I am sure you have heard numerous times how Hispanics are yearning to vote Republican. I see very little evidence of it.
I look at the countries where America's Hispanic population is haling from and what I see are governments with very large footprints, Catholic churches manned by radical left-wing priests, and aggrieved populations who are prone to cult of personality politics, especially if said personality is willing to divide the country between the haves and the have nots.
I do not see people growing up in that environment as natural Republican voters. Maybe in the America of old, without a political/NGO/grievance industry, but not today.
I see some thing very similar in my own immigrant/exile community of Iranians. They are well educated, family-oriented, hard working, and successful -- and they vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
What do you think?
This is the Washington Post's top line takeaway from President Obama's speech at the Brandenburg Gate today:
BERLIN — President Obama on Wednesday called for reducing the number of deployed U.S. strategic nuclear warheads by one-third if the Russian government agrees to a similar cut, reviving a goal outlined early in his presidency to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama’s proposal, which met with a cool reception in Moscow, came during a much-anticipated speech here that sought to shake Western nations from complacency that he said has taken hold since the end of the Cold War.
The nuclear zero pitch is one of those hits that Obama's retired from his live set for a while (then again, so was climate change talk, apparently because POTUS got spooked by dial testing, but it showed up in Berlin too with a reference to warming as the "global threat of our time.") In a triumph of hope over experience, I had hoped that its absence might have owed to someone deep in the bowels of the White House realizing how full-tilt crazy it is.
Let's start with the short-term goal. The Russians don't want to deal. Unless you're more concerned with applause lines than national security concerns, the conversation basically stops there. But let's assume for a moment that Vlad the Whale Impaler decided he was all goo-goo for the idea. At the end of the day, what do you get? Does anybody believe that the world is 1/3 safer with 1/3 reductions in the American and Russian nuclear arsenals? Both countries reportedly have around 4,500 warheads. I hate to turn away the president's complimentary Kool-Aid, but it seems to me that the conversation reaches a level of academic abstraction well before you get into the quadruple digits.
How about the long-term goal? "A world without nuclear weapons?" Ironically, the best argument I've ever heard against this stripe of utopianism came from an advocate of nuclear disarmament, former Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry, who, in the documentary Nuclear Tipping Point notes "we cannot uninvent nuclear weapons. We cannot repeal E=MC2" (the relevant clip is at just after the 49 minute mark). It takes up about 15 seconds of that film and rebukes the other 55 minutes.
All that's required for nuclear disarmament to become a dangerous fool's errand is for at least one rogue leader anywhere in the world not to play along -- a situation it seems fairly likely will obtain into eternity. Perhaps nuclear disarmament is a beautiful dream, but it's a dream nonetheless. This is what happens when we conflate the means of aggression with the motivation. And it's what happens when we allow ourselves to believe, even for a moment, that the tendency towards darkness in the human heart can be remedied by speeches, diplomacy, and multilateral agreements.
It's a waste of time. And, through my jaundiced eye anyway, it betrays a fundamental lack of seriousness.
Due to some complicated travel plans and conflicting schedules, we're going to take this week off. But we'll be back next week with a new show. In the meantime, please peruse our voluminous archive of podcasts stretching back over the past two years. Here's one of our favorites. Here's another one.
Have a favorite episode or one you'd like to hear? Nominate one in the comments below and we'll add the most voted on to the feed on Thursday. Also, support your local TV writer: be sure and watch Sullivan & Son tomorrow night!
See you next week.
Everyone agrees: Having children can change your life in profound ways. But for better or for worse?
Study after study says that parents are unhappier than non-parents--and that the less you invest in your kids, the happier you will be. Having kids, after all, is all about sacrifice, struggle, doubt, anxiety, and even terror for parents:
Several months ago, the novelist Zadie Smith wrote an essay for the New York Review of Books on joy, a complicated emotion that lies at the heart of parenting she argued. In the essay, Smith captured the paradox of parenting: Children, so-called “bundles of joy,” can make parents profoundly unhappy.
“Occasionally, the child, too, is a pleasure,” she wrote, “though mostly she is a joy, which means in fact she gives us not much pleasure at all, but rather that strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize a joy, and now must find some way to live with daily.” Smith went on to write, “Sometimes joy multiplies itself dangerously. Children are the infamous example. Isn’t it bad enough that the beloved, with whom you have experienced genuine joy, will eventually be lost to you? Why add to this nightmare the child, whose loss, if it ever happened, would mean nothing less than your total annihilation?”
One of the most egregious deficits of logic among the left is their stubborn insistence that Barack Obama has brought the economy back to health at the same time that millions more Americans are on food stamps. Enrollment in food stamps has grown 65% from 2008 to 2012, while spending on the program has more than doubled in the same span.
House Republicans are proposing that $20 billion be cut from the program over the next ten years, which would come to about 2.5% per year – and liberals are going absolutely insane.
Democrats have begun a ridiculous campaign called the “SNAP Challenge” where they try to live on the average SNAP benefit per person. Keep in mind the very first letter of the program – it’s supposed to be "supplemental", not the only source of nutrition.
Even so, the Democrats’ pathetic failure at this simple task -- which many Americans fulfill without assistance -- has brought on many an occasion for ridicule. Here are the worst offenders:
10) PUT YOUR GROCERIES IN BAGS, UNLESS IT’S A PHOTO OP
These Democrats are really hamming it up – it’s like they all sat down and watched Schindler’s List before their photo ops. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) looks especially pathetic here, but why are none of her groceries in bags? She’s so faux poor, she can’t even afford them. Poor thing!
9) SHOP FOR EVERYTHING AT ONCE – DO NOT PURCHASE YOUR MEALS EVERY DAY!
We really feel bad for Representative Marc Veasey (D-TX) – apparently he hasn’t figured out that buying and preparing food in bulk is cheaper and more efficient than stupidly buying food for each day that same day.
Who put this genius in charge of the nation’s purse strings?! Get it together, Fort Worth!!
8) GRATE YOUR OWN CHEESE, LAZY! AND TURN ON A D**N STOVE!!
This is so laughably stupid that I am just shocked that anyone falls for the fake sob story. Massachusetts is surely proud of Jimmy McGovern, democratically representing everyone in his district that has absolutely no clue how to turn on a stove and make a quesadilla.
Jimbo, splurge on some jalapenos and veggies, and you’ll have a great breakfast!
Also, get up 2 minutes earlier and grate your own cheese. It saves you 30-50% on the price, but you actually have to get off your butt.
7) QUIT BUYING PRE-PREPARED FOOD.
Wisconsin must have been very happy to rid itself of Democrat Mark “Einstein” Pocan, because they shipped him off to the US House of Representatives to flail about ignorantly. The first thing he did was buy pre-made burgers – 2 for $6!!
Even when democrats are trying to pretend to understand the poor, they can’t do it!! Not only are these burgers much more expensive than making your own from ground beef and buns, but it’s a brand name, pre-made food!! This is getting painful.
Pocan actually was proud of himself because the Boca burgers were on sale!
6) STYLE TIPS: DARK LIGHTING MAKES YOUR FOOD PICS LOOK EVEN MORE TRAGIC
Another entry from Massachusetts is Jamie Eldridge, State Senator, who really tugged at our heartstrings by retweeting this pic of a SNAP challenger and self identified “Healthcare Leader.” He made sure to pull the shades and make it seem like he’s imprisoned in a gulag. My heart is bleeding for you, black and white ennui food sufferer!!
5) QUIT WHINING THAT YOU CAN’T AFFORD MOUNTAIN DEW
OK, look, soda is bad for you, and Mountain Dew is one of the worst. But don’t sit there and whine that you’re having to drink water – oh you poor thing, how do you manage? Representative Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) really tries to elicit sympathy because he couldn’t budget and save 99 cents to buy a liter of Mountain Dew.
For one thing, he could have bought ramen instead of brand name lunch noodles. Or maybe even, horror of horrors, actually prepare something instead of lazily buying something you just toss hot water into. Sweet Quetzalcoatl.
One last option – you could buy kool-aid packets for 15 cents each and make your own. Unfortunately, it would require you to mix powder in water. Wouldn’t want you to strain yourself, Rep. Payne.
4) NO ONE EATS CAMPBELL’S SOUP OUT OF A CAN. ARE YOU SERIOUS?
I have been all sorts of poor in my life and I have never, ever, not once eaten out of a Campbell’s soup can. New York City Mayoral hopeful John C. Liu has seen way too many hobo scenes in movies from the fifties because he thinks this tear-inducing picture is representative of the plight of the poor.
Here’s an extra photo op tip, Johnny – don’t try to make people feel sorry for you while you sit in the back of your spacious limousine and force your aide to take a picture of you!
3) USE YOUR BRAIN TO BUDGET A LITTLE AND YOU WON’T NEED TO EAT DRY TOAST
Doris Matsui (D-CA) perfectly represents the idiocy currently reigning in my beloved California. So you’re budgeting $4.50 a day and you’re eating a piece of dry toast and one egg? Did you purchase that egg secondhand from Representative Donald Payne (see below) and screw up your entire budget? Are we to really believe she couldn’t have doubled up on toast and eggs for a few paltry pennies and stuck some cheese in there?
She should be ashamed that she could post this and believe Americans are stupid enough to buy it, but it’s actually working pretty well.
2) FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS NOT STUPID, DO NOT SHOP AT WHOLE FOODS
Look, Whole Foods is a great store, but there’s a reason they dysphemistically call it “Whole Paycheck.” You don’t shop there if you’re on a budget unless you’re really trying to fail. Which is what Matthew Wright is doing:
TWO BANANAS. Look closely – he bought TWO bananas at the same price I pay for a dozen! And ONE apple?! Why are you buying ONE apple?! Luckily, Matt isn’t a legislator – he’s just a dimwitted advocate for “children’s health issues.” He didn’t respond to my spirited criticism.
And the FINAL and GREATEST stupidity that real Americans absolutely avoid is….
1) DO NOT BE DONALD PAYNE JR.
For my money, you just can’t beat the idiocy that keeps coming out of Representative Donald Payne, Jr. For his very first day, instead of buying a dozen eggs and boiling one or two for breakfast, the pride of New Jersey actually purchased one egg … for $1.08. ONE. EGG. And his constituents praised him for his “compassion” on his Facebook page!!!
We are doomed, America, but at least we’ll have a great time laughing at the idiots in charge while our country collapses under their brilliant leadership!
These are just a few examples and don’t come close to exposing the iceberg of stupidity that liberals are dropping in the twitter hashtag #SNAPchallenge. Go see for yourself!
Also, for a more erudite analysis of the challenge, see Kristina Ribali’s great column at Freedomworks, and for pretty hilarious audio where we utterly destroy the premises behind this campaign, listen to our podcast!
UPDATE: New VIDEO! The First Sooper Mexy COOKING Show!! A Taco-Takedown of the SNAP Challenge!!
On June 12, Roger Pilon and I published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune that defended the constitutionality and, in large measure, the wisdom of the NSA's anti-terrorist surveillance program. Our position was, and remains, that it is idle to insist that libertarian concerns with limited government are a knock-out punch against the continued operation of such a program.
It is, of course, permissible and perhaps even advisable to take the line that the size of this program has grown out of proportion relative to any underlying security threat, as was done recently by Robert Higgs when he asked in a powerful post on the Ludwig von Mises Institute website, "Why This Gigantic “intelligence” Apparatus?" There is doubtless some who would contend that the $75 billion intelligence budget only looks to be disproportionately large because its success has driven terrorists into the wings. But my guess is that much of this cost (especially in connection with the bank financial reporting requirements under the Patriot Act) is wasteful. Some pruning seems in order. But to decide how much is appropriate there is no substitute for the very imperfect process of democratic deliberations. Those deliberations will only work if undertaken by individuals who are sensitive to the many necessary trade-offs between liberty and security.
I am very reluctant to voice strong opinions on that mix because I have no inside knowledge that would allow for informed judgment on the issue. I don’t have a similar reluctance, however, to address the legal and philosophical issues surrounding that aggressive surveillance program in regard to both ends and means. I see no issue with the validity of the ends of surveillance. Protecting the public against the use of force and fraud is the paramount end of government, which does not disappear simply because that elusive threat comes from unknown quarters. The amorphous nature of the threat requires extensive surveillance until we can identify responsible parties against whom direct action can be taken. As Paul F. deLespinasse urged in a thoughtful op-ed in The Oregonian, it makes no sense to limit metadata searches to known suspects when unknown suspects may well pose the central danger. Therefore, the correct approach is to cast the net wide by tracing connections, invoking more intrusive searches only when justified by concrete evidence. Exactly how that progression takes place is a matter for honest debate. But curtailing or eliminating general surveillance for abstract concerns about abuse is a dangerous, if not reckless, approach.
General Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA has just offered his most detailed defense of the surveillance program, which might help quiet at least some fears about its abuse. Nonetheless, the program continues to attract strident critics, including writers at the Cato Institute where I serve as an Adjunct Scholar. It is important therefore to make some brief responses to the recent posts on Cato@Liberty by Julian Sanchez and Tim Lynch.
First, the Sanchez post notes that the earlier op-ed that Roger Pilon and I wrote in the Chicago Tribune misspoke on some small points. There is, for example, no need to get a search warrant to get certain information about names and addresses, even though such is needed to examine the contents of phone calls. Also, information collected in foreign intelligence investigations can be used in domestic criminal investigations as well. Questions still remain, however, as to whether any of those powers offer an open avenue to general administrative abuse. In my judgment, that does not appear to be the case.
Sanchez is unable to cite any current evidence on this point, so he refers back to the earlier work of the Church Committee, which contains evidence of just that sort. But that Committee did its work in 1975-1976, which in turn led to the passage, in 1978, of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which, in modified form, are still in place today. It clearly takes a huge leap of faith to think that the very institutional arrangements that Church advocated have had no effect on the level of abuse today. The natural inference goes in the other direction.
It is, of course, difficult to find out about abuses that wrongdoers in government want to keep quiet. But by the same token, NSA activities require extensive coordination with the government, as well as with telecommunications and high-tech companies who are not likely to share the same penchant for secrecy. Just recently, Google has petitioned the FISA court to lift restrictions on what it can say about its participation in the FISA process on First Amendment grounds. Whether this suit wins or loses is for the moment beside the point. At present, it is not credible, in the face of multiple explicit denials, to think that the situation looks anything like the pre-FISA days. Nor does Sanchez make a credible case that some originalist account of the Fourth Amendment invokes a balancing test. Here recall that the basic text states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Note that there is no clear linkage between the first and second clauses of the Fourth Amendment, and most modern readings try to establish that connection by holding that the first clause states the general rule, and that the second clause imposes limits on the kinds of warrants that can be issued once it is decided that a warrant is required in the first place. Sanchez takes a rather different view when he writes:
In other words, “unreasonableness” was not meant to invite the kind of “balancing test” so beloved by the modern Supreme Court—though as technology presents novel problems, some amount of that is, perhaps, inevitable. Rather, “unreasonableness” was specifically associated with the absence of particularity—of the kind exhibited by, for instance, an authority to indiscriminately collect all Americans’ phone records.
He is right to note that his interpretation has no support in current Supreme Court cases. Nor, in fact, does it have any support anywhere, for it makes the two clauses duplicative in requiring a particularity to undertake a search. Today, there are many cases involving, for example, ”exigent circumstances,” where searches and arrests can be made without a warrant precisely because of the risks that all too often arise in emergency situations. Indeed, the entire discussion of “Terry Stops,” which are allowed on the strength of “reasonable suspicion,” are a well established, if uneasy, portion of current American constitutional law. Nor is there the slightest suggestion anywhere that the uneasiness that the Supreme Court has in deciding what counts as “search” in individualized cases such as United States v. Jones, dealing with GPS devices attached to individual vehicles, has anything whatsoever to do with the kinds of surveillance involved in NSA activities. Warrants are easily obtainable for GPS searches. But the Court has never held the warrant requirement for general surveillance activities that never meet the probable cause standard. I believe that it never will reverse course on so fundamental an issue.
The second Cato response is prepared by Tim Lynch to my Ricochet post of June 14, which defended the earlier position that I had developed with Pilon. I confess that I find Lynch’s characterization of my position way off base. His initial point is that:
Epstein begins by waving off the track record of government abuse generally. Forget about the recent IRS scandal and the Associated Press wiretaps, he says, we must focus instead on the “parts of the government” that are organized to address terrorist activity. According to Epstein, those parts of the government “seem to have performed well.” Thus, he concludes, we should have confidence in the federal government’s efforts to stop terrorists.
Immediately thereafter, Lynch launches into a long indictment of the abuses of the FBI and the CIA, which I had, and have, no desire to defend. My remarks were much more focused, when I wrote:
In this context, it is not sufficient to note that the government has been abusive with both the IRS and reporters. Both those points seem quite true, but they take place within parts of the government that are not organized to control against these risks. One of the great achievements of the military community is that it internalizes the norms against abuse in ways in which other government agencies do not. That is true in connection with the military trials of persons in custody for terrorist activities, and also in the general culture of civilian control.
The claim here is not that the government will always act in the correct fashion. It is that a sensible person would take comfort in the positive achievements of government, and try to understand what accounts for the differential performance of government in given areas. Where there are individualized cases of abuse, punishment after the fact is appropriate. In those cases where the balance of interests runs in the opposite direction, the presumption should be set in the opposite direction. On this score, I served as a member of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment and joined its conclusion that there was powerful evidence of torture committed against detainees. But the key point here, as I argued recently on Hoover’s Defining Ideas, is that the trade-offs in the surveillance cases are quite different from those in the detention cases, where the individual claims are less pressing and the government justification far stronger.
In sum, the Lynch criticism would be ever so much more welcome if he had something constructive to say about how to alter the procedures in question. No one, least of all me, doubts that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Unfortunately, Lynch follows Sanchez in this one crucial respect: he is so intent on denouncing all that government has done in general that he offers no constructive advice on what actions could be done to make it operate better. That is the major challenge in this area. Fortunately, there is currently no evidence that the overall system is in dire need of repair. In fact, there is some credible evidence that it is not. Let us hope that putting the system in the spotlight will keep things that way.
So, despite an order to save money because of the sequester, and despite an IRS scandal that should by itself make any talk of bonuses for IRS employees verboten, the IRS is going to pay out $70 million extra to its workers for a job not-so-well-done.
Gee, imagine how much IRS workers would get if they were actually good at their jobs.
Hi. This isn't about a family crisis or deep psychological issue or anything. I'd like your take on this, though, mainly since you're a woman.
I'm a guy, and I'm single. I'm 39. I live in a major metropolitan area, and I date a lot. I've had a certain experience three times now and I'm starting to wonder about it.
When I say "date," I mean I go to bars to pick up women. (I'll be honest here.) So that usually involves me ordering us drinks. I'm a martini man, and I'm really particular about it. I'm kind of a purist and I hate trendy weird concoctions, so I'll never order that kind of thing for myself. I just want my martini, and I want it to be right. So I'm usually very specific about how I want my martini.
This has put the skids on three potential connections. I was told each time that I was being (I'm paraphrasing) "a total [redacted for CofC]" for kind of hovering over the bartender about how he should make my drink. I was really surprised by this each time. I didn't think I was being rude, and the bartenders didn't seem to care. But it was a huge turnoff for the girls, apparently.
I know you don't represent all women but maybe you can give me some insight here. Is there something threatening about me being so particular? God knows women are particular about what they want, and I always thought that's okay. Is there some way I should be asking for what I want that won't make women call me names?
This probably sounds unserious but it I'm really starting to wonder if I'm being a jerk without realizing it, and if there's anything I can do about it.
Dry Means Dry
You're right; I don't represent all of womankind. I do think it's fair to say, though, that most women on dates (or sitting on barstools) have pretty highly attuned respect-o-meters. Even if they're planning solely on hooking up with you for the evening and then tossing you back in the stream, they'd like to believe they're hooking up with a decent human being.
They have very limited data, though. They're paying attention to how you're treating them, of course, but they're also taking note of how you're treating other people. One of the only other people they'll see you interacting with is the bartender. If you are criticizing, or hovering (to use your word), or weirdly picayune about details, you are conveying disrespect.
Now, let's think for a minute about that martini. I'm rather partial to the juniper berry myself, so I do get where you're coming from. You sign off as "Dry Means Dry," so presumably you don't want more than a trace of vermouth in there. That can be conveyed in a civil way.
The other key variable is the brand of gin, and there's nothing wrong with specifying which one you want. You're moving onto shaky ground with the "shaken vs. stirred" thing, though. I personally believe martinis should always be stirred, but I'd be aghast if a date started haranguing a bartender who shook his martini. The most critical element is not, after all, the manner in which the drink was mixed, but its coldness. You'd be right to complain (politely) about a martini that is not extra-cold.
As to your broader concern: I doubt you're behaving like a jerk; you might just be expressing yourself infelicitously. (I'm assuming you're not pulling any really boneheaded moves, like snorting with derision when your date orders a persimmon-tini.) Do you have a guy friend you can bring along one of these evenings? Comport yourself as you normally would with your prospective paramour, and then ask the guy friend for his impressions later. (He might even be able to reenact your martini-ordering for you.) A dispassionate third party might provide untold insights.
In the meantime, if by "dry" you mean what Churchill meant -- that a martini means pouring gin into a glass and looking toward France -- then save everybody a headache and just order a glass of cold gin.
Got a question for Penelope? Write to AskPenelope@ricochet.com.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. Neither Ricochet nor the writer of this column accepts any liability for the outcome or results of following the advice in this column. Ricochet reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.
Back in the seventies, liberalism was in charge, murderers were innocent victims, and society was the criminal. After thugs spent a few years in the pen, they were set free to kill and kill again. Executing them would at least keep them from taking more lives and a lot of fed up Americans, me among them, were willing to settle for that.
Fast forward a few decades and tough sentences are the craze; writing that third bad check in some states now rates life in prison. DNA tests are also in style and some inmates who copped a plea are turning out to be innocent. Threatened with the death penalty if they refused to admit guilt, they confessed.
The United States used to have a Constitution that protected citizens against coerced confessions. Now that it’s been interpreted out of existence, ending the death penalty may be the only way to keep a few innocent people from being railroaded into life sentences. I’m willing to settle for that.
Shortly after I started writing for Ricochet, a very liberal friend who spends a lot of time on the internet (and who never really knew the extent of my political views) suddenly stopped communicating with me. Oh, there was a token message or two, but then silence. Nothing was ever said. Ricochet was never mentioned. All I know is that there was an exact correlation between my postings and my friend going MIA.
I tried to find out what happened without asking outright, but all I got was the typical, “I’ve just been really busy. You know how it is.” Hmmm. Yeah, I know exactly how it is. I’ve never bought the “I’m busy” line from anyone. It’s code for “I don’t want to talk to you anymore, but I’m just too much of a coward to say so.” I knew in my gut that the reason for the distance was politics. Pure and simple.
My suspicions were validated when I came across a Pew Research study that said sometimes people do shun acquaintances, friends, and even family members when they discover through a social networking site that their politics are disagreeable or offensive. Of course, not many people act this way, but some do, and guess who does it the most? You guessed it. Liberals.
In all, 28 percent of liberals have ditched someone on a social media site because of their politics compared with 16 percent of conservatives and 14 percent of moderates. I thought liberals were supposed to be the tolerant ones.
Have you found this to be true in your experience? Do you find liberals to be less tolerant than conservatives? Have you been surprised by the politics of a coworker or friend after reading their Facebook page? Have you been shunned or unfriended when someone discovered your political views? Or maybe you’ve done the blocking—what pushed you to hit the unfriend button?
We've all seen them: cars illegally, or at least improperly, parked. Sometimes it's perfectly able-bodied persons parking in handicapped spaces. Sometimes it's cars taking up too much of another space; sometimes it's as simple as ignoring a "No Parking" sign.
If you're like me (not a curse I'd bestow upon anyone), you've sometimes daydreamed: "I wish I could do something about that!" Alas, we can't do anything about it.
Until now! A company in Winnipeg is using smart-phone technology to allow users of their free app to use their phone to photograph cars infringing on local parking rules (very local ... so far it's only going beta in Winnipeg). The car's license plate information is then sent to either the property owner or, in some cases where the infraction occurs on public streets, the local authorities.
Why would anyone do this? Out of their civic duty, their feelings of ensuring order is maintained or restored? Perhaps, but to sweeten the deal the company is offering to the individual who reports the offense kick-backs of ticket or towing fees.
How much? Depends upon your "rank." After a basic training (of sorts) completed by reporting three rule breakers, users attain the rank of "Private," with no kickbacks. That must be a sort of inducement to keep going, because at six successful reports you climb to "Corporal" status and start receiving 5%. Keep going, and ultimately you can reach "General," with a whopping 40% kickback. (Don't ask me why, on the webpage linked above, they start the list of ranks with "Lieutenant," followed by "Captain," then "Private..." It's obviously a work-in-progress...).
The conservative rule-follower in me (90+% of my political thinking) is all for it; if you're not supposed to park there, you should be forced to deal with the consequences.
However, the libertarian side of me (<10%) is aghast at the thought of regular citizens being turned into de facto meter maids; it's no one else's business, dammit (except for the guy in a wheelchair who can't park near the door because I just have to run in for a quick second...).
So, I put it to you, Ricochetti: what do you think? Harmless guarding by society of the rules, or the beginning of fascist neighbor-spying?
Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, who usually interpret the Constitution the same way, came out differently yesterday on the reach of Congress's power over the "time, place, and manner" of federal elections.
Arizona's voters had adopted a requirement that state residents who registered to vote had to provide proof of citizenship, while federal law required the use of a form that only required registrants to attest to citizenship, under penalty of perjury.
Scalia held that the federal law pre-empted the Arizona requirement, on the idea that states could not add on to federal law regarding the minimum requirements to vote. Thomas found that reading the statute that way would be unconstitutional, because it would prevent the states from setting the qualifications for voters.
I side with Thomas (who, in the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I clerked for ).
There are two constitutional provisions in question. The first, Article I, Section 2, clause 1, reads:
the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature
The second, Article I, Section 4, clause 1, reads:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.
I think that these two clauses, read together, provided a straightforward division of responsibility between the states and the federal government on voting. The states set the qualifications for voters; the only restriction -- aside from the prohibitions contained in the Reconstruction Amendments -- is that the same qualifications must apply to both federal and state elections.
This provision would still allow states to impose a property-ownership requirement, which some did at the time of the framing (Jim Crow-type qualifications, of course, would be unconstitutional under the 14th and 15th Amendments, and women and 18-year-olds have their own constitutional amendments). The federal government has the power only to override state regulations that involve the time, place, and manner of the election. In other words, the states regulate who votes. Congress may only regulate when and how they vote.
Following precedent, however, Scalia reads Congress's powers to essentially intrude upon the state's power over qualifications. In this case, Arizona has decided that a minimum requirement is U.S. citizenship, proven by documentary evidence. An oath is not enough. But I think Thomas has the better of Scalia by relying not just on the plain text of the Constitution, but the original understanding of the Constitution.
Congress can certainly require that a certain form be used for registration, but since Congress cannot actually dictate voter qualifications, Article I, Section 2, clause 1 would seem to give states the power to add on to the federal registration form, even when it comes time to prove the facts set out by a registrant on the federal form. Otherwise, how could the states have been permitted to add property requirements at the time of the framing?
Who has the better of the argument? Scalia or Thomas?
Questions For Contributors - The Impact Of RicochetJune 18, 2013
About two years ago, Claire Berlinski asked us "Has Ricochet Changed Your Mind About Anything?"
This is an interesting question for all of us but I'd like to ask it (and other questions) of the left-siders - those who are immersed in and connected to the political world.
- Has Ricochet changed your mind about anything?
- How has your participation on Ricochet changed the way you think about issues? Perceive issues? What issues?
- How has your participation on Ricochet changed your work off Ricochet?
- What do you think Ricochet has done/is doing for conservatism? For the Republican party?
And a special question for the founders of this mental feast:
Is Ricochet having the impact you hoped for? (particularly among your hot shot, fancy pants dinner pals)
When you think about it, this makes perfect sense:
When six members of Congress went on a fact-finding trip to Russia in May to learn more about the brothers accused of the Boston Marathon bombings, they sought the help of a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin: Steven Seagal. The aging star of bone-snapping action films such as Hard to Kill and Under Siege took the lawmakers around and arranged meetings with Russian security officials. “Seagal opened some doors,” Representative Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who led the delegation, said on CNN. “We got to meet top people.”
Wait—Steven Seagal? As it turns out, Seagal and Putin pal around quite a bit. The actor has dined with the Russian leader, gone with him to sporting events, and attended state functions. The two “have long been friends and regularly meet each other,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian Itar-Tass News Agency in March. More recently, Seagal has cultivated a side gig as an informal go-between for Moscow and Washington...
Some stories defy commentary. But where words fail, pictures can say so much. As a special gift to Ricochet readers, I present my "reality is stranger than fiction" photo essay:
Promo shot for Calvin Klein's Latest Fragrance: "Hollywood Obsession"
Vladimir imitates Steven
Steven imitates Vladimir
Steven Seagal pets Russian children
Also, this is my new favorite YouTube video:
When I moved back to California from Washington D.C. four years ago, I remember being surprised by the fact that this state -- which had effectively weaponized liberalism and turned it on itself -- didn't garner more serious, thorough analysis from national conservatives. Thankfully, in the years since, City Journal has turned its eyes west and devoted a lot of time and ink to exactly what's gone wrong in the Golden State and what can be done to remedy it. This has played out both in the pages of the magazine itself and through the online City Journal California project.
This week, City Journal is releasing a new book, The Beholden State: California's Lost Promise and How to Recapture It, which compiles around 30 of the best pieces that this project has produced. Ricochet's own Victor Davis Hanson and Andrew Klavan are among the contributors, as are other luminaries such as Joel Kotkin, Heather Mac Donald, Steven Malanga, and Art Laffer. Yours truly also appears a couple of times.
If you're a Californian looking for some signs of hope, this is for you. If you live elsewhere in the country and want to understand how liberalism can erode even the most majestic of places, you'll appreciate it too. And if you're a corporate recruiter in Texas -- well, you didn't need our help, but you got it anyway.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading the last book of Rick Atkinson’s superb Liberation trilogy, Guns at Last Light, which tells the story of the western front in World War II (Normandy through the end of the war). Among other things, it has helped me understand the different locations in Normandy, France, and Belgium in which my father (First Army, Second Armored Division) fought. I know where he was on the right wing of the Normandy campaign.
I learned, for example, the circumstances under which my father’s tank was hit on October 6, 1944 (which ended his war and much of the use of his right arm and shoulder). They were maneuvering into position the day before what turned into the battle of Aachen, which proceeded in bloody fashion from October 7-21, 1944. I learned where (had he not been wounded) he would have counter-attacked the Germans several weeks later in the Battle of the Bulge.
But even more than this, I have felt a deep sense of melancholy as I read about the great sacrifices of normal guys like my father and how America is doing all it can to squander their legacy .
I tend to reject collective judgments like Brokaw’s meme “the greatest generation.” There were scoundrels, cowards, lick-spittles, credit-takers, and shirkers, just as there were thousands of men who wanted to do their duty so they could get back to their lives. They were not a collective blob, but the sum total of individuals -- some cowards, some heroes, and most somewhere in between. But we do know that about 250,000 American men died in combat in WWII.
If we have to put a label on that generation, I would call it the “pretty damned good” generation. The generations that have followed them in America have been innovative, mostly hard-working, but more and more obtuse about the people upon whose shoulders they stand.
Am I wrong that the spirit of gratitude is dying a slow, ugly death in America? This, of course, doesn’t mean everyone. And I believe those of us who call ourselves conservatives are far more likely to feel gratitude for those who went before us.
But hasn’t our education system quit teaching students about World War II, or even Vietnam? Don’t most twenty-somethings simply believe the modern world, with all its electronic devices, just sprang fully-formed into existence sometime in the 1980s? Do they think a life of plenty is simply inevitable? I’m a sixty-something, so I’m not sure the answers are yes, yes, and yes. But those seem to be the right answers.
A short passage from Atkinson’s book brought this feeling home to me. In his brilliant exposition of the Battle of the Bulge, Atkinson tells the story of a graves registration unit finding (in mid-January 1945) the frozen bodies of the 80 or so men killed by the SS on December 17, 1944 near Malmedy, Belgium by the lead SS elements of the German attack. They were found under two feet of snow, and taken to a heated shed for identification:
There field jackets and trouser pockets were sliced open with razor blades to inventory the effects, like those of Technician Fifth Class Luke S. Swartz—“one fountain pen, two pencils, one New Testament, one comb, one good-luck charm"—and Private First Class Robert Cohen, who left this world carrying thirteen coins, two cigarette lighters, and a Hebrew prayer book.
I know nothing more about Swartz and Cohen, other than that they were American boys, one a Christian, the other Jew. Both were likely single, and neither was able to marry and have a family. I'll bet both wanted to marry and raise some kids.
Does America care about Swartz, Cohen, or Airman Karl Taylor, my wife’s uncle, whose body still lies at the bottom of the North Sea? Does America know that the Battle of the Bulge was the single biggest battle in American history in which we lost 89,500 men (19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded, and 23,000 captured and missing). Another way of putting it is that America suffered nearly five times more battle deaths in that one month battle than we did in all of Iraq.
Some Americans care (and care a lot), but I’m beginning to fear that the vast majority not only do not know, but have little interest in knowing.
For more and more Americans, God has left the building. For others, the facts of WWII have been revised by Howard Zinn into a narrative of American imperialism where all things are done for filthy lucre. But just as bad as the Zinnites are the millions and millions of Americans who are deracinated, uprooted from the past, worried only about what they can get today, and not giving a tinker’s damn about either the past or future generations.
The great father of conservatism, Edmund Burke, said a lot of profound things, but my favorite is his observation about breaking the great continuum between the generations (losing our sense of the past and the future): when “[n]o one generation could link to another,” then “[m]en would become little better than the flies of the summer.”
Many years ago, the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset made the following observation about the mass of men in the twentieth century:
“For example: his propensity to make out of games and sports the central occupation of his life; the cult of the body—hygienic regime and attention to dress; lack of romance in his dealings with woman. . . ; his preference for living under absolute authority rather than under a regime of free expression.”
This is the phenomena that accompanies it:
“The bureaucratization of life brings about its absolute decay in all orders. Wealth diminishes, births are few. Then the State, in order to attend to its own needs, forces on still more bureaucratization of human existence.”
I've been trying to find a positive way to end this exercise in pessimism, but I’ve failed.
Are we not seeing most Americans becoming “little better than the flies of the summer”?
Another blow to the theory that "rogue agents" in a local IRS office were responsible for targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny:
An Internal Revenue Service supervisor in Washington says she was personally involved in scrutinizing some of the earliest applications from tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status, including some requests that languished for more than a year without action.
Holly Paz, who until recently was a top deputy in the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, told congressional investigators she reviewed 20 to 30 applications. Her assertion contradicts initial claims by the agency that a small group of agents working in an office in Cincinnati were solely responsible for mishandling the applications.
Ron Fournier points out that second-term Obama administration scandals are biting into the president's approval ratings:
There is a common element to the so-called Obama scandals—the IRS targeting of conservatives, the fatal attack in Benghazi, and widespread spying on U.S. journalists and ordinary Americans. It is a lack of credibility.
In each case, the Obama administration has helped make controversies worse by changing its stories, distorting facts, and lying.
The abuse of trust may be taking a toll on President Obama's reputation.
A CNN/ORC poll of 1,104 adult Americans June 11-13 shows the president's job approval rating at 45 percent, down 8 percentage points in a month.
Among young voters, only 48 percent approve of the president's performance, a 17-point decline since the last CNN/ORC poll. These are the president's most loyal supporters, and the future of American politics.
The drop in presidential approval is across the board, affecting Obama's standing on every issue measured: The economy (down 2 points); foreign affairs (down 5 points); federal budget (down 4 points); terrorism (down 13 points); and immigration (down 4 points).
Asked for the first time by CNN/ORC about the president's handling of "government surveillance of U.S. citizens," 61 percent of Americans said they disapprove.
Business travel brings your correspondent to Berlin this week, just in time for Barack Obama's speech tomorrow at the Brandenburg Gate. Security is everywhere in evidence as finishing touches are being made to a massive grandstand in Pariser Platz on the eastern side of the gate, just opposite the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee shop. Thankfully, this is not your father's East Berlin.
If my personal experiences are any predictor, President Obama will meet a decidedly cooler reception than in 2008. On my last visit, conversations over food and wine seemed always to wind up as paeans to our heroic president. Last night was different: A Berlin-based colleague reviewed the movie The Lives of Others in the context of Edward Snowden's revelation that the NSA is keeping comprehensive tabs on each American. His point being that the US government already has personal files on its citizens, now all it lacks from a totalitarian standpoint is an American Stasi to put the data to good use. Lois Lerner's next assignment, perhaps?
The other point burbling beneath the surface: What is President Obama coming to say? The Berlin Airlift ended 65 years ago, we are at the 50th anniversary of JFK's famous Berlin address, and 26 years ago Ronald Reagan demanded that Gorbachev "Tear down this wall." But apart from burnishing his image by pointing to his predecessors, what is Obama up to?
In view of the election of the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency -- and the general eagerness to believe that Iran has turned a page in its relations with the rest of the world -- it might be advisable to take a look at Iran's ongoing campaign to export terror.
On June 20, 2012 (almost exactly a year ago), two Iranian nationals -- Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi -- were arrested in Mombasa in possession of 15 kilos of RDX, a military-grade explosive. They were brought in on suspicion of planning attacks on Israeli, American, British, or Saudi Arabian targets inside Kenya. A Kenyan official said the pair were members of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force. They are believed to have imported 100 kilos of RDX into Kenya; the remaining 85 kilos have yet to be found. They were sentenced by a Kenyan court to life in prison.
A few days after the Iranians' arrest, the American Embassy in Nairobi warned of a terror threat in Mombasa and instructed US government personnel to vacate the city until July 1. The Kenyan government also requested help from the FBI and INTERPOL in dealing with the terrorist threat.
Fast forward to February of this year. The Nigerian State Security Service arrested Abdullahi Mustapha Berende and two other Nigerians, and accused them of being members of an Iranian-trained terrorist cell plotting to attack Western and Israeli targets. Then in May, Nigerian security uncovered another three-man terrorist cell it described as ""part of the Shi'ite terror campaign." The suspects are all Lebanese and admitted under questioning to having been trained by Hezbollah. Their alleged object was the targeting of "facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria," according to Nigerian military spokesman Captain Ikedichi Iweha. Berende has since told reporters that he spied for Iran, sending them photos of the Chabad House in Lagos as well as the USAID offices. He also recommended that Iran strike former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida as well as Islamic spiritual leader the Sultan of Sokoto to “unsettle the West”.
Later in May, a cell of four men -- again all Lebanese -- was uncovered in the northern Nigerian city of Kano. Both this cell and the earlier one had substantial stores of anti-tank weapons, artillery guns, landmines, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s, and dynamite.
Nigeria is now caught in a diplomatic squeeze: countries "sympathetic to Hezbollah" are leaning on Nigeria to hand over the arrested Lebanese so they won't have to stand trial. Hezbollah leaned on the Lebanese government, who leaned on the Jordanians, who are leaning on Nigeria to extradite the suspects.
The spider at the center of this web is Iran, and the web is quite a bit wider than Nigeria and Kenya. The US Treasury Department, following a terrorist money trail, has identified operatives acting as "ambassadors" for Hezbollah in Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, and Gambia.
Iran is playing the long game. Ely Karmon at Haaretz wrote last year about Iran's political, economic, and religious ventures on the continent:
[D]uring the last two-three years, Iran has made serious efforts to expand its strategic presence and influence in East Africa, especially Kenya, whose government is looking forward for Iranian investments. In 2009, during the visit of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kenya with a delegation of Iranian businessmen he signed 13 agreements between the two countries.
Iran agreed to provide Kenya a $16 billion credit line facility in the area of housing, dam construction, healthcare and “humanitarian assistance.” However, the volume of trade between the two countries has been exceedingly in favor of Iran. Between 2007 and 2009 Iran's volume of trade with Kenya was at 19 billion Kenyan shillings while imports from Kenya were at a low 613 million Kenyan shillings.
Mombasa, the second-largest city in Kenya and home to an important Muslim community, seems a preferred target for Iranian activity. In a ceremony attended by top officials of Kenya and Iran in 2011, the Director of the Iranian Port and Maritime Organization (PMO) has stressed “the strategic geographical location of Mombasa port as an easy access to African market.” Iran is setting up a shipping line between the Iranian port of Bandar Abbass and the Kenyan port of Mombasa. The Iranian Red Crescent plans to open a policlinic in Mombasa after the two opened in Nairobi.
It seems, however, that Iran is also interested in advancing the Shiite religious presence in Kenya. The Kenyan Shia cleric, Morteza Morteza, said that "the number of Shia Muslims has sharply increased, and a lot of Kenyans became familiar with this honorable school of thought."
These activities ran concurrently with large-scale clandestine arms trafficking:
In October 2010, Nigerian officials seized in Lagos' Apapa Port thirteen shipping containers of weapons, including artillery rockets, rifle rounds and arms. Azim Aghajani, an alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member, and three Nigerian suspects were put on trial in Nigeria in connection with the seizure of the cargo.
The shipment originated in the Iranian port Bandar Abbas and its final destination was Gambia. Senegal has been combating an insurgency in its southern region of Casamance, at its border with Gambia, led by the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MDFC), a source of tensions between Gambia and Senegal.
The Senegalese authorities found evidence that the MFDC were in possession of sophisticated Iranian weapons and in spite of the excellent relations of President Wade with Ahmadinejad, Senegal decided to definitely cut its diplomatic ties with Iran.
Iran and Gambia also enjoyed a good diplomatic and economic relationship. In reaction to the weapons shipment, the Gambian government cut diplomatic ties with Iran and asked the Iranian diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours.
In the 2012 piece, Karmon pointed out that "Iran’s political and economic assets in Africa strengthen the Tehran regime, permit it to circumvent UN sanctions and diminish the possibility of UN-backed international diplomatic and economic pressure to convince it to renounce its nuclear project. Thus, indirectly at least, it enhances the threat of Iran’s nuclear hegemonic projection in the Middle East and beyond." In a piece he wrote this week, he laid out the stakes:
Iran and Hezbollah continue to plan and stage terrorist attacks worldwide, showing a marked preference to build networks in countries with little experience about their modus operandi. Iran and Hezbollah calculate that these states are likely to act leniently against their operatives and agents, when forceful diplomatic pressure is applied as well as possibly threats of retaliation.
In the event of an acute diplomatic or military crisis in the Gulf arising from tensions relating to Iran's nuclear efforts, Iran and Hezbollah, its proxy, could easily use the African continent for attacks against American and European targets there or as a platform for operations in Europe itself.
At a time when the European Union appears so hesitant in designating Hezbollah, or even its "military branch", as a terrorist organization, it is no wonder that countries such as India, Thailand, Bulgaria or Cyprus do not dare compel Iran, and Hezbollah, to pay the diplomatic and political price for their deadly activities.
It remains to be seen whether Nigeria will be able to withstand the pressure to extradite the Hezbollah terrorists, or what carnage it will suffer if it manages to do so. It's unlikely that any great powers will weigh in on Nigeria's right to hold onto the suspects, considering the prevailing disposition abroad to make nice to the Iranians following Rouhani's election. Allowing the Hezbollah cancer to spread across Africa could have extremely serious consequences, of course, not the least of which would be an emboldening of the ever-more-cocky theocracy in Iran.
As ever, we'll just have to wait and see.
A little over four months ago, I shared my fears regarding impending motherhood. I had been constantly hearing comments about how hard it was going to be and what a difficult transition I had ahead. I was also concerned that my need for structure and social interaction would not be met, because getting dressed, prettied up, and out of the house would be so difficult. I asked for wisdom, and fellow Ricochet members responded generously.
My daughter is almost four months old now, and I am happy to report that none of what I feared has materialized. After the bumpy getting-to-know-you first week or two, there has never been a missed shower. I've always been able to put on makeup and look put together on the days I choose. With a few exceptions, getting out of the house has not been a problem.
Thanks to Felicia's suggestion, I joined the local chapter of Mom's Club International, as well as another Meetup group for moms. These give me a social outlet several times a week.
More importantly, I've caught myself feeling content and fulfilled in this new life. I no longer struggle with depression-inducing boredom or sense of purposelessness. My days feel much fuller, and I am happy I chose this new role.
I've also learned an important lesson: that I need to purposely convey my contentment and joy to expectant first time parents, lest they be hearing the negative things that I was.
Of course, none of this would be possible without a kind and supportive husband who has made a wonderful father. He regularly gives me nights off and is folding the laundry as I type.
And the baby? Blessedly, Georgia is a smiley little charmer who sleeps through the night most nights and can happily entertain herself for a solid 20-30 minutes. She brings new joys every day.
Thank you again, Ricochet community, for all your kind words of support and encouragement.
Barstow, California: The photo I shot of a gorgeous sunrise this morning on the Arizona / New Mexico state line belies the pace of a life on overload. One of the interesting things about this job is the sheer amount of activity that is crammed into a short span of time. It was only four days ago that I was 1,700 miles away from here, at home in Lake Charles, Louisiana, concluding a three-day break from the road.
My respite began with my sister handing over the keys to her kitchen, where I made my signature dish; a lively batch of red beans and rice. The secret ingredient, in case
you were wondering, is music. A combination of Zydeco, Blues, and Dixieland Jazz filled the room while my nieces worked on their two-step dancing and I did a little jig while slicing the bell pepper, onion, and smoked sausage to include in the mixture.
Evidently remembering the little incident a year or two ago when I badly sliced open a finger while cutting flowers for my grandparents' graves, my oldest niece saw me doing the boogaloo while handling a knife and asked her mom, "And why are we giving him sharp instruments?" Not to worry, though. here were no injuries, and the food was the subject of much critical acclaim as my sister dubbed the recipe, "Grampydoodle's Kickin' Beans," which was miles ahead of my suggestion of "Father Time's Little Farter Starters."
Time spent with people who get along, people who share the same basic values, is always sweet and seems almost always fleeting. The only melancholy moment occurred when, for the first time, I had to click on the "Unfriend" button on a social site. I hated to do it, but there comes a point of reckoning, I suppose. Despite political views that seem practically to the left of Lenin, I felt I owed great deference to the gentleman's distinguished military career. His postings that tarred Tea Party members and those whose views align with our founding documents as racists, including one that alluded to the reptilian sexual slur on Tea Party members, gave me pause, but I knew that would come with the territory when I accepted his "friend request." Besides, I'm given to linking to Ricochet Posts and other comments as well, though I haven't (and won't) stoop to the sort of slurs I was reading. Still, I refrained from commenting on his political posts.
Unhappily, tolerance isn't a two-way street with liberals, and when I posted a screen shot of MSNBC's reference to Governor George Wallace as a Republican, my friend went slightly batty, first commenting that Fox News "doesn't know what history is," (notwithstanding my post wasn't concerning Fox) and then launching a veritable blitzkrieg of posts referencing one half-baked left wing attack after another before writing his own dismay at my "one-sided B.S."
The blood pressure rose. I thought about the situation briefly and concluded two things: First, I frequent that site as means to enjoy the everyday experiences of family and friends, to share my own experiences, and to enjoy the company of people who share the same fundamental outlook on life and events. Not everyone there agrees with me all the time, but we do agree to refrain from turning the place into a battleground, something it was fast becoming with this particular person. Second, it occurs that constitutionalists are currently forced to conduct political triage. America, as the founders intended, as our ancestors knew it, is disintegrating before our eyes. Accordingly, it makes sense to focus our attention on those who can be saved which, unhappily, does not include someone who spent a career defending the nation against the totalitarian impulse only to succumb to its seductive fantasies at an age when he ought to know better. I clicked the "Unfriend" button with regret, but with the resolution that comes with the knowledge that there are, unfortunately, some causes that are not only hopeless, but that will drain one of every ounce of energy, replacing it with only frustration and stress.
Back on the road and aiming for California, the days pass quickly and the events become a blur, though perusing my recent Facebook postings, I see the following entries:
* "The good news is that the guy across the restaurant has a robust sense of humor. The bad news is that his laugh is loud enough to wake the dead. I'm gonna clobber the next person who says anything funny."
* "If you're ever in Huntsville, TX, and happen to stop at [a certain truck stop] on I-45 at exit 118, be sure to stop in and eat at [a certain restaurant]. After all, 300 gazillion flies can't be wrong."
* "Well I'm standing in a truck stop in Winslow, Arizona and there's not very much to see. There's no girl, my Lord, nor a flat bed Ford, but I do think I need to go… never mind…"
* "Waitress: 'No wonder the music is loud. You're sitting right under the speaker.' Me (looking up a the speaker): 'Awww man! I thought my hearing had improved.'"
* "What a lovely Italian restaurant next to the truck stop! Who woulda thunk it? They were playing an operatic howler, singing her little aria off. Now they're playing Sinatra. Soup is on the way. I like this place!"
There's more to trucking than checking out the restaurants, of course. There's the news, which I've labored to catch up on since taking a few days off. Concerning which, a few quick observations:
* My heart is positively aflutter after hearing portions of Jeb Bush's recent speech. If, at some point in the future, I decide to abandon trucking for a career in burglary, I will make a beeline for the former governor's house. Intellectual consistency, of which I'm sure he has truckloads, will require him to apply the same standards to trespassers on his property as he would apply to those who illegally enter the nation at large. I look forward to a lack of security and doors flung open. I will be greeted as a member of the family, the governor having already vouched for everything from my work ethic to my fertility. Indeed, I expect him to praise my general industriousness even as he disparages those with the dumb luck to have been born into his family recognizing that I, unlike the immediate family, have earned it. And then, perhaps after I've been there awhile, I can convince him to level at least as much criticism toward the left as he does to the right. Meanwhile, I look forward to a new lease on life.
* If I hear one more radio commercial featuring Messrs. Rubio and Ryan lauding the ostensible conservative merits of the monolithic immigration bill being shepherded through Washington, I'm going to write an ode to Farmer Brothers coffee (which in my opinion is even worse than dishwater) just to get my equilibrium back. The odious little recording underscores these men's commitment to, "secure the border first." This is a curious claim in light of Rubio's vote against the Grassley Amendment, which would have done precisely that. Here's an idea: Secure the infernal border.Period. Let's first repair the gaping hole in the dam, then we can start fussing over what to do with the water-logged homes in the valley.
* A $60 - $100 million trip to Africa for the First Family? Followed, in a few weeks, by another vacation on Martha's Vineyard? Will they fly in separate planes again? This "man of the people," business sure is taxing. Meanwhile, the Marines in Afghanistan are told to make do with one less hot meal per day. The mind in which this makes sense is a dangerous place to live.
* Did you hear the one about that cradle of progress, where liberalism and unionism intersect, where abandoned homes stand in the shadow of abandoned industries, where they have (to use Lady Thatcher's phraseology), "run out of other people's money?" Detroit is officially, "tapped out," according to the city manager, who himself was dispatched to the place at the behest of Washington. Facing unsecured bonds, unfunded pension liabilities and other debts totaling over $11 billion, the city manager has suggested to unions and bond holders that they accept less than 10 cents on every dollar owed. Saying that Detroit's "risk of bankruptcy has increased over the last six months," Moody's downgraded several of the city's debt obligations last week and suggested it may take further action. Watch this case study in applied liberalism carefully. It could be our future.
* Lastly, I understand that the Supreme Court has resumed our march toward oblivion with today's ruling regarding the protection of a citizen's vote against the inevitable dilution that comes from voter fraud. Evidently, the Motor Voter Law supersedes Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution, so that all one needs to do is sign a federal form vouching one's citizenship without any further proof. I wonder how many cases of voter fraud the Arizona law stopped before the courts stopped Arizona? In any event, it is now deemed unconstitutional to require as much identification to register to vote as is required to purchase a package of cigarettes. The fight for reason and constitutionalism continues, but I'm getting a sinking feeling.
The Supreme Court is playing for the home team again. First it was John Roberts making the fed's case for the Obamacare penalty being a constitutionally justifiable tax. Now the Court has ruled that federal Motor Voter registration supersedes and nullifies Arizona's Voter ID law. Just whose rights do the Supremes think they're protecting anyway?
So, I ask myself, "Self? Why should I retain my citizenship?" I already feel like a resident alien. Why not make it official? Then maybe the government wouldn't be so interested in my race, ethnicity, religion, gun ownership, sexual orientation, and dialing and internet surfing habits. And if it meant not having to pay federal income taxes, I could stop supporting Planned Parenthood and other unjust redistributive and idiotic schemes (Cash for Clunkers) imposed by Leviathan. We're unlikely to see any of the so-called "benefits" of programs we've been paying into for years anyway, once the reality of math hits home.
A US passport used to have some cachet, but now it's just as likely to get you harassed or worse.
If I can get the benefits of living in the US, including employment, healthcare, education for my kids, and voting, why should I hazard the ever increasing downside of US citizenship? My emotional attachment is already historical in nature. I don't recognize the place I'm living as the same place I grew up. It's been fundamentally transformed into something "new," although not improved.
Sen. Rand Paul (R., KY) sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss the origin of his political philosophy, the debate over immigration reform, the roll out of Affordable Care Act, his stance on abortion, and the future of the Republican party. "Uncommon Knowledge" is produced by the Hoover Institution.
Today, the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona voter registration law that required would-be voters to provide -- the horrors! -- proof of citizenship. Despite the depressing result, there are actually glimmers of hope in the seven-to-two decision written by Justice Scalia (the case is Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona).
What gave Arizona the crazy idea that it could make laws about voter registration? Oh, just the fusty old Constitution. Article I, Section 2 says that the voters in federal elections, “shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.” In other words, voter qualifications for federal elections derive from the qualifications for state elections – and the federal government has no say over state voter qualifications (except where federal power has been granted by amendment, eg, the 15th Amendment).
Enter the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, a federal law that requires states to “accept and use” a specific federal form for voter registration. In 2004, Arizona voters approved a law that requires election officials in that state to refuse to register any would-be voter who cannot prove that he is in fact a citizen. The majority of the Court held that the Arizona law was pre-empted by the NVRA, and that the Constitution empowers Congress to pre-empt state law under Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution, which allows Congress to override the states when it comes to regulating the “times, places, and manner” of holding elections.
According to the Court, voter registration is part of the “manner” of holding elections. That proposition is dubious enough under the plain meaning of the text, but even if it were true, it is superseded by the more specific provision of Article I, section 2 that clearly gives states exclusive control over voter qualifications. The maddening part is that Scalia’s opinion expressly recognizes this fact, -- i.e., that states retain the power to prescribe voter qualifications and that “Arizona is correct that it would raise serious constitutional doubts if a federal statute precluded a State from obtaining the information necessary to enforce its voter qualifications.” But in a strange bit of judicial jujitsu, the majority says that Arizona has to accept the federal form as is, and that the state must go through established procedures to ask the feds to amend the form for Arizona’s use. Scalia hints that if the feds refuse to accommodate Arizona’s law in the future, the courts ought to compel the feds to accommodate Arizona’s preferences.
The dissenters – Thomas and Alito – had a more elegant solution: the Court should interpret the NVRA to be consistent with Article I, Section 2 as a law that creates a minimum requirement (use of the federal form), but allows states the power to tack on their own requirements without having to ask federal permission. I suspect that Scalia’s convoluted opinion was the result of SCOTUS politics. It looks to me like a deal in which, for the price of striking down Arizona’s requirement for now, Scalia got the liberals to accept that states do indeed retain the right to set voter qualifications and that the feds need to accommodate that right. If Arizona persists, it should get its way in a couple of years. Not ideal, but in the words of a Federalist Society member on a teleforum call today, “Arizona lost the case, but won the war.”
Before the Obama presidency turned into a series of scandals worthy of a Lifetime miniseries starring Meredith Baxter, the ballooning of the national debt was a top ten critique. The GOP accused the Democrats of spending money we don’t have and ignoring the consequences for future generations. Some have suggested that this is the inherent failure of Keynesian economics, whose author famously said “In the long run, we’re all dead.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, it appears Top 40 music has been influenced by this “spend now, pay never” philosophy. Take a look at some of the recent hits:
-- “Die Young” by Ke$ha, which advises us to live “like it’s the last night of our lives,” hit number 1 on Billboard’s Top 40.
-- “Live While We’re Young” by One Direction, suggests the singer and the girl he just met “go crazy, crazy, crazy ‘til we see the sun,” and “never, never, never stop for anyone.” It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 3.
-- “Here’s To Never Growing Up” by Avril Lavigne, wishes to “stay forever young,” and advises us to “Go hard this weekend for no damn reason.”
-- “We Are Young,” by fun., which won the Grammy for Song of the Year, suggests “We are young, so let’s set the world on fire.”
Notice a theme? Each of these songs encourages living in the moment and not worrying about the consequences of our actions. There’s a timeless romanticism to throwing caution to the wind, but it seems the message of “screw the future, let’s do what we want” is more prevalent than before.
Ironically, it’s these twenty-somethings (and younger) who will end up paying the price for this administration’s largesse. Or, as is more likely the case, they will be the ones to kick the can further down the road. Hopefully they’ll at least be kicking that can with those sweet self-tying Nikes from Back To The Future II.
However, this insistence on youth and living for the here and now may not be a result of this narcissistic, Kardashianized generation where fame is an entitlement and not a result of accomplishment, but rather owe to a pessimistic view of our future. After almost five years of Obama, the notion of succeeding generations living better than their predecessors has evaporated and has been replaced with being forced to recognize the “new normal.” Forget about the American Dream, because why aspire to success when the successful are the villains? Maybe Ke$ha, et al., are on to something – live as if there’s no future because in Obama’s America, there is no future. Or, better yet, maybe Obama and the Democrats should just go write pop songs.
On Friday, our own Jim Pethokoukis was on CNBC's The Kudlow Report debating the Hoover Institution's John Taylor over the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy. Here's how it played out:
Who do you think got the better of the argument?
From Beth Reinhard at National Journal:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker polls near the bottom of would-be presidential contenders. Unlike potential rivals, you won't find him on the cover of Time magazine or slow-jamming the news with comedian Jimmy Fallon.
But he's a conservative Republican who won election in a blue state, survived a brutal recall campaign, and now posts approval ratings over 50 percent. A budget-slashing chief executive and son of a Baptist minister who straddles the fiscal and social conservative camps. A proven fundraiser who has put his thumb in the eye of President Obama and Big Labor.
He's poised to be the sleeper Republican presidential candidate of 2016.
I'm second to no one in my admiration for Walker, but I'll confess that I long had my doubts about him as a presidential candidate -- thought not because of any defects on the merits. As I often tell people, my analysis of presidential campaigns is shallow because I believe the electorate's is as well.
The process, by my reading, is pretty impressionistic. The broader electorate isn't breaking down white papers. They're more often treating the exercise as casting someone to play the president rather than hiring someone to actually do the job. If you're the telegenic Marco Rubio or the big-on-showmanship Chris Christie, I understand how you reach the low-information voter. If you're a mild-mannered Midwesterner whose hallmark is aggressive, no-frills competence ... well, it's less clear (call it the Mitch Daniels problem).
My thinking on this topic changed, by the way, when I saw Walker speak at CPAC earlier this year. He's not a flashy speaker, but he -- perhaps better than any Republican in the country right now -- has the ability to give conservatism the populist edge that it needs in an era of public-private collusion. He also has a wonderfully explanatory approach. Your garden variety Republican candidate uses ideological assertions as a crutch. Walker assumes the burden of proof is on him and walks the audience through the logic of conservative policy reform. I find the method deeply impressive.
Here's that speech, for those who haven't seen it (Walker takes the stage at about the two minute mark):
What do you think, Ricochet? Does the prospect of a Scott Walker presidential campaign excite you? Can he resonate with a national audience?
As many of you know, I seriously considered and eventually declined to run in 2014 against Lindsey Graham. That doesn't stop me from continuing to encourage someone else to run and scream at the top of my lungs about how terrible Graham is as an elected senator from the state in which I live.
In fact, a day doesn't go by lately where I don't scream obscenities at the computer or the television because of the latest mind-boggling thing that Lindsey Graham has said or done. Speaking of the television, does Lindsey Graham have a gold-plated seat on the set of "On The Record"? Can't Greta find someone else to whine and moan besides Graham at least once in a while?
But I digress.
Last week, Lindsey Graham came out with another whopper.
Faced with questions about the disclosure that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone and email records of citizens, Graham pointed to a World War II-era program in which the federal government censored mail. He said it was appropriate at the time and that he would support reinstating the program if it aided security efforts.
"In World War II, the mentality of the public was that our whole way of life was at risk, we're all in. We censored the mail. When you wrote a letter overseas, it got censored. When a letter was written back from the battlefield to home, they looked at what was in the letter to make sure they were not tipping off the enemy," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill. "If I thought censoring the mail was necessary, I would suggest it, but I don't think it is."
I'm sorry.... WHAT?
You see that cute way Graham shows you under his skirt ... but then covers up real quick?
"Yeah, if I had my way... I'd read everyone's mail. Unfortunately for you peons, I don't have that power.... YET!"
A lot of people said to me earlier this year... "Why would you run against Lindsey Graham when he's so good on national security."
My response: REALLY?
Lindsey Graham has a history of articulating his statist views on topics ranging from civil liberties to immigration, but also on national security. I like to remind people that as good as Graham might have become after the Benghazi attack, guess who helped create the circumstances that led to Benghazi?
Graham was right in line with President Obama and John McCain as U.S. military assets were used in an unconstitutional manner to help NATO forces overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. And lo and behold, Graham is shaking his fist wanting to invade Syria these days.
But back to the mail. FreedomWorks cleverly responded to Graham's desire to read and censor all of our mail.
Graham, Obama’s biggest cheerleader in the Senate, came out in full support of PRISM – the program that allows the government to spy on all American citizens.
First Graham voted to bail out Wall Street. Then he took part in the greatest spending spree the American government has ever experienced. Now he is making a mockery of the Bill of Rights.
It’s time to ask Lindsey Graham to lead by example. Will he stand by his own admitted principles? Or will he tell the American people “privacy for me, and not thee?”
Sign the petition and demand Senator Lindsey Graham reveal his email passwords. If Lindsey Graham is so eager to surrender our privacies as citizens, he should go first!
Honestly, I feel sorry for the people that would have to read Graham's mail. There'd be a lot of rambling love letters with a return address from Sedona, Arizona.
Graham needs to remember that he is hired and fired by the people of South Carolina. The facts show that Graham has more in common with John McCain, Barack Obama and the Washington DC crowd than he does with anyone who will see his name on a ballot next year.
A few weeks ago, I journeyed to the medium-sized, Midwestern county seat my grandparents call home. As is the case in most communities its size, the local economy is quite sluggish. I'm not usually bothered by the town's mild poverty, but this visit, however, was oddly depressing. Much of the populace (undoubtedly brought out by the warm weather) looked aimless and lumbering, and too large a proportion of them were smoking. The obligatory summer weed growth gave the town an air of dinginess not present during the winter months.
Naturally, I was reminded of Charles Murray's Coming Apart. Perhaps social stratification is not as severe as the book makes it seem, but the town I visited is certainly suffering from it.
Here are a few statistics:
- Population: 11,768
- Median household income: $34,569
- 78% of the town's residents graduated high school. 11% have at least a bachelor's degree.
- Unemployment is 7.4%.
- Manufacturing is the dominant industry, followed by retail trade and construction.
- Only 25% of residents are affiliated with a religious congregation.
Given that the plight of Fishtown-ish locales is a relatively new phenomenon, I'm naturally curious to know what its long-term effects will be. America hasn't been around for terribly long (in central Ohio, a 175-year old building is really old), so we have no idea what years of sustained economic and social stagnation do to a place. You'll probably point to Detroit as an example, but Detroit is a major city and the problems faced by cities can't quite compare to those faced by small towns. Cities in decline receive all sorts of attention. Towns don't, perhaps because such decline is expected.
So, in a hundred years, what will become of America's towns? Will they continue as they are? Experience further economic decline? Disappear entirely? Gentrify?
I know that the answer to my question depends on a tremendous number of factors. Obviously, a town in Ohio is different than a Californian community of identical size. If the political status quo continues, economic conditions might make the question irrelevant, anyway. Still, I think it's a valid question and one I haven't seen asked on Ricochet.