Friday, August 30, 2013

As We Blunder Into Syria

There really is no excuse. And I apologize.

I should have read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel years ago when it first came out.

You remember Ayaan.  She's the strikingly beautiful Somali-born woman that went into hiding after the assassination of her collaborator Theo van Gogh by an Islamist fanatic.

Why should I have read her memoir? Because if you want to understand the Muslim world, it's a really good place to start.

And that might be a good idea as the Obama administration leads from behind into a stumbling, bumbling Syria intervention.

Want to know about Saudi money and the madrassas? Want to know about the Brotherhood? Want to know what it is like growing up in the Third World as traditional ways of life are snatched up and whirled into the modern age like houses caught up in a tornado? It's all there in Infidel.

Ayaan's grandmother was a Somali nomad, telling terrifying stories about babies carried away by hyenas, and drilling her grandchildren in their parentage, generation after generation.

Because in the nomad world you have to be on your guard all the time against sudden and unexpected danger, and you have to know your exact place in the web of clans and tribes and family.

But Ayaan's mother wanted to be a modern woman. She settled in Mogadishu, in a house, and so Ayaan and her sister and brother grew up as rambunctious kids in the city. That was before the family followed their political father to Saudi Arabia, to Ethiopia, to Kenya from where he fought a war of resistance against Somali dictator Siad Barré

In each place the kids have to start from scratch in school. In Saudi, of course, no female can go out of doors unless accompanied by a man, and education is centered on the Koran. In Kenya, it's the British system, in English, leading up to "O" Levels.

All the way it is major culture clash, with clans against the new nationalist idea, with the market economy clashing against tradition. And with swirling religious purification as the young people struggle to find their place in the new world.

There is grandmother still rooted in the spirit world of djinns; there is mother corroded by father's desertion. There are movies, TV soaps, English language classic novels, trashy romance novels. There is the question of traditional female subservience, the new Muslim Brotherhood mosques and madrassas trying to purify the old faith. There are Christian friends at school that object to being prosletyzed.

And there is sex. Grandmother arranges circumcisions all round while mother is away on a black-market trip. And is sex dirty? Are the lady parts an abomination unless cut away? What about sex with your husband on that first night when he is trying to break through a sewn up vagina?

For the West, the ferment in the Middle East is at best an irritating distraction, a summer storm whipped up by ignorant people that are missing the point. At worst it's a worldwide totalitarian movement trying to blow up everything that the West has learned and achieved in the last half millennium.

But perhaps it is better to understand the turmoil in the Middle East as a future trying to be born, millions of young people emerging from traditional agriculture and nomadism into an utterly different world, trying to understand the new meaning of life, as young people always want to do, and trying to find their place in it.

Ayaan's place turned out to be Holland and university and politics and apostasy and expulsion from her family and clan. And eventual flight to the United States to escape the avenging sword of radical Islamism.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fifty Years After

The speakers before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, invoked the memory of Martin Luther King to boost their pet political projects.  The excluded Republicans muttered about the betrayal of King's promise of racial healing.

But let the fact of today's political midgets not obscure the unexpected transcendent moment of August 28, 1963, the day that Martin Luther King Jr. inspired us with his Dream.

Society before the modern era was defined by its families, its tribes, its clans, its races.  Our era has tried haltingly to base society upon a more universal foundation, our shared humanity, beginning at least with shared language, with shared love of God, shared understanding of the use we can be to each other in the exchange of our labors.

But we are not perfect, nor ever shall be.  Dr. King, if transcendent in his call to surmount racial divide on that day in 1963, was conventional in his politics, a social democrat that believed in "economic justice."  Had he lived, he might have succumbed to the racial name-calling of his associates.

The liberals that worked so hard as activists and freedom riders to extend civil rights to all Americans have betrayed that cause with their reactionary "race card" politics and the entitlement programs that have demolished the lower class culture into vice and dependency.

Conservatives have succumbed to bitterness as 90 percent of African Americans vote, election after election, for a corrupt ruling class of administrative liberals.

Instead of a new birth of freedom we got, in the last 50 years, a huge expansion of government power.

Well, we are all human, and even the greatest of heroes can sulk in his tent like Achilles.

But let us not forget that 50 years ago, a young black pastor made a speech that symbolized an era, a great effort to atone for America's Original Sin, under which men and women, spoils of tribal warfare, were brought to these shores and worked for profit, the great profit of growing sugar and cotton.  And that after a great Civil War it took a further century to completely break the shackles that fettered the bondsman's ankles -- and his life.

Perhaps it is a good thing that the nation's First Black President has turned out to be as average and venal as any white president down the decades, and that his Attorney General is as corrupt as any previous.

After all, the point about politicians is that they are not gods, as their supporters boost them, but ordinary practical men that know how to win elections but then proceed to betray their supporters.

So political and social life lurches onwards, from hope to betrayal to outrage.  And men still hope for deliverance when they decide it is Time for a Change and dream of a time when men and women will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blundering into Syria

Since I'm fresh from reading Angelo Codevilla's War: Means and Ends, I'm a little bemused by the current Syria flap.  We're going to bomb Syria for three days because of a chemical warfare attack on civilians?

Or is the dirty little truth that we're getting in big time but the only way to justify power politics in these precious times is by playing the humanitarian card and saying that we are only there to stop the gassing?

(Why is it that chemical weapons are such a big deal to our ruling class?  From what I gather, chemical weapons are really not that effective.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe chemical weapons are effective, particularly on civilians.)

Either way, let's at least be clear about what we want in the Middle East.  We want it divided, with no one power dominating the rest of the region.

That's why we went after Saddam Hussein in 1990-91.  Because his attack on Kuwait threatened to make him the regional hegemon.  That's why we went into Iraq in 2003... Yes, why did we go into Iraq?  I hoped at the time that it was to build an effective counterweight to Iran.  Only it doesn't seem to have worked.

At any rate, our policy right now ought to be directed at weakening Iran.  Whether that means leaning towards the Sunni rebels in Syria, or taking out Bashir and the Alawite regime, or building a democratic opposition in Iran I don't know.

But I hope the Obama administration knows.

That's my big worry.  I worry that the Obama administration doesn't know what it wants and is only acting because it has to.  The Big Show for the Obamis, after all, is the war against the Evil Republicans and everything they stand for.

In war as in politics, you don't want to be distracted by side-shows.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Critical Mass on Unschooling?

We conservatives have been whining about the public school system for ages.  Not that we have that much of a problem with schooling.  We just believe in school choice, what you might call the substitution of the administrative principle of the current system with the market principle that would allow schooling to develop to meet the needs of the consumers.

Still, there are lots of conservative parents that approve of homeschooling and its derivatives.

My cranky opinion boils down to the simplistic notion that public schools are government child custodial facilities.

But now comes a wonder.  The liberal has an article by an unschooling publicist, Peter Gray, entitled "School is a prison — and damaging our kids."  Gray's book is Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self Reliant, and Better Prepared for Life.

While chaps like me put the blame for prison schools on liberal elitists like Horace Mann, Peter Gray blames the Puritans.
The blueprint still used for today’s schools was developed during the Protestant Reformation, when schools were created to teach children to read the Bible, to believe scripture without questioning it, and to obey authority figures without questioning them.
And I thought it was all the fault of the Jesuits, who proclaimed "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man."

But never mind.  The point is that the modern schooling movement was based on the idea that we needed to force children to learn the things we needed them to learn so that they would become the right kind of adults.  Jesuits wanted to force children to become good Catholics; Protestants wanted to force children to become good Protestants.  Horace Mann and Co. wanted to force the Boston Irish away from their ignorance and vice and Catholicism.  Experts at the turn of the 20th century were anxious to force children to become dutiful factory workers.  Modern public school administrators want to force rambunctious little boys into good little girls.  And so on.

I emphasize the force, because I think it is important.  Everyone in the education biz seems to have thought that force was necessary.  And yet the evidence belies them.  Writes Gray:
I have spent much of my research career studying how children learn. Children come into the world beautifully designed to direct their own education. They are endowed by nature with powerful educative instincts, including curiosity, playfulness, sociability, attentiveness to the activities around them, desire to grow up and desire to do what older children and adults can do.
And what do these children learn before they ever go to school?
Through their own efforts, children learn to walk, run, jump and climb. They learn from scratch their native language, and with that, they learn to assert their will, argue, amuse, annoy, befriend, charm and ask questions... They do all this before anyone, in any systematic way, tries to teach them anything. 
And system, the oracle tells us, is domination.

We've heard about the tablet computers in Ethiopia, and that in six months illiterate village kids learned how to hack the computers to turn on the camera.  It turns out, according to Gray, that someone has tried the same trick with kids in India.
Another researcher who has documented the power of self-directed learning is Sugata Mitra. He set up outdoor computers in very poor neighborhoods in India, where most children did not go to school and many were illiterate. Wherever he placed such a computer, dozens of children would gather around and, with no help from adults, figure out how to use it. 
 I suppose that we should forgive the schoolmasters of 200 years ago.  Back then books were expensive and teachers were cheap.  So it made sense to pack kids together to learn from a teacher.  Today the whole world, from Wikipedia to Khan Academy, is available on a computer (and remember today's computer desktop was designed by Xerox PARC a generation ago from research about how children learn).

So maybe it's time for a new paradigm.

Anyway, if liberals are getting with the homeschooling paradigm then there really is hope.

The problem for our liberal friends is likely to be the unwelcome truth that any future education "system" is likely to mean less political power for liberals.

Sorry about that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Who Is The President Working For?

Foreign policy analyst Richard Fernandez asks a significant question today.  Who does the president think he is working for?  The answer Fernandez gives is:
[Y]ou work for guys like the mid-Western plumber. The folks who drive Fords, shop at Safeway’s and who may even own a gun or two. The people who elected you.
And that's just the problem.  President Obama does not see himself working to create a decent life for Joe the Plumber, Ford drivers, Safeway shoppers and gun owners.  He has a far higher calling: fundamental transformation.

More than George W. Bush, more even than Bill Clinton, Obama is a creature of the ruling class, the people with Big Ideas for America: Single-payer health care, green energy, financial regulation, outreach to traditionally marginalized communities, and all the other ideas that feature a starring role for the administrative ruling class.

The president has pushed towards single-payer health care because that's what the elite thinks we need.  Ordinary people can't really understand how to structure the health care industry, and certainly can't deal with a big personal health care crisis; it's up to the educated ruling class to do the job.

The president is a green energy advocate because that's what people like him know is needed.  Carbon pollution will waste the planet and we have to do something to stop it.

The president backs administrative regulation of the financial markets, as per Dodd-Frank, because that's what Everyone agrees is needed to stop the con artists and banksters from creating another financial crisis.

The president backs the racist Reverends because he believes that only community organizers and politics can help marginalized communities get justice.  Otherwise inequality and injustice will get worse.

The plumber, the Ford owner, the Safeway shopper: they don't have a direct opinion on these esoteric questions.  They just know that the economy is bad and they are struggling.  They don't know what has gone wrong.

But what should the president do for the folks he is working for, if he should not take the advice of the ruling class?

The conservative answer starts with an act of faith.  Almost certainly, we believe, any political policy that requires detailed administrative supervision of the economic sector is a bad idea and will not work.  So that takes care of single payer, green energy, and financial regulation right away.

You know where that argument comes from.  It is the argument of F.A. Hayek that government simply cannot develop the knowledge to administer the economy, but millions of producers and consumers can and do.

So confine the government to making general rules to make the price system work.

We also believe that any politics that starts with the exploitation narrative -- that "our group" is being discriminated against and the government needs to act -- will do more harm than good, except in cases of egregious discrimination such as that in the Jim Crow South and today in the quotas and diversity culture.

You know where that comes from.  It's a simple application of the workings of the price system.  Imagine a discriminatory world in which black workers are paid less than white workers.  What a profit opportunity for the entrepreneur willing to take a risk on black workers!  After a while, the world will begin to notice that the black workers working for our daring entrepreneur create more profit than higher-paid white workers.  They hire black workers themselves.  Pretty soon the demand for black workers goes up and employers have to bid up their wages.  And so on.  The only thing needful is to prevent the government or posses of angry racists from interfering with the entrepreneurial lust for profit.

So conservatives believe that the government should only act in cases of grievous discrimination.

The only good thing about the Obama presidency is that it will teach the American people to believe that something went wrong in the Obama years.  They won't know exactly what it was, but they will have a feeling that the president wasn't really working for them and their needs.

They will feel, in 2016, that it is time for a change. And they will get it.

Let's give the Fool has the last word:
Why, 'some are born great, some achieve greatness,
and some have greatness thrown upon them.'...
and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
The Fool was speaking to Malvolio, not President Obama, of course.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Liberals and "Violence"

Quick:  Do you think the alleged killing of an Australian jogger by three African American teenagers in Oklahoma is "senseless violence?"  Or "gun violence?"  Or "racist violence?"

Actually, you probably don't know because the liberal media has been a bit slow to report and comment on the black-on-white Oklahoma killings.

We all know what is going on here.  On the assumption that the only justifiable use of force is the understandable rage of the oppressed, liberals regard all acts of force by others as "violence" and a form of disease.

I want to make my peaceful protest against that whole notion.

The resort to force is seldom "senseless violence" but more usually a rational and human act.

Let's start with the three teenagers accused of murdering the Australian college student.  It's perfectly normal for three young men banded together into a proto-gang to look for someone to kill.  That's what young men did back in the hunter-gatherer days.  It even goes back before that.  Three against one is the preferred odds for chimpanzees patrolling the borders of their territory.  The whole point of fathers and the socialization of males is to sublimate this instinctive urge to kill into more socially approved channels.  Fathers are usually absent in the African American community.  So you'd expect a lot of unsocialized males to be out on the streets "looking for trouble."

What about Egypt?  Here we have reports of "violence" in the streets of Cairo.  Well, yes.  There's a civil war going on, and people resort to "violence" when they are fighting a civil war.  From the western point of view Egypt is a complete mess, unable to grow enough food to feed its millions and with an economy that cannot produce goods and services to pay for food imports.  What else would you expect in such a situation except bloody war and killing?

What about the whole Middle East?  The western policy has been to apply pressure on the region to reduce violence and advance a "peace process." But is that sensible?  Is not the current utter failure not just a personal failure of Barack Obama but the failure of the entire West to understand the situation of the Middle East culture?

The facts are that human death by violence is on the decrease.   That's what Steven Pinker writes in The Better Angels of Our Nature.  Hunter-gathers had 500 deaths per 100,000 per year.  Agriculturalists about 50 deaths per 100,000 per year.  We industrials have about 5 deaths per 100,000 per year.

Why is that?  It is because every male in a small hunter-gatherer band is involved in the defense of the borders.  But in the larger agricultural political unit there's an army to do that.

But in the industrial age, the defense of our food-producing land from the marauding foreigners is no longer the big issue.  Wealth is no longer denominated in acres but between the ears of productive entrepreneurs and workers.  It really doesn't make any sense for today's Greeks to go marauding to Troy.  A modern Hector would not worry about his wife Andromache being sold into slavery if the Trojans lost the war.  No, the best thing after a big war is to do what the Americans did after World War II: put the Germans and Japanese back to work to rebuild their industrial economies, and place a bet that they wouldn't be interested in war.

But this does not apply to the Middle East, which is pre-industrial.  In fact, with its oil, the region is still agricultural: its wealth is sitting there, not on the ground but under the ground.  Its wealth is not denominated in numbers of productive citizens, because its citizens are not productive enough to compete in the world market of goods and services.  So it makes sense that Middle East potentates think like Homeric warriors and medieval kings and princes.

Unfortunately the liberal notion of "violence" prevents us from seeing all this.  We are scandalized by the wars; they prompt us into promoting "peace processes" to end the violence where there is no interest in peace, and where wars are the natural and practical strategy of any self-respecting ruler.

Domestically the problem is the same.  For minority gangs in the big cities, gang wars and killing are the most logical and sensible things in the world.  If we want the "violence" to stop then we have to change the economic incentives and end the fatherless welfare culture.

We could do that.  But it's pretty clear that liberals prefer the current status quo and the political power that comes with it.  Whatever the outcome in "senseless violence."

But conservatives are different.  And we can start by ridiculing the senseless liberal "violence" discourse.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What "Emerging Democratic Majority?"

Ever since 2004 the Democrats have been assuring us that we are on the cusp of The Emerging Democratic Majority.  Yeah, there's a book by John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira.

Obviously, a chap like me cannot believe such a thing because if I did, what would be the point of being a conservative?

The basic idea is that minorities, women, and educated young people are all trending Democratic, so look out ageing white men.

But there's just one thing, as TV detective Columbo used to say.

If the whole world is trending Democratic why does the president have to flog the black community into the Democratic column with racist incidents like the beer summit and the Trayvon Martin case?

If women are trending Democratic why do Democrats have to terrify women into believing that Republicans want to take their contraception away?

And if students are trending Democratic why is it necessary to make a big deal about student loans?

Shouldn't it just be obvious that the liberal way is the right way?

If you look at what Democrats do instead of what they say, you'd think that Democrats are scared to death of getting into a permanent minority, so they figure they have to flog every potential advantage from race identity to voter registration.

Which means that they are not in the catbird seat as they pretend.

In fact, of course, President Obama won reelection by only four points.  In fact, the US House of Representatives has a Republican majority.  In fact, state legislatures and governors have been trending Republican for years.

The reason that young 'uns and blacks and women have been trending Democratic is because only Democrats have their ear.  If you're a black then racial solidarity requires to you identify as Democrat.  If you are a single woman, practical considerations require you to rely on the government safety net rather than the spousal safety net.  If you are an educated youth then you've been listening to unionized teachers since kindergarten.  How you you think that unionized teachers with government pensions and tenure are going to vote?

Under the Obama administration these good folks are going to find out that Democratic governance does not improve their lives.  They are going to find out that politicians and their cronies are always and everywhere corrupt unless you tirelessly expose their shenanigans.  They are going to find out that politicians don't have a clue about the economy or education or health care or anything else.

That's because politics is good for only one thing: riling people up for a war.  You can learn that the easy way by reading a few books, or you can learn it the hard way in the aftermath of the inevitable political failures.

Bottom line: look for a reversal on that glorious Democratic majority in the next few years.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Conserrvatives Don't Get It says Liberal

Conservatives are already responding to Mike Konzcal's "Conservatives don't get that some problems are public, and it's hurting them" in the Washington Post.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that, e.g., "unemployment is a public problem... because the individual firm, the individual himself, is powerless to cope with the complexities in times of stress."  That's how Bill Buckley put it, according to Konzcal.

OK, so now we have to define the difference between "public" and "private."  Konzcal uses John Dewey:
Dewey argued that the public is involved wherever an action between two people has consequences “that extend beyond the two directly concerned.”
Then off he goes critiquing conservatives for saying that government shouldn't provide a safety net,  that shaming the poor is better than a government response,  and that talk of inequality belongs in "quiet rooms."

Ah yes.  Inequality, President Obama's big line.  And, "for liberals, inequality is a public problem."
Huge inequality can make us more vulnerable to economic instability, and a weak middle class makes stronger recoveries and innovations less likely to happen. Huge inequalities can “distort our democracy,” making it harder for government to answer the needs of the people. These supplement other arguments like inequality can cause severe deprivation, stigmatizing, unacceptable forms of domination and block equality of opportunity.
But conservatives don't want the government to do anything about inequality.
Conservatives spend a lot of time discussing how inequality isn’t as big as we think, or how the poor have a much better life because certain durable goods are cheaper, or how austerity and liquidation are better for the overall economy than stimulus. But what they really think is that these don’t belong in the realm of the public, and that’s the realm of policy.
You'd expect that a liberal like Konzcal would make a dog's breakfast of what conservatives really believe, so let's pick over the mess he's created.

First of all, conservatives don't think in terms of the polarity of "public" and "private."  We believe that almost all human acts, especially economic acts, are social, in the sense of being not private, merely the business of one or two people, but public, in the sense that every economic act has repercussions throughout the economy.  That's what a free economy means as prices are transmitted throughout the society of producers and consumers.

The polarity that conservatives emphasize is the polarity between government and non-government, between force and voluntary cooperation.  What lies behind the benign notion of a "public problem" is the idea that voluntary cooperation has failed and force is the only solution.  In other words, liberals use the idea of "public" as a euphemism for "government" and "force."

In the conservative universe everything is a "public problem," that is, a problem that people might want to discuss in the public square.  But as soon as we are talking about government action then we are not really talking about a "public problem" any more.  We are talking about what kind of force to apply, what Lenin called "who whom."

Conservatives believe that force is usually the wrong medicine to apply to a social wound.  Take inequality.  Conservatives believe that there is benign inequality and malignant inequality.  The benign kind is the wealth acquired by Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs.  They made spectacular fortunes by making computers and iPhones that transformed peoples' lives and transformed the economy.  Good for them.  Then there is the malignant kind.  It's the difference in the wages between unionized and non-unionized workers.  The difference in wages between tenured professors and adjunct faculty.  The difference in compensation between pensioned, tenured government employees and casual laborers.

Notice the unseen force behind the malignant kind of inequality?  It's government.  It's government that allows some employees to form a labor monopoly.  It's government that supports academic tenure.  It's corrupt politicians that do corrupt deals with government union leaders in return for political support.

So it's all very well to talk about "public problems" but what if government action makes them worse?  That's the missing link in Mike Konzcal's world view.  He assumes that large-minded people can sit down at a table and construct another government program to fight inequality, and good things will flow.  But what if the opposite is true?  What if today's inequality is the result of 50 years of liberal responses to "public problems" that made things worse?  That's what conservatives are talking about when we mutter on about "unanticipated consequences" of government actions.

For instance, conservatives think that the big problem with the health care system is that 60 years of government intervention since World War II has created a monster.  We think that the monstrosity begins with the fact that most people don't pay for their health care: the insurance company does.  And so people don't pay attention to the hospital bill the way they pay attention to the grocery bill.  And we think that Obamacare will just make things worse and complicate an already complicated system of subsidies and third party payments with even more cross-subsidization.

We notice that, whatever the nature of a "public problem" may be, the liberal solution always seems to be to hand out more free stuff to their political supporters.  And we wonder.

It's baloney to say that "conservatives don't get that some problems are public."  We understand that all problems are public, in the sense that we are social animals and all our actions are social and public.  We just don't think that most problems require a government solution.  We believe, on the contrary, following Adam Smith and a host of adepts, that the solution of public problems begins with personally working to understand and helping solve the other guy's problem, as in the Invisible Hand.

Liberalism, we believe, is based on the idea of the Clunking Fist, to force the other guy to bend to your will.  Because you are right and he is wrong.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The 40 Year Republican Surge

With all the talk about The Emerging Democratic Majority it is easy to flinch before the jabs from the mainstream media that the Republican Party is Doomed, Doomed.

Or maybe not.  After all, what is a four point presidential win in 2012 telling us?  That President Obama ain't that popular, pal.

Now RealClear's invaluable Sean Trende has written a three parter on the Republicans: Are Elections Decided by Chance?, Are Republicans Really Out of Step?, and What If Party Makovers Don't Work? He argues that the reports on the death of the Republican Party have been grossly exaggerated.

In part one he shows that it almost looks as if elections are won by chance or the state of the economy. In part two he argues that Republicans and Democrats are not perceived by the voters as getting more extreme over time.  In fact the voters saw Romney as closer to their own political ideology than Barack Obama.  In part three he shows that party makeovers don't seem to make a lick of difference.

The takeaway chart for me was this one about party strength since 1945.
If you ask me the chart shows that the Republicans have been slowly growing in party strength at the state and national levels over the last 40 years since the nadir of the late 1970s.

You take a look at the chart and tell me: the chart, with all its noise and backing and filling shows a steady increase in GOP party strength.  Typically, of course, GOP strength improves towards the end of a Democratic presidency and declines towards the end of a Republican presidency.  But then there are the exceptions.

For all the noise the Democrats are making about taking back the House in 2014 it would be a bloody miracle if they did.  Maybe, after all, there will be a big bounce in the economy; maybe Obamacare will implement much better than expected.  Maybe the Republicans will get demolished by accusations of racism.

But I doubt it.  Much more likely is that we will see the rise of "privacy moms" uneasy about their cell-phone conversations ending up at the NSA and their health records getting hacked at the IRS.  Much more likely is the continuing disenchantment of the young 'uns realizing that they are the patsies of the Obamis, with unaffordable student debt and unaffordable health insurance and a lousy job market.  Much more likely is a gradual demoralization of the African American voters that have turned out so loyally for a president of their own race.

But all this is mere speculation.  For the reality we have to wait for November 2014 and November 2016 when the voters will speak.

Then it will be time to start the makeover lament all over again.  For the losing party of 2014 and 2016.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Liberals in "Worse than a Crime" Territory

All along, in the Obama era, I've had the feeling that the short-cuts and illegalities of the Obamis was, in the words of Talleyrand, worse than a crime, a blunder.

In other words, there's a reason that you obey the law and don't use the bureaucracy to harass your enemies.  It is to prevent the opposition from getting really riled up and unified.

Remember the 2000s.  The liberal activists used any questionable Bush administration act to whip their partisans into a frenzy, starting with the vote recounts in 2000 and continuing to the Bush Lied, People Died accusations about the entry into the Iraq War, and continuing with the eternal flap over Scooter Libby outing a CIA employee.  My liberal friends would give me a good flogging about these mild illegalities, which really weren't illegal at all.

Now we have President Obama asserting the right not to enforce laws like the Defense of Marriage Act or declining to enforce immigration laws.  The Obamacare rollout would be impossible without the president choosing which unworkable provision to delay or ignore next.

Today the Wall Street Journal edit page joins the chorus with a comment on the willful disregard of the law at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The NRC is stacked with Obama and Reid cronies that don't want to go ahead with the Yucca Flats nuclear storage site.  Only problem is it's against the law, and the US Appeals Court has so ruled.

If the head of the NRC worked on Wall Street, "he'd be indicted" for this kind of shenanigans, writes the Journal.  At least if he were a Republican.

And then there's my favorite, little Lois Lerner, who seems to have been using her private email to conduct government business, like some others we know.

The point about all this petty illegality is that it makes it much easier for the Republicans to run in 2014 and 2016.  You may not want to give up your entitlements but you sure don't like government officials getting off with breaking the law and giving themselves exemptions and insider deals.

So I think that the "laws are for the little people" attitude in the Obama administration and the go-along-to-get-along attitude in the media amounts to a strategic error.

A government needs to demonstrate that it follows the rules and respects its opponents.  Not because it is right, but because it avoids riling up the opposition.

The liberal media needs to keep liberals in line just as much as the hated conservatives.

Same thing with Obama's recent executive decision to exempt Congress and its staff from Obamacare.  When people are suffering next year from the chaos of Obamacare they will not like the idea that their representatives and their staffers got themselves exempted from the chaos.  Even a low information voter gets that.

But you never know.  Maybe the American people will just sit there and take it and elect Hillary Clinton president in 2016 because she's a woman.

Monday, August 12, 2013

We Ain't Ready Yet for the "Liberty Amendments"

Today's the release day for Mark Levin's new book The Liberty Amendments.  And yeah, he's got a few, as in:
  1. An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Members of Congress
  2. An Amendment to Restore the Senate
  3. An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices and Super-Majority Legislative Override
  4. Two Amendments to Limit Federal Spending and Taxing
  5. An Amendment to Limit the Federal Bureaucracy
  6. An Amendment to Promote Free Enterprise
  7. An Amendment to Protect Private Property
  8. An Amendment to Grant the States the Authority to Directly Amend the Constitution
  9. An Amendment to Grant the States the Authority to Check Congress
  10. An Amendment to Protect the Vote
He proposes a constitutional convention for this important work.  Jeffrey Lord has all the details.

But I think that Mark is putting the cart before the horse.  I don't see anything like a political movement that could sustain such an ambitious program.  Not yet.

Levin considers this a Third American Revolution (the second was the Progressive movement of the 1880s that gave us the income tax and the directly elected Senate and the administrative state).

But I don't think we are anywhere close to that point.  That's because I think that revolution takes three stages.
  1. The first stage is the general ideological battlefield preparation.  With deep thinkers that are proposing a new order.  I don't think that we are anywhere close to achieving that.  We've had Mises and Hayek, and we've had Novak with the three sector idea and Berger and Neuhaus with the championing of civil society.  But we don't have a intellectual tour de force that puts it all together.
  2. The second stage is the young 'uns and the conquest of the cultural space.  Revolutions need young people.  As in the Napoleonic baby boom of the 1840s with Marx, and the 1960s baby boom tearing up the streets.  We don't seem to have anything like that today.  The Occupy movement was an AstroTurf joke.  Young people got all in a tizzy with Obama who, really, was a reactionary, going back to the failed and the corrupt.  Now they are in a daze what with their student loans and their joblessness and all.  There is no sign of a change in the culture among the young 'uns.  Then there are women.  In my view we can't have a cultural revolution without women, because they are guardians of the culture.
  3. The third stage is boots on the ground, the conquest of the political space.  That is what Mark Levin's new book is about, and you can see why I think he is way premature.
Let's get back to the woman question.  Women just aren't natural revolutionaries, ranting on about injustice and exploitation; they take the world as they find it and try to make it work for them.  Women don't get riled up by airy-fairy political principles, but by the needs of their loved ones.  You would think that women would be all riled up by the health care mess that hurts their ageing mothers, by the education mess that hurts their children, and by the collapse of marriage that hurts women.  Maybe they are, but we ain't seen any sign of a rebellion on the distaff side, except perhaps that the telling  point that the Tea Party is largely run by women.  My feeling is that the Third American Revolution will need the enthusiastic participation of women if it is to be a success.

You can see my interest in all this.  I'm writing a book that is trying to do Stage One, the ideological battlespace preparation.  I am trying to define just what we mean by the political sector, with government as force, politics as division.  I am trying to describe the reality of the modern economic sector, the fact that it has got over its shameful birth in plantation slavery and industrial discipline, and I am thinking about how to keep business out of the embrace of the political sector.  And I am discussing the importance of the moral/cultural sector, and how all these sectors need a civil society if human society is to flourish as a social thing rather that a hegemonic, dominatory thing.

I think we still have a lot of work to do in hammering out the basic principles of what we believe, and in making it compelling or at least challenging to the liberal ruling class.

Then and only then can we lay it all out before the suffering young 'uns and let them get cracking.

And then we will be ready for Stage Three, the actual implementation in a glorious series of constitutional amendments or their equivalent.  Because we need to rein in the unjust administrative state and its dominatory and hegemonic systems and restore the lifeworld of civil society.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The World According to Me

Charles Krauthammer has one of his usual articles today hammering the Obama administration for its fumbling bumbling foreign policy in the Middle East.  Really, the president doesn't want this war, so he obfuscates and dodges and retreats.

President Obama is not the only president confused about the Middle East.  Angelo Codevilla in War: Ends and Means makes it depressingly clear that President Bush didn't have a clue either.  Nor did his advisors.  Back in the 2000s the State Department wanted one thing, the CIA another, and the Defense Department something else: all clueless barnacle bureaucrats.  So the president dodged and weaved between them, and nothing got resolved.

The problem is, though, that nobody had really thought through what the US wants in the Middle East.  Except that we want it to go away.

So what is the problem in the Middle East?

The problem, we know, is oil, and Winston Churchill is to blame.

It was in 1911 that Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty and championed the change in fuel for naval ships in the Royal Navy from coal to oil.  But he knew that he was creating a problem.
The oil supplies of the world were in the hands of vast oil trusts under foreign control. To commit the navy irrevocably to oil was indeed to take arms against a sea of troubles.
Switching to oil meant dominating the Middle East, the emerging oil region, and the Middle East was Islamic.  The reason that Britain had built its ocean route to India in the 18th century was precisely to avoid the Middle East and its sea of troubles.

Ever since, Britain, and then the US, has been hung upon the cross of Middle East diplomacy.  Two hundred years before 1911 the Brits had no problem in conquering India in order to dominate it.  But by 1911 imperialism had become a scandal and an embarrassment.  Civilized people didn't conquer other people, not unless they were Germans or Japanese.

So here are the horns of the dilemma.  We, the West, need to dominate the Middle East to ensure the continuing safe delivery of oil.  But we don't want to conquer it.  What would be the point?  The people of the Middle East mean nothing to us.  It is just the oil we want.

So we meddle enough to keep the Middle East in turmoil, and the rulers of the Middle East become better and better at manipulating and annoying us.  When they annoy us too much, we go in and spank them, and sometimes get tied up in knots trying to bring democracy to them.

What should we do?  Probably we need to just play hardball.  We don't want to bring the glories of democracy to the Middle East.  But we do want to make sure that no single power dominates the Middle East.  We don't want to steal the oil from the Middle East, but we do want to punish any regime that starts to play games with us over oil.

Meanwhile we need to advance the fracking revolution so that the peculiar position of the Middle East as the swing producer of oil is diminished.  So that, in other words, the power of the OPEC oil cartel is reduced from a roar to a whimper.

There may be a silver lining to the cloud of Obama unknowing.  The stumble-bum policy of the Obama administration may be just the right thing for us.  Maybe we need a tactical retreat so that, for the next ten years, we can just watch the warring factions in the Middle East destroy each other.  Let Sunnis fight Shias and Iraqis fight Syrians, and let Egypt collapse into irrelevance.

Let us just be sure that we are ready to administer a stern lesson whenever the Middle Eastern potentates try to play politics with the world's oil.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Businessmen Are #1

I was at the opera last night, a performance of Siegfried, the third in Richard Wagner's four-opera Der Ring des Nibelungen.  It was a first-rate performance with Stefan Vinke in the title role, even allowing that the Brünnhilde, Lori Phillips, was standing in at the last minute as the advertised Brünnhilde, Alwyn Mellor, was sidelined with an allergy attack.

The great theme of Siegfried is the end of the age of the gods.  Wotan, now the Wanderer, accepts that the rigid idea of the triune world and everyone in their place: -- Nibelungs in the underworld, giants on the earth and gods in Valhalla -- is over.  Now humans, represented by the Volsungs, i.e., Siegfried, will inherit the earth and freedom and contingency will reign.

Freedom, as I define it, is the right to make mistakes.  And of course in the final Ring opera, Götterdämmerung, Siegfried will make a big one, everything will get screwed up, and the world will be left with the eternal female, Brünnhilde, singing in full voice while the whole universe collapses into the Rhine.

But in the intermission, aside from talking with conductors and art dealers, I got to talk to a guy from Boise, Idaho, who was running a couple of waste energy plants.  One was waste-to-energy, which I assume means garbage waste.  The other was a refinery waste project, "burning" waste from a refinery in Billings, Montana, and delivering steam back to the refinery, among other things.

It made me think.  To be a businessman, doing real stuff like trying to make a profit in some obscure but important economic niche, is the most honorable thing I can imagine.

Ordinary Joe employees like you and me?  We are ungrateful whiners that actually get to sleep at night.

Sauntering politicians?  They are divisive scum.

Political activists and community organizers?  They are worse than scum because, unlike politicians, they have absolutely no responsibility.

Barnacle bureaucrats?  They are bloodsuckers backed by men with guns taking and spending the lifeblood of ordinary people on the principle of How Not to Do It.

Not-for-profit preeners?  Look, it's a lot easier to  fundraise and spend money on worthy causes than to wrestle a business plan, day to day, into actual real profits.

Creative artists?  They are wonderful.  Don't forget that many are called but few are chosen.

But businessmen and businesswomen?  They are the people that actually make things happen in this world and that all of the above blame when things go wrong.

Back to Siegfried.  Seattle Opera General Director Speight Jenkins came out before the third act to announce the Brünnhilde change and he got a standing ovation.  I'll tell you one little story that will tell you why.  Speight Jenkins visits the orchestra at every performance, and my neighbor Julie, who plays viola in the pit, just loves him for that.

Speight Jenkins is a wonder.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where's the Love?

Salem Radio's Lee Habeeb has a challenge for conservatives.  He asks, in effect, Where's the Love in conservative politics?  All he sees is anger.
It is love, regrettably, that is so utterly absent from anything we talk about as conservatives. I would bet that if you Googled every speech by every conservative candidate in 2012, you wouldn’t find the word “love” once.
It's a good point.  Love is especially important in attracting women voters, because, despite a century of feminism, women are still all about love.

Men are different; they are fighters, so you can use the rhetoric of Les Miserables to get their vote.
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
This is a call to arms, which makes sense for men because men are fighters.  But what about the "looove" that women crave?

Obviously, we can admit, the Democrats do a bang up job of oozing the love to their single-women voters, even as they project the vilest hate towards the racists sexists and bigots of their imagination.  That's what all the rhetoric about caring is about, and proposing a program to meet every human need; it appeals to the woman in all of us.

Conservatives should play that game too.  That a government worker can't love a child like a parent, that every child is precious, that poverty is the result of a child without a father's presence and love, that bad schools and social promotion are loveless.  Only we don't say it.

The other side of love is betrayal.  If you are serving up fake love, Habeeb makes clear, then sooner or later your loved one gets to experience the betrayal of love withdrawn.

And that is clearly the line that conservatives must take.  Big government promises to care for you, but look what happens to schools, to kids, to Obamacare, to you.  What you get from government love is betrayal.

Government and politics are not about love.  Government is force, politics is division.  You will never get love and happiness from government and politics.

It is humans as social animals: that's where love comes in; humans that cooperate freely and honestly and lovingly in what Habermas called the Lebenswelt, the life world.  By lovingly we mean doing what the lover does, acting while thinking about the other person's needs.

That's why government deals in "entitlements" but love never does.

So if conservatives are honest, we cannot promise a government of love.  We don't believe in that.  We know that politics can only be a fight.  Perhaps, every now and again, it can deliver the hope of "Do you hear the people sing," in "a life about to start / When tomorrow comes."  But the life that's to come will be created not by the government but by the free and responsible selves determined to live and work and love truly in the lifeworld opened up by the retreat of government and its dominatory systems.

What we conservatives can promise is that we will restructure government and reduce its force and its divisive politics so that love can bloom in the free and honest expression of love and cooperative spirit between American and American.

And that, we can agree, contra Herbert Croly, is the real Promise of American Life.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Most (Awful) Ever

The Obama administration set the bar high for itself.  Most transparent, most ethical: who knows what else was promised?

But now we have reality.  Government always promotes itself as the end of history.  But the reality is always a disappointment, because when you get down to it, government is only good at breaking things.  That is why radical Randolph Bourne told us that War is the health of the state, riffing on Hegel.  The trouble is that the left-wing war on self-organizing society is just another form of the old imperial project, brought up to date.

Reality is that President Obama is the Worst President Ever.  This is because of his permanent campaign.  Politics is division, and therefore is best left to election time.  If politicians elected to lead nations persevere in division they will find it impossible to lead the nation they want to lead.  Because it is divided.  Even Bill Clinton pretended to be the bipartisan leader while he savaged Republicans for attacking his bipartisan balanced budgets.

President Obama is the Most Racist President Ever.  Does the president grasp the utter disaster his racist sallies portend?  Anyone can make a career as a race-baiter.  It takes talent to bring the races together.

The Obama administration is the Most Corrupt Ever.  This is really an insult for administrations like the Harding administration that limited corruption to grand-scale peculation.  The Obama years were going to be transparent and honest and fair.  But in reality the example comes from the top to do whatever it takes to help Obama friends and hurt Obama enemies.  Obama-style corruption goes way beyond peculation to the ideological corruption of government.

The Obama administration is the Most Dishonest Ever.  The problem with scandals like the Benghazi affair, or with promises to close Guantanamo, or sell Obamacare as a way to reduce health care costs, is not that politicians are lying again.  Politicians always lie, because we the people demand that they lie.  We refuse to be told the truth.  The art of politics and government is to tell the fewest number of lies that will allow you to govern successfully.  The Obama folks seem to feel no restraint on their lies, probably because the lapdog media doesn't hold them to account.  The trouble with all the lying is the problem of the Boy that Cried Wolf.  Eventually the Obama folks are going to need us to trust it in some crisis.  But how do we know when to trust?

The Obama administration is the Most Economically Clueless Ever.  The Great Recession certainly was a big challenge.  As Reinhart and Rogoff tell us in This Time is Different, a big banking crisis takes years to heal.  But the Obamis refused to trim their sails to reality, and the result is pathetic growth and soaring debt.  Young people are usually the ones to suffer from a bad economy and this one is no exception.  Maybe that's good.  Maybe the youth will be hesitant next time The One We Have Been Waiting For presents himself.

The Obama administration is the Most Arrogant Ever.  Politics is an arrogant trade, for sure.  That's because successful politicians have always seemed to defy the odds: indeed they are lottery winners.  But the trouble with the Obamis is that the courtiers of the ruling class have encouraged arrogance, and that is not a good idea.  The press  of a bygone era liked to inflate itself by talking about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.  They do this job splendidly when Republicans are in power, but not so well when Democrats are in power.  In the Obama years they have been hopeless, and this has encouraged the Obamis in their arrogance.  And this will lead to a major demoralization of the liberal project in the near future.

I could go on.  My point is that government is always a mess; government officials are always making one stupid mistake after another.  It's best for all of us if we keep our messianic instincts in check and avoid immortalizing the mortal.  It's just bad for politicians to think that they have a clear road ahead.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Liberals on Stage with the Patriarchy

A lady at a nearby table at dinner here in Ashland, Oregon nearly choked on her dinner and so we got into conversation.  She observed that the Shakespeare festival this year seems to be all about patriarchal issues: Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady making a silk purse out of a sow's ear for the embassy ball; the angry King Cymbeline banishing all and sundry and making his sweet daughter marry the doofus Cloten; Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire beating up his timid wife Stella; Petruchio effecting The Taming of the Shrew Katherine.

I naughtily interjected that no wonder she was choking on her dinner.

Yes, you could interpret things in that lifeless liberal way.  But, for Pete's sake aren't we all better than that?  Can't we beyond state liberal tropes and find the good the true, and the beautiful in the theater?

For instance, it's all very well to send all the lower-class girls to school where they will dutifully learn their lessons and become nurses and teachers instead of factory hands.  But haven't we just taken them out of the textile factories and put them in the government bureaucratic factories?  And what happened to the vibrant lower-class culture that we have obliterated.  Suppose we had refrained from carpet-bombing the London Cockneys with government schools and government doles?  Back in 1911 just before the start of the welfare state just about everyone belonged to a labor union, a benefit club, or a friendly society.  Imagine what might have been.

For instance, it's all very well to rail at Stanley Kowalski's domestic violence and crudities.  But in fact he smoked out Blanche's obscuring lies rather cleverly.  And it was Stella that made the central decision of the play and called in the men with guns to take batty Blanche to the State Mental Hospital, or whatever it was called back then in Louisiana.

For instance, it's all very well to interpolate a little and pretend, wink, wink, that the assertive Katherine was not really cowed by her lordly Petruchio. But the bigger question remains.  What do you do about a woman that is making everyone's life a misery?  We know what you do with refractory young men.  You send them off to boot camp and the wars.  Of course, in our evolved age we don't send them to the wars any more, we just graduate them from our government child custodial facilities to our equally misnamed penitentiaries and reformatories and panopticons.  Yes, but what about refractory women, usually in some powerful family position and taking full advantage of their power? Truth is, we don't have a clue, because nearly all women do what they are told.  Petruchio's solution is the method of the totalitarian interrogation: starvation and sensory deprivation balanced by the appeal to let's all just get along.  Just sign this paper, just agree with me, and all this unpleasantness will disappear.  Any better ideas out there?

Yes.  We have big problems in today's America, and the liberal ruling class is the immovable object that's preventing us from moving on and solving our problems.

But here's an interesting point.  The festival in Ashland is very careful about race.  They always have a black-themed play and a few black actors for their lily-white liberal audience.  The black actors also appear in the other plays. Lucentio, Bianca's eventual groom in Shrew is black, and so is his father.

But in A Streetcar Named Desire the races have to be kept straight.  You can't have a black Blanche Dubois.  Or a black Stanley, or a black Stella.  Because that would cross up the basic message at the core of the play that the Old South was finished, marinating in its lies and its corruption.  You can have a black Eunice, the neighbor, and so that's what we get.

Yep, these liberals are something else.  And they don't have a clue about the depth of their hypocrisy and their corruption and their injustice: especially the sweet liberal ladies in the audience.

But one fine day...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Let's Talk Conservative Populism

Everyone has been talking populism this week, after Ross Douthat started the ball rolling with his country vs. court party oped.

That would mean a change in the current party setup where Democrats are supposed to be social elitists and economic populists and the Republicans are supposed to be social populists and economic elitists.

Except of course that the current Democratic Party is social elitist and economic crony-ist, and the Republicans are social populists and crypto-economic populists as well.

In other words, conservatives are market supporters rather than big business supporters.  The Democrats feel most comfortable when they regulate big business into dues-paying puppies.  Well that's what they think, but really they end up feeding the beast of crony capitalism.

OK.  It's fine to talk about economic populism, but what would it actually look like?

It would be different from the old populism, that's what.  The populists of the late 19th century were victims railing against the injustice of big banks and corporations.  We conservative populists are different.  Conservatives are people of the responsible self.  We don't experience ourselves as victims, but as sober and responsible contributors to society.  So our populism is not a populism raging against the machine.  It is the populism of the responsible self that argues simply against privilege, whether it's crony capitalism at the top or benefit cadging at the bottom.

Now, my own approach to populism grows out of my basic view of government spending, which is $1 trillion a year for pensions, $1 trillion for health care, $1`trillion for education and half a trillion for welfare.

This conservative populist, a populist of the responsible self, looks at the trillion dollars a year in pensions and says: We want to be responsible for our own savings and pensions.  We don't want our savings sequestered in corrupt government programs and used by the government to buy votes for 30 years until we retire.  Plus we have other ideas with what to do with our savings in the mean time, such as buy a home, start a business, educate the kids, have a nest egg to tide over Great Recessions.

Then we populists look at health care and say: We people of the responsible self want to be responsible for our own health care; we don't want the government's one size fits all approach.  And we want the flexibility to direct our health care dollars to our children, our parents, and our other loved ones as the need arises, not as government policy permits.

We look at education and determine with Cato's Andrew Coulson in Market Education that government education pits parents against each other.  And education ends up as a producer's cartel.  We want to direct our own money at our children's education, and we want that money going to things that we value, not things that some activist or bureaucrat values.

We look at welfare and we say that we want to spend our own money on the relief of the poor.  We want the poor to look to us, the responsible middle class, for relief, and we do not want them looking to some community organizer waving government money around in return for their votes.  Since conservatives are the most generous donors to charitable works, we have standing on the matter.

President Obama has just come out with a proposal to cut the taxes of big business with lower corporate tax rates.  But he proposes nothing for small businessmen that pay taxes at the personal tax rate.

Here's a chance for good conservative populism.  To heck with President Obama and his big business cronies; they can take care of themselves.  What about helping the real job creators: small businessmen.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Go Econo-Populist, Young Man

Up to now the two political parties in the US have broken down as follows, according to Yuval Levin:
The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism.
So on this view the Republican party is the party of knuckle-dragging Christians and job-destroying corporatist looters like Mitt Romney.  And the Democrats are the party of secular elitism and little-guy economics.

But now, Levin says, the Democrats have really become a true "court" party, the party of social elitism and economic elitism, looking after the big guys, whether they are social elitists or corporate elitists.  On economic policy we find them
protecting larger players from competition in exchange for their willingness to serve as agents of government power and driving crucial sectors of our economy (finance and health insurance above all, but by no means only those) toward greater consolidation.
That gives the Republicans an opening to economic populism.
This would mean emphasizing conservative paths to higher wages and a lower cost of living for working families (like pro-family tax reform, a more growth-oriented monetary policy, health-care reform that reduces costs through competition and consumer power, energy policy aimed at both spurring growth and lowering utility bills by making the most of our domestic resources, K–12 reform to give families more ways to escape failing schools, higher-ed reforms to restrain tuition inflation, entitlement reform to reduce the burden of debt on the young while retaining the safety net for the poor and the old). It would also mean financial regulation with an eye to competition, rather than consolidation. 
And wouldn't you know, there's a good opportunity to do that where President Obama is proposing to lower corporate income tax rates and close loopholes for big business while leaving in the cold small business that report business income on personal income tax returns.

Really, Republicans have been populist in this way for a decade, but our leaders haven't been listening.  The evergreen Democratic line that the Republican Party is the country-club party has been baloney for a decade at least.

And why not?  As Victor Davis Hanson writes, there are all kinds of ways, from gas prices to student debt to agriculture/food stamps to immigration to monetary policy, in which the rich and the poor conspire to milk the system leaving the middle class to take the hit.

What Republicans need to do is improve on the messaging and tell the American people that Republicans stand for the small businessman that is trying to get a retail store or a contracting business off the ground.  And why not start belaboring on big business which, from big banks to big boys like Warren Buffet, has been notably going Democrat recently.  I don't blame them; they know that in return for political contributions they can get protection as political cronies.  But there is no reason to give them cover.  Republicans should start connecting big business to the Democratic Party and an out-of-touch liberal elite.

And the sooner the better.