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.