Revised Tea Party Gospel: “Suffer the little children come unto me. Unless they’re undocumented kids from Central America.”
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 22, 2014
Much easier to be a Christian when the little children aren’t in your back yard, isn’t it?
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 22, 2014
From the world of social media, controversy trended earlier this week around comments (seen above) by horror writer Stephen King. The author of best-selling novels like The Shining and Pet Sematary challenged the convictions of Christians and Tea Partiers when it comes to helping children in need. The Christian Post reports:
An aggregation of King’s tweets by Twitchy, however, revealed some pointed rebuttals casting him as a hypocrite, including a few from conservative radio host Dana Loesch.
“Didn’t see you amongst the Christians ministering to the hungry in McAllen last weekend, @StephenKing. Full calendar?” Loesch noted on Twitter.
“Hey @StephenKing, look at this MEDICAL TRUCK provided privately BY A CHRISTIAN,” she added in another tweet.
Journalist Lachlan Markay also found King’s tweet particularly odd.
“Very odd tweet, @StephenKing, given the lengths to which many prominent Christians have gone of late to help refugee kids at the border,” he tweeted.
The nature of King’s hypocrisy deserves note. Those Christians, conservatives, and Tea Partiers who have rallied charity to meet the needs of illegal immigrant children held in Texas have done so in pursuit of their own values. Their personal beliefs and convictions motivate their actions, and they act with their own resources. By contrast, King assigns others the task of caring and providing. He stands eager to see Christians and Tea Partiers sacrificed for what he regards as a greater good.
It’s the difference between egoistic charity and altruistic sacrifice. Unfortunately, our language largely confuses these concepts. Caring for others is regarded as altruism, when it’s actually an egoistic chosen value. And human sacrifice is justified by appeals to caring, as if sacrificing someone could ever be a caring act.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 38:23 minutes long; 36.91 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Politicians and pundits apparently have more interest in asserting American strength on the world stage than do the American people. From Fox News:
It’s no secret that after a decade of bloodshed and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans are weary of war. But the numbers in a new Politico poll bring home how sizable majorities are increasingly wary of further foreign entanglements.
Take Ukraine, which became a flash point when Russia invaded Crimea and has dominated the news since the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane, almost definitely by pro-Russian separatists. When the pollsters asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, only 17 percent of likely voters said yes. Another 34 percent said America should be less involved, while 31 percent backed the Obama administration’s current approach. (The poll was taken before the jet was shot down.)
What about Syria, which shattered President Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and has been suppressing a rebellion for years. Some 42 percent of likely voters want less U.S. involvement, while 15 percent want more and 26 percent back our limited level of involvement.
And then there are the two wars that have roiled American politics since 9/11. An overwhelming 77 percent support Obama’s plan to pull all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, with 23 percent in opposition.
And in Iraq, where tremendous gains by ISIS sparked a fierce debate over whether Obama should have left some troops in the country, 44 percent want less involvement and 19 percent favor more involvement, with 23 percent supporting the current level of engagement.
These are staggering figures that reveal a chasm between most politicians and a majority of voters. Many Americans are understandably focused on the problems in their daily lives and not terribly worried about what happens in Donetsk or Aleppo.
Have we become a nation of wimps? Or, has the Washington set been operating under a false dichotomy between restraint and strength?
An opportunity seems to be presented here for a new kind of foreign policy posture, one focused on quick and decisive victory against objective threats to American lives, but otherwise reluctant to intervene in wholly foreign affairs. Will Rand Paul fill that void? Many Republicans won’t trust him to recognize objective threats. Yet, his seems to be the only voice deviating from the bipartisan Washington choir. Who else might thread the needle between isolationism and military adventurism by articulating a vigorous defense that nonetheless minds our own business?
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 10:01 minutes long; 9.68 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
If venerable film and theater actor Sir Ian McKellen has proven anything over the course of his remarkable career, he has proven that it is never too late to catch your big break. McKellen worked steadily throughout his life, achieving renown (and an Oscar) for his role as an aging Nazi war criminal in 1998’s Apt Pupil. But it wasn’t until two years later, when he reunited with director Bryan Singer to play Magneto in the first X-Men film and became Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise, that McKellen became an American superstar at the age of 61.
Plenty of actors have “made it” well into their middle age. Despite playing roles in several Hollywood films, including a significant supporting bit in Jurassic Park, Samuel L. Jackson didn’t become a star until his role in Pulp Fiction at the age of 46. Another Quentin Tarantino film catapulted Christoph Waltz to fame at the age of 53.
Such success, like most all success, emerges from a commitment to develop a craft and persist through setbacks while relentlessly pursuing an individually-defined happiness. No one handed it to McKellen, Jackson, or Waltz. They earned it.
Nevertheless, McKellen recently shared his belief with Radio Times that struggling actors should be lifted up through wage controls. From The Independent:
A recent report found just one actor in 50 earned more than £20,000 a year.
“Most actors are not rich – they are very poor indeed. What keeps them going is that they just love the job,” Sir Ian told Radio Times.
He said: “I know actors who have had to turn down good roles because they just don’t pay enough. It’s hard. The one thing you can ask, I think, is that actors get paid a living wage. I would like it if all the repertory theatres that currently exist could do that. It would make a huge difference.”
The reason one actor in 50 earns more than £20,000 a year is because only one actor in 50 produces that much value. Forcing wage mandates on the industry will not change the amount of value produced. It will only increase the cost of giving struggling actors a chance, which means they will get fewer chances.
It’s precisely the same dynamic created by any minimum wage. Opportunities for those with low or developing skill dry up as they are priced out of the market. If McKellen truly cares about the struggling actors rising up in his wake, he should reconsider his position on wage controls.
As the presidential prospects of Senator Rand Paul grow more viable, so does the intensity of the foreign policy debate within the Republican Party. At the center of that debate is the U.S. relationship with Israel. What obligation do we hold to the Jewish state?
PJM associate editor Bryan Preston responds to a report from the Washington Free Beacon regarding a list of books scrubbed from Senator Paul’s website after the Weekly Standard called out some of the books as “anti-Israel.” Preston concludes:
I’d like to like Rand Paul, for his small government, libertarian principles. I share those, and the fact is, we will go bankrupt as a country if we do not get spending under control. But Paul’s foreign policy instincts have too much of the far left, Dennis Kucinich, blame-America-and-Israel-first detritus to make him a serious commander in chief. This reading list is a symptom of that. It suggests that Paul sees Israel as the prime problem in the Middle East, and Jews the prime problem in the world.
Whether Paul holds such views or not, a broader question emerges from the association of non-interventionist foreign policy with antisemitism. Does one indicate the other? Must we “support Israel” in a particular way to prove that we do not hate Jews?
Lost in the loudest rhetoric dominating the Republican foreign policy debate is an application of non-interventionism which nonetheless acknowledges Islamic totalitarianism. As Ayn Rand Institute executive director Yaron Brook explains in the clip above, the U.S. and Israel share a common enemy, an ideology which expressly seeks to deprive individuals of their rights. Non-intervention does not mean sticking our head in the sand and ignoring real enemies. It means limiting our response to actions which defend us rather than police the world.
Certainly, influences within the Paul family orbit err on the side of pacifism, and those forces deserve rebuke. Even so, it would be a mistake to dismiss the principle underlying non-interventionism. We should “support Israel” to the extent it defends our citizens by defanging a common enemy, not for Israel’s sake, but for ours. What that looks like in practice remains open to debate.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 16:14 minutes long; 15.64 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
On his radio program Thursday, Glenn Beck made a great point regarding the expanding immigration crisis on the southern border:
Send the illegals to the sanctuary cities. They’re the ones who say they can figure it out… And I understand that means Dallas, Texas [near where I live]. But it means Dallas, Texas. And Dallas, Texas will have to deal with the problems in Dallas, Texas.
Beck likewise called for illegals to be shipped to the neighborhood of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who earlier in the week compared deporting illegal immigrants to sending Jewish refuges back to Nazi Germany. “He’s not going to want [2000 illegals in his neighborhood],” Beck speculated.
It’s a simple but effective piece of rhetoric which challenges advocates of altruism to sacrifice themselves instead of others. If a moral obligation exists to provide for foreigners in need, to not only welcome them into the community but sustain them indefinitely, shouldn’t those who believe in such obligation stand first in line to fulfill it?
It’s a point which demonstrates that immigration as such really isn’t the issue. New neighbors who do not trespass, who deal honestly by trading value for value, present no threat to anyone. But when new neighbors necessitate new costs, when their mere existence demands we provide for their needs, immigration becomes invasion.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 16:23 minutes long; 15.79 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
The state of California has persisted under drought for several years. Now, regulators have taken drastic action to combat perceived water waste. From The Los Angeles Times:
Cities throughout California will have to impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering under an emergency state rule approved Tuesday.
Saying that it was time to increase conservation in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted drought regulations that give local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day.
Many Southern California cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Long Beach, already have mandatory restrictions in place.
But most communities across the state are still relying on voluntary conservation, and Californians in general have fallen far short of meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s January call for a 20% cut in water use.
In fact, statewide urban water usage has increased by 1% over the past three years. Cities have made efforts at “voluntary conservation,” which probably amounts to telling people that there’s a drought. But that hasn’t proven terribly effective.
Madelyn Glickfeld, assistant outreach director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, told the board that despite the Southland’s conservation strides, residents “don’t get this drought.”
She cited lush lawns and freeway sprinklers spraying next to the electronic Caltrans signs urging water savings.
There’s a better way to handle the situation. Instead of siccing the water police on neighbors for washing their car, California could institute market-based reforms which would effectively ration water without any form of policing at all.
Residents of East Los Angeles can expect to pay between $3 and $4 per 100 cubic meters of water used. If those rates were allowed to reflect actual supply and demand, they would clearly be higher. And if the rates were higher, residents would begin to “get this drought” fairly quickly. Those lush lawns grow because their owners regard them as a higher value than the money paid for irrigation. Guaranteed, there’s a price point at which that priority would shift.
But such a market response would be considered “gouging,” something which pretty much everyone regards as wrong. Yet “gouging” would immediately solve California’s problem by incentivizing consumers to ration their water use. Higher prices would also incentivize entrepreneurs to develop new and better ways to deliver water to consumers. Instead of responding abruptly to arbitrary political mandates, individuals would respond fluidly to the price signals offered in the market. The result would be a nimble response propelled by the rational self-interest of California residents. The crisis, such as it is, would resolve sooner and cause less damage over its duration.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 16:19 minutes long; 15.74 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Over five years of activism in and around the Republican Party, I have frequently heard (and occasionally made) calls to appeal to young voters. Such exhortations typically include a claim to know what young voters want. They want government out of their personal lives. They want a more tolerant and inclusive society. And they want government to balance its checkbook. But the full picture proves a bit more convoluted, as The Atlantic reports:
Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They’re for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they’ve heard of. They’d like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn’t run anything.
That’s all from a new Reason Foundation poll surveying 2,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Millennials’ political views are, at best, in a stage of constant metamorphosis and, at worst, “totally incoherent,” as Dylan Matthews puts it.
Author Derek Thompson ably demonstrates how the results could be construed by partisans to signal millennial support for either political party’s agenda. That in spite of a similar Pew poll indicating that millennials don’t care much for either party. In short, the Reason Foundation poll offers little to nothing of any practical substance regarding a millennial platform for public policy.
This really shouldn’t surprise us. Kids want everything, right now and for free, until they learn the value of a dollar through practical experience. The Reason Foundation poll found that millennials who meet with financial success tend to rethink that whole wealth redistribution thing.
Maybe the takeaway for politicos chomping at the bit to win the youth vote is to stop trying to figure them out. Instead, lead with principle and demonstrate how it serves their interests.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 10:52 minutes long; 10.49 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Politics is show business with consequences. The theatricality which presents around political contests often exaggerates differences in policy. The recent back and forth between Texas governor Rick Perry and U.S. senator Rand Paul, both of whom appear likely to seek their party’s nomination for president in 2016, provides a good example.
Delivering the opening salvo in Friday’s Washington Post, Perry accuses Paul of being an “isolationist” who prescribes “next to nothing” in response to the developing threat posed by the Islamic State marching in Syria and Iraq. Yet, when the rhetorical smoke clears, Perry’s prescription differs little from what Paul has called for. The Kentucky senator highlights as much in his response published Monday at Politico:
Perry says there are no good options. I’ve said the same thing. President Obama has said the same thing. So what are Perry’s solutions and why does he think they are so bold and different from anyone else’s?
He writes in the Washington Post, “the president can and must do more with our military and intelligence communities to help cripple the Islamic State. Meaningful assistance can include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sharing and airstrikes.”
If the governor continues to insist that these proposals mean I’m somehow “ignoring ISIS,” I’ll make it my personal policy to ignore Rick Perry’s opinions.
Paul gives as good as he gets, attempting to portray himself as stronger, wiser, and more Reaganesque. But this too is more showmanship than substance.
In truth, the differences between Perry and Paul manifest more in rhetorical spin than actual policy. Perry has an interest in portraying Paul as an “isolationist” who will do nothing in the face of an imminent threat to American lives, even though Paul has said nothing of the sort. Likewise, Paul has an interest in portraying Perry as a rabid warmonger chomping at the bit to toss American lives into a foreign meat grinder, even though Perry has not prescribed troop deployment in response to the current crisis.
There are real differences between these two, and real differences along the spectrum of foreign policy positions in the Republican Party. However, we should remain mindful of the interest likely candidates have in exaggerating those differences to build momentum for their campaigns. In truth, we need not choose between reckless war and naïve isolation. Our real choices are much less neat.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 11:19 minutes long; 10.87 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Edward Snowden, with his tales of collected cellphone metadata, was small potatoes. A new tattler tells the Guardian that audio of our conversations is monitored and stored by the NSA. Antony Loewenstein reports:
William Binney is one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War but resigned soon after September 11, disgusted by Washington’s move towards mass surveillance.
On 5 July he spoke at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and revealed the extent of the surveillance programs unleashed by the Bush and Obama administrations.
“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US”, Binney said. “This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.”
Outrageous though this revelation surely is, we should not be surprised. The combination of ever-improving high technology, within a political context where individual rights are routinely sacrificed for a perceived “greater good,” makes this kind of surveillance inevitable. Once contained only in dystopian fantasy, global population monitoring has emerged as a plausible reality.
We’re not going to be able to put the technological genie back in the bottle, and mere “oversight” won’t be able to keep up with emerging surveillance capabilities. Instead, if we hope to avoid Binney’s predicted “total population control,” we need a philosophical revolution which culminates in stripping government of the funding and authority to maintain such blanket surveillance.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 17:25 minutes long; 16.79 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Motivated by last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down components of the Voting Rights Act which required some states to obtain federal clearance before making changes to election law, civil rights groups now pursue changes to federal law which would effectively nationalize state election processes. From the Atlanta Daily World, reported earlier this month:
In January, a bipartisan group of Washington lawmakers accepted the Supreme Court’s challenge to update the VRA, by introducing the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014.
While the proposed VRAA covers states with five violations in 15 years and jurisdictions that show continuous low minority turnout and enhances Department of Justice’s power to monitor elections, it only requires Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi to “pre-clear” changes to voting laws. Voters’ rights advocates have said that North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida should also be covered. The bill also goes soft on restrictive voter ID laws, installing a special rule that separates voter ID laws from other discriminatory practices.
Yes, that’s a non-editorial news report referring to voter ID laws as “discriminatory.” You get the gist that many of these so-called civil rights activists wish to endow the federal government with sweeping power over state election systems.
Before that happens, there remains a window of opportunity for advocates of state sovereignty to pursue a bold course toward reigning in federal overreach. While the notion of nullification has maintained popularity among constitutional activist groups, it lacks teeth in an era where the federal Supreme Court holds final say over conflicts between federal and state interpretation. Instead, states might consider reforms which would reinvigorate state legislative power over their federal delegations, deterring bad law before it happens.
One proposal in development would empower a state’s legislature to deny incumbent U.S. senators or congresspeople placement on future ballots in the event their conduct was found to violate federal or state constitutions. Imagine, your senator votes in a manner defiant of your state’s interests, then your legislature effectively recalls them by keeping their name off future ballots. It could go a long way toward restoring the proper relationship between the states and their federal compact, which was undone in large part by the direct election of senators enabled by the 17th Amendment.
Too bold? Would it hold up if challenged in court? Is this a good way to hold federal legislators accountable to the several states? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 15:17 minutes long; 14.73 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Glenn Beck has responded to the broadening crisis on the United States southern border in a manner which his fans may find counterintuitive. The Blaze reports:
Glenn Beck on Tuesday announced that he will be bringing tractor-trailers full of food, water, teddy bears and soccer balls to McAllen, Texas on July 19 as a way to help care for some of the roughly 60,000 underage refugees who have crossed into America illegally in 2014.
“Through no fault of their own, they are caught in political crossfire,” Beck said of the children. “And while we continue to put pressure on Washington and change its course of lawlessness, we must also help. It is not either, or. It is both. We have to be active in the political game, and we must open our hearts.”
Beck’s announcement came as President Barrack Obama called upon Congress to appropriate nearly $4 billion to fund federal response to the crisis. Forbes reports:
The money will be used to set up new detention facilities, conduct more aerial surveillance and hire immigration judges and border patrol agents to respond to over 52,000 unaccompanied children and 39,000 adults with children who have made the dangerous journey across the border.
The inhumane conditions in which these migrant children are living motivates both political and charitable action. Texas governor Rick Perry has called the situation “a humanitarian crisis.” From across the political spectrum, commentators and power brokers seem to agree that aid must be provided.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said it well: “Plainly, the situation for many of these unaccompanied children is extremely dire, and the United States has both a security and a moral obligation to help solve the crisis at hand.”
Into this mix, consider some uncomfortable but relevant questions. If there was no one here in this place we call America, no government to appropriate funds, no greedy capitalists to rally charity, and no heartstrings on which to pull, would these immigrants still come here? If America was nothing but wilderness, a vast untamed expense as our forbears found it, would the rest of the world still send their children?
Put yet another way, if refugees escaped to the middle of nowhere instead of a populated sovereign state, would it still be a humanitarian crisis? At what point does another person’s need become your responsibility? When they cross your state’s border? When they enter your town? Once they’re televised?
By what moral calculation did your birth indebt you to them? Why didn’t their birth indebt them to you? Do you exist to provide for other’s need? If so, who exists to provide for yours?
These questions emerge from reflection upon the difference between modern immigration to the United States and historical immigration predating the welfare state. So often, in the immigration debate, we hear some variation upon this theme: America is a nation of immigrants. Indeed, it is. However, the immigrants who came here for most of the nation’s history did so without expectation of provision. The earliest settlers arrived to vast untamed wilderness with no guarantee of survival whatsoever. They dug life out of the ground and built a nation from scratch. The waves which followed sought the freedom to pursue their happiness, not subsidies or refugee camps.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 15:24 minutes long; 14.85 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
“It’s the new Jim Crow being enforced in a colorblind way.” So said Michelle Horovitz, speaking to a local Fox affiliate in Minneapolis. She aimed her reference at a dress code enforced at the downtown location of Bar Louie on weekend evenings. After 9pm Thursday through Saturday, patrons will not be admitted wearing flat-billed hats, sleeveless undershirts, “excessively baggy clothing,” long plain white t-shirts, athletic apparel, or sports jerseys. Critics like Imani Vincent call Bar Louie’s restrictions racist and discriminatory against blacks.
If you do not want African Americans to frequent your establishment, then maybe you should just say that and not just break it down to the dress code.
The whole thing proves ridiculous on multiple fronts. Horovitz, who has led the public cry against Bar Louie for their dress code, may be outing her own racist assumptions. After all, what about a dress code makes it discriminatory against a particular race? Are black people born in sports jerseys? Are they physically incapable of wearing anything else?
Horovitz calls the code “the new Jim Crow being enforced in a colorblind way.” But that’s utter nonsense. A defining aspect of Jim Crow was its explicit racial discrimination. Another defining aspect was its status as a government mandate. Calling a private dress code “the new Jim Crow” indicates profound historical illiteracy.
I’m black. My wardrobe meets Bar Louie’s dress code. Presumably, if I show up at their door after 9pm on a weekend, they will welcome my business. Indeed, I may welcome their dress code. I may be looking for a particular experience on my night out, an ambiance free of pedestrian characters.
Downtown Minneapolis has developed a nasty reputation in recent years for violence in and around nightclubs and bars. One way for venues to prevent such violence is to enforce codes of dress and conduct. If certain styles have come to be associated with incidents of violence, then taking my business to a venue which bans those styles makes sense.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. I was enforcing dress codes as a nightclub bouncer fifteen years ago. Now it’s a national story?
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 14:49 minutes long; 14.28 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Author Ed Klein, whose new book Blood Feud chronicles the antagonistic relationship between President Barrack Obama and former first family Bill and Hillary Clinton, claims that Obama has handpicked a successor for the 2016 presidential race. The Washington Times reports:
Writing in the New York Post, Mr. Klein said: “Publicly, Obama has remained noncommittal on the 2016 race, but privately he worries that Clinton would undo and undermine many of his policies. There’s also a personal animosity, especially with Bill Clinton, that dates from their tough race six years ago.
“Obama has authorized his chief political adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to conduct a full-court press to convince Warren to throw her hat into the ring,” Mr. Klein wrote. “In the past several weeks, Jarrett has held a series of secret meetings with Warren. During these meetings, Jarrett has explained to Warren that Obama is worried that if Hillary succeeds him in the White House, she will undo many of his policies.”
Warren may prove more dangerous to the remains of our American republic than either Obama or Clinton. That’s because, unlike those bigger names, Warren knows what she believes and precisely why she believes it. As seen in the clip above, Warren stands as a confident and articulate minister of the progressive gospel. She sees property seizure and redistribution as a moral imperative, a sacred obligation consented to by the act of acquiring wealth. Take another look at her remarks.
I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No! 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.
These comments, offered extemporaneously in the intimacy of a supporter’s home, indicate a true believer who claims title over the wealth earned by others.
The Blaze brings our attention to recent commentary by CNN columnist Sally Kohn on the topic of illegal immigration. She claims that describing immigrants that way, as “illegal,” is like using the n-word to describe black people. Kohn writes:
During the civil rights era, Alabama Gov. George Wallace was asked by a supporter why he was fixated on the politics of race. Wallace replied, ‘You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about n*ggers, and they stomped the floor.’
Today, opponents of immigration reform attack undocumented immigrants as ‘illegal immigrants.’ Even worse, like anti-immigration extremists, some prominent elected officials use the term ‘illegals.’ Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, said, ‘I urge all Mainers to tell your city councilors and selectmen to stop handing out your money to illegals.’
Not the same thing? Of course it is.
No, it isn’t. Kohn’s equivalence is beyond despicable.
The n-word serves no descriptive purpose. It does not speak to a factual truth about its object. The n-word is plainly and only derogatory.
The word “illegal” is an adjective with objective meaning that describes a factual reality. We call illegal immigrants “illegal” because they are here illegally. It’s pretty simple.
Of course, Kohn knows that. An eighth grader knows that. Surely, someone writing for CNN understands that words have meaning and that communicating concepts accurately proves essential to any policy debate. We may therefore conclude with confidence that Kohn’s campaign to remove “illegal” from our policy vernacular is a naked attempt to deny the illegality of certain immigration by erasing any linguistic reference to it.
The answer is no, Sally. We’re not changing our language to suit your agenda. We’re not going to stop categorizing people objectively as illegal immigrants. We’re not going to dilute the gravity of truly derogatory terms by conflating them with one that is not.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic. 10:27 minutes long; 10.09 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Celebrating Independence Day in the Obama era feels like celebrating your wedding anniversary after being widowed. Worth noting? Sure. But hard to be happy about.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: In the wake of this week’s SCOTUS rulings, State Representative Ryan Winkler tussles with Republicans on Twitter, calling activists who resist the forced unionization of childcare businesses “foolish.” Why his opinion proves not just distasteful, but dangerous.
@nwlaroche Unions raise wages. Dues are a small fraction of the financial benefit unions provide. Childcare activists are foolish.
— Ryan Winkler (@RepRyanWinkler) June 30, 2014
George Takei is an idiot, as PJM editor Bryan Preston points out in response to a meme making its way around social media. The meme features an excerpt of the Star Trek actor’s rant against Monday’s Supreme Court ruling involving Hobby Lobby. Takei expresses his idiocy in the way so many on the political left do, by conflating denial of service with harm. The Raw Story relates Takei’s broader statement:
In a post on the website for his new play, Allegiance, the openly gay Takei called Monday’s decision “a stunning setback for women’s reproductive rights.”
“The ruling elevates the rights of a FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION over those of its women employees and opens the door to all manner of claims that a company can refuse services based on its owner’s religion,” Takei wrote.
Of course, in truth, rights do not conflict. A claim to a right is either legitimate, or not. Conflicting claims to a right are not decided by elevating one above another, but by determining which is legitimate.
In truth, women’s rights stand wholly unaffected by Monday’s ruling. Precisely zero women are now unable to obtain abortifacients. They just might have to pay for it themselves. That’s because business owners, like all individuals, properly ought to control their own property.
Takei goes on to imagine any number of scenarios meant to scare us away from support of the Hobby Lobby decision:
He referred to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s blistering 35-page dissent to the decision, saying, “Think about the ramifications: As Justice Ginsberg’s stinging dissent pointed out, companies run by Scientologists could refuse to cover antidepressants, and those run by Jews or Hindus could refuse to cover medications derived from pigs (such as many anesthetics, intravenous fluids, or medications coated in gelatin).”
“(O)ne wonders,” he said, “whether the case would have come out differently if a Muslim-run chain business attempted to impose Sharia law on its employees.”
Here again, Takei and those who agree with him miss the point. Whether a particular business practice makes sense to the rest of us proves irrelevant. It’s not our business. The final arbiter of what terms an individual offers in the market should be that individual and no one else. That’s how trade works. I offer. You accept, pass, or counter-offer. Takei presents the absurd notion that refusal to offer what an employee would prefer constitutes harm. If I refuse to sell you something, or to employ you, or to agree to terms you might prefer, nothing has been taken from you.
Takei imagines a double-standard would emerge if the plaintiffs in this case were Muslim. He evokes Sharia law, which is fairly disingenuous since much of Sharia exceeds the scope of what private actors could do. Executing people isn’t a function of the market. Yet, to the extent a Muslim business owner could run their business according to their beliefs without actually harming their employees, it should be tolerated. It’s nobody else’s business. And that’s the whole point.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: An interview with PJ Media author Susan L.M. Goldberg discussing her recent piece “Gary Oldman and the Right’s Latent Antisemitism.” Are there antisemitic attitudes lurking beneath the surface of right-wing politics?
Brought to our attention by our friends at RedState, Governor Bobby Jindal “won Twitter” with a snarky post in the wake of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case.
— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) June 30, 2014
Funny, right? Except it soon became real.
#BREAKING: White House will consider whether president can act on his own to mitigate effect of Supreme Court contraception ruling
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) June 30, 2014
It figures. Why would a president who believes he can legislate without Congress not believe he can interpret law without the Court? This truly is the imperial presidency.
Elsewhere, Senator Al Franken (D – Minnesota) pledged “this is not over,” hinting that he may rally support for a constitutional amendment as he has in response to the Citizens United decision. Because the Constitution needs to speak directly to abortifacients, apparently.
The above graphic was pushed out to social media by Senator Al Franken (D – Minnesota) on Monday. Franken included his reaction to the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case upholding the religious freedom of business owners.
I’m disappointed the Supreme Court chose to side with corporations over women in the Hobby Lobby case. I’ve said it before, and will say it again: your boss is not your doctor. –Al
As a constituent, I offered this heartfelt rebuke:
Senator, given your position of power, I expect you to understand the essential facts surrounding any issue on which you opine. Precisely no one has argued that “your boss is your doctor.” That’s cute rhetoric, but describes nothing at issue in this case.
At issue is whether individuals own their life and retain choice over how to live it. Nothing prevents a woman from spending the money she earns on whatever she wants to buy. Forcing her employer to buy something for her is wrong.
Your job is to protect us from the initiation of force, Senator, not wield force against us.
The senator’s position underscores how tenuous this victory remains. A 5-4 decision means we stand one appointment away from a court which would condone the use of force to dictate terms of trade and make business owners act in violation of their conscience.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic. 17:12 minutes long; 16.57 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Indeed, all that has been “won” in this case is a very narrow exemption to just that de facto policy. In a myriad of ways, from wage dictates through labor regulations to anti-discrimination laws, businesses remain out of their owners’ control.
Until business owners, regain full control over every aspect of their business, this battle is far from won. More broadly, until individuals in any context regain full control over every aspect of their lives, the war for our rights rages on.
Though ultimately unsuccessful in securing the party’s nomination, the 2012 presidential campaign of Ron Paul claimed many scalps among party leadership in states, congressional districts, and on local boards. The coup may have been nowhere more contentious than in Iowa, where Paul supporters effectively shut out the previous establishment.
That was then, and this is now. Politico reports:
The Iowa GOP central committee voted Saturday to fire the state party chairman and replace him with a fixture of the establishment.
Danny Carroll, removed on a 14-2 no confidence vote, will be replaced by Jeff Kaufmann, formerly the Speaker Pro Tem of the state House.
The bloodless coup was widely expected after forces loyal to Gov. Terry Branstad officially seized control of the party’s governing body from close allies of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at a state convention earlier this month.
An earlier Politico story, written shortly after the state convention, details the contentious relationship which was maintained between Branstad and the Paul contingent. Party unity was not a priority:
Branstad, cruising to an unprecedented sixth term as governor, has spent the better part of the past two years sparring with A.J. Spiker, a co-chair of Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign who defeated the governor’s preferred pick to lead the state party in 2012. As chairman of the party, Spiker was publicly critical of Branstad’s legislative agenda. Establishment-minded donors refused to contribute to the state party as long as Paul people were in charge.
The feather-ruffling led Branstad supporters to organize and retake the party, as the Paul folks had in 2012. There was “no longer a single Paul-aligned, libertarian on the central committee,” enabling Saturday’s ouster of Carroll.
The development indicates that ideological enclaves may have a hard time maintaining a controlling influence in the party without building broad coalitions. Winning intra-party battles at all costs can make a lot more enemies than friends. As it turns out, in politics, you need friends.
It’s a lesson Thad Cochran and his supporters are learning from a very different ideological perspective in Mississippi. The choice to campaign among black Democrats may have won the 35-year Senator his primary runoff. But it has also rallied widespread disgust which could yield unintended consequences for his future and that of his allies.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic. 13:43 minutes long; 13.24 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Maybe, just maybe, it might prove better to convince people you are right than exploit every opportunity to seize power. It’s a prescription particularly apt for movement activists who advocate for a society governed by consent. If you win by convincing people rather than shutting them out, those you beat will be much less inclined to seek revenge. They might even help you where interests align.
To the extent a civil war rages within the GOP, it won’t be won by the side which best excludes the other. It will be won by a coalition which emerges from points of agreement.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: No, it’s not okay to retransmit local broadcast signals over the internet without license from the networks and other content providers. That’s what the Supreme Court told the Aereo company this week in a decision which could have upended the industry if it went the other way.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Among Republican circles, it’s common to hear people say something like, “We’re all Americans. We don’t need hyphens,” in reference to minority groups. It’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t work when engaging minority communities.
In the wake of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss to challenger Dave Brat in Virginia, many rushed to herald a Tea Party sea change sweeping across primaries in 2014. Results from Tuesday’s electoral battles across the nation seem to indicate otherwise. The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Thad Cochran (R) narrowly survived the toughest election of his four-decade political career, holding off an insurgent tea party challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel in Tuesday night’s runoff after one of the most expensive and nasty primary campaigns of the year.
The contest between the entrenched Cochran and the more combative and youthful McDaniel divided the Republican Party here in one of the nation’s most conservative states and delivered a stinging blow to the tea party movement.
Cochran ran an effective ground game, mobilizing black Democrats to turn out for the open runoff election. He leveraged his years of experience and “long history of procuring largess for this poor state.”
Unlike Cantor, Cochran fought to keep his seat and did not take his district for granted. The “nail-baiter” results indicate that McDaniel and his Tea Party supporters fought hard as well. But it was not quite enough to pull off another Cantor-esque upset.
The Tea Party faced other loses Tuesday as well, as the Post reports:
In Oklahoma, Rep. James Lankford won the Republican Senate nomination, easily defeating state House speaker T.W. Shannon, who is half black and half Native American and was backed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and some tea party groups.
In Colorado, former congressman Bob Beauprez won the Republican nomination to challenge Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) this fall. Beauprez, the party establishment favorite, beat a field of candidates that included former congressman Tom Tancredo, a vocal anti-immigration activist.
Time will provide more data for analysis. However, the immediate indication is that Cantor’s defeat did not herald the sea change which many hoped for and others feared.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic. 10:45 minutes long; 10.39 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Successful businesses, and the individuals who fuel them with a relentless pursuit of value, are under daily assault from a culture which demonizes gainful work while seeking alms from its produce. Few companies endure more persistent attack than Walmart.
Typically, companies remain silent in the face of criticism, taking their lumps while remaining focused on the essentials of doing business. However, like the beleaguered businessmen and women of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there comes a time when the nation’s producers must raise their voice in defense of their virtues.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic. 9:09 minutes long; 8.79 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
For Walmart, that moment has come. The company’s corporate communications vice president, David Tovar, has responded to a hit piece published by the New York Times with the perfect balance of truth and snark.
Marking up the piece with red ink, as a teacher might correct a student’s sloppy draft, Tovar sets the record straight regarding Walmart’s many contributions to their community of employees, vendors, and customers. “We are the largest taxpayer in America,” Tovar highlights.
It’s a good first step for the corporate leader, and a fine example for businesses and business people everywhere. If you don’t defend yourself, who do you expect will?
See Tovar’s rebuttal on the next page.
In a story which may have escaped your radar last week, USA Today reports that “66% of consumers wrongly think ‘natural’ means something.” Elizabeth Weise reports:
When consumers see the word on meat or poultry, 70% think it means no growth hormones were used in the animals feed and 60% think the animals got no antibiotics or other drugs in their feed.
The problem is, consumers are wrong.
Under federal labeling rules, the word natural means absolutely nothing.
The executive director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center signals “a strong consumer mandate” for stronger food labeling regulations. But is that the best answer to this problem?
First, we must consider the extent to which the “problem” actually exists. Marketing buzzwords are as old as barter, and consumers remain responsible for the inferences they make without verification. No doubt, there are instances where truly fraudulent statements are made in product labeling. But we have a process for dealing with that through the courts.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic. 11:54 minutes long; 11.48 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Indeed, as the USA Today article relates, “several district court judges stayed cases by consumers claiming companies were misleading them by using the term ‘natural’ on beverages that contained high fructose corn syrup.” Natural, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder.
To the extent consumers wish for foods without hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, preservatives, and other vestiges of modern food production (which make it possible for billions of people to eat cheaply and billions more to eat at all), the burden of finding such edible treasures falls squarely upon them.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Ever since the Supreme Court’s ruling in the now infamous Citizens United case, a crusade has emerged on the political left to strip corporations of personhood. You can’t execute one, they quip. We take apart that strawman.
Imagine receiving a letter from your local police department informing you that your person and property will no longer be afforded their protection. Perhaps your religious views have been deemed offensive, or you contributed to the wrong political campaign last year, or maybe the chief just doesn’t like the cut of your jib. Regardless, no one will be responding to your 911 calls. Your property will not be protected. Crimes against you will no longer merit a response. And any attempt to defend yourself will be regarded as criminal aggression.
In essence, that’s what the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has just told the Washington Redskins. As you’ve likely read by now, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board recently issued a ruling canceling the team’s trademark under the rationalization that it proves “disparaging” to Native Americans.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid enthusiastically supports the move. Washington D.C.’s delegate to Congress has declared the development a “historic” and “inevitable” victory.
The gravity of this moment cannot be overstated and may be easily lost in pontification over racial sensitivity and the relative importance of a sport’s mascot. This is not about football. It’s not about race. It’s not even about political correctness anymore. This is about whether we live under the rule of law. Or, to put it more directly, whether we live under tyranny.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic and more. 11:01 minutes long; 10.57 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
Tyranny? In reference to a patent case? You bet.
What would you call it if you received that letter from the police? You still owe them taxes. You still have to answer to their commands. You just can’t expect their protection or the recognition of your rights. We’re witnessing the establishment of a second class of citizen, a lesser class whose rights shall go unprotected. Is that not infinitely more offensive than any name?
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder deserves full support in his fight against this egregious action. Whether you believe the team name to be disparaging or not is wholly beside the point. This is no longer about that. Ironically, it’s about whether individuals in the United States are afforded equal treatment under the law. If our rights are contingent upon not offending others, then we have no rights.
From a distance, Minnesota’s Democrat governor Mark Dayton may seem like a rabidly ideological operator. His legislative agenda has included such gems as creating a new statewide bureaucracy to police students’ thoughts (even as the state struggles with one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation), the forced unionization of home-based daycare entrepreneurs who are now regarded as employees of the state, and devastating business to business taxes which have driven companies elsewhere.
However, the truth about Mark Dayton is decisively more pathetic. He’s not really ideological. Rather, he seeks the approval and adulation of those who are. A trust fund baby who shelters his wealth in neighboring South Dakota, Dayton’s life-long pursuit of public service has been more of a hobby than a philosophically-driven passion. He collects offices as one might stamps or insects. Before using his ex-wife’s money to buy the 2010 primary out from under the Democrat’s endorsed candidate, Dayton served a term a piece as Minnesota’s state auditor and its U.S. senator. Governor was just another feather to add to his cap.
Dayton’s hobbyist approach to governing can be discerned from his frequently expressed regrets regarding laws he has signed, typically when he discovers that they contain something he didn’t know about, or that they adversely affect a favored constituency. During a debate over medical marijuana earlier this year, Dayton was so conflicted between his nanny-state instincts and his heartfelt desire to help people that he advised one mother to buy marijuana illegally on the street! (He later denied doing so even in the face of corroborating witnesses.)
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic. 18:58 minutes long; 18.27 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
The latest example of this oops-I-signed-it-again governing comes after a minimum wage hike passed earlier this year. It phases the minimum wage from its current $6.15 to a whopping $9.50 by 2016.
Raising the minimum wage remains a perennial point on the political left’s agenda which elected Democrats are expected to support. Dayton no doubt swelled with pride upon signing the legislation. But he may have recently entertained second thoughts.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Now that the smoke has cleared, what are the takeaways from the surprising primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor? Is the Tea Party surging? Is there a sea change taking place? Or was this an anomaly?
Iraq war vet J.R. Salzman expresses understandable frustration regarding Iraq’s collapse into chaos brought on by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
I did not get an arm blown off in Baghdad so you could sit on your ass and watch Iraq fall, @BarackObama. I did my job. DO YOUR JOB.
— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) June 13, 2014
Salzman and so many others have been told for years that their sacrifices were offered to establish a free and orderly Iraq. My PJM colleague Austin Bay summarizes the conventional wisdom which has informed the effort when he writes:
The US has a vital interest in helping Iraqis create a stable, democratic state. Would-be isolationists will quickly rediscover that economic links bind the 21st century world, once they see the oil price hikes spurred by the battlefield successes of the [ISIS].
What if the Iraqis don’t want a stable, democratic state? What if they lack the philosophical and moral base upon which to establish it? Wouldn’t that largely explain why their nation descends into chaos without Americans there to impose order?
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic. 16:15 minutes long; 15.67 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)
The interests of the United States are properly defined by the individual rights of its citizens. We have a right to defend our lives, our liberty, and our property. If ISIS presents a threat to those rights, they should be engaged as an enemy and utterly destroyed.
But that’s the old fashioned, pre-WWII, pre-UN way of looking at foreign policy. And it’s not very popular today. Day suggests:
To stabilize, Iraqis need confidence; a long-term US security presence inspires confidence. America kept a security “nightlight” in Germany and Japan for half a century.
Of course, Germany and Japan were first militarily defeated in total war, their cities and civilian populations devastated to the point of unconditional surrender. Unless we’re willing to first defeat our enemies, we can’t hope to police them.
Part of the problem is that Iraq doesn’t have a unified national identity. You can’t expect the natives to fight for something they don’t believe in. But that raises the question: if they don’t believe in it, why are we there? If it’s not to neutralize an objectively defined threat, then fifty years of more sacrifices like Salzman’s are hard to justify.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: There’s a learning curve in party politics which activists can spend years navigating by trial and error, or twenty minutes by listening to this podcast. Okay, there’s more to learn than you’ll find here. But this conversation with activist Norann Dillon will help.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: An integral component of liberty is dealing with our fellow man through persuasive reasoning rather than force. So why have past “liberty” incursions into party politics more resembled a hostile takeover than a campaign of persuasion? What are some unintended consequences of a heavy-handed approach? We continue our discussion with activist Norann Dillon.
On today’s Fightin Words podcast: In the wake of the stunning Tea Party defeat of Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary, we present an interview with liberty activist Norann Dillon exploring the differences in mentality, process, and results between political protests and political campaigns.
Appearing on Fox News Tuesday night, Ann Coulter pinned the unexpected defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor squarely on his support of immigration reform.
When people know that [immigration reform] is an issue… when they know that amnesty is on the table, amnesty loses big.
RedState editor Erick Erickson claims there’s much more to the story than that. He writes of a local dynamic within Cantor’s Virginia congressional district that may have contributed strongly to this result:
Cantor’s constituent services moved more toward focusing on running the Republican House majority than his congressional district. K Street, the den of Washington lobbyists, became his chief constituency. In Virginia a couple of months ago, several residents of Cantor’s district groused that they were going to support Brat because they did not think Cantor was doing his job as a Virginia congressman. Others no longer trusted him.
Cantor may not be the only one overlooking his constituents. By rushing to focus on immigration as the root cause of Cantor’s loss, pundits and analysts may miss something less sexy but more important. No matter the national mood, the only votes that count toward re-election are those cast in an incumbent’s home district.