The Bookworm Beat (10/18/14) — Saturday night special edition, Open Thread

Woman writingAfter a day of wholesome domesticity, what could be better than a little political commentary? As was the case yesterday, I want to begin with a comment about a Facebook poster a liberal friend put up. This one has to do with complaints about the Obama administration’s anything-but-rapid response to Ebola, a disease threat that’s been hanging around since 1976.  The liberal cadre are arguing that Obama’s conduct compares favorably to Reagan’s silence about AIDS:

Reagan on AIDS versus Obama on Ebola

Certainly, it would have been better had Reagan spoken about AIDS sooner, rather than later. I suspect, however, that his silence was dictated by a fundamental difference between AIDS and Ebola: AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, and Reagan came of age in a time when one didn’t speak about STDs from the White House’s bully pulpit.

Putting aside the stigma attached to sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS had a few other distinctions from Ebola: For one thing, it quickly became apparent that the vast majority of people could avoid AIDS in two ways: (1) They could stop having unprotected sex and (2) they could stop sharing dirty needles. (I’m not ignoring people who got AIDS through tainted blood transfusions. They, sadly, were not part of that vast majority.)  Those of us around in the early 1980s remember how the gay community stridently and ferociously resisted any government efforts to slow unbridled bathhouse promiscuity.  They wanted a cure, so long as it didn’t affect their sex lives.

For another thing, AIDS, unlike Ebola, moves slowly. While it’s very contagious, the speed with which it spreads through a community, especially when people start behaving wisely, is limited. In this regard, it’s entirely unlike Ebola which, left unchecked, can move with deadly speed even amongst people taking reasonable precautions.  Worse, it can be a tidal wave when people, for reasons of culture, poverty, or broken infrastructure, can’t take precautions at all. In other words, Reagan had years to think about the subject before speaking (although his government was working on AIDS before he spoke), while Obama is staring at pandemic that has the potential to attack America the way the plague struck Athens in 430 B.C.

Bottom line: While Reagan erred in keeping his mouth shut in 1940s gentleman-like fashion, the two diseases are not comparable. Given Ebola’s speed of transmission and the difficulty in controlling its rate of infection, it is the height of irresponsibility for Obama to treat the problem as a political one, rather than a public health crisis with imminent and ominous overtones.

And now back to your regularly scheduled round-up:

Why did the US interfere with Israel’s search for a kidnapped soldier during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge?

It doesn’t seem to be a secret to anybody at this point in the Obama administration that Obama personally and the administration as a general matter are hostile to Israel. But just how strong is that hostility? In today’s Jewish Press, Lori Lowenthal Marcus tells how the US shut down the search for a kidnapped Israeli soldier and says that it’s time to find out why the US put the kibosh on the request:

The request [for American aid] was coursing through channels when all of a sudden the doors slam shut. An ordinary request that by all rights and beliefs should have been processed swiftly by one ally for another was peremptorily quashed. The request was denied and instead the U.S. prosecutors who had already geared up to assist our ally were told to stand down. Someone, somewhere in the U.S. government had decided instead that a formal, lengthy process was required, one that completely ignored the immediacy of the situation. That message was sent in an email from the FBI.

But the FBI does not make foreign policy decisions. It was not the FBI who yanked the lifeline from the Israeli captured behind enemy lines. So who did?

Obama’s mad as Hell and he’s not going to take it anymore

Obama’s standard line when his administration is shown to be corrupt or incompetent is to say that he’s as surprised as anyone else to learn about the trouble, that he’s mad as Hell (which is his most recent pronouncement about the CDC’s Ebola response), and that he’s going to go looking for some ass to kick. This response was arguably an acceptable line to take when Obama first became president, because he inherited much of the bureaucracy in place during the Bush administration.

Now, though, six years into Obama’s presidency, the ass he should kick should be his own. A fish rots from the head, and Obama is the head of this lumbering, incompetent monster that we call the federal government.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, I read somewhere (and I don’t remember where), that Americans shouldn’t expect the federal government to be instantly efficient when it comes to Ebola. After all, we’re the ones who are always saying that Big Government is a problem because it’s inherently inefficient. And that’s true . . . for Big Government. The thing is that epidemic management is a core government function. If the government wasn’t futzing away its time and our money sticking its nose into and trying to control everything under the sun, it might show a bit more competence when it comes to the jobs it’s actually supposed to do — like preparing for epidemic diseases at home and abroad.  A conservative’s whole point is that government should be small, and that it’s reasonable to expect small government to function efficiently if it sticks within its purview.

Obama continues his obstinate refusal to block flights and immigrants from West Africa

Obama did a weekly address today assuring Americans that the Ebola crisis is under control. For the most part, it was standard and appropriate.  He told people that the federal government knows what it’s doing and that Ebola isn’t really that contagious at all (“I’ve met and hugged some of the doctors and nurses who’ve treated Ebola patients.”) Of course, whether anybody believes our serial liar in chief, especially when the evidence of their own eyes tells them something other than what he’s saying) is a different question. I prefer to get my information from sources other than our president.

What did surprise me was Obama’s stubborn insistence that nothing’s going to stop him from keeping our borders open to West Africans:

Finally, we can’t just cut ourselves off from West Africa, where this disease is raging. Our medical experts tell us that the best way to stop this disease is to stop it at its source-before it spreads even wider and becomes even more difficult to contain. Trying to seal off an entire region of the world-if that were even possible-could actually make the situation worse. It would make it harder to move health workers and supplies back and forth. Experience shows that it could also cause people in the affected region to change their travel, to evade screening, and make the disease even harder to track.

That’s one of the stupidest things Obama has said to date, and that’s saying something. There is absolutely no reason we can’t at least take steps to ensure that a specific region of the world has minimal contact with us for the time being. Americans understand that there will always be people who slip through the cracks, but that as a general matter, it’s wise to slow the flow of West African travelers into America. Moreover, a government that can make every plane trip a living nightmare for Americans can certainly put some barriers in place against West African travelers.

Americans also understand that announcing a stop to West African flights is not the same as announcing that America will henceforth stop giving aid to West Africa.  We know that the government can exempt itself from the travel ban and ensure continued American aid to that region, in terms of both personnel and supplies. After all, Obama just sent the Marines there, complete with their four hours of training in how to prevent the spread of Ebola.

I’m pretty certain that Obama’s stubbornness on this issue has nothing to do with protecting Americans, and everything to do with making sure that it doesn’t look as if America is keeping out black people.

With Ebola, it’s the strippers who take the lead

Thank God that at least some people have a sense of social responsibility — people like the two male Texas strippers who have voluntarily quarantined themselves after discovering that they sat within a few feet of Amber Vinson, the nurse who flew while becoming symptomatic with Ebola:

Goode and a stripper pal, Taylor Cole, voluntarily pulled themselves out of circulation after the pair sat near an infected nurse on a Cleveland-to-Dallas flight. They vowed to stay in their homes for 21 days, a move suggested — but not required — by the CDC.

“It doesn’t take an intelligent person to make a good decision,” Goode, who comes from a family of pharmacists, told the Daily News. “If a stripper can make a decision that’s more responsible than the CDC, then surely other people can make those decisions, too. It’s not rocket science.”

Am I the only one who finds troubling the fact that two strippers have more sense and decency than the American president?

Jonah Goldberg explains why Ebola is so devastating to the Left

When I grow up, I want to write (and think) like Jonah Goldberg. Really:

Liberals believe in government. I don’t just mean they believe in it as an institution — conservatives and, yes, libertarians, believe in the institution of government. After all, what is all this reverence for the Constitution about if you don’t believe in the government it establishes? No, liberals believe in government as a source of meaning, as a shaper of souls (though don’t ask them to use the word “soul”), a creator of values, and a reliable tool for the guiding hand of progressive experts to rightly order our lives. As the opening video at the Democratic convention proclaimed without a sense of irony: “Government is the one thing we all belong to.”

And this is why government incompetence, or even mere government fallibility and error, present a unique problem for the Party of Government. To be fair, plenty of smart liberals can concede that government gets stuff wrong. But it’s always a difficult concession to make. And if you divide up such concessions between instances where liberals place the blame squarely on government itself and instances where they blame politicians for not going “all the way” with government, you find that the vast majority fall into the category of “if only we had more government.” The overwhelming majority of liberal critiques of Obamacare, for instance, hinge on the complaint that it didn’t go far enough. If only we went with single payer, and completely chased the moneychangers out of the temple of health care, everything would be fine. The War on Poverty failed because $20 trillion amounts to woeful underfunding when measured against the yardstick of the infinite funding liberals desire.

In crude Marxist terms, liberals have a theory of infallible government that is constantly at war with the reality of life. Hence the old joke(s): “Sure it works in practice, but does it work in theory?”

A few words about California’s “Yes Means Yes” law

As you know, California has enacted a “Yes Means Yes” law requiring students in California’s colleges and universities to get affirmative consent every step of the way when they engage in amorous activities.

“May I remove your jacket?”

“Yes.”

“May I remove your shirt?”

“Yes. And may I remove your shirt?”

“Yes. And may I remove your bra?”

“Yes. May I unbuckle your belt?”

Some may be tempted to take short cuts (“May I remove all your clothes?”) but that would be dangerous to do, given the law’s draconian consequences.

Ezra Klein, who has worked harder than most to ensure that America’s media is a hard-working arm of the Democrat party, wrote an article applauding the law, even as he acknowledged that it would lead to kangaroo courts. Klein has been properly indoctrinated by feminists and understands that all men are rapists at heart. Therefore, it’s exceedingly important that as many as possible be publicly humiliated and destroyed, whether they’re innocent or not, so as to make a point.

(Given Klein’s standards, I think he should be banned from watching the nightly news.  Otherwise, me might start getting ideas from ISIS and begin demanding that people who are accused of violating Progressive feminist norms, whether innocent or guilty, get crucified so as to strike fear into the hearts of other social troglodytes who might be contemplating wolf whistles, holding doors open for pregnant women, or offering their seats to old ladies.)

Klein’s position was a bridge to far even for fellow progressives. He therefore found himself in the unusual position of getting attacked from both Left and Right. He therefore did what you’d expect a young, much-feted, politically Left narcissist to do: he doubled down on his position. Robert Shibley, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, went after Klein’s latest effort with the written equivalent of a howitzer, and his fisking is a joy to read.

Shibley manages to touch upon everything, from the law’s fundamental unenforceability, to the Left’s continued infantilization of American women, to the fake “rape crisis” on America’s campuses and, most importantly, to the misanthropic witch hunts that take place on America’s college campuses. Across the land — and now with extra ammunition in California — academic tribunals intended for plagiarism and cheating scandals, are hauling students (invariably male) before kangaroo courts and, in proceedings completely free of even minimal due process protections, adjudicating alleged felonies and destroying men’s lives in the process.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of faux rapes, nouveau feminist Lena Dunham (she of the bad prose and excessively naked body) backed of slight from her claim that a Young Republican raped her while she was at college. I’ve already pointed out that, while Dunham calls it rape, her own description of the evening shows that she was wasted and, lacking rational capacity, ended up having sex with someone she found unappealing. The next day, when she decided that she regretted that sex, she and her roommate decided it was rape.

Perhaps because I’m not the only one who noticed her despicable accusation, one founded in remorse over her own behavior rather than the young man’s actual conduct, Dunham sent out this defensive tweet that seems to exonerate her alleged attacker of evil intent:

Read more here about Dunham’s “rape” claims.  It’s apparent that they have little to do with actual rape but, instead, are grounded equally in misanthropy, hostility to the GOP, and the same exhibitionism that sees her slough off her clothes at the slightest opportunity.  Dunham should be shut down.  Her position is an insult to all women, throughout history, who have suffered the horror of a genuine rape attack, rather than a burst of regret about their own promiscuous, drunken behavior.

The answer to my request for a poster showing the difference between ID for voting and buying guns

Yesterday, I asked for a pithy poster that would explain the difference between showing ID to vote and showing ID to buy a gun. Biscuit came through for me:

Futurama on voter ids

And a few pictures

I found these pictures myself, so they’re not as good as the ones that Caped Crusader, Sadie, and other readers send me. Sorry.

Getting your news from Jon Stewart and Hogan's Heroes

Three stooges and the CDC

Photo ids are too hard

Rap loses to rock

No Founding Father ever wanted president of unlimited power

War on terrorism and a hippy

Trusting dogs who don't like a person

Obama's ebola signature

Difference between Nixon and Obama

The Bookworm Beat (10/3/14) — End of the week roundup and Open Thread

Woman writing

Ebola in America is a failure of Big Government

Yesterday I pointed out that, in all times and all places, protecting a population from epidemic disease is one of government’s core functions. (It’s irrelevant that these efforts often failed; government was still expected to make them.) Obama is failing that most basic government task. Not only do we have Ebola in Dallas, with exposures going into the hundreds, it appears that Ebola has entered Washington D.C. too.

What’s striking about Ebola’s spread into the U.S. is that it’s not just an Obama failure, it’s a Big Government failure. The Obama failure begins with his absolute refusal to protect our air, land, and sea borders. The Big Government failure goes to Obama’s certainty that he needn’t do anything special to combat Ebola because Big Government will be sufficient in and of itself to protect us:

The chances of an Ebola outbreak in the United States are “extremely low,” Obama said. U.S. are working with officials in Africa “to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.” And then this:

In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home. We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus. We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.

Obama added that in the unlikely event an Ebola case appeared in the United States, “we have world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond. And we have effective surveillance mechanisms in place.”

As Rich Lowry explains in the article from which I quoted, everything Obama assumed about his wonderful Big Government was wrong. Rather than blocking Ebola, Big Government just provided that many more cracks through which the virus could slip.

Scratch an anti-gun Leftist; find a blood-thirsty killer

When news about Ebola in Dallas broke, one of my old high school friends, who has had a political trajectory precisely the opposite of mine (from moderate guy to hard-core Leftist), voiced the wish that the patient had, instead, been in Austin (Texas’s state capitol) and that, while there, he had spread bodily fluids on the Republican politicians, starting with Governor Perry. When I politely pressed him for a reason, he explained that it was because these politicians had cut back government services, adding belatedly that he was just kidding.

Sometimes, though, Leftists go from “just kidding” to “let’s kill them.” Charles C.W. Cooke looks at anti-gun Leftists who want to use SWATting tactics to try to kill legal gun carriers. That is, when they see someone with legal open carry, they are proposing that they should call 911 and describe a dangerous situation in the hope that the SWAT teams will show up and, expecting the worst, just kill the guy with legal carry.

Indeed, Cooke, who spoke with gun-expert extraordinaire Bob Owens, writes at Bearing Arms, suggests that this is precisely what may have happened to John Crawford at the Ohio Wal-Mart:

[Crawford] was killed because, to borrow a phrase from Lisa McLogan Shaheen, a fellow shopper “called 911 so the cops could gun him down.” “If you sync the phone call to the footage,” Bob Owens tells me, “you’ll notice that Ronald Ritchie, the caller, makes claims that are not true.” Among those claims, the Guardian records, were that “Crawford was pointing the air rifle at customers,” that he threatened “two children,” and that he was recklessly “waving it around.” This does not appear to have been the case. Indeed, when the lattermost statement was made, Owens notes, “the gun’s muzzle was pointed to the ground.” So pronounced are the discrepancies between Ritchie’s story and the surveillance footage that John Crawford’s family is hoping to take legal action. “He’s basically lying with the dispatchers,” the family’s attorney, Michael Wright argues. “He’s making up the story. So should he be prosecuted? Yes, I believe so.”

“Who will rid us of these troublesome gun owners?” the radical Leftists cry out . . . and then use America’s police officers as their unwitting executioners.

Did Jerry Brown sign a good gun bill or a bad gun bill?

I am reflexively opposed to any government interference with gun rights . . . except that I’m wondering whether the bill that Gov. Brown just signed in California might actually have some merit. The new bill allows family members who are concerned about another family member’s gun possession to petition to the court to have the gun(s) taken away.

On the one hand, the bill is another erosion of gun rights and allows anti-gun people to wipe out the gun rights of their pro-gun relatives. Moreover, as we can see from the SWATting tactics above, it’s not unreasonable to believe that Leftist family members won’t take advantage of this law. On the other hand, when someone is becoming dangerous, the family is often the first to know, long before the medical or criminal justice systems catch up.

And then back to the first hand, which is that, if you give the government an inch to grab guns, it will take, not just a mile, but a thousand miles…. Which leads me to the thought that this may be a reasonable law, but one that can’t ever be entrusted to the government to effectuate.

Please tell me what you think. I’m quite obviously conflicted here, in part because I know of several young men who, in their 20s, become schizophrenic, with the family being the first to see that their sweet young boy was becoming scary and dangerous.

History has yet to be written

Jonah Goldberg often attacks the Leftists’ claim that they’re on the right side of history.  The old cliché that history belongs to the victors is at least somewhat more accurate, because it at least looks at history as a thing of the past not as a prediction for the future.

In his latest article, Goldberg points out that one of the problems with the “right side of history” argument is that it’s predicated on the speaker’s belief that events will unfold without any unexpected deviations from plan. When the plans change, as the best laid of them tend to do, the person betting on historic certainty looks foolish at best:

The dilemma for the president is that the once-solid facts that supported these views are suddenly crumbling under his feet. The argument that the fight against jihadism can be managed like law enforcement is easy to make when terrorism is out of the headlines and drones do the messy work out of sight. That same argument is very hard to sustain when the jihadis control territory equal in size to Great Britain and, when not beheading Americans, they vow to fly their flag over the White House. The idea that men who crucify Christians and bury women and children alive would somehow be dissuaded if we closed down the prison at Guantanamo Bay is almost perversely idiotic.

Obama’s love affair with a killer

In 2008, Obama sent an explicit, secret message to Iran, saying in effect “I love you, guys, and I’ll take care of you.” That was one promise he kept. Throughout his presidency, Obama, both actively and passively has worked hard to keep the mullahs in power and their nuclear program on track. He seems to believe that, if he can just be nice to them, they’ll respond by being nice right back to us.

It’s a pity that Obama hates Churchill so much. If he liked him better, Obama be familiar with Churchill’s famous aphorism that “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” That hope, of course, is invariably wrong.

Maybe real facts can bring Obama to see just how horrible Iran is. These harsh realities would include the fact that Iran hanged someone for doubting the story of Jonah and the Whale (something that would certainly see Obama hanged too), and the Mullahs’ continued execution of dissidents.

The only good thing to come out of that second report is this little tidbit (emphasis mine):

On September 29, [political prisoner Reyhaneh] Jabbari was seized by prison guards during her shower, forced to dress and told that she would be hanged in the morning. After the prison staff allowed her to make one last phone call to her mother, she was transferred to Rajai-Shahr prison and placed in solitary confinement to await execution at dawn.

Upon her daughter’s transfer, Jabbari’s mother, Shole Pakravan, rushed to Rajai-Shahr prison with her husband, two daughters and a few friends. In front of the prison a crowd grew quickly to protest Jabbari’s execution. Prison authorities ordered the crowd to leave and assured Jabbari’s family that she was not to be hanged — a statement the authorities commonly make before an execution so it can be carried out quietly, without incident.

That rope with which the mad mullahs hang dissidents may end up being the rope with which they hang themselves. It speaks to their waning power that Iranians will protest executions and that the mullahs will lie to pacify them, rather than just killing them on the spot.

And no, in answer to your unspoken question, I don’t think these news reports will actually change Obama’s mind. He is a hard-core ideologue and they just don’t change.  But I can still dream….

Bureaucracy kills the Secret Service

For more than a century, the Secret Service was a lean, mean fighting machine operating under the aegis of the Treasury Department. Then, George Bush transferred it to Homeland Security, where it became just another bureaucratic beast. Kevin Williamson writes scathingly about the way in which bureaucracy is slowly destroying the agency charged with keeping our president safe.

I share with Thomas Lifson the belief that it’s imperative to keep Obama alive.  His death in office, God forbid, could well destroy this country. And having written that sentence, I should add that no president, ever, should be assassinated. Assassination is not only cold-blooded murder, it is a psychic blow to a nation and the most profoundly anti-democratic act of all.

Transgenderism is only skin deep

The other day, I wrote about the importance of recognizing the substance that lies under any form, with special reference to transgender people. I argued that, when people make cosmetic, hormonal, and surgical changes to their appearance so that they look like a person of the opposite sex, that doesn’t change their genetic essence. While it’s kind and polite to address them as they wish to be addressed, we should never blind ourselves to the reality of who and what they really are.

One British man who had male to female gender reassignment surgery a decade ago, is petitioning the British health care service to reassign him to his original gender appearance. His argument echoes what I’ve been saying all along:

Chelsea, who used to be called Matthew, told the Daily Mirror: “I have always longed to be a woman, but no amount of surgery can give me an actual female body and I feel like I am living a lie.

“It is exhausting putting on make-up and wearing heels all the time. Even then I don’t feel I look like a proper woman. I suffered from depression and anxiety as a result of the hormones too.

“I have realised it would be easier to stop fighting the way I look naturally and accept that I was born a man physically.”

I wonder what the NHS will do. It’s wonderfully politically correct to withdraw funding from an old lady with cancer so as to give it to a young man who wants breasts. Where’s the political correctness, though, when the young man concedes that the problem was never with his appearance at all?

High educated liberals as low information voters

Roger L. Simon lives in the Southern California version of my Marin world: His neighbors are well-intentioned, affluent, and highly-credentialed people who almost invariably hew Left politically. Indeed, those few of my friends and neighbors who know I’ve become conservative point to themselves — affluent and educated — and ask how I can be conservative when the smart people support the Democrats.

Simon has the answer for that and, again, it echoes what I see in my world: These people may have degrees, know about wine, and have seen the capitals of Europe, but they’re fundamentally ignorant about the key issues shaping the world today.

California bans all plastic bags

California Governor Jerry Brown has banned plastic grocery bags from the entire state:

California has fired the first salvo in what could be a national war on plastic bags.

Governor Edmund Brown [sic, since he usually goes by Jerry] on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans plastic shopping bags, making California the first U.S. state to officially prohibit stores from handing them out for free.

“This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The ban is a victory for environmentalists who say the 13 million plastic bags that are handed out each year in the state end up in waterways and landfills where they don’t break down for decades. Critics argue that the ban is misguided and will cost American jobs.

The new law goes into effect for large grocery chains and pharmacies beginning July 1, 2015. It will extend to convenience stores and liquor stores July 1, 2016.
Under the law, stores will be required to offer customers recycled paper bags or bags made of compostable material at a cost of at least 10 cents. Consumers buying groceries using California’s food-assistance program won’t have to pay for bags.

For me, the ban is nothing new, since it’s already enforced in parts of Marin. Corte Madera stores haven’t been applying either the ban or the “pay 10 cents” requirement, so I prefer shopping in Corte Madera over Mill Valley, which does ban plastic and makes you pay for paper.

I’ve written before about the fact that this ban steams me. I don’t mind if other people want to go around looking like bag ladies with their stacks of dirty cloth and plastic bags, but (a) I don’t want to look like a bag lady; (b) I’d have to use insane amounts of water to keep those bags from being salmonella and e. coli breeding grounds; and (c) even a 10 cent penalty is still a penalty and I don’t believe I should be penalized in this way.

It’s balm to my offended soul to read a PRI study saying that, as is the case with most of the Left’s wild hairs, they’ve got it wrong when it comes to the supposed virtues of banning disposable paper and plastic bags:

Proponents of bag-bans omit the most important consideration, which is what replaces the plastic bags? Other bags (including cloth) have even worse environmental impact profiles, and pose additional risks of cross-contaminating food and spreading dangerous pathogens among those who share the bags.

Increasingly, studies suggest that as with other poorly-thought out environmental intervention; banning plastic grocery bags reduces some harms, while increasing others.

And more environmental news about Leftist’s continued errors

Both these stories come to me thanks to Danny Lemieux. The first story says that, once again, scientists were wrong, this time with regard to the anticipated shrimp die-off in the Gulf following the BP oil spill. In fact, the shrimp seem to like that oil:

Looking at the abundance and size of Louisiana white and brown shrimp before and after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a scientific paper published Wednesday said the amount of shrimp actually increased in local estuaries through 2011 and that the size of that shrimp remained unaffected.

[snip]

Van der Ham and De Mutsert’s study compared abundance and size of shrimp in estuaries that were heavily impacted by the spill with minimally-impacted estuaries, both before and after the spill.

It found that shrimp actually was more abundant in areas heavily impacted by the oil spill.

“The rebound to normal abundance and the absence of any effect on shrimp size agrees with the view that the spill may have negligible long-term effects on Louisiana shrimp,” the study concluded. “However, long-term effects of the spill on shrimp may manifest in other traits, such as compromised immunological or life-history traits.

Don’t you just love that last paragraph?  What the study’s authors could have said was “we are still studying whether there are other long-term effects on the shrimp.”  But they don’t.  Instead, they imply that there must in fact be negative long-term effects on the shrimp, just waiting to be found.  That’s the difference, I guess, between true scientific inquiry and ideologically-driven inquiry.

The second story is about those “green” wind farms.  They’re killing hundreds of thousands of precious bats (which fertilizer crops and are otherwise environmentally useful) because they mimic the wind pattern of trees.

One French woman deserves a medal for her bravery

Check out this picture and tell me if this isn’t one seriously brave French woman.

And one West African woman deserves a medal too

Fatu Kekula, a 22-year-old nursing student in West Africa, using nothing more than courage, common sense, and garbage bags, nursed three out of four stricken family members through Ebola without becoming infected herself. What an amazing story of intelligence and decency in action.

Watcher’s Council Weasel of the Week

Don’t forget to check out this Week’s winner in the Watcher’s Council Weasel of the Week contest.  My daughter came in as I was casting my vote by email.  She saw “I vote for ____________.”  She was shocked.  “But you hate ____________.”  When I explained the type of vote I was casting, it all became clear to her.

Picture!

I’m not yet ready for an illustrated edition today, but this poster that a friend sent me is so good, I didn’t want to wait before sharing it:

Obama is my co-pilot

 

Disaster preparedness is a necessity for smart people and true conservatives

Loma Prieta damage in 1989

Loma Prieta damage in 1989

Over the past several years, our town and the next town over have worked hard to bring disaster preparedness from the government level down to the community level.  Neighborhood emergency disaster preparedness operates on the assumption that, in the event of a major emergency, government will not be there to help.

Here in Marin, we don’t base this assumption on a concern that our government emergency services are corrupt, under-funded, or inept.  Indeed, I’d say that the contrary is true in Marin.  Our local emergency services (fire, police, ambulance) are excellent:  They’re well-funded, there’s never been a smidgen of corruption, and the people on all these forces are enthusiastic, hard-working and well-trained.

These emergency services, though, exist for routine events:  a house fire, a robbery, a traffic accident. They are not intended to handle a massive earthquake — nor should they be.  Given that earthquakes happen at completely random, and usually lengthy, intervals, it would be insane for our community to fund in perpetuity emergency services large enough to cope with a rare (but still inevitable) disaster.

Given  funding realities, should “the Big One” (as Bay Area residents refer to the next anticipated earthquake) hit, it’s a reasonable certainty that people in our community will find themselves going for three to ten days without any access to emergency services, food, potable water, first aid, and shelter.  This is where we have a choice:  we can wait helpless for government first responders, or we can be our own first responders, taking responsibility for ourselves and our neighbors.

Here’s how it works:  At the most basic level, every household should purchase the life-sustaining supplies needed for three to ten days without access to stores, hospitals, fresh water, and shelter.  The rule of thumb is that neighbors will pool resources for a day or two, but it if looks as if the emergency conditions will last any longer than that, it’s every household for itself.

Unfortunately, while it’s easy enough to say “Buy supplies,” the reality is that most people are governed by inertia.  Too many people really do mean to stock up the next time they’re at Costco or Safeway, but when the time comes, they forget, or they haven’t made a place to put the supplies, or they just don’t feel up to the rigors of buying all the stuff, loading it in the car, and then unloading it again at the other side.  They’ll do it another day, they tell themselves.  Somehow, though, that other day never arrives.

What turns out to be the best system to ensure that the greatest number of households act intelligently before, during, and after a disaster is a neighborhood preparedness committee.  When a newspaper article reminds you to stock up supplies, you might think “Eh, I’ll get it done eventually.”  When your neighbor sits on your couch with you and explains what you need and how to get it, it lights a bigger fire, and ensures greater effort.  Likewise, when you get yet another email from yet another organization, you might ignore it.  But when a neighbor hosts a party to take about basic information (supplies, gathering spots, knowing who your neighbors are, etc.), there’s a greater likelihood you’ll be there, you’ll listen, and you’ll learn.

An organized neighborhood is also extraordinarily helpful when the disaster does strike.  This is the neighborhood that will have given already ensured that homeowners have supplies and that they know how to turn off their gas and prevent potentially contaminated water from flowing into their homes.   A prepared community will have block captains who go to the houses on their watch to make sure gas lines are closed, to perform the most basic injury triage (and first aid, if necessary), and to gather information about everyone’s whereabouts and status.  In this neighborhood, homeowners will have signs to place in their windows so that the block captain instantly see whether that home is “OK” or needs “HELP.”  (Even OK homes will eventually get a visit, but not on the first, triage pass.) If homes are destroyed, the prepared neighborhood will know where the emergency gathering spot is.

Lastly and most importantly, when the government “first responders” eventually show up (long after the neighborhood has already provided the actual first response), the organized neighborhood will be able to offer easily accessible information about fatalities, injuries, local dangers (leaking gas lines, downed electrical lines, etc.).  Experience shows that this level of preparedness results in the fastest attention from government emergency services.  This isn’t a case of bias or bribes on the government’s part; it’s a case of the path of least resistance.  If an emergency care provider has heading towards him a level-headed person with a list and a screaming mad-woman, he’ll turn gratefully to the list holder and try to pass the mad-woman off to someone else.

All over Marin, local communities have been accelerating their efforts to get organized.  As more neighborhoods prepare, those neighborhoods that don’t will be left out in the cold.  Their homes will be bare of survival essentials, their response to an actual disaster will be chaotic, and emergency services will give them the cold shoulder in favor of other, better-organized neighborhoods.

In my neighborhood, I’ve been invited to join the steering committee.  You won’t be surprised to learn that my role is communications.  As a committee member, I now get to attend the community-wide meetings for representatives of all the neighborhood organizations.  When I went to last night’s meeting (my first), whom should I see but our own Charles Martel?

At first, I was surprised to see Charles.  I shouldn’t have been.  For starters, he’s an exceptionally decent and intelligent human being, so it made total sense that he would volunteer himself to be in the front line of organization and preparedness both before and during a disaster.  It’s more than that, though.  Charles is a principled conservative who believes that government cannot and should not be responsible for everything in our lives.  We know what that looks like:

Hurricane Katrina victims, lacking any resources, clog New Orleans freeways.

Hurricane Katrina victims, lacking any resources, clog New Orleans freeways.

Conservatives recognize that government cannot be responsible for every eventuality in our lives. More than that, we understand that it should not be responsible for all things, because that gives it way too much power.

Understanding these facts is one thing. Acting upon them is another. We conservatives like to focus on trying to elect politicians who promise small government. Too often, though, once they’re in Washington or a state capital, these politicians either prove to be an ineffectual minority or, worse, they come down with “government spending disease” and think their responsibility ends with keeping the price tag down on yet another Big Government initiative.

What we all can and should do is something closer to home: We should be at the front lines when it comes to encouraging people to take care of themselves. When there’s a vacuum, government will fill it. If we make sure to fill that vacuum before government does, we’ve done our bit to help shrink Big Government. At the same time, we’ve also ensured that we will be in better shape in the long run than those who believe that Big Government is the one and only answer.

Having said that, I’d like to request help from you, my fellow citizens:  Because I am a procrastinator, I understand better than many the inertia that prevents people from getting in their car, driving to the local mall, and stocking up on home earthquake supplies. I’ve found that one of the ways to fight that procrastination is to make the shopping so easy that even the most shopping-averse, lazy, in denial person has no excuses. The answer, of course, is Amazon — and, even better, Amazon Prime.  You can shop from your home, at your leisure, and everything comes straight to your door.  What could be better?

The problem with Amazon, though, is that there are too many choices.  A single person could spend a lifetime trying to find the best quality, best priced emergency supplies at Amazon.  I’d rather use crowd sourcing.

My goal is to put together an Amazon shopping list that has on it the most highly recommended emergency supplies, everything from paper plates to can openers to flash lights to toilet paper to can openers to foil-sealed water (lasts 5 years) to food stuff to first aid kits. I know that not everyone should, will, or wants to everything from Amazon, but I still want a vetted list that enables someone looking for any or all necessary supplies can trust to provide purchase information.

Vetted supplies suitable for my Amazon earthquake list must be (a) high quality and (b) best price, keeping in mind the purpose for which the supplies are intended.  No one wants to buy a $900, 10-person, all-weather tent for a possible emergency when Amazon offers a highly rated, easy-to-assemble, some-weather tent for $110 dollars.  It’s even better if the tent ships free using Prime or it qualifies for Amazon’s “free shipping for purchases over $35.

So here’s my request:  If you have purchased emergency supplies lately from Amazon, and you feel that your purchase meets my “vetted supplies” criteria, please send me a link for that product, either through an email (bookwormroom * at * gmail.com) or by leaving a comment here.

Mistakes are human — and they’re dangerous when an entity aggregates too much power

erase_mistakeMistakes.  We all make them. Lord knows, anyone reading my blog knows that there are days when I can call myself the Mistake Queen. I’m a careless typist and a lousy proofreader, especially when rushed or stressed, two things that describe me most of the time.  I have a large fund of facts squirreled away in my brain, but I still get facts wrong and am always grateful when those more knowledgeable than I correct them.  I’m a savvy internet user, but not infrequently fall prey to false information on the internet (especially falsely attributed quotations that dovetail too perfectly with my beliefs).

Here’s the deal, though:  My mistakes have minimal impact.  They amuse some and offend others.  When I learn about them, I’ll correct them (unless they’re ancient typos).  I don’t want to make mistakes because my credibility and quality are at issue, but nobody’s going to die or go broke because I’ve made a typo.

The same holds true when individuals in government make mistakes.  For example, Earl tipped me off to a very funny one from the offices of Rep. Paul Cook (R., Cal. 8th Dist.).  I have no bone to pick with Cook.  He’s a retired Marine colonel and Vietnam Vet, and he deserves full honors for both those things.  He’s a Republican and I’ll happily assume for now that he’s not a RINO.  Without further information, therefore, Rep. Cook is all good things and I wish him much success.

But the stuff that comes out of his office!  Oy vey!!  His staff recently mailed out a flyer to his constituents.  The flyer had on its cover this stirring image:

Paul Cook flyer cover

So far so good. We like Congressmen who look first to the Constitution before passing laws. The problem comes with the survey included with the mailing:

Paul Cook survey

Please think long and hard about how you would answer Question No. 2.  If pressed, I would pick “unsure,” only because, of all the answers that make no sense, it’s most honestly acknowledges the inevitable bewilderment the question creates.

So it’s not just me messing up.  This kind of carelessness, thoughtlessness, illogical, foolishness, or whatever else you’d like to call it, is an inherent part of human nature.  The problems begin when we give these careless humans too much power.  The fact that Rep. Cook has silly people in his office says nothing about him and his agenda.  Likewise, although it was good for a laugh, you can’t fault every Democrat for some foolish drone’s reference to Reagan’s hitherto unknown years in Congress.

The contrary is true, though, when we’re looking at mistakes in an all- (or almost all-) powerful organization, such as a modern federal bureaucracy.  In that context, mistakes can be catastrophic.  And that’s precisely what Jim Geraghty touches upon in his National Review article about the fact that liberals cannot govern — they have put too much power into entities whose mistakes are devastating and whose self-correcting mechanisms non-existent:

In most professions, when you end up spending ten times what you budgeted, the consequences are swift and severe. Heads roll. Responsibilities are reassigned. Budgetary authority gets yanked. This, of course, is not how things work in the federal government.

[snip]

Liberals’ belief in the inherent goodness of a far-reaching federal government drives them to avert their eyes from its wildest abuses, even when they are occurring right in front of them. Waste and mismanagement are ignored, dismissed, downplayed, and excused, because confronting them too directly would undermine the central tenet of their worldview: that the federal government is an irreplaceable tool for making the world a better place.

I hope I’m not being too mean when I point to Rep. Paul Cook’s silly flyer as a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with big government, even if that government is not actively malevolent and partisan.  When careless error comes out of a single Congressman’s office, it’s inconsequential; when it comes out of an all-powerful, unconstrained bureaucracy, it ought to scare the Hell out of each one of us.

The only way to cut government spending is to cut government

The Cato Institute is putting together a series of videos to identify government agencies that are not merely wasteful, but are also destructive to our country’s well-being.  This video, attacking the horribly misnamed Department of Education, is one of the five videos Cato has already created:

Of course, the above video brings coals to Newcastle.  Those who watch it already agree with its premise, although it’s nice to have hard facts to back up our sometimes inchoate sense of outrage.  What I would love is to see every liberal I know watching the video.  Sadly, though, I know with absolute certainty that none will dare. They are resolute in their desire to avoid contact with any information that might disrupt their New York Times world view.

Hat tip: Power Line

Mark Steyn tackles the administration’s game of “I spy” on the American people

The one good thing about bad news is that it brings out the best in good writers.  You really must read Mark Steyn’s whole column about Obama’s East German spy state, but I can resist cherry-picking for the best of it:

So we know the IRS is corrupt. What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. This is a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States, and for that reason alone they should be disarmed and disbanded — and rebuilt from scratch with far more circumscribed powers.

[snip]

Holder had another great contribution to the epitaph of the Republic this week. He went on TV to explain that he didn’t really regard Fox News’s James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” but had to pretend he did to the judge in order to get the judge to cough up the warrant. So rest easy, America! Your chief law officer was telling the truth when he said he hadn’t lied to Congress because in fact he’d been lying when he said he told the truth to the judge.

[snip]

When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”

Read it all.  Post it on your blogs.  Email it to your friends.  Distribute it through social media.  Steyn is right about something fundamental here which is that, even if what the administration did is legal, it’s still profoundly wrong and the laws are badly drafted if they can allow government to listen in on the minutiae of every American’s life.

Gawd, this is just the perfect follow-up to an earlier post about the manly man pretense

I didn’t intend to have it happen that way today, but I’ve already done two posts on manliness and, as I type, have the perfect third to the trio.

The first post was about Obama’s insistence that a member of the few, the proud, and the umbrella carriers take care of him before he melted.

The second post was about a bumper sticker I saw today, in which a manly, obscene man then insisted that he liked having the government treat him like a baby.  Right.  You can’t be both, dude.

And then, right on schedule, this third thing fell into my lap:

Men who are physically strong are more likely to take a right wing political stance, while weaker men are inclined to support the welfare state, according to a new study.

Researchers discovered political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength.

Men’s upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to the research.

Yup.  That pretty much sums it up.  The stronger I’ve gotten (age has tempered my strength), the less interested I am in having the government serve as a Mommy/Daddy proxy.  Some men, however, remain weedy wimps forever.

Sadie has a question about drones — Do you feel lucky?

Sadie sent me an email:

Would you post this and ask your clever and knowledgeable readers to answer mine or Dirty Harry’s question: Well, do you feel Lucky. Well do ya, Punk?

I am not feeling warm and fuzzy. Admission: I am warm enough, but very fuzzy on details about internal drones because DHS hasn’t explained the purchase of 450 million hollow-point bullets (they’re the type of bullets that expand after entry). Show and tell video below.

California is searching for Christopher Dorner, who has murdered 3 people already and has a “kill list”. The administration has a “kill list” as well, which is only geared towards Americans on foreign soil, along with foreign jihadists/Al Qaida. Add to the mix that Congress approved the use of 30,000 drones by 2020 within our borders.I can see the program’s usefulness in apprehending Dorner, but ….

It’s not as if the electorate was asked if an internal drone program is a good/bad idea. Is it?

The Federal Aviation Administration has finally released a new drone authorization list. This list, released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, includes law enforcement agencies and universities across the country, and—for the first time—an Indian tribal agency. In all, the list includes more than 20 new entities over the FAA’s original list, bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012.

The West’s perpetual adolescence — affluence and socialism create a nation of Peter Pans who refuse to grow up

One of the things I find most distasteful about ObamaCare is its requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for their employees’ children through their 26th year.  I don’t find this just economically wrong, I find it cosmically, morally wrong that our federal government has officially extended childhood until citizens are 26.  I cannot think of a single reason why our national policy should be to delay normal human mental and emotional maturation.  Progressives seem to have added to the Constitution, right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a coda saying that being Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a legitimate career goal.

I mentioned yesterday that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I listened (and am listening to) both Joseph Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and David McCulloch’s 1776. One of the things that comes through so clearly in these books is that the Founding Fathers were adults, not children, and they were adults because, from a very young age, all of them had taken on adult responsibilities, whether as soldiers, surveyors, blacksmiths, booksellers, lawyers, farmers, printers, or whatever other careers the Founders pursued.  Even gentlemen farmers such as Jefferson still had myriad responsibilities for their estates and the people dependent on those estates.

That all of them took on responsibility so early was not unusual; it was the norm.  What would have struck all of them as peculiar was a world view holding that, during your peak years of childbearing, physical strength, and mental adaptability, you should lounge around the house pursuing your bliss and living off of your parents.  Necessity required the Founders to work and grow.  A combination of affluence and socialism ensures that our children can remain adolescent well into their late 20s.

Nowadays, the majority of American children stay in school until age 18.  In Colonial times, but for a few college-bound gentlemen, by 18 most would have been employed for years.  The women would already have had children and that would have been true whether they were ladies of leisure, or working women responsible for a family farm, a washing business, housework, etc.

For too many Americans, though, adulthood doesn’t even begin at 18.  The middle and upper classes send their children to college.  For $20,000 to $50,000 per year (payable by their parents or the government, either through direct grants or guaranteed loans), they attend a few classes, take some tests, meet new people, party a lot, travel (always at someone else’s expense) and generally delay taking on any real responsibility.  Many of them study subjects that will have no measurable benefit on their lives, either in terms of future income or acquired knowledge.  Only once these youngsters graduate, at 21 or 22, do some of them finally start working for real.  Some of them get married and have children.  Too many, however, continue to be adolescents:  they get low-level jobs (although it’s not always their fault in the Obama economy) and they still look to Mom and Dad for financial support and insurance.  Partying remains important.

The degree jockeys further extend their adolescence with further education.  Some actually study things that will prove remunerative (law, medicine, architecture, business, etc.), but many opt for purely academic disciplines, getting advanced degrees in History, Medieval French, Puppetry, Womyn’s Studies, etc.  They do so despite knowing that there is almost no chance that they’ll get a job in their field.  I would never make such a foolish decision with my time and money.  When I finished my undergraduate education, despite my abiding love for history, I knew I would never get a job in my field.  The grad students in the history department told me that, in my graduation year, there were only four PhD level job openings for history majors in the entire United States.  I went to law school instead.

People need to grow up.  They are just as stunted without mental maturation as they would be if a disease or dietary deficiency kept their bodies from growing properly.  I realized the truth of this when I had children.  Although I’d worked as a lawyer for many years, and had my own business, until I had children and truly had others entirely dependent upon me, I was still a kid.  Nothing I did really mattered.  When you have children, everything matters.  Your choices are suddenly monumental, since they affect not only you but a helpless human being, who needs you desperately and looks up to you with love and respect.  I definitely miss the irresponsibility of my youth, but I wouldn’t go back.  I was biologically destined to mature, and it feels right.

What triggered this post about the terrible effect of ObamaCare’s perpetual adolescence factor is an email that has been making the rounds in Britain.  Nick Crews, a British Navy retiree, apparently had a bad Christmas with his three adult children last year.  By February of this year, he couldn’t keep it bottled up any more, so he sent them an email saying that they needed to stop whining and flailing about, and needed to begin taking responsibility for their lives.  Crews is absolutely right, although I believe that, because his children were raised in a socialist nation that turns the state into a perpetual parent who feeds, clothes, and otherwise provides for the citizen-children, he’s fighting a rearguard action:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

Dad

Despite the letter’s harsh tone, at least one of his children said it was something she needed to hear.

In Obama’s America, a lot of parents will soon feel like writing to their children the same letter Crews wrote to his.

Conservatives need a new ground game

Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m feeling less depressed than I felt last night and this morning.  Part of my more sanguine attitude is based upon a Taranto principle, which is that Obama now owns the events of the next four years:

Obama has spent the past four years explaining away his failings by essentially arguing he is the best of all possible presidents–that he has done as well as any man could given the “mess” he “inherited” from his predecessor. It is certainly true that he took office under adverse circumstances. But so will whoever takes office Jan. 20. In fact, things are about to get a lot worse because of decisions taken but deferred during the Obama years.

The mess today’s winner will inherit includes not only high unemployment and slow growth but impending policy changes that threaten to make those problems worse. On Jan. 1, unless Congress acts, the Bush tax cuts expire–or, to put it another way, “massive, job-killing tax increases” are about to take effect (that quote is from President Obama). If Obama gets his way–which he likely would if re-elected–Congress will forestall the hike only for taxpayers making under $200,000 or $250,000 a year. That would be good for those fortunate enough to have jobs, but it would not change the tax increase’s job-killing nature, as it would hit investors and small businesses hard.

Then there’s ObamaCare. Although enacted nearly three years ago, it was written so that most of its provisions would not take effect until the next presidential term. “The bottled-up rules to set up President Barack Obama’s health care reform law are going to start flowing quickly right after Election Day,” Politico reports. “As soon as Wednesday, the gears and levers of government bureaucracy are likely to start moving at full speed again.”

The scale of the messes Taranto describes makes it unlikely that Romney could have been a successful president.  At best, he might have stemmed an economic or national security collapse, but I doubt he could actually have improved things.  The systems for self-destruction — massive debt, vast entitlement expectations, ObamaCare beginning to weave into the warp and woof of our social and economic fabric, a dangerous world outside of America’s borders — are already deeply entrenched.  Four years won’t fix them.  (Which may be why voters ignored Obama’s empty 2008 promises and decided that he really need 8 years to fulfill the hope and change manifesto.)

But, but . . . what about Reagan?  He also inherited a dangerous world and an unhealthy economy.  That’s true — but he inherited a different ground game.  Political correctness didn’t exist then.  Skin color diversity (offset by ideological homogeneity) was at the beginning of its trajectory, not the peak.  People still viewed government aid as something one first earned or, if one didn’t earn it, as something one accepted with some degree of embarrassment.  Now, even with no pay-in, they view it as a right, with no shame attached.  In Reagan’s day, our troops hadn’t been fighting a blood-and-guts war for eight years (as opposed to a massive Cold War chess game) against an enemy that neither the Republican nor the Democrat President willingly named.  In Reagan’s day, the intelligentsia may have tried to downplay the Soviet Union, but ordinary people still knew that it was indeed the Evil Empire.  Israel was still loved, not hated, so Americans supported a president who supported Israel.

The ground game has changed.  As Roger Simon says,

So we have a problem with democracy. It’s not working or, more specifically, has been turned on its end, with the masses manipulated against their own self-interest, creating power elites similar to those described in Milovan Djilas’ The New Class.

How did that happen? I think many of us know there are three pillars of our own destruction: the educational system, the media and entertainment (the popular arts).

Those three areas are so corrupted those who legitimately are on the center-right (or anywhere close to it) will increasingly find themselves swimming upstream against a current so great who knows where it will take them. (Think Hayek, Orwell, etc.) We must address ourselves to these three immediately before it is too late. In many ways, it already is. Culture is the mother of politics and mother is turning into Medea.

Okay, fine.  We fight the wars we’re given, not the wars we want.  So here’s my thinking.

As I said, I’m less depressed than I was because I think our culture is such that, no matter who occupies the White House, bad things are going to happen.  Really bad things, both with our economy and our national security.  Seeing as I think the coming hurt is inevitable, I’d rather it happens on a Democrat’s than on a Republican’s watch.  If I’m wrong, I’ll eat crow and begin to consider whether my political leanings of the past eight years have been a temporary aberration, and I’ll even contemplate returning to my liberal roots.  (Unlikely, but if the next four years are an American boom time, we’ll all need to rethink our belief systems.)

Accepting the inevitable, how do we fight back?  As polite conservatives, we’ve always tried to work through the ballot box.  We’ve decried the bias in media (including PBS, which we pay for), academia, and education, but we really haven’t done anything about it.  We tried to vote for people who would stop funding PBS and we whined on websites about the indoctrination at our children’s schools.  We’ve still paid to watch movies and we tune in to TV.

We resent the system, but we work within in.  For all that we talk about the ageless wonders of our Constitution and free-market principles generally, we are short-term thinkers, who keep believing (all evidence to the contrary) that we can kill the Progressive tree, not by attacking the roots, but by taking an axe to the tip-top of the tree through honestly brokered elections.  The fact is that the cultural battle is so one-sided (against our side) that we’d probably lose even honestly brokered elections, ones that did not involve massive fraud and media malfeasance.

We keep doing trying the same failed tactic, even though we recognize that the strong Democrat victories resulted, not because the Left voted, but because they spent 60 years going after America’s social and intellectual infrastructure.  The numbers of actual Lefties are probably pretty small; the number of people who have been taught to vote Democrat without thinking what it really means, is huge.

William F. Buckley figured out the problem in the 1950s and started a cultural counter attack, which ended with the Reagan ascendency.  Whew!  That was it.  We won.  Yay.  We won forever.  NOT.  The Left never stopped its ground game.  Indeed, during and after the Reagan years (including during the Clinton years), the hard Left consolidated its hold over cultural institutions.  We just watched and whined.

We cannot do that anymore.  For the next four years, conservatives need to stop worrying about this candidate or that candidate (which is all we ever do) and we need to start wooing the masses.

My friend Lulu, who comments here and who has been an occasional guest poster, called me today with a wonderful idea:  Star Parker.  Okay, you’re right.  Star Parker is a wonderful person, not a wonderful idea, but she’s the symbol for my friend’s idea.  We don’t need to run Star Parker for office, we need to run her for talk show host, a la Oprah.  She’s engaging, approachable, intelligent, conservative and black.  I hate to add the last, because I don’t like to judge people by the color of their skin, but I’m in minority.  I live in my head, so I relate to people intellectually.  Most don’t.  They need other people to look like them in order to start feeling comfortable with their ideas.

The talk show idea, though is the right one.  We know that most people aren’t high-level thinkers when it comes to politics but are, instead, low-level, emotional reactors.  I do not mean that they are stupid.  I just mean that, when it comes to politics, they engage in a non-abstract, non-theoretical, non-intellectual level.  The old saying is that, if the mountain won’t come to Mohamed, than Mohamed must go to the mountain.  We need to reach out to non-engaged voters by meeting them at their level, rather than insisting that they meet us at ours.

Admittedly, our conservative social infrastructure is limited.  Liberals own the media and the entertainment world.  But how did they get there?  They pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed.  We need to start pushing too.  We need talk shows, even if they start on cable or internet.  We also need to take a page out of the Leftist handbook and start using the courts.  For example, Lulu suggested that, as taxpayers, we have standing to sue PBS to demand that, as long as public broadcasting gets public monies, it must devote 50% of its programming time to conservative programs.  After all, for decades, simply because they rented public airwaves, TV and radio were required to be  neutral.  Why isn’t PBS?

When it comes to Hollywood, we need to come together an create alternatives.  Stop spending your money on movies by people who hate us.  Why are we doing that?  And we should take the money we didn’t spend on the haters and invest it in movie makers (such as Declaration Entertainment) that will make entertaining movies that don’t hit us over the head with their message, but that feed it to us subliminally.  (When we do make movies we always go for the iron hand, rather than the velvet glove).  The Left figured this one out, as Ben Shapiro explains in Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.  We too can change the paradigm without being obvious.

And why are we, who pay most of the taxes, allowing publicly funded schools to discriminate against conservative teachers? We sit back and cheer when an individual conservative teacher sues after being denied tenure, but we’ve never had a taxpayer suit saying that, just as student body’s have to be diverse, so should faculty — and that this diversity includes not discriminating against belief systems.  In other words, we have to redefine diversity so that it encompasses ideology as well as (or instead of) skin color.

We also have to advertise ourselves better.  As Romney’s campaign (and McCain’s and Bush’s too) showed, Republican political “leaders” find our ideology embarrassing and seek to wrap it up in gauzy, often impenetrable, platitudes.  One of my readers, Fern, suggests that our campaigns have a musty, fuzzy look.  The Left identifies us as backwards, reactionary, etc., and we yield.  We’ve certainly given the Left linguistic control.  They’re “Progressive” and “Forward.”  We’re fuddy-duddy “conservatives.”

Obama, a child of the Left, understands that words matter, more than the fact that these so-called Progressives keep trying to recycle ideas that failed in all nations that have tried them.  They’ve got the glamor and the gloss, and those gimmicks sell in a superficial world.

One of the first and easiest things we can do is to start with re-branding.  Keep in mind that calling conservatives “right wing” harks back to the 18th century French parliament, when the non-revolutionaries sat on the right side of the hall.  Is that how we want to identify ourselves — as relics of the ancien regime?  “Conservative” too makes us sound like a bunch of reactionary codgers who can be painted as desirous of slavery (never mind that the Republicans freed the slaves), Jim Crow-lovers (never mind that Republicans opposed Jim Crow), and misogynists (never mind that Republicans are in the vanguard of fighting Muslims and Chinese Communists who treat women and girl babies like disposable property).

It turns out that, in a media rich world, Shakespeare was wrong.  That which we call rose, by any other name does not smell as sweet.  With that in mind, how about starting to call ourselves “Individualists” or “the Freedom Party” or something like that?  Liberals successfully (and mostly under the radar) rebranded themselves as Progressives, leaving behind the musty Victorian taint of “liberalism.”  If they can do it, why can’t we?

Truly, the wake-up call we received yesterday is not about 2012 or even about 2016.  It is about our finally understanding that the opposition has long had a better strategy and endless institutional patience.  We won only when there were still enough voters who hadn’t been indoctrinated.  In 2008, there weren’t enough of us remaining to tilt the scales.  The Left attacked America at the root, and we need to take it back at precisely the same level.

The battle is over.  The war has begun.  Consider this post Ground Zero.  If you have ideas — practical, non-whining ideas that ordinary people can put into effect — post them in the comments section, and we’ll see how far we can disseminate them.  For starters, I am no longer a conservative.  I am an “individualist” who supports a “Freedom Party,” as opposed to a “statist” who supports “Big Government.”

UPDATE:  Others thinking about a new ground game too —

The Colossus of Rhodey

Don Quixote (at our own Bookworm Room)

Ron Radosh

Michelle Horstman

Will Obama’s failure to create genuine wealth finally end Keynesian economics?

Many of Obama’s most educated supporters believe in him because they believe in Keynesian economics.  Central to that belief is the theory that government itself can be an economic engine.  If people aren’t working, have them work for the government or at least have the government fund their ostensibly “private sector” jobs.  This theory holds that all jobs are good jobs, regardless of the employer.  Indeed, ardent Keynesians say the government is both the best employer and economic manager, because it’s big enough to control the entire economy, getting money and jobs where they most need to be.

I turned my back on Keynesian theories when I finally figured out that there’s a difference between jobs and wealth.  As Milton Friedman famously said, if all that you’re interested in is employment, forget shovel-ready jobs and aim, instead, for spoon-ready jobs, which will put more people to work.  At the end of the day, whether you have ten people with digging away with shovels or one hundred people picking away with spoons, all you’ll end up with are holes.  Under this model, any benefits from fuller employment are transitory.

What creates meaningful jobs, the kind that move the economy forward instead of create a static back-and-forth of taxes to the government and make-work to the people, is a dynamic private sector.  That’s where you get innovation, imagination, and energy.  Under this free-market economic model, the government’s job is to prevent abuse.  It steps aside to allow the greed that’s necessary for capitalism, while acting affirmatively to prevent fraud, abuse, and other kinds of things that interfere with the marketplace.

During the debate, Romney was referring to this policing role when he said some regulation is not only good, but actually necessary.  It’s when the government starts managing the economy that wealth vanishes.

If you have a rich country (or, as was the case with Europe when America paid for her Cold War security, a sugar daddy), you can keep the back-and-forth of taxes and government make-work going for quite a long time.  Eventually, though, you’re left with jobs, but no wealth.  And no wealth means no taxes, which means no jobs.  Welcome to Greece.

What Romney has to do during the next month is convince undecided voters, or worried voters who aren’t as decided as they thought they were, that, while, Obama’s policies can and will create jobs (as today’s anemic, and suspect, job reports revealed), his policies not only cannot create wealth, they are antithetical to wealth creation.  I think this ad is a good start:

Why does the Left love Mom and Pop stores, but hate Mom and Pop medicine?

Gay Patriot posted the other day about yet another anti-Walmart protest.  His point was that the protesters, rather than being excited about real paying jobs coming to L.A., insisted that they would be better off with some hypothetical Mom and Pop jobs that might arise if they protested Walmart with sufficient vigor:

Last week, when watching TV news footage of people protesting a Walmart being built in LA’s Chinatown, I caught sight of a sign which seemed to define contemporary American liberalism, “Good Jobs/not Walmart jobs.”

[snip]

These protestors, however, prefer these abstract “good jobs” to the very real “Walmart Jobs.”  They favor, that is, something that exists in the abstract, in theory, to something very real — and well, like most real things, (at least) slightly imperfect.

Gay Patriot is, of course, correct, about the illogic driving the protesters.  But think too about their claim that large, impersonal employers aren’t “good.”  The assumption underlying this claim is that multiple small businesses better serve the community by ensuring choice and by preventing people from having a single Leviathan-esque employer beaten them down (in the form of “union busting” and “low wages”):

“This historic neighborhood will be utterly gutted if Walmart comes here,” Morello told the Associated Press.

Others said they were worried that the retail giant will drive smaller stores in Chinatown out of business.

“We hope that Walmart will hear us loud and clear and stop the construction and get out of Chinatown,” said King Cheung, an organizer with the Chinatown  Coalition for Equitable Development. “So that we in Chinatown, the stakeholders, can talk about what is best for Chinatown.”

[snip]

Sarah Tseng said her nonprofit had collected signatures for 80 local small businesses in opposition to the planned store. She said the majority of Chinatown residents oppose it, but are “afraid to say so publicly.”

To summarize, the protesters are appalled that a large entity will move in and squeeze out the diversity offered by multiple small providers, because doing so harms the worker and the consumer.   Pretty clear, right?  Right.  Except….

Except that this principle collapses completely when it’s the government that wants to move in and despoil Mom and Pop concerns (i.e., small providers).  In deconstructing Fareed Zakaria’s liberal defense of the government takeover of medicine, Yuval Levin points out the Left’s hostility to small providers:

Zakaria then contends that the inefficiencies of the American health care system—and especially the frequent disconnect between costs and outcomes—are a function of there just being too many different players in the system, each with his own goals. This is the classic liberal complaint: disorder causes inefficiency. Citing a conversation with Daniel Vassela, the chairman of Novartis, Zakaria writes:

“In America,” he said, “no one has incentives to make quality and cost-effective outcomes the goal. There are so many stakeholders and they each want to protect themselves. Someone needs to ask, ‘What are the critical elements to increase quality?’ That’s what we’re going to pay for, nothing else.”

And from this, Zakaria does not conclude that we need to rearrange the financial incentives in our health-care system so that, like in other parts of our economy, providers of services have a powerful incentive (called the profit motive) to make quality and cost-effectiveness their goal. Instead, he concludes that government must take over decisions about how to provide coverage and organize the system because presumably government is very good at making quality and cost-effectiveness its goals.

In other words, the protesting Left isn’t really interested in Mom and Pop, whether Mom and Pop are selling shoes or health care. Instead, Leftists are simply interested in destroying large capital and elevating Big Government.