Author: Steve Prestegard

Woodstock? Sorry. Can’t make it.

This weekend is the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival.

About which Steven Hayward writes:

Forget asking about citizenship status on the next Census. I’ve always wanted to have the Census ask: “Were you at Woodstock in 1969?” The event was such an icon for the appalling baby boomer generation (to which I sadly belong) that I estimate that you’d get 5 million Yes responses to the question. Maybe that many people believe they were there by astral projection during an acid trip or something.

There was an attempt to organize a 50-year anniversary festival at Woodstock for this weekend, but the effort fizzled. One practical problem, I imagine, is that no vendor could be found to produce enough LSD suppositories.

It is a good time to go back and take in the nonsense written about Woodstock by the mainstream media at the time, and reflect how nothing has changed when it comes to media idiocy and superficiality.

Woodstock set off a fresh round of self-congratulation about the idealism of the young generation.  The absence of destructive chaos was taken as evidence of the moral superiority of the counterculture’s rejection of middle class materialism.  It was, in Abbie Hoffman’s words, “the birth of the Woodstock Nation and the death of the American dinosaur.”  “This festival will show,” Woodstock organizer Michael Lang said, “that what this generation is about is valid …  This is not just about music, but a conglomeration of everything involved in the new culture.” The New York Times thought Woodstock was “essentially a phenomenon of innocence,” while Time magazine chirped that Woodstock

may well rank as one of the significant political and sociological events of the age. . . [T]he revolution it preaches, implicitly or explicitly, is essentially moral; it is the proclamation of a new set of values … With a surprising ease and a cool sense of authority, the children of plenty have voiced an intention to live by a different ethical standard than their parents accepted.  The pleasure principle has been elevated over the Puritan ethic of work.  To do one’s own thing is a greater duty than to be a useful citizen.  Personal freedom in the midst of squalor is more liberating than social conformity with the trappings of wealth.  Now that youth takes abundance for granted, it can afford to reject materialism.

“To do one’s own thing is a greater duty than to be a useful citizen”?? Yup—that pretty much sums up the ethos of modern liberalism. Or as Harry Jaffa put it more bluntly, the core principle of modern liberalism is “every man his own tyrant.”

The New Left was not thrilled with the spin surrounding Woodstock because it suggested that the revolution of youth was far less political than cultural.  After all, the New Left has struggled to get a mere 10,000 to come to Chicago the summer before. “Our frivolity maddened the Left,” one concertgoer remarked.  “We did not even collect pennies for SANE [Society for the Abolition of Nuclear Energy].” Abbie Hoffman had been booed when he attempted to offer some political remarks: The Who’s Pete Townshend whacked Hoffman with his guitar to get him off the stage. But the ever-protean ideological Left managed to adapt.  Leftist writer Andrew Kopkind wrote that Woodstock represented

a new culture of opposition. It grows out of the disintegration of old forms, the vinyl and aerosol institutions that carry all the inane and destructive values of privatism, competition, commercialism, profitability and elitism. . .  For people who had never glimpsed the intense communitarian closeness of a militant struggle—People’s Park or Paris in the month of May or Cuba—Woodstock must always be their model of how good we will all feel after the revolution … [P]olitical radicals have to see the cultural revolution as a sea in which they can swim.

A surprisingly sympathetic account of Woodstock in National Review noted that Woodstock was “a moment of glorious innocence, and such moments happen only by accident, and then not often. . .  [T]hese accidental bursts of aimless solidarity do not last forever.” In fact the purported innocence and new moral world of Woodstock would prove as evanescent as the summer showers that cooled off the concertgoers at Max Yasgur’s farm. A few months later the attempted sequel to Woodstock at California’s Altamont Pass ended violently when the Hells Angels hired as stage security proved they were not yet ready to be part of the Age of Aquarius. The Hells Angels beat a concertgoer to death just a few feet in front of Mick Jagger, who was in the middle of singing “Sympathy for the Devil.”  In contrast to the encomiums to Woodstock, there was little media commentary suggesting that Altamont showed a dark side of the counterculture.

Good riddance to the whole scene I say.

P.S. I do recall a line from Jay Leno back when there was a 30th anniversary concert at Woodstock: “They had to fly in five helicopters of food. And that was just for David Crosby.” Heh.

A more current statement about Crosby would be that they would have to make accommodations for his second liver.

One of the comments about Hayward’s piece:

Two friends were discussing the summer of ’69. One mentioned he attended and enjoyed Woodstock. The other said he didn’t go as he was kinda busy at the time. “Oh, doing what?”…. “Vietnam.” I swear there was then an audible Pacman death sound effect.

And …

I almost made it to Woodstock. I got within around 50 miles from the farm but detoured and entered West Point on July 3. It was very hot and humid in Beast Barracks but they let us Plebes eat a real meal the day of the moon landing. Yeah, it was a great summer.

Be that as that may (I didn’t go; I was 4), I do not write today to denigrate Woodstock, because there is one aspect I find slightly outrageous and considerably more humorous — the bands that did not go to Woodstock, and why they didn’t.

The list begins with Chicago, which certainly would have fit …

… but didn’t get the chance because promoter Bill Graham booked the group into one of his clubs. That made them unavailable, and Graham substituted the group he was promoting, Santana. As bass player/singer Peter Cetera later put it, “We were sort of peeved at him for pulling that one.”

Graham did make it up to the group later:

The rest of the list starts with Ultimate Classic Rock:

Jethro Tull

Reason: Fear of Naked Ladies

“I asked our manager Terry Ellis, ‘Well, who else is going to be there?’ And he listed a large number of groups who were reputedly going to play, and that it was going to be a hippie festival,” Jethro Tull‘s Ian Anderson once told SongFacts, “and I said, ‘Will there be lots of naked ladies? And will there be taking drugs and drinking lots of beer, and fooling around in the mud?’ Because rain was forecast. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ So I said, ‘Right. I don’t want to go.’ Because I don’t like hippies, and I’m usually rather put off by naked ladies unless the time is right.”

Jeff Beck Group

Reason: They Broke Up

Jeff Beck and an all-star band that featured Rod Stewart, Nicky Hopkins, Aynsley Dunbar and Ronnie Wood were actually scheduled to play — only to split up just before Woodstock. Seems Beck simply disappeared on a plane back home, according to Rod Stewart in his autobiography ‘Rod,’ because he was worried about a possible marital infidelity. Not that Stewart was that concerned about missing out. “Ah, well,” he writes. “Seen one outdoor festival you’ve seen them all.”

Led Zeppelin

Reason: They Had A New Jersey Show

Led Zeppelin was invited, of course. But manager Peter Grant apparently decided that headlining their own concert was preferable. Instead, the band headed off to the Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey, just south of Woodstock, for two of the festival’s four days. Grant, in ‘Led Zeppelin: The Concert File,’ said “I said no because at Woodstock we’d have just been another band on the bill.

Iron Butterfly

Reason: They Wanted a Helicopter

Riding the popularity of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly decidedly overreached with its pre-appearance demands — supposedly asking for such niceties as a helicopter ride in from a New York airport, an immediate start time on stage upon arrival, complete payment upon completion of set and an immediate return helicopter ride for airport departure. The story is they were told that promoters were considering it, but ultimately it seems nobody ever called Iron Butterfly back. “Apparently the agent had a real attitude,” festival co-creator Michael Lang has said, “and we were up to our eyeballs in problems.”

The Beatles

Reason: Yoko?

Bob Dylan

Reason: Sick Kid

Another huge star, another raft of innuendo. Bob Dylan reportedly said no because one of his kids fell ill. There was also a rumor that he had become annoyed with the gathering hippies around his home, which stood near the town of Woodstock. Whatever the reason, it didn’t keep him from playing another huge festival — and just two weeks later — at the Isle of Wight. Dylan reportedly left for England aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 on August 15, 1969, the day the original Woodstock Festival started. Dylan then moved away from upstate New York, complaining that his house was being beseiged by “druggies.”

The Rolling Stones

Reason: Filming a Forgotten Movie

The Rolling Stones declined because Mick Jagger was in Australia that summer, filming a forgotten movie called ‘Ned Kelly.’ You don’t remember ‘Ned Kelly’? It’s the poorly received 1970 Tony Richardson-directed biopic of a 19th-century Australian bushranger. Also, Keith Richards‘ girlfriend Anita Pallenburg had just given birth to son Marlon that week in London.

Joni Mitchell

Reason: Silly Scheduling Issue

Joni Mitchell reportedly wanted to play Woodstock, but was dissuaded from making the trip by manager David Geffen, reportedly because he wanted her fresh for an appearance on ‘The Dick Cavett Show.’ In a twist, she would end up performing on that TV program with two other participants in the Woodstock festival – David Crosby and Stephen Stills of Crosby Stills and Nash, and Jefferson Airplane. Worse still, she’d be forced to write ‘Woodstock,’ one of her better-known songs, based on boyfriend Graham Nash‘s account of the event.
The Doors
Reason: Thought Monterey Was Better
The Doors apparently gave Woodstock strong consideration, only to decline the invitation. Not because of a scheduling conflict, however. Robby Kriegerwould later say, “We never played at Woodstock because we were stupid and turned it down. We thought it would be a second class repeat of Montery Pop Festival.” John Densmore, however, had other ideas. He was actually at the festival. Densmore appears side stage during Joe Cocker‘s set in the concert film.

Roy Rogers

Reason: Hated the Idea

The revelation that old-timey TV cowboy Roy Rogers had actually been invited, as well, remains something of a shock. Apparently, as Michael Lang relayed in an interview for the expanded Woodstock DVD, the idea was for Rogers to close out the festival with a rendition of ‘Happy Trails.’ It didn’t happen, of course, but only because “his manager didn’t think it was such a great idea.” Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?
Rogers may sound crazy, but remember that Sha Na Na was there.
11 Points contributes a few more, including alternate explanations:

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention – too much mud

Zappa turned down the gig last minute because he heard rain was coming and didn’t want to play around all that mud. (Bad for the festival, good for one of his future children who no doubt would’ve gotten a name like Runny Soil Zappa or Muddlicious Orthopedic June Caralarm Zappa.) …

The Doors – fear of getting shot by someone in the crowd

Apparently, by 1969, Jim Morrison had such a raging case of agoraphobia that he refused to play outdoors because of a genuine belief that it would give snipers too good of a shot. Really. And, at that point, he still wasn’t The Saint so he couldn’t just roam around in disguise.

The Beatles – Yoko wasn’t invited too

One of the biggest questions in music history is “Why weren’t the Beatles at Woodstock?” It’s up there with “Who was so vain that they probably thought this song was about them?”, “Did Rob Base just say he ‘can’t stand sex’?” and “Did New Kids On The Block really think people wouldn’t notice that Hangin’ Tough and You Got It (The Right Stuff) are the same basic song?” And there are three theories why the Beatles didn’t end up as a part of the festival…

(1) John couldn’t get a visa to come to the U.S. because of his drug arrests. (And Nixon didn’t like him.) (2) Other than their B-Sharps-inspiring rooftop concert in January of 1969, they hadn’t played a show together since 1966. (3) John agreed to play but only if Yoko’s Plastic Ono Band also got an invite… and the Woodstock organizers said hell no.

I’d say #1 is the most boring theory, #3 is the most entertaining theory… and #2 is probably the most accurate theory. …

Eric Clapton – in England with Steve Winwood working really hard on getting their new band off the ground

Woodstock caught Clapton at an awkward time. The Yardbirds were long dead, Cream was recently dead, and Clapton decided to pour all of his effort into launching his new supergroup, Blind Faith. So, rather than play Woodstock, Clapton and his Blind Faith bandmade Steve Winwood decided to have a retreat to really work on their music. It didn’t work — Blind Faith would barely last another few months.

I will draw a parallel to this in a few years when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade skip the 2012 Olympics to practice working together over the summer when they realize their results produced by their superteam is less than the sum of its parts.

Woodstock Story adds:

Procol Harum were invited but declined because the festival was happening at the end of a long tour and the impending birth of band member Robin Trower’s child.

The Moody Blues were included on the original Wallkill poster as performers, but decided to back out after being booked in Paris the same weekend. …

Tommy James and the Shondells declined the invitation, Tommy James would later say “We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, ‘Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.’ That’ s how it was put to me. So we passed.”. (Linear notes to “Tommy James and the Shondells: Anthology”).

Arthur Lee and Love declined the invitation, but Mojo Magazine later described inner turmoil within the band which caused their absence at the Woodstock festival.

Free was asked to perform and declined.

Spirit declined and instead launched a promotional tour.

Mind Garage declined because they thought the festival would be no huge deal and they had a higher paying gig elsewhere. …

Joni Mitchell was recommended by her agent to appear on the Dick Cavett show rather than at the Woodstock festival. It is also believed that Mitchell was discouraged from performing at another festival after a particularly nasty crowd at the Atlantic City Pop Festival who actually made her cry. …

Lighthouse the Canadian band was booked to play, but backed out for fear that Woodstock would be a bad scene.

Rock Pasta adds another:

The Byrds

Like majority of the bands who passed on Woodstock, The Byrds turned down their invitation to play, assuming that Woodstock would be no different from any of the other music festivals that summer. And like most bands who turned it down, they regretted their decision.  Financial reasons were also cited for declining the invitation. Bassist John York recalls,

“We were flying to a gig and Roger [McGuinn] came up to us and said that a guy was putting on a festival in upstate New York. But at that point they weren’t paying all of the bands. He asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, ‘No’. We had no idea what it was going to be. We were burned out and tired of the festival scene. […] So all of us said, ‘No, we want a rest’ and missed the best festival of all.”



The world vs. Christianity

David French:

It’s happened again. For the second time in three weeks, a prominent (at least in Evangelical circles) Christian has renounced his faith. In July, it was Josh Harris, a pastor and author of the mega-best-selling purity-culture book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This month, it’s Hillsong United songwriter and worship leader Marty Sampson.

For those who don’t know, Hillsong United is one of the most popular and influential worship bands of the modern era. It was born at Hillsong Church in Australia and its albums routinely top the Christian charts — in fact, Billboard’s chart history gives it no fewer than eight number-one Christian albums.

It’s a powerhouse in what my former pastor derisively referred to as the “Jesus is my boyfriend” style of worship music. Their songs featured heartfelt, simple lyrics pledging undying Christian love and devotion. They also happen to inspire millions of Christians across the globe.

The relative lack of theological depth to much of Hillsong’s music has brought a predictable response to Sampson’s announcement — shallow songs, shallow theology. But I’m not sure that’s right. Of course only Sampson knows his own heart, but I want to focus on something else. Parts of his Instagram announcement of his change of heart just don’t ring true. I won’t paste the entire statement, but this part stood out to me:

This is a soapbox moment so here I go . . . How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet — they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.

What is he talking about? “No one talks about” preachers falling, miracles, alleged biblical contradictions, or the challenge of hell? I take a backseat to no one in decrying youth ministries that concentrate more on ultimate Frisbee than on catachesis — or on pastors who focus on self-help to the exclusion of sound doctrine — but you simply cannot grow up in an Evangelical church without discussing many of these topics incessantly.

Yes, you can pass in and out of church — attend casually without going to Sunday school — and sometimes hear only therapeutic messages from the pulpit, but if you live in the church, as he did, you have real trouble believing his words. You also have seen the same thing many times — adults fall away in the face of the pressures of the world, rationalizing their departure with words that ring true to everyone except Christians who know what the church is really like.

As our culture changes, secularizes, and grows less tolerant of Christian orthodoxy, I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.

Put another way, the failure of the church isn’t so much of catechesis but of fortification — of building the pure moral courage and resolve to live your faith in the face of cultural headwinds.

In my travels around the country, one thing has become crystal clear to me. Christians are not prepared for the social consequences of the profound cultural shifts — especially in more secular parts of the nation. They’re afraid to say what they believe, not because they face the kind of persecution that Christians face overseas but because they’re simply not prepared for any meaningful adverse consequences in their careers or with their peers.

C. S. Lewis famously said that courage is the “form of every virtue at its testing point.” In practical application, this means that no person truly knows if he possesses any virtue until it’s tested. Do you think you’re loving? You’ll know you truly love another person only when loving that person is hard. Do you think you’re truthful? You’ll know only when telling the truth hurts. Soldiers are familiar with this phenomenon — most men who travel to the battlefield believe themselves to be brave, but they know they’re brave only if they do their duty when their life is on the line.

Earlier this summer, I spoke at an event in Georgia and discussed what I called the “courage cure to political correctness.” Are you afraid? Speak anyway, with humility, grace, and conviction. The law protects, but the culture resists you. After I spoke, a man came up to me and said, “That’s fine for you to say, but you don’t know what corporate America is like.”

I told him that I did know, and that I’ve experienced its bite.

He said no. He said, “It’s like East Germany now.” I asked him if he had tested that proposition, if he’d shared his beliefs in any meaningful way. He said no. He’d preemptively silenced himself.

That’s one version of failing in the face of adversity. Another version is represented by the person who simply wilts, who adopts the critiques of the secular world and lobs grenades back at the church as he leaves.

Are you faithful? I’d submit that you don’t know until that faith is truly tested — either in dramatic moments of crisis or in the slow, steady buildup of worldly pressure and secular scorn. As the worldly pressure and secular scorn continue to mount, expect to see more announcements like Josh Harris’s and Marty Sampson’s. Expect to see more friends and neighbors retreat and conform.  The church has its faults, yes, but the blame will lie less with a church that failed to instruct than with a person who didn’t, ultimately, have the courage to believe.

Bad News Barnes

Dan O’Donnell writes about this state’s lieutenant governor:

Mandela Barnes is a serial liar, of that there can no longer be any doubt. He is now even lying about his lies. After admitting to The Isthmus that he never graduated from Alabama A&M University after years of claims to the contrary, he blamed the confusion on a staffer.

The Associated Press reported Thursday:

A candidate questionnaire that Barnes’ campaign returned to the Wisconsin State Journal last year said Barnes had a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Alabama A&M University.

But Barnes told Isthmus newspaper for a story published Thursday that he didn’t graduate from college because he didn’t complete a course. A&M spokesman Jerome Saintjones confirmed Barnes attended the school but didn’t graduate.
Barnes spokesman Earl Arms said in an email that Barnes has always said he attended A&M rather than saying he graduated. Arms said the questionnaire response was an error by a campaign staffer, and that Barnes “regrets that oversight.”

This is a rather obvious lie. Barnes himself has been claiming throughout his political career that he graduated from college. What other possible inference could one draw from this tweet?

Or how about this retweet?

The article linked in the tweet indicates that “Barnes graduated from college in 2008 and got his start as a field organizer for Obama that year in Louisiana.” Where would The Atlantic have gotten that information? From a staffer? Or from Barnes himself since The Atlantic interviewed him for the story?

Barnes himself said on the “Wedge Issues” podcast in September that he “finished college in 2008.” He said the same twice in a November interview with The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The plain meaning of the phrase “finished college” is to graduate, so while Barnes may have thought he was being clever with semantics since he technically didn’t say he graduated, but that was clearly the inference he wanted readers to make.

It is also completely untrue.

This fits into a troubling pattern of dishonesty from Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, who lied about a delinquent property tax bill in June. When The Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice confronted him with this unpaid bill, Barnes tried to claim that he was in fact paying his taxes in installments and sent a screenshot of his bill as proof.

“There is no installment plan, and the taxes are delinquent,” Jesicca Zwaga of the city Treasurer’s Office said Friday.
Barnes disputed the information earlier this week, sending the Journal Sentinel a screenshot of a portion of a 2018 tax bill that he said was proof that he was paying his property taxes in installments.
But Zwaga said the record from Barnes was just the original tax bill that included the monthly amounts he would owe if he opted to pay in installments instead of a lump sum. She said he failed to make the first payment in the agreement by Jan. 31.
“It is delinquent,” Zwaga said.
Barnes countered: “How is there no installment plan if it (the bill) says installment plan? I’m done with this one.”

That wasn’t his only lie.

Records show Barnes bought his Milwaukee condo in October 2017. There is a small unpaid tax bill for about $70 for the 2017 tax year, according to city records.
Barnes said there was a problem with that debt because the bills were being sent to Arizona where the previous owner of the property moved. He said she owed that sum.
But Zwaga of the city Treasurer’s Office said Barnes would owe this outstanding sum. “Taxes follow the property, not the owner,” she added.

In spite of this, Barnes doubled down on this demonstrable falsehood in a tweet when the story was published.
A month earlier, when Barnes came under fire for the exorbitant cost of his security detail and extensive use of State Patrol vehicles, he lied about using them only for official government business.

Only more work wasn’t being done. Barnes wasn’t just using state vehicles and security detail for official state work. As The Wisconsin State Journal reported:

The records show that Barnes had protection for seven days when he had no official events, based on the review. Three of those days were Sundays, when the only entry on Barnes’ calendar was church. Another day, a Saturday, all Barnes had listed was a 30-minute phone interview.
On one of the Sundays, Barnes received 18 hours of protection when he attended church with Evers in Milwaukee and then came to Madison six hours later.

In other words, the cost of shuttling Barnes around the state wasn’t sky high because he was doing so much more work than his predecessor. It was because he just wanted to have State Patrol officers guarding him whenever he felt like it.

Once again, he lied.

This seems to be his natural defense when confronted with his various misdeeds. No matter how minor an infraction–failing to graduate from college, for example–Barnes believes he can lie his way out of it.

More troubling, however, is his equally instinctive accusation of racism against anyone who calls him out on his dishonesty. The Isthmus reports:

He calls the GOP narrative about him “race baiting.”
“They don’t challenge me on my policy positions, ever,” he adds. “This is a tried and true strategy: racism. It’s not any different than what Reagan did with that supposed welfare queen. It’s not a dog whistle if everybody can hear it. And these are people who hate taxes. Which is a disgusting irony.”

Answering legitimate criticism of his irresponsibility with the vile presumption that such criticism is race-based is both beneath the dignity of his office and yet another example of Barnes’ fundamental dishonesty. Republicans constantly challenge his policy positions: They just spent the past seven months battling him and Governor Evers on the state budget. Did a single Republican launch a single attack on Barnes that could possibly be construed as racist during that tense fight? Of course not. Yet Barnes hurled the smear anyway.

This reveals far more about his character than that of his critics, and this entire episode has shown Barnes’ character to be quite lacking. There is simply no other way to say it: Mandela Barnes is a fundamentally dishonest person.

A conspiracy theory I hatched after the 2018 election was that Tony Evers was just a figurehead and that Democrats had Barnes as the real power in the governor’s office. Whether my theory is correct or not, our Barack Obama wannabe will remain lieutenant governor because of Barnes’ skin color and because Democrats are feckless.

A real conservative, and not

George S. Will:

Regimes, however intellectually disreputable, rarely are unable to attract intellectuals eager to rationalize the regimes’ behavior. America’s current administration has “national conservatives.” They advocate unprecedented expansion of government in order to purge America of excessive respect for market forces, and to affirm robust confidence in government as a social engineer allocating wealth and opportunity. They call themselves conservatives, perhaps because they loathe progressives, although they seem not to remember why.

The Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass advocates “industrial policy” — what other socialists call “economic planning” — because “market economies do not automatically allocate resources well across sectors.” So, government, he says, must create the proper “composition” of the economy by rescuing “vital sectors” from “underinvestment.” By allocating resources “well,” Cass does notmean efficiently — to their most economically productive uses. He especially means subsidizing manufacturing, which he says is the “primary” form of production because innovation and manufacturing production are not easily “disaggregated.”

Manufacturing jobs, Cass’s preoccupation, are, however, only 8% of U.S. employment. Furthermore, he admits that as government, i.e., politics, permeates the economy on manufacturing’s behalf, “regulatory capture,” other forms of corruption and “market distortions will emerge.” Emerge? Using government to create market distortions is national conservatism’s agenda.

The national conservatives’ pinup du jour is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who, like the president he reveres, is a talented entertainer. Carlson says that what Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., calls “economic patriotism” sounds like “Donald Trump at his best.” Carlson approves how Warren excoriates U.S. companies’ excessive “loyalty” to shareholders. She wants the government to “act aggressively” and “intervene in markets” in order to stop “abandoning loyal American workers and hollowing out American cities.” Carlson darkly warns that this “pure old-fashioned economics” offends zealots “controlled by the banks.”

He adds: “The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose does not come from government anymore, but it comes from the private sector.” Well. If living “as you choose” means living free from the friction of circumstances, the “threat” is large indeed. It is reality — the fact that individuals are situated in times and places not altogether of their choosing or making. National conservatives promise government can rectify this wrong.

Their agenda is much more ambitious than President Nixon’s 1971 imposition of wage and price controls, which were temporary fiascos. Their agenda is even more ambitious than the New Deal’s cartelization of industries, which had the temporary (and unachieved) purpose of curing unemployment. What national conservatives propose is government fine-tuning the economy’s composition and making sure resources are “well” distributed, as the government (i.e., the political class) decides, forever.

What socialists are so fond of saying, national conservatives are now saying: This time will be different. It never is, because government’s economic planning always involves the fatal conceit that government can aggregate, and act on, information more intelligently and nimbly than markets can.

National conservatives preen as defenders of the dignity of the rural and small-town — mostly white and non-college educated — working class. However, these defenders nullify the members’ dignity by discounting their agency. National conservatives regard the objects of their compassion as inert victims, who are as passive as brown paper parcels, awaiting government rescue from circumstances. In contrast, there was dignity in the Joad family (of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”), who, when the Depression and Dust Bowl battered Oklahoma, went west seeking work.

Right-wing anti-capitalism has a long pedigree as a largely aristocratic regret, symbolized by railroads — the noise, the soot, the lower orders not staying where they belong — that despoiled the Edenic tranquility of Europe’s landed aristocracy. The aristocrats were not wrong in seeing their supremacy going up in the smoke from industrialism’s smokestacks: Market forces powered by mass preferences do not defer to inherited status.

Although the national conservatives’ anti-capitalism purports to be populist, it would further empower the administrative state’s faux aristocracy of administrators who would decide which communities and economic sectors should receive “well”-allocated resources. Furthermore, national conservatism is paternalistic populism. This might seem oxymoronic, but so did “Elizabeth Warren conservatives” until national conservatives emerged as such. The paternalists say to today’s Joads: Stay put. We know what is best for you and will give it to you through government.

Will puts in words the discontent of many conservatives, that rather than correctly reducing the size and scope of government, Trump and other Republicans are perfectly fine with big government, as long as Republicans are in charge of that big government. Among the numerous problems with that school of thought is the idea that one election predicts the next election. If that were the case, then Democrats would have controlled everything after the 1994 and 2010 elections because of how the 1992 and 2008 elections turned out. Readers know that is not how 1994 and 2010 turned out. Six years after the 2002 election, which gave Republicans control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, Democrats won the presidential election, two years after Democrats took control of both houses of Congress.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Will, including Emile Doak:

There’s been much hand-wringing on the right over Donald Trump’s conservatism—or, more accurately, his perceived lack thereof. From the early days of the 2016 GOP primaries, venerable institutions of Official Conservatism denounced Trump’s departure from orthodoxy on issues ranging from tariffs to Iraq. There was the strange, brief, supposedly serious presidential run from Evan McMullin, a sort of last gasp effort to conserve the Conservatism brand: free markets, strong national defense, individual liberty, and the like. The subsequent launch of The Bulwark ensured that the McMullin gasp was more penultimate than conclusive.

The latest entry into the fray comes from George Will in the Washington Post. Will dismisses national conservatives as simply trying to rationalize the Trump administration’s behavior, and labels their economic thinking “Elizabeth Warren conservatism.” He excoriates Oren Cass as a socialist for suggesting that the United States adopt an industrial policy that allocates resources well rather than “to their most economically productive uses.” He scorns Tucker Carlson’s contention that the private sector now poses a greater threat to personal liberty than government, dismissing corporate power as “friction of circumstances.” To Will, national conservative arguments come at the expense of conservative principles. As he writes, national conservatives “advocate unprecedented expansion of government to purge America of excessive respect for market forces and to affirm robust confidence in government as a social engineer allocating wealth and opportunity. They call themselves conservatives, perhaps because they loathe progressives, although they seem to not remember why.”

The implication, of course, is that the legitimate reason to “loathe” progressives is not necessarily over a difference in political ends (are drag queen story hours good for our children? Do we want a nation in which our manufacturing base is owned by China?) but rather over political means: progressives’ willingness to consider governmental solutions to the social and economic problems that plague our nation. And further, that any openness to such remedial policies among conservatives requires forfeiture of the moniker. Herein lies the essential, un-conservative nature of Official Conservatism. What Will—and Max Boot and Gabe Schoenfeld and countless others—bemoan as unprincipled are not principles at all, but rather policies. These policies, from tariffs to immigration restrictions to troop reductions in Afghanistan, do deviate in important ways from those long associated with the political label “conservative.” They instead seek to conserve a uniquely American way of life—one that, if 2016 is any indication, voters think worthy of conservation. Indeed, the extent to which the language of conservation (“preserve,” “save,” “tradition,” “community”) has been absent from the conservative movementspeaks volumes about the truly un-conservative nature of the modern political right.

More importantly, these Trumpian deviations from established GOP policies often seek to correct the very social ills that those policies produced. Blind commitment to “strong national defense” gave us a generation mired in endless wars that have done little to actually defend the homeland and left their disproportionately working class communities to cope with the social destabilization that accompanies missing their would-be civic leaders. Fealty to “free markets” has hollowed out America’s industrial base and produced unprecedented concentrations of corporate power, which is in turn leveraged against conservative cultural ends—to say nothing of the economic toll on the middle of the country. Overemphasis on “individual liberty” has yielded a thoroughly libertine culture in which religious conservatives can conceive of no defense from the excesses of sexual and identity politics but to wave the First Amendment in vain, expecting equal protection for their “bigoted” views.

Enter Donald Trump. A disclaimer is in order, of course, as the irony of a thrice-married vulgarian acting as bulwark against social unraveling is not lost. Trump the man is but a brute instrument, a bull in a china shop bringing attention to the inability of Republican talking points to actually conserve anything worthwhile. His personal behavior, from philandering to boorish tweeting, merits condemnation when necessary. But wholesale dismissals of the broader Trump phenomenon along these lines are tiresome. At their best, the underlying themes that Trumpian policy reflects represent a far more classical, Burkean conservatism than anything the GOP has put forward in recent years precisely because they deviate from “principled” conservatives. The North Star of conservatism is no longer allegiance to a collapsing three-legged stool, but rather preservation of that which gives life meaning: productive work, strong families, cohesive culture.

One need only look at how the right’s leading lights define conservatism to illustrate the divergence. In the midst of his “principled” stand against the Trump candidacy at CPAC in 2016, Senator Ben Sasse made explicit the policy-principle confusion that has plagued the conservative movement: “Conservatism is a set of policy principles,” he said. Contrast that to candidate Trump, who, in his characteristically clumsy way a mere month earlier, defined conservative very differently: “I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word conserve…. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country.”

Conservatism is not an ideology. It’s a disposition (and as such, is more appropriately discussed in its adjectival rather than noun form). As the founding editors of this magazine wrote, a conservative disposition is “the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God.” It’s no wonder that Russell Kirk, a principal architect of American conservative politics, spoke so often of the permanent things. Those permanent things—faith, family, culture, country; the “elements in the human condition that give us our nature”—are the principles that must guide a conservative politics. Policy should seek to promote them, not vice versa. To the extent that Donald Trump can reorient our policy to serve those ends, he is the truly principled conservative.

To that came this comment:

Let’s be clear: Illiberalism is not conservatism. What the writer espouses is little more than a rear-facing form of Maoism. Conservatives focus on the means of policymaking because we believe that the true and the good have a way of rising to the surface. We also recognize that humans are prone to err, and that concentrated power has a tendency to suppress the truth in favor of entrenched interests.

I agree that Will isn’t interested in preserving some nostalgic vision of American life. He recognizes that time moves forward and that yesterday’s answers won’t always be tomorrow’s. The illiberalism that the writer promotes is indeed akin to “Elizabeth Warren conservatism.” Such illiberalism is marked less by a desire to preserve the good than by a paralyzing fear of the future.

When Goldwater lost the Presidency in 1968, many thought that the movement he started was finished. It wasn’t. It succeeded in large measure because men like George Will put in the hard work of promoting a message of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and respect for human life. All the while, Will raised a son with Down’s Syndrome, and remained a passionate advocate for those with special needs. Meanwhile, the writer is a 20-something-year-old kid whose accomplishments are but a drop in the bucket in comparison to Will’s. And that likely says it all. Will recognizes that wisdom lies at the heart of what it means to be a conservative. The writer, by contrast, promotes a conservatism that has no place for wisdom or the natural limits of human affairs. He desires an authoritarian system that picks winners and losers. Its only difference from progressivism is that it would pick different winners and losers. I’m thankful that George Will has the moral integrity to call out this illiberal faux conservatism as con that it is.

Which prompted this response …

It’s the George Wills who are unwilling to admit their many policy mistakes and who are contributing to the continued irrelevancy of conservatives. Progressives have super majorities up and down the west coast. This will continue if the war-mongers, corporate apologists and environmental denuders keep representing conservatism. The National Conservative movement is true conservatism and most importantly the only hope for conservatism in any form. I was a life-long Democrat and I have found National Conservatism quite appealing. I think others will as well as the movement grows.

… and this response:

After beating liberals over the head forever with wonders the free market, conservatives finally recognize it isn’t producing the results they want so now it’s OK to get government involved.

As someone who abides by the rule that Trump should get praise when he deserves praise and criticism when he deserves criticism, I’m not sure I see a movement as much as a coalescing around Trump’s positions, such as they are.

The Republican Party I grew up with, as led by Ronald Reagan, is not the current Republican Party. Reagan was an optimist, as were such conservatives as Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp. (The Wall Street Journal terms its philosophy “Free markets and free men,” and since “men” obviously includes women in this reference perhaps you could call me a Wall Street Journal conservative.) Trump is certainly not, for what that’s worth.

The conservatism I grew up with emphasized free markets because free markets give the most power to the individual. Deemphasizing free markets and emphasizing government does not make individuals better off. The complaints about the power of corporations neglect the point that a business (and, by the way, those evil publicly traded corporations total 0.1 percent of American businesses) has to earn what it gets — sales of its products or services. Government takes what it wants.

It is most disturbing to see Republicans and conservatives abandon the free market, which has only led to unprecedented prosperity, as in the most wealth for the most people, in comparison with every other economic system in the history of the world. The concept that government, whether run by the left or the right, knows better than individual citizens, as the last two quoted seem to claim, is 100 percent wrong, especially if that’s what a Republican believes.


Presty the DJ for Aug. 15

We begin with an interesting non-musical anniversary: Today in 1945, Major League Baseball sold the advertising rights for the World Series to Gillette for $150,000. Gillette for years afterward got to decide who the announcers for the World Series (typically one per World Series team in the days before color commentators) would be on first radio and then TV.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Aug. 15”

We’re number 22! (Or number 30. Or something.)

At work I get emails like this, from SafeHome:

new study released today found Wisconsin is the No. 22 best state for journalists to live and work.

Despite being the only industry outside of government mentioned in the Bill of Rights, the free press has been under fire in recent years including loss of jobs, decreasing print circulation and increasing anti-media sentiment. today released a study on The Best Places for Journalists to Live and Work using the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Zillow and U.S. Free Press Tracker.

The rankings were determined by factoring in the latest statistics and trends in employment opportunities, median salary, cost of a living and safety concerns including attacks on media members.

Below are Wisconsin findings from the study:

  • Journalist Employment per 1,000 Jobs:.22%
  • Projected Change in Employment by 2026: 21.6%
  • Percentage of Journalist Attacks in Last Three Years: 0%
  • Annual Median Wage: $31,020
  • Median Monthly Rent: $1,000

Below are national findings from the study:

  • 26 journalists have been physically attacked in 2019
  • 5 best states for journalists are Oklahoma, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Delaware
  • 5 worst states for journalists are Oregon, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama, and Iowa
  • 5 best cities for journalists are D.C., New York, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Louisville.
  • 5 worst cities for journalists are: San Jose, Nashville, Riverside, Baltimore and Buffalo.

I can understand Washington’s and New York’s listings. Any capital city of any state ought to be good for journalists. I am unclear about the other rankings.

Click on the link, and I find out, for starters, bad writing:

Low pay. Stressful work. Terrible schedules. People yelling “fake news!” at you — or worse. The modern American journalist has a largely thankless job, but it’s one that nonetheless is crucial to any functioning democracy.

Outside of government, the press is the only industry specifically referenced in the Bill of Rights, and throughout our history, many of the worst abuses of power have come to light only after dogged reporters and journalists got involved.

There’s no doubt that the past few decades have been tough on journalism in the United States. Newspaper circulation has plummeted, and newsrooms have shed thousands of jobs. In fact, between 2006 and 2017, employment in newspaper editorial departments fell by nearly 50%.

Adding to the average journalist’s stress over whether they’ll even have a job tomorrow is the continuing erosion of the public’s trust in news media. While the numbers have ticked up over the past couple of years, public trust in the news media fell to just 32% in 2016, down from a post-Watergate high of 72% in 1976.

All is not lost, though: Enrollment at many major journalism schools, including Columbia, USC and Northwestern has risen over the past couple of years, which would seem counterintuitive if, as people suggest, the industry is dying.

The U.S. is a vast and complicated country, and the day-to-day reality in one place may bear no resemblance to what happens elsewhere. So we wanted to explore where the young journalists who will soon be starting their careers should consider looking for work.

You can jump to the bottom to see our complete methodology, but our rankings of best and worst states and cities for journalists plots every state and the 50 largest U.S. cities on a scale based on how difficult the life of a journalist is likely to be. The calculation includes things like ease of finding a job, typical wages, how expensive rent is and how likely attacks against journalists are. In our scale, higher numbers equate to a worse outlook.

And now, fun with graphics, including a bad math error:

I’ve always said that journalism is the opposite of math, but let’s see if I can illustrate the error. Look at the top eight (and lower is better here):

  1. Oklahoma.
  2. Kentucky.
  3. Nebraska.
  4. New Mexico.
  5. Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island.
  6. Arizona.

Wrong! If Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island tie for sixth, Arizona is not sixth, it’s eighth. Therefore, Wisconsin is not tied for 22nd, it’s tied for 30th.

The news release says Wisconsin journalism employment is going to change 21.6 percent by 2026. The map says Wisconsin journalism employment is going to shrink 21.6 percent by 2026. I can believe the drop given that daily newspapers are cutting employment, including the state’s largest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, due to its ownership for multiple reasons. On the other hand, it’s hard to believe Wisconsin would rank 22nd (actually 30th) with that much journalism job shrinkage.

(The writer’s answer is that the copy indicates change, not positive or negative change. My answer is that someone should have proofread this before it got sent to journalists.)

This is also missing an important feature that might be difficult to categorize, but is vital nonetheless — the strength, or lack thereof, of that state’s freedom of information (in Wisconsin, open meetings and open records) laws. Those are critical to a journalist’s being able to do his or her job. (Here is one ranking, which proves that it’s actually not that difficult to rank.)

This is also weak in another area by only comparing rents and not comparing overall cost of living. The states that pay the highest tend to have the highest costs of living, and vice versa. Housing costs are most people’s largest expense, but journalists do eat.

Time for the obligatory head-shaking because Orange Man Bad!

Even if you agree with his position, it’s impossible to argue that President Donald Trump does not see the news media as his enemy. And while it’s irresponsible to draw a direct correlation between the president’s rhetoric and every attack on any journalist in the United States, there can be no doubt that general hostilities against the press have heated up. So far in 2019, 29 journalists have been physically attacked and since 2017, 46 reporters have been attacked while they were covering protests. In 2018, five journalists were killed, four of them during the horrific mass shooting of the Capital Gazette newsroom in Maryland.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a joint effort by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, monitors attacks on the press, whether in the form of physical attacks, arrests, rhetoric or other attempts to restrain press freedom.

More than 300 incidents have been cataloged over the past few years, with the majority taking place or impacting journalists in D.C. and California.

“Chilling statement”? That used to be a memorable day’s work. (I’ve written here before that I once received a phone call at a TV station that someone was “going to blow up your fucking station” because it preempted Formula 1 racing for infomercials. And I’ve had interesting encounters with school board presidents and Catholic bishops, as you know.)

Remember the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? It appears as though that is no longer the case for at least some journalists, who appear to have become as fragile snowflakes as your favorite millennial woke social justice warriors. Grow up, journalists, and grow a pair.

And now, the windup:

Without a free press, those who would seek to take advantage of the American public would likely be able to do so without fear of consequences. A strong, independent press holds those in power to account in a way that individual citizens cannot do.

The average American spends over an hour every day consuming news, whether in print, on TV or online. Behind each of those headlines and every one of those longform thinkpieces is a team of journalists who’ve decided to devote their lives to a job whose public perception ranks behind undertakers.

In this fractious age where news happens seemingly nonstop, it can be helpful to pause for a moment and consider that without a journalist, you wouldn’t even know that news happened.

Assuming that this news release is in fact news and not a PR factory’s self-promotional tool. I think a certain president would say …

You Are Fake News - Fake News GIF - FakeNews News Donald GIFs

How to ruin your business

Back in my previous life as a business magazine editor, I quoted someone in a story who claimed that getting a new customer was five times as expensive as keeping an existing customer.

So what kind of brainiac thinks that alienating your existing customers to get new customers is a good business strategy? (Besides the creators of the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, that is.)

Dwight Longenecker has the answer:

Gillette is the largest shaving brand in the world. For years they’ve been raking in the cash for their overpriced razors and shave cream. But recently they’ve faced stiff competition from online suppliers. Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club ship shaving supplies to the door. Like most online retailers, they shave the price down and provide smooth customer service.

The online retailers appeal to the younger generation and are clearly the wave of the future. So last year Gillette decided to launch an ad campaign they thought would attract the younger generation. Their film We Believe: The Best Man Can Be was a self righteous, politically correct sermon haranguing men in the wake of the MeToo movement.

The ad made broad assumptions about men and the overwhelming prevalence of “toxic masculinity.” Men were portrayed as bullies and sexist, misogynistic, racist brutes. Then in May they launched an ad showing a man teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time.

The ads bombed big time. They were ham-fisted politically correct propaganda. Not only did people dislike being patronized and preached to, but they resented the sappy, anti-masculine message. It seems men have voted with their wallets. Last week Gillette announced that it had taken a $5 billion dollar loss for the last quarter.

According to Washington Examinerthe head of Gillette is defiant. Defending his choices, CEO Gary Coombe admitted they were hoping to impress young shavers, “It was pretty stark: we were losing share, we were losing awareness and penetration, and something had to be done,” So they decided to “take a chance in an emotionally-charged way.”

The ads were indeed emotionally charged, but it doesn’t take a Madison Avenue professional to figure out that you don’t win customers by insulting them. Making a shaving product ad that insults men is on a par with McDonald’s scolding people for not being vegetarians. Duh.

Coombe was unrepentant, “I don’t enjoy that some people were offended by the film and upset at the brand as a consequence. That’s not nice and goes against every ounce of training I’ve had in this industry over a third of a century,” he said. “But I am absolutely of the view now that for the majority of people to fall more deeply in love with today’s brands you have to risk upsetting a small minority and that’s what we’ve done.”

What interests me about this whole debacle is the larger issue of commercial companies promoting progressive social agendas. Since when is it the business of business to preach to us? During the month of June why did so many American companies feel obliged to drape themselves in the LBGTQ rainbow flag?

Why do the executives at Ben and Jerry’s, Nike, Starbucks and umpteen other name brands feel they must use their platforms as bully pulpits? Even more disturbing, why do the puppet masters behind the scenes of the media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feel it is their business to monitor, censor and impinge on free speech? …

Fortunately, in a free country the free market brings its own checks and balances. The Gillete company nicked themselves badly with their ill-advised ad campaign.

So now customers are abandoning them and their overpriced products. Boycotts are usually the customer’s best counter attack

I’m using a Harry’s razor now. Better shave, and the company apparently isn’t run by woke idiots.