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Anniversary celebrations of Obama’s first year … really?

January 21, 2010 1 comment

When Dubya hit his first year in office, there weren’t any celebrations, any parties held by random groups of Americans gathering for Hopesicles and Yes-We-Can’dy as they watched the HBO movie that chronicled his historic campaign. (And indeed, it was historic, if liberals are right that the man is certifiably retarded.) While this goes without saying in retrospect, at the time of his one-year anniversary, he was both personally and politically more popular than Obama is today on his. (Far more so, actually: according to Gallup, his average approval rating during his first year was over 67% and he only reached Obama’s current low approval rating in his fourth year.) So, what gives? Why weren’t conservatives gathering in their homes across the nation to creepily and cult-ishly celebrate Dubya (or Bush I, or Reagan, and so on)?

The difference is primarily in how conservatives and liberals see their political leaders: conservatives see mere politicians where liberals see social saviors. This is a widespread conservative critique of Obamism, to be sure, but it bears repeating on days like today when the mania is so abundant and ripe for picking (on).

And besides, what’s an anniversary celebration? Or what is it supposed to be? Typically such celebrations commemorate something deeply personal or spiritual or in which one has made a substantial personal investment — the date of one’s wedding, the date on which a loved one passed on, one more year of life successfully lived, and even, yes, the date on which you, yourself (Mr. Obama) or your close advisers and friends and colleagues are celebrating your first year in office.

But Joe Voter somewhere in Los Angeles hosting a party to celebrate a public servant’s year mark? That’s not an anniversary celebration. That’s some form of worship. Or creepy. Your call, but it can only be one or the other, or both.

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Categories: President Obama, Society

Maybe we need a Nanny State after all

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

In the parking lot of my Nashville hotel, there’s a sign on every light pole disclaiming the hotel’s refusal of liability for damaged or stolen or robbed cars. Fair enough. I guess that would be an okay sign. But these signs go a bit further: “Remove valuables – lock car – take keys,” the signs continue. Gee, thanks for the instructions. (Note to self: always take keys! This hotel is onto something!)

It’s easy to blame the hotels — and city governments, and peanut-butter manufactureers (“WARNING: This product contains peanuts”), and restaurants — for treating their patrons like children, but my hunch is this is a chicken-or-the-egg thing. Companies’ corporate leadership likely doesn’t sit around, as a public service, coming up with ways to instruct their customers on the most mundane, seemingly obvious steps they can take to protect themselves. Instead, it’s likely driven by dumb patrons who have come in screaming frantically from the parking lot, “Help, help! My car is gone! I don’t understand this! I made sure to leave my car unlocked and I even left the keys in the ignition, yet it’s gone! You guys owe me a car! This is some kinda bulls–t!” and then launched a lawsuit in which the prevailing argument was that, hey, there weren’t any signs in the lot warning people to lock their cars.

Enough of that happens, you start to put up signs. You might be thinking right now, “Thanks, Cap’n Obvious,” but you know you’ve thought to yourself upon seeing such signs, “How stupid does Management think we are?” The answer is, every bit as stupid as the last lawsuit that cleaned them out of a few million in legal fees. It’s madness out there.

So maybe the Nanny State is a reaction to a people and culture whining and screaming for someone to tell them at every turn what to do next. Or a culture of personal irresponsibility in which everyone is a victim. Perhaps the Nanny State hasn’t been imposed from above, but demanded from below. So, fellow conservatives — is the problem our leaders, or is it our neighbors?

On my way back into the hotel a few minutes ago, I noticed half a dozen cigarette butts littered — get this — around the base of what should be a universally recognized (by smokers, at least) cigarette disposal (you know, the long-necked thingies with the wide-based receptacles). Then I noticed there wasn’t a sign telling smokers what to do next with their filthy cigarettes — and suddenly the mess made perfect sense.

Categories: Society

RE: Are America’s poor REALLY getting poorer?

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

I sent the link in my last post to a group of friends with whom I regularly email about politics — it’s a nice mix of conservatives, moderates, and even a liberal. One of the fellas, who I’d characterize as a conservative Democrat, admitted that he hadn’t thought about the standard-of-living aspect of poverty in America, which he admitted was an important part of the debate on income equality, but added the following “but”:

If one looks at how many Americans are struggling to make their bills, not sure there is a lot of rosy optimism though. After all, just because I bought a washer 7 years ago doesn’t mean I have food today, or can afford to pay my electric at the end of the month. So, not sure how meaningful those measures are if we are looking at survival. Sure they are an indicator of standard of living, but that may not be the dominant concern.

A conservative in the group replied that it’s not about “survival” or the “basics” anymore, but is instead about “fairness,” and even worse, less about what one lacks than about what others have. It’s gone from making sure the poor have electricity, running water, and an education, to, “Why does that rich kid have an iPod and my kid doesn’t?”

I wanted to take it a step or two back, though, because I’m not sure anyone has challenged the notion of even the alleged and fairly-universally-agreed-upon “basic” rights. After all, isn’t it this very notion that created this monster of ever-expanding rights in the first place?

If you say, for instance, that everyone has a right to a basic education in this country (as even many conservatives contend nowadays) — and by “right” they really mean a “benefit” or “advantage” paid for by somebody else — then where do you draw the line? And that’s the problem. You can’t draw it firmly anywhere because you’ve recognized that there’s a line to be negotiated. The line will soon exclude nothing and circumscribe everything.

What started out as a right to a basic education turned into a right to a good education, which turned into a right to a good education where there’s also a good athletic or music program — and so on. And if K-12 is a right, then shouldn’t a college degree be, too? There are plenty today who say so. And from there it’s a small jump to a right to a good job, and then to a good job with “equal” pay (whatever that means), and from there an even shorter leap to a right to a good job with equal pay — that offers health benefits. (Next stop: universal care.) And don’t forget about the right to one’s first home … right on down the line of luxuries to that home not just as a place to hang your hat, but as an appreciating asset! Yes, this is now a right, too.

But we really have a fundamental right to only one thing in this world, in part because it’s the only right no one can possibly enjoy less or more of than the next guy, nor is it something one can feel envious of in another because we all would benefit from it in equal measure: that is, a government that protects us from outside and internal threats to our liberties. No more, no less. The rest is spun as “fundamental rights” by those who don’t understand the concept in the first place — and who don’t care to. All they really mean by rights is some benefit or advantage, bought and paid for by someone else.

Categories: Liberalism, Society

Are America’s poor REALLY getting poorer?

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Nope.

Categories: Liberalism, Society

Oprah is a hypocrite

November 21, 2009 5 comments

From James Taranto’s “Best of the Web,” a fun Wall Street Journal daily feature:

Deadline Hollywood reports:

She explained to insiders, “Why would anybody stay in Chicago? It’s freezing here, and I have a mansion in Montecito that I haven’t been able to enjoy.”

The report adds that “Oprah and her people have long limited the time she spends in Montecito so she doesn’t exceed the number of days mandating her to pay exorbitant taxes as a California resident.”

Oprah is a liberal, as everyone knows, and was easily President Obama’s most prominent celebrity supporter during the campaign. And I certainly understand why she wouldn’t want to pay California’s exorbitant taxes, but I’m a conservative, so if I were as rich as Oprah I’d be expected to avoid lifestyle and business decisions that would increase my tax liability.

But how do liberals like Oprah get away with this hypocrisy? A progressive who avoids the progressive taxation of her own income?

This kind of tax hypocrisy you see in rich liberals is more egregious than your average adulterous conservative’s hypocrisy … more egregious by a long shot. Here’s why.

When a conservative cheats on his wife — let’s say mere days after opposing a gay-marriage bill, he’s not by any stretch of language a hypocrite. To be a definitional hypocrite, the conservative man would have had to marry another man and voted against gay marriage. Right? If we’re being clear and precise in defining hypocrisy? He most certainly would be an asshole for cheating on his wife after voting against gay marriage, sure, but he’s not a hypocrite for opposing gay marriage while doing so. The left’s definition of their favorite word is far too broad. (And besides, if you define hypocrisy so broadly that our example’s a hypocrite for not maintaining the sanctity of his own marriage while seeking to impose his definition of marriage on the rest of society, what exactly are you saying? That he fell short of his own ideals? Who doesn’t? By that yardstick, all are hypocrites, which either renders the term utterly meaningless or requires us to define it a bit more narrowly, as I’ve done.)

So, when Oprah — a strong Democrat who supports Obama and the Democratic platform plank that the rich exist to finance the lifestyles of the Rest of Us — as an exquisitely rich woman, does what she can to minimize her tax liability, is she not the very embodiment of hypocrisy? Even more so than the Republican who cheats on his wife but opposes gay marriage?

Categories: Liberalism, Oprah, Society

“When folly is forever,” by Adam Keiper (Wall Street Journal op-ed)

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Having scribbled my fair share of shameless screeds and, while in the throes of a heated email debate among my political-nerd friends, thoughtlessly thumbed countless indiscreet ruminations on my BlackBerry, I should probably worry about my doomed political future, as Victor Mayer-Schonberger intimates might be necessary in his book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. But I don’t (and not only because I’m not contemplating much of one anyway), and I don’t think most people really should — at least, not in the long run.

That I’m saying this is my own argument’s QED: Having said enough that could be twisted and distorted in a campaign, I’m that much less likely to assume that the unearthed (or unethered) emails of a candidate really offer me much of a window into his candidacy, since I know that not much of what I’ve written offers anyone else much of a window into my own (hypothetical campaign). My hunch is that after this initial phase of shock and awe over what some might have written 10 years ago as a sophomore in college wears off — as most novelties do when 10 years becomes 20 (becomes 30, becomes 40, and so on) — the only people left to vote or hire workers will be those who’ve similarly erred. Soon, just about everyone will have emailed an unformed or uninformed thought, or played devil’s advocate (“Let’s say I’m a gay ex-Mormon who wants to change his gender and marry my older brother …”) or employed sarcasm (“Yes, yes, I know: I’m a racist misogynist — guilty as charged!”), which we all very soon will realize can be easily twisted and de-contextualized by a manipulative opposing campaign or reporter.

My hunch — or maybe it’s my hope — is that it will all become white noise and dismissed in the same way that it’s often easier to read in a crowded cafeteria overflowing with the conversations of hundreds than it is in a near-empty one the silence of which is absorbed, as is your attention, by the conversation of two. Soon enough, we all (or most of us, anyway) will be victims of some past discretion, and as a result, all (or most) will stand on equally shaky footing. The only thing left to sturdy the past on which we all stand so awkwardly would be a cultural, tacit acceptance that, hey, kids will be kids and even young adults say and do things they eventually grow out of. Once anything and everything everyone writes and says is not only fair game but fairly accessible, all we’ll have, all we’ll be able to rely on at all, is the present as a guide. Ultimately, then, I hope our virtual memory will fade into relative unimportance. And hey, it may even behoove the goody-goodies among us to have said and done wild things as a child. After all, how can we trust someone who seems to have so miraculously navigated the ether as to remain virtually unblemished?

And besides, as Mr. Keiper, Delete‘s Wall Street Journal reviewer argues, “what’s so bad about a little self-censorship? It may prove safer for those of us who leave no moment unphotographed, no heartbreak or health scare unblogged, and no thought un-tweeted. And it may also help reawaken us to the quiet pleasures of private life.”

I’d go a step further and add that what’s missing in our schools is an emphasis on thoughtfulness. To the contrary, kids are taught to think less, that speaking before thinking is not only a right, but a virtue. A return to emphasis on rigorous thought — which would occur a step or two before self-censorship, giving the speaker perhaps less to censor, since his thoughts would be disciplined and well-formed in the first place — might be a healthy bi-product of the era of airing dirty laundry.

So, I think we’re worrying about a whole lotta nothin’ — again, in the long run, since in the short term we’ll of course gape at this and that electronic revelation from the Ghost of Whispers Past.

(One final thought: Where are the adults who spend more time admonishing kids not to engage in a drunken orgy in the first place than they spend worrying about whether its photographic evidence will end up on FaceBook? I mean, honestly. It seems to me the more mature response and warning as we enter a new age is along these lines: “If the myriad good reasons not to participate in teenage drunkenfests are not clear and convincing, then perhaps its unintended consequence of potential career setbacks is: don’t be a moron, and no one can snap pics of you acting like one.” Where’s this kind of leader in our kids’ lives?)

Life imitates The Onion: big bad banks

October 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Here’s a novel idea for people “outraged” (the new term of choice, usually accompanied by self-asserting rights created from thin air) by overdraft fees, New York Times: It’s called “balancing one’s checkbook.” Now, no one really uses these mysterious things I call checks anymore, and the “ordinary people” (a euphemism, if I’ve ever heard one, for “people who are too dim or lazy — or both — to manage their own finances”) who are “ambushed,” as the NYT calls it, by overdraft fees might not be able to make the connection between checks and their bank account, but that’s what I’m getting at here: balance your bank account everyday; know what you have and what you don’t in there (i.e., you can only have one of two things in your bank account: money or no money … there’s no third option like A Trip to Florida or Free Daily Cups of Coffee or Free Subscriptions to GQ or US Weekly; no, silly goose, all these latter options are paid for by one of the first two options: money or no money). Keep this simple rule in mind, and you won’t be “ambushed” by the big, bad banks.

It’s tough having all the answers, but at the same time, it’s getting easier by the day, it seems, in this increasingly unthinking American culture.