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5/30/2010
IS ‘LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE’ CONSERVATISM ON THE RISE IN THE GOP?

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

Jacob Weisberg writing in Slate:

One way to understand the divisions in the Republican Party is as a clash of regional philosophies. Northeastern conservatism is moderate, accepts the modern welfare state, and dislikes mixing religion with politics. Western conservatism is hawkish, hates government, and embraces individual freedom. Southern conservatism is populist, draws on evangelical Christianity, and plays upon racial resentments. The big drama of the GOP over the past several decades has been the Northeastern view giving way to the Southern one. To see this transformation in a single family, witness the shift from George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush.

Yet since the second Bush left the White House, something different appears to be happening in Republicanland: a shift away from Southern-style conservatism to more of a Western variety. You see this in the figures who have dominated the GOP since Barack Obama’s election 19 months ago: Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rand Paul. You see it in the right’s overarching theme: opposition to any expanded role for government, whether in promoting economic recovery, extending health care coverage, or regulating financial markets. You see it most strongly in the Tea Party movement that in recent months has captured the party’s imagination and driven its agenda.

Although marked by a cartoonish analysis (Southern Conservatives are walking around with a bible in one hand and the constitution in the other), Weisberg gets it. What the Tea Party people represent - and it’s an attitude that the Southern Conservatives are beginning to adopt - is what Weisberg correctly alludes to as “soft libertarianism.” In historical terms, it presages Goldwater by about 100 years or more, although Goldwater was it’s modern equivalent.

It’s what we used to call the “pioneering spirit” best illustrated by by those hardy folk who settled the lands beyond the Mississippi River. Note I write “settled” rather than “explored.” Those who first mapped the trails that led to the hundreds of thousands of easterners making their way west, as well as the early traders, Mountain Men, and ne’er do wells who roamed the wilderness searching for their fortune, had no interest in “settling” or “pioneering” anything. They were closer to anarchists than pioneers. Government - any kind of government - established anywhere near them was considered a threat.

The genuine pioneers on the other hand, recognized that government must be established wherever they laid down roots if only for their own protection. While establishing a strong, self reliant credo, they nevertheless turned to Washington to protect them from the depredations of Indians (riled by the settlers who built on disputed lands), as well as protecting the railroads and regulating the rivers so that the fruits of their labors had a ready market where they could be sold.

In short, where Weisberg portrays Western Conservatism as something akin to the anarchists who opened the West, they were, in fact, not hostile to government at all. Being Americans of that time, they had no cause to support welfare or social engineering schemes. And if Weisberg would take the time to read and understand what the Tea Party people are all about, he would realize that it is not social welfare programs that these Conservatives oppose. Rather, they believe that these programs are best run by the states, and that Washington has no business dictating social policy. In short, it’s a more robust federalism that most of these Western Conservatives are espousing.

Yes, there are some in this camp who believe all welfare should come from churches and private institutions, with no government involvement at all in creating a safety net for the poor. Similarly, like Governor Perry of Texas (who straddles the Southern/Western conservative divide), there are some who think that beyond establishing a national defense and running foreign policy, the federal government should leave the rest to the states.

Perry said in his speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that the only things the federal government should be doing:, “Have a strong military, secure our borders, and deliver the mail on time. And that’s it. … And until you can get those three right, how about leaving everything else alone?”

Not even Goldwater would go that far, and these activists have about as much chance of realizing that dream as Ron Paul has of getting elected president.

Mainstream Tea Party activists are opposing the Obama agenda on tactical grounds, as well as the simple principle that what the president is attempting with health care, cap and trade, financial reform, and other agenda items is imprudent, unworkable, and goes far beyond any rational, reasonable response to what he is trying to fix.

It continues to amaze me that pundits like Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Ygelsias, and now Weisberg constantly refer to President Obama as a “moderate” or a “moderate liberal.” Moderates do not name Van Jones to any position of responsibility within 5,000 miles of Washington, D.C. Nor does a “moderate liberal” tear apart something as interwoven into the lives of individual citizens and the entire American economy as the health care system is, and replace it literally with God knows what. Also, moderates do not show up on the National Journal’s ranking of liberal senators as number one - ever.

These pundits are mystified by the Tea Party’s opposition to these fantastically imprudent legislative initiatives because they fail to understand the underlying rationale of most Tea Party activists. These are communitarian efforts to remake America into something alien, subsuming individual rights in a miasmic fog of positive rights for which there is no basis in the Constitution, nor connection to tradition, First Principles, or common sense.

It can be said that the Tea Party opposition to these initiatives has a decidedly partisan bent. Not wanting to give Obama and the Democrats anything resembling a victory is at the heart of their efforts. A glance at the previous 8 years of opposition to the Bush agenda for exactly the same reasons shows where that idea came from.

But if McCain had been elected, he too would have been forced by dint of political necessity to come up with answers to many of the issues that Obama has dealt with. I doubt very much if a GOP-written health insurance reform bill would have been met with the kind of opposition that the Tea Party activists gave Obamacare. And the necessity for some kind of financial regulation to rein in the big banks and deal with some of the underlying causes of the financial meltdown would have been unavoidable. There probably would have been no Tea Party movement in the first place.

What Weisberg and other liberal pundits fail to grasp is that while I agree there is a sizable segment among Western and Southern conservatives who ascribe to the “Leave me the hell alone” school of conservatism, it is tempered by the reality of the majority who don’t want to get rid of government, but rather make it the servant of the people and not the other way around. The preferred way to do this is re-establish a robust federalism where tax money and social programs - as much as it is practicable - are transferred to state governments. This is a lot different than the anarchists that Weisberg and others portray the Tea Party activists.

Perhaps if they took off their rose colored glasses through which they view the president, they might better understand the real pluses and minuses of the Tea Party rather than the shallow, cartoonish view they currently hold.

By: Rick Moran at 11:08 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/29/2010
DESTINY’S KIDS - HERE COME THE HAWKS
CATEGORY: Blackhawks, Sports

1-10
Dustin Byfuglien of the Blackhawks celebrates his third-period goal while taking on the Sharks.

Growing up in Chicago in the 1960’s, one got used to successful, albeit disappointing sports teams. The Bears won one of the last “NFL Championships” in 1963 before the game changed forever with the merging of the rival AFL-NFL leagues and the birth of the Super Bowl (1966 season). Otherwise, they were competitive as long as Hall of Famers Gayle Sayers and Dick Butkus were healthy.

The White Sox finished second in the American League 5 times between 1957 and 1965. In the days before league playoffs, this left the Sox out of the post season, watching the hated Yankees play for the championship at the end of their incredible streak of 13 World Series’ appearances in 15 years.

The Cubs? Well, never mind…

But it was the Chicago Blackhawks National Hockey League team of that era that defined success for this sports hungry town. Packing the old Chicago Stadium - “the barn” or “The Madhouse on Madison” - to the rafters for every game and with the largest pipe organ in the world (the 3,663 pipe Barton monster that was so big, they couldn’t move it when the United Center was built) blasting for all three periods, the enthusiasm generated by the fans was felt throughout the city, especially around playoff time.

These were the Golden Years for hockey in Chicago. The team was blessed with 4 Hall of Fame players whose exciting style of play captured the imaginations of the city.

First among them was Bobby Hull. Nicknamed “The Golden Jet” because of his skating ability, Hull is considered one of the best hockey players ever to play the game. His fearsome slap shot - over 100 MPH - was the terror of goal tenders of that era. At that time, goalies, for some reason, didn’t wear masks. A look at the Hall of Fame Montreal Canadian goalie of the period, Lorne “Gump” Worsely’s face, does not reflect well on the intelligence of net minders at the time. Some of those scars are no doubt the result of a Bobby Hull slapshot making contact with Worsley’s scowling visage.

Hull had the singular ability of “winding up” behind his own goal, and then turning on the afterburners as he would wend his way through the entire opposing team to put the puck on net. The crowd would start buzzing the minute he had the puck behind his own goal keeper. Everyone in the building knew what he was about to do and still, opponents were hard pressed to stop him. Hull was one of the most popular athletes in town and was the face of the franchise before leaving skinflint owner Bill Wirtz for greener pastures in the short lived World Hockey League.

Stan Mikita - whose name became a pop culture reference when dudes Wayne and Garth would visit his fictitious donut shop in the Wayne’s World films - was as smooth as the ice he so effortlessly played on, and is considered one of the finest center icemen to ever don skates. Mikita helped perfect the curved hockey stick, sometimes bending the blade up to 3″. The “banana blade” not only made it much easier to handle the puck, but the spin it put on slapshots became so dangerous that the NHL eventually set a maximum curve of 3/4″.

Mikita, although not as flashy and spectacular a player as Hull, nevertheless endeared himself to fans with is wizardry with the puck. His like in the passing game was not seen again until 17 year old Wayne Gretzky hit the ice.

The two other Hall of Fame players who defined the team at that time - defensemen Pierre Pilot and goalie Glenn Hall - supplied the team with a defensive backbone that gave opposing offenses fits.

The core group of players were with the team for nearly a decade - an era that saw the Hawks win it all in 1961 and reach the finals twice more.

Alas, equal to the challenge at almost every turn were the hated Montreal Canadiens. (spelled the French way with an “e”) Nicknamed Les Habitants, and featuring talent that was even deeper than the Hawks, the Habs always seemed to find a way to deny the Chicagoans the ultimate prize of a Stanley Cup. There may have been no better team in this history of the sport in North America than the Canadiens from that era. Watching the Habs of that period was like watching a track meet. They didn’t skate, they flew - hence their moniker of the time, “The Flying Frenchmen.” Some of the Gretzky-led Oilers teams would probably give them a run for their money. But those teams were put together long after the league expanded, and before the league began to import the immense talent from eastern Europe and Russia. Still, a Gretzky-Messier combo would have given the Habs of that era a good run for the Cup.

Flash forward to the present where the team begins it’s ultimate quest for the Cup tonight as they play for the first time in the Stanley Cup finals since 1992. After nearly a decade of futility, the Hawks reached the playoffs last year and made it all the way to the Western Conference finals before bowing to eventual champion Detroit. It is sad commentary that it took the death of owner Bill Wirtz and his eccentric business decisions for the Hawks to blossom again and regain some of the fan base it lost in the previous decade.

ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski explains:

The Hawks, one of the Original Six, haven’t won a Cup since 1961, haven’t reached the playoffs since 2002 and haven’t been worth watching until, well, now. Not that you could have watched them until now anyway. This is the first season in the 82-year history of the team that all of its games are on local TV.

With all due respect to Knicks knucklehead James Dolan and the Lions’ clueless William Clay Ford, no franchise has a richer history of ownership blunders than the Hawks. The late Bill Wirtz and his 41-year reign of ownership terror make Dolan and Ford look like amateurs.

The Wirtz Way: Don’t spend money. Don’t broadcast home games. Don’t help the media. And when in doubt, distance yourself from your legendary players. With Wirtz, the organizational motto was “The Customer Is Always Wrong.”

That era is over, thank goodness. It turns out, that Chicago fans were just waiting to be invited back into the fold. They led the league in attendance for the second straight year and it has become cool and chic to be a Blackhawks fan.

The city government has responded by putting hockey jerseys on landmarks like the marble lions who grace the entrance of the art museum. The world famous Picasso in Daley Plaza is graced with a (what else) surrealist representation of the blade of a hockey stick. The Field Museum’s Brachiosaurus is dressed up in Hawks raiment while even Michael Jordan’s statue at the entrance to the United Center is jersified with a hockey helmet complete with visor to boot.

A recent survey shows support for the team jumping a whopping 70% over the last two years among city residents. But what sort of team are they so excited about?

This is a team with a 22 year old captain, Jonathan Toews, who plays the game with a maturity and skill far beyond his years. It is a team stocked with very fast, mostly young forwards who have bought into coach Joel Quenneville’s system of dump and cycle until enough space is created for the hugely talented youngsters like Patrick Kane to work their magic in front of the goal. They have a Norris Trophy candidate (best defensemen) in Duncan Keith who plays nearly half the game on the ice (most players average about 18-20 min). He is partnered with the hard nosed Brent Seabrook whose toughness is born out by his willingness to drop in front of a shooter and block a shot traveling close to 100 MPH. As cool a customer in his own zone with the puck as Keith, the tandem is always on the ice when the opposing team’s best line jumps over the boards.

Keith is no wuss either. In the first period of the clinching game against the San Jose Sharks, Keith took a clearing effort right in the mouth, resulting in the loss of 4 teeth. Incredibly, he was back playing full bore after a visit to the dressing room. That’s not just tough. That’s hockey tough.

One other player deserves mention; the gentle giant Dustin Byfuglien (pronounced “(Bufflin”). At a towering 6′4″ and weighing in at nearly 270 lbs, Buff has been an immovable force in front of the net during the playoffs, scoring goals in the last 8 consecutive games. His mild mannered demeanor in interviews is belied by a ferocious approach to the game. His presence in front of the goalkeeper prevents the player from seeing the puck while he pounces on rebounds and puts the puck into the net with regularity. With smaller defensemen trying gamely to move his big body so their goalkeeper gets a good view of the puck, Buff simply occupies a lot of space and will be a headache for Chicago’s final’s opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers.

With the White Sox disappointing start and the Cubs merely treading water (and while the Bears prepare for a season with the usual high hopes but probable letdown), the Hawks and Bulls - two young, exciting teams - are gaining fans and pushing the major sports for popularity. Chicago will always be a Bears town. And the Cubs will always have a hold on the heart of the city.

But I’m sure we can make room for a championship hockey team somewhere.

By: Rick Moran at 11:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/25/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: FEELING RANDY - RAND PAUL AND THE POLITICS OF RACE

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, Rich Baehr of the American Thinker, and Vodkapundit Stephen Green for a discussion of Ron Paul’s comments and the reaction to them, as well as other hot issues of the day.

The show will air from 7:00 - 9:00 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.”

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Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 5:01 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

GOODBYE JACK BAUER…AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH
CATEGORY: "24", Politics

I would like to think that I have something meaningful and profound to say about the end of the series 24. But that would presuppose there is something meaningful and profound that I haven’t said already. I tire of repeating myself, as you no doubt are weary of the themes I have hammered home about the show over these last 5 years - years I have spent watching, writing, thinking, and and immersing myself in all things Jack. But there are a few things specific to the finale that I think need to be said, as well as a summing up that I feel compelled to attempt that will probably break no new ground, but will, to my own satisfaction, place a coda on my efforts over the years to slot Jack Bauer and the growth of his character in the context of how America has changed these last 9 years.

The series this year was better than last year but still a pale imitation of the show’s first 5 seasons. The writers fell in love with exposition the last few seasons and this detracted mightily from the pace of the show as well as cluttering up plot lines unnecessarily. This may have been unavoidable due to a general malaise to which the series fell victim, as well as a limited number of plot devices that could be employed because of the nature of the show. Plot “twists” were used over and over; the CTU mole, the impossible dilemma for a main character, Jack losing someone close to him, etc. What was, at one time, fresh and surprising became tired and trite by Season 8.

The same could be said for the threats Jack and CTU had to deal with. There are only so many credible WMD scenarios and CTU had to deal with all of them at least twice. “What? Not ANOTHER bio weapon?”

That said, the writers and producers responsible for last night’s finale made the right choice. The show was written not to please critics or the casual fan who might have looked in once and a while over the years to see what Bauer was up to. Last night’s final two hours were geared to please the 24 fanatic - largely because those were just about the only people left who watched the show this year.

We are the ones who were still able to suspend belief and accept a Muslim woman as president of an Islamic country. It was we fanatics who could understand Chloe being placed in temporary charge of CTU, or not think much about how for the umpteenth time, CTU was penetrated by terrorists, or even that a disgraced former president could wield such influence with the sitting commander in chief.

These were but bumps in the road that 24’s loyal base of fans accepted in order to be drawn into the story. We forgave the show a lot over the years; its descent into political correctness, its dead end plot threads (that probation officer is probably starting to stink up the conference room by now, don’t you think?), and the switch from battling foreign terrorists to fighting evil American corporate criminals whose greed was portrayed as a worse sin than trying to murder a lot of citizens. The critics may have groaned, others may simply have eventually just clicked away and watched other fare, but the rest of us remained glued to our seats because Jack Bauer was the most compelling hero in the history of series TV.

A bold statement, that. But the case for it being true is wrapped up in how Bauer fit into an America that was changing at lightening speed over the past decade. Terrorism, war, financial collapse - many of the verities with which Americans began the first decade of the 21st century were shaken or sloughed off under the burning glare of history’s relentless spotlight. Certainly, 9/11 changed us. The way the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed changed us. Losing faith in the complete efficacy of free markets has changed us. And the desperate desire for “hope and change” have now sobered us. What kind of America emerges from the Obama interregnum is anybody’s guess. But - and this is key - I don’t think there will be a place for Jack Bauer.

For Bauer is a creature of our past. His principles, his gallantry, his single minded determination to win, and his moral sense that allowed him to operate in a world that he firmly believed was black and white — all this and more are out of fashion.

In - angst-ridden decision making. Out - going with your gut to do what you know is right. In - a war on terror that doesn’t even have a name anymore. Out - knowing exactly who the enemy is and where they should be sent. In - a cynical outlook on power and its uses. Out - a belief in duty, honor, and that there is a higher calling to fight for justice; not above the law but beyond the law.

I will get an argument from many that most of these things deserve to be placed on the ash heap of history. Perhaps, yes. Bauer’s fanaticism led him down some very dark paths; torture, murder, willy nilly violations of constitutional rights, and a veritable smorgasbord of institutional transgressions that no decent manager would have ever put up with. But this was Jack Bauer as we found him in the aftermath of 9/11. He offered moral certainty, a clear eyed recognition of the stakes he was fighting for, and a devotion to America and American principles that had us on our feet cheering more than we were troubled by the demons that sometimes seemed to possess him.

Of course, those demons finally got the better of him this year. Bauer’s vengeful rampage against those responsible for Rene Walker’s death wasn’t shocking at all. I watched with detached interest as Jack systematically began to work his way up the chain of responsibility with bloody skill and determination, idly wondering if he’d eventually kill either President Logan or President Taylor. Both deserved whatever fate had in store for them, although the thought that Jack would actually murder a former president - even one as bad as Logan - would have been wildly out of character considering his reverence for American institutions.

But that didn’t lesson our huge enjoyment as President Jellyfish was finally in Jack’s clutches, looking down the barrel of a gun at his own mortality. No doubt Logan saw the Circle of Hell in which he was destined to spend eternity for his crimes. Gregory Itzin, playing the conniving, sniveling Logan to perfection, gave fans exactly what they wanted from that confrontation with Bauer; abject terror and cowardice.

And the irony in Chloe being the one placed in the impossible situation of having to shoot Jack so that Bauer and his compatriots could win the game and expose the cover up was too delicious - and still a huge shock when she actually shot him. The scene brought to mind Jack’s extraordinary execution of Ryan Chappelle in Season 3, among other dilemmas that have entertained us through the years.

Chloe - the last of Jack’s old friends, who never turned her back on him, would have given her own life to save his, and even in the most dire circumstances with Jack being pursued by every federal agency in the US government, foreign intelligence services, and bad corporate actors, never, ever let him down - at the end of it all, proved she had as much courage in her own way, as Bauer. Did she love Jack Bauer? Perhaps in the manner of a school girl crush on the star quarterback in high school, yes. But it was obvious from their first meeting that they were not only opposite personalities, but from different galaxies as well.

Their last scene together was played with excellent understatement and was predictably affecting. I almost expected Bauer to say that when he first met Chloe, he really, really didn’t like her at all. That may have been true. As we all know, Chloe has to grow on you. You have to learn to ignore those little personal idiosyncrasies that endeared her to the TV audience but drove friends, co-workers, and even terrorists crazy. It was part of her charm.

Instead, Jack said that he never would have believed that it would have been her who had his back for all those years. A tribute from one counterterror colleague to another, one warrior saluting a comrade. And for Jack, no higher praise.

There will be a film of 24. It’s already in development and we can see where it will probably begin; some foreign country with Jack being pursued by everybody. Also, since they didn’t quite kill of Logan, expect to see his character somewhere in the film as well.

Beyond that, we hear that they are not considering “real time” scenario for the film. Freeing Jack Bauer from the constraints of time will be interesting to see although it will be tough to save America when you are out of the country. They will probably have to find a way to bring him back, no doubt under presidential dispensation. No word on when the film is due out.

Thus endeth the tale of Jack Baur, post 9/11 American hero, accused of inspiring war crimes, catalyst for serious arguments about politics and policy…

And one helluva an entertaining character.

By: Rick Moran at 10:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/24/2010
WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING WITH THE BP OIL GUSHER?

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

This may be a seminal moment in the history of the internet.

As government authorities and British Petroleum continue to describe the BP oil spill in limited terms. one blogger has had his eyes glued to the “Spillcam” which is giving real time images of the oil gushing from the uncapped hole in the ground and has caught what appears to be a massive increase in the amount of oil coming out of the sea floor.

It started yesterday morning:

I’ve been watching the live Spillcam, and discussing it with folks, here all day long. About 5pm last night, we all started taking note of gas bubbling out of the seabed floor. It started earlier than that, actually– see pic a few posts down. About 1am this morning, the eruptions began to increase in spew volume. At about 8am, CDT, as I watched, things started changing rapidly. Where the water around the two major gush points used to be very clear, it is now super turbid, and detritus is flying everywhere in a chaotic manner. seabed venting is obvious to see when ROV cameras pan around.

Yet-to-be-confirmed rumors are that the casing wall has finally worn through, about 300 feet below seabed, at an annulus (coupling), and the gas and oil are now finding a new way out to the seabed.

Not good news, as it will make the Top-Kill/Junk Shot nearly ineffectual… At the least, it means that more pressure and mud/cement is going to be required.

Sure enough, by early evening, things had gone from very bad, to very much worse:

UPDATE 5:45pm CDT: A brand new MAJOR eruption is happening. tune into the SpillCam at BP.com . It’s black, all you can see is a cable. It started with yet another GUSH plume/tornado.

Oh, dear– now, we can see that that is a LOT of oil– and a BLIZZARD of Hydrates..

Those hydrates are freezing when they hit the below freezing water (salt water freezes at about 28 degrees but water bubbling up from the gusher has less salt and freezes at a higher temp. Methane drops are also freezing.). It has severely hampered efforts to place any kind of dome or cap on the hole and now, that may be only a partial solution.

UPDATE 6:03pm CDT: The current eruption is way, way worse than the several that occured earlier. I think this might be a “Main Event” situation.

UPDATE 6:45pm CDT: An hour after the start of this most recent eruption, and it is still just a wall of oil, methane crystals, and gack.

WAY, WAAAY worse than the first event.

Apparently, the seabed is collapsing into a crater and oil and gas has begun leaking directly from the sea floor. At least that is one interpretation of the images captured by the blogger “Monkeyfister.” If so, this has complicated the job of shutting down this spill astronomically.

Not a word of this from authorities or BP has reached the mainstream media. The New Orleans Times-Picayune appears to be in the dark:

It remains unclear exactly how much oil has been pouring into the gulf since the spill began several days after the Deepwater Horizon rig, which BP leased from Transocean, exploded on April 20. According to official estimates, oil has been flowing from a leaking pipe a mile below the surface at a rate of about 5,000 barrels a day. However, some experts have suggested the oil could be gushing at up to five times that rate.

Landry said a panel of government and academic experts has been convened and should be able to provide a more firm estimate in the coming weeks.

On the one hand, we have evidence that the spill has gotten much worse over the last 24 hours. On the other hand, we have the government saying that a panel will convene and take a few weeks to arrive at a conclusion about how much oil is spewing from the leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

Where is the sense of urgency about this thing? Obviously, the Obama administration is downplaying the entire crisis in order to avoid any “gotchya” games by their political opponents. And with a compliant media going along with this, they will succeed in minimizing political damage from the spill - for a while.

Peter Daou writing in Huffpo:

Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets, where is the round-the-clock roadblock coverage tracking every moment of the crisis, every effort to plug the leak, every desperate attempt to mitigate the damage?

Where is the White House? Where are Republicans? Where are Democrats? Where is the left? Where is the right? Where is the “fierce urgency of now?”

[...]

In the movies, pretend heroes like Bruce Willis and Will Smith save the planet while the whole world watches with breath and belief suspended. In real life, a global catastrophe is treated like a mere annoyance, mismanaged by a rapacious oil company, while drill-baby-drillers double down on their folly and the White House puts out defensive fact sheets about how they were on it from “day one.”

Is this really the best we can do?

America is capable of greatness — but our reaction to this unprecedented event is anything but great.

Our reaction - or lack thereof - is a direct result of partisans in both parties calling for “outrage” over something or other at regular intervals, so that the American people are now suffering from Outrage Fatigue Syndrome.

First, Mr. Daou apparently can’t grasp the fact that there is no crisis - at least as far as the Obama administration and the media is concerned. The lackadaisical response by government, and BP’s thrashing about to find a solution doesn’t fit the narrative of cool competence that the media has portrayed the administration. Cool and incompetent just doesn’t work. Ergo, despite the danger that the oil may be gushing 25,000 barrels into the Gulf of Mexico every day, thus threatening the multi-billion dollar fishing industry along the coast, the administration refuses to make a big deal out of the crisis.

Should they? Dauo thinks so:

Lawmakers can say that the law mandates BP take responsibility for clean-up and costs; federal officials can list all the things they’re doing to fix the problem; President Obama can launch as many fact-finding commissions as he sees fit. But we shouldn’t be impressed that they are doing what we elected them to do - it’s their job to deal with emergencies promptly and effectively. Far more is called for in this uniquely cataclysmic circumstance: a level of outrage, alarm, intensity and focus worthy of the size and scope of the spill.

We need, and must demand, boldness and resoluteness worthy of a planetary emergency - true leadership, rallying the nation and the world to action. Offense, not defense. We’re not getting anything close to that from Democratic leaders. And from Republicans, far less.

The classic Jo Dee Messina’s “My Give a Damn’s Busted” comes into play here. The American people have been whipsawed back and forth these past couple of years being asked to get angry at one party or the other to the point that it becomes quite easy to simply throw up your hands and retreat from the fray, preferring to concentrate on the upcoming last episode of Lost or 24, while sneaking a peak at the tabloids to see who Tiger Woods is banging these days.

The crisis may very well be every bit as bad as Daou is describing. But as long as politicians, corporate PR people, and a media fearful of attacking the president holds sway over the situation - minimizing, pointing fingers away from themselves, and just not finding the story “sexy enough” - the oil will continue to gush, the disaster will worsen, until all the skill at manipulating the media and the facts won’t hide what could turn out to be an economic and human catastrophe that would make Katrina look like a summer shower.

By: Rick Moran at 8:56 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/23/2010
WHAT WAS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT AVATAR?

If you haven’t guessed previously, I am not a fiend for pop culture. It’s not that it was any better 40 years ago either. For all the nostalgia that boomers have for the “good old days” when rock music was edgy with social commentary, and TV featured dramas and comedies that pricked the conscience of the nation, we tend to forget that about 99% of what was considered “pop culture” back then was just as awful, just as puerile, just as mindlessly boring as anything put out today.

Once I grew out of AM radio and series TV, I have never gone back. I can proudly say I have never seen a complete episode of Seinfeld, 30 Rock, or any other hit show of the past 15 years except 24 and the occasional Law and Order SVU rerun.

While this has made me an ignoramus when it comes to a lot of pop culture references, it has also allowed me to gain a perspective not vouchsafed many commenters on American culture. When I see a movie, for instance, I come to the experience free of many biases that others may harbor.

This includes my viewing fare last night. I decided to pay $6 and watch Avatar. The avalanche of criticism directed against this movie on the right had piqued my curiosity when it first came out. Unfortunately, in my case, there isn’t a decent movie theater within an hour’s travel time that features a Dolby sound system and a wide enough screen to make the trip worthwhile. As with almost all blockbusters since I moved out here two years ago, I waited until it came out on video or was shown on cable.

I watched in awe as the dazzling combination of computer generated reality and Hollywood glitz lit up my TV screen as no other film save perhaps the Lord of the Rings trilogy had done. This film was a truly majestic accomplishment by Cameron and whatever you think of his politics, you must credit him with some boffo originality in how the film was produced.

But after the film, I was forced to ask myself; why the wave of virulent criticism - especially on the right? While the movie was spectacular as a visual experience, the plot was as shopworn as anything Hollywood has ever done.

Has everybody forgotten Dances with Wolves already? Or, going further back, A Man Called Horse? There were also echoes of Little Big Man, Cheyenne Autumn, and a dozen other Hollywood productions that portrayed Indian culture and their way of life as superior to that of the western white man and how evil men deliberately tried to wipe it out.

Avatar, as far as the plot was concerned, was a pretty run of the mill oater. Gung ho military type (Costner, Harris, Widmark) find themselves living with the natives, learning their ways, coming to appreciate their race, and eventually loving some aboriginal woman. And when push came to shove, abandoning their racial loyalty to fight with the Indians.

Avatar anti-military? Anytime an American can’t root against a corporate army hellbent on destroying obviously peaceful people, something is wrong. As a modern day metaphor for Blackwater and other private armies fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, I don’t see it, although there have been plenty of questions raised about their actions.

There are a lot of old westerns that portray the railroads the same way Cameron wrote the Avatar bad guys. Why no outrage there? In many films, the railroads have their own private security guys or have hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to do their dirty work. There was nothing new in Cameron using the greed of a corporation to contrast the pure motives and superior culture of the natives. It’s as hackneyed a device as anything Hollywood produces.

I guess the biggest objection to the film was the “Green” message it tried to convey. You don’t have to be an environmental wacko to know that the rain forests are disappearing before our eyes (largely through slash and burn clearing tactics of those same natives who are supposed to be attached to the land). Nor is it doltish to understand the interconnectedness of the biosphere and how the death of one species can radically impact the entire food chain. I didn’t find those messages intrusive in the film at all, except that Cameron used the Na’vi’s environmental sensibilities to prove how superior they were to us evil white people.

Anyone who has read Rousseau recognizes “the noble savage” in Cameron’s portrayal of the Na’vi, and the re-occurring theme that the simple beliefs and quality of life lived by natives is something to be admired and envied by those of us trapped in western civilization. The true nature of living in the open forest - at the mercy of the elements, snakes, terrible bugs, horrible diseases, short life spans, astronomical infant mortality rates, and dirt, dirt, dirt - never seems to make it into these paeans to the authentic primitive.

The spiritual life of the Na’vi I found to be pretty silly - as I find all religions. How much sillier is it to believe in the Na’vi planetary female deity than it is to believe a carpenter’s son rose from the dead? To my eyes, not much at all.

I didn’t buy the last 20 minutes of the film. How did the killing of Stephen Lang’s character lead to the surrender of the rest of the army? They overmatched the Na’vis in firepower, and even if the animals joined the fight you can’t tell me if they had explosives that could bring down Hometree that they couldn’t kill the dinosaurs who had inexplicably joined the fight.

Not credible in the least.

I would have liked to have seen the idea that Sigourney Weaver theorized - a planet wide network where all the plants and trees were interconnected with each other and that this energy could be tapped by the Na’vi and presumably, the animals as well.

A planetary consciousness? That would be true science fiction. If that had been the case, the trees and plants would have attacked as well, which would have been more compelling than the wolf-like things and sorapods going after the bad guys.

Some of Cameron’s statements after the film was out were very stupid and indicative of someone totally ignorant of science. But if we haven’t learned by now to love movies by stupid left wing loons, then what’s the point of going to a film at all? Taxi Driver is one of the most compelling dramas ever made even though Martin Scorcese is liberal nutcase. And though I despise his politics, some of Sean Penn’s performances have been awesome (film acting doesn’t get much better than his performance in Mystic River).

There are indeed far left wing politicized films that need to be strenuously, and relentlessly criticized (the Plame-Wilson Fair Game, for example). And on one level, Avatar may cross the line between entertainment and politics - but no more so than any of the films I mentioned above.

Viewed as entertainment, I found Avatar to be thrilling, visually stunning, and worth watching again. In this case, I can stand a little preaching if the film delivers a solid 2 hours of adult entertainment.

By: Rick Moran at 9:15 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/21/2010
RECONNECTING WITH THE CONSTITUTION AND ITS PRINCIPLES

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

Something remarkable has been happening in America since even before President Obama took office. There has been a dedicated effort on both sides of the political divide to reconnect with our founding document and its principles in an effort to understand, and counteract what they see as dangerous unconstitutional actions by our government.

It is more widespread today than it was in the Bush years, but even then there were many on the left who worried about the increase in executive power the Bush administration was accumulating and we witnessed many ordinary citizens earnestly studying the Constitution in their efforts to place the actions of Bush in a constitutional framework. The resulting criticism was, at least in some part, reasonable and rational while being based on sound constitutional arguments.

But this effort was but a prologue to the tsunami of interest in the Constitution evinced by the tea party movement and conservatives generally once the massive spending and power grabs of the Obama administration began. Probably millions of ordinary citizens are reading and trying to understand the Ur document of America’s founding given that the pocket sized edition of the Constitution is passed out at every tea party meeting across the country. I commented on this phenomenon following my visit to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference:

It may seem to some a quaint exercise in good citizenship for these millions to wrestle with such convoluted and complex questions as the meaning and reach of the commerce clause or the constitutionality of the individual mandate to buy health insurance. The condescension is misplaced — and totally unwarranted.

The Constitution was not written in legalese despite the presence of so many lawyers at the Constitutional Convention. It was written in plain, accessible English so that the document could be read and understood by ordinary Americans. It was printed in newspapers, slapped on the walls near the village commons, and mailed far and wide. It was discussed in churches, in public houses, at family dinners, and between neighbors from New England to Georgia.

Never before in history had a country thought and debated itself into existence. When that generation of Americans looked at our founding document, could they have imagined that one day a congressman would say that the Constitution doesn’t matter? Or that congressmen could not answer the question of where in the Constitution did it authorize the federal government to force citizens to buy health insurance?

What does it matter today that ordinary people are reading and interpreting the Constitution in their own way, without reference to precedent or knowledge of specific court cases that have laid out the grid work upon which the powers and responsibilities of government have been constructed? After all, they can interpret the Constitution from here to doomsday and it won’t matter a fig to the Supreme Court. Those nine robed magistrates will work their will regardless of popular sentiment and, sometimes, common sense.

But in one of the more remarkable aspects of this revival of interest among the citizenry of the meaning and purpose of the Constitution, it doesn’t matter what the Supremes think, or the elites, or the sickeningly condescending left who sneer at talk of the Tenth Amendment or strict constructionism. What matters is the effort itself — that people are becoming more engaged in what their government is up to than they have been in a very long time.

What does this mean? The Hill reports a run on the Constitution booklet at the Government Printing Office:

Since September 2009, the GPO has sold more than 8,700 copies of the pocket Constitution to the public, according to GPO spokesman Gary Somerset. That is a higher sell rate than in recent years.

Those sales are in addition to the thousands of copies given to members of Congress each year. Congress authorized a resolution in 2009 to print 441,000 copies for the use of the House (1,000 for each member) and 100,000 copies for the Senate (1,000 for each senator).

The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, which keep statistics on the Constitution, also say that requests for the historical document are on the rise.

GPO sells copies for $2.75, but constituents can request a free one from their lawmaker.

Congressional offices are burning through theirs stacks of pocket Constitutions.

In a recent “Dear Colleague” letter titled “Order More Pocket Constitutions!” House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) advised members to take advantage of a special rate.

The letter stated, “Many Members have lately experienced a large increase in constituent requests for the Pocket Constitution. Members who may need more are invited to take advantage of a special, pre-publication ‘rider-rate’ of $390 per 1,000 copies. This rider rate of 39¢ each represents a substantial savings over the post-publication price of $2.75 each ($2,750 per 1,000) available later through the GPO Sales Program.”

There’s been nothing like it in my lifetime and no similar wave of interest in the Constitution that I can fathom from my own reading of history. Perhaps not since the debate on ratification itself have so many ordinary Americans struggled with trying to interpret and understand what Madison, Mason and their compatriots wrought 222 years ago this summer.

Ed Meese from Heritage’s Constitution Center:

“I think there is more interest now than I’ve seen in the last many years, and I think it’s because people are really worried about whether the federal government is getting so large, so expansive, so intrusive and so powerful that the Constitution is in jeopardy.”

Can the naysayers who pooh-pooh American exceptionalism explain this phenomenon in the context of other nations’ citizens carrying on this way? I doubt it. We Americans have always had a reverence for our founding document that transcends the words on the page and becomes sublime veneration - almost a civic bible.

In this, there is danger. There are many in the tea party movement as well as in some boisterous conservative circles who posit the notion that if something is not in the Constitution, then it is, quite simply unconstitutional. Nothing in there about health insurance so of course, it’s not legal. We don’t see the words “Cap and Trade” so we have to oppose it as a measure not authorized in our founding document.

These are people who actually think of the Constitution the same way they think of the Bible; immutable, unchanging, and holy writ. There is no “interpreting” the document because the words are themselves good enough to cover any eventuality that may arise.

This is wrongheaded, of course, but there are many of us who wish government erred more toward that interpretation than toward the present “anything goes” free for all where the Constitution is stretched beyond recognition to cover one scheme or another that seeks to separate Americans from their liberty.

It is here where the debate cleaves the sharpest; is the Constitution a guidebook that government is to follow or is it a suggestion box whose codicils are used to justify power grabs? It seems at times that we use the Constitution to absolve and exonerate rather than trying to grapple with connecting what is being adjudicated to the intent of the Founders.

I know that intentionalism is in pretty bad odor on the left and indeed, carried to extremes it is a pernicious doctrine. But if you are going to respect what’s in the Constitution, it seems like simple common sense to respect the intent of those who wrote it. Obviously, the framers didn’t have a clue about our modern world. They designed a government to cover the exigencies of a 18th century coastal republic of 7 million freemen. But neither could they envision a day when their basic intent of creating a nation of limited government, expansive individual rights, and the protection of property was tossed aside in the name of modernity.

Will all of this interest in the Constitution make a practical difference in our politics and culture? I am anxious to see the answer to that question play out over the next few years.

By: Rick Moran at 12:49 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/20/2010
OBAMA’S EMPTY GESTURES
CATEGORY: FrontPage.Com, Media

My latest article is up at FrontPage.com. In it, I examine the Obama administration’s commitment to freedom of the press around the world in the wake of the president signing the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.

A sample:

There was an emotional ceremony at the White House on Monday when President Obama welcomed slain journalist Daniel Pearl’s surviving family members to witness the signing of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.

Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was brutally murdered in Pakistan as he was following up some leads on al-Qaeda financing in early 2002. Four Pakistanis were convicted in Pearl’s murder in July of that year. The mastermind of the kidnapping and murder, however, may have been Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed to the murder under interrogation by the CIA.

According to the New York Times, the Freedom of the Press Act “requires the State Department to expand its scrutiny of news media restrictions and intimidation as part of its annual review of human rights in each country. Among other considerations, the department will be required to determine whether foreign governments participate in or condone violations of press freedom.”

This is certainly good news. According to Freedom House’s annual surveyof press freedom in 196 countries, the indicators fell for the 8th straight year…

That Freedom House survey is always fascinating. They use a broad range of criteria to determine it’s rankings based on a point system. The legal, political, and economic environment for the press in each country is given a numerical score of 0-40 in each. The totals reveal whether a country is “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.” Only 69 countries are judged as having a “Free” press in their 2010 survey.

Some surprises to me in the “Partly Free” category include Italy and Greece. One would think that NATO countries would all have a freer press than most third world countries.

For Sean Penn - who wants to jail journalists who refer to Hugo Chavez as a “dictator” - left wing Freedom House pegs Hugo’s paradise as “Not Free” and ranks Venezuela 163 out of 196 countries.

By: Rick Moran at 8:41 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/19/2010
DEMS COUNTING 2010 CHICKENS WITH EGG ON THEIR FACE
CATEGORY: PJ Media

My latest is up at PJ Media. I take a look at yesterday’s primaries and wonder why the Democrats are celebrating. Do they really think that their win in PA-12 means they won’t be facing a disaster in November?

A sample:

Really now, what the heck is Benen celebrating? The Democratic winner angrily denounced Burns for suggesting he would have voted for ObamaCare. Critz is also in opposition to much of the Obama/Pelosi agenda. In short, you had two candidates who got 100% of the vote who opposed health care reform, oppose cap and trade, and are pro-life and pro-gun.

Sounds like a real big win for Democrats.

[...]

The voters may be less angry by November than they were a month ago. Republican enthusiasm may not be quite as high as it has been come election day. But with miserable jobs numbers expected well into next year - experts are predicting an unemployment rate over 10% - the pitchforks will be out in strength across much of the country and it will largely be Democrats who will be gored as a result.

Meanwhile, how some Democrats can spin the loss of Arlen Specter and the horrible showing by Blanche Lincoln into anything save a dire crisis is beyond me. Specter lost to netroots fave Rep. Joe Sestak, who seems a perfect fit for a Reid-led Senate. No doubt he will be a good little drone in the Democrats’ Borg collective.

Specter was backed by the Democratic establishment from one end of the state to another, as well as a veritable who’s who of Democrats in Washington. In the end, it appears that Pennsylvanians tired of Specter’s mutable loyalties and arrogance, retiring the former Democrat, former Republican, and now former senator for good.

But that doesn’t mitigate the worrisome notion for Democrats that with so many more seats to protect in the House, and nearly a dozen seats up for grabs in the Senate, the anti-incumbent, anti-establishment mood that was clearly demonstrated yesterday will yet roll over them, handing a smashing victory to Republicans.

By: Rick Moran at 3:06 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/18/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: RINO-BLASTY: MODERATES IN THE CROSSHAIRS

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 Conor Friedersdorf of the American Scene, James Poulos of Post Modern Conservative, and Jazz Shaw for a discussion of  the growing irrelevancy of moderates in the conservative movement and the Republican party.

The show will air from 7:00 - 9:00 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 4:35 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)