The Bookworm Beat 2/9/16 — the “nothing about New Hampshire here” edition and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265All of the posts I’ll link to pre-date today’s New Hampshire primary. This is a NH primary-free zone. You might find it refreshing. And now, to the good stuff:

Trump could destroy conservativism in America for decades.  I think Charles Krauthammer hits the ball out of the park on this one (not to mention hitting the nail on the head):

The threat to the GOP posed by the Trump insurgency is not that he’s anti-establishment. It’s that he’s not conservative. Trump’s winning the nomination would convulse the Republican party, fracture the conservative movement and undermine the GOP’s identity and role as the country’s conservative party.

There’s nothing wrong with challenging the so-called establishment. Parties, like other institutions, can grow fat and soft and corrupt. If by establishment you mean the careerists, the lobbyists, and the sold-out cynics, a good poke, even a major purge, is well-deserved.

That’s not the problem with Trump. The problem is his, shall we say, eclectic populism. Cruz may be anti-establishment but he’s a principled conservative, while Trump has no coherent political philosophy, no core beliefs, at all. Trump offers barstool eruptions and whatever contradictory “idea” pops into his head at the time, such as “humane” mass deportation, followed by mass amnesty when the immigrants are returned to the United States.

Turning our military into a vast climate change boondoggle. The worst news this week was the announcement that, as Islamic jihad gets more aggressive around the world, climate change will become the military’s top priority. Only old-fashioned war-mongering fascists will cling to the outdated notion that the military’s top priority is defending America against foreign enemies.

A couple of comments. First, I’ve already seen this pivot to climate change in action during Fleet Week in San Francisco. The Navy ships I’ve visited, rather than boasting about their military capacity, boast about their carbon footprint (or lack thereof).

Second, this will turn the military budget into the greatest, and most corrupt, slush fund ever in the history of American government. The only good thing will be that, once the military is a giant green machine that can’t fight, but does use little batteries to power its tanks, we’ll stop hearing from inane Leftists horrified by the thought that their children, who enjoy the benefits of a nation under the protection of the greatest military in the world (and one, moreover, subject to constitutional control), might actually view our military as a blessing, rather than a curse.

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The Bookworm Beat 2/4/16 edition — “it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world” edition and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265It’s been some time since my last round-up so, without further ado:

A primer for those who need to be reminded why Hillary should be incarcerated, not inaugurated. Deroy Murdock has a knack for political parables. Using the example of the “Foggy Bottom Department Store,” he makes it clear just how heinous Hillary’s conduct has been in connection with her egregious national security violations.

And a primer on foreign trade and capitalism. Larry Elder has a truly brilliant piece about the benefits that flow to America from low tariffs and foreign trade — benefits that are very real even when it seems that American jobs are going away. I urge you to read it. (This is a different issue, of course, from the Democrats and Chamber of Commerce types manipulating and violating American law to ship in cheap labor at the expense of American citizens.)

One of the things I like about Ted Cruz is the long list of people who hate him. You can know a man by his friends and by his enemies. Strong conservatives respect Ted Cruz; RINOs (and RINO’s are the majority of “Republicans” in Congress) hate and fear him. That works for me. Spengler, aka David P. Goldman, has more to say about Cruz’s well-earned Iowa victory (it was a brilliant ground game, not cheating) and about Cruz’s rejection of the Washington establishment and embrace of ordinary conservatives — core conservatives — across America.

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[VIDEO] Jimmy Carter endorses Donald Trump — because he has no fixed principles

Jimmy Carter endorses TrumpWhoever did the research to find this clip found a humdinger indeed.  In it, Jimmy Carter says that, if he had to pick a Republican candidate, he’d go for Trump, because he has no fixed principles and is malleable, unlike Ted Cruz, who is a staunch conservative, and cannot be manipulated.   It reminds me that I’m unimpressed by the list of Cruz’s enemies — the politicians who array themselves against him having consistently proven to be the worst type of quislings. They will always sell out the conservative voters who elected them in order to curry favor with the drive-by media, the Hollywood crowd, and the Chamber of Commerce types (who, if you recall, will always back foreign workers against American labor).

Ted Cruz needs to explain to non-Evangelical voters that they need not fear him

Cruz and a crossNow that Ted Cruz, for the time being at least, is the front-runner, I’m starting to get emails from conservatives in Marin who are disturbed by his open expressions of Christian faith.  Just like their Progressive neighbors, they’re worried about finding themselves in a theocracy.  I therefore think Ted Cruz needs to start campaigning beyond the Evangelicals he’s courted.  This requires him to say something along the following lines:

“Yes, I am a person of deep faith.  My faith is the most important thing in my life.  It informs my values and keeps me humble by reminding me every minute of every day that I am not the most important thing in the world.

“In addition to being a Christian, though, I am an American and a strict constitutionalist.  I would never seek to impose my religion on others, although there is no doubt that my religion shaped my values.

“It’s because of my faith that I value life, liberty, and happiness.  After all, my religion tells me that God gave us the gifts of life, individual freedom, and the capacity for joy.

“You can like or dislike the religious values that shaped me, but you should never worry that I will try to force my religion on you.  The Founders, in their great wisdom, understood that there is no surer way to impose tyranny than to make government an arm of a church, temple, or mosque.”

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Celebrating Cruz’s victory in Iowa — and remembering that conservative Trump supporters are still our friends

Cruz Rubio TrumpI’ve made no secret over the past few months about the fact that I support Ted Cruz, and hope very much that he will be the Republican nominee.  His intelligence, his political courage, his quite unexpected ability to speak to ordinary people in accessible ways about complex matters, his grasp of the issues, his consistent conservativism, his wicked sense of humor and, above all, his fealty to he Constitution make me believe that he is the best candidate for what is proving to be both a troubled and pivotal time in American history.

I’ve also been open about the fact that the possibility of having Donald Trump as the Republican candidate concerns me.  I truly admire the way he’s bulldozed the media stranglehold and ridden roughshod over political correctness.  I also recognize that he’s made all the right noises for a vast American middle that’s fed up with unlimited illegal immigration and worried about radicalized Muslims riding into the US on the illegal immigrant train.  I believe I’ve said all along that Trump has added something important to this campaign season.  It’s just that I can never get away from a few major concerns, such as my sense that the campaign is more about Trump than it is about America, and that he’s a performer and will say whatever he needs to get to his current audience (whether he really means it or not).

Most of all, though,  I worry that Trump does not value the Constitution any more than Obama does.  To me, an America without the Constitution as its political centerpiece is just another First World leftist country heading downhill fast.  After eight years of Obama’s deep and abiding disdain for the Constitution, I’m not sure we can handle any more of that and still be the unique, exceptional country we are.

I won’t lie, therefore, and pretend that I’m anything but delighted about the outcome in Iowa.  To me, the strongest constitutionalist won, and that’s the correct outcome.

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A quick point about Ted Cruz’s Christian faith

I want to comment on a poster that’s causing concern amongst some conservatives in the blogosphere:

Ted Cruz Christian

The poster obviously implies that Cruz will turn America into a Christian theocracy. I’m a Jewish sort-of agnostic, sort-of theist, but I’m not worried one little bit.

As I’ve pointed out time and again, Cruz has a rare reverence for the Constitution. That means that, while his religion will inform his views (for example, his Christianity doubtless leads to his pro-Life stance) he has no intention of running a theocracy. He likes our political system.  There’s no more risk of a Christian theocracy than there was under all other American presidents before the modern era.

There’s one other thing I like about Cruz’s allegiance to God: it means that Cruz is not your typical navel-gazing Leftist who makes decisions based upon how he “feels” about issues rather than basing his decisions on larger issues of absolute morality and justice — and how he “feels” invariably involves grabbing guns, aborting babies, embracing criminals, and generally dividing the world into victims and more victims, all at the mercy of evil white men. Put another way, each Leftist is his own little god.  No Christian should be, and I prefer it when my president doesn’t confuse himself with God.

Someone who gives primacy to the Judeo-Christian God, however, isn’t going to make that mistake. Believing in a just and moral God also means that the politician knows that something much bigger than the public, or the media, or the FBI is looking over his shoulder and judging him. That ought to keep him honest.

A few words on last night’s unpleasant Republican primary debate

Republican debate moderators Megan KellyI watched the first 40 minutes and then stopped.  My problem was the moderators, who I thought were dreadful.  (Since I read my news and don’t watch it, I approached them with an open mind, since I had no idea what shtick each brought to the table.)  I wanted to hear substantive answers on pressing issues, and they were playing “gotcha.”  Watching the moderator/candidate interactions was unpleasant and, I quickly realized, a complete waste of my time.

I found particularly reprehensible the fact that they gave Rubio and Cruz only a minute to respond to those gotcha videos on immigration.  I prefer Cruz’s immigration stance to Rubio’s, but it was an insult to both men to force them to distill complex ideas and actions down to a single minute in the face of out-of-context video clips.  The tone of the debate was such that I expected to see everyone “perp walked” off the stage with reporters shouting questions at them about their future prison of choice.

The low, hostile, tabloid tone was especially disappointing because I’d hoped that Trump’s absence would clear the air and allow for a more substantive and meaningful debate.

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Are you supporting the presidential candidate who shares your values?

I took the “I Side With” quiz and discovered that I’m not imagining things — Ted Cruz is indeed the candidate for me, since I side with him (or does he side with me?) 92% of the time. If you have a chance, you should check out the I Side With site and see whether you’re supporting the candidate who most closely reflects your values.

I side with Ted Cruz

The Bookworm Beat 1/26/16 — the “race heating up” edition and open thread *UPDATED*

Woman-writing-300x265It wasn’t just women who were attacked on New Year’s Eve in Cologne.  When I first read about the hundreds of sexual attacks that Muslim immigrants perpetrated against women in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve, I only vaguely recorded the fact that the Muslims were also setting off fireworks.  It was only in the back of my mind that I asked myself “Are over-the-counter fireworks part of the European New Year tradition?” It turns out that, whether or not they’re part of the New Year tradition, they were definitely fired as part of the “We are Muslims and we don’t allow any other religions to function around us” tradition:

Barbara Schock-Werner, who served as cathedral architect between 1999 and 2012, was present at the well-attended religious service along with several thousand other worshippers. Shock-Werner told the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine, that the cathedral experienced an unprecedented and massive rocket and ‘banger’ fireworks barrage that lasted the whole service.

“Again and again the north window of the cathedral was lit up red, because rocket after rocket flew against it,” she said. “And because of the ‘bangers’, it was very loud. The visitors to the service sitting on the north side had difficulties hearing. I feared at times that panic would break out.”

Cardinal Rainer Woelki, who presided at the New Year’s mass, also complained about the “massive disruptions.”

“During my sermon loud ‘bangers’ could be heard,” Woelki said in the paper, Die Welt. “I was already annoyed beforehand about the loud noises that were penetrating into the cathedral.”

Shock-Werner believes the religious service was deliberately “targeted for disruption” due to the attack’s timing. The mass took place between 6:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., which, she said, “is actually no time to be already shooting off New Year’s rockets in such great volume.”

If anyone tells you that more Muslims mean less violence, don’t believe them.  That’s a fable that belongs in the “Lies, damn lies, and statistics” category.  While nations under the jackboot of theocratic Islam may have less violent crime between Muslims within a given Muslim nation’s borders, the reality is that Muslims don’t play well with others (and “others” means everyone else in the world, including women, Jews, Christians, Hindus, gays, the wrong kind of Muslims, etc.).

Rome goes full dhimmi.  Iranian president Rouhani is heading to Italy and, in his honor, the Italians are temporarily wiping out their culture (or, at least, for now the wipe-out is temporary).  Here it is, the grandeur that once was Rome:

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Ted Cruz understands that resurrecting American greatness must mean restoring the Constitution

Trump and CruzRepublican voters have a very stark choice facing them:  Do they vote for the candidate who promises to resurrect American greatness through the power of his will, or do they vote for the candidate who promises to resurrect American greatness by recognizing the Constitution’s centrality in American governance?  Maybe I’m being foolishly reductionist, but the answer to that question seems to lie within the question itself:  You cannot “resurrect” America unless you first resurrect the Constitution to its rightful place in American politics.

I don’t doubt that Trump will fulfill his promises to undo some of the damage Obama has done, both at home and abroad.  And I fully understand the appeal of a candidate who seems likely to carry out an agenda with which a voter agrees.

The problem is that Trump’s free-wheeling stump promises, well-known history, and uber-alpha personality make it clear that he’ll carry out his promises the same way Obama did it:  Through executive ukases, crony capitalism, and smearing his political opponents.  There’s no room in Trump’s rhetoric for the Constitution.  Indeed, as far as I can tell, the only allusion Trump has made during the primary season to the Constitution is to express support for the Second Amendment (and believe me, I appreciate that).

While it’s tempting to go  for the quick and easy fix Trump promises, doing so betrays the Constitution and, in doing so, undercuts everything that makes America exceptional. The men who wrote the Constitution were trying to create a government free of Obama’s executive legislation, crony capitalism, and power plays through personal attacks — political sins that were all rife in British government in the 18th century.  The Founders rightly understood that these malevolent government practices concentrated power and wealth in the hands of a small group of people, while denying liberty to each individual.

Had the Founder’s wished to, they could have gone the socialist root, which was already bubbling up through the Enlightenment, only to flower in the French Revolution.  They understood that this approach to government had nothing to do with individual liberty.  The only thing that a socialist government does is to transfer power from a monarchy to an all-powerful government body that purports to represent the people’s collective.  Individuals in a socialist society have as little freedom and as few rights as individuals in any tyrannical system, whether its communist, monarchist, theocratic, or oligarchic.

That is, the Founders understood that switching rulers always leaves the way open for another tyranny.  The only way to prevent tyranny is to change the government’s fundamental structure.  That’s where the Constitution comes in, with its truly revolutionary approach to allocating power between the people and their government.

To keep government weak and individual liberties strong, the Founders created a government with divided powers so that no one branch could become too powerful, especially because they assumed that each branch would zealously guard its power from any encroachment by the other two branches.  The Founders would have been horrified to see Americans, whom they envisioned as a collection of individuals, rather than a people’s collective, willingly vote for an executive who wants to aggregate power. They would have been even more horrified to see a Congress, whether because of laziness, cronyism, or fear, lie supine in the face of executive overreach.

Both the age of Obama and Trump’s astonishing rise to prominence show that too many Americans don’t understand that the Constitution’s entire thrust is towards individual liberty, not government power.  The Constitution does not impose its obligations on “We, the People;” instead, it imposes them on the federal government itself.

Unlike laws, which are limitations that governments impose upon people, the Constitution is a contract by which the People impose limitations on the government.  To that end, the main body of the Constitution defines a functioning limited government.  It is structured to ensure that, when it functions properly, no single branch can function alone.

Once having structured a government that was theoretically immune to dictatorship, the Founders were then able to turn their attention to protecting the People’s unalienable under that government.  They understood that, if the government can “giveth” something and then “taketh” it away again, that something is not a right; it is, instead, a mere privilege.

Rights belong to the People independent of government.  The Constitution’s first ten amendments describe rights that are fundamental to the individual and, therefore, transcend government.  The Founders stated them explicitly because they understood that even the most beneficent, well-intentioned government, once it got the bit between its teeth, could not be relied upon to protect these rights.  It was therefore necessary to err on the side of caution by defining each individual’s inherent rights and warning federal government away from touching them.

Even more importantly, the Founders vested the most important power of all — the power of the purse — in the House of Representatives, which is the branch of government closely connected to each individual American.  House members serve for much shorter terms than Supreme Court justices (life terms), executives (minimum 4 year terms) and Senators (minimum 6 year terms).  In addition to a Representative’s short term of office, which means the people can quickly punish or reward legislative conduct, the House of Representatives mirrors population dynamics.  The Senate is fixed at two representatives per state, there’s only one president, and there are nine Supreme Court justices.  The House, by contrast, is reconfigured every ten years to represent accurately the number of people in various population centers and deserts throughout the U.S.   All of this means that, if the People are not pleased with the government, they can quickly, and in proportion to their numbers, make their displeasure known through the House.

The Founders also envisioned each branch zealously guarding its power from any encroachment by the other two branches.  They would have been horrified if they could have seen the current relationship between Congress and the White House.  Since 2010, even though the majority in Congress was elected by citizens who disapproved of the executive branch’s overreach, a toxic blend of crony capitalism, corrupt collegiality, laziness, and craven fear has seen Congress willingly cede its power to the executive branch.  Sadly, as Obama’s election showed and Trump’s candidacy promises, the People are just as ready as their Congress people to hand their rights over to a demagogue.

We’ve now had seven years to see what happens when people elect a charismatic leader who promises to carry out his agenda no matter what signals the People send when they vote for their Representatives and even their Senators.  When the People made clear through Congressional elections that they did not like Obama’s agenda, Obama simply went it alone.  He went it alone on border security, he went it alone on treaties, and he went it alone on Obamacare.  Each time Obama did so, he not only damaged our national security and our economy, he damaged the liberty-focused constitutional underpinning that makes up American exceptionalism.

The fact that the next president can use that same presidential pen to rescind Obama’s overreaching executive orders does not remedy the situation.  To begin with, Obama’s extra-constitutional acts have already caused profound damage that may take years or decades to remedy.  Even worse, unless we elect as president someone whose first and last loyalty is to the Constitution rather than to the government, Obama will have set a precedent for executive overreach that, unchecked, will see political power in America devolve solely onto one person:  the president.  Another word for that kind of president is “dictator.”

We already know that Hillary and Bernie have no intention of allowing their administrations to be subject to constitutional limits.  Whatever Obama did, they promise to do too, only more so.  It’s also entirely reasonable to believe that Donald Trump doesn’t intend to limit himself either. He repeatedly makes clear that he’ll get things done through the power of his personality, through his manipulations, and through his will.  The Constitution doesn’t fit into the repertoire of a man whose entire career has been based upon making a deal in whatever way he can.  Trump may well do everything he’s promised, but at what cost to America?

As best as I can tell, Ted Cruz is the only candidate who has true reverence for the Constitution, seeing it as the sublime document that it is.  He recognizes that it is the first and, so far, only document in the history of human kind that vests power, not in a monarchy, or an aristocracy, or an oligarchy, or a people’s collective, or a theocracy, but in each individual.  The Constitution’s obsessive focus on the individual is why it is a bulwark against tyranny and why we must elect a president who understands that.

Ted Cruz will most certainly exercise his executive authority to void Barack Obama’s extra-constitutional legislative activities.  After that, though, he’s been explicit about the fact that he will return power to the People through their representative legislative body, and that he will nominate to the Supreme Court justices who understand that the Constitution is meant primarily to create a limited government that preserves individual liberties.

A vote for Ted Cruz is not a vote for this agenda or that agenda.  It is a vote for America itself.  No matter how much you agree with Trump’s stated goals, please think twice about voting for a person who will be nothing more than a populist, vaguely conservative Obama.  Ted Cruz has an admirably conservative agenda — strong national security, strong military, strong borders, free market capitalism not crony capitalism, freedom of worship, Second Amendment rights, friend to Israel, enemy to jihadist Islam — but he’ll implement it through the Constitution, not without it.  Voting for Ted Cruz means that we’ll get the values we seek in a conservative president without destroying American exceptionalism and individual liberties.

Thomas Sowell on electing egomaniacs

 

Cruz versus Trump: The difference between a conservative and a populist

Ted Cruz 1Jonah Goldberg nails why I continue to prefer Ted Cruz to Donald Trump, despite the fact that Donald Trump is playing the media beautifully and sounding the right notes on his horn:

While Ted Cruz may be slippery on this issue or that — like most politicians — he is obviously and clearly a conservative. Unless you are willing to take Donald Trump at his word — and a great many are for reasons that baffle me — he’s not a conservative. Or if you think that’s too harsh, the case that he’s a conservative requires an enormous amount of subjective good will and credulousness. Even those who hate Ted Cruz readily concede he’s a conservative, because that’s an objective judgment. There’s nothing in the record that requires Trump’s critics to make the same concession.

Think of it this way: There were Christians who were opposed to the Roman Empire and there were barbarian pagans opposed to the Roman Empire. One could, for strategic or conversational simplicity, refer to both groups as “anti-Roman” or even “anti-establishment” but that doesn’t mean the pagans should be confused for Christians or vice versa.

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In pretty much any fight between Trump and Cruz, I side with Cruz unapologetically because Cruz is an ideologically consistent conservative (for instance, whatever flaws a president Cruz might have, I don’t worry about the kinds of Supreme Court justices he would look for). Indeed, among the reasons I hope Cruz beats Trump in Iowa, one of the biggest is that I want Cruz to be rewarded for opposing the crony capitalist moonshine known as ethanol. Governor Terry Branstad came out against Cruz — violating his pledge of neutrality — because as the living embodiment of the GOP establishment in Iowa, he sees Cruz as a threat to the ethanol racket. Given Cruz’s need to win in Iowa, that makes his position a profile in courage. Trump meanwhile is pandering to the ethanol lobby. Perhaps pandering is the wrong word, given that support for industrial policy and crony capitalism is perfectly in sync with his economic philosophy. And that, again, is one of the many reasons I don’t think the guy is a conservative.

Also, if you want principled conservativism, Ted Cruz is refusing to bow down before the corn lobby in Iowa — despite the fact that Iowa’s governor, after promising to remain neutral, is now supporting Trump because, within conservative circles, Trump will say just about anything to get the votes and polls.  I’m not accusing him of lacking principles.  I believe this is simply decades of showmanship.  He makes a good show, but can he govern?