I just got back from North Dakota. I had to take care of some family business. Other than driving on roads made greasier than Kamala Harris’s ethics by a spring snowstorm, it was a lot of fun.
Mostly observing the differences between government in a free state, and Minnesota.
There is no mask mandate. Some businesses will suggest a mask; in those, about half the people comply.
One enduring memory of growing up there: I was 16 before I met a black person. The ethnic mix has changed considerably – at the Walmart in Minot, I ran into pretty much the same assortment of people one runs into in any Twin Cities suburb. But “more ethnic minorities” doesn’t seem to have translated into “crappier politics”, because unlike Twin Cities suburbs, the place seems to have gotten more conservative over time, judging by Presidential and Gubernatorial results.
And yet the place is prosperous – “Help Wanted” signs were all over the place even though the oil boom is long past and I wasn’t in “oil country” anyway. There are some Democrats in Fargo who try to wave the class and race grievance flags, but generally “new” residents seem to be fitting in – including, in one highly unexpected case, a fairly prominent transgendered person who’s moved to a very unlikely place – which I bring up not to post PC points (about which I don’t care) but to point out that this move, along with most of the above, which would be called unthinkable by your CNN clacque, has gone over without any noticable social muss and fuss in this most utterly conservative place.
Why, it’s almost as if conservatism breeds tolerance, and a focus on what matters in life?
To wit – never apologize, bring your friends, and punch back twice as hard.
I’ll come back to that.
One of conservatism’s great mistakes was forsaking the small, independent blogs that dominated (along with, naturally, conservative talk radio) the alternative media scene in the 2000s.
During the heyday of the independent blog, there was a natural, organic network of supporters that would rally – almost always online – when one of the left’s droogs started dishing what was, at the time, almost always some pretty pathetic smack.
Since then, two things have happened:
Altogether too many conservative content producers took their game to Twitter and Facebook – and either got censored into nothing, or just atrophied.
Big Left invested in turning their attack machine from a pack of chancred losers into a pack of chancred losers with venal, dull but constantly practiced teeth. Cancel culture has become the norm across swathes of society that were still fairly open and healthy a decade ago when Andrew Breitbart warned us about losing the culture war.
So – how do the good guys ‘n gals start to organize, to fight the dirty part of the culture war again?
Ten years ago, when it was still good, clean fun, we had it down. Today, the jackals are running rings around the good guys.
It’s two-minute warning time at the state cuture war finals, and we’re down by two touchdowns.
How do the good guys get back in the game with the game that matters – organization, organic institutions that fight these battles, and the will to fight and win?
(While I run an open discussion at all times, lefties are urged to sit this one out).
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails re Kristi Noem’s much-attacked decision on trans athletes in SoDak high school sports:
Conservatives are throwing her under the bus for failing to sign virtue-signaling legislation that would have subjected her state to crippling litigation. The Keyboard Warriors excoriating her in the comments are not footing the bill, and none of their sons or daughters will lose the opportunity to play college sports if she stands up to NCAA.
Her decision is correct: do something smart, or don’t do it at all. If only we could get other governors to think that way.
If you’re a conservative, be careful over what you let wedge you. Or, us.
As an American, I not only have no innate concept of “aristocracy” as a natural part of the social order, but I think it’s an anachronism at best.
As a conservative, I can see the value to a culture with a history of monarchy keeping some vestigial, ceremonial, constitutionally-innocuous version of a monarchy around. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain and others use their monarchies sort of like cultural museums, means of transmitting their nations pasts to their presents and futures.
Which is why Big Left has always wanted to tear monarchies down.
Conservative calls for boycotts are a little frustrating. Partly because boycotts rarely do much good. And largely because conservative calls for boycotts usually involve companies I’ve never patrionized, goods I’ve never bought, services that have never served me at all.
Recent example: last month’s call to boycott Disney Plus and The Mandalorian over the politically-motivated and largely counterfactual firing of Gina Carano. But I’ve never subscribed to Disney, I’ve never watched Mandalorian (the last, “first” Lucas episodes of Star Wars put me off the entire franchise – I’ve literally watched not one second of Star Wars since…er, the one where Anakin became Darth, whatever that was called), and I can’t be bothered.
With that in mind?
I’ve never really been a big fan of online shopping.
No, it’s not because I’m a technology-averse middle-aged guy. I work in tech. I not only use technology, I design it (and, avocationally, spend a lot of time critiquing bad design). It’s hard to stay near the absolute bleeding edge…
…but then, shopping on line is not the bleeding edge of technology. It’s pretty much a commonplace these days.
I’ve just never liked buying things sight-unseen.
Oh, I’ve adapted a bit – I’ll buy USB cables and printer ink off of Amazon, once in a while – convenience is truly seductive.
“Are you really willing to walk away from a paying customer simply because they voted for Joe Biden?” the company asked rhetorically. “Yes, yes we are. We’re dead serious.”
“We don’t want your money, and you shouldn’t want us to have it because we’re going to use it to make more ammo, sell it to the citizenry, and do everything in our power to prevent Joe Biden’s administration from usurping the rights of Americans,” the company wrote.
Not just its marketing, but its sales portal:
As a way to weed out the unwanted customers, the company reportedly inserted a questionnaire into its purchasing process that asks whether prospective customers voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election. If they did, it’s no sale for them.
Some “progressive” companies led the way with partisan-based marketing after Trump’s election – Penzey’s very publicly told conservatives (not just Trump voters) to stop patronizing them (a request I could not comply with, as I’ve never shopped there before, either – which makes sense; I suspect their demographics, well-to-do white urbanites with lots of disposable income, overlaps with GOP voters only incidentally).
TL:dr – The good news: fighting cancel culture is a good thing, and I applaud Feniks.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this scene last week:
I first started paying serious attention to politics in about 1980. Like a lot of high school kids, then and now, I was somewhere out on what would be called “the left”; I wrote a platform for North Dakota Boys State (a statewide mock government program put on by the decidedly conservative American Legion) that called for systematic redistribution of wealth, abolishing nuclear energy and nuclear disarmament, and a whole bunch of stuff that would be pretty mainstream among the Bernie Bros today.
Three years later, due to the good graces of my English professor, Dr. Jim Blake, I had re-evaluated most of my assumptions. I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984, and never really looked back.
And I had no reason to. None of us did. Although the history books, all being written from the perspective of the Left, will never admit it, the two decades from 1980 to 2000 were, objectively, the last American Golden Age. I’ll squeak out an optimistic coda and add “so far”, but I’ll be honest – I haven’t been feeling it, but I’m a firm believer in acting like you want to feel, and so there is is. “So far”.
I’ll come back to that.
There’s no denying it was one of the high points of American history. We led an economic surge that brought more wealth to more people than any in history. We, as a nation, led a political surge that led to the collapse of one of the most evil regimes in history (although not the other one – so far).
Maybe it’s just the perspective of one guy’s lifetime – but I suspect you’d have to look long and hard to find a place and time when it was generally better to be a human.
Not just in material terms, but in terms of the tension between freedom and order, one of the hardest things about running a self-governing society, being in relative balance – and, more importantly, the general commitment to the system and process that kept all those moving parts in balance.
And it’s been downhill from there.
The arc from Morning in America in 1980 to last week’s skirmish at the Capitol – which, loathe as I am to come even close to Democrat chanting points, was a form of coup, not against President-Elect Biden, but against the states’ constitutional power to select electors – peaked…somewhere in the late ’90s – when one of the glories of the American system, gridlocked government, combined with a Peace Dividend brought about by the end of the Cold War (thanks, President Reagan), led to an outburst of technological, entrepreneurial and market power that brought so much wealth, and security, and general well-being, to so many people that it may have been as close to a uptopia, in some ways, as humanity can get. Because of the gridlock in government.
Somewhere between 1998 and 2005, things started to turn back south again. It’d be easy to point to the polarization of American politics, starting with the various Clinton scandals, through the fiasco of the 2000 election, the near-decade of squabbling over the War on Terror and the 2008 government-caused financial meltdown, as the cause – but it went in parallel with a lot of other changes in our nation’s political, moral and social lives that have led to their…
…I was going to say “culmination” last week at the Capitol. But of course, that’s not true. Last week’s sorry episode was, like last summer’s riots, and the social back and forth that gave us Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Trump himself, and the movements that supported them all in a way that was increasingly “un-American” (I’m still claiming a meaning for that term), and if you think that was the peak, or trough, or any sort of ending to the story, you just haven’t paid attention to 20,000 years of human nature.
So let’s not call it a culmination. Let’s call it a checkpoint, on a path that may be going up, or down, but control over which We The People need to take before the phrase “We The People” is forever relegated to the museum.
How have we gotten from the peak of Western Civilization to…this, in my adult lifetime?
It’s Labor Day – a transfer of wealth in the form of about .004% of most companies’ payroll to workers, given as a sop to organized unions at the height of their powers – a transfer I happily accept, like most of you, every year.
I’ll pay homage to the date with my own sojourn through the world of organized labor; my semester teaching at a local MNSCU university.
When I signed up, I was given a choice – pay $120 to the MNSCU faculty union, the “Inter-Faculty Organization” (IFO), or pay $108 for “Fair Share”, ostensibly my portion of the union’s negotiation efforts. I figured eight dollars was a worthwhile trade for a lifetime of being able to virtue-signal my DFL friends about being “a union guy”, and I paid it gladly.
As part of on-boarding, I had to attend a union orientation session.
There, the school’s shop steward – an English professor who as I recall was actually in a classroom 3-6 hours a week gave us an update on the concessions he’d wrung from the – I’m not making this up – “bosses” at MNSCU, his tone growing more impassioned, his face turning just a little bit red, a vein starting to bulge on his neck, like he was a Wobbly talking to iron miners in the 1910s about putting a safety cage on their elevator.
So – with all due respect to the union organizers who actually did make a difference with workers back when life actually was nasty, brutish and short (as opposed to some of the efforts we see today), enjoy the day.
Since the topic of political “extremism” is on everyone’s mind, I may as well get this out there.
I’m an extremist.
I’m an extremist for Western Civilization.
I’m an extremist for the legacy of the value of the individual that comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition.
I am a zealot for that civilization’s rejection of group guilt for the sins of the individual.
I am a full blown foot soldier for the idea that rights – freedom of expression, conscience, innocence until proof of guilt, and defending my life, family, home, freedom and community – are all indivisible parts of being human, not “privileges” granted to you by a benevolent government (and taken away by a less-benevolent one).
I am a militant (intellectually speaking, and here’s hoping it can stay that way) for the notion that “citizenship” means having all the powers, rights and responsibilities of government, allowing me (and you!) to govern a society together, regardless of (indeed, ignoring completely) the rest of our various identities.
I’m a howling berserker (again, purely intellectually, here) for the free markets of ideas as well as goods, which has made this civilization the most humane human system in all of history.
I am a full-blown crusader for the tolerance of dissent, and indeed exaltation of informed criticism of and dissent from our rulers, our laws, and indeed the imperfections of Western Civilization itself that our civilization, pretty much alone among all the world’s cultures through history, invented – as well as for the ability to tolerate, learn from, and co-exist with other cultures as equals in the eyes of God and the law…
…while keeping, living by, and proselytizing the parts of our civilization that have made it the system in human history that has most effectively and systematically upheld the dignity and value of human life, even with all its (amply studied) imperfections. I’m a stormtrooper for the ideal that these freedoms, exaltations, values and traditions are not zero sum propositions; that taking freedom away from someone doesn’t give you more.
I’m a flag-waving militiaman for the imperative to spread those freedoms to as many people in the world as want them – and, if needed, defend them from those who don’t. For those things, I’m an extremist. A peaceful one, one that welcomes both agreement and civil disagreement.
But I’m absolutely an extremist. You can have my Western Civilization when you pry it from my cold, hand – and you will spend an eternity trying to pry it from my hot, living soul, and failing.
“Extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” — Barry Goldwater.
Political scientists love to talk about the Spectrum, left-wing parties versus right-wing parties. I look at it more from the point of view of government control. Anarchists are on one end, no government control it all. Totalitarians are on the other end, government control of everything. Pure Liberty is pure license. It’s the right to do anything you want at anytime to anybody. We saw that during the riots. That’s anarchy. Nobody wants that. Which means that in order to have real Liberty, there must be order. And ordered Liberty requires restrictions on what people can do. And restrictions require someone to enforce them, with force if necessary. Which means police. If Minneapolis seriously goes forward with the plan to abolish the police, they are intentionally heading toward Anarchy territory. It’s no wonder businesses are uninterested in rebuilding there, and residents are talking about fleeing. Joe Doakes
WIthout order, prosperity is impossible.
WIthout prosperity, liberty is pretty much academic.
Without liberty, prosperity is pretty much a “ruling clicque” thing.
The tension between liberty and order is what kept the founding fathers up all night writing the Constitution.
I pointed out with a bit of mindly tart surprise last month that California, after voting in lock step with the statist agenda for the past thirty years, had rediscovered the virtues of federalism via the current public health crisis, and the (to progressives) greater crisis of Hillary losing the election.
That was a tad sarcastic – but as José Niño at the Mises Institute points out, after quite a few policians romping and playing in power like Scrooge McDuck bathing in his coin vault…:
Amusingly, the COVID-19 saga has been host to some of the most flagrant political posturing in recent memory. Early in March (which feels like eons ago in today’s frenetic media cycle) New York City mayor de Blasio was telling people to go to the movies and have fun. Now, he’s done a complete 180, shutting down most private businesses and even calling for the nationalization of certain industries and begging the federal government for military aid to combat the epidemic.
…there’ve been some object lessons show, and learned, on the value of federalism coming out of this crisis:
We are indeed living in the strangest of times when LA Times columnists are expressing sentiments that better belong in a passage of Human Action. The jury is still out on whether this is merely oppositional posturing from the Left, but any kind of conversation entailing the restoration of federalism is a welcome surprise.
The “authorized” right can generally be counted on to disappoint its constituents who genuinely believe in small government principles. To their credit, there have been some bright spots on their side in the present pandemic. States like Texas have gone out of their way to declare gun stores essential businesses and to deregulate several parts of its economy at a time where bureaucracy is impeding various vital economic functions.
Elected officials like State Representative Matt Gurtler in Georgia have raised the stakes by floating a proposal that would allow law-abiding Georgians to concealed carry anywhere. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem projected a stark contrast in her relatively lax approach to handling the pandemic. Jeff Deist used her example as the basis for several pragmatic measures that state governments can take to reopen their economies without throwing civil liberties into the wood chipper. No doubt there is much work to be done, but we can find glimmering signs of promise every now and then.
The example I like to use – after Katrina, gun rights groups noticed the speed at which Louisiana and New Orleans’ layers of incompetent Democrat governments turned to confiscating the firearms of law-abiding citizens. In 2015, Minnesota’s gun rights groups pushed a law in Minnesota barring the state from confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens under states of emergency, or shutting down gun stores before every other store in the state was closed. The bills passed, with bipartisan majorities in both chambers powerful enough to scare Governor Dayton’s handlers away from telling him to sign a veto.
We – the good guys – need to do that with every other civil right.
Those of us who favor a safe, science-driven re-opening of the economy are frequently derided by the “shut down until ______” (fill in the blank du jour) crowd as either callous or ignorant.
But looking at examples of states that have managed to combine generally good public health outcomes with a relatively sane course on economic re-opening, two patterns emerge:
1) those paths tend to be steered by governors with experience in the private sector – the likes of Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Doug Burgum of North Dakota and especially Ron DeSantis of Florida) treat science as a way of finding the truth, as opposed it being a tool to coerce compliance.
2) The success tends to follow a parade of calumny in the “blue” media – followed by the media moving on to another story when none of the predictions pans out.
An irony of the national coverage of the coronavirus crisis is that at the same time DeSantis was being made into a villain, New York governor Andrew Cuomo was being elevated as a hero, even though the DeSantis approach to nursing homes was obviously superior to that of Cuomo. Florida went out of its way to get COVID-19-positive people out of nursing homes, while New York went out of its way to get them in, a policy now widely acknowledged to have been a debacle.
The media didn’t exactly have their eyes on the ball. “The day that the media had their first big freakout about Florida was March 15th,” DeSantis recalls, “which was, there were people on Clearwater Beach, and it was this big deal. That same day is when we signed the executive order to, one, ban visitation in the nursing homes, and two, ban the reintroduction of a COVID-positive patient back into a nursing home.”
DeSantis is bemused by the obsession with Florida’s beaches. When they opened in Jacksonville, it was a big national story, usually relayed with a dire tone. “Jacksonville has almost no COVID activity outside of a nursing-home context,” he says. “Their hospitalizations are down, ICU down since the beaches opened a month ago. And yet, nobody talks about it. It’s just like, ‘Okay, we just move on to the next target.’”
Perhaps more understandably, The Villages, the iconic senior community, was a focus of media worries. According to DeSantis, as of last weekend there hadn’t been a single resident of The Villages in the hospital for COVID-19 for about a week. At one point, the infection rate in The Villages was so low that state officials were worried that they were missing something. “So I got the University of Florida to do a study,” he says. “They did 1,200 asymptomatic seniors at The Villages, and not one of them came back positive, which was really incredible.”
So how did DeSantis go about responding to the epidemic? It began with the data, and trying to learn the lessons of other countries.
The “Red” states’ approaches (and to be fair, California’s) spared their states the carnage that befell New York’s nursing homes (and Minnesota’s, as well); a dispassionate, scientific approach to the data (as opposed to the governor’s desired conclusions, as in Minnesota) led them to protect their most vulnerable – in stark contrast to the policies of New York’s governor (and increasingly, Minnesota’s).
I’ve been calling this response “Blue Fragility” – the tendency of our society’s “gatekeepers” to lash out in anger and frustration at the realization that their version of “science” is as much about browbeating and logrolling people into submission as it is about systematic inquiry leading to knowledge. It helps deflect away from several fairly inescapable conclusions one might get from observing this pandemic:
High density “blue city” urban lifestyles – like the Met Council is mandating in the Twin Cities – are not “resilient” against pandemics. High density living, transit-centered lifestyles, open plan offices, bars and restaurants are all hotbeds of contagion in a way that, at least anecdotally, lower-density areas – even as in Los Angeles as compared to New York – just don’t.
When you mix science and politics, you don’t get scientific politics. You get politicized science – better known as “propaganda” and “logrolling”.
Blue Fragility is causing some shutdown proponents to “kill the messenger”; I had a prominent Saint Paul political operative tell me “small towns are going to get the s**t kicked out of them”, with an almost evangelical glee, like he was looking forward to watching all those MAGA-hatted bitter clingers’ suffereing.
And it prompts people to deflect away from the success story to, frankly, “dog bites dog” stories like this – where a “covid denier” who is quite visibly high risk of contracting the disease…contracts the disease. Surprise, surprise.
It’s easier to mock and taunt one’s opponent than engage them – when that’s all you’ve got.
This blog is eighteen years old and counting. Granted, it’s been a hobby the whole time – other than my annual fund drive and the occasional Google Ads check, it’s never been a money-making proposition. There’s aways been something else to keep me much, much busier from 8-5 – initially a couple of kids, plus a career; these days, the career covers most of it.
But the goals have always been the same: talk about the things in this world where not talking about them would drive me completely crazy, and try to convince the “other side” that there’s another way.
Christian Toto – longtime journo, and conservative film critic – has been at it longer, with different priorities, and a story that resonates with me; a conservative in Saint Paul is a fish at least as far out of water as one in Hollywood.
I’ve embraced more of Andrew Breitbart’s spirit, his vision. It IS a culture war, and one side has far more ammunition. I’m not looking for domination, though. Given the chilling clampdown on free speech I simply want all sides to be heard without, as Dave Rubin would say, being called a Nazi … and then punched.
Once upon a time that was the liberal’s default position. No longer. It’s time to act accordingly. Taking that basic stance makes me both an outlier and a culture warrior. Guilty as charged on both fronts.
If you’re a left-of-center movie buff, I hope you’ll stand by me, too. Let’s argue about the best, and worst, content streaming into our homes.
We can agree to disagree, assuming you acknowledge “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” got stiffed by the Academy in 1948.
As I discussed on my show on Saturday, I see potential good and potential immense bad coming from the Covid19 epidemic. It’s almost like one of those cartoon characters, with an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other, trying to convince the character of their next action.
“Thanks to the Public Health Emergency I declared in January, more older Americans will be able to access healthcare they need from their home, without worrying about putting themselves or others at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. Providers will be allowed to use everyday technologies to talk to telehealth patients, more telehealth services will be covered for millions more Medicare beneficiaries, and providers will be allowed to offer these telehealth benefits to Medicare beneficiaries at a lower cost than traditional services. From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, President Trump has been knocking out every bureaucratic obstacle possible that stands in the way of a rapid and effective response. We are grateful to the hard work of those across HHS who put together these actions, and we’re grateful to American healthcare providers for working to take advantage of these options and continue their heroic work serving patients during the outbreak.”
What a week: liberals buying guns, people appreciating going to work, kids wanting to be back at school?
I’ve been saying for years – after a disaster, everyone becomes a conservative. Who knows?
After the New Hampshire Democratic debate on Friday night, MSNBC host Chris Matthews uttered high heresy against the Bernie Sanders movement by remembering the Cold War and the threat of socialist and communist executions. He warned that if Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War, “there would have been executions in Central Park, and I might have been one of the ones getting executed.” As if to demonstrate the truth of this statement, Bernie Bros got #FireChrisMatthews trending on Twitter…”A lot of this will be sorting this out if the Democratic Party runs a socialist candidate. That’s a change to the Democratic Party,” Matthews continued. He did not condemn the expansion of social programs, which he firmly distinguished from socialism. “The Democratic Party’s been to the left of the Republican Party on the issue of mixed capitalism, more social programs. They push Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, enormously popular programs. I think ACA/Obamacare, I wish they’d follow through with it, make it work. I think most Americans would be happy with … a public option” in health care.
Watch for burnings of The Gulag Archipelago and 1984 before too terribly long.
If your healthcare, tuition and housing are “Free” (ergo, paid by me, the taxpayer who gets none of those benefits), I am your slave, and being a slaveholder is a moral burden on you as well.
I’m pretty sure Rep. Omar didn’t intend it that way, of course – as her droogs make pretty clear in the thread (and if there’s a 2020’s analogue to “never read the comment section”, it’s gotta be “never read the thread of someone with a blue checkmark).
But you never know.
Maybe Omar will finally get into trouble with Squad leadership for this gaffe…