State of the Union

Fancy a spot of tea, love?

It might seem a bit incongruous, but there it is: The British plan to hold their own Tea Party this weekend. The modern Americans who have colorfully expressed their displeasure with the way Washington is run took their inspiration from the original Boston Tea Party, which was, of course, a protest against the British government. After a couple centuries, it seems the English are finally admitting the colonials were on to something.

The Brits are putting their own inimitable spin on it, though. Whereas the modern American Tea Parties featured righteous rebels wearing “Don’t Tread on Me” decals and carrying angry signs that indicate their deep distrust of (at least some) government, the version across the pond looks to be a more staid affair. “Do try to come,” writes Daniel Hannan, a Member of the European Parliament who will be speaking at the event. He is really urging a revolt here, adding with some insistence, “do please pop in.” The Brits do their American friends one better in an important respect, though: “Oh, and this being England, we’ll be serving actual, you know, tea.”

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Obama’s Problems — And Ours

We inherited the worst situation since the Great Depression.

That is the reflexive response of President Obama to the troubles from which he has been unable to extract his country.

Even before the inauguration, he says, there were projections of a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009. That deficit is not my deficit.

Presidents are usually blamed for deficits run while they are in office. But, in fact, presidents do not write budgets. Congress does. Presidents sign them. And the mammoth deficits of 2008 and 2009 came from budgets approved by a Congress run by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Did Sen. Barack Obama vote against those budgets?

As for the troubles he inherited, the president has a point. From day one, he has had to deal with two wars, a financial crisis and an economy careening into recession.

But Harry Truman inherited two great wars, an atom bomb and an ally, Joseph Stalin, about to dishonor his commitments and enslave half of Europe.

Richard Nixon came to office a minority president in the year of Tet, urban riots, campus uprisings, and the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy. He inherited a war in which 500,000 Americans were fighting, and came to a capital city dominated by a media that detested him and a Congress where, for the first time since Zachary Taylor, the opposition controlled both houses.

Ronald Reagan, too, inherited the worst recession since the Depression, a hollowed-out Army, a Soviet Empire that had overrun Vietnam and Southeast Asia and seized Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Grenada and Nicaragua, and a NATO shot through with Eurocommunism and pacifism.

Undaunted, Truman went on to a historic victory in 1948, and Nixon and Reagan went on to 49-state landslides. Presidents have a way of coming back, and America has legendary recuperative powers.

So no one should write this president or country off. But neither should anyone minimize the problems confronting us. Read More…

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Don’t say you weren’t warned

So the Senate passed a “jobs bill” yesterday and did so with the help of one Scott Brown of Massachusetts. There are many out there feeling betrayed right now but they shouldn’t be. In fact they’re getting what they honestly deserve, a Republican hack, one they helped put into office even though they warned well in advance.

Let this be a lesson to Tea Partiers out there not to let the first Republican hack like Patrick Ruffni come along and use your sweat equity and your money for the party’s own purposes. There will be other Republican Party reptiles and Conservative INC. flunkies who come along and blast you with emails who will say vote for such-and-such candidate because he can stop Obamacare or vote for this fellow over year because he’ll stop cap-n-trade. No doubt voting for someone who promised to be the 41st vote to stop a government takeover of healthcare (what, you mean government doesn’t already have a big say in how health care is done in this country?) was quite attractive, but, as the old saying goes: “Let the buyer beware”.

For you see, anyone studying Scott Brown’s record from his time in the Massachusetts state legislature would have known that his vote was quite in line with his views. He doesn’t mind spending your tax money because he thinks it will create “jobs”.  Now, I suppose government can create a job if you don’t mind digging a ditch, going door to door or working the road crew. But these jobs tend to be temporary and don’t really affect the economy as whole a great deal. Conservatives used to criticize such proposals as “makework” jobs and some still do, when they’re not bragging to their constituents how much stimulus money they’re bringing home. Still it is curious to ask why if Brown thinks government can’t run the nation’s health care, why then does he believe it can somehow sustain economic growth through taxpayer largess? If the health care debate was fashioned as a way to stimulate the economy by reducing costs, would Brown still be the 41st vote? Can you be sure of that?

Joe Kennedy, the independent libertarian who also ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, pointed this out to anyone who would listen. For his trouble he received death threats by Brown supporters. Brown, to his credit, never claimed to be a conservative anything, just an “independent voice in Washington.” The people projecting the image of Jim DeMint on Brown were the Tea Partiers themselves and the Republican hacks  encouraging them to do so.  That they feel betrayed is understandable but they cannot blame Scott Brown for this. They were misled and fooled because slick political rhetoricians knew exactly how to take advantage of them. They need to realize that candidates like Scott Brown are exactly the reason why the Tea Party’s exist and the reason why they are they upset in the first place. And they need to realize that candidates like Joe Kennedy are the ones they need to support in the future.  But they can only do this through careful study and thought and not through headless emotion.

Of course Brown, from now on, better find another group of people to do his sign-waving the snow because the Tea Partiers certainly won’t. MaybeRyan Sorba is available.

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Popcorn and Platitudes

Oh, the earth is the best! That’s why I’m a vegetarian.

–Well, that’s a start.

Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.

–I’m a level 5 vegan — I won’t eat anything that casts a shadow.

The Simpsons

If this year’s newly broadened selection of Oscar nominees for Best Picture, doubled from five to ten, isn’t quite as silly as the Dodo’s demand that “all must have prizes”, it is enlivened by the same spirit. All must have honorable mention, and any boost in video rental revenue that might accrue from it, in the hard commercial reality that is our side of the looking glass.

Read More…

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Newsflash: Jews and Catholics Fear Full Body Scans, Too

UPDATE: No one ever said I wasn’t in “crying need of an attentive editor.” Thank you to Robert Spencer for stepping in. Below, I have edited Figh Council of North America to Fiqh Council of North America, turning it from a Gaelic organization to a Muslim one in a single keystroke!

I received an email from today; I’ve come to expect their spam like the dawn, and always with an equal measure of disgust and hilarity. I’ve been on their “list” for years, I suspect from some “log in” that was forced upon me in the far past by some conservative website. My AOL address was passed along, and the rest is history. I have often contemplated making a stand and getting myself expunged from the list, especially when I get mail from them with subject heads like “Would Jesus Abort?” —  but mostly I find the headlines alone a good enough reference point for what’s currently “hot” on the Rightwing blogosphere.

I got one today that I found interesting, if only because the subject had come up at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in an entirely different context.

The Newsmax alert included a headline, “Pope Warns about Full Body Scanners.” Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI told an audience of aerospace industry types this week that while he is aware of the terrorist threat that has prompted enhanced screening at airports, “the primary asset to be safeguarded and treasured is the person, in his or her integrity,” and that plans to implement devices that present screeners with “virtually naked” images of individual travelers compromises that integrity.

Newsmax passed along the report without much comment, probably because it poses a bit of a quandary. It’s writers and columnists often like to defend religious (Christian/Jewish) positions as a matter of conservative course, if for no other reason than to indulge their social conservative base and to irritate the atheists and non-religious liberals they see as their constant foil. Their hyper-defense of anti-terror laws would put them at odds with the Roman Catholic pontiff, however. So best just put the word out and back off.

But at CPAC friday, at an “unofficial” panel sponsored by jihad-hunters Pamela Geller (Atlas Shrugs) and Robert Spencer (Jihad Watch), called “Jihad: the Political Third Rail,” participants balked at these religious arguments against full body scanners — particularly because those concerns had been raised earlier, not by Catholics, but by Muslims. According to a group of Islamic scholars who posted a statement online, the intrusive images taken by full body scanners fly in the face of  Koranic teachings on modesty. The group, the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), issued a fatwah, or religious edict, preventing Muslims from going through such scanners at airports.

Of course, as it stands now, anyone can opt out of a full body scan by agreeing to a “pat down.” But Spencer roundly mocked these Muslims, because as far as he was concerned, Islam was responsible for 9/11 and Muslims themselves “made (full body scanners) necessary.” In fact, the entire thrust of the panel was that Islam is a violent religion, a plague in fact, that needed to be cured. So any idea that Muslims would consider their faith a reason to deny airport screening was rich. “Former Muslim” and speaker Wafa Sultan, cheered the full body scan, suggesting that it would be so repulsive to Muslims — and thanks to the fatwa, inconvenient — that they might stop trying to bomb airplanes.

There were a lot of knowing glances, nods, and more than a few snickers from the audience when the idea came up that Muslim women might actually be religiously offended by the full body scans. I saw a lot of men with Yarmulkes in the audience, suggesting a strong Jewish conservative/Orthodox presence there. I remember wondering what they thought about such intrusive screening for their women. Read More…

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Liquidating the Empire

A decade ago, Oldsmobile went. Last year, Pontiac. Saturn, Saab, and Hummer were discontinued. A thousand GM dealerships shut down.

To those who grew up in a “GM family,” where buying a Chrysler was like converting to Islam, what happened to GM was deeply saddening.

Yet the amputations had to be done — or GM would die.

And the same may be about to happen to the American Imperium.

Its birth can be traced to World War II, when America put 16 million men in uniform and sent millions across the seas to crush Nazi Germany and Japan. After V-E and V-J Day, the boys came home.

But with the Stalinization of half of Europe, the fall of China, and war in Korea came NATO and alliances with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan and Australia that lasted through the Cold War.

In 1989, however, the Cold War ended dramatically with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the retirement of the Red Army from Europe, the break-up of the Soviet Union and Beijing’s abandonment of world communist revolution.

Overnight, our world changed. But America did not change. Read More…

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Fear and Loathing at CPAC

CPAC 2010 was my first CPAC ever. For most of my life I have run in local conservative circles, but never really had any interest nor ambition to throw myself into the chaos of CPAC, but when I did, I was taken for quite a ride. The highlights of the event for me were watching your typical establishment, beltway conservatives try to hide their unease and even disdain for the energetic youth of Campaign for Liberty, Students For Liberty, and the Ladies of Liberty Alliance. These three, mostly youth based, organizations made their presence thoroughly felt at CPAC.

Campaign for Liberty dominated the libertarian and antiwar presence. Congressman Ron Paul spoke before a packed crowd, and the cheers reverberated throughout the building as he spoke. The energetic followers of Ron Paul went on to propel him to victory in the CPAC straw poll with 31% of the vote – Mitt Romney came in second with 22%.

Students for Liberty, an international libertarian organization drew a diverse and colorful crowd to a CPAC that was dominated by older establishment activists. Between the hordes of pudgy Dick Cheney fans, you would occasionally run into a 20-something-year-old with long hair, sometimes bearded face, wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Yet while the Cheney crowd was only interested in getting Ann Coulter to sign a book, or finding the next free buffet, these youth were moving about the crowds handing out literature about the illegality of the wars, the government’s clampdown on civil liberties, and other issues dear to libertarians.

The Ladies of Liberty Alliance provided perhaps the most shocking clash, at least in fashion, with your typical CPAC’ers. Their members had variations of pink hair, tattoos, piercings, and other characteristics one would not normally think to find at CPAC. They even convinced me to buy a LOLA Calendar, featuring some of their members in suggestive and, in a few instances, down right risqué spreads, though each page contained a fun but serious message about the Constitution and freedom.

With the libertarian contingent out in full force – and despite the rather harmonious weekend at CPAC – there was bound to be a scuffle or two, but I do not think anyone thought it would go down in front of CSPAN cameras. Proceeding Ron Paul’s fiery speech on Friday night, CPAC had a feature called “Two-Minute Activist: Saving Freedom Across the Nation”. Thirteen youth each were given two minutes to give a speech describing their different causes across America, expressing how they became student leaders, and where they saw the conservative movement in the years to come. Students for Liberty Executive Director Alexander McCobin took the stage and praised CPAC for reaching out to GOPride (A Gay Republican group), suggesting that freedom cannot come in pieces, but is a unified force. McCobin’s speech was met with cheers from the audience. Following McCobin was Ryan Sorba of California Young Americans for Freedom. Sorba angrily denounced CPAC, received boos from he audience, and shouted back at his hecklers, “The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do!” Additionally, Sorba ended his vindictive rant by launching a confused attack against Young Americans For Liberty (a subsidiary of Campaign for Liberty) and their Executive Director Jeff Frazee. The only apparent reason for Sorba’s concluding comments was that he could not discern Young Americans for Liberty and Students for Liberty. Note: Sorba I was informed does not reflect YAF in general, many YAF members spent Saturday trying to mend any wounds Sorba may have caused. Read More…

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Bill Gates is not my Friend

When Ron Paul finishes with the Federal Reserve, I hope he does something about Bill Gates.  I just bought a new Toshiba netbook for reasons best described as conspicuous consumption as I absolutely do not need it.  It comes with Windows 7 preinstalled as the operating system.  But it is a milquetoast 7 version called “Starter” that is so basic and so un-capable that I am astonished that anyone would put it on a computer let alone pretend that it is somehow state of the art.  It will not, for example, allow you to put wallpaper of any kind on your new computer so you are stuck with a blank screen when you turn it on.  I have never seen an operating system that will not allow you personal wallpaper so I have to conclude that it is a clever marketing ploy as NO ONE wants a computer without a picture of a cute grandkid or the labrador beaming back from the screen. 

This deficiency requires you to upgrade.  To upgrade 7 Starter to the home version you have to shell out another 80 beans, for which Bill sends you a number that you can punch in to activate the home version from some internet site somewhere.  And if my experience with Microsoft in the past is anything to go by, the upgrade will probably not work very well, with weird messages popping up at intervals telling me that I had inadvertently created a crisis situation that can only be resolved by war. 

That Bill has become the richest man in the world by establishing a monopoly in the computer marketplace with a whole series of crappy products is, I suppose, a tribute to American ingenuity and grit but somehow I wish I could use Microsoft software without feeling that I am constantly being screwed.

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Thought & Reflection . . .

Glenn Reynolds responded to Bruce Bartlett taking down his silly notion about defaulting on the federal debt by declaiming that, “Bruce, I’m not trying to turn the United States into Zimbabwe. That would be the guy in the White House, whom you seem surprisingly anxious to defend.”

Reynolds’ response is rich since Bartlett said nothing about Obama in his reply, and Reynolds spent eight years carrying water for the Bush administration. What Bartlett doesn’t understand is that he should only respond to an Instapundit post as glibly as the post was made. Thought, reflection and substantive arguments aren’t fair.

In a related matter, the Howard Baker Center at the University of Tennessee will be sponsoring a lecture by Reynolds on “Blogs, Social Media and Political InCivility” next month.

UPDATE: I got to thinking about how Reynolds described Bartlett’s response as “typically intemperate” and did a search to see how often Reynolds found need to chide Bartlett for that failing and found that most  previous Instapundit links to him are neutral or positive. It would seem that Bartlett only becomes “intemperate” when he criticizes Glenn Reynolds. My question is, what took you so long Bruce?

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Jumping ship for a real primary (Moderates save thyselves)

Judging by the reaction that Florida U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio received at CPAC today, perhaps it would be prudent for one of his opponents, Governor Charlie Crist, to announce he is switching parties or better yet  announce he’s going to run as an independent rather continue a campaign for a party nomination he probably will not win.

Wasn’t it just a year ago at this time that Crist was touted on as one of a group of so-called “moderates” who could help the party compete in states that weren’t blood red in color? Yet ever since Rubio announced his intention to run for the open Senate (open until Crist put one of his flunkies in it as a seat-warmer), he’s gone down, down, down in the polls while Rubio has risen dramatically despite the fact Crist is a sitting incumbent and has the national and state party apparatuses at his side (at least until his state’s GOP chairman, Jim Greer, was ousted by party activists recently) and has plenty more money to spend than Rubio does. But Crist’s unpopularity with rank and file GOP voters in Florida along with the bad economy (the two work and hand in hand) have reduced his favorability numbers in the polls  and thus his chances at winning the party nod for the seat.

I suppose Crist could take a page of fellow GOP “moderate” Scott Brown’s playbook and drive the state in a rusty 1976 Chevy pick-up, wear a plaid shirt and bib overalls and proclaim himself “man of the people” running against the “system”.  The problem is Crist as a sitting governor is known quantity. Brown as obscure state senator was not. Brown could remake himself and separate himself from his legislative record because the Tea Party activists who supported him had no idea who he was other than what they saw on TV or in person, and because his Democrat opponent was too incompetent to make it an issue. Brown did not run to be inheritor of the legacy of Massachusetts GOP liberals Leverette Saltonstall or Ed Brooke or Frank Sargent or Bill Weld (even though he may very well vote that way). This is what the moderates, or better yet the members of the institutional GOP, are left with, pretending they are not what you know them to be. For Crist, or Kay Bailey Hutchinson, or Mark Kirk, or Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe or Mitt Romney (insert GOP centrist here) to try to remake themselves in order to be more pleasing to the “base” is beyond pathetic.  Give Arlen Specter and Mike Bloomberg credit for not stooping to that level.

If Crist did the same, perhaps he might turn his campaign around and perhaps he would leave the GOP primary contest for the Florida Senate seat to be real one between  the forces of Conservative INC. (backing Rubio) and the real conservatives, constitutionalists and libertarian persons supporting the campaign of former New Hampshire U.S. Senator Robert Smith (who moved to Florida after leaving the Senate in 2003). Perhaps real issues can be discussed like immigration reform, cutting the budget, reforming the Federal Reserve and changing U.S. foreign policy and challenging Conservative INC/, to come up with actual ideas instead of always saying “no”. Perhaps they can come up with rationals for defending Obama’s war. It would be nice to have such a debate within a U.S. Senate campaign instead of an intra-establishment battle between Crist and Rubio.

Gov. Crist can do himself and a lot of people a big favor by getting out of the GOP primary and letting a real contest take place.

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