Friday, January 28, 2011

Big Government and the iGeneration

Michael Barone noticed what is perhaps impolite to mention, viz. that the current Democratic leadership is really, really old (”Wily Old Dems take on Whippersnapper Republicans“).

The ages of the ranking Democrats on the Appropriations, Ways and Means, Education, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary committees are 70, 79, 65, 71, 70, 69, and 81. The three party leaders are 70, 71, and 70.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with that on its own. But he adds that their generation thinks of the country's business based on an outdated model that he calls “Big Unit America.” It is a country controlled by big government, big business, and big labor. We saw it in the 111th Congress. Huge stimulus package to move the economy. Prop up the unions with card check. One big health care insurance system to cover everyone (eventually).

It struck me, however, that this view is entirely out of step with this Internet formed, emerging generation who, in my Worldmag column, I call the iGeneration ("The Politics of the iGeneration").

While it is true that younger voters are still breaking for the Democrats, as they grow up and put life and politics together they will find that the Big Unit view of the world is not theirs. The younger generation values personal control of their lives, and this priority is driven by technology. They have personal settings and privacy settings for everything. They are used to having My-this and My-that. Niche news and information sources on the Internet have replaced the big three networks of the 1970s. They are used to being heard (or at least thinking they’re being heard) through everything from blogs and comment threads to the widely publicized chatter of social network sites. Centralized, bossy, deaf bureaucracies will not be their thing. It’s not how they roll.

These are people who design their own Converse high-tops online before they buy them.

What will this young generation expect in place of centrally planned, centrally administered government health care, for example? It will be precisely what John McCain advocated (but tepidly, and explained poorly) during the 2008 election: consumer-driven health care.

See my 2008 post on it: "Hope for the Health Care Mess." That comes with links to Regina Herzlinger's three books on the subject.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Way to Greatness

Barack Obama is fixated on solar panels. In his presidency so far, he has had two momentous speeches. The first was his Gulf oil spill speech, and the second was this State of the Union speech, momentous only because he made it so by his declaration of our Sputnik Moment. (You might say that I've forgotten about the Arizona massacre speech, but I think that the event and the speech will slip everyone's mind before long.)

In both cases, he made trivial green energy initiatives the focus of our attention. In his first oval office address when he talked to us about the national crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, he used the occasion to underscore the importance of energy efficient windows and solar panels. In his second SOTU address, he brought us back to the same fierce urgency. Solar Shingles.

This is not the interstate highway system or the Apollo space program.

Daniel Henninger is also puzzled by this hip leftist "obsession" that distracts the president from the matters at hand. ("A Presidency to Nowhere," WSJ, Jan. 27, 2011)

So what explains this?

(A) Unlike Bill Clinton who genuinely turned to the center after his midterm defeat, our president is a true believer, i.e. an ideologue. He can't think any other way.

(B) Henninger says he wants to just run out the clock for two years pretending to be bipartisan with the GOP and of one mind with the electorate.

(C) He is the anti-colonialist that Dinesh D'Souza says he is, and all this solar panel as national everything-policy is a way of weaning America off of everyone else's stuff.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!

To paraphrase what for some reason is an iconic Brady Bunch line, "Well, all day long in the media I hear how dangerous Sarah Palin is this way or how ignorant Sarah Palin in that way! Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!"

Kay Hymowitz looks at how Sarah Palin embodies the new feminism that drives the old feminists into a fury. Perhaps what we're seeing is just a culture-wide heresy trial.

When Sarah Palin took the podium in St. Paul to accept her nomination for the vice presidency in September 2008, calm and collected feminists might have recalled the old saw: Be careful what you wish for. Here she was, an ambitious political woman with the sort of egalitarian marriage that would put the Swedes to shame. Here she was, a charismatic, working-class heroine who oozed folksy provincialism with the naturalness of Lyndon Johnson in the same breath as she cheered her Hillary Clintonesque assault on the “glass ceiling.” Yes, here she was—clinging to her guns, her religion, and her babies, and saying, and apparently believing, all the wrong things.

Read it at in "Sarah Palin and the Battle for Feminism."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slaying ObamaCare for Liberty's Sake

In this column, "In with the Constitution, Out with ObamaCare," I explain what limited government is, i.e., our system of government, and how the Democrats violated all three principles of it when they passed ObamaCare.

Opponants of H.R.2, "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Act," say it is meaninglessly symbolic because the Democratically controlled Senate won't take it up. I argue that it is meaningfully symbolic and a good use of House time.

Every elected representative takes a solemn oath to defend the Constitution. Yet, judging by what they do, not by what they say, Democrats these days don’t seem to believe in any of these features of limited government. If the purpose of government is not simply to praise what is good among the people (1 Peter 2:14) but to provide for the people’s good itself, then to limit the government in any way is an act of hostility toward the people.

Apparently, the people don’t see it that way. That’s why this week, in response to unambiguous popular demand, the Republican majority in Congress, perhaps along with some keen-eared Democrats, will send a message to the upper house and the president about limited government and liberty.
The bill to repeal passed the House "245-189 with three Democrats -- Reps. Mike Ross, Dan Boren and Mike McIntyre --joining the Republican effort," Fox News reports.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The House Stands for Law and Liberty

It's like Congress went poking into the sides of a sofa and found the Constitution that people once talked about. 2011 is America's Josiah moment (2 Chronicles 34), if I may put it that way.

George Will celebrates this in his column, "A Congress that Reasserts Its Power" (Washington Post, January 16, 2011).

The eclipse of Congress by the executive branch and other agencies is Congress's fault. It is the result of lazy legislating and lax oversight. Too many "laws" actually are little more than pious sentiments endorsing social goals - environmental, educational, etc. - the meanings of which are later defined by executive-branch rule-making. In creating faux laws, the national legislature often creates legislators in the executive branch, making a mockery of the separation of powers. And Congress makes a mockery of itself when the Federal Register, a compilation of the regulatory state's activities, is a more important guide to governance than the Congressional Record.

Unfortunately, courts long ago made clear that they will not seriously inhibit Congress's scandalous delegation of its lawmaking function to others. So Congress should stop whining about the actions of the EPA (emissions controls), the FCC ("net neutrality"), the Interior Department (reclassifications of public lands) and other agencies and should start rereading Shakespeare: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." 

Barney Frank's view is that Congress should do whatever it darn well pleases, and if the courts have a problem with it, they'll say something. But Will sees the courts, those guardians of the tablets, as having failed in their duties.

Regarding the relevance of the Constitution, you must remember this: Rep. Nancy Pelosi, asked about the constitutionality of the health-care legislation - a subject now being seriously litigated - said, "Are you serious? Are you serious?" She was serious. She seriously cannot comprehend that anyone seriously thinks James Madison was serious when he wrote (Federalist 45), "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined." Unfortunately, for too long too many supine courts have flinched from enforcing the doctrine of enumerated powers, and too many Congresses have enjoyed emancipation from that doctrine. So restraint by the judiciary must be replaced by congressional self-restraint. 

This may sound strange, but it looks like it is Congress to the rescue for liberty. Interesting, isn't it, that it is never the Senate to the rescue. In 1994 and 2010, it was the lower house of the popular branch.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Our Peaceful Though Blustery Republic

What amazes me is that, for all our rugged, gun slinging, individualism, and despite the deep political divide of the last quarter century that is only getting deeper, we have had no political violence, to say nothing of assassination attempts. Things got pretty heated while George W. Bush was president.

Bin's Corner, a comedy sharing site, documents the violent rhetoric and gestures directed against the hanging chad, 9/11 president in "Death Threats Against Bush at Protests Ignored for Years". This site includes a link to the mockumentary, "Death of a President" in which the film simulates George Bush's assassination with sickening realism. He also includes an image from The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn in which the comedian had superimposed the words "snipers wanted" over George W. Bush's nomination acceptance speech in August 2000. Even Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) himself let slip the lingua Democratica of political assassination on the Bill Maher show in 2006.

By contrast, in the 1960s we had several actual assassinations and attempts: President Kennedy, his brother Bobby, Martin Luther King Jr, and then spilling over into the 1970s, attempts on Gov. George Wallace and President Ford...twice!

Notice that the violence of that decade was not a spill over from the Vietnam conflict. We've had wars before and since without domestic spillover. It was the political left, in particular the New Left, that brought violence to the streets and anger to the culture. So Sara Jane Moore, a radical child of their revolutionary counter-cultural movement, explained her attempt on President Ford's life, saying, "I'm not sorry I tried, because at the time it seemed a correct expression of my anger."

Since that time, assassination has not struck any of the most politically angry as the correct expression of their anger. Reagan's would be assassin, John Hinckley, was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster. He was crazy. No one took a shot at Bush the elder, at Clinton, or at W (though an Iraqi threw a shoe at him overseas). Obama has been perfectly safe.

You would not know this given the frantic alarm over "the rhetoric of violence and hate" that has been spewing from the now largely embarrassed left (or at least largely silenced, except for Paul Krugman) since the Tuscon shootings.

My column at this week addressed that. ("The Rhetoric of Violence and Hate," Jan. 12, 2011)

Some revealing ironies came out if the "national conversation," so to speak. But Andrew Klavan at City Journal, ("The Hateful Left") writes, "The Left—which has been unable to discover any common feature uniting acts of Islamist violence worldwide—nonetheless instantly noticed a bridge between the Tucson shooting and its own political opponents."

In a similar vein, "Sawgunner" in one of his comments under my column remarks, "In years past H’wood types and their lib allies repeatedly re-assured us that graphic music videos, violent video games, misogynistic song lyrics IN NO WAY SHAPE FORM OR FASHION could ever influence anyone’s thoughts or conduct.But conservative talk radio?"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wallis Won't Give Up

George Will has suggested that in time of national tragedies of the sort that happened in Tuscon we should have a moratorium on sociology. ("The Charlatans' Response to the Tuscon Tragedy," Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2011)

We have all come close to dying of a surfeit of sociology. The reasons for this bizarre behavior were obvious to some, even to our sociologist laureate, the Pima County Sherriff, Mr Dupnik.

So they quickly popped off on "the [Republican, conservative] rhetoric of violence and hate" as put it, and, as Will documents it, "The Tucson shooter was (pick your verb) provoked, triggered, unhinged by today's (pick your noun) rhetoric, vitriol, extremism, "climate of hate.""

Jon Stewart rejects the pop sociology, too. People want to comfort themselves by drawing a straightline at times like this between the horrific event and a particular social cause. Change the cause (e.g., control or ban the rhetoric), and the bad thing will never hanppen again. But "you can't outsmart crazy."

Perhaps I'm sheltered in the quiet glen of conservative news and opinion sources, but I think that the rhetoric issue is settling down. (Has the president had a role in this. I haven't noticed the post-partisan uniter of the nation playing a significant role in it. But I hope that wasn't uncivil of me to notice.) People who rhetorically went over the top on rhetoric that goes over the top are being shamed into silence.

Of course, far be it from my brother in Christ Jim Wallis to be shamed into silence! Here he is with the Peace and Civility Pledge asking me to repent for my role in what Loughner did. Let’s not call anyone evil, he says. Reagan called the Soviets evil, and the left had a fit. How uncivil! But it is not uncivil to call evil by its name. But one should be careful in doing so, and provide strong arguments for one’s claim. That upholds reason as the basis for political discourse, and strips political evil of its rhetorical cover.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jon Stewart's Good Sense

National tragedy brings us together and clears our heads to show how much more we have in common than separates us.

Jon Steward reminds us of that in this monologue.

I picked this up from the WSJ website.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Political Rhetoric of Violence

In City Journal, Andrew Klavan has given us a fine retort to the leftist narrative that the Giffords assassination attempt by a mentally insane reader of Marx and Hitler was made possible by conservative and republican complaining about the size of government ("The Hateful Left").

But while little useful can be said about the murders themselves, the rush to narrative of our dishonest and increasingly desperate leftist media does have to be addressed. The Left—which has been unable to discover any common feature uniting acts of Islamist violence worldwide—nonetheless instantly noticed a bridge between the Tucson shooting and its own political opponents. The Chicago Sun-Times ran a slavering editorial blaming “the right.” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson suggested that the killings were inspired by right-wing rhetoric. Politico’s Roger Simon did the same.

Where is all this assassination rhetoric on the right? Share your stories.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Youngters, The GOP, and the Political Future

Speaking of aging boomers, liberals, and dance show hosts, and the march of time,  Michael Barone brings to our attention today the droopy, silver haired antiquity of the House Democratic leadership in the new Congress. ("Wily Old Dems take on Whippersnapper Republicans," January 6, 2011) The GOP landslide in the 2010 midterm election brought a lot of young Republicans into the House, swept some young Democrats out, and left the liberal Old Bulls in the same seats they have occupied for thirty and forty years or more.

Democrats like to think of themselves as the young party, the party of new ideas. And in 2010, they remained the choice of the youngest voters, though by only half the margin in 2008.

But when you look at the top Democrats in the House, you don't see young faces. The ages of the ranking Democrats on the Appropriations, Ways and Means, Education, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees are 70, 79, 65, 71, 70, 69 and 81. The three party leaders are 70, 71 and 70.
Think of the implications of the "Big Unit America" view of the country that these Old Bull liberals hold and that Barone describes, and of the "personal preferences" and "privacy settings" view of the world that the rising generation has (to say nothing of fast and efficient delivery). Where is the political future and which party is philosophically better positioned to seize it?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dick Clark and the Baby Boomers

On New Year's Eve, we broke from watching the Marx brothers to ABC for that ball dropping in Times Square. (Isn't it interesting the way some of us celebrate the new year by watching other people celebrate the new year?) When suddenly, moments before midnight, Ryan Seacrest sent us over to Dick Clark.

Forgive me for not following the man's ups and downs, but apparently he suffered a stroke in December of 2004 and has been recovering slowly but aggressively since then. I read that ABC had him on last year but got his numbers jumbled in the countdown. But he appeared to be in fine shape this year, though with a gravelly voice and a reluctant tongue. He seemed sharp, and his arms and hands were gesturing as though nothing were wrong.

It was clearly a great personal accomplishment for him. His wife (third, married since '77) gave him what seemed to be a more-than-New-Year kiss and hug. He's 81 and a stroke survivor, and he carried off his duties like he was 45. But that was the showman giving it his all. Breaking away from the street level celebrations, the camera then caught him momentarily, though accidentally of course, fumbling, feeble, and looking very much his 81 years or older. (Dick starts at 3:20, the kiss is at 4:17, and the awkward fumbling is at 4:05.)

In "Growing Out of our Cult of Youth," I take the man who has always been a metaphor for the baby boom generation and I view him as a metaphor for their cult of youth, their unwillingness to age gracefully and face the beauty of maturity and the inevitability of death and judgment. Ironically, the relentless passage of time, which the new year marks every January 1, is precisely what Clark and his bommers resist recognizing.

Coincidentally, The New York Times tells us that the boomers have started retiring. (“Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65”) That article cites a new Pew Research Center study of the boomers.

The 79-million-member Baby Boomer generation accounts for 26% of the total U.S. population. By force of numbers alone, they almost certainly will redefine old age in America, just as they've made their mark on teen culture, young adult life and middle age.
But don't tell Boomers that old age starts at age 65. The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn't begin until age 72, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey. About half of all American adults say they feel younger than their actual age, but fully 61% of Boomers say this. In fact, the typical Boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.
As they approach or enter old age, they are reportedly, by and large, bummed with life. Perhaps they're sorry that Nancy Pelosi couldn't realize even more of their sixties dreams.

As for Dick Clark, the Dorian Gray many boomers see in each of their mirrors, I write,

Like the generation he has hosted for the last 50-some years, Dick Clark has not aged gracefully as a grand old man does. In fact, he has defined himself against it. Though not himself a baby boomer, he has spent his life preening, tucking, and tanning to preserve himself the way we’ve always remembered him.

None of us thought that the living were able to have themselves embalmed until we saw this guy.

But on the boomers’ last New Year’s Eve before retirements start, the man who seemed to embody their hope of living “forever young” flashed—unintentionally it seemed—the reminder that, like the irresistible advance of each new year, death comes to all men (Romans 5:12).
I saw the aged Dick Clark as not heroic but tragic, still clinging to youth that has left him long ago, as it leaves all of us. But it makes way for something better: maturity, and the "gray hair" that is "a crown of splendor," especially when it accompanies growth in "righteousness" (Prov. 16:31).

I expect one day to see most boomers clinging just as pitifully to their phony vigor as they play air guitar to their classic rock tunes in hip retirement communities, yet bummed just the same because though they taught the world to sing in perfect harmony, the world just went on as it always has.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Constitution. A Novel Idea.

Cato's Roger Pilon has an encouraging article in the Wall Street Journal today, "Congress Rediscovers the Constitution." It is also a fine little primer Progressivism, how we lost the rule of law in America, and how we can get it back.

The Republicans will begin the 112th Congress with a salutary gesture which should become a tradition: they will read the entire Constitution on the House floor. Hurrah! But it gets better. They have introduced a new procedural rule "requiring members to cite the specific constitutional authority for any bill they introduce."

What is interesting is Barney Frank's dismissive response to this requirement. "It's an air kiss they're blowing to the tea party." Well, he's got one thing right. Bringing our government back under the rule of the Constitution is certainly the heart of what the Tea Party movement has been demanding. There is nothing in that that is "extreme" or "racist" or any of the other things that liberal Democrats like Frank have said characterizes the Tea Party movement.

But his quip also reveals what utter contempt he has for the Constitution in particular and for limited government in general. Given that, I am not going too far in calling him a revolutionary and a traitor.

We heard the same things from Speaker Nancy Pelosi when the San Francisco liberal controlled the House. When asked where in the Constitution she found the authority to require people to buy health insurance, she responded with incredulity, "Are you serious? Are you serious?"

Perhaps you remember Illinois Congressman Phil "I-don't-worry-about-the-Constitution" Hare (D-obviously) from my post "Political Evil This Way Comes."

Speaking of traitors, in laying that charge I am picking up from where I left off in an earlier post, "We Are Engaged in a Great Civil War." That comes with a reading list and a list of helpful websites.

Today's Journal also has a related and hope inspiring (yup, we got hope! and maybe change too!) editorial, "Rules for Smaller Government," that explains some new House rules that will make it harder for this Congress to tax and spend, replacing rules from previous Congresses that made it harder to cut taxes and easier to spend freely.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Boomers Head for the Sunset

Well, it's 2011. The baby boomers start turning 65.

This is what the New York Times reports today in "Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65."

According to the Pew Research Center, for the next 19 years, about 10,000 people “will cross that threshold” every day — and many of them, whether through exercise or Botox, have no intention of ceding to others what they consider rightfully theirs: youth.

Move over. The boomers are here, and they're not thinking of you. (Have they ever?)

Another Cheer for Regress

I would like to start the new year off by posting the link to George Will's recent James Madison lecture at Princeton, "Can Someone from the Class of 1771 Save the Nation from Someone from the Class of 1879?" Will himself is someone from the class of 1968. This is a video of the lecture. I have not found the transcript on the web.

This lecture is another of his serious assaults against the Wilsonian progressive project that President Barack Obama and Pelosi & Reid's 111th Congress have trampled the Constitution and loud and clear expressions of public opinion to advance these last two years.

This lecture follows upon but does not repeat his Cato Institute Milton Friedman Prize lecture, "Not a State Broken People" in which he introduced the metaphor of the two Princetonians.