Thursday, June 27, 2013

Test of a generation

When two teams take to the field to join in competition, the team that has invested great effort in preparing to win has a clear advantage over the team that has spent its preparation time convincing itself that the only thing that matters is how they play the game. Watching the democrats, or the left, approach any particular issue provides an illustration of a conviction that victory is achievable, and tangible. Like the lead runner nearing the end of a race draws on that last ounce of reserve in a final burst of energy to storm the finish line, the left has thrown caution to the wind and hurled itself towards the finish line with abandon.

If I could ask John Boehner a question, I'd like to know just exactly what it is that he knows that the democrats don't. From the GOP leadership we continue to see a day-to-day, business-as-usual, routine that implies a complacency incongruous with the dire nature of the circumstance in which we find ourselves. While the left raves and surges, the Boehners on the field are very concerned with how they play the game; perhaps simply the perception of the way they play the game.

Reagan's stirring 1961 warning that if we fail to be good stewards of liberty "we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free", has been repeated to the point of becoming cliche, but we are there. Those of my generation that have not come to the conclusion that we are the generation of regret that Reagan spoke of, are simply not paying attention. One of three possibilities await future generations of Americans; they will be educated into an ignorance that deprives them of the realization that we squandered their liberty, or they will come to understand that we betrayed them and their posterity, or we will find a way to secure liberty and sustain the American idea for generations yet unborn. At the moment, the last option is the only one that requires a dramatic change in the course that we are on. If that change does not come soon, we are already on a path, the horizon is near, we can see the destination clearly enough.

Those that fought the Revolution, and the Civil War, and World War II, knew that they were engaged in the epic struggle of their time. They answered the call to duty because they knew that they were embroiled in events that would profoundly shape America, and the World for present and future generations. Current generations of Americans find themselves on the cusp of historic change. Our struggle differs from those of the past in that we are not called to resolve it with fire and steel, but the threats to America, and to liberty are as grave, and as imminent as those faced by patriots past. Success, or failure will be determined by how the American people respond to the call of duty in this conflict. In the past we could rely on the government to rally the people to the cause, but it is up to the people to motivate themselves this time.

The spectacle in the Texas senate over SB-5 this past Tuesday illustrates the difficulty we face. The image of the feckless majority succumbing to the ardent mob in Texas has become archetypal of the R/D political dynamic of the day. One side is fighting a war, the other side is running a PR campaign. We must refuse to spend our final years apologizing to our children and grand children for their lost liberties. We must refuse to spend our sunset years apologizing over the end of Americanism. However things turn out, future generations must know that we took the stewardship of their liberty seriously. The test before us is to make that the goal of every generation.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Marco's Misdirection

In 2005 and 2007 grassroots America effectively put the kibosh on Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) efforts. The capitol switchboard was overwhelmed by calls from concerned citizens contacting their representatives and senators. Capitol offices were inundated with email. The establishment was caught off guard, and even somewhat bewildered. Without an identifiable source of opposition, the pro-amnesty crowd had no expectation of a serious obstacle to their, ostensibly, bi-partisan reform effort. They didn't have a backup plan because they didn't think they needed one; they thought it would sail through without a hitch. Twice they tried, and twice large numbers of concerned citizens rose up, seemingly from nowhere, to tell them "no".

In 2005 and 2007 the conservative winter of discontent had not yet coalesced into the TEA party movement. As grassroots efforts have become more organized, so have the efforts to counter them. The identity that came with the TEA party movement had a good side and a bad side. While it gave the proponents of Americanism ways to identify like groups of constitutionally minded fellow citizens, it also made them easier for the opposition to target. Recent events make it pretty clear that the political establishment has learned from the drubbings it received from grassroots efforts between the first CIR effort in 2005 and the TEA party election cycle in 2010.

We have clearly seen efforts to silence and marginalize TEA party groups through agencies like the IRS or the media. A more novel, and more recent tactic is seen in attempts to co-opt the conservative grassroots. And this is where Marco Rubio and "Americans for a Conservative Direction" come in. It is not coincidental that Marco Rubio is the most visible figure in current CIR efforts. Previous efforts were missing the essential element of a conservative champion, and Rubio's rise to widespread popularity among grassroots conservatives has made him the perfect candidate for the role. Success for the agenda put forth by Marco and his gang of state depends on neutralizing the conservative opposition that caused so much trouble for previous efforts. The opposition can be neutralized in a couple of different ways. If enough conservatives can be convinced that this is truly a conservative solution they can be counted on for support, or at least counted on to not oppose the bill. That wouldn't be a bad thing if it was really a conservative bill.

On the way to work this morning I heard the latest ad from Americans for a Conservative Direction saying how important it is that we join conservatives like Marco Rubio in support of the gang of eight CIR proposal. These ads always seem a little creepy to me. I expect this tactic from the left; If we call a thing by the right name, people will be tricked into supporting it. Or if we repeat a misrepresentation in favor of something often enough, people will be tricked into supporting it. Means to ends. Marco has been making the talk radio and talking head circuit for weeks. With each new appearance he repeats the same debunked talking points that he used before.

Whether it's Marco and Americans for a Conservative Direction, or Karl Rove's Conservative Victory Project, these efforts to transfer the burgeoning influence of the grassroots back to the politicos need to be recognized for what they are. The confusion caused by the adoption of TEA party language, and conservative imagery by those that are not friends to conservatism may limit the effectiveness of the conservative grassroots in applying pressure to Washington, or identifying conservative candidates. It's up to conservatives to make sure that doesn't happen, and to rekindle the energetic opposition that was so crucial to stopping the less sophisticated CIR attempts of the past.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Change we can't believe in

It has been my experience that changes in an adult's convictions are much more rare than is generally appreciated. Even when we keep an open mind and give objective consideration to different ideas, the underlying foundations of our convictions tend to prevail and keep us entrenched in the status quo. When a politician makes a dramatic change in position it merits closer inspection. In nearly every case where an apparent change occurs, one of two things will be evident; there was no principled basis for the original conviction, or a significant life changing event occurred. In the absence of that life changing event, we should consider that the politician really never cared about the issue, or even that they held the "new" position all along. We hear about politicians changing when they get to Washington, but I think it is much more common that Washington simply reveals who they always were.

There are a lot of reasons for conservatives to be cynical about politics today, and Marco Rubio is working pretty hard to give us one more. I had high hopes for Rubio. I'm already cynical enough not to say that I had high expectations, but as an early supporter for his US Senate bid I donated to his campaign and helped spread the word to other conservatives. Considering who his competitor was, I can't quite bring myself to regret supporting Rubio. Charlie Crist would have been just as bad on the immigration issue, and worse on everything else. It's clear from his history in Florida politics that Rubio has been a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform for quite a while. It's also clear that he is not concerned about border security. It would not have surprised me for him to take a middle-of-the-road position on immigration, but the fact that he is more closely aligned with leftists like Chuck Shumer than he is with the Constitutional wing of the GOP did surprise me (eternal optimist I guess).

The most troubling aspect of Rubio's role in the Gang of 8 is the duplicity with which he has promoted their comprehensive immigration reform offering. Unfortunately, the advertising that is being aimed at conservatives is very effective. Rubio has earned quite a bit of credibility among conservative voters, and those that are wiling to give him the benefit of the doubt may conclude that the plan must not be that bad after hearing the ads. Did I mention that the ads are effective? This was quite literally brought home to me a couple of nights ago when my wife asked me what was wrong with the plan, because it sounded pretty good in the ads. She is not a low information voter. After reading more analysis of the bill she was appalled at the disconnect between the ads and the substance. Between the effectiveness of the ads, and the political fatigue that many of us are experiencing, the grassroots outcry against the plan has been relatively muted. The groundswell of public opinion that we saw come against McCain/Kennedy in 2007 has not yet appeared on the 2013 horizon. If this latest attempt is going to be stopped, and it really needs to be stopped, the grassroots opposition needs to be significantly stepped up.

The Senate immigration bill is enormous - nearly 1500 pages long. The Eagle Forum put together an excellent analysis of the bill at the following link; 12 Reasons to Oppose "Gang of 8" Immigration Reform. This bill simply makes our broken immigration system worse; it is not a bill that can be salvaged. Making a conservative case that the bill is in the best interest of America, and her citizens, can only be done through dishonesty. Principled disagreements on the merits of immigration reform might be understandable, but the full court press to intentionally deceive conservatives in order to gain their support is unacceptable. That groundswell really needs to get started.

Safety danger

Day two of the Mark Davis tear over the NSA controversy was on the radio during the drive to work Wednesday morning. In this market we get Mark Davis on the ride in, and Mark Levin on the ride home. On days like yesterday, it's an exercise in contrasts. Davis is a bit distracted over the status of Edward Snowden. He is of the opinion that the NSA activities were a necessary, even desirable, part of the effort to keep us safe. Consequently, he labels Snowden a traitor and bemoans the reality that terrorists in the US now know that their phone records are being collected. However things ultimately work out for Snowden, the focus on his status as a hero or a traitor distracts from the larger issue of the NSA program and the spectrum of attitudes towards the associated ramifications for civil liberty. General warrants, like the one authorizing the NSA phone record collections, are simply a bad idea. It really has nothing to do with the character of Edward Snowden, or the legality of his actions.

General warrants have been generally recognized as a bad idea in America since before the Revolution. The aversion to them is part of the American exceptionalism valued by conservatives. Assertions that law abiding citizens should be OK with government scrutiny "if they have nothing to hide" are not compatible with life in a free society. They certainly aren't compatible with a fundamental premise in American law that we are considered innocent until proven guilty. The "nothing to hide" way of thinking is at odds with basic, nuts and bolts, elements of the American system. American citizens should not be put in a position in which they are arbitrarily, and routinely, scrutinized on the off chance that they may be involved in something inappropriate (though the government should be so scrutinized by the people).

The collection of phone records is fairly non-disruptive - it doesn't inconvenience us, or cause us any distress.  But has that become the measure of what is reasonable? When Obama made his recent statement that we "can't have 100% security, and also then have 100% privacy" it was clear that the trade off he was promoting was trading privacy for security. I'm not looking forward to finding out what we are willing to accept in our desperation for 100% safety. It is not reasonable to agree to scrutiny of expanded government authority only after that expanded authority has resulted in harm. Limiting the authority of the IRS as a matter of principle would have served the American people much better than waiting until evidence emerged that they effectively silenced, or impeded hundreds of groups that they disagree with for an entire election cycle.

Davis is OK with the NSA having authority to collect phone records, but having it occur under the current administration makes him a little uncomfortable. It seems reasonably clear that authority that makes us uncomfortable in the hands of an administration that we don't like, is authority that should not be granted to any administration. This is a pretty fundamental element of the limited government concept. Liberty is much more easily surrendered than recovered.

Suspicion of power is a basic tenet of Americanism. The Founding Fathers talked at great lengths about the need for vigilance in the defense of liberty against government authority. At a time when the headlines are overflowing with validation of the founder's warnings, scoffing at the concerns of civil libertarians over the NSA phone record issue is misplaced. Right of center guys like Davis failing to err on the side of liberty, or even being understanding towards others that do, is cause for concern. We're close to having a society in which safety and security always trump freedom, and that's a dangerous place to be.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


These stories about kids getting suspended for "gun" related incidents will eventually cause my head to explode. It's always the same story - kid brings an innocuous gun-related toy to school, or points his finger, or makes a weapon related sound of some sort, kid gets suspended, kid's parents express shock at the school's "overreaction", parents tell kid it's ok, story ends. Different schools, different kids, different day, different parents (though hard to tell by their reactions), same story.

Today's story is about some middle school boys that ran afoul of "the man" for getting carried away with nerf guns prior to school. A teacher told them it was ok to bring the nerf guns for some class related activity, and the 12 year old boys decided to play with them before school. Shocking, I know. The whole story can be found at this link -> Link to whole story.

It is frustrating, and sad that the message is really not getting out about this national phenomenon taking place in our education system. The mother in this story could be the mother in any number of these stories. She acknowledges that the school policy requires some punishment, but thinks that the suspension and entry into her son's permanent record are overly severe for what he did. The problem is that she doesn't understand what it is that  her son is guilty of, or even what she herself is guilty of. The problem isn't that her son brought the wrong type of toy to school. The problem is that she and her son don't hold the proper view about the evils of toy guns. These examples are extremely educational for school children.

As has been pointed out on the "Reeducating a generation" page of this blog, these incidents are taking place with increasing frequency in schools throughout America. Shock and dismay at the overreaction of school administrators is the wrong response. Outrage over these attempts at coercive, ideologically motivated, behavioral modification is the right response. Our representatives should be taking the lead against these attempts to indoctrinate a generation of Americans into giving up their gun rights. Unfortunately, there is no significant effort being made to confront this abuse of authority.

A transition needs to take place. The dismay of one parent must become the outrage of many parents. Until the consequences for school administrators that abuse our trust, and our children, become greater than the consequences for a 5 year old making a finger gun at school, this problem will only get worse. The schools were very effective in indoctrinating a generation of children against cigarette smoking. Think what we may about changing views about smoking, we should not kid ourselves into thinking that these new efforts will not succeed in convincing the next generation to eventually surrender their second amendment rights.

Note: We didn't get through the day without another example. An 11 year old was suspended for 10 days in Calvert County Maryland for "talking about guns".  He was questioned by the principle and a Sheriff's deputy who also wanted to search the boys home without a warrant. See the reeducating a generation page for more details and a link to the story.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Just following orders

How many conservatives do you know that want to go into government service as a tax auditor, or to protect snails from oil producers in Texas, or audit mom-and-pop gun shops for book-keeping compliance? It is a fact of life that leftists are drawn to government service jobs in significantly greater numbers than are conservatives. Institutional bias against conservative groups or businesses may be intentional in some government bureaus, but it doesn't have to be intentional in order to be something that should be expected. It will occur, intentionally or not. That's the nature of institutional biases.

The recent IRS scandals have brought ideologically driven abuse by government agencies into the headlines, but it is not a new, or even unusual phenomenon.We have seen a variety of government agencies engage in ridiculous abuses of private individuals and small businesses in recent years. Private property rights are routinely trampled in the name of environmental protections. The BATFE exacts severe penalties on gun shops for minor typographical mistakes that do nothing to compromise the integrity of the process. Gibson guitar is still under fire by the EPA for violating some Indian export restriction that India has claimed wasn't violated. Catherine Engelbrecht was audited by the IRS, OSHA, and BATFE, and questioned by the FBI after attempting to register her "True the Vote" group as a non-profit. Whether it is a school administrator suspending a 5 year old for making a "finger gun" and then interrogating him in isolation to find out what the home situation is regarding guns, or an IRS agent demanding a pro-life group provide details about their public prayers, the underlying cause is the same.

There is a crusader mentality at work behind the assumptions that shutting down a gun shop that's been in a family for generations, and teaching children that American firearm heritage is evil, and reminding people that their property is not theirs to do with as they please, are good and appropriate things. The folks that called for the SWAT style armed raid on the Gibson factory to rescue some incorrectly presumed protected Indian hardwood, thought they were engaged in an act of righteousness. They were providing "good service" as one of the Cincinnati IRS employees recently put it. These are fundamentally leftist perspectives and they imply that an antipathy exists within these agencies towards large portions of the American public. "Public service" has unfortunately become an oxymoron in American government bureaucracies. The idea that low level bureaucrats in the IRS did not question their orders to scrutinize TEA party groups is every bit as troubling as the idea that higher ranking bureaucrats would have requested such scrutiny. The expectations within these agencies regarding what constitutes an abuse of the public trust is clearly set incorrectly at every level.

It is perplexing that conservative politicians aren't making the broader case that the recent IRS abuses are an obvious outcome of left wing institutional bias in our overgrown government bureaus. Conservative politicians must start using these opportunities to educate the American public about the strong points of conservatism. A prominent reason for the conservative tenet of limited government is standing in the middle of center stage with  blaring horns, and flashing arrows pointing right at it while GOP politicians focus on small picture issues. Of course the small picture issues need to be pursued, but is it too much to ask for the smallest amount of extrapolation to use the crisis to illustrate some fundamental principles?

As long as there is government there will be government abuses, but there is no reason that we should not expect to be able to reduce them. There are two things, and only two things that will reduce the frequency and magnitude of this type of abuse - diversity of thought in government agencies, and reducing the scope of the federal government. Conservatives will not typically gravitate towards many of these types of jobs, but it may be necessary to begin cultivating a call of duty for conservatives to these positions in ways similar to the call to military service, or public teaching.