Gentlemen! You Can’t Fight In Here!

It’s the War Room:

Possibly the most important event of the vice president’s day Tuesday is to meet at 2:15 with Earl Devaney. Everyone knows him as chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the top guy monitoring the gazillion-dollar stimulus and the overdue economic recovery, and ensuring that the taxpayers financing same know all about it.

However, no one outside the room will know what goes on in that Biden-Devaney meeting. That’s because the government meeting on government transparency has been closed.

I have to admit that I’ll miss Joe Biden for the entertainment value. I just wish that he didn’t have as much power as he does (not that he has much, but however much, it’s too much). He does remain great impeachment/assassination insurance for the president, though.

On Conservative Skepticism Of Climate Policy

I’m pretty much on the same page as Jonathan Adler:

Hendricks’ effort to scare conservatives into supporting big government now to avoid bigger government later rings particularly hollow. Why is it that everything requires bigger government? Climate change is a threat? Extend government tentacles throughout the economy. Climate change is already happening? Ditto. Adaptation is necessary? More of the same. Were climate change not happening at all, I suspect Hendricks would still endorse a substantial expansion in government power.

Admittedly some on the right are equally reflexive, assert government is never the answer, and go to lengths to deny climate change poses any threat whatsoever. Yet there are also plenty of conservatives and libertarians who are deeply skeptical of government intervention, but are nonetheless willing to believe global warming might be a problem. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions does not require the enactment of monstrous, pork-laden, regulatory statutes like Waxman-Markey. And it’s not at all clear that climate adaptation necessitates a massive expansion of government power. In many areas, such as water, climate adaptation requires more reliance on markets, not less. Climatopolis author Matthew Kahn also blogged here about how successful climate adaptation will be driven by market forces, not government planners.

I share Hendricks’ and Farber’s frustration that more conservatives don’t take climate change or other environmental concerns seriously. But I also believe some of this is the environmentalist movement’s own doing. If everything calls for the same big government solution, why does it matter what the problem is?

Concern about the environment has always been hijacked by socialists, going all the way back to the early “progressive” movement, and the trend just got worse with the end of the Cold War, and socialism discredited, after which they changed brands and became watermelons. Policy has to be based on a rational calculation of the costs and benefits, rather than simply using every perceived crisis as an excuse for further accumulation of government power.

Obama In Asia

Thoughts from Walter Russell Mead.

I haven’t had much to say about the India trip, but I do think that it’s one of the few things (particularly in foreign policy) that the president has (finally) gotten right, after dissing the Indians early on. One of the few things that I thought the Clinton administration got right was free trade, in which it had to fight its own party, and only passed NAFTA with Republican help (kind of like civil rights in the sixties). I hope that similar good comes from this trip (despite Robert Gibbs’ bizarre meltdown and power grab — a press secretary can unilaterally remove a president from a summit? Really?).

Commenting Issues

I’ve noticed that some comments are automagically disappearing into the spam folder (including my own). If someone is having a problem, let me know via email. I just updated WordPress to the latest version, and it’s still doing it. I’ll try updating Akismet next.

On The Stupidity Of The TSA

I’m with Jeffrey Goldberg:

It is a source of continual astonishment to me that pilots — many of whom, it should be pointed out, are military veterans who possess security clearances — are not allowed to carry onboard their airplanes pocket knives and bottles of shampoo, but then they’re allowed to fly enormous, fuel-laden, missile-like objects over American cities.

The TSA is one more bit of idiocy on which George Bush was such a huge disappointment. This is another of those policies that the new crop of Republicans should renounce, and fix.

What’s So Great About America?

Some thoughts about American exceptionalism, and the apparent allergy to the notion from the Left:

Republicans must take care that “exceptionalism” doesn’t collapse through thoughtless repetition into a mere slogan, another bit of political cant like “Take Our Country Back” or “Move America Forward,” losing all meaning even as it wows the focus groups. For the line of argument that Rubio pursues, his way of framing the choice that voters face in the Obama era, is uncommonly—you might say, exceptionally—useful, for three reasons.

First, the idea of American exceptionalism has the benefit of being true. The United States is fundamentally and demonstrably different from other countries. It is bound together by a founding proposition, and properly applied the proposition has brought freedom and prosperity to more people, and more kinds of people, than any other. Second, a large majority of Americans believe American exceptionalism to be true. And third, it drives Democrats right around the bend.

It’s not clear why. Maybe liberal polemicists don’t quite understand what the phrase means, and so they pummel it into a caricature. In Politico last week, under the oddly truncated headline “U.S. Is Not Greatest Country Ever,” the columnist Michael Kinsley wrote that exceptionalism is “the theory that Americans are better than everybody else.” The next day, on a well-trafficked liberal website, another columnist said much the same thing—they tend to run in packs, these guys. Other countries, this columnist wrote, are “investing in infrastructure,” unlike the United States, which apparently just spent $780 billion in stimulus on chopped liver. At the same time, he went on, “the Republicans have taken refuge in an antigovernment ideology premised on the lunatic notion that America is the only truly free and successful country in the world.”

Assuming they were offered in good faith, these characterizations are hopelessly confused, conflating exceptionalism with jingoism or xenophobia or mere self-aggrandizement. (He got the antigovernment part right, though.) But even if they do understand what the term means, we can’t be sure that professional Democrats really believe it. Liberalism in its present degenerate form is reactionary—a gesture of irritation at the backward quality of ordinary American life, at its culture, its food and dress and amusements and politics, and especially at the mindless and sentimental patriotism that unsophisticated Americans are so quick to embrace.

Read all.

It strikes me that a lot of the hysteria about the change in direction of space policy this year arose from a knee-jerk assumption that it was just one more way in which the president was trying to make America unexceptional. But in fact, the Apollo program and paradigm is an exception to exceptionalism in its big-government, central-planning approach, and ironically, the new plans are much more in keeping with traditional American values. I think I’m going to do an essay on this to at least convince those Republicans who sincerely oppose it on what they mistakenly imagine are conservative ideological grounds, and aren’t driven by the pork considerations.

Radical-In-Chief

An interview with Stanley Kurtz, on Barack Obama’s socialism:

Obama was a socialist even before he reached Columbia. But it was in April of 1983, in his senior year, that Obama walked into an off-campus Socialist Scholars Conference. That conference changed the future president’s life and gave him a program he’s been following for his entire political career, right up to this day.

It was in the early eighties that American socialists turned in force to community organizing as a long-term strategy for transforming American society. With Reagan as president, conventional socialist nationalization of America’s businesses was impossible. So instead the focus turned to grassroots strategies for creating socialism “from below.” Community organizations like ACORN would take hold of the capitalist system from the ground up, forcing banks to make risky subprime loans, for example. The idea was to create de facto public control of businesses through community organizations, rather than through formal government ownership.

The symbol of all this was Chicago’s Mayor Harold Washington, who worked closely with Chicago’s small but influential collection of socialists, many of whom brought the community organizations they controlled onto the Washington bandwagon. The buzz at that 1983 Socialist Scholars Conference was that minority-led political coalitions would work in tandem with community organizations to swing the Democratic Party left. This would incrementally move America toward socialism. Harold Washington became Obama’s political idol, and Obama was swept up in plans to create a partnership between quietly-socialist community organizers and left-leaning minority politicians to reshape the American system.

Amazingly, the Socialist Scholars Conferences Obama attended in New York in the mid-eighties even put him on the path that led to Reverend Wright. The Democratic Socialists of America, which sponsored those conferences, had just formed an alliance with the black liberation theologians who were Reverend Wright’s mentors. Obama would have learned all about the ties between black liberation theology and socialism at those conferences.

It’s a shame that the media was too busy sending reporters to go through the dumpsters in Wasilla, Alaska, to do this kind of research. But there are only so many resources, and priorities have to be made.

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