Saturday, June 26, 2010


David Sirota, columnist for Creators Syndicate

David Sirota has an opinion piece in the Denver Post this morning (6/26/2010). It is an excellent example of the use of characterization in promoting our anti-Republican culture.

I’ll provide the complete article, with some of the descriptive phrases in bold italics. Note how the piece begins with a marcato of background information, builds to a crescendo of passionate anti-Republican invective, and then tapers off in a smorzando of euphemisms.

It is music to our culture’s ears:

Sirota: Choosing butter over guns
By David Sirota
Creators Syndicate
Posted: 06/26/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT

The last time America found itself in a budget debate pitting domestic priorities against war expenditures, Richard Nixon was in the White House and David Obey was the youngest member of Congress — an antiwar liberal whose insurgent campaign unexpectedly vaulted him into the House seat vacated by the hawkish president's new defense secretary. In those dark days of the late 1960s and early 1970s, as Obey was still learning his way around Washington, it was the guns of Vietnam and the Cold War versus the butter of the Great Society and the War on Poverty — and despite Obey's protests, guns won the day.

"President Nixon issued a call to counterrevolution at home," summed up Time magazine in 1973, noting that while the Republican administration was increasing the Pentagon budget, it was proposing the "abolition or deep cutting of more than 100 federal grant programs that have benefited the unemployed, students, farmers, veterans, small businessmen, the mentally ill and tenants in federally aided housing."

The resulting body bags and cuts to homeland investment were, of course, devastating — which is why it is fitting that Obey is choosing to end his congressional tenure where he started it: presciently on the side of butter in a 21st century reprise of the ancient debate. And this time, the Wisconsin Democrat's seniority puts him in a far more powerful position to press his case.

Over the last decade, Obey has been methodically campaigning against the Iraq war and the endless Afghanistan occupation, saying their rationales are weak, their prosecution inept and their deficit-financed costs unaffordable in the face of unmet domestic needs. For years, he has valiantly championed bills to legislate withdrawal timetables and war surtaxes. Now, with President Obama defiantly pushing a plan to boost Afghan war funding at the potential expense of economic aid on the homefront, Obey has deftly replaced the scalpel strokes of proactive legislation with the blunt force of filibuster.

According to Politico, Obey last week "drew a direct link between war funding and progress on domestic priorities" with his announcement that as Appropriations Committee chairman, he will "withhold action on the war funds until there (is) some resolution on a major economic relief bill extending jobless benefits."

Like clockwork, the move was met with hypocritical hysteria. The same Republican Party that bewails deficits responded with a letter asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to champion the deficit-exploding war funding bill in order to avoid "undermining" the military. Gates, despite having just called for defense spending cuts, obediently complied — and on Republicans' insipid terms that perniciously question war critics' loyalty to our soldiers.

The Nation's Chris Hayes has written that such tripe boils down to "You're either with the war or you are against the troops."

Yes, just as Obey prepares to retire, there are signs that his crusade is winning converts. For instance, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn is using his position on President Obama's deficit commission to focus attention on Pentagon profligacy. Similarly, Politico reports that "key tea party players (are) expressing a willingness to put the Pentagon budget on the chopping block." And rank-and-file congressional Democrats, once cowed by war proponents" saber rattling, are increasingly echoing Obey's rhetoric.

Whether or not the cacophony stops the Pentagon's latest blank check is less important than Obey having finally rekindled an honest discussion about guns and butter. In a storied 41-year career of venerable accomplishments, that is the most profound achievement of all.

I didn’t put the reference in bold italics, but just the mention of Richard Nixon’s name in our culture brings forth the image of a bogeyman. It is like the current referencing of Sarah Palin (Sarah!) or George Bush (BUSH!!).

I realize this is “Opinion” and is rightfully placed in this section of the Denver Post. It’s just that there is Opinion, and then there is Opinion!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

F. A. Hayek

Friedrich August von Hayek was a political and economic philosopher born in Austria in 1899. He died in 1992, but with current Republicans casting about for a champion for their ideas, F. A. Hayek has achieved resurgence in popularity. Dr. Hayek believed that individuals are engaged in a battle for liberty over authority, and that authoritarian forces have the upper hand. The actions of our current POTUS make this subject timely.

People like Robert Stacy McCain, Glenn Beck, and Dr. Helen Smith are keen on Hayek. He has an “OMG!” effect on people, when they see that something he characterized over 60 years ago is being played out right in front of their eyes.

Here’s an example:

Yahoo! News published a story earlier this week describing a panel appointed by President Obama to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The article states that the panel “…will focus on the government’s ‘too cozy’ relationship with the petroleum industry.”

It sounds like the panel already knows its conclusion, but the article also makes the point that five of the seven commissioners are experts in policy and management without technical background. The question arises, “With no technical expertise, why are they on this panel?”

This is where F. A. Hayek comes in. He wrote an article in 1949 for The University of Chicago Law Review titled “The Intellectuals and Socialism.” (H/T The Other McCain) The article describes the development of socialism and makes the point that “Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement.” Rather, it is “intellectuals” who are the first to spread the ideas.

Hayek defines his terms: “The typical intellectual…need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is…a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those to whom he addresses himself.”

The conclusion drawn by Hayek is that, “It is the intellectuals in this sense who decide what views and opinions are to reach us, which facts are important enough to be told to us, and in what form and from what angle they are to be presented.”

What’s my reaction? It’s that “Aha!” moment where I sense that what I am seeing now has been seen before. In fact, with that understanding, I’ll bet I can predict the Oil Panel’s coming recommendations:

--America must cease offshore drilling.
--Green energy initiatives must be subsidized to a greater extent.
--Our federal government must take on a larger role.

It would be interesting to know if F. A. Hayek would agree. To get a better understanding of his philosophy and perspective, go to Greg Ransom’s “Taking Hayek Seriously” site ( or visit the Institute of Economic Affairs Web site. The IEA actually has a Reader’s Digest condensed book version of The Road to Serfdom (with “The Intellectuals and Socialism” included) as a 1.25MB .pdf download.

With something this convenient, we no longer have an excuse to ignore history!

UPDATE 7/1/2010:
Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner writes for a column titled "Beltway Confidential".  His article from today  profiles Frances Beinecke, president of the National Resources Defense Council.  Ms. Beinecke is one of the member of the Gulf Oil Spill panel.  The title of Mr. Tapscott's article is "Don’t expect objectivity from this Obama oil spill commission appointee."
(via Instapundit)

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

It’s time for Proxy Voting in the Democratic Party!

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

What’s a “Proxy Vote” you might ask? It’s a Power of Attorney (POA) for the Democratic Party to use in Primary Elections. When an individual registers to vote as a Democrat, he or she simply signs a durable power of attorney that gives the Democratic Party the right to vote for that person if the individual does not cast a vote by a certain time on Primary Election Day.

Since turnout is generally low in primary elections, this gives the Democratic Party great power in deciding the outcome of the election. If, for example, you don’t vote by an hour before the polls close, the Proxy Vote POA allows the Democratic Party to cast a ballot on your behalf. It becomes a virtual certainty that the Democratic Party achieves the results it desires on Primary Election Day.

Why is this “An Idea Whose Time Has Come”?

It’s because the Democratic Party has been in the news lately, trying to modify the results of primary elections. Democratic Party voters don’t always choose the “correct” person to represent them, and this causes distress for Democratic Party officials, particularly in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

The Democratic Party has had to put together various legal, financial and political maneuvers to attempt to get election results changed to match what the Party expects. As has been noted in news reports (by the absence of any outrage), registered Democrats apparently see no problem with this activity.

Here in Colorado, Andrew Romanoff decided to compete with Michael Bennet to be the Democratic Party nominee for Senator. The Democratic Party is backing Mr. Bennet, and it (allegedly) made overtures to Mr. Romanoff in the form of political appointments within the Obama administration to (allegedly) entice Mr. Romanoff to drop his bid to be a Senator for Colorado. Our Colorado primary is not until August, so this drama is still unfolding.

A similar situation occurred in Pennsylvania, where Arlen Specter competed against Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary for Senator. When Mr. Sestak won the primary, he was encouraged by the Democratic Party to drop out in favor of Mr. Specter. Again, the expectation of the Democratic Party was (allegedly) that Mr. Sestak could be influenced with an offer of a political appointment.

Now the news is about the case of Alvin Greene. Mr. Greene won the primary election in South Carolina to be the Senate nominee of the Democratic Party. Mr. Greene is now being challenged by various factions of the Democratic Party to see if he can be intimidated into giving up the nomination in favor of his opponent, Mr. Vic Rawl.

Just think about it: All of this messiness could be avoided if the Democratic Party employs the Proxy Vote in its primary elections.

What could possibly go wrong?

Felicia Sonmez reports in the Washington Post that the executive committee of the South Carolina Democratic Party has voted to accept the primary results and retain Alvin Greene as its nominee for the South Carolina senate race.

Mr. Greene's problems are not over, but he can celebrate a minor victory.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Offhand Remark

USA Today has a Sunday supplement that appears in more than 700 local newspapers across the country. The magazine is called USA Weekend.

The magazine is a reflection of our culture, highlighting articles on health, relationships, and travel. It also has interviews with celebrities and includes a column on page two titled “Who’s News” that answers questions pertaining to the careers of various entertainment and sports figures.

On page 24 of the June 11-13, 2010 magazine is an interview with Joan Rivers by Brian Truitt. The interview is online here. If you go to the hotlink, look at the right-hand column, just below Joan's picture. Here’s what appears:
Joan’s take on…
Barack Obama: He’s becoming very pompous, and I voted for him. We all had such hope in him, and I think he’s reading his own press clippings.
Jay Leno: [Makes a loud snoring noise.] Perfect where he is. You don’t have to take an Ambien to go to sleep.
Sarah Palin: An idiot. I hate to say it. I could give you a terrible joke, but I won’t.
Oprah Winfrey: She’s like Scientology – you don’t say anything against Oprah.
Kate Gosselin: Go home and take care of your kids. I find this truly appalling. You don’t leave eight children at home while you’re running around tap-dancing.
USA Weekend is meant to entertain, not provoke. It caters to mainstream points of view.

How does it end up being the subject of a post in Anti-Republican Culture? It has to do with nonchalance. The Sunday supplement gives us two fairly controversial characterizations and they are presented in a matter-of-fact manner. What are they?

Our president is characterized as “becoming very pompous.” Could it be he is becoming uppity? As politically charged as that characterization might be, Joan Rivers is allowed to make reference to it since she “voted for him” and “had such hope in him.” She brandishes her anti-Republican credentials, and so is absolved from any possible racist intent.

Sarah Palin is characterized as “an idiot.” Do you think it is just Governor Palin that is mentally challenged, or is it all Republican women? What about Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman? How will Joan characterize them? I don’t think Ms. Rivers will be inclined to vote for either one, but come October, will she have a triple lynching as part of her schtick?

Let me take a moment to calm down and summarize what’s going on here…

The operation of our culture is subtle. It is reflected in our entertainment, media, and schools, and shows us what values are “right and natural.” Joan Rivers makes her living in this environment. She has to validate cultural norms, or people will be driven away from her performances.

Joan knows what she can get away with and where she must hold back. Similarly, the editors of USA Weekend know what is appropriate and what is not.

To see that political characterizations of this sort are approved and considered non-controversial is what causes me to pause and reflect for a moment.

I hope I’m not alone.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


My earlier post on “The Way We Were” took issue with Dorothy Rabinowitz’s characterization of president Obama as “The Alien in the White House.” She described a gulf between his actions and what she sees as the sensibilities of Americans.

My point is that Americans defy categorization: Each of us is different. Characterizing us in some way – see My Profile – can be offensive. When a person attempts to classify Americans by their feelings, that person typically exposes his or her own values and biases, not those of “Americans.”

De Tocqueville probably got it right a couple of centuries ago, but imagine what he would think now? Maybe he could take some lessons from a Canadian

Mark Steyn, the embodiment of the description “brilliant satirist,” captures the essence of the issue. He views America from that time-honored vantage point of a person born on foreign shores, and provides perfect insight into the issues raised by Ms. Rabinowitz.

John Hinderaker from Power Line highlights the key points from Mr. Steyn’s article:
Many Americans are beginning to pick up the strange vibe that for Barack Obama, governing America is "an interesting sociological experiment", too. He would doubtless agree that the United States is "the place on Earth that, if I needed one, I would call home." But he doesn't, not really: It is hard to imagine Obama wandering along to watch a Memorial Day or Fourth of July parade until the job required him to. That's not to say he's un-American or anti-American, but merely that he's beyond all that. Way beyond. He's the first president to give off the pronounced whiff that he's condescending to the job - that it's really too small for him, and he's just killing time until something more commensurate with his stature comes along.

And so the Gulf spill was an irritation, but he dutifully went through the motions of flying in to be photographed looking presidentially concerned. As he wearily explained to Matt Lauer, "I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain, talking..." Good grief, what more do you people want? Alas, he's not a good enough actor to fake it.
Contrast the Republican concept of a special place called America (with The Constitution as its defining document) against the idea of America as an abstraction; a transient anomaly in a world destined for some type of elite centralization.

It’s sad to see the idea of world domination never losing its luster. It is a recurring theme in political movements, where a greater “good” always allows the current transgressions to be accommodated.

In the last ten years, our attention has been drawn to affairs of the Middle East. We have seen the power of combining politics with religious zeal, and observe the daily evidence of death being legitimized. We watch a political/religious movement (the “Religion of Peace”) maintain its power by teaching people to hate, and see vestiges of that sentiment in our anti-Republican culture.

Americans no longer have the luxury of holding complacency as a proper course of action. Life is complicated, but we have to make choices. Here is the first one:

Where does your allegiance lie?

UPDATE 6/13/2010:
Linked by The Other McCain.  Thanks, Stacy!
Also linked by Irish Cicero in Washington Rebel.  "Retrosexual Sunday"?
And now bestowed the prestigious "Quote of the Weekend" by Left Coast Rebel!  I appreciate the kind thoughts, Tim.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Way We Were

Courtesy of Getty Images via The Wall Street Journal

Dorothy Rabinowitz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. Her 6/9/2010 WSJ article, The Alien in the White House, is worth reading.

Ms. Rabinowitz describes a gulf that exists between the ideology of our current president and the sensibilities of the American people. She argues that, “A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs.”

While the analysis is excellent, I was distracted by the vantage point of Ms. Rabinowitz. She speaks as though she is an authority on the American psyche. She cites the qualities that make a president the leader of Americans, “… a man of them, for them, the nation’s voice and champion…” and she recounts the feelings that are held “… deep in American hearts, unvoiced mostly, but unmistakably there and not only on the Fourth of July.”

She notes reactions to Mr. Obama’s apologies for American guilt: “Americans were shocked by this behavior in their newly elected president.”

While Ms. Rabinowitz uses the present tense in her analysis, she is relating to a romanticized America that is in our past.

America has never been monolithic, other than in the context of political characterizations. It is a diverse republic, and is particularly so with the representations brought about by our anti-Republican culture. When a politician speaks of “America”, it is a decidedly different entity depending upon the political party of the speaker.

Mr. Obama might be characterized as an “Alien in the White House”, but he is also the recipient of a Nobel Prize. He might have a sense of identification that is unfamiliar to Americans, but he was taught that identity in our school system. He makes political appointments that might seem out of touch to the Americans described by Ms. Rabinowitz, but those appointments fit quite nicely with the sensibilities of our Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury.

It is hard for me to feel comforted by Ms. Rabinowitz’s column when I know that majorities within our branches of government, federal agencies, entertainment industry, and school system do not support her viewpoint.

In fact, there is cultural acclamation for just the opposite point of view. The thesis for Ms. Rabinowitz’s column is based on a perception of an American spirit that is held by very few Americans!

And that’s unfortunate.