A Modest Proposal on Murder

Today, in response to the UCC shootings, Hillary Clinton resurrected that old chestnut, making gun manufacturers liable for the misuse of their legal product.  She would allow the families of murder victims whose killers used a gun to sue the gun manufacturer for damages.

It’s a gun ban by another name, since no manufacturer would be able to afford the liability insurance required to stay in business.  And if you think this would end with the manufacture of guns, think again.  Gun ranges, gunsmiths, gun retailers (who are federally-licensed) would soon find themselves covered, making the transfer, sale, and repair of firearms effectively illegal.

The proposal is silly on the face of it.  Guns can be used for many purposes, almost all of them lawful, safe, and beneficial.  Guns are used for self-defense in this country every day.  As has been repeatedly mentioned, even as gun ownership has soared, crime rates, including the murder rate by guns, has plummeted.

But as long as we’re at it, let’s understand that while slightly fewer than half murderers use handguns, many use knives or blunt objects such as hammers.  If the goal is to reduce actual murder, rather than to simply get guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, we should, by logic, allow the families of murder victims whose killers used hammers or steak knives to sue those manufacturers, as well.  In 2014, 71 people were murdered by fire.  We should then allow those families to sue match manufacturers.

Eighty-nine people were murdered by strangulation.  Strangling someone with one’s bare hands is hard; an object is usually used.  Clearly, the manufacturers of electrical cord, rope, belts, and other clothing should be liable.

In Israel, Palestinians have recently taken to driving cars into Jews standing at bus stops.  Were such a practice to become common here, the auto manufacturers should be held liable, as well.

Obviously, the economy would grind to a halt within minutes of such laws being passed, indeed, long before they actually became law, as retailers and manufacturers scrambled to get out of these suddenly-risky businesses.  But in principle, there’s nothing different between holding Ginsu responsible for the murderer who uses its kitchen knife and Glock responsible for the breakdown of social order in Chicago.

Despite having lost the gun control debate, Democrats holding and running for the White House continue to try to make a partisan issue out it.  The issue always fades away because the media and the Washington Democrats never learn that this isn’t a partisan issue anymore, with most Americans resisting new gun laws.

There are three former state senators here in Colorado who could remind them, though.

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Podcast Experiment

One of my fondest desires has been to produce a This American Life or RadioLab, only for free-market and conservative ideas.  Thanks to Stacy Petty, I’ve actually been given a chance to do this.

In one of his own podcast interviews, Dan Carlin of Hardcore History fame says that his goal has been to produce, for radio, a long-form edition of what a newspaper column would look like.  That’s kind of what I’m aiming for here, as well.  Edited, polished, but also using the illustrative and mood-setting background sound that radio give you, but newspapers don’t.

It’s unclear exactly what the format will be going forward, but here’s the first attempt, discussing PERA, the forthcoming State Auditor’s report on an early warning system, and small planes.  It runs 10:30, but I’m hoping to bring future editions in at exactly 10:00.



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It’s Not Just Separation of Powers – It’s Also Federalism

Facebook friend of mine Ken Gardner is fond of saying that a fair number of people who think they’re dissatisfied with Boehner and McConnell are really dissatisfied with the separation of powers.  After all, any real change requires legislation, any legislation can be vetoed, and the Democrats in the Senate have proven that they won’t even let it come to that, with their abuse of the filibuster over the Iran deal.

However, federalism plays as big a role as separation of powers.  Our senators and representatives are from specific states and district, which can look very different from each other.  In this respect, we are strikingly different from parliamentary democracies, even those such as Canada and the UK, where national slates really rule roost.  In Will Mrs. Major Go to Hell?, William F. Buckley tells the story about a married couple, she from Massachusetts, he from Virginia.  They discussed politics often, but never party registration.  Turns out he was a Democrat, and she was a Republican, which came as a surprise to both of them.  He being so conservative, she had assumed he was a Republican.  She being so liberal, he had assumed she was a Democrat.  Lots of fighting over that, apparently.

Those regional differences persist, even after the Great Reshuffling that began in earnest with the 1994 Congressional elections.  The map that decorates this post, showing a broad swath of Republican legislative control across the country, masks a broad range of opinion and viewpoints.  The Michigan and Wisconsin governments are run by Republicans, but I will promise you they are very different from Alabama and Mississippi.

That’s fine when you’re dealing with state issues.  It comes into collision in Congress, where these regional Republicans have to sit in the same body.
When I was growing up, southern Congressional Democrats, who often voted conservatively, were referred to as “boll weevils,” while their northern liberal Republican counterparts were the “gypsy moths.”  And it’s worth remembering that while Jesse Helms couldn’t have gotten elected in Minnesota, or Rudy Boschwitz in North Carolina, they both voted for the Reagan tax cuts.

What made it different was the “Reagan” part.  Yes, the president has the veto power, but he also has the bully pulpit, and is the only office-holder elected by the entire country.  He can set the agenda and give the party focus and direction in a way that it’s almost impossible for Congressional leaders to do.

There’s no question that Obama has broken the basic political agreement between citizens and the government:

Barack Obama has become the transformational president he aspired to be. Among the things he has transformed is the nature of the political compact between the rulers and the ruled in our republic.

Before Obama, citizens hoped that their elected leaders would be wise, independent, and disinterested leaders—but they never really counted on utopian vision. What they banked on was that the people they elected would, at the very least, be self-interested vote-seekers—so that if voters started punishing politicians for a specific course of action, the politicians would abandon it.

The passage of Obamacare broke this arrangement. And the impending passage of the Iran nuclear deal, in the face of voter discontent will cement this new relationship as the norm. In both cases, Democratic law makers went along in processes that were highly irregular (the nuclear option for passage of Obamacare; no treaty ratification with Iran); with initiatives they largely disliked on the merits; that voters demonstrably disliked in polling; and that had (or are likely to have) negative outcomes not just in the real world, but in the political world, too. This sort of power dynamic is new in American politics.

There’s also no question that Boehner and McConnell have been slow to recognize this shift, even as their opposite numbers on the Democrat side conspired in the reduction of Congress to an adjunct of the executive branch.

Whatever Boehner and McConnell may have “let” happen, real change will not come through Congressional action.  It will have to wait for a Republican president, and even then, it will only happen with an energetic president committed to pushing legislation that devolves executive power back to Congress, reduces actual regulatory authority, and devolves federal power back to the states.  It’s why primaries matter.

Obama is more Marius than Augustus, and we will not find our way back with a Sulla of our own.  Sulla, of course, thought he was restoring the old order, but in the end, his lasting accomplishment was to establish a road map for future despots.

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Politics and the Pope

It would be unfair to say that this morning’s Papal speech to Congress has been the subject of immediate politicization, since that started even before the speech was given.

Lachlan Markay noted on Facebook how embarrassing it was to have pretty much everyone in Washington picking and choosing favored parts of the speech.  Michael Walsh (alias David Kahane) implored non-Catholics to just shut up about the Pope, since he’s not an American politician.

Markay is right, that the attempt to claim the Pope for one’s own side is a trivializing exercise, mostly to the politicians involved.  And Walsh is right that non-Catholics probably don’t understand Catholic doctrine very well.

That said, it’s pretty much an impossible situation for our political culture.

The Pope is a religious figure, which we tend to see as a non-political figure, who doesn’t fit neatly into American political categories.  At the same time, he’s giving speeches where he opines on manifestly political topics, in an inherently political town, including one to an inherently political body.  Not discussing these issues in a political context would be absurd.  And indeed, why does the Pope speak on these subjects if not to influence the real world debate?  Of course, that’s what he wants, and his means of doing do is to influence the moral framework through which Catholics see these issues.

To those who don’t like mixing politics and religion, though, the Papal visit a good reminder that almost all political arguments are inherently moral ones.  Virtually every question in the public arena today is cast as a moral matter – from health care, to the environment, to welfare, to foreign policy, is a moral question.  One of the reasons that conservatives tend to lose these debates is because we’re terrible at pointing out that our side has at least as good a moral argument as the allegedly caring Left.  (It’s actually a far superior moral argument, but for purposes of this post, we’ll settle for there being two sides to the coin.)

That doesn’t mean the government has to get involved in everything, or that it should be a sectarian tool. But even libertarians make moral arguments about policy – they just claim that it’s more moral to leave the government out of most things.  The case is a bit of a bank shot, but it’s got solid fundamentals – if capitalism raises people out of poverty, and if moral societies are more robust when mediating institutions are strong on their own, then a smaller government usually is more moral.

Where libertarians tend to lose out is when the judgment that the government shouldn’t be making moral calls leads them to complain about any moral judgments at all, and I’ve seen this happen – a lot.  Both Thomas Merton and Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik would agree that no man is an island, that societies exist in the real world, and that they only work when they can internally enforce moral norms.

There is also some slight difference between starting from Catholic doctrine and arriving at political conclusions, and working backwards to find support for your politics in religious thought.  The reporting on this Pope’s comments has been so truly awful that I really can’t tell how much of it is the press trying to co-opt the Pope for its lefty agenda, and how much really is organic.  Much of the criticism of Pope Francis comes from people who assume he’s doing the latter.

It’s the same problem as when rabbis talk about politics from the pulpit, making the Reform rabbinate the marketing arm of the Democratic Party.  Tradtional Judaism, which is to say, actual Jewish thought grounded in sources and Jewish law, is anything but socialist and redistributionist, anything but passive in the face of existential threats.

The fact that it, too, doesn’t fit neatly into contemporary party politics doesn’t meant that it doesn’t have something to say about contemporary controversies, or provide a framework that can inform the Jewish point of view on those subjects.  It’s why the work being done by the Tikvah Fund, which works in the other, proper direction, is so admirable.

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Who Do You Trust?

That was the name of a TV show back in the 50s & 60s, whose main claim to fame is launching the national career of a young star named Johnny Carson.  Carson would go on to actually be a guy who people trusted enough to invite into their homes almost every night for 30 years.

It’s also the name of the game when electing a President, to a degree we often don’t like to admit to ourselves.  We don’t govern the country by plebescite, and even if we did, a President would still be required to make a large number of major decisions for which he will only later be held accountable.  Part of the reason we put so much emphasis on intangibles is that we need to be able to trust the man (or woman) making those decisions.

Some of this does come down to philosophy.  There’s a principle in Jewish law that if you give someone a gold coin, but you tell them it’s a silver coin, they’re only responsible for taking care of it like a silver coin.  Why?  Because what’s important to you may not be important to them.  If you want something treated like a gold coin, you need to make sure that the person you’re giving it to values it that way.  It’s the reason that we demand that kosher supervisors keep kosher themselves.

In the same way, people who are passionate about a particular issue will want proof that a candidate is as sincerely intense (or intensely sincere) about it as they are.  If you really care about guns, then a comment like Ben Carson’s about not needing semi-automatics in a big city is a disqualifier.

If you really care about small government, then you want someone you can trust to be making the small decisions that reduce the power of the executive, and who’ll take on entitlement reform.  You want someone who invests his staff, from the cabinet on down, with that same zeal, and who is always guiding the budget, rule-making, and legislative processes in that direction.  You can’t measure that on a day-to-day basis.  You have a business to run, a job to do.  You need to trust that it matter to him (or her), and that what you don’t see is also going in the right direction.

It’s the main reason that – for President – I prefer governors to senators, and politicians to newbies.   What do they care enough about to keep, and what do they consider to be disposable?  Governors have to make decisions and run organizations, while senators have to run their mouths and cast votes.  Newbies may have opinions, serious opinion even, but they haven’t been tested in the crucible of tradeoffs and compromise that our system is built on.

And as difficult as things in Austin or Madison or Tallahassee or Columbus might be, they’re nothing like DC.   If you want real change – not just a return to normalcy that ratifies the wreckage of the last 8 years, but a real effort, against colossal pressures, to undo the damage wrought by this administration in virtually every area of our public life, then you need to trust that that person will be disciplined and energetic, as well as persuasive.

That sort of trust, as well as the 3 AM Phone Call-kind of trust, needs to be projected.  And as a voter, it requires judgment about character, discipline, and energy, as well as political philosophy and how deeply they’ve thought about the issues at hand.

Here’s what I think I know about the candidates so far.  The one guy I could trust on all counts just dropped out.  So much for Perry.  Trump has shown me that I can’t trust him.  Rubio and Fiorina have earned the right to convince me.  Fourteen months away from the election, six months away from our state caucus, that’s about all I’ll commit to for them.  I remain wary of Cruz, who I think would make a dynamite Supreme Court Justice, but who politically, seems to always have more of an angle than a plan.  Paul has shown me that I can trust him on foreign policy – to pretty much always be wrong.  Walker has pretty much shaken my trust in his instincts, at least in primaries, and will need to work to get it back.  Carson, I’d love to have over for a meal – I could trust him with my best china and most delicate stemware, as well as to provide entertaining, charming conversation.  And Kasich and Bush, I think I could trust to be solid men who wouldn’t do a lick to roll back Obamacare or reimpose sanctions on Iran.

One last word about Fiorina, since she’s the one non-professional I’m considering.  The reason she’s earned to right to persuade me is that she says most of the right things, is quick on her feet, but also projects being in control.  She also knows how to use her gender to advantage without beating you over the head with it, which I think is part of the reason she’d do well in the general – women don’t like Hillary; women do like Carly.  That said, there’s  danger there that she becomes the Republican gender-based version of the Democratic race-based Barack Obama: we get so swept up in the idea of electing a woman that we forget that we’re electing a real person we need to trust to make the right decisions.  We need to be sure of what we’re getting, and not let smoke get in our eyes.

Of course, people can also vote against not trusting someone.  I know people who bit their fingernails before voting for Nixon in 1972, hoping they did the right thing, and who did the same thing in 1976 with someone who made trust an explicit campaign theme, which would indicate some insecurity on the subject.  Many uneasily trusted Ronald Reagan in 1980, when the incumbent asked openly if we could “trust” him with his finger on the button.  By 1992, many had decided they couldn’t trust George H.W. Bush, and by 1996, decided they could trust Clinton politically, if not personally.  In 2012, Obama had lost the trust of many American Jews, and by 2015, I personally can’t see how he’s retained the trust of any.  (Whether or not that creates an electoral opportunity for the 2016 Republican nominee is also a matter of trust, something last night’s Ann Coulter tweets did nothing to help.)

In the end, trust is part of the reason that people get very testy when you criticize their chosen candidate: you’re not just discussing a person, you’re criticizing their own judgment, as well, and a personal bond the candidate has forged with them.  Which is why it shouldn’t be easily earned or easily given.

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CBC Is Just NPR, Eh?

In this long drive through the western provinces and the Yukon, radio is sparse and mostly FM, and I’ve been listening to a lot of CBC.

Basically, it’s NPR with slightly Ontario accents.   The production values of studio and phone interviews are identical.  The intonation, speech patterns, measured tone of voice are cloned.  Even the light-hearted, free-spirited political sketch comedy show (The Irrelevant Show) could be produced by Minnesota Public Radio but performed for a live audience in Alberta.

There’s one woman who hosts a culture show similar to Fresh Air, who sounds as though she grew up listening to Terry Gross and said, “I want to sound like that,” and spent her formative years practicing with a recorder.  There’s another, a news reader, who would easily retire the prize in the annual Korva Coleman Impersonation Contest, which, given the uniformity of both NPR and CBC anchors, might actually be a thing.

The politics are roughly the same – ranging from the center-left to the left, with a little hard-left and center-right thrown in for the appearance of inclusivity.  There’s slightly less emphasis on the racial and ethnic horrors of the past, but the source material is a little poorer there, though sexism real, imagined, and past, gets plenty of airtime.

And in case you were wondering, there’s always time to pick on Israel.  In a segment about whether or not candidates’ families and personal lives were fair game in their campaign ads (not attack ads, mind you, but their own ads), one of the examples was a Conservative candidate who had mentioned his being the child of Holocaust survivors.  This is a riding that’s 22% Jewish.  The ads were eventually pulled, and one of the panelists found that remarkable, since, and I’m paraphrasing, but not much, “up until now, the Tories have pretty much been no-holds-barred in going after the Israel issue with Jewish voters.”  Another show gave an approving nod to a pro-Palestinian version of Birthright Israel, which sends visiting Jewish youth to the West Bank for self-defense shaming.

Of course, from a Canadian point of view, NPR is just the CBC with slightly Midwest accents.  I’m not sure if anyone’s ever been asked, but it’s entirely possible that NPR consciously sees itself as the CBC of the South.  Certainly the CBC was well-established by the time NPR started doing All Things Considered in the 70s.  Also possible, but less likely, is that NPR sees itself as the BBC of the colonies, and ended up in roughly the same place as the CBC, albeit slightly more Americanized.

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Call Western Union

“If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” – Samuel Goldwyn

Much if not all of the Trump boomlet is fueled by a frustration with and distrust of a party establishment that seems not only cozy with progressives, but comfortable with progressivism.  Articles by both Reihan Salam and Glenn Reynolds have made this point, and it’s one that Mark Steyn has talked about.  Americans are happy to play politics between the 40-yard-lines.  Given a perpetual choice between 49-yard-lines, though, they rebel.

The problem is that this rebellion isn’t necessarily coherent, and is usually destructive.  In 1968, Democrats sent a message to Lyndon Johnson, and got Richard Nixon elected.  In 1992, Republicans sent a message to George H.W. Bush in the form of Pat Buchanan, and got Bill Clinton elected.

A close analogy is here in Colorado in the 2010 governor’s race.  Unpopular incumbent Democrat Bill Ritter decided not to run for re-election amid rumors of personal scandal.  The Republicans, with festering dissatisfaction at the “establishment” after losing marquee statewide races in 2004, 2006, and 2008, had a choice between stalwart conservative, but presumed establishment favorite, Rep. Scott McInnis of Glenwood Springs, and unknown, blank-slate, self-professed Tea Party businessman Dan Maes.  When fellow Republicans satisfied a personal vendetta by leaking allegations of plagiarism just before the primary election, many Republicans registered their complaints by either not voting for McInnis or voting for Maes, who squeaked by with a major upset win.

The other factor was a widespread, small-l libertarian-fueled distrust and honestly hatred of the party officials and party officialdom.  I was at Denver party breakfasts in 2008 when Dick Wadhams was raked over the coals by the Ron Paul people, and that resentfulness has percolated (and been stoked by the large-l Libertarians) ever since.  It certainly was around in 2010.

Maes, frankly, had no business being the nominee, and no business being a statewide candidate.  He had no idea what he was doing, no interest, apparently, in the nuts and bolts of an active campaign, no willingness to spend endless hours on the phone raising money.   And the Republican party blew as good an opportunity as we ever had in the Tea Party year of 2010 to reassert control over state government.

The current national dynamics eerily and scarily resemble those of 2010 here in Colorado.  Candidates actually capable of uniting the various factions of the party, or bringing a unique and valuable message, are getting shut out of the process because it’s All Trump All The Time.

While I remain convinced that there’s no way on God’s green earth the party will actually nominate Donald Trump as its presidential candidate, he’s sucking oxygen from as deep and talented a field as I’ve seen in my lifetime at the national level.

That depth, by the way, is also in large part the result of a 20-year effort to grow the party at the state legislative level.  It’s meant letting each state party find its way and find horses for courses, as the saying goes.  That’s resulted in Republican government in states as diverse as Michigan and Alabama, but it’s also meant that those state parties differ much more from each other than they might once have.  The only person capable of uniting a national party is a presidential candidate, and the nominating process is a means of having the debate to decide where we want to go nationally.

A political party is a coalition of diverse interests, but there are elements outside the party who can’t stand that fact, and would be perfectly delighted to see the national party dissolve into factional bickering and resentfulness.  There’s absolutely no good reason to let that happen, or to nominate less than our best this year.

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But What Did They Learn?

Ted Cruz supporters are seizing on comments made by Carly Fiorina at the time of the 2013 government shutdown to try to paint her as a tool of the party establishment.  Jake Tapper quoted her as saying:

“There’s no honor in charging a hill that you know you can’t take, only casualties, although Ted Cruz maybe got name recognition and money along the way,” said Fiorina. “But President Obama wanted this shutdown. And Ted Cruz played right into his hands.”

While Cruz himself has been silent on Fiorina’s remarks, his own recent comments on the Senate floor, where he took Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to task over both an Obamacare vote and a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank show that he maintains that leading the shutdown was the right thing to do.  Since it was his signature moment – much as Rand Paul’s filibuster to save us from the imminent threat of drone warfare on Main Street was his – it’s hard to see where he has any other choice.

He and they may think that, but ultimately, this was and remains a fight over tactics, not goals.  With the exception of Jeb Bush, I can’t think of another Republican candidate who doesn’t want to repeal Obamacare outright, and even Bush’s hedging is usually on the way to a discussion about what to do next, instead of leaving things as they were.  Cruz led the shutdown effort which was a polling disaster for Republicans, and could well have led to failing to take the Senate yet again, had the Obamacare and healthcare.gov rollouts not be such a train wreck themselves.

In my mind, while losing the fight was demoralizing, the shutdown tactic more or less resembled the famous Sidney Harris cartoon.  There was a start, and an end, but step 2 was always more than a little fuzzy; there was no chance that then-Majority Leader Reid was going to pass a bill on to the White House defunding Obama’s signature domestic legislation.  For Fiorina to say at the time that the shutdown played to Obama’s favor was to say no more than many others were saying at the time.  Revisiting what was a fight over strategy and trying to cast it as a willingness to accept the status quo may be clever – Fiorina will have to come up with a strong response to avoid looking defensive.  But I’m not sure that it’s good for the party.

For me, Cruz would earn a lot of points by at least realizing that the strategy was doomed, that it did indeed fail, and that the cry of, “It would have worked if only everyone had followed me,” fails to take into account reasons that Republicans might not have followed him.  Instead, I’d like to see him discuss why it failed, and what he learned from the experience.

Fiorina has a “What I learned from my failure” story of her own to tell from her signature career moment, and likewise, so far has been reluctant to tell it.  Fiorina’s tenure at HP was controversial, but appears to have been on the whole successful.  Nevertheless, she was fired by the board in what she describes as a “boardroom brawl,” where the knives came out after many years of making enemies at the company.

Fiorina’s strength thus far has been the ability to take negative questions and turn them on their heads, a skill that would be priceless in confronting Madame Hillary and her media minions in the general election campaign.  She’s tried to spin that as a result of making hard decisions, and no doubt that’s true.

But it’s only half the story.  Success usually breeds loyalty, not hostility.  And if her failure was one not of business but of politics, well, she’s running for president, not CEO.  She would also do well to discuss what went wrong, what she learned from the experience that would serve her in this most political of jobs.

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Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?

The 1962 Mets were awful, going 40-120.  They were so bad that Jimmy Breslin wrote a classic baseball book, Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?, describing manager Casey Stengel’s exasperation at his Amazin’ Mets.  In New York Baseball terms, the Mets were the Stupid Team, committing 210 errors and giving up 948 runs, 137 of them unearned.  The Yankees, by contrast, continued to be the Evil Team, winning another World Series, 4-3 over the Giants.

One gets the sense that, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” is the constant groan of the Republican managers in the stands of national politics these days.  Obama continues to chug along, reinterpreting or flat-out ignoring the law, Congress seemingly powerless to stop him.  Indeed, this Republican Congress seems to go along with his plans with dismaying regularity.  It’s understood that it would require  2/3 vote to overcome a veto, but they could at least put the Democrats on record as opposing common-sense ideas, force them to take some uncomfortable votes, and set the table for the eventual nominee with some vetos to complain about.  And confirming Loretta Lynch, on top of it.

Nevertheless, sometimes there’s more going on than a simple vote.  Steve Heyward over at Powerline, in a couple of posts, nicely dissects Mitch McConnell’s strategy regarding the execrable Export-Import Bank.  A powerful symbol of cronyism, it’s also know as the Bank of Boeing, since Boeing alone typically receives about 80% of its benefits.  It wasn’t tied to any other funding legislation.  It wasn’t a piece of some other appropriations or authorizations bill.  Killing it didn’t require a special vote. It just required doing nothing.  Which, shockingly, Congress did.

Killing it didn’t require a special vote.  Keeping it alive did.  And a special vote is just what Mitch McConnell organized, an amendment tacked onto an appropriations bill.  It passed overwhelmingly, and was sent to the House, where Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California pronounced it DOA.  The Senate will take up the House version of the appropriations bill after the August recess, without the ExIm Bank.

It should have been apparent that this was set up beforehand, in order to give cover to Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.  Boeing is headquartered in Chicago.  Kirk will be in a tight re-election race, and it would be nice to keep the Senate.  Nevertheless, the Republican grassroots, frustrated at so many other capitulations, screamed that McConnell was in the pocket of the cronies, and no better than the Democrats.  In fact, he had just managed to kill the bank while letting a vulnerable Senator take credit for trying to save it.  And yes, while people are aware of that, what would change the outcome is a change in the House, not the Senate, and there are probably few Republican pick-ups to be had in Chicago at this point.

Instead of recognizing that this was a win disguised as a loss, too many of the Republican peanut gallery assumed McConnell was actually trying to throw the game.  Personally, I think McConnell and Boehner have been way too easy, and way less aggressive than they need to be.  They’ve missed opportunities to pick winnable fights, put telegenic and capable spokesmen out there to make the case, and force the Democrats to take unpopular and irresponsible positions.  And who knows but that the crying over the ExIm Bank doesn’t actually give additional cover to McConnell’s gambit.

But we should also look at the long game sometimes.  McConnell didn’t get where he is by really being stupid.  And people are only going to elect a Republican president if they think the party is serious about governing.  (That last is why I would love to see Sen. Mike Lee of Utah be the Majority Leader in 2017.)  There’s plenty of stuff going on at the committee level where the Democrats and Obama don’t get their way.  Good luck, for instance, getting any more judges through.  There won’t be any more major initiatives, at least not legal ones.  And they are planning on passing a bill for Obama to veto that would start to reclaim some of the regulatory authority that Congress has given up over the years.  Ultimately, though, this just emphasizes the need for a Republican president, and one who’s energetic, and willing to devolve power back to Congress and to the states, which won’t be an easy task.

Sometimes, it’s not the leadership, but the party they’re trying to lead, who can’t play this game.

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Colorado to Pay for Drunken Artists Colonies

In what has to be one of the worst misappropriations of public funds since that study about why lesbians are fat, Colorado is going to sponsor “affordable housing” (sic) for artists in rural communities:

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the plan Monday at an artists’ community in Loveland. The governor says that the state will help sponsor a $50 million plan to create artist housing in nine rural communities, starting with Trinidad.

Why should Denver have all the bad public art?

The housing will have income caps. Artists who qualify for housing can’t make more than 60 percent of their area’s median income.

Well, at least we have some standards.

Private foundations are joining the effort. A state spokeswoman says it’s not clear how much of the $50 million will be paid by the government.

How about $0?  Does $0 work for you?

The program will have a generous definition of “artist.” The program will accept architects, filmmakers – even beer and liquor makers.

Gotta get those creative juices flowing somehow.

The argument we hear from the Democrats all the time is, “We need to have a conversation about what we want the government to do, and then fund it appropriately.” This is the sort of nonsense you get when you start from that end of the deal.  Of course when you start by asking, “What is it you want?” you end up with a wish list like me in a book store.  The phrasing completely hides the fact that you’re actually making choices – either about what the government will do with its limited resources, or with what you can do with your own.

Try ph
rasing it differently: “We need to decide how much we really want to pay for government, and then use that money appropriately.”  Aha, now it’s clear that there’s only so much money to go around, and if you want to spend your own money on this sort of thing, you’ll be paying for it before you fund your food, your mortgage, your kids’ education, and your retirement.

Naturally, the Democrats hate that part of the conversation, so much so that they try, every step of the way, not to let you have it.  They want to have the “What do you want us to do for you?” part of the discussion, and then, once you’ve committed to buying Pierre the Failed Art Student his rent and bitters, tell you how much it costs.  And when you decide maybe your dental bill is more important, they want to insist that, no, we’ve already decided that IPAs for Pierre are in the budget, and it’s no fair going back on that and changing the deal on poor Pierre, once he’s pulled up stakes and moved to Ouray.

It’s the main reason they hate TABOR so much.  Unless it’s a really good budget year, and the government just happens to have money sitting around burning a hole in its pocket, TABOR makes them actually ask you whether or not you want to pay for Pierre’s studio loft.

The next time someone comes up with a harebrained idea like this, the first question should be: “Instead of what?”

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