Sat, 24 November 2018
Parallels in history are not hard to find with my President. The third emperor of ancient Rome used at least one remarkably similar military tactic.
Direct download: American_Troops_Gathering_Seashells_by_the_Seashore.mp3
Category:Policy, Political News -- posted at: 9:54pm EDT
Sat, 3 November 2018
Republican candidates around the country now insist they support protection for those with pre-existing conditions.
And Republican lawmakers from every part of the nation are working to get their healthcare promises declared illegal.
Direct download: Republicans_Fight_in_Court_to_Make_Their_Healthcare_Promises_Illegal.mp3
Category:Policy, Political News -- posted at: 11:53pm EDT
Sat, 27 October 2018
Cute little blue and pink baby bonnets can teach us something important about the reasons Republicans are giving for plans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Direct download: Cute_Little_Bonnets_and_Republican_Social_Security_Plans.mp3
Category:Policy, Political News -- posted at: 9:38pm EDT
Sat, 20 October 2018
The Trump administration tax cuts for the wealthy, and Republican plans to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, can all be traced back to a line drawn on a napkin in 1974.
Sat, 15 September 2018
It is a fictional lament from four decades ago. When our national leadership sees only winning and losing sides, we all lose.
Wed, 20 December 2017
Steve Bannon said he wanted to do for the GOP in Alabama what propagandist Leni Riefenstahl did for German Nazis in the 1930s.
In his own way, he succeeded.
Wed, 9 August 2017
Conservatives blame Democrats for their failures in health care repeal.
Democrats would do well to remember Bobby Kennedy and his handling of a confrontation over half a century ago.
Direct download: Locked_Out_Politics_and_the_Abolition_of_Health_Care.mp3
Category:Policy, Political News -- posted at: 10:36pm EDT
Thu, 20 July 2017
Spiro Agnew purged a Senator in 1970. Trump hates a Senator in 2017.
One was about policy.
The other is simply petty.
Thu, 13 July 2017
They accuse fake news of dragging America to a dangerous place.
But it turns out the news was not fake and those reports are showing us who has been doing the dragging.
Wed, 24 May 2017
Let us never fear to negotiate.
But let us never be entirely stupid about it.
We simply must make one small demand before President Trump meets with North Korea.
Direct download: When_Trump_Meets_Kim__One_Precondition_We_Must_Demand.mp3
Category:Policy, Political News -- posted at: 10:03pm EDT
Wed, 26 April 2017
An economic theory from 1833 is now a nightmare for many in North Carolina.
It is a warning for conservatives today.
Direct download: Republicans_and_Hogs_the_Tragedy_of_the_Commons.mp3
Category:Policy, Political News -- posted at: 10:27pm EDT
Thu, 30 March 2017
One President faced a hostile audience and emerged a winner.
The other faced friends and turned them to opponents.
Wed, 22 February 2017
The Trump administration prepares the latest trade scam.
It's a neat trick.
Count all imports, but not all exports.
Wed, 28 September 2016
A Commander-in-Chief who can send people into harms way should know that life is to be valued.
Will we elect a President who values life?
One secret answer is hidden between the pages of their Foundation papers.
Wed, 27 July 2016
I don't yet know much about Senator Tim Kaine.
For most of us the ideological spectrum is only some dot on a chart.
Wed, 4 May 2016
Maine's naloxone controversy is a portend. The governor's veto is completely consistent with the emerging Republican ethic.
The Party of Abraham Lincoln sleeps in the Republican past.
The Party of Paul LePage is the vital Republican future.
Direct download: Paul_LePage_and_the_Emerging_Face_of_Conservatism.mp3
Category:Policy, Political News -- posted at: 11:15pm EDT
Sun, 10 April 2016
The conservative political faith of Governor Rick Snyder became more important to those in charge than any other consideration.
Ideology became more important than facts, evidence, or those affected.
People were sacrificed.
It hasn't stopped.
Fri, 1 May 2015
The Republican definition of religious freedom recently became the freedom of an employer to decide whether employees could get birth control as part of their insurance package.
Then freedom of religion transmuted into the right of an employer to order an insurance company not to provide birth control on its own.
Now freedom of religion has mutated into the right of any boss to require workers to report to management, and ask permission, if they want to go to their local pharmacy on their own time and pay for birth control themselves.
The Republican vote was unanimous.
Wed, 18 March 2015
Republicans have refused to reveal the details of their budget plans.
They have learned from past experience how media analysts will focus on Social Security and medicare cuts.
But Tom Price, who heads the Budget committee, let his guard down a little at a recent conservative conclave.
He used the usual audience tested euphemisms, but the direction Republicans in Congress are taking was clear.
Get ready for a bumpy ride.
Mon, 16 March 2015
On February 5, 2015, Republicans held a press event. They warned that letting Russia get away with invading the Crimea peninsula would violate a Presidential agreement signed by Bill Clinton in 1994.
America had to keep its word.
"What kind of message are we sending to Iran as they continue their race towards nuclear weapons?" asked Senator Tom Cotton, as others nodded solemnly.
As it turns out, the program of economic sanctions President Obama initiated against Russia has bitten every bit as deep as President Obama predicted. America did keep its word.
Five weeks later, Republicans publicly warned Iran about giving up on nuclear weapons. They instructed Iran not to trust any agreement to be signed by President Obama. America might not keep its word, if that word is given in a Presidential agreement.
"The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen," they said to Iran, "and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time."
Thu, 12 March 2015
A few years ago, documents and recordings were declassified that confirmed the worst rumors. A private citizen of the United States had secretly contacted foreign governments and sabotaged peace talks in Vietnam. That private citizen was Richard Nixon.
It was hard to imagine anything worse, until a group of conservative Senators tried to sabotage negotiations that might stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The Senators are convinced Iran can't be trusted. So they are trying to convince Iran the United States can't be trusted.
Mon, 23 February 2015
Just a short time ago, Republicans filibustered everything, and Democrats protested.
Now, news outlets can report that Republicans want to end the filibuster, while Democrats are willing to use it. It fits nicely into the new journalistic ethic of balance over documented fact. It also fits the pox-on-all-houses sub-narrative that appeals to a cynical public. Everyone is a hypocrite, and balance is maintained.
Do mainstream outlets have it right this time?
Wed, 28 January 2015
Forget Trickle Down economics.
The Laffer Curve hasn't worked out.
Supply Side has pretty much ruined Kansas.
The newest Republican economic theory comes from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
It has lifted Mississippi from the worst economy in the nation to ... well ... the second worst.
It is now proposed by former Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Expect to hear it often as Republicans look for a way to explain the new Obama economic boom.
It's the only way conservatives can look at the economic world and remain conservative.
Mon, 26 January 2015
Republicans put into place, as chairman of a Civil Rights subcommittee, a Senator hostile to Civil Rights.
Then they changed the name, and the purpose, of the committee.
It no longer will have anything to do with Civil Rights.
The change is symbolic.
The change is substantive.
The change confirms the new direction of a political party.
Wed, 21 January 2015
There was a time, not that long ago, when the primary conservative smear was that opponents possessed no patriotism.
Now a Republican Congress routinely votes to deny American combat troops ammunition and supplies.
Legislative leaders threaten to close down American security from terrorism.
The idea of pride in America seemed to fade when the image of the nation came to include President Obama.
Wed, 7 January 2015
Over dinner, Arthur Laffer showed off his napkin to Republican leaders.
It became the ultimate free lunch. Cutting taxes would generate more income for government to use on behalf of all of us for bridges, police, natural disasters, and soldiers.
Four decades later, Kansas was the perfect state laboratory in a great experiment that would prove once and for all that Supply Side economics works.
Laffer's napkin had come a long way. Then the economic house tumbled down in Topeka.
Thu, 4 December 2014
Sometimes important lessons from world developments; conflict with Russia, deadly battles with the self-styled Islamic State, the medical threat from Ebola; become clear only in later months or years.
But Republicans have taught us one unifying lesson from all of these issues. That lesson hasn't taken long at all.
Tue, 25 November 2014
Senator Inhofe swore Benghazi would go down as the biggest coverup in history. Impeachment was on the table.
Chairman Issa was insistent. The American public was deliberately misled. Talking points had been changed by the administration.
Senator Graham said he knew for a fact that witnesses were being forced into silence.
One Republican after another condemned the lying, the coverup.
Fox News reported, and let viewers decide, about why administration explanations were unraveling in a very public way.
But a Republican investigation reveals that there was no coverup, that the American public was not misled, that talking points were not changed for political purposes, that no employees were told not to talk, that there was no scandal, none.
Now that they know the truth, conservatives will certainly do the right thing.
Wed, 19 November 2014
It seemed like the perfect crime. So complex, nobody outside the conspiracy could understand it. And, just in case, the entire nation held hostage. Rescue us or everybody's home gets burned to the ground.
But someone has come into our lives who makes it just clear enough. Maybe we can bring a few of the hostage takers to justice after all.
Mon, 17 November 2014
It hardly seems like the sort of move any President would make right after losing the Senate and watching the opposition majority in the House go up even more.
But imagine the result if the President not only directs immigration reform by executive order, but goes farther than anyone thinks will happen.
Suppose, on top of that, the President directs some very tough words at those who criticize his executive order.
Here's a prediction. We will be reading about that precise event as Congress fails to act.
Wed, 5 November 2014
In 1993, Prime Minister John Major used his unpopularity in Britain to force opponents to ratify the European Union.
In 1980, Jimmy Carter used his unpopularity in America to force Iran into releasing hostages and paying reparations.
President Obama may have a chance to use his losses in the Senate to force Iran to accept a nuclear agreement Iran does not like and Republicans hate.
Mon, 27 October 2014
Republicans held a public meeting in California this week where they gathered absentee ballots to deliver to election offices.
A Republican held a private confrontation in Arizona with an Hispanic volunteer who was delivering a group of absentee ballots.
Guess which event has sparked conservatives around the country to a white hot fury.
The two events illustrate the expanded new conservative definition of voter fraud.
Tue, 14 October 2014
As buildings smoldered and the dead were counted, policy makers knew who was behind it. The idea that a comic book villain in a cave on the other side of the world could have directed such destruction was hopelessly naive. Osama bin Laden could wait. They had to go after the one who sponsored him, who had to have sponsored him.
Saddam Hussein had to pay.
What they possessed in confidence, they lacked in evidence. They knew what they knew, but they couldn't prove it. America had to attack Iraq's dictatorship, but America had to be convinced. The convincing was done with manufactured evidence. They lied because they would not be able to convince us of what they knew was the truth.
It never crossed their minds that they were wrong.
Now a candidate for the United States Senate has revealed evidence that the deception was not a deception at all.
Joni Ernst (R-IA) has revealed new intelligence, unknown to ordinary citizens.
You have got to hear it.
Wed, 8 October 2014
My conservative friend was, as usual, blunt.
"Mr. Deming, do you find President Obama to be a man of his word who governs with integrity and without misdirection and outright lies?"
It seemed a shame to avoid such a direct question from such a good friend. So I invited him for a quiet stroll through the record.
Sun, 21 September 2014
The Georgia state unemployment rate has jumped way up to 8.1 percent. That's according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in a routine list published on September 19, 2014. That's the highest unemployment rate in the nation. It's higher than Mississippi, which had been the state with the highest rate until they got bumped by Georgia.
Governor Nathan Deal hates being blamed for the highest unemployment in the nation. He suggests an alternate explanation. Maybe there is a conspiracy by the folks who put together unemplyment statistics.
It's hard to say just what conspiracy Governor Deal has in mind. He's only pointing out "some influence here that we don't know about." He seems a little indignant about it.
Except, uh-oh, his conspiracy theory was undermined by his own administration.
Thu, 11 September 2014
Voting restrictions are needed to prevent voter fraud, that's all. That's how conservatives justify the new voting changes. But election stealing always happens in backrooms, away from voters. Ballot stuffing, changing total, are what will work for dishonest politicians. Fraud by voters involves too many people. It's too easy to get caught. The penalties are harsh. And it doesn't work. The backroom stuff is what works.
But conservatives keep insisting they just want to prevent fraud. Keeping large numbers of legitimate voters from voting is just the sad price that must be paid. It certainly isn't the reason for making voting harder. That's what they say... except when they slip up and say in public what they are really trying to do.
For example, this case in Georgia...
Mon, 1 September 2014
They are scattered around St. Louis County, seeming at random. The reason these small police departments exist at all has very little to do with protecting the lives and property of citizens.
The open secret, the one never explored by media pundits, provides an explanation for the growing divide between police and the communities they patrol.
The reason they exist raises an important policy question.
Mon, 25 August 2014
Fast decisions with little information, without thinking for more than a fraction of a moment, may have kept our most vulnerable ancestors alive. Our modern term for the process is "common sense."
The ability to think things through took us beyond immediate survival to a greater measure of security. Every major advance in human development, from technology to military defense to law, came from analysis. So did much of spirituality. Our relationship to each other could finally transcend personal survival.
Analysis when things don't yet matter is what prevents paralysis when they do. It allows for rapid response that is thought out. It often allows for intelligent, realistic, compassion.
When "common sense" leads to suspicion, fear, and unfounded accusation, it can bring us to the invasion of wrong countries with loss of life and tragic unanticipated danger. When it diminishes compassion, even for frightened children, it endangers the national soul.
Thu, 21 August 2014
Long before he became President, Senator Richard Nixon went after Democrats. Each was a quisling, "holding a Ph.D. from Dean Acheson's Cowardly College of Communist Containment."
The cowardly containment rhetoric was more than bluster. It was the clarion call of true believers. We were at war, and there ought to be no limits. Conservatives were angry beyond words at the rejection of emotional impulse. The substitution of thoughtful strategy was infuriating.
Turning away from intellect during crisis is a predictable emotional response. But acting on rage can have unintended results.
Similarities of conservatives back then to conservatives today are striking. Containment, and the reactions to containment, are back.
Tue, 19 August 2014
The disconnect with those he ostensibly represents, the disconnect unintentionally expressed Representative Representative Lee Terry, is actually part of a broader picture.
When we picture ordinary people. We usually think of those we see every week, friends, co-workers, neighbors, worshipers at Sunday service, shoppers we meet in line at the pharmacy. Ordinary people.
As a young student studying government several decades ago, I participated for a few months in a special program that put me in Washington, DC.
I was impressed by one detail that I do not recall ever being reported. It is a detail that explains much of why those we elect so easily forget about us.
Sun, 3 August 2014
I know there is humor to be had in Republicans needing approval from extremists for extremist legislation, and it can seem funny that conservatives demand that President Obama issue Executive Orders exactly one day after filing suit against him for issuing Executive Orders.
Obama vs the Republican Lawsuit becomes Obama vs the Empty Suit.
But, as I think of a high school girl I met just once last year, it's hard for me to dwell on the humor.
Thu, 31 July 2014
If families have to tighten their belts during hard times, then government should as well. That's easy to understand, even easier to support. It may lead us into recession that borders on depression, but that's unknown except to those who dwell in the Olympian heights.
Towers of ivory have their expert denizens, but their message is difficult, even when the virtue of clarity is attempted. Government should run deficits during hard times, the bigger the better. Government should pay it back during the resulting times of prosperity. That's the way real mainstream economics works.
What politicians don't understand, especially liberal politicians, is that you can't straddle the fence on some policies. The only way folks will vote for a policy they don't understand is if it is working so well it is not worth thinking about.
Sun, 27 July 2014
The controversy began soon after Paul Ryan gave his speech about how conservatives have an understanding of love that others simply do not share. The story about the little boy was untrue.
In fact, the little boy who hated federal supplemental nutrition programs because they lacked love was a little boy who did not exist. At least he had never spoken with Secretary Anderson.
Representative Paul Ryan issued a clarification. He said did not know the story was false. Governor Scott Walker had no idea. A spokesperson for the department led by Eloise Anderson, who gave the false testimony, said she had simply misspoken. "...a little boy told me once" should have been "Once I heard someone say".
The point Representative Ryan had been making does survive the controversy. Conservatives understood that the health of the soul is more important than a full stomach. The story was simply an illustration of a point that deserves our attention.
It pertains especially to the newest immigration issue.
Thu, 17 July 2014
A procedure advanced by a Republican administration, passed by Congress, then signed into law by President Bush, mandates investigation into immigrant claims of physical danger. The process is slowed by a shortage of legal staff and judges to hear cases. President Obama asks for millions to recruit and hire those needed to speed up the process. His request combines those millions with the billions Congressional conservatives have demanded to increase border security.
Congressional conservatives say no.
Some Republicans insist that they regard pretty much all of the influx of children as dangerous gang members.
We can hope the national character is not reflected by such bias. The sad fact is that mobs and the public officials who react to them do say something about individual character.
Sun, 13 July 2014
Most voters, in fact the overwhelming majority of voters, regard gun safety as something that government ought to insist on. The numbers are unmistakable.
But, while most voters are for gun safety in principle, it is one of many issues. War, environmental regulation, taxes, jobs, Obamacare, and a thousand other issues are also important. Some voters will show up to vote. For some, gun safety will even be the straw that breaks a vote away from a Republican.
For enough gun enthusiasts to matter, guns are not an issue in principle. It is a matter of principle. And more. It is an issue that is personal. Very.
Tue, 8 July 2014
Greg Abbott is not just the Republican candidate for governor. He is also the Attorney General of Texas. He ordered state agencies, including the State Health Services Department to no longer release any information on vast amounts of dangerous chemicals corporate neighbors are storing, including explosives.
Sun, 6 July 2014
The tension between economic realism and political realism resulted in a reduced economic stimulus that still succeeded in pulling the country away from a solid depression. The recession that remained was beyond painful for many Americans. Jobs were lost, homes were foreclosed.
Enough Democrats pushed for a middle path to get what economists predicted.
It was a recovery. It was a weak recovery, but it was a recovery.
The public had opinions about the stimulus. But they didn't vote based on their opinions.
Sun, 15 June 2014
The Love It or Leave It mentality has, at its heart, a rejection of traditions important to representative democracy.
Missouri Republicans seem to have a different tradition.
State Senator Republican Ed Emery wrote to one citizen who protested Republican blocking of insurance for low income residents. Part of Ed Emery's letter was an invitation...
Sun, 8 June 2014
All the vital, angry, deadly issues in this prisoner exchange come down to a few decisions. Each of those few decision involves priorities.
This true of the President. This is true of each conservative critic.
What is most important?
Tue, 3 June 2014
Depending on our level of ignorance or on our philosophy, we either negotiated for a hostage, or we negotiated for a prisoner exchange.
The meaningful question is whether either one will encourage other enemies to take prisoners for the purpose of negotiation.
Sun, 1 June 2014
Eric Shinseki once discussed his management technique, comparing it to combat, where you never have enough information or resources."Sometimes you just gotta launch, and fight your way through the unknowns."
That might work at times in combat. In a non-combat organization, a narrow focus on motivation works about as well as overfilling a gas tank in response to a dead battery. Perverse incentives are a recognized enemy in the private sector. In this case, the 14-day mandate provided an incentive that was singularly perverse.
Thu, 22 May 2014
Conservatism was so much simpler when I was a kid. Conservatives just didn't much like black people.
Some were outspoken about it. Black people had all sorts of new privileges. Too many. They could vote. In fact, they could vote for the first time in some parts of the country. Lynching was now against the law. Segregation was still pretty strong, but it was technically against the law. Same with discrimination in housing and hiring. It was still going on, but it was against the law.
What more did they want?
The fact that, with the leadership of a Democratic President, some form of civil rights had become the law enraged enough conservatives that a migration of sorts had already begun. Lyndon Johnson remarked privately that new laws respecting the rights of black people would ensure that Democrats would lose the South for many decades. Conservatives left the Democratic party and became Republicans.
Even back then, outright racism, the kind spoken out loud, was confined to a vocal minority. Most commonly, the some-of-my-best-friends denial was a preface to each expression white resentment.
Sun, 18 May 2014
Cybernetics is used across scientific disciplines. It is used to explain evolutionary development, to formulate mechanical engineering constructs, for neuroscience, and mathematics. It is used in pretty much anything that incorporates a feedback loop for guidance. I do x - or x comes from an outside event - and y happens as a result. That changes what my next action will be as I adjust.
Cybernetics happens a lot in nature. We experience it in our own actions. How many times have we been told that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result?
I've been thinking lately about how my limited understanding of cybernetics applies to politics and policy.
Republicans win their last election in 1928 until they learn to partially accept Social Security and finally win through the 1950s.
Democrats lose Presidential elections that don't involve Watergate from the late 1960s until the early 1990s. Painful introspection produces changes. Democrats get majorities of the electorate in five of the next six elections.
The Great Depression drags on and on. So a new policy, Keynesian economics, is devised and timidly applied. Things get better. World War II arrives and Keynesian economics is involuntarily amplified. The Great Depression disappears. So Keynesian economics becomes official policy for generations.
The Obamacare website doesn't work. So new experts are brought in. They work around the clock. Then the website works.
In recent decades, Republicans seem to have lost the capacity for change through introspection.
Sun, 4 May 2014
Although most opponents of civil rights laws through the 1960s were openly motivated by race, this was not true for everyone. Barry Goldwater had quietly opposed segregation in Phoenix. He later described his efforts as a series of private appeals.
The Goldwater argument against Civil Rights law was based on a largely libertarian interpretation of Constitutional rights. "You can't legislate morality." The liberal response at that time was "The Hell you can't!"
Author Jim Fedako adds a wrinkle with a sort of goose and gander logic. If customers can pick and choose which businesses they will purchase from, why can't business owners make similar choices about which patrons they will serve? If government is to restrict the right of a business to choose its customers, why not dictate to customers from whom they must buy?
Tue, 29 April 2014
I confess to playing with those who subscribe to biblical literalism. A conservative in 1992 told me candidate Bill Clinton was among Satan's minions. I got a little impatient with that, so I asked him if he noticed that the acceptance speech given by President George H. W. Bush was exactly 66 minutes and 6 seconds long. The look on his face kind of mitigated the fleeting guilt I remember feeling. Because, you know, I had just made it up.
More recently, another friend insisted to me that Obamacare was designed by Satan to enforce the Mark of the Beast. A number would be issued to everyone. All business, even buying from supermarkets, would require that number. I suppose that, over the years, I have gotten a little bored with that sort of talk. So I succumbed to temptation yet again.
A number issued to everyone? You mean like the Social Security number you carry in your wallet? The startled realization that he was already among the doomed pretty much ended the discussion.
I got to thinking about religious paranoia as I read about the impeachment of Nixon. That is to say Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri. Jay Nixon is a Democrat. The Missouri House of Representatives is dominated by Republicans. They are even more conservative than those national Republicans we all know and love. In fact, they erected a little statue in the Capitol Building in Jefferson City in honor of Rush Limbaugh. No kidding, they really did that.
Governor Jay Nixon is pretty popular in Missouri. But Republicans regard him as a horrible chief executive. They have three reasons.
Thu, 24 April 2014
Republicans, for the most part, seem to regard Mitt Romney as vindicated by the aggression of Vladimir Putin toward Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Mr. Romney takes his place at the head of the line.
And, who can blame them? Barack Obama verbally beat Mr. Romney to a pulp during one of the debates in 2012.
At the time, Mitt Romney pointed out that he had said no such thing. He had only suggested that Russia was one of several threats to the United States. He had, in fact, pointed to to Iran as the greatest threat.
But he did have one problem. Television can be video taped.
Tue, 22 April 2014
Republicans have been counting on Obamacare being a train wreck. It has been their number one issue, with number two being a blank. If the economy bumps up, if President Obama's popularity increases, it will help Democrats.
If Obamacare turns into a wild success, maybe election losses will be less than anyone now believes.
Well, keep not believing it.
The Fox poll says this:
Yeah, I know. Fox.
These are the same people who were so confident Obama would lose in 2012. They're the same folks who tell polling participants that President Obama and his administration are lying, then ask the polling question: why do you think they're lying?
Here's why they're right on this one.
Sun, 20 April 2014
Until recent times, it wasn't that hard to trace philosophical principles of conservatism going back hundreds of years.
American conservatism continued to hold Edmund Burke to heart long after British conservatives moved on. Perhaps it was because Burke was able to oppose the French revolution, but supported American independence.
There were other differences. Adam Smith, with his economic model of capitalistic self-regulation, the invisible hand, was more enthusiastically embraced in England, at first. Americans liked Smith, but with reservations. Hard to believe now.
The clearest separation between British and American conservatives eventually came over slavery. Conservatives in Britain became suspicious, then hostile, to the proposition that one human could own another. American conservatism has evolved, but has always been way behind the British curve.
There were other influences. David Hume went toward pragmatism, John Locke to personal rights. In more modern times, William F. Buckley became a guiding light. He shepherded American conservatism back to Burke and Hume.
Today, the intellectual moorings of American conservatism have changed to fit the times. The most vibrant of conservatives have little use for philosophical constructs from past centuries, or even past decades.
Fri, 18 April 2014
After three people were killed near Kansas City by a white supremacist who apparently thought they were all Jewish, a local television station went to a nearby small town to talk with those who had known the apparent perpetrator.
The televised segment went pretty much as you would expect. The man residents had known was a bit different. He was outspoken. You always knew where you stood with him. Nobody expected violence.
The mayor of Marrionville, MO, said the alleged killer had been a friend years ago. He spoke with a sort of understated irony.
Then came the one statement that went around the internet, endowing his honor the Mayor with instant notoriety:
"Kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don't like to express that too much."
It went from there. Mayor Clevenger went on to calmly speak out against Jews.
Wed, 16 April 2014
Richard Nixon yelled to his audience and they roared back, furious at those disloyal enough to oppose him. It was a ferocious performance. He ended with a shout. "Nobody is going to tear this country down as long as you are ready to cast your vote to build this country up."
And that was it. Americans were told that those who opposed the war, or were insufficiently angry at those who did, that they were willing to see the country torn down. And he was talking about me and those like me.
Historians tell us it was a continuation of the Nixon Southern Strategy, devised with the help of former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.
When Edmond Muskie spoke next, it was from an armchair in front of a fireplace. He spoke calmly, as if to each individual voter. He asked those about to cast their ballots not to vote against themselves. He characterized the tactics of the Republican campaign.
There has been name-calling and deception of almost unprecedented volume. Honorable men have been slandered. Faithful servants of the country have had their motive questioned and their patriotism doubted.
I still remember a sense of youthful relief. Even though the forces of angry intolerance were about to prevail, a calm voice had spoken against the tide. The case had been made. We could lose with some bit of honor. Someone had fought back with plain truth and crystal clarity.
One small hope flickered in Florida. Out-moneyed, outshouted, a mostly unknown state Senator had conducted an unusual, almost bizarre, public effort. He went hiking.
Sun, 13 April 2014
Most analysts have looked at the statement from a political perspective, grading Jeb Bush's strategy and his calculation of its effect on the Presidential race of 2016. One or two mention a family tradition of tactically including Hispanic voters in political appeals.
I have yet to hear anyone, anyone at all, speculate that he may simply have been saying what he believes is right.
Tue, 8 April 2014
When the vote came, news outlets were ready for a train wreck. For one thing, the vote for the Doc Fix would require suspending the rules. So it would need a two thirds vote. No way could that happen in the Republican House of Representatives. A majority, yes. But two thirds? Keep dreaming.
But Republicans kept meeting all day long. Sometimes the leadership would dash on out to gather with Democrats.
Finally, it looks like the end of the road. Everyone knew there was no hope of a Doc Fix this year. Just like football fans sometimes leave early when their team is way behind or way ahead, members of Congress began heading for the door. Why wait for the inevitable?
Then it happened.
"So many as are in favor say aye."
"Those opposed no."
"In the opinion of the chair, two thirds being in the affirmative, the rules are suspended, the bill is passed, and without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table."
Sun, 30 March 2014
Republicans are more resistant to self-correction because the internet and television cable offers a cocoon of reinforcement. No need to change direction if you can surround yourself with a thousand voices all chanting that you and those like you are awesome. Republicans are becoming more extreme and losing members as a result.
One disturbing part of the accompanying collateral damage is that Republicans are now going where fair minded people have not gone for a generation. They are trying very hard to deprive legitimate voters of the right to participate in elections.
It started as what Republicans said was an attempt to address a serious issue that could strike at the core of a democratic society. Voter fraud was the danger. Democrats have protested that voter fraud pretty much does not exist.
Elections are not stolen by ineligible voters or people voting multiple times. They are stolen in the backrooms of election halls, where tallies are changed, and boxes are stuffed.
Tue, 25 March 2014
It is the central argument of traditional economic conservatism. It has been for centuries. The ability of individuals to form voluntary associations for their mutual benefit without outside interference remains the core.
It tells us a bit about the future of economic policy as envisioned by Republicans, should they return to governmental power in Washington.
The idea is a simple one. Establishing a moral balance in public life is a slippery principle. Conservative economist N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard illustrates that, in an article he was invited to write by the New York Times. He defines the interference by government in the market as "utilitarianism":
He provides a couple of classical hypothetical case studies, thought experiments, to illustrate the problem of deciding benefits based on the greatest good for the greatest number. One involves killing a healthy individual in order to harvest organs to save multiple patients.
Other philosophers have contrived more stark, metaphysical examples. In the late 1800s, Fyodo Dostoyevsky suggested a fictional community blessed with universal health, prosperity, and happiness purchased by torturing to death a small infant.
That makes N. Gregory Mankiw a bit of a philosophical piker, don't you think? Perhaps the next step might be to imagine a world in which adult women become wards of the state in order to protect the possible existence suspected microscopic fertilized eggs.
Conflating liberalism with utilitarianism provides any number of false examples. Everyone is a utilitarian in some circumstance. No one is a utilitarian in others.
Conservatives could come up with better arguments, with some effort. Pretty much anyone could.
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Thu, 20 March 2014
The problem with foreign policy that depends entirely on analogy with the past is that it ignores current reality. We fight the war just ended.
The lesson of World War I was that events can spiral out of control. Treaties made at the drop of a hat are sometimes paid for so many times over, the original tripwire becomes meaningless in comparison.
And so Neville Chamberlain learned the lesson and declared Peace in our Time as he left Munich.
The lesson of Munich was that appeasement never works. Lines must be drawn and never compromised.
And President Johnson drew that line in Vietnam against the monolithic Communist conspiracy to rule the world.
The lesson of Vietnam was that war and peace were not simply in the hands of two superpowers. There were other players in a world of client nations.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney applied the lesson of national sponsors of terrorism after the al Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington. They searched for the culprit among smaller nations and found Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Tue, 18 March 2014
State Senator Phil Jensen (R-SD) is one such Republican. He has introduced legislation that would allow discrimination against gay people. He's adamant about the right to throw gay people out of a place of business.
But, like a growing number of Republicans, Senator Jensen goes a little farther. He not only acknowledges the similarity to discrimination against black people, he embraces it. The free market would do a good enough job of eliminating racist practices.
In an interview with the Rapid City Journal, he explained:
Sun, 16 March 2014
When John Derbyshire was separated from the post-Buckley National Review a couple of years ago, the projected image of the move was one of a hostile divorce between American political conservatism and overt racism.
That Derbyshire is a racist comes from a source that can leave little doubt. That authority is Mr. Derbyshire himself. That was his self-description in 2003. He later modified his definition of racism to race consciousness. He offered a parallel to an antisemitic who says "Oh, there’s another one."
What got him in trouble was his reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Mon, 10 March 2014
Pearl Harbor pretty much wiped away deficit hawks for a time. America needed planes. America needed ships. America needed munitions and transport and supplies for an instantly expanded armed force. The common wisdom during World War II was that we needed those expenditures more than we needed fiscal caution.
When the war was gone, the Depression was vanquished as well. Surprise!
But war that does not involve massive, long term, continuous infusions of government spending that stops a recession has another effect. That effect is increasing as the world becomes more globally interdependent.
Vladimir Putin's current adventure into Ukraine has provoked conservatives into a sort of toughness envy. The Putin autocratic style, combines with a muscular anti-gay bigotry, producing an image that those on the right have always fantasized about themselves. A bare chested Putin on horseback adds to the swoon.
Since President Bush stood helpless while Russia invaded georgia in 2008, the world has changed. Unlike Bush, Obama has not looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and caught a glimpse of his soul. And there are new pressures, only some of which are coming from Obama.
One claim Republicans can truthfully make is currently overshadowed by mouth foamed Obama-hatred.
Sat, 8 March 2014
Actually, the argument that anti-gay legislation is not really anti-gay legislation has been a staple of cultural conservatism for as long as gay marriage has been part of public discussion.
Gay people are free to marry, as long as they don't marry each other. Those who are attracted to the same gender as themselves may, like anyone else, marry someone of the opposite gender. Similar logic has been debated on our site.
Michael Medved is no stranger to this reasoning. Years ago, he wrote in vigorous defense of Proposition 8, the California referendum that, for a time, prohibited same sex marriage.
Sun, 2 March 2014
What may affect, and should affect, the electoral future of Governor Walker is the relegation of human tragedy, criminality, and official callousness to nothing more than legalities and politics.
Tue, 25 February 2014
When basic rights are to be curtailed, when an individual is to be compelled, it must be for a reason that is ... well ... compelling. When that happens, the right being abridged and the compelling reason for the abridgment must both be a very big deal.
This is not true for Senator Steve Martin.