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Choose Wisely Where to Campaign, Sen. Cruz March 10, 2016

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Cruz-TrumpThere is an old saying of “choose your hill to die on”.  The meaning behind the saying is that nobody has unlimited resources/energy.  Therefore, one must pick one’s proverbial battles judiciously if that person has any hope of succeeding in his/her endeavor.

The overall message of the Tuesday, March 8 Republican primaries is that they are anything but settled.  As Michael Barone points out, a Donald Trump delegate majority is anything but inevitable.  The key to ensuring the prevention of Trump ruining the party is, at this immediate point, to vote tactically, not strategically.  Ohio and Florida are both winner-take-all primaries.  With four candidates remaining in the race, that means a win on plurality instead of majority is a foregone conclusion.

Both the aforementioned states off lots of delegates.  The ideal tactical votes right now is for Ohio GOP voters to give the delegates to Gov. John Kasich.  Likewise, the ideal tactical vote in Florida is for Senator Marco Rubio to win.  Both of these candidates are the most viable alternatives to Trump in these respective states.

Enter Cruz, who seems to have no concept of these important tactics.  He has been going after Rubio in Florida and going after Kasich in Ohio.  This is madness.  Undermining both of these candidates in these respective states can only help Trump.  Extra votes to Cruz in both of these states are unlikely to be detracted from The Donald, but are very likely to hurt the respective viable alternatives to Trump.

Cruz has thus become a very frustrating candidate to follow.  His energy is admirable, but he has proven to not have an eye for these important tactics, and that could be potentially hazardous to us all.  For if Trump wins the GOP nomination, the party faithful are essentially doomed to a Bataan Death March of a political campaign, slowly and agonizingly dragging into early November.  Moreover, those of us who care about the Constitutional limits on governmental scope and power shall be particularly scorned, as neither nominee of the two major parties will, in this scenario, have any respect for America’s founding document.

The irony in all of this is that Cruz bills himself as a Constitutional standard-bearer.  Yet his lack of tactical sense in this crucial primary could very well undermine his most cherished selling point by not understanding which states he can credibly win and which states he ought to let other anti-Trump nominees win to make sure The Donald does not gain further strength.

Be wise, Senator Cruz:  leave Florida to Rubio and Ohio to Kasich, and by all means, concentrate your energy in the other states still in play.  Otherwise, you might ruin things for all us, in some way for a generation to come.  Should the unthinkable come to pass, how then will you be of any benefit to those of us who share your ideology?  Sharing our values is all well and good, but if you lack the discipline to effectively advance these values, you become a liability and thus an unaware tool for those who are hostile to that which the Constitution stands.

What Caused the Progressive Plague? February 14, 2016

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Politics.
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When we look back at the ravages of a plague that has swept through a region or even a continent, it is many a person’s impulse to, once the dust has settled, do a little detective work and ascertain its origin.   Where did it begin?  What was its root cause?  What was the impetus that caused it to spread across an area so relatively quickly, leaving havoc in its wake?

George Will succinctly observed that for there to be an epidemic, one needs two things; a microbe, and an enabling social context.  For example, the enabling social context for the infamous Black Plague of the 14th Century was increased international trade.  The bacteria causing the deadly disease were found in the saliva of fleas laced with rodent blood.  They hitchhiked on the rats (or, gerbils, as a recent scientific study suggests) as whole colonies of them moved westward through Asia along with merchants traveling along the Silk Road, eventually reaching the ports at Crimea.  The rats wasted no time climbing the mooring ropes of merchant ships bound for ports in Europe, and the rest, as they say was history.  If one were to view a map of the number of dead per square mile (or kilometer) in Europe, it becomes clear that Italy, with its bevy of Mediterranean ports, was the hardest-hit area of Europe during the time of the Black Death almost 700 years ago.

 While media hype may have overblown the occasional Ebola outbreak in west Africa, nothing like the Black Plague has ravaged society like it did Europe so long ago.

 That said, another infectious plague, this time of the ideological persuasion, has been ravaging America for the past century:  that of Progressivism.  But what caused its spread at the outset of the Twentieth Century?  Sure, the microbe of the authoritarian ideology had germinated amongst some of the intelligentsia during the last couple of decades of the 19th Century (e.g, John Dewey and his idea that we should be “free” from poverty).  At that same time, Woodrow Wilson found out how to rationalize his knowing what was best for his fellow man.   He did so while studying for his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University, a school that imported the collectivist, bureaucratic German thinking of the age in the attempt to infect the American-nurtured concept of a freeborn citizenry.

 But while the ideological microbe had grown into a potent colony of cells by the 1900s, what was the social context that unleashed its destruction?  Blame the progress of that time, indirectly.  Joel Mokyr of the Manhattan Institute explains the context.  The hallmark of the 20th Century, he says, in terms of human progress, was large-scale technology.  Some examples include:  massive shipping containers; manned spacecraft (or just communication satellites) launched into space on huge rockets; oil-drilling platforms; massive power stations; steel mills and car assembly plants that take up many acres, not to mention huge airplanes (from Howard Hughes’ Hercules to the recently-retired Boeing 747).

 While these are familiar sights today, a century ago, such large-scale things would be absolutely awe-inspiring.  At that time, titans of industry were opening up production facilities at scales undreamed of then.  For example, Henry Ford opened up his Highland Park plant in 1910, and implemented the first auto assembly line there four years later.  By 1917, Ford already started building his even-larger Rouge plant in Dearborn, Mich.  The size of this plant is mind-boggling even by today’s standards, what with its covering 960 acres (that is one-and-a-half square miles), and had 100 miles of internal railroad track.  At its peak, 100,000 men earned their livings in that gargantuan facility.

 At the same time, giant steel mills sprang up along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, and even more so along the Allegheny and Monongahela of Pittsburgh.  As political scientist Michael Barone speculated, these had to have been breathtaking to people in the 1910s, since most of those folks grew up on farms where the tallest structure they had ever seen was the steeple of their local town’s church.

 Also during this time, immigrants came to America through New York harbor.  They travelled on ocean liners that were the largest ever built, and once in the Big Apple, they witnessed skyscrapers continuing to arise, one higher than the other.  Some of them held offices for the titan industrialists and financiers, like that of John D. Rockefeller at 26 Broadway and J.P. Morgan at 23 Wall Street.  Behind them was the 60-story Woolworth Building, which was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1913, and would maintain that distinction until the Chrysler Building was built in 1930

All this was amazing progress by the standards of any age, before or after.  But it came with a major side effect.  “Large” technology had the tendency to encourage large bureaucracies and large government.  To be sure, you needed this sort of large, military-style bureaucracy and centralized control in the private sector to manage those 100,000 workers at Ford’s factory complex in Dearborn, and eventually, to manage the big unions that grew with it and other plants.

It thus became an easy sell to the voting public that that with so much wealth and such gigantic means of production concentrated in the hands of so relatively few, that both (a bigger) government and (growing) labor unions should be a counterweight of power in society, lest we somehow become a Plutocracy (or so the Progressive narrative went as part of their sales pitch to the people).

Of course, that was 100 years ago:  this is now.  And now, the potentially new American Century is defined by small-scale technology.  Television is a good example:  they used to take up whole consoles in a living room.  Now, you can watch network and cable TV shows alike on your portable, lightweight smartphone on demand.  Henry Ford’s plants were an icon of that industrial age, while the smartphone is an icon of ours.

Another contrast between the ages, technologically-speaking, is the military.  Large technology begat large armies, as is evident in both World Wars.  Historian Niall Ferguson estimates that total casualties of the First World War alone to be about 9.5 million deaths and 15 million wounded.  Almost three decades later, military tactics evolved along with the technology.  Gone were the Napoleonic approaches of trench warfare; in was General Patton’s mechanized warfare doctrine, which, according to military historian Robert Shales, culminated in the march to Baghdad in 2003.  But the enemies adapted, and the mass armies that were of Patton’s time have given way to special operations forces who are more adept at dealing with asymmetrical warfare.

The reason that large-scale technology became the breeding ground for Progressivism to infect the public like the Plagues of yore was that it required the standardization of masses of people; it required centralized command-and-control, along with conformity to social norms (the latter of which might ironically appeal to social conservatives today, contingent on the social benefit of said norms).

Yet it is “small” technology of the current day and age that enables more individuals to make individual choices, to fashion our world in our own dimensions, and to apply our talents and pursue interests in ways that we choose.  In short, what has happened over the past 100 years, at least in terms of options in the market, is that standardization has given way to customization.

The B. Hussein Obama Progressives of today do not understand this at all.  They – the President included – see history as a progress from minimal government to ever-larger, ever-growing government.  This is only logical, since government is the false god they worship.  Indeed, such religious zeal blinds Progressives to the fact that history does not proceed in a straight line.  One only needs to see the decline of Rome, and the technological and economic stagnation of the Dark Ages that succeeded it, to understand this fact.

More to the point, that fact is on display today.  The Progessives’ religious fixation on big government has thus led to a major disconnect in our society.  Sure, it was an easy sell to the public 100 years ago given the afore-explained context of large-scale technology.  But the “small” technology of today requires a different approach; that is, more adaptability and responsiveness to constituents.  One does not get that from the bloated bureaucracies of a big government that is a disastrous holdover from yesteryear.

The Opinion Index, 11-17-12 November 17, 2012

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Let us be as blunt as we can:  Obama may have won re-election, but he certainly did not win a mandate.  Not with lower voter turnout overall than in 2008, and even less so with winning fewer votes 10 days ago than he won 4 years ago.  What many should ask is, how did he win?  Well, leave it to Michael Medved to expose the dirty little secret of Obama’s campaign victory:  going negative early and often.

Think about it:  negative campaigning does not succeed by turning off either side of the base against you.  It wins by turning off independents from even showing up at the voting booth.  Medved is not the only fellow to figure this out, either.  The ever-astute Michael Barone came to the same conclusion in his piece published this past Monday.  Obama was very good at turning out his base, and repelled enough independents (whom Romney carried by six points) from even voting.  Such behavior certainly does nothing at all to reassure so many people jaded about politics in general.

Does this mean that all you have to do is go negative early and often, and in so doing, you will be bulletproof?  Not necessarily.  For the longest time in the campaign, Romney was unable to counter all the negativity in key swing states because campaign finance laws prohibited him from using key funds to do just that until after he was officially nominated.  That did not happen until the convention — in August.  By then, in hindsight, the die was cast, or so it seems.  Karl Rove has reportedly offered an obvious solution:  have the national convention earlier in the campaign season so one can access the funds earlier and more effectively counter the negativity.  Makes sense to me!

Oh, and we forgot to tell you, Obama supporters:  it does not matter who the president is, or how great (or not) he turned out to be.  One ironclad rule of American politics is that a president’s second term is ALWAYS worse than his first.  Always.  That rule even applied to George Washington, arguably the greatest of all the presidents, as well as the first, who set the standard for all to follow.  Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of this very pertinent rule.

Something else that is quite curious is the coattail effect of Obama’s campaign, or in this case, the lack thereof.  For the president himself, his re-election mirrored the 2004 presidential campaign in which the incumbent triumphed in a close, hard-fought race.  But Michael Barone has noticed that the further one goes down the ticket, the more this election mirrors, oddly the enough, the 2010 election — in favor of the GOP, no less!  Basically, Obama excels at winning elections, but he does so without helping anybody else win theirs.

Meanwhile, this cannot be reiterated enough:  one thing the Republicans have going for them is a super-talented bench that is very, very deep.  One member of that bench is Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.  He has sounded a clarion call for the party to start expanding its base.  It can start, so he says, by “stop being the stupid party.”  This and other insights will make Jindal someone to observe in the coming months and years.

The Opinion Index, 11-12-12 November 12, 2012

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Ted Cruz, the junior senator-elect from the Great State of Texas: of Latino ancestry, he is a new, rising star in the Republican Party.

As conservatives are trying to sort through the wreckage (moderate though it was) of Tuesday’s election, certain recriminations are bound to be exchanged within Party and ideological ranks.  Credit Charles Krauthammer for being the coolest head in the room.  He offers simple, straightforward solutions to the problems that the GOP faces – the problems that were made abundantly clear thanks to the hindsight of the election and of exit polling.

Was this election an overall rejection of conservatism and a full-throated endorsement of European-style social democracy?  Hardly.  Krauthammer reminds us that the demographic issue of Hispanics supporting Obama can be solved by taking the forefront on immigration policy reform.  He also reminds us that the GOP becoming a more moderate party is not the answer, but just becoming more effective in advancing good arguments.  This is no time to lose our philosophical anchor, according to the esteemed psychiatrist.  He hit the nail on the head by pointing out what some people have tried to say and need to keep saying over and over again:

“In a world where European social democracy is imploding before our eyes, the party of smaller, more modernized government owns the ideological future.”

If we succeed in persuading more Hispanics to come to our side – not an insurmountable task – then we can win more elections and thus succeed in implementing smaller, more modernized government.

But how does one expand the demographic base?  Derek Hunter points out how we can bring in more Hispanics and other people, and does so from a different angle.  Yes, leading the clarion call for meaningful, simple immigration reform will surely help.  But Hunter reminds something I found to be somewhat reassuring.  Hispanics voting for Obama was not so much that demographic rejecting conservatism as it was a reflection on insufficient efforts to offer conservatism to them.  This naturally must change as we move, ahem, forward.

If that is not enough, Hunter also points out that ceding the culture to the left will doom conservatism as well.  He points out a few successful examples where small archipelagos of conservatism thrive in a vase ocean of liberalism (Adam Carolla being a good example), and how they succeed.  If conservatism is to succeed, we must emulate these models, and scale them into continents.
Speaking of the recent election, it was really a triumph of negative campaigning in key target states on the part of Obama’s team, according to Michael Barone.  Combine that with a diminished margin of victory in the popular vote compared to Obama’s numbers in 2008, and he hardly has a mandate to make government even more intrusive in our lives as we move forward.  Oddly enough, though, Barone hints that House Speaker John Boehner might have a slight mandate of his own.

Another thought:  Texas just elected a new junior senator in Ted Cruz.  He and Marco Rubio could effectively team up to lead the GOP in being proactive in immigration reform (a modified DREAM Act, perhaps?).  But even more importantly, Cruz’ election, one could make the case, could portend of positive things to come.  Hugh Hewitt points out that Senator-elect Cruz is, oddly and ironically enough, in the same position that Barack Obama was in 2004.  Both Cruz and Obama are/were rising stars in their respective parties in 2012 and 2004, respectively.  Both hail from states key to their respective parties.  Both were elected to Congress the same year that their parties lost an agonizingly close election.  What’s more, in both 2004 and 2012, a candidate from Massachusetts headed a losing presidential ticket. If that’s not enough, both men’s fathers were not born in America. Oh, and Cruz is said to be both a brilliant lawyer and orator.  Hmmm….

More Questions Raised than Answered November 7, 2012

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When media outlets called for  Ohio narrowly going for Obama within the 11:00 hour Tuesday night, it became quite clear that Obama was to win re-election.  But the electoral results overall seem, at this point to hardly settle anything.  On the contrary:  the results of this election raise more questions than those that are answered.

For one:  given that, on the surface of things, the status quo regarding who controls the presidency and the Congress has not changed (Dems keep the presidency and Senate, Republicans the House), how are major issues facing this country to be effectively resolved, moving, ahem, “Forward?”

Given than Barack Obama won re-election with fewer states than in 2008, how can he consider this re-election is any sort of mandate going, ahem, “Forward?”  (North Carolina and Indiana are back in the red column, while ballots in Virginia and Florida are still being counted).
Credit Mitt Romney for recognizing that the economy was the chief concern among most voters this election cycle.  Indeed, news reports indicated that the exit polling among swing voters revealed that very thing.  Yet those very swing voters that were exit polled still blamed George W. Bush for the economic malaise.  Question:  at what point will Obama own this malaise?

Will stagflation come?  Given the “status quo” result of this election, it seems to be almost a foregone conclusion.  Will Obama then own the ensuing recession-within-a-recession?

What is to be done about the “tax bomb” that is about to come our way?  Once that “bomb” explodes, who is likely to take the political hit?

While it might be a tad too early for a postmortem on the Romney campaign, could it have been that the “October surprise” that many on the right side of the ideological spectrum feared was in fact a freak act of mother nature?  Hurricane Sandy did, after all, allow for Obama to act a bit presidential for once.
In historical perspective, not since Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe has America elected presidents to two consecutive terms three times in a row.  I shall leave a competent Psephologist (paging Michael Barone!) to more effectively discern the deep meaning of this development.

These and other questions shall surely be answered as time unfolds.  In the meantime, pray for our great nation, for its duly elected leaders, and especially for the health of the justices on the Supreme Court.