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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|Here are a few of the things I'm Thankful for this Thanksgiving--|
--I'm thankful that I don't have to watch the Detroit Lions more than once a year
--I'm thankful for cranberry sauce
--I'm thankful that for most of my friends and family, a tough time means not having money for two car payments or the hundred dollar pair of basketball shoes; even as our country begins a recession, we have it SO much better than 90 percent of the world . . .
--I'm thankful for the music of John Williams, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copeland
--not to mention Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Wynton Marsalis
--I'm thankful that I live in a country where I can say whatever prayer I want to prior to stuffing my face, or even say no prayer at all
--I'm thankful that many of the churches that teach those prayers devote many resources to taking care of those who have no meal to stuff in their face on this day
--I'm thankful that my children have all learned the art of the courtesy laugh, and apply it liberally where dad is concerned
--I'm thankful that I live in a country that can undergo revolutionary change . . . without a single shot being fired or a single casualty
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
|Catch up with Joshua, Michael, and Ben tomorrow night at 9 pm for the latest edition of Blog Talk Radio . These are three of the really big brains out there, so tune in. And if you're busy at 9, catch it on podcast or archived rebroadcast from the site.|
|Most Important Things #2: Education Reform|
Can we begin with one, simple premise?: Every child is somebody special, and has the potential to be somebody spectacular. God created each of them in his image, with His spark and with an infinity of possibilities for their lives.
Does that seem a reasonable starting point for our discussion of education? Because, to look at the public schools today, you would not see an institution devoted to that premise. Nor would you recognize that premise from the political discussion of public education. And, if you asked all the parents out there, my firm belief is that close to none of them would tell you that their child(ren) is being treated that way.
So, what is the problem? The problem may be that the schools of today are devoted to moving the masses along at the same speed to whatever end they manage to achieve. Instead, the schools SHOULD be dedicated to driving each and every student towards the upper limit of what they are truly capable of. We should not be encouraging the herd to move, because the herd can only go as fast as its slowest member, and that is a formula for mediocrity. Instead, we should be encouraging students to become "outliers"--to think of themselves as and to behave as if they were actually different than the other students in their class.
Pretty revolutionary stuff, eh?
Ten or fifteen years ago, conservatives took up the mantle of education reformers, and caused a great deal of change. The advent of testing brought a sense of accountability back to the classroom--a sense that disappeared for a while as the schools believed it was their job to improve the "self-esteem" of their students.
Unfortunately, that accountability was applied to the masses--"No Child . . ." is driven by the premise of moving the entire herd; CSAP holds accountability, NOT for students, and NOT for teachers, but for entire schools in their aggregate. The entire idea is of the herd.
Unfortunately, to a degree, even that accountability has stalled out--lo and behold, in many ways, we've come to discover through testing there is a soft ceiling to how high those test scores can go. In other words, testing has revealed that there are certain segments of the population that do very well at testing, and there are certain segments that do not do well. And, in truth, to some degree that testing aptitude also does not have a great deal to do with actual learning.
And, as that accountability is stalling out, we are approaching a time when liberals are going to be the ones who define what change comes next. This is true for a couple reasons: one, liberals are in charge of everything right now; and two, conservatives haven't put up a new idea in ten years.
So let me propose a few ideas.
First, the 1996 T.I.M.M.S. study found, with the results corroborated elsewhere, that American Math textbooks (and thus, curriculum) cover many more topics than their counterparts throughout the world, but they do so in very little comparative depth. The end result is that American students know much less about much more, and end up getting creamed on international tests. I would generalize that to say that the same is true across the board: American schools, particularly in academics, try to do too much. Think of all the different constituent groups that the schools try to cater to, and imagine trying to design a curriculum that serves all of them.
Idea #1: cover less, do it in depth, do it better. For a change, let's learn a little bit from the CTOPU (Countries That Out Perform Us), and figure out what's really important, and then make sure the schools teach it. For instance, you can NOT possibly teach every aspect of American History from every point of view effectively; so, instead, focus on Primary Documents like the Constitution and the Declaration and "I Have A Dream," and focus on critical events like wars, and let the students start to develop ideas and opinions of their own. It is very interesting to compare MLK with Malcolm X in style, but the truth is that MLK moved the entire country, while Malcolm drove a relative handful--MLK deserves time and concentration. And at that, still less time than Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.
Secondly, school reforms are more often than not incited by college professors who are far away from the classroom and who haven't been in a classroom in years. As an example, I cite my school district's move to "Math Investigations," a curriculum that has been in circulation for about eight years, with one major revision about five years ago. Here's the thing: M.I. hasn't proven, even just a little bit, to move test scores upward or to make students better capable of functioning in the "real world." So why does my school district move to it? Because it got a great deal from the publisher, and because it's the next great thing. In the meantime, teachers get to repeatedly send home lovely reminders to parents that "our fifth grade is still weak at computation," which is because M.I. doesn't think that's terribly important.
Idea #2: Concentrate on what works, discard the rest. I'm not advocating any sort of knee-jerk reaction to ideas that don't prove out in the space of a couple years; I'm talking about running schools like an business laboratory--a business doesn't attempt to do what failed for another business (did you ever hear of "New Pepsi"?), neither should schools. Innovation is a great and wonderful thing, but every scientific experiment has a pilot program--so should schools.
Third, I can tell you from experience that the move towards accountability shook up the education establishment something fierce. You should have seen the near-panic in the teachers' lounge at the idea of putting a number on a schools' performance. But the schools adjusted, they strategized, they took a professional approach, and they made the move. Now, testing is a normal, if unpleasant, reality that nobody really chafes at too badly (until the scores show up in the newspaper). That simple move towards objective standards changed behavior.
In one segment of the population. Unfortunately, there is a whole other population that is necessary to successful education: students. And, by extension, families. The schools have changed, but their clientele has not, and testing has not done anything to increase the accountability to students and parents. Sure, each student gets their individual scores on the test, but those scores are not used for any purpose--that is, until 11th grade when the ACT is neede to get into college. One of my favorite headlines/ledes from the news last summer was something to the effect that "Students who were not proficient in 3rd grade still not proficient two years later in 5th grade." What the Hell is that student doing in 5th grade if they weren't proficient in 3rd? And worse, that student is probably being "remediated" to the extent that they are only spending their days on the things that they are bad at, while never having the opportunity to discover or explore what they are good at.
Remember how every child is special and could be spectacular? And if that child is capable of 5th grade work, but "chooses" to only do 3rd grade work, where is their accountability, other than the mind-numbing boredom of their days?
Idea #3: Let each student move through the curriculum as fast--or as slow--as they are able, until mastery is achieved, for twelve years. Let every student start in the same place; test them after twelve weeks; those that have mastered the subject move on to the next stuff; those that haven't repeat the materials until they learn it. If that means that after twelve years, some students still haven't earned a high school diploma, then they need to be re-routed at the end of the 11th year to be taught a useful skill; if that means some students complete high school after only 9 or 10 years, then the state gets to pay for the first 2 or 3 years of college. In the meantime, expand the universe of possibilities for every student, and make sure that every school has a vast array of arts and performance and athletics--AND TECHNOLOGY--offerings that give the students the opportunity to learn who they are and in what way or ways they are unique and spectacular. We just might find that not every kid is cut out for college, but that our schools are going be producing a generation of young adults who have useful skills and a sense of direction for their lives.
I saw an interesting number the other day: the number of students in India that are in the top 25% is a larger number than the number of students in all of America. If we want to compete with their best, we'd better start making it easier for our best to be spectacular. And, in the meantime, we'd better find a better way to produce a productive middle 50%.
|One of the things politics in latter-day America tends to do is become a source and inspiration for great passions. Unfortunately, sometimes those passions drive out an appropriate sense of proportion for the place politics should play in our lives.|
To that point, Ben has been running a very good series over the last two weeks about what he's thankful for. If you haven't been tuning in, you should try to catch up with his thoughts on this week heading into Thanksgiving.
And give some thought to what you're thankful for in your own lives. To misquote Yoda:
"Thankfulness leads to happiness; happiness leads to joy; joy . . . leads to peace"
|M.I.T. #1: The End of the Internal Combustion Engine|
In 1940, President Roosevelt ordered 50,000 fighter planes to prepare for World War II; everybody said it was impossible; instead, America cranked out an armada of more than 100,000 planes--enough to blot out the sun.
In 1961, President Kennedy laid out the goal of putting a man on the moon within a decade; at the time, WE KNEW NOTHING! Nonetheless, on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong took "one small step . . ."
There is every reason--EVERY REASON--to believe that if the politicians showed the will, and got out of the way of the really smart people who know what they're doing, that America could end it's reliance on oil altogether within a decade.
Do we know anything that would make me think this is a realistic goal? NO. Though there are some fairly exciting things going on in people's back yards, if they end up being not just hoaxes.
Has anybody even run a test on a product or process that could accomplish this goal? Not that I know of, though the Volt seems to be promising.
What would it take? First of all, it would require a federal effort . . . ha ha ha. I couldn't even get the line out with a straight face.
If the federal government really wants to contribute to this, it would make available lots and lots of grant money that people--ordinary people--could apply for. The combined ingenuity of the American inventor would do wonders.
Have you ever been to a drag race? A formal one, like at Bandimere Race Track in Morrison, CO? What you see there on a typical Saturday in the summer are dozens and scores of ordinary people who devote a lot of their time and treasure to building the perfect car--all the combinations of motor size, air flow, tires, gas mixture . . . all in pursuit of the perfect run. And these are no dumb hicks doing this--the complex mathematics involved, combined with the clever application and bending of a few immutable rules are really the work of intense engineering. I know this, because my father-in-law has been racing cars his whole life, and his explanation of the improvements he's made to his engines over the years require a slide-rule, a glossary and a lot of time to decipher the diagrams.
Does anybody out there think that a few of these guys--and girls--couldn't come up with something better than the union shops if somebody gave them enough money to pursue it full-time for a couple years, with the resources to build what they come up with?
Detroit won't do it--the end of the internal combustion engine would put too many unions out of business.
The feds won't do it--the EPA would never let them do the testing and experimenting required.
This is the kind of job that the American people are perfectly suited to do. Two years to work on their own and make things the best they can, then come together in some sort of clearinghouse where all the best brains can look at what's been done, and start to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Is there anything more important to national security at this time than bankrupting the extremist Wahabist oil barons? Is there anything more important to world stability than rendering the oil nations of the middle east, along with Venezuela and Russia, irrelevant to the functioning of the advanced economies in the next 50 years?
The invention of the steam engine led directly to the industrial revolution in the 18th century; the internal combustion engine made the globe one community in the 20th century; the 21st century needs its own revolution.
And it should be led by Americans.
And if a conservative doesn't lead the way, proposing a consevative, individual-centered approach to solving this problem, then it's a sure thing that Obama and the Dems will lead the way to a government "solution" which will, almost assuredly, give the world the finest carbon-offset program money can buy . . .
but no engine.
|Thanks to the technical prowess and leadership of Joshua, Blog Talk Radio makes its debut tonight at 9 p.m. mountain time. Hosts tonight are Josh, Randy from Night Twister and yours truly.|
So at least two of the guys will have smart things to say. I'm aiming for witty repartee . . .or not so much.
We will be joined by Seeme Hasan of Muslims for America. Join us. It should be great fun!
UPDATE: This was grand fun! If you missed the broadcast, it's available at www.blogtalkradio.com/Rocky-Mtn-Blogs . This is going to be a weekly event now, so start setting your calendars for Tuesday nights at 9.
|Become the Party of Big Ideas. And, if you can't fight the inertia of "Party," then become Individuals of Big Ideas.|
And I'm not just talking about a laundry list.
Look, the world is at an interesting juncture right now, and I'm not just talking about a world with a descendent, Democrat/Socialist America. Consider: Iran and NoKorea are on the brink of becoming nuclear; Russia becoming aggressive again; Japan and all of Europe in a recession, with America close behind; the Latin and Muslim worlds rapidly overtaking the West in terms of demographics; and, while I like that I can fill my tank for less than $30, it seems to me that plummeting oil prices don't actually help security and stability in the middle of the world, especially at this juncture in History.
In my life, there has never been a time of such widespread anxiety and uncertainty. The Cold War was dangerous, but we understood that; the Carter Era was embarassing, but I don't remember the sort of external threats that play on us now; Watergate was bad for the country, but its effects were, for the most part, limited to America. I'm no history expert, but I can't think of a time when the consequences to the whole world of the next few years were as significant since the early- to mid-1930's. Global economic trouble, weak international leadership, ambitious, aggressive, bad guys--sound at all familiar?
Luckily for Republicans, there is a wonderful model for how to handle the wilderness from that very era: the 1930's became the era of Winston Churchill, and every Republican who has any interest in even pretending to be a leader should be taking the Christmas vacation to study "The Wilderness Years."
The lesson of Churchill, it would seem to me, is look at the whole gameboard, and then address the Most Important Thing. When was the last time it looked like a Republican understood the Most Important Thing? It's easy to say that George W. Bush gets the M.I.T., and his entire Presidency has been predicated upon stopping Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, he never rallied the entire country into the effort (going to the mall, oddly, does not count), and his credibility on protecting the American people took a hit with Hurricane Katrina (not the actual event, but the P.R. bungle). Oh, and, he also suffered the same fate as Churchill--successful war leads to electoral loss.
Unfortunately, it's really hard to say just what the M.I.T. is likely to be--and THAT'S THE POINT! Somebody needs to look at the whole gameboard! While the country is absorbed with its own economic worries, there are bound to be other things and powers and forces out there moving, and somebody needs to start to address those. If Obama gets to that point first, he could dominate American politics in a way no individual has since Eisenhower. Luckily, Obama will be greatly hampered by the pathologically short-sighted Left.
And, y'know, it may just be the the M.I.T. is NOT one thing, but massive, wide-spread change of everything we know. Howard Gardner did a profile once ( I don't remember the exact book, but I'll go look it up) of a generation of world-changers: Einstein, Stravinsky, Freud, Ford, Marx all lived and did massive work at roughly the same time in history. That generation changed the world. And we're due for the next generation to do that same thing. Maybe the M.I.T. is identifying those people, those changes, that generation, and then nurturing it in a way that guarantees that it contibutes to an American intellectual Renaissance.
In my next several posts, I'm going to try to propose an agenda for Republicans that would put us out in front of the M.I.T. Let me make clear: I have no idea what the M.I.T. is or is going to be, but Republicans need to step back from their shellacking of two weeks ago, stop whining about losing, and get their eyes on Big Picture items.
Let me just start by proposing this one, radical, idea: winning elections DOES NOT qualify as a Most Important Thing.
|I've mentioned that Republicans need to turn their attention to their rhetorical skills and to creating alternatives to the "professional journalist" classes to get their message out.|
Of course, all of that is pretty meaningless if they actually have nothing to say. And that, I think, is REALLY the big problem.
Can anybody out there name ONE, important piece of legislation the entire Republican caucus (allowing for a few stragglers) was in favor of before we lost control of, well, everything? I can't.
Immigration reform? Nah--Bush and McCain tried to force that one through with the help of Ted Kennedy. What a fiasco.
Health Care? Nah--come to think of it, with the exception of Mitt Romney, I don't think I've heard a health care proposal until McCain had to come up with one for his campaign.
Education? Nah--No Child Left Behind has been effectively reduced to a punching bag, and I haven't heard anything else really new since charter schools and testing became the norms ten/fifteen years ago.
Energy? Ah, I think we had a concrete idea here, but even the Presidential candidate this year couldn't land on a coherent plan (in what way does it make any sense to drill offshore but not in ANWAR?), so I don't think it can be said that Republicans really put out a good idea for America. And, to be honest, I don't think they tried to make this an issue until after we were in the minority, anyway, so . . .
The Economy? Um . . . I don't even know what to say here. I was pretty proud of the House Republicans when they turned away the $700 bil bailout, but then they caved right after a whole bunch of goodies got added to it, so it really didn't leave us a very good argument. And, prior to that, we spent and talked like Democrats, without a good idea since the 2003 tax cuts. Why wasn't a Republican committee chair screaming from the highest mountain for better regulation of the housing sector four years ago? I mean, if John McCain can send a letter, surely somebody can actually look at the big picture and say "hey, maybe all these unsecured loans to people who don't really qualify might come back to bite us in the butt."
In many ways, Republicans became the victims of their own success, and of George W. Bush's boldness. W failed to learn the lesson of his father--a bold military move has only two electoral results, and both of them are bad: failure gets you blamed for incompetence and foolishness, and success takes away the good issue. In 2006, there was still a debate to be had about the War in Iraq, but the White House's seeming cluelessness about it made it a no-winner; and this year the success of the Surge turned the issue into a second-tier issue.
By the way, let me make it clear that I still think the War was a good idea. Seven years, no civilian attacks--the record speaks for itself. However, I also think it's easy to see that it did not go the way everybody was hoping and predicting it would go, so the party that led the march pays the price.
Climate change? Here's what cracks me up: WHY oh WHY has not a single important Republican gone in front of a microphone and brought up all the real, scientific arguments against climate change. At the very least, a Republican "leader" ought to mention that the irregularities in the data collecting and the inaccuracies of past predictions should be driving Americans into a very serious debate about the issue, rather than simply cowering to the press narrative and giving in on the issue. Of course, it doesn't help when our Presidential candidate takes the condescending route and the only real "Big Idea" guy out there has opted not to engage the actual issue, but instead propose an alternative solution to the phantom issue. But, again, one way or the other, our Leaders have refused to constructively engage.
Even Karl Rove, the "Mastermind," was mostly famous for winning elections--NOT driving a legislative agenda.
So, on an entire host--arguably, THE entire host--of important issues, Republicans have built a record of having no ideas.
Eloquence and friendly media can't solve that problem.
Tomorrow, I will begin to work in that direction.
|Can't . Get. Thoughts. Straight.|
President George W. Bush fervently defended U.S.-style free enterprise Thursday as the cure for the world's financial chaos, not the cause. He warned foreign leaders ahead of a weekend summit not to crush global growth with restrictive new rules.
"We must recognize that government intervention is not a cure-all,"
And then . . .
In a stunning turnabout, the Bush administration Wednesday abandoned the original centerpiece of its $700 billion effort to rescue the financial system and said it will not use the money to purchase troubled bank assets.
Maybe, just maybe, if we were trying to convince the world of the soundness of capitalism and free markets, MAYBE WE SHOULD TRY IT!!!
Oh, and just WAIT until the Democrats get all the power to bail out thie union-heavy industries that are failing.
|Once upon a time, I thought this might be a challenging question. But, scarcely 8 days after winning the election, he's already got three policy decisions vying for the answer.|
:Stem Cell Research Even though there is now voluminous evidence that other technologies can accomplish the same as embryonic stem cells, Barack Obama "The Uniter" is planning on starting out his tenure by ordering federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, thus alienating a good 30% of the population
:Dealing With Terrorists "Only after they renounce terrorism", right? Or not.
In an interview published Tuesday in the London-based Al-Hayat, Dr. Ahmad Yousef, political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said senior Hamas figures had held a secret meeting with advisers to Barack Obama in Gaza before the U.S. elections.
I'm having a hard time deciding what's more offensive--the arrogance of holding this meeting before the election, the outrage of having the meeting altogether, or the willing complicity of the "professional journalist" class in not bothering Obama with questions about this.
:There's Only One President See above.
I think it's safe to say that this is only the first of many posts on this general theme.
|MSNBC Retracts False Palin Story; Others Duped|
MSNBC was the [willing] victim of a hoax when it reported that an advisor to John McCain had identified himself as the source of anembarrasing story about former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the network said Wednesday.
A lot easier to be duped when the narrative fits perfectly with your preconceived notions about the world.
If it were possible to simply brand yourself as the Democratic News Channel, MSNBC would be a lot more comfortable in its own skin. Of course, it might get a few disputes over the claim to that name, but it would be a lot more accurate.
I wonder when the powers-that-be at NBC grow weary enough of the embarrasment to do something about it. Especially since MSNBC is (surely) a money-losing proposition.
or who gave the last, full measure in service . . .
a humble, heartfelt thank you.
|Part I was basically "Learn How To Talk."|
This is more of a structural idea, rather than the stylistic thoughts of the last part.
Let's start with this lovely, and hilarious admission from the ombudsman of the WaPo:
The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.
So, for the "professional journalists" to acknowledge the tilt, it must have been rather remarkable. How many points in the final tally do you suppose that tilt was worth? 2? 3? What if it was worth 6 points, or even ten?
I only ask that because it's becoming increasingly clear that the "professional journalists" are vastly more interested in influencing the public than they are in reporting the news or in informing the public.
Which leaves only one option for those of us on this side of the ideological divide: we must stop feeding the beast. If we have a subscription to the WaPo, we must cancel and tell them why; if we get our news from a biased source on TV, we must stop watching them and tell them why; if we regularly drop $10 dollars a seat to numb our minds with George Clooney's "Ocean's Seventeen and a-half", we should find a better use for that $10--and then tell him why.
Is the media Leftist? Of course it is. Is Hollywood Leftist? Of course it is. But as long as they're the only game in town, they know that they will never pay a price for their Leftiness. I would suggest that until they start to feel the difference in their wallets, they will continue to fund those that we disagree with in astonishing numbers. I don't mind that Matt Damon is a Leftist Democrat--I do mind that he has access and infrastructure (for lack of a better word) to be able to funnel tens of thousands of dollars to Leftist causes. One conservative estimate had Oprah's contributions to Obama at $1 million! There's absolutely no reason for any of us to continue to fund her funding of him.
AND LET HER KNOW WHY! Tonight I turned off the evening news from our local channel, and turned on FoxNews. When my wife wondered why, I explained all of this to her, and she seemed to understand and give in.
The downside, as we learned tonight, was that we didn't get any effective local news or weather. So, we'll have to work harder to learn what to do to get the information we need. Luckily, most of the real information we rely on is available for free online--that requires just a little bit of work, and I don't know yet how easily that will translate for us.
So, what's the solution? Well, this is easy from an entertainment perspective. Most of what's on TV or available in the movie theaters is garbage anyway, so it's easy to forego most of that. I would strongly recommend offerings on ABC family for their family-friendly programming, sports is always safe, and there seems to be a growing production industry for decent movies. Let me recommend two of them: last weekend my wife and I saw Fireproof in the theaters (poorly acted, but with a solid enough message that it doesn't really matter after a while), and this weekend we bought and watched The Ultimate Gift. These are both family-friendly, religion-friendly offerings that do more than just entertain--they actually manage to enlighten, if just a little bit. But, even better, it means that $20 of my money went to people who are trying to improve society through their entertainment offerings, rather than simply funding a massive political campaign. The point is, there are better options out there! Do a little thinking with your entertainment money. Given the choice, but a Charlie Daniels album rather than a Maroon Five album; see a Mel Gibson movie rather than a Ben Affleck flick.
On the news front, this is much harder. It starts with relying on the internet offerings of the conservative newspapers and reliable news sources. But that has only a limited ability to influence the world as a whole.
The real solution lies with the sources of money that are available to the Republican infrastructure. And we know there are some--Mitt Romney has a huge personal wealth, and entertainers like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger would certainly qualify. These people have to find a way to counterbalance the George Soroses of the world. And they use that huge personal wealth to do one thing: create opposition sources of news.
Such a thing is not without precedent. After all, the early pamphleteers were nakedly partisan; Europe has a long history of opposition media; and a robust alternative to the WaPo's bias, the NYTimes constant revelation of national secrets, and CBS's invention of hit pieces is the only realistic alternative. Does anybody seriously think that, given a viable option, conservatives and Republicans wouldn't put their energy and the treasure into developing the alternative?
What of talk radio? you ask. What of the blogs? you ask. I think they have become choir-leaders, but I don't know how much they actually serve to influence mass opinion any more. However, they can AND SHOULD serve as the talent pool-source for the new outlets of media that will need writers, talkers and thinkers.
Just my little thought. Republican leaders need to have something to say, but they also need to have someplace to say it. Beyond that, rank-and-file Republicans have to have access to alternatives that will inform them while not continuing to fund the Leftist "professionals." Such an effort is long overdue--the Left figured this out forty years ago, and Dan Rather and Woodward and Bernstein motivated an entire generation that is now starting to win elections.
Somehow, we have to develop mirror institutions, or all the great ideas and great rhetoric in the world will be of little use.
|There is starting to be some sniping from within the GOP campaign, with McCain staffers blaming Sarah Palin for the loss.|
Yeah. SHE was the problem.
To demonstrate just HOW she was effective, let me line up some facts for you.
Bernie Beuscher, the man who was slated to be the next Speaker of the Colorado State House, was just defeated by a political novice for his Grand Junction seat.
John McCain had a rally in Grand Junction that drew a crowd of "thousands."
Sarah Palin had a rally in Grand Junction that drew a crowd of 22,000!
If down-ticket races are an issue of party enthusiasm, whose appearance do you think did more to take out Rep. Beuscher?
|My good friend and frequent intellectual barometer, The Captain, has taken me to task for my post the other night. But, it turns out, the disagreement was more of a misunderstanding than a real disagreement.|
Ahh . . . pronoun problems.
When I wrote that elections are won by winning arguments, which is a combination of ideas and expression, he rightly pointed out that in the last several Presidential elections the person with all the ideas lost (Gore, Kerry, McCain). But that assumes little i "idea." I think what I needed to express better was that the most effective communicator always wins with Big I "Ideas."
Gore had a million plans and ideas, but none of them were particularly coherent expressions of a Big Idea; Kerry all kinds of thoughts, but they were often so contradictory that it muddled any Big Idea; and McCain has made a (POLITICAL!) career of not having a coherent philosophy, but jumping from one self-aggrandizing moment to the next, just to stay on Chris Mathews' good side.
The trick is in being able to articulate a Big Idea that meets with the mood of the electorate at that time. So George W Bush, though completely inarticulate, was able to hammer home the Big Idea of the surplus belonging to the taxpayer. Unfortunately, after "They'll hear from all of us real soon" and "We'll never tire, and we will not falter," he has never been able to get back to a Big Idea. No message, no expression . . . no electoral victories.
Caveat: the Big Idea, by itself, is not sufficient. There is a minimum level of detail awareness that a politician has to be able to have at their command to establish credibility. Sarah Palin was not hung out to dry with Katie Couric because of the Big Idea, it's because Couric never let her come off of the details , and her command was insufficient to establish credibility. Ronald Reagan only really sweat the details on a few policy initiatives; but he spent the entire 1970s diving into the details so that he could both inform his Big Ideas and establish credibility. The Republican Party, since 2004, has no credibility talking Big Ideas because its actions as a governing majority were as small idea as it comes. Even Karl Rove, as effective as he had been, was effective primarily at winning elections--a small idea, NOT making bold new policy.
If the Republican Party wants to find its way back from the wilderness, it needs--as I said the other night--to actually be able to talk to an audience. But it also needs to know what it wants to say.
|Two nights ago I wrote that Rahm Emanuel was " . . . one of the most effective, but also most partisan, alums of the Clinton war rooms, who . . . has absolutely no military or national security/foreign policy experience."|
I was wrong. Turns out Emanuel has no AMERICAN military experience. He was, however, a civilian volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces.
I like Israel's chances for the next four years. At least, I like them better than I did Tuesday night.
|I am in the process of thinking through the "why" of the Republican debacles over the last two election cycles. This is going to take some time, and several posts to fully examine. After that, I suppose, I'll take a break.|
Let's start with a simple premise: elections are won by winning arguments--by convincing the voters of the sincerity of intent, the efficacy of reason, and the urgency of need to choose one person/party's ideas over those of the others'.
There are many ways to win that argument, but the any attempt at mass persuasion has to involve two things: superior mass media and effective message. The media is a story for another day.
The message is what I'll deal with today. And, to be more specific, the delivery of the message is what I'll deal with. Communication requires both an actual idea AND the ability to pass that idea on to another. And, though I'm not a professional, I would have to say the Republican Party over the last eight years has been singularly the most incompetent communication organization I've ever seen. The actual idea is not the problem--the initiative process seems to show that the country is still roughly centrist or slightly right-of-center--which leaves the ability to pass that idea on as the problem. And, BOY, what a problem that is!
Starting with the President, whose sense of right and wrong is something I admire, whose sense of judgment, while shaky at times, was faultless in crunch time, and whose basic principles are things I agree with, but whose ability to communicate is, at BEST, weak. After eight years of the brilliantly nuanced Bill Clinton, the country was ready for a plainspoken President--we got over it. When he followed his principles and decided not to fight certain PR battles, it highlit his priorities; but when he was unable to express his convictions regarding the fights he WAS willing to take on, it just made the whole exercise hopeless, even comical. His malapropisms are now the stuff of lore, and any time you can reduce a person or an office to a punch line, you lose.
And who can forget the hapless performances of Scott McClellan in front of the White House press corps? When he didn't seem overwhelmed, he seemed uninformed; when informed, he was easy befuddled; and, once befuddled, he had no arsenal of wit or misdirection to fall back on. When the President most needed a spokesperson who could master the delivery of his message, he was shackled with a person who I'm not sure I would hire to read copy for a used car dealership commercial. It wasn't until Tony Snow was brought in that the message achieved any coherence at all, and his tenure was too short, too late.
But it wasn't just the White House that suffered--Congressional Republicans have been nearly as clueless about communicating a message. On the House side, nobody seems willing or able to take on the imminently confrontable Nancy Pelosi--it's like everybody's afraid to say something wrong or get accused of being mean. And, while Mitch McConnell is very effective at expressing opposition, I have yet to see him or anybody else effectively articulate a positive idea, much less a whole agenda. I was once told to feel good about Orrin Hatch's ability to make an argument, particular where judges are concerned--I never saw it. Sadly, John McCain suffered the same fate. A truly GREAT man who doesn't seem entirely comfortable speaking in public, combined with an actual voice that central casting would find laughable . . . well, you see what we got.
And I don't think this is just a media thing. I'm pretty sure that the problem ISN'T that the media just isn't showing good Republican arguments. They get the opportunity to make those arguments some places, like Fox and some of the extended interview shows, and they come across pretty weak.
The last great Republican apologist was Newt Gingrich, and he still is; unfortunately, he's confined to being that from the antiseptic confines of the punditry class. But, even at that, he always seems to have a thorough knowledge of the topics, he seems to have actually thought about the implications of different courses of action, and he always makes his arguments from a deep core of fundamental beliefs. THAT's what wins arguments.
And I don't see anybody currently in office being that person. Jeff Flake has been known to be pretty good; John Shaddegg has had his moments; and there are a handful of others that seem to fit the bill. THEY NEED TO BE IN FRONT OF EVERY CAMERA THEY CAN FIND EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. And then they need to teach the rest of the caucus to do the same thing.
GO EVERYWHERE! TALK TO EVERYONE! TALK ABOUT WHAT MATTERS TO JOE THE PLUMBER! But, mostly, know what you're talking about, and don't take anybody's crap. Don't fear the "racism" charge or the "divisive" charge or the "facist" charge--learn how to deal with them.
And then learn how to ask pointed, simple questions. Take every opportunity to appear with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the White House representative and learn how to stop yelling at them and ASK POINTED, MEANINGFUL QUESTIONS. And then be damn ready to express a better alternative.
Is it easy for me to sit on the sidelines and snipe? Sure--but I've also stuck my neck out, including a public TV appearance (watched by 17 whole viewers). I don't mind the fight, I'm just not in a position where I get asked to fight all that often. And I have a HELL of a lot of respect for people who do get in the ring, like John Bodnar, Libby Szabo and the RMA's very own Joshua Sharf. But they're not the leadership--they're the next generation. Our elected officials and "leaders" are in the fight all day long--and they don't seem to want it.
If our side can't learn how to deliver our message, our side will stay in the wilderness for an awfully long time.
ADDENDUM: If you don't think the delivery is important, consider: this country just elected, in a near-landslide, a person whose one great accomplishment is making a speech. He manages to say essentially nothing (message), but says it so eloquently that nobody cares (delivery). I don't imagine that a more eloquent Republican nominee would have beaten Sen. Obama this particular year, but I do think that a more eloquent Republican could have at least steered the discussion onto ground more favorable for down-ticket candidates.
|The post-racial, post-partisan uniter picks his Chief-of-Staff: Rahm Emanuel, one of the most effective, but also most partisan, alums of the Clinton war rooms, who is, by the way, also of somewhat ambiguous ethnicity and has absolutely no military or national security/foreign policy experience.|
The Dow Jones suffers its sharpest post-election decline in history--486 points, or 5.05%.
Russia makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that it has no intention of granting Obama an international honeymoon.
Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday became the first world leader to throw down a gauntlet to US president-elect Barack Obama, declaring that the Kremlin would station missiles in the tiny Russian enclave of Kaliningrad,
So, you know . . . welcome to your next job, Mr. President-Elect.
|"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.|
Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" --Job
There will be time for post-mortems and recriminations. For now, we must celebrate, for it all serves the same purpose.
Even if we don't understand it.
|First and foremost, that you VOTE!! Get out there as if your life and your future depends on it.|
It just might.
For what it's worth, here's the important parts of my ballot:
Senator: Bob Schaeffer (Udall can't fool me)
State Senate: Libby Szabo
State House: John Bodnar--a good man is hard to find, especially in this business.
Amendments 47, 49, 54: yes--if for no other reason than the $23 million the unions spent trying to defeat these has been marked by the most ridiculously deceitful ad campaign I've ever seen
Amendment 48: yes
Amendments 58, 59: no
Do I have any predictions? First, I've got myself steeled for disappointment. Second, I think we're in for a long night. And, if we're in for a long night, we could be in for a long November/December while this thing is contested in six separate states. I hope McCain doesn't reflexively decide to avoid the Constitutional crisis by conceding rather than contesting voter irregularities, as Dino Rossi did four years ago in Washington. If a tainted election becomes better than the alternative, then we're really not a lot better than a banana republic.
|"May God grant us the wisdom to discover right, the will to choose it, and the strength to make it endure. "|
A good friend of mine always reminds me that it's easy to point out problems--it's far harder to point out solutions. So tonight I will try to discover a few possible solutions to the difficulties I wrote about last night. But, as a different friend of mine said, "we may be strong enough, but it will be a lot harder than we thought."
Are we doomed, like Athens and Rome before us, to fade into an obscurity of weakness and dissolution?
Are we the one, unique civilization in history that bucks the inevitable and finds a way back from the brink?
Or does the hatred and jealousy that has built for our country over the past half-century find expression in the dangers of doomsday weapons, bringing incalculable tragedy in a Sodom and Gammhora-like rain of fire?
The answer is, of course, I don’t know. I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet. But I do believe that the course can be corrected in time.
First of all, the men and women charged with the defense of this country are the finest, most conscientious people this country can produce. If we can manage to “encourage” our politicians to stay out of their way, then they will do their jobs. If we can put the pressure on the media and on the political class to just allow these men and women to discharge their duties without fear of prosecution by either jury or media, then they WILL protect us.
Speaking of the media, there simply must become an alternative to the way news and information is disseminated to the public. Talk radio, the blogosphere—these have become bastions of alternative information. And, while many people will simply say I equate “alternative” with “conservative,” it is indisputable that conservative views in the Big Media has become alternative. Unfortunately, talk radio and the blogosphere do not have the reach or the influence that CBS, NBC, and ABC News have. The Founding Fathers were not afraid of or above a highly partisan press—the open partisanship of the newspapers and pamphleteers of the time of the founding of the country was essential to the intellectual development of America. Open debate, naked disagreements, with full disclosure of partisan bias helped form the country; the partisanship became so heated that, at one point, a sitting Vice President was involved in an actual duel. The conservative interests in the country need to make the investment of capital, energy and infrastructure to develop a major conservative newspaper and a major conservative television news outlet. NOT to win any debates or serve to influence, but, rather, to simply make certain that a complete set of facts are entered into the record so that Americans have an opportunity to make their mind up for themselves. For “an informed populace” is necessary to the maintenance of a democracy, and a public that only gets one set of facts is not “informed.”
I would add to that that Conservatives should make every effort to stop getting their news from "professional journalists" until "professional journalists" become more professional. In point of fact, it would be useful to then tell those news outlets that "we" have abandoned them, and then tell their sponsors the same. As Conservatives, we should be very happy letting the market do its job--in a public fashion.
Third, and most difficult, Americans of good will must learn to say NO to the government. When offered a handout, say NO; when offered free health care, say NO THANKS; when forced to take money in exchange for . . . say NO. So, as the government moves towards widening the welfare programs, we should politely decline to collect the welfare; as the government increases the reach into the housing sector, we need to fight for our homes; as the government commands our cities and towns to grant licenses and meet quotas that are outside our community standards and beyond our sense of reasonable, we should politely tell it to go to Hell. If a school district wishes to abandon mandated testing, along with Title IX quotas and forced curriculum, it can ignore the government—at the cost of roughly 7% of its operating budget. There are going to be situations in which the individual and the local will be so burdened with commandments from the distant federal government that it will make increasing sense to turn down the financial incentive to meet those commandments.
And, by the way, if you think the mandates the government has imposed on schools in relation to No Child Left Behind (they actually have to pass a test . . . mon Deiu!!) are onerous, wait until an Obama/Pelosi/Reid Department of Education starts telling you what your schools are going to indoctrinate your children with.
And, finally, a new generation of independent, Constitution-centered thinkers has to be nurtured and encouraged to take their role at the center of American life, like their predecessors named Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison and Jay. Not only must they be developed, but they must have an outlet for their thinking, their writing and their actions. And, as importantly, they have to stop being so afraid of being called a "racist" or some other label that they clam up. It is an argument that can be won, but only if it is allowed to be heard.
Will this spare America the fate of its predecessors? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps the turmoil and conflicts these steps create lead to a wider split in the country. But this country has survived wide splits before, when it knew what the issues on the table were, and was able to make an informed choice. What rose from the ashes of the Civil War became the dominant country in the world in relatively short order—so it can be again.
|"May God grant us the wisdom to discover right, the will to choose it, and the strength to make it endure. "|
I think Americans proceed on the assumption, for the most part, that our way of life is a birthright, and that it can never be taken away from us.
I think the ancient Athenians probably thought the same thing.
Alexander Tyler (Tytler?), a Scottish history professor circa 1787, is commonly credited with the following observations about the fall of the Athenian Republic 2,000 years earlier:
"A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury."
"From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."
"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning
of history, has been about 200 years."
In relation to what I wrote a few days back, I think this is remarkably pertinent.
We have looked to the government to solve our problems, to manage our lifestyles, to take care of our opportunities, and keep us healthy, and, as a result, have elected to Congress people who are telling us all about how they best can do that for us.
Those "generous gifts" Tyler wrote about certainly include everything from guaranteed retirement benefits to welfare when we don't work to drug benefits for when we are sick to automatic health care. And that is all before we get around to talking about the $700 BILLION bailout of the financial sector. I believe that the Founding Fathers would be ill at the thought of the size of the American bureaucracy these days, the vast majority of it in place simply to administer all of the things the government does FOR us.
And, among the things we will be deciding on Tuesday are the following:
:whether the government should commit another $150 billion to a "rescue" for Americans struggling due to the economy (because the $168 billion from February worked SO well . . . )
:whether any plan to move Social Security benefits out of conservative (investment-wise) government programs and into the market sector would be allowed
:whether the government should provide for the health care of every American, or whether the government should facilitate the privilege Americans finding their own best health care plan.
And, given the current state of the polls, I think it's becoming increasingly inevitable that America is poised to elect even more people who think the government is responsible for distributing generous gifts to the general populace.
And, in a note of full disclosure, I must admit that my family has been the beneficiaries of those generous gifts. Not just the people under my own roof, who have been helped by extended unemployment benefits, but people I love dearly who look to the promise their government made to them 50 years ago to take care of them in their retirement and those whose health situations are so dire that they cannot manage the costs on their own.
But we crossed an interesting threshold a few weeks ago, with the government bailout of an entire sector of the economy. Now, there's even talk of the government holding an equity share in many banks, and the international community has stepped up and matched the American example of corporate welfare, in a strange show of international cooperation.
Tell me, someone, when the government "bails out" a mortgage holder as it now plans to do (not just the mortgage lender), does that mortgage holder then become dependent on the government for their "American dream?" Exactly how many homes will the government end up holding the note to by the time this is all over?
And what will become of individual property rights, already under assault by The Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London , once the government starts to "own" a significant number of the private homes in America?
Tyler described eight stages of a Democracy/Republic's life:
1. from bondage to spiritual faith;
2. from spiritual faith to great courage;
3. from courage to liberty;
4. from liberty to abundance;
5. from abundance to complacency;
6. from complacency to apathy;
7. from apathy to dependence;
8. From dependence back into bondage"
The first steps of this country were taken by men and women seeking religious freedom, which they could not practice at home, but were still taken in the shadow of foreign Kings; the second steps produced men who would utter such courageous thoughts as "Hang together, or we shall surely hang apart" and "Give me Liberty or give me Death" and ". . . our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor;" the third steps were taken by Giants like Washington, Madison, and Adams, to be followed in kind by Lincoln, and T. Roosevelt; which led to an age in which America was the engine of the world, a fifty-year period in which no country approached America's philosophical, economic and military preimminence; in that preimminence, however, we got comfortable and began to expect comfort, and when we could not make our own comfort the government began to step in to provide it for us.
I'm not entirely sure, in the last steps of that timeline, just where we are right now as a country. To be sure, there are tens of millions who still value our freedoms, understand that our abundance flow from those freedoms, and recognize that it is all due to the living presence of a Bountiful God.
But we seem to be a minority now. We have, through the offices of our elections, chosen to abandon any official reference to God, come to find contempt for the warriors that defend us every day, make mockeries and scapegoats of those who are adept at creating abundance, and have a political discourse marked by apologizing for who and what we are. Indeed, it has gone so far that the man who seems poised to be the next President of the United States claimed to an audience that he is "a citizen of the world," who now promises a income tax rebate to 95% of Americans--including 45% of whom DO NOT EVEN PAY INCOME TAXES!--whose wife has "never been proud of this country in her adult life," and who thinks the solution lies in capitulating our position of leadership in the world.
And if you don't think we could ever be truly dependent, think about what happens if a storm wipes out our oil rigs in the Gulf and Iran chooses THAT moment to close down the Straits of Hormuz. And that's before you give much thought to a Russia that sits on huge reserves of petroleum and has shown a remarkable willingness, of late, to flex its military might against neighbors with important energy infrastructure.
So then consider what an Obama Presidency could mean: a crippling economic crisis which his predecessor has used to vastly expand the powers of government, a security situation in which the entire government rushed to put in place structures that vastly expand the powers of government, a megalomaniacal tendency to pronounce ex cathedra the wisdom of his own piety, a press corps which has been equally fanatical in covering all his faults, and a following that has already shown a tendency to silence criticism using official channels, to intimidate broadcasters who air criticism, and who have even promised to bring back the "Fairness Doctrine" (to really end the debate) WHEN it gets a substantial enough majority.
And the alternative, frankly, isn't all that much more palatable. While all the same situations are in place, McCain's signature legislative accomplishment in the last ten years was an act that makes it HARDER for individuals to act to influence their government, and whose most recent major legislative effort was to GIVE all of the protections and priveleges of American citizenship to millions of those whose only qualification was breaking the law. And, for a man whose great domestic claim is fiscal conservatism, he showed little trepidation at signing off on a $700 billion bailout.
If this is the best we can do in a country of 300 million, I am forced to wonder:
Do we have the strength to make this Republic endure?