Out and About on a Sunday

A few recent polls show Trump fading in Iowa and Carson surging – which makes sense just on the fact that Carson is a much better fit than Trump for the highly socially conservative Iowa GOP. Be that as it may, Trump is for real. I thought he was a joke candidate. Then I thought he was a candidate surging because of the fury the GOP base has against the GOP establishment. But now it is different – and watching Trump on the trail reveals a man who is a quick learner. He still has massive obstacles to overcome to attain the nomination, but he’s starting to look like a political tsunami…something akin to the way Andrew Jackson came out of nowhere to completely overturn the political establishment in 1828 (and he’s also quite a lot like Jackson – supremely self-confident and determined to have his way, without too much concern about the legal and social niceties). In all the good and bad you can have in a President, the best good is a quick learner…because there is always a learning curve and the best pick it up fast (Obama, like Carter, has not learned a thing – likely because, also like Carter, he doesn’t think he has anything to learn). It remains to be seen if he can navigate his way to the nomination and then to the White House…if he does, the crucial aspect of whether he’ll be a good President is that ability to learn…and if he’s really smart, he’ll learn that the only way an Executive gets the government to do anything is to ceaselessly pester it with Presidential directives (Churchill was one of the few who knew this – and all his “pray give me the facts on one sheet of paper” and “action this day” memos were his way of just giving the bureaucracy no rest until they darned will did what he wanted them to do). The bottom line here is that if the establishment or even insurgents like Cruz want to beat Trump, then they’re going to have to out-campaign him. I don’t think he’ll implode for our entertainment at this point.

The Japanese have a hotel staffed by robots. A look at the future, folks – we’re not replicating ourselves and so we’re building a completely artificial world. Hopefully, this is only a temporary thing and we’ll snap out of it soon.

Climate alarmism – it is designed to scare you into compliance.

Why would Orthodox Russia ally with Islamist Iran? Because they both need oil to be north of $100 a barrel. Please note that China would not be pleased with oil that pricey – if we had anyone in DC with any diplomatic ability, at all, we’d be making hay with this situation. Bismarck said that success comes with hearing the hoof beats of history and grabbing hold of the tail as it goes by…unfortunately, our foreign policy is run by faculty lounge pinheads.

Tony Blair, in what I suspect is an attempt to placate the left in a bid to save Labour from a drubbing next election due to their kook-left party leader, has apologized for the Iraq war.

The prospect of Ryan becoming Speaker is actually a signal that the GOP is uniting. Don’t pop too many bottles of champagne, folks, but it is the way it is working. I see it as this: the TEA Party and the Establishment are getting on the same team. This means we’ll have to put up with some RINOism, and they’ll have to put up with some actual conservatism. This is the way it works, folks – always has and always will. Half a loaf is better than none.

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Speaker Ryan?

Seems that a lot of people want him in the position – and he’s highly reluctant to do it. Partially this would be because as Chairman of Ways and Means, he’s already one of the most powerful people in Washington; another part would be that Speaker is a thankless job…but I think another part of it would be a supreme lack of ambition on the part of the man. And that, in and of itself, commends him highly for the job.

First off, let me say I’m not one of the scorched-earth variety of conservative. I do believe that compromise is necessary to get anything done in DC, unless by some miracle you wind up with the White House and a massive majority in Congress – and everyone is pretty much on the same page. That happens very rarely. Running through the history I can really only think of three times it happened – early in the Civil War when the secession of the South left the GOP is absolute control in DC, and when the Democrats blew out the GOP in the 30’s and 60’s. Other than that, if you want to get things done, you have to offer at least something to the minority party, even if it is in practical terms eye wash.

That said, I do believe that the problem with the Congressional GOP is the fear of a fight on principle. Part of this is, of course, because some of them lack any principles – they are in politics for purely personal ambition and they are only GOP because they wound up living in an area of the country where the GOP is dominant…move some of them to the San Francisco Bay Area and in a week they’d become ultra liberal because that is how you get ahead (and don’t let us kid ourselves – a lot of liberal Democrats are just like that…move them to a GOP area of the country and watch them shift to the right to maintain electoral viability). Another part of it is that a lot of people who go into politics are really small people – pitiable creatures who are kept up awake at night by a hostile leading article in a newspaper; who worry what their perceived betters in the socio-economic food chain might think of them; who’s greatest fear is being found on the “wrong” side of an issue. The combination of this has hamstrung the GOP, especially – because our leaders, unlike the Democrat leaders, are mostly a mixture of the two things – the unprincipled and the afraid. Of course, Democrats do have it easier – the MSM, largely being of the left, shields the Democrat leadership from the fires of public scorn. But even with that advantage, the bottom line is that the Democrat leaders are willing to fight. Say what you will of Reid and Pelosi, they do go to the mat and get down and dirty in the political game…more then willing to take a hit in order to advance the Democrat ball.

These facts are just common to democratic governance – the chances that any particular person entering politics will be a genius along the lines of Lincoln are just as good that any particular person entering music composition will be a Mozart. That is, the chances are just about zero. These people who rule in our name are made of the common clay of humanity – heir to all the follies of humanity. But in the normal run of events, most of the time the people who rise to the top do have something extra…that extra bit of drive or intellect or simple desire to make things work. They are willing to take risks – even risks which can ruin them, if it comes out badly. For some reason or another, since the fall of Gingrich, the Congressional GOP has lacked anyone on top who has that little extra. This is why I welcome this bit of disarray in our ranks – it means that we’re about to shake things up. Now, maybe we roll snake eyes and get even worse leadership…but maybe we get lucky and hit the jackpot.

I don’t know if Ryan is the jackpot – but he’s certainly better than the current crop of leadership, while still retaining that “insider” status which makes him acceptable to the unprincipled and the afraid. And, just perhaps, he’ll be able to craft a strategy to advance our agenda, and prove he has the mettle to stand up to the slings and arrows…making himself the willing target of abuse. I guess we’ll see – if Ryan accepts it, and then if he can do the job.

A Campaign for 70 Million Votes

As I’m sure most people have figured out by now, turnout in 2012 was massively off from 2008.  As it turns out, Obama got fewer votes in 2012 than Bush got in 2004.  My prediction of a Romney victory was predicated upon taking the 2008 turnout and re-figuring it for both a loss in Obama voters and a return of Bush voters.  The Obama voters were, indeed, lost – I got that right (though, for full disclosure, Obama lost fewer votes than I projected he would).  The problem for us Republicans is that the Bush voters McCain lost were also lost by Romney – and then some; it seems that Romney got about a million fewer voters than McCain.  Had the 5 million or so missing Bush voters showed up on November 6th, Romney would have won…and we probably would have won a Senate majority, in to the bargain.

The big question is just why did these five million voters not vote?  They voted for Bush.  They are clearly ok with a socially conservative man of financially rich background – they should have had no particular problem with voting for Romney.  But, they didn’t.  Why?  Several reasons:

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The Ryan Budget and Catholic Social Teaching

The American Catholic has an excellent round of commentary on the Ryan budget and the ensuing debate carried out on the question, “is the Ryan budget in accordance with Catholic social teaching, or not?”.  While this might seem an arcane debate for only Catholics to engage, the fact is that the debate is ultimately about what sort of America we will have.

There are two words everyone has to familiarize themselves with:

1.  Subsidiarity.

2.  Solidarity.

In a nutshell, “subsidiarity” is the Catholic teaching that all decisions should be made as far as possible at the lowest level.  This covers all sorts of decisions – political, economic and religious.  While the higher authorities play a vital role, their role is rather one of support and instruction rather than mixing in the day to day activities of life.  It is for you and me, dear reader, to take care of the poor in our midst – just as it is our duty to work and earn our own living; it is for the federal government to assist us in this – mostly by ensuring law and order, the execution of justice and our common defense against outside enemies; but, also, at times by directly aiding us when our own good, solid efforts are insufficient to secure what is necessary for the liberty, safety and dignity of ourselves and our fellows.

And that leads us in to “solidarity” – none of us is an island; we are not a law unto our selves.  We are part of a group and while we have absolute rights vis a vis the group, we also have absolute responsibilities to the group.  We do, indeed, have a right to our property and the fruits of our labor – but we also have a duty to ensure that our neighbor does not lack the necessities.

Liberals tend to concentrate on the “solidarity” aspect and use it as a justification for the welfare State.  Libertarians tend to concentrate on “subsidiarity” and use it as a justification for government so small as to be incapable of doing the genuine tasks of government (especially in terms of ensuring justice and the defense of the nation).  Paul Ryan’s plan is a judicious mix of subsidiarity and solidarity – as it should be, because while the laws of God are absolute, the actions of human beings within the parameters of those laws are subject to many varying pressures and needs and thus prudential judgement is needed in each particular instance in figuring out what is best.  Neither libertarianism nor statism is the answer – in some cases the State must take a strong stand, in others the State must butt out…in most cases it has to be a little of both.

Ryan is being furiously attacked, especially by liberal Catholics who see in the Ryan budget the moral justification for dismantling the welfare State.  They are attacking Ryan’s plan because they say it will harm the poor – but the fact is the plan wouldn’t do anything of the sort; it would, though, harm the vested interests of the welfare State who do little for the poor, but seem to make quite a lot of money ostensibly caring about the poor.  But do have a care – if Ryan’s budget is ever passed (say in January, 2013 and then signed in to law by President Romney) then the attacks will start to come from the other side – libertarians who will be upset that the State refuses to become morally neutral and still seeks to have a role in American affairs.

While Ryan’s plan has a great deal of Catholicism in it (no surprise given Ryan’s Catholicism), it really brings up and clarifies the real debate – super welfare State, libertarian anarchy, or a well reasoned approach which understands that things don’t resolve themselves in perfect, little boxes?  The whole of the American experiment – our whole Constitutional order (currently hibernating) –  is based upon the Founders’ realization that (a) no one has all the answers and (b) a wise system will leave great latitude for individual and local action while still retaining a government strong enough to act forcefully when necessary.

We’ll see how it comes out – but Ryan has earned the gratitude of all Americans who wish to see the Founders’ vision restored to America.