Signs your counterculture niche has either jumped the shark, or run out of things to be irate about.
Question (via the NYTimes): Are humans necessary?
Answer: Yes. But the NYTimes is not.
(SCENE: A small aircraft is flying over the prairie. Inside the plane are:
- Carpal POX: a golf pro from Wayzata, and Vice Chair for Ideological Purity at the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian Party
- Viktor VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: a professional fraternity organizer, and Vice Chair for Education at the 5th CD Libertarian Party
- Stephanie Marie ANNAN: Community Organizer for the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian party.
- Mitch BERG: Guy, travelling space-available
- Buck SAVAGE: The pilot.
Suddenly, the right engine bursts into flames. The plane begins to vibrate and starts to swerve to the right)
SAVAGE: Crap! Everybody grab a parachute! We’ve gotta bail out!
VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: Oh, dude! Is this like one of those jokes, where the Pope, Hitler and Kim Kardashian are in a plane and there’s only two parachutes?
SAVAGE: No, there’s five. Hurry up and put one on…
ANNAN: …or what? The (makes scare quotes in the air) “plane” will “crash” and “kill” us “all”? How do we know this?
BERG: Um, yeah – I’ll take a ‘chute. Thanks.
POX: Wait – I think there’s a third option. Or maybe several third options.
VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: That means like third through maybe millionth options, you douche!
POX: Let’s think about this. Who’s to say there’s any absolutes, here?
BERG: (Frantically donning parachute) I’d say “the plane is crashing” is pretty absolute.
ANNAN: That’s assuming the parachutes work. I’ve read that they don’t always work. Sometimes they actually cause accidents.
SAVAGE: Look, ma’am, pretty soon the fire in the engine is going to melt the wing spar, and the wing is going to fall off and the plane will go into an uncontrollable spin, and the centrifugal force will pin you to the wall of the plane so hard you won’t be able to move.
ANNAN: Oh, don’t even get me started on the melting point of steel.
BERG: The wing spar is aluminum, isn’t it, Mr. Savage?
POX: Look, the point is that this is a fine time to brainstorm for more, better options than the ones our authority figure – no disrespect intended…
SAVAGE: (Handle on the hatch handle) None taken.
POX: …tells us. Because the biggest problem with the human mind is that we allow authority figures to shackle our imagines, and the bounds of logic to dictate the parameters of the possible. What other options are there besides “flaming death” and “parachute?”
BERG: “Dying while engaging in navel-gazing magical thinking?”
POX: Not quite in the spirit intended, but there are no bad ideas here…
VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: Dude, I reject the premise that there’s any difference between the two. Choosing one or the other merely perpetuates a binary system. I’m not going to pick either one.
SAVAGE: Well, yeah – you will pick one. Or more to the point, it’ll pick you.
VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: Don’t tase me, bro.
POX: Benghazi! Benghazi!
(ANNAN and VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE giggle)
ANNAN: I’m done talking with people who think in terms of “life” or “death” as absolutes.
BERG: Well, that’s a perfectly fine metaphysical and theological point, but crashing in the plane sort of moots the discussion.
ANNAN: That does it. I’m shunning you.
POX: OK. Fourth option; we concentrate real hard and levitate the plane? Again, no bad ideas, here. Any more?
BERG: So I pull this ring here?
SAVAGE: After we’re out of the plane.
POX: Some people just can’t be cured.
ANNAN: There is no difference between the disease and the cure.
VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: I’m totally posting this to Facebook.
(BERG and SAVAGE jump, count to three, and pull the rip cords, as the plane, engine ablaze, sails into the distance).
ANNAN (in the distance): Bunch of ‘chutists.
VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE and POX: ‘Chutists! ‘Chutists!
It was fifty years ago today that Ronald Reagan gave one of the most important speeches in American history, and perhaps the most important speech in the history of American conservatism: A Time For Choosing.
And it’s more vital now than it was, even then.
You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well, I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: man’s old, old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism
Here it is, in its entirety.
It’s impossible to overstate this speech’s importance. It was the opening salvo in the rebirth of conservatism. It took a decade for its aftereffects to be known; George Will wrote in 1984 that it won the Presidency for Goldwater – it just took 16 years to count the votes.
And it’s a hot, blazing rebuke for the mental midgets to claim the GOP has “become more extreme” lately. Listen to the whole thing. There is nothing the Tea Party stands behind that wasn’t stated in this speech.
It also destroys the even dimmer claim that “Reagan was too moderate for today’s GOP”. If only today’s GOP – outside the Tea Party, anyway – had the balls to live up to the standards in this speech.
In retrospect, Reagan’s presidency – and it may be fairly said that this speech was the beginning of Reagan’s political career – bought this nation a few decades before the extended populist spending orgy that took off in the sixties finally brings this nation to its heels.
Is there still time to change things?
Perhaps. But this is the real time for choosing.
The most famous (or is it infamous?) punter in modern history tries to pin the Minnesota Vikings against their end zone.
Chris Kluwe may possess a number of less-than-desirable qualities, but the former punter’s media savvy remains arguably his strongest suit. Since leveling accusations against the Minnesota Vikings, in particular special teams coach Mike Priefer, of fostering an atmosphere of homosexual hatred which led to his firing by “two cowards and a bigot,” Kluwe has remained relatively quiet. Perhaps partially motivated by a press corps seemingly less willing to believe him, or realizing that his legal strategy depended upon him dragging many of his former teammates into the mix, Kluwe and his representation had said little about the Vikings’ independent investigation in the past seven months.
That changed Tuesday as Kluwe charged that the Vikings’ investigation has concluded and that the lack of public disclosure over the findings proved Kluwe’s allegations of bigotry:
The onetime punter said Tuesday the team is “reneging on a promise” to release a copy of its completed investigation of alleged anti-gay sentiments expressed by special teams coach Mike Priefer during the 2012 season.
Kluwe and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, announced at a morning news conference that they will file suit against the Vikings alleging discrimination on the grounds of religion, human rights, defamation and “torturous interference for contractual relations.”
The move is self-aggrandizing and potentially premature (the Vikings said the independent investigatory group would provide a report this week). Had the press conference included accusations of the team of being “lustful c**kmonsters,” it would have been vintage Kluwe.
It was also a somewhat smart public relations ploy. Now, whenever Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P release their findings, Kluwe can claim his pressure forced the team to do so. And Kluwe’s willingness to forgo a lawsuit for a monetary settlement that goes towards an LGBT cause also assists both the Vikings, in helping the issue go away faster, and Kluwe himself as even old media allies questioned the punter’s motivations (the KFAN Morning Show, who often gave Kluwe free-rein to voice his opinions on all matter of subjects, openly wondered if he was making a money grab this morning).
But “somewhat smart” isn’t the same as “smart.” Kluwe’s strategy only truly works if the independent investigation proves some or all of Kluwe’s anecdotes, in particular his claim that Mike Priefer suggested moving gay people to an island and hitting it with a nuclear bomb. Not unlike the current Jesse Ventura defamation suit, Kluwe’s case ultimately comes down to a “he said/he said” legal battle. Even if Kluwe is 100% accurate in quoting Vikings’ staff, he would still have to prove a correlation between comments like Priefer’s and his cutting in 2013. The Vikings can respond about Kluwe’s declining skills and (for the position) high salary – reasons that even Kluwe cited…when cut last summer by the Oakland Raiders.
The outcome of the investigation – or any following legal action – may be pointless. Kluwe’s defenders will continue to insist the end of his career was due to his gay rights activism, and not his next-to-last finish for punts inside the 20-yard line while making $1.45 million. Kluwe’s detractors will continue to be maligned as being bothered by his politics rather than his penchant for vulgar name-calling to anyone who doesn’t share his views (on gay rights or other subjects).
Other than attorneys or an LGBT charity, it’s hard pressed to see who benefits from this continued fight.
…and keeping in mind that I’m speaking in general, not necessarily about the “gay marriage” thing (and further keeping in mind that I barely believe in straight marriage as it’s currently done, much less the gay variety), let’s try a little thought experiment.
The next time someone offends you, carry out an honor killing (whatever your ethnic background, it’s probably been part of your culture at some point in the near or distant past).
See how very much we do legislate morality. And pretty damn successfully.
Honor killing is an integral part of many cultures’ version of “morality” even today (and most cultures, if you go back far enough). Ours, recently (as in “within the past 100 years” in some parts of the country) decided it’s not any more. And they legislated it.
Ditto owning slaves, or having multiple spouses – although there’s no logical reason we won’t have the latter back within a generation.
That slogan “you can’t legislature morality” has always bugged me.
The real celebrity passing here in the Twin Cities over the weekend was “Jasper”, long-time star of James Lileks’ Bleat blog and namesake of “Jasperwood”.
I’m going to hug Clu when I get home tonight.
UPDATE: Fixed the link. The perils of blogging from an iPhone.
As Yvonne Prettner Solon bids farewell to the office of Lieutenant Governor, should Minnesota do so as well?
When it comes to political shockwaves, the announcement that Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon would not seek a second-term as Mark Dayton’s running-mate barely constitutes a ripple in the political waters. And why not? Over the past four years, Prettner Solon joined a long and undistinguished list of Minnesota lieutenant governors who served their time largely under the radar of the media and electorate. Even Prettner Solon’s own webpage touts her “actions” as a small collection of out-of-state/out-of-country travels, with a dash of in-state touring on behalf of federal initiatives (helpfully spelling as a typo as well).
Prettner Solon’s (in)actions say less about her tenure than about the limitations of the office of lieutenant governor itself.
John Nance Garner’s infamous quote about the Vice-Presidency as “not worth a bucket of warm piss” (often sanitized as “warm spit”) might as well apply to Minnesota’s lieutenant governors. With perhaps the exception of Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who served as the commission of Transportation in the Pawlenty administration, Minnesota’s lieutenant governors have served almost no active role in policy direction or political leadership.
Indeed, the trend-lines for the state’s lieutenant governors have seemingly further minimized an insignificant position. Whereas past lieutenant governors had gone on to serve in higher office, such as Rudy Perpich, Sandy Keith, Karl Rolvaag, C. Elmer Anderson and Edward Thye, the past several decades haven’t even seen lieutenant governors make a post-office political impact. Joanne Benson, Joanell Dyrstad, and Marlene Johnson all made bids for higher office in the 1990s (Governor, U.S. Senate and St. Paul Mayor, respectfully) and lost – badly. None of them even made to the general election.
All of this begs the question – does Minnesota require a Lieutenant Governor?
Seven states forgo the position, with two of those states, Tennessee and West Virginia, having the office of lieutenant governor be only an honorary title on the Speaker or President of the State Senate. The line of succession, often the only value to the office, goes either to the Senate President or the Secretary of State. In Minnesota, about the only other value to the office is as a gender counterweight to the top of the ticket. Lou Wangberg was the last male lieutenant governor of the state – a fact useful only as trivia for political nerds. Otherwise, every winning ticket (and most of the losing tickets) have had a female running-mate since 1982.
Closing the office of lieutenant governor won’t save Minnesota much. The combined office budgets of the Governor and his lieutenant are only $3.3 million. But if Minnesota could willingly end a constitutional office like State Treasurer, which had at least some active management in state affairs, then why not do the same for a office that has strayed far from any meaningful policy or political moorings? Every candidate for governor claims they will reinvent the office of lieutenant governor with their selection. Dayton himself promised that Prettner Solon would become a “strong partner” if elected. If travelling to Canada and opening a Duluth office were parts of Dayton’s idea of partnership, he didn’t say in 2010.
Outside of the endorsement process for both parties, the role of lieutenant governor serves absolutely no purpose. And in an era where it appears both parties are drifting away from placing much value on being the endorsed candidate for governor, whatever justifications remain for the office are quickly disappearing.
ADDENDUM: Even Prettner Solon seems to have expected more out of her office, if her comments at her press conference were accurate:
She has said she and the governor have a distant relationship. She said she anticipated being more involved in more policy initiatives as lieutenant governor, but she carved out a niche of her own working on initiatives for seniors and Minnesotans with disabilities.
Minnesota’s Film & Television Board faces a legislative re-write.
Like Hollywood, Minnesota’s relationship with the entertainment industry has seen a tumultuous career trajectory. From being the ingenue of Midwestern locations in the 1990s, resulting in a bevy of films such as Fargo, Grumpy Old Men, The Mighty Ducks, to a discarded destination left in favor of Canada, Minnesota’s greatest entertainment legacy seemed to come more from the state’s exports (the Coen brothers; Diablo Cody) than production imports.
Left in Hollywood’s wake, two institutions survived – a small, but dedicated core of film and television technical professionals and the bureaucratic Minnesota Film and Television Board. One group has created jobs; the other has lobbyists and now $10 million in tax incentives:
Six months after receiving a record $10 million to lure films to the state, the Minnesota Film & TV Board is under fire, with some legislators and industry insiders questioning whether it should exist at all.
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles’ concerns about the board have escalated to a point where he plans to seek a formal examination of it next month, when the legislative session begins. If the evaluation is unfavorable, funding for the program known as “Snowbate,” and even the board’s future, could be in jeopardy….
“In addition to an audit, an evaluation is really needed to address broad policy questions,” Nobles said. “Should the state be involved in supporting the film industry? If yes, what would be the most effective approach, and who should be in charge of that effort?”
The fate of the “Snowbate” and the Film Board itself seems to be a movie stuck on an infinite loop. In the mid 2000s, and as recently as 2010, the necessity and/or effectiveness of the Film Board was constantly being called into question, as few films chose Minnesota as their location – even those scripted as taking place in the state. Leatherheads, New in Town, Juno, Jennifer’s Body, Contagion and Young Adult all take place in Minnesota and with the modest exception of a few scenes of Young Adult, none shot a second of footage in the state. Other films, like Homefront or Gran Torino were rewritten to reflect moving the location to outside Minnesota.
The Film Board has countered that they do create jobs, suggesting numbers as high as 338 full-time positions in return for $3.3 million in subsidies. But film and television work, by its nature, is not “full-time” but merely temporary. And considering the increasingly broad definitions of the Snowbate guidelines to include advertising campaigns and web-based content, it would appear that all the Snowbate is accomplishing is subsidizing temporary Minnesota-based work, not bringing in funds or employment from out of state.
Minnesota isn’t the only state that’s reexamining whether or not film tax credits actually bring in revenue. Indeed, the trend-line seems to be going the other direction:
…It’s hard to get a good handle on the exact impact of an in-state movie production. In most places, the only reports on movie-production revenue and jobs come from the state film office–or the movie industry itself. Objective studies are relatively hard to come by. And even where independent studies of film incentives do exist, the data can easily be interpreted in myriad ways.
Take Massachusetts, which has offered a 25 percent film incentive since 2006 and already has attracted numerous big-name projects and stars, including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mel Gibson. The Bay State is one of only a couple that require an annual, independent report on how the incentives are performing. When the most recent report was released by the Department of Revenue in July 2009, tax-incentive opponents said it unequivocally showed the credits weren’t working. According to the report, the state paid out $113 million in movie tax credits in 2008, while filming in the state generated $17.5 million in new tax revenue and created about 1,100 full-time-equivalent jobs for state residents.
Lost in the discussion is why so many films were attracted to Minnesota in the first place – the filmmakers were from here. Mighty Ducks‘ director Mark Steven Johnson is a Hastings native. Joe Somebody‘s writer John Scott Shepherd worked in the Twin Cities. Thin Ice‘s director Jill Sprecher is a Wisconsin/Minnesota native. And the list of below-the-line production people from Minnesota in Hollywood – the casting directors, the location scouts – is extensive. Relatively few economic incentives were required (or even existed) in the 1990s to encourage filmmakers. The same appears true today. The limits of the Snowbate didn’t seem to stop the Coen brothers from shooting 2009’s A Serious Man in their hometown of St. Louis Park.
Minnesota isn’t going to win a contest of who can subsidize more Hollywood fare for little (or no) economic return. And if even a navy-blue political state like Massachusetts can realize that film tax credits only result in a state being taken advantage of like a young actress on a casting couch, Minnesota might be able to come to a similar conclusion.
Note to all you folks thinking of moving to North Dakota to start cashing in on the oil boom: North Dakota is cold.
There aren’t a lot of trees. And outside of the eight or nine significant-sized cities (Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Devil’s Lake, Bismark/Mandan, Minot, Williston, Dickinson, and maybe Valley City), there just aren’t a whole lot of people.
More below the jump, so the rest of the page can load…
On Veterans Day, you thank the servicemen you can.
On Memorial Day, you remember the ones you can’t.
Today I’ll be doing what I do most Memorial Days – stopping by the memorial to the USS Swordfish, which I wrote about a few years ago – on my way about all the rest of the things the day brings.
Hope you have a good day, and that you all remember why we have the day off.
This was forwarded to me in an email chain the other day – one of those “please forward to your friends” kinds of things.
Now, I never, ever forward email. I probably don’t even forward email that I should, sometimes.
But this, I figured, was worth forwarding to a lot more people than I could ever pick out of my email address book:
Holocaust denial isn’t exactly mainstream today – but since I first interviewed high-profile revisionist Ernst Zündel in 1987, it’s gotten a lot less outlandish, too.
And that’s bad; the worst evils are the ones that have become banal and commonplace.
…to send my best wishes and prayers to my friend and former NARN colleague Michael Brodkorb and his family. Michael was critically injured in an accident last night.
And whatever your political point of view, I’d urge you to do the same.
Not much information is available.
UPDATE: A demented ghoul tried to comment that I was “defending (alleged) drunk driving”. No; for starters, it’s alleged. Beyond that? The time for hashing that out is after he’s recovered.
It’s been a big day for dementees on this blog.
I thought about writing a long, acerbic piece about Roe V. Wade, the SCOTUS decision handed down forty years ago today.
About how the decision – which sniffed imaginary emanations of penumbras from between the lines of the Constitution – was an incredibly badly-written decision. About how it was a deeply wrong-headed over-run of the Tenth Amendment. About the two-faced notion of “rights” that it bequeathed to a couple of generations of identity feminists.
But honestly, it’s all too depressing. If I were to write a history of the decline and fall of the United States, Roe would have a chapter of its own.
Not just because it legalized infanticide – although that is damning enough.
But because it was, and is, emblematic of the trivialization of thought, of logic and of reason that is degrading our society at every level today.
So celebrate like it’s 1999, baby-killers.
Rock and roll has always been, ostensibly, about upsetting the existing order. In the beginning, its very existence upended what passed for “order” in popular culture, at least to the extent of helping create a “youth culture” – something that’d never existed before, and really started in America. As culture and the genre evolved through the sixties, pop music smeared itself in the “revolutionary” rhetoric of the rest fo the counterculture; in the seventies, the punk counter-counterculture (at least in the English art-school variety) flipped the hippies’ putative idealism on its head in an orgy of self-indulgent nihilism. Post-punks – U2 would be the most famous and enduring of the bunch) in turn, flipped that on its head in an welter of often self-righteous activism.
And against that backdrop, the music of Bruce Springsteen has always been refreshingly non-revolutionary. Continue reading
Joe Doakes from Como Park writes:
I like this analogy, from Instapundit
Don’t think that zero is as low as interest rates can go: money as a store of value is also threatened.
Primitive man often faced an interest rate of -%50 per hour, if he caught some meat for instance, and was trying to get it into the bellies of his family it spoiled or was snatched by competitors. Now you can store your income and wealth in financial instruments and only buy meat when you want to eat it, or keep it in the fridge or freezer for even greater convenience. We take all this for granted, but as near-zero nominal interest rates come to be paired with rising inflation–an outcome that is pretty much guaranteed under QE3–even coin and currency will no longer keep stored value from wasting away. We are heading into difficulties that should be a thing of the past, and its not just bedbugs and resistant disease. Government is squandering EVERYTHING.
So we need to invest in stuff that won’t spoil, that people will be willing to trade for after the economy collapses. Honestly, gold bullion doesn’t strike me as useful for everyday living. More useful, durable stuff would be:
I’m pretty much good to go.
Americans at large – other than Mormons – have never really taken the possibility of complete collapse seriously.
It’s looking smarter and smarter.
I bet I just got onto a DHS watchlist, didn’t I?
P.J. O’Rourke – the greatest writer of my generation, even though he’s a generation older than me – writes on the dolorous effect of the Baby Boomers on not just American society, but the idea of America.
O’Rourke laments the death of far-sweeping goals – going to the moon, building the biggest dam or the tallest building, being the biggest and the baddest:
But if America is still rich and strong, why should it matter that we’re no longer interested in doing anything spectacular? Maybe critics of an America whose grasp exceeds its reach are victims of atavistic machismo. Maybe we have Freudian issues. Professional help might be in order. No Americans are scheduled to go to Mars, but plenty are scheduled to go to therapy. Perhaps the realities of 2012 demand a change in attitude.
Except the change has already happened, the result of our shift from an exterior to an interior existence. America once valued the high-skilled. Now we value the high-minded. We used to admire bold ideas. Now we admire benign idealism. This doesn’t make us good, it makes us wrong. The bold can be achieved. Of the ideal, there is none in this life.
And why does it matter?
America’s retreat from visible, tangible manifestations of superiority doesn’t hurt just our pride, our economy, and our place in the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s also a bad advertising campaign. America has one great product to sell, individual liberty. It’s attractive, useful, healthy, and the fate of the world depends upon it.
We are the most important and maybe the only country that fully embodies the sanctity, dignity, independence, and responsibility of each and every person. “American” is not a nationality, an ethnicity, or a culture; it’s a fact of human freedom. Our country was not created and is not governed by a ruling class or even by majority rule. America is individuals exercising their right to do what they think is best with due respect (to the extent human nature allows) for the right of all other Americans to do likewise. This is not an ideology or a system. This is a blessing.
You should read the whole thing. And vote accordingly.
Joe Biden isn’t known for subtext – just text.
While the national media has treated Biden as something between a 21st Century Spiro Agnew and that crazy uncle who overstays his welcome during the holidays, Republicans have (dare I say?) celebrated Joe’s Bidenisms as occasional forays into the truth. If Barack Obama represents the modern Democratic Party’s super ego, Biden represents it’s id – the innate instinctive impulses and primary processes.
All of which makes Joe’s latest bombast not terribly surprising:
Campaigning in southern Virginia on Tuesday, Vice President Biden told an audience that Mitt Romney’s approach to regulating the financial industry will “put y’all back in chains,” a remark that triggered a flurry of Republican criticism, including a sharp rebuke from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
“Look at their budget and what they’re proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let the – he said in the first hundred days, he is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They are going to put y’all back in chains.”
Biden made the comments at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, where he kicked off a two-day campaign tour of southern and southwestern Virginia. He spoke before what appeared to be a racially varied audience of 900 people, and one prominent Republican suggested that his language could be interpreted as racially divisive.
The fallout fell on equally predictable lines. The Romney camp tweeted that the comments were “outrageous” and reporters spent the afternoon filing bylines with stories repeating the VP’s gaffe. If anything didn’t go according to script, it was the Democrat response – refusing to acknowledge any error in judgement and actually doubling down on the comment. Biden’s attempt at “clarifying” his words still repeated the claim that Romney/Ryan would “shackle” the middle class.
Are Biden’s comments “outrageous”? No, not by comparison to the media’s attempt to quasi-defend them by providing the sort of context that often seems to be missing from similar Republican errors. Soledad O’Brien led off Anderson Cooper’s 360 by looping numerous Republican officials using the term “unshackle” (ergo, Biden was justified). Politico decried the “death of the high-minded campaign” and despite having only one negative Romney example (in which he hit Biden for a 2007 comment about coal killing more Americans than terrorists), the website placed cover page photos of both contenders, suggesting that both camps have equally contributed to the debasing of the campaign.
Such defenders of context were no where to be found just days ago when Mitt Romney’s factual ad hitting Obama’s new welfare policies had politicos and pundits seeing racial politics. Dan Milbank even unleashed a column that Romney’s ad “incites bigotry.” Perhaps a conservative commentator will rush to pen a piece that explains how Biden’s comments were an attempt at “dog whistle” politics to African-American voters that not only will get published in a major newspaper but go by unchallenged by the Praetorian Guard of the Old Media. But I wouldn’t suggest anyone hold their breath.
The issue shouldn’t be whether or not Joe Biden said something racial but that its become an acceptable part of the political discourse to accuse your opponents of putting voters in a form of bondage that doesn’t involve a safe word. Such a mangled attempt to turn a phrase may pass for the talking heads at MSNBC or on whatever ham radio frequency that Air America continues broadcasting from, but without negative consequences, politicians will continue to feel free to double down on the harshest language possible.
In 2004, lefty commentator Thomas Frank published a book “What’s The Matter With Kansas” – which analyzed the growing conservative majority in America’s heartland…
…in the most patronizing, contemptuous way I’d heard until the mainstream media’s response to the Tea Party five years later. Frank hammered on the idea that conservatives in the heartland were “voting against their interests” by voting Conservative.
The ‘Interests”, of course, were limited to “having government take care of you, provided you send it enough taxes” (my phrase, not Frank’s).. “Kansas” – Frank’s home state on the one hand, and his and every lefty pundit’s short-hand for “all those dumb rubes I left behind when I went to an Ivy League school” on the other – has “interests” that begin with getting farm subsidies and end with single-payer health care.
Frank’s thesis, in other words? States, and citizens, are dependents. Like pets. Like a herd of cattle for which a noble farmer is responsible; it’s in the cattle’s interest to make the farmer’s life easy. Or maybe like children – little people who aren’t quite fully formed, who depend on the older, wiser, parents to keep them on the straight and narrow until a majority that never comes.
And it highlit one of the big disputes between “progressives” and conservatives: what is the role of a person, a citizen? To a liberal, it’s “vote when told to vote, pay your taxes when told to pay taxes, and don’t get in the way”. To a conservative, it’s to be one of the free association of equals that consents to having a government, and – make no mistake – controls that government.
This argument came to the nation, and Minnesota, this past few months.
Last spring, Representative Mary Franson from the Alexandria area took nationwide heat for a comment which some of the local Sorosphere’s ‘dimmer bulbs yanked out of context (and a few of the less less-bright ones correctly called out as a dumb hit) which was, in its entirety, correct; long-term dependence on welfare does, in fact, treat people like animals. Like pets, at best; little critters for whose well-being the master – the owner, or government, depending on which end of the metaphor you’re talking about – is responsible.
And about the same time the Sorosphere was denouncing Franson with florid indignation, the Obama Administration came out and proved that Franson was exactly right – that the government did in fact see citizens as monochromatic consumers, as ivestock, dependent on their owner/master/government for their ongoing wellbeing, with the fabulously inept and gloriously spoof-worthy and, beyond that, downright Orwellian “Julia” campaign.
David Clemens – in a piece called “Elvis Vs. Julia”, which is actually a defense of humanities education, the discipline of studying the why of humanity, which is in its entirely worth a read for its own sake – cuts to the reason “progressives” attitudes about the government / citizen relationship, as revleated by “Julia” are not just toxic, but dehumanizing:
This is why selling the Julia concept frightens me. She doesn’t yearn to be free, like a human; she yearns to be kept. Julia embraces the piano key life that the president offers, and like W. H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen, she will act and behave predictably, she will choose and think correctly.
But in literature (and life) we recoil from those who trade freedom for safety nets and soft landings. The great anti-utopian novelists warned us over and over what happens when we make that bargain: George Orwell’s Winston Smith, Aldous Huxley’s John Savage, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s D-503 would rather suffer or die than join the Party, take the soma, or blend into the One State.
So what I find most chilling about the Julia ad concept is its creators’ cynical view of Americans, particularly women. And what if her creators are right? As Michael Walsh writes, “It’s tough to accept that perhaps a majority of our fellow Americans would cheerfully trade liberty for a false sense of security.” That is, how many workforce-ready but literature-free voters see The Life of Julia and find her flat, subsidized, feckless life desirable? With the liberal arts in decline, how many “miss the connection?” One must have been exposed to Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin in order to see their relationship to Julia and hear the warning.
Clearly, much of the left does – or, worse, “gets it”, but feels the trade is worthwhile, or worst of all, sees themselves as the “shepherds” needed to manage all of us sheep, or Julias, or whatever line of metaphor you want to run with.
A perennial question that divides the political left and right is this: what sort of beings are we? Do we have an immutable, perhaps transcendent, nature that will surrender everything utopia for autonomy, agency, and freedom (Elvis) [who, it might be said, rebelled against the very security that his phenomenally-successful career ]? Or is there no inherent nature, and humans are just socially constructed, plastic, seeking nothing but safety and a reliable sense of well-being (Julia)? Political Science, Psychology, and Anthropology cannot answer that question, and the sciences can only measure what is measurable. The liberal arts and humanities, however, insist that we are like Elvis, and that those who trade liberty for comfort always live to regret it.
Well, some humanities observe this. Others are waiting on their next NEH grant.
But the real question is – which is a better reflection of what humans are, and can be? Conservatism, with its immutable standards and great consequences and sometimes greater hurdles? Or a life bellied up to the government trough, like the one Obama and Mark Dayton clearly see for us?
What’s the matter with Kansas – and with Kansans like us?
We’re human, and we want to stay that way.
Joe Doakes of Como Park writes:
See, this is why I hate lawyers who write social commentary:. They commit the most obvious logical fallacy and expect us to ignore the error but genuflect to their credentials.
“As leaders of law firms, we write in our individual capacity.” What the Hell does that mean? Does that mean “Every lawyer in the entire Big Shot law firm opposes . . . “ or does it mean “Some guys who work at the Big Shot law firms oppose . . . ?” Clearly, “individual” means NOT on behalf of the firms; they’re writing as individual lawyers like any of 35,000 other lawyers in Minnesota.
But they’re lawyers and it’s a legal issue, doesn’t that add weight to their opinions? But it’s not a legal issue. If it were, the matter would be settled in court where lawyers’ opinions might matter. This is a legislative issue to be settled in the ballot box, an issue on which the opinions of every citizen are equally valid. Lawyers – even those at big law firms – get one vote each, same as the rest of us. Their law licenses adds no weight to their opinions.
But they work at Big Shot law firms, doesn’t that add weight to their opinions? No, it means for 20 years of schooling they were the most outstanding test-takers, brown-nosers, box-checkers and teacher’s-opinion-regurgitators so they got better grades and therefore got hired by big name firms. They may have higher IQs than you and I, but this isn’t an IQ test so that doesn’t make their opinions more valuable than ours. The firm name adds no weight to the writers’ opinions.
But they’re the managing partners, the guys who run the firms. They manage dozens, maybe hundreds of employees, doesn’t that add weight? Why should the individual personal opinion of the managing partner at Big Shot law firm on a social issue be entitled to more weight than the managing archbishop of the local diocese or the manager of the local road construction company? Why should the manager’s opinion on a social issue be entitled to more weight than the employees’ opinions? Just because you’re management instead of labor doesn’t give you any special insight into how basic societal units should be structured, whether “family” should be one-man-one-woman, same sex, or plural. No, being the managing partners adds no weight to their opinions.
“Appeal to Authority” is a fundamental logical fallacy and they commit it in the very first sentence of the column. Their opinions have no more weight than mine and “Because I said so” quit working when I was 5 years old. With that poison opener, the rest of the column doesn’t stand a chance of persuading me these writers have the authority to instruct me how I should vote on this issue. I’ll make up my own mind, thank you very much.
RIght. But Democrats, being fundamentally hive creatures, tend to defer to authority first, and ask questions later.
Let’s imagine, if you will, a big knob or dial with a scale from 0 to 11.
This dial measures…
…well, anything, really. For purposes of this article, let’s measure “Liberty” – the prevalence of and respect for the rights to think, speak, act, work and prosper freely.
Let’s say the numbers on the dial mean something like this:
0 – You’re in a North Korean concentration camp.
1 – You are in North Korea, but not in a concentration camp.
2 – You are in Cuba – unfree, and most likely dirt poor. Your only “opportunity” is found in a bottle of some kind. You are fed, more or less, and cared for, sorta. Like a farm animal, really.
3 – You are in Red China – unfree, and a little less likely to be dirt poor. Like an animal on a farm where the back forty is “free range”, if Farmer
Brown Hu lets you live back there.
4 – You are in Greece – Rioting and living on the dole? You’re “Free”. Starting a business or excelling on your merits, absent lots of graft and what the Mexicans call mordida (maybe the Greeks call it “Mordidos?” I dunno), and faced with paying taxes to pay for the problems caused by the earlier excessive taxes? Not so free. You are fed well enough, and cared for (or should be, if the government can figure out how to balance its budget) – like a house pet with a badly-organized owner who’s going to have to file for bankruptcy if he doesn’t square his act away, and who seems unlikely to do anything of the sort after the weekend’s household elections.
5 – You’re in the Netherlands or France. You are “Free” from most wants, and have lots of “Free” time – but taxes and regulations make entrepreneurship exceptionally difficult, although it’s a more orderly form of difficulty than in Greece. Food and care from the government are plentiful (provided that taxes and borrowing are in turn also plentiful, which is a big “provided” these days); you are like a pet in a well-organized and happy home, albeit one that has to keep renegotiating its credit cards.
6 – You are in a highly regulated United States or the UK – think “the worst of the seventies, on turbo”, run amok. Entrepreneurship is marginally more free than in socialist Europe, and the social “safety net” is almost as smothering and the taxes almost as debilitating.
7 – You are in what Newt Gingrich might call Mitt Romney’s America – with lower taxes, but still more regulation that the United Freaking States of America, the land of people who risked all to come to the new world to risk all, could do without, and still too many taxes. A place that is essentially a welfare state with some doors of opportunity left open for the lucky and incredibly motivated (or connected) few.
8 – You are in an America that Ronald Reagan worked toward – where we have the government we actually need, but not too much, and where feeding government comes in second to feeding and educating your family and financing your dream of success – a place where the rising tide lifts all boats, and where we don’t level out the peaks to fill in the valleys, but where we (as Churchill said) spread a net over the abyss.
9 – You’re in the America that Ron Paul’s party line says he works toward; where government is stripped down to the bare minimum, and people have the responsibility – and opportunity – to fend for themselves.
10 – The pure Big-L Libertarian Ideal. Government guards the borders, enforces laws regarding order and property rights, and adjudicates contracts. That’s it. You are free to succeeed or fail precisely according to your merits and work. And if you fail? Social policy, especially the whole “Safety Net” thing, is in the realm of society – the individual and their own organic institutions (the church, Packers Nation, trade unions, the Elks, the NRA, the Oprah Book Club or whatever).
11 – One more than ten.
Where do you want to live?
That’s one way of looking at life, anyway.
I was listening to Jason Lewis the other night – something I don’t get to do nearly enough. And he looks at political life a little differently; “You’re either for freedom, or against it”. Instead of a dial from 0 to 11, you have a light switch, or an LED; it’s on, or it’s off.
How accurate in measuring anything in life is a lightswitch?
Is your marriage either wonderful, fulfilling and perfect or utterly miserable, abusive and dysfunctional?
Is your job either your dream come to fruition or something that makes you want to stick a gun in your mouth every morning?
Are your children either endless joys that make you thankful to wake up every day or little deviants on whom you can’t find enough dimes to drop?
If your marriage, job and kids aren’t perfect, do you instantly file for divorce, quit, and look up a pack of travelling gypsies?
Of course not. So – is all of American political life really a choice between either “North Korean Concentration Camp Inmate” or “One More Than Ten?”
Of course not.
You put up with your spouse’s imperfections and insanities (or, in about half of marriages, you don’t). You tough out a job you may not like until something better comes up (or doesn’t). You try to focus on and bring out the best in your children, and get them to the point where you can say “I did the best I could”, and others answer “We can tell”, and you both keep a straight face.
Everything in life has a “dial” that goes from zero to 11 – your marriage, your job, your kids…
…and political life isn’t any different.
There are two political battles going on today, if you are a conservative and a Republican.
The big one is against Barack Obama. Obama’s America is at or below a “Six” right now, and – measured by executive branch action – heading south. He’s putatively targeting a “five” – but his deficit spending, as any sane conservative knows, pretty much inevitably leads to “four”. Which, then, can just as easily lead to overreaction on the part of government and those who’ve come to depend on it – the Democrat constituency – that leads to points south of four; see “The Weimar Republic”.
So if you’re sitting at a 5.5, and your options are “Five and dropping” or “Seven (at worst) with the potential to move up, if you keep engaged and don’t let up the pressure?”, what would you take?
Which leads us to the other – and first – battle we face; between those who answer that question “If I can’t get at least a nine, then I don’t care and I’m going to stay home”.
Now, during the caucus and endorsement process, I’m all for accepting no substitutes – for pulling like hell for whomever your ideal candidate is, and eschewing compromise like the plague.
But once the endorsement process is over, there’s another time for choosing. And if you’re a conservative Republican, at any level, your choice is, ineluctibly, this:
You held out for your ideal. Now it’s time to choose; the US is at a 6, maybe a 5.5, today. Another term of Obama and we’ll be a weak 5, maybe headed south. The only realistic choice right now is – at worst – to increment the counter to a 6+. Maybe a 7, maybe shooting for an 8 if we get a good Congress. You will not get your 9 or 10 in this election – and if the needle slips further, and more Americans slide into dependence and choose that comfortable, entitled “Five” on the big dial of political life, it’ll become much, much harder to budge things upward again.
Do you let the dial slide? Or do you push the dial up?
There is no other option.
What do you say?
I just got the news that Chris Tiedeman – political PR guru extraordinaire, and a longtime friend of this blog – and his wife Sara were involved in a “serious” car accident last night.
There are painfully few details.
I’ll ask for your prayers, karmic imprecations, best wishes or whatever your world views call for.
As it happens, APM’s “Public Insight Network” is asking about the same bit fof the State of the Union that stuck in my craw the other night.
In his State of the Union Address to Congress, President Obama talked about what he called “the basic American promise” — that if people worked hard, they could afford a home, college for their kids and some savings for retirement.
Is that still YOUR expectation of America?
They’ve put it in the form of a survey question.
My answer went a little something like this: It’s one of the questions that defines the difference between conservatives and liberals.
In my world, America isn’t defined by our government or any material possessions or financial status symbols. It’s about opportunity and liberty; the opportunity to succeed by dint of my merits and talents (or fail through the lack of them).
My “expectation of America” is that the government that I elect will shut up and get out of the way and let private enterprise – me – take care of things.
That pretty much covers it!