Saturday, October 31, 2009

A New Health Reform Rallying Cry: NOYB

Progressive commenters on blogs often raise the counter-charge in discussions of health care reform that Republicans have no ideas. Well, here's an idea: None of Your Business.

How's that work?

When asked how you — or millions of uninsured — are supposed to acquire affordable health care, here is the only sensible answer: None of Your Business. That is, whether I'm sick or well, insured or uninsured, able to afford health care or not is my problem and no one elses. Ditto every other individual and family in the United States.

But what about the argument that my (and your, and hers, and his, and that other guy's) illness "imposes costs on Society?"

In one sense, this is an unanswerable argument. Either proximately or remotely, everything one person does has some effect on everyone else. Those pesky people on eBay who keep bidding up the price of Glenn Miller records are eating into my health care budget. Welcome to the real world.

But there's another answer to that argument, one more directly relevant and one whose implication is the exact opposite of what the Progressive wants. It's true that Peter's illness can cost Paul. So, stop forcing Peter to pay for Paul's medical care, or anything else.

The costs that you are paying for the other guy is a form of theft. The Federal Government takes money from you to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and other health or insurance related programs. Most of us don't volunteer to fund those programs, yet the money is taken anyway. In a rights-respecting society — one that wasn't suffused with or misdirected by the language of political correctness — that would be called theft.

When Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: "Taxes are the price we pay for civilization," he was, in essence, arguing that government theft is the only way to have the benefits of an advanced society. You would think that a Supreme Court Justice, at least one serving 100 years ago, would know better. You would think he would know that freedom is practical, as well as the highest social good. But, as a man friendly to Progressivism, it was a truth he simply couldn't allow himself to recognize.

Likewise, today's Progressives can't allow themselves to acknowledge that freedom is the only solution to the alleged problem they pose. If any of those commenters mentioned above were truly interested in making health care more affordable in general they would be first on board to de-regulate the insurance sector.

That will never happen because that word, "de-regulate," is to a Progressive as garlic is to a vampire. And asking these blood suckers to give up draining your wallet — as an adjunct to draining your life in a hundred other ways — is about the same as asking vampires to "Just Say No."

So, instead of saying no, I propose saying "none." As in, None of Your Business.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Global Warming Myths Dispelled

...with a single letter: s.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, retired professor of physics Howard Hayden slays two recent viro myths with ease. Like zombies, they'll no doubt return, but arguments like these are hard to overcome.
It has been often said that the "science is settled" on the issue of CO2 and climate. Let me put this claim to rest with a simple one-letter proof that it is false.

The letter is s, the one that changes model into models. If the science were settled, there would be precisely one model, and it would be in agreement with measurements.

Alternatively, one may ask which one of the twenty-some models settled the science so that all the rest could be discarded along with the research funds that have kept those models alive.

We can take this further. Not a single climate model predicted the current cooling phase. If the science were settled, the model (singular) would have predicted it.

Let me next address the horror story that we are approaching (or have passed) a "tipping point." Anybody who has worked with amplifiers knows about tipping points. The output "goes to the rail." Not only that, but it stays there. That's the official worry coming from the likes of James Hansen (of NASA­GISS) and Al Gore.

But therein lies the proof that we are nowhere near a tipping point. The Earth, it seems, has seen times when the CO2 concentration was up to 8,000 ppm, and that did not lead to a tipping point. If it did, we would not be here talking about it. In fact, seen on the long scale, the CO2 concentration in the present cycle of glacials (ca. 200 ppm) and interglacials (ca. 300-400 ppm) is lower than it has been for the last 300 million years.
Prof. Hayden demonstrates here a superb method for convincing others: he uses facts to show how the assertion couldn't possibly be true, no matter what nuances one might consider. Or, more accurately, it's a superb method when the reader is open to logical persuasion. Whether that's true of someone willing to accept a job as EPA Administrator is a question I leave to another time.

[Hat Tip: Mises Institute via Peter Cresswell]

A Thanks, and A Welcome To New Shaving Leviathan Visitors

First, my sincere gratitude to Quin Hillyer of American Spectator for his recent mention of Shaving Leviathan. Thanks to that, hundreds of new readers have visited. I hope many find the material moves them to stick around.

In a related thought, one that's been noticed by lots of bloggers before me to be sure, it's fascinating to see where some of these readers come from.

In looking through the stats I've noticed individuals from as far as Gaborone, South-east, Botswana and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – places I didn't even know had Internet connections. No patronizing intended; just awe at modern technology.

Thanks to one and all for stopping in and please share your views in the comment sections.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Federal Government Circus

...coming to your town soon.

As he so often does, Thomas Sowell pegs the Obama administration precisely.
Just one year ago, would you have believed that an unelected government official, not even a Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate but simply one of the many "czars" appointed by the President, could arbitrarily cut the pay of executives in private businesses by 50 percent or 90 percent?

Did you think that another "czar" would be talking about restricting talk radio? That there would be plans afloat to subsidize newspapers-- that is, to create a situation where some newspapers' survival would depend on the government liking what they publish?
Those who say that the Obama administration should have investigated those people more thoroughly before appointing them are missing the point completely. Why should we assume that Barack Obama didn't know what such people were like, when he has been associating with precisely these kinds of people for decades before he reached the White House?

Nothing is more consistent with his lifelong patterns than putting such people in government-- people who reject American values, resent Americans in general and successful Americans in particular, as well as resenting America's influence in the world.
Sadly, there are many who envisioned just this sort of thing one year ago, and much that is still to come. Even sadder, they were largely ignored by all but a small percentage of voters and commentators.

Just to give a putrid taste of the thrills-to-be not yet fully rehearsed:
    1. Cap and Trade is just getting warmed up in Congress and Obama is fully behind it. The EPA is already working to hobble the coal business even further.

    2. The discussions of tightening regulations on finance-related businesses is, so far, flying mostly under the radar. Here's a small sampling from Treasury Sec. Geithner and Lawrence 'tax 'em more than they own' Summers, Director of the National Economic Council:

    The administration's plan will impose robust reporting requirements on the issuers of asset-backed securities; reduce investors' and regulators' reliance on credit-rating agencies; and, perhaps most significant, require the originator, sponsor or broker of a securitization to retain a financial interest in its performance.

    The plan also calls for harmonizing the regulation of futures and securities, and for more robust safeguards of payment and settlement systems and strong oversight of "over the counter" derivatives. All derivatives contracts will be subject to regulation, all derivatives dealers subject to supervision, and regulators will be empowered to enforce rules against manipulation and abuse.

    Third, our current regulatory regime does not offer adequate protections to consumers and investors. Weak consumer protections against sub-prime mortgage lending bear significant responsibility for the financial crisis. The crisis, in turn, revealed the inadequacy of consumer protections across a wide range of financial products -- from credit cards to annuities.

    Once health care/insurance is socialized still further (which is likely even if the current bills are not passed), this will take center stage. Or, should I say, it will take the center ring in the thirty-three ring circus more commonly known as the Federal Government.

    3. TARP II is being floated as a trial balloon, even though it's now widely acknowledged that the money was wasted and will probably never be paid back. Some form of this Keynesian debacle will make it back into Congressional awareness in the next year or so. It has to, from their perspective, since employment figures are still headed south.

Those don't even touch on foreign policy issues, such as the way Obama is doing everything possible to lose the conflict in Afghanistan without losing any chance of re-election. And, with respect to Iran, he said recently, "I'm not interested in victory. I'm interested in resolving the problem."

Just a few of the many delights that freedom lovers can look forward to shaking their heads about in the next year. But neither the eminent Mr. Sowell nor anyone else paying attention need be surprised. (I'm sure he wasn't.) This is exactly what to expect when Progressives take power, and the exact reason they should never be allowed any influence whatever in the political system.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rate of Federal Spending Increases, Yikes!

In case you just want to wake up in a big damn hurry, here's a brief post from the ever-reliable Veronique de Rugy on the increasing rate of U.S. Federal spending:
[I]t took 16 years for the federal government to go from spending $1 trillion a year to spending $2 trillion a year (that's 28 years, if you look at the data in real dollars). It only took seven years for the federal government to go from spending $2 trillion to spending $3 trillion (that's six years in real dollars).

And now listen to this: Without taking into consideration how much health-care reform — or any of the other crazy new programs the administration is likely to come up with in the next few years — is going to cost, it will only take five years for the federal to go from spending $3 trillion to spending $4 trillion. And another five years to go from spending $4 trillion to $5 trillion...
Read it and weep... or hide.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Goddess of the Market, Not So Worshipful

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That first line from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities might serve well to sum up Jennifer Burns' new biography of Ayn Rand: Goddess of the Market. The book, apparently by design, is a long series of contradictions — about Rand, her philosophy, and the people she affected.

"The most obvious contradiction," writes Burns in the Introduction, "lies on the surface: Rand was a rationalist philosopher who wrote romantic fiction." She continues on page 6: "The clash between her romantic and rational sides makes this not a tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts."

Those familiar with Rand's work will know that she would never have accepted a characterization of this kind, about herself or her philosophy. Much of her philosophy was devoted to eliminating invalid dichotomies of just that sort.

Yet, for all the interpretive differences Rand fans will have with Burns, the book does provide a wealth of detail on the novelist's life and thought. Those details provide numerous new historical snippets — courtesy of the substantial amount of archival-related material and other sources she uses — or at least a convenient compilation of them in one spot. Also helpful is that Burns writes with sufficient honesty and clarity that it's rarely difficult to separate what she relates about Rand from how she evaluates it.

That's particularly true of the first few chapters where she chronicles Rand's pre-Fountainhead days. In them, we discover in more detail than other biographies to date what life was like for Alissa Rosenbaum in Russia, and afterward for the young Ayn Rand in America. We get a fuller picture of her struggle to come to America, and the myriad difficulties she faced for the next two decades.

It's this early portrait that will likely be of most interest to hard-core Rand fans, since those years have been only sketchily drawn before. Her education isn't covered in as great a detail here as some might wish, but there is considerable information about her family life. Some of that is painted more prosaically than Rand did herself via We the Living, but there is a feel of authenticity about it nonetheless.

It's also in the chapters covering Rand's life up to about age 40 where Burns is more successful in suppressing her disdain for her subject.

She writes (on page 25 in Chapter 1), discussing Rand in Hollywood circa 1927, "This anger and frustration, born from her professional struggles, was itself the greatest obstacle to Rand's writing career." Not exactly complimentary, but nowhere near the sort of criticism we encounter later, as we'll see.

Commenting on Night of January 16th, Burns says, "Rand intended Bjorn Faulkner to embody heroic individualism, but in the play he comes off as little more than an unscrupulous businessman with a taste for rough sex." (Chapter 1, pg. 28.)

Needless to say, a Rand fan is likely to have a very different take. Still, the material covering the play's production is ample and thorough, a tribute to the many years Burns spent researching the book.

The subtle digs continue, though. Writing about Rand's manner of socializing in New York during the end of 1934/beginning of 1935, Burns says, "At any mention of religion, morality, or ethics she would transform from a silent wallflower into a raging tigress, eager to take on all comers. Neither persona made for pleasant company." (Chapter 1, pg. 30-31.)

That depended, of course, on the company she kept, something the history professor doesn't always detail. What's shown doesn't suggest her listeners were annoyed, however much Burns might be on their behalf.

Her take on Rand's involvement in politics in the 1930s contains similar statements. In Chapter 2 (pg 39), she says of the budding activist's efforts for Willkie during the 1940 presidential campaign, "Rand was suspicious of both democracy and capitalism." And, "Like any small-town booster she touted the glories of American capitalism and individualism."

Errors and contradictions — not to mention subtle insults — of that kind are sprinkled throughout the book. Even so, given the extensive and careful research displayed, most Rand fans will find Goddess a compelling read. The pace is lively, the new information fascinating, and it's rarely hard to separate the wheat from the locust clinging to the stalk.

One example of a mistaken interpretation easily dismissed is the biographer-cum-analyst's statement (on pg. 42) about the development of The Fountainhead. She asserts, "Her ideas also reversed traditional understandings of human behavior by exalting a psychological mindset utterly divorced from anything outside the self."

Solipsism of any variety is the last thing Rand would put forth or defend. But, here again, the material that leads Burns to this conclusion is presented clearly and the reader can make his or her own judgment.

Another example occurs soon after (on page 45) when Burns discusses Rand's attendance at the lecture of socialist intellectual Harold Laski, where the novelist took notes that would inform the characterization of Ellsworth Toohey. "Most of Rand's notes on Laski's lecture, and her resultant description of Toohey, showcased her distaste for all things feminine."

This — as an evaluation of the creator of Kira Argounova, Dominique Francon, and Dagny Taggart — is dumbfounding at minimum. (Readers would have to go all the way back to Jinx's "[W]omen are the bunk" in ‘Good Copy’ to find anything to support that view. Even in that story, unpublished during her lifetime, the message — taken in context — is clearly not misogynistic.)

Yet, right after, Burns writes, "Rand was repelled by the women in the New School audience, whom she characterized as sexless, unfashionable, and unfeminine. Apparently, in Burns' view, this is "misogyny," a criticism she levels more than once in Goddess.

There are similar mischaracterizations of Rand's literary output in Chapter 3. Writing about The Fountainhead, she asserts, "As Rand struggled to make concrete what she intended by the heroic, she described characters with icy emotional lives and distant, destructive relationships."

One can't help but wonder if Dr. Burns has ever heard phrases such as "creating drama through character conflict," "inner tension," and the like. Even with Roark, perhaps Rand's most 'icy' character, we see that at work. Think of his pained reaction when Dominique reveals her plan to leave him and marry Peter Keating. "I don't know how I'm going to live through tonight." Or, the scene where he sweeps Mallory's tiny cherubs onto the floor in outrage.

Burns soon goes on to contradict herself, anyway, by saying: "Although their passions for each other are all-consuming, in another sense the novel's characters never truly relate to each other." Apparently explicating just what comprises "another sense," she writes, "Lovers don't hold hands, they hold wrists. And then there is the infamous rape scene."

[She recognizes a little later, simultaneously subtly dismissing it, Rand's explanation that "If this is rape, it's rape by engraved invitation."]

Burns' dislike for Rand's ethical and political views comes in for the same dismissive treatment. In Chapter 3 (pg. 89) she says, "Rand was not the first thinker to criticize altruism or to suggest that noble sentiments often cloak base motives."

True enough. But she might have been the first to question whether or not those sentiments themselves were, in fact, noble. In one scene in We The Living, an argument between Andrei and Kira, the Communist says, "You're going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods." To which Kira responds, "I loathe your ideals." Burns even quotes the line, yet she doesn't seem to have absorbed its meaning.

Her interpretations of Rand's views are even more askew when she writes in Chapter 4 about The Moral Basis of Individualism. "Rand tried to resist the implications of this conclusion [that collectivism is based on exploitation of the more productive] and return to the egalitarianism of The Fountainhead." [Pg. 113]

How anyone could believe that Rand ever embraced egalitarianism in any form is something of a mystery. It's solved only, and only to a degree, by her view that Rand alternated between what she calls "elitism" and respect for the common man. This is yet one more of the false alternatives Rand rejected during this period of her development. Unfortunately, Burns' narrative clings to it far longer.

One possible explanation for why she does can be gleaned from a quote on page 122: "[Rose Wilder] Lane also rejected Rand's atomistic view of the world." To Burns, to advocate individualism is, apparently, to have an "atomistic view" of human relations. But by this time in her life Rand had largely discarded those elements of Nietzsche that influenced her earlier work.

The biographer is no fairer to Rand's approach to personal relations during this period of her life. In reviewing conflict-laden letters passed between Isabel Paterson and Rand, Burns writes, "No doubt her tone was partially inspired by her [Paterson's] mood swings, but Rand's failure to carefully tend the relationship had also drawn forth this dyspeptic and angry response." [Pg. 127]

In short, Rand — the much younger acolyte and, even by Burns' estimate, much less inclined to dyspepsia — bears at least equal if not more responsibility for difficulty getting along with her mentor. She mentions more than once how "tactless" Rand was to write her then-friend about her criteria of success: 100,000 copies of The Fountainhead sold, and her later joy in approaching it.

She makes the charge all the while quoting Wm. F. Buckley's assessment of Paterson (pg. 132): "intolerably impolite, impossibly arrogant, obstinately vindictive." Still, according to Burns, "the friendship's end speaks to Rand's weaknesses as well."

There's no hint in Goddess that Burns ever considers whether Paterson might simply have been jealous of Rand's growing influence and success.

But there are still larger errors in Burns' understanding of Rand and her philosophy. This whopper, for example: "Rand's theory of natural rights was based on fiat, on her stating it must be so." (Chapter 4, pg. 128.)

It's something of a mystery on what she bases this conclusion. We do get a hint on the prior page when she says, "Though rigorously abstract, Rand's discourse was in many ways aggressively anti-intellectual. She was uninterested in placing herself within the broader community of thinkers..."

That last is most definitely true. Objectivists and others sympathetic to Rand's philosophy may have a rather different evaluation of that fact, however. Rand certainly had little if any interest in being part of a "community," even of thinkers. But to criticize an avowed iconoclast and innovator for not being part of the crowd seems very odd indeed.

Her questionable assertions even extend to issues of basic logic. She writes (in Chapter. 5, on page 148): "Rand's focus on reason led her to declare that paradoxes and contradictions were impossible... a premise and a conclusion could never clash, unless an irrational thought process had been employed."

That view is hardly original with or limited to Rand, since it's employed by anyone who adheres to Aristotelian principles at all, which is to say just about anyone who isn't a blatant mystic, an Hegelian, or a polylogist.

Burns demonstrates a similar misunderstanding of the concept of "social metaphysics." She claims, "Cast as a psychological syndrome, the same idea [Roark's "stoic disregard for the opinions of others"] became dangerous, because it suggested that the abnormal should be normal. Essentially, 'social metaphysics' made everyday human concern with the thoughts and opinions of others problematic and pathological." [Pg. 154]

This, for the first time in the book, borders on sheer distortion of Rand's beliefs. Sadly, that theme continues with greater force in the second half of the book.

That's shown in such statements as: "Rand demonstrated a keen appreciation for capitalism's creative destruction... Ignoring the daily drudgery of economic life, Rand portrayds [sic] capitalism and capitalists as creative, even glamorous." [Chapter. 6, pg 165.]

The temptation to suggest that Dr. Burns speak for herself about daily drudgery is overwhelming. Clearly though, she is here and it remains easy to separate Rand's views from hers, for anyone who has read much Rand.

That last signals the only inherent danger in Goddess of the Market, but it's a minor one. Those wholly unfamiliar with Rand's novels and non-fiction will find a very unattractive Rand by looking through Burns' eyes. But few will approach her through a biography first and there are many counterweights readily available anyway.

So, for example, Burns writes: "Reviewers were right to notice that alongside its reverent depiction of capitalist heroes, Atlas Shrugged had a decidedly misanthropic cast." [Chapter. 6, pg. 172]

If to reverently depict inviolately honest, thinking producers as heroes and malevolent, statist parasites as villains is "misanthropic," this Rand fan can only wish for a great deal more misanthropy in literature, not to say the world.

If to believe that the statist parasites are all too prevalent and influential is "misanthropic," then the world of Atlas Shrugged — widely recognized today as uncomfortably like our current one — did us a service by predicting it, as a warning. As Rand explained not long after (when asked if Atlas Shrugged was prophetic or descriptive), one of her purposes in writing it was to prevent the prophecy from becoming a description.

It's at around this point in Goddess that the author really goes off the rails. As it progresses, we see less and less of Rand and more and more of Burns. She says, for example, (Chapter 6, pg. 172): Rand was "quick to divide humanity into world-shaking creators and helpless idiots."

Even given the essentialized — let's grant stark — view of the world presented in Atlas Shrugged, it's mysterious how the careful historian managed to overlook so many characters. No one would place in either group the bum on the train who talks with Dagny, the mother in Galt's Gulch, or any of dozens more minor characters who populate the novel. Eddie Willers is, if nothing else, the most obvious counter-example.

Outside the novel, considering Rand's frequent and decades-long praise for 'the average American,' Burns' error becomes completely inexplicable.

Those errors deepen as the book moves into its final chapters. In Chapter 8, the author makes a common claim. "Rand trumpeted her distrust of emotion in almost all her writing." [Pg. 225]

Setting aside that Dr. Burns seems not to have caught on to the method Rand used to create dramatic tension, it's curious how she reaches this conclusion. Rand had a definite view about the proper relationship — one could even say hierarchy — between reason and emotion. But to say she advocated repression — even inadvertently — is selective reading at best.

The closest examples that come to mind are a description of Rearden's "asceticism," or Dagny's thoughts during an early train ride when she could "just let herself feel." But this is a valid artistic tool — and contrasts brilliantly with their later sensuality during the affair.

That assessment certainly doesn't apply to Rand's philosophy, either, which is about as far from Puritanism as any could be. As is so often the case, Burns' reading seems to be a conventional one, and therefore misses Rand's take on the subject entirely.

A less generous reading of Goddess leads to the conclusion that, at least in later years, according to Burns, Rand was a sheer dogmatist. She says as much a little further on in Chapter 8: "There seemed to be two Objectivisms: one that genuinely supported intellectual exchange, engagement, and discourse, and one that was as dogmatic, narrow-minded, and stifling as Rand's harshest critic's alleged." [Pg. 235]

There are several examples throughout the book with this subjectivist tinge, of writing as if someone's view constituted reality. Fortunately, they're concentrated more near the end and even there don't burden the biography much.

Her view of Rand comes out clearly again when she says, "Rand could turn her charisma on and off at will, charming those who paid her proper homage while freezing out those that did not." [Pg. 235] Someone more inclined to admire Rand might translate this as "When she liked someone she was pleasant and friendly. When she didn't, she was indifferent."

In that form, Rand's attitude looks considerably more benign and it's hard to see the actual wording as a mere difference in style. That's revealed starkly in what is perhaps Dr. Burns' most illuminating statement. Talking about the period of the NBI lectures, she writes:

"The presence of Rand, a charismatic personality, was enough to tip Objectivism into quasi-religious territory, but Objectivism was also easy to abuse because of its very totalizing structure. There were elements deep within the philosophy that encouraged its dogmatic and coercive tendencies." [Chapter 8, pg 237.]

Putting it in the past tense doesn't let the author off the hook.

Let pass as just a matter of style that people, not philosophies, have tendencies. Here, Dr. Burns shows her tendency to the pragmatist philosophy clearer than anywhere else. We also see here — much more than with earlier hints in the book — with just what contempt the biographer views her subject and Objectivism.

Why she does is a little harder to divine, but it likely has much to do with this belief: "Although Rand celebrated independence, the content of her thought became subsumed by its structure, which demanded consistency and excluded any contradictory data derived from experience or emotion." [Chapter. 8, pg. 235]

How experience can include "contradictory data," Dr. Burns does not explain. Perhaps she's suggesting that data from reality (and emotions?) contradicted Rand's thought, which the philosopher — dogmatist that she was according to Burns — refused to consider. But that is just a guess. Vague, quasi-academic writing of that sort makes it impossible to be sure.

The interpretation of Rand's character she settles on is summed up in the Epilogue. Those who attended NBI lectures, she claims, would not be shocked by Rand's failings, apparently having seen them first hand. Yet, "to the outside world Rand emerged a deeply unsavory figure, manipulative, controlling, self-deceived, and wildly emotional despite her professed rationality." [Pg. 280]

If Dr. Burns disagrees with this view in the slightest she never says so, and most of the evidence points the other way. Regrettably, that point of view colors the entire biography. That, above all, is what nettles most — not the presence of criticism, which is here and there justified, but the near absence of high praise, which in the case of Ayn Rand and her work is wholly justified.

Nevertheless, whatever one thinks of Jennifer Burns' personal philosophy, or her evaluation of Rand as a person and thinker, her book offers a fairly comprehensive and detailed look at the life and work of Ayn Rand. It may not be the biography Rand fans could wish for, but it’s the best one so far, by far.

That, if anything, is what makes Rand's life — or at least its chronicling — "not a tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts."

[Note: The preceding review is pre-printed here by kind permission of Peter Cresswell, Editor/Publisher of Free Radical. It's scheduled to appear in the next issue.]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Will The Devil Get Her Due?

There's an item of interest in the news for those like me who have long wanted to see a viable third-party candidate run for office. In New York's 23rd district Doug Hoffman is facing off in a close race against Republican Dede Scozzafava (along with Democrat candidate Bill Owens) in a special election.

Normally that would probably be of little concern to Shaving Leviathan readers, but there are a few wrinkles in this case. To borrow a phrase from the mighty Mark Steyn, the Republican Party-anointed candidate isn't merely a RINO but a DIABLO (Democrat In All But Label Only).

She's ACORN friendly (her husband is a labor organizer) and drew support from the local Working Family Party, another Progressive organization. She supports card check and favors raising taxes over cutting spending, as demonstrated by her votes in the NY State Assembly.

Hoffman – while far from perfect, like conservative politicians in general – appears to be the only genuine sample in the race. He favors cutting spending before raising taxes, opposed the Stimulunacy Bill(s), opposes Cap and Kill, and generally wants to rein in the Feds.

That might normally be of only local interest; the House is already filled with statists of every persuasion, what's one more?

In this instance, Ms. Scozzafava exceeds even that loathsome norm. In a routine interview with Weekly Standard blogger John McCormack, the Republican candidate felt so intimidated by his questions she decided to call the police. Was his behavior threatening in any way? The police don't seem think so after routine questioning. McCormack was sitting in his car arranging to file his story when they approached.

Bad enough that the Republican Party would sponsor a candidate who has embraced so many Democrat positions. But, then, that's not exactly unprecedented. That Ms. Scozzafava would even think of using the police — after the interview was over — to harass a member of the press is really beyond the pale.

The only honorable thing to do would be to leave the race, if not politics all together. She can take time to think about her desired party affiliation before the general election next year. In the meantime, Doug Hoffman could be piling some sandbags in the way of the Leviathan wave. (Assuming he beat the Democrat, of course, likely since Republicans have taken that district consistently since 1874.)

Even if Mr. Hoffman doesn't win he'll have performed a valuable service, one pointed out in a wise statement I read recently. The purpose of third parties (an article discussing the Perot campaign said) isn't necessarily to win elections but to shake up the status quo and deliver a message.

It would be preferable to accomplish both, of course. If that's not feasible one thing is clear by now, though. It's time to stop supporting the Republican Party until or unless they support their supporters. I.e. they have to stop compromising and me-tooing the Democrats. They have to offer better candidates than creatures like Dede Scozzafava.

Even from a purely pragmatic perspective - even if one considers only the goal of winning – the Party leaders' actions make no sense. Republicans have lost elections at every level in attempting to water down their views (assuming they have any to begin with) in order to peel off moderate, Independent, or Democratic votes.

Whenever given the choice between socialism and socialism-lite the voters tend to take the real thing. I don't interpret that as their advocating socialism but simply respecting integrity and valuing consistency and honesty.

What's the point of having a Republican party at all if it's just a pale reflection of the Democrats? The only time that would be useful is if both parties stood staunchly for Madisonian principles. Then the choice would be simply which candidate could best realize those in action. Sadly, that's not the case today. The Democrats passed the point of no return around the time of the McGovern candidacy.

Loathsome as the current political leaders in D.C. are, there's a certain clarity their ascension has created that has spurred the Tea Party movement and related developments. All the RINOs accomplish is to water down - ultimately to the point of uselessness - any purpose the Republican party might still have. Republicans should stop trying to be the equivalent of homeopathic medicine and offer the real thing. They'll quickly find it's not really a bitter pill to swallow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Federal Dissonance

Sure, sure the Feds have offered so many contradictions the past year that the mind becomes numb. But sometimes they're presented in such stark fashion that they illuminate reality in a new way. Thus, these two iGoogle headlines hit my eye...
"White House to push for big pay cuts"

"House moves to create jobs, prevent economy from slipping
Washington Post"
Someday, if America continues as a free country for another generation or so, this sort of lunacy will become no more than a dismal memory. In the meantime, bloggers will have lots of new material every day. Here's hoping we become the Maytag repairmen of journalism asap.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The New American Wing of the Metropolitan

The Metropolitan art museum in New York, long one of the world's finest showcases for the finest art, has performed a makeover on its American Wing. While I miss the vegetation - and the Frishmuth that was among the finest sculptures they own appears missing - the re-design is stunning.

I plan to visit soon.

[Hat Tip to Daniel Wahl, of the nearby pen.]

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stimulus "Saved or Created" 30,000 Jobs

And at a bargain price of only $16 billion. (Or $339 billion; as usual the Administration is unclear.)

This, of course, was not only predictable, but predicted - by nearly every free market-oriented economist around.

You can't create jobs - which requires the accumulation of new capital - by removing it from Peter and giving it to Paul, with the Feds taking a slice in the middle. You also can't create wealth by simply printing money to make it appear that new wealth exists. Dollar bills are not wealth. They don't create goods and services. You can't create productive jobs by kicking the can down the road or distorting the market for housing, or by any of the dozens of other tragically popular methods employed by the Federal Government.

But, by golly, you sure can claim credit for doing so, by simply pretending that the laws of economics are infinitely malleable.

Big Brother Is Nagging You take your medicine.

One of the most personally intrusive things — and I mean that to refer to everyone in general, not to my individual inclinations — is the way Progressive politicians never stop nagging people to "do good." The latest incarnation of that smiley-face Fascism is the government's burgeoning campaign to tout "service" over the public airways.

The Administration is planning during the week of October 19-25 to use 60 network TV shows to "spotlight the power and personal benefits of service." If they've come up with a more diseased idea this year, I haven't heard it. And, naturally, the contagion won't stop after Halloween, appropriate as the nearness of that annual food poisoning festival may be.

It's enough to make anyone sick.

"Service to others" is at best an ambiguous notion. In a setting of trade it makes complete sense. Provide a value to others and they will reward you. In the hands of a coercive government — and, in the end, there is no other kind — the meaning is much more ominous.

This infection was first foisted on the public (in recent times) by Rahm Emmanuel, the Congressional Chicago bacterium who slithered into the White House along with the current virus occupying the Oval Office. The campaign has been incubating for months and now is staged to become an epidemic.

The disease vectors would very much like to pretend, of course, that it's all just traditional American volunteering, not modern Nazi-injected plague. But the symptoms are obvious to all except those who are in denial. Rahm even announced before the election his belief that every citizen should be forced to spend a few months doing activities he dictated as healthful.

Expect subtle, and not so subtle, propaganda whose method consists of equal portions of guilt (the stick) and appeals to mushy altruism (the Norwalk-laden carrot*). Neither is good for you. Doctors not yet fully enslaved by the Feds suggest avoiding all network TV that week.

Better still, get inoculated by some good philosophy. The shots are painless and the immunity lasts a lifetime.

*The Norwalk family of viruses are the leading cause of food poisoning.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creeping Viro Totalitarianism

For anybody who still wonders just how deeply embedded in our culture is the Green machine, I dedicate this little item...

I recently researched a number of HDTVs and discovered something new at the bottom of CNET's reviews. In the specifications section, underneath the EPA Energy Star Compliant indicator is a Greenpeace Policy Rating. I try to avoid swearing in a public venue but I can't help but ask "What the **** is any statement by a rabid environmentalist group doing on a television review?"

Sure, CNET is owned by CBS, so one can expect a leftist slant here and there. But it's a sign of just how advanced is the spread of the viro contagion that it has now infected articles about high-definition TV sets.

One of the hallmarks of totalitarianism is that collectivist, statist propaganda seeps into every tiny nook of personal life. The editors at CNET, if they have any decency left, should remove this vile atrocity forthwith and not contribute to the incipient trend.

Bad enough that Wikipedia has been overrun by viro thugs (to the extent that even an article touting the giant Swiss Re insurance company contains a paragraph blathering about their greenhood). But when sites devoted to technology, of all things, being to grow such visible polyps it's time for major surgery.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Largest Theft In History

Say what you will about the U.S. Federal Govt, it does things in a big way.
CBO estimates that the federal budget deficit was about $1.4 trillion in fiscal year 2009, $950 billion greater than the shortfall recorded in 2008.
[CBO Monthly Budget Review. (pdf warning) Hat tip Veronique de Rugy at NRO's The Corner.]

Ok, I'll drink the utilitarian Kool-Aid for a moment (making sure to have the antidote ready at hand). What did we get for that money? I know that if I list the answers I'll have a stroke, so it's left to the reader as an exercise.

Hint: Here are two of the chief villains:
"Almost half of the spending increase—$245 billion—resulted from outlays for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and net payments to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In addition, CBO estimates that spending increases and revenue reductions stemming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) totaled almost $200 billion this year (excluding the impact on the budget from ARRA’s effects on the economy).

Not-So-Random Thoughts on Obama-style Moral Dissonance

"Taliban claims responsibility for Kabul suicide blast" (CNN Headline)


"Taleban can be involved in Afghanistan future" (London Times)
Mr Obama appears to have been swayed in recent days by arguments from some advisers, led by Vice-President Joe Biden, that the Taleban do not pose a direct threat to the US and that there should be greater focus on tackling al-Qaeda inside Pakistan.
I'm more and more these days haunted by a line from the Dustin Hoffman film, Little Big Man: "Sometimes, life is jus' too ridikolous ta be believed."

Imagine even the very left-of-center FDR during WWII saying the Nazis could be "involved" in Germany's future. Imagine Truman, not exactly a right-winger, calling off all of MacArthur's efforts to de-Shintoize Japan.

Last, but nowhere near least, Obama has known of the electoral vote tally since early November, 2008. What the frack is he doing a solid 11 months later pondering strategy, when nothing in Afghanistan or Pakistan has changed substantially in that time?

The mind boggles when it looks to America's future.