Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

08/30/2012 (1:01 pm)

On the Pain of Being an Infant in a Political World

Paul Ryan, nominee for Vice President on the Republican ticket, gave his speech to the Republican National Convention last night… and just look at the headlines he got from the leftist editorialists:

Paul Ryan’s Brazen Lies (Salon.com)

Most Dishonest Convention Speech… Ever? (The New Republic)

Top Five Fibs in Paul Ryan’s Convention Speech (Talking Points Memo)

Great Moments in CNN Euphemisms (Josh Marshall, TPM)
(This one simply cites Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett for saying “The fact checkers will have things to dispute” instead of calling Ryan a liar.)

Ryan’s Misleading Speech (Washington Post Opinion page)

When anyone listens to a political speech by one’s opponents, it is common to react at those points where the speech touches on areas of disagreement. People I know have pointed finger-guns at the TV screen and feigned shooting, or pretended to remove a shoe and hurl it at the TV. I get up and pace, and go someplace to vent. We get agitated at those points where we know the rebuttal to the point being made. We want to interrupt the speech and insert our rebuttal. It’s natural.

It’s so common, in fact, that you would think that everybody would have gotten a wry perspective on it by now, particularly in a contentious field like politics. You’d think we’d be able to laugh at ourselves, and then later to discount our own agita so we could assess what was said more calmly.

The best advice, of course, is Mom’s: “It’s his turn to talk. Later it will be your turn, and you’ll be able to say whatever you like.” That’s the adult response. Most of us have internalized it by now, though it does take some effort.

However, apparently the leftist editorialists I mentioned at the top of the column are not willing to make the effort. Their reaction to ordinary, political disagreement is visceral, verbal, and rage-filled, and it involves accusations of lying. Apparently their mothers never told them to wait patiently for their turn, or perhaps they simply did not listen.

So now we have to play Mom for them.

No, guys, he’s not lying; he’s giving his side of the argument. Sit down. It’ll be your turn next, and you’ll get to say what you think is right.

The nature of the objections is, as usual, a little bit silly. The biggie that appears at the top of most of the articles I’ve read is where they object to Ryan’s mention of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, WI, where Obama gave a campaign speech in 2008 saying “‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” Ryan noted,

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

This is what the leftists call a “lie.” Their objection is that the plant closed before Obama took office, which is true.

But Ryan need not dispute that. He did not intimate or imply that President Obama caused the plant to close, nor did he imply that Obama caused the economic difficulty, nor did he say it closed because of any particular failure of the Obama administration. There are actually several places in the speech where he acknowledges that Obama did not cause the economic crisis.

What he said was that the plant remains closed. The indictment, here as throughout the speech, is that despite positive rhetoric, the Obama administration has failed to do anything that will produce a recovery and put people back to work. That is precisely what he said: “…the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”

In fact, a story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in September of 2011, long after Obama took office, confirms that GM is keeping the Janesville plant on stand-by in case the market picks up, but that they cannot open it yet because the economy is recovering more slowly than expected. Just like Ryan said.

So, no, guys, he did not lie. He did not mislead. He did not imply anything even questionable. He stated a fact and then used it to make his argument about the President’s inactivity when faced with a crisis not of his making.

Deal with it.

But more importantly, please grow up. You’re going to hear political speeches where people will make arguments that you believe you can refute. Fine. Write a blog article and refute it. But don’t go around calling honest men liars just because you’re not adult enough to live with the angst of not having the only opinion in the world. Jeez, Louise.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative who blogs at the Washington Post, set most of their complaints straight in her post this morning, entitled “Ryan Freaks Out Obamaland.” It’s a satisfying read, especially if you’ve been daunted by the flood of Democrat-leaning fact-checkers.

08/01/2012 (2:03 pm)

I Had Help Building That. So?

Whenever President Obama gets too far away from the teleprompter, he says something he genuinely means. That’s a disaster for him, because what he genuinely means is usually something odious to the average American.

Back in 2008, in a candid observation to a plumber named Joe, it was a raw expression of the rationale behind income redistribution, which many Americans properly regard as theft. Respect for private property is the cornerstone of American liberty, and one of the principle reasons government exists is to protect it. For the government to steal property and give it to others who have not earned it negates the reason for government the same way policemen ignoring the law negate the reason for policemen. What candidate Obama said to Joe the Plumber made it clear that the Democrats’ candidate for President embraced at least some ideas from within Marxist thought.

This time around, it is a raw expression of Marxist collectivism — only the Left wants us to think that it was something thoughtful and harmless.

Here is what the President said:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

“Give something back.” As though providing wanted goods and services at an acceptable price, providing jobs for the community, and paying taxes as required by law do not give something valuable to the community on their own.

The Left has been adamant that the furor over this statement is because Obama was misunderstood. “He is not dismissing entrepreneurship,” they cry. “You’re taking him out of context.” Michael Smerconish, a moderate talk show host from my former hometown, Philadelphia, speaks calmly for the Left from the Huffington Post:

…the context of Obama’s two sentences was a far cry from an assault on American entrepreneurship. He was arguing that, while he was willing to cut government waste, he would not gut investments that grow the economy or give tax breaks to the likes of himself or Romney…lost in a squabble over “you didn’t build that” was the opportunity for a more serious conversation about social contracts.

To illustrate the more subtle point about social contracts, Smerconish brings up an earlier speech from Harvard professor and US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (she of the false “native American” claim,) running against Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which has gotten fame and notice all over the Internet. Ms. Warren, in an off-the-cuff talk in Andover, MA (a bastion of posh leftists like herself, as it happens,) expressed the same idea as President Obama in more eloquent fashion:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

“The rest of us paid for…” Oh, my God, the arrogance…

What is astounding is that Smerconish and the rest of the Left think we on the right object to these sentiments because we do not understand them. They are incorrect. We understand them perfectly, and reject them. They arise from a system of thought on the basis of which a third of the world was subjugated under brutal tyranny in the 20th century, and hundreds of millions of citizens were murdered by their own governments. We would like to avoid those results if we could, thanks.

These statements from the President and Ms. Warren presuppose that a business exists solely to benefit itself, and nobody else. That particular form of ignorance has its roots in Marxian thought, namely, the notion that the bourgeois make their wealth on the backs of the poor while providing nothing in return, like vampires.

Nothing could be further from the economic truth. The truth is that the primary aim of every successful business is to benefit the consumer, and it only makes profit if it succeeds in benefiting the consumer. This benefits the entire community by providing desired goods and services at an acceptable price.

You don’t think so? Wait ’till you hear how people whine about the loss if it’s forced out of business. Remember how they declared that Catholic hospitals had no right to go out of business, because they provide a unique public good? Remember how they wailed about Wal-Mart putting smaller retailers out of business?

Additionally, the successful business pays taxes. The amount it pays in taxes is fixed by the legislature. The laws passed by the legislature define, for the sake of the community, what the business’ fair share is. By definition in a free republic, if the business has paid its taxes according to law, it has paid its fair share. It is not benefiting from roads “the rest of us” paid for; it is benefiting from roads it helped pay for itself, by paying taxes.

And finally, the business provides jobs in the community, and pays its employees for performing those jobs. The employees also pay taxes, which fund the roads and bridges about which Ms. Warren is so concerned.

So for every successful business that is moral and legal, the social contract has already been fulfilled. The businessman owes nothing more than he has already provided. He is entitled to keep all the profit that is left over, not just “a big hunk of it.” He has already paid back to the community, and owes nothing more.

The entire conversation about the social contract is already encompassed by the US Constitution, and by the body of laws formed under it. The terms of the social contract are defined by the law of the land. When an individual or a business has met the obligations set out in the duly constituted laws, that individual or business has met the terms of the social contract — and owes nothing else. The same is true of people “paying their fair share;” it is completely defined by the law. When a person has met the obligations of the law, they have paid their fair share — and owe nothing else.

If progressives want to reopen that discussion, it signals their intent to revise the basic social contract reflected in the Constitution. (Will they admit that? Never.) They have flooded the nation with their calls for a redefinition of “fair share,” and their notion that somehow, legitimate businesses need to “give back” more than they have already given under the existing social contract.

Have they told us how they intend to redefine those things? Not really, but the structure of ObamaCare gives us a clue: almost the entire “law” consists of the creation of a series of unaccountable bureaucrats, each of which will decide on their own how medical practitioners will meet the standards they produce. There is no recourse for changing the standard produced by the bureau. There is no oversight for the bureau.

They seem to want to be able to define “fair share” and “giving back” themselves, and to modify them at whim. That way, they can create a permanent debt, one that can never be fully repaid. This gives them permanent control over the populace, without any possible appeal or recourse.

This is the language of control. Individuals with control issues do something similar: they create a permanent, interpersonal debt that somehow never gets fully repaid, so you remain under their control. Loan sharks do the same: whatever you pay goes against interest, but somehow the principle never gets repaid and you remain under their control. Political controllers create the idea of a debt that you owe the collective that can never be repaid; that way, you will always be under the control of the collective.

By contrast to this, the US Constitution guarantees that the definition of “fair share” will be determined by properly selected representatives of the people. No person will be held to an arbitrary standard created by some tyrant’s whim, nor will the standard vary by the individual’s race, religion, or national origin, nor may it be changed except by due process of law. Those are the terms of the social contract designed to protect our liberties — the contract that Progressives now want us to reexamine.

Oleg Atbashian, at the PJMedia blog, captured the collectivist spirit of Obama’s remarks perfectly today, and explained in detail where we’ve seen those ideas before. (Note: free registration might be required.) He observed, among other things, that Obama’s intent to pin the success of businesses on the collective encompasses the same spirit by which the left blames its failures on anything but its own ideas. None of us are responsible for our failures, nor for our successes; we all belong to a collective consciousness, and our destiny comes to us from beyond our control:

In the erstwhile USSR, the government redistributed not only the nation’s dwindling wealth; it redistributed successes and failures. All achievements were credited to the Party and its leaders, as well as to a centrally appointed regiment of “Heroes of Socialist Labor” who conspicuously “sacrificed for the common good.” The failures were blamed on foreign aggressors, Western imperialism, enemies of the people, kulaks, saboteurs, corrupt bureaucracy, irresponsible middle management, selfish greed, and lack of proletariat consciousness, as well as on natural disasters and bad weather. Sound familiar?

Yes, we are all dependent on each other, and yes, we are all part of each other. Like so much of that about which the Left lectures, it is annoying, not because it is false, but because it is trivial. We are interdependent; and we cannot build a tree house before God has first created trees. What of it? Every adult knows that he or she has to function as part of an interdependent society to survive: and those of us who have grown up know that when one has lived a moral and virtuous life, one has fulfilled one’s obligation to society. The interdependence of everything is not something liberals grasp and conservatives don’t; it’s something liberals think is new revelation, like teenagers discovering “world peace” for the first time, and conservatives understand is already encompassed in the way we do things. No, the grocer did not build his grocery by himself; and by the same token, I did not fill my refrigerator without the grocer. I thank him by paying his price and honoring the rules of his store. He thanks me by providing fresh vegetables and employing my neighbors. We all get along fine. Beyond that, we owe each other nothing more than decent treatment.

But none of that negates the crucial fact that we are responsible for our failures, and we are responsible for our successes. The businessman really does deserve credit for building his successful business, and President Obama really did insult him when he said that he was no smarter and worked no harder than anyone else. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way, but that’s what he said.

We all get the same benefit from government: we drive on the same roads, and the same firemen put out our neighbors’ fires. So, why aren’t we all equally successful? Because, despite the prating of America’s Marx-influenced political left, individual effort really does make a difference.

President Obama wants us to give him leave to redefine at will how much we all must contribute to the collective in order to fulfill the social contract. The world has already seen where that leads; that’s why we object. We think the social contract under which we currently operate works just fine, thank you very much. We did not misunderstand him at all.

02/09/2012 (10:29 am)

Where the Republicans Can Win Big This Year

Barack Obama has made a serious, tactical error.

The attack on the Catholic Church in ObamaCare is deliberate and timed for the election. He hopes to use it to pretend that the Republican candidate, whoever that might be, is a big, scary religious fanatic who is against contraception. He believed his focus group data that said most people would side with an assault against the archaic, corrupt, fanatical, religious idiots.

His focus groups were wrong. It’s going to explode in his face.

America is still a religious nation, and most people are not so stupid as to think that this is really about contraception. It’s about religious liberty, everybody knows it, and nobody likes being told what to believe.

So here’s how the election stacks up:

Obama v Romney becomes “middle class v 1%.” Romney tries to make it “Democrat establishment v successful businessman,” but it won’t sell. Obama wins easily. (Oh, and Obama would run to Romney’s right, and would be believed. Seriously.)

Obama v Gingrich becomes “known, sane President v unstable loon,” while Gingrich tries to make it “big government v better ideas.” It’s a tossup. Gingrich would champion religious liberty correctly, but Obama wins this if Gingrich self-destructs, which is, unfortunately, frighteningly likely.

Obama v Santorum becomes “status quo v scary neanderthal,” but what the people will hear is “big, oppressive, anti-religious government v ordinary people just trying to live their lives.” THIS is where the Republican party wins big. Not only does Santorum win this match-up, he would have coattails. Santorum would play well among Northeast Catholics, in the Midwest Bible Belt, and even in black churches. Republican candidates should win across the board in this scenario.

Barack Obama has handed the Republican party the issue of individual, religious liberty on a gilt-edged platter. Rick Santorum is the correct candidate to take advantage of this.

We have an opportunity.

(A note to my readers about Newt Gingrich:

I have represented Gingrich consistently on this blog as the best thinker in the Republican party. I still believe that he is that. I think that any Republican administration would be stronger with Gingrich on the White House staff as a political strategist.

However, after watching him flail and toss out bizarre, speculative policy options and distasteful attacks as he was losing the Florida primary, I have had to face the fact that the man simply lacks the personal character to sustain a long campaign against the Democratic party machine, let alone run a country like the United States. I could be wrong about this, but I have decided to put my vote behind Rick Santorum as the most viable, “Not-Romney” conservative candidate left in the race.

To be frank, I’m relieved at the thought of not having to defend Gingrich’s mercurial character. Rick Santorum is an unambiguously good human being.)

01/23/2012 (10:05 am)

The Roar

At last, a political commentator who gets it right.

“The Roar” refers to the response to Newt Gingrich’s refusal to accept John King’s recitation of his ex-wife’s accusation in the national debate in South Carolina last Thursday, and to the mood among conservatives that that represents. It explains why Gingrich is doing so well at this point. C. Edmund Wright, a national columnist and real estate mogul, explains in the American Thinker today why Gingrich won — and why the political class missed the fact that he was going to.

The math is clear. While negative ads can be effective if run in huge numbers — as in Iowa — what the voters are craving in the debates and on the stump is someone who can look liberals squarely in the eye and tell them why we are right and they are wrong. The American conservative base has had to put up with being called stupid, racist, greedy and unfair for decades by not only the Democrats but the vast majority of the media. The pent up frustration of these decades is magnified by the fact that George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain would not or perhaps could not confront this.

In fact, rare is the Republican candidate at any level who refuses to put up with this and fights back. When they do, they become sensations. Even Chris Christie and Donald Trump — neither one a real conservative — earned the love of the Republican base by simply deigning to fight back. Marco Rubio and Allen West are far more popular and well known than they have any right to be simply because they refuse to accept the argument on liberals’ terms. They fight. They elicit the roar…

The roar is passion. The roar is intensity. The roar is pent up frustration. The roar, put another way, is the national mood of conservatives. It is a roar that will demand a fighter. It will demand that those who want our votes must not cower in the face of the liberal template. If fact, it is a roar that demands that we do not accept any liberal templates.

Wright gets this exactly right. We’ve all been watching the ominous advance of Progressivism eating Western Civilization for our adult lives. We’re hoping to find a champion that can make their sound bites sound like the inchoate nonsense that they are, in spite of the complicity of the press with them. It doesn’t really matter who does it; when strong men and women face down the Progressives effectively, good sense wins, and sanity returns to government. Rudy Guiliani’s New York, Chris Christie’s New Jersey, Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana, and Scott Walker’s Wisconsin stand as examples. Anybody who does it well deserves some credibility.

The fact is that conservatives are not “stupid, racist, greedy and unfair.” We’re thoughtful, compassionate, ordinate in our desires, and stand for truth and liberty. It is Progressives who have lost their minds, who represent the worst of seething hatred, avarice, envy, lust, arrogance, self-righteousness, and dishonesty, while pretending to stand for the opposite. The contrast between the Tea Party and #Occupy demonstrates this amply. We’re looking for public champions to say so credibly.

It’s really a shame that Rudy Giuliani did not know how to make this sort of thing his staple when he was running; as Mayor of New York, he was the King of the Roar. Chris Christie’s got it. Paul Ryan’s got it. And Newt’s got it. It might be enough to win the nomination, and the election after that. Conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by 2 to 1.

At least it will be an entertaining and satisfying election season.

12/09/2011 (10:21 am)

What Nobody Has Said About Mitt Romney

I have plenty of reasons to oppose Mitt Romney’s candidacy, but I am shocked that nobody has brought this up about him: he is Barack Obama’s ideal choice for an election opponent.

Barack Obama is weak as a candidate because his administration has instituted draconian, top-heavy policies that are draining the national coffers. The campaign that will successfully overthrow him is the one that emphasizes smaller, less intrusive, less costly government.

Mitt Romney, however, cannot run that campaign. He instituted the same draconian, top-heavy policies that are now draining the Massachusetts government.

Barack Obama’s strongest campaign strategy will be to polarize the nation against the rich 1%, blame the 2008 crash on Wall Street capitalists, and paint the Republicans as the defenders of the rich capitalists.

Mitt Romney made his money and reputation as one of those Wall Street capitalists. He is the perfect target for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

So Mitt Romney is the worst possible candidate to unseat Barack Obama, and the best possible candidate for Obama to run against.

Now do we all see why the press has been calling Romney the inevitable Republican nominee, and has been avoiding any negative stories about him? The notion that Romney is the only Republican who can beat Obama is pure nonsense. The notion that Romney can beat Obama at all is nonsense. Romney is Obama’s choice for opponent.