Tag Archives: mark steyn

Four views of America (Left & Right) showing that we’re ripe for realignment

Summary: Understanding our time requires information, which the info superhighway delivers in excess, but also the much rarer perspective. Here are excerpts from four essays by keen observers that reveal much about today’s America. One from the Right, one from the Left, a Liberal, and a Conservative. Each tells us something. Perhaps most important, that Liberals and Conservatives have grown tired and stagnant. So new ideas and leaders Left and Right have begun to emerge, a familiar pattern in US history.

Singularity Eye

 

Contents

  1. Matt Taibbi sees the humor in the far-Right’s rebels.
  2. Mark Steyn sees Trump as a strange song in our farcical elections.
  3. Heather Patton sneers. She doesn’t look, let alone see.
  4. Another observer well-worth reading: P.J. O’Rourke.
  5. For More Information.

These deserve to be read in full.

(1) Matt Taibbi sees the humor in the far-Right’s rebels

The Dumb and the Restless” by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, 7 January 2016 — “Ammon Bundy and his band of weeping, self-pitying, gun-toting, wannabe-terrorist metrosexuals are America’s most ridiculous people.”

The opening is fantastic (no spoilers, read the essay). He follows this with some powerful insights.

First of all, when did it become OK for cowboys to cry in public? The coolest thing about the Gary Cooper-Clint Eastwood-James Coburn-Yul Brynner-style cowboys is that they never said a damned thing. They walked slow, asses sore from all that riding, and kept things to a syllable or two if they could manage it: “Whiskey.” “Bath.” “Draw.”

… Every time these people open their mouths, it’s comedy. Earlier this week Bundy gave an interview to CNN in which he tried to play up the “We come in peace” meme they’ve been pushing from the start. Like the “nobody’s wearing camo except the camo I’m wearing” line, “It’s a peaceful protest, except for the rifles which we won’t use unless we have to” is also high comedy, although not a single person in the group seems to realize it.

Bundy seems not to get this, however. He’s convinced that this will all get worked out, as soon as the federal government releases the Hammonds from prison (what is this, a list of demands from Hezbollah?) and hands over a healthy swath of federal land to private ranchers.

… these people are dangerous, but their ridiculousness is a huge part of who they are. … their boundless self-pity, their outrageous sense of entitlement and their slapstick incompetence as rebels and terrorists are absolutely ridiculous. Sure, it may not help, but how can we not laugh?

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Yesterday’s Senate hearing shows why climate policy has gridlocked

Summary: Here is the video and transcript of a revealing discussion at yesterday’s Senate hearing about climate change. It shows in miniature how the debate about public policy to fight climate change has become gridlocked.

Cover of "Turning the Tide On Climate Change" by Robert Kandel

Cover of “Turning the Tide On Climate Change” by Robert Kandel (2009)

Hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee:
“Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate
Over the Magnitude of the Human Impact on Earth’s Climate”.

I recommend attention to the Q&A at the hearing between Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Judith Curry (Prof Atmospheric Science, GA Inst Tech), and Mark Steyn (arts reviewer and conservative activist, introduced by Senator Cruz as “an international bestselling author, a Top Five jazz recording artist, and a leading Canadian human rights activist”).

You can see a video of the hearing and the witnesses’ written testimony at the Senate website. Here is Prof Curry’s verbal testimony. The witnesses mostly rehashed material long-familiar to anyone following both sides of the debate (but, as usual, astonishing to the majority following only one side).

I found the Q&A more interesting, as it nicely illustrates why this important issue has become gridlocked — and policy discussions like Kabuki (formal opera, predictable but entertaining).

The transcript appears below, followed by a few comments by me.

——————– Computer-generated transcript ——————–

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Should we thank the Court as it rescues us from our bad laws? Or just bow?

Summary:  America remains locked in a battle between Left and Right. Each fights to protect the Constitution — or the pieces of it they value. Neither cares for the it as other than a tool to advance their interests. The Constitution, torn between them, slowly withers. The American people mildly, intermittently cheer both sides — wanting what they want, ignorant and uncaring of the political processes that constitute the Republic. Today we see this tragedy play out over same sex marriage.

Oracles, ruling on the basis of a document in which few people believe.

Oracles ruling about a document in which many (most?) Americans no longer believe.

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Americans have voted for laws not allowing same sex marriage. Now opinions have changed (for the better IMO), and we can change those laws.  Acts of collective action like this,  working through our elected representatives, strengthen the Republic. We shape America, making our history, showing our power to govern ourselves. This is the natural course of evolution in a democracy.

But many prefer quicker extra-legal measures, wanting results NOW — not caring about the means. Or the consequences.  The Courts, often ready to act as priest-kings — deciders — provide a fast track for social change. As with Roe vs Wade in 1973, the likely result of Supreme Court voiding the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) will be to extend and embitter the debate and further weaken the legitimacy of the courts.

The Republic — and hence us, the people — grow weaker with each exercise of extra-constitutional power by the Courts and the Executive, no matter how well-intentioned. Eventually our leaders will take bold action, promising to give us what we want — security, prosperity, whatever — without bothering to pretend to follow the Constitution. At that point the Constitution will have died.

My guess most of us will live to see that day.

Some people on the Right look at the Courts. Today they cherish the Constitution

I agree with the following views. But the core fact of American politics today is that neither Left nor Right value the Constitution as anything other an instrument to advance their policies. Tomorrow — when looking at government oppression of Muslims, extra-legal assassination of Americans, or illegal surveillance — they might show less concern about old documents.

Gay marriage and the Supreme Court’s empire“, Paul Mirengoff, Powerline, 4 March 2013:

{N}ine glorified lawyers are about to tell us whether the traditional definition of marriage as requiring members of the opposite sex is rational and/or useful (whether the standard is “rationality” or “utility” is up for grabs in the case). By “traditional definition of marriage” in this context, I really mean the universal definition — one that, as far as I know, prevailed until very recently in all societies since the beginning of recorded time. Isn’t it odd that as few as five judges could determine that the traditional definition of this fundamental institution is irrational (or not useful), and make this judgment stick?

Supremacist Courts“, Mark Steyn, National Review, 4 March 2013:

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Snapshots from the edge’s of western society, where change first appears

Snapshots by that acute and politically incorrect observer, Mark Steyn.  These are worth reading in full!

About antisemitism:

About the fading away of the right to free speech:

About our changing concepts of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood:

Does the health care bill mark an inflection point to American history?

Summary:  putting recent events in a historical context.

Many conservatives describe the health care bill in almost apocalyptic terms, a slippery slope on steroids (much as leftists do with climate change). Hat tip on the following quotations to Brad Delong.

  1. Mark Steyn, “Happy Dependence Day“, National Review Online:  “Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side . . .”
  2. Michael Steele, “The End Of Representative Government“, TPM:  “Today, America witnessed the first vote for the end of representative government.”
  3. Megan McArdle, “Life Under RomneyCare“, blog of The Atlantic:  “Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority?”
  4. And John Derbyshire, Calm Despair“, National Review Online, giving the inevitable “western civilization as a sinking ship” metaphor.

From Gordon R. Dickson’s book Necromancer:

This has been a transition period in history. It’s been a time of stress and strain, and in such times things tend to become dramatic. Actually, each generation likes to think of itself as the pivot point in history, that in its time the great decision is made which puts man either on the true road or the false. But things aren’t really that serious. The way of mankind is too massive to be kinked, suddenly; it only changes direction in a long and gradual bend over many generations.

The people writing these things seek to arouse fear.  Panicked sheep are easily controlled.  Let’s disappoint them.

We face nothing worse than previous generations of Americans.  We face nothing that cannot be handled by calm debate, careful evaluation of our problems and options, boldness only when necessary (but not waffling on those occasions), awareness that we’re all in this together, and that it’s a long game.

Today’s volleys in the domestic battle about Afghanistan

The battle continues, and heats up.  Prominent people are chaning sides.  Others double down, advocating that we expand the war.  The stakes are high.  Is the public paying attention?

Contents

  1. Three prominent conservatives turn against the war.
  2. General McChrystal expected to seek more troops
  3.  A debate in the Washington Post
  4. A clearer look at our alternatives
  5. The next chapter in Foust’s series about the case for Afghanistan
  6. Afterword and for more information

(1)  Three prominent conservatives turn against the war. 

I strongly recommend reading Peters article.

  1. Time to Get Out of Afghanistan“, George Will, op-ed in the Washington Post, 1 September 2009
  2. Trapping Ourselves in Afghanistan and Losing Focus on the Essential Mission“, Ralph Peters, Joint Force Quarterly, July 2009
  3. Mark Steyn, at National Review Online (muted objections, not explicit opposition)

(2)  Will DoD request more troops for Afghanistan?

U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Calls Situation ‘Serious’“, Washington Post, 1 September 2009 — “McChrystal Expected To Seek More Resources, But White House Is Wary.” Excerpt:

The administration has narrowly defined its goal as defeating al-Qaeda and other extremist groups and denying them sanctuary, but that in turn requires a sweeping counterinsurgency campaign aimed at protecting the Afghan population, establishing good governance and rebuilding the economy. 

Bernard Finel (American Security Project) on his blog calls this “Classic Doubletalk“:

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The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world

Summary:  This post examines our broken mainstream media, a vital component of America’s observation-orientation-decision-action loop (the OODA loop).  Mark Steyn provides a a current illustration; Lewis Lapham shows that this results from a long period of decay.  At the end are links to other articles on this subject.

The apparatus by which America sees the world, the news feeds of the mainstream media, are broken.  Both its business model and its ability to function (in terms of meeting our needs).  These problems re-enforce one another.

A note about solutions

We can adapt to these, but it takes work.  Via the Internet one can access foreign news, such as the excellent range of British papers and English-editions of foreign press (e.g., Der Spiegel).  Most important, using the Internetone can read the works of those withdifferent opinions.   Or your can rely on comfortable sources, where seldom you’ll hear a disturbing word.  I suggest that the former will work better for you than the latter.

Or you can just read Fred Reed.  Such as his latest analysis of the current big news of the world:  “The Whole World Sucks, and Everybody Thinks its Gravity“.

Excerpts

(1)  Monday, the President ate a burger“, Mark Steyn, op-ed in Maclean’s, 21 May 2009 — “Maybe if they’d covered the love child instead of a fast food foray, papers wouldn’t be dying.”  I recommend reading it in full.  Excerpt:

John Edwards’ adultery was back in the news last week. Well, okay, “back” is probably not le mot juste, given that the former presidential candidate’s mistress cum campaign videographer wasn’t exactly front-page news even in the days when he was coming a strong second in the Iowa caucuses or being tipped as a possible vice-presidential nominee. Every editor knew the “rumours” (i.e., plausible scenario with mountains of circumstantial evidence), but, unlike, say, Sarah Palin’s daughter’s ex-boyfriend’s mother’s drug bust, this wasn’t one of those stories you need to drop everything for.

Only when the hard-working lads at the National Enquirer doorstepped Senator Edwards in the basement stairwell of the Beverly Hilton after a post-midnight visit to his newborn love child and forced him to take cover in the men’s room did the Los Angeles Times swing into action. Alas, it was to instruct its writers to make no comment on a story happening right under their own sniffy noses.

… The one-term southern senator was running on biography — son of a mill worker, happily married, stood devotedly by his wife during her cancer — and, although the press were aware the biography was false, they decided their readers didn’t need to know that. It’s not an Edwards scandal, it’s a media scandal.

… Edwards is history now, and Obama is President. And the other day he and Joe Biden visited a hamburger restaurant. In the Clinton years, the 8 a.m. news bulletin on National Public Radio would invariably begin: “The President travels today to [insert state here] to unveil his proposals on [insert issue here].”  If you’ve read A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Courtby Mark Twain, you’ll recall that Hank Morgan, the eponymous time-travelling New Englander, was much taken by the Court Circular published each week in Camelot:

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