Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mark Twain conservatism

Attempting to categorize conservatism in the 21st century runs the risk of plunging into the briar patch of academic labeling or the fever swamp of left-wing vitriol. In the first category, one finds such designations as conservatism, neo-conservatism, and paleo-conservatism, while those things liberals say about conservatives may be relegated to the realm of overheated political rhetoric. But this still leaves those sympathetic to conservatism with the problem of self-definition, especially during a time when Tea Party enthusiasts have captured so much attention in the context of discussions about conservative views.

The word conservatism itself is usually and rightfully associated with political principles of the Founding Fathers, but the neo-conservative and paleo-conservative forms of conservatism seem puzzling to many. Not helpful on either score. And we have seen that even Tea Party metaphors can be dismissed with sound bites by liberal smear-aholics.

Here’s where Mark Twain comes to the rescue, especially since he was too busy mocking others to care about what others had to say about him, and his attitude toward politicians of every stripe pretty much says it all: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Likely his observations of today’s congressional shenanigans would leave him rolling on the ground with laughter—or breaking down in tears. Either way, he would make great fun of it, no doubt with incredulity, skepticism, and no small amount of contempt. But does this make Twain a conservative?

The answer, I believe, is yes, for the following reasons. First, unlike America’s current ruling class, Mark Twain lived a very rich and full life, filled with events that burned the lessons of experience into his soul, all of which reinforced his understanding of the reality principle: that is, the relationship between cause and effect and taking responsibility for one’s actions. For instance, one does not advance to the position of river-boat pilot on the Mighty Mississippi with no more experience than negotiating a rowboat on a stream. His considerable income did not prevent him from losing all of it in failed business ventures; he traveled throughout the world, met thousands of people, was swindled by a few of them, became personally familiar with life’s many vices and tried briefly to give up smoking, drinking, lying and swearing, but couldn’t. The best he managed was to control his drinking and write an essay that was “An Appeal Against Injudicious Swearing,” which is as far as he would go on this very important topic.

In short, does anyone for a moment think that this man would be fooled by starry-eyed appeals for hope and change, to remake America, or to believe anything proclaimed by members of what he regarded as America’s only known criminal class, the U.S. Congress? Not likely.

His excellent short story, “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,” was a brilliant statement on humankind’s self-righteousness and gullibility, and should be required reading for everyone, especially those contemplating a political career. He did not believe it possible that politics could alter fundamental tendencies of human nature, a view that has been a staple of progressive thought since the 19th century.

Further, Mark Twain had contempt for that redemptive embodiment of liberal-progressive thought, from the publication of Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” to (in modern times) Al Gore’s latest fulminations on climate change: the expert. After all, the experts responsible for the country’s current financial meltdown—for $1.5 trillion deficits—belong to the same type who, according to Twain, once figured that “just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upward of 1,300,000 miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod” (“Life on the Mississippi”). No doubt, Twain would be appalled by his country in its current condition, but he would not be surprised; after all, it was designed by that most despicable of creatures, the political expert, those who likely had learned the art of the hoax from Twain’s very own, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

All of which made Twain, and those who follow him, conservatives; that is, individuals who understand life by actually living it, who are skeptical of human nature and the pretensions of government, and who distrust the flimflammery of self-proclaimed experts. Call them Mark Twain conservatives, after the man who proudly claimed that he was not just “an” American. Like all true conservatives today, he was THE American: Mark Twain.



Obama Looking for Love

Jonah Goldberg

"If you love me, you've got to help me pass this bill." That was part of Barack Obama's response to an exuberant fan who shouted "I love you!" at a campaign rally. And so it has come to this. "The One" has gone from messiah to pleading like a teenage boy on a date. "Come on, baby. If you love me, you'll do it."

A gossip website reports that the New York Times is working on a story that the president is depressed. That's unconfirmed. But if he isn't depressed, I'd hope the self-proclaimed "paper of record" would investigate why on earth he's not.

According to the standard calendar, autumn is fast approaching. According to the White House calendar, we're finishing up our second "Recovery Summer." But for the president, this is darkest winter.

When Obama unveiled his first stimulus, he promised it would lift 2 million people out of poverty. Instead, the Census Bureau announced this week that 2.6 million more people fell below the poverty line last year, pushing the number of poor people to the highest level in a half-century.

That stimulus was also intended to jump-start a new economy, fueled by high-paying clean energy jobs. The crown jewel of that multibillion-dollar effort was a solar power company called Solyndra, which not only closed its doors and fired its workers, but has exposed the White House as at best politically incompetent and ideologically blinkered.

Now, in fairness, the Department of Energy considers the bankrupt company a winner. "The project that we supported succeeded," Damien LaVera, a Department of Energy spokesman, told the New York Times. "The facility was producing the product it said it would produce, and consumers were buying the product. The company struggled because the market has changed dramatically."

That's true. If Obama had been able to pass cap-and-trade as the market once foolishly expected, things might have been different. He wanted to make electricity rates "skyrocket," which could have made Solyndra's expensive products profitable. As it is, Solyndra was only marginally more legitimate an enterprise than Paul Newman's bookie parlor in "The Sting." At least Newman only stung one mobster. With this green con job, we're all feeling the bite.

Indeed, Vice President Joe Biden was right when he said Solyndra is "exactly what the Recovery Act was all about." For instance, the Washington Post reported this week that $38.6 billion in loans have netted a "few thousand" jobs rather than the 65,000 Obama promised. So if the program had "succeeded," that would amount to nearly $600,000 per job in government-backed loans.

Then there's the politics. Tuesday afternoon, even as polls remained open in congressional elections in New York and Nevada, high-level Democratic donors and strategists gathered on a conference call. A participant in the discussion told Politico that the mood was "awful." "People feel betrayed, disappointed, furious, disgusted, hopeless," he added.

That was before the election results came in. In Nevada, the Republican crushed a top-flight female Democratic candidate by 22 points. In New York, the seat that once belonged to Geraldine Ferraro, Chuck Schumer and Anthony Weiner went to Republican Bob Turner -- the first time the seat since has gone Republican since 1923. A liberal strategist put a rosy spin on it: "The mine hasn't collapsed, but the loss in New York is definitely a dead canary."

In both races, the Democrats used their trump card: scaring seniors by telling them the GOP wants to take away their Medicare and Social Security. It didn't work.

This came against a backdrop of abysmal poll numbers showing Obama's approval falling with every constituency, including Democrats, Independents, Hispanics and African-Americans. That might be why congressional Democrats are openly balking at his must-pass stimulus do-over.

But, please. Don't share any of this with, the third and newest operation set up by this president inviting good and decent Americans to hand over the names of critics who say mean things about the president.

It seems ominous -- and would have been denounced as Orwellian if George W. Bush had done anything of the sort. But the truth is, it's sad. The aim, I'm sure, is to inspire liberals -- who now hate Obama's enemies far more than they love Obama -- to get involved in his re-election.

In 2008, the "politics of hope" campaign trained volunteers to testify about how they "came to Obama" the way one talks of "coming to Jesus." Now they ask supporters to help build a digital enemies list. Which they'll do, of course. But not because they love him.



Cheney: Israel would strike Iran to prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney believes Israel would attack Iran to prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons capacity, he said in an interview aired Monday.

When asked about the possibility of an Israeli preemptive attack against Iran, Cheney told Newsmax TV that "Iran represents an existential threat, and [the Israelis] will do whatever they have to do to guarantee their survival and their security.”

Cheney said his assessment did not come from consultation with a particular Israeli leader, but was rather a reflection of a number of discussions with Israeli officials. “I can’t attribute it to any one particular Israeli leader. I wouldn’t want to do that," he said. Nevertheless, he added that he "had a number of conversations with a lot of Israeli officials, and I think they correctly perceive Iran as a basic threat.”



What Job 'Training' Teaches? Bad Work Habits

A 1969 government study warned that teens in federal jobs programs 'regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid.'

Last Thursday, President Obama proposed new federal jobs and job-training programs for youth and the long-term unemployed. The federal government has experimented with these programs for almost a half century. The record is one of failure and scandal.

In 1962, Congress passed the Manpower Development and Training Act (MDTA) to provide training for workers who lost their jobs due to automation or other technological developments. Two years later, the General Accounting Office (GAO) discovered that any trainee in this program who held a job for a single day was counted as "permanently employed"—a statistical charade by the Department of Labor to camouflage its lack of results. A decade after MDTA's inception, GAO reported that it was failing to teach valuable job skills or place trainees in private jobs and was marred by an "overriding concern with filling available slots for a particular program," regardless of what trainees actually needed.

Congress responded in 1973 by enacting the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The preface to the new law noted that "it has been impossible to develop rational priorities" in job training. So instead of setting priorities, CETA spent vastly more money, especially on job creation. Notorious examples reported in the press in those years included paying to build an artificial rock for rock climbers, providing nude sculpture classes (where, as the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, Ind., explained, "aspiring artists pawed each others bodies to recognize that they had 'both male and female characteristics'"), and conducting door-to-door food-stamp recruiting campaigns.

Between 1961 and 1980, the feds spent tens of billions on federal job-training and employment programs. To what effect? A 1979 Washington Post investigation concluded, "Incredibly, the government has kept no meaningful statistics on the effectiveness of these programs—making the past 15 years' effort almost worthless in terms of learning what works."

After CETA became a laughingstock, Congress replaced it in 1982 with the Job Training Partnership Act. JTPA spent lavishly—to expand an Indiana circus museum, teach Washington taxi drivers to smile, provide foreign junkets for state and local politicians, and bankroll business relocations. According to the Labor Department's inspector general, young trainees were twice as likely to rely on food stamps after JTPA involvement than before since the "training" often included instructions on applying for an array of government benefits.




Give thanks to “price gougers”: "Some things never cease to amaze me, for example, the willingness of state officials to vilify and prosecute those who dare to raise prices during an emergency. As far as superficial demagoguery and economic illiteracy go, those initiatives are right up there. Thirty-one states have some form of anti-price-gouging law, and a recent statement from North Carolina’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, is typical of the accompanying rhetoric."

DC: Food truck advocate fights on behalf of street food: "Food trucks have proliferated in D.C. in recent years, at such a rate that they can no longer be considered a fad. But their popularity has put them at odds with bricks-and-mortar restaurants and business improvements districts, and has left the city scrambling to update its regulations. One local attorney, seeing this tension, has started a nationwide fight in defense of street food."

AZ: Perry seeks endorsement of Sheriff Joe: "Gov. Rick Perry, who once said he was 'intrigued and open' to an amnesty program for Mexican workers in the United States illegally [sic], is now courting the support of a famous immigration hardliner: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona."

Will Obama and Congress slay the Sarbox job-killing monster?: "In the middle of trotting out the tired old 'solution' of stimulating by taxing, borrowing and even more spending, the president had one brief outline of a potential agenda item that was new and surprising. And if he indeed follows through with the initiative he hinted at, it will probably do more to boost job growth than the entire so-called American Jobs Act he dropped in Congress' lap on Monday"

It’s time to get rid of FEMA: "Unfortunately, FEMA’s failure in New Orleans went well beyond the blundered mistakes of a few inept bureaucrats. Their inability to be effective was a symptom of a much deeper problem. FEMA consistently responds to political influence rather than the victims’ needs."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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