ideological culture browsing by category


Return to Federalism

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

As we make sense of this week’s sea change — of the Great Shellacking Democrats took on Tuesday — some caution is in order.

In 2006, voters did not choose the Democrats because of what they were or what they promised, but because of what they weren’t: corrupt, clueless Republicans. Now, Republicans should remember that they were mainly chosen because they aren’t Democrats: that is, hopelessly narrow-minded, self-righteous, and corrupt.

So, what should Republicans do?

Maybe it’s not to start out of the gate by repealing Obamacare, which its namesake would simply veto.

In Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use. In California, with Proposition 47, Golden State voters ushered in a new regime, downgrading many, many drug violations and former felony crimes to misdemeanor status.

This is the people of the states leading.

They are rejecting the “get tough” approach both parties have supported for decades, an approach that has had the dubious result of being most popular with public prison workers’ unions and the private prison lobby

Opposing drug use may be socially “conservative.” Politically speaking, however, granting government nearly unlimited police powers, and without regard to objective results, is not.

If the Republicans want to lead in Washington, they should follow the people in these bellwether elections. Back them up. End the Drug War and, with it, the Prison-Industrial Complex. Return criminal justice back to the states, where the Constitution originally put it. And where modifications can be more easily made.

Return to federalism. Return to reason.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Military vs. Weather

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

The purpose of a military — unless invading places for the hell of it — is to wield violence against violent threats to your country. What else are all the tanks and guns for?

The putative threats haven’t normally included . . . the weather.

But that’s been changing.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is on board with scare-mongering about catastrophic “climate change,” supposedly wrought by mankind’s industrial contributions of carbon to the atmosphere. But Chuck needs to study harder if he thinks that hurricanes, tornadoes, and other rotten weather — or, for that matter, changes in average global temperature — are anything new on this planet.

He also credulously accepts the most dire predictions about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, islands sinking under the ocean, rising emigration and global unrest, etc. And without a touch of irony avers that we must be “clear-eyed” about “the security threats presented by climate change, and . . . proactive in addressing them.”

How are soldiers supposed to “address” variations in weather except, like all of us, by proactively wearing coats, carrying umbrellas, turning on air conditioning, moving away from eroding shorelines, building arks, etc?

Drop bombs on coal plants?

Not quite.

Secretary Hagel wants defense ministers to start attending UN climate-change conferences, for starters.

In other news, scientists say the rate at which plants are absorbing carbon dioxide (green things love the stuff) has been substantially underestimated in climate models.

Just when you think you’ve got the enemy figured out. . . .

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

An Ebola Education

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) faces a tough re-election contest. Following his campaign, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt inquired: “Do you think the Obama Administration has done an appropriate job handling the Ebola crisis?”

The senator responded with the universal politician distress call: “Uuuhhhhmmmmmm.”

Then Pryor stumbled ahead: “I would say that . . . it’s hard to know, ah, because, um . . . I haven’t heard the latest briefing on that to know all . . . [inaudible] can somehow read the paper and all. My impression is that we have people over there both from CDC and other medical-type people and even some engineers to try to build . . . um, you know, medical facilities. That’s what they need over there; they need the medical infrastructure.”

When Hunt asked whether the Administration had been “aggressive enough,” the senator returned to: “Uuhhhmmmmm. Again, I’d have to see the latest numbers.”

“Oh my god,” uber-liberal host Mika Brzezinski reacted to Pryor’s stumbling. “She asked a gentle question . . . and the guy just collapsed.”

“What was that, Kasie?” laughed Joe Scarborough. “Why were those questions so hard for the senator to answer?”

“I was a little surprised . . .” Kasie chuckled, noting that Sen. Pryor had earlier run a ludicrous TV spot accusing his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, of voting “against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola.”

One might think the incumbent senator actually followed and cared about the effort to combat a horrible disease that could kill untold people. Instead, it appears he knows Ebola only as a brickbat with which to slug a political opponent in hopes of staying in power.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Principled, and Un-

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Can one “rise above principle”?

Aren’t most (all?) who think they “rise above principle” actually sinking below it?

Economist David Henderson called our attention to this notion in reference to legal theorist Richard Epstein’s call for a war against ISIS. On, he challenged Epstein’s support for the president’s war on ISIS on constitutional grounds, and wondered why constitutional scholar Epstein hadn’t addressed this concern.

Then Epstein addressed it — using that curious phrase “rise above principle.”

Henderson’s response? Characteristically astute:

In which times of crisis do you need to “rise above principle?” What are the criteria for doing so? If you don’t specify criteria, then I think you’re saying that anything goes. If you do specify criteria, don’t those criteria amount to a principle? In that latter case, are you really rising above principle?

It’s not just a matter of constitutionality, though. Just war requires coherent goals. And a debate and vote in Congress over going to war against ISIS could help establish those goals.

Clearly, the continuing interventions in the Islamic East have suffered from massive confusion. A year ago, President Obama called for regime change in Syria and wanted to bomb government forces; today, we are bombing ISIS, the main opposition to that same government.

Sinking below principle on matters of warfare is the least excusable abandonment of law. It’s the suppression of hasty warfare — individual, group, or national — upon which the rule of law rests. Upon which civilization rests.

There’s no “rising above.” There’s no acceptable abandonment. There is only sticking to principle upon the issues that matter most.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

How to Occupy Hong Kong

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

The fight for freedom doesn’t stop at the border.

Hong Kongers, we are with you.

Your protest against continued tyranny by mainland China is a just cause. The Communist Party of China may no longer be in Marx’s pocket, but its members remain greedy and dictatorial and oppressive.

Leung, the governor of Hong Kong, refuses to step down. Tyrants do cling to power. (No term limits for them!) But the people have every right to demand his ouster under a principle established in our own revolution: Government must rest upon the consent of the governed.

I have no idea how this will all turn out. Ever since the Tiananmen protests, a generation ago, I’ve harbored hope: a freer future for the Chinese. But I know they are up against a juggernaut, an extremely entrenched exploiter class. The Tiananmen protests were violently put down, suppressed. Will Hong Kong’s be?

I think the people of Hong Kong know what they’re up against. All Chinese people know how corrupt and dangerous their government is. But the details, the exact history of the crimes? Not so much. Kept under wraps. Still, the people of Hong Kong developed a taste for freedom under the Brits. If not a taste for democratic elections. Now they are demanding both electoral democracy and democratic freedoms.

The protesters “occupying” Hong Kong have American analogues. But are they “Occupier” or “Tea Party”?

They aren’t demanding socialistic levels of more government. And they aren’t trespassing, or committing crimes. And they pick up after themselves.

That’s the way to “occupy” a city: For freedom, responsibly.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Uber Rebellion

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Customers in Germany and elsewhere have flouted irrational attacks on the popular ride-sharing service Uber.

As I have explained before, Uber’s software lets passengers and drivers connect in a way that bypasses regularly regulated taxicabs. Cabbies don’t necessarily oppose the innovation. Many see Uber’s app as a nifty way to get customers. And, of course, many riders see it as a nifty way to get rides.

But taxi dispatchers? Well, that’s another story.

At least it is in Germany, where an organization for dispatchers called Taxi Deutschland has kvetched that the San Francisco company lacks the Necessary Permits to do electronic dispatching in Deutschland. Thanks to TD’s loud complaints, a German court issued a temporary injunction against Uber, prohibiting it from conjoining ride-seekers and ride-givers in happy synchrony.

Uber decided to keep operating in the country anyway, despite the threat of huge fines.

They’ve gotten lots of moral support. In response to the injunction, customers quietly but firmly told regulators “Laissez nous faire!” — a.k.a. “You’re not the boss of me!” — by doubling, tripling and even quintupling demand for Uber’s app. Matthew Feeney of Cato Institute points to jumps in signups in the days following the court’s order: in Frankfurt a 228 percent jump, Munich 329 percent, Hamburg 590 percent.

Last July, in the U.K., Brits surged their signups eight times over after protests against the company.

Keep up the good work, rebels.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Goodbye, Kittens and Puppies

Monday, September 8th, 2014

The global warming won’t kill us; we’ll be done in by the suffocating silliness of overheated alarmist “science.”

I’m provoked to this proposition by the advent of Harvard Prof Naomi Oreskes’s new book The Collapse of Western Civilization, in which she and Erik Conway “report,” from the vantage point of 400 years hence, that all Australians have gone gurgling into the climate-change whirlpool.

Also all kittens and puppies. Their extinction “occurred” in 2023:

The loss of pet cats and dogs garnered particular attention among wealthy Westerners, but what was anomalous in 2023 soon became the new normal. A shadow of ignorance and denial had fallen over people who considered themselves children of the Enlightenment.

I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Oh Paul! Science fiction writers project all kinds of wild dystopian scenarios. You can’t treat these as serious attempts at evidence-based, logic-based, purely plausible extrapolation! We don’t think time travel is plausible. Does that mean we shouldn’t read H.G. Wells? Come on!”

Yes but . . . it’s not me claiming that Oreskes’s claims are “all based on solid science.” She’s claiming this. She’s the one averring that the universal demise of cuddly pets is grounded in “scientific projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Hmm. Hold on. Perhaps Oreskes is indeed conceding that her tale is mere groundless fantasy, if the politicized mulch that is the IPCC’s annual report is what she considers unassailable support for her ludicrous scenario-spinning.

I stand corrected, Dear Reader.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.