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The Obama Watch

Obama’s Surge — It’s Not Against Jihadis

By 4.14.16

Here comes the surge! No, not a military surge against ISIS or an increase in the number of security personnel guarding our mass transportation hubs. Here comes the surge in Syrian refugees.

And if you live in a preferred community, as I do in Walnut Creek, California, over the next year you are going to feel its impact.

There is an obvious and shameful reason that the federal government does not bother to make communities aware of what’s coming. It knows there will be resistance. Dumping refugees into the institutional structure of a community can have dire consequences for that community.

Many of these refugees will not be English speakers and they will not possess the skills to navigate in a post-industrial, highly technological economy. Their children will weigh on the educational system. They will have medical needs — physical, psychological, and emotional — that will weigh on the medical infrastructure.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

Science of the Times

By 4.13.16

This old Jewish joke makes me cry every day. Abe is commiserating with Sam for the break-in that just cleaned out his store. But Sam is cheerful; he says this was the best time for him to be robbed. Why is that?

Sam explains: “I just marked down my entire stock 40 percent!”

This is the fate of the modern Republican Party. First they allow their principles to be devalued. Then they get robbed, but it no longer hurts very much.

A Further Perspective

Another LGBT Lynching

By 4.13.16

It amazes that the tiny sliver of Americans disenchanted with the sex they were born into seem to have taken total control of American culture, and of the laws, policies, and etiquette to enforce their every whim, no matter how bizarre, or how contrary to nature or to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans. And these folks are allowed a level of intolerance and personal vitriol granted to no other group in living memory. (See William Murchison’s fine piece in Tuesday’s TAS here.) Informed readers keeping up with recent events out of North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi know this is true.

Freedom Watch

Why Trump Is Wrong on Free Speech

By 4.13.16

From petty name-calling to louder-than-dog-whistle instances of racism, the level of discourse in this year’s presidential election has sunk to new lows. And the tone is being set by Donald Trump, the front-runner for bully-in-chief.

As primary voting continues, and we brace ourselves for a contentious Republican National Convention in July, voters are faced with a clear choice: Support a national leader who wishes to rule as an authoritarian, silencing political dissent, demeaning free speech, and attempting to crush his opposition at all costs, or fall back on our long-standing American tradition, that we are a free people  —  free to speak, free to dissent, and free to exercise the liberty of original thought.

Trump’s recent proposal to relax America’s libel laws is an affront on our civil liberties. He wants to make it easier to sue news organizations so that he can use the court system as a personal attack dog on those who dare to speak up against him.

Political Hay

Was Cruz’s Colorado Upset a Good Thing for Americans? Yes!

By 4.13.16

First, what happened in Colorado was a great lesson in civics, a course which is no longer taught in our schools.

When the Founders gathered in Philadelphia to construct a constitution, they asked themselves what system of government would be the best, given their beliefs about human nature. And one thing they all agreed on was that people in general were not to be trusted. In this they were no doubt influenced by the fact that, not far from where they were meeting, a mob attacked an old woman whom they accused of being a witch. And maybe also by the Shays rebellion in Massachusetts.

In any event, the Founders did not have much confidence in a democratic system of government. And so they gave us a Republic instead, if we could keep it as Benjamin Franklin observed. The purpose was to deny the ordinary people Hillary Clinton used to talk about the right to vote directly for the folks who would govern them. Instead, the ordinary people would vote for higher level people, who would in turn vote for still higher level people until, after much filtration, the cream would rise to the top and we’d be governed by the very best society had to offer.

Another Perspective

Lindsey Graham Goes Full Ralph Lauren Jacket

By 4.13.16

“All of that stuff in the Mideast is important, who will be president, that's important. But I've got the wrong jacket," Senator Lindsey Graham announced on CBS News Friday. "We're not going to fix the world unless I get my jacket back." He added, “If we get this right, everything else falls into place.”

Now, the “jacket fix” for world affairs was an obvious joke, a moment of levity that hopefully would help the senator from South Carolina recover his Ralph Lauren jacket that accidentally got swapped with another passenger on the shuttle from LaGuardia to DC. Regardless of your politics or any other variables, if you wound up with the senator’s jacket, please get it back to him. It clearly has sentimental value. Returning it to him will earn you indulgences, karma points, or an earmark. Do unto others and all that, folks.

The Current Crisis

Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill Is History

By 4.13.16

Over the last few days former President Bill Clinton displayed one of the salient weaknesses of our famously weak contemporary politicians. He did this even while reminding Americans of one of his rare lapses into true leadership, his 1994 bipartisan legislation to lower crimes rates, particularly in the inner city. When confronted by the low information crowd known as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement he wilted. It took him 24 hours, but eventually, after an eloquent defense of his 1994 leadership, he groveled, whimpering: “I almost want to apologize.”

Why apologize, Mr. President? The incarceration of criminals that followed that 1994 act saved many lives, made marginal neighborhoods livable, and allowed the residents of those neighborhoods to live productive lives. Now they could start climbing up the rungs of the ladder to the middle class. It was a great day for the Republic! Moreover, you made the cities that those warring neighborhoods were in even better cities to live in. Why the retreat, Bill?

Special Report

The Church of Carl Rogers

By 4.13.16

In the 1960s, the psychotherapist Carl Rogers popularized “encounter groups” and “client-centered therapy” and wrote influential essays on becoming the “self which one truly is.” He peddled this relativistic mumbo jumbo to Catholic religious orders, among other groups.

Many years back I interviewed William Coulson, a protégé of Rogers who accompanied him on his trips to nunneries and seminaries, where Rogers encouraged the religious to find their “real selves.” Many of them later did, often in the company of post-pubescent youth.

“[Our] theories made priests and nuns feel good about being bad,” Coulson said. He recalled the “sensitivity training” and “self-esteem” workshops that Rogers held for the Jesuits and Franciscans, both orders eager to embrace the self-indulgence of the 1960s.

“Once we began to peel the onion at these workshops, there was no end to the shocking things people would say,” he said. “They became persuaded of this subjective theory of morality which says that the highest morality is the one you locate within you. And after a while these religious forgot about the teachings of the Church.”

A Further Perspective

Campaign Lies

By 4.13.16

If you took all the lies out of political rhetoric, how much would be left? Apparently even less than usual this year.

The latest, and perhaps biggest, lie — thus far — is that Donald Trump was cheated out of delegates in Colorado because the voters did not select the delegates.

Two very different questions have gotten confused with each other. One question is whether this is the best way to choose delegates. Most of us would say “No,” but most of us don’t live in Colorado, and each state is allowed great leeway in how it chooses to pick its delegates.

The more fundamental question is whether this was some trick cooked up to deprive Donald Trump of the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination. That is of course how Donald Trump and his followers automatically depict anything that doesn’t work out to his advantage.

But the Colorado rules were written and known to all before anybody cast a single vote in the primary elections, anywhere in the country.

Campaign Crawlers

Donald Trump Meets the Wizard of Oz

By 4.12.16

When Dorothy meets the Wizard of Oz, there is a revelation.

The Wizard, it turns out, is from Kansas (actually New Britain, Connecticut). He even helped secure the nomination for Bob Dole in 1996. Dole was an awful nominee, but it’s not about excellence, or even winning. It’s about process, the chase, the ritual of capturing the nomination, even if nothing good comes of it; and, of course, churning massive amounts of campaign cash to achieve nothing more than enshrine the Democrat opponent, meaning that year the reelection of Bill Clinton. Bob Dole’s general election campaign was miserable, but it enriched the Beltway Consultant Class, a metric that matters in Washington.

In my focus group that year, I asked panelists why they felt Dole was old. It wasn’t his age, they said: “It’s just the way he is.” And for decades, mediocrity is just the way it is for the Establishment.