Presty the DJ for Sept. 22

Britain’s number one song today in 1964:

Today in 1967, a few days after their first and last appearance on CBS-TV’s “Ed Sullivan Show,” the Doors appeared on the Murray the K show on WPIX-TV in New York:

Today in 1969, ABC-TV premiered “Music Scene” against CBS-TV’s “Gunsmoke” and NBC-TV’s “Laugh-In”:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 22”

Joe Biden 2021–??

Aron Solomon:

The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, is one of the most important amendments to the Constitution. It establishes the procedures for presidential succession and fills a critical gap that was left open by the Founding Fathers.

The amendment was prompted by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Vice President Lyndon Johnson became president, but there was no clear line of succession if something happened to him. The amendment addresses this by stating that the vice president would become president if the president died, resigned or was removed from office.

The 25th Amendment also allows for the appointment of a new vice president if the office becomes vacant. This was necessary because there had been several instances in which the vice president had died or resigned.

Since ratification, the 25th Amendment has been used several times. In 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford became president when Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal. In 1981, Vice President George H.W. Bush became president (temporarily) when Ronald Reagan was shot by a would-be assassin.

The amendment has also been invoked when a president is incapacitated. In 1985, Reagan underwent surgery and was temporarily unable to perform his duties. Vice President Bush became acting president during that time. The 25th Amendment is an important part of our Constitution that ensures the continuity of our government in the event of a presidential vacancy.

Something interesting is happening in President Biden’s tenure. The same Joe Biden — no more or less capable, as CNN points out — looks different:

“But suddenly, images of Biden as a feeble septuagenarian atop a mismanaged White House have given way to those of an experienced leader, smiling behind aviator sunglasses, whose battle-tested team has delivered on a range of national priorities. A winning streak does that for you.”

The thing with any winning streak is that it eventually ends. While public perceptions and approval ratings of any president can ride one or more nice waves during their four or eight years in office, eventually the waves dissipate and voters see the president in a new light … one that might still shine the light on some key wins but also the reality of the cyclical tough times that every president and every administration deals with.

The reality remains that the median age of a U.S. president at his inauguration is 55. Biden became the oldest president at his inauguration at 78 years and 61 days. Biden was, in fact, older at inauguration day than the previous oldest president, Reagan, was when he left office: 77 years and 349 days.

Suppose we reach the point during Biden’s administration when people are again focusing on perceptions of him as older, weaker and frail, there is no doubt that some will again raise the specter of the constitutional amendment that addresses replacing a president when she or he is unable to serve. Yet there are important reasons the 25th Amendment is used so infrequently.

First, the amendment is designed to address situations in which the president is unable to perform his or her duties, and most presidents can fulfill their duties without issue. Public perception is one thing; the actual inability to perform the job daily is entirely another.

Second, the amendment requires the support of the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet, which can be difficult to obtain. Finally, invoking the amendment can be seen as an admission of failure, which presidents are often reluctant to do.

History has taught us what a serious thing it is to invoke the 25th Amendment. Doing so not only sends a signal to Americans about the health of their president, it sends a message to the world that this is a moment in which the American government may be vulnerable, and this is something no one in Congress should want to do.

Presty the DJ for Sept. 21

First, the song of the day …

… whose writer upon hearing the open called it the happiest song of all time.

The number one song today in 1959 was a one-hit wonder …

… as was the number one song today in 1968 …

… as was the number one British song today in 1974 …

… but not over here:

The number one song today in 1985:

Today in 2001, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC and 31 cable channels all carried “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” a 9/11 tribute and telethon:

The first of the three birthdays today is not from rock and roll, but it is familiar to high school bands across the U.S. and beyond:

Don Felder of the Eagles:

Tyler Stewart, drummer of the Barenaked Ladies:

Self-disarmament from bad leadership

Tim Nerenz:

An interesting article in Army Times on September 15 provided insights into reasons that the services are struggling (to put it mildly) to hit troop strength targets this year.

On the input side, the numbers of high school graduates who contact recruiters with interest has remained steady at 110k per year, but the numbers who are disqualified in initial 48 hour background screening have jumped from historical 30-40% rejection rates to 70% in 2022 due to low test scores, obesity, drug use, and delinquency records.

On the back end, overachievement in 2021 retention masked the drop-off in recruitment, but retention has fallen off in 2022 for a variety of reasons, although the article does not mention vaccine mandates or investigations of “wrong think”.

Parent’s attitudes about military service have also turned increasingly negative, as media coverage of controversies is not balanced by stories that convey the benefits of military service, benefits that carry forward into civilian life. Fewer and fewer extended families have a member in the military of live near a military base.

Only 5% of high schools offer JROTC programs, which provide an important avenue of self-development and “right path” that is increasingly lacking as broken homes have increased and church attendance has decreased in recent generations, scouting has fallen into disfavor, and vocational education had been eliminated.

The Army will end the fiscal year with more than 10k open unfilled positions, just as employers in other sectors are unable to fill their open positions with qualified candidates – has anyone else connected those dots yet? The implications of the recruiting crisis for military readiness are obvious, but the downstream ramifications need to be pointed out.

In a survey of CEOs taken a few years ago, the most common undergraduate and graduate degrees were identified as was the first full-time job, and military service was among the most cited. A separate study of billionaires found similar commonalities. The choices they made at 20 set the trajectory that opened up the topside at 60. Those who have served and those who have served the military community were not surprised by this.

The traits and skillsets and values developed in military service – character, discipline, teamwork, diversity, mission-orientation, unit cohesion, competence, a sense of duty beyond oneself – translate into business leadership and leadership in all other walks of civilian life. In my MBA classes, the military students stand out term after term.

A generation not suitable for military service will not be any more ready to enter the labor force or tackle the rigors of college. Dumbing it all down to make the bad numbers go away is not the answer, and the decision-makers who created this circumstance for Gen Z have a lot to answer for.

These kids are not Democrats or Republicans; they did not choose to be disadvantaged – that was done to them and we all know by whom. It is a tragedy of compounded error whose effects are just beginning to be recognized in proficiency scores, military recruiting, skyrocketing rates of mental health issues, and crime statistics.

The negative consequences of closing schools and socially isolating children and teens in their formative years will linger for decades.

The MSM did not find the Army’s recruiting report newsworthy, although I can’t think of a more important matter of public interest than the controlled demolition of a generation in the name of Covid – the panic, not the disease.

Die sprache war im original ostdeutsch besser

J.D. Tuccille on the polling from this:

President Biden is discovering the hard way that standing at a podium bathed in blood-red light, flanked by marines, and denouncing your political opponents as threats to the country is not as popular a move as he hoped. Poll after poll finds Americans repulsed by the September 1 fear-fest in Philadelphia, which drew comparisons to V for Vendetta and Star Wars for its over-the-top authoritarian tone. The president tried to convince the country that his critics are dangerous, but he seems to have convinced many, instead, that the real peril lives in the White House.

“It represents a dangerous escalation in rhetoric and is designed to incite conflict among Americans” was the choice of 56.8 percent of respondents asked by the Trafalgar Group to characterize Biden’s speech. Another 35.5 percent called it “acceptable campaign messaging” and 7.7 percent weren’t sure.

Sixty percent of respondents told the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll that the speech “divides [the country] and holds it back” while 54 percent added that it “was an example of fear mongering.”

“62 percent of Americans believed Biden’s comments about Trump and his MAGA followers ‘increases division in the country,'” chimes in the I&I/TIPP poll. “Perhaps surprisingly, Democrats—at 73 percent—were more likely to say that Biden’s MAGA comments increased division than either Republicans (50 percent) or independents (57 percent).”

That really is a bit of a surprise, though it might be that those who weren’t already on Team Blue started with such low expectations that the president’s exercise in frothing at the mouth didn’t offer much more room for disappointment. After all, the Philadelphia speech came after Biden had already accused his political enemies of flirting with “semi-fascism.”

It’s true that President Biden’s approval rating bounced back in recent weeks. The FiveThirtyEight average has him at merely 11 points underwater rather than the laughable 20 points he hit back in July. But the reaction to his “threats” speech suggests he’s either poised to send his popularity back off a cliff, or that he’s just firmed up his standing among the true believers while horrifying everybody else. Both Trafalgar and Harvard CAPS/Harris found a majority of Democrats favoring the speech in contrast to I&I/TIPP, so make of that what you will. Everybody found the event unpopular with the general public.

That said, Joe Biden isn’t the entire Democratic Party. His foot-stomping doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for co-partisans as they prepare for the midterm elections. But he’s certainly not doing the brand any favors when he tears up his 2020 promises to act as a unifier.

“I don’t look at this in terms of the way he does, blue states and red states,” Biden insisted during the final debate of the campaign as he contrasted himself with then-President Donald Trump. “They’re all the United States. … I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to be an American president.”

An American president except for the half the country he calls out as representing “extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic” it appears. That he’s not impressing anybody is clear when people are asked what really worries them.

“Do you think that the president Biden is fairly raising issues around MAGA Republicans or is the President trying to avoid talking about inflation, immigration, crime and other issues?” Harvard CAPS/Harris asked in its poll. A majority (59 percent) of respondents said the president is trying to change the subject at a time when people have serious concerns about the state of the country and the world beyond and his administrations is drawing lousy ratings pretty much across the board.

Even more concerning to the president and the ascendant progressive wing of the Democratic Party is where those polled see the real danger when it comes to political movements in the United States. Fifty-five percent of respondents in the Harvard CAPS/Harris survey said they’re more concerned about “the socialist left” while 45 percent answered that they’re more concerned about “MAGA Republicans.”

Of course, it makes sense to focus on the “extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic” that you see actually controlling the White House and Congress, rather than an alternate extremism that’s out of power. But the sizeable percentage worried about MAGA Republicans along with the looming midterm elections raise an important question: Why not both?

Authoritarian factions have taken dominant positions in both major political parties. Which faction is more dangerous is a matter of who is in a position to implement their policies and demonstrate how much harm they can do. At the moment, the Democrats control the presidency, the House, and (barely) the Senate and get to reap the lack of rewards for Americans’ unhappiness with inflation, crime, and the general direction of the country. After the GOP inevitably gets back into a position of authority in D.C., it will have another opportunity to show how much damage it can inflict and maybe Americans will reconsider their assessment of relative perils.

But, right now, Joe Biden is president, and his party wields the power of the federal government. That includes the FBI, which raided the home of the last president, as well as the IRS, which just received an infusion of funds to extract more taxes from the population. Both vastly powerful agencies suffer declining public trust (as does the government overall). That leaves Americans, outside of the Democratic Party’s core loyalists, deeply unimpressed when the person with the greatest authority over that vast apparatus tries to smear opponents as the real danger.

Keep in mind that a significant majority of Americans (67 percent as of 2017, according to Gallup) view big government as the greatest threat to the country. Standing at the head of that government and lashing out at your political enemies isn’t how the president of the United States convinces people otherwise. Instead, it makes an already unpopular political figure look desperate, unhinged, and potentially the very danger he insists is posed by others.

Joe Biden did himself no favors with that inflammatory speech in Philadelphia. He almost certainly worsened political strife in an already divided country that certainly could have used the moderate unifier he promised to be on the campaign trail far more than the inarticulate demagogue he’s been since taking office. Whether he damaged his party’s prospects in the process is something we’ll discover only when voters cast their ballots in November.

Presty the DJ for Sept. 20

The number one British single today in 1969 wasn’t from Britain:

The number one U.S. single today in 1969 came from a cartoon:

The number one British album today in 1969 was from the supergroup Blind Faith, which, given its membership (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker of Cream and Steve Winwood), was less than the sum of its parts:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 20”

Barnes vs. the police

James B. Freeman:

Democrats who joined in reckless political attacks on police need voters to forgive and forget the crime surge that followed. Don’t count on it, especially when it comes to candidates who continue to attract the enthusiastic support of defunders.

Eric Bradner, Omar Jimenez and Donald Judd report for CNN:

Republicans in Wisconsin have in recent weeks hammered Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on crime, casting the Democratic nominee to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson as “dangerous” as they seek to reach the small swath of suburban voters who could decide one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races.

Public safety is not just an issue for suburban voters. Today it’s difficult to find any jurisdiction in Wisconsin—or anywhere in America for that matter—where citizens want fewer police officers on the streets. Therefore even leftists like Mr. Barnes have been sticking to a consistent script in the 2022 election cycle. CNN reports:

In Wisconsin, Barnes, in his own ad launched two weeks ago, said Republicans are trying to scare voters, calling the charge that he wants to defund the police “a lie.”

“I’ll make sure our police have the resources and training they need to keep our communities safe and that our communities have the resources to stop crime before it happens,” Barnes says in the spot.

But even CNN can’t completely ignore his record, reporting:

The attacks so far have focused on Barnes’ efforts as a state lawmaker to end cash bail, as well as a 2020 interview with PBS Wisconsin — weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in neighboring Minnesota — in which Barnes suggested that funding should be redirected from police budgets to other social services.

“We need to invest more in neighborhood services and programming for our residents, for our communities on the front end,” he said then. “Where will that money come from? Well, it can come from over-bloated budgets in police departments.”

“Wisconsin saw a 70% increase in murders from 2019 to 2021,” notes CNN, and voters should hold politicians who supported defunding accountable. In February, Daniel Bice wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

… Barnes is now distancing himself from two unpopular, far-left political movements — defunding police and abolishing ICE — despite support from groups backing these efforts and past social media activity referencing these causes.

Indeed, in the case of “Abolish ICE,” the 35-year-old Milwaukee Democrat even got the T-shirt.

“Don’t know how I missed this reply, but I need that,” Barnes tweeted July 4, 2018, when a Madison activist offered him a red “Abolish ICE” shirt from the Democratic Socialists of America in his size.

Mr. Bice noted a different message in the current election cycle, although its meaning could be open to interpretation:

“I am not a part of the Abolish ICE movement because no one slogan can capture all the work we have to do,” Barnes said in the statement.

Mr. Bice reported more of the disturbing history:

Barnes has received the endorsement of five national groups that have called for defunding the police… In November, Barnes was a speaker at a major meeting of the Center for Popular Democracy, which is a supporter of defundpolice.org. The center tweeted last year, “Defund police. Defund police states. Defund militarized occupation. Defund state-sanctioned violence.”

… As for the numerous groups that favor defunding police but are backing him, Barnes had little to say.

His campaign declined to provide the Journal Sentinel with his answers to the endorsement questionnaires from the Center for Popular Democracy, Democracy for America, Indivisible, MoveOn.org or the Working Families Party. Each of these groups also supports the movement to eliminate ICE.

As radical as the defunders are, it’s hard to say they haven’t made progress in achieving their goal. A recent report for PBS Wisconsin by the nonprofit Badger Project notes:

The number of law enforcement officers in the state ticked down again in 2022, setting a new record for the lowest statewide total since the Wisconsin Department of Justice started tracking the numbers in 2008.

To relieve some of the burden on law enforcement agencies, and attempt to de-escalate encounters between police and civilians, some cities and counties across the state are experimenting with sending non-police employees to answer some 911 calls.

Nothing scares criminals like a non-police presence in response to 911 calls. The idea is to dispatch the non-cops to take information about low-level offenses. But in no way does this mean that serious offenses are getting the attention they deserve.

These days even when budgets are available to hire more cops, it’s harder than ever to find people willing to do a dangerous job that too many Democrats love to demonize when it suits them.

In Wisconsin, the resulting tragedies are not concentrated in the suburbs but in the state’s largest city. The PBS report continues:

Milwaukee has taken the brunt. In 2020, the city set a record for its highest number of homicides in one year: 190. In 2021, it broke that new record by reaching 197. And with 160 homicides recorded by the end of August 2022, the city is on pace to break that record again.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel maintains a website tracking the data and now reports:

There have been 163 homicides in 2022.

This is 30 more than last year at this date.

The PBS Wisconsin report adds:

Instead of “Defund the police,” some law enforcement reformers have promoted a different slogan: “Solve every murder.”

Amen.

Three (at least) forms of conservatism

Daniel J. Mitchell:

At the risk of over-simplifying, there are three types of Republicans/conservatives today (at least from an economic perspective).

  • Reaganites – principled supporters of smaller government and individual liberty.
  • Trumpkins – populists or national conservatives who don’t care about the size of government
  • Bushies – the establishment crowd that often supports a bigger burden of government

Regular readers know which option I prefer, but I can appreciate anyone who has a consistent point of view (hence, my Ninth Theorem of Government).

Today’s column, however, is about how right-leaning organizations deal with the different strains of conservatism. Particularly when they have to deal with politicians.

I’m motivated to cover this topic since the Heritage Foundation (where I worked from 1990-2006) is under attack.

We’ll start with some excerpts from an article in the Dispatch by Audrey Fahlberg  Charlotte Lawson.

…some former employees believe Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation since December 2021, and other senior leaders have lost sight of the think tank’s original mission. Where it used to function as a haven for conservative intellectuals to shape the Republican Party’s agenda, many worry that the institution is attaching itself to a faction of the conservative movement that prioritizes partisanship over policy. …Several former employees cited Heritage’s departure from its foundational commitments—without the knowledge or consent of the scholars hired to translate them into policy positions—as their reason for leaving. Others pointed to one-on-one confrontations with the members of the leadership team over the organization’s ideological trajectory. Fights over who sets Heritage’s “one-voice policy”—which requires that all staff be publicly aligned on any given issue—have caused much of the friction. …Whereas scholars at right-leaning 501(c)(3) research institutions like Cato Institute, the Hudson Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) are permitted and often encouraged to disagree with each other about policy issues, Heritage prides itself in projecting the same voice on every policy issue.

The main bone of contention is whether to give full support to Ukraine.

The disputes extended beyond the debate over Ukraine and preceded Roberts’ leadership. Several former experts and researchers detailed limitations on their intellectual freedom beginning in the Trump era… “There were several instances where I was asked to scrub the phrase ‘President Trump’ from my pieces. I think it was to tamp down any suspected criticism,” said one former Heritage employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about internal dynamics. “We were definitely discouraged from mentioning the Biden administration by name as well, unless we were attacking them.” …At the tail end of the Trump presidency, one former communications staffer said, the media team shut down requests to schedule economics scholars for television appearances about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to preemptively quash any public criticism of Trump’s support for the trade deal. …Some tension has emerged between establishment conservatives and the national conservatives on Capitol Hill, though national conservatives are from the dominant force in the GOP today. That’s not necessarily the case at Heritage. Tori Smith—a former trade policy analyst at Heritage…observed that a similar “tension is playing out at Heritage, and the nationalist conservatives are winning, it’s abundantly clear.”

In a column for the Washington Post, Josh Rogin opined about this controversy inside the conservative movement.

The Heritage Foundation’s turn toward the “new right” is the clearest symbol yet that the MAGA movement’s foreign policy is becoming institutionalized… Some former staffers told me Roberts has prioritized political messaging over policy formation. As Heritage becomes beholden to the MAGA movement’s political whims, these analysts allege, the organization is now following the mob rather than leading it… On Ukraine, Heritage has broken with center-right think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute and is now aligned with the Center for Renewing America (run by Donald Trump’s former budget director Russ Vought), the Koch Institute, and conservatives at the Quincy Institute, who all argue for “restraint,” meaning the opposite of the long-standing internationalist bipartisan D.C. foreign policy consensus. …at the National Conservatism Conference, Roberts said, “I come not to invite national conservatives to join our conservative movement, but to acknowledge the plain truth that Heritage is already part of yours.” …on Fox News, Roberts said it’s time for the United States to declare independence from the “liberal world order.”

I’m not an expert on foreign policy, but I fully agree with the folks at Heritage that non-military foreign aid will not help Ukraine.

But I am wholly sympathetic to that country’s fight against Putin’s aggression. And I’m not sure if Heritage’s opposition to the “liberal world order” means standing aside while Ukraine is attacked.

I’ll close with a broader point about Trump, so-called national conservatism, and think tanks. Heritage’s president said that his organization is “already part of yours” in a speech to national conservatives.

This worries me. At the risk of understatement, national conservatives don’t seem very interested in controlling the size and scope of government.

I’m a believer in “fusionism,” the idea that conservatives and libertarians can be strong allies on economic issues. But that won’t be the case if groups like the Heritage Foundation throw in the towel.

As previously noted I consider myself a “conservatarian,” an economic conservative and somewhere between a social conservative and social libertarian. Another way to put it might be to be a “Wall Street Journal conservative,” since the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s five-word mission statement has always been “free men (people) and free markets.”

Reagan wanted to reduce the size of government, but political forces got in the way. The common feature of Mitchell’s Bushism (or “compassionate conservatism”) and Trumpism is that neither cares about reducing the size and scope of government as long as they are in charge of government. (That’s also a Wisconsin GOP feature.) That is the wrong approach.

Mitchell wrote in August 2020:

I’m skeptical of “common-good capitalism” in the same way I’m suspicious about “nationalist conservatism” and “reform conservatism” (and it should go without saying that I didn’t like the “kinder-and-gentler conservatism” and “compassionate conservatism” we got from the Bushes).

Here’s what I prefer.

Whether you call it libertarianism or small-government conservatism, this is the approach I wish Republicans would follow (or Democrats, if the spirit of Grover Cleveland still exists in that party).

But there are many self-styled conservatives who disagree. They think Reagan and his successful policies are passé.

Interestingly, the desire to move beyond Reaganism comes from pro-Trump and anti-Trump outlets.

David Brooks, a never-Trumper with a column in the New York Times, thinks Reagan’s anti-government approach is misguided.

If you came of age with conservative values and around Republican politics in the 1980s and 1990s, you lived within a certain Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher paradigm. It was about limiting government, spreading democracy abroad, building dynamic free markets at home and cultivating people with vigorous virtues… For decades conservatives were happy to live in that paradigm. But as years went by many came to see its limits. It was so comprehensively anti-government that it had no way to use government to solve common problems. …Only a return to the robust American nationalism of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and Theodore Roosevelt would do: ambitious national projects, infrastructure, federal programs to increase social mobility. The closest National Greatness Conservatism came to influencing the party was John McCain’s 2000 presidential bid. He was defeated by a man, George W. Bush, who made his own leap, to Compassionate Conservatism. …The Reformicons tried to use government to build strong families and neighborhoods. …Most actual Republican politicians rejected all of this. They stuck, mostly through dumb inertia, to an anti-government zombie Reaganism long after Reagan was dead and even though the nation’s problems were utterly different from what they were when he was alive. …there is a posse of policy wonks and commentators supporting a new Working-Class Republicanism… But if there is one thing I’ve learned over the decades, it is never to underestimate the staying power of the dead Reagan paradigm.

Maybe I’m just an “anti-government zombie,” but my response is to ask why Brooks thinks the federal government should be in charge of state and local infrastructure.

Even more important, it would be nice if he could identify a government program that successfully promotes social mobility. There are several hundred of them, so the fact that he doesn’t offer any examples is quite revealing.

By contrast, the Reagan approach of of free markets and limited government works anywhere and everywhere it is tried. And he was right that big government is bad government.

But at least Brooks’ column reminds me to add “national greatness conservatism” to my list of failed philosophical fads.

Now let’s shift to an article from the Trump-friendly American Conservative. Rod Dreher also argues that Reaganism is no longer relevant.

Reagan nostalgia has long been a bane of contemporary conservatism, because it prevented conservatives from recognizing how much the world has changed since the 1980s and how conservatism needed to change with it to remain relevant. …by the time Trump came down that escalator, Reagan conservatism was about as relevant to the real world as FDR’s New Deal liberalism was in 1980. It is no insult to Reagan to say so. Until Trump arrived on the scene, it was difficult for right-wing dissenters from orthodox Reaganism—critics of free trade, immigration skeptics, antiwar conservatives, and others—to break free of the margins to which establishment conservatives had exiled them. …It is impossible to see the clear outlines of a post-Trump future for the Republicans, but…Reaganism—the ideology of globalized free markets, social and religious conservatism, and American military and diplomatic domination—is never coming back.

Sadly, I don’t think Dreher is correct about “New Deal liberalism” being irrelevant.

How else, after all, would someone categorize Obama’s policies? Or Biden’s platform? It’s “We shall tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect,” just as FDR advisor Harry Hopkins stated.

And Reagan’s policies are definitely still relevant, at least if the goal is to improve the well-being of the American people.

Yes, Dreher is right that “the world has changed since the 1980s,” but that doesn’t mean that good policy in 1980 is no longer good policy in 2020.

I think the problem may be that people think Reaganomics is nothing more than lower tax rates, perhaps combined with a bit of inflation fighting. And it’s definitely true that Reagan’s tax rate reductions and his restoration of sound money were wonderful achievements.*

But the Reagan economic agenda was also about spending restraint, deregulation, trade liberalization (he got the ball rolling on NAFTA and the WTO), and other pro-market reforms.

To be sure, Reagan’s policy record wasn’t perfect. But the policies he preferred were the right ones to restore American prosperity in the 1980s.

And while there are different problems today (the need for entitlement reform, for instance), the Reaganite approach of smaller government is still the only good answer.

*Let’s also remember to applaud Reagan for the policies that resulted in the unraveling of the Soviet Empire.

P.S. As explained in the Fourth Theorem of Government, pro-growth, Reagan-style policy can be smart politics.

Trump-style conservatism got rejected in 2020. Reagan won two presidential elections with it. The evidence is clear that voters don’t vote for gloom-and-doom candidates, even if that candidate would have been a far better choice (see 2020).

Why you should go to church

Michael Smith:

In Memphis, Tennessee last week, about sixty miles north of my Mississippi hometown, there was a violent kidnapping, rape and murder of a young teacher committed by a man of disposition little removed from that of a feral animal. This horrific act was closely followed by a random shooting spree that was livestreamed on Facebook by another man absent his humanity. Then there was the vile reaction to the peaceful passing of a British Queen in Scotland by a Carnegie Mellon professor, Uju Anya, who tweeted she hoped Queen Elizabeth died an excruciating death.

These things are connected by a question as old as history.

What is it in the hearts of men that make them do what they do?

It seems such an appropriate question in the first two instances, but the savaging of Queen Elizabeth II and her memory would logically seem to be something different.

It isn’t.

For a long time, I have pondered the role of morality – or the lack thereof – in our contemporary society and how morality either restrains or promotes our actions.

There are certain things civilization once placed off limits, some important enough to do by force of law (murder and mayhem) and some culturally enforced (such as restraint when condemning others).

I was reared in the South during a period when a genteel culture still undergirded small town live. Very much akin to the Victorian culture in England, from which it was clearly cloned, people were polite to a fault, and even the fallen within the eyes of the community were spoken of in polite, hushed tones, if they were spoken of at all. There was a sense that speaking ill of the dead (or those who rejected civil order and civility) should be done in private – and to a very large extent, it was.

That doesn’t mean that people didn’t recognize evil, in many ways, it sharpened the focus on it because it was so out of bounds in society.

This wasn’t a feature limited to the upper classes of my small hometown, it cut across all socioeconomic boundaries to extend to all members of the community. My maternal grandmother, the wife of a farmer and mother of six, would often chastise children and adults alike to hold their tongues when she was witness to abridgement of our informal rules.

For me, I see a tie between Christianity and morality. I was reared in a strong Christian family, with strong Christian values, so I guess that is unsurprising – but I also have traveled the world, been exposed to hundreds of different cultures and the various religions of the world, Christianity, Judaism, Islam (Sunni, Shi’a, Ibadi, Ahmadiyya, and Sufism), Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and many more variations on those belief systems and when it comes down to it, there are a very select few morals all of these religions share.

The inference I draw from that is that morality isn’t uniquely Christian. I’ve also known people who don’t have a religion, even some who reject the existence of God, who act according to moral codes equal or superior to those to which religious people abide.

I also allow it is possible to follow a moral code without being explicitly “moral” or connected to any religion.

But what I have also observed is that those without religious ties are often those most likely to transgress both moral and corporeal (human enacted civil and criminal) laws.

Humans need religion. One thing every human has in common is a search for something to explain the unexplainable or a way to unknow the unknowable, and in almost every case, these searches for meaning evolve into religions. Doesn’t matter if they are monotheistic, polytheistic, agnostic, or simply atheistic, something that fits the definition of a religion always develops.

There is a balance in religion as there is always in nature. When something is taken, something else takes its place to maintain balance. Such is true when we think about a God derived religious morality and the morality that lacks God as a basis. In general terms, the latter is called secular humanism, a religion rooted in science, philosophical naturalism, and humanist ethics.

Secular humanists eschew any reliance on faith, doctrine, or mysticism, and substitute compassion, critical thinking, and human experience to find solutions to human problems.

Secular humanism has attracted quite a following these days, not because it is a positive evolution, I think, but because secularism involves a “flexible” morality where everything is allowed based on what is popular among members of that belief system.

I’ve heard it termed “popular morality”, a fluid system subject to what is allowed or ignored.

Whether we want to recognize it, the secular humanists in our society and culture are sending a message to criminals and university professors alike that your most vile actions and words aren’t going to be eliminated from society.

Who are we to judge?

It certainly seems to me that when anything is fluid, it is meaningless.

Something the French philosopher Albert Camus said, that “’Everything is permitted’” does not mean that nothing is forbidden…” holds universally true.

A morality rooted in God’s Law is that thing that draws the line between what is forbidden and what is allowed. It is what makes taking a life evil, it is what makes lying unacceptable. Secular humanism is seen as “enlightenment”, but not only can it not draw that line, it will not.

Often, secular humanism searches for ways to approve the action that God’s morality forbids, even when that action harms both believers and non-believers alike.

As I noted, I believe people without a religious moral code can act morally. It would seem it is past time for all of us to recognize that whether one believes in God, one must believe that system of morality leads to the type of civil society and tolerant culture that protects freedoms for us all.

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