Feb 132008

I don’t get this at all. Johnnie B. Byrd says conservatives should get to work to support John McCain; otherwise the Democrats will win and will re-institute the Fairness Doctrine.

Where did he ever get the idea that Mr. McCain-Feingold would be any different? He hasn’t exactly expressed any respect for talk radio in particular or free speech in general. In fact, he has been badmouthing both.

If conservatives want to have any impact in defending the 1st Amendment, they need to work hard to defeat McCain. That’s the only way to show that free-speech advocates are still a force to be reckoned with. It’s not much, and it would be better to have some sort of positive effect, but it’s about all that we have.

And it’s not just enough to defeat McCain. The media will try to spin his loss of the conservative base in any way BUT as a Bill of Rights issue. Defeating McCain would be only the first step. The 2nd is to make sure everyone knows why he was really defeated.

If McCain wins, conservatives who support him will bear much responsibility for whatever assaults on the 1st Amendment he decides to pursue.

If Hillary wins, she will control the media machine through the usual tactics of intimidation, and it won’t do much good to have defeated McCain. But Obama might by temperment be disinclined to pursue the shutting down of dissent that most in his party desire. The knowledge that conservatives managed to defeat McCain on this issue might give have a salutary effect on him.

It’s not much, but with free speech under assault around the globe –Chavez shutting down radio stations, Democrats wanting to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, Putin having journalists murdered, Bill Clinton (who ordinarily cares a lot about what kind of photos of him get printed) getting hugs from the guy who had a dissident journalist decapitated, Ezra Levant being hauled before a tribunal — the list goes on and on. We have to use what little is left in our arsenal to defend it.

Feb 092008

Wired magazine tells about a $30 million project to piece together a billion pieces of paper records that were torn up by the East German Stasi, but which they hadn’t gotten around to destroying. And the destroyed records amount to only about five percent of its files:

the agency had generated perhaps more paper than any other bureaucracy in history — possibly a billion pages of surveillance records, informant accounting, reports on espionage, analyses of foreign press, personnel records, and useless minutiae. There’s a record for every time anyone drove across the border.

The main reason we need lower taxes is not for economic growth, though that is an important reason. The main reason is so the government cannot afford to do things remotely like this.

And it’s interesting that even in a government like that of East Germany, it almost seemed laughable at the time to think it would be harassing dissenters by letting the air out of their tires. But the records show that that is indeed what was happening to Ulrike Poppe. Is it really so far-fetched to think that Kathleen Willey was experiencing the same sort of treatment from the Clintons?

She even tracked down the Stasi officer who managed her case, and after she set up a sort of ambush for him at a bar — he thought he was there for a job interview — they continued to get together. Over the course of half a dozen meetings, they talked about what she found in her files, why the Stasi was watching her, what they thought she was doing. For months, it turned out, an agent was assigned to steal her baby stroller and covertly let the air out of her bicycle tires when she went grocery shopping with her two toddlers. “If I had told anyone at the time that the Stasi was giving me flat tires, they would have laughed at me,” she says. “It was a way to discredit people, make them seem crazy. I doubted my own sanity sometimes.” Eventually, the officer broke off contact, but continued to telephone Poppe — often drunk, often late at night, sometimes complaining about his failing marriage. He eventually committed suicide.

Feb 082008

A comment I posted to another article on History News Network — an article that has this heading: “Deborah Lipstadt: Stanley Fish nails it … ‘Hillary hatred’ is just like antisemitism”

All those words, in this article and Fish’s, and not one example of a contradictory criticism of Hillary Clinton.

It’s hard to believe there aren’t any, but one would think a few words could be spared to give an example.

Feb 082008

History News Network has reproduced an article by a Paul Mirengoff titled, “Obama’s a masked man.” Mirengoff likes what he’s read of Shelby Steele’s book, “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win.”

Steele views Obama as the first black politician to ride the strategy of “bargaining” to great success. For Steele, bargaining is one of two approaches blacks have used as a “mask” in order to offset the power differential between blacks and whites. He considers Louis Armstrong the first great bargainer with white America. Armstrong’s deal was, I will entertain you without pretending to be your equal. His mask, partly borrowed from the minstrel tradition, included the famous smile and laughter.

Today the bargain that works is this: I will presume that you’re not a racist and by loving me you’ll show that my presumption is correct. Blacks who offer this bargain are betting on white decency, and whites love this.

For Steele, bargainers include Bill Cosby, Tiger Woods (to some extent), and best of all Oprah Winfrey. The power of the bargain, which is founded on white Americas overwhelming desire to get beyond racism, is capable of creating “iconic Negroes.” It confers an almost magical quality on its best practitioners, such as Oprah. This is manifested in the ability to sell almost any product to whites.

Whatever the merits of whatever “bargain” it is that Obama is making, he can hardly be said to be the first black politican to do it. A case can be made that all politicians do it. George Washington obsessed over his “character,” by which he meant his public persona. And so on, with everyone else.  It’s part of the bargaining process between politician and public.

However, I think historians usually use the term “negotiated” rather than “bargaining.” I may be treading in deep water way over my head here, having had no formal education on this topic, but I run into this concept all the time in historical writing.  And a little googling found me a wiki article about “Negotiated Order Theory” in which there is this statement:

As Strauss (1978: ix) has suggested, even the most repressive of social orders are inconceivable without some form of negotiation. In such total institutions as maximum security prisons, staff and inmates may negotiate their own interpretation of the social order, often constructing an alternative that may be just as formal, although tacit, as that it replaces. The concept of negotiated order provides a useful way of displaying how such social orders emerge and become processed in the mesostructure of organizational life.

Negotiated order is the consequence of give-nd-take interaction within settings predefined by broader, and usually more formal, rules, norms, laws, or expectations, in order to secure preferred ends (or “stakes”).

“The negotiated order on any given day could be conceived of as the sum total of the organization’s rules and policies, along with whatever agreements, understandings, pacts, contracts, and other working arrangements currently obtained” (Strauss, 1978: 5-6).

In other words, all political relationships are negotiated (or bargained) relationships, even those among the most unequal of parties.    It’s hardly fair to put down Barak Obama for doing what everyone else has to do, too.

(I was amused by the other commenter besides myself, though, when she used religious language to describe the man:  “one will soon realize that it is not only Obama’s face and voice that appeal almost universally to everyone but also the content of his spoken discourse, which can transfigure us all.”)

Feb 082008

As a conservative who will not vote for John McCain, I seem to be on the receiving end of a lot of conservative vitriol.

John Hawkins says there is nothing conservative or principled about me.

Daniel Henninger of the WSJ says I need to grow up.

Kathleen Parker says I’m a cannibal.

Linda Chavez says I’m truculent.

A commenter at In The Agora says I’m a political terrorist.

But I won’t be voting for McCain.  It’s a shame, because there are a couple of important points on which I  agree with him.  I think he would handle the Iraq war better than any of the other candidates, and that is huge.  I agree with him on protecting the ANWR (though would gladly have the whole place strip-mined if that could somehow keep him or Hillary out of the presidency).

It’s too bad, but his stance against free speech and the First Amendment is a show stopper.

I doubt I’ll vote for Barak Obama, but I would much prefer a liberal Barak Obama to an authoritarian/fascist John McCain or an authoritarian/fascist Hillary Clinton.   The question for me is, is Barak Obama really a liberal?  I’m not sure if it’s possible for a liberal to exist in American politics these days.  But if Obama is one and the worst he wants to do is destroy the economy through redistributionist tax codes, I think we could survive four years of it.

Feb 082008

The real problem with nationalized health care is not that it will decrease the quality of health care and raise costs, though it will do that, judging by how it has worked everywhere it has been tried. But some people are willing to accept that, in exchange for the benefits.

No, the real problem is the threat to civil liberties. Here is an example of how it makes a tempting kudgel for the government to use to keep people in line:

WHEN THE Department of Homeland Security came out with the final REAL ID regulations last month, a top official threw the department’s final Hail Mary, suggesting that REAL ID could be used to control access to cold medicine. That’s right: cold medicine. The lesson? Once a national ID system is in place, the federal government will use it for tighter and tighter control of every American.

This quote is from an article in The American Spectator by Jim Harper of the Cato Institute. Here’s another:

REAL ID isn’t about national security. It isn’t about illegal immigration. It isn’t about identity fraud, or even cold medicine. It’s about Washington politics. Federal bureaucrats want to coerce states like Virginia into building a multi-billion dollar system for identifying, tracking, and controlling law-abiding citizens.

And of course, one could make a very similar statement about nationalized health care.

Feb 072008

An article by Lee Harris in The Weekly Standard got me to checking for the latest news on the Ezra Levant case in Canada.

Ezra Levant has a blog which he tells us is getting a lot of hits:

in the past month, I’ve had 152,000 “unique visitors” of whom 49,000 are “returning visitors”. According to Haloscan.com, I’ve had more than
1,500 comments. And then there’s the YouTube videos, 471,000 views amongst them.”

(That happens to be more hits than this blog gets.)

And a liberal MP (Keith Martin) has submitted a motion to remove the section of the Human Rights Code that allows the sort of inquisitions undergone by Levant and Mark Steyn. But it sounds as though his party has been pressuring him to withdraw it, though there are the usual denials, etc. News item about it here.

If you google for information about Ezra Levant, you will see that while this topic is getting a lot of attention in Canada, the U.S. news media are paying no attention to it. These would be the same news media types who attack Bush for his unilateralism and for ignoring world opinion. These would also be the same news media types who want us to look to Canada for lessons on how to handle health care.

I say it would be worth asking our presidential candidates about it. There are people clamoring for hate crime laws in the U.S. There are concerns about McCain’s attitude towards free speech. There are those who complained about Bush’s unilateralism, and those who threatened to move to Canada if Bush was re-elected in 2004. It would seem to be about as relevant an issue for discussion as you could find (and probably one a lot less boring than the usual gas about “change.”)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction: The U.S. media will continue to ignore it and will NOT ask our presidential candidates about it.

Feb 062008

From a news story in the Washington Post about the primary election results:

[Hillary Clinton] also presented herself as a candidate who “won’t let anyone Swift-boat this country’s future.”

What is that supposed to mean? She’s going to crack down on people who exercise their 1st Amendment rights to criticize politicians? She’s not going to allow dissent or criticism of her health care plans?

When I see things like that, the description of my life in the “About” section of this blog seems unfunnier than ever.

Feb 062008

The WSJ editorializes on the “stimulus”.

President Bush and Congress are marching arm in arm to pass their economic “stimulus,” but it’s clear that at least one group of observers isn’t impressed: investors. They blew right through all the Beltway happy talk yesterday, selling off the major stock indexes by some 3% or so on an ugly day.

I suppose an alternative possibility is that investors are spooked by the prospect of a Clinton, Obama, or McCain becoming president and are bailing out while they can still cut their losses.

But more likely they’re spooked by the results of bipartisanship.

I’m guessing the reason the Congress and President are acting so quickly on this package is that they need to do it quickly before people learn that it won’t do any good.  The important point for them is to expand the size and scope of government  while they have a chance.

Yes, the rebates are mostly temporary, but the expansion of government will be permanent.  The new spending will have to be paid for, which will create pressure for higher taxes, which will create pressure for more spending.