Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Politics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 11:20 am

You’ve heard of “Blame America First” when it comes to the man-made problems of the world. Such may not usually be true but it sure sounds good if you’re a liberal - makes you seem smart and informed.

Bill Quigley writing in Huffington Post has taken this concept to an entirely new level; he posits the notion that what is happening in Haiti as a result of the earthquake is actually America’s fault:

In 2004, the U.S. assisted in a coup against the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. This continues a long tradition of the U.S. deciding who will rule the poorest country in the hemisphere. No government lasts in Haiti without U.S. approval.

In 2001, when the U.S. was mad at the President of Haiti, the U.S. successfully led an effort to freeze $148 million in already-approved loans and many hundreds of millions more of potential loans from the Inter-American Development Bank to Haiti. Funds which were dedicated to improve education, public health and roads.

For much of 2001-2004, the U.S. insisted that any international funds sent to Haiti had to go through non-governmental organizations. Funds that would have provided government services were re-routed thus shrinking the ability of the government to provide aid.

For years the U.S. has helped ruin small farmers in Haiti by dumping heavily subsidized U.S. rice on their market making it extremely difficult for small farmers to survive. This was done to help U.S. farmers. Haitian farmers? They don’t vote in the U.S.

Those who visit Haiti will confirm that the biggest SUVs in Port au Prince are plastered with decals of non-governmental organizations. The biggest offices are for private groups doing the basic work of government - healthcare, education, disaster response. And all are guarded not by police but by private heavily-militarized security.

The government was systematically starved of funds. The public sector shrank away. Poor people streamed to the cities.

Thus there are no rescue units. Little public healthcare is available.

So when disaster struck, the people of Haiti were on their own. We can see them pitching in. We can see them trying. They are courageous and generous and innovative, but volunteers cannot replace government. So people suffer and die in greater numbers than necessary.

Is all of this the fault of the US?

Let’s examine what Mr. Quigley won’t tell you about much of that most helpful information he supplied. Little wonder, since if he had, he would have been forced to acknowledge that the US (with the agreement of the international community) was doing its best to assist Haiti in overcoming extraordinary hurdles just to keep the country from falling completely into an abyss of corruption and chaos.

You might immediately note that Mr. Quigley had little to say about the “democratically elected” leader of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. If you are trying to blame the US for what is happening in Haiti, it is best not to supply too much information about the “little priest” whose thugs used to roam the streets of Port au Prince placing burning tires around the necks of his political opponents.

Aristide’s first chance at power in 1991 started out well, with the full backing of the United States. But a parliamentary crisis led to Aristide believing he could rule by decree and he was summarily ousted by the military.

Bill Clinton righted the situation by forcing the military out and reinstating him, backing the Haitian president with American troops. But all of this was simply prologue to what happened in 2000. Aristide’s campaign of massive violence against the opposition caused a boycott of the elections and when his opponents protested, they were arrested or, more often, simply killed. Aristide himself was a accused of ordering assassinations. The police were helpless as Aristide’s gangs wandered the streets with impunity.

The elections was pronounced fraudulent by the OAS, no bastion of pro-American sentiment. Finally, in 2004, Aristide angered enough people that a bloody coup occurred. He maintains to this day that he as kidnapped by the US and ended up in South Africa. If so, we did the Haitian people a monumental favor.

So much for the “democratically elected leader” of Haiti.

What about all that foreign aid we’ve cut off or funneled to NGO’s? Mr. Quigley’s screed is a little short on details. Allow me to remedy that.

In 2006, Haiti was named the most corrupt nation on planet earth. Any foreign aid sent to Haiti had a better chance of sprouting wings and flying than ending up helping any Haitians. The elites in Haiti and family cronies make sure of that, enriching themselves by siphoning aid into ventures they control or own outright.

One thing not mentioned by Mr. Quigley; that corruption contributed to the vastness of the disaster because most of the buildings in Haiti are so poorly constructed due to short cuts taken by contractors who then pocket the difference:

The death toll in the massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti Jan. 12 is expected to continue to rise in the coming days, likely in large part because of corruption and resulting shoddy construction practices in the poor Caribbean nation, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder seismologist.


Bilham said one of the chief causes of the high destruction and fatality rates in Haiti and other developing countries is due in large part to corruption in the construction industry. One of the problems is bribery, which often takes the form of corrupt awards of construction projects, corrupt issuance of permits and approval documents and corrupt inspection practices.

“It should be appalling to the people of the world that in 2009, more than 100 years after earthquake-resistant construction began to be understood and implemented by engineers, that it is possible to forecast large numbers of future earthquake fatalities from the collapse of cities,” said Bilham in his 2009 Mallet-Milne Lecture to earthquake engineers at The Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics meeting in London.

Quigley probably didn’t bring this up in the article because there’s no way to blame America for it.

Yes, but what about all that foreign aid we’ve cut off? What about allowing NGO’s to distribute the aid?

Bush critics complain that Aristide wasn’t given enough aid. By the end almost all assistance to Haiti was being funneled through nongovernmental groups, because no one trusted the government. The OAS and the European Union, especially the French, didn’t want to hand aid over to a corrupt regime. The United States withheld certain aid, but didn’t cut it off entirely ($71 million in bilateral aid last year), continuing a stream of assistance that has been generous by any standard.

Since 1994, the United States has spent $850 million on Haiti. If you count money spent on U.S. troops in the country and on repatriation of refugees, the figure is roughly $3 billion. “If that’s not a commitment to a country, I don’t know what is,” says a senior administration official.

Quigley conveniently uses the year 2004 to complain about aid cutoffs to Haiti. In fact, from 2004-06, the US sent $230 million in developmental aid to that nation. The 2008 regular foreign aid appropriation was $287 million which doesn’t include another $45 million in food aid.

The idea that the only reason we withheld aid in 2001-2004 was because we were “mad” at the Haitian president is laughably childish. People were being murdered in the streets, chaos and corruption reigned in government, and Quigley wanted to continue business as usual? It wasn’t just America, either. The international community made most of these determinations based on the realistic notion that any money sent to Haiti would be used to enrich the ruling elite and not end up helping the people. That’s the bottom line, Quigley’s ignorance - or deliberate obfuscation of the facts - notwithstanding.

And Quigley may be the only lefty in America who begrudge poor people saving a few cents per pound on rice. An unfortunate by product of this is the flight from rural areas of farmers who can’t compete. We’ve seen the same thing in Africa and Asia as globalization makes its uneven and problematic journey around the world. There may be cause for criticism for subsidizing rice growers in the US. But to make the preposterous leap of logic that more people died as a result of US policy is a monumental stretch that even a high school debater wouldn’t make. It sounds logical but there is no empirical evidence that remotely supports it.

Perhaps Mr. Quigley wrote his article as satire. Morel likely, he’s simply an ignorant twit who cherry picked information that he thought would make his case that America is to blame for the large numbers of dead as a result of this tragedy.

Trying to draw attention to yourself by using a catastrophe to make an invalid, and ultimately silly point that you know will play well with those already disposed to believe the worst about their own country may be the height of cynical self promotion. Congratulations are in order for Mr. Quigley. He lived down to all the lowered expectations we’ve come to expect from most writers at Huffington Post.


Filed under: WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 9:40 am

Something huge is going to have to be done in Haiti and done quickly or there will be a humanitarian catastrophe bigger than anything most of us can imagine.

Here’s the situation; 3 million people are without food, without water, without proper sewage, without shelter, and without a government that can facilitate aid that is now pouring into the stricken island nation.

What’s more, the prospects that much of this situation can be alleviated in the near future are close to zero. The earthquake has absolutely pulverized the country, paralyzed an already weak and ineffective government, and shortly, will shatter the civil compact that all societies must have if the law of the jungle is to be prevented from taking hold.

President Obama is responding magnificently - but it is not enough. How can it be when so much is needed by so many in such a short amount of time? As always, the US Navy is being called upon to deliver thousands of tons of supplies to the decimated population. But the port where they will be unloading those supplies is unusable:

What little infrastructure Haiti had before the earthquake was badly damaged, complicating relief efforts.

Supplies couldn’t come in by sea because Haiti’s main seaport was badly damaged during the quake, with the main dock partially submerged and cranes that move containers partially underwater and listing badly.

The port “has collapsed and is not operational,” said Mary Ann Kotlarich, a spokeswoman for Maersk Sea Lines, a big shipper.

The airport is, if possible, in even worst shape:

Things at the airport weren’t much better. Haitian air-traffic controllers couldn’t handle the volume of flights arriving in Port-au-Prince, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, leading to a suspension of U.S. originating aircraft for at least a few hours on Thursday. The airport has also run out of aircraft fuel, so inbound planes have to carry enough fuel to be able to leave without refueling.

Planes from Brazil, Spain and Belgium lined up outside the airport terminal. A handful of American military personnel sitting on the grass abutting the runway served as air-traffic control.

Adding to the chaos, thousands of victims camped out at the airport, which was also without electricity for long stretches of time. On Thursday night, planes were still circling the airport for hours, while dozens of airplanes were reported to be scattered around the damaged tarmac. U.S. officials are analyzing whether other permanent or temporary strips can be opened up to provide additional places to receive airborne assistance.

Thousands of American soldiers are being deployed to help distribute the aid and act as security for aid workers.

The rest of the world is doing what they can but, as usual, when Mother Nature goes on a bender, the world looks to America to do the heavy lifting, spend the money, supply the manpower, donate the food, water, and supplies, and eventually, take the lead in rebuilding. Meanwhile, the extraordinary generosity of the ordinary American is once again being put on display as even in the midst of a punishing recession, the nation’s churches and charity infrastructure are mobilizing a gigantic private relief effort that will dwarf the $100 million pledged by President Obama.

If I may be allowed a small political aside;much of the world may wish for an emasculated America - perhaps even some in our own government - but a world without America as she is now, with all her faults and maddening inconsistencies, would be a world where those Haitians wouldn’t have a chance. There would be hundreds of thousands of dead before much help could reach the island without the US Navy and American generosity leading the way. That’s the bottom line and maybe someday, the rest of the world will take note of this fact.

As it stands now, there is still the frightening possibility that all of the world’s labors in trying to assist Haiti will simply be inadequate due to the scale of the disaster and the conditions in Haiti itself. Since it is generally believed that buried survivors in an earthquake must be reached within 72 hours for them to have much of a chance of survival, it would seem that the heartbreaking efforts of people to try and dig their loved ones out of the rubble with their bare hands will be all the help most of those suspended in a hellish limbo between life and death can expect. Too many collapsed buildings and not enough help in the form of professional rescuers means the loss of life from the quake and its aftermath will probably be even more stunning than figures coming from the Red Cross now.

And the topper to this disaster may be that tens of thousands of Haitians will be desperate enough to climb on to rafts and leaky boats, seeking succor from the US:

In Miami’s Haitian community, leaders say they fear that the earthquake’s aftermath and political unrest could prompt people to flee Haiti on rafts and in boats.

“A large wave of people taking to the sea, I worry about it,” says Jean-Robert Lafortune, chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition. Political instability, even more than economic troubles, he says, is likely to lead to “a Haitian exodus.”

Officials say they aren’t gearing up to cope with a flotilla. “We’re not there yet,” says Philippe Derose, a councilman in North Miami Beach. But he and others complain that the Haitian government has failed to show leadership or organize even a morgue for the thousands feared dead.

It’s happened before. And the conditions that are forming in Haiti today probably means it will happen again.



Filed under: Decision '08, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 12:05 pm

This is the second and final part of my effort to explain why much of conservatism has lost touch with reality. Part I is here.

When I was a younger man, living and working in the early years of Reagan’s Washington, I fell in with a group of guys who mixed penny ante poker nights with discussions of politics and political philosophy.

We were not the Algonquin Round Table, that’s for sure. But in between the sounds of ice clinking in glasses filled with good scotch, and chips being tossed into the pot, a colloquy of sorts would develop about the issues of the day.

I should mention that I was definitely on the low end of the scale when it came to brain power in this bunch. In our group were a couple of congressional aides, some crack lobbyists, an AEI fellow, and two guys who were studying for advanced degrees at George Washington University in Public Administration. I think the rest of them allowed me to hang around to provide comic relief. Otherwise, I was (at the time) royally outclassed.

No matter. My job, as I saw it, was to challenge the assumptions held by these bright young men by playing devil’s advocate in fleshing out the underlying rationale for their positions. More often than not, my attempts were met with groans of “here he goes again,” and not a few guffaws. But at the time, I was not very well read and couldn’t contribute to the scintillating arguments being advanced by my more learned colleagues.

These were exciting times in Washington. The intellectual ferment on the right was incredible with ideas and proposals bubbling and frothing at think tanks, policy hubs, and even bull sessions like the one with which I was involved. There was a lot of cross pollination of ideas as a proposal from one source would be captured by another, improved upon, and perhaps even fiddled with by a third before ending up in Congress or the White House as a serious policy alternative.

The bottom line is that there were no litmus tests, no question of being forced to conform to a certain worldview. The open, free exchange of ideas was done without fear that someone else would step forward and accuse you of not being “conservative enough.” The arguments back then were no less passionate, but there was an underlying respect for those with which you disagreed.

I may be romanticizing this period a bit but I think that essentially, this captures the spirit in conservative salons and other centers of thought at the time. With no internet, and only a few media outlets (NRO and Human Events being most prominent), the dynamic of discussion allowed for a free wheeling exploration of issues and principles from all angles. The idea that anything proposed or said might brand one an “apostate” never entered our thought processes.

Is the state of conservatism today even remotely similar? I would challenge anyone who thought so. The dead hand of conformity has settled over conservatism with consequences that have yet to fully play out. There is no room in modern conservatism for anything except rote ideology. This catechism brooks no deviation lest any introspection reveal how weak and wildly contradictory what passes for conservative thought has become.

Case in point; my inclusion of some criticisms by liberal Sam Tannenhaus in my piece from yesterday. Apparently, my belief that Tannenhaus has anything useful to say with regard to conservatism makes me some kind of closet liberal. The feeling among some conservatives appears to be that anything written about conservatism by any liberal is useless, and believing otherwise makes one a dupe, or worse.

I don’t know how widespread that belief is on the right but judging by comments I have received in the past, it is not uncommon at all. Rejecting criticism based solely on the ideology of an author is anti-intellectual and anti-reason. Despite making the point that Tannehaus - someone who I believe to have made an honest attempt to track the decline of conservatism in a systematic, logical manner - gives us a critique that overall, is seriously flawed. But does this mean that every single criticism he made was invalid simply because he’s a liberal?

I reject that notion and point to this response of some conservatives as evidence that the excessively ideological prism by which many on the right look at the world causes them to abandon reason and logic, substituting a comforting credo that cannot be amended.

Liberals have their own problems along this line. Rigidity of thought is not confined to those on the right. But this attitude still begs the question; can anything be done by anybody to lift conservatism out of this moribund state and set it on a path to where it can claim the high ground based on honesty, prudence, and a clear eyed view of the world as it truly is?

I believe there is hope to be found in a small group of very smart, very talented younger conservatives who may be able to bridge the divide in conservatism’s factions while re-establishing a reality-based paradigm that sees America as the rest of the non-conservative country sees her.

As an example, I would point to the deceased website Culture 11 as a place were young writers were nurtured and given a chance to flex their intellects to delve into subjects you rarely see discussed on blogs or other conservative media. The site was provocative, unconventional, and scandalously unorthodox. They even had the occasional liberal write for them, which raised the hackles of true conservatives everywhere.

I realize I am heading into dangerous territory by bringing up Culture 11. Some of the writers at the site regularly challenged conservative dogma - a mortal sin to many on the right who hate having their assumptions questioned by anyone, even a conservative. And Culture 11 writers like Conor Friedersdorf and James Poulos are are in bad odor with most who consider themselves “real” conservatives, largely because they sometimes speak well of liberals and take a decidedly less ideological approach to their writings.

But Culture 11 had huge problems that it could never overcome; first and foremost, they could never quite figure out what kind of publication they wanted to be. Failure flowed from that one premise, as this autopsy by Washington Monthly’s Charles Homans points out:

This had a lot to do with the fact that Culture11’s editorial brain trust was made up of people who had little concern for—or at least needed a breather from—the self-immolating Hindenburg of movement conservatism. Kuo had proclaimed his own disenchantment in Tempting Faith. Friedersdorf was concerned with improving journalism, not creating a permanent Republican majority. Political editor James Poulos, a PhD candidate in government at Georgetown who describes his dissertation subject as “the alluring puzzle of the Napoleonic soul,” was far too idiosyncratic in his own politics. Arts editor Peter Suderman was a libertarian who in the last frenzied days of the election spent a whole column arguing that voting was stupid. Having no claim to any particular ideological niche, Culture11 tried to corral them all in the same room and get them talking to each other. “People talk about the conservative circular firing squad—I think we see ourselves as a demilitarized zone,” Friedersdorf told me. “There is nothing like an agreement on our staff that would allow us to claim a slice of anything.” The result, perhaps inevitably, lacked a real sense of identity, but it also offered the closest thing political journalism had to a controlled experiment.

In such a free wheeling atmosphere, quality was bound to be uneven. But what excited me about Culture 11 was that a real attempt was being made to break out of the echo chamber conservative media had largely become. The writing was fresh, and the ideas presented challenged conventional wisdom.

Admittedly, my own taste in cultural critiques tends more toward The New Criterion and its mix of policy and cultural criticism. But what kept me coming back to Culture 11 was that the writers were willing to take chances. In a conservative culture so addicted to conformity, it took some courage to place yourself outside the box and approach subject matter from an entirely new perspective.

Of course, this meant that many of those writers were given short shrift by mainstream conservatives. RedState eventually banned any links to the site which is inexplicable unless you realize that this kind of anti-intellectualism is rampant on the right today. Refusing to be exposed to alternative viewpoints is the essence of ignorance and only proves my point again about a large portion of conservatism being out of touch with reality.

Ross Douthat believes that younger conservative writers tend to me more heterodox, less wedded to the ideology of movement conservatives:

Moreover, part of what creates the air of heterodoxy among the young turks is the fact that many of the young conservative writers I’m thinking of (again, myself included) are still experimenting with a wide range of topics, and haven’t settled into the kind of groove (or rut) that most successful pundits and public intellectuals eventually find themselves slipping into. In this sense, at least some of the ideological conformity that you see among old older right-wingers on, say, foreign policy is really just ideological conformity among those older right-wingers who dilate regularly about foreign policy.

What makes some of these younger conservatives different than their elders isn’t their position on issues, which is decidedly conservative, but rather their willingness to examine and criticize assumptions upon which those issues rest. This imparts a breath of fresh air much needed if conservatives are to return to their roots, embrace freedom of thought, and move beyond the narrow confines that conservatism has boxed itself into by rejecting reason and logic in favor of emotionalism and ideology.

The Culture 11 writers have scattered to the 4 winds with some moving on to smaller publications like Reason Magazine or The American Conservative. Friedersdorf and a couple of other Culture 11 alumni are now blogging at American Scene, among other places. But their impact will continue to be felt. It may take a decade or more, but eventually these and other writers will take their place in the forefront of conservative thought.

Will they be any more welcome then than they are today? A couple of more electoral smash ups like 2008 may be the catalyst that shakes conservatism out of its conformist stupor and forces the right to begin listening to those with a more realistic outlook on America and conservatism itself.



Filed under: The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 4:53 pm

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Monica Showalter of IDB, Melissa Clouthier of Right Wing News, and Andrew Ian Dodge of Andrew Ian Dodge.com for a discussion of the Massachusetts senate race and a look at the issue of racism and the left.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio


Filed under: Culture, Decision '08, General, History, Politics, Tenth Amendment, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:20 am

Another in my series of puny attempts to dissect what’s wrong with modern conservatism. Part II will appear tomorrow.

I debated whether or not to make this a piece about “some conservatives” eschewing reality for an alternate universe or if I should make it about much of modern conservatism’s disconnect from the reality of 21st century America.

In the end, I think it is more important to look at how conservatism as a philosophy has closed itself off so thoroughly from uncomfortable and inconvenient truths about America. The fringe players in the movement with their litmus tests and dreams of going bear hunting with Sarah Palin are not really the problem as I see it.

Their worldview, shaped as it is by wallowing in the echo chamber of conservative media, and warped by a naive and ultimately uninformed ideological prism through which they spout nonsensical, paranoid conspiracies, may be relevant to the political health of the right but has little to do with the breakdown of conservatism as a governing philosophy itself.

In this case, it is conservatism losing its ability to question itself in a rigorous and punishing manner, preferring to maintain a comfort zone in which certain shibboleths of the past rest easily on the mind and prevent the kind of examination of underlying assumptions that any set of philosophical principles needs to maintain touch with the real world.

One might argue that the problem is really with people who hold to those philosophical principles and their refusal to challenge their beliefs. I don’t think this is necessarily true. You can’t sneeze these days without tripping over someone on the right indulging in the kind of “Woe is us” pontificating. I should know. I do it often enough. One would think with all this angst, some truths about why conservatism is where it is today and how it got there would emerge. So far, I have been unimpressed.

There have been some valiant attempts, most notably after Sam Tannenhaus’s Death of Conservatism was published. Rejecting much of Tannenhaus’s critique (as most conservatives should), the author nevertheless wallops a couple of extra base hits while socking at least one, long home run in his analysis; that modern movement conservatism isn’t very conservative at all in that it seeks to overthrow the social order rather than conserve what is best about America while channeling change into productive venues consistent with tradition and the Constitution.

Tannenhaus refers to these right wingers as “revanchists.” Indeed, there is a strong impulse even among so called “reasonable conservatives” that FDR’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society need to be repealed or drastically curtailed. In it’s place? There things get kind of fuzzy but what emerges from many conservatives is some kind of “super federalism” where a souped up 10th Amendment would give us 50 different EPA’s or worse, where “market forces” would solve the problems of clean air and clean water.

That’s just one example, of course. And I should hasten to add that any good conservative supports a reasonable brand of federalism, not to mention a prudent regard for liberty and the taxpayer’s money that would force us to question the efficacy of hundreds if not thousands of federal programs. But, what many of the revanchists seek is not a “return” to first principles in the Constitution but rather a form of government more akin to an Articles of Confederation on steroids.

Another Tannenhaus point scored deals with the notion that movement conservatives positively hate government - government of any kind. It goes far beyond the healthy suspicion that all conservatives should possess of the positive impact government programs can have on society, and devolves into paranoia about any government program or effort to address stubborn national problems.

Here is where conservatism itself goes off the rails and feeds this paranoia, preventing conservative ideas from being brought to bear on national issues like health care, immigration, loss of industry, globalization, and adequate, sensible regulation of everything from financial institutions to the environment.

For it is not necessarily people who have become hostile to government but rather conservatism as a governing philosophy that has walled itself into a corner, refusing to confront a modern America that is less white, less agrarian, more urbanized, more technical, and developing a growing tolerance for government solutions to prickly, systemic problems experienced by ordinary Americans.

That last is the killer. Since the end of World War II and the rise of modern conservatism, it is been de rigueur for the right to promote the idea that government can be cut down to size, shrunk to an ill-defined outline that bears more of a resemblance to 19th century America than a modern society with all the miseries and challenges that reality entails.

The thrust of conservative critiques of the welfare state from Hayek to Kirk to Reagan has been that government is bigger than it should be as a result of it trying to do more than is necessary for the functioning of a constitutional republic. Indeed, a strict constructionist reading of the Constitution would cause anyone to question the manufactured justifications for everything from overly zealous government interference in commerce to the legislating of cultural issues from the bench. Conservatives rightly believe that “original intent” are not dirty words and that First Principles are in many ways as valid today as they were 220 years ago.

But over the decades, conservatism lost its flexibility in delineating a coarse ideology from this philosophy. By this I mean that conservatism has eschewed thoughtfulness for conformity. I’m not sure if you can actually pinpoint a moment where ideology trumped reason, although my personal line in the sand was the 1992 Republican convention and the rise of the culture warriors.

But that may have been the denouement to a decade or more of slow rot eating away at the foundations of a carefully nurtured worldview that fought for principle while recognizing that America was changing and that conservatism as a governing philosophy must change with it. The idea of reforming government - Reagan’s grand notion of a New Federalism, lower taxes, fewer regulations, and freer people - died in the fires of a cultural backlash that has come to define modern conservatism.

This is where conservatism lost touch with reality. The moment that the war itself became more important than the principles espoused, all semblance of rationality was tossed out the window and in its stead arose a mindless, knee jerk opposition to government and, of course, the left. As the living embodiment of Big Government, liberals became an enemy and not the political opposition. Rather than fighting to apply conservative principles to the art and artifice of government, the right chose to immolate reason, and turn its back on the reality of modern American in order to destroy their enemies.

As practiced by the most influential conservatives today, this is what passes for conservative thought. Tannenhaus correctly surmised that movement conservatism has won the battle against the pragmatists and now dominates the conservative discussion. I don’t agree with what he believes this fact necessarily portends for the future - a continued decline in influence and relevance of the right. In fact, as I will show tomorrow, there is cause for some hope that younger, more intellectually muscular conservatives who are questioning everything while searching for a new conservative paradigm that would re-integrate movement conservatives into a re-energized whole, may be the beginning of a conservative revival.

Tomorrow: Reports of the death of Culture 11 have been greatly exaggerated.



Filed under: Palin, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:48 am

The Heilemann-Halperin campaign tell-all book Game Change has had the political sphere tittling and twittering for the last 48 hours as everyone is leaning over their virtual backyard fence and whispering to their neighbor, “Didya hear what Harry Reid/Bill Clinton/John Edwards/Sarah Palin/Steve Schmidt said about so-and-so and such-and such?”

Impact on contemporary politics? Zero. Even Harry Reid’s ill advised comments about Obama’s “Negro dialect” appear to be blowing over thanks to the generosity of spirit (and political calculation) of such luminaries as Al Sharpton and the entire Congressional Black Caucus. Their forgiveness is touching. Too bad such virtuous behavior is reserved only for members of their own party.

But as the delightful revelations continue to drip from the new book, one might ask what everyone is getting so worked up about? Should we be shocked that Hillary thought Obama was cheating in the Caucuses? Are w surprised that politicians say stupid things in unguarded moments? Are we startled to hear that Steve Schmidt didn’t think much of Sarah Palin? Is it front page news that Palin was so ignorant of history that she had to be tutored like a freshman in high school?

But Palin’s problems stretched beyond the debate performance.

Heilemann and Halperin write that the campaign soon realized that Palin was woefully uninformed on basic issues of U.S. history and politics.

“Her foreign policy tutors are literally taking her through, ‘This is World War I, this is World War II, this is the Korean War,’” Heilemann told “60 Minutes.” “This is the — how the Cold War worked. Steve Schmidt had gone to them and said, ‘She knows nothing.’”

Palin’s spokesperson has said that reporting in the book is inaccurate.

Inaccurate? Has Palin ever sat down for the kind of wide ranging interview that would reveal the depth of her knowledge (or ignorance) about history, about policy, about basic things that we might expect a president to know? The Couric interview doesn’t count because Katie is almost as ignorant as Palin about such matters. One need only see the off air outtakes of Couric’s anchoring the primaries to see that when it comes to politics, Couric knows how to bake a terrific souffle.

Palin has not had a sit down with any serious magazines, nor has she exposed herself to the kind of free wheeling, give and take discussion you might find on Charlie Rose or some other expert interviewer’s show. Because of this, I tend to believe the accounts given by Schmidt and other staffers regarding how ignorant Palin is. She has done nothing to disabuse anyone of the notion that she is an intellectual lightweight and worse, an uninformed neophyte who is not ready - if she ever will be - for national politics.

But the Schmidt-Palin row begs the question; why would the former McCain campaign manager and other staffers want to savage Sarah Palin? Why would Edwards staffers want to paint their boss as a pantywaist, asexual, henpecked hick dominated by an evil harridan of a wife? Who benefits by telling tales out of school about Harry Reid, Bill Clinton, and others?

Why this book in the first place?

The campaign tell all is a relatively new phenomenon. It began during the 1960 presidential race when Time Magazine’s brilliant political writer Theodore H. White convinced the flinty-eyed Henry Luce that he was just the guy to follow the candidates around and gather all the gossipy tidbits that reporters following the campaigns would hear but could never write about because journalistic standards being what they were at the time, rumors and unattributed stories were rarely printed. Staffers would never dream of going on the record to relate some juicy bit of gossip about the candidate or the campaign which meant that these little bon mots were lost to history.

White had followed Stevenson and Eisenhower in 1956 so he was well aware of this hidden treasure trove of titillating trifles. Besides, White argued, chances were good there would be great drama involved because he had a hunch that Kennedy - a handsome, dynamic Catholic with a gorgeous wife - had the inside track to the nomination.

Luce was dubious. Conventional wisdom at the time had the Democrats nominating Adlai Stevenson again. Besides, Kennedy had yet to impress anyone as anything except a playboy brat, the son of a very wealthy and influential man. And the publisher was reluctant to allow his best political reporter the kind of freedom that such a book project would entail.

In the end, Luce gave in and the rest is history - and oh what history it turned out to be. Making of a President, 1960 is not only still a great read, but represented a brand new genre; the political campaign as American morality play. The finely drawn characters in Making of a President were unforgettable due to White’s keen eye, perk ear, and the two decades he had spent writing about politics and issues for leading publications. Heroes, villains, comic relief - it was all there, told in a colorful narrative style that White became famous for.

It also helped that White had an abiding affection for politics and politicians. Even rogues were portrayed with a kind of entertaining sympathy. He liked Nixon, although he was troubled by some of the men around him. He adored Kennedy - as only someone who attended Harvard as a poor kid could admire and wish to be like the rich boys who looked down their noses at the Teddy Whites at the school.

White wrote about how he felt in his autobiographical In Search of History where he unknowingly revealed this love-hate relationship with rich guys like Kennedy; wanting to get close to them while faulting them for their “To the Manor born” wealth. His sympathetic portrayal of the Massachusetts senator in Making of a President was standard for the press of the day anyway so it was barely noted.

By 1964, several authors tried to catch the same lightening in a bottle that White was able to capture and a cottage industry in the campaign chronicle genre was born. Over the years, reporters have dominated as authors although the occasional novelist has tried their hand at it.

The revelations contained in the books seem to be getting more vicious as staffers large and small realize that getting their complaints and perceptions on the record is one way to deflect professional criticism of their performance. In an industry where you are only as hot as your last success, shifting blame to the shoulders of others for losing is a career strategy. Besides, there is little doubt that it feels very satisfying to get back at someone who treated you as a subhuman while you were working your tail off 16 hours a day for them.

So how much in Game Changer is true? Probably everything. Maybe nothing. What matters is the perception imparted by the principles of what went on, who screwed up and why, and how the information fulfills the goals of those dishing the dirt.

For the political junkie, we mainline this stuff. But for the rest of America, it has the impact of a leaf dropping in a forest on a fall day. I wish I could say it doesn’t matter to me, but I find the gossip compelling. Humanizing the great among us is quite democratizing and besides, if nothing else, books like Game Change give everyone something to write and talk about for a few days.



Filed under: Politics — Rick Moran @ 9:43 am

Good question - especially since the latest polls are all over the lot.

The latest Boston Globe poll of likely voters has the Democrat Martha Coakley up by a whopping 15 points over her Republican rival Scott Brown:

Half of voters surveyed said they would pick Coakley, the attorney general, if the election were held today, compared with 35 percent who would pick Brown. Nine percent were undecided, and a third candidate in the race, independent Joseph L. Kennedy, received 5 percent.Coakley’s lead grows to 17 points - 53 percent to 36 percent - when undecideds leaning toward a candidate are included in the tally. The results indicate that Brown has a steep hill to climb to pull off an upset in the Jan. 19 election. Indeed, the poll indicated that nearly two-thirds of Brown’s supporters believe Coakley will win.

Then there’s this Public Policy Polling survey, also of likely voters, that shows Brown within one slim percentage point of Coakley:

The shocking poll from Public Policy Polling shows Republican state senator Scott Brown leading Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley by one point, 48 to 47 percent, which would mean the race is effectively tied.

Among independents, who make up 51 percent of the electorate in the Bay State, Brown leads Coakley 63 percent to 31 percent.

Just 50 percent of voters view Coakley favorably, while 42 percent viewing her unfavorably.

Brown, who began an advertising blitz this month, sports a strong 57 percent favorability rating, with just 25 percent viewing him unfavorably - very strong numbers for a Republican in the heavily Democratic state.

The PPP poll surveyed about 200 more voters which shouldn’t matter that much. It would be interesting to see how both polls define “likely voters” which can sometimes skew the results.

One interesting similarity between the two polls; both show Brown has having high approval/disapproval ratings - historically high for a Republican in the Bay State. Other than that, it appears that it is possible the time period involved in when the polls were taken might be the biggest difference.

The PPP survey was taken between 1/7-9 - after the Rasmussen poll came out showing Brown narrowing the gap to 9 points. The Globe poll was taken 1/2-6 - mostly before those numbers became known.

I think it entirely possible that Brown is surging, buoyed by the growing realization that he could pull off the upset. He certainly has gotten a lot of positive press since those Rasmussen numbers have come out and for the 53% of Massachusetts voters who say they are following the election closely, that may have had an effect.

But is Brown really only a point behind? Massachusetts, like New Jersey and other heavily Democratic states, usually show a close race in the week or 10 days just prior to the election. But in the final 72 hours, a lot of Democrats start coming home and since in MA, registration for Dems outnumber Republicans by 3 to 1, that one point difference may indeed be a mirage.

There are several things going for Brown that might upset the conventional wisdom this time around - not the least of which is a powerful anti-health care reform sentiment as well as an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans.

But make no mistake - it is still an uphill battle for Brown. In this most Democratic of states, a Republican needs to be over 50% in the polls on election day to have a chance. And in neither of these new polls is Brown reached that milestone.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky

This blog post originally appears in the American Thinker


Of Ax Men and Astro Babes

Filed under: General, History, The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 11:27 am

This article originally appears at Newsreal Blog, David Horowitz’s new media venture. It was published in two parts: Part 1 was posted yesterday; Part 2 went up today.

The network formerly known as The History Channel has come a long way from its start up back in 1995. At that time, there were questions about how big an audience there would be for a network that dealt with a subject most Americans find irrelevant or boring.

They needn’t have worried. Now dubbed simply History, the Arts and Entertainment network offshoot regularly outperforms its flagship channel and is poised to improve upon its top ten ranking in the all important 25-54 age group this year with a mix of reality TV, first class documentaries, and audience grabbing psuedo-history programming on everything from UFO’s to the coming “Apocalypse” in 2012.

But the question in my mind, and one that should concern those of us who love history and revere the past, is how far afield the network can wander from its roots and still hold its base audience of history nuts?

Indeed, the channel that was once known as “The Hitler Network” because of its seemingly endless supply of World War II documentaries, now features several “working class hero” shows that don’t offer much in the way of history but are cheap to produce and garner large audience shares due to the personality driven story lines. Ax Men, a series that follows a group of loggers through a season of thrills, spills, and personality conflicts, is entering its third year of production, and along with the gritty reality hit Ice Road Truckers shows that History is perfectly willing to eschew the traditional, more linear and academic documentary format to give the audience what it wants; real- life danger and edgier programming.

The network’s newest reality hit, a takeoff on the PBS series Antiques Roadshow called Pawn Stars, at least has a tangential connection to “history” in that the Las Vegas pawn shop featured on the show takes in an eclectic mix of weird and wonderful objects that, at times, have surprising antecedents. But the drama comes from the conflicts between family members, including an overbearing father who runs the shop.

Couple these reality shows with the growing number of offerings dealing with pseudo-science and pure fantasy, and history buffs might wonder where their network has gone. UFO’s, Nostradamus, and especially the wacky notion that the world is going to end in 2012 might improve ratings, but you can get similar fare on the SyFy Channel. Looking for monsters, tracking the movements of Aliens, and the seriousness with which the predicted 2012 Apocalypse is examined make History unwatchable many nights. Even Hitler would be an improvement to speculation about the Yeti.

This is not to say there aren’t flashes of excellent programming for the history connoisseur. Two general interest science programs almost make up for the nonsense offered during the rest of the week. The Universe, with its high end production values and mix of commentary by enthusiastic astronomers augmented by beautiful animation sequences, is can’t miss TV even if astronomy isn’t your cup of tea.

The series features many younger scientists - including some very attractive female astronomers I’ve dubbed “Astro Babes” - who not only offer clear, easy to understand explanations for the enormously complex concepts being examined, but seem to connect well with the audience on their level. Treating the viewers like adults is a welcome change from some other science fare broadcast elsewhere.

Similar care is taken in producing How the Earth Was Made. The show is unique in that it treats each subject - how the Rockies were formed, or plate tectonics, for example - as a detective story. Tracing the history of discovery, the series shows how science is done; building on knowledge gleaned from the past and combined with information learned using the latest gee-whiz gadgetry to arrive at a satisfying answer. Before each commercial break, the narrator summarizes what has been learned so far, giving the viewer the opportunity to share in how the answers were puzzled out. It is a show that is visually stunning and intellectually satisfying - a rare combination indeed.

But it is the historical documentary that has drawn us to History over the years and the general excellence of these all too infrequent programs causes the buff to ask why more of this kind of intelligent, high quality fare can’t be produced. For instance, the recent World War II in HD transcended its documentary format and became history itself. Years in the making, the film makers lovingly crafted 10 hours of gripping, and entertaining full color home movies, archived military footage, and period stills from thousands of submissions into a not to be forgotten mix of pride, patriotism, and pathos - all in glorious HD.

It is unrealistic to expect such excellence on a nightly or even weekly basis. But History has shown in the past that the long form documentary not only makes for compelling TV but also is able to gather an audience. Film maker Ken Burns has been quite successful in weaving stories and pictures into a seamless tapestry that is both achingly beautiful and a treat for the mind.

Even the shorter series-type documentaries like Patton 360 , which features jaw dropping 3-D views of the general’s battlefield, as well as the less serious, but still interesting Cities of the Underworld give nuance and context to previously hidden history.

In the end, it’s all about what draws the largest audience. History is not public TV and the consortium that owns the network are not in the charity business. Still, as this big write up in the Los Angeles Times on the network reveals, the corporation must walk a fine line in their programming between programming for profit and giving their core viewership what they crave.

History’s 41 year old president Nancy Duboc may have found a way to thread the needle:

Dubuc hopes to banish any questions about the network’s commitment to serious fare in April, when History makes its biggest and most expensive play yet: a 12-part series that will tackle the history of the United States from Jamestown to present day.

“America: The Story of Us” is being produced by Jane Root, a veteran British television executive who knows how to do epic television: She oversaw the launch of Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth” when she ran that network. History is casting the project, inspired by the sense of momentousness that followed President Obama’s election, as the first comprehensive television history of the country since Alistair Cooke’s 1972 series “America: A Personal History of the United States.”

Cooke’s love letter to his British cousins about America is considered one of the finest documentaries ever made - a grand, sweeping paean to this country and her people. What can we expect from History’s ambitious effort to tell America’s story?

The recent History program The People Speak, based on far left professor Howard Zinn’s execrable one volume Peoples History of the United States portrayed America in a most unflattering light. It highlighted our sins, condemned the people as racist, sexist homophobes, and glorified some fairly unsavory characters.

Given the fact that this project was greenlighted by Duboc, I am not very confident that America: The Story of Us will rise above the kind of revisionist history popular on the left and give our whole, remarkable narrative the treatment it deserves.

Regardless of how that program plays out, the network still features enough quality historical programming to make it a worthwhile stop several times a week. Perhaps in the future, a television network devoted exclusively to the kind of historical programming many of us would love to see will come into existence. With a constantly fragmenting audience on cable and satellite TV, that possibility may become reality sooner than we think.

But for now, we’ll have to settle for History and its uneven mix of the serious, the sublime, and the silly.


Filed under: Blogging — Rick Moran @ 11:18 am

Have you ever gotten the feeling that your life is moving downhill so quickly that your usual habits of thought are lost in the rush to keep up with what must be done?

Ever since I took on additional responsibilities at American Thinker, my income has increased substantially but the time I used to spend reading, writing, and thinking has nearly disappeared. I used to take 4-5 hours a day perusing the latest news, opinion, and philosophical musings from the right and left, processing and absorbing the information, then trying to put everything in some kind of perspective in order to write about it. That time has disappeared and I am lucky if I can rush something on to the blog in a couple of hours - max.

The speed of life has outpaced my speed of thought. It is unsettling to write when you feel uncomfortable with how well you have reasoned something out or you worry whether you have missed some vital piece of information that would make your thoughts completely valid in the context with which you are analyzing a subject.

Rereading some stuff I’ve written over the last few months, I see where these doubts are justified. Some of my arguments have shallowed out. There’s less logic and more statements of putative fact. There is not enough questioning of underlying assumptions. And while not necessary, I see where I have eschewed balance at times and fallen into a more partisan, more ideological pattern of thinking.

Certainly not all of this is the result of less time and care taken in writing. There has been much to oppose when it comes to writing about the Obama administration and I have never pretended to be anything except what I am; a conservative who stands in opposition to liberal policies that I believe are inimical to personal liberty and our foundational constitutional principles. But the discomfort I feel about how I am opposing these policies remains. And I believe that the idea that time has telescoped my ability to thoroughly think through exactly what it is I want to write about while giving depth and nuance to my analysis is valid.

Perhaps I’m just a little slower on the uptake than many. More likely, my time management skills are lacking. Rather than spending 20 minutes on the ESPN website every day, maybe that time could be better spent somewhere else? Or maybe I should focus my efforts rather than trying to keep up with everything I would normally read and digest. I catch myself skimming a lot more - at which point I scowl to myself that I am probably missing some good bits. But the hands of the clock are inexorable and I am a slave to its movement.

I tried getting up an hour earlier every morning but my recent illness has shown me that I am running myself into the ground. The irony is that I am now making a solid middle class living on the web but can’t enjoy it, while I am finding it increasingly frustrating to contribute to this blog.

A speed reading course? Been there, done that. There is something so unsatisfying about Evelyn Wood’s methods that I only use them sparingly. I dote lovingly on good writing, savoring words as if they were morsels of the best steak I’ve ever had. I also enjoy pausing and turning over in my mind what an author has written in order to wring the last drop of understanding and intent out of each thought.

These may be luxuries I can no longer afford. But it is this process of understanding and discovery that makes writing about it worthwhile. Why sacrifice what I enjoy about the journey and concentrate only on the destination?

If I could make as much working half as much, I would. But I am at a point where I now realize that where I am in my career cannot continue indefinitely and I’m going to have to find another way. When I began writing on this site, I made no bones about the reason; I wanted to achieve a certain notoriety so that I could make a living writing on the web. That dream has become a reality.

And now that I’m there, I find it’s not all it was cracked up to be - at least the path I am on now. I don’t know what changes are going to be made but something is going to have to give. In time, I’m sure I’ll figure it out.



Filed under: CPAC Conference, Decision 2010, Palin, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:47 am

I don’t know who’s advising her at this point, but Sarah Palin is making some shrewd political moves lately that are likely to vault her into a very favorable position as leader of the only real “reform” faction in the Republican party.

Since the publication of Going Rogue, Palin has demonstrated an understanding not only her core constituency, but has slightly redefined her public image to allow a broader cross section of conservatives to embrace her. This has caused her poll numbers to rise and increase her standing with what passes for the reformist element in the Republican party.

But the question will be for Palin is who is driving who? The way the Tea Party folks want to “reform” the Republican party is to toss out those members of congress who fail to live up to their impossible standards of conservate ideology. Political professionals realize that this would mean a smaller party, not a larger one.

And herein lies Palin’s dilemma; must she embrace the reformers concept of “true conservatism” and thus emerge as a bona fide leader of a movement that may shrink the party? Or should she promote a more mainstream conservatism and eschews litmus tests while seeking support from some of the party insiders?

Apparently, she has made a choice; Palin will forgo speaking at CPAC this year and instead, address the even more conservative Southern Republican Leadership Conference. By dumping on CPAC - what passes for a “mainstream” conservative gathering today even with the John Birch Society co-sponsoring - Palin is sending the message that the conservative elites who run the conference and dominate its programs will have to go through her to get the support of the conservative base. She is setting herself up to be the pivot by which the current party leadership in Washington will be able to utilize the enthusiasm and commitment of the tea partiers to help the GOP.

For more traditional conservatives like Pawlenty and Romney, the road to the White House will go through Sarah Palin.

The significance of her appearance at the SRLC as opposed to CPAC is plain; the party’s strength now resides in the south while the southern brand of conservative ideology dominates among the base nationwide. As I have described it, Palin’s natural constituency lies with the anti-elite, anti-intellectual ideologues who believe they are putting “principle” ahead of politics but end up sacrificing both for a stultifying “purity” that bears no relation to political realities outside of the southern base. Palin made that plain in her dismissal of the CPAC invite:

A source close to the Palin camp says that request led to a decision to stay away from the upcoming CPAC conference, calling it a forum that will place “special interests over core beliefs” and “pocketbook over policy.”

“That’s not what CPAC should be about and people are tiring,” the source said. “Palin is taking a stance against this just as she did in Alaska.”

When asked about the move, Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said: “We support those who advance our core beliefs and lead by principle.”

To say this is monumentally naive and stupid would be to repeat what ACU president David Keene has said of Palin in the past:

Keene has criticized Palin in the conservative press, telling Newsmax in July that she was “whining” about her press coverage and was not yet ready for primetime.

“Conservatives like her, but you’ve got to have more than that,” Keene told the outlet. “You’ve got to be more than a rock star. If in fact she’s interested in the presidency, she has got to establish herself as someone you can envision in the Oval Office. And it’s become more difficult to envision than it was at the time of the election.”

The base can envision her in the Oval Office because they believe that Palin’s very ordinariness - her demonstrable unfitness for the presidency - is just what the country and conservatism needs. Who cares if she knows less about foreign policy than my bartender? What need have we of a president who can articulate an agenda, speak beyond simple-minded talking points on issues, and grasp the nuance of governance when it is obvious that her gut instincts are so swell?

There are good arguments to be made that the GOP elite is out of touch with ordinary Americans and that some Republican members of congress need to be retired. But when logic, reason, and even a modicum of pragmatism are tossed out the window at the same time as the dead wood and drift wood, there is no meaningful “reform” to be had. Instead, flying squads of political executioners will move into suspect party regulars’ districts (as well as the growing number of open races), and put their stamp of approval on candidates likely to be slaughtered in the general election.

If Palin sides completely with these “reformers,” she doesn’t lose anything, judging by this informal poll of party insiders:

A poll of GOP insiders suggests that ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has little support among the party’s professional class — and maybe that’s just how she wants it.

In a survey of 109 party leaders, political professionals and pundits, Palin finished 5th on the list of candidates most likely to win the party’s ‘12 WH nomination. Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney (R) was the overwhelming choice of the

Voters were asked to rank 5 candidates in the order of likeliness to capture the GOP nod.

Does it matter that the professional class doesn’t take Palin seriously as a candidate in 2012? Not much. But it is indicative of the chasm that has opened up between the 1/3 or so of the party that identifies with her whose opposition to the party leadership has metastasized into a hate only slightly less intense than that felt for Obama and the liberals.

It may very well be that Michael Steele and the inside the beltway conservatives will have to go hat in hand to Palin and ask for her intercession with her supporters in order to get them fully engaged in the effort to flip the Congress in 2010. Will she end up being a team player and agree to work toward that end or will she maintain her distance and independence, looking to cash in on her standing with the base by running for president in 2012?

My guess is the latter. In the end, the tea partiers will run Palin more than she will be able to run them. That’s the price you pay when you mount the tiger and attempt to ride the whirlwind.

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