Students Should Read This

December 19th, 2014 Erik No comments

There are some aspects of learning that students should abide by.  Here is a list.

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Here Comes Warren!

December 16th, 2014 Erik No comments

Here comes Elizabeth Warren, who says that she is not—at the moment—running for president.  However, rhetorically, she sure sounds like she’s trying to influence who is nominated.  What if nobody she likes is nominated?  Warren, who was featured in Michael Moore’s Capitalism:  A Love Story when she was a professor at Harvard, is the consummate voice of the left (some would say the tea party left), and she more than anyone in the Democrat Party poses a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton.  Bernie Sanders has not the charisma nor the articulate appeal that Warren does, and he carries the identification of “socialist” around as a proud badge, and that’s immediate disqualification for a majority of the voters in the general.

Warren, however, has a populist appeal that could get her far into the primary, and she appeals to the Democratic base when she is not obligated to do so, particularly among those who believe Obama has betrayed them.  As a result, Warren is garnering much attention:

Interviews with more than a dozen attendees, along with comments from panelists, suggest that Clinton — who many on the left view as too hawkish and soft on Wall Street — is still struggling to generate enthusiasm among progressives, even as she’s all but certain to announce a 2016 bid within a few months. The lack of excitement is especially palpable among younger liberals, the set that helped power Barack Obama to the Democratic nod over Clinton in 2008.

Warren keeps saying she is not (in the present) running.  But that is true until she says she’s running (and for the record, Hillary is not running either at the moment).  In other words, she has not ruled it out:

As NPR’s Steve Inskeep and many other observers have noticed, Warren always answers the presidential query in the present tense and assiduously avoids any deviation that might rule out a future bid.

Warren may not be “running for president” at the moment, but neither is anyone else, for that matter.

Far more relevant is the question that she has repeatedly chooses not to answer: Might she run for president, after the 2016 campaign official kicks off next year?

Can Warren win, as David Brooks recently opined in the affirmative in the NYT?  He concludes:

Clinton is obviously tough, but she just can’t speak with a clear voice against Wall Street and Washington insiders. Warren’s wing shows increasing passion and strength, both in opposing certain Obama nominees and in last week’s budget fight.

The history of populist candidates is that they never actually get the nomination. The establishment wins. That’s still likely. But there is something in the air. The fundamental truth is that every structural and historical advantage favors Clinton, but every day more Democrats embrace the emotion and view defined by Warren.

Brooks is too optimistic for the moment, but there is a conceivable path to Warren winning with Clinton’s continued mis-steps and the base’s continued anger at Obama and the prior Clinton administration’s forays into the center.

It’s Time for New Fusion

December 9th, 2014 Erik No comments

Remember back in the day oh so long ago—as little as in 2013—when people were prophesying the death of conservatism?  Indeed, if you click on one of those links, the tradition of predicting the death of the right goes back a long time to the early 90s.

Presently, we have an equal litany of pundits and thinkers predicting a liberal crackup.  This is not new.  Even in the 1980s, Bill Buckley on his excellent Firing Line considered the “liberal crackup” after Reagan’s landslide elections:

Auguries of the death of this or that party have plagued us since the Founding.  Sometimes, parties actually do collapse.  However, most of the time predictions about a party’s demise are incorrect.  After 2008, the Republicans were not collapsing, they were in the middle of an internal battle.  The Tea Party sprung up to the right of center, and was the bane of of the party leading it to defeat after defeat electorally.  Fast forward a few years to 2014, and the latest shellacking of the Democrats were not largely due to the Tea Party.  The Tea Party was seen as too extreme, and it did not benefit the governing coalition on the Hill.  Presently, leading Tea Party politician, Ted Cruz, is a man isolated.   Being politically savvy is not the strong suit of the Tea Party to be sure.

In similar fashion, the Democrats are about ready to make the same mistake (although they are doing it willingly!), and it is here the Republicans can capitalize greatly.  Since the feckless presidency of Barrack Obama, the left wing of the party has began to flex it’s muscle. Indeed, Obama was seen as the great left hope, but he has been a crushing disappointment.  So much so, Hillary Clinton is too far to the right of many of the rank and file Democrats, and Jim Webb, among others, will likely challenge her from the left–though it is safe to say that Webb could be seen as a more reliable middle of the road candidate similar to Sec. Clinton.   So, it’s no surprise that certain factions of the Democrat Party are calling for a Tea Party of the Left, and doing so willingly.  The problem is that these small movements only appeal to a tiny portion of the base, but usually that’s enough to keep electable candidates with which they disagree from winning.

The more recent problems for the Democrats is that they are losing white voters; Republicans conversely are increasingly losing minorities.  We are facing the reality that if trends continue, the two parties will be very racially split.  This is not a good things for the country or our politics for it will become increasingly divisive.  Republicans can stave off this racial division presently, as even the Democrats alienate the rest of their white blue collar coalition.

The Republicans are standing in the midst of a great opportunity, if they can only see it.  They are poised to adopt an electoral and governing majority by instituting a version of fusionism.  We should call it New Fusion–in honor of Frank Meyer who thought that an alliance between anti-communists, social and traditional conservatives, and libertarians (free marketers) could be created and turned into a winning electoral coalition, as well as a robust intellectual society.  What should this candidate look like?

Mitt Romney was an awful candidate in many ways:  he did not appeal to the voters because he appeared to lack empathy, he seemed to be a ruthless businessman (Bain Capital), and he did not appeal to the base (not conservative enough).  Much of Romney’s depressing candidacy is noted in the excellent books After Hope and Change and Barrack Obama and the New America.  Let’s stake out a few areas the Republicans have an opportunity to make inroads into the Democrat coalition nationally.  These are by no means meant to be exhaustive.

  1. Immigration:  Republicans have a golden opportunity to bring a significant number, if not a majority, of Hispanics into the Republican camp.  The party already has about 28% of them voting nationally, and in certain states the number is even greater.  The stalling and complaining about illegals being here does the party no good nationally.  There is a significant policy problem facing the country and there is no practical way to deport everyone even if the entire country wanted them deported (incidentally, I think it violates the idea of America to deport productive people who desire citizenship).  As a practical matter, the country debated for years deporting the slaves and former slaves.  It is costly, and further, there is a humane consideration of sending productive people into a land (or back to their country) where they will stagnate and not thrive as human beings.  America is the best hope and a beacon of light in this world, and Republicans ought to emphasize that as the motivating factor why many people want to uproot their lives, live, work, and die here in this country.  So, what should the policy be?  First, they should pass legislation and appropriate funds to fast track illegals who are productive.  Second, they should pass legislation to deport criminals (not house them in our legal system).  Third, they should pass a robust border security bill aimed at security in relation to terror not to keep out people who want to immigrate here (and that means including the promotion of a status for those like they do in Baja where they can live in Mexico, but work daily in the U.S.)   Obama has been the deporter-in-chief; Republicans can vow to be the opposite for the idea of America at the Statue of Liberty is to call all the tired and weak who want to succeed.  There’s nothing more American than welcoming immigrants with open arms.
  2. Economy/Business:  Republicans have been awful on these issues.  To their right, they are insufficiently free-market and seem to assent to the criticisms from the left that there’s something evil with business and corporations.  To their left, they praise business too much by talking about how businesses don’t harm the environment, are generally good by providing employment, etc.  It times to split the difference.  Republicans should adopt a rhetoric and the policy that supports business but does not avoid humanitarian responsibility.  I have recently read a book by John Mackey of Whole Foods called Conscious Capitalism.  Mackey–a free market libertarian–makes the case for markets without all the unsympathetic language and paralyzing theoretical boredom.  Mackey makes it clear that some businesses are better than others.  Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and a whole host of others actually live by their mission.  They treat employees well, pay them well, and in turn, give them a stake in the company.  Certain companies also believe they are doing good for the whole by providing a service they need and can use, but these are not just words, they speak, live it, and act like it in their relations with the customer as well.  Mackey makes it clear, business is here to do good not make a profit simply.  In that he disagrees with the wonderful Milton Friedman who said the opposite.  This ALL should be praised by Republicans as an example of how free markets work for the Good.  Yet Mackey also notes the onerous taxation rates on businesses.  Of the nearly $900 million Whole Foods made, the company only walked away with about $330 million because of taxation.  Thus, it is time to go Ireland, lower the tax rate and allow businesses to thrive.  Mackey makes it clear, that many businesses would donate more funds to charity if not for taxation.  Republicans need to highlight these facts in a heartfelt and sympathetic way.  Government needs to get out of the way for Good people to do Good things with their Good companies.
  3. Defense:  Rand Paul makes a thoughtful case that we should retrench as a nation and allow many countries to fight among themselves.  His position would definitely lose the American electorate and certainly the Republican base.  While some of what he says may be compelling–and I do think we should pull back in some areas–we should most definitely not cut defense.  Republicans should talk about real defense of the homeland technologically whether that is through a more robust defense shield, or a well thought out foreign policy.  Obama has been feckless and child-like in his foreign policy–if he has even had one.  It is time for the Republicans to be hawkish while not so interventionist.  In this vein, why not allow the rearming of Japan?  That would surely make Putin think a bit more about things, and let China know we are serious about politics in the pacific rim.  But, that might be too radical a proposition.  At the very least, we should arm the Ukraine vigorously.

I understand there will be much about this vignette open for debate. We could certainly add more to the list.  But, it seems time for the Republicans to choose a New Fusion while the Democrats are taking time for their own small implosion.

Obama, Executive Orders, and Immigration

November 22nd, 2014 Erik No comments


As all my students are aware, immigration has had a varied history in the U.S.  Indeed, the first 100 years or so, there was no limitation on immigration.  Then in the late 19th Century through 20th century there were limitations of various levels and degrees (as noted in the Bessette and Pitney textbook).  The question before us is if Obama’s action is:

  1. unconstitutional, and,
  2. within the bounds of actions presidents may take?

The political concerns are secondary (will his actions help or hurt the Democrats, what should the Republicans do about gaining more share of the Latino vote?, etc.) to the above concerns.  Obama’s speech was fairly excellent and uplifting—it spoke to a part of America where at the Statue of Liberty a plaque reads,

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

In other words, it all sounds very good (and who could disagree!?), but it just may not be legal to do what he is doing.  Rhetoric and law are not conspiring on this point.  But, Obama’s speech might not actually square with his authority to use the executive order to affect that intent.  Obama’s action could actually harm the Democrats badly in the short term.  Part of the reason he never got a bill on immigration was because even the bluest of blue state Democrats did not support it—they did not support it because their constituents did not support it.  And there are many Democrats who are against or are criticizing what Obama has done. But none of this can rid the nation of the simple fact that there is a policy problem before us:  what do we do with the millions of illegal or undocumented people living and working in our borders.

Obama’s legal justification from the Office of Legal Counsel is here.  At Slate, Walter Dellinger writes Obama’s action is legal.  According to Dellinger:

Perhaps what has understandably concerned critics most is not merely the deferral of deportation proceedings but the affirmative step of permitting those whose deportation is deferred to then apply for authorization to work while they remain in the United States. But here the president is not acting unilaterally nor even on the basis of an inferred discretion. He is, rather, acting on the basis of specific statutory authority from the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under that authority and by pre-existing regulation, the secretary of homeland security is authorized to grant authorization to work to those who are in the “deferred action” category. If Congress does not want those whose deportation is to be deferred to be able to work lawfully, it can certainly repeal this regulatory authority. But it has not done so, and for good reason: those who are able to demonstrate economic necessity to work will undergo background checks and pay local, state, and federal taxes, something a lot of Americans support.

The blog Balkanization has a point by point refutation that the President’s actions are illegal.  The most ironic claim is that Obama is actually fulfilling the “Take Care” clause of the Constitution by his executive act.  That might be a stretch.  The “Take Care” clause is only ONE of the president’s responsibilities.  He has others too, and sometimes he has to choose which of his many responsibilities take precedent.

Even the moderate Republican David Gergen, believes that the president has not done anything blatantly illegal, even if he walks up to the Constitutional precipice.  However, Obama has crossed an important traditional boundary:

One can argue whether this executive order is legal, but it certainly violates the spirit of the founders. They intentionally focused Article One of the Constitution on the Congress and Article Two on the president. That is because the Congress is the body charged with passing laws and the president is the person charged with faithfully carrying them out.

In effect, the Congress was originally seen as the pre-eminent branch and the president more of a clerk. The president’s power grew enormously in the 20th century but even so, the Constitution still envisions Congress and the president as co-equal branches of government — or as the scholar Richard Neustadt observed, co-equal branches sharing power.

For better or worse, Americans have always expected that in addressing big, tough domestic issues, Congress and the president had to work together to find resolution.

For a president to toss aside such deep traditions of governance is a radical, imprudent step. When a president in day-to-day operations can decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore, where are the limits on his power? Where are the checks and balances so carefully constructed in the Constitution?

If a Democratic president can cancel existing laws on immigration, what is to prevent the next Republican from unilaterally canceling laws on health care?

Exactly, but that’s what presidents have always done.  Impoundment debate anyone?  In a somewhat different example, how about that Trail of Tears and Jackson’s exclamation that Supreme Court Justice John Marshall come and enforce a decision the Congress and President enacted.  The Congress is in control here:  they can pass a law, censure him, impeach him, or defund the mechanism of the law dealing with this topic.  Politically only a couple of these seem to be beneficial for the Republican Party.

Legally, Obama is on shaky, but not blatantly illegal grounds.  He has violated the spirit of the Constitution, but he is no Caesar, and certainly no Cataline.   The political consequences for the Democrats may indeed, not get them what Obama thinks they will get—more voters and an unbreakable electoral coalition.  And that is what we will all be watching next—how will the Latino’s vote in 2016?  The Democrats cannot be guaranteed they’ll be with them and neither can the Republicans.

 

Scott Brown’s Last Pitch

November 3rd, 2014 Erik No comments

Whoever Brown uses for his media campaign should be given great kudos for the quality of the production done. Great commercial, but will it be enough?

Tomorrow Night’s Republican Majority

November 3rd, 2014 Erik No comments

Tuesday Night could be a big surprise for some people, but even I was not prepared for Philadelphia writer extraordinaire Joel Mathis to proclaim he’s voting Republican tomorrow.  Whoever says someone on the left cannot tolerate Republicans much less vote “R” has now Mathis’s example for necessary correction.

The website 538, finds reason for a cold water bath for the Republicans, thus complicating any joy they might want to take in their victory tomorrow.  Yet, even Nate Silver cannot resist concluding,

Instead this year, we’ll have to settle for a climate that’s less pro-incumbent than usual — and also somewhat pro-Republican. At least, that’s what we’ll be getting if the polls are right.

The left leaning Juan Williams writes in The Hill that the Democrats could be in trouble if they lose young voters.  And what if the electorate chooses Republicans rather than simply handing the GOP support by not showing up to vote for the other party?  Williams surmises that both could spell big trouble for the Democrat Party.  Yet, there is much evidence that the Democrats could have an effective defensive night—Democrats are registering in great numbers in some states, the definition of likely voter is ever more difficult to determine (less white and less Republican than usual), and Republicans should be higher in the polls than they are in some states (especially in elections like this one that favors the GOP historically).

The two races I have been following as a sort of bell-weather to rout or mere gain is the Senate race in North Carolina between Hagan/Tillis and the New Hampshire race between Shaheen/Brown.  If the Republican wins in either race, it could be a no worry about the filibuster night for the Republicans.  I would have said until today’s barrage of polls that Shaheen had the upper advantage—my gut said 2 days ago she’d win.  However, three polls today at RCP each place the race in a statistical tie.  Two of the polls have Shaheen up (including the PPP, which leans Dem).  One poll has Brown up (New England College poll has favored Brown consistently).  So the issue has to be in the methodology and the turn our models the polling firms are expecting.  All three polls taken together, give Shaheen the advantage, but she is still not above 50% in most polls—that gives Brown a shot on its own account in spite of his higher negatives.

In North Carolina, the polls are predictably split with PPP again favoring Hagan, and other polls placing Tillis in a tie, or in a narrow lead (Republican oriented polls like Civitas).  When races are close like this, and in the face of a changing electorate with new groups potentially turning out to vote, like those groups did for Obama in 2008, things are really up in the air as to whose turnout models will win out.  This is especially true in a midterm election.  I think NC is a toss-up.  The state is notoriously unpredictable.  The breaking story of Hagan’s dubious and illegal dealings may just swing enough of the undecided vote to Tillis tomorrow.

My predictions from summer stand:  The GOP gains in the House and in the Senate.  I now think the GOP will not gain enough to shut down a filibuster, but I could easily be wrong on that pending the night’s outcome.  Governors races and state politics races could favor the Dems tomorrow night.  But in Ohio, Kasich is going to cruise to a win, and I mention that because it sets him up nicely for a serious shot at 2016.  In a weak Republican presidential field, Kasich’s moment might just arrive.

 

Has Islam Been Hijacked?

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

In today’s Wall Street Journal comes this provocative op-ed on how Islam treats women in its own community.

It is a great debate on my campus, and one that is always present in my own mind because I have friends in Egypt and Kuwait, as well as friends who are a part of the Faith in question here.  Is there something wrong with the religion itself, as Bill Maher and others claim?  Or has it been hijacked by a few radicals who are changing the religion from a peaceful to an oppressive one? There are those, like at the New Republic, who give Islam as a religion a pass entirely—which is odd since that magazine does not do that for Christians. Still, they contend that individuals, not religion, are responsible for radicalization.  In that sense they are squarely on Ben Affleck’s side.  Be that as it may, there is only one religion presently engaging in violence and persecution to the level we are seeing worldwide: Islam.

Aly Salem’s criticism is blistering of both parties in the U.S.:

Compare the collective response after each harrowing high-school shooting in America. Intellectuals and public figures look for the root cause of the violence and ask: Why? Yet when I ask why after every terrorist attack, the disapproval I get from my non-Muslim peers is visceral: The majority of Muslims are not violent, they insist, the jihadists are a minority who don’t represent Islam, and I am fear-mongering by even wondering aloud.

This is delusional thinking. Even as the world witnesses the barbarity of beheadings, habitual stoning and severe subjugation of women and minorities in the Muslim world, politicians and academics lecture that Islam is a “religion of peace.” Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia routinely beheads women for sorcery and witchcraft.

In the U.S., we Muslims are handled like exotic flowers that will crumble if our faith is criticized—even if we do it ourselves. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats alike would apparently prefer to drop bombs in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, because killing Muslims is somehow less offensive than criticizing their religion? Unfortunately, you can’t kill an idea with a bomb, and so Islamism will continue to propagate. Muslims must tolerate civilized public debate of the texts and scripture that inform Islamism. To demand any less of us is to engage in the soft bigotry of low expectations.

If any other religion engaged in such acts, the condemnations would be loud, and there would be a large contingent of people who would be wondering whether, Christianity for example, is responsible for encouraging the violence.  Those Imams and religious leaders in the Middle East control the destiny of Islam, and in countries without religious freedom, and in a faith that has not yet had its own reformation, we are seeing the effects of a religious despotism gone unchecked.

 

Thom Tillis v. Kay Hagan

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

Another race to watch is Thom Tillis v. Kay Hagan in my third home away from home, North Carolina. Hagan has made a very nice little living taking from the taxpayers, as Carolina Journal notes. As RCP polls show, Tillis is closing in, and Hagan is losing ground. If not for the Libertarian in the race Tillis would be a walk away winner—despite the “controversial legislature” over the last few years. The fact that he’s closing in on her, means the momentum is with him. More than the other race I am watching (Brown v. Shaheen) Tillis is more poised to win. But as anyone from NC knows, the state can be unpredictable, its independent streak is that strong.

Scott Brown v. Jeanne Shaheen

October 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

 

Will Brown beat Shaheen? He is closing in on her. And Shaheen, an incumbent, drawing below 50% is not good. However, Brown has an uphill battle since he was a resident of Massachusetts. It is very difficult for someone to do what he is doing, not having lived in the state for a long time (even though his family has some roots there). This is a race to watch on Tuesday.

Religious Extremism versus Moderation

October 21st, 2014 Erik No comments

One thing my students and I discuss in class is the role of religion in society and the development of religious extremism.  I began to think about this while I was reading an excellent piece by Steven Hayward in the CRB on the Goldwater campaign called “Extremism and Moderation.”  It is a fabulous piece that explains, in part, how William F. Buckley and National Review brought to heel the irrational John Birch Society, thus peeling off the more reasonable elements of the right and showing the door to radicals in the party who would have done nothing but harm to the party in the long-run.

It prompted me to think about Buckley’s act of heroism and how organizations and institutions–parties included–often have to deal with radical elements in their midst.  Sometimes, the radicals win out.  At other times, the voice of reason carries the day.  We see the battle and struggle between these elements every day in the Middle East.  ISIL radicals have, in some way, hijacked the Muslim faith (though there is much disagreement over that).  I personally know many people in the Middle East (having travelled Israel, Jordan, Kuwait), so my opinion is quite anecdotal, but I know many many peaceful Muslims who abhor what the radicals of their faith are doing. Muslims have a long and honorable history.  They have produced great political philosophers including Al Farabi and Averroes.  But, in the present state of things, someone like Al Farabi would be murdered at the hands of extremist militants.  So, what’s the answer?  For Islam, it could be they need a reformation just like what Christianity went through centuries ago.

Be that as it may, in a not so serious, or violent way, some institutions or organizations go through changes where a choice must be made to either stand for rational moderation, or slowly glide down a radical road that leads to ruin.  We have seen this happen at many so called Christian colleges, where the cult of personality has led to a totalitarian temptation.  Students and faculty have been abused by such people, and the harm it does to souls is excruciating.  This is especially the case when the person doing the abusing possesses some religious authority  and uses said authority to torture the souls of the faithful.  This happens more often than you’d think, and has led to support groups to be started by the “survivors” of spiritual abuse.

The one thing that many religions have done is to hold that uneasy tension between reason (or philosophy) and revelation (or the revealed Word).  Those organization that don’t do that eventually become radicalized (like ISIL, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.), or cults (Like Heaven’s Gate, or Jonestown, or the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who literally formed an armed camp less than 75 miles from my home in the 1980s).  There is one thing constant in all these formations, and that is the claim the only the leader or leaders have a special revealed word (that no one else can access), and/or they proclaim they are being unfairly judged or persecuted by dark and evil entities. Usually immoderate and violent religious organizations create enemies lists centered around the alleged “persecution” of a personality or figure who is at the center of the faith.  Jim Jones is quite the example of finding enemies whoever he looked, as he called this world a most dark and evil place, while proclaiming their own purity in the face of it all. One can see how this all might turn into violence or even, in the case of cults, murder and suicide.

One of he people I respect from the academic world was Eric Voegeli who cautioned against Gnosticism as an irrational trap of modernity.  I eventually sided against Voegeli because his caution excluded, or I should say could include, the Ancient political philosophers.  The Ancients were rationalists and I think there was always a sense of Gnosticism in them–they were gnostic before the religious gnostics of Christianity came to the fore.

The only tempering of any religious extremism from Socrates to the present day–from pagans to the three great revealed religions–is reason and philosophy.  Jerusalem should always be open to the critique of Athens, and Athens should always be open to the claims of Jerusalem, but neither should trump the other.  When that happens, and it usually happens among the religious–destruction will follow.

Is Climate Science Settled?

September 24th, 2014 Erik No comments

 

Recently the Wall Street Journal published an article noting that while there is climate change, the science around it is not settled.  However, there are a few problems with the models, or rather, there is no agreement or accounting as to why certain things are happening.  For example:

Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.

• The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.

• The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that “hot spot” has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.

• Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.

• A crucial measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—that is, the warming induced by a hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration. Today’s best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago. And this is despite an heroic research effort costing billions of dollars.

Just why is the Antarctic growing while in the North things are melting?  That question certainly needs to be answered.  None of these questions suggests that there is no climate change, it just means there is a lot we don’t know.  And there is still the problem with a lot of the data has been altered unscientifically to match the warming narrative.  Furthermore, the consensus is not as big as has been purported.

My skepticism in relation to change, is can mankind really overcome nature in total?  Can man really subdue and tame Nature to the extent we destroy it?  I find that a difficult proposition to accept, after all the Earth has always changed even before humans had the capability to influence it.  Humans can certainly influence things in this world, but to destroy Nature’s authority over the universe is quite a claim to make, not to mention full of hubris.  If the globe is changing, can man really do anything to stop it?  On that point, I am very skeptical.

 

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Is Hillary a Shoo-in?

June 27th, 2014 Erik No comments

As explained by Real Clear Politics here, Hillary Clinton will not only win the Democratic nomination, but then proceed to beat the Republican challenger, whomever that may be, in 2016.  That’s a fairly risky prediction, but not one without much merit, even as her book is tanking and after about a week is now being offered at discounted prices.

Though there may be much to the article’s assertion that the time for a woman president has arrived based on gender politics, the much more persuasive argument at this moment is that there really is no Republican who can appeal to the general electorate.

The Republicans are actually in serious trouble if they do not figure out how to appeal better to women and hispanics.  This problem will persist even if Hillary is not the Democrat nominee.  The article’s main point is that women–a significant force of the electorate–will jump at the chance to vote for Hillary.  However, that assumes women will vote for women because the person is a woman.  If that was the case, then Hillary would have beat Obama, and/or they would have elected Michele Bachmann.

All of this is premature.  Hillary may stumble. The Democratic base may prefer someone else.  And, the Republicans could find a charismatic candidate.  Gender may certainly play a role in voting and politics, but human beings who have the ability to reason vote on more than just one issue or idea.

An Apology of Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2013 Erik No comments

My colleague at Heartland S.T. Karnick has written an excellent account of why we ought not be concerned with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Instead we should celebrate the freedom we have in this country that allows businesses to conduct business.  In a sense I agree.  I certainly would not legislate stores to be closed. However, as a republican [please note the small “r”] I am publicly dispirited by the fact that so many stores are opening on what should be our most solemn of holidays other than July 4th.

It’s time to bring Thanksgiving back to its hallowed position it used to occupy.

Stores and businesses want to get a jump early on the Christmas season in pursuit of profits. Over the years, this intense quest for profits has led to Christmas marketing to impinge on our sensibilities ever sooner, so that now, we see Christmas commercials, Christmas ads, and the stores decorated in Christmas attire as early as mid-October.  I love Christmas, and it is one of my favorite holidays, but the increasing emphasis on Christmas as a materialist holiday has soured me on the holiday somewhat I have to admit.   So important has Christmas become, that nary can one find Thanksgiving greeting cards in the stores anymore.

Thanksgiving is the one true holiday—other than July 4th—that does not require gifts or the expectation of gifts.  Thanksgiving has always been about love, family, God, and public spiritedness thanking whatever deity we worship for the many blessings for living in a free country.  We gather on Thanksgiving to recognize the blessings we have before us in our families and in the first country in history  founded on the natural rights all human beings share.  There is something more meaningful in gathering with loved ones to simply enjoy each other’s company without the material expectations that follow with Christmas.  To be frank, Thanksgiving is a far more religious and spiritual holiday than Christmas could ever be. Thanksgiving, unlike Christmas, has directed our national attention in a more direct public manner than Christmas ever has.  In terms of this republic, it precedes Christmas and is our oldest national holiday—even older than Independence Day.

The first proclamation of Thanksgiving was in 1777 (though there were others noted before the Revolutionary War by His Majesty’s Government).  As it pertains to the Union, the first was authored by the Continental Congress.  We usually forget that fact and read the more weighty proclamations by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress asserted that,

Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

It encouraged—did not require—a day of rest from work to be with family and thank God for the year that is near an end.  Of course, thanksgiving proclamations always directed our attention upward.  The early proclamations petitioned God to bless our military efforts and to relieve the afflicted in the unpleasantries that inevitably accompany war.  The central message was to petition God for wisdom, for peace, and for our “national happiness” [1782 proclamation].

In my lifetime, my fondest holiday memories surround Thanksgiving, which kicked off the holiday season.  Nowhere in the early to mid 70s was there a Christmas decoration, or ad, or store display until after we had first given thanks for the blessings of this republic.  my family would celebrate the day with blood relatives, and those who were surrogate members of the family, though they were every bit full members of our little enclave.  The day was spent in togetherness, and the enjoyment of each other’s company, not in the opening of gifts and then the inevitable paring off separate from the family to enjoy the gifts received.  The only thing that we did of any outside entertainment value was to watch the Detroit Lions lose yet another Thanksgiving football game—something I actually enjoyed.  Yet, we never forgot the blessings of freedom too.  And we reflected on the Founders, Lincoln, and the what our ancestors did to preserve the rights of mankind.  That is perhaps difficult for this materialist society to fathom, but yet, America in the 1970s was such—at least in my world and with my family.

Now, we are bombarded daily from mid October on to buy, buy, buy and rip ourselves from the family hearth to pursue some sale.  What is lost in the process?  What deep and meaningful opportunity is lost with family when we nary have dinner digested and we are running out to fight the crowds to possess some material things that in the end will decay anyway?  What has the country lost when republicans care more for material gain than giving thanks for the reason we have the freedom to achieve material comfort in the first place?

I lament our national holiday, and I do pray for its return

So this “consumer” will be shopping at Menards, who took out a full page ad in today’s Chicago Tribune stating their stores would remain closed on Thursday so families can give thanks and spend the day as it was intended.

 

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Further Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

July 7th, 2013 Erik No comments

We have just celebrated this nation’s Founding, but debate abounds on the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.  How significant is this document?  I ask my students this question at the beginning of every class I teach on American Government.  Much debate exists on all sides about this all important event. I have many friends who disagree with my position on the Declaration, so this post is to be taken as my contribution to what is a rather spirited debate.  Over at Lew Rockwell, Kevin Gutzman posts several objections to those who believe that the Declaration had a serious meaning to the Union.  Among those objections is that,

Since the 18th century, political radicals have argued for understanding the Declaration as a general warrant for government to do anything it likes to forward the idea that “all men are created equal.” Yet, that was not what the Declaration of Independence meant. The Declaration of Independence was the work of a congress of representatives of state governments. Congressmen were not elected by voters at large, but by state legislatures, and their role (as John Adams, one of them, put it) was more akin to that of ambassadors than to legislators. They had not been empowered to dedicate society to any particular political philosophy, but to declare — as the Virginia legislature had told its congressmen to declare — that the colonies were, “and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” In other words, the Declaration was about states’ rights, not individual rights, and the Congress that adopted it had no power to make it anything else. All the rest of the Declaration was mere rhetorical predicate.

Where to begin?  First, the Founders never proclaimed that the government could do “anything it likes” to forward the Declaration’s self-evident truth that, “all men are created equal.”  Second, he asserts that the document was one that emphasized the rights of the states as autonomous entities.   It wasn’t.  Indeed, in the quote above, the method by which the document was approved, refutes his argument that it was just a list of meaningless words set out to the King to express mere rhetoric.  If it was mere rhetoric, then way go through the process of committee, debate, and adoption?  As Thomas Jefferson so aptly wrote near the end of his life, the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  This means it was a commonly held reasonable opinion, which these unelected congressmen adopted as a statement of principle–it was an expression of the American mind’s belief on the foundation of government; it was where the Founders staked their flag upon which no man ought to cross. The Declaration was an affirmation of an idea–in Greek it can be considered as THE ιδεα! Jefferson understood this when he asserted that the Declaration was an expression of the American mind.  Last time I checked, the congressmen who adopted Declaration were living in the former colonies, and they were a part of that American mind.

Perhaps the most audacious claim, is the belief that the Declaration was written for white men.  And Jefferson’s belief that whites and blacks could not live together justifies this conclusion.  However, this argument is a non-sequiter.  The disbelief in the ability of the former slaves living with former masters is a separate policy question from the belief in Euclid’s axiom that things equal to another are equal to themselves.  Indeed, Jefferson never stated anywhere in any document that he was sure they were unequal in their rights.  The slaves may have been unequal in talent, but it was held as a suspicion only, and any inequality was the result of their bondage not the result of any “natural” affliction.

Jefferson was also clear when he wrote in the Notes on the State of Virginia that God would side with the slaves not the masters should he judge the peculiar institution.  In other words, the Union held onto an institution that defied the truth applicable for all people at all times.  Jefferson was no less aware of this fact when he wrote that we had a wolf by the ears.

I realize that many will associate my interpretation with what the snarky NewRepublicconsidered as being a part of the “Top 10 Gangs of the Millennium,” but the fact is the Lew Rockwell interpretation is closer to Richard Taney’s defense of slavery in Dred Scott than any originalist understanding of the Founding.  Indeed, it is one of the most curious developments of American political thought, that the first defenders of slavery as a positive good were also southerners who believed in free markets–like Thomas Roderick Dew.

* Cross posted at Somewhat Reasonable.

 

Music from the 80s: HoneyMoon Suite

February 14th, 2013 Erik No comments

Going back to my days as a youngin’ is HoneyMoon Suite, which me and the wife heard on Sirius tonight and it brought back memories:

 

 

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Our Changing Demographic

February 8th, 2013 Erik No comments

As noted in the WSJ here, the fertility rate is falling among a certain group, which will lead to a changing America:

Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.

The fertility rate is the number of children an average woman bears over the course of her life. The replacement rate is 2.1. If the average woman has more children than that, population grows. Fewer, and it contracts. Today, America’s total fertility rate is 1.93, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it hasn’t been above the replacement rate in a sustained way since the early 1970s.

The nation’s falling fertility rate underlies many of our most difficult problems. Once a country’s fertility rate falls consistently below replacement, its age profile begins to shift. You get more old people than young people. And eventually, as the bloated cohort of old people dies off, population begins to contract. This dual problem—a population that is disproportionately old and shrinking overall—has enormous economic, political and cultural consequences.

 

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Online Education and Competency

January 28th, 2013 Erik No comments

Is this the Future of Higher Ed? There is still a lot of resistance to online education at colleges and universities, but the modern demand for education in a non central setting is gaining more and more traction. Those colleges that do not embrace this trend will lose market share, and possibly have to shut their doors. Snip:

 

David Lando plans to start working toward a diploma from the University of Wisconsin this fall, but he doesn’t intend to set foot on campus or even take a single online course offered by the school’s well-regarded faculty.

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David Lando plans to join a Wisconsin program that could award him a bachelor’s degree after he takes online tests to establish his knowledge.

Instead, he will sit through hours of testing at his home computer in Milwaukee under a new program that promises to award a bachelor’s degree based on knowledge—not just class time or credits.

“I have all kinds of credits all over God’s green earth, but I’m using this to finish it all off,” said the 41-year-old computer consultant, who has an associate degree in information technology but never finished his bachelor’s in psychology.

Colleges and universities are rushing to offer free online classes known as “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs. But so far, no one has figured out a way to stitch these classes together into a bachelor’s degree.

Now, educators in Wisconsin are offering a possible solution by decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.

 

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

my #1 for the year came near the middle of the year, by the band called DIIV, and “Doused.”

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

It is 2:54, do you know where you are….you might know “You’re Early.” At #2:
 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

I have always liked M83. In march they released this, “Reunion, and so @ #3:

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

Not far behind Royal Bangs, was always A Place to Bury Strangers, and “Onwards to the Wall.” My #4 pick for the year 2012:

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In 2012 I would make several trip to Chicago, and in nearly all those trips, Royal Bangs loomed large. At #5, “My Car is Haunted.”

 

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #6 spot Wild Belle, “Keep You.”

 

 

 

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #7 spot I like the March release by Pond, “Elegant Design.”

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Top 10 Indie of 2012

January 18th, 2013 Erik No comments

In the #8 spot, Tanlines! “All of Me.”

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