Shedding the Corporate Label

If there’s one thing that the more fervent sort of modern liberal hates more than capitalism itself, it’s a corporation. Whenever a modern liberal spits out the word  it sounds as if he thinks the longstanding legal tradition of incorporation is some sort of pact with Satan. If there’s one thing a modern liberal hates more than a corporation it’s a Republican, but we think the Grand Old Party can use some of that anti-corporate fervor in its favor on a few important issues.
This counter-intuitive notion came to us while poring through a recent issue of The New the York Times, of all things. The Gray Lady has been uncharacteristically feisty lately, with such lese majeste as to remind its readers that the president has often been on the record declaring his newly pronounced illegal immigration policy unconstitutional, and she even went so far as to run an article damning Obamacare. That grenade of heresy was lobbed from the left, criticizing the law’s rather cozy relationship with the evil insurance companies that the left had cast as the mustache-twirling villains in the melodrama that played out as the health care law was being forced down the public’s figurative and literal throats, but there’s no reason those on the right shouldn’t share in the outrage. The more righteous of the right have long insisted that government should favor no special business interest, whether incorporated or doing business by any other legal arrangement, but rather enforce a level playing field of ruthlessly efficient and red-in-tooth-and-claw competition. What The New York Times convincingly describes is lobbyist-negotiated, government-regulated, taxpayer-funded crony capitalism, and if there’s one thing the modern conservative hates more than socialism itself it is crony capitalism.
A constitutionally old-fashioned sense of civil discourse usually prevents a true conservative from employing such strong language, but in other contexts the modern liberal will call such economic policies “fascism.” Back in the bad old days of George W. Bush our liberal friends were constantly telling us how fascism merged corporate and government power, just like some tax break that the oil companies were getting or that no-bid contract for Halliburton, and they really seemed to believe that we were living under the reign of another Il Duce. We found it odd that their objection to fascism was not  based on its authoritarian insistence on conformity but rather what the more up-to-date academic liberals call “industrial policy,” and were always skeptical of their apparent belief that Mussolini lived in constant fear of the industrialists’ goons rapping that midnight knock on his door rather than the other way around, and can’t help noticing that their outrage about those tax breaks and no-bid contracts has greatly diminished since Bush left office, but perhaps they can be made to see that Obamacare is about as cozy a relationship between corporations and government as American history provides. We’re talking insurance companies, after all, and by now it will be hard for the left to write them a more friendly role in its ongoing melodrama.
Back in that brief, heated moment when Obamacare was being debated the right found the insurance industry a sympathetic character in the play, but it can easily be recast in the continuing conservative narrative. We initially argued that the industry’s 4 percent profit margin was not at all obscene, and certainly less than what the bureaucratic bloat of the federal government would inevitably suck out of expenditures on health care, but no longer felt any obligation to defend them when they signed on to new rules that exempted them from the market forces that had kept those profit margins low relative to other industries. A generous interpretation would be that in the national insanity following the great “hope and change” election of ’08 the insurers feared a single-payer or full-blown national health system would tie them to a metaphorical railroad track and thus felt compelled to sign on to anything that would prolong their survival, which we must admit did not seem at all far-fetched, but that’s no reason the right should hesitate to throw them back into that ferocious pit of pure capitalism. The always-feisty Washington Examiner warns that the insurance companies will resist any Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare, but this will only provide the Republicans with a villain that even the modern liberal will boo and hiss in their telling of the long, sad story. They might not like the ending where the insurance companies go back to their piggish 4 percent profit margins and people who like their plans get to keep their plans, but even the liberals should prefer that to the bigger profits and promises of bail-outs under a system that would have surely been fascism if the Republicans had created it.
Selective corporate-bashing could benefit the Republicans elsewhere, as well. All Republican efforts to resist Obama’s outrageous refusal to execute federal immigration laws should include some mention of the powerful corporate interests which will benefit as well as and emphasis on the low-wage workers who will suffer. The waste of public funds on various “green energy” boondoggles should emphasize the incorporated but otherwise politically correct fat cats who are cashing in without providing any of the tangible benefits of those oil men. Countless state and local issues, such as that city-subsidized hotel referendum they peddled here in Wichita a couple of years ago, could unite the anti-corporate and anti-crony-capitalist constituencies in opposition. If the public can be made to understand that the comic agitprop of Jon Stewart and his late-night ilk and the usual fare of The New York Times and those up-to-date academic liberals are products of corporate America that would also be helpful.
The Republicans should resist the label of the party of of corporate America, and should continue to purge their ranks of those corporate-financed office-holders who make it plausible, but allow the Democrats to be the anti-corporate party. Those people who voluntary work for or buy from a corporation are going to be at least somewhat wary of a party intent on the destruction of corporate America, and they are probably a large portion of the population. A party of capitalism, which neither favors nor disfavors any of those corporations fighting it out in a ferocious pit of competition where the lowest profit margin survives, might even have some perverse appeal to even the most anti-corporate modern liberal.

– Bud Norman

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The Audacity of the Last Two Years

The president is going ahead with his long-threatened executive action on illegal immigration, and it’s going to be awful. Amnesty under any name for millions of illegal immigrants will only encourage millions more to flood an already glutted unskilled labor market and further burden already strained education and welfare and penal institutions, doing it by executive action will further weaken already tenuous constitutional restraints on presidential power, and if it works as the president plans it will sign up several million more voters for the rest of his awful transformative agenda.
Even with newly elected majorities in both chambers of Congress the Republicans are unlikely to be able to do anything about it, and we are not confident that the courts will even attempt to offer any relief, so our only consolation is that the president’s already low level of popularity will further decline. Not that he cares, having entered the what-the-hell portion of presidency when he can at last unleash his inner radical and stop pretending to care what the squares think, but we can hope that the disrepute he is bringing to liberalism will pay some dividends down the road. The president might think that he can sell his disastrous ends and unconstitutional means to a gullible public, given his unaccountable yet undying faith in his rhetorical skills and the undeniable evidence of the public’s gullibility in that past two presidential contests, but he’s likely to have no more success than he did with Obamacare or the mid-term Democratic candidates or any of his numerous other lost causes.
One needn’t consult the many public opinion polls to know that there is no great clamoring in America for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking refugees from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World, nor for a Philosopher-King form of government. These ideas have a certain appeal to an unlikely coalition of rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping lower-tier wages low, socialistic types whose championing of the poor brown folk serves their heroic self-images, and Latinos whose sense of racial solidarity supersedes their more patriotic impulses, but they comprise a distinct minority of Americans. The rest of the country, including most of the blacks and many of the Latinos who have been such reliable Democratic voters, are more concerned about the lower wages and higher social costs and cultural frictions that are bound to be exacerbated by the president’s action.
Back when the president was obliged to pretend to care what the squares think, he admitted “Not all these fears are irrational.” In that awful “Audacity of Hope” book that launched his first presidential campaign, he also wrote “The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century. If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefit for the economy as a whole — especially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan — it also threatens to further depress the wages of blue collar workers and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.” He also wrote “There’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our southern border — a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before.” The oh-so-cosmpolitan president even acknowledged those inevitable cultural frictions we mentioned, writing that “Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt. And if I’m honest with myself, I must admit that I’m not entirely immune to such nativist sentiments. When I see Mexican flags waved at a pro-immigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”
Then again, the president has also stated on numerous occasions that he has no constitutional authority to take the actions that he will announce tonight. He has apparently changed his mind, as we are certain that the constitution has not changed, but he will have some difficulty refuting his more sensible past arguments.
He can count on some help from the press, judging by an ABC news radio report we just heard that led with the dubious claim that the president would be acting “as past Republican presidents have,” and NBC’s embarrassed insistence that its own polling a sizable number of skeptical Latinos was not reliable, but there have already been some notable defections from the ranks. The New York Times has noted the president’s previous interpretation of his constitutional powers, The Washington Post has acknowledged the planned executive action would “expand the authority of the executive branch into murky, uncharted water,” USA Today was openly skeptical of the president’s claim that this “position hasn’t changed,” and the Associated Press has reminded its readers that a referendum to deny drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants passed by a 68-to-32 margin even in such a hippie-dippy state as Oregon. Local media will eventually be obliged to report on the budget crises at the local welfare agencies and the scuffles at the local schools and the rest of the local problems that will be too glaring to ignore without losing the last shreds of credibility, and even the most blissfully uninformed will be reading their paychecks.
There might also some be defections from the Democratic ranks in Congress. The Huffington Post reported that soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urged the president to wait until December in vain hopes of some congressional solution that he might concoct the before the Republican majority is installed, then reported that he apparently figured out that the existing House majority had been the roadblock all along and was urging the president to “go big,” and we suspect a similar ambivalence among the rest of his recently-shellacked Democratic party. The thought of those additional votes is surely tempting, and there’s also the financial support of those rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping wages low, as well the temptingly heroic-self image of being a champion of poor brown folk, but those votes might not make it to the polls for several years and in the meantime they’ve surely seen the polls and heard the deafening lack of clamoring for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking immigrants from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World. Party loyalty will probably prevail, as the Democrats are a remarkably disciplined lot, but we can hope that a few Representatives and maybe a Senator from the more sensible portions of the country will panic and jump ship.
A few Democrats broke ranks over the wildly popular XL Keystone Pipeline project, most notably Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu in a desperate bid to stave off the wrath of her voters in a run-off election, but not enough to get the necessary lame-duck super-majority, so when the bill passes overwhelmingly in the first days of the next Congress the president will assume all the public’s wrath with his veto. Recent remarks by an irksome professor and upcoming rate increases will make poll-tested reforms in Obamacare all the more popular, and the president’s inevitable vetoes will be correspondingly unpopular. Failure to ratify a lousy treaty with the Iranians will also prove popular, joint investigations made possible the Republican majorities can easily come up with some damaging revelations about the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi and any number of other scandals, and absent any Republican overreach or excessive caution or other missteps it’s hard to see anything on the horizon that redounds to the president’s political benefit. At some point, every Democrat contending for any office with have to come up with a pitch that they’re somehow different from the president.
That pitch has to be carefully worded so as not to offend the president’s die-hard faithful, which denies the Democrats the pleasures and political benefits of the full-throated denunciations that every Republican candidate will be shouting, but at least it will also have to be more in tune with the majority of the country. We’ll be interested to hear what it is. Two more years of the what-the-hell presidency of an unleashed radical is bound to engender some suspicion of unfettered liberalism, and so far the Democrats seem to the gamut from the Hillary CLinton left to the left-of-Hillary Clinton left, so there’s at least some hope that the Republicans can successfully present a conservative alternative if the country last another couple years. If they do he’ll probably reverse the current president’s executive orders, and not be bound by the law that a more savvy and less power-hungry predecessor could have finagled out of the weak-kneed Republican leaders and their rich businessmen contributors or pushed through when his party had all the power but the president had a reelection campaign in front of him, which would be a nice denouement to this whole sordid affair.

– Bud Norman

Of Savages and Their Apologists

There was dancing in the streets of the Palestine territories on Tuesday, complete with the traditional handing out of sweets to the children, in celebration of the slaughter of five godly men worshiping at an Israeli synagogue. Reaction among those Palestinians’ many sympathizers here in America was more muted, but no less disturbing.
The President of the United States chose strong words to condemn the murders, but felt obliged to add that “too many Palestinians have died” as a result of Israel’s efforts to defend itself against such slaughter. He further asserted that a “majority of Palestinians want peace,” despite all those sweets being handed out on the streets of the Palestinian territory and the majority of its population that has consistently supported the Hamas terror gang that shares in power in its government and has also celebrated the murders, and thus left the impression that he would continue to insist on further Israeli concessions and self-restraint to achieve his stated goal of a Palestinian state. Most of the anti-Israel left responded with an appalling silence, but a few ventured the usual claims of moral equivalence between the Palestinians’ slaughter of random civilians with Israel’s carefully calculated strikes against terrorists. On the Cable News Network they reflexively misreported that the murders had been committed at a mosque, but even after correcting the rather significant error they invited a woman on the air to argue that because Israel has been forced by constant attacks of its neighbors to impose universal conscription it cannot suffer civilian casualties, and much of the media seemed committed to a similar evenhandedness between the killers and their victims. The Israeli government has ordered the demolition of the killers’ homes and eased restrictions on Israelis’ gun rights to allow them to defend themselves against a recent spate of lone wolf attacks on the citizenry, so we expect the left’s sensibilities to be further offended.
No one seemed willing to acknowledge that the attacks had something to do with the same religious supremacism that has lately led to the slaughter of westerners from Iraq to England to Canada to Oklahoma, even though the killers’ proud families and organizations were loudly proclaiming that motivation. Although it was widely reported that three of victims were Americans and one a Briton, and that the New York City Police Department is on alert to prevent similar acts of violence in its jurisdiction, too late to prevent the savage beating of a 53-year-old Jew at a subway station, and even though there’s a vague memory of the Palestinians dancing in the streets and handing out sweets in celebration of the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on a warm September morning some years ago, no one seemed willing to acknowledge that Israel’s fight for survival has something to do with civilization’s ongoing fight for survival.
After too many desultory conversations with the Palestinians’ sympathizers, we have reluctantly concluded they have less regard for civilization than a sentimental attraction to the killers’ claims of victimhood. The profound western civilization that has largely derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition provides them with a prosperity and freedom and opportunities for happiness unprecedented in the history of mankind, but it has also resulted in the inequalities and imperfections that are inherent in any society of humans, so they prefer the primitivism of their society’s enemies. They denounce the sexism of a society that subjects women to a scientist’s ribald shirts, and decry the homophobia of a nation whose courts haven’t yet fully imposed same-sex marriage on a wary populace, but make apologies for a religious movement that subjugates its women in ways that the women of medieval Europe would have never tolerated and whose courts have not yet decided whether beheading or stoning is the proper punishment for homosexuality.
They might yet rouse some resistance when the slaughter is visited upon their own communities, although the left’s supine response to the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on a warm September morning a few short years ago and the countless outrages that have occurred since leave little cause for hope, and when the slaughter of five godly men worshiping at an Israeli synagogue disappears from the news in a few days it will seem all the more unlikely.

– Bud Norman

A Full Day of Outrageous Presidential Remarks

Even on the slowest news days an opinion writer can almost always count on President Barack Obama to provide some outrageous remark to fulminate about. On Monday, though, the president provided more than the usual fodder.
One hardly knows where to begin, but it might as well be with the official White House statement regarding the latest horrific beheading of an American by the Islamic State, the bloodthirsty terrorist gang that was once dismissed by the president as a “jayvee team” and is now in charge of much of Syria and prematurely-abandoned-by-America Iraq. The statement appropriately offers prayers and condolences to the victim’s family, and accurately describes the murder as “an act of pure evil,” but then veers into the most bizarre apologetics. Referring to the terror gang by its preferred acronym, and to the victim by the name he adopted during his captivity to them, the statement adds that “ISIL’s actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own.” The dubious claim that the Islamic State’s actions have nothing to do with Islam is by now an obligatory ritual that follows every act of Islamist terrorism, but that “least of all” defies any rational explanation. There’s no avoiding an implication that Muslims are far less inclined toward beheading infidels than the adherents of Judaism or Christianity or Buddhism of Hinduism or any other religion, which is clearly contradicted by copious evidence stretching from Iraq to Oklahoma, nor the conclusion that the president regards the victim’s conversion to his captor’s supposedly anti-Islamic creed as sincere. We can well understand a desire not to rile the non-beheading Muslim population, but the president’s remarks smack of a religious favoritism that is inappropriate and downright worrisome from an American leader.
Then there’s the report of the president’s advice to the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, to “stay the course.” The previously little-known St. Louis suburb has endured rioting and looting and arson and assorted acts of mayhem ever since a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, and now that it appears a grand jury which has heard all the physical evidence and eyewitness testimony will conclude that the officer acted in self-defense against a violent behemoth who attacked him and was struggling for his gun there is a legitimate concern that more rioting and looting and arson and assorted mayhem will soon follow. A generous interpretation of the president’s remarks would be that he urges them to “stay on the course” of peaceful protest, rather than the course that has been taken, but even the peaceful protestors he was addressing have stated that “Rioting and looting are the tools of those without a voice.” Better advice would be for the protestors to respect the conclusion of the grand jury, and the facts that led it to its conclusion, but apparently the president who promised a post-racial America would prefer that a majority-black town be utterly destroyed.
Slightly less irksome are the president’s disavowals of Jonathan Gruber, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economic professor who has been caught on videotape gloating about the deceptions that were used to ensure the passage of Obamacare and the stupidity of the American voters who fell for them. The president’s previous admission that he “stole liberally” from the professor is more convincing, given the $400,000 the president paid for the professor’s advice and the if-you-like-your-plan-you-can-keep-your plan deceptions that were indeed built into the law, so only the most stupid American voters are likely to be fooled once again. Given the bone-chilling weather that has arrived ahead of schedule here in Kansas we are more annoyed by the president’s boast that the Republican majorities that have been installed in both chambers of Congress by a clear majority of voters won’t be able to stop his executive orders to combat global warming, but on a day so full of outrageous remarks even that doesn’t warrant a full column.

– Bud Norman

Who Are the Rubes?

Not since the late, great Milton Friedman has a professor of economics done as much to advance the conservative cause as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Jonathan Gruber. In Gruber’s case his contributions have been entirely inadvertent, but we appreciate them nonetheless.
In case you haven’t heard the nationwide grumbling, Gruber is the “architect of Obamacare” who has been caught on several different videotapes gloating about the numerous deceptions that were built into the bill in order to assure its passage. To compound the public’s outrage he has also been caught snickering about the stupidity of the average American on whose behalf he was supposedly practicing the deceptions, which neatly epitomizes the arrogance of modern liberalism, and it further exposes exactly who are the stupid Americans.
A clear majority of Americans were never fooled into thinking that Obamacare was a good idea, even as the bill was being ramrodded through the Congress by means of questionable legality, and conservatives were wise to its deceptions all along. Gruber takes a peculiar pride in the bill’s unprecedented tax on not buying health insurance being disguised as a mandate, a bit of semantic legerdemain that the Congressional Budget Office was obliged to honor lest the bill scare off even Democrats, but all along conservatives were pointing out that it made no difference to the people who would be paying the bill under either name. When the Supreme Court upheld the dangerous notion that government can compel citizens to buy something they do not want it did so on the grounds that the mandate was indeed a tax, conservatives’ only consolation was that the government had at least been forced to acknowledge its lie. Gruber also told his fellow academics that the average American was too stupid to understand that the tax on insurers would inevitably be passed along to the insured, but the very simple concept that a tax on corporations is always paid by its customers has been a staple of conservative economics since Adam Smith. Only liberals believe that corporations pay taxes, and we are grateful to Gruber for pointing out how very stupid they are to believe such nonsense.
Gruber’s kindnesses to conservatism do not end there, however. Efforts by the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats to disavow their association with the professor allowed the conservative press to point out the $400,000 and the “architect of Obamacare” title he received from them, which can only stoke the indignation of the insulted American public. He also pocketed several million dollars giving advice to the states on how to deal with the law, and his videotaped instructions include repeated warnings that the law quite deliberately insists that citizens of states which do not set up their own health care exchanges will not be eligible for Obamacare’s generous subsidies. Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the King v. Burwell case, which could result in the enforcement of that provision and deny subsidies to citizens of the 37 states that declined to set up their own exchanges despite Gruber’s warnings, the administration is arguing that it was merely an unintentional typographical error and not at all the intention of Congress. The testimony of Obamacare’s acknowledged architect, along with a few other choice items from the congressional record, could effectively debunk that deception and create all sorts of welcome havoc for the law.
The formerly brilliant Gruber was also credited with creating the Obamacare-like “Romneycare” plan enacted in earlier Massachusetts, and has helpfully admitted that its brief survival was due largely to federal assistance, so his association with eponymous former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney should help the more rock-ribbed sorts of Republicans in staving off any attempt by Romney or any other northeastern moderate to win their party’s presidential nomination. Gruber might yet provide further service to the conservative cause, but his astoundingly stupid admissions that only the stupid believed the claims of Obamacare has been such a boon to the self-esteem of conservatives that he has earned our eternal gratitude. One can only hope that the liberals will take umbrage at his insults, but we suspect they’re too stupid to realize he was talking about them.

– Bud Norman

The Democrats’ White Men Problem

The Democratic party has a problem with white men. We mean that in the vernacular sense that it has an animosity toward white men, but also in the literal sense that it is creating political difficulties for the party.
Whenever the Democrats win an election there is an obligatory spate of sneering stories about how the Republicans are demographically doomed to irrelevance as the party of white men, but after a big win such as the Republicans scored in the recent mid-term races even the most Democratic media are obliged to acknowledge that white men remain a formidable voting bloc. White voters accounted for 75 percent of the electorate in the mid-terms, the Republicans won their votes by a whopping 62-to-38 margin, and among the men who comprised approximately 50 percent of that category the voting was even more lopsided, so there has been some journalistic soul-searching about how the Democrats might broaden their appeal to white men.
One of the more thoughtful pieces appeared in The New York Times, where the apparently white and male Thomas P. Edsall bravely conceded that many of the Democratic party’s policies do not serve the economic self-interest of white males. He notes that Obamacare takes $500 billion of funding over ten years from Medicare, which benefits a population that is 77 percent white, and shifts it to subsidies for the uninsured, who are 59 percent non-white, and admits that many other aspects of the law have a similarly racial redistributionist effect. He clings to the hope that some minimum-wage hike referenda that passed in a few heavily white states suggests a willingness among white men to embrace central planning, fails to note a wide variety of other anti-white Democratic policies from affirmative action to anti-coal legislation that would lay off Loretta Lynn’s father to the Justice Department’s stated policy of not pursuing hate crime prosecutions on behalf of white victims, among countless other examples, and he quickly veers into the usual nonsense about the Republican party’s opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage and other social issues that tend to play better with blacks and Latinos than white people, but we appreciate his willingness consider that white voting patterns are to some extent rational rather racist.
More typical of the Democratic ruminating was Andrea Grimes’ foul-mouthed analysis at a pro-abortion web site of Wendy Davis’ hilariously inept attempt to win the governorship of Texas, which blames the debacle on white people’s lack of empathy for the poor black and brown women eager to abort their potential black and brown children. She fails to take stock of the embarrassing fact that Davis lost several majority-Hispanic counties which had previously been reliable Democratic constituencies, or Davis’ blatantly dishonest biography or any of her other countless gaffes, including some less than empathetic jibes about her opponent’s physical handicaps, and instead recycles the usual stereotypes of narrow-minded white people. The possibility that such unabashed racial and sexual prejudices might have had something to do with Davis’ landslide defeat has also apparently escaped Grimes’ attention, and that of the party at large.
The common Democratic complaint that white people are uniquely self-interested is all the more unconvincing after so many years of the “What’s The Matter With Kansas” argument that white people have been duped into voting against their economic self-interests by wedge issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Our frequent conversations with non-white folks and a sampling of their popular music suggest that blacks and Hispanics are more prone to anti-homosexual sentiment than the average white person, polling data verifies that Davis’ ardent enthusiasm for abortion was a key reason for her failure to carry those majority-Hispanic counties, the Democrats might have squeaked out a few southern Senate races with the large number of black of voters that have been aborted since Roe v. Wade, Asian-Americans in California are questioning their loyalty to a party that insists on affirmative action schemes that punish their overachievement, and there’s bound to be some limit to even the non-white Democrats’ patience for the party’s insistence on opening the borders to an unlimited influx from the third world. Writing off the vast majority of 75 percent of the electorate worked well enough in the ’08 and ’12 presidential elections, but the Democrats are wise to question the long-term viability of the strategy.
Although we are loathe to offer the Democrats any useful advice, as white men we will note that they have other pressing problems in winning our vote. The Democrats’ project of endlessly expanding government power, except of course for its ability to restrict abortion even in the most late-term circumstances, will inevitably infringe on the individual liberty to which white men have been long accustomed. A resulting racial spoils system will also offend a majority of white men, who have been successfully hectored by the past decades of education and popular entertainment into a belief in color-blind policies. The Democrats’ immigration policies might well succeed in diminishing the white male’s share of the vote, but we suspect that we’re not the only ones who resent being told by a bunch of mostly white know-it-alls what to eat and what kind of car to drive and what kind of light bulbs to screw into our lamps, and that freedom and economic opportunity will eventually have a broader appeal.

– Bud Norman

A Typical Day in the Popular Culture

Although we strive to keep a forward looking eye on the latest political and economic developments, when it comes to the broader culture we’re content to live in the past. Most of the authors we read are long gone, our movie watching is mostly limited to the black-and-white fare on Netflix, the television is rarely on and only tunes into the ancient reruns that air on ultra-high frequency, the stereo is constantly blasting vinyl recordings of lush pop standards and twangy honky-tonk tunes and rough garage band rants of more exuberant eras, and on a visit to an art museum we will always rush past the more recent offerings to get another look at the paintings of Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent and the rest of the dead white males before the critics have completely deconstructed them. It’s a bad habit, as the latest political and economic developments are so often the dreary result of the broader culture, but our occasional forays into the new stuff are just too disheartening to continue.
Even with the most strenuous effort one cannot avoid some contact with the broader culture, though, and we’re occasionally made aware of the last celebrity contretemps. Our daily examination of the essential Drudge Report is our primary source for the latest tales of Tinseltown and other entertainment capitals, along with the headlines on the tabloid covers that are all there is to look at in a grocery store checkout line other than the tattoos and obscenity-laden t-shirts of the person ahead, so we’re at least au courant enough to know that it’s all as tawdry as ever. Matt Drudge grew up in both Washington, D.C., and Hollywood, and his famously idiosyncratic news judgement recognizes the power that both towns wield, so we’ll often peruse what he finds of interest. On Wednesday he featured a story about the upcoming release of a documentary alleging widespread sexual exploitation of children in the movie industry, some rock stars serenading the crowd at a Veterans’ Day tribute concert with some anti-war agitprop and obscenities, an urban chanteuse we’ve heard of but never heard saying that what she likes best about the president is that he’s black, and some fellow with more money than taste buying one of those kitschy Andy Warhol silk screens of Elvis Presley for $151 million. This is a typically dispiriting day’s worth of entertainment dispatches at the Drudge Report, but with the president off in China for a costume party and the Republican congressional majorities not yet installed we took some interest in the stories.
That documentary about the sexual exploitation of children in Hollywood turns out to rely at least in part on the testimony of a fellow whose lawsuit has been thrown out of court, but we’re inclined to give some credence to the rest of it. The film industry has never been known for its sexual rectitude, after all, and having watched its best and brightest rally to the defense of Roman Polanski after he anally raped a 13-year-old girl leaves us predisposed to believe the worst. Pederasty is of the few sexual behaviors that are still condemned by society, at least for now, so the documentarians have one of the last opportunities to generate a Hollywood scandal. Anything else they allege about Hollywood’s sex life will only generate yawns or envy. No matter how convincing their case they won’t generate the public outrage that followed revelations of sexual exploitation of children in the Catholic church, or even the tale of some protestant evangelist’s extramarital affair, but it would be good if they could make people a little more skeptical of Hollywood’s depictions of villainous corporate executives and repressed homosexual military men and the banality of the suburbs and the rest of the contemporary cinematic cliches.
Those rock stars shocking the squares at a Veterans’ Day are by now a cliche, as well. We’ve never heard of the fellow who let loose with the obscenities, but Bruce Springsteen was the one who unleashed the Vietnam-era protest songs, and he’s been around so long that even we have a copy of his “Born to Run” album, and it’s all too familiar to be shocking. We note that Springsteen, a supposed workingman’s hero who also goes by the name of “The Boss,” chose to entertain the all-volunteer military personnel in attendance with “Fortunate Son,” which is about draftees who didn’t get the reserve gigs that the songwriters did during the Vietnam War and is the only bad song Creedence Clearwater Revival ever did. As for that urban chanteuse who thinks the best thing about the president is that he’s black, we can only say as old white conservative Republican men who prefer Peggy Lee that she’s probably right. The story about somebody shelling out $151 million for one of Warhol’s cliches, even if it did have Elvis, was a reminder that even high culture isn’t holding the bar very high these days.
This is what the masses are taught to aspire to, though, and we’ll keep that in mind as we follow the latest political and economic developments.

– Bud Norman

No Refuge in China

President Barack Obama is currently in China, far away from any pesky Republicans, but he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the trip. He’s getting the obligatory red carpet treatment from his hosts and the obligatory softball questions from the press, has been afforded an opportunity to wear exotic clothing, and is getting his picture taken with the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations, all of which usually cheers him up, but the photographs all portray a rather glum fellow.
The Asia-Pacific economic summit being hosted in Beijing offers the president a chance to get away from mounting domestic problems and strike a statesmanlike pose, along with the other perquisites of diplomatic travel, but little else. He made a grand announcement of an agreement with China on carbon emissions, but once he gets backs to Washington those pesky Republicans will have something to say about that, the Chinese will continue emitting carbon as they please, and an increasingly skeptical American public will not be impressed by a proposal to restrain the American economy. Little progress is expected on restraining China’s expansionist ambitions or predatory copyright infringements and cyber warfare and currency manipulations or other pressing problems, and no one is expecting any important diplomatic breakthroughs with any of the other assembled leaders. The president managed to dodge a condescending pat on the back from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but their brief exchanges apparently have not resulted in a Russian retreat from Ukraine.
Still, the president’s dour expression in all those photographs, looking self-conscious even in that rather dapper Fu Manchu outfit, is curious. Previous diplomatic journeys proved just as pointless but still put a smile on his face, and the lack of any news from the trip can only improve his standing with the public. We can only speculate that he’s feeling insufficiently appreciated. Despite the diplomatic niceties the Chinese government broadcast its sneering contempt for Obama’s leadership through the state media in the days before his arrival, Putin’s ostentatiously chummy behavior seemed calculated to express a similarly superior attitude, and no one among the friendlier leaders was looking to him for all the answers. We suspect that this is not what Obama had anticipated for the sixth year of his presidency, which was supposed to be when the world joined hands and started singing “Give Peace a Chance” in tune with his pitch pipe, and that he is disappointed with the world.
Obama is always more energetic and ruthless in his dealings with America’s real enemy, those pesky Republicans, so perhaps he’ll perk up when he returns to Washington. He’ll have to dodge a condescending pat on the back from presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, though, and we don’t expect that in the resultant photographs his facial expression will be any sunnier. America is proving disappointing to the president, as well, and it’s going to take a heck of a pep talk from Valerie Jarrett to keep his chin up to its usual heights.

– Bud Norman

Lies For the Greater Good, or Something

One problem with practicing deception, aside from the obvious moral hazards, is that a perpetrator can never claim credit for having successfully pulled it off. The temptation to boast about one’s cleverness in fooling the gullible was too great for Jonathan Gruber to resist, however, and he’s been caught on tape proudly explaining all the lies that were told get Obamacare passed.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor is widely known as the “architect” of Obamacare, having served as a technical advisor to the eponymous Obama administration during the law’s drafting, and with a surprising bluntness he admits that it was built on a foundation of lies. Speaking at a 2013 panel discussion during the University of Pennsylvania’s annual Health Economics Forum he said “The bill was written in a tortured way to make sure (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scores the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” That lie was also made necessary by the lie President Barack Obama told during the ’08 campaign that he would not allow any tax increases on anyone making less than $250,000 a year, and was acknowledged as a lie when the administration’s lawyers insisted the president always called a “mandate” was indeed a “tax” in order to win the Supreme Court’s approval for the law, but Gruber did not stop there. He also told his admiring audience that “If you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in, you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed,” which is basically an admission that the sales pitch about people keeping their plans if they liked their plans and the average American family seeing a $2,500 reduction in their annual health care costs and not adding a dime to the deficit and all the rest of it was a lie intended to obscure the redistributionist nature of the law. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber added, “and basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really critical for the thing to pass.”
Lest one think that Gruber enjoyed bamboozling his stupid fellow Americans as much as he seems to relish the re-telling, he insists that “I wish … we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.” Despite his admissions of dishonesty we’re inclined to believe this disclaimer. We don’t doubt that he’s quite disappointed to live in a constitutional republic with so many stupid people who must be lied to in order for his policy preferences to be imposed on them, or that he truly believes he knows better than 300 million people he has never met what is in their best interests, and would much prefer some system that allowed him dictatorial powers without resort to such unpleasant obfuscations. The attitude is infuriatingly widespread these days, and enjoys such intellectual respectability that the likes of Gruber are not at all embarrassed to express it in a public forum, so we’ll regard such heartfelt regret as sincere.
So long as he was unburdening himself, we wish Gruber had further conceded that pretty much the entirety of the modern liberal project is also based on lies being told to the people that modern liberalism claims to champion. Modern liberalism is basically a plan to rob Peter to pay Paul, but Peter is presumed to be an idiot who will fall for promises of some payoff down the road at some richer fellow’s expense, and Paul’s support can be counted on no matter how the plan is presented, and it’s all in the name of social justice, and those Republicans Peter might be tempted to vote for if the plan were more frankly stated are such awful people, so the liberal conscience is untroubled by any liberties that might be taken with the truth. The theory that the best policies derive from a democratic process of public deliberation based on honest arguments by opposing sides is quaintly old-fashioned, given a population too stupid to appreciate the obvious brilliance that is Obamacare, and cannot assail the modern liberal’s religious faith that he knows best.
Honesty and a decent respect for the democratic rights of their fellow citizens would be nice, but they’d rather have the law.

– Bud Norman

Dr. Strangelove Goes to Iran

The Associated Press has filed a report on the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and it’s a remarkable piece of work. Rarely will you see so much partisan political spin packed into so few column inches. Headlined “US faces last best chance on Iran nuke deal,” the ostensibly objective article depicts heroic efforts by the administration to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb “before skeptical Republicans who will control Congress next year can scuttle it.” There’s not a bit of skepticism on the part of the Associated Press about the proposed deal, which we are told “would deliver a foreign policy triumph for the White House,” so the reader is left to surmise that those dastardly Republicans would rather imperil world peace than allow the president a political victory.
This will be the official version of the story, as well, but only for so long as it suits official purposes. The article helpfully explains that the administration is hoping that its soaring rhetoric and charming nature will have fully pacified Iran after 35 years of its relentless belligerence by Nov. 24, because that’s when an agreed-upon “deadline” for negotiations occurs, but given the flexible nature of diplomacy and the administration’s disregard for deadlines in presenting its legally-required budget proposals or implementing Obamacare the authors don’t bother to deny that the real cut-off date in the negotiations coincides with the installation of a Republican Senate majority on the third of January. Until then, the White House will be counting on such sympathetic press coverage to sell the idea that whatever it gets out of its many months of desperate pleading is some sort of deus ex machina that must be ratified by a lame duck Senate right this very moment before Republican skullduggery or some other pesky sort of public scrutiny blows the historic opportunity for a lasting peace with the Islamic Republic.
Afterwards, though, the official version of the story will likely be that we should learn to stop worrying and love the Iranian bomb. The president’s apologetic public pronouncements and private correspondence to the Iranian regime have been met with rhetoric more contemptuous that anything even the most “tea party” Republican muster, the Iranians seem to have figured out that the threatened sanctions only last until they agree to continue the endless negotiations, there is no worry that the administration will support any popular uprising that might result from the country’s economic woes, America clearly poses no military threat to the regime for at least the next two years, administration officials have boasted of restraining an Israeli threat and would clearly intervene against any threats by the Sunni and Arab nations who feel threatened by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, so it’s hard to see why the Iranians would suddenly be inclined to cut a deal favorable to the interests of the Great Satan. Nor is there any reason to believe the Iranians can be trusted to follow through on any concessions they might make, as their long history has apparently continued right through the last round of negotiations. Nor is there any reason to believe that the administration really cares what happens after a deal is reached so long as they can get one in time for the Associated Press and like-minded media to proclaim it a foreign policy triumph.
The president continues to insist that “Our number one priority with respect to Iran is making sure they don’t get a nuclear weapon,” and is quoted saying so without any apparent skepticism in all the stories, but the position is never fully explained. He’s already acceded the Iranian regime the right to enrich uranium and pursue a civilian nuclear program in its oil-rich country, apologized for America’s alleged misdeeds against the Islamic Republic, carefully avoided any mention of Iran’s many misdeeds against America, declared to the assembled United Nations that no nation has the right to dictate to another, saved his administration’s foul-mouthed insults and dictates about housing policy and other internal matters for Israel, so it’s hard to imagine his rationale for denying one of the wretched of the earth a mere nuclear bomb or two. He’s also failed to explain exactly what America will do about it if the Iranians persist in building a nuclear weapon, and we have no confidence the Iranians are cowed by the prospect of a more sternly worded speech.
Any deal that emerges from this hurried mess of dealing from weakness will warrant far more skepticism than the Associated Press can muster. and should be subject to a sufficient period of public deliberation. Iran must promise a complete halt to all of nuclear weapons research and development, completely reliable verification systems must be established, a threat of force if all conditions are not met must be included, and some explanation for why such an inexplicable breakthrough has occurred other than the irresistible appeal of Secretary of State John Kerry must be offered. Otherwise, we’re siding with those dastardly Republicans who would rather imperil world peace than allow the president a political victory.

– Bud Norman

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