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In Memoriam

David Bowie Mastered the Ch-Ch-Changes

By 1.15.16

David Bowie, the only hippie to successfully morph into a glam rocker, New Waver, and neo-fascist fashionista, died this week. The likelihood that he lives long past his expiration date stems from this penchant for freshness. Bowie adeptly rolled with the ch-ch-changes.

Rare among the hundreds of singers more looked at than listened to David Bowie uniquely deserves a listen or two — or two hundred. “Fame” and “Sound and Vision” feel at home in a discotheque, “Suffragette City,” “Panic in Detroit,” and “Rebel, Rebel” blare best out of a Marshall stack at an enormodome rock show, “Modern Love,” “Young Americans,” and “China Girl” naturally play before Casey Kasem rolls out the rest of the Top 40, and “Ashes to Ashes” sounds like the song you hear at a dank basement avant garde house party when you first notice your new German girlfriend’s Adam’s apple escaping the darkness. What you heard and what you saw always sounded and looked unlike what you already heard and saw.

Rob Sheffield waxed on the early-’80s era Bowie in his musical memoir Talking to Girls About Duran Duran:

The Hillary Watch

Hillary Clinton’s Trust Issue

By 1.15.16

With the demise of a public consensus on what constitutes acceptable behavior, we’re left with moral relativism and a growing intrusion of government control into more and more areas of our lives. Little wonder then that trust has become a major issue in contemporary politics. I wrote in 2009 and 2013 about the public’s growing mistrust of President Obama. The authority of the whole government is threatened by Obama’s imperial presidency, the metastasizing, out-of-control bureaucracy, and Obama’s vanishing credibility. While both Pew and Gallup Polls indicate that trust in government is at historic lows, the Democrats are saddled with a notorious untrustworthy leading candidate — Hillary Clinton.

Buy the Book

The Case for Donald Trump

By 1.15.16

What America Needs: The Case for Trump
by Jeffrey Lord
Regnery Publishing, 192 pages, $12.71 (paper)

I have fallen in love with American names, wrote poet Stephen Vincent Benét. The sharp names that never get fat. John Wayne. The Beach Boys. Babe Ruth. Muhammad Ali. Geronimo. Names whose bearers could never be anything other than American. Names that an American cannot hear without feeling a tug of pride, a sense of membership in a common clan. Names like Donald Trump.

Names that are fingernails on a blackboard for a certain class of Americans, names that remind them that they really aren’t Englishmen or Frenchmen, or the inhabitants of some imagined country south of Iceland and east of the New Yorker. Names that remind them that they are, after all, American, and that visiting some quaint little Left Bank café they risk being unmasked by a waiter who asks them how they like their coffee in their beau pays des Apaches.

Political Hay

Ted Cruz Challenges Big Ethanol in Iowa

By 1.15.16

Until now conventional wisdom assumed that candidates of both major parties had to back ethanol welfare to win the Iowa caucuses. In 1988 Pete du Pont challenged agricultural subsidies, but he didn’t triumph there or in New Hampshire, after which he dropped out of the race.

In contrast, when Sen. John “Straight Talk Express” McCain ran, he flip-flopped on ethanol, proclaiming himself a true believer in the subsidy after criticizing it for being “highway robbery.” Sen. Hillary Clinton attacked ethanol welfare as “equivalent to a new tax” on gasoline; candidate Clinton lauded the dubious fuel for “limiting our dependence on foreign oil.”

Years ago Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren of the Cato Institute called corn equivalent to “a state religion.” At least in Iowa, which accounts for a quarter of ethanol capacity, corn, like cotton in the antebellum South, was king. No politician who hoped to become president wanted to be branded a heretic or seen as committing regicide.

Sports Arena

Don’t Cry for Us, Angelinos

By 1.15.16

In stimulating tourism, trade, and economic growth, the Roman Coliseum may be the only sports stadium that has repaid the cost of its construction more than a thousand-fold, or even a million-fold.

The Edward Jones Dome in downtown St. Lois is another story. Praised as state-of-the-art when it opened in 1995, the $300 million stadium is faced with abandonment as the St. Louis Rams — it current occupants — prepare to move to Los Angeles later this year. The dome’s playing days as an NFL stadium are over before it reaches its 21st birthday.

Though many St. Louis football fans today are lamenting the loss of the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles (reversing the same bitter flow of emotions that fans in Los Angeles felt back in 1995 when the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis), there is a crucial difference between the two moves: Today’s Rams don’t have their hands out — looking for public assistance. The Rams of yesteryear came to Saint Louis looking for best possible deal at taxpayer expense.

A Further Perspective

Two Partisans Talk Up Bipartisanship

By 1.14.16

There are two ways to talk up bipartisanship. You can give the notion lip service. You can lament its loss in modern politics. You can lay the blame of partisan rancor on the times and not at your own clay feet. You can say, “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” as President Barack Obama shared in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Believe me. I am sick and tired of criticizing the president. I miss the first term, when there were more areas of agreement. Obama’s decision to focus immigration enforcement on undocumented people with serious criminal records was a smart compromise. I miss the president who increased troop levels in Afghanistan. I applauded when Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, a bipartisan measure that reformed the 100-1 sentencing disparity for crack offenses versus powder cocaine offenses.

Political Hay

Nikki Haley Strikes Out

By 1.14.16

Wow. A South Carolinian Margaret Thatcher she ain’t. Not to mention no Ronald Reagan in a dress.

Such a softball shot was the GOP response to the last Obama State of the Union and it was blown. Big time. What in the world was South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley thinking? 

Tasked with giving the GOP Establishment response to President Obama’s final SOTU, Haley, once thought to be a rising star in the conservative firmament, imploded. How? By uttering the kind of hoary Establishment “wisdom” that repeatedly illustrates just how disconnected the Establishment elites are from the base of the GOP. As Sean Hannity said yesterday, she indeed did “sound like Obama.” Rush Limbaugh had it right — the real story Tuesday night was not Obama but Haley. Said Rush yesterday, in part: 

Free Market Accountability Project

Tax Increases Diminish Economic Opportunities

By 1.14.16

As Ronald Reagan might say upon hearing Hillary Clinton’s latest tax proposal, “there she goes again.”

Secretary Clinton wants to impose a 4 percent “fair share surcharge” on people earning more than $5 million annually in order to get the “wealthy and the corporations to pay their fair share.”

While fairness may be a relative term, facts are absolute.

And, the facts are clear. The wealthiest Americans pay the vast majority of income taxes and, on average, pay a higher average tax rate than any other income group. Furthermore, government expenditures continue to grow faster than the overall economy, indicating that the federal government continues to absorb ever-more private resources.

Perhaps most importantly, tax rate increases do not solve what is perhaps the largest economic problem facing the country — stagnating incomes for far too many families. In fact, tax increases make the situation worse.

Political Hay

The State of Obama, At Last

By 1.13.16

At long last, we’ve had our final dose of Barack Obama’s hideously partisan, divisive, and dispiriting State of the Union addresses. Tuesday’s 59-minute harangue, fraudulently billed as shorter than his previous offerings and less focused on unfurling a laundry list of policy desires, was as much an exercise in petulance as an exit from the presidential stage; of course, Obama will still be in charge for another year, but his increasing irrelevance seems almost to be a relief to him.

But in this disjointed mess belched forth onto the airwaves, no less than 12 lowlights made your author thank his Creator for the blessing of this as the final State of the Union delivered by the 44th president.

In chronological order, here they were…

1. Hey Obama, Did Anything Interesting Happen Today?

A Further Perspective

The End Run Around the Second Amendment

By 1.13.16

Since its ratification, the Constitution has been a hassle for those in power (and those who seek to expand their power). Which is precisely what it was meant to be — a series of constraints on power and hurdles to expanding that power, so that individual rights can be protected.

In 1992, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor summed it up this way in a case called New York v. United States: “the Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day.”

Nowhere is this more true than in the Bill of Rights. Rather than laying out the specific powers of the federal government (as is the case in the rest of the Constitution), the Bill of Rights offered further, specified constraints on government power, ending in twin passages (the Ninth and Tenth Amendments) which can be summarized as saying that individual rights aren’t limited to what is listed in the Bill of Rights, and that all rights not surrendered as powers are retained by the states and the people.