The Bookworm Beat 9-27-2015 — the “things that make you think” edition and open thread


Boehner was merely an effective manager, rather than an effective conservative

Andrew Klavan is kind enough to point out that Boehner was in some measure a very effective House Majority Leader:

I can’t help but notice that under Boehner — and largely because of Boehner, because Boehner outsmarted President Obama in the 2013 budget negotiations — federal spending has declined over a five year period for the first time since the post World War II cutbacks. And because of this, as the economy has struggled to a sputtering recovery despite Democrat mismanagement, the deficit has been sharply reduced…

Also under Boehner — and also largely because of then-minority leader Boehner (and the likewise much-maligned-by-conservatives Mitch McConnell in the Senate) — the disaster of Obamacare is 100% attributable to the Democrats. It hasn’t got a single Republican fingerprint on it.

As Klavan sees it, Boehner’s fall came about solely because he wouldn’t engage in a head-to-head fight with Obama over Planned Parenthood.  Boehner believed (and still believes) that fight will destroy chances for a Republican victory in 2016.  I have two points to make.

First, if Boehner’s right that the fight will fail it’s in part because he refuses to engage in the fight at the intellectual level.  Carly Fiorina is the first prominent Republican to frame the fight in non-religious terms, and boy did she make the Left squirm when she did so.  In other words, part of why Boehner can’t win the fight is because, even though he’s pro-Life, he has absolutely no idea how to fight against abortion at anything other than a monetary level.

Second, speaking of that monetary level, the fight really boils down to something James Taranto said three years ago, and it’s about the difference between checkbook Republicans and ideologically-driven conservatives.  The context was the fact that Paul Ryan seemed to understand a conservative vision of small, not big, government:

Deficit hawkishness was the main strain of postwar Republican conservatism until the Goldwater movement of 1964. When lefties long for the “mainstream” Republicans of yore, this is a large part of what they have in mind. A conservatism that cares only about balancing the books not only fails to challenge the encroachment of the welfare state but actively aids it by taking political pressure off the left.

Here’s how politics would work in a world in which deficit hawks dominated the Republican Party: The Democrats would propose a new entitlement. Some Republicans would oppose it, but once it was clear it was going to pass, they would drop their opposition and push for tax increases instead.

It’s a win-win for the Democratic left. They not only fulfill their ideological goal of ever-expanding government, but they get the political credit for doling out benefits and they shift the blame to Republicans (or at least share it with them) for the concomitant tax increases. Conservatives are reduced, to paraphrase Newt Gingrich, to acting as tax collectors for the welfare state. With Republican cooperation, Democrats can be the party of generous benefits and low taxes. Lyndon B. Johnson dramatically expanded the former while reducing the latter.

Boehner appears willing to get on board with Obama’s initiatives, with his efforts directed at trying to control Obama’s spending.  Because Boehner’s inarticulate, he’s never succeeded in making a principled, as opposed to a financial, stand against Obama’s policies.  (And yes, the media muzzles him, but others do manage to break through that media logjam.)  The current fight in the House is another chapter in the fight between Republicans who think their only responsibility is to control spending and conservatives who believe their obligation is to shrink the government.

With that in mind, Daniel Greenfield’s Rebuilding a Conservative Movement I, which addresses those checkbook GOPers who claim to be “socially liberal and fisically conservative,” explains why that checkbook Republicanism ultimately cannot work if we are to bring sanity to the semi-socialist, crony-capitalist, victim-centric mess that our nation has become:

The trouble with fiscally conservative and socially liberal is that the left is not a buffet. You don’t get to pick a combo identity. Fiscally liberal follows socially liberal as day follows night. All those single people, their babies need assorted government benefits. No amount of lectures on “liberty” will change that. Austrian economics is never going to displace food stamps for the socially insecure.


You can’t outrun the political implications of poverty in a democracy. And you can’t stop those political trends without addressing the social failures that cause them. A socially liberal society will become politically and economically liberal. Importing Third World labor also imports Third World politics, which veer between Marxism and Fascism all the way to the Islamic Jihad.

Everything is connected. You can’t choose one without the other.

We’re not going to have some libertarian utopia in which everyone gets high and lives in communes, but doesn’t bother with regulations and taxes. The closest thing you can find to that is Africa. Nor are we going to be able to import tens of millions of people from countries where working class politics is Marxist without mainstreaming Marxism as a political solution in major cities across America.

People are not divisible that way. Human society is not a machine you can break down.

The left has fundamentally changed America. Much of the donor class hesitates to recognize this or prefers to believe that it can isolate the bad changes from the good changes. It doesn’t work that way.

Getting the kind of fiscal conservatism that a lot of the donor class wants requires making fundamental changes to the country. You can’t just tinker with economic regulations in a country where schoolchildren are taught to demand taxes on plastic bags to save the planet or where a sizable portion of the population is dependent on the government. Those tactics can rack up ALEC victories while losing the war.

Fiscal conservatism requires a self-reliant population that believes in the value of honesty and hard work. Those are not compatible with social liberalism or casual Marxism. Individually, yes. It’s possible to make money while being a leftist. But spread across a large population with different classes and races, those individual quirks will not be replicated. And you can’t create that population with slogans. You have to be able to shape national values, not just economic policy.

And there you have Boehner’s failure writ large.

When it comes to ISIS and speech, irony is dead

This is not a joke:  At an art installation promoting free speech, a display of cutesy stuff animal toys having a picnic while, over the horizon, equally cutesy animals in ISIS gear loom was removed lest this free speech offend . . . ISIS.

Further First Amendment assaults on American campuses

At some point, American parents have to realize that, when they sent their children off to college, the children are entering a Looking-Glass World in which, instead of learning, they unlearn. Their unlearning regresses them so badly that they forget the old childhood chant “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

In modern academia, words are so painful to the delicate darlings on campus that they resort to feral viciousness to stifle any words that make them sad. Wesleyan is just the latest example of this fascist madness:

Some students at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University think the campus newspaper is an unsafe space because it dared to criticize—in the mildest of terms—the Black Lives Matter movement. These same students have sworn to wage a campaign of destruction and censorship against the newspaper until it accepts their demands for uncritical coverage of their issues.

It’s the ultimate irony of the campus safe-spacers, and one that grows clearer with each new college censorship story: Safety is actually the furthest thing from their minds.

And in the “things that make you think” category, wasn’t it the university students in Mao’s China who were amongst the most zealous in carrying out his purges?

China’s economy is set to shatter

Lefties, with Tom Friedman leading the pack, have written adoring columns about China because they saw it as a perfect synthesis of communism and capitalism, with the state making consistently wise decisions to advance the nation’s wealth.  Sane people believe that the government can never run well something as dynamic as the economy, and that its job is to set basic rules of fairness and then to get out of the way, except to police against those who violate the rules.

A centrally managed economy will never work.  The government is too agenda-driven, too prone to cronyism and corruption, and too slow to react.

It’s no surprise, therefore, to see that China’s housing market is heading for a fall.  What’s scary, of course, is that China’s economy has become so big that, when it falls, a lot of other economies are going to fall with it.  Even scarier is that, after seven and a half years of Obamanomics, our economy as is as weakened as someone with an immunodeficiency syndrome.  That is, we may be too damaged to defend ourselves against the Chinese economy’s coming collapse.

Incidentally, straight out of Newark, we have a perfect example of why government should never be trusted with large sums of money:  Mark Zuckerberg gave Newark $100 million to improve its schools.  Instead, the town pretty much wasted every penny its spent to date.  The thing is to give government money only for those things that it can do that no one else can:  waging war, national security, international treaties and relations (as long as Obama’s not in charge), broad public health concerns (infectious disease prevention and control), etc.  Otherwise, keep away from government.

Why I burned out on practicing law

As part of a larger post about Michael Mann and the climate scam, Conrad Black has some choice words on the procedural travesty that is too often our American legal system, this time as seen through the prism of Michael Mann’s lawsuit against Mark Steyn:

That imbroglio began when Steyn wrote a 270-word blog, which the dysfunctional and obscene U.S. justice system, as he points out, has not been able to bring to trial in 270 weeks, although his legal bills have exceeded $1 million. Mann went jurisdiction-shopping and sued in the District of Columbia, though neither he nor Mark live in that jurisdiction. Mark invoked the statute barring “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (SLAPP), which is designed to prevent the muzzling of public adversaries by tangling them up in lawsuits. This drove the issue into an apparently endless series of appeals about the appealability of the District of Columbia’s anti-SLAPP law, and whether there is a right to appeal that law. Only in America could the asphyxiating legal cartel reduce the right to justice to such a procedural quagmire. Steyn has done what he can to get this to trial and answered Mann’s discovery requests more than a year ago, but Mann has determined that Steyn’s counter-claims cannot be pursued until the anti-SLAPP issue has been resolved, and that could go right through the appellate system, a veritable high-rise honey pot for greedy American lawyers.

That’s exactly right. I part ways, though, with Black when it comes to blaming lawyers. This is the judges’ fault. Lawyers are like lions in a circus ring. They’re going to do what lions do to optimize their (and their clients’) situation. It’s up to the judge/ringmaster to control their efforts.

Staying safe if you’re a concealed or open carrier

One of the things the Left is trying to do is to kill people legally carrying guns.  They use a variation of the “swatting” technique, by which bad actors call the police claiming a violent hostage or break-in situation at the home of someone they want dead, in the hope that the police will appear with guns blazing to kill the homeowner.  When it comes to open- or concealed-carry gun owners, the technique is to scream loud and long that “He’s gotta gun!!!”

Don’t let yourself be a victim.  A blog for concealed carry gun owners has tips for how to handle yourself if someone makes you a target.

Coming soon to a socialist government near you

Europe is not entirely leftist.  In theory, people still have some property rights.  But that’s only in theory.

In fact, because Europeans have no Bill of Rights establishing their inherent rights in life, liberty, and property (and the things that flow from that, such as free speech, free worship, and the right to arms), the rule is that the government giveth and the government taketh away.  And in Germany, with the massive influx of Muslim Arabs, especially volatile young men who must be appeased, the government is planning on doing a lot of taking from Germans naive enough to think that they have property rights in socialist Germany.

Southern hospitality has its limits

Southerners are known for being the most hospitable people in America.  Snotty Leftist coast dwellers also like to caricature them as dumb.  South Carolinans, however, are showing themselves to be much smarter than the Germans are when it comes to taking in Muslim refugees — they don’t want them.

It’s important to understand that Muslim refugees are unlike any others in the world.  All refugees bring in trouble — they bring in poverty, and displacement, and crime.  They also bring in habits that the country taking them in may find offensive.  For example, they may drink more and bathe less.  The men might wear long hair and the women short hair, something that stands out in a country in which the men have short hair and the women long.  But these are just cultural habits or the problems of poverty and displacement.

Only the Muslims bring in a belief system that is entirely antithetical to our constitutional freedoms and that places upon the refugees and immigrants the absolute obligation to substitute their belief system for that of the host country.  No matter how poor and displaced they are, they come in as putative conquerors, not grateful refugees.

The awful abuse they suffer in their home countries, should not erase the fact that, once they come to our country, their primary goal isn’t to start a new life in a land dedicated to freedom.  Instead, it is to be the abusers, rather than the abused.

More on the green energy scam

Let me quote myself from a post I wrote when my financially comfortable family (comfortable because of decades of hard-work and sacrifice) decided to get an electric car, thanks to generous government handouts:

Between federal and state incentives for electric vehicles, we get almost $12,000 towards a three-year lease.

That last factor makes the car eminently affordable. We’ll be paying only slightly more per month on the lease than I was already paying for gas. We’ll keep the old car for short trips or heavy loads (or for times when all three drivers in the family are heading in completely opposite directions), but we’ll use only the Leaf for the local trips. Our electric bill will increase negligibly, our gasoline bill will decrease dramatically, and our monthly cash flow will be affected minimally.

Nice as they are, I’m actually somewhat embarrassed by those incentives. Yes, it’s true that I pay substantially more in taxes than someone who doesn’t live a nice upper middle class life in Marin. But precisely because I am able to live this nice upper middle class Marin lifestyle, I don’t really need the incentive.

The incentives certainly encourage me to buy or lease an electric vehicle, so they fulfill the government goal of getting more people into EVs, but I think it’s wrong that lower-income taxpayers are compelled to support me in any way. They, after all, are still paying taxes but, even with the taxpayer-funded incentive, they still can’t afford a lease.

Given that backdrop, it came as no surprise to me to learn that the whole electric car scheme has benefited only the affluent:

The federal government offers up to $7,500 in tax credits to purchase an electric vehicle, part of a broader national policy to encourage efficient use of energy and curb carbon emissions.

Almost all of those benefits are going to the wealthiest U.S. households, according to an analysis by University of California, Berkeley, professors Severin Borenstein and Lucas Davis.

“We find that the top income quintile has received about 90% of all credits,” Messrs. Borenstein and Davis said.

The pattern is similar, though not as extreme, for other so-called clean-energy tax incentives. The authors dig through tax records to determine who’s claiming credits for residential energy-efficiency improvements, solar panel installation and purchase of alternative-fuel or electric vehicles.

From 2006 to 2012, the most recent data available, tax credits totaled $18.1 billion, the authors find. In that time, taxpayers with an adjusted gross income greater than $75,000 received about 60% of those credit dollars for energy efficiency, residential solar and hybrid vehicles, and about 90% for electric cars.

In other words, it’s a fairly regressive portion of the tax code. A more progressive tax–the authors suggest a carbon tax–would place more of the burden on the wealthy.

I think that the correct response to this data is “Well, duh!”

I’m either schizophrenic or really smart

I talk to myself all the time.  At the supermarket,I discuss with myself which groceries I want to buy, because I invariably leave my list at home.  When I drive, I run over directions in my mind and, sometimes, have arguments with people.  A lot of my conversation is disguised as talking to the dog.  Seeing me, you’d probably come to one of two conclusions:  either I’m schizophrenic or, if you rely on a recent study of the “talking to oneself” phenomenon, that I’m really smart:

Talking to yourself, it turns out, is actually a sign of genius.

In one study, psychologists Daniel Swigley and Gary Lupyan hypothesized that talking to yourself was actually beneficial.

And if you think about it, it’s obviously true. The smartest people on earth talk to themselves. Look at the inner monologues of the greatest thinkers. Look at poetry! Look at history! Albert Einstein apparently “used to repeat his sentences to himself softly.“


According to psychologist Linda Sapadin, talking out loud to yourself helps you validate important and difficult decisions. “It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating.”

Everyone knows the best way to solve a problem is to talk it out. Since it’s your problem, why not do it with yourself?

Evil people and interior design

You remember, of course, the infamous Vogue article that trilled rapturously about the incredible style of Bashir Assad’s wife and family?  The story is no longer available online, so you have to go to articles about the Vogue report to know what was in it:

“Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic–the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement,” opens the story, “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert,” which also appears in the March issue of Vogue magazine.

It turns out that the New York media has had a long-time love affair with efforts to class up dictators and their loved ones.  Indeed, someone has now written a whole book about Hitler’s efforts to restyle himself and the Progressives who were impressed.  If you’re interested in buying Despina Stratigakos’s Hitler at Home, think about going through my link, because then I’ll got a couple of pennies kickback for sending you there.

The rise of the Philistines

No, I’m not going to talk about our incredibly vulgar pop culture.  Instead, I’m talking about the rise of the original Philistines, back when the Bronze Age ended and the Iron Age began.  It appears that these “Sea People” got their start inland!

Thought-provoking images

Every Friday, Robert Avrech puts together a photo essay.  I always enjoying checking them out, because he finds wonderful pictures of old Hollywood stars, and always has perfect quotations from the stars to round-out those photos.  He also draws on modern art and other eclectic fair.  For some reason, although all his Friday posts are wonderful, I found his latest collection particularly compelling.  There was something about the juxtaposition of things that really moved me.  See what you think.

The smarts in a dumbed-down PhD thesis

It’s rather amusing to read how PhD candidates present their theses when asked to dumb them down to a sentence or two.  I found No. 16 particularly interesting:

I can make models of galaxies in a computer, but I can’t explain why they don’t act like real ones. Even if I bash them together or stir them around.
– McMillan_Astro

That sounds exactly like the vexing problem of those climate change models — except that, rather than being frustrated, we’re destroying our economy to try to satisfy those failed models.