Archive for Political Science Fiction

Formerly known as Iraq

Iraq, an arbitrarily created nation with artificial boundaries, is this year’s Balkans, and Michael Totten says it’s good as dead:

Iraq is finished, an expiring, cancerous nation on life support. Pulling the plug might be merciful. It might be cruel. But either way, it’s time to accept the fact that this country is likely to die and that we’ll all be better off when it does…

President Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq. For years — and for perfectly understandable reasons — he was very reluctant to wade into that country’s eternally dysfunctional internal problems, but even he was persuaded to declare war against ISIS in the fall of 2014 when its fighters made a beeline for Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region and the only stable and America-friendly place in the country.

But however engaged the US chooses to be, the current war in Iraq is likely to drag on for years. If Iraq somehow manages to survive its current conflict in one piece, another will almost certainly follow. Its instability is both devastating and chronic. Far better at this point if Iraq simply terminates itself as a state and lets its various constituent groups peaceably go their own way, as Yugoslavia did after its own catastrophic series of wars in the 1990s.

And good riddance, says Bill Quick:

This was what George W. Bush always didn’t quite get: “Guaranteeing” Iraq’s territorial integrity, which was synonymous with guaranteeing the imposed geographical structure of Iraq, necessarily involved guaranteeing a strong-man government, because that was the only way to enforce that structure on people who hated it.

And if his “Democracy Project” had been successful, the voters themselves would have ripped Iraq apart.

Now at least the voters won’t have to exert themselves.

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Playing the erase card

Front page of this morning’s New York Post:

Polls taken after her presser yesterday indicate that a lot of people believe her story — a lot of people in the media, anyway.

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Why we are doomed

Time was, every young American was equipped with, as Hemingway is supposed to have said, “a built-in, shockproof crap detector.” And they would keep that invaluable device all their lives — until they ran for political office.

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Watch that punctuation

Yes, even on Twitter:

He’s not the only one.

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Gathering on the right

One of the more interesting people on both the right side of the aisle and my left column on TweetDeck is Lisa De Pasquale, author of the novel Finding Mr. Righteous and for five years the head of the Conservative Political Action Committee. Amazingly, Jezebel snagged her for an interview, and while their angle was primarily CPAC’s lack of, um, diversity of a specific nature, they did pop a lot of good questions, one of which drew my attention because her answer ends with a universal truth:

Who is the nicest politician or personality you’ve dealt with behind the scenes? The meanest? (If you don’t want to name names, can you drop a general hint or two?)

Aside from people like Ann Coulter who I already knew, the nicest was Rush Limbaugh. Not only was he extremely nice, but very humble. He didn’t have an entourage or any backstage demands. Backstage he asked what had been the biggest news from the conference. I don’t remember what I said, but the reality was he was going to be the biggest news of the conference. That he was genuinely interested in the conference made me proud of the work my team and I had done. He also personally signed 100 or so Limbaugh Letters for our volunteers. I should mention that the man responsible for making his speech happen was the recently departed Kit Carson. He was a great man who, like Limbaugh, was always interested in other people’s opinions.

I won’t name names on the meanest, but I will say it’s never the A-listers. It’s always the B or C-list people who are demanding and impatient. They act like divas because they think that is how important people act.

This may be one of the reasons why I’m still on the D-list after all these years.

The description of Limbaugh is consistent with others I’ve seen: he saves his bombast for the airwaves. (If you didn’t know Carson, he was the “Chief of Staff” at Limbaugh’s EIB Network; he passed away in January after a four-year battle with brain cancer.) And Rush will happily tell you that he’s not really interested in other people’s opinions, which is why he has no guests on the show, but this, too, is part of the act.

Nor was this the only worthy maxim De Pasquale uttered:

CPAC has a history of allowing groups that are controversial. If you put two conservatives in a room they will fight about something, so it’s impossible to get consensus on anything.

Ain’t that the truth.

Meanwhile, Emily Zanotti provides an overview of CPAC today:

CPAC is an event for choirs and not conversions. In the last few years, it’s gained a notoriety that has made it a public spectacle, but the true purpose of the Conservative Political Action Conference is to impress the hordes of College Republicans, with their Brooks Brothers finery and their as-yet-unpickeled livers, and the elderly crowd that has been coming to these things since the first Republican presidential candidate painted his foreign policy on a cave wall — not to preach to the disenfranchised independents and unmoored moderates. The candidates have all the depth of a Lego mini-figurine and the speeches are as nuanced and complex as a made-for-television marine life-motivated disaster movie. And that’s just how it’s supposed to be, especially at the start of a presidential election cycle, when potential candidates are trying to live up to impressive double standards set for them by a party that is, itself, in flux. Everyone who presented himself to the crowd amassed at National Harbor had something to prove, specifically to conservatives, whether that was that they were conservative enough, that they were thoughtful enough, that they were tough enough, or that they were capable of mounting a campaign that did more than annoy network television anchors forced to divert more than thirty seconds of their broadcast away from fawning coverage of Hillary Clinton’s breakfast choices.

How seriously you take this event, it appears, depends on a lot of things besides ideology.

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Turning every which way but out

Some of the folks I follow on Twitter were grousing earlier about sparse turnout at today’s City Council election. And they weren’t kidding: at 5:07 this afternoon I shoved the 207th ballot into the machine. A couple of thousand people live in this precinct; not all of them are of voting age, obviously, but still, that’s not all what anyone — other than the winner, of course — would call wonderful, especially if there had been as much dissatisfaction with the incumbent as I was led to believe. As local auto mogul Jackie Cooper used to say, “Go with the name you know,” and lots of people do. Pols depend on it.

Addendum: From the Gazette’s Ben Felder:

Population of each of the city’s eight wards: around 75,000.

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Cooperation

Like many of you, I’m pretty much in an anti-incumbent mood right about now, and with City Council elections coming up tomorrow — the first day with non-horrible weather in some time, which is a twist — I get another chance to act upon that particular impulse.

I had kind words for Major Jemison early on: he’s definitely on the side of the angels, and I have no doubt that he could fill this spot on the horseshoe with a measure of gravitas. But his insistence on robocalls Every. Damned. Night. has soured me on the man, or at least on the men behind the man, and I worry that if he’s going to take advice from the kind of people who think a Jayne Jayroe endorsement is worth something, he might be susceptible to all manner of bad ideas once sworn in.

So I turn to James Cooper, who, poor fellow, had to endure a chat session with me at the doorway one weekend. (This makes about the fifth candidate in twelve years who’s had to deal with me in bathrobe mode.) He’s appallingly young, but I figure I can overlook that, especially since my own advanced age has manifestly conferred no wisdom on me. More to the point, he’s willing to deal with specific points in preference to grand generalities: he told me that he envisions the next round of MAPS, for instance, gradually moving northward with extensions of the streetcar line, and he’s willing to spend some serious dollars out of the next set of the city’s General Obligation Bonds to finish up the largely undone sidewalk work in this part of town. If that sounds like he’s favoring his own ward at the expense of others, well, that’s what we pay our guy on the Council to do, and it’s not like we’re paying him a whole lot ($12k a year) either.

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You shall not watch us

Yes, folks, it’s Stupid Bill Time again. Oklahoma still has an Open Records Act, for now, though evidently some legislators dislike the very idea of such a thing:

Fees for public records would be significantly expanded and 10 exemptions would be added to the Oklahoma Open Records Act under a bill approved Thursday by the House Public Safety Committee.

Government officials could even refuse records requests that they considered an “excessive disruption of the essential functions of the public body,” under the bill.

Committee Chairman Mike Christian put forth an amended HB 1361 that kept only the original effective date of next Nov. 1.

Christian is an Oklahoma City Republican, but that doesn’t mean this is nothing but a GOP thing:

The original bill [pdf] by Rep. Claudia Griffith, D-Norman, was not much better. It would have undone recent progress in open government by removing access to all law enforcement recordings and removing statutory language confirming that law enforcement records must be made available for copying by the public. The latter nonsense was likely spurred by the city of Norman’s contention that it didn’t have to allow copying of police records prior to the explicit language taking effect Nov. 1.

I assure you, I didn’t vote for either of these jerks, or for the ones who voted it out of committee. But hey, guys, if you didn’t want the public looking over your shoulder, you probably should be doing something with your lives other than pretending to be public servants.

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Opening salvo

City Council elections are the third of March, and I expect a deluge of mail and more phone calls than I can possibly answer, even if I were going to answer them, which I’m not. And if you’d asked me after the filing period ended in January, I’d have said that basically it was a two-man race, between incumbent/loose cannon Ed Shadid and OCU professor James Cooper, and it was just a matter of which one strikes first.

First strike, in the form of the first mail flyer and the first phone call, came Tuesday, from Major Jemison, senior pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. He’s about sixty, I’d guess. And he has credentials out the wazoo, as the jrank.org Major L. Jemison Biography reports:

A political activist, an innovative church leader, and a bridge-builder between African-American denominations, he has addressed a great variety of issues that are central to the development of the modern black church. President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention since 2002, he stepped into a position once held by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2003 Jemison was recognized by Ebony magazine as one of the 100-plus most influential figures in black America.

He has, of course, retired from that position by now. And his issues page looks almost like my issues page, especially with this paragraph:

The last four years have seen bitterness and divisiveness infect the business of the council, where before there was unity and collaboration. Major Jemison seeks to restore the council to a positive working environment where disagreements are handled professionally and each council member works together in the best interests of the people.

So far, I’m liking what I’m hearing.

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Outdoctrination

Last year, Oklahoma barred the use of any of that greasy Common Core stuff; said Governor Fallin, “We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core.”

Maybe we are, and maybe we aren’t. This incident makes me wonder:

The legality of teaching Advanced Placement courses in Oklahoma public schools was raised Monday during a House Common Education Committee hearing on a bill aimed at the AP U.S. history guidelines.

That measure, House Bill 1380, by Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, would direct the state Board of Education to review those guidelines and bar the use of state funds for AP U.S. history courses.

Where Dan Fisher lurks, can Sally Kern be far behind?

It was also suggested that AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core, with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, saying she has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter.

I sat down and read the actual course description in question — you can too [pdf] — and I think this guideline explains the knotted state of the GOP’s BVDs:

It is the nature of history as a discipline that claims and statements about the past are subject to differences in interpretation. But because the concept outline is the result of careful research into colleges’ requirements for credit and placement, it is essential for the AP Program to provide teachers with visibility into these findings.

And as we all know, for certain values of “we,” colleges today are primarily tasked with turning out neo-Bolsheviks for the New World Order, or some such business.

Fisher’s objection, basically, is that there’s not enough “We’re great! And they suck!” Like anyone would take his word for it. My most reasonable conclusion: yes, there is a reason for American exceptionalism — and there are also exceptions to it.

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Retaking the pledge

In 2005, Patterico called for bloggers to take the same pledge he was taking:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

It took me a day or two, but I eventually saw the wisdom of his approach.

And the Federal Election Commission wisely kept its big yap shut about the matter, until now:

In October, then FEC Vice Chairwoman Ann M. Ravel promised that she would renew a push to regulate online political speech following a deadlocked commission vote that would have subjected political videos and blog posts to the reporting and disclosure requirements placed on political advertisers who broadcast on television. On Wednesday, she will begin to make good on that promise.

“Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed in the Internet alone,” Ravel said in an October statement. “As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense.”

Take your “policy” and shove it, Annie dear. In the best of all possible worlds, there would be no such thing as a Federal Election Commission, and the limit of your public utterances would be “You want fries with that?”

So Patterico is renewing the pledge, and so am I: “If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.”

Period.

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All the cool kids are doing it

That’s the only possible explanation I can see for this:

A poll has just been released which shows that Oklahomans overwhelming favor electing the U.S. President by a national popular vote.

On January 19th and 20th, Public Policy Polling interviewed 893 Oklahomans across the state. The results show that 79% of Oklahomans favor a national popular vote over the current system that rewards the electors to the winner of each state.

Actually, the current system doesn’t do that at all. Voters select a slate of electors, each pledged (or, in some historical incidents, not pledged) to vote for the candidate named on the ballot. (In this state, we even list the actual electors.) But contemporary politicians are utterly desperate for uninformed voters, aren’t they, Robbie?

“It’s clear that the national popular vote is overwhelmingly supported by Oklahomans regardless of party affiliation,” said former State Senator Rob Johnson. Johnson has championed the national popular vote in the Oklahoma State Senate and was the principal author of the legislation in 2014.

It is not any such thing. Get a whiff of the actual poll question:

How do you think we should elect the President: should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current electoral college system? If you think it should be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, press 1. If you think it should be the current electoral college system, press 2.

You do know what a leading question is, don’t you?

Of course, pollsters ask what they’re told to ask. I don’t know anyone who votes the way they’re told to vote, except maybe the anonymous object of Dylan’s scorn in “Positively 4th Street”: “You just want to be on the side that’s winning.” If that’s you, you got a lotta nerve.

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Fair-weather Federalists

Principle? Not if we can help it:

In the last several years, I can count at least four “principled” positions taken by AZ Republicans on Federalism:

  • State law should not pre-empt Federal law (marijuana criminalization)
  • State law should pre-empt Federal law (Obamacare)
  • States should enforce Federal laws that we think the Feds refuse to enforce sufficiently aggressively (immigration)
  • States should prevent the Feds from enforcing Federal law when we think they are being too aggressive in enforcing (Grand Canyon National Park closure during shutdown)

At least Democrats are consistent on Federalism: wherever it is, they’re against it.

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The man must love his work

Just the same, this is a sucky idea:

A constitutional amendment filed [Wednesday] by state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft would ask voters whether or not they want to replace current 12-year term limits with 16-year term limits.

Wesselhoft said House Joint Resolution 1007 would give Oklahomans a chance to cultivate more experience in their state legislators.

“Each time we term out we lose good people with a great deal of knowledge and leadership,” said Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “This empowers the lobbyist and the directors of agencies, which gives them too much influence over government.”

Or we lose terrible people who exploit the position for their own gain and self-aggrandizement, which also empowers the lobbyist and the directors of agencies.

The rule, says Wesselhoft, would not apply to current legislators. (Guess who hits the wall at the end of 2016?) And if we really want to cut the hangers-on out of the loop, we need something like Glenn Reynolds’ “revolving-door surtax.”

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Just don’t say the name

While various allegedly American institutions attempt to chip away at the First Amendment — you know who you are — here’s how things go in a place where such concepts never existed:

Prosecutors seek up to five years of imprisonment for Turkish journalist and anchorwoman Sedef Kabaş for her tweet in which she called on citizens not to forget the name of the judge who dropped the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption probe that involved high-profile names and former Cabinet members.

An indictment has been prepared by the prosecutors on charges of “targeting people involved in the fight against terrorism and making threats,” which is punishable with jail time from one-and-a-half years to five years.

What is it exactly that Kabaş said?

“Do not forget the name of the judge who decided not to pursue the proceedings in the Dec. 17 probe,” Kabaş tweeted. She was referring to a massive graft probe which was officially dropped on Dec. 16 when the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office rejected an objection to its decision to not pursue proceedings in the case.

Seditious, isn’t it? In the meantime, you might not want to tweet anything about Ekrem Aydıner.

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What the Huck

Well, isn’t this sweet?

Former Arkansas governor and talk show host Mike Huckabee, who recently hung up his microphone in order to explore running for president again, says his 2016 campaign (if it happens) will differ from his 2008 run at the GOP nomination. He will only run this time if he funds his campaign at a level necessary to duke it out at full speed for the long haul.

One thing Huckabee has going for him: he’s not named Bush or Romney. Still, I expect several candidates to surpass those fairly minimal standards. And I figure I may be able to trot out this 2008 quote once more:

“We started this effort with very little recognition and virtually no resources. We ended with slightly more recognition and very few resources.”

History, sometimes, is stuck on replay.

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We don’t care who’s your daddy

The Z Man suggests that the very idea of a Jeb Bush candidacy would have been anathema in the early days of the nation:

The Founders certainly had a dim view of political dynasties. They had that in mind when designing the national government. They wanted the best and brightest to be attracted to state and local government, not the national government. This was, in part, to make political dynasties difficult to establish. A look through the biographies of the Founders say they knew a thing or two about the children of powerful men turning out to be nitwits.

There is an expression that goes, “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.” The first generation builds the family fortune, starting from the working class. The next generation does its best to maintain it, but mostly lives off the fruits of their fathers. The third generation blows through what’s left and ends up back in the same level as the founding generation. The Kennedy family is a good example.

No matter how it looks, this is not an argument for the estate tax. Then again, if we argue that there must be upward mobility for those at the bottom, we can’t really complain about downward mobility for those at the top.

I think the children of the king probably do, on average, possess more of the magic stuff that makes for a good king than most children. I also think they have precisely the wrong environment to cultivate that magic stuff. Poppy Bush served in WW2 and almost died in the Pacific. In other words, as a young man he had to cultivate his leadership assets under duress. His kids cultivated their assets getting drunk and chasing tail at elite preparatory schools. Seeds amongst the stones.

This does not sound hopeful for George P. Bush, son of Jeb. Let’s hope George P. has no political aspirations beyond Texas Land Commissioner.

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Replete with chiefs

An amusing (for once) Oklahoman editorial this morning:

[W]e couldn’t help but chuckle when Democratic Leader Randy Bass of Lawton announced [Senate] caucus leadership positions and committee appointments. The leadership positions included one Democratic leader (Bass), two assistant Democratic leaders, a Democratic caucus chair, a Democratic caucus vice-chair, two Democratic whips, and four assistant Democratic floor leaders.

Which is, admittedly, a lot of positions to be filled by only seven legislators. (There were actually eight at the beginning of the year, but Jabar Shumate resigned a few days ago.)

Still, the electorate should not feel bad for the badly outnumbered Democratic caucus:

The Democrats’ numerical challenges also were reflected in their committee assignments. Every Democrat will serve on eight committees or appropriation subcommittees. As a point of comparison, there were Republican senators who served on just five committees or subcommittees last year. If Democratic legislators make every one of their assigned meetings, no one can accuse them of not giving the voters their money’s worth.

And you have to figure that the GOP isn’t going to hold 40 out of 48 seats forever, just out of sheer fractiousness.

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Beyond small government

Behold nonexistent government:

Delaware’s smallest town has a big problem.

Hartly, with a population of 74, has no functioning government. There’s no one to pay the bills, collect taxes, enforce codes, or apply for state aid.

Taxes for Delaware’s tiniest incorporated town haven’t been collected in at least two years and the town is thousands of dollars in debt. How much, exactly, is anybody’s guess.

The situation has left it in a precarious position with only two clear options: reform the government, which may not even be possible, or dissolve the charter and get swallowed up by Kent County.

Part of that debt was incurred by extralegal means:

Much of the town’s debt could be repaid if former Hartly treasurer Richard Casson Jr. repaid his debts to the town. Casson was sentenced to one year in jail in 2004 for embezzling $89,000 over a three-year period. Part of the sentencing required him to repay the town. To date, he’s only reimbursed $5,390, according to the state prosecutor’s office.

I’m wondering if this statistic might mean something:

The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 81.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 59.4 males.

This is tantalizingly close to Jan Berry’s desired ratio. Unfortunately, Hartly is hard by the Maryland border, away from the ocean, so there’s no surfing.

(Via Fark.)

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The personal gets more political

We have thrown in the towel, says Francis W. Porretto:

Time was, the American mantra was “Mind your own BLEEP!ing business.” It’s been years since that was the case. These days, it’s “There oughta be a law.” The shift in attitudes could hardly be more dramatic.

The evidence is everywhere. Just one example: What’s the Republican slogan about ObamaCare? “Repeal and Replace.” Why “replace?” Why not simply repeal the monstrosity and let people make their own decisions about how to pay for medical products and services, as free people once did? Too simple? Too easy to measure against a standard for achievement? Not “compassionate” enough?

Actually, since government interference in the healthcare market is a major factor in the ridiculous pricing of healthcare services these days, rolling back the ACA would not accomplish the presumed desideratum of making this stuff affordable; they’d also have to scrap, or radically redesign, Medicare as well. This isn’t happening, and probably won’t be until Logan’s Run is mandated.

But there’s no arguing with this:

Stop kidding yourself. Politicians worship political power. They want politics involved in everything. If they could get away with it, they’d pass laws about how you should sit on the toilet — and a hefty schedule of fines for violations. Their party alignment makes no difference whatsoever.

They’ve already passed laws about how much you can flush, which has had one obvious effect: multiple flushings for the same load, there being, in this case anyway, a limit to how much crap Americans will put up with.

Inevitably, there have been system issues as well, which should remind you of something you learned in Algebra I: the moment you change an item on one side, the equation no longer balances.

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You serfs have no right to do that

And we’re going to sue you for voting against our revenue measure:

Three towns in Missouri joined together to sue the the residents of St. Charles [County] who voted to ban red light cameras. St. Peters, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon are asking a county circuit court judge to overturn the charter amendment banning automated enforcement adopted in November with the support of 73 percent of voters. City leaders argue that the 69,469 residents who voted for the measure had no business limiting the right of local politicians to use automated ticketing machines.

“The charter amendment invades the legislative jurisdiction of cities in contravention of state policy, and conflicts with the authority specifically delegated to cities by the state to address their specific needs including traffic and enforcement of traffic regulations,” attorney Matthew J. Fairless wrote in the cities’ complaint.

The suit alleges the charter amendment will result in “a loss of revenue” and, therefore, each of the cities has standing to sue. The cities also argue that the Missouri General Assembly gave each city government “exclusive control over all streets, alleys, avenues and public highways within the limits of such city” so that the people who live in the county have no say in the decisions made by political leaders.

Meanwhile, the state has never actually authorized these things, and a case is pending before the state Supreme Court to determine whether they can. Which clearly doesn’t bother at least one of these towns:

St. Peters was the first American city to see a red light camera corruption trial. Former Mayor Shawn Brown was convicted of soliciting a bribe from Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia. He was released from prison in 2008.

Not that this counts as motivation or anything.

(Via Fark.)

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18 holes and quit digging

Some people must simply hate the idea that Barack Obama plays golf:

More people than I can count have taken to social media in the aftermath of the shooting to complain that once the president condemned the shooting, he went back to his vacation schedule, and specifically, that he had the temerity to play golf during that vacation.

This reaction is ridiculous beyond belief, spectacularly juvenile, and should stop at some point before the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Here is why:

First of all, if the world stopped for an American president every time a police officer is killed, the world would stop an awful lot and the president’s job would become nothing short of impossible to do. I do not write this to diminish the deaths of police officers; whenever a police officer loses his of her life at the hands of some hoodlum, the proper response should be outrage, not resignation. But after the shooting occurs, what is the president supposed to do? Call a meeting of the National Security Council? Go to DEFCON 2? Ask Congress for a declaration of war? What?

And it’s not like he takes that many vacation days, either.

Still, I’m not betting on the Cubs in ’15 or ’16, and in ’17 it won’t matter.

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Havana wild weekend

The argument in favor of normalizing relations with Cuba:

Some people say we shouldn’t be dealing with a police state like Cuba. I say that’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black. We have the biggest security organization in the world. OK, China’s is probably bigger in terms of manpower, but ours is no slouch. Future wars are going to be cyber-wars fought by secret security organizations. Terrorists just serve to keep people distracted while the king monkeys steal all the monkey biscuits.

Or, to borrow the words of a security expert:

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Quote of the week

The left of the Sixties and Seventies is not quite the left of today, speculates the Z Man:

Back then the radicals were building a coalition in order to take control of the Democratic Party and then the country. Today, they run the country. The reason Washington looks like a high school cafeteria is because it is an adult version of what these people experienced as kids. The cool kids were the ones smoking weed and freaking out the squares, while the dorks publicly resented the fact they couldn’t join them, but privately wish they could. Those kids grew up and became Democrats and Republicans, respectively.

It’s why liberal hectoring sounds suicidal. The people in charge are railing about the people in charge. The people in charge are raising a mob from the dispossessed to assault the people in charge. The radicals of forty years ago at least had a rational aim in mind. Today it is an aging street fighter looking for a fight when there’s no one left to fight. It is both irrational and ridiculous.

But is it dead, Jim? I still hear the screams:

It’s also why this may be the end of the Left and radical politics in America. It has burned itself out like we have seen with every Marxist-Leninist state. It’s ironic that Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba. Just as the American Radicals who were inspired by Castro are heading into an absurd decline, the end of the Castro brothers will be Walmart selling Che t-shirts in Havana.

Yeah, that ought to do it. The commodification of ideology. Another twenty years and it will be fashionable to own what North Korea thinks is a car.

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Faster, please

The opening sentence of John Phillips’ column in the January Car and Driver:

In 1991, I wrote about a Top Fuel dragster that was homing in on the NHRA’s first 300-mph quarter-mile pass, a velocity that many felt might teleport the driver so far into the future that he’d land in an era where Congress couldn’t pass bills.

Current NHRA Top Fuel quarter-mile record at this writing is held by Spencer Massey of Fort Worth, Texas, who has done the deed in a certified 332.18 mph.

Apparently that’s still not fast enough.

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Getting mighty crowded in here

So: 619 million Americans, then? No wonder I can’t find a parking place.

2014 Bureau of the Census estimate is 319,309,000. So no matter what kind of number-crunching Abramowitz thinks he’s doing, it’s wrong from the word Go. And this whole scene could have been avoided had we realized from the start that the Seventeenth Amendment was a crock and killed it off before it could do any more damage.

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Quote of the week

Theodore Dalrymple, in Taki’s, muses on a major deficiency of democracy:

Modern politicians, having been given the mandate of heaven (vox populi vox Dei), do not accept limitations of their authority or their moral competence, even if, in practice, only a third or even a quarter of the eligible voters have voted for them. Procedural correctness is all that is necessary for such a man to feel justified in pursuing his own moral enthusiasms at other people’s expense.

But the more firmly the politicians believe in their heavenly mandate, the more the political class is divided from the sacred people from whom that mandate allegedly derives. (I have noticed with astonishment recently how increasingly many of the potential candidates in the perpetual American presidential race are close relatives of previous candidates or at least of high-flying politicians.) Indeed, many a monarch and even dictator has been more physically accessible to the populace than modern democratic politicians, suggesting a deficiency of real rather than assumed or theoretical legitimacy. Democracy in the modern sense encourages monomania in the population, in which every citizen is viewed as, and many actually become, a potential assassin, from whom the democratic politician must be protected like gold in vaults. Where politics is the location of all virtue, politicians are the lightning conductors of all discontents.

They’ll make a monarchist of me yet.

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A thin recruiting pool

The conventional wisdom, accorded even more conventionality during this particular administration, is that governors make better Presidents than do members of Congress. This sounds questionable to me, and downright ridiculous to Bill Quick:

Who were the most successful presidents of the past 100 years? I’d nominate Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Ronald Reagan, and LBJ. Three former governors, but one — arguably the most effective legislator post Roosevelt — a lifelong creature of Congress.

How about the worst Presidents? I’d go with Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and … George W. Bush. Three governors, one from Congress.

Being a state governor is no guarantee that a president will understand or be able to effectively deal with the intricacies of governance at the federal level, where the issues are larger and more critical, the bureaucracies more embedded and sclerotic, and the egos larger and more tender.

This makes more sense if one imagines, say, a Mary Fallin presidential bid: a nice pair of legs does not offset a tin ear.

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So how come you didn’t vote?

There is exactly one proper response:

I take voting seriously — if I have skipped an election, it is because my former party has nominated someone as objectionable as the other party has and I want no blame for whichever loser wins and subsequently makes losers out of the rest of us.

I will presume to speak on behalf of many registered voters of several parties and say that if those who send out letters about our voting frequency would like us to vote more often, they should make more of an effort to nominate candidates who do not suck.

But that couldn’t happen, could it?

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth, on the Wednesday following the first Tuesday in November:

I have to confess that I was entirely apathetic about the midterm election, insofar as I believe both parties are pawns of moneyed interests with plans to turn the nation into an economic facsimile of Brazil where drugged-out proles play Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy all day and mobility between the classes is murdered with extreme prejudice. Mr. Obama’s milquetoast pretensions to watered-down pseudo-populism have proven to be completely ephemeral and under his supposedly Democratic administrations the holders of capital in this country have experienced a new Gilded Age while the government openly fiddles the numbers in order to turn the tens of millions of healthy and competent but utterly unemployable men in this country into nonpersons.

Still, I was pleased to wake up this morning and see that American voters had delivered a hammer to the back of Mr. Obama’s head with a staggering repudiation of his administration and his nonexistent accomplishments. It cannot be helped that most of the politicians who benefited from this ballots-not-bullets revolution are scarcely any different from the ones they replaced. What is important is that the country reaffirmed its willingness to eject major percentages of sitting elected officials for low performance.

The metaphor that works for me here is the doofus who’s gone 120,000 miles on the same automatic transmission fluid: eventually, he has to do something about the stuff, which by now looks more like Nesquik than like Fanta Strawberry, but everybody screamed “DON’T FLUSH IT!” So he had someone drop the pan and refill the unit. This improved things a bit, but it eventually dawned on him that the fluid that was in the torque converter at the time he had it serviced is still sloshing around inside there, so he takes it back to the shop, parts with another $150, and repeats the process. Eventually the fluid looks like, and smells like, what it’s supposed to be. Of course, had he flushed it, it would have failed before he got it home from the shop the first time, or so everybody says. I’ve always suspected that this was confusing correlation with causation: the trans was already about to fail, and fail it did.

(Personal note: I once bought a car that pretty much demanded the flush: the pan was vertically oriented, and the filter was internal and couldn’t be reached for cleaning. It did not fail me. Then again, I didn’t leave the same ATF in it for 120,000 miles, either.)

Which is by way of saying that if things don’t look better in a couple of years — well, a third of the Senate will be replaced in 2016.

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