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2/28/2010
AL GORE’S WEIRD, DISCONNECTED OP-ED

Reading this New York Times op-ed by Al Gore gives you the distinct impression that he has been off somewhere communing with the global warming gods and hasn’t been paying attention to the collapse of his “overwhelming consensus” on climate change:

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.

Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil. And we would still trail China in the race to develop smart grids, fast trains, solar power, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy - the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century.

But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake.

A “criminal generation?” This from a Democrat whose global warming “fixes” would bankrupt the western world.

In fairness, Gore makes some good points. Framing our energy policy in terms of national security is a good idea. And highlighting the danger of so much of our debt being bought by China can’t be said enough when the necessity to get a handle on our deficit has become so vital.

And Gore is correct when dismissing snowstorms, and even the Himalayan Glacier kerfuffle as not disproving the concept of climate change. Every time I read an amateur climate skeptic referring to the recent blizzards or cold temps as “proof” that global warming is a fraud, I cringe. It’s winter, people. You make the skeptical community look silly by postulating such stupidity.

Yet, the former Vice President misses the point when it comes to the Himalayan Glacier retraction, and presumably other revelations that have shown the IPCC  as a hopelessly flawed, politicized body. Taken by themselves, these sometimes politicized, sometimes mistaken statements relating to climate change are not compelling evidence of global warming being a total fraud - especially when stacked up against the bulk of studies and scientific articles on climate change that have been published over the last two decades. But he is clueless about the impact of these “errors” on the very people from which he is demanding such extraordinary sacrifice. Even in Europe, skepticism is way up. And despite a virtual blackout in the US of every major story relating to the IPCC’s bumbling, corrupt methods (and its chairman who has been caught red handed in a monumental conflict of interest), skepticism is on the rise here as well.

But the real problem with this little essay is that Gore is taking the now familiar tack of climate change advocates and tut-tutting about the series of revelations that have undermined the science he so confidently - and with the fervor of a religious zealot - believes in.

Weirdly, he mischaracterizes the document dump from East Anglia as an effort by Jones and Mann to push back against the “onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics.” These “make work” demands were citizens seeking confirmation of the science via Freedom of Information laws. In other words, Gore obviously believes we should sit down, shut up, and let him and his buddies reach into our pockets and remove trillions of dollars without demanding proof of the scientific basis for his power grab.

How very democratic of him.

This is an extraordinarily weak and idiotic defense. Poor wittle Jones and Mann. Let us weep for their workload. Let us gnash our teeth at the meanies who put them under so much pressure, that they felt they had not choice but to lie, cheat, cook the books, ruin the careers of fellow scientists who didn’t agree with them, and pressure formerly respected science publications to toe the company line on climate change.

What a crock.

Gore evidently hasn’t read the recent literature:

It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists - acting in good faith on the best information then available to them - probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century,

Doesn’t he mean “overestimated?”

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.The study, published in 2009 in Nature Geoscience, one of the top journals in its field, confirmed the conclusions of the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It used data over the last 22,000 years to predict that sea level would rise by between 7cm and 82cm by the end of the century.

[...]

Siddall said that he did not know whether the retracted paper’s estimate of sea level rise was an overestimate or an underestimate.

Yes - but remember; the science is settled.

He blames the failure in Copenhagen, not on the common sense objections from China and India regarding the destruction of their economies if recommendations made by the IPCC were adapted, but because the US senate didn’t pass cap and trade.

Finally, this bit of weirdness that shows Gore for what he is; a megalomaniac:

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption. After all has been said and so little done, the truth about the climate crisis - inconvenient as ever - must still be faced.

Al Gore sees himself as a redeemer - as Jesus Christ. And where is there room in a democratic republic for someone who thinks that the rule of law should be an “instrument of redemption?” Holy Mother, that is the scariest idea ever to drool from Gore’s mouth. The rule of law is just that - the rule of law. There should be no special qualities that animate the enforcement of the law - certainly not a drive to “redeem” anything or anybody. That smacks of titanic hubris to use the law to enforce your idea of “redemption.”

If the shoe fits, Al…

Much of this blog post originally appears in The American Thinker.

By: Rick Moran at 9:55 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/27/2010
WERE BLACKS BETTER OFF UNDER SLAVERY?

The simple minded Congressman who wondered out loud whether abortion in the black community was so rampant that it can be compared to the suffering of slaves inadvertently has done us a favor.

Rather, he would have if the left was willing to engage in a conversation about the efficacy of federal government policies that are specifically directed at poverty stricken black communities. This is a “no go” zone because it challenges the foundation of modern liberalism to ask questions that have no good answers when it comes to the state of the black family, the ravaged inner city black communities, and an African American culture that tolerates a shocking number of teenage mothers, absent fathers, and the social problems that arise from dependency.

“Racism” as an encompassing catch all to explain the above doesn’t cut it. But its all the race baiters like Jackson and Sharpton - and their liberal allies - have because the alternative would be actually examining the problems of black communities in a cold, rational manner, devoid of the kind of emotionalism so beloved of the left, in order to eliminate or adjust federal policies that may in some cases, be contributing to the holocaust.

By contrast, it is much easier to take the inelegant words of Trent Franks out of context, twist their meaning, and play the race card for all it’s worth.

This fellow is a rabid abortion foe - so much so that he hyperbolically tried to connect abortion in the black community to slavery:

We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?

He’s 100% wrong, of course. The idea that “far more” of the African American community has been affected by abortion than slavery is, on its face, absurd. And Rep. Franks didn’t mention the other half of that equation; 70% of children delivered to African American mothers are born out of wedlock.

What makes Rep. Franks remarks offensive is not the hate, but the tone deafness. It brings to mind a defense of Jim Crow that was common in the south in the 1950’s; blacks were better off when they were slaves and had massah to take care of them. I don’t believe that was Frank’s intent in saying that abortion was more devastating than slavery but it is easy - if you’re simply trolling to score political points against your foe by taking context out of meaning - to promote the perception that he was.

It is tempting to take statistics from 1965 on the effects of poverty on the black family and compare them to today, drawing the easy conclusion that federal poverty programs are to blame for the radical decline in the viability of the black family.

But nothing is ever that simple or easy. The fact is, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan penned his famous “Moynihan Report” when he was Assistant Secretary of Labor in 1965 that eloquently and in devastating detail raised the alarm about the disintegrating black nuclear family, the crisis was already at code red. The litany of statistics used by Moynihan compared the status of the black family in the 1950’s to where it was in 1965. The divorce rate was twice that of whites at 25% (now 68%). Female headed households was at 22% in 1965 (45% today). And while 70% of black children today are born out of wedlock, that number was at 25% in 1965.

It would be wrong to blame all the problems of the black family today for policies promulgated in the 1960’s. But it is a valid question to ask have any or all of those policies made things worse than they would have been if care had been taken to mitigate the impact on black families?

Federal programs targeted the symptoms of poverty largely by granting in kind payments to the head of household. I recall some spirited debates at the time among liberals about whether a guaranteed annual income, or Basic Income, should be substituted for housing vouchers, food stamps, and other Great Society expansion of welfare payments.

What could never be imagined by Johnson, and his social engineers was the devastating impact that dependency would have on the black community, and specifically, the black family. Those policies emasculated the black male, encouraged female welfare recipients to keep having children so that her welfare payments would increase, and made it more profitable for black couples not to marry. In short, all the cultural nuclear bombs identified by Moynihan back in 1965 that were already detonating on the African American landscape were, at the very least, exacerbated by some federal programs. Clearly, the increased opportunities available to blacks in the education and employment spheres had a positive impact. But others engendered consequences we still can’t talk about today.

A guaranteed annual income might have altered that equation. We’ll never know. Along with forcing cities to address the crisis in inner city schools, and more effective job training programs, building self esteem and promoting independence might have gone at least some ways toward saving the black family.

Bobby Kennedy was eager to change the thrust of much of the welfare state from dependency to freedom. How he might have accomplished this if he had been elected president is another of those “What ifs” in history that prick at our conscience. Was there - is there - another way to assist those Americans in poverty that would lift them up rather than keep them down? As long as even discussing the problem brings false cries of “racist,” we’ll never know.

Abortion, drug use, gangs, illegitimacy - all of these are symptoms of the destruction of the black family. Rep. Franks was making an accusation - overripe, in my opinion - that federal policies are responsible for the abortion rate among blacks, and by extension, the other symptoms of decline as well. He is suffering for his inelegance and tone deafness.

Too bad his critics refuse to engage on the substance of his critique.

By: Rick Moran at 11:07 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/26/2010
SUMMIT OF STUPID

Yes, it was great the our president reached out his holy hand and tried to bring his adversaries to the promised land of health insurance reform. Just more proof that our president really, really, really wants to govern in a bi-partisan manner. Liberals and little children believe that fairy tale - and if you can point to a difference in emotional and intellectual maturity between the two, I would welcome it.

Only partisans believe the bi-partisan shtick, of course. Just as only partisans on the other side believe that the GOP was anxious to cut a deal. It’s part of the reason that this whole summit idea was stupid to begin with. When the president has been plotting with Harry Reid for weeks to ram health insurance reform through using reconciliation, the idea that there was any attempt to do anything save make the GOP look bad at the summit is absurd. “Bi-partisanship” was the farthest thing from Obama’s mind, and the cynicism it took to stand in front of a television audience and piously proclaim otherwise was breathtaking.

And what of the “start over” Republicans? Yeah, right. Since many conservatives think our health care system is the finest in the world and we shouldn’t mess with it at all, the idea that any of the GOP ideas on health insurance reform - some of them good ones - would be advanced by the Republicans is equally absurd. The GOP was no more interested in bi-partisanship than Obama and the Democrats but at least they didn’t pretend that they could find enough common ground to pass something both parties could support.

Meanwhile, health care costs and the price of insuring Americans continues to go through the roof while millions go uninsured because they can’t afford it or can’t get coverage at any price due to a pre-existing condition.

Earth to Republicans: This is a problem. This is a problem that needs to be addressed by responsible legislators. I agree with you that the ultimate goal of the Democrat’s plan is a single payer insurance system and a near total takeover of the health care segment of the economy. Plenty of Democrats haven’t even bothered to hide their feelings about that and have openly said as much. But this is why God gave you a brain; figure out a way to pass health care reform that will prevent that from happening. Slippery slopes are not inevitable if you recognize them and work to avoid them.

Moon to Democrats: Read any good polls lately? That sucking sound you hear is your ironclad majorities going down the drain because, as the economy slips even further into recession, your constituents are wondering what in the name of all that is good and holy you are doing fiddling with health care reform while they can’t even get a job flipping burgers. Have you noticed those cooking pots of tar and people tearing into feather pillows when you’re speaking to the home folks? Lots of pitchforks in evidence too. The contorted faces of rage that shocked you last summer are nothing compared to the lynch mobs that await many of your colleagues on election day if you continue to pursue this Ahab-like obsession of our presidents’s.

Did one side “win” the day yesterday?” I’d say from what I saw of the summit (the first 4 hrs - then I watched woman’s hockey which was far more interesting), the Republicans had a clear advantage. It’s always better to be on offense and the GOP speakers scored several hard blows to the Democrats while offering some modest reforms of their own. For their part, the Democrats weirdly tried to get everyone watching to break down weeping as they related story after story of Americans losing insurance, having inadequate insurance, or some insurance executive beating them up, eating their children, or sucking their blood vampire like from their necks. I’m sure the wonks who were watching the fiasco had to excuse themselves to dry their eyes and blow their noses. Or not. Such emotionalism plays well on campaign commercials but only made Democrats look unserious and mostly silly for their going for the heart tactics.

For their part, the Republicans scored some good points when pointing out reality about many parts of the bill. There was an interesting dust up over a useless argument on CBO’s estimate of premium costs for the average family. Lamar Alexander said the CBO calculated that premiums would rise, Obama differed. The president was right; the CBO said premiums will go down - except that families may choose to purchase more insurance at a higher cost.

The whole question is moot anyway. The CBO numbers calculate that Obamacare will find $500 billion in Medicare savings. Everyone knows that’s off the table so, while the actual CBO report claims lower premiums for families, the reality is going to be different if Obamacare is passed because the CBO estimates on premiums are based on the idea that the Medicare reduction in hospital and doctor payments will actually come about and lower health care costs. No lowering of health care costs means no lowering of health insurance premiums. So, score one for the president on accuracy, but deduct a half for disingenuousness.

Other than that, Dr. Tom Coburn had some devastating points about malpractice and defensive medicine and really landed some body blows when talking about waste and fraud in Medicare. Since there is no tort reform in the bill, Democrats had no coherent answer. And in one of the few truly bi-partisan moments, the entire room agreed about waste in the system.

Such esoterica was nothing compared to the tour de force presentation by Paul Ryan (video here). Ryan took the Democrats to school with his treatise on the budget and deficits, and how simply dishonest the Democrat’s bill is in presenting itself as a budget cutting measure. Ryan proved once again why he is a young turk in the Republican party. That 5,000 watt brain of his cannot be ignored.

I was wracking my brains thinking of something good to say about another Democrat on the panel but frankly, only the president impressed me. The rest of his colleagues only revealed a “stature gap” as Mike Gerson pegged it. There was the president. And then there were the seven dwarfs.

But no clear Obama advantage this time, as there was in Baltimore at the GOP retreat a couple of weeks ago. There, Republicans sputtered while Obama - completely at ease and in full professorial mode - lectured his opponents and made them look small.

But the GOP came loaded for bear yesterday and it showed. They were sharp, penetrating, and for the most part, reasonable. If the White House strategy was to repeat the president’s performance from Baltimore, they were clearly disappointed. Even David Gergen, who spends a lot of his face time on TV bashing Republicans, said it was the GOP’s “best day in years.”

Considering what has transpired in recent years, that ain’t saying much.

By: Rick Moran at 10:59 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

2/25/2010
IS THIS THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE RUN BY THE GOVERNMENT?

A growing scandal in Great Britain may give us a glimpse of America’s future under a health care system run by the government.

Note, I said “may.” The fact is, government run health care systems in other countries have varying mixes of public and private care available to consumers, which gives many citizens options regarding their care. Canada is a good example. Most Canadians are satisfied with their health care system despite its long waiting periods for routine procedures for many. That’s because private insurance is still available for those who wish coverage for prescriptions, dental and vision, as well as little extras like private hospital rooms. Up to 2/3 of Canadians have some form of private, supplemental insurance, mostly paid by their employers.

And unlike Great Britain, almost all services are provided by private companies. Doctors are paid a fee for services rendered rather than receiving a salary. The industries are heavily regulated and competition is stifled to a large degree. But there is no rationing per se and no lifetime limit on using the system.

But the National Health Service in Great Britain is a different story. Here, only about 10% of citizens purchase supplemental private insurance, although the government will pay for some procedures performed by private concerns if the waiting period in the public sector is too long. We’ve heard of the NICE Commission - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence - which functions as a de facto rationing body by approving or denying treatments. They say they base most of their decisions on quality of care and only deny treatments that “don’t work” or have limited value in improving the condition of patients. The Medicare Cost Control board that the health care reform bill would set up here would perform similar duties.

Since private insurance companies routinely make those kinds of decisions here already, the difference will be in treating the patient as a number or a customer. While the motivation underlying both private insurer and government may be similar, it is not the same and most critics of Obamacare make the point that the pressure on government to deny services will be greater than on a private insurance company due to efforts by government to not only put downwards pressure on the cost curve of medical care generally, but also meet budgetary targets. It’s a political argument and I’m not sure about it’s real life implications. But looking at the workings of NICE, one has to wonder about some of their decisions.

But the big difference between Great Britain and Canada is that almost all health care facilities are run by the NHS. The result?

Up to 1,200 people lost their lives needlessly because Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust put government targets and cost-cutting ahead of patient care.

But none of the doctors, nurses and managers who failed them has suffered any formal sanction.

Indeed, some have either retired on lucrative pensions or have swiftly found new jobs.

[...]

The devastating-report into the Stafford Hospital-shambles’ laid waste to Labour’s decade-long obsession with box-ticking and league tables.

The independent inquiry headed by Robert Francis QC found the safety of sick and dying patients was ‘routinely neglected’. Others were subjected to ‘ inhumane treatment’, ‘bullying’, ‘abuse’ and ‘rudeness’.

The shocking estimated death toll, three times the previous figure of 400, has prompted calls for a full public inquiry.

Bosses at the Trust - officially an ‘elite’ NHS institution - were condemned for their fixation with cutting waiting times to hit Labour targets and leaving neglected patients to die.

But after a probe that was controversially held in secret, not a single individual has been publicly blamed.

The inquiry found that:

• Patients were left unwashed in their own filth for up to a month as nurses ignored their requests to use the toilet or change their sheets;

• Four members of one family. including a new-born baby girl. died within 18 months after of blunders at the hospital;

• Medics discharged patients hastily out of fear they risked being sacked for delaying;

• Wards were left filthy with blood, discarded needles and used dressings while bullying managers made whistleblowers too frightened to come forward.

If the hospital were run by a private concern, would those kinds of problems exist? There are many private nursing homes and hospices that are a disgrace in this country but a big municipal hospital like the one described above would be under intense examination by state boards and other bodies. And you would think insurance companies would also be concerned if they were paying out for treatment in such a death trap. There’s no way to prove it, but common sense would dictate that conditions like the kind described above would not exist for very long in many privately run American hospitals.

Some Draconian proposals coming out of the NHS in recent years - denying care to the very sick, patients being diagnosed as “close to death who aren’t - only happens when government run health care pays too much attention to budgets and rules and not enough to individual patients and their needs.

To hear health care reform advocates on the left in this country, it is apparent that they wish to do away with private insurance entirely in favor of a single payer system. In fact, the very idea of for-profit health care seems to annoy them. I would guess that if given a choice, liberal health care reform advocates would prefer the British model as opposed to the Canadian model.

In that sense, if they eventually get their way - and they have made absolutely no secret about their view that Obamacare is a gateway to that kind of system - such horror stories could indeed alight here. But we can only hope that a more rational approach, mixing public sector funding and the efficiency of private companies to deliver services, will eventually emerge from the current process.

It won’t happen today at the health care summit. And I’m not sure that President Obama and the congressional Democrats are open to that kind of real compromise anyway. They have used the insurance industry, the drug companies, for-profit hospitals, and doctors as political whipping boys so often in this debate that they are almost forced to forgo any hint of market reforms in their package.

I don’t like much of anything that the Democrats have proposed so far. But if we’re going to have some kind of national health insurance program, we should think about what works in the real world rather than what we would prefer to see as a result of an ideological bent on the part of the legislature.

By: Rick Moran at 8:59 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

2/24/2010
MITCH DANIELS AND ‘ROWDY’ CONSERVATIVES

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would be on my short list for presidential candidates if he decided to run in 2012.

Unfortunately, outside of us RINO’s, I would be pretty much alone in that hope. Why this is so says a lot about conservatives and Republicans today.

Daniels represents one of the most conservative states in the union. He was just re-elected in 2008 with the largest vote total in state history despite Obama carrying Hoosierland that same year - the first Democrat to do so since LBJ in 1964. Clearly, he is conservative enough for almost anyone in Indiana.

But outside of his home state? Daniels runs into problems because he is actually interested in governing, rather than posing. He wants to get things done rather than hope for failure on the part of the majority as a path back to power. To that end, he has committed the unpardonable sin of working with Democrats in the legislature to pass health care reform, as well as fight the deficit by strategically cutting spending and - another horror - raising taxes.

Somehow, this makes Daniels less conservative than, let’s say, Rush Limbaugh who doesn’t have the responsibility of governing and can afford to posture about evil Democrats because he doesn’t need them to perform his job.

For most movement conservatives, obstructionism and doing nothing about the enormous problems facing us is definitional. Dismissing the opposition as out to harm America is a litmus test.

But Daniels - a great admirer of Reagan - comes at the task of governing a little more pragmatically.

The results speak for themselves:

On this day, Daniels is describing how, in his first term, he won bipartisan support for a program known as Healthy Indiana, which provides health insurance for Hoosiers who aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but earn too little to afford buying coverage for themselves. So far, 50,000 residents have signed up for the program, under which the state contributes up to $1,100 each year to each enrollee’s individual health savings account. Participants also contribute according to their income, and when the account is depleted, a catastrophic insurance plan kicks in to cover any additional expenses. It’s all paid for with a portion of the state’s Medicaid funds, along with an increase in the cigarette tax that Daniels pushed through a reluctant legislature.

In fact, Daniels is such a believer in health savings accounts and consumer-directed health plans that he made sure one was offered to state employees. So far, he reports, 70 percent of state workers have signed up — including himself — saving millions of dollars each year for themselves and taxpayers.

[...]

The good Mitch, by contrast, is a principled but practical conservative who respects the intelligence of voters and would rather get something done than score political points. Daniels is a genuine fiscal conservative who took a $600 million state budget deficit and turned it into a $1 billion surplus but managed to do so without cutting spending for education and even increased funding for child welfare services. He pushed hard to lower property taxes but didn’t hesitate to propose temporary hikes in income and sales taxes to keep the state in the black. He privatized the state’s toll road and then used the $4 billion proceeds to launch a major public works investment program.

He served as Bush’s OMB director and is scary smart. And he doesn’t sound like a tea party patriot in this interview with National Journal:

NJ: What do you think is the biggest lesson that the Republicans haven’t quite learned yet from the last election?

Daniels: Always have a better idea. Let me tell you how this looks from out here — and we’re anomalous. In Indiana, Republicans are the party of change and reform; ask anybody — our opponents, the press, everybody. In the rhythm of life here, four years ago we replaced a 16-year regime that had gone stale.

And so we are the party that restored fiscal integrity. We are the party that addressed health care for the uninsured. We are the party that rebuilt an attractive business environment. We are the party that cleaned up the ethics issues in government — that and much more. We attacked our infrastructure problem in a novel and taxpayer-friendly way.

NJ: That you took a little heat over…

Daniels: Yes, yes, but you know, the results are in — and incidentally, we just won with the largest vote total in the history of elections in our state for any office any year.

NJ: A tough year, too…

Daniels: In a tough year. Obama won the state — you know that. I guess what I’m saying is that when Indiana Republicans meet, I always tell them we cannot control what the party looks like in other places or nationally, but here in Indiana if we don’t remain the party always defining the agenda, bringing the new ideas and standing for constructive change, then people will excuse us from duty. And they should. …

People want to know first of all that you hear them and understand what’s going on in their lives. I work at this incessantly.

Politics is about the winning of power. Governance is about using that power to serve the people. In order to serve the people, you must listen to their concerns, and work with the other branch of government to address them.

Sometimes, like Daniels, you get it mostly right. Other times, like Obama, you get it mostly wrong. Both executives listened to the people but drew radically different conclusions about how to go about addressing their problems.

This week, the president is trying one last time to pass health insurance reform. He is trying one last time to get some cooperation from Republicans. Frankly, I don’t blame the GOP for their opposition after what Harry Reid pulled with the jobs bill, taking a carefully crafted compromise and junking it in favor of a nonsensical measure that barely scratches the surface of our jobs crisis. And I am in agreement that there is so much in the Democrat’s proposal that is overreach that opposing the entire process is probably the only alternative open to principled Republicans.

But I have to admit to having admiration for the president. He is doing what good presidents do; not giving up a cornerstone of his agenda despite the odds because he obviously believes he is right. I want a president to be a stubborn mule when he thinks himself correct. Obama is damning the politics of health care reform and proceeding full speed ahead. I agree that he is perhaps taking his party over a cliff. But he will go down with his flag waving high.

Not very practical of me but a president who digs in their heels when they feel they’re right is someone who “gets it” about the job. History has tapped him on the shoulder. That’s a powerful incentive to make your mark and do so your own way.

Daniels hasn’t had the national responsibility but he didn’t hesitate to raise taxes and cut popular programs to balance the budget. While his health care reforms have been market friendly, the state subsidy to the uninsured would probably be viewed with a jaundiced eye by most movement conservatives. He privatized the state’s tollroads but took the money and funded infrastructure projects.

In short, Daniels has allowed necessity to guide his actions rather than ideology. That, and his decidedly dour take on CPAC does nothing to enamor him to “true” conservatives:

Daniels said he wasn’t at CPAC because it was “a lot of rowdyism and barbs cast at the other side. I think that’s appropriate at a certain time. But that’s not my lane right now.”

Daniels was arguing for the GOP to embrace “a friendly and unifying tone” and that his primary political focus was the upcoming elections for the Indiana legislature.

He argued that the problems facing the country — deficits and economic stagnation in particular — were so dire that they demanded serious policy work, not red meat politics.

“For the first time, I’m concerned about the future of the American experiment,” Daniels said.

When red meat politics is all you understand, and when you view cooperation with the enemy and any straying from a narrow, ideological worldview as apostasy, you are not going to fathom a character like Mitch Daniels nor ever consider him for national office.

I love rowdyism myself. This blog likes to mix it up and I pride myself on my ability to trash liberals with the best of them - when they deserve it. But Daniels is repelled by the kind of hysterically exaggerated critiques of the left that flowed so easily from so many at CPAC, depicting Obama with a horns and tail while ginning up fear and outrage over what might be done in his name. That alone disqualifies him in this current climate of “savagery.”

And that is the republic’s - and the Republican party’s - loss.

By: Rick Moran at 11:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

2/23/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: IS CLIMATEGATE A CRIMINAL MATTER?

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 technology writer Charlie Martin who broke a big story today on climategate, and IDB’s Monica Showalter.

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.”

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

By: Rick Moran at 5:28 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

WHAT DO WE OWE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES?

This is the kind of post that could easily degenerate into a swirl of numbers, percentages, tables and graphs - in short, all the boring stuff that causes us to roll our eyes and click away to something else.

I will try to keep that kind of thing to a minimum - if only to define the universe we will be looking at. The real thrust of this post will be philosophical; asking questions to which there may not be any answers, but should cause us to think about government, it’s expanding role in our lives, and the very nature of public service.

After remaining steady for 28 years - 1980-2008 - at between 1.1 and 1.2 million, the number of civilian federal workers in 2010 will have grown to 2.15 million. Some 80,000 of those are temporary census workers, but even once they are off the payroll in 2011, the federal government will still be paying more than 1.35 million employees - the largest number ever and a number that only promises to go up if some kind of national health insurance reform is passed.

State and local government employee increases have been even more remarkable. The number of state workers since 2000 has tripled.

Let’s leave the numbers for a moment and ask an obvious question; is more necessarily bad? There is a direct correlation between the increase in the size of government (i.e., the tasks that government has decreed it has a duty/right to perform) and the increase in public employees at all levels of government. There are some increases that may, indeed, be beneficial. More policemen means safer streets, generally speaking. More firemen is also a good idea. As long as there is reasonable justification to believe that increasing the number of public safety employees will improve the lives of citizens, there aren’t too many who would turn up their nose at that kind of increase in the size of government.

More teachers? If increases in the education bureaucracy was confined to adding educators to the rolls, that too, would be beneficial. But schools and their districts have become so bloated with unnecessary bureaucrats that any add ons there would be counterproductive.

Other increases in employment, such as more service employees at departments that have extensive contact with the public (D.L. Bureaus, state aid agencies) may also be justified. The point is, not all of the increase in the size of federal, state, and local government is necessarily bad. Making a blanket condemnation of the growth in the number of public employees then, is relatively meaningless.

This graph from the Census Bureau lists the total number and total salaries of state employees for 2008. The total is about 14.5 million full and part time employees drawing salaries totaling a little over $49 billion.

Here’s the census data from 2000. Back then, there were about 4.9 million employees being paid $13.2 billion. This represents a tripling in the size of government over 8 years. Even with the caveat that many of those employees may be necessary to the functioning of good government, or are needed to protect and serve us, no one can reasonably make the argument that the need for government by the American people has tripled in 8 years.

Along with the increase in the number of employees has come the uncomfortable idea that government employees have not only increased their share of total US employment, but have surpassed the private sector in average salary and benefits.

This is my second question; should the idea of public service mean that public employees must make sacrifices that include making an inferior salary to those in the private sector?

Let us agree to recognize the reality that in order to attract and keep good employees, the public sector must at least offer competitive wages to those paid in the private sector. But this equation affects a relatively small number of technocrats. What about the bulk of public workers?

One problem with trying to make that determination is that many jobs in government have no counterpart in the private sector. Career Builders carried out this survey a couple of years ago but might cause a few raised eyebrows:

Attorney
Government average: $105,577
Nationwide average: $110,520

Financial Manager
Government average: $95,257
Nationwide average: $96,620

Economist
Government average: $89,441
Nationwide average: $80,900

Microbiologist:
Government average: $80,798
Nationwide average: $63,360

Architect
Government average: $80,777
Nationwide average: $68,560

Accountant
Government average: $74,907
Nationwide average: $58,020

Librarian
Government average: $74,630
Nationwide average: $49,110

Human Resources Manager
Government average: $71,232
Nationwide average: $89,950

Nurse
Government average: $60,935
Nationwide average: $56,880

Tax examiner
Government average: $36,963
Nationwide average: $49,460

Medical Technician
Government average: $35,526
Nationwide average: $33,170

The trouble with averages in this case is that most government jobs are in high cost of living urban areas that tend to bump up the total while private sector data includes ex-urban and rural areas with a far lower cost of living. Still, when you think about the fact that the public employees get an extremely generous benefit package along with a competitive salary, it is a legitimate question to ask if the old fashioned idea of stressing the “service” part of government service hasn’t been lost in some respects.

I don’t want to trash public employees, nor minimize the importance of their work. But at what point is it injurious to the republic that employees of the taxpayer see more benefit in working for themselves than the people? For a couple of hundred years, the idea of working for the government meant service to a higher cause. This was considered a greater reward than being paid on par with private sector workers. It was a matter of sacrificing personal gain for public service.

That idea has been turned upside down today. More than the number of public employees, it is this change in the nature of public employment that is the real threat to liberty. There is no talk of “sacrifice” today. In fact, with the incredible growth in power and influence of public employee unions, there is concentration only on what public employees can rip from politicians representing the taxpayer in the form of gold plated pensions, health care plans, and other extras including outsized vacation packages, overly generous sick day provisions, and holidays not granted to most in the private sector. (Note: Most federal employees are not unionized.)

How does AFSCME, SEIU, NEA, and other public employee unions manage this? Public sector unions gave nearly $400 million to Obama and the Democrats in 2008 in campaign contributions, not to mention many millions more in in-kind contributions such as manning telephone banks, door to door canvassing, get out the vote activities, and other election-related assistance.

Third question: Should public employee unions be allowed to influence politicians by contributing to their campaigns when these same politicians will be making decisions on their salary and benefit packages?

Here’s where the first amendment bumps up directly against what should be considered “good government” practices. In a perfect world, public employee unions would probably voluntarily refrain from such political activity. Until that world arrives, the courts have come down on the side of first amendment protections for the unions rather than common sense, good government policy. Hence, the spectacle of public employee unions basically buying protection from politicians who are only too glad to maintain the status of their ruinously expensive pension and health insurance plans, not to mention virtually guaranteeing job security to the point that even gross inefficiency and illegal behavior will not cause a public sector employee to lose their job.

We have allowed public employees to ascend to a privileged place - a pedestal that they were never intended to occupy by the Founders - to the point where their influence over politicians, especially at the state and local level, have made them a force unto themselves in growing the size of government. More public employees means more union members, which means more dues money, which translates into more political contributions to friendly politicians who will gladly repeat the cycle.

This vicious circle must be ended. The biggest reason is that it is bankrupting us:

Despite the lofty promises made by policymakers, public employee retirement plans have been neglected over the years and have become huge liabilities that severely threaten the financial health of many states. If legislators do not properly address the crisis in public pensions, they will make current state budget problems look trivial. In fact, as of 2006, states had accumulated nearly $360 billion in unfunded pension obligations, according to a new 50 state study conducted for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The report entitled “State Pension Funds Fall Off a Cliff,” is co-authored by Dr. Barry Poulson of the University of Colorado and Dr. Arthur P. Hall of the University of Kansas.

Much of the current data regarding liabilities in public employee pensions was taken before the recent economic downturn, and the study’s authors warn the problem is much worse today since stock market losses have not been fully realized in many official government pension statistics. Other estimates with recent data place the unfunded pension liabilities at $1 trillion nationally.

Already, the seams are bursting as some towns have been forced into insolvency as a result of public employee pension and health care plans. Many more will certainly follow unless the idea of “sacrifice” when working for the people once again becomes part of the idea of public service. Are these hugely expensive pension plans necessary to get and keep good employees? Pension plans that pay up to 80% of the average salary for the last three years of an employee’s work history - years in which the employee’s salary sometimes triples?

There aren’t too many Americans who would answer yes to that question. Until the philosophy and culture of public employee unions changes to reflect the principles of our Founders about working for the government, the public sector will only continue to grow at the expense of the private sector to the detriment of our economy and our liberty.

By: Rick Moran at 11:12 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

2/22/2010
CONSERVATIVE REALITY CHECK: WE STILL AREN’T VERY POPULAR AND ARE LOSING THE NEXT GENERATION

After having just seen the euphoria and confident words coming out of CPAC about how conservatism isn’t dead - it’s back and better than ever - I feel some trepidation in trying to rain a bit on that parade.

I really don’t like being a Cassandra. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be able to report on a popular, dynamic, vibrant conservatism that is in the ascendancy and ready to reinvigorate government. But blinding oneself to the facts, misinterpreting straws in the wind, and basing a conservative comeback more on wishful thinking than on the evidence before our eyes only makes the task of asking you to face our shortcomings, own up to them, and change course all the more difficult and depressing.

For those of you who refuse to believe that all polls are rigged against the right, and all pollsters have it in for conservatives, you may find the following interesting. The rest of you can move on to more agreeable sites who would rather blindly engage in cheerleading, while ignoring the fact that conservatism is still seen as a marginal philosophy among the young, and that the right’s comeback is the result almost entirely of a huge jump in support among those aged 65-82.

First, the numbers (via Larison), that show some movement toward the right among “millenials” (18-29) but still show a huge gap in party ID:

However, over the course of 2009 the Democratic Party’s advantage among Millennials in party affiliation weakened considerably from its high point in 2008. The most recent party affiliation data (from the fourth quarter of 2009) show that in terms of straight partisan identification, Democrats held a 36% to 24% lead over the GOP among Millennial voters, a significantly narrower edge than the nearly two-to-one margin (41% vs. 22%) in 2008. At the same time, the percentage of Millennials who said they lean Republican has nearly doubled, from 8% in 2008 to 15% at the end of 2009. There was little change in the percentage who leaned Democratic (20% in 2008 vs. 18% in late 2009). While the Democratic Party has a larger advantage among Millennials than it does among the two oldest cohorts, a greater proportion of the party’s support comes from people who do not explicitly identify as Democrats but only lean toward the party.

Despite the shift in partisan leaning among Millennials, the Republican Party has had limited success in increasing the number of Millennials who identify as — and not just lean –Republican. Just 22% of Millennial voters identified as Republican in 2008, and there was no significant rise in the latest polling (24% in the 4th quarter of 2009).

In other words, no sale. Gains were also made by the right among the Gen X, Boomers, and the “Silent Generation” (65-82) with the last of those showing a complete flip in support away from Obama and the Democrats. However, all but the “Silents” still show majority support for the Democrats.

On average, Millennials’ underlying social and political views put them well to the left of their elders. If you dig into the full report, you will see that the recent Republican resurgence owes almost everything to the dramatic shift among members of the so-called “Silent Generation,” whose voting preferences on the generic ballot have gone from being 49-41 Democrat in 2006 to 48-39 Republican for 2010. There have been small shifts in other age groups toward the Republicans, but by far it is the alienation of voters aged 65-82 that has been most damaging to the Democrats’ political strength*. As we all know, these are the voters who are far more likely to turn out than Millennials, which is why Democratic prospects for this election seem as bad as they do even though the Pew survey says that Democrats lead on the generic ballot in every other age group. Among Boomers, Democrats lead 46-42, and among Gen Xers they barely lead 45-44. In other words, the main reason why the GOP is enjoying any sort of political recovery is that many elderly voters have changed their partisan preferences since the last midterm. Republicans remain behind among all voters younger than 65.

What does it mean for Republicans and the right that they now find themselves in the position of defending Medicare against fiscally responsible moves to rein in its costs? Catering to the elderly voting bloc means maintaining the complete integrity of their entitlements.

Even a cursory examination of the huge hole that Medicare is digging for future generations will tell you that addressing the problem is going to entail much more draconian cuts than the measly $500 billion contemplated by the Obama administration in their health insurance reform package. When we’re talking about an eventual shortfall of tens of trillions of dollars, such gestures are hardly worth the political blood spilled to get them enacted.

But the GOP now finds themselves the Defenders of Medicare - an irony too sour for many of us who believe that entitlements need to be drastically overhauled in order to save us from ruinous decline. But since old people vote, it isn’t likely that the Republicans will give up their current advantage in that age group willingly.

It is the young that should concern us, however, Unless something unexpected occurs, the Millenials will be lost to conservatism largely due to what is perceived to be a much less tolerant and less expansive view of social issues:

The percentage of self-identifying conservatives among Millennials is basically equal with that of self-identifying liberals (28% vs. 29%). The youngest generation of voters is unusually ill-disposed towards movement conservatism of the sort on display at CPAC, which is the event Gardiner hails not only as proof that conservatism is the future but as an “intellectually vibrant” gathering.

Gardiner can believe what he wants, but the evidence we have available right now suggests that conservatism is losing, indeed has already lost, most of the next generation, and that conservatism as we know it today is going to keep losing ground in the future. It is possible that something could happen in the next few years that could change that significantly, but typically once a cohort attaches itself to one party or the other its later voting habits become fairly predictable. The generation that came of age during the Bush years and overwhelmingly backed Obama is not going to become receptive to movement conservatism.

Larison’s analysis fails in one respect; the idea that the Millenials will always vote Democratic because they have attached themselves to the Democratic party and their voting habits become “predictable.” The survey Larison references, in fact, shows a growing comfort with conservatism the older one gets.

The Democrats feel they have a chance to cement the loyalty of Millenials to their party by passing national health insurance. Perhaps the “right bill” might have done so, but the monstrosity that has come forth will almost certainly drive them away from the party or, at least, make them so cynical that they drop out of the voting process altogether. The entire burden in the current health insurance plan falls on the youngest wage earners. Once they get wise to that, I suspect they won’t like it much at all and will be looking for someone to blame.

Larison’s point, then, has some deficiencies but its thrust is correct; the current state of Millenial attraction to movement conservatism is very weak and may get weaker over time. Obviously, the conservatives will never abandon their anti-gay marriage stance (and the perception that this makes them bigots plays a significant role in the standoffishness of Millenials), nor is the right likely to move away from the pro-life position - a stance that drives away Millenial women in droves. (While the numbers may be near equal, better educated and wealthier Millenial women are more pro choice.)

Perhaps social upheaval caused by a significant economic downturn would shunt social issues like gay marriage and abortion to the sidelines enough that a conservative economic populist message would resonate more with the Millenials. Then there’s always the chance that they might go the opposite way and embrace more liberal solutions. Given the fact that neither side will change their base conclusions about social issues, something along those lines would appear to be the only real chance to cause the Millenials to give conservatism another look.

As for the other age groups, it was encouraging that in the NJ and VA governor races last year, and the MA senate race this year, it appeared that the right was making a small comeback in suburbia. But it should be noted that the GOP candidates in all three of those races downplayed their social conservatism and talked up economic populism.

The recently completed CPAC conference also lends credence to this idea that the dominance of social issues on the GOP agenda may be on the wane with only 1% of attendees believing that opposition to gay marriage should be the number one issue of the GOP. No word on how many think it should be #2, or #3 which makes me think that the perception that the GOP is anti-gay might not be changing any time soon.

In 2010, where only half the number of people will vote who cast a ballot in 2008, the general level of enthusiasm on the right along with the turnout among the old folks will mean sizable, perhaps spectacular Republican gains.

But what of 2012? Conservatives still have a huge problem with the highly educated, the wealthy, and still trail the Democrats in support by the Middle Class. In a general election with elevated turnout, the Millenials may once again give the Democrats victory despite all that has happened.

Perhaps instead of crowing about a comeback, conservatives should keep their focus on developing alternatives to what the Democrats are doing in order to offer a positive program that would win over those independents who will decide the next two elections.

By: Rick Moran at 10:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

2/21/2010
GOP A BIG LOSER AT CPAC

Republican leaders were treated well enough by attendees at CPAC. They clapped in all the right places. They cheered lustily at every Obama put down. They dutifully applauded at the 100,000th mention at the conference that the GOP had learned its lesson and were now born again fiscal conservatives.

Then attendees went ahead and gave Ron Paul a victory in the presidential straw poll.

National Journal’s Hotline on Call, picking winners and losers, tags the GOP as a big loser:

What the straw poll did show is that many conservatives aren’t happy with the GOP. RNC chair Michael Steele’s fav/unfav rating is upside down, and 37% say they view GOP leadership in Congress unfavorably too. Many speeches included reminders that the GOP had its chance and lost power because of excess spending. If anything, CPAC showed the GOP is courting the Tea Party movement, but Tea Partiers aren’t sold yet.

A man much admired by many tea partyers, Glenn Beck really let the Republicans have it during his keynote address:

Beck also recalled Reagan’s use of the phrase “morning in America” from one of his TV campaign ads. “It is still morning in America, said Beck. “It’s shaping up to be sort of a nasty day, but it’s still morning in America.” Beck blamed “progressivism” in both parties as the “cancer” in U.S. politics.

“It’s big government, and we need to address it as if it is a cancer,” Beck, on the other issues facing politics. “You must eradicate it. … We need big thinkers and brave people, with spines, who can make the case [that] … it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be ok. We’re going to make it.”

“It’s not enough to not suck as much as the other side,” said Beck, on how Republicans can regain their ideals. “The first step to redemption is admitting you have a problem. … When they do say they have a problem, I don’t know if I believe them. … They’ve got to recognize they have a problem. … ‘I’m addicted to spending and big government.’”

Beck also made the observation that, “One party will tax and spend. The other party won’t tax, but spend. It’s both of them together. I’m tired of feeling like a freak in America.”

And so it went for most of the conference. The crowd saved their biggest applause for those out of government (Gingrich, Cheney), or those challenging the establishment (Rubio), or for those who are quirky, loony politicians who want to go back to a gold standard while eliminating the Fed (Ron Paul).

“It’s not enough to not suck as much as the other side,” is very good advice from Beck. Too bad the GOP isn’t taking it. The fact is, the Republicans can make huge gains in the House and Senate simply by presenting themselves as a less sucky alternative to the Democrats. They don’t need any specific ideas. The certainly don’t think they need a new agenda.

Whatever pablum emerges as a GOP platform for 2010 I guarantee will look a lot like 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, and 2000. They may drop anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion stuff further down the page. And there will be a something about returning to “constitutional government’ which, while I find a lot of what Obama and the Democrats are doing to be inimical to liberty, I don’t recall the Supreme Court coming out and pronouncing their agenda “unconstitutional.” For people who claim a fealty to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, I find it fascinating that they declare stuff the administration is doing “unconstitutional” when that document implies such determinations are made by the Supreme Court and not conservative activists.

Of course, judicial review is not written into the Constitution but since Marbury vs. Madison, the high court’s jurisdiction in matters pertaining to the interpretation of what is constitutional and what isn’t hasn’t been questioned. Hence, while I agree with those activists who question the constitutionality of some of what Obama has sought to do, I think it nonsensical to declare willy nilly that just because there is no mention of health insurance in our founding document, that the attempt for a government takeover of health care is, by itself, unconstitutional. It’s a horrible, stupid, ruinous idea. But unconstitutional? I will wait for the Supreme Court to decide that question.

Also, this loyalty to our Constitution seems to have its limits with many activists. I seem to recall a passage in there about Congress being granted the sole authority to declare war or something. This is a problem for many (not all) strict constructionists who appear to want government to treat what’s in the Constitution as the Revealed Word on some things, but others? Not so much.

But never fear, there will almost certainly be language in any GOP manifesto for the election that will seek a “return” to constitutional government. Asking those conservatives when we abandoned that kind of government would elicit some fascinating responses, no doubt.

All snark aside, the Republicans are in a bind. They put on a full court press at CPAC to attract, flatter, and praise the tea party movement, while seeking to move them into the GOP orbit, as Hotline explains:

The Tea Party Movement: Virtually every speaker paid homage to a movement that remains loosely defined, praising fiscal restraint and a renewed energy among activists protesting the Obama admin’s policies. The media had fun interviewing the guy in the tri-cornered hat and “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, but GOP leaders are doing their best to incorporate, and kowtow to, the movement. Anyone who can show they lead a local Tea Party group is leaving CPAC with an enormous sense of power, and the GOP is all too happy oblige.

I have no doubt that a sizable segment of the tea party movement - perhaps even a majority - will resist the siren song of Steele et. al. and remain outside the party structure. But the conservative/libertarian bent of the movement makes it inevitable that there will be some synergy between the establishment and the new grass roots simply because they are a natural fit. The Democrats aren’t interested in conservative reform and have kicked the flirtatious libertarians to the sidelines. Since there seems - at the moment - to be little energy among the grass roots for a third party, that leaves them only one place to go.

The GOP will make big gains in 2010 simply by being less sucky than the Democrats. But the difference between picking up 25 seats in the House and 4-5 in the Senate, and a Republican tsunami that sweeps the Democrats from power will be the GOP’s ability to offer a positive agenda that speaks to the fears and concerns of ordinary voters. Without something to vote for, the great independent middle of the electorate who broadly support a platform that espouses fiscal sanity and an end to legislative overreach by the Democrats, will not give Republicans the smashing victory they are capable of achieving unless there are specific initiatives that deal with their everyday problems.

It’s not enough to say you’re for the Constitution. Holy Jesus, you might as well say you’re for apple pie, and grandmothers. Republicans are going to have to earn this one by convincing the American voter that they hear their cries for help, and will respond by passing legislation that deals with the specific causes of their misery; jobs, the deficit, skyrocketing health care costs, and a promise that what happened on Wall Street that initiated this mess, won’t happen again, among other things.

Can a party and a movement that has worn its disdain for government action of just about any kind on its sleeve convince people that it now sees government as part of the solution?

That would be a trick worthy of Houdini.

By: Rick Moran at 11:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

2/20/2010
FIREWORKS AT CPAC

Before I delve into the thicket of analysis as to why a sizable number of conservatives are opposed to gay marriage (and the subset of that minority that hate gays period), I wanted to address Bob Barr’s comments yesterday at the National Security panel at CPAC.

The setting was interesting.

Oh what a lovely crowd, huh? Bob Barr is booed and yelled at loudly by the crowd until the moderator, Jay Sekulow, calms them down, for daring to point out that waterboarding is torture. This is from one of the CPAC 2010 panel segments, the topic of which was, “Does Security Trump Freedom?” The panelists included Barr, Jim Gilmore, Dan Lungren and Viet Dinh. Rep. Lungren got a nice little cheer out of them for saying he was for “enhanced interrogation” as well. There’s your conservative base, folks: Torture lovers.

1. Many in the crowd were yelling support for Barr, especially the Paulbots were were all over CPAC yesterday, and libertarians who came to see their former presidential candidate. There were also many boos - especially after the former congressman condemned water boarding as torture.

2. The crowd was none too kind to Barr either after his remarks about the Patriot Act (”repeal it”), the terrorist surveillance program, and his strong criticism of Bush-era national security measures at home.

3. The discussion was remarkable. There were disagreements about many issues among the panelists. For contrast, when I attended the Netroots Convention a few years ago, I saw several panels where there was as much disagreement about issues as you might expect from the College of Cardinals about theology. Not only boring to listen to, but the lockstep mentality of the panelists was almost comical.

Readers of this site know that I side with Barr in this debate - at least on waterboarding torture. I think he has some good things to say about civil liberties overall, but I would disagree with him about some elements of the Patriot Act which have been blown wildly out of proportion by civil liberties absolutists. Oversight is the key and, while there have been notable lapses, overall I think the courts, DoJ and Congress have done a pretty good job in that regard. They can do better and we need people like Barr to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they do.

Despite what many on the left may say, these are not cut and dried issues (except those “enhanced interrogation techniques” that are clearly torture) where the left is on the side of the angels. In fact, they have tried to politicize the national security/civil liberties debate to their shame.

They shamelessly sought to score political points by railing against the Patriot Act, the TSP, and even the innocuous SWIFT terrorist money tracking program. These are not programs that are indicative of a slow slide towards authoritarianism. There is certainly room for disagreement. We know that some on the left care as much about civil liberties as they care about Joe Lieberman because now that Obama is president and has kept many of these programs intact, we hear nary a peep from most of them (Barr and Greenwald being notable exceptions).

The discussion yesterday where Barr was loudly booed for some of his views was robust, nuanced, intelligent, and so far above anything in quality that I’ve ever seen from the left on these subjects that they are not even playing in the same league. Pointing out diversity of opinion in these matters only makes liberals look like the mindless automatons on these issues that they have shown themselves to be.

What of the blow up about gays?

It happened at an event that highlighted young conservative activists across the country - many of whom started “conservative clubs” at their high schools and had to go through the usual harassment by clueless school administrators. One YAF member from California, Ryan Sorba, went up to the podium with a chip on his shoulder, and rather than tell his little two minute story about his activism, he launched a tirade against “GoProud” - a conservative gay organization - who had a booth at the conference.

It was pretty embarrassing. Sorba stood up there like the former high school star athlete he probably was and kept looking out into the audience - many of whom were booing him - and kept sneering “Bring it on!.” It was painful to watch - especially when you realized that the cheers for Sorba were, if not equal to the boos, then certainly noticeable.

That’s only half the story. Someone at the American Conservative Union who assigned booth space was either trying to sabotage the gays or is really, really dense. They placed the gay’s booth very near a table manned by representatives of the National Organization for Marriage -a group that, um, strenuously opposes gay marriage.

My guess is the former. The thinking must have been that those visiting the anti-gay marriage booth would then sidle over to GOProud’s table and harass them. Maybe they were even hoping for fisticuffs. Instead, according to this video from CNN, the two sides got along fine. There were spirited discussions as you might imagine but no unpleasantness - until yesterday.

That’s when NOM issued a press release, warning GOProud that if they supported candidates who advocated gay marriage, they would “Scozzafavaize” them. That led to this statement by one of the gay group’s representatives who wonder why the NOM people couldn’t have said the same thing to him in person since he was only 5 feet away. “Who’s are the pansies at CPAC” the GoProud fellow asked?

The bigger issue, of course, is the attitude shared by many in the Republican party and conservative movement toward gay people. Opposition to gay marriage does not make one a homophobe, although there is certainly a subset of that group who are. Since our politics has become so irrational that debating gay marriage sensibly is out of the question, supporters of the issue lazily tar all opponents, willy nilly, with that disgusting moniker.

But it is not those who oppose gay marriage because they see it as detrimental to society, or against their religious beliefs who necessarily demonstrate a nauseating intolerance for gay people. Rather it is that ever shrinking number of opponents - mostly men - who genuinely hate gay people for who they are, and who have been given a home in the conservative movement and Republican party that should concern us.

Are there gay haters who are liberal Democrats? Of this, I have no doubt. Given the amount of racism we’ve seen from “tolerant” liberals, I am completely convinced that there are homophobes in the Democratic party and progressive movement as well.

The difference is, that kind of bigotry isn’t catered to as it is in the conservative movement and GOP so anti-gay liberals generally know enough to keep their mouths shut. Ideology plays a small role in gay hating, or any kind of bigotry. People are people, and intolerance knows no political party or philosophy. To argue otherwise is to argue against human nature - nice trick if you can pull it off.

While there may be homophobes who are liberals, gay intolerance is a problem for conservatives exclusively. The left has mostly marginalized their haters - not so the right. It is tolerated under the guise of “religious freedom” for the most part, but the effect is the same; a poisonous fear and loathing of homosexuals that drags down all conservatives and adds to the right’s problems with regards to the political perception of conservatives held by the public at large.

I am not a psychologist. I don’t even play one on the internet. My personal feelings about gays is fairly tolerant - when I think about it. I’m not sure someone’s sexuality should be a major political issue, but I understand why gays would try and make it so. I support gay marriage simply because it is an inevitable consequence of changing societal values, as I stated here. Managing that change so that it occurs within the context of the popular will should be what concerns conservatives, in my opinion. No judicial shortcuts.

But through their opposition to gay marriage, conservatives supply cover for the genuine bigots who usually couch their intolerance by claiming common cause with the traditional marriage folks. Obviously a way must be found to separate those who sincerely oppose gay marriage out of conviction or faith, from the haters who want homosexuals back in the closet and sodomy laws reinstituted. I’m not sure that it’s possible, but an effort should be made nonetheless. Self-policing language and rhetoric would be a start. Defending outright bigotry by alluding to “political correctness” isn’t going to cut it. There are lines that cannot be crossed and those that do should be called out for it.

Beyond that, there are symbolic, but telling steps that can be taken to raise the profile, and integrate Log Cabin Republicans, GOProud, and other gay conservative organizations into the party leadership. The establishment is terrified of gays, thinking that accepting them would bring down the wrath of evangelicals upon them. This may be true. But as Allahpundit and others have pointed out, the tide may - just may - be turning on that score:

The One’s agenda has vaulted fiscal conservatism to the top of the list of right-wing priorities; with even Darth Cheney sanguine about gay marriage, social issues simply don’t have the same bite that they used to. In fact, I’m curious to know if Ed’s gotten the same vibe at the convention that Time magazine’s getting — namely, thanks to the GOP’s tilt towards libertarianism, that the big tent is a little bigger this year than it used to be.

Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.

I believe there is a way to maintain conservative and GOP opposition to gay marriage while purging the movement and party of the bigots who do so much to harm the perception held by the average American of the right. It won’t be easy. The left, as they continuously do with regard to race, will seek to minimize, criticize, and misrepresent anything conservatives do in this regard.

But a changing society demands that we change with it. And recognizing and tolerating the 10% or so of the population who are attracted sexually to the same sex is not just the politically correct, or politically advantageous, or even the philosophically satisfying thing to do.

It is the right thing to do, and should be done because it is morally correct.

By: Rick Moran at 12:24 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)