Another Perspective

Another Perspective

Where Was the Debate?

By 3.10.14

Usually a debate involves an exchange of opposing views.

But not at CPAC.

On Saturday, pundits Ann Coulter and Mickey Kaus debated immigration reform.

Except that it wasn’t a debate.

Yes, both Coulter and Kaus offered their opinions with conviction and energy. Yet their alignment was omnipresent.

Both oppose the prospect of amnesty, both oppose bipartisan immigration reform, and both believe that either option would lead America to a very dark place. Or, in Coulterspeak, a very brown place.

Still, the real issue with this discussion wasn’t Coulter’s opinions. Rather, it was how Coulter encapsulated CPAC more generally — illustrating how serious policy discussions remain an uncomfortable paradigm in conservative-conservative dialogue.

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A Drinking Fan’s Lenten Notes

By 3.7.14

Lent started early. On December 7 — a day that shall live in infamy — I embarked on an alcohol hiatus. At the three-month mark, I close-in on the sobriety record by people with the surname “Flynn,” which I set twenty years ago at seven months and 29 days. It’s not in the Guinness Book of World Records, but that’s only because Guinness doesn’t seek to encourage competition among Flynns here. It would be catastrophic for the bottom line.

I glimpsed an inspirational cliché that essentially said that how you live in your forties will determine how, and whether, you’ll live in your eighties. Not wanting to suffer from dementia when I grow up, I thought it wise to cease drinking to temporary senility. Forty will have that effect on a man. One can’t help but notice that people who drink excessively eventually exhibit drunken brains even once they stop drinking. The real hangover comes later.

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Hillary and The Cult of ‘Best and Brightest’

By 3.6.14

Two women: Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. The first is relentlessly mocked and derided by liberals and the media. The second is still regarded as a paragon of wisdom, despite the fact that her much ballyhooed “reset” of relations with Russia was a total failure, that she misread Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer," that she botched health care reform as first lady, and that she blamed her husband's troubles on a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

What explains the mismatch? Our cult of "The Best and The Brightest."

But first: Somebody owes Sarah Palin an apology. Back in 2008, when Palin was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, she said that electing an inexperienced president like Barack Obama could result in an international crisis. What kind of crisis, you ask? Well, for one thing Russia might invade Ukraine. 

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Why Ukraine Vindicates the NSA

By 3.5.14

“Sometimes we have to do a thing in order to find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions, not answers.”
A Perfect Spy, John le Carré

Most people believe that intelligence gathering is about finding out what someone else is going to do.

It isn’t.

Instead, it’s about finding out what someone else is thinking. After all, saying something does not necessarily mean doing something. Just look at President Obama’s policy on Syria.

Correspondingly, intelligence gathering seeks to allow a policymaker to explore the contemplations of those that sit across the table. Or those on the other side of the phone. The intention — to enable America’s leaders to navigate the diplomatic fog more effectively.

Yet, as Snowden has proved, effective intelligence collection must balance the needs of secrecy and trust with the need for understanding. When the balance fails — when a source or method is compromised — the diplomatic and political fallout can be tremendous. Just ask Angela Merkel.

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I Write to Bury the Arizona Bill, Not to Praise It

By 3.3.14

The Arizona bill (SB1062/HB2153) was vetoed, killed, by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on February 26, playing the role of Brutus. Dear readers, fellow Americans, I write to bury it, not to praise it.

In her statement vetoing the bill, Governor Brewer said that the bill was, in effect, too ambitious since it did it not address any “specific and present concern” in the state of Arizona, and she is an honorable woman. I might suggest, however, that it is entirely appropriate for a governor and legislature, to anticipate litigation, to anticipate violations of liberty — based on violations and allegations of violations made in other states on issues where a state, like Arizona, is not immune. See Paul Kengor’s list that appeared on this page on February 28.

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The Libertarian Populism of The Lego Movie

By 2.27.14

As the parent of small kids, it was inevitable that I would see The Lego Movie, but I was totally unprepared for the reaction I had to it. I have conservative friends who have actually suggested boycotts due to the "anti-business" message of the film. So at best, I expected a typical kids movie. At worst, I expected more liberal indoctrination in the form of children's entertainment.

Instead, I found a classroom lesson in the ideals of populist libertarianism.

For those who are unfamiliar, and hopefully without revealing any spoilers, the movie tells the story of an unexceptional construction worker living and working in Bricksburg, a megatropolis that mirrors our own reality, with interchangeable pop bands, overpriced franchise coffee bars, and TV shows that appeal to the lowest possible denominator. Emmet, our reluctant blue hero, falls down a hole, discovers the "Piece of Resistance," and finds himself anointed "The Special"—the citizen who will fulfill a prophecy to bring down Lord/President Business.

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View From the Couch

By 2.26.14

Having been forced into a prone position following surgery two weeks ago, I was necessarily bound to recumbent furniture and was therefore a captive audience of the Boob Tube for nearly ten days; which for me, consisted mostly of Turner Classic Movies, old sitcoms on TV Land, and the Sochi Olympics.

Now, already being a faithful follower of TCM, I knew that February was a good time to be laid up, as they are smack in the midst of their annual 31 Days of Oscar programming where, with the exception of 1950s and 1960s angst-filled dreck, one can usually find a great movie any time of the day or night for an entire month. For example, while awaiting the da Vinci robot in my pre-op room, I was able to watch most of the classic 1941 romp, Ball of Fire, wherein hipster Barbara Stanwyck delivers important life lessons on slang and boogie to an impossibly stuffy professor played by Gary Cooper. It was a great way to drift into the arms of Morpheus, as so artfully delivered by my anesthesiologist.

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Conservatives Struck by Impeachment Fever

By 2.25.14

You have to love the timing — the Ukrainian dictator hightails it out of Kiev even as New York City’s official demagogue runs a light and who knows what else as he continues his quest for the common touch and the pursuit of equality. Or social equality. But just keep in mind that all New Yorkers aren’t created equal.

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Obama’s War on Ivory Ownership

By 2.24.14

The Obama administration is good at exuding moral righteousness and pandering to the cultural elite. It does both with its plan to effectively ban the sale of all ivory in America, including that purchased or inherited legally years, decades, or even centuries ago. If you can’t prove its age, toss it in the trash or be arrested and have your property confiscated — unless you have a political exemption.

Elephants are being killed for their ivory. It’s a tragedy, but one that has been going on for years. Conservationists are understandably frustrated, but most prefer not to reflect on the failure of their own prohibitionist policies. African governments are incapable of protecting the animals from highly armed poachers, who are responding to the high demand for ivory driven by Asians and especially Chinese. Unable to deal with those responsible for the elephant carnage, environmental extremists have found a more convenient target to attack: Americans who followed the law buying and selling old ivory objects which entered the U.S. lawfully long ago.

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Woody Allen and Billy Graham

By 2.21.14

Did you know Woody Allen once interviewed Billy Graham about pre-marital sex? A recording of the interview is prominently featured at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. The library, which I visited this week, opened in 2007 amid much justified hoopla, with Presidents Bush I, Carter, and Clinton attending.

A few cynical critics have derided the library as Evangelical kitsch and the Disneyfication of faith, citing the talking cow who greets visitors at the entrance of the barn shaped museum. There is also a silo, and the facility sits immediately behind Billy Graham’s relocated boyhood home, with the site recalling his rural upbringing, which included daily cow milking. The talking cow speaks in the voice of a sassy black woman and is actually quite charming.

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