Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Great Republican Surrender: CPAC and the GOP's abandonment of social issues

Imagine you are a Republican living in the year 2027. CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, is having its national convention and straw poll for 2028 Republican presidential hopefuls. But markedly absent from speeches and discussion is any mention of free market principles. Few mentions of the problem of big government. Little or no rhetoric about over-burdensome taxation.

The Party is almost almost silent on economic issues.

If you think that sounds preposterous, then ask yourself whether, twelve years ago, you would have thought the Republicans would have almost entirely given up on values issues, which, along with free market economics and a strong national defense, was one of the three fundamental pillars of post-Reagan Republican policy.

If you bothered to watch the coverage of the 2015 CPAC convention you would have noticed a loud silence on what used to be one the Republican Party's major themes. Other than a few fleeting mentions of marriage and abortion, there was mention of nothing other other than economics and foreign policy.

Even when candidates were asked about where they stood on same-sex marriage, they punted—or sounded like they were. When Sean Hannity interviewed all the candidates who showed up for the event, only a few had even a well-thought out answer on the issue, but the eventual winner of the straw poll, Kentucky's Rand Paul, sounded as if he had heard the question for the first time, saying little about the federal courts declaring martial law on the issue and talking instead about the virtues of civil unions.

"I'm old-fashioned," he told Hannity, "I think marriage is between a man and a woman, but I'm also open in a sense that legally I don't think we should discriminate against people and that if people want to have a contract with another adult, there's no reason why the law should discriminate and prevent them from having benefits, or custody, or seeing people in the hospital, all that stuff can be arranged through contracts [between] adults."

This is the comment of someone who clearly is uncomfortable talking about the issue and all and really doesn't want to talk about it. Just imagine if someone ask him about free market economics. Would he say, "Well, you know, I'm a believer in free market economics, but I'm also open in the sense that there are circumstances in which the government needs to get involved in markets and I don't think we should be against that."

Not on your life.

In the same interview in which Paul declared himself a "constitutional conservative," he seemed to express little concern about the wholesale federal court takeover of state marriage policy in violation Supreme Court precedent.

The worst thing that could happen to the Republican Party is happening: Long charged by its Democratic detractors with not having a heart, Republicans are now doing their best to prove their point.

Say "Hello" to the Materialist Right: Republican politicians who have nothing to say about the most deeply-held convictions of Americans, who can no longer connect with their voters on issues of the heart, who cannot spare time in their analysis of the ills of big government to address the ills of the family.

The Republican Party's social policy agenda used to be marriage, the traditional family, and traditional values. In states like Kentucky this still survives, albeit in etiolated form. But the national party has dropped all three, and they have nothing to replace them with.

Am I saying Democrats are winning on social issues? I sure am. But the reason isn't because they have a better argument than the other side; the reason is that they bother to make an argument and the other side doesn't. It's easy to win a battle when the other side doesn't bother to show up.

The banner under which the Republicans are marching on social issues is a white flag.

It is a shallow cliché among the less politically astute that people vote their pocket books. The decisive refutations of this view are too long to catalog, but the would include at least the last two presidential elections. The dirty little secret in politics is that people don't really vote their pocket books: They vote their hearts, and the candidate who knows that and exploits it wins.

Barack Obama. Bill Clinton. Check it out.

The libertarians now controlling the Republican Party think they can win elections by doing a political heart bypass operation. Economic issues and criticisms of Democratic foreign policy are what they think will win them national elections. But it won't work. Ask Mitt Romney how this worked out for him.

If the choice is between a candidate who only appeals to the intellect of voters on the one hand, and one who appeals to their sentiments on the other, they will pick the second one every time.

The Republican Party has a huge constituency of cultural conservatives who are simply being ignored by Republican rhetoric. The current crop of candidates knows this and their strategy isn't hard to discern: They are willing to say the absolute minimum they can to keep these voters in the fold. And where else are they going to go anyway?

But the fact is they do have another place to go: Nowhere. That is, they can just sit out the election. This is what more than a few people did the last time around and it resulted in a second term for Obama, whose foreign policy missteps would, in any other world than the one Republicans have constructed for themselves, have been enough for him to be defeated.

There has not been a major party realignment in some time, but if you read history, you know that it does in fact happen periodically. If you look at polling data it is very clear that there is a huge plurality of voters that don't go along with the Elen Degenereses of the world. So substantial is it, in fact, that under any other circumstances it would be considered a situation to exploit. To Republicans, however, it has become an advantage to squander.

I have never been an advocate of a third party, but it is becoming increasingly clear that if Republicans don't recapture their cultural soul, they will unwittingly undermine their position as a viable party and produce, however unintentionally, a third party--one that probably couldn't win many elections, but could certainly decide them.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Gender Ideology Emperor Who Has No Clothes

Rod Dreher at the American Conservative today takes on the increasingly absurd gender ideology that dominates the popular culture and which has mesmerized otherwise intelligent people. Remarking on an article in The Weekly Standard about the triumph of this ideology among the cultural elite, Dreher says:
Future historians, I think, will look back on this decadent period as a time when our civilization lost its mind. But there’s a long way to go yet, and more disorder to introduce. Charlotte Allen, writing on “the transgender triumph,” explores how transgender activists have so co-opted the political and media class that any discussion, even among scientists and academics, of transgenderism that contradicts their preferred narrative is stigmatized, and even turned into a career-ender. As Allen documents, to contradict the activists, even if one is a transgender oneself, is to invite vicious, relentless attack. 
As I have pointed out before, we are all now under the obligation to nod obediently every time gay rights and transgender activists invent a new gender category, which seems to happen now on an almost weekly basis. limited only by the constraints of the English alphabet.

Where are all those people who regularly complain about the politicization of science when the gender ideology mavens create some new gender category and claim it has scientific justification? Where are the people who take each religious belief into their laboratories, boiling it over a low flame to see if it passes scientific muster? Where are the scientific skeptics to vet the increasingly preposterous claims of gender politics?

They are the ones in the audience, cheering as the Emperor displays his new clothes.

I will comment on the Weekly Standard piece this weekend, but hats off to Dreher, who is one of the few conservatives ... well, who are actually conservative for one thing, but who seems to possess the masculine equipment to point out how completely ridiculous all of this nonsense is.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

No, You're Not Like Ronald Reagan: Why most "conservative" leaders need to stop comparing themselves to the Gipper

I recently ran in to an old acquaintance and we got to talking politics. During the course of the conversation, I expressed disagreement with some policy position he had, which he said he believed in because he was a "conservative libertarian."

I winced at the historically oxymoronic expression, and thought of similar linguistic formulations, such as "square circle." I informed him that I was a traditional conservative in the mold of Russell Kirk.

"Who's that?" he said.

At this point, I made a mental note to write a blog post on old acquaintances I run into who think they are conservatives but who really aren't.

To say you are a conservative who doesn't know who Russell Kirk is is like claiming to be a baseball fan and never having heard of Babe Ruth, or a scientist who's doesn't know who Einstein was.

Let me state this plainly: If you think you are a mature conservative but you do not know who Russell Kirk is—or Edmund Burke or T. S. Eliot, then you are mistaken. You are not a conservative and you might as well face the fact. Look in the mirror. Admit it to yourself. This is the only way healing can begin.

Take off your Republican campaign buttons, put down your ghost written Sean Hannity book, stifle the delusion that Sarah Palin is the second coming of Margaret Thatcher (or for that matter whose name even belongs in the same sentence) and sit down for a minute. Use the pages from the Hannity book as cage lining for your parakeet—unless your parakeet has intellectual scruples that prevent him from deigning even to poop on them, in which case you should just throw them out.

And try to extricate from your mind the belief that culture doesn't matter and that an economic policy suffices for a political position, through surgical means if necessary.

For the benefit of the conservatively illiterate, Kirk was the author of the The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot, as well as the best modern statement of traditional conservative belief ever written: The Politics of Prudence. Michael Aeschliman called him "the most substantial American conservative man of letters of the last 75 years."

When you have finished reading these, read every other book Kirk ever wrote, especially The Roots of American Order (and if you can't handle that, then the short version of Roots, a book called The American Cause). In fact, there is a good introduction at National Review's website: "The Moral Imagination of Russell Kirk," by Michael Aeschliman.

And after that, sit down with an honest glass of bourbon (or, if you are Islamic—the only historically valid reason to be a teetotaler, a glass of water) and begin reading Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution. Spend a whole year on it. At least.

Burke, for those who don't know, almost single-handedly faced down the corrosive and malignant rationalist secularism of the French Revolution, saving England from its worst effects. Would that we had a Burke now to face down the malignant Cultural Revolution of our own time.

Libertarianism is not only not conservatism, it doesn't even amount to a political philosophy. It is, instead, an ideology, a true modern "ism." Like every other illicit modern world view, it takes one part of the truth (in this case, the free market), isolates it from all other truths, and demands that every other part subordinate itself to that one.

We should admire the free market, but we should beware the reductionist ideology that has been constructed in its name.

Which brings me to Ronald Reagan.

Despite all the libertarians and neoconservatives who claim the Reagan mantle, Reagan knew who Russell Kirk was, conferring on him the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1989. Reagan cut his teeth on the old National Review magazine, run by William F. Buckley, who, although he went through the Libertarian Temptation in his later years (something Kirk allegedly saw coming), was for the most part a Russell Kirk conservative.

Before about 1988, no functionally literate conservative would have said "Who's that?" when Russell Kirk's name was mentioned.

The old National Review made Ronald Reagan (and Reagan, as I recall, actually says that somewhere), and Russell Kirk helped make National Review.

The fashionable conservative leaders fleeing the cultural battlements on issue after social issue with their tails between their legs and invoking the name of Ronald Reagan as they do so should be pelted with rotten vegetables at every available opportunity. Reagan would never have done this.

On the great moral issue of late 20th century—abortion—Reagan never backed down. In fact, I think he brought it up in every State of the Union address. The liberal control of the media at the time (this was before conservatives took over talk radio) was universal. It didn't matter, Reagan never gave up.

I can't imagine what he would have said if he had known how so-called conservative leaders would surrender so easily in the fight for traditional marriage.

There needs to be some conservative agency that monitors false claims to Reaganism. It would be a full time job.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Separating school bathrooms by biological sex is like racism? Really?

Sen. Reginald Thomas
You know things are getting desperate at the Lexington Herald-Leader when it begins claiming God is on its side. But this is what it was driven to when a legislative committee recently approved a bill (SB 76) that would ensure that only males could use boys' facilities and females girls' facilities in schools.

Speculating that the bad weather that prevented several supporters of the bill from casting votes needed to pass the bill in an earlier meeting might have been an indication of divine disapproval of the bill, the Herald-Leader went on to call the bill "nasty" and among our "worst moments" as a society.

Prohibiting boys from showering with girls in school. What is this world coming to?

And to underscore its divinely inspired commitment to the anti-nastiness crusade, the editorial went on to praise a state senator who badgered a young girl in a committee meeting, likening her views to racist policies of the past when she expressed discomfort at having to share the school bathroom with biological males.

Those who think that the forces now on a moralistic crusade to stamp out traditional morality are the nice guys need to view video of the two recent meetings of the Senate Education Committee, the first on Feb. 19, and second on Feb. 23. When they do, they will see something quite different.

During the first meeting conservative Republican senators went out of their way to treat the transgender student testifying against SB 76 with politeness and courtesy. But when a young girl, Christina Kelty, came before the committee in the second meeting to say that she was uncomfortable  using the same restroom facilities as biological males, Sen. Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington), an opponent of the bill, compared her feelings of discomfort with the feeling of discomfort Whites had in sharing facilities with Blacks.


Having separate but equal boys' and girls' bathrooms (used by biological males and biological females, respectively) is no different than having separate but equal White and Black bathrooms?

That there are people influencing public policy who find such arguments convincing is scarier than anything opponents could mischaracterize SB 76 as doing.

Not only that, but if a conservative senator had treated the transgender student who testified before the committee in a manner even remotely similar to the way the young girl was treated, the Herald-Leader would have called it scandalous.

Even nasty.

In fact, Sen. Thomas owes Miss Kelty an apology.

Why is it okay for a transgender student to argue against a proposed law because it would cause him discomfort (that was his whole argument) while it's not okay for a young girl to argue in favor of it on the same basis?

The irony is that every argument used by the Herald-Leader and Sen. Thomas against the policy proposed by SB 76 could be used against having separate boys and girls bathrooms at all, never mind the transgender issue. And the fact that they haven't even noticed this yet makes you wonder what business they think they have commenting on an important matter of public policy that affects the privacy and safety of students.

If the Herald-Leader is looking for candidates for "worst moments," it might look at its own editorial.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Press Release: Privacy and safety should trump gender politics in schools

Yesterday's press release from The Family Foundation:

FEBRUARY 24, 2015

LEXINGTON, KY--"Schools facilities policies should be made on the basis of privacy and safety, not on the latest fashion in gender politics," said a spokesman for the Family Foundation in response to the passage of SB 76 by a State Senate committee late today. The Senate heard student testimony in favor of the bill, after hearing testimony from a student against the bill last Thursday.

The bill passed by the Senate Education Committee today which would prohibit schools from setting facilities policies that endanger student privacy and safety will give constructive guidance to schools if passed by the House, said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

"Parents don't want their kids showering with students of the opposite biological sex at school," said Cothran. "Unfortunately there are school officials now bowing to the demands of special interest groups to open school restroom and locker room facilities to students of differing biological genders."

Cothran said such policies not only threaten the privacy of students, but endanger the safety of students who think they are of a different gender than their biological sex. "Sending biological males into the girl's bathroom and biological females into the boy's bathroom may accomplish a lot of things, but we don't think safety is one of them."

SB 76 would require that access to school bathroom and locker room facilities be based on biological sex rather than "gender identity." Students identifying themselves as being a gender other than their biological gender would be provided with the best available other facility, including unisex bathrooms or faculty facilities where they would be safe.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Education in the Conservative Crosshairs: How Scott Walker just lost my vote

We now have one more piece of evidence that conservatives are just as confused as liberals on education policy in this country. In fact, we might even say that conservatives (or at least those who use that label) are liberals on education policy.

Scott Walker, who has been one of the more attractive candidates for conservatives looking to replace Obama in 2016, recently moved to replace the University of Wisconsin's commitment to the "search for truth" with the goal of "“meeting the state’s workforce needs.”

Oh. Brother.

No conservative could possibly support this kind of policy. A libertarian, certainly, but not a conservative. Unfortunately, this is representative of the kind of bad educational thinking that passes for wisdom among many Republicans. Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott made a similar move a couple of years ago.

Walker, like most politicians in both parties, doesn't know what education is. And it isn't because he doesn't have a college degree. In fact, not having a college degree is probably an advantage. Generally speaking, the more degrees you have the less you know what education is.

There are two things that pass for education that are not education, and one thing that actually is education that doesn't pass for it anymore among those who run our educational institutions and who set their policies.

The two popular but impostor definitions of education are:

  1. Education is for job training; and
  2. Education is for political and social reform

The first produces technological barbarians; the second produces radicals. The first amounts to no more than technical training; the second is essentially indoctrination. The first produces hollow men; the second produces "community organizers."

So what is education? Education is the inculcation of wisdom and virtue through passing on the culture of the Christian West. As Lynne Cheney pointed out some twenty years ago, if you don't know what Western civilization is, then you are not an educated person.


When you produce a whole generation of adults who are disconnected from the ideas and values that inform our history and culture (and we have done this now for about two generations), then you start producing people who cannot think sensibly about what education is and what role it plays in our society.

How does a person who has received job training or been indoctrinated in the latest political fashion make decisions about what the purpose of a university is? Nothing in this kind of "education" prepares you for it.

The philosopher Albert Camus once said something to the affect that freedom, lacking actual lovers, had to settle for mistresses. The same could be said for education.

Many so-called "conservatives" have bought into the education as job-training idea. In rejecting the idea that education is about finding the truth, they become complicit in the postmodern idea that there is no truth to find.

Shame on Scott Walker.

HT: Forbes Magazine

Cage fighter TKOs 50 Shades of Grey

Cage fighter Yves Edwards takes down 50 Shades of Grey and submits it:

This movie is extremely bad, it's what you get when Nickelodeon decides to venture into the world of pornography. I have paid money to sit in a movie theater and watch garbage that is simultaneously destroying my brain cells, perpetuating the Prince Charming myth, decreasing my faith in humanity and portraying women as irrational and incompetent. I am negatively multitasking on a cosmic level.

Read more here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Do our rights come from the government—or God?

The takeover of state marriage policy by the federal courts in the name of the U.S. Constitution (which gives federal courts no license whatsoever to do so) is now revealing itself for what it is: a wholesale rewriting of this nation's founding principles.

In a debate on CNN last Thursday, Chris Cuomo responded to Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who said, "Our rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God." Cuomo responded, "Our laws do not come from God and you know that,” he said. “They come from man. … Our rights do not come from God."

Cuomo, apparently innocent of such documents as the Declaration of Independence or for that matter John F. Kennedy's First Inaugural Address, or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," all of which affirm the view Chief Justice Moore voiced.

In order to hijack the Constitution to conform with their ideological predilections in opposition to the principles upon which it was written, you have to change those principles. And in this case, that means changing the very historical foundation from which rights have always been considered to be derived.

The thing about liberalism (and I mean to include libertarians here, since they are simply right-wing liberals) is that its political philosophy collapses into "might makes right" absurdity.

Here is what Cuomo said in response to Chief Justice Moore's assertion (consistent with this nation's founding principles): "That’s your faith, that’s my faith. But that’s not our country. Our laws come from the collective agreement and compromise.”

For one thing, Cuomo shifts from "rights" to "law." But it doesn't matter. Neither rights and the justice of a law can be determined outside the context of natural law.

The distinction between the unwritten and written law (or what are often referred to as the natural and positive law, depending on who's talking) goes back to ancient times. Both Aristotle and Plato articulate the distinction. It is only ignorant television commentators who obfuscate it. It is a distinction between a transcendent law and a law made by men. And the laws made by men are judged by the transcendent law--there is no other way to judge them.

If a law violates a right, it is unjust. And whether a particular right exists or what it consists of cannot be determined within the system of law itself. Unless there is a transcendent law above the man-made law, there is simply no way to say whether a law is just or not. If there is no transcendent law, then saying a law is just or unjust doesn't even make sense. Outside the context of a transcendent law, the question of the justice of a man-made law quite literally has no meaning.

If the only ground for rights (or law, if you prefer) is our "collective agreement and compromise," then the basis for rights is only as deep--or shallow--as our own shifting opinions.

If there were no transcendent grounding for rights, then there could never be any criticism of any "collective agreement or compromise." If, for example, the Nazis were able to convince people to sign on to a "collective agreement," there would be no stance outside that agreement from which to judge it, since, according to people like Cuomo, it's legitimacy derives from itself.

Cuomo believes our rights come "from government." Okay. Which government? The United States government? The Cuban government? The North Korean government? The Russian government? The government of the Third Reich?

Despite the naive rhetoric of people like Cuomo, no sane person really disbelieves in the natural law. But for liberals it is a convenient form of demagoguery to attack it. In doing so, they count on a public they have rendered ignorant by the bad public schools they support and a mind-degrading popular media which they largely control.

This is the cost that liberals must pay for wanting to say that rights are simply what they say they are, and the fact that they are not willing to admit that that is the cost they must pay is simply another measure of how shallow--and dangerous--they are.

HT: The Public Discourse

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Should a college degree be required to run for president?

Liberals are attacking Wisconsin Governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker because he doesn't have a college degree. Has anyone looked recently at actual educational attainment of any of the people who actually have a college degree and actually been impressed?

Would Walker be more qualified if he had a B.A. from the Ohio College of Clown Arts? (an actual college)? Is a B.A. from many other random college around the country an better than the one from the Clown Tech?

Here's George Leef at the National Review:
Of late, the progressives, who always say that they’re against discriminating against people over irrelevant things, have been having a field day with the fact that Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, never finished his degree at Marquette. Howard Dean tut-tutted that this obviously made Walker unsuitable as president. (Never mind that a majority of voters in Wisconsin have now chosen him over properly credentialed liberals three times.)  
This prompted Glenn Harlan Reynolds to comment on the college degree obsession in his latest USA Today column. “An America that once prided itself on real-world achievement and practical good sense now runs largely on credentials,” he writes. 
I'm thinking of William F. Buckley's comment about preferring to be ruled by the last thirty names in the Boston phone book than the entire faculty of Harvard University.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kentucky falling behind on charter schools

When it comes to Common Core or Obamacare, Kentucky's supposedly "progressive" policymakers want to be ahead of nation. But when it comes to the hottest thing in education it is bringing up the rear.

As of last year, Kentucky was one of only a handful of states with no charter school law. While Kentucky dawdles, more students are attending charter schools than ever before and the number is rising:
America’s enthusiasm for charter schools continues to grow, with nearly 3 million American schoolchildren attending one of 6,700 charters rather than traditional public schools. 
That’s an increase of 348,000 over last year, a surge of a whopping 14 percent from the 2013-14 school year, when charter enrollment rose by 288,000. 
With about 50 million children enrolled in public schools, that means nearly 6 percent of all public schoolchildren are in charters rather than traditional schools, and that proportion could reach 10 percent in just a few years.
Read more here.