03 May 2017

Reflecting Upon Jim De Mint's Confusing Heritage Departure

It should be noted the  Heritage President Ex Senator Jim De Mint (R-SC was ousted by the Heritage Foundation's 22 member Board of Trustees after leading the conservative think tank for nearly four and a half years. 

De Mint was skeptical about Heritage Action, a 501(c)(4) influencing branch of Heritage run by Mike Needham. It was said that De Mint did not want to throw control of the think tank. to 30 something political operatives with no policy experience.  Ironically, the official spin from Heritage on parting ways with De Mint is that he was making the think tank too political.

"The public statement released earlier is puzzling given that the Board of Trustees have praised our work for four years and approved performance bonuses for our entire management team each year for a job well done." 

 Some have speculated that De Mint had been too outspoken in favor of Donald Trump, which alienated GOP Establishment elements in the organization.  Heritage Foundation Board member  Mickey Edwards (and former Congressman from R-OK 5th) noted

“When DeMint went in, Heritage became very political. It changed from a highly respected think tank to just a partisan tool and more ideological — more of a tea party organization than a think tank.”

Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner has agreed to again take the reins of the think tank as interim President while a leadership search is conducted.

Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner 

There is talk that De Mint may soon find a spot within the Trump Administration. That seems much more credible than the rumor (or joke from Fox New's Chris Wallace) that Steve Bannon will become Heritage Foundation President. 

Ex House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX 26)
This series of backroom recriminations seems reminiscent of the attempted coup of the Freedom Caucus by ex GOP House Majority Leader Dick Army (R-TX 26th) in late 2012. At least no one felt the need to pack heat at Heritage.

Nevertheless, Capitol Hill conservatives need not be afraid of adversity in the District of Calamity, but they must find ways to solve problems lest a short stint at being the majority be their real Heritage. 

Paying Tribute to Quality-- RIP Robert M. Pirsig

Author Robert M. Pirsig died at the age of 88 in South Berwick, Maine after a period of failing health.  Pirsig was renowned for writing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-- An Inquiry Into Values (1974), a loosely autobiographical travelogue of a 17 day cross country road trip in 1968 with his 11 year old son and two friends during which he pondered weighty philosophical problems to discern the metaphysics of quality,  

Pirsig had served in the Army in the Far East before the Korean War.  During a trip on leave to Japan, Pirsig became fascinated by Zen Buddhism. After his military service, Pirsig received graduate degrees in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and Banaras Hindu University.

Like the unnamed protagonist in the novel, who sometimes referred to himself as Phaedrus (a name inspired by Plato's Dialogues),  Pirsig was a brilliant thinker with a high IQ who eventually suffered a mental breakdown which was treated by electro-shock therapy that altered his personality. By delving deeply into undercurrents of thought, the novel can be seen as a detective story of a man in search of himself.

Robert M. Pirsig, 1975
The title of the book was a play on another popular tome Zen and the Art of Archery (1971). Pirsig's playfulness was also evident in the forward in which the author wrote:

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”
But the book contemplated how man relates to machines, the roots of our culture and what inspires madness.

Plato & Aristotle "The School of Athens" Raphael (1510)
Phaedrus ordered existence between "classic" values (like rational problem solving in fixing motorcycles) and "romantic values" (like beauty and the arts). This philosophical chautauqua ("circus of ideas) which Phaedrus grappled with in his deep thoughts was how the Western mind had separated ordinary experiences from transcendent experiences because Plato and Aristotle had done so. Moreover, the mind-body dualism championed by the Greeks stoked a mental civil war which stripped rationality from its spiritual underpinnings and spirituality of its reason.

What man really ought to strive for is quality.  As Pirsig contemplated:

"Quality . . . you know what it is, yet you don't know what it is. But that's self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist."

The book became a phenomenon which the author later described as a “kulturbarer" (Swedish for culture bearer), which developed a near cult popularity amongst hippies.  Pirsig mused: “I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else." Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance truly appealed to Baby Boomers. When the novel was first published, New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote: 

"[H]owever impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip... when [Pirsig] comes to grips with the hard philosophical conundrums raised by the 1960's, he can be electrifying." 
 When reflecting on the impact of ZAMM, Todd Gitlin, a counter cultural sociologist speculated that by blending the deep thoughts with the drudgery of daily life, such as motorcycle maintenance:  "Pirsig provided a kind of soft landing from the euphoric stratosphere of the late ’60s into the real world of adult life.”

The counter cultural novel sold over one million books in the first year of its publication and sold several million more since then.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became  the biggest selling philosophy book of all times and remained on the best sellers list for over a decade. This is remarkable for a manuscript which was rejected by 121 different publishers before William Morrow signed hi for a small $3,000 advance.

After the unexpected success of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig won a Guggenheim fellowship, some fortune and unwanted fame. Pirsig got so freaked out by what his neighbors called "Pirsig Pilgrims" to his Minneapolis home that he eventually packed his bags and would live in a camper or a sailboat for months.  Pirsig spent the last 30 years of his life in a small town in Southern Maine

Pirsig wrote one other book, Lila- An Inquiry into Morals (1991), which achieved neither the same success nor cultural impact.  But sometimes one oeuvre is enough to make one's mark on the world. 

Personally, I found Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to be a highly influential book. Believe it or not, it served as a textbook for an Advanced Placement American History course in high school. Despite the unorthodox textbook, I achieved highest marks on the exam as it honed in me an incredible analytical inclination which remains with me to this day (sometimes to the consternation of those close to me).  

While I may not be an adherent to Zen Buddhism, nor will anyone catch me fixing motor scooters or the ilk, I am graced by the idea that there is a nexus between the simply joys and drudgery of daily life and the transcendent. More than a quarter century later, I am still inspired by a quest for quality. To be so deeply impacted by a book demonstrates its importance. 

Robert M. Pirsig on Life

H/T: New York Times

19 April 2017

Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raids

Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle on War and Air Power

Just a little over five months after the devastating Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States  made a daring raid on the Imperial Homeland.  The responsibility to conduct the raid fell upon then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, a revered test pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps.   

Sixteen specially modified B-25B bombers carrying 80 men took off at night from the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, which was positioned 500 nautical miles off the Japanese mainland.  The plan had to be rushed as the Hornet was sighted further out than expected.

The Army Airmen participating in Doolittle's raid understood that they were most likely on a suicide mission. Their intended targets were military and industrial targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya and Yokosuka. One of the sixteen planes had to bail before it reached its target.  

Remarkably despite losing 15 aircraft, only four of eighty men were killed  in the Doolittle Raid, eight became POWS (but three were executed), and one crew was interned after landing in Vladavostok, Soviet Russia.  They were held in the USSR for a year and were "smuggled out" (probably arranged by the Russian Secret Police NKVD because the USSR could not release the prisoners because of the neutrality pact with Japan).

Doolittle expected to be court marshaled as his raid lost 15 of 16 aircraft in pin prick air strikes.  But back in the United States, the daring Doolittle Raids was celebrated as a morale building first strike against Imperial Japan.  The Japanese were caught off guard by the Tokyo Raid and the Imperial Military rearranged forces, which might have turned the tide in the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Doolittle received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt, with the citation:

"For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Lt. Col. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland."

Doolittle was eventually promoted as a Lt. General and became the highest ranking active reserve officer in modern times. 

Sometimes the bigger battle is won through morale boosting and reminding America of its mission.

30 January 2017

On Blue Dogs and Beltway Democrats Being on the Endangered Species List

Progressive Purity Tests May Keep Democrats in the Political Wilderness by Banning Blue Dogs

The Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1995 in reaction to devastating losses in President Clinton's first mid-term election.  The moniker played off of the expression "Yellow Dog Democrats" of the South who were so loyal to the party after the Civil War.   Blue Dogs could also refer to the idea that when dogs are not let in the house, they stay outside in the cold and turn blue.   

The Blue Dogs sought to find a compromise between conservative and liberal positions.  They tended to be Democrats who were from rural districts who were pro-guns, pro-life and fiscal hawks. Blue Dogs were successful in 1996 and then Democrat National Committee Chairman Rahm Emmanuel used Blue Dogs to retake the House in 2006. 

However, in the same 2006 election cycle, progressive began to retake the Democrat Party.  A Progressive candidate beat Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CN) in the Democrat primary, forcing the veteran lawmaker (who was quite an orthodox liberal except on staunch support for Israel and being a war hawk) to successfully run as an "Independent Democrat" in the general election. But this bode as a bad omen for Blue Dog Democrats.

At their  high water mark, Blue Dog Democrats had 44 members, which was roughly 20% of the Democrat Caucus.  But progressive tides and internecine battles have lowered Blue Dogs ranks to 17 members which again puts them out in the cold. 

At the beginning of the 115th Congress, Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH 13th formerly 17th) sought to run for House Minority Leader against the incumbent Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-12th formerly 5th & 8th).  The final vote was for unseating Pelosi  not even close 134-63.  

Considering the way that close to 70 Democrats (all from safe Democrat districts) boycotted President Trump's inaugural festivities shows that Congressional Democrats seem dedicated to the progressive cause, under the delusion that they will retake the House in the 2018 elections.  

The Democrats continue to be obsessed with gun control, abortion rights, liberal immigration and an ever expanding government.Thus it seems that Democrats continue to count on winning urban voters along with educated white collar suburban voters in their path to victory.  This sort strategy leaves Blue Dog in the cold, forcing them to accept  irrelevance amongst the DC Democrat party or to go against their tradition and aversions to vote GOP to remain relevant.

It was fascinating to see how 2016 Democrat Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (D-NY) ran against coal country in her futile bid for the White House.  Hillary lost the Keystone State by about 46,000 votes.  That slim margin of victory may have been taken from President Trump's increased support in Central Pennsylvania, which epitomized Blue Dog Coalition voters.

In  Washington Examiner, Salina Zito noted how Cambria County, Pennsylvania, which contains the old industrial city of Johnstown, has shifted from being a 70 reliably Democrat area in 2006 to today being a 70% Republican area. It is these working class white voters that Democrat strategist Dane Strother worries that imposing a progressive purity test will drive Democrats into the political wilderness for forty years.  

President Trump may have sensed the alienation that Blue Dogs (who also comprised "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s) felt, and now seeks to cement the relationship with them.  Thus the overtures to labor leaders and winning back manufacturing jobs as well as fulfilling campaign promises which validate voters who then candidate  Barack Obama derided as those who were "Bitter Clingers" to their bibles and their guns.

26 January 2017

The Skeptical Environmentalist Takes the Temperature of the Paris Climate Change Accord

Bjorn Lomborg on the Paris Climate Change Accord

In the past few years, left leaning leaders from around the globe have been keen to tackle climate change.  Pope Francis wrote a bull Laudato Si urging world leaders to come to terms together in the Paris Climate Change Agreement.    They sought to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement with great fanfare, but on the eve of the Summit, the multiple Paris attacks occurred drawing attention away from the achievement. 

Now that it has come time to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement, skeptical environmentalists question the efficaciousness of the accord.  But dissent is not something that progressive politicans or the press can fathom.Senator Ted Cruz stumped Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in testimony to account for Climate Change considering the 17 year lull in warming. 

Science is supposed to be about facts and informed inquiry.  But that is not how Climate Change advocates evangelize as they attack apostates who question if it is settled science.   Sean Penn has suggested shaming Climate Change deniers .  A French weatherman was pulled off the air for not spouting the liberal party line about climate change.

In a quixotic attempt to engage progressives who profess the secular religion of Climate Change, Bjorn Lomborg made a video in conjunction with Prager University to illustrate the absurdity of COP 21 promises and solving the anthropogenic climate change problem

Sadly, those steeped in Climate Change politics are reluctant to engage in cost benefit analysis much less critical appraisals of the proposals, as they implore that "something must be done" and will hear nothing else.

08 January 2017

Imbroglio Over Anti-Cop Agiprop Art Exhibited on Capitol Hill

Rep. Lacy Clay on Anti-Cop Artwork Exhibited on Capitol Hill

[L] Artist David Pulphus [R] Rep Lacy Clay
Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO 1st) held a contest to display artwork on Capitol Hill.  The winner was 18 year old Cardinal Ritter Prep High School Senior David Pulphus with "Unnamed #1".  

This piece has stirred controversy as the adolescent's artwork depicts cops as pigs brutalizing blacks. It should be noted that a prominently depicted agitator is also depicted with lupine features giving the "Black Power" salute. Pulphus's piece also inserts a black man in graduation garb being crucified by the scales of justice. 

Charitably this can be considered an allegory to the unrest unleashed in Ferguson, Missouri, the birth place of Black Lives Matter.  But it seems more like an ├ępater les bourgeois to defame cops as animals.  It is ironic that the one business featured in the painting is a beauty shop, which was one of the businesses that black owned businesses in Ferguson that BLM rioters burned. 

But Joe Patterson with spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Association noted: "[W]e are not about censorship, but good art and good taste are sometimes not the same thing.” Patterson characterized Pulphus's Untitled #1 as a "punch in the face" to law enforcement and commented: “This is an extraordinarily disrespectful piece at a minimum."  There have been calls from Police Associations around the nation to take down the pig headed anti-cop artwork.

Representative Clay  refused to take Pulphus' piece down since it won the contest and that he was not attempt to approve or disapprove of artistic expression, yet the Congressman also called the piece "the most creative work that he has seen in 16 years." Moreover, Rep. Clay claimed that he could not find anything offensive in the painting as:  "I find it to be an expression of what one of my constituents is feeling about what he has experienced.”

The work had been exhibited since June 2016 in the tunnel that leads to the Longworth Building on Capitol Hill for several months before the controversy.

Post Scriptus 01/06/2017 15:00 EST:  Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA 50th) took down "Untitled #1" on his own accord.  Hunter invited his House colleague Clay to put it back up if he wanted. 

Update 01/09/2016 19:00  On National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) announced their intention to rehang Pulphus' Anti-Cop acrylic artwork. The CBC stated:

“The rehanging of this painting for public view represents more than just protecting the rights of a student artist, it is a proud statement in defense of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression to every American."

Update 01/17/2017  The Architect for the Capitol has determined that Pulphus' anti-cop art violates contest rules about depicting controversial political subjects and will be taken down for good by January 18, 2017.

UPDATE 04/18/2017  DC Federal Court Judge John Bates denied issuing a preliminary injunction to restore display of the painting while the litigation continues. Rep. Rep. Clay and artist Pulphus plan on appealing the ruling.

Should Anti-Cop agiprop artwork be exhibited on Capitol Hill?


06 January 2017

The Legacy of Dirty Harry and the Reid Rule on Senate Filibusters

Harry Reid on SCOTUS nominations

A legacy of former Senate Majority Leader  Harry Reid (D-NV) was the effective elimination of the confirmation filibuster.  

Under the Constitution, it is the Senate's duty to confirm Executive and Judicial Branch appointments.  Senate rules allowed for confirmations with mere majorities, but needed to obtain 60 votes to cut off debate (Cloture) and preclude a filibuster.  The Cloture vote was intended to prevent endless obstructionism while still giving the minority some say in the proceedings of the Upper Chamber of Congress.

Needing to get enough votes for cloture was an incentive for Republicans to select more moderate appointees which required Senate consent.  But such Senate niceties stopped political steamrolling by Majorities who wished to exercise their unadulterated will.

When the Obama Administration sought to pack the Court of Appeals for DC (aka the DC Circuit), which is the court of authority for regulatory bodies, it ran into trouble when its candidates might not have received the requisite support for a Cloture Vote.  So then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, exercised "The Nuclear Option".  Exercising the Nuclear Option had been hotly debated in the preceding decade, but then Senate Majority Leader  Bill Frist (R-TN) opted not to circumvent tradition. 

Through Parliamentary legerdemain, Reid established a precedent in which he said that all judicial nominees, save Justices of the Supreme Court, would be considered on majority votes and did not have to pass the Cloture Vote threshold.  

The Reid Rule was great when one's party is in control of the Senate and the White House. But in 2017, President Donald Trump will occupy the White House and Republicans have a two seat majority in the Senate.  Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks that he can stymie the Trump Administration through the advice and consent clause as well as any Supreme Court nominations which do not represent progressive Democrat values.  However, Schumer may well rue the Reid rule legacy from Dirty Harry Reid. 

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Salem Radio host Hugh Hewitt had an informative colloquy on the Reid Rule.

 Republicans may not moderate their choices for positions which need to be confirmed by the Senate.  Despite Harry Reid's contention that the "Reid Rule" excludes Supreme Court nominees, it is contented that avoiding Cloture for a Supreme Court nomination would simply be a second application of the Reid Rule precedent.

02 January 2017

Considering Cyber Censorship

In 2016, there were many controversies about cyber-censorship. Some social justice warriors will fret about the Great Firewall of China. But there are examples of being cyber censorship which are much closer to home. These are not instances of benign curation, such as Apple blocking Flash media links because the media might not display properly in the Cupertino created cyber walled garden that Apple owners expect. These are instances in which a cyber nanny decides what content should be seen.

Facebook was called out for its biased curating of hot topics to favor liberal sensibilities. While it is hard to believe that well informed people consider Facebook their primary news source, The Guardian asserted that Facebook is arguably the most important distributor of news online. But a former Facebook editor revealed that many times conservative news topics did not trend on Facebook’s sidebar because the liberal leaning staff did not recognize news topics (like CPAC) or held an animus against conservatives (like Ted Cruz).

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
In response to the conservative outcry, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a "Conservative Summit" at the company's Menlo Park, California headquarters with right leaning luminaries such as Dana Perino and Glenn Beck to discuss the matter.

While some leading conservatives declined to participate in a so called Facebook photo-op, the social media service subsequently announced some sweeping changes meant to ameliorate the media mess. Although Facebook's internal report denied any ideological bias, they acknowledge limitations of their efforts.  Facebook stopped relying on RSS feeds for curation. Instead it would use a select group of publications to discern if a story should be trending news.

Another instance of Facebook acting like an overzealous Cyber Nanny is how pages of content creators are being capriciously unpublished.  Close to ten years ago, Facebook established Fan Pages that are separate from a personal page, which attracted eyeballs for various interests and business (as well as generating ad income for Facebook).  But recently a group of 2200 content creators banded together under the banner of #powertothepages to protest the byzantine process to objecting to content censorship by Facebook.

To try to explain how Republican Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, many stunned progressives sought to blame "Fake News". Prior to the surprising Election 2016 results, President Obama opined that we need a curating function to deal with the wild west of information flow. This may sound reasonable to hurried casual current event followers to have a source that dictates what is real news. But who decides and on what basis are better questions.

Bloomberg View author Noah Feldman hopes that the news market can correct itself, but that the state might have to step in.  Obviously, the journalist does not appreciate the import of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no laws..abridging the freedom of speech, impeding the freedom of the press..."

Some social media companies seem to have taken matters into their own hands before the state imposes censorship.  Twitter has unceremoniously shuttered some users who spout ideas that do not appeal to the powers that be, such as Milo Yiannopoulos. While Twitter claimed that @nero violated their Terms of Service  with his unflattering exchanges with Ghostbusters' actress Leslie Jones, his rhetoric hardly seemed over the top, yet Twitter CEO permanently banned Milo from the social media site because the exchanges inspired hate mail towards the Hollywood luminary.

Although efforts to #FreeMilo failed to succeed with Twitter, Milo did not make out so bad as Yiannopoulos scored a $250,000 book deal for his memoirs on the social media ban. Others facing social media suspensions are not as handsomely rewarded. A social media site can lock an account on an unsuspecting user and the only established objection process is appealing to an automated digital Big Brother.  If the Cyber Nannies look with favor upon the frantic plea, the user is urged to adhere to the TOS, without knowing exactly what was the infraction, It seems that many progressive activists are eager to claim abuse and a cautious social media company will cover their bases by proactively locking controversial accounts.

Liberal Cyberbullies also ape invoke tactics gleaned from lawfare.  In the run up to the election, a liberal lawyer objected to a political cartoon of Democrat Presidential nominee sporting an orange "pant suit" behind bars with a tag line "Perhaps Hillary Clinton looks best in an orange outfit."  The self proclaimed attorney insisted that she would sue for libel as "destroying a person's reputation with lies and gossip are blatant libel."

Of course, in a rational world, this off-kilter attorney had no standing to sue and even if that weren't the case, the standard for about prominent figures is an extremely high bar, particularly involving political speech in the run up to an election.  Still, knowing the legal system, it was prudent to take time to document everything in case a nuisance lawsuit was filed. Rather that file suspected abuse charges against this budding cyber bully, it seemed better to give the liberal loon a wide berth.

Another modus operandi by micro-blogging platforms is to shadow block as a means of cyber-censorship.  Posts which contain hashtags or terms which offend the powers that be are effectively blacklisted by being  published but kept from going into search features and is hidden from others' timelines. Twitter has confirmed that it  shadow blocks. Twitter does not impose this stealth ban only against spammers but also targets the alt-right, politically incorrect or cultural libertarians. It again begs the question about curation on who decides and on what basis as to posts that are suppressed.

Even micro-bloggers with sizable following have abandoned platforms imposing cyber censorship.  James Woods, a Hollywood actor who had a following of 484,000 Twitter users, quit the social media site as he objected to the suppression of free speech as highlighted by the purge of prominent alt-right accounts.

There has been some push back against cyber censorship.  In August 2016, Andrew Torba created Gab.ai, a micro-blogging platform which allows for all points of view and champions the principle to #SpeakFreely. Even though Gab is still in beta, it has over 100,000 users and is a top 3,000 internet site, even as it is currently invitation only.

Some have suggested to challenge censoring social media platforms by investigating and litigation the violations of the terms of service by the internet companies.  Frankly, that seems like a fool's errand.  These cyber bureaucrats can claim TOS violations and unless it is a high profile case like Milo Yiannopoulos or James Woods, they will not feel compelled to respond.  While they should champion free speech, the First Amendment is a limitation on the government not a private corporation.

Recently, it has become apparent that some content has been stealth banned too close to home..  Although it is praiseworthy to invoke the Ignatian principle of Presupposition by giving one's antagonist the benefit of the doubt.  But using analytics and comparing similar web pages, it is dubious that the stealth banning is not content curation for its viewpoint, not because of obscenity, spamming or harassment (which would be clear TOS objections).

It is disheartening to know that Facebook Content Creators can be deprived of their sources of income by vague complaints made by anonymous sources, and there is an impersonal automated system to object to these page pull downs. But it reinforces the wisdom of not depending only on one platform. It is important to find work arounds and not be at the whims of abstract internet overlords. Methodologies can be tweaked and new ways of getting the word out can be developed to speak freely.

In this era of hyper polarization, there are going to be efforts to block viewpoints which challenge progressive proclivities.  To often, the silent majority has let things go in order to tend to their own personal interests.  Between technological advances and the entrenchment of liberals within the apparatus of government, the levers of culture and "our betters" in academia and corporate boards, free speech for conservative and traditional values could be crushed.

This will not stand in the District of Calamity (sic). 

26 October 2016

Gary Johnson: Blazing New Paths Towards the White House?

Washington Post 202 Live Columnist James Hohman interviewing Gary Johnson 10/24/16 [Photo: BD Matt]

The 2016 Election should have been the year of the Libertarian.  It is a change election with voters who would welcome fiscal sensibility and social progress.  Both Democrats and Republicans have nominees who sport extremely high negative ratings and few people look forward to support those candidates. Nearly half of the electorate is to be open to voting for a generic third party candidate. Yet the Libertarian Party remain an also ran  which may win a few percent of votes with no chance of winning any Electoral College votes.

So why can’t Libertarians capitalize on this electoral environment and significantly gain ground in Election 2016?  These are things which the James Hohman 202 Live forum with Libertarian Party nominee Gov. Gary Johnson (L-NM) indirectly answered.

Two weeks before voters go to the polls en masse, Gary Johnson’s campaign was to have a press curated pep rally in Washington, DC.  This is no way to win but to garner a bit of the spotlight while raising consciousness towards Libertarian issues.

Gary Johnson grouping waiting outside Washington Post 10/24/16 [Photo Credit: BD Matt]

Even though Johnson was the two time Republican Governor of the Land of Opportunity, he is not a typical Washington politician.  Never mind the shabby chic attire of a blue blazer with faded blue jeans.  Johnson lacked skills to connect with crowds. Even though the 400 person audience was packed with Gary believers and the interview was streamed live, Johnson kept eye contact with his interlocutor rather than those who he seeked to sway. Johnson also seemed to often have his eyes closed. This forum was not an environment for a barn-burner speech but the offhand effect was not poised to connect with many new converts.

Johnson was not worried about being a spoiler in Election 2016, as he thought that he would do well among independents who are said to be the largest part of the electorate. Johnson’s strategy is epitomized in his observation that high water raises all boats and in this change election, if Johnson wins one state then he’ll win eight.  But Johnson/Weld is not positioned to win anywhere.  Johnson seems content to keep the Libertarian Party qualified on all 50 state ballots and then ride off into the sunset.

In contrast, Independent Presidential candidate Evan McMullin (I-UT) has only been in the Presidential race since August, 2016 but he is positioned to win Utah and do well in the Mountain West. McMullin knew that he could not win Election 2016 but has a strategy to win some Electoral College votes and throw a close Presidential contest into the House of Representatives.

Gary Johnson rues not being included in the 2016 Presidential debates, unlike Reform Party nominee Ross Perot in 1992.  Johnson theorized that both parties saw Perot’s upstart candidacy as helping them so he got a place on the big stage.  Johnson maintains that he could not win Election 2016 without getting into the Presidential debates. But without him, Johnson characterized the Presidential debates as being rhetorical varieties of: “I want to kill you” without really talking policy.

Johnson’s brand of Libertarianism is liberal libertine.  Johnson is pro-choice on abortion because it is the law of the land, which he correctly notes is not Roe v. Wade (1973) but Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1991). Johnson followed with an applause line that he is pro-choice for everything. Yet Johnson’s “pro choice for all” perspective is impeached by his skepticism of religious liberty rights and the Supreme Court imposing same-sex marriage on all states. It seems that Johnson’s Libertarianism is rooted in a progressive Supreme Court rather than the primacy of the individual.  No wonder Johnson claimed during the Democrat primaries that he agreed with Bernie Sanders 73% of the time.

For a Libertarian, Johnson makes an unusual case for immigration.  The Libertarian Party nominee advocates embracing immigration and make it legally as easy as possible. Johnson claimed that there was sufficient vetting of Syrian refugees.  But then again, that is coming from a candidate made famous for his “What is Aleppo” answer.

Regarding immigration, Johnson’s view is that America should work with Mexico on quotas and border crossings.  However, Johnson’s rationale for free immigration is not for efficient economics and letting individuals decide, but prompted by pathos.  Johnson believes that America should not break up families, building a wall is nuts and that America has always encouraged immigration.  It seems Johnson forgot about the immigration freeze between 1940 and 1965.  These rationales sound more like a liberal Democrat than an orthodox Libertarian.

It was remarkable that Libertarian nominee waited 24 minutes into an hour interview to bring up drugs.  It seems that pot legalization is often the second thing out of a typical Libertarian’s mouth.  Johnson proudly assumed the moniker that he had been the “Highest Elected Official” to endorse marijuana legalization.  Johnson is jonesing for an America that treats drugs like a health policy issue rather than a law enforcement issue. Johnson expressed disappointment that every pot smoker had not chipped a dollar into his campaign coffers so he would have another $56 million.  Sorry, dude but you’ve got to save some coin for when you get the munchies.

Yet Johnson perseverated on the drug question to intimate far beyond pot legalization.  Johnson claims that public policies kill heroin users.  While Johnson would not go as far as to legalize cocaine, he said that it was less of a problem than methamphetamines because coke users will die young with a hole in their hearts. So better that coke users die from cardiac arrests than tolerating hillbilly heroin?

This fifteen minute pharmacological discussion may have affirmed the support of base Libertarians, but was “high” minded faculty room chat which did not impress unaligned voters in Election 2016 and seemed pie in the sky aside from the trend in states to legalize recreational pot.

Johnson pushed for a flat tax as a straight consumption tax would end the vagaries of the income tax code and would give pink slips to  80% of lobbyists.  Johnson’s cure for Social Security was to means test and allow for the direct direction of retirement investments.  While Johnson was skeptical of enacting the elimination of government agencies, he thought that HUD’s time had expired, questioned the relevance of most of Commerce and believed that the Department of Homeland Security should be broken up.

It was on civil liberty, particularly in the privacy realm, that Johnson embodied Libertarian philosophy, perhaps to a fault.  Johnson wanted the NSA to train its cameras off Americans and not run to a secret FISA court to do blanket spying on Americans. Johnson thinks that America is winning the Cyber War but it is a question of what we are doing. Johnson even went so far as to suggest that he would pardon Edward Snowden based on what he knows.

Johnson seems to take a lackadaisical approach to the election.  Johnson assures voters that Election 2016 is his swan song.  But if he is not elected, he looks forward to skiing for 120 days then riding the Continental Divide.

For political junkies, it is rare to hear a candidate offer new policies.  But intimate campaign events allow people to get an up close and personal and take their estimation of the candidate. For me, Johnson could not connect with a crowd and did not really seem to want to win.  His libertine Libetarianism (e.g.- abortion and drugs)  is an anathematic to a conservative leaning libertarian.  No wonder Johnson in fading in the polls as Election Day approaches.

It is a pity that Libertarians wasted this golden opportunity to become a viable third party as the Republican and Democrats face radical restructuring.  Instead, they opted for a C list name who does have some governing experience but seems little differentiated from liberal Democrat. More importantly, Johnson has little fire in the belly and seems to yearn post election freedom soaking in the Rocky Mountain High. What a waste!