The Thayne Ormsby I Knew
By Professor John Frary • January 10th, 2015 •
I've given shelter to a number of strays over the years, not all feline. Some had pretty exotic personalities. All the same, I was surprised to learn last week that an individual I've sheltered under my roof is charged by police with having butchered two men and a 10-year-old boy up in the County.
During my campaign for Congress in 2008 I acquired three “live-in aides,” all of whom qualified as homeless. Adam had been in a cop Prince George County, Maryland, until he left to escape chronic depression. Anyone who has watched “The Wire” on TV will understand this. He couldn’t watch the series because it was too reminiscent of his experience in uniform. He had taken a construction job in Baltimore, but found the promiscuous use of the “
N-word" by his red-neck colleagues intolerable. His mother, who was visiting me at the time, suggested he quit and come to Maine for the campaign. So he abandoned his apartment in inner-city Baltimore, turned his meager possessions over to a girl-friend, and found shelter in one of my spare bedrooms between August and November 2008.
Chris had been sleeping on the kitchen floor of his sister's apartment in Old Town when his father suggested that he might be interested in my campaign. He gave me a call. I had him checked out and then added him to my household. The lad was practically an anthropomorphic computer peripheral and spent most of his life in cyberspace, but when he was given a concrete assignment he performed brilliantly and was capable of working 10 hours straight.
Then there was Thayne Ormsby. Being an old guy, senile and confused, I can’t remember exactly how he came into the picture. He had been living with some people over in Industry until he had a falling out because he was way behind on his share of the rent. He had a home of sorts in Ellsworth, but it was not a happy one. He sometime spoke with disdain of his “two mommies.”
Their fondness for the bottle, their chaotic style of life, and their friends all seemed to disgust him. Yet when I visited their household, there seemed ties of genuine affection.
Anyway he qualified as fully homeless, no money, no job and no home. I provided room, board and a little pocket money. He, in return, performed his campaign duties willingly and skillfully — handing out literature, “introducing” the candidate, driving me around without incident or accident. He took orders readily, bore a certain amount of sarcastic correction calmly and got along with the other two "aides" without friction.
When the campaign ended, Adam moved to Kentucky to complete his college education; Chris moved home to Auburn to enroll in college and Thayne resumed a life without direction of purpose. He lingered on at my place, moved out, returned. I put him in my brother's study back in the woods, Joseph having settled permanently and year-round in the Philippines. He mostly stayed out from underfoot, rendered some useful services from time to time, and made plans. These plans were not essentially impractical but they took on the aspect of fantasy because he never acted on them.
One recurrent idea was joining the Marine Corps and eventually becoming an officer. Tired of his futile fantasizing I persuaded him one day to let me drive him to the Marine recruiting office in West Farmington. The office was closed. Afterwards, he came up with a number of excuses and objections to joining up. So I let it drop. A pity. The Marine Corps might have known how to give his life direction.
He was polite to the point of obsequiousness. Mostly did what he was told without objection. Got along well with my cats. I took him along to St. Stephen's Traditional Anglican Church. He even officiated as an acolyte on several occasions. Some women described him as downright “chivalrous.”
I detected no homicidal tendencies. Whenever he said something weird I attributed it to the natural goofiness of the adolescent male entering manhood. I have no therapeutic talent or ambition. Angst bores me. When you are rapidly advancing on age 70, a realistic view of your future features senile decay and death. So when he spoke despairingly of his present and future I felt bound to point out that his possibilities were far greater than mine. He was in good health, had an excellent physique and was absurdly good-looking. His life was not such a blank. He had acquired some useful skills, was far less ignorant than most high school graduates, read quite a lot and was far from stupid. If, at the end of any given year, he could look back and see that he knew more, understood more, and developed some new skill then he could say he was progressing even if he had no permanent job or residence.
In sum, I advised him to experiment with at least another 25 years of failures before giving up. Good advice. Useless advice.
We parted ways when I reprimanded him for overloading the washing machine for the second or third time. He brooded over this for some hours, then confronted me in my study, demanding to know whether I wanted him around. Silly question. Why would I want to have an 18-year-old around? Naturally I said no. He mistook my frankness for a decree of expulsion and departed huffily. His absence was no great loss, his presence had been no great burden, if only he had learned to not overload the damn washing machine. In truth, I found him less annoying than most adolescents.
Perhaps if I were more empathetic and emotionally warmer things would have taken a different turn, but that is empty speculation. My personality took shape years ago. Empathy, when it does come, always catches me by surprise.
The story coming out of Aroostook gets weirder and wilder. There’s talk of a drug connection. I can supply a little testimony on that. There was never any weedsmoke around my house. He didn't have the time, the money or the mobility to acquire narcotics while he was under my roof. If he developed any kind of addiction, it could only have been after we parted. The other details leave me completely baffled. The fact that I found Thayne so manageable makes me wonder if there wasn't some third party management involved. But I can only wonder.
My last contact was a Facebook.com exchange a couple of weeks ago when I learned that he was living in the village of Orient and corrected his spelling of Zeus. His other “Facebook friends” are departing in haste. Don't blame them, but I'll let the connection stand. I knew a mixed-up, immature adult named Thayne Ormsby. The alleged murderer Thayne Ormsby is a complete stranger.
If he is indeed guilty, I see no grounds for clemency. He didn’t “make a mistake” or “make a bad decision.”
He reportedly murdered two men in cold blood, then hunted a frightened ten-year-old down in his hiding place and slaughtered him. I've heard from our attorney general that his confession was cool and matter-of-fact. If remorse ever overtakes him then he will have to recognize that a life sentence is just.
Given the average American “life sentence" he now faces 25 years of constant direction, lthough his sentences do include the stipulation "without parole"... He will eat, sleep, exercise, consort with a bunch of low-lifes and fend off unwanted advances. The latter may involve mayhem of some kind. Suicide is a possibility. The only productive purposes in this empty existence is the making and re-making of Thayne Ormsby. He can read, think and, perhaps, write. I expect I'll send him some books.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: email@example.com
THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON RACE: SOME RULES?
By Professor John Frary • December 17th, 2014 •
Twelve years after Bill Clinton told us he wanted to start a “national conversation on race", Attorney General Eric Holder whined that “we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.” This month President Obama told us that protests like those in Portland last week are “helping the country have a necessary conversation about race relations and police practices.” New York’s Mayor de Blasio also believes that “We have to have an honest conversation in this country about a history of racism". Last week in the Waterville Sentinel Alan Caron, who loves an original idea like a cobra loves a mongoose, also joined the ever-growing National Conversation Chorus.
The Boston Globe has published a column by Michael P. Jeffries which gives some idea of the rules meant to guide this Nat. Con. on Race. Jeffries, a Wellesley College associate professor of American Studies, outlines some formative notions: “Among protesters’ implicit demands are freedom, respect, and dignity for black Americans, but those ideas seem light years away in a country where black people are killed and those responsible give interviews on national television with ‘a clear conscience.’”
In summary: black Americans have no freedom, no dignity and no respect. They are being killed off wholesale and their killers are sometimes allowed to publicly deny their guilt. Professor Jeffries explains a confused and impassioned theory of a thing worse than mere racism, an ideology, or theory, or sentiment or something he calls “anti-blackness.” It seems he read a recent study showing that the word “black” is more closely linked to stereotypes and negative emotions among white people than the phrase “African-American.” He fails to name the study so I’m guessing it showed that “black-hearted” has more negative connotations than “African-American hearted” or “black skies” seem more threatening to White folks than “African-American skies.”
Just guessing here. In any case Prof. Jeffries explains the dire effects of “anti-blackness” in vivid terms. It leads to “the debasement of black humanity....” utter indifference to black suffering”.... the denial of black people’s right to exist”....”the dehumanization and constant physical danger that black people face”....”the denial of black people’s right to life.” You see, “Black humanity is desecrated in plain view” and “for black people, walking home is risking one’s life” and “In the most basic sense, black people are not safe.”
If you conclude from his column that Prof. Michael P. Jeffries is a hysterical paranoiac living in a feverish nightmare world divorced from visible reality then you are not invited to join the NatCon on Race. If you believe he’s an academic fraud building a career on a bizarre ideology of his own devising then butt out. He’s a credentialed academic at a highly respected institution publishing in a prestigious liberal newspaper and, most importantly, he’s black.
Rudolph Giuliani has none of these credentials and, although he boasts of reducing murders of blacks by 200 per year during his tenure in office, the professor virtually forbids him to join the conversation because he “suggest[s] that black people are exterminating themselves, and “black crime” is the root cause of black suffering.” Actually Giuliani had not gone into root causes or spoken of self-extermination. What he said on NBC’s Meet the Press on November 23 is “the fact [is] that 93 percent of (murdered) blacks in America are killed by other blacks” and “I would like to see...attention paid to that...”
According to a 2007 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (“Black Victims of Violent Crime,”) blacks were the victims of almost half the 8,000 homicides reported in 2005. Surprisingly most of them were NOT killed by white policemen. They were murdered “by someone of their own race.”
Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, an African-American professor of sociology at Georgetown University, who was interviewed along with Giuliani, responded that his crime figures were “a defense mechanism of white supremacy at work in [his] mind...”
This is one more reason why this “National Conversation” can be nothing more than a painfully predicable and tedious lecture by self-righteous bores. Professional whiners like Professors Dyson and Jeffries insist on the right to peer into the skulls of the white interlocutors and detect anti-blackness, or white supremacy, or racism. Their rules require white participants to accuse themselves of racism, although they are allowed to argue that such confessions make them less racist than other whites. Black participants are immune to suggestions of bigotry.
A recent Rasmussen poll showing 31 percent of blacks, 49 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Democrats think most blacks are racists. None of those people will be invited to join the NatCon.
A HAND SANITIZER ELECTION?
By Professor John Frary • October 20th, 2014 •
I suppose most readers will open this article expecting an exercise in frivolity. This is far from the being the case. The title was inspired by science, by scientific findings, by the scientific investigations of David Pizarro, PhD, a political psychology specialist at Cornell University. Professor Pizarro, and others, have determined that images and even extremely subtle reminders of disease and contamination seem to push people toward the conservative end of the spectrum.
This conclusion is substantiated by a research article published in “Psychological Science,” a journal of the Association for Psychological Science by Pizarro and his colleague Erik Helzer.
(Notice the title of the periodical. Note the title of the association. We’re talking science here.)
In one of their tests Pizarro and his team surveyed students for their political attitudes. They found “the students endorsed more conservative attitudes when they stood next to a bottle of hand sanitizer or near a sign reminding them to wash their hands.” I could tell readers a lot more about the intellectual capacities of undergraduates, but that’s not the point of this article. The point hangs like a blazing sun over one word: EBOLA.
I myself am not much concerned about contracting this virus. When you beat your way through 70 years of bad habits to reach age 74 (I was a late bloomer, but began to get a grip after kindergarten), you know you are standing in a short and rapidly diminishing line. Every time you read the obituaries you discover some novel way your contemporaries have found to croak, and that particular virus has not been among them. But rapidly growing evidence tells us that millions of Americans are feeling anxious. And according to psychological science this anxiety will turn their minds toward the GOP candidates.
I’ve only just skimmed the surface of this phenomenon but I suggest that Republican candidates might do well to have a hand sanitizer close at hand whenever they give a speech or engineer a photo-op. A number of left-lurching commentators seem to have picked up on the Cornell research and are denouncing conservative commentators for exploiting the virus crisis. Howlin’ Howie Dean tells us he doesn’t believe anything a Republican says about Ebola. I saw a clip of his speech. There was no hand sanitizer in sight. Howie is no stranger to recent psycho-political research.
Frank Schaeffer, a New York Times best-selling author, has launched a pre-emptive strike in a Huffmingtonpost article entitled “Will the Tea Party/Koch/Brothers/GOP Defend Us From Ebola or Do We Need Government Involved in Healthcare After All?” This isn’t quite the same as saying that the virus was created in Koch Industries laboratories. This will come in time. Louis Farrakhan has already moved in that direction. It’s a natural fit to the “LOOK! Look over there!” diversion strategy familiar to all students of politics.
We are not surprised to see “Republicans Want You to Be Terrified of Ebola—So You’ll Vote for Them,” in The New Republic. Jeremy Peters complains in the New York Times that “playing off feelings of anxiety is a powerful strategy for motivating the Republican base.” Down south in the Washington Post Greg Sargent sniffs out the GOP’s “fear-based midterm strategy.”
Despite these defensive maneuvers the Ebola Crisis optics have not served the Democrats well. (Optics is what you laymammals call “appearances.”) The usually reliable New York Times allowed Joe Nocera to publish an op-ed pointing out that “When you think about it, many of the Obama administration’s ‘scandals’ have been failures of competence” citing the botched Obamacare roll out, the Veterans Medical Healthcare System scandals, and the bungles by the Centers for Disease Control. Eric Boehlert at Media Matters for America complains: “As Republicans seek to gain a partisan advantage by ginning up fear about the Ebola virus… they’re getting a major assist from the news media.. If the news media's job is to educate, and especially to clarify during times of steep public concerns, then the news media have utterly failed during the Ebola threat.”
The president hasn’t helped himself by naming Ron Klain as his Ebola Czar. Maine’s greatest statesman, Thomas Brackett Reed, was crowned Czar Reed because, as Speaker he deployed the power of his position to rule the House of Representatives and thwart Democratic obstruction. The title was not intended as a compliment. It was inspired by his contemporary Alexander III, a particularly ruthless Czar of All the Russians. In our time the title has shed its negative freight and simply implies that the person bearing it has assumed wide-ranging powers that consolidate authority of a collection of existing agencies.
A French artist described Alexander as ponderous and heavy with “...a look as cold as steel, in which there was something threatening, even frightening,...” Like the man from Portland he stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed three hundred pounds. Reed stood so high in the minds of friends and enemies alike that two victims of his terrifying talent for cutting sarcasm, Teddy Roosevelt and Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, delivered admiring eulogies at his funeral.
The czarist optics for roly poly Ron Klain are all wrong. Czars need “presence” - they need what the Romans called auctoritas. How can a man who rose to prominence as chief of staff to Joe Biden project czar-like power? Captain Kangaroo had more auctoritas than this clown. He made his career as gofer and lobbyist by cozying up, not by commanding. The biggest mark he has made on the course of American history so far was facilitating the Solyndra disaster. Teddy and Henry Cabot eulogized Reed for his unyielding honesty. How will Ron be eulogized? For dodging indictment?
Jonah Goldberg reminds us that Obama once explained to his political director, Patrick Gaspard, that “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters, I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.” This explains the mediocrity of his flunkies and implies his confidence that he’s a better epidemiologist than the professional epidemiologists. He may well be a better epidemiologist than Czar Ron, but there’s scant comfort in that.
Some left-lurching commentators have sensed the danger and leapt to justify the selection. LZ Granderson, a CNN commentator, explains that what “...we don't need are more doctors. We need someone who can manage the messaging. And I think President Obama did pick up, you know, a political ally but also picked someone with those experiences that's needed to get a coherent message through.” The inevitable Ezra Klein, at VOX, tells us that “It's a good choice because it shows a healthy respect for how hard the bureaucratic job of coordinating the Ebola response really is.”
Ezra’s rationale merits quotation: “‘Bureaucrat’ is often lobbed as an insult. But in processes like this one, government experience really matters. Nominating Klain suggests the White House is thinking about this correctly: as an effort that requires the coordination of already ample resources, where the danger is that the federal government will be too slow in sharing information across agencies and getting the resources where they need to go.
Here our young sage unwittingly confirms a fundamental objection to Big, Big Government. Its size makes it slow, resistant to effective management, and inaccessible to regular chains of command.
The idea that messaging is more important than medicine will make the ordinary citizen think “hand sanitizer.” It’s not surprising that “bureaucrat is often lobbed as an insult.” The word was coined as an insult and the unpolitical public never use it as a complement.
The first line of defense of the Klain appointment seems pretty feeble to me. Are the voters really going to be reassured by the message that a bureaucrat is on the job or that messages are more important than medicines?
Here’s another problem being overlooked. In a 2008 Political Psychology study researchers subliminally presented 91 participants one of four subliminal stimuli: RATS, STAR, ARAB or XXXX. They then showed a picture of a fictional political candidate and asked participants to rate whether he looked competent and likable. The researchers found that the subliminal “RATS” message depressed participants’ ratings of the candidate, while the other words did not.
I foresee a DemocRAT disaster if they continue to vaunt this bureaucRAT.
GOVERNORS CHRISTIE & LePAGE - "JUST THE 3 OF US" - PAUL LePAGE, CHRIS CHRISTIE AND ME
By Professor John Frary • August 24th, 2014 •
Late last month I attended my second Governor Paul LePage fundraiser featuring Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA), Chris Christie. At the first of these events, New Jersey’s governor stressed his close personal relationship with our governor and assured Maine’s Republicans that the RGA was committed to support him. At the second he emphasized his fondness for Paul and mentioned the RGA’s upcoming large media buy for Maine.
I remember Paul giving me his impressions from his first meeting with his fellow governors. He told me he found Michigan’s Snyder, Louisiana’s Jindal, Wisconsin’s Walker, and Chris Christie especially impressive. Some time later Ann LePage, Maine’s First Lady told me much the same, with greater emphasis on the personal affection that developed between the two gubernatorial families. I conclude from this anecdotal and highly subjective evidence that our governor can count on serious support from the RGA and its chief. This is important because our governor has no special talent for rounding up campaign cash.
Apart from my interest in Christie’s helpfulness for the Maine GOP and an urge to compare waist lines (his is not in my league) I feel a certain affinity for the man. Our biographies are, in some respects, more intimately entwined than Paul’s. Christie ran for Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders and won with 78,251 in 1994. I ran for the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders and lost with 74,000 votes in 1981.
Morris County is Republican-leaning while the Middlesex County Machine has replaced the Hudson County Machine as New Jersey’s Democratic political fulcrum. Since these Freeholder Boards are the county government in NJ, this means I was really campaigning against a powerful machine, not a couple of interchangeable hacks. John Lynch, its chairman, was mayor of New Brunswick, the county’s second largest city, President of the NJ Senate and a contender in a Democratic gubernatorial primary. Joe Vas, mayor of Perth Amboy, the county’s largest city, was reckoned a king-maker among Hispanic Democrats. Joe Spicuzzo, former Democratic county chairman who became Sheriff the year before I ran for office was second only to Lynch in power. So there you have it: an obscure, chalk-smeared foot soldier in the academic ranks supported by a GOP organization with $360 on hand. My actual competitors for the Freeholder’s chair were insignificant machine pawns. I’ve long since forgotten their names and my readers have no particular reason to wish to learn them.
Truth to tell, I was asked to run in the primary as part of an intra-party plot to displace the chicken-feed boodlers who controlled the Middlesex GOP Committee. Let’s just say it was a complicated intrigue requiring a freeholder candidate that no one knew except the plotters, and leave it at that. The plot succeeded and my candidate became committee chairman. I had no money and no name. Lynch & Co. buried me under 20,000 votes.
Yet I feel vindicated by later events. John Lynch completed his sentence on November 13, 2009 after three years in prison. The Sheriff was arrested in March 2011 and will be serving three of a potential 110 years. Joe Vas moved to his new address, Elkton federal prison, on June 30, 2012.
Lynch was the biggest catch in a long, long list of NJ politicians US Attorney Christie sent to prison. “New Jersey Spotlight” a statewide online news service, published a list of the 15 most corrupt politicians and John Lynch Jr. “one of the most powerful men in NJ politics,” made number five. His conviction would have been more surprising to me if his ex-wife hadn’t told me once that she warned Johnny off his gubernatorial ambitions by threatening to go to the press with “everything she knew.” My efforts to extract details were unavailing. I know nothing of what she knew or whether Christie came to know what she knew or something different but not entirely different. All I can conclude with certainty is that they did not have a relaxed and amiable divorce.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) had this to say about Sheriff Spicuzzo on June 24, 2003: “I applaud Sheriff Spicuzzo...his accomplishments should serve as an inspiration to us all...Sheriff Spicuzzo has earned the respect and affection of his colleagues and constituents....sincerity and concern for his constituents... thirty years of service to the County Sheriff's Department....an example of unwavering commitment and devotion...dedication and commitment...positive examples of what steadfast determination and allegiance can accomplish”
This false and fulsome tribute to a confessed and incarcerated crook will do Palone no harm. New Jersey’s voters are not surprised when one of their elected leaders trots off to the hoosegow. They expect it. For Maine’s voters a headline reading something like “John Mart of Turkey Lake Under Investigation” would catch a lot of attention. In New Jersey it would take a headline like “Several Middlesex County politicians suspected of honesty.”
SENATOR CHRIS COONS’ CORRUPTING INFLUENCES
By Professor John Frary • July 17th, 2014 •
Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) recently entertained his Senate Judiciary Committee colleagues with a speech on the need for congressional action to restore protections against the corrupting effects of unrestricted spending on our political system. The liberal senator’s argument was clear, grammatical, erudite, and eloquent. It was downright moving. Indeed, I was moved to check the man’s financial report, extracted from his Federal Election Commission reports.
Turns out Senator Chris has raised $8,267,535 so far in the 2009-2014 election cycle. That’s quite a lot of money for a state with 75% of Maine’s population—nearly ten dollars per voter. Was the senator confessing to corruption? Going further afield, we might ask if our political system corrupts our politicians? Or is it our politicians who are corrupting our political system? These are deep waters, too deep for my limited analytical powers, so its time to strike for shore in search of solider ground.
Solider ground is found in considering the political realities destined to frustrate the Senator’s eloquence. A two-thirds congressional majority is required to pass an Amendment on to the states for ratification. Then three-fourths of the state legislatures will have to ratify the amendment to the Constitution. The Democrats will need Republican votes for both steps. They won’t get them.
I’m not saying Chris Coons is a hypocrite. I’m saying he’s an experienced politician who understands that political speech is improved by a stiff dose of passion and fear. For all I know the man even believes part of what he says. There wouldn’t be anything unusual about that.
If Coons and his crew know they aren’t gong to get an amendment, they are figuring they will have a winning issue. On January 21, 2010 the US Supreme Court (USSC) upheld the First Amendment rights of individuals acting through corporations and labor unions to participate in our political process. This decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission., struck down a wad of laws and regulations restricting and, in some cases, criminalizing political speech.
Although only a minority of American voters have ever read the Constitution, most of us know a few things about it and almost everyone knows is that there an item in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech. The USSC five-judge majority ruled that the First Amendment restricts the ability of the government to abridge the freedom of speech of corporations. So the issue the Coons Crowd aims to use against the Republicans is the idea that corporations have rights. This is summarized by indignant cries that “corporations aren’t people.”
On the one hand common sense tells us that corporations don’t take showers, don’t brush their teeth, never suffer hang-overs, don’t catch colds and differ from actual human beings in a multitude of ways. On the other hand, common sense tells us that they are neither vegetable or mineral. It tells us that they have human stock-holders, employees, and managers whose interests may be bound up in the health of the corporation.
In fact, the legal fiction that corporations have the status of persons is not a novel idea even if it’s a novel discovery of the nitwits chanting that corporations are not people. The “Corporations” article in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica speaks of this status as something familiar and well established. It even suggest an evolution from the ancient Roman law on collegia.
I’m not arguing that the Britannica’s authority should overawe the nitwits, not even that of the splendid 1911 edition. I do argue that if this long established principle were suddenly erased then corporations would have no rights. There would be no Fifth Amendment to prevent a government seizing Verso Paper’s property without compensation; no Third Amendment to prevent the government from quartering troops on the Farmington Fair grounds, no Fourth Amendment to prevent the government from seizing the records and transactions of the Harvard University corporation.
Oh well, never mind the unintended consequences. Just keep shouting “corporations are not people” and be happy.
If that’s not stupid enough for you, try “Money isn’t speech”.
AN ORCHESTRA WITHOUT INSTRUMENTS
“Diplomacy without power is like an orchestra without instruments.” Frederick II
American version: "Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock." Will Rogers
By Professor John Frary • June 29th, 2014 •
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of experts, pundits, strategists, and omniscient Know-It-Alls now writing and speaking about Iraq crisis. The majority of them are concerned with apportioning the blame for it. The most recent polls suggest that the mysterious mass known as the “American People” put blame on both George W. Bush and Barack H Obama. That seems reasonable but I leave that debate to the Big Guns and anxious political partisans.
This site considers some neglected problems and questions raised by the crisis.
First let us note that there are no possible responses to the advance of Al Qaeda-affiliated ISIS fanatics that do not involve sectarian slaughter. The prime minister, al-Maliki, is calling for volunteers and arming all comers. The Prime minister is a Shiite. The volunteers are Shiite. The ISIS may be “al-Qaeda backed” but it is a Sunni movement with a violent grudge against the Shiites. Obama had claimed that withdrawing from Iraq would force the Iraqis “to work out their differences.” Now it seems likely that they will now work out their differences by mutual slaughter.
Newspapers reported on June 17 that police found the bodies of four young Sunni men perforated by numerous bullet holes in a mainly Shiite area Baghdad. Sectarian fanatics deposited as many as 80 bodies on the streets of Baghdad daily in 2006 and 2007. With the government inviting the entire Shiite population to step and collect their Kalashnikovs in order to defend themselves against those Sunni SOBs we can expect the heaps of corpses to pile up higher and wider.
Some of us remember when George W. Bush explained his hopes for democracy in Iraq by remaking that nobody likes having the police knocking on their doors at 3:00 in the morning. This is surely true, but President Bush overlooked the possibility that many people may like having someone knocking on their neighbors’ doors with hostile intent early in the a.m. Americans just have to learn to respect other peoples customs—and understand that those customs sometimes include killing people who are not them and don’t want to be them.
That is good rule to keep in mind, and here’s another which is more important and not limited to any particular time and place: THE MOST EFFICIENT USE OF FORCE IS A CREDIBLE THREAT. This is simple. If you spend trillions of dollars building the most powerful military force in the world, you have a pretty good chance of imposing your will on hostile nations by a credible threat. But this is only true if they believe in your willingness to carry out your threat. If they don’t buy it, you are the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg in their eyes. Going to war with your military powers is always more expensive then just maintaining them. But maintaining them as a threat which has no credibility is pure waste.
This requires emphasis because of President Obama’s assurances to the American people that we will not, not ever, no never, redeploy ground forces in Iraq. He intends these assurances for Americans who are sick of the expense and bloodshed of the Iraq and Afghan interventions. Unfortunately they also reassure the ISIS leadership, just as the Syrian regime took courage that they need not apprehend the tramp of American combat boots on Syrian ground. Events suggest that they have no fear of “red lines” unless drawn in the sand by the tip of a combat boot. We have no way to be certain that the threat, express or implicit, would have proven effective; but there was no reason to toss it away other than reassurance to the voters.
This column does not advocate deployment of ground forces. It does not argue that the threat of such deployment guarantees a positive result in this case. It simply suggests that it’s never a good idea to throw away a potentially useful threat. A Republican president facing the Iraq collapse might well have duplicated Obama’s flabbiness.. All politicians know that a significant percentage of American voters prefer reassuring words to bristly, smelly, uncomfortable, threatening facts.
I count among them the ninnies who are forever demanding “diplomatic solutions” without ever explaining what they mean by the soft, cuddly, bloodless, inexpensive diplomatic solutions they love so well. Since they never explain themselves, we are left to assume that they equate “diplomacy” with being diplomatic, i.e. tactful.
Prince Metternich had all the style, finesse, exquisite manners and smooth tact we expect from a nineteenth century aristocrat. His over-all objective was maintaining European peace. He had some successes. But even he once quoted Frederick the II: "Diplomacy without power is like an orchestra without instruments."
The only message there is that the uses of force need to discussed and deployed rationally; never rejected out of hand in order to calm the voters.
The unwillingness to explain the utility of threats reflects the American tradition of treating the voters like children on foreign policy problems and threats. There many other examples. Out leaders routinely fall back on Adolf Hitler comparisons to characterize the enemies of the moment. They need someone really horrible about whom a majority of Americana might actually have heard. Worst of all they encourage an odd sort of chauvinism, i.e., they allow millions of Americans to believe that it’s entirely up to the United States whether the world has war or peace. ISIS may have something to say about that.
SOME DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
By Professor John Frary • May 1st, 2014 •
“The dirty secret of the jurisprudence of race is, as Schuette suggests, that it is not so much a principled jurisprudence as it is an arena where most judges feel free to enact their personal values into law.” - Prof. Richard O. Lempert
Richard O. Lempert is a Brookings Institution Governance Studies Nonresident Senior Fellow, the University of Michigan's Eric Stein Distinguished University Professor of Law and Sociology emeritus, a chief scientist in the Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division of the Science and Technology Directorate in the Department of Homeland Security, a former division director for the Social and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a past president of the Law & Society Association, the current secretary for Section K (Sociology, Political Science and Economics) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and he is currently doing business as RLempert Consulting, LLC. WOW!
R.O. Lempert is trained to detect dirty little secrets. So now we know—the United States Supreme Court is just another arena for ideological conflict. This is no surprise to people who pay attention, although the ordinary voter (who does not read Brookings literature and knows not Professor Lempert) might be shocked. Conservative jurists, and commentators try to find a solid and consistent basis to justify enacting personal values. Their liberal counterparts generally don’t bother, relying on the Muddy Stream Media to confuse and obfuscate the reality of their means and motives.
A Brookings editorial note tells us that Professor Lempert is one of three lawyers who submitted an empirically-focused amicus brief on behalf of the respondent in Schuette. Empirically-focused is good. We like empirically focused stuff. It’s scientific.
Now let’s move on to a dirty little secret the learned professor neglects. The personal values of sociologists are overwhelmingly liberal and they may feel free to inject their personal values into their research conclusions. So we are not surprised to read a liberal sociologist’s conclusion:
“A number of Justices, it is fair to say, have been willfully blind to the persistence of racial discrimination and disadvantage...Perhaps over time Justice Sotomayor’s insistence that others see the reality of race’s impact on lives will open the eyes of some of her more conservative colleagues at least a bit. With clearer sight, they might even see that not only does affirmative action promote diversity to the benefit of all students, but also that whatever advantage it provides minorities at best cancels the disadvantages that its beneficiaries may suffer because of their race.”
We can also detect Justice Sotomayor busily scratching around in the liberal litter box, intent on burying another dirty little secret. Her decision includes this sentence. “Although the term “affirmative action” is commonly used to describe colleges’ and universities’ use of race in crafting admissions policies, I .instead use the term “race-sensitive admissions policies". Some comprehend the term “affirmative action" as connoting intentional preferential treatment based on race alone—for example, the use of a quota...system, whereby a certain proportion...of seats in an institution’s incoming class must be set aside for racial minorities; the use of a ‘points’ system, whereby an institution accords a fixed numerical advantage to an applicant because of her race...”
The Wise Latina notices that “affirmative action” has lost its utility as a euphemism for racial discrimination. It’s clear that a majority of Michigan’s voters have figured out what it really means. So she proposes a fresh euphemism in the hope of shedding those embarrassingly accurate connotations.
The headnote to the SCOTUS decision—“Schuette, Attorney General of Michigan v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (Bamn) et al.”—hints at the personal values shared by Sotomayor, Justice Ginsberg, and the Lempert sociological team. It’s probably a dirty little secret for many younger citizens that “by any mean necessary” was a menacing phrase coined by a black racist who hated white people.
Sotomayor’s dissent, supported by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rambles on for 58 pages. She has a lot to cover, but her central point is compressed in “centuries of racial discrimination.” This melancholy record is the real grounds for her dissent. The Constitution she swore to uphold is only marginally useful for correcting the injustices. It was devised by white men, including slave holders without the slightest input from Wise Latinas
Justice Stephen Breyer, a rather unreliable liberal, supports discrimination against white males in principle, but argued that Michigan’s voters are entitled to overrule the unelected governing boards of their educational institutions. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s usual “swing vote,” agreed; arguing that nothing in the Constitution or the court’s prior cases gives judges the authority to undermine the referendum election results. “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved.” he said. “It is about who may resolve it.”
Sotomayor dealt with this dangerous threat to Judicial Sovereignty by arguing that judges “ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.” On the contrary: “I firmly believe that our role as judges includes policing the process of self-government and stepping in when necessary to secure the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.”
Justice Scalia writes in defense of the Michigan voters: “As Justice Harlan observed over a century ago, '[o]ur Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens....The people of Michigan wish the same for their governing charter. It would be shameful for us to stand in their way." Sotomayor had prefaced her defense of Judicial Sovereignty with a couple of pages reviewing the history of the Jim Crow laws supported by hefty majorities of southerners. This provoked Scalia’s comment that it was “doubly shameful to equate ‘the majority’ behind [the constitutional amendment] with ‘the majority’ responsible for Jim Crow.”
She denied Scalia’s charge in a footnote of her own. She probably sensed the pitfall before her feet. If she hints, without evidence, that white bigotry motivated the referendum’s majority, then it may encourage her critics to hint, without evidence, at WiseLatinate bigotry in return.
Judge WL was not content to evoke the court’s obligation to safeguard minority rights against majority votes. She also took up the argument by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals majority that the issue was not affirmative action, but the way in which its opponents went about trying to bar it. The Circuit Court majority argued that the referendum trampled on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment because it presented an extraordinary burden to affirmative action supporters. That is, they would have to mount their own campaign to repeal the constitutional provision and re-establish racial discrimination against white folks.
Sotomayor pointed out that the University of Michigan alumni are free to lobby the state Board of Regents to admit more alumni children, but that the regents now are powerless to do anything about race-sensitive admissions. Is this a little odd? Fifty-eight percent of Michigan’s voters need policing, while the WL advances an argument that accords a tiny hand full of appointed officials full un-policed authority.
Sotomayor sums this argument thus: “The Court abdicates that role permitting the majority to use its numerical advantage to change the rules mid-contest and forever stack the deck...against racial minorities in Michigan. The result is that Michigan’s public colleges and universities are less equipped to do their part in ensuring that students of all races are “better prepare[d] for an increasingly diverse workforce and society...”
See? Its not about rights, but about advantages, and about perpetuating the rules of the racial distribution game, and about preventing the predominately white voters from interfering with the still whiter university authorities.
Judge WL also points out that racial justice is not the only reason for discrimination. It also prepares students of all colors for an increasingly diverse workforce.
If we dive any deeper into the Wise Latina’s 58 pages the confusion may become unbearable. We must close with a stiff shot of clarity to clear away any confusion. The overwhelming majority of Michigan’s voters supported a constitutional amendment which forbade the state to “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
Justice Sotomayor does not approve.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Professor John Frary • April 7th, 2014 •
Orlando Figes, a well-regarded British specialist in modern Russian history, published The Crimean War: A History in 2010. It contains information relevant to the current crisis which has been neglected. Having seen no reference to this information in the essays and columns by sages and prophets infinitely more qualified than myself, I feel an urge to pass this information on.
Four years ago Figes concluded that “The loss of the Crimea has been a severe blow to the Russians, already suffering a loss of national pride after the collapse of the Soviet Empire.” Here’s some background to this observation. For reasons unknown to me General Secretary Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954. That was not particularly relevant as long as Ukrainian SSR was a Moscow puppet, but the disintegration of the USSR and Ukrainian independence meant that the region passed outside Russian control. To convey the significance of this Figes quotes a passage from a poem by a nationalist poet:
“On the ruins of our superpower
There is a major paradox of history
Sevastopol—the city of Russian glory—
Is...outside of Russian territory.”
The poet’s reference is to The City of Russian Glory: Sevastopol in 1854-55, by Evgeny Tarle, a leading historian of the Soviet era. The book was published to celebrate the centenary of the siege of Sevastopol by the French, British, Turks, and Sardinians. Tarle’s book “...glorified the patriotic courage and resilience of the Russian people led and inspired by the example of such heroic leaders as [admirals] Nakhimov and Kornilov, who laid down their lives for the defense of Russia against the ‘imperialist aggression’ of the Western Powers..”
Figes tells us that “Pride in the heroes of Sevastopol, the ‘city of Russian glory’ remains an important of national identity In August 2006 the remains of 14 Russian infantrymen from the Vladimir and Kazan regiments were discovered on the site of the Battle of Alma along with their knapsacks, canteens and crucifixes. The bones were reburied with military honors and there were plans to erect a chapel on the site.
“Memories of the Crimean War continue to stir profound feelings of Russian pride and resentment of the West. In 2006 a conference on the Crimean War was organized by the Centre of National Glory of Russia with the support of Vladmir Putin’s Presidential Administration and the ministries of Education and Defense. The conclusion of the conference, issued by its organizers in a press release, was that the war should not be seen as a defeat for Russia, but as a moral and religious victory, a national act of sacrifice in a just war; Russians should honour the authoritarian example of Nicholas I, a Tsar unfairly derided by the liberal intelligentsia for standing up against the West in the defence of his country’s interests.”
In the nineteenth century Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855) was the ultimate symbol of tsarist despotism among the liberals in Russia and the West. He was the “gendarme of Europe” ready to intervene with military force against any popular uprising anywhere. He was no “friend of the Jews.” He stood as a perfect symbol of the reactionary regime destroyed by the Bolshevik revolution. Nicholas I’s portrait now hangs in the antechamber of Putin’s office.
This is what Orlando Figes wrote in 2010: “Nationalists have actively campaigned for the Crimea to return to Russia, not least the nationalists in Sevastopol itself, which remains an ethnic Russian town.”
There’s plenty of grounds for guessing that Putin’s Crimean annexation is motivated primarily by domestic politics rather than foreign policy advantage. If this is correct, it’s reasonable to guess that the American and European responses have only enhanced his popularity among the nationalists.
Readers interested in National Glory of Russia center can find it at www.cnsr.ru/projects.php?id=10. One item that caught my eye is a photo from November 2003 captioned: “ Members of the Board of the Center of National Glory of Russia await the arrival of Lyndon LaRouche, a distinguished U.S. economist. Left to right: A. Melnik, President of the Center; V. Yakunin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; A. Volodin, Professor at the Moscow State University; O. Atkov, cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union.”
The site’s summary of the distinguished economist’s distinction: “Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. is an eminent US economist. Born on September, 8, 1922 in Rochester, NH. His father was a light industry technician and advisor on footwear production in a major corporation on footwear production. Mr. LaRouche graduated from public schools in Rochester and Linn, then from the Boston North-Eastern University, interrupted for military service, and afterwards got fixed up in a job at his father’s corporation. In 1994 he was elected member of the Moscow Universal Ecological Academy. Married twice. His present spouse (since 1977) Helga Zepp LaRouche was born in Germany and now lives in Virginia.”
“In 1971 Mr. LaRouche founded an international news bureau known as “New Solidarity”. He is co-founder of several US influential economic associations. He participated in the US delegation at Gorbachev-Regan 1982-1983 negotiations over Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1988 he predicted the inevitable collapse of Soviet economic system. Today he predicts collapse of the world finance system, at least in the form in which it exists today. The potential for escaping the crisis he sees in Eurasia, and, above all in Russia. His estimation of President Putin’s foreign policy is strongly positive; Mr. LaRouche welcomes President’s wish cooperate with Asian countries.”
“He actively criticizes George Bush Jr., calling the American financial system “a global nightmare”.
“He was a Member of Congress from Virginia, where he has been living since 1983. Presently he is taking an active part in Presidential elections.”
Tsar Nicolas, Vladamir Putin and Lyndon LaRouche conjoined. I'll have to think that one through :-)
PROGRESS FOR NEW YORK, VORSCHADENFREUDE FOR JOHN FRARY
“Schadenfreude ist die beste Freude.”—Austrian adage.
I’d argue that Vorschadenfreude is besser still and I speak as a man who anticipates a banquet of this sinister but delectable sensation in New York City, even as these words scroll across the screen.
Before we get into the treats we can anticipate; let us be clear that Bill de Blasio sees himself as the Duce, not the Fuehrer, of New York’s Progressive Revolution. He may have been born Warren Wilhelm in 1961 but he shed his Warreness and Wilhelmheit long ago and now glories in his Billity and Blasiocity, especially the latter. His inaugural speech praised New York as the “the city to which my grandparents were welcomed from the hills of Southern Italy.” He spoke glowingly of “all my family assembled today -- from all around this country, and from Italy.” Either he had no paternal grandparents (a biological mystery) or New York doesn’t welcome Krauts. That question awaits clarification.
Herr Wilhelm recognized that “a city government‘s first duties: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean; to ensure that those who live here and those who visit can get where they need to go in all five boroughs.” but nobody in New York or anywhere else in the country is looking forward to dazzling displays of executive efficiency and economical administration. Back in September the New Yorker noticed that the Democratic nominee “had little in the way of real management experience”(i.e., a teensy, tiny itsy bitsy teenie weenie microscopic management history.)
Warren will preside over a $70 billion budget and a workforce of 300,000. We all understand that garbage collection and snow removal are boring. Progressive opinion is not galvanized by the prospect of New York’s subways running on time. Social and economic revolutions are what revs their engines. Still, revolutions ain’t what they used to be. Lenin’s little fracas swept away the entire tsarist “Table of Ranks", the 85,000 bureaucrats that high army officers that ran Russia. Herr Wilhelm’s Progressive Neue Ordnung will leave 99.08% of New York’s municipal workforce in place, and 99% completely undisturbed.
While the advent of the de Blasio regime excites progressives as a harbinger of a national liberal revival, reactionaries contentedly contemplate the prospect of a plodding, ossified, municipal apparat serving itself and neglecting the public. Early signs of incompetence have been encouraging. The New York Times noticed this problem on March 6 when it admitted ”Mr. de Blasio’s first two months in office have in some sense been marked by frustration and disillusion...among certain progressives who have seen their worries that he would be a weak manager confirmed.”
The NYT’s March 6 essay, entitled “How de Blasio’s Narrative Got Hijacked,” labored to ameliorate the effects of deBla’s first two months of wallowing and blundering by offering a variety of more or less plausible excuses.
Reactionaries (e.g., Me) already savoring the delicate pleasures of Vorschandenfreude can only be pleased by the column’s final paragraph: “But faith in political figures is also circumscribed by history, or the commonly held understanding of it. Mr. de Blasio has become a national political symbol of what progressive governance might or might not be able to accomplish in a city where, during the past half-century, progressive mayors — John V. Lindsay, David N. Dinkins — are widely believed to have failed. On top of everything else, there’s the strain of countless memories.”
“Widely believed” is good and “On top of everything else, there’s the strain of countless memories” is even better. Those countless memories (a.k.a. actual experience, a.k.a, facts, a.k.a. reality) have repeatedly and relentlessly laid waste the Progressive narrative and blighted Progressive dreams.
“Municipal socialism” in the U.K. and U.S. once referred to administrations that overcame corrupt political machines, cleared slums, improved public services, and made the sewers run on time. De Blasio’s municipal socialism has grander aspirations. It aims “to put an end to economic and social inequalities.” It points “to a new progressive direction in New York.” It promises to tax the rich, close gaps, up-jerk the undertrodden, and transform lives. He will expand the Paid Sick Leave law to include 300,000 more New Yorkers “because no one should be forced to lose a day‘s pay, or even a week‘s pay, simply because illness strikes.” He’s going to require big developers to build more affordable housing; stem the tide of hospital closures.
These parts of his program avoid tax increases by imposing costs on private businesses. The key to Bill’s egalitarian vision, however, is a tax increase on the rich to fund cradle-to-kindergarten education. You see, on the one hand you lower the incomes of the rich a tad closer to the middle class while on the other gather the whelps of inadequate or negligent parents into day-care camps and transform them so they enter regular grade school raring to go and all set to rise to the middle class through a government-induced fervor for educational advancement.
None of this will happen of course, hence the Vorschadenfreude induced by progressive expectations. Governor Cuomo claims the state can fund pre-K without any tax increases, de Blasio promises to push to raise taxes anyway. Presumably he aims for the leveling effect.
Cuomo had already acknowledged the revenue loss to his state owing to millionaire migration but de Blasio seems unaware that millionaires own stretch limousines, personal jets, and yachts, which will enable them to drive, fly or sail away from New York City at will.
Vorschadenfreude aside, we mustn’t overlook the New York Times’ acknowledgment of “frustration and disillusion among centrist Democrats” This seems to imply that the de Blasionics are extremist. If you are not “centrist” what else could you be?
If the approval ratings for this progressive/populist// buffoonist are in a free-fall after two months what can we look forward to four years from now—assuming he has not long since fled to Cuba?
THE AXIS OF IMBECILITY IN 2014, PART II
Bill di Blasio’s election as mayor of New York provides connoisseur of imbecility with a banquet of Lucullan proportions, far exceeding the light snacks provided by savoring the hi-jinks discussed in Part I.
Progressives welcome this hopeful harbinger of liberal revival, while observers in full possession of their mental faculties wonder how a secular preacher with two years’ managerial experience will direct a workforce of 300,000 with a budget of $70 billion. Since the polls point to a declining public trust in the government’s competence and mounting dissatisfaction with Obamacare’s operations, you might have thought that a demonstration of simple managerial competence would be a necessary part of any liberal revival.
Apart from his two years leading a small executive staff as Regional Director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for New York and New Jersey and taking part in outreach to residents of substandard housing the new mayor has worked as a political organizer at the Quixote Center in Maryland; engaged in unknown activities on behalf of a nonprofit organization focused on improving health care in Central America; labored as an aide to famously ineffective Mayor David Dinkins, served as a member of a Community School Board, managed Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign in 2000, sat as a New York City Councilman from 2001 to 2009; and became the New York public advocate 2009. Bill’s accomplishments between 2001 and his move to Gracie Mansion are a closely held secret, revealed on a strict need-to-know basis.
It should be plain that unless he fills all the important positions with Bloomberg hold-overs or Giuliani re-treads New York City faces four years of administrative bungling and financial crises. We can’t criticize the commentariat’s neglect of this prospect too harshly. No one expects managerial competence from America’s political CEOs. All the same, it should have shown a little more awareness that the mayor’s office has a lot more to do with collecting garbage than with designing social revolutions.
Mean-spirited reactionaries (that’d be me) can look forward to more than liberal municipal disasters from the Di Blasio phenomenon. He promises to become a masterpiece of parodic performance art. He has had three legal names: Warren Wilhelm Jr., Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm and now Bill de Blasio. The political improvement is pretty clear. Warren is distressingly WASPish. Wilhelm is a bit too German for a city with a tiny German presence, and some of Al Sharpton’s followers might think they detect a Yiddish sound.
In 1994 he married an Afromerican. Better yet he married an Afromerican Lesbian. This twofer could not have been easy, especially since sexual identify is genetic and only bigots think it has a voluntary dimension. Anyway it seems to have yielded significant political benefits. We read that his son so impressed New York’s more imbecilic voters with an “Afro” that makes his head look as if it’s exploding that the campaign took off with the slogan “Go With the ‘Fro!”
That slogan rather obscures his political roots. A September 2013 New York Times report found that Hizzoner returned from Nicaragua in 1988 “with a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.” In 1990 he told a Nicaragua Solidarity Network meeting that his vision of society was. “Democratic socialism.” When pressed during his mayoral campaign about the quote he dismissed it: “That’s not a quote from me, that’s someone’s notes.” The Times replied that “The notes were, in fact, written by him; a copy is kept at the New York University archives and was reviewed by the Times.” Cornered he explained that “...it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is the values that I have put forward I think have been consistent over the last quarter-century or more.”
The thing that’s especially interesting about Bill de Blasio ’s socialist self-identification is the number of liberals who decline to make a distinction between liberalism and socialism. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz described the mayor as “one of the nation’s most liberal elected officials” who “delivered an unabashedly progressive inaugural speech” adding that “It was the kind of speech not often heard in national politics since Bill Clinton redefined the Democratic Party as New Democrats.” Liberal witnesses seem committed to the words “liberal” and “progressive” when describing the man, yet they decline to explicitly equate liberalism with socialism. Most grow indignant when Tea Partyers call Great Obama a socialist.
The question grows more vexed when we witness Bill C. officiating at Bill de B’s inauguration. Clinton, after all, is supposed to be the very image and model of a moderate, pragmatic Democrat; hardly a liberal at all and certainly not a socialist.
While we wait—patiently, patiently—for an explanation of this puzzle we must consider what kind of socialist Warren/Bill aspires to become. Apparently not one like François Hollande. Although he has never made this explicit we have reason to believe he prefers socialists with military uniforms, censorship, secret police, prison camps, bogus elections and mass expulsion of uncooperative citizens. Apparently it does no harm it they hate America and capitalism. We come to this bold inference from the fact that de Blasio honeymooned in Cuba in 1994 and joined a Sandinista support group.
Does Bill approve of socialists like Carlos Franqui and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who began by supporting Fidel and ended in exile along with ten percent of the whole Cuban population? No way to know if he has even heard of them, or has any desire to hear of them.
We don’t expect Bill de B to don fatigues and take the title Commandante, but what should we expect? His inauguration address included this line: “Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” This seems clear until you subject the passage to a close reading. It may mean that he plans to take dead aim at A Tale of Two Cities, the Charles Dickens novel. It’s hard to make sense of the use of the noun “tale” otherwise.
Never mind the pedantic objections, this “unapologetic liberal” pledges to raise taxes on the rich to fund pre-school education, expand affordable housing, and end the"stop and frisk" searches in high-crime areas, and Ray Kelly as police chief. He expects these steps to reduce inequality by making the rich less rich; yank up the down trodden by transforming their whelps before age five, expand the government’s successes as Landlord (Landlady? Landlordy?); and stop pretending that Afromerican juveniles are more likely to pack firearms than Chinese students or Hasidic rabbis.
The Revolution has begun with a promise to ban New York City's iconic horse-drawn carriages and advances with bungled snow-removal on the Upper East Side. If Cuomo allows him to raise taxes on the rich significantly the rascals will climb into their stretch limousines, their private jets, their yachts and drive, fly, or sail away. The pre-kindergarten education will become another public education flop. The affordable housing will turn into instaslums. Crime will increase. The horses, lacking pensions, will meet their ends at the slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico after the modest businesses of their owners have been destroyed.
All this and more will prepare the way for another liberal revival, after the brief interval required for progressives to forget their past failures.
THE AXIS OF IMBECILITY IN 2014 PART I
I don’t have the actual figures but I readily concede that Elizabeth Warren, PhD, Wendy Davis, JD, and Bill De Blasio, MA all scored somewhere north of 85 on their IQ tests. The imbecility of which I speak is an attribute of their fans. How else to explain their enthusiasm for the former Cherokee, former German-American, and former Republican brunette whose respective goofy mendacities are displayed in giant flashing neon letters for all to see?
Seriously goofy. Even if we accept Senator Warren’s claim that she is, or believes she is, 1/330th, or 1/16th or a quarter Cherokee, what of that? I’m told I’m one sixteenth Norwegian but I don’t have a single Norse attribute, apart from coloring. I don’t crave herring. I prefer fedoras or homburgs to horned helmets. I’ve never dreamed of sailing up the Kennebec in a long boat to plunder Waterville and molest the Colby co-eds. Oddly, my coloring is closer to Senator Warren’s than it is to any full-blood Cherokee I’ve ever seen. Yet she persistently claimed a biological heritage without any anthropologically significant cultural attribute. It is widely assumed among Howie Carr’s listeners and other malicious right-wingers that she claimed Cherokeeness for a diversitarian employment advantage.
It’s difficult to prove motive without confession, but since there’s no solid evidence that a fuzzy feeling of Indianity improves a professor’s legal or economic insight we are entitled to wonder why she felt the need to feel Indian in the first place.
We can ask the same question about her now-forgotten claim to having been the intellectual fairy godmother of the now-forgotten Occupy Wall Street blisters. Apart from the plain fact that the OWSers’ inspiration actually came from a gang of neo-neo-neo-quasi-semi-demi- Marxoid cranks and crackpots identified with Adbusters magazine up in Canada, why would a Harvard professor want to identify herself with a rabble of public nuisances?
Warren’s lively imagination is not confined to speculating about the deeper meaning of ancestral cheekbones, she also hears voices inaudible to lesser mortals, e.g. “We have heard the claim that our country’s future must be one of narrowing opportunities, a world in which those who are born into wealth do well but those born in poverty have little chance to escape …” She did not disclose where she heard this claim and no one has been able to supply a citation.
The professor’s attentiveness to voices in the air is more than an inclination. It’s a settled habit. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 she informed the faithful “The Republican vision is clear: ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” In a July 2012 e-mail she explained that “The Republicans have given their vision about how we build the future. They said, ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” In 2013 she told the Senate Banking Committee that the “In other words, [the Republican] vision is, ‘I got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” She seemed to have kind of corrected herself on the senate floor when she told those present that “We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is, ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” But last month she went back to her vision of a Republican vision invisible to Republicans when she told an audience of public sector unionists that “The Republican vision is, ‘I’ve got mine and the rest of you are on your own.’ ”
Howie Carr, who collected these quotes, has never heard any Republican say anything like this and neither have I. Nor has anyone. All this may reveal a disordered and deluded mind in need of treatment; or it may show a populist professor pitching blather to the rabble in the union halls and faculty lounges. Either way it is evidence of imbecility among the enthusiasts who yearn for a President Elizabeth Warren.
We are not surprised to learn that Sen Wendy Davis joined Senator Warren as a guest speaker at a recent Democracy Alliance Walpurgisnacht. Davis as the Great Blonde Hope of forlorn Texas liberals, ardent feminists everywhere, and the Democratic Governor’s Association. In March 2013, she announced her intention to run for re-election to the Texas Senate. On June 25 she leapt to national fame and became a feminist hero by filibustering an abortion bill. On October 3, with promises of money and support flowing in, she announced her run for governor of Texas. As Sen. George Washington Plunkett would have said: “she seen her opportunities and she took ‘em.”
Depending on who you read, Windy Wendy attempted to block legislation “that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion mills to meet the health and safety standards of hospitals, and ensure that the physicians in charge of abortion clinics have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals; OR she simply “filibustered against abortion regulations.”
Never mind that the filibuster failed. Never mind that the law passed and survived judicial review. Windy’s achievement still stands: the woman gassed steadily away for eleven hours, making her a heroine to our national media. Add her compelling personal story (as summarized by Time and cited by Ann Coulter): “an absent father, a sixth-grade-educated mother, a teen pregnancy, followed by life as a single mom in a mobile home, then community college and, at last, Harvard Law School" and she becomes a candidate for governor. As she told NBC “I’m a Texas success story. I am the epitome of hard work and optimism.”
Her dramatic story shortly began to appear “a little more complicated”. She wasn’t really a teenager when she parted from her first husband. Her trailer park residence lasted a few months. Her Harvard education was financed by a second husband, whom she left as soon as he paid off the last of her college debt. Her voluntary surrender of her children to her second husband’s custody marred her single-mother drama. Ann Coulter reacted to these revelations like Belisarius’s Hunnic mercenaries who felt “the gods had served up a feast for their pleasure.” when they came upon a straggling band of tired, undisciplined Vandal tribesmen.
The right-wing blonde terrorist summarized the fibs and lacunae in the Windy Saga and concluded that the feminist heroine’s second husband, Jeff Davis, “should run for governor! He's the one who raised two kids, including a stepdaughter, while holding down a job and paying for his wife's law school. There's a hard-luck story!”
Even so, a “gilded and frescoed” resume is neither novel nor particularly scandalous. Such “improvements” are an established American custom, although it’s puzzling when a politician does it since his or her resume invites far more scrutiny than the layman’s little lies. Coulter makes a persuasive argument that Jeff’s conduct deserves more praise than Wendy’s, but the woman does not make an idle boast in saying “I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I've been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance.”
Wendy’s behavior as a gubernatorial aspirant, however, is not characterized by hard work and perseverance. It throbs and pulses with evasions and mendacities so flapdoodlious that she may be seen as the epitome of a reptilian politician. Faced with questions about her personal drama she first plays the bold up-front Texas gal: “You’re damn right it’s a true story.” Next, she forbids Republican cads to speak of the same personal life which she made her principal political pitch. Finally, she allows that “My language should have been tighter”
I need hardly say all the errors or misrepresentations in her life story were deliberately contrived to make it more striking. None of her mis-speakings (mis-spokage?) made it less dramatic. She had a pretty good story, but over-egged the pudding and then fell into it.
And on it goes. Having made her name and fame as an abortion advocate, she now avoids the subject as much as possible. She wants those “Mexican” votes, but the “Tex-Mex” voters don’t necessarily want abortion. When television anchorman Jorge Ramos asked Davis “When does life start? When does a human being become one?” She replied, without answering: “You know, the Supreme Court of course has answered this decision, in terms of what our protections are.”
“Answered this decision?” What on earth does that mean?
As a state senator from Fort Worth Davis tried to ban gun shows from municipal property. As a state-wide candidate she aspires to be the first Democrat elected governor of Texas in a generation to expand gun rights. And to drive the point home she appears at a rally holding a shotgun with same ease and familiarity as Mike Dukakis once showed as a tank commander.
She launches her campaign by telling the world that she is with eight-square and 400-percent in favor of lavishing more money on education, then vows that she will veto a state income tax to pay for public schools.
It will get worse, until nothing will be left of her campaign but a vacant pair of red sneakers. Her most devoted fans will remain true to her until the end and then forget she ever existed.
The next object of our investigation will be Warren Wilhelm Jr.
WINDY DAVIS - A CLASSIC IN WEIRDNESS
BRISTOL PALIN TWEET: “Gosh, children are sooo inconvenient, huh? I’m glad my mother didn’t put motherhood on the shelf when she was elected to City Council, then became our mayor, then governor. I know you would rather think about Wendy Davis, so let’s get back to her. She’s more your type of woman. She left her kid, husband, made it into a false ‘made-for-tv-movie-type tale’ and then demanded that Texans have the right to kill babies. That’s the woman you libs can really get behind!”
WENDY RESPONDS IN AN INTERVIEW: “I think there obviously is a threat that people across Texas are connecting with me and connecting with the reality of my life story. With all due respect to Ms. Palin, of course, nothing that was said in that tweet is true. I’m very proud of the mother I have been to my daughters. I have always been and will always be the most important female in their lives. They are the most important thing to me and I’m very proud I’ve been able to be a role model, a friend, a mother to these two beautiful girls I’ve raised.”
1) She was a good mother up to the day she decided to turn them over to her second husband.
2) There being no step-mother, it follows that she was the most important female in their lives.
3) Surely, not as important as her career. Otherwise, why ditch 'em?
4) A role model? Does she mean abortion or abandonment for their children?
5) She turned them over to her husband to raise!
6) She called her daughters “thing(s)” :-) Oh well.
Here's a better grade of Texan: Francis Augustus Hamer (March 17, 1884 – July 10, 1955) was a Texas Ranger, known in popular culture for his involvement in tracking down and killing the criminal duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934. In a career that spanned the last days of the Wild West well into the automobile age, Hamer acquired legendary status in the Southwest as the archetypal Texas Ranger. He is an inductee to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.
Hamer fought in nearly 100 gunfights during his career as a lawmen in the Southwest and is reputed to have killed fifty-three men. He was also wounded in action seventeen times and left for dead four times. J. Edgar Hoover rated Hamer as being "one of the greatest law officers in American history." Furthermore, several Texas governors regarded him as "the best, most fearless and most effective peace officer Texas has ever known."
No word on whether he ever wore red shoes.
THE INFAMOUS EFFING F-WORD AND A MAN WITH A MISSION
By Professor John Frary • January 8th, 2014 •
“Variety,” the entertainment weekly recently reported that the dialogue in Martin Scorsese’s new film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” employed the infamous F-word 506 times, exceeding the total in Spike Lee’s 1999 “Summer of Sam” by 71 blurts. My computations show that the laurels nevertheless belong to Spike. His magnum opiate produced three F-words per minute of running time while Martin managed only 2.81. The white racists at Wikipedia who do the counting concealed this fact. I feel that it’s my duty to reveal it.
This report set me to thinking about the two insider campaign histories by John Heileman and Mark Halperin. Their “Game Change” on the 2008 presidential campaign and “Double Down” about the 2012 campaign. The authors tell us that the first is based on more than 300 interviews with more that 200 people, and the second on more than 500 interviews with more than 400 individuals.
The arduous job of sifting through all 918 pages in the two volumes for an exact count is best left to younger and fitter Wikipedia wizards, but my own swift survey prompts me to propose one of these two works as the non-fiction Effing record setter. Take, for example, page 279 of “Game Change” where Senator McCain addresses his wife as follows: “F**K YOU. F*C*, *UCK, feek, fie, fo, fum, fum, fack, fu, eff!!” (Unless you know what I mean). The senator is depicted with both digitae infamitae thrusting like pistons as he barked these intimacies in Cindy’s face. He was annoyed that she interrupted him.
On page 64 of “Double Down” we have Robert L. Gibbs displaying the eloquence that earned him the post of Senator Obama’s communications director, then of White House Press Secretary: “This is f-ing unprecednted”...It’s f-ing bulls..t”...”He f-ing doesn’t deserve this”...”We can’t f-ing win this election if we can’t f-ing trust each other, and we’re letting him f-ing down.” Gibbs was reacting to a press leak that revealed his president’s innermost thoughts.
Heileman and Halperin are in no way responsible for the language recorded in their works. They faithfully report the way our politicians and political hacks routinely speak among themselves, out of ear-shot of the simple-minded multitude. This is in keeping with their image of themselves as warriors meeting in “war rooms” to plot strategies and tactics. They speak like the rough, muddy soldiers in the trenches speak—warriors like themselves.
In reality they are speaking like contemporary Middle School girls.
Conservative commentators pretended to be scandalized when V.P. Biden characterized the Affordable Care Act as a “B.F.D.” Liberal commentators were equally disturbed upon hearing V.P. Cheney recommend a course of action to Senator Leahy which involved the verb form of the same word. If the public was really scandalized it can only be because they thought it was unseemly for American vice presidents to ignore open microphones.
The plain and sober truth of the matter is that the effing f-word has become as common in contemporary American discourse as throat-clearing. If politicians use it more often than the general public it’s only because they work harder at it. Either way the word no longer deserves the traditional description, “salty” or “colorful.” It’s no more flavorful than sputum and no more colorful than expectorating.
With a view to an appropriate cultural adaptation, I contemplate a project that may occupy the remainder of my mortal days, a reverse bowdlerization of our major literary works. I’m remembering a bright young student to whom I recommended Orson Welles’s “The Third Man.” She reported back that she was unable to watch it. It was in black and white. The girl could not adapt to a presentation she found bafflingly unfamiliar.
The total absence of the ubiquitous f-word in the great classics of the past may well have the same effect on future students. While the tastes of the Victorian Era inspired the philanthropist Thomas Bowdler to publish “The Family Shakspeare,” revised and expurgated to eliminate any hint of smut in the Bard’s works, the time may soon come when we will have to adapt Shakespeare to contemporary tastes in order to make them accessible to our youth’s constricted sensibilities.
Here’s an example of a Hamlet Soliloquy fraryization:
“To be, or not to be--that is the f-ing question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The f-ing slings and arrows of outrageous f-ing fortune
Or to take f-ing arms against a f-ing sea of bullsh*t
And by opposing f-ing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say F–K
The heartache, and the thousand f-ing shocks”
Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” is also worth adaptation :
“It was the f-ing best of times, it was the f-ing worst of times, it was the f-ing age of wisdom, it was the f-ing age of bullsh*t, it was the f-ing epoch of belief, it was the f-ing epoch of incredulity, it was the f-ing season of f-ing Light, it was the f-ing season of f-ing Darkness, it was the f-ing spring of f-ing hope it was the f-ing winter of f-ing despair....
I ask you, could Robert Gibbs do better?
POLITICS AND PARANOIA
By Professor John Frary • December 11th, 2013 •
Double Down, the insider account of the 2012 presidential campaign by Mark Halperin and John Heileman, gives “Birtherism” a good deal of attention. Indeed, the certainty that Barack Obama is foreign born is even more widely spread than the conviction that J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dressing “freon fruit” (to use Truman Capote’s insider’s phrase). From their account Donald Trump’s sudden prominence as a possible candidate is largely traceable to his emergence as the Big Birther in the presidential scene.
His political fade-out pretty much disposed of Birtherism as an active issue. The belief continues just beneath the surface because it is so satisfying in so many ways. It fits the suspicion that our president is some kind of a Muslim-Marxist-Kenyan-Leninist subversive. Quite apart from any anxieties about alien infiltration of the Oval Office, there’s a special appeal in the prospect of a speedy ejection of the national pest through judicial action.
H&H follow the common liberal assumption that political paranoia is a right-wing populist phenomenon exploited by cynical right-wing politicians and publicists. George Orwell had a broader perspective, e.g., “I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” Intellectuals and the well-educated are by no means immune to the pleasures and satisfaction on paranoid fads, follies, and fantasies.
Noel Pemberton Billing (1881-1948) was no ordinary man.. He was not an intellectual, having run away from home at age 13 and worked a number of jobs, including boxer and mounted policeman in South Africa before moving back to England and becoming a lawyer. He subsequently blossomed as a pioneering aviator, inventor, publisher and member of parliament. He also acquired considerable fame as the man who exposed the Kaiser’s evil schemes for the sodomite subversion of English society .His journal, Imperialist, revealed, for example, the existence of the Mbret of Albania’s “Berlin Black Book” which contained the names of “47,000 highly placed British perverts.”
As we all know, the Mbret of Albania was Prince Wilhelm zu Wied, selected by common agreement among the Great Powers to pretend to govern Albania. It is perhaps less well known that Wilhelm was promoted to king from the rank of captain in the German General Staff. It’s easy to see why Pemberton Billing became convinced that the Mbret was fronting a plan for “exterminating the manhood of Britain” by luring men into homosexual acts. The vast scheme incorporated more than the vile agents stationed near the Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. It included the defloration of children and schemes for entangling wives of prominent men in lesbian ecstasy so that they disclose state secrets.
When Pemberton Billings, MP, published "The Cult of the Clitoris" in the renamed Vigilante implying that the actress Maud Allan was a lesbian tentacle of the conspirators she sued him for libel. He won the suit and won re-election. So there you are.
The principal executives of Himmler’s Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office, RSHA) appear to have accepted the National Socialist beliefs about the Jewish enemy in full or in part. Most of them were well educated. It’s recorded that the French university humanities faculties were predominately anti-Dreyfusard in the day.
Hebrew-hatred appears to go back as far as Hellenistic times. It may be argued that the problem of Anti-Semitism may reflect a deeper problem - paranoia itself. Accept that paranoiac fantasies and conspiracy theories serve some deep human needs. Accept that they are not aberrations but integral to politics. Then it’s easy to see why Jews answer the need. All conspiracy theories rely on connecting the dots, and there are always enough Jewish dots to connect in order to complete the design.
The Armenian disapora provides a fair number of dots, so we should expect some kind of Armenian conspiracy theories as well. Google and ye shall find. The Turks, of course, are particularly sensitive about the Armenian conspiracy to misrepresent the gentle removal of cheerful Armenian families to places of safety and prosperity by the benign Young Turks.
There recently emerged a novel convergence of Armenian- and Jewish-centered paranoia. This is the theory that the Döonmes, or Crypto-Jewish bourgeoisie, conceived of and carried out the mass slaughter of the Armenians, who were their rivals for financial control of the region. The Döonmes are descendants of the Sabateans, followers of the 17th-century Jewish mystic Sabbetei Zevi, who converted to Islam. They have Jewish blood. That’s all you really need to know if you are a Moslem hot on the trail of the Enemy, or a secular Turk anxious to deflect blame for a genocidal atrocity you denied ever happened.
THE NEW OBAMACAR PROGRAM
By Professor John Frary • November 23rd, 2013 •
Word reaches me from thepeoplescube.com, one of the nation’s more reliable news sources, that the Administration is launching a new initiative: ObamaCar. White House Spokesmammal Jay Carney explained it in a recent press conference: "Too many Americans are driving substandard cars. In fact, there are a lot of Americans who don't even have cars. That is why the President, by executive order, has initiated the ObamaCar Program."
The new program will see that all Americans, regardless of age, place of residence, or occupation will be required to purchase a vehicle suitable to meet the standards mandated by ObamaCar.
However, Carney was quick to point out that this did not mean that anyone would be forced to give up their favorite ride.
"If you like the car you are driving now, you can keep your car. Period." Carney read from a prepared statement by President Obama. "Nobody is going to take it away from you. Period."
Owing to recent messages from new-found friends in Nigeria I’m in a position to offer an even more exciting opportunity. This should interest the 11 percent of the population identified by a November 20, CBS New poll as saying that the ObamaCare roll-out is going well.
The first offer provides an opportunity to acquire transportation on a grand scale. Check it out. First come; first served:
I am Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance in Nigeria.I sincerely
need your very kind assistance to claim and receive fund worth Eighteen Million,
Five Hundred Thousand Us Dollars (US$18,500,000) Source:The sum arose from
over-inflated contract awarded by Nigeria Ministry to a foreign firm. We have
fashioned out a foolproof plan to successfully transfer the funds to an account
belonging to a foreigner for investment purpose, i want to front you as the
beneficiary of the fund and 25% will be your compensation for this assistance.
I assure you that there is no risk involve in this transaction because we will
perfect the transaction in a way that there will be no trace of the funds to you
after the transfer. Please keep this transaction safe and confidential because
my colleagues in the Ministry have trusted me in getting a foreign partner for
the transfer of the fund.We intend to invest our own share in any profitable
business in your country based on your advice because our economy is not good
enough for investment. Please If my proposal is acceptable to you, reply as soon
as possible. I await your urgent response.
Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
The second opportunity comes to you from Mr. Tony Oby of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who informs me that I have $5,000,000 waiting for me. All I have to do is contact Mr. Dennis Melcher, the Fund Fiduciary agent/ Intermediary representative at 1-256-529-4644. Dennis also had an e-mail address: email@example.com. This is not the sort of thing that interests a conservative, so I’m making it available to any liberal Democrat who hankers after a really nifty, costly car. Just tell Dennis that John sent you. If you have a problem making your desires and authorization clear to Dennis then get in touch with Mr.Tony Oby at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Tel:+234-8182351187, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just follow the instructions from whichever party you choose to contact. What could go wrong? You can expect these funds with the same certainty that you expect ObamaCare to reduce American medical costs, i.e., with the same certainty that you might expect of any government program to reduce the costs of anything or to come in under budget.
As I’ve said, first come, first serve. Act now. Fear not. Credulity is a terrible thing to waste. Remember P.T. Barnum’s famous dictum: “There’s a millionaire born every minute.”
HOW TO SPOT A LYING SOB AND OTHER MATTERS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE
By Professor John Frary • November 16th, 2013 •
The Honorable William S. Cohen and Alan Simpson had a conversation at the Collins Center for the Arts on November 7. Bill Cohen followed Maine’s tradition of political moderation by not saying anything particularly interesting or original. Wyoming’s former senator was a lot more interesting.
For one thing his feet are phenomenal. Never seen the like. They were up on the stage at eye level directly in front of me. Prodigious fifteen and half, triple-H shoes—couldn’t take my eyes off them. I only mention this because the journalistic convention has long been to remark on his towering height and sharp wit. This is accurate on both counts. When he spoke to me he had the aspect of a man looking at something down a well, and he fetched some well-deserved laughs during his talk. All the same there are other tall senators and a few can be quite funny, but none among them have, or ever had, feet the size of coal barges. This seemed worth mentioning.
The title of the 2013 Cohen Lecture was “The State of Our Nation: Hardball vs. Civility” but Alan Simpson seemed more inclined to mixing hardball AND civility. When I explained to him how I saw myself as a beacon of benevolence spreading good will everywhere he replied that he, in contrast, enjoyed “p***ing people off.” And during his talk he suggested that members of his audience call Mike Michaud a “lying son of a bitch.”
He was not explicit in this but the implication was clear. Senator Simpson told his thousand listeners that “...when you hear that wonderful phrase from your elected official standing there in the beauty of the glare of the camera: ‘I know what the problem is and we can get it done without touching precious Medicare, precious Medicaid, precious Defense, or precious Social Security. Then, you should get up and say, ‘You, sir, are making a terminological inexactitude, you lying son of a bitch.’
Rep. Michaud is on record saying that he had “authored” a constitutional amendment to preserve Social Security in its present state for all eternity. I’m sure he wasn’t lying when he says he authored a constitutional amendment. Anyone can author a constitutional amendment. Take a pencil and a piece of paper and the job is done in seconds, minutes at the most. The terminological inexactitude lies in the reassurance that there’s no need to change anything ever as long as we don’t want change.
I deduce this: that the Wyominger does not believe that tact should replace fact or civility swallow truth. Some disagreements arise from conflicting theories or experiences; other result from a collision of sincerity and mendacity. I suppose a good rule of thumb is this: we are free to call a man a lying SOB when he knows he’s lying, but if he’s merely wrong we are not allowed to call him a damn fool.
Civility, all by itself, is no panacea. In some cases, as we have seen, it’s not even desirable. So what other solutions are available? Cohen and Simpson agreed that Americans should demand that elected officials work together to make the hard choices needed to avoid burdening the young and still unborn with an unsustainable burden of debt. Sounds good in the abstract but there a number of practical problems.
The conversationalists agreed with Olympia Snowe’s Fighting for Common Ground that the expense of getting elected seriously distorts the political process. Senator Simpson told us that “dialing for dollars” can take whole days out of a congressman’s week. He cited the man who spend a hundred million dollars on Romney’s behalf last year as an exemplary scandal.
They agreed that the partisan divide in Washington is not a purely local phenomenon. It is driven largely by the ideological divisions in the electorate. That is, a conservative minority enforces conformity on the Republican congressmen and a liberal minority does the same to Democratic congressman. The problem is exacerbated by the gerrymandering that groups voters in congressional districts along ideological lines.
The Wyoming Big Foot stressed personal integrity as vital to resolving differences and crafting compromises. This seems self-evident. Bad faith makes negotiation impossible.
The 2013 Cohen Lecture was enjoyable in parts, thanks to Alan Simpson’s wit and feet, and it was interesting. I’m glad I attended but it offered no solutions to anything. It was a diagnosis, not a prescription.
How would this elusive entity called the “American People” go about demanding “that elected officials work together to make the hard choices” if conservative and liberal voters have hard choices in mind which collide with each other? Isolate the ideological voters from the process and you eliminate a majority of the voters who actually pay attention to politics. If Americans really want to curb the influence of Big Money then all they have to do is give up one cup of coffee a week and donate the money to the political party of their choice. The money generated would far exceed the special interest cash now supporting candidates. Not going to happen. They’ll go on drinking their coffee.
Simpson made two things clear about the difficulty of making those”hard choices.” First, he explained why President Obama rejected the plan proposed by his own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka, the Simpson-Bowles Plan)—its hard choices were too hard. Second, he made it clear that the American people had approved of the vast increases in unaffordable entitlement programs financed through endless borrowing.
Here’s something the two senators neglected to mention: the automatic increases built into our national debt were built in back in the good old days when they served in a Congress where civility and good fellowship prevailed.
By Professor John Frary • October 26th, 2013 •
It wasn’t long ago when the phrase “going postal”—inspired by a number of post office massacres—was widely used to describe people driven to violent crime by work conditions. I remember remarking to my students in those days how odd it seemed to me that you never heard the phrase “going professorial.” My affected puzzlement was always a prelude to a vivid description of how professors suffered from reading students’ sloppy, ignorant, thoughtless, ill-written essays.
I garnished these bitter digressions with my features contorted into expressions of brooding menace, hoping that fear might incite some actual work among the laggards Nevertheless, it truly puzzled me that no professors ever seemed to snap and run amuck, slaughtering whole classrooms full of students. The provocations were severe and numerous. The consequences of such outbreaks, although tragic, might actually have proven beneficial.
Let’s reflect on these observations as we consider the strange case of Dianne Reidy, an official reporter with the Office of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. On Wednesday, during the vote on the compromise which raised the debt limit, ended our government’s shutdown and liberated Mount Rushmore, Ms. Reidy seized the microphone and launched into a tirade while the presiding officer hammered frantically with her gavel. Two members of the security staff ended her rant after about thirty seconds and hauled the agitated woman off to the local looney bin for “evaluation.”
No one disputes that her behavior was inappropriate, but we must remember that this poor woman held a position which obliged her to keep a verbatim record of the proceedings of the House. In brief and brutal terms she had to spend endless hours recording the ignorant, sloppy, ill-considered, clumsy, ungrammatical, blatherings of the 450 pests cruelly inflicted on her by America’s thoughtless voters. My experience as secretary of numerous academic committees has given me some idea of Dianne’s pain, but I had to deal with meetings which rarely exceeded a dozen people. I have never been present for a session of the House of Representatives but I’ve listened, or half-listened to dozens of speeches and oratorical fragments and have long since recognized that twenty-first century American standards of political rhetoric are lower than snake spit. It’s painful enough to listen to them; imagine the endless dull pain of recording the speeches line by line and word by word.
Dianne Reidy’s delirium produced thirty seconds of oratory on all fours with some of the codswallop she had been forced to record.. According to one source she said: “This is not one nation under God. It never was. The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under god! It never was. Had it been, it would not have been! The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons!”
Setting aside their incoherence and the sufferings that provoked it, her brief remarks move us to an examination of paranoia and politics. There’s a long and involved history behind Ms. Reidy’s Freemasonicphobia. It has preoccupied fevered minds since the 19th century and flourishes undiminished even now. Over my years as a chalk-smeared academic foot-soldier I discovered four devout Mason-bashers in my classes; one was Syrian, two were Serbs and one was a Macedonian. The Syrian was convinced that the Masons were fronting for the Jews (or maybe it was the Jews fronting for the Masons—his description was not entirely clear). The Serbs and the Macedonian all agreed that the Masons were using Albanians for their vile and devious ends. All four agreed that the CIA was an instrument of the Masonic Enemy.
Next month brings the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and this will surely produce renewed exposes of how the Masons organized the whole thing. And, in case you were wondering, the Ku Klux Klan was also founded by the Masons, or perhaps you had not heard that its founder, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a member of the order as well as a KKK charter member?
My theory is that Dianne Reidy was so bewildered from listening to the ninnies whose words she was hired to record that she found it impossible to believe that her country was really under their control. Driven off balance, she found a kind of desperate consolation in the belief that our nation’s affairs are directed by a secret conspiracy. It may be diabolical, but at least it’s intelligent.
WINDY DAVIS, SUDDEN TEXAS SENSATION
“These sneakers are made for walkin’
And that's just what they'll do
One of these days these sneaks
Are gonna walk all over you”
—Apologies to Nancy Sinatra
Sen. Windy Davis, the blonde who made pink sneakers famous, has ignited the hopes of liberal Texans by declaring her ambition to walk all over Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial frontrunner next year.
Senator Davis suddenly vaulted to national attention and grew to colossal size by talking continuously for eleven hours in the Texas senate chamber. We need attach no importance to the fact that the abortion bill she filibustered against is now law in her state. It was her ability to gas away until well after sunset that impressed her national following. It was the quantity, not the quality, of her rhetoric that made her famous. As for content, it was enough for them that she believes abortions are good things and we need more of them.
Danny Kanner, my new friend at the Democratic Governor’s Association, sends word that he is “still buzzing from the excitement around Wendy Davis’ big announcement last week.” He’s amazed at the outpouring of support from people in Texas and across the country. Danny’s excitement moves him to transports of vivid and original rhetoric about an underdog taking on power players with lots of money who are stooping to new lows to smear.
Oh, and the word “fight” also appear in the DGA message. “Staying on message” always involves the words excite and fight. Any messenger omitting either would be instantly dismissed, barred from the profession and condemned to a life of crime, or worse, useful work. Danny, never a man to neglect the obvious, also foresees “one of the ugliest campaign’s we’ve ever seen.” For example, “Just last week, Texas Right to Life launched attack ads against Wendy in both English and Spanish.”
I confess I’ve become so jaded by political low-jinks that attacks by abortion opponents on abortion promoters leave me unmoved. What’s more interesting is the news that these dastardly ads are in Spanish as well as English. This explains why Windy’s official announcement speech made no mention of her pro-abortion filibuster. This event excited the EMILY’S LIST crowd and excites affluent liberals across the nation, but Latinos are a good deal more child-friendly. So Windy spoke instead of her May 2011 filibuster aimed at blocking a bill that would cut $4 billion from public school education. Advertising a commitment to education as an engine of mobility is more agreeable to the Mexican-American voters on whom the Democrats rely to turn Texas their way.
This artful dodging, by the way, counts as strategic genius among practitioners of the dismal profession known as political consultancy.
As noted above, the content of filibusters interests people far less than the length, physical endurance, and the paraphernalia that may accompany them. We turn to Windy’s announcement for actual samples of her rhetorical vivacity.
“Texas deserves a leader who understands that making education a priority creates good jobs for Texans and keeps Texans on top. Texans deserve a leader who will fight this fight for our future....We’ve waited far too long for a governor who believes that quid pro quo shouldn’t be the status quo...Our future is brightest when it’s lit by everyone’s star.”
It would be unkind to belabor this tiresome drivel. It’s not much worse, or different, from prevailing standards of American political palaver. Texans are no doubt as enured to it as Mainers. More importantly, a recent poll in the Texas Tribune shows that many African Americans and Hispanics favor a school choice policy the Teachers’ Union opposes. Windy, like nearly all Democratic politicians everywhere, has tied her hopes for victory to support of the educational unions. So it was that Eliot Cutler attacked the Maine Educational Association at the beginning of his Independent campaign in 2010; while the Democratic Party nominee has the whole-hearted support of the MEA.
Windy Davis’s experience as a student who rose through the ranks of community college to graduate from Harvard Law should have given her some special and entirely unique insights into how higher education really works. Perhaps it did, but she will have nothing to offer other than re-iteration of the Vending Machine Theory of Education: Put money in and out comes education. A large part of the public believe this theory. The educational status quo profits from it. Windy Davis’s political calculations dictate support for it.
Whatever her future as a candidate for governor of Texas, the only original and interesting thing about Windy Davis are her pink sneakers.
WEED WARS IN MAINE
It’s generally agreed that the cultivation of marijuana and beards are the most flourishing branches of agriculture in Franklin County, where I make my home. Bussy York’s Sandy River Farms can boast of steadily breaking even for over a century, but the general farms of my youth have mostly disappeared. Bussy is a man of infinite resource, ready to try every novel idea, from corn stove pellets to certified organics. He even has a corn mazes, which he claims 4,000 people entered last year. He refuses to disclose how many people exited. This is why I’ve never entered it myself and also why I wonder whether he cultivates a weed patch back in his woods somewhere. I make no accusations here. I only acknowledge ignorance of the full range of his enterprises.
I don’t know if Rob Kampia, co-founder and executive director the Marijuana Policy Project, has any idea of where Franklin County is or what goes on here, but he does know that Maine is likely to follow Colorado and Washington in legalizing the weed he loves. Ron showed up in Maine just last week to assess the political prospects, concluding that legalization is a certainty by 2015, if not next year.
His optimism is not without empirical foundation. A 59 percent majority passed the citizen's referendum in 2009 that expanded the medicinal marijuana law in Maine to include pot dispensaries. Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) submitted a legalization bill in 2011 which was voted down in the House 107-39. She tried a second time in May 2013 but her bill was rejected by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. In June a bill to place the legalization question before the voters was narrowly rejected in a 71 to 67 vote in the full House.
These votes have not followed strict partisan lines. Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), my home town representative supports legalization, arguing that "People have legalized it [pot] and the government has recognized it." Harvell believes that the legalization of pot would allow a shift in resources to the fight against harder drugs. Republican Rep. Deb Sanderson, who played the key role in legalizing medical marijuana, is cautiously inclined to allow the voters the final say.
Some people might call me the Republican path finder on the issue—if there was any evidence that anyone actually followed the path I laid out five years ago. No sign of that. Apparently they all found their own paths.
When I ran for Maine’s second district congressional seat in 2008 I was invited to speak my piece on a Bangor talk radio show. A listener called to ask (or DEMAND) to know whether I favored legalizing the weed. I had not planned to make it an issue, or even mention it, but felt free to say I did. The fellow sounded a bit disoriented by my answer. I suppose he expected an indignant denial from a Republican.
Understand, running as an unknown without further political ambitions in a year that promised a Republican electoral disaster I felt free to speak my mind on any question that came before me. That is, I treated all issues and questions as policy questions, never as “campaign questions.” (And why not?)
I hadn’t given much thought to the issue, but I remembered a 1994 symposium in The National Review with half a dozen lawyers, lawmen and bureaucrats who had fought in the government’s War on Drugs. All agreed that they had wasted considerable chunks of their careers on a futile project. They admitted defeat, concluding that the war was not winnable. Then in 2008, I read an article by a high-ranking Mexican police officer who praised his country’s incumbent president for some conspicuous successes in his war on drugs and concluded that it would make little or no difference in the long run.
These articles hardly made me an expert on the drug war, but they supported more general principles of economic behavior. They work like this: if you arrest the producers, wholesalers and retailers, but demand remains unaffected, the price must go up. Since cost of growing weeds is negligible, profits go up when prices go up. When profits go up more growers, wholesalers and retailers are drawn into the business. Your success equals your failure.
Rep. Mike Michaud, my opponent, knew less on the subject than I and had no curiosity about the policy issue. He knew exactly the right answer. He said he opposed legalization because of the danger to the little children. Concern for the little children always plays well.
I proposed that marijuana be legalized, regulated as carefully as alcohol, and taxed. Children are not allowed to guzzle booze. Some manage to get a hold of some now and again. It is told that when I was three years old I went around the living room after a cocktail party guzzling the dregs of highball glasses and got seriously sozzled as a result. This and similar incidents don’t show the need to revive Prohibition. They only show that little boys get into mischief. This may produce comedy or tragedy. Regulation of little boys is the eternal mission of adults and they have no hope of one hundred percent success. All I can suggest is that is easier for a child to sop up the dregs of highballs or beer bottles than to inhale their first joint.
Mr. Kampia is hoping the legislature will pass a legalization bill in 2014. If that doesn’t happen his group will initiate the petition and referendum process to secure its objective. I understand the man’s desire to avoid the expense, but I prefer a referendum since I believe that authorizing a change in social attitudes requires more than legislative maneuvering or judicial rulings.
The Franklin County Agricultural Fair took place immediately after I “came out” for legal pot, and I tried the idea out on a couple distributing religious literature. Their agreement was immediate and enthusiastic. They took me across the exhibition hall aisle and introduced me to man distributing little Bibles. He was no less enthusiastic, explaining that taking pot had staved off his brother’s death from AIDS for over a year.
Not long after I gave a speech to Maine’s Christian Civic League in which I explained my reasoning. The applause was polite rather than enthusiastic and some attending agreed that alcohol was, indeed, more destructive than pot. They wished Prohibition had succeeded but understood that it was a lost cause.
That same week I addressed the happy, drowsy multitude spread over Farmer Brown’s field in Starks. This is the site of Maine’s “Hempstock”—an annual multi-state gathering of potheads tolerated by local law enforcement. I explained that, moved more by hunger than a narcotic urge, I had once consumed a tray of marijuana brownies while my host was away. I found the experience so unpleasant that I went to bed, where I dreamed chaotic and idiotic dreams devoid of sensible plot, plausible characterization or intelligible dialogue. I never repeated the experience. More, I told them what whenever I found myself invading a pot party I found myself listening to inane and boring babble.
I told them that thirty years ago I would have said, nip the cannabis in the bud, and fifteen years earlier I would have said turn back the rising tide. But now that war has been lost. Further damage to civil rights, to the liberty of people to be their own potty selves, and to the taxpayer who funds the futile war could not be justified.
The crowd seemed to like the speech well enough and some were even able to follow and understand it.
A prediction: if Michaud is elected governor in 2014 and if a referendum approves legalization, then his concern about the little children lighting up will disappear.
FOOD TYRANNY AND THE FARMINGTON FAIR
The Franklin County Agricultural Society’s 173rd Annual Exhibition just wrapped up Farmington Fairgrounds. Any citizens suffering from serious cholesterol deficiency would have been well advised to make it over there and load up. Friendly vendors were waiting with a huge range of merchandise guaranteed to solve their problem. They sold mini-doughnuts, maxi-doughnuts and regular size doughnuts in a wide choice of flavors. Bacon, eggs and sausages were available in a number of establishments. Generous portions of French fries, fried clams, fried chicken pieces in various forms and sizes were available at reasonable prices. If it can be deep-fried it was available for purchase. No intravenous cholesterol is available yet. Maybe next year.
Prowling around the fairgrounds and engorging my share of these goodies, I gave some thought to the Great American Obesity Crisis about which we hear so much these days. There’s no disputing its existence, nor my own contribution to maintaining it. It’s not simply a cholesterol problem. It’s a gluttony problem that has arisen from our biological evolution and economic progress. Our ancestors regularly faced conditions of food scarcity promoting the instinct to eat when food was available and the capacity to store nutrients as fat as a protection against lean times. I’m thinking in particular of an anthropologist’s account I read years ago about how the Comanches “harvested” buffalo before the Spaniards populated the plains with horses. If they could manage it they’d drive a whole herd over a cliff. Then they would gorge on the corpses, having no choice but to leave most to the remains to rot.
Economic progress has eliminated regular cycles of famine and malnutrition while increasing leisure time and enormously reducing the amount of heavy manual labor. And government welfare programs like food stamps and school lunches provide plentiful food. It’s simple; we are not naturally designed for conditions of such plenty.
A column in The New York Times by Frank Bruni set me to thinking about the Farmington Fair food offerings. Frank wrote about this visit to Costco, where he found cashews and chicken thighs being sold in large lots. He concluded from his visit that "Costco as much as anything else is why the land of the free and the home of the brave is also the trough of the tub o' lard, our exceptionalism measurable by not only our G.D.P. but also our B.M.I. That's body mass index, and our bodies are indeed massive."
In offering this conclusion The New York Times columnist seems to adopt the common liberal habit of finding the source of a problem in insufficiently regulated big business. So we read frequent condemnations of Big Food as the culprit. A visit to the Farmington Fair reminds that Little Food, Tiny Food, and Pygmy Food do their part as well. There are no salad booths at the Farmington Fair.
The hope that replacing Big Macs with Minuscule Macs, displacing Burger King with Kale King, serving tofu wings at KFC or offering bird-seed pizza at Pizza Hut is going to produce a slim and svelte America is fantasy, and it’s not even a glorious fantasy. It’s a depressing prospect that only food cranks and masochists could anticipate with pleasure.
But what bothers me, and should bother us all, is the growing tendency of Big Government Liberals (is there any other kind?) To see big corporations as tools for controlling the American people. It’s true that most Americans have grown accustomed to a degree of government control over their lives that their grandparents and great-grandparents would never have tolerated, but we still resist government programs that dictate the details of our daily lives.
Those among us who believe that our government has the job of making better (and, in this case, slimmer) Americans seem intent on enlisting Big Business in that cause. This fits into a trend of weakening, if not entirely eliminating, the burden of individual personal responsibility.
I’m not advocating the propagation of diabetes, strokes, and other disorders influenced by diet, but it pleases me to think of the food vendors at the Maine’s fairs as island of sturdy resistance to government encroachment on private lives.
A STRAIGHT FLUSH IN COLORADO
Any grammar school math textbook will tell you that the odds against drawing a straight flush with a five-card hand are approximately 72,192 to 1. According to my calculations, the odds against a couple of plumbers flushing a pair of Colorado senators down the political drain are comparable. Yet poker players sometime lay down straight flushes and plumbers, it seems, sometimes flush senators.
Last March Colorado’s Democratic legislature passed a gun control bill. The state’s Democratic governor promptly signed it. Consequently Colorado now requires back-ground checks on all private gun sales and prohibits magazines holding more than fifteen rounds. This legislation was inspired in large part by the massacre in the town of Aurora, but there’s no good reason to believe that it will have any detectable affect on gun violence. Nor is there any good reason to expect the legislators who voted for the restrictions to attempt to evaluate actual results. Legislators are usually content with laws that sound good, regardless of whether they do good.
Political consequences are a very different matter. Those always interest our politicians deeply and the sudden termination of the senatorial terms of Angela Giron and John Morse are widely held to upset the hopes of the control freaks. They had counted on Colorado becoming the thin edge of the wedge for their effort to extend gun control legislation in the western states. Democratic electoral victories invited the effort and legislative victory followed.
King Pyrrhos of Epirus would have recognized the quality of that victory. He decided to abandon his Italian ambitions after two battlefield victories proved insupportably costly. The recall elections on September 10 left the legislation in place, but ended the hope of similar legislation elsewhere. Senator Giron anticipated this result when, on August 28, she told The New Republic “For Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that.” MAIG’s sponsor, Mayor Bloomberg, showed his understanding by donating $350,000 to defending the senators. One account has the liberal gun-control zealots outspending the recallers 8 to 1, another source sets the ratio at 10 to 1, yet another 6 to 1. The New York Times rather evasively reported that “both sides” spent a total of about $2 million. Enough to say that the control-nuts outspent the gun-nuts by a wide margin.
What ever the truth of the dollar figures, the election results on September 10 were 51% against Morse and 56% against Giron. The Democrats still control the Colorado Senate, although their margin is down to one seat. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz dismisses the outcome, attributing the results to “voter suppression, pure and simple.” She inevitably pointed accusing an finger at the NRA, the Koch brothers, “outside money.” It’s true that the NRA donated a few thousand more than New York’s mayor, but NRA membership dues in Colorado were more than enough to cover the donations made, so it hardly counts as outside money. No one has so far given a figure for the alleged Koch dollars.
Debbie’s push-button “analysis” is of no account. Even faithful Democrats know that the woman’s only qualification for her chair is her resolute determination to “stay on message.” Apparently it’s the only talent she possesses—as long as the messages stay short and simple. If she did not lead the national Democratic Party and I did not disdain misogyny is all its dreadful forms, I would dismiss her as a bimbo in a fright wig, but let us pass on to more serious subjects, and people.
The plain fact is that Victor Head, his brother Adam and an electrician named Ernest Mascarenas are more consequential this month than the DNC chair. They alone initiated the process. Their recall petitions were what drew the money to the race. Victor had returned from working as an auto mechanic in Wyoming to help in the family plumbing business in Pueblo after his father fell ill. When he heard that Pueblo’s Senator Giron was holding a town hall meeting, he circulated flyers to notify local gun club members of an opportunity to demand an explanation. Dozens of people showed up but Giron cut the discussion short. This annoyed Head so he distributed another round of flyers for the next public meeting. The senator, sure of her support in an overwhelmingly Democratic district simply refused to discuss gun control and barred Victor Head from the room.
Big mistake. This arrogance provoked Head and his friends and triggered the recall effort. It probably helped make it a success as well, since Colorado’s political tradition, rather like Maine’s, dictates that legislators listen to the citizens who choose to show up and hear them out. People are more willing to lose if their arguments are heard than if they are ignored.
Sean Trende, Senior Elections Analyst for RealClearPolitics, and co-author of the next edition of The Almanac of American Politics admits that he had had no interest in writing about the disorganized amateurs and their recall petition campaigns in two solidly Democratic districts. Yet the grassroots organizers in both Pueblo and El Paso Counties researched the state constitution’s recall provisions, stuck to the law, gathered volunteers, got the word out and collected 13,000 in the short time available. The generally accepted rule of thumb in Maine is that 18% of the petition signatures turn out invalid. Only one thousand of the recall petitions proved invalid—less than 9%. Denver pollster, Floyd Ciruli, described the result as a “miracle.”
Responding to the preposterous whining about voter suppression Trende has this to say: “It is true that the recall didn’t have Colorado’s accustomed voting by mail and turnout was low, but it was a free and fair election in which people could go to the polls and vote their preference. That’s generally what we consider democracy.”
It appears that the Colorado GOP organization had no role in the petitioning effort. It had never even attempted any kind of recall campaign and was not drawn by something so irregular and improbable. It was after the plumbers plumbed the depths of hostility to the control nuts that existing organizations took a hand in the recall campaign.
Having recently read Mark Zucker’s This Town I was interested to see Kurt Bardella being quoted as president and CEO of Endeavor Strategic Communications, which consulted with the recallers. He appears in the book as an eager go-getter with no serious political conviction but a serious appetite to be a player. The grass-roots types, impelled by fiery conviction, would have found him an odd specimen if they had met him. Never mind, his e-mail to the Daily Caller News Foundations is very much to the point: “Here’s the bottom line. What happens in one week will have significant implications for the overall debate on gun-control. … Lawmakers at every level of government see Colorado as a bellwether as to whether they can risk pursuing a more aggressive gun-control agenda. A successful recall in the face of the significant dollars spent by Mayor Bloomberg would represent a crushing personal blow and would raise legitimate questions about his effectiveness and viability in this debate.”
He should have folded.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: email@example.com
SHOCKING REMARK AT GUBERNATORIAL FUND-RAISER
A recent report that Maine’s Governor LePage claimed Barack Obama hates white people brought international attention. The alleged statement took place during an Aug. 12 fund-raiser at a camp on the shores of one of the beautiful Belgrade Lakes, made more beautiful by the elegantly waxed mustache of our genial host, John Fortier. I avoid the company of bigoted Cancer Cossacks and generally make it a point to select a self-designated Free-Smoke Zone on the fringes of gatherings. Consequently I have no testimony to offer regarding the alleged gaffe.
A zealous reporter from the Portland Press Herald called me on August 13 seeking to confirm the story. I explained my inability to help one way or another. He had the guest list and planned to troll the name looking for a witness, but asked me for help in easing his task by suggesting the name of some sincere, reliable, straight-arrow politician or operative he could get ahold of directly. I had no such a one in mind but suggested that if he found such a politician he could look forward to a Pulitzer Prize at the next judging.
We parted with expressions of mutual esteem. A day later I heard from Bill Reid, the man who drove me to the event, that he has no recollection of the alleged remark. Bill sort of qualifies as a politician. He serves on the school board and has served as New Sharon selectman. “Politician,” however, is hardly an adequate characterization. He is, or has been, a professor of philosophy, a crafter of hand-made pocket knives, a shepherd, a drover of meat rabbits, a dealer in used books, a janitor, a military policeman, a Thoreauvian, a Pyrrhonist, a janitor, president of the Western Maine Blacksmith’s Association, a librarian, and a Libertarian, among a number of other things.
The one thing Bill is not, is guileful. He sat a fourth part of stone’s throw from the governor throughout the event. If he says he heard no such a thing, he heard no such a thing. That may not be definitive since Bill is often inattentive to inconsequential matters, especially if he’s busy explaining something to somebody.
I happen to know that on that Monday Bill’s mind was stirred, a perhaps blurred, by story far more shocking than the off-hand remark attributed to Paul LePage. A couple of Democratic legislators had told me the previous day that they heard Mike Michaud said something weirdly out of character and off-message at his August 10 gubernatorial fund-raiser.
According to them the Democratic candidate for governor was cruising smoothly along; speaking about getting Maine on the right track, forging a path together, working together, honoring hard-working Mainers, working together, bi-partisan bliss, civility, lots of free stuff, working together—all the usual—when he seemed to lose his place in the script, stammered a bit and blurted out something which sounded suspiciously intelligent.
He said that, of course, there are a lot of Mainers who wouldn’t do a lick of work as long as they could make some kind of living on welfare.
He quickly recovered, saying that he knew hard work doesn’t guarantee success. Sitting inertly in the shadows of the congressional Obscure Caucus, he said, may guarantee success but not everyone can hope to get elected to Hibernation Heaven, so he aimed to speak for hard-loafing Mainers as well.
The two Democrats I spoke with asked that their names be withheld for fear of being suspected of having the ability to recognize intelligent ideas.
“Yeah, he said it,” one of them told me. “It was one little thing from a speech, but I think most people there thought it was totally out of character for Mike to say anything intelligent. He’s a regular guy.”
Ben Grant, Maine Democratic Party chairman, said he wasn’t there but doubted the candidate said anything intelligent. “Mike’s a regular guy,” Ben told me. “He never departs from the straight and true path of comforting and familiar cliches. Even if he wasn’t a regular guy, he’s too nice ever to alarm the base with unfamiliar and puzzling things like ideas, agendas, policies---stuff like that.”
Another lawmaker who attended the event—Troy Jackson—said he didn’t hear the comment. Senator Jackson, who is running for Mike’s Second District Congressional Seat, said that if Michaud made an intelligent comment he wouldn’t have been able to recognize it anyway. Some people think Troy is even more regular than Mike.
The Democratic candidate’s director of communications issued a statement that said, in part, “It seems farfetched for you to insinuate the Mike isn’t a regular guy.” He went on at some length about how much Mike Michaud enjoys riding around on a fork-lift—a regular guy-type thing.
Staffers confirmed Michaud’s comment but said they support the representative’s genial personality and admired his firm hand-shake.
“If the representative did in fact say something intelligent, it raises questions about his qualifications to be the Democratic nominee“ said Mark Mooshine, a political scientist at the University of Maine in Beans Corner. “It certainly sounds intelligent ” he said. “But does it hurt him? Given that it’s Mike Michaud, I don’t necessarily think so.” Prof. Mooshine listed some examples of the representative’s consistently unintelligent statements. He claimed he read all 2700 pages of the Affordable Care Act before voting for it. He has boasted of authoring a constitutional amendment to freeze social security in its present state for all eternity. He endorsed John Edwards for president in 2008. He voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Prof. Mooshine pointed out that no one in this galaxy has read the ACA all the way through; no congressional committee or state legislature has ever heard of his amendment; no Democrat even remembers the name John Edwards since his trial. The ACA is turning into a train wreck of colossal proportions.
“With a record like that,” said the professor, “ who’s going to believe Mike Michaud said something intelligent?”
THE DIVERSITY JUGGERNAUT
Any readers who heard that story about the professor of Creative Writing and Celtic Literature at Iowa State University in Ellipse who set fire to the president’s desk, raped his Rottweiler, and was instantly expelled from a tenured position should dismiss it as an obvious fraud. Tenured professors are never instantly dismissed. They might be shot by the campus police; instantly incarcerated, or instantly fitted for strait jackets; but instant dismissal from a tenured position is never a possibility.
It’s true, however. that charges of racism would produce a more expeditious departure than arson and forcible bestiality.
I thought of this almost twenty years ago when I decided to wage an overt guerilla insurgency against Middlesex County College’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Campus Diversity (AHTFoCaDi) and aimed to inflict collateral on Affirmative Action and Afrocentricity along the way. So I prepared myself for employment termination by calculating my income before retirement and contacting a lawyer about pro bono work on behalf of academic freedom.
This was good psychological preparation but proved unnecessary. Sure, word reached me that I had been pointed out as the “biggest racist on campus”; several black students approached me to assure me that they didn’t think I was a racist. One kindly and cautious older woman told me she didn’t know about the racist stuff, but felt I had always been fair to her.
So the inevitable slanders went on out of my sight, but there was never any kind of confrontation or official response.
To tell the truth, I had a lot of fun at the expense of the AHTFoCaDi. The best of it was when I attended one of their open forums and asked the assembled leadership for their definition of Diversity. The response reminded me of a story I read about an 18th century British peer who occasionally entertained himself with dinner parties to which he invited a flock of people with speech defects. After his guests had lubricated their livers with generous servings of spiritous fluids he would throw out a question for general discussion and settle back to enjoy the stuttering, lisping, Spoonerisms and general gabble.
Before this forum I had always thought ill of that sadistic SOB. Afterwards I began to appreciate his nastiness a little more. The Task Force chairman brought an end to the confusion by saying that his group had found it impossible to resolve the diverse views on a definition so proceeded without one. Not long after I read a report from a UMass Amherst diversity committee which ruled that a consensus definition would itself violate the sacred canons of Diversitarianism. So they enthusiastically endorsed what they declined to define.
What I found most instructive about the AHTFoCaDi conflict was the reaction of the MCC community. The Task Force initiated its work by composing a diversity questionnaire for the faculty. Only about a third bothered to respond. Almost half the respondents dismissed diversitarianism as irrelevant to teaching math, physics, engineering, and so forth. The rest explained that they spoke LOUDLY and clearly for the benefit of foreign students, or acted on the belief that Korean culture held that it was impolite to look people in the eye and so on. The Office of Institutional Research “analyzed” the results and printed 330 copies of its report, enough for every member of the faculty. These copies were made available to interested faculty in the College Assembly office. Since this office was a step across a corridor from my own I was able to monitor circulation. I got one copy. An ally got a copy. Some unknown person got a copy. That was the total circulation.
This fit my observations of the Task Force’s open forums where I was usually the only member of the academic faculty present.
Indifference, however, is not the full story. After the first encounters I kept a count of persons who sidled up and told me in a low voice that they agreed with what I was saying and writing. I was not always clear about what they agreed with, I was saying so much, but that’s not the point. The point is they felt constrained. Only three faculty members ever wrote letters of support in the school newspaper.
At the end of the second semester’s steady sniping at the Diversitarian Dogmas, the faculty union president invited me to address her membership, because I was saying things “nobody else had the guts to say.” She was particularly concerned about the imposition of “diverse learning styles” rules on her members.
There’s more. One evening I attended the Board of Trustees meeting for a bit of sneering and jeering. No questions or objections were raised by those present. After adjournment three out of nine members separately expressed support for my criticisms.
And still more. As I was leaving the president’s chief henchmammal detained me with a request to visit Her Excellency in the presidential lair. This was interesting. My spies had told me that some of the president’s staff had discussed ways and means of getting rid of me. Her support for speech codes to protect students from a “ hostile learning environment” had prompted me to write some letters to the school newspaper which were by no means respectful of her intelligence, character, or courage.
In the event our meeting could not have been more cordial. She began our interview by sliding an ashtray across her desk and inviting me to light up. She wanted to talk to me about chairing a committee on diverse learning styles. I objected that faculty committees were mere associations for masticating the atmosphere. She explained that she wanted me to act as a burr under the saddle. I interpreted this as a request to torpedo the thing and consented.
If all this is representative we must conclude that the academic diversity fad flourishes simply because the faculty and administration submits to the politically correct zeal of a hand full of enthusiasts. There’s no real enthusiasm for it.
The “Suck Up City” BoodleSphere - A TOUR
of THIS TOWN with MARK LEIBOVICH
This town is not my town or yours, dear reader. It’s not Washington, D.C. entire. It’s their town; the BoodleSphere inhabited by the lobbyists, lawyers, influentials, Formers, Will-Becomes, and Wanna-Becomes enjoying a prosperity unknown to the inhabitants of my town and yours. Its topography incorporates K Street, Georgetown, the District’s gold-plated suburbs and luxurious estates in its environs. Its customs are refined and its manners a model of civility amidst the ideological passions that trouble the rest of the country.
This Town, by Mark Leibovich, The New York Times Magazine’s Washington correspondent, has been justly described as an anthropological study of the BoodleSphere. Although he displays a very pretty wit alien to most anthropological works his methods correspond to the most rigorous tenets of that science. He mingles with the community and participates in its rituals but preserves a non-judgmental detachment in his descriptions.
When reading Leibovich’s account those of a populist disposition will think thoughts involving “Pitchforks. Tar, Feathers,” in the words of Powerlineblog.com’s Steven Hayward., The more passionate may begin to dream of the gallows and the guillotine. This does not contradict the objectivity of the author’s examination. An objective anthropological description of the table manners in a tribe of cannibals might also excite disgust among the laity, even though that is not the social scientist’s purpose.
The book first attracted attention by the pre-publication leak of a White House memo Leibovich got a hold of entitled “The Magic of Valerie” a primary source for demonstrating an integral feature of This Town illuminated in a chapter entitled “Suck Up City.” Some excerpts:
“Valerie has an enormous capacity for both empathy and sympathy. She balances the need to be patient and judicious with the desire to get things done and work as hard as possible for the American people from the White House.”
“To know what both drives Valerie Jarrett and why the President values her opinion so much, you benefit greatly from really getting to know the woman.”
“Valerie is tapped in to people’s experiences, their good times and bad. She knows from her own life what it is like to believe and strive for your dreams.”
“Valerie expects people to work their hearts out for the President and never forget where you work and the magnitude.”
“Single mother, woman working to the top in a competitive male dominated world, African, working for change from the grassroots to big business.”
The practical purpose of the memo was to equip West Wingers with suitable talking points in the event they were interviewed for a profile of Valerie Jarrett, but the spirit reflects that of any well-regulated royal or dictatorial court. Appropriate parallels spring to the mind almost unbidden, e.g., “Louis XIV is someone here who the courtiers inside Versailles know they can trust (need examples);” ”Emperor Caligula is the perfect combination of smart, savvy, and innovative;” “The magic of Martin Bormann is his intellect and his heart. He is an incredibly kind, caring and thoughtful person with a unique ability to pinpoint the voiceless and shine a light on them and the issues they and der Fuehrer care about with the ultimate goal of making a difference in Jewish lives;” “To know what both drives Lavrenti Beria and why the General Secretary values his opinion so much, you benefit greatly from really getting to know the man.”
This Town has achieved something almost unheard of, warm praise from Left and Right alike. Daily Kos, The New York Times, The New Republic, New York magazine, The Washington Post, Salon.com, Slate.com, Buzzfeed, Politico and Margaret Carlson on Bloomberg have all bestowed their accolades upon it. A random selection: “Washington in all its splendid, sordid glory… brilliant portrait [of] its big mouths, big shots, big machers, and big jerks....rollicking fun and sharply written....a wildly entertaining anthropological tour...a very funny book about how horrible his industry [the media] can be...Uncommonly honest.... a master of the political profile… source material for your book about what’s wrong with these horrible people.”
This Town is enriched with a caste of dozens. There we find Walter Isaacson, the Aspen Institute president, who earns one the book’s best lines; Ken Duberstein, who “spent six and a half months as Reagan’s chief of staff and twenty-four years (and counting) dining out on it;” Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who has “the charisma of a dried snail;” Evan Bayh, “the perfectly represented face for the rotted Washington establishment” (Glenn Greenwald on Salon.com); Haley Barbour, the former RNC chair, Reagan aide and governor of Mississippi who is so successful as a lobbyist that “he’s paid retainers for no service at all—just to keep him from joining the other side”; Haley’s “drinking buddy” Terry McAuliffe, “a political money man [who repositioned] himself as a more serious ‘Democratic businessman fighting for Democratic Causes and Creating Jobs’ as his website says;” Tammy Haddad, the “full-service convener of the Washington A-list;” Bob Barnett, “a signifier of Washington’s special tolerance for conflict of interest;” Chris Dodd who, “whispering 'I will ne'er consent' - consented - to becoming a lobbyist for $1.2 million a year. The easy transition of the Obama crowd from purifiers to boodlers receives full attention.
Leibovich’s description of the cursus honorum in the BoodleSphere is summarized in this paragraph: “Journalists become People on TV or go into public relations or lobbying; politicians and staffers become lobbyists or consultants of commentators, lobbyists run for office or go back into the government to “refresh their credentials,” or earning power, before taking their rightful place back in the retainer class.”
All this, including celebrations of the author’s undeniable charm and wit, are covered by the commentariat across the ideological spectrum. I take it upon myself to draw attention to some neglected observations and ideas. My impression, and it may be my own alone, is that he divides the inhabitants of the BoodleSphere into two unequal parts: people he finds interesting and those he finds uninteresting.
Harry Reid, for example, interests him because his cynical maneuvering for power advantage is almost unpolluted by hypocritical posturing and posing, and because he finds his determined rise from deep childhood poverty impressive. Kurt Bardella, who may be the Hill’s most effective press secretary, receives the better part of a whole chapter. “Bardella is not the classic guy you can root for. He activates your radar and not in a good way. He laughs too much and too hard. He hangs out in cigar bars. You suspect you are being worked....I liked him instantly.”
Young Kurt’s charm lies in the transparency of his ambition, his feverish energy, and the naive enthusiasm he brings to the difficult job of getting ahead in the BoodleSphere. Leibovich identifies him an example of the new cohort of young people lured to Washington by the glamor of the West Wing rather than by stirring calls to idealism from such as JFK and Ronald Reagan.
His origins are even humbler than Harry’s. They are not known exactly since he was found on the steps of a church in Seoul, Korea. His German first and Italian second names come to him from adoption. How could he not be interesting?
Leaving aside the other examples of persons Leibovich finds interesting, Tom Coburn demands our special attention. Although none of the liberals who praised the book seem to have noticed it, the Republican Senator from Oklahoma, known to the archliberal columnist David Sirota (who is never interesting) as an “archconservative demagogue”
“Known as ‘Dr. No,’ Coburn has built a Washington reputation on displeasing the constituencies politicians spend most of their time trying to please; special interest groups, local entities looking for funding, party leaders, Republican activists, and often his colleagues...Coburn doesn’t care. ‘Caring’ is a Coburn market inefficiency..”
“Coburn’s ‘disappointment with his colleagues is palpable. He insist’s they’re ‘wonderful people’ albeit clueless and cowardly. He has prescribed a ‘spinal transplant’ for 70 percent of the chamber. Or, moving down the body, he has diagnosed his colleagues as having ‘reproductive organs the size of BBs’ and to be 'generally lacking in gonads'.”
“Both D.C. and Las Vegas feed on human weakness", Coburn explains. They’re addictive culture - to gambling in Las Vegas and to power in D.C. Both places reward hustlers. ‘You think you can get something for nothing....Both Washington and Las Vegas are something for nothing cultures.”
“As a physician who has treated drug addicts, Coburn compares the craving for power to dependence on morphine. Like morphine, power ‘dulls the senses, impairs judgement.’ and leads politicians to make choices destructive to their characters and our democracy.”
“Another favorite Coburn invocation is what C.S. Lewis called the ‘Inner Ring.’ In his essay of that name [Lewis] describes the human craving to be a part of an elite circle of Inner Ring. Coburn applies the notion to Washington. Politicians become obsessed with the Inner Ring, the place where decisions are made where one is privy to the information that allows them to be ‘in the know’....Washington today affords a democratized Inner Ring. One needn’t be an elected official, or hotshot lobbyist, or TV pundit to be, or to feel “in the know, to achieve do-it-from-home insider status.”
In looks to me as if Leibovich used Tom Coburn to summarize his own view of the ThisTownies. I’m convinced that Coburn has become Leibovich in the last two sentences.
Here is a bit of Coburn wisdom that conservatives, libertarians and liberals alike should keep in mind. “Back in his Senate office, Coburn became most animated on the subject of political psychology. His next book, he says, will be on the power of ‘anxiety, worry and fear’ in Washington. These emotions led politicians to cling to the safest, most conventional methods of staying in power. In contemporary Washington, he says, the easiest way is to embrace rigid partisanship. This he says, ‘usually signals a deeper faith in careerism than in conservatism or liberalism.’”
Coburn has been a favorite target of Harry Reid, whose office has (among other things) accused him of being a racist because he wanted to offset funding for the Justice Department to investigated hate crimes and of not caring about feeding the Little Children lethal food. On the other hand, “Harry Reid loves Lott: he views him as just the deal-maker pragmatist today’s Senate craves. ‘I miss Trent Lott,’ Reid is always saying.” When Lott first became majority leader in 1996 Coburn talked to him about a government reform initiative, but the supreme pragmatist shot him down---- there would be plenty of time for that after election day. Coburn: “Trent was essentially saying that staying in office was more important to him than anything else. It was amazing to me that he would actually say that.” NB: Coburn didn’t say Lott’s priority amazed him. What amazed him was that Lott stated it openly.
Liberals reading This Town will ponder another hundred pages of rules and regulations to contain the sins of the BoodleSphere. Leftists will see that the only solution will be to curb or crush corporate capitalism. Libertarians will dream of the Great Cleansing.
Conservatives like Coburn will simply do their duty as they see it, free of the delusion that there can be a decisive and definitive Endloesung.
HEROIC POLITICAL WEINERS
Say what you like about America’s politicians; they are all heroes. We know this because they tell us about their heroism over and over. Maybe they don’t say this about their rivals for office, but they do say it about themselves. Examine their ads, their campaign literature, their memoirs and you will read about how they fight for their constituents, for their states, for the People, for the middle class.
They fight on the beaches, they fight in the fields and in the streets, they fight in the hills and on the campaign trails, they fight in state legislatures, in Washington and in the press; they never stop fighting. Take their words literally and you’d expect the legislative halls to be a bloodier shambles than Homs or Kandahar. You’d have to conclude that the world hasn’t seen a more bellicose bunch since history drew the curtains on Assyria and Sparta. As a matter of fact, Olympia Snowe invokes her Spartan heritage to show what a fighter she is. She used to fight for Maine. Now she fights for moderation.
True, there’s some testimony that contradicts this picture of universal political heroism. This Town, a new book about Washington by New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, has a chapter entitled “Suck-Up City” and lots to say about sycophancy, obsequiousness, favor trading, and bi-partisan lobbying firms in the nation’s capital but nothing at all about hand-to-hand combat or any other activity that we commonly think of as fighting.
Still all our politicians talk all the time about fighting, so we must believe them.
The most recent demonstration of heroism comes from Anthony Weiner, candidate for mayor of New York. Weiner (I’m not going to make any juvenile fun of his name. Weiner, Weiner, Weiner, Weiner---that’s all I’m going to say on the subject) is coming under heavy pressure to drop out of the race because of fresh revelations about the indelicate displays of his not-so-private parts.
Unintimidated, Anthony has a new ad advertising his heroic devotion to public service: I quote in full: “You know, sometimes people say to me, ‘This campaign is pretty rough. You may want to quit.’ I know that there are newspaper editors and other politicians that say, ‘Boy, I wish that guy Weiner would quit. They don’t know New York. They certainly don’t know me. Quit isn’t the way we roll in New York City.”
What a guy!—clearly a man inspired by his city’s traditional toughness and fighting attitude.
This kind of courage is not a monopoly of Democratic politicians. Consider the example of Todd Akin, He was the Republican nominee against Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill. This was thought to be an easy Republican pick-up until Todd made an idiotic comment about rape. A lot of Republicans urged him to step aside to make room for a candidate who could actually win. Nothing doing. Todd was no quitter either and told the world so, another a fighter. I guess his defeat makes him a tragic hero.
Some cynics believe that these guys are a couple of clowns inspired by a tireless lust for political office and power. They have never admitted to any such thing. It appears that they don’t care a fig about such trifles. Public service is their only motive for running, as they’ve made clear time and time again. Anthony tells us that “citizens, when they come up to you, and they want to talk you about a situation on their block, or at their child’s school or something going on at their job site, that’s what this campaign is all about. And I’ll never forget that.”
See what I mean?
Admittedly, it’s a little jarring when we hear the same politician deploring partisanship while talking about fighting in the same speech but we mustn’t let that diminish the gratitude we should feel about living in a Republic where a heroic political class fights, fights, fights for us around the clock day in and day out.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
LET’S NOT HAVE A NATIONAL CONVERSATION
I’m using this space to announce the formation of the National Alliance for Voluntary Political Aphasia and Deafness. A mere $52.00 per annum, less than the price of a weekly latte, entitles NAVPAD members to shut up and ignore any and all National Conversations for a full year..
The basic charge allows members to evade The National Conversations on Public Health and Chemical Exposure, The National Conversation On Writing, the Wilson Center/NPR National Conversation about Thoughtful and Challenging Explorations of the Most Significant Problems Facing the Nation and the World, The National Conversation to Shape Journalism, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Conversation on Public Service and many other annoying diversions from really interesting and productive conversations about weather, sex, beer, sports, cats, dogs, and recipes.
President Obama’s initial contribution, that “a jury has spoken” was to the point and cannot be repeated too often. Abigail Thernstrom, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, approved: "Mr. President, you said what should have been said: A verdict has been rendered. Leave it at that." Of course he couldn’t leave it a that, no more than he could directly criticize those determined not to leave it at that.
His observation that it’s not “particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations” is incontestable. That "They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have” is equally incontestable. Neither reservation will have the slightest impact on the national conversation he proposes. All the contestants in New York City’s September Democratic primaries have pronounced guilty verdicts on the Florida jury’s not guilty verdict and he will criticize none of them for it.
He advises us that "On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there's the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?" That’s all very nice, but it would have more authority if it did not come from a man who spent many hours in church listening to racist sermons without raising any objection known to man.
We must not make too much of our president’s rhetorical ambiguities and evasions. He’s simply following the rules of his trade. He did not originate the national conversation disorder. He didn’t make its rules.
The rules are well known. The conversationalists and dialogicians will round up all the usual suspects---racial profilers, stand your ground legislators, white racists, neighborhood watchers, gun owners, racist police, racist courts, hoodie-haters, Tea Party terrorists. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Ted Cruz will not be overlooked. And remember this; no defense is permitted. The conversationalists will condemn any defense as prima facie evidence of racism.
We can expect putrid torrents of mendacity, political calculation, paranoia, inane placards, accusations of insensitivity, demands for apologies, exhumations of dead racists, bizarre historical analogies, demands for this NOW!, demands for that NOW! and Al Sharpton.
Al Sharpton! There’s a huge section of the American public who will recoil from a national conversation on race, or any other subject, that features Reverend Al. Yet there he is, front and center with the president and other eminent national lecturers. Few liberals seem ready to defend his past, but most have no problem forgetting it. Others have clearer memories.
It’s important to keep in mind that only Whites who bemoan institutional racism, white privilege, the history of Jim Crow laws, and white racism past and present may participate. All others must shut up.
The worst of this lecture fest, this national monologue, is this: nobody can admit to boredom. We know what boredom is. We have all experienced its horrors and understand that prolonged, predictable monotony induces it. We know it’s impossible for millions of Americans who have listened to the same litany of whining and accusation year after year not to suffer from it. The Trayvon Martin uproar and all that surrounds it contains no novel element. And yet, an open admission of boredom is absolutely guaranteed to produce outbursts of incandescent indignation.
As a thought experiment let’s consider a few preconditions which must we must meet if we are to have a serious national conversation arising from the Florida tragedy. Here’s ten facts which require general acceptance.
1. The Anglo-American legal tradition allows the accused to defend himself and his lawyers to represent his interests in an adversarial contest. An acquittal is not in itself a crime unless illegally obtained.
2. The not guilty verdict was the decision of the jury. They are the logical object of the rage against that verdict.
3. The Democratic candidates in NYC and others who condemned the verdict were not present at the trial.
4. A million tweeting twitter-birds, a thousand agitated celebrities, and hundreds of ambitious politicians do not constitute a legal jury, despite their imposing numbers.
5. The issue provides political opportunities and advantages for liberals.
6. FBI records released this month show the bureau found no evidence that racial bias was a motivating factor in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
7. Sanford Det. Chris Serino, told agents that he thought Zimmerman profiled Trayvon because of his attire and the circumstances — but not his race.
8. A comparison of the number of blacks killed by whites for the year prior to the verdict with the number killed after will determine whether it signals “an open season” on young black men.
9. It’s primarily the responsibility of the liberal commentariat to explain double jeopardy to the idiots demanding that George Zimmerman be retried by a higher court.
10. Zimmerman said that Martin laid in wait and jumped him. No witness claimed to have seen how the fight started, and no physical evidence was inconsistent with Zimmerman’s account.
This is not a complete list of preconditions, but none will be met and that will suffice to make the point.
A handsome certificate of NAVPAD membership is obtainable by sending $52.00 to Festung Frary, 355 Red School House Road, Farmington, ME 04938.
WEINER'S UNNATURAL ACTS
Anthony Weiner’s first wide-spread media exposure came in June 2010 when he was attacked by an angora goat on national TV. No one ever tried to determine if Lancelot was a Republican, goats don’t generally register. The media and Caprinian psychologists assume that he was simply annoyed at being conscripted for a photo-op, as who wouldn’t?
Although the New York politico bled a little, press coverage treated the event more as comedy than tragedy. All the same upon reflecting that the word tragedy is derived from the Greek word for “goat song” we have to think a bit. And we can’t help think a bit more in light of the man’s subsequent twitter displays.
He was not, as you might have guessed, born under the sign of Aries, the goat. Anthony is a Virgo. His horoscope seems to offer hope. It reads, in part: “2013 brings you sweeping change and intensity... If you're not already a powerful public speaker... get ready to discover your latent potential to sway the masses...Jupiter continues to bring the potential for great promise and recognition to your career zone this year.” Anthony can only be encouraged by that old adage about his natural constituency: “The masses are asses.”
These are deep waters. It’s time for your investigator to paddle for shore.
We are on solider ground when we consider the circumstances of the 2010 comedy. Representatives Weiner and Chaffetx (R-Utah) had set out to terminate the notorious mohair goat subsidy, a perennial favorite of those who labor to contain government waste.
In 1954 Congress enacted the National Wool Act creating a price support and loan programs for wool. This included mohair shearings from Angora goats. Mohair was especially important to national security, since mohair blends were needed to make dress uniforms capable of taking those razor-sharp creases so vital for morale. In 1960, after the U.S. military adopted uniforms made from synthetics, wool was removed from the strategic materials list.
The mohair goat subsidies, originally enacted in the name of national security remained.
Thirty-five years later the subsidies were eliminated by the first Republican congress since 1954, perhaps because someone noticed that large quantities of mohair wool subsidized by the US taxpayers were shipped to the Soviet Union so their soldiers could have razor-sharp creases.
A few years later they were reinstated under pressure from Angora goat ranchers. In 2001 Angora goats were receiving $750,000 from the federal government. This was the trifling sum that Weiner and Chaffetz hoped to save.
There are only 6,000 angora goat ranchers, but 84% of them are in Texas. Republican and Democratic congressmen from Texas have one thing in common. They are all goat-lovers. Utah also has goats, but they are primarily for milking. If there are goats in Brooklyn they have been keeping out of the public eye. No surprise to find congressmen from Utah and Brooklyn taking a stand against this absurd subsidy.
No surprise that their amendment was rejected. The explanation is well known to students of congressional politics. The millions of Americans who support these ranchers pay trifling sums. The ranchers receive significant sums. The angora hacienderos get thousands. The humbler herders get hundreds. Intensity is on their side in both cases.
A fundamental, eternal and immutable rule: When governments create programs they create constituencies. A corollary is that these constituencies will organize themselves to defend the program. It matters little whether or not the original goals of the program are being met. It doesn‘t even matter if the program turns out to work against the original goals. The beneficiaries’ goal is to continue to benefit.
Those who receive the subsidies will suffer from their termination. Those who pay a fraction of a cent every year to sustain them feel no loss.
More broadly cutting is painful for both the sheared and the cutters. Spending brings pleasure. There was a time when tightwads like Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge would recoil with loathing from deficit spending, but now that John Maynard Keynes has explained that deficit spending can be a positive thing deficit pangs have lost their effect.
There are still politicians, mostly out of office, who proudly claim the name “deficit hawk.” Olympia Snowe, in her recent book, touts her support for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Troll carefully through the volume and you will find no boasts about any cost cutting measures she sponsored.
Sen Alan Simpson is a hero among the hawks. When he was a senator he voted against the Weiner-Chaffetz amendments. I infer that Wyoming’s got goats.
It’s clear Cutting is an unnatural act. More unnatural, in fact, than displaying your wedding tackle on the Internet.
WHAT ABOUT PAUL LePAGE?
On July 2 Maine’s governor pushed a button that produced, and will continue to produce, waves of incandescent fury. He said he intends to run for re-election. Maine’s Left was sorely afflicted by Bush Derangement Syndrome a few years back, but the re-election of Paul LePage will, in comparison, make BDS resemble a fleeting local rash or mild hangover. In the fevered minds of Maine’s Left, Paul LePage relates to George W. Bush as the statue of Ozymandias relates to a Kewpie doll.
This is easily understood. After suffering under presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II they had to accept the possibility of a Republican, even a conservative Republican president, but a conservative Republican governor of Maine is an unendurable violation of the Natural Order. They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.
They may have to. A PPP poll this year shows LePage losing against several possible candidates in a two-way race, but winning every likely three-way match-up by at least 5 points, assuming Eliot Cutler runs as an Independent. Maine has gone blue in every presidential race since 1984, but no Democrat has won a majority of votes in a state-wide race since 1982. In 2010 their candidate managed to get just 19%. Their 2012 U.S. Senate candidate received just 12.8% of the vote.
These distressing blow-outs all resulted from independents running. So they have an Eliot Cutler problem and fund-raising letters now being sent out by the Democratic State Committee all feature denunciations of Cutler as a spoiler. Cutler, like Angus King, is a former Democrat turned crypto-liberal. Back in 2010 he denounced the Maine Democratic Party as a tool of special interests, singling out the Maine Education Association in particular. He was endorsed by the editors of all of Maine’s daily newspapers.
Towards the end of the 2010 contest the Democratic leadership foresaw the Libby Mitchell disaster and tacitly sidled up to Cutler. Now they are counting on Rep. Mike Michaud and are desperate to deter Cutler. Neither has formally declared. Both have “exploratory committees”. I foresaw a Michaud bid when I read a Down East magazine profile of Severin Beliveau of Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios, one of Maine's largest law firms. The profile quoted him casually suggesting that the Democrats might do well to run a “moderate” like Mike Michaud for governor. I know Severin. He’s the state’s biggest mover, shaker and fixer. He does not make casual, off-hand suggestions.
Michaud was re-elected by 55.7% in Maine’s 2012 second district congressional race. Kevin Raye, the moderate Republican senate president, tried to make much of Mike’s membership in Roll Call’s “Obscure Caucus.” This was a wasted effort. Obscurity is the man’s greatest asset Another candidate might have problems with Mike’s absurd claim that he had read the entire Affordable Care Act, his warm endorsement of the odious and bogus John Edwards in the 2008 presidential primary, his letter to the judiciary committee urging impeachment of Dick Cheney, his futile posturing about revising NAFTA. None of this matters. Maine’s media will remember none of it.
Mike will run as a warm hand-shake attached to an amiable smiley-face.
Devout liberals, rejoicing in their sophistication, will prefer Cutler, a well-educated wealthy lawyer with international connections, over Michaud, an ignorant hack vaulted from a fork-lift saddle to the Seat of Power. Some will remember that when he served as a state senator with a large conservative “French” Catholic constituency he stood for the sanctity of life. His position on that issue has since grown purposefully obscure. In my 2008 Maine Public Broadcasting debate with Michaud, Jennifer Rookes, one of the moderators, pushed and pushed for clarification but got no satisfaction. Cutler stands four-square for abortion.
Paul LePage appears to have a firm grip on the 38% of the vote he won in 2010. His repeated “gaffes” support his insistence that he is no politician. Real politicians express themselves freely only in private conversations. His purported concern for future generations rather than future elections is far from unique but gains plausibility from a demographic analysis which appeared in The Portland Press Herald, Maine’s largest newspaper.
The gist of it was that Maine today has a population that is 58% above retirement age or below adult age, so the state is supported entirely by the efforts of the 42% of those residents of working age. Or at least those who are of working age and working. This rates as the worst Producer to Consumption ratio in the US today, but far worse numbers are on their way. Absent a sea change in birth rates, death rates or immigration, 83% of Mainers will be in the non-Productive category by 2030, leaving just 17% of the population to produce all the goods and services needed by the 83%.
Absent those phantom sea changes, an invigorated economy which retains its youth and attracts immigration offers the only hope for preserving Maine’s “famous independence”. With only 17% of the population supporting themselves and everyone else, our state will have only three other options: 1) Revert to territorial status and become a congressional dependency; 2) Ask Texas to annex us; 3) Cede Portland with a coastal strip stretching to Camden (an excrescence of suburban Bergen County on the Maine coast), to Massachusetts while the rest of the state is annexed to the United States Department of the Interior as a national park.
The Democratic Governor’s Association has been running “Petitions” on all the political websites, Left to Right, condemning the governor’s “extreme right wing agenda.” The Internet allows the DGA to do this cheaply for visitors to these sites with Maine IP addresses. LePage takes the line that he has the next generation in mind, not the next election. That may sound like commonplace political rhetoric, but it’s consistent with my personal knowledge of the man and consistent with the agenda he has consistently pursued: tax reduction, regulatory rationalization, containment and reform of the welfare system, overhaul of our costly and inefficient system of public education, reduction of the state’s pension obligations.
Nearly as I can determine the Maine Democratic Party agenda is to spend (sorry, invest:-), enlarge the government’s operations, solicit federal funds, expand the public education empire down to the cradle and up to the coffin, and eject Paul LePage from the Blaine House. True, I speak as a mean-spirited partisan but am prepared to consider the Democrats’ agenda in a fair and balanced fashion if they present one.
COOLIDGE AND VASELINE
This year some Mainers celebrated the 141st anniversary of the birth of Calvin Coolidge and Vaseline. Governor LePage drew attention to Vaseline’s advent with a ribald quip involving state senator Troy Jackson, Maine’s taxpayers, Robert Chesebrough’s useful invention and a painful, unhygienic, and smelly sexual practice which this genteel blog declines to identify. This quip has drawn national attention. Our governor’s explanation in May for his veto of a bill to expand the state’s Medicare expansion received no national attention and a lot less attention in Maine than his description of Troy Jackson’s political technique. He explained “Calvin Coolidge said one thing that stuck with me: ‘It’s always more important to beat bad public policy than it is to pass good public policy.’”
That quote reflects a position LePage took during his campaign and one which he has adhered to since. It also reflects the fact, to which I can personally attest, that his extensive library of historical and biographical volumes includes three recent books about Vermont’s gift to the United States. He has found the time since his election to read Amity Shlaes excellent biography of the man.
Paul’s repeated insistence that he is not a professional politician is confirmed by his most recent “gaffe.” Cal, by contrast, was an experienced and skillful politician. The man managed to turn his shyness and laconic habits into assets. If our governor had paid closer attention to this aspect of the man’s career he would have found useful counsel in this observation: "I don’t recall any candidate for President that ever injured himself very much by not talking." Careful research discloses that Plymouth Notch’s most distinguished son never once discussed petroleum jelly in any of his public speeches or private conversations.
Expanding on the old saw that if you can’t say anything nice about someone don’t say anything at all, Calvin Coolidge sometimes said nothing at all. When visitors showed up in the oval office with requests and demands he sometimes sat puffing on his cigar in absolute silence until they simply ran down. In fact, he noticed that if he said yes or no they would go on for another twenty minutes. Better to listen, puff away, and say nothing at all.
Still, if our state’s chief executive deserves criticism for his untimely introduction of the Vaseline motif, what should we make of those outraged dimwits who consider his tactless sally more important than the budget? We understand the Democrats’ eagerness to shift the discussion away from tax increases, but why would our media think that indiscretion more important for Maine and its economic future?
Let’s leave that mystery unresolved and give some thought to why the governor thinks Calvin Coolidge is worth quoting and reading about. A famous writer expressed the liberal view of the man when she heard that he had died (1933): “How could they tell?” In that view he didn’t do anything or, worse, all he did was reduce the deficit and reduce taxes. This view seemed set in stone by 1940, after which almost nothing was written about him for more than forty years, only two books altogether.
Then Ronald Reagan shocked the academic community by ordering Coolidge’s portrait mounted in the place of honor in the White House. Subsequently a dozen new books appeared, most of them favorable. The JFK Presidential Library held a symposium on his administration in 1998 and another in 2010. Numerous articles and academic papers have appeared since 2000. Coolidge by Amity Shlaes, published this year, is the best and most complete biography so far. Her laudatory conclusions have scandalized liberal reviewers. They figured Cal had been forever embalmed and entombed sixty years ago. Historical revision and reinterpretation of the subject are about as welcome to that conformist crew as gay marriage is to traditional Christians.
Governor LePage’s interest in, and respect for, the Coolidge legacy is easily understood. The president lowered the national debt from $22.3 billion in 1923 to $16.9 billion in 1929, while reducing the top income tax rate from 73 percent in 1922 to 24 percent by 1929. By 1927, 98 percent of the population paid no income tax. He also eliminated a number of “nuisance” taxes, such as those on cars and theater tickets. He met with his Budget Director, Herbert Mayhew Lord from Rockland, Maine, 202 times to comb through the budget again and again, reducing it from $5.1 billion in 1921 to $3.3 in 1929. The pair relentlessly worked their way from the big ticket items down to the cheese-parings. For me General Lord’s masterpiece was the decree restricting civil servants to one pencil at a time. They had to turn in the stub to get a new one. This may not have saved much money, but it set the right tone.
Paul LePage clearly shares Coolidge’s understanding of an enduring problem at all levels of government which the Vermonter summed up in these words: "It is necessary to watch people in Washington all the time to keep them from unnecessary expenditure of money. They have all lived off the national Government so long in that city that they are inclined to regard any sort of employment as a Christmas tree, and if we are not careful, they will run up a big expense bill on us."
The fact that President Coolidge kept a copy of the Constitution on his bedside table must also appeal to our governor. I don’t know what he keeps at his bedside, but I do know that he has read the Federalist Papers. Any elected official who takes his or her oath to uphold the Constitution seriously should do the same. They don’t. Indeed, the question of how many have actually read the Constitution the take an oath to uphold deserves serious exploration.
My own inquiries into that question have not been encouraging....
POLITICS AND IDIOCY AGREE AS WELL AS HAM & EGGS
“It is only in politics that we find the ambitions of a Napoleon combined with the intelligence of a village idiot.”—Rep. Lance Harvell.
A NOTE TO MY READERS: Some may object that what I term idiocy is mere silliness. I don’t deny the merit of this objection. It’s just that I generally prefer the harder or hardest words, as a deliberate antidote the plobby, blobby, squishy euphemisms and evasions which etiolate contemporary American political discourse.
Rep. Harvell’s aphorism conveys a major truth which requires only minor qualification. It sometimes happens that it is the ambition that induces the idiocy, and it often happens that politicians of average intelligence and expansive ambition deliberately adopt the manner, diction, and cognitive style of the village idiot. In many cases village idiocy is embraced as a means of capturing the village idiot vote in service to the modest ambition of snaring a job.
Consider the emergence of an Axis of Asses, so far including Anthony Weiner, Mark Stanford, and Johnny Edwards, with Eliot Spritzer, among others waiting in the stables while eyeing the starting gate with lustful eyes.
All are following well-trodden come-back trails. Among disgraced Democrats the trail begins with psychiatric rehab treatment. Anthony W. reveals that he visited a Houston psychiatric facility following his resignation from Congress in 2011. He tells the New York Daily News that the Center was critical in his “journey” to becoming a “new man.”
Republican comeback trails normally begin with religious rehab. So Mark Stanford tells us “I am an imperfect man, saved by God’s grace.” Edwards, aiming at Southern votes, adopts a similar line telling us “I don’t think God’s through with me. I really believe he thinks there’s still some good things I can do.” It remains unclear whether he believes God wants him to make more millions as an ambulance chaser or recover political office.
The New York Times, which serves in God’s place for many liberals, seems to offer its Grace in a an article speculating hopefully about a “second act” for Spitzer. Eliot, we remember, stepped down as governor amid the allegations he was a "john" consorting with expensive call-girls. Yet we read “he has not ruled out running for office again.”
(I take this opportunity to protest against the use of my Christian name to describe call-girl clients. Surely “eliots” has a better claim to serve that purpose.)
I’ve not had a chance to ask God about his purported extension of Grace to Mark, but it would have been more telling for him to have said, “I’m a ridiculous man and God has never made his position on ridiculousness clear.” Remember, all these men made themselves ridiculous by the acts which interrupted their careers; and more ridiculous by their idiotic attempts at denial, evasion, cover-up and, finally, apology.
The news that Weiner sought treatment for “compulsive behavior” from mental health professionals raises a serious question: Why are there no treatments for the compulsive urge for political power? Houston’s Gabbard Center specializes in treating “professionals who are in personal or professional crises.” Isn’t it time to consider the mass of evidence suggesting that the professional pursuit of political office is in itself a debilitating compulsive behavior disorder?
Here it’s apposite to recall Doctor Johnson’s summary judgement on sexual couplings: “The position is ridiculous, the pleasure is fleeting, and the expense is damnable.” This seems an appropriate parallel. The political positions adopted are more often ridiculous than not; political victories are almost always fleeting; and complaints about campaign costs are heard on every side.
More, it is obviously addictive—always a sure indicator of compulsive behavior.
Let’s dive deeper into the matter and consider some common idiocies that appear with monotonous regularity during campaign for office—all palpably obvious.
The time is gone when a politician like Lincoln could cheerfully admit that he wanted to make a name for himself. No politician is ever heard to admit to personal ambition these days. The standard explanation of their lust for public office is the desire to “give something back.” This would be plausible, if we had evidence that they avoided legal tax deductions, regularly made large charitable deductions, and left office poorer than they entered. But who bothers asking?
It became obvious to all before Labor Day in 2008 that Rep. Tom Allen’s campaign to replace Senator Susan Collins was doomed to defeat. Still he and his staff continued to foretell an upset right up to the day that it was spurlos versunkt. How idiotic are such stark denials of the obvious? Yet they are so standard that candidates who frankly acknowledge the unlikelihood of victory are scorned as incompetent campaigners.
Then there are the tyro candidate’s promises of “leadership,” as if a greenhorn joining a crowd of 434 congressmammals, many of them with years of experience and all endowed with robust egos, would be accepted as a leader. They’d stick him in a corner somewhere and, to use a phrase from P.G. Wodehouse, put a green baize cloth over him like a tiresome caged parrot.
And speaking of parrots, how often do we hear vows to “fight” in political speeches and literature. Candidates repeatedly (repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly) swear to fight for the middle class, for their constituents, for justice, for this, for that. If we took this bellicose talk seriously we would expect to find the halls of Congress a bloodier shambles than Kumar Province.
When I ran for Congress I took a solemn oath never to ask for or give an apology. This was not meant to apply to obligatory courtesies if I had inadvertently trod on some grandmother’s toes or overturned some young mother’s baby-carriage. It referred to the relatively recent practice of demanding apologies for some “insensitive” remark. We’ve seen far too much of this and we will hear more. There’s no defense against such charges. A candidate will only look ridiculous if he insists “I am too sensitive.” He or she can only lie in wait for a counter-gaffe.
This list of standard idiocies could be prolonged but that would be wearisome and pointless. Any reader will have examples he or she can add at will.
OLYMPIA SNOWE’S MANUAL FOR MODERATES: PART I
Olympia Snowe’s Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress is no capo di lavoro of literary style or political thought. Its prose is insipid and its ideas are banal. Yet it has some ephemeral significance as a bipartisan manifesto. It also provides an insight into the intellectual shallowness of a successful politician much admired by the muddy stream media.
The book is central Maine’s famously “fiercely independent” senator’s new mission to "give voice to the frustration of more than 90 percent of American people who think Congress is way too partisan” and she stands out as America’s foremost exponent of bipartisanship. She’s a senior fellow of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC),, a board member of The National Institute for Civil Discourse and the University of New Hampshire’s Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy, a member of Main Street Partnership and the Campaign to Fix the Debt, and the founder of Olympia’s List, as well as an admirer of the center-left Third Way think tank and The Village Square of Tallahassee, Florida. Combined with her book this must constitute the most comprehensive portfolio of civility/compromise/moderation/BiPship credentials held by any living American.
I’m the most civil man now living on Red Schoolhouse Road, Farmington, Maine. Edmund Burke’s aphorism “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter” seems self-evident. John Frary is universally recognized as a beacon of benevolence amidst the most incendiary disputes. Principles interest me more than party.
Yet, I regard Olympia Snowe as a vain, shallow, self-serving, and useless as a guide. This needs some explaining and her book provides all the evidence needed to justify these opinions.
First, and above all, her claim to speak for over ninety percent of Americans is plainly silly. Nobody can make that claim. A 2012 Gallup survey reports that “Political ideology in the U.S. held steady in 2011, with 40% of Americans continuing to describe their views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This marks the third straight year that conservatives have outnumbered moderates, after more than a decade in which moderates mainly tied or outnumbered conservatives.”
This introduces to another of her book’s fallacies, one shared by most moderation-mongers; that partisanship is primarily a congressional phenomenon fostered by organized ideologues. In fact, Washington’s divisions are a reflection of national divisions. The ideological interest groups are media for articulating these divisions. Maximizing congressional isolation from public opinion is a sine qua non of Snowe’s BiPship agenda.
She repeatedly neglects to identify any of the ideologues who stand in the way of compromise and BiPship. Bella Abzug and Ron Dellums, for example, appear only as a feminist and an African-American respectively. There’s no hint that their unalloyed Stalinoid Castrophilia bothered her. Her book mentions them only because Rep. Hebert, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke contemptuously of them. There’s no explicit assertion that the uncivil chairman was a knuckle-dragging Louisiana red-neck. Readers are left to decide for themselves.
Her refusal to name names and assign personal blame for the ideological divisions she deplores is a tribute to Snowe’s civility. The woman is a moderate in promoting civility as she is in all other things. Did she ever notice Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) at its shrill peak? Does she think the routine accusations of racism against her party and colleagues strain civil discourse? No hint of it. Did she think her colleague Charlie Rangel was a tad uncivil when he said tax-cuts were a “code word for racism.”? Since this was directed at President Reagan’s policies and she has nothing but kind words for the man, you might think so. But you would think wrong.
Check the website for the National Institute for Civil Discourse (http://nicd.arizona.edu) and you will find no mention of BDS or the liberal deployment of racism charges. It includes an article critical of Harry Reid’s unsubstantiated charge that Romney evaded his taxes, but gives no coverage to the Obama campaign’s demonization of Mitt as a callous plutocrat. Class warfare tactics employed by both sides appears to be too tricky for consideration. On this evidence, some may conclude that the NICD is simply too civil for effective civility-enforcement,
Others may argue that it is too ideological, i.e., too liberal. The organization gives prizes for essays about civil discourse, most recently for civilly discoursing on civilizing in the gun debate. All three proceed from the assumption that debate concerns only “gun violence.” None show much awareness that the debate includes Second Amendment rights.
Stephen P. Konieczka’s essay concludes by considering opportunities for, and challenges to, “fostering, focusing, and facilitating civil discourse (s) about everyday violence with guns.” It provides lots of statistics on gun violence, none on the defensive use of guns.
Sarah J, Read’s essay “look[s] at how a society can build the trust needed to navigate the difficult issues of gun violence.” It has a quote about NRA “true believers” but recognizes no gun control true believers. In accordance with the NCID’s general tenor, she seems to assume that we must look to academia and established media as objective judges. So we read that “The Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda's “Don't Count Us Out” report indicates that the nation's universities are one of the few institutions that retain sufficient public support to lead this type of effort. The recent ‘Open Letter to President Obama ‘ that was recently signed by over 280 college presidents indicates that they may be willing to do so.”
Regina Kelly's essay “focuses on how media coverage of events like the January 8th, 2011 Tucson shooting make it difficult to talk about gun violence among people with different views.” It sure enough is difficult but her problem is the way that revelations about Loughner’s mental instability shifted the discussion away from “The issue of whether political vitriol may have influenced Loughner...” Some of us may remember that liberal journalists should an immediate urge to blame the tragedy on right-wing agitators, Sarah Palin in particular. Regina Kelly does not. Her failure to factor in this reflexive reaction suggests that she has an ideological mission.
In any case, the criticisms made of Rep Gabby Gifford fall far below recognized historical standards of vitriol. Kelly may know Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) top to bottom, but she doesn’t know much about the history of political vitriol in this or any other country.
These three essayists may have academic credentials for discussing dialogue, but I personally would not care to spend much time dialoguing with them.
Here’s a sample of their ghastly prose: “...binaries ignore the fact that issues can be interrelated. How issues of difference are interrelated in public discourse and how such positioning affects the atmosphere of public conversations is an abiding concern of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), as prescribed by socio-linguist Norman Fairclough. In Analysing Discourse, Fairclough calls our attention to how differences can be “accentuated” or “negotiated . On the “accentuation” side of the spectrum, “difference, conflict, [and] polemic” are underscored; discursive representations emphasize “a struggle over meaning, norms, [and] power”
MODERATE MUSHMONGERING IN MAINE
Senator Olympia Snowe (BiP-Maine) is, by common consent, America’s Queen of Moderation, our Bipartisan Pathfinder. This has worked very well for her with Maine’s voters and the editors of the New York Times. She left the United States Senate of her own volition but continues as senior fellow of the Bipartisan Policy Center and plans to use her insider's knowledge to "give voice to the frustration of more than 90 percent of American people who think Congress is way too partisan." Her solutions are set forth in Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress.
Full disclosure: She once invited me over for cookies. I left the last one on the platter, to show my moderate appetite.
One of the BiPper conventions is that America’s most urgent problem is partisanship; not a bloated, ungovernable bureaucracy, unpayable budget deficits, uncontainable entitlements, and pervasive incompetence. If we can only get along all these problems will solve themselves.
It’s not quite right to call Olympia a Republican in Name Only. After all, being bipartisan requires regular doses of semi-demi-quasi-Republican palaver. The woman knew how to speak fluent Republicanese to a Republican gathering. She even praised my congressional candidacy on occasion, even though she was unable to pronounce my name correctly and failed to recognize me when I stood a yard away from her. Better then that, she donated $2,000 to my campaign and has often provided modest financial assistance to the GOP organization and candidates. These discreet gestures of party solidarity never included criticism of the Democratic Party or a harsh word about liberalism. She has hard words for this dreadful thing called “ideology” but gives no clue that she recognizes the existence of a liberal or progressive ideology.
In 2012, before her decision not to run for re-election, she made an effort to “reach out” to the most right-wing elements in the party. I was invited to a private meeting in Auburn which included members of the Franklin County tea party organization and even an ardent fundamentalist. The discussion was polite if a little tense. She seemed a bit defensive. Nothing memorable was said. I left early, surfeited with boredom. There’s no telling what she expected from such meetings or whether they played a role in her decision not to run.
There’s a moderate melange of issues and attitudes common to all those who aspire to the title of moderate; it being understood that the established media alone holds the authority to award that honorific. One of these is “independence” or “fierce independence.” Independence from the Republican Party is highly esteemed. Independence from the Democratic Party not so much. This is routinely achieved by criticism of “ideologues” in the Republican Party, but doesn’t necessarily require criticism of its actual nominees. It is enough to avoid defending them. When Bush Derangement Syndrome was at is furious peak Maine’s moderate senators could have spoken up for civility by announcing that although they didn’t support all of his policies they didn’t believe that the president was an improbable mixture of Machiavelli, Professor Moriarty and Mortimer Snerd in service to Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex. They chose not to. That exercise in moderation offered no advantage. It would simply have diverted left-wing rage in their direction.
Moderation on the social issues is an indispensable element in this melange. An argument can be made for eschewing emphasis on them, since their resolution lies in the culture itself. Government has only limited control over the culture. Governor LePage, for example, holds traditional views on the social issues but never made them central to his campaign. He once confessed to me that he had given up trying to make sense of lavender passions when his brother’s boyfriend had an affair with his mother.
Moderate mushmongering rises to its apogee on the abortion issue, by identifying “choice” as the only possible moderate position. In fact, there is no such position available. You have a collision of values. One side places the highest value on liberty, the other on the sanctity of human life. Although both evoke strong emotions, there is no compelling logic for identifying one or the other as moderate. In the narrow terms of purely political pragmatism the issue remains muddled. Public opinion seems to be moving generally in the pro-life direction, but we now have millions of citizens who expect politicians to reassure them that they made the right choice. Those who suffer pangs of guilt or doubt are likely to be especially grateful for such reassurance.
Fiscal conservatism paired with social liberalism makes a nice straddle for the mushmongers. So Senator Snowe has been a great and consistent champion of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. She knows that it has no chance of passage and that no politician will oppose it on the grounds that unbalanced budgets are a good thing. It has the additional advantage of finessing the issue of raising taxes. She has long exemplified the approved moderate technique of demanding a balanced budget while boasting of the money they have extracted from that budget for the benefit of their constituents. We understand their reasoning: spending is easy, cutting is hard.
Conservatives and libertarians suspect that Maine’s former senator always favored taxing the rich as central to her budget balancing enthusiasm. If I’m reading her FEC reports correctly she has parked most of her considerable personal fortune in tax-free municipal bonds. I take this as evidence of a sincere desire to tax the rich, paired with an equally sincere desire to avoid such taxes.
Maine’s economy depends heavily on small businesses and Mainers have a provincial distaste for big business outsiders, so it’s no surprise to find that senators Collins and Snowe earned perfect hundred percent ratings from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). In this their voting is completely in line with both official Republican views and personal political advantage. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who’s a progressive in Washington but a pragmatist is Maine, earned a 29 percent NFIB rating in the 111th Congress. Rep. Michaud, a Blue Dog Democratic whose short leash is held in the manicured hand of Nancy Pelosi (NFIB 17%), earned the same. Rep. Barney Frank, who is a liberal everywhere and at all times, the same again. Keep in mind that some NFIB issues require government expenditures. You see, there really are some differences between Democrats and “RINOs.”
When assessing Maine’s “moderation” we must set Barack Obama’s 56% win in 2012 beside the fact that no Maine Democrat has won a statewide race since 1982 when Joe Brennan was elected governor with 62% of the vote, two years before Reagan carried the state with 60%. In 1986 the Democrats’ nominee won just 30%. Brennan sank to 44% in a comeback attempt against a Republican incumbent in 1990 and sank to 34% in 1994. The Democrats’ 1998 choice managed to get just 12%. In 2002 John Baldacci. running as a moderate Democrat, managed to get 47%. After governing as a Democratic Democrat he sank to 38% in 2006. In 2010 Libby Mitchell, the candidate of the Democratic Party and the Maine Educational Association, won 19% of the vote.
During the same period the highest Republican gubernatorial total was McKernan’s 47% in 1990 and the lowest was 19% in 1998. Apart from Brennan’s first election the only candidate to win a majority during this period was the Independent Angus King, a beneficiary of the 1990s’ boom times, who won with 59% in 1998.
Just to confuse matters a bit more it should be mentioned that Susan Collins lost to Angus King and Joe Brennan in 1994 with just 24% of the vote, then went on to win the Senate election over Brennan (49 to 44 percent) in 1996. She beat Chellie Pingree 58 percent to 42 percent in 2002 and buried Tom Allen with a 61.5% win in 2008. All three of her victims were easily identified as Portland liberals. It is generally understood that the only reason Portland is not a sister city of Hanoi is because Burlington, Vermont got that honor first.
Collins spoke at the Maine Heritage Policy Center anniversary banquet and, in 2008, advertised on AsMaineGoes.com. Snowe avoids those conservative associations. This accords with the general opinion that Collins is either more, or less, moderate, more, or less, in the center (the criteria are far from clear) than Snowe. Olympia’s majorities---60% in 1994, 69% in 2000 and 74% in 2006 - have been higher than Susan’s, but her opponents have been much weaker. The last of them told me they abandoned the Democratic Party because of its extreme right-wingery.
Neither Republican has ever said that 50,000,000 abortions were a fine thing and there ought to be more of them. Some may see this as evidence of moderation. Both voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. Both voted for the Unborn Victim of Violence Act. This seems to imply a belief that a “partially born” whatchamacallit does not qualify as a victim, but an unborn whatchacallit does. Perhaps the distinction lies in the fact that in the first case a living woman retains the right to a post-natal abortion, while in the second she has no such right since she is dead. This has never been explained and probably never will.
We can conclude three things from this survey: 1) the Democratic label cannot guarantee a decisive electoral advantage in this allegedly blue state; 2) the moderate, independent, bipartisan labels do confer advantages; 3) there are no reliable criteria for distinguishing between a moderate and a mere opportunist;
Angus King won election to the senate in 2012 by projecting the bipartisan image and now Eliot Cutler. who ran on the slogan “Independent just like Maine,” has announced his intention to run again in 2014 following the same path. In 2010 he denounced the Maine Democratic Party as a tool of special interests, singling out the Maine Education Association in particular. His present announcement makes no mention of the Democrats allegiance to any particular special interests. Indeed, his announcement includes this paragraph.
“I’m excited to tell you that Brandon Maheu of Fairfield will join our team this summer as Field Director. Brandon is an impressive young man who is one of the most respected political organizers in the state. Last year Brandon helped Maine Democrats regain a majority in the House of Representatives by building and managing a campaign effort that picked up an additional 15 seats across the state. He is a great addition to our bipartisan campaign team.”
I never cease to be amazed at how often politicians announce they’re excited and by what excites them, but that’s beside the point; Cutler’s excitement at recruiting an agent of special interests seems a little odd, but the bipartisan team reference can be supported by his employment of “former Republican state chair Ted O?Meara.”
Ted’s achievements as GOP chair are as mysterious as the disappearance of Judge Crater. I’ve yet to find a veteran activist who has any memory of his tenure. His moderate credentials are, however, readily accessible. He was Snowe's chief staff person in Maine during her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives and then served as executive assistant to Sen. William “The Straddler” Cohen for eight years. Building on this resume, he became director of marketing and communications for Blethen Maine Newspapers, then abandoned that sinking ship to became director of public affairs consultancy for Pierce Atwood, one of Maine’s largest law firms. He was active in the “Fed Up With Taxes” ballot initiative in 2008 and in Olympia’s 2006 re-election campaign. When Pierce Atwood laid him off in 2009 he started his started Ted O'Meara Communications.
The Fed Up With Taxes ballot initiative overturned the Democrats’ $75 million of new taxes on beverages and health care claims. This made me an unacknowledged ally of Ted, since Maine Taxpayers United, of which I am a board member and chief financial contributor, also opposed the bill.
It’s always a good idea to be cautious about attributing motives, but we see here an example of how difficult it is to distinguish an opportunist from a moderate. It’s enough to observe that Ted O’Meara’s career path is completely compatible with that of a professional political hack. Every line of his resume helps promote his business as a communications consultant and service on a winning Cutler campaign will do him no harm. If Cutler loses he will still have a new line on his resume and new contacts.
The other members of the Cutler Team named so far are professional fund raisers and communication specialists. There is nothing interesting to report about their ideological predispositions or past political involvements. It’s enough to note that their careers will not suffer from association with a wealthy candidate with solid fund-raising credentials.
The Cutlerites kept his 2010 organization alive through OneMaine.com which speaks a patois common to all mushmongers: “ work together...civility... common interests and shared purpose...share ideas...move Maine forward...big tent...more effective and less partisan...pragmatic, sustainable solutions...working across the aisle...”
Eliot Cutler will produce some position papers when the time comes in order to entertain the editorial boards and good government busybodies. The voters at large will be deluged political ads containing the same quality of mush as the One Maine website.
The moderate candidates and their supporters will repeatedly accuse Paul LePage of insufficient mushiness. They will be right. He can’t control himself and doesn’t wish to. This may work.
IMPEACH OBAMA! - ?
A January survey of Texas voters conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 67 percent of Texas Republicans, and 39 percent of Texas voters overall, said they favor impeaching Obama.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the oversight committee’s subcommittee on national security, thinks President Obama may face impeachment over his administration’s response to the Benghazi attack. Leftist pundits Jonathan Chait and Michael Tomasky have predicted a Republican push for impeachment.
Those convinced that Barack Obama is a Kenyan, or a crypto-Muslim, or a crypto-Marxist, or even a Marxist Moslem Kenyan) dreamed of impeachment long before the current scandals boiled over. They might as well relax. Impeachment is not even remotely possible.
Chaffetz is frustrated by the administration’s obstruction of his investigations, but was quick to qualify his remarks: “It’s a cover-up. I’m not saying impeachment is the end game, but it’s a possibility, especially if they keep doing little to help us learn more.” Chait, Tomasky and their kind have no persuasive defense of the Obama administration so they hope that the GOP will damage itself by overreaching.
Even though talk of impeachment will escalate as the scandal controversies escalate, the preconditions for a Nixon-like departure do not exist and cannot come about. On what grounds could the impeachers charge the president? The standards for perjury have clearly become less clear since Bill Clinton’s dodged them. Sure, there are powerful grounds for suspecting that he’s the Anti-Christ, but is that an impeachable offense under the Constitution? I foresee problems with the prohibition against a religious test. Does deceiving the American people come under “high crimes and misdemeanors? Maybe, but the line between managing the news and deception has become extremely fuzzy.
As the Watergate drama unfolded most conservative pundits searched for excuses, but a few among them became increasingly critical. George Will, the Washington columnist for the National Review at the time, regularly exposed the Nixon administration’s lines of defense as lies and evasions. Will took a lot of heat from conservatives at the time, but many conservatives liked Nixon because of his enemies, rather than for his policies. They had no enthusiasm for his foreign policy of detente or his recognition of communist China. His experiment with wage and price controls offended their most basic economic beliefs. The cost of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs bloomed during his administration.
Some on the far, far left are enraged at Obama’s continuation of the national security policies established under Bush, but liberal mainstreamers are pleased and excited by his expansion of governmental power. And they hate his enemies with even more enthusiasm than conservatives hated the liberal enemies of Nixon. They will never turn against him.
Some liberal pundits are displeased by the IRS scandals and the Department of Justice investigations of journalists, but they typically soften this by attacking conservative critics.
In February 1973 the senate Republicans all voted for a senate select committee to investigate Watergage. Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn), the committee’s vice chairman, asked the key question: "What did the President know and when did he know it?" Obama can not be impeached unless some Democrats support impeachment. There are no revelations, no crimes, which could possibly motivate a significant number of Democratic congressmen to support impeachment. Basic electoral arithmetic tells them that their party has no hope of a majority if they can’t count on 90% of the Black vote in a large Black turnout. Common observation has shown the racial solidarity will keep that bloc loyal to the first black president.
The Democrats have zealously promoted racial paranoia for years in order to motivate the Black vote. White liberals themselves have already been caught in the blow-back from this, and support for impeachment would invite it on a grand scale.
So, no; there will be no impeachment.
FOOLS DEFENDING OBAMA?
"SHUVAEV DEFENSE” VARIATIONS. When General Dmitrii Savel’evich Shuvaev, Czarist Minister of War, heard that the cabinet might face charges of treason in the Duma (Russia’s parliament) for its mismanagement of the war effort, he replied indignantly: "I may be a fool but I am not a traitor."
E.g., “there’s no evidence that anyone in the White House had any involvement in — nor even any knowledge of — what was going on within the agency’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division.”
“Part of being president is there’s so much underneath you because the government is so vast. You go through these [controversies] all because of this stuff that is impossible to know if you’re the president or working in the White House, and yet you’re responsible for it, and it’s a difficult situation.”—David Axelrod.
"...it seems that there weren't actually any scandals, just the usual confusion and low-level mistakes that happen all the time, in any administration."—Paul Krugman.
“The I.R.S. is an independent agency.”—Jay Carney. The president can’t be expected to know what they’re up to. It's not independent, by the way.
“I do not know why that was or was not done. I simply don’t have a factual basis to answer that question....I don’t know what happened there, I was recused from the case...I don’t have a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked, because I was recused....I don’t know. I don’t know. . . . I would not want to reveal what I know. . . . I don’t know why that didn’t happen. . . . I know nothing, so I’m not in a position really to answer.”—Attorney General Holder.
THE GEORGE MCCLELLAN DEFENSE---Taking Action is Risky:
"To send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on the ground, I think would have been very dangerous.”
“It would have been risky just to send in a military jet to try to scare off the insurgents given the number of surface-to-air missiles on the loose in Libya.” This should be obvious. Every time you deploy forces where there are enemies you are taking the risk that they might shoot back.
THE HO HUM DEFENSE: Nothing going on here, just the usual scandals:
“Washington’s need for periodic scandal is almost biological.”
“The administration has provided over 25,000 pieces of documentation to Congress, which has already held 11 hearings on the matter.”
“It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true, it’s old news.”
“The scandals are falling apart.”—Ezra Klein
“These scandals aren’t any fun.” Jacob Weisberg
“What difference, at this point, does it make?”
“Benghazi hearings revealed nothing new...Let’s put this behind us.”---JohnKerry
"Benghazi was a long time ago.”---Jay Carney:
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACKING MUST WAIT UNTIL MONDAY:
It would have been "very difficult, if not impossible to rescue the U.S. embassy officials. We had no way of knowing how long the siege would lasts of how it would turn out. It was prudent to do nothing until after it was all over—if then."
"There were too many imponderables, unpredictables, and uncertainties. All we can say for sure is that sending aircraft overhead and sending in a small group of special forces wouldn’t have made any difference."
"There was no time for proper planning and preparation. There just wasn’t time. Who knew the terrorist would get up to no good on September 11. There were 365 days in 2012."
ACHTUNG! RIGHT-WING MENACE:
The circumstances of the AP wiretapping, the Benghazi tragedy, the IRS abuses are unclear and it’s hard to decide who is really responsible: but Republican political motives are completely clear and we know what they are up to:
Rush Limbaugh is a national menace. He must be stopped.
Fox News is unfair and unbalanced.
CBS News executives see Sharyl Attkisson wading dangerously close to advocacy on the Benghazi issue.
Barack Obama is incapable of doing mean things. Only paranoid right-wingers could even believe this. It’s not as if he learned politics in Chicago.
Anyway, what’s the matter with Chicago politics?
The prospects for the 2016 presidential election could be impacted. There are obvious political undercurrents. As the most popular Democrat Hillary Clinton should not criticized by right-wingers. That would be playing politics.
All this chatter about national security mistakes and the lack of government transparency is a diversion from the real problem—political divisiveness.
“Partisan Politics Dominates House Benghazi Hearing.”
We need to talk less about attacks on American diplomats and IRS harassment of conservative groups, more about Republican attacks on the Administration and harassment of Jay Carney.
There was no conspiracy to hide the truth, but there is an organized conspiracy to make Obama resign. This is a known fact. Rachel Maddow said it.
All this loose talk about terrorism is diverting attention from right-wing hysteria.
HEY! Republican sources in Congress oversold tendentious paraphrases of administration e-mails as verbatim quotes.
The I.R.S. was a victim of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC
Nothing and no one will ever be as bad as Tricky Dick and Watergate—so there!
The White House is remaining focused and will not let Republicans "drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped up hearings and false allegations."---White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.
Ambassador Susan Rice's didn’t have accurate information from the intelligence services so she had to make up that story about a "spontaneous protest." (“What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United