The Nation’s Pulse

The Nation's Pulse

Mostly Dead All Day: What’s Happened to Argument?

By 4.29.16

Argument has fallen on hard times. That might seem an odd thing to say in an election year roiled by agitation over social questions and the continuing presence of candidates whom political strategists had thought would go away by now. Wouldn’t argument have to be in the air when musicians cancel North Carolina shows in the name of solidarity with transgendered people? Don’t the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump imply that “Wall Street banks” and “losers” have been defeated in the marketplace of ideas, and are finally getting their comeuppance?

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PC Is a Lot Like PCP

By 4.8.16

How long before we scrap the “Star-Spangled Banner” for “Feelings”? The latter track surely captures modern American, well, feelings better than that bellicose, jingo jingle.

The dean of American University this week deemed the anonymous placement of an “All Lives Matter” flyer on a faculty member’s door a form of “harassing, intimidating or threatening behavior.” When Toronto Blue Jays manager Jay Gibbons reacted to a new safety rule costing his team Tuesday’s game by remarking, “Maybe we’ll come out and wear dresses tomorrow,” sports writers denounced his words as “misogyny” and “insensitive language.” Last week, in a matter less frivolous than baseball and campus politics, the White House bowdlerized the audio of French President François Hollande’s reference to “Islamist terrorism.”

Feelings, nothing more than feelings…

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Corporations Take Aim at Conservatives

By 4.1.16

Do-gooders pressure corporate baddies to stop subsidizing America’s most notorious hate group: the Republican Party.

“These companies have a choice right now, a history-making choice,” Rashad Robinson, Color of Change executive director, told the New York Times. “Do they want riots brought to us by Coca-Cola?”

The Old Gray Lady this week detailed the Grand Old Party’s difficulties enticing corporate behemoths, including Coke, to provide sponsorship to its convention at previous levels. “Tell the CEOs, Chief Marketing Officers, and Senior Vice Presidents of Public Affairs at Coca-Cola, Google, Xerox, AT&T, Adobe Systems, and Cisco,” Color of Change instructs its followers. “Immediately cancel your sponsorship of a Donald Trump-led Republican National Convention,” an event it characterizes as advancing “hate-filled and racist rhetoric,” “intolerance,” and “violent attacks against minority groups and women.”

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Bathroom Madness in the Boardrooms

By 3.28.16

How on God’s green earth did we get to this point? Apparently keeping men out of the women’s loo is now considered discriminatory and anti-gay, possibly even a hate crime, by business and political elites. (And by the usual nuts, of course, but you expect this.)

Discerning TAS readers have doubtless noticed that there is no scheme the cultural left, particularly the LGBT political movement, can come up with that is too bizarre or too offensive to the values of traditional Americans that the political class and the big business community won’t immediately fall in line with. In America’s executive suites, the man who thinks he’s a woman is king, er queen, well, royalty anyway, and must be catered to, no matter how fantastical his/her whims are, or how much discomfort and offense obliging them causes a large majority of the population.

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Easing Prison Overcrowding: Who Wins Early Release and Who Doesn’t?

By 3.25.16

Editor’s Note: Debra J. Saunders is off. The following column is by Diane Dimond.

It’s easy to understand the intent behind the current move to reduce prison overcrowding, but are we sure we’re doing it right?

In 2010, when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act to reduce federal prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders he specifically targeted those who had been convicted of crack cocaine crimes. In the past, anyone in possession of crack — an inexpensive drug most often used in poor black communities — was routinely sentenced to harsher penalties than those who had dealt in the more expensive powder cocaine, which was used almost exclusively by more affluent whites.

Once the 2010 law went into effect the sentences of inmates convicted of crack-related crimes were recalculated to make them more like today’s sentencing guidelines. 

This was great news for Wendell Callahan, a “non-violent” crack dealer serving twelve and half years in federal prison in Ohio. Callahan was released four and a half years early, with officials citing his “good behavior” while in prison.

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The Brute Force of Government Spending on Autopilot

By 3.21.16

My car was towed from an area near a train station in San Francisco last month. I had parked in front of a small “No Parking” sign that I had not seen. I spent an hour looking for my car and calling an attendant who didn’t answer the phone. When someone finally answered, she told me my car had been towed. It cost me $350.

At least I could afford to pay to get my car back. California is filled with people who are one traffic ticket away from losing their means of independent transportation. They get a ticket for a busted taillight or a small-change moving violation. On paper, the fine is $100, but with surcharges, it adds up to a lot more. People who cannot pay often do not show up in court — which drives up the cost. According to the Judicial Council of California, about 612,000 Californians have suspended driver’s licenses because they didn’t pay fines. In 2013, more people — 510,811 — had their licenses suspended for not paying fines than the 150,366 who had lost their licenses for drunken driving.

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The End of Christian America?

By 3.8.16

Duke Divinity School professor Norman Wirzba wrote recently about why he thinks we ought to declare the end of “Christian America.” A link to that essay was emailed to me by a friend who thought it was an excellent read, but I was underwhelmed by the work. Wirzba opened with a basic grammatical error, and never really recovered. He is, it seems, disappointed with the country to which he moved 30 years ago. More specifically, the long run-up to the election has drained Wirzba of whatever tolerance he once had for the hypocrisy of American voters.

“Though voters may speak piously and rather vaguely about Christian values and ideals,” he wrote, “polls and election results communicate clearly that this is a nation consumed by fear, anger and suspicion, none of which are Christian virtues.”

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The Fill-in-the-Blanks Candidate

By 3.4.16

Many of us wondered in 2008 how the public could vote for Barack Obama based on the simple, vague slogan, “Hope and Change.” Now we are equally perplexed at the one-third of the GOP voters who are buying into Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. I’ve come to the conclusion that the public likes fill-in-the-blanks candidates; they flock to someone who promises that they will make things happen. They don’t stop to ask what will be changed or how will greatness be achieved. The public then molds that vague promise — fills-in-the-blanks — into whatever shape they (as individuals) need for it to take.

A candidate who sounds confident and strong while offering up big-sounding promises captured in colorful soundbites (instead of boring policy) captures the fancy of both the media and the public. Simple rhetoric from a carefully staged rally is easier for today’s media-conditioned public to grasp than thinking through and weighing the arguments logically, rationally, and realistically. Projecting our own images onto someone’s slogan is easier than evaluating what the candidate is saying or the possibility of a candidate actually achieving the promised change.

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Socialism, the Nightmare That Never Dies

By 2.26.16

“Socialism is coming,” J.A. Wayland, publisher of Appeal to Reason, predicted at the dawn of the last century. “It’s coming like a prairie fire and nothing can stop it.”

More than 100 years later, American socialists speak with similar ebullience. A 74-year-old candidate who once produced a hagiographic documentary about Wayland’s friend, employee, and hero Eugene Debs runs for president as the vehicle of their faith in future.

“And yes, my policies will demand that the top one percent and the largest corporations in this country start paying their fair share of taxes,” Bernie Sanders told MSNBC last year.

The top one percent currently pay 44 percent of federal income taxes and the bottom 45 percent don’t pay, according to the Tax Policy Center. If one percent shouldering 44 percent of the income tax burden represents paying less than a “fair share,” what number, precisely, does Sanders regard as just?

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Yes, Pornography Is a Public Health Crisis

By 2.11.16

The Internet today offers us not just instant access to images of kittens and puppies and smiling newborns, but an evil avalanche of images of abuse, sick fantasies, and child rape that are easily accessible with a click on a child’s smartphone or iPad. Senator Todd Weiler, a state senator in Utah, has unleashed a storm of controversy by initiating a bill in Utah legislature that would declare pornography to be a public health crisis. It should be noted that Weiler doesn’t specifically advocate banning or regulating anything; even so, he says he is “mocked internationally” because he has opened up discussion about the easy accessibility to pornography on smartphones and tablets.