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A Sea of Red


I have argued that our politics is essentially a battle between Locke and Rousseau. Yesterday’s election was one of the most directly philosophical that I can remember. The Republican Party is increasingly the party of Locke; the Democratic Party, the party of Rousseau. Framed that starkly, Locke wins almost everywhere except the coasts and areas that are heavily populated by minority voters.

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Iranian Nukes?

Michael J. Totten interviews Martin Kramer about the prospect of a nuclear Iran. It’s a deep discussion of the entire situation in the Middle East; read it all. Kramer concentrates especially on the division between problems in the Levant (Israel, Lebanon, Syria) and problems in and around the Persian Gulf. The conclusion:

Martin Kramer: It’s absolutely central to the strategy to maintain this division. And the only way to maintain it is for the United States to demonstrate tomorrow that it will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons or to allow Israel to act unilaterally. The Gulf is a zone of American dominance, and the only way to assert that is to do what Carter did with the Carter Doctrine, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. He said there should be no outside power or local power that is allowed to challenge the United States in the Gulf. And a nuclear Iran clearly crosses that line.

If even Jimmy Carter was compelled to issue a doctrinal statement in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan about the Persian Gulf, one would think that Barack Obama would see the need to do something similar. Obama should especially feel compelled to do so because there’s a question mark there. He should declare the Persian Gulf a nuclear-free zone. It’s too much to talk about the Middle East as a nuclear-free zone at this time, but the Persian Gulf is nuclear-free now, and it’s time for the United States to come out and say it should remain nuclear-free.

 

MJT: I have a hard time imaging Obama doing anything of the sort.

Martin Kramer: Yeah. Well.

MJT: But I suppose one never knows.

Martin Kramer: It would be an astonishing lapse if a man who promised to roll back nuclear proliferation watched proliferation develop in one of the least stable parts of the world, a place where the United States has only been able to maintain even a modicum of stability by a massive projection of its own forces. The region is of prime interest to the entire world for its energy resources. If it becomes nuclearized, it will be the one thing for which Barack Obama would always be remembered by history, and he would be remembered by history as a failure.

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The Firing of Juan Williams

Juan Williams speaks out about his own firing:

Well, now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.

Daniel Schorr, my fellow NPR commentator who died earlier this year, used to talk about the initial shock of finding himself on President Nixon’s enemies list. I can only imagine Dan’s revulsion to realize that today NPR treats a journalist who has worked for them for ten years with less regard, less respect for the value of independence of thought and embrace of real debate across political lines, than Nixon ever displayed.

I went to college with Juan Williams, and, though I disagree with him on many issues, I’ve always found him to be intellectually honest, open-minded, and willing to engage in real debate and discussion. Most commentary on the left seems to consist mostly of name-calling and straw man fallacies; Williams shows respect for his opponents and their opinions even when he disagrees with them. That, of course, is part of what got him fired.

Roger Simon suggests that Congress pass a “Juan Williams law,” prohibiting all government funding or bailouts for any news organization operating domestically. I think that’s an excellent idea. I’ve argued against funding for NPR for years. What justification has there ever been for having a government-funded news organization? It’s especially important now, for as one of Roger’s commenters points out, “we do not need to pay for the privilege of being lied to, lied about and destroyed from within.”

Some further thoughts:

  1. Bill O’Reilly told Juan on his show last night that this is good for him; he’ll get a fat book contract to write about what you can and can’t say in America. Undoubtedly true. Fox News has already offered him a $2 million, 3-year deal.
  2. Bill also told him that he’s now far more popular than he was a day before. Also true. Most air travelers have had a thought similar to the one he reported at some point since 9/11; they now realize that the arrows of political correctness are pointed at them.
  3. The CEO of NPR in effect called Juan crazy. That was foolish, making her look crazy and vindictive and opening up a new avenue of legal liability.
  4. Once again we see that leftists are far more intolerant than conservatives. Michael Barone observes, “An interesting contrast: while many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.” Roger Ailes: “Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at Fox News in 1997. He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis.”
  5. We also see that leftists can’t think clearly. The standard line seems to be that Williams said that all Muslims are terrorists. But obviously he said no such thing. He reported his own feelings. He also said he regretted them. But all it takes to make his feelings rational is some correlation, in general or at an airport, between being a Muslim and being a terrorist. Leftists look foolish when they deny that there is such a correlation. And don’t forget the recent terror alert asking travelers to be on the watch for Mumbai-style attacks!
  6. NPR’s action, at the start of early voting for the Congressional elections, emphasizes how intolerant, out-of-touch, and biased the media are. This can only be good for Republicans. Elizabeth Scalia (who has lots more good stuff; read the whole thing): “I wonder if it was smart of NPR to–12 days out from an election where leftism is headed for a defeat of rejectionre-inforce the perception that both liberalism and the media are out of control; that they have utterly cast off their former roles as champions of free speech and free thought, in favor of compulsory conformity.”

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson pretty much says it all.

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Here’s Your Bill for 2010

Some liberal web sites have been distributing a purported bill for an average taxpayer, asking, “What part do you not want to pay for?” They’re implying that the Tea Parties are making a fuss about nothing, that the tab for government services is quite reasonable. The bill is meretricious, using 2007 data, taking a family that owes only $5,000 in taxes, and then showing items that add up to far less.

I thought it might be interesting to see what the federal government has spent in fiscal 2010 for an average family of four. I took total spending, divided by the population of the United States to get per capita numbers, and then multiplied by four to get a bill for government services for a family of four. Amounts are rounded to the nearest dollar. The list is incomplete; the items don’t add up to the total precisely.

Steel yourself. I was shocked by these numbers. Keep in mind that they’re only federal spending; state and local governments, combined, spend almost as much.

This is what the federal government spent, apportioned to an average family of four:

Social Security $10,027
National defense 9,313
Medicare 5,920
Medicaid 4,341
Welfare 3,705
Unemployment 2,516
Interest 2,432
Veterans 1,615
Transportation 1,379
Education K-12 1,089
Housing assistance 997
Mortgage assistance 721
Education, general 680
Foreign aid 534
Medical research 482
Agriculture 430
General government 396
Police 373
Community development 369
Environmental protection 311
Higher education 264
Basic research 241
Courts 238
Energy 199
Water supply 161
Foreign military aid 128
Prisons 100
Public health 57
Recreation 52
Total $48,180


That’s just about the median family income. It gives a new relevance to this joke about tax simplification:

UPDATE: Add in state and local government spending and the tab comes to over $80,000!

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The One Nation Rally

The Left’s One Nation Rally in Washington was getting more airplay on CNN and MSNBC than Glenn Beck’s rally did, despite its smaller size. (CBS estimates 87,000; Beck’s rally drew many times that. Stations were driven to use images from the Beck rally and the Tea Party to make it look as if the crowd was large!) I wonder whether CPUSA members, and members of similar socialist groups, really believe that they reflect the true face of America. John Hinderaker sums it up:

Two comments on today’s “One Nation Working Together” event in Washington:

1) Four hundred organizations, including all the major labor unions, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, Code Pink, the Green Party, the Communist Party, the United Methodist Church, Planned Parenthood and hundreds more were not able to turn out as many people as Glenn Beck.

2) One of the stated purposes of the gathering was to protest against lack of civility in public discourse. The program was opened by Ed Schultz.

The Left may be in even more disarray than we thought.

UPDATE: Here’s an estimate of 50,000, 6-8 times smaller than the Beck rally. (HT: Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has the pictures.

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“Wow. Just Wow.”

That’s what one commenter has said after viewing the video released in support of the 10:10 initiative, and international effort to get people to cut their carbon emissions 10%. My thoughts exactly. I thought I was watching a heavy-handed spoof of the totalitarian impulses behind the environmental movement. And then I realized that it wasn’t a spoof. Good grief.

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My campus was locked down, and then closed, this morning when a gunman began firing shots. He entered the library, where all the security is designed to keep things from leaving inappropriately, went to the sixth floor (early reports said the fifth floor), and shot himself. The university’s warning system, instituted after the Virginia Tech shootings, helped to insure that there were no other injuries. I received a text message telling me there was an armed person in the vicinity of the library within minutes. I was not on campus, but my daughter was heading in to take a math exam. She got off the bus to find a small tank going down the street, helicopters circling overhead, and a woman in a green dress telling everyone that campus was locked down and directing them not to cross the street onto campus. My daughter couldn’t go to class, and couldn’t get home—the northbound bus stop was on the campus side of the street—so I drove in and took her to breakfast. People in my building waited for several hours. A SWAT team frisked them and took them to a classroom, where they stayed for two hours until a search of the building was completed. A friend of my daughter’s was on the sixth floor of the library this morning, and had to stay there for more than 6 hours.

A friend was teaching an early morning class, and reports:

[I] was lecturing on the ‘Crito’, justice, political obligation, civil disobedience and the unimportance of death; with what I thought was admirable Socratic sang-froid, I carried on and finished the lecture. Not sure many of them were paying much attention – at any rate to me. I had to change some of the examples (about coercion) rather rapidly as well.

I suppose that doesn’t say anything very good about the relevance of philosophy—or at least of the ideas of Socrates.

One notable feature of this morning’s experiences: My daughter had rapid access to an amazing amount of information about what was happening. She and I were both receiving the university’s emergency text messages. She could also receive the emergency emails. But she also began receiving text messages from students all over campus—some in class, some in their dorms, some at their university jobs, and some in the library. She had real-time information coming from sources all over the campus. Radio stations also did a great job—KLBJ-AM did an especially outstanding job—but social media beat out traditional media for those with a rich social network. For the rest of us—well, my phone sat there silently. But I heard everything from her.

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Reynolds’ Law

I haven’t been blogging much lately, because I haven’t had many thoughts that haven’t been better expressed elsewhere. But I have to draw attention to a remark of Glenn Reynolds, which seems to me to express an important and little-noticed point:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

I dub this Reynolds’ Law: “Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.” It’s easy to see why. If people don’t need to defer gratification, work hard, etc., in order to achieve the status they desire, they’ll be less inclined to do those things. The greater the government subsidy, the greater the effect, and the more net harm produced.

This law is thus a relative to Murray’s third law in Losing Ground, the Law of Net Harm: “The less likely it is that the unwanted behavior will change voluntarily, the more likely it is that a program to induce change will cause net harm.” But Reynolds’ Law rests on a different and more secure foundation. It focuses on character as fundamental.

Since the time of Woodrow Wilson, Democrats—but not only Democrats—have fretted that the middle class is shrinking due to the power of large corporations, and that only government action to “level the playing field” can save the middle class. The “middle class is being more and more squeezed out by the processes which we have been taught to call processes of prosperity.” Obama? Hillary? No, that’s Woodrow Wilson in 1913 (The New Freedom). It’s striking to realize that progressives have been playing the same tune for a century, no matter what’s actually taking place in the economy—indeed, in the midst of the greatest expansion of affluence in the history of the world—with the same set of proffered solutions: greater government power, regulations, higher taxes, and subsidies for the markers of affluence.

Reynolds’ Law thus strikes at the heart of progressivism as a political ideology. Progressivism can’t deliver on its central promise. In fact, it’s guaranteed to make things worse in exactly that respect. It’s not that it sacrifices some degree of one good (liberty or prosperity, say) to achieve a greater degree of another (equality). That suggests that the choice between conservatism and progressivism is a matter of tradeoffs, balances, and maybe even taste. Reynolds’ Law implies that progressivism sacrifices some (actually considerable) degrees of liberty and prosperity to move us away from equality by undermining the characters and thus behavior patterns of those they promise to help.

Not coincidentally, progressives accumulate power for themselves, not only by seizing it as a necessary means to their goals but by aggravating the very social problems they promise to address, thus creating an ever more powerful argument that something has to be done.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Thanks for looking around! And thank you, Glenn!

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Remember

September 11, 2001

I recall the poems I read to my children at bedtime nine years ago:

URNING and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

—William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming (1921)

Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

—Alfred Lord Tennyson, from Ulysses (1833)

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Faith and Affluence

From the New York Times:

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