent waning of Congress is a result of the deep psychological structure of mass democracy on the American scale, probably an inevitable one. TAmerican democracy was born in the New England town-hall meeting and in state assemblies, relatively intimate venues where following the operations of government was non-cumbrous. A population of more than 300 million with worldwide interests is a very different sort of thing. From the very beginning, the mere scale of the American project ensured that most Americans would find it incomprehensible: How many Americans at the time really understood that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton went into the Philadelphia Convention plotting to abolish their government and set up a new one? How many can identify the main points of contention between Senator Cruz and Senator McConnell?

It’s easy to try to boil it all down to simplistic chanting points – and both sides do it.

But the American experiment was largely predicated on the idea that we’d have a population full of people who weren’t all that different from each other (intellectually and politically, anyway) – a point the unwitting nostalgia for which I satirized in Trulbert, but which also happens to have had some merit in analyzing our founding.

We’re anything but that, anymore.

Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

What do we really need for President?

Jack Kemp.

The former Bills quarterback and congressman from Buffalo was perhaps the most influential American politician who never became President; he was behind much of the “get out of the way” legislation that led us to the prosperity of the ’80s and ’90s.

And he rose to prominence during an era with great similarities to today.

Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes write in the WSJ:

The present era resembles the miserable 1970s. Growth is glacial. Incomes are stagnant. The country’s mood is sour. Divisions are widening. In 1979 only 12% of Americans thought the nation was headed in the right direction. Now it’s around 30%. And politicians are pitting class against class: the “1%” against the “47%”; white workers against Mexican immigrants. The public is furious with Washington, and no wonder. Polarized Republicans and Democrats do nothing for them.

Jack Kemp shook things up—but with dramatic ideas about policy, not by pitting outsiders against insiders. The Republican establishment resented the gall of a backbencher’s butting into tax policy. Democrats hated tax-cutting, even though Kemp kept reminding them that President John F. Kennedy first proposed lowering the top rate to 70% from 90%. Special interests were furious when Kemp proposed reducing their tax breaks. He once wrote Reagan’s deficit-hawk budget director, David Stockman,demanding to know why Mr. Stockman wanted to raise taxes on working people and cut food stamps, Medicaid and Head Start, but keep subsidies and tax breaks in place forBoeing,Exxon and Gulf Oil.

Go on and read the whole thing.

And then ask yourself – which candidate would Kemp support?

Kemp was, of course, one of the people who converted me to conservatism.  We could do much, much worse, and we usually do.


Want to get me to drop you from my Christmas card list forever?  Call police and the military “sheepdogs”.

Because what do sheepdogs do?  They move sheep around, in a big, passive, helpless herd.

The term is part and parcel of the contempt in which bureaucracies, from the Intelligence and Homeland Security bureaucracies all the way down to all too many local police, hold civilians.

The official take on large groups of civilians is that, in the face of a life-threatening even, people will freeze up and/or mill about in panic like a flock of sheep, waiting for their “sheepdogs” to take charge.

The truth, up to and including 9/11, is pretty much the opposite; in episode after episode, while the bureaucracy bumbles ineffectually about at worst, and arrives on the scene too late to do any good at best, it’s the people – regular people – on the scene who have the reflexes, the intelligence and the information to act.  And when they have the tools at hand to turn action into results, they accomplish miracles.

  • On 9/11, not only did the passengers on Flight 93, armed with information from the ground, realize that the pre-war advice to sit down and not challenge hijackers had become instantly obsolete, and launch a doomed but successful counterattack without the aid of a single bureaucrat – but the mass of civilians in the World Trade Center largely self-organized the evacuation of the Twin Towers.  Which takes nothing away from the police and fire responders; the fact is, without tens of thousands of people thinking for themselves, disobeying their official instructions to stay put, and getting themselves out of the towers, the death toll would have been many times higher and the sacrifice of the FDNY and NYPD would have been been fruitless.
  • Law enforcement notes that the best way to deal with an active shooter is to shoot back.  They phrase this in the form of police shooting back – but the fact is, history shows us the responder doesn’t need a badge to deter a spree killer.
  • Last weeks’ episode on the Amsterdam/Paris train shows that not only are typical Americans perfectly capable of taking rational, sensible action under extreme stress, but it’s not even solely an American thing.

Glenn Reynolds renews his call, that America be a pack, not a herd.

I could scarcely agree more.

And to it, I add; all you “sheepdog” people?  Shut up.

There’s Just No Way…

…anybody could have predicted this: Seattle workers whose minimum wage has been jacked up to 15 bucks an hour…

…are now asking for fewer hours, so they don’t lose their housing subsidies.

Naturally, the artificially-high minimum wage was supposed to cut welfare dependency, blah blah blah.

So now we’ve got fewer jobs, and just watch – the program dependence is going to stay the same.

Austered The Wrong Way

To: National Public Radio News

From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant

Re: Terminology

Dear NPR:

Over the weekend, while listening to one of your news programs, I caught a story about skilled workers emigrating from Portugal. 

Your story announced that the Portuguese economy was “recovering from austerity”

Austerity was not the problem. Or, rather, austerity was, at most, a symptom; The disease was unsustainable government spending, that sapped the vitality of the private sector economy.  

Unrestrained spending on things like lavish pensions, cradle to grave welfare, a government workforce that displaces private enterprise, and yes, public broadcasting, committed governments to endless, crippling spending that, when the economy goes south, cannot be sustained.  

See that we don’t make this mistake again, shall we?

That is all.

I, Revolutionary

What culture made a curse of the saying “May you live in interesting times?”  Hindi?  Confucianist?  Aztec?  Irish?  Yiddish?

Who knows?  It merely seems that that’s what we’re doing.

We live in a society that’s led by a political and media elite that seems no less dim and self-referential than Emperor Nero; a society where the schools and universities are working for the bad guys, where the President is outwardly more concerned about Tea Partiers than ISIS or an Iranian bomb, where five appointed Ivy Leaguers dictate to 535 elected representatives, where the rights of the law-abiding mainstream seem to be worth less than the wishes and desires and agendas of a motivated minority.

But to David French in the NRO, today is a great time to be alive and conservative.  Because there’s no shortage of purpose facing a good conservative today:

It’s common for our fellow citizens to sometimes feel aimless, to lack purpose for their lives. Yet no American patriot should lack purpose today. In an era when our kids are seen as the vanguard of the Left’s social revolution, it’s a patriotic act to raise children to understand and respect the Constitution, to comprehend the great truths of American history, and to acquire the psychological toughness that will help them endure the stigma and scorn of the Left.

In an era when the Left seeks to drive social conservatives not just from the campus and pop culture (where we cling by our fingernails) but also from the marketplace and — finally — from our own churches, the simple act of openly and fearlessly living out your faith and values is a patriotic act.

In an era when too many liberals seek to appropriate charity — care and concern for the “least of these” — for the state, it’s a patriotic and deeply loving act to reach out and lift up friends and neighbors in need. While there are well-meaning bureaucrats in the vast welfare-industrial complex, there is no substitute for the unique, individual impact of Americans in relationship with one another, mentoring and supporting those who need help the most. And it remains a deeply patriotic and meaningful act to enlist in the military, to train to defeat enemies abroad — even if this president is unwilling to effectively confront our foes. Reality has a way of ultimately dictating foreign policy, and we need men and women who are prepared for the days ahead. Even as we see the significance of patriotism in the way in which we live our everyday lives, we need to abandon the idea that there’s a cultural or political shortcut — that the right combination of events or the right politician will turn the tide. Cultures change as a result of the persistent effort of millions, not because of the glorious leadership of one individual — not even Barack Obama, The One.

The examples of what the Army of Davids can do are all around us, if you care to look.

It’s A Start

Bloomington residents turn out against racketized trash hauling (emphasis added):

Some angry residents want to take decisions on trash hauling out of the City Council’s hands. Residents are circulating petitions for both an initiative and a referendum that would allow citizens — rather than their elected officials — to have the final say on the issue.

Hard to say if the bolded parts are a little bit of editorializing by the Strib writer, John Reinan – but either way, it was a great turnout:

Nearly 100 residents testified for more than three hours at a public hearing on trash hauling Monday night. The city is proposing to implement a system of “organized collection.” In essence, the seven private haulers now licensed to do business in the city would carve up the territory and charge a single negotiated rate.

In other words, the city will pick winners and losers, and give everyone – resident and hauler – an “our way or the highway” “choice”.

The part that fascinates me, whenever people get to choose between freedom and socialism, is the rationalizations people choose for socialism:

[Supporters of the racket plan] pointed to the cost savings projected by the city, which add up to more than $8 a month for the average household.

“That will save the average person $103 a year,” said resident Greg Thompson. “Given the choice between choosing the color of the [garbage] bin and the name on the side of the truck, and saving 103 bucks, I choose the 103 bucks.”

You could choose bin colors and names.

Or you could choose prices.  That’s your call, in a free market system.  I, for one, stick with prices and service.

And if you believe that the “city negotiated price” is going to stay the same, once the trash haulers have no reason to compete in Bloomington, and that service will stay the same when the trash haulers have to cut cost corners to maximize profits (which is their job), you’re clearly a Democrat voter.

And you’re in ample company, as the Bloomington City Council is controlled by the DFL.  And it shows:

City residents last week received a mailing from Garbage Haulers for Political Choice, an industry group opposed to organized collection. That didn’t sit well with Council Member Andrew Carlson.

“What concerns me is, [the haulers] are negotiating in good faith — but at the same time, actively engaged with an organization whose purpose is to oppose organized collection. That doesn’t square up well with me,” Carlson said.

Complexity is hard.  If you’re a politician.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.