Historical Inevitability


The idea that history is cyclical has been put forth by numerous historians, philosophers, and fiction writers, but one Italian philosopher, named Giovanni Battista Vico (1668-1744), wrote that a fall is also an historical inevitability. In his book La Scienza Nuova, Vico suggested that evidence of this can be found by reading history from the vantage point of the cyclical process of the rise-fall-rise, or fall-rise-fall recurrences, as opposed to studying it in a straight line, dictated by the years in which events occurred. By studying history in this manner, Vico suggested, the perspective of one’s sense of modernity is removed and these cycles of historical inevitability are revealed.

To those of us who have been privy to the lofty altitude of the information age, this notion seems impossible to the point of being implausible. If we are willing to cede to the probability of a fall, as it portends to a certain historical inevitability, we should only do so in a manner that suggests that if there were a fall, it would be defined relative to the baseline of our modern advancements. To these people, an asterisk may be necessary in any discussion of cultures rising and falling in historical cycles. This asterisk would require a footnote that suggests that all eras have creators lining the top of their era’s hierarchy, and those that feed upon their creations at the bottom. The headline grabbing accomplishments of these creators might then define an era, in an historical sense, to suggest that the people of that era were advancing, but were the bottom feeders advancing on parallel lines? Or, is it possible that the creators’ accomplishments might, in some way, inhibit their advancement?

“(Chuck Klosterman) suggests that the internet is fundamentally altering the way we intellectually interact with the past because it merges the past and present into one collective intelligence, and that it’s amplifying our confidence in our beliefs by (a) making it seem like we’ve always believed what we believe and (b) giving us an endless supply of evidence in support of whatever we believe. Chuck Klosterman suggests that since we can always find information to prove our points, we lack the humility necessary to prudently assess the world around us. And with technological advances increasing the rate of change, the future will arrive much faster, making the questions he poses more relevant.” –Will Sullivan on Chuck Klosterman

My initial interpretation of this quote was that it sounded like a bunch of gobbeldy gook, until I reread it and plugged the changes of the day into it. The person that works for a small, upstart company pays acute attention to their inbox, for the procedures and methods of operation change by the day. Those of us who have worked for a larger company, on the other hand, know that change is a long, slow, and often grueling process. It’s the difference between changing the direction of a kayak and a battleship. 

The transformational changes we have experienced in technology, in the last ten years, could be said to fill a battleship, occurring with the rapidity of a kayak’s change of direction.  If that is true, how do we adapt to them at such a breakneck pace? Those 40 and older can adapt to change, and we incorporate those changes into our daily lives at a slower pace. Teens and early twenty somethings are quicker and more eager to adapt and incorporate the latest and greatest advancements, regardless the unforeseen, and unintended consequences.

Some have suggested that if the technological changes we have encountered over the last 10 years occurred over the course of 100 years, we might characterize that century as one of rapid change. Is it possible for us to change as quickly, fundamentally, or is there some methodical lag time that we all factor in?

If we change our minds on an issue as quickly as Klosterman suggests, with the aid of our new information resources, are we prudently assessing these changes in a manner that allows us to examine and process unforeseen and unintended consequences before making a change? How does rapid adaption to technological change affect human nature? Does it change as quickly, and does human nature change as a matter of course, or does human nature require a more methodical hand?

These rapid changes, and our adaptation to them, reminds me of the catch phrase mentality. When one hears a particularly catchy, or funny, catchphrase, they begin repeating it. When another asks that person where they first heard that catchphrase, the person that now uses the catchphrase so often now that it has become routine, say they don’t remember where they heard it. Even if they began using it less than a month ago, they believe they’ve always been saying it. They subconsciously adapted to it and altered their memory in such a way that suits them.  

Another way of interpreting this quote is that with all of this information at our fingertips, the immediate information we receive on a topic, in our internet searches, loses value. One could say as much with any research, but in past such research required greater effort on the part of the curious. For today’s consumer of knowledge, just about every piece of information we can imagine is at our fingertips. 

Who is widely considered the primary writer of the Constitution, for example? A simple Google search will produce a name: James Madison. Who was James Madison, and what were his influences in regard to the document called The Constitution? What was the primary purpose of this finely crafted document that assisted in providing Americans near unprecedented freedom from government tyranny, and rights that were nearly unprecedented when coupled with amendments in the Bill of Rights. How much blood and treasure was spent to pave the way for the creation of this document, and how many voices were instrumental in the Convention that crafted and created this influential document?

Being able to punch these questions into a smart phone, and receive the names of those involved can give them a static quality. The names James Madison, Gouvernor Morris, Alexander Hamilton, and all of the other delegates of the Constitutional Convention that shaped, crafted, and created this document could become nothing more than answer to a Google search. Over time, and through repeated searches, a Google searcher could accidentally begin to assign a certain historical inevitability to the accomplishments of these otherwise disembodied answers. The notion being that if these answers aren’t the correct answers, another one could be.

Removing my personal opinion that Madison, Morris, Hamilton, and those at the Constitutional Convention the composed the document, for just a moment, the question has to be asked, could the creation of Americans’ rights and liberties have occurred at any time, with any men or women in the history of our Republic? The only answer, as I see it, involves another question: How many politicians in the history of the world would vote to limit the power they wield, and any future power they might attain through future endeavors? How many current politicians, for example, are likely to vote for their own term-limits? Only politicians who have spent half their life under what they considered tyrannical rule would fashion a document that could result in their own limitations.   

How many great historical achievements, and people, have been lost to this idea of historical inevitability? Was it an historical inevitability that America would gain her freedom from Britain? Was the idea that most first world people would have the right to speak out against their government, vote, and thus have some degree of self-governance inevitable? How many of the freedoms, opportunities, and other aspects of American exceptionalism crafted in the founding documents are now viewed as so inevitable that someone, somewhere would’ve come along and figured out how to make that possible? Furthermore, if one views such actions as inevitable, how much value do they attach to the ideas, and ideals, created by them? If the answers to these questions attain a certain static inevitability, how susceptible are they to condemnation? If an internet searcher has a loose grasp of the comprehensive nature of what these men did, and the import of these ideas on the current era, will it become an historical inevitability that they’re taken away in a manner that might initiate philosopher Vico’s theory on the cyclical inevitability of a fall?

I’ve heard it theorized that for every 600,000 people born, one will be a transcendent genius. I heard this quote secondhand, and the person who said it attributed it to Voltaire, but I’ve never been able to properly source it. The quote does provide a provocative idea, however, that I interpret to mean that the difference between one that achieves the stature of genius on a standardized test, or Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test, and the transcendent genius lies in this area of application. We’ve all met extremely intelligent people in the course of our lives, in other words, and some of us have met others who qualify as geniuses, but how many of them figured out a way to apply that abundant intelligence in a productive manner? This, I believe, is the difference between the 1 in 57 ratio that some have asserted is the genius ratio and the 1 in 600,000 born. The implicit suggestion of this idea is that every dilemma, or tragedy, is waiting for a transcendent genius to come along and fix it. These are all theories of course, but it does beg the question of what happens to the other 599,999 that feed off the ingenious creations and thoughts of transcendent geniuses for too long? It also begs the question that if the Italian philosopher Vico’s theories on the cyclical nature of history hold true, and modern man is susceptible to a great fall, will there be a transcendent genius who is able to fix the dilemmas and tragedies that await the victims of the next great fall? 

Trickle-Down Economics or Trickle-Down Government?


““Trickle-down economics”, also referred to as “trickle-down theory”, is a populist political term used to characterize economic policies as favoring the wealthy or privileged.” –Google definition.

I appreciate the idea that one of the primary duties of a search engine is to provide concise definitions for their customers. I do not fault Google for what I consider an incomplete definition. To my mind the ideal definition of the term would be the following: ‘Trickle-down economics’, also referred to as ‘trickle-down theory’, is a populist political term used (primarily by opponents) to characterize economic policies (with which they disagree) as favoring the wealthy or privileged.’ (Those that helped to write the definition of the term, for Wikipediahave included the first (primarily by opponents) parenthetical addition.)

(Credit: Center for Media and Democracy)

I realize that, in some ways, these additions might result in the perception that the search engine is taking a side in the argument, but as economist, Dr. Thomas Sowell, writes in his book Basic Economics, the term “trickle-down” is not a proper characterization of the laissez-faire, supply-side economists view that favors freeing up markets. Their goal, attained through a lowering of regulations on business, a lower capital gains tax, and a lower corporate tax rate, would not provide benefit specific to the wealthy or privileged, as much as it would all enterprising risk takers, regardless of their income.

One of the biggest myths that those overwhelmed by the intricacies and complexities involved in understanding economic theory buy into is that an increased tax rate always leads to more revenue for the government. It seems like simple math to suggest that if the government taxes a corporation one percent on 100 million of their profit, the government will receive one million dollars, two percent equals two million, and the higher the tax rate the more a government receives to then redistribute accordingly. This is what supply side economist Arthur Laffer has characterized as an “arithmetic effect”.

What the arithmetic effect does not account for is the effect high taxes have on the amount of taxable activity that occurs. Economist Arthur Laffer points out that everyone knows that if you tax a corporation 0%, the government will receive 0% in revenue. What may not seem as logical on the face of it is, if the government taxes a corporation 100%, the government will also receive 0% in revenue, because the taxed individual, or corporation, will begin to lessen their activity to avoid greater taxation.

What this illustrates, by means of exaggeration, is that there are points in between at which companies, and individuals, decide that it doesn’t make good business sense to continue to engage in taxable activity, at full capacity, if the tax rate on that activity is too high. There is a point in between, suggests Laffer, a point that some now call the Laffer Curve, that suggests that there is a sweet spot in the tax rate that encourages greater taxable activity, broadens the tax base by encouraging greater employment, and can end up resulting in greater revenue for the federal government.

If the supply-side argument were solely concerned with a “trickle-down” effect, one would think that they would be obsessed with the rich keeping more of their money. If that were the case, the supply-side argument might suggest that the tax rate should be as low as possible. They might even suggest that the tax rate should be 0%, or a single-digit tax-rate. That is not the argument that Laffer, Sowell, or any supply-side economists put forth. Rather, they call for a tax rate that encourages greater economic activity that they believe will result in more taxable activity that they believe should result in more revenue for the government. If they directed their sole focus at the rich keeping more of their money, their arguments would also focus more on the federal income tax rate. What they are more concerned with is lowering the corporate tax rate, the capital gains tax, and lessening burdensome government regulation to allow for a more stratified economy by encouraging more middle class investment and risk taking. The middle class risk takers comprise a large percentage of employers of our society, and most of them are not successful in their efforts, much less wealthy. The politicians that raise these taxes often talk about how they need to create jobs, but if the supply side economist theories are to be accepted, these politicians do more harm than good to those that employ. 

Warren Buffett and the Already Wealthy

Ask any wealthy, or privileged, individual about paying taxes, and they will inform the inquisitive that they don’t mind paying taxes, that they’re not paying enough in taxes, or that they think they should be paying more. The listener cannot help but consider such an answer to be wonderful, altruistic, and patriotic. What Warren Buffett will not add is that paying more in taxes will not hurt him, because he already has his money, and he doesn’t mind paying as many taxes as he could possibly pay, until the IRS tries to collect those taxes, and Warren Buffet takes them to court and succeeds in keeping more of his millions.

A person like Warren Buffett may have been for lower taxes, decreased regulations, and a lessened role of government in the economy when he was starting out, but it no longer benefits him in the manner it may the enterprising risk taker that deigns to compete with one of the blue chip companies in which Warren Buffett owns stock. The already wealthy and privileged few –like Warren Buffett– would be more apt to encourage federal regulators to regulate and tax the industries of the companies from which he has shares. In doing so, a wealthy and privileged type like Warren Buffet hopes the government can help him diminish current competitors and drive away any future risk takers that might aspire to compete with a Wells Fargo, IBM, Coca Cola, or any of the other big, blue chip companies in which he owns shares. Yet, any time Warren Buffet appears on TV, everyone is surprised to hear him sound more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan did. Why wouldn’t he, it benefits him to do this, and he already has his.

The Straw Man Argument

Some trace the term “trickle-down economics” to the humorist, Will Rogers, and his attempts to demonize the policies of President Herbert Hoover for the benefit of the Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign. Those, in certain circles, use the term now to voice opposition to such theories, as a straw man argument of what the other side believes. 

As Thomas Sowell writes in his book Basic Economics:

“No recognized economist of any school of thought has ever had any such theory (Trickle Down) or made any such proposal. It is a straw man. It cannot be found in even the most voluminous and learned histories of economic theories.

“What is sought by those that advocate lower rates of taxation or other reductions of government’s role in the economy is not the transfer of existing wealth to higher income earners or businesses but the creation of additional wealth when businesses are less hampered by government controls or by increasing government appropriation of that additional wealth under steeply progressive taxation laws. Whatever the merits or demerits of this view, this is the argument that is made – and which is not confronted, but evaded, by talk of a non-existent ‘trickle down’ theory.

“Whether in the United States or in India, and whether in the past or in the present, ‘trickle down’ has been a characterization and rejection of what somebody else supposedly believed. Moreover, it has been considered unnecessary (by opponents) to cite any given person who had actually advocated any such thing.

“The real effect of a reduction in the capital gains tax is that it opens the prospect of greater future net profits and thereby provides incentives to make current investments that create current employment.”

If one were to corner me in a supermarket and ask me about supply side economics, based on the curve that Arthur Laffer reintroduced to the world, that opponents call trickle-down economics, I might have conceded to the idea that those that formed the economic theory intended it to favor the wealthy and industrial types first. I believed that those who espouse the theory state intend for the fruits of this process to pinball its way down. Even back then, back when I thought it was a decent theory on its face, I didn’t think it made sense. How does one answer for the argument that in a trickle down economy, the idea of greed counters the idea that the money will ever find its way to the worker.

The answer is that our economy is more stratified, and a stratified economy calls for the success of the businesses across all classes, and when the government steps in with its invisible hand to determine winners and losers, it messes up that dynamic by crushing the little guys first. Thomas Sowell would say that even that is a fundamental misreading of the manner in which economic processes work.

“Economic processes work in the directly opposite way from that depicted by those that imagine that profits first benefit business owners and that benefits only belatedly trickle down to workers.

“When an investment is made, whether to build a railroad or to open a new restaurant, the first money is spent hiring people to do the work. Without that, nothing happens. Even when one person decides to operate a store or hamburger stand without employees, that person must first pay somebody to deliver the goods that are being sold. Money goes out first to pay expenses and then comes back as profits later – if at all. The high rate of failure of new businesses makes painfully clear that there is nothing inevitable about the money coming back.

“Even with successful and well-established businesses, years may elapse between the initial investment and the return of earnings. From the time when an oil company begins spending money to explore for petroleum to the time when the first gasoline resulting from that exploration comes out of a pump at a filling station, a decade may have passed. In the meantime, all sorts of employees have been paid – geologists, engineers, refinery workers, and truck drivers, for example. It is only afterwards that profits begin coming in. Only then are there any capital gains to tax. The real effect of a reduction in the capital gains tax is that it opens the prospect of greater future net profits and thereby provides incentives to make current investments that create current employment.”

The ignorance of the many (myself included) of the complications inherent in economic theory allows opponents of that economic theory to frame and fragment that economic theory in such a way that they are able to reduce it to a misleading soundbite: Trickle-down economics. I do not think I’m alone when I write that even though Dr. Sowell has a talent for making the complex understandable, the quotes I’ve provided here lead to  irritable cerebral digestion for which rereading is the only cure. In the midst of such confusion, opponents step in to provide relief from this confusion, and arduous reading, by giving us a ‘benefit the wealthy and privileged’ soundbite.

The Big Corporation and Big Government Relationship

One of the methods novices can use to try and understand a complex economic theory, such as that espoused by Dr. Sowell and others, is to understand what it is not. What is the opposite of lessened regulations, and lower business specific taxes? Some call it Keynesianism economics. Keynesian economists often call for government intervention in times of crisis (i.e. recession or depression). Keynesians often call for “work ready jobs”, and what others call “shovel ready jobs”. Opponents characterize these jobs as one group of employees digging a hole, while another group covers that hole. The short-term purpose of such jobs is to get us over the short-term, temporary, bump of a failing economy. The problem that results from these temporary, short-term resolutions is that when government establishes a role in the economy, for emergency purposes, it rarely rolls those temporary measures back when the emergency has been resolved, as most politicians will not concede that an emergency, which voters elect them to fix, is ever resolved.

This ends up establishing a greater, and more accepted involvement of the government in the economy. Big Corporations hire accountants and lawyers to teach them how to survive in such an environment, until a mutually beneficial relationship is established. The mutually beneficial relationship is realized when Big Corporations learn how to not only survive, but thrive in such an environment, until an incestuous relationship develops to create a climate some call crony capitalism. Some may find this hard to believe, but Warren Buffett, his blue chip companies, and all of those listed in the Dow actually favor more regulations, higher corporate tax rates, higher capital gains rates, and a larger role of federal government in their respective industry.

‘Why would a Big, greedy Corporation call for more taxes, more regulations, and more complications within their own industry?’ some might ask. ‘Doesn’t that affect their profit margin?’ The answer lies in fine print of the reason that there are now more millionaires in Washington D.C., per capita, than in any other place in the United States. It is also the answer to the question how an indicator of the health of an economy, such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), can continue to grow at an anemic rate while the stock market soars to record levels. Crony capitalism results in Big Corporations (and their lobbyists) joining hands with government officials (and their agencies) to pass onerous regulations and high corporate tax rates on an industry. The result is that the rich companies in that industry get richer and the poor get poorer, and this creates a truer form of what could more appropriately call trickle-down economics with the government and big corporations holding hands at the top.

When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently passed regulations on E-Cigarettes, or Vapor cigarettes, for example, they did so in a manner that should have shocked those who loathe corporate America and favor regulating Big Corporate America in a way that they believe, somehow, benefits everyone else. The FDA regulations actually ended up favoring the Big Three Corporations in the smoking industry, or those that have the means, and the set aside money, to comply with all of the FDA regulations and the resultant applications. The Little Guys who attempted to establish brand names in the industry, and carve out their own niche in the industry, will eventually be unable to afford these expenses and still turn a profit on the product, so the Big Three will be the only ones left that can afford to sell and distribute E-Cigarettes and Vapor cigarettes. Why would these Big Three corporations do this, if they are already in the E-Cigarettes segment of the market, but not dominating it yet, or if they are not already in the market, but they have plans to be? They were utilizing Big Government regulation and taxation to crush the little guys in their industry. The very definition of what some politicos call crony capitalism.

Some may say that the FDA’s regulations in the E-Cigarette, or Vapor cigarette, industry may have inadvertently helped the Big Three in their plans to dominate this segment of the industry. They would add, however, that the primary goal of the FDA was to help the consumer understand that E-cigarettes and Vapor cigarettes either contain toxins that are harmful to their health, or that the companies in the industry must prove that they don’t, and they must warn the public if they can’t. In the case of this particular FDA regulation, however, Michael Siegel writes that there were alternatives to protect the consumer in the ways the FDA stated that these regulations would, but that the FDA chose the most the route most beneficial for the Big Three. One could deduce, based on the particulars of the regulations listed in Siegel’s piece that the FDA acted in a manner that the Big Three’s lobbyists called for, as these regulations helped the Big Three crush the little guys in the segment in such a manner that will leave the Big Three as the sole competitors.

Long story short, a bunch of little guys gathered and carved out a niche in an industry that the Big Three had some difficulty dominating. The Big Three grew weary of the competition in that industry, and they “secretly negotiated” with advocacy groups and lobbyists to help form the legislation. 

As a spokesman of Altria, the biggest of the Big Three, Brian May, stated: 

“(Altria) did support FDA extension of authority over e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. Our goal is to be a leader in vaping space.”

“In terms of what they’re trying to do, (tobacco companies) want to limit competition and encourage the cartelization of their markets,” Jonathon H. Adler, the author of the “Baptists, Bootleggers” article, wrote in an email. “They want regulation of e-cigarettes because it lessens the competitive threat to traditional cigarettes and because it makes the remaining e-cigarette market something that’s easier for them to dominate.”

Some are also suggesting that the manner in which the Big Three in this industry conspired with the government to take over the E-cigarette segment of the business, lays a road map for how they will take over the marijuana industry if that product achieves legalization in the United States.

So the next time a powerful politician suggests that “trickle-down economics” does not work, remember that is in their best interests to mischaracterize the supply-side economic theory, without informing their audience of the particulars of that theory. Also, keep in mind that if their theory on economics continues to prevail, the government will remain atop the various industries in this country. The politician will be in a seat of power that will continue to allow that politician to “trickle-down” benefits in all the ways listed above, and in the form of taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, and no-bid contracts that benefit the corporations that meet the politician’s political bullet points.

Also, remember if supply-side economists had their way with the government’s economic policies, the regulations and tax code would have appeal that is more comprehensive for those individuals (little guys) that aspire to take a risk in our economy. The intended result would be greater prosperity among all economic classes. The method of doing so would involve removing the roadblocks that Big Corporations hire accountants and lawyers to help them avoid. The intended result would also involve freeing up of middle class risk takers in a manner than should result in a broader tax base, more diverse forms of employment for individuals across economic classes, and it should end up resulting in more money in the coffers of government.

The opponents have learned, however, that the best way to pettifog an issue is to get out in front of it, and proactively define the debate in question. When a person defends their personal motivations on an issue by saying it’s not about the money, the first thing the listener knows is that it’s all about the money. On a similar note, when a politician allocates tax payer’s hard earned dollars –in the form of tax payer subsidies– to one company in an industry, and they say it’s not about picking winners and losers, the listener can be assured that it’s all about picking winners and losers. That particular company just managed to hit most of the politician’s political bullet points, and he or she began transferring wealth to the company in a form of trickle-down economics in which the politician was standing alone at the top of the pyramid flexing their muscles for the rest of corporate America to witness.

I don’t know what the goals of other side of supply-side economics were hoping to accomplish in their end game, but I would guess that most honest businessmen now find it disgusting to watch their fellow businessmen panhandle government officials into drowning their competition in legal red tape, onerous regulations, and tax rates. I would think that most honest businessmen would, at least consider the practice unethical. I’m quite sure that the other businessmen –those declared to be unethical by their peers– would turn to their friends and say something along the lines of, ‘To succeed in this climate, you need to learn how to operate within it. It’s called crony capitalism.’

Camille Paglia on the 2016 presidential candidates


If you are at all familiar with the politics of Camille Paglia, you either love her or hate her, but you find it annoying difficult to ignore her.  In her latest, provocative interview with Salon.com, part II, and part III, she discusses her views (thus far, 7/30/2015) on some of the candidates of the 2016 presidential elections.  She is, at times, critical, at times constructive, and at other times a little mean-spirited, but Ms. Paglia rarely submits an opinion on any matter without backing it up with some objectivity, and thoughtful examination.

presidential-candidate-tracker-1422646394170-videoSixteenByNine600-v7Ms. Paglia is a life-long Democrat, but she is often as critical of Democrats as she is Republicans. This is based on the idea, presumably, that she wants to help fix her party.  As opposed to most social critics that call the Democrat Party their home, Ms. Paglia makes no secret of her perspective on individual Republican candidates, but this reader finds her views very insightful … even when she’s leveling my favorite Republican candidate.

Though it’s difficult to sift through all of her negative and positive comments, Camille Paglia’s take on the election right now, appears to be that once all the smoke clears, it will probably be (Republican Governor, Wisconsin) Scott Walker and (former Democrat Governor, Maryland) Martin O’Malley left standing.

Hillary Clinton:  I have constantly said that Senator (California) Dianne Feinstein should have been the leading woman presidential candidate for the Democrat Party long ago.  Congresswoman (California) Nancy Pelosi is a very deft and clever behind-the-scenes legislator and dealmaker, a skill she acquired from her political family–her father and brother were mayors of Baltimore. Both of these women, to me, are far better politicians than (Former Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton. Hillary has accomplished nothing substantial in her life. She’s been pushed along, coasting on her husband’s coattails, and every job she’s been given fizzled out into time-serving or overt disaster.  Hillary constantly strikes attitudes and claims she’s “passionate” about this or that, but there’s never any sustained follow-through.  She’s just a classic, corporate exec or bureaucrat type who would prefer to be at her desk behind closed doors, imposing her power schemes on the proletariat.  She has no discernible political skills of any kind, which is why she needs a big, shifting army of consultants, advisors, and toadies to whisper in her ear and write her policy statements.  There’s this ridiculous new theme in the media about people needing to learn who the “real” Hillary Clinton is.  What? Everything they’re saying about what a wonderful person Hillary is in private tells us that she’s not competent or credible as a public figure! A politician, particularly a president, must have a distinct skill or expertise in communicating with the masses.  It’s the absolutely basic requirement for any career in politics.

If you don’t have an effective public persona, if you’re not a good speaker, if you don’t like to press the flesh, if you’re not nimble enough to deal with anything that comes along, then you are not a natural politician!  And you sure aren’t going to learn it in your late 60s!  Get off the stage, and let someone else truly electable on! All this silly talk about how wonderful Hillary is in private.  Oh, sure, she’s nice to the important people and the people she wants or needs something from!  Then she’s Pollyanna herself!  There are just too many reports stretching all the way back to Arkansas about Hillary’s nasty outbursts toward underlings when things aren’t going well.  The main point is that the ability to communicate with millions of people is a special talent, and Hillary pretty obviously lacks it.

Hillary Clinton Part II: I don’t see Hillary as even getting as far as the debates!  If things continue to trend downward for her, in terms of her favorability and the increasing scandals, then the Democratic establishment will have to take action to avoid a sure GOP win.  Hillary has way too much baggage for a general election–that should have been obvious from the start.  If Vice-President Biden jumps in, that would change everything.  I don’t think Hillary wants to be defeated, so what I’ve been predicting all along is that there will be a “health crisis,” and she will withdraw.  Right now, her campaign is trying to change the headlines by releasing some new policy statement every day, but it’s not going to change the looming investigations into her conduct as Secretary of State.  And of course the GOP is holding back its real anti-Hillary ammunition until she’s the nominee.  Then we’ll all be plunged backward into the endless nightmare of the Clinton years–it will be pure hell!

I’m hoping, once we get to the debates, that Martin O’Malley can show himself to best advantage.  He was an experienced mayor and governor of Maryland, and he has an attractive, low-key temperament. He’s presented himself very well thus far in media interviews.  He’s relaxed, open, and actually enjoys being with people–which Hillary clearly does not. He has an outgoing, fun-loving Irish pol quality, which many people nostalgically remember from the Kennedy years.

Martin O’Malley: I feel that once we get to the debates, O’Malley’s actual hands-on, day-to-day experience with complex big-city governance will get traction. Right now we’re in a volatile period of slogans being shouted and passions about racial and immigrant issues boiling over. That’s what’s currently driving the news, but we’re not at the point where people are sitting in front of their T.V.s and intently assessing candidates for the presidency. How is this person handling him or herself behind the podium? How is that person responding to questions or conflict? The actual debates are when the electorate is auditioning candidates for the presidency.  That’s where Obama gained big on Hillary.

Joe Biden: If (Vice-President) Biden enters, I’m not counting him out. He’s going to suck up a lot of Hillary’s support. I’ve never taken Biden too seriously–he always seemed like a lightweight.  But the death of his son Beau, a nice guy with military experience who seemed on track for the presidency, has given Biden more gravitas than he ever had before.  The way he handled himself at Beau’s funeral–standing for five hours, personally greeting all callers. Biden comes in as someone who doesn’t have enemies and who knows the departments of government and international affairs.  He handles himself well in debates–even though Sarah Palin defeated him!

Biden doesn’t have any of Hillary’s negatives.  Why do we want another divisive, polarizing figure in the White House? Who wants a president that half the country already hates? Does that make any sense? At a time when the U.S. has to negotiate with hostile or untrustworthy foreign states, you’d think we would want a president who has the support and good will of the nation.  People are tired of the polarization and looking for a uniter!

Bernie Sanders: (Democrat Senator, Vermont) Bernie Sanders has the authentic, empathic, 1960s radical voice. It’s so refreshing. Now, I’m a supporter of Martin O’Malley–I sent his campaign a contribution the very first day he declared.  But I would happily vote for Sanders in the primary.  His type of 1960s radical activist style descends from the 1930s unionization movement, when organizers who were sometimes New York Jewish radicals went down to help the mine workers of Appalachia resist company thugs. There are so many famous folk songs that came out of that violent period.

When I was in college–from 1964 to 1968–I saw what real leftists look like, because a lot of people at my college, which was the State University of New York at Binghamton, were radicalized Jews from downstate. They were very avant-garde, doing experimental theater and modern dance, and they knew all about abstract expressionism. Their parents were often Holocaust survivors, so they had a keen sense of history.  And they spoke in a very direct and open working-class style. That’s why, in the 1990s, I was saying that the academic leftists were such frauds–sitting around applying Foucault to texts and thinking that was leftism!  No it wasn’t!  It was a snippy, prim, smug bourgeois armchair leftism.  Real ’60s radicals rarely went to grad school and never became big-wheel humanities professors, with their fat salaries and perks.  The proof of the vacuity of academic leftism for the past forty years is the complete silence of leftist professors about the rise of the corporate structure of the contemporary university–their total failure to denounce the gross expansion of the administrator class and the obscene rise in tuition costs. The leading academic leftists are such frauds–they’ve played the system and are retiring as millionaires!

But what you see in Bernie Sanders–that is truly the voice of populism.  I love the way he says, “This is not about me, it’s about you–it’s about building a national grassroots organization.”  That is perfect!  I doubt Sanders can win a national election with his inflammatory socialist style–plus you need someone in the White House who knows how to manage a huge bureaucracy, so I’m pessimistic about his chances. However, I think that he is tonic–to force the Democrat party, which I belong to, to return to its populist roots. I applaud everything that Sanders is doing!

Donald Trump:  So far this year, I’m happy with what (Republican) Trump has done, because he’s totally blown up the media!  All of a sudden, “BOOM!”  That lack of caution and shooting from the hip. He’s not a president, of course. He’s not remotely a president. He has no political skills of any kind. He’s simply an American citizen who is creating his own bully pulpit.  He speaks in the great populist way, in the slangy vernacular.  He takes hits like a comedian–and to me he’s more of a comedian than Jon Stewart is!  Like claiming John McCain isn’t a war hero, because his kind of war hero doesn’t get captured–that’s hilarious! That’s like something crass that Lenny Bruce might have said!  It’s so startling and entertaining.

It’s as if the stars have suddenly shifted–because we’re getting a mix-up in the other party too, as in that recent disruption of the NetRoots convention, with all that raw emotion and chaos in the air.  To me, it feels very 1960s.  These sudden disruptions, as when the Yippies would appear to do a stunt–like when they invaded Wall Street and threw dollar bills down on the stock exchange and did pig-calls!  I’m enjoying this, but it’s throwing both campaigns off. None of the candidates on either side know how to respond to this kind of wild spontaneity, because we haven’t seen it in so long.

Politics has always been performance art.  So we’ll see who the candidates are who can think on their feet.  That’s certainly how I succeeded in the early 1990s.  Before that, the campus thought police could easily disrupt visiting speakers who came with a prepared speech to read.  But they couldn’t disrupt me, because I had studied comedy and did improv!  The great comedians knew how to deal with hecklers in the audience.  I loved to counterattack!  Protesters were helpless when the audiences laughed.

So what I’m saying is that the authentic 1960s were about street theater–chaos, spontaneity, caustic humor. And Trump actually has it!  He does better comedy than most professional comedians right now, because we’re in this terrible period where the comedians do their tours with canned jokes. They go from place to place, saying the same list of jokes in the same way.  But the old vaudevillians had 5,000 jokes stored in their heads. They went out there and responded to that particular audience on that particular night.  They had to read the crowd and try out what worked or didn’t work.

Our politicians, like our comedians, have been boring us with their canned formulas for way too long.  So that’s why Donald Trump has suddenly leapt in the polls.  He’s a great stand-up comedian. He’s anti-PC–he’s not afraid to say things that are rude and mean.  I think he’s doing a great service for comedy as well as for politics!

Marco Rubio: (Republican Senator, Florida) Rubio is widely praised for his intelligence, but he comes across as unsettlingly glib to me. He’s sharp on foreign affairs–that’s a strong suit for him.  But he seems oddly weightless, like a peppy young boy. I don’t see any depth yet.

Ted Cruz: (Republican Senator, Texas) Ted Cruz–oh, lord!  Cruz gives me the willies. The guy is a fanatic!  He’s very smart, clever and strategic, and he has a fine education from Princeton, so people have to watch out for him. But I think he is self-absorbed and narcissistic to a maniacal degree.  I will never forgive him for his insulting arrogance to Dianne Feinstein when the Judiciary Committee was debating gun control two years ago. There’s a two-minute clip on YouTube which I urge people to look at it.  Cruz is smirkily condescending and ultimately juvenile.  He peppers Feinstein with a long list of rat-a-tat questions, as if he’s playing Perry Mason grilling a witness on the stand.  He was trying to embarrass her but only embarrassed himself.  A president must be a statesman, not a smart-alecky horse’s ass.

Rand Paul: As a libertarian, I find myself agreeing with (Republican Senator, Kentucky) Rand Paul on so many different social and political issues. Unfortunately, however, Paul lacks gravitas as a physical presence. The U.S. presidency has a highly ceremonial aspect.  The president isn’t merely a prime minister, a political leader–he’s the symbolic embodiment of the nation. Therefore, physical attributes and vocal style are very important.  Despite the cartoons that caricature and ridicule him as a befuddled boy with big ears, Obama has always known how to handle himself as a candidate and then president. He projects a sober, unflappable confidence and presents himself with elegance and grace–all of which produced his success early on, when Hillary was the frontrunner in 2008.  Many Americans were so sick of Bush, with that lumbering cowboy stance of his.  And remember that terrible moment at a European summit when Bush came up behind the seated Angela Merkel and grabbed her by the shoulders?  She jumped out of her skin.  What an embarrassment to the nation!  I was so happy when Obama took office–finally a president who projected class and dignity.  I’m talking only about persona here, not policies–because while I voted for Obama in 2008, I would not do it again in 2012, when I voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party.

In the primary debates, Cruz will benefit from having a tall and commanding physique, as Bill De Blasio did in the New York mayoral debates.  On the whole, Republicans don’t seem to realize that persona and self-presentation are crucial in a media age.  For example, Rand Paul has obviously had his eye on the presidency for years, so it’s astonishing that he apparently has never given any thought to how he should dress or cut his hair or even stand in front of cameras.  It’s as if his idea of style was flash-frozen in the Everly Brothers era. The tall candidate often has a big advantage in any campaign. It wasn’t the case with Jimmy Carter, but he was an exception.  People do want a sense of implicit authority in the president.  This is certainly what has also held women back from reaching the White House–they don’t present or conceive of themselves in an authoritative way. Dianne Feinstein is the only woman politician in America who has true gravitas. I’m not talking about her policies, about which there is huge division in California.  What I’m saying is that candidates for president must have a perhaps unteachable quality of inward power and steadiness–and Feinstein has it.  Rand Paul neglected this issue–which led to his surprisingly thin skin with the media. You would think after so many years in the public eye, he would be better about handling the press.  But right out of the gate, he was arguing and sniping with a woman TV interviewer.  It came across as petty and tacky–utterly unpresidential.

In the same way, Sarah Palin, who I had great hopes for as a dynamic new type of frontier-woman politician, was way too reactive with the media. She was fighting with bottom-feeders half the time, and they dragged her down to their level.  A major politician can’t do that! You have to learn how to take it but give it back in ways that don’t bounce back at you.  You have to pick the right fights.  It’s a game that every politician must learn–including the ability to satirize the media, which voters love. Being able to handle the media is an essential aspect to running for president, and here is where Hillary has failed abysmally in this campaign. You can’t simply ignore the media or spew memorized talking points at them.  Carly Fiorina is proving herself surprisingly superior to Hillary in knowing how to spar with the media.

Scott Walker: I think that liberals are dangerously complacent about Scott Walker. They’ve tried to portray him as a madman, an uneducated rube, a tool of the Koch brothers.  Right now, Walker seems to be the true GOP frontrunner, but I also feel he lacks gravitas.  He’s not ready for his close-up.  What is this oddity about so many of the GOP candidates–their excessive boyishness, as if their maturation stalled?  But Walker is a very talented and combative politician, with far more substance than liberals are allowing for.

The union issue is huge–because as governor of Wisconsin, Walker went to war with unions and won.  Liberals are caught in the past right now in their rosy view of unions, which were heroically established during the progressive era that reformed the abuses of the industrial revolution.  But the union battle in Wisconsin had nothing to do with exploited working-class miners or factory workers.  In his push to balance the state budget, Walker took action against the middle-class public sector unions, whose negotiations with municipal and state governments outside the arena of private competition have become an enormous drain on local budgets as the economy has worsened. There has been a history of rampant corruption in the public sector unions, coming from their cozy quid pro quo relationships with politicians.  Liberals need to wake up about this!  All they have to do is read the obituaries of the smaller newspapers in metropolitan New York to see how the early retirement and lavish pensions of the public sector unions have grotesquely drained taxpayer dollars.  Obituary after obituary–so-and-so, aged 75, worked for fifteen or twenty years as a policeman or city sanitation worker, retired in his late 40s, and spent the rest of his life on the taxpayer’s dime, pursuing his hobbies of fishing, boating, and golfing.  Great work if you can get it!

And then the teachers’ unions! What a colossal tactical error American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (a longtime Clinton friend and donor) made several weeks ago in unilaterally declaring her union’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton right in the middle of the Bernie Sanders surge. Probably for the first time ever, American liberals woke up to the corrupt practices that have become way too common in the political maneuverings of the big unions. The point here is that Scott Walker, in his defeat of the public sector unions, drew the roadmap for struggling municipal and state governments everywhere to balance their budgets, as he did in Wisconsin.  Because who ends up suffering the most? It’s the kids.  All that money outrageously pouring into inflated pension plans has been gutting public education and community arts programs.

Exactly how have the teachers unions improved the quality of education in our big cities?  Look at the dilapidated public schools in Philadelphia or in many other cities run by Democrats.  The rigid and antiquated seniority system imposed by the teachers unions has been a disaster–”last hired, first fired.”  So many young and vital teachers have been terminated during budget cuts–the entire future of the profession.  The unions value seniority over quality, and it’s inner-city children who have paid the price.

In my opinion, Scott Walker still lacks seasoning, presidential temper, and a working knowledge of international affairs.  But if Democrats try to use the union issue to take him down, they’re simply empowering him–and we’re going to end up with President Walker.

Jeb Bush: [loud laughter] What a joke! I didn’t remember him at all! This shows what a nothing he is! The major media have been constantly saying that (former Republican Governor, Florida) Jeb is the GOP front-runner, which is utter nonsense. It’s the same thing with Hillary–the polls have just been showing name recognition, nothing more. I’ve been looking at the comments on political news articles since last year, and Jeb Bush seems to have absolutely no support whatever–like zero!  To this day, I’ve never seen an online commenter enthusiastically supporting him.  It’s really strange!  All these rich people throw big money at him, but I don’t know who his voters could possibly be.

If Jeb had run for president after his successful run as governor of Florida, he would have had a better chance.  But he lost his chops during his long hiatus, and he’s coming across as fuzzy and bumbling.  Conservative talk radio is totally against him–he’s dismissed as the ultimate RINO.  On the other hand, let’s see what happens in the primary debates.  It could well be that some of the younger GOP candidates will seem too shallow or shrill, and Jeb will gain because of his amiable personality and fund of government knowledge and experience.  Voters might well go for him in the end as the safe choice.

Camille Paglia: The Radical Libertarian


Reading through Camille Paglia’s criticisms of the culture, one cannot help but think that most other social critics of our generation either feed a confirmation bias or speak about things for which most of us have no interest. As evidence of their lack of confidence, they scratch and claw their way through the competition to achieve an unprecedented depth in the sewer. On those occasions when Ms. Paglia does use overly provocative words, she backs it up with objectivity and a display of knowledge that is so vast that the adjective “informed” seems incomplete.

Camille Paglia is not a conservative, or liberal, and her politics have been described as “radical libertarian”, but she is a life-long Democrat. The “difficult to define” nature of her politics is something that most partisans pine for, but few of these “all over the map” thinkers could finish one paragraph of Camille Paglia’s thoughts without acknowledging that there is a comparative consistency to the overview of their thinking that could only be called limited to a certain ideology. Most diverse thinkers would also shrink at the evidence of inconsistencies in their beliefs system that suggests that they’ve either never been challenged, or that they’ve never truly given opposing views any consideration. From what I’ve read of Ms. Paglia’s work, when she is confronted by inconsistencies she confronts them head-on, and in a manner that contains no obfuscation or spin.

She is in favor of pornography, abortion, prostitution, drug-use, and assisted suicide. She is a proud lesbian, an atheist that respects religion, and a self-described dissident feminist, or as some feminist critics have called her an “anti-feminist feminist”.

1412025458115_Image_galleryImage_Mandatory_Credit_Photo_byIf you have strong views on a specific topic, she’ll probably offend you in some manner, but her methodology does not consist of the quick to the throat one-liners that one has come expect from a provocateur. Those that worship at the altar of provocateurs may not even recognize what Camille’s methodology for what it is, as her criticisms dig deep and leave a lasting wound.

The average and ubiquitous provocateur will say something along the line of: “I don’t want some guy (Ted Cruz) that purportedly memorized the constitution at twelve years-old to be my president. If I would’ve been in his grade, at twelve years old, I would’ve put my knee into his throat until he changed … I want the guy I vote for to smoke pot, have premarital and post-marital affairs … and yes … I’m talking about in the White House, and I want my guy to snort coke off their partner’s backside. I want my politician to be a real man or woman that has lived a real life.”

Those of us that worship at the altar of provocateurs are temporarily put in a jam by such comments, because they’re directed at “our guys”, but it’s not that, and we find ourselves in a sand hole trying to defend our disinterest. It’s that that type of ridicule is lacking in ingenuity and depth, and originality. It’s something George Carlin was saying forty years ago, it’s Lenny Bruce, it’s retread. Those of us that pine for something different want that cutting-the-edge-of-the-throat type of originality from our social critics that is informed and appears to have no influence, and we also want the kind of critiques that have staying power in the manner Camille Paglia’s criticism does:

“(Ted) Cruz gives me the willies. The guy is a fanatic! He’s very smart, clever and strategic, and he has a fine education from Princeton, so people have to watch out for him. But I think he is self-absorbed and narcissistic to a maniacal degree. I will never forgive him for his insulting arrogance to Dianne Feinstein when the Judiciary Committee was debating gun control two years ago. There’s a two-minute clip on YouTube which I urge people to look at it. Cruz is smirkily condescending and ultimately juvenile. He peppers Feinstein with a long list of rat-a-tat questions, as if he’s playing Perry Mason grilling a witness on the stand. He was trying to embarrass her but only embarrassed himself. A president must be a statesman, not a smart-alecky horse’s ass.”

There is no substance to the insight of most provocateurs. Listen to the most caustic crowd long enough, usually found on satellite radio, or on podcasts, and you’ll hear that their analysis of even the most important subjects devolve to 5th grade potty humor and fart jokes. Provocative jokes like those have their place, but they don’t have the kind of staying power that a Camille Paglia statement does, as her most recent interview with Salon.com, part II, and part III proves.

On Bill Clinton:

“Bill Clinton was a serial abuser of working-class women –he had exploited that power differential even in Arkansas. And then in the case of Monica Lewinsky– I mean, the failure on the part of (iconic feminist leader) Gloria Steinem and company to protect her was an absolute disgrace in feminist history! What bigger power differential could there be than between the president of the United States and this poor innocent girl? Not only an intern but clearly a girl who had a kind of pleading, open look to her–somebody who was looking for a father figure.

“I was enraged! My publicly stated opinion at the time was that I don’t care what public figures do in their private life. It’s a very sophisticated style among the French, and generally in Europe, where the heads of state tend to have mistresses on the side. So what? That doesn’t bother me at all! But the point is, they are sophisticated affairs that the European politicians have, while the Clinton episode was a disgrace.”

Camille preceded this observation with a slight correlation between Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton:

“Right from the start, when the Bill Cosby scandal surfaced, I knew it was not going to bode well for Hillary’s campaign, because young women today have a much lower threshold for tolerance of these matters. The horrible truth is that the feminist establishment in the U.S., led by Gloria Steinem, did in fact apply a double standard to Bill Clinton’s behavior because he was a Democrat. The Democrat president and administration supported abortion rights, and therefore it didn’t matter what his personal behavior was.

“But we’re living in a different time right now, and young women have absolutely no memory of Bill Clinton. It’s like ancient history for them; there’s no reservoir of accumulated good will.”

Salon.com Interviewer David Daley: “A cigar and the intern is certainly the opposite of sophisticated.”

“Absolutely! It was frat house stuff! And Monica got nothing out of it. Bill Clinton used her. Hillary was away or inattentive, and he used Monica in the White House–and in the suite of the Oval Office, of all places. He couldn’t have taken her on some fancy trip? She never got the perks of being a mistress; she was there solely to service him. And her life was completely destroyed by the publicity that followed. The Clinton’s are responsible for the destruction of Monica Lewinsky! They probably hoped that she would just go on and have a job, get married, have children, and disappear, but instead she’s like this walking ghoul.”

Salon.com Interviewer David Daley: “Fifteen years later, that’s still the sad role left for her to play.”

“Yes, it’s like something out of “Wuthering Heights” or “Great Expectations”–some Victorian novel, where a woman turns into this mourning widow who mopes on and on over a man who abused or abandoned her. Hillary has a lot to answer for, because she took an antagonistic and demeaning position toward her husband’s accusers. So it’s hard for me to understand how the generation of Lena Dunham would or could tolerate the actual facts of Hillary’s history.”

Salon.com Interviewer David Daley: “So have the times and standards changed enough that Clinton would be seen as Cosby, if he was president today.”

“Oh, yes! There’s absolutely no doubt, especially in this age of instant social media. In most of these cases, like the Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby stories, there’s been a complete neglect of psychology. We’re in a period right now where nobody asks any questions about psychology.  No one has any feeling for human motivation. No one talks about sexuality in terms of emotional needs and symbolism and the legacy of childhood. Sexuality has been politicized–“Don’t ask any questions!” “No discussion!” “Gay is exactly equivalent to straight!” And thus in this period of psychological blindness or inertness, our art has become dull. There’s nothing interesting being written–in fiction or plays or movies.Everything is boring because of our failure to ask psychological questions.

“So I say there is a big parallel between Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton–aside from their initials! Young feminists need to understand that this abusive behavior by powerful men signifies their sense that female power is much bigger than they are! These two people, Clinton and Cosby, are emotionally infantile–they’re engaged in a war with female power. It has something to do with their early sense of being smothered by female power–and this pathetic, abusive and criminal behavior is the result of their sense of inadequacy.

“Now, in order to understand that, people would have to read my first book, “Sexual Personae”–which of course is far too complex for the ordinary feminist or academic mind! It’s too complex because it requires a sense of the ambivalence of human life. Everything is not black and white, for heaven’s sake! We are formed by all kinds of strange or vague memories from childhood. That kind of understanding is needed to see that Cosby was involved in a symbiotic, push-pull thing with his wife, where he went out and did these awful things to assert his own independence. But for that, he required the women to be inert. He needed them to be dead! Cosby is actually a necrophiliac–a style that was popular in the late Victorian period in the nineteenth-century.

“It’s hard to believe now, but you had men digging up corpses from graveyards, stealing the bodies, hiding them under their beds, and then having sex with them. So that’s exactly what’s happening here: to give a woman a drug, to make her inert, to make her dead is the man saying that I need her to be dead for me to function. She’s too powerful for me as a living woman. And this is what is also going on in those barbaric fraternity orgies, where women are sexually assaulted while lying unconscious. And women don’t understand this! They have no idea why any men would find it arousing to have sex with a young woman who’s passed out at a fraternity house. But it’s necrophilia–this fear and envy of a woman’s power.

“And it’s the same thing with Bill Clinton: to find the answer, you have to look at his relationship to his flamboyant mother. He felt smothered by her in some way. But let’s be clear–I’m not trying to blame the mother!  What I’m saying is that male sexuality is extremely complicated, and the formation of male identity is very tentative and sensitive–but feminist rhetoric doesn’t allow for it. This is why women are having so much trouble dealing with men in the feminist era.  They don’t understand men, and they demonize men. They accord to men far more power than men actually have in sex. Women control the sexual world in ways that most feminists simply don’t understand.

“My explanation is that second-wave feminism dispensed with motherhood. The ideal woman was the career woman–and I do support that. To me, the mission of feminism is to remove all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm–to give women equal opportunities with men. However, what I kept saying in “Sexual Personae” is that equality in the workplace is not going to solve the problems between men and women which are occurring in the private, emotional realm, where every man is subordinate to women, because he emerged as a tiny helpless thing from a woman’s body. Professional women today don’t want to think about this or deal with it.

“The erasure of motherhood from feminist rhetoric has led us to this current politicization of sex talk, which doesn’t allow women to recognize their immense power vis-à-vis men. When motherhood was more at the center of culture, you had mothers who understood the fragility of boys and the boy’s need for nurturance and for confidence to overcome his weaknesses. The old-style country women–the Italian matriarchs and Jewish mothers–they all understood the fragility of men. The mothers ruled their own world and didn’t take men that seriously. They understood how to nurture men and encourage them to be strong–whereas current feminism simply doesn’t perceive the power of women vis-a-vis men.  But when you talk like this with most men, it really resonates with them, and they say “Yes, yes! That’s it!”

“Currently, feminists lack sympathy and compassion for men and for the difficulties that men face in the formation of their identities. I’m not talking in terms of the men’s rights movement, which got infected by p.c.  The heterosexual professional woman, emerging with her shiny Ivy League degree, wants to communicate with her husband exactly the way she communicates with her friends–as in “Sex and the City.” That show really caught the animated way that women actually talk with each other.  But that’s not a style that straight men can do!  Gay men can do it, sure–but not straight men!  Guess what–women are different than men! When will feminism wake up to this basic reality? Women relate differently to each other than they do to men. And straight men do not have the same communication skills or values as women–their brains are different!”

On Atheists that sneer at Religion:

“I regard (those that sneer at religion) as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.”  It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way.  Richard Dawkins was the only high-profile atheist out there when I began publicly saying “I am an atheist,” on my book tours in the early 1990s. I started the fad for it in the U.S, because all of a sudden people, including leftist journalists, started coming out of the closet to publicly claim their atheist identities, which they weren’t bold enough to do before. But the point is that I felt it was perfectly legitimate for me to do that because of my great respect for religion in general–from the iconography to the sacred architecture and so forth. I was arguing that religion should be put at the center of any kind of multicultural curriculum.

“I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.

“The real problem is a lack of knowledge of religion as well as a lack of respect for religion. I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives.

“But yes, the sneering is ridiculous!  Exactly what are these people offering in place of religion? In my system, I offer art–and the whole history of spiritual commentary on the universe. There’s a tremendous body of nondenominational insight into human life that used to be called cosmic consciousness.  It has to be remembered that my generation in college during the 1960s was suffused with Buddhism, which came from the 1950s beatniks. Hinduism was in the air from every direction–you had the Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Ravi Shankar at Monterey, and there were sitars everywhere in rock music. So I really thought we were entering this great period of religious syncretism, where the religions of the world were going to merge. But all of a sudden, it disappeared!  The Asian religions vanished–and I really feel sorry for young people growing up in this very shallow environment where they’re peppered with images from mass media at a particularly debased stage.

“There are no truly major stars left, and I don’t think there’s much profound work being done in pop culture right now.  Young people have nothing to enlighten them, which is why they’re clinging so much to politicized concepts, which give them a sense of meaning and direction.

“But this sneering thing!  I despise snark.  Snark is a disease that started with David Letterman and jumped to Jon Stewart and has proliferated since. I think it’s horrible for young people!   And this kind of snark atheism–let’s just invent that term right now–is stupid, and people who act like that are stupid. Christopher Hitchens’ book “God is Not Great” was a travesty. He sold that book on the basis of the brilliant chapter titles. If he had actually done the research and the work, where each chapter had the substance of those wonderful chapter titles, then that would have been a permanent book. Instead, he sold the book and then didn’t write one–he talked it. It was an appalling performance, demonstrating that that man was an absolute fraud to be talking about religion.  He appears to have done very little scholarly study.  Hitchens didn’t even know Judeo-Christianity well, much less the other world religions.  He had that glib Oxbridge debater style in person, but you’re remembered by your written work, and Hitchens’ written work was weak and won’t last.

“Dawkins also seems to be an obsessive on some sort of personal vendetta, and again, he’s someone who has never taken the time to do the necessary research into religion. Now my entire career has been based on the pre-Christian religions.  My first book, “Sexual Personae,” was about the pagan cults that still influence us, and it began with the earliest religious artifacts, like the Venus of Willendorf in 35,000 B.C. In the last few years, I’ve been studying Native American culture, in particular the Paleo-Indian period at the close of the Ice Age.  In the early 1990s, when I first arrived on the scene, I got several letters from Native Americans saying my view of religion, women, and sexuality resembled the traditional Native American view. I’m not surprised, because my orientation is so fixed in the pre-Christian era.”

On Jon Stewart, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the liberal media:

“I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone. I hated the fact that young people were getting their news through that filter of sophomoric snark.  Comedy, to me, is one of the major modern genres, and the big influences on my generation were Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. Then Joan Rivers had an enormous impact on me–she’s one of my major role models.  It’s the old caustic, confrontational style of Jewish comedy. It was Jewish comedians who turned stand-up from the old gag-meister shtick of vaudeville into a biting analysis of current social issues, and they really pushed the envelope. Lenny Bruce used stand-up to produce gasps and silence from the audience. And that’s my standard–a comedy of personal risk.  And by that standard, I’m sorry, but Jon Stewart is not a major figure. He’s certainly a highly successful T.V. personality, but I think he has debased political discourse. I find nothing incisive in his work. As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States.

“I don’t demonize Fox News. At what point will liberals wake up to realize the stranglehold that they had on the media for so long? They controlled the major newspapers and weekly newsmagazines and T.V. networks. It’s no coincidence that all of the great liberal forums have been slowly fading. They once had such incredible power. Since the rise of the Web, the nightly network newscasts have become peripheral, and the New York Times and the Washington Post have been slowly fading and are struggling to survive.

“Historically, talk radio arose via Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s precisely because of this stranglehold by liberal discourse. For heaven’s sake, I was a Democrat who had just voted for Jesse Jackson in the 1988 primary, but I had to fight like mad in the early 1990s to get my views heard. The resistance of liberals in the media to new ideas was enormous. Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true! Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers.  It’s so simplistic!

“Now let me give you a recent example of the persisting insularity of liberal thought in the media. When the first secret Planned Parenthood video was released in mid-July, anyone who looks only at liberal media was kept totally in the dark about it, even after the second video was released.  But the videos were being run nonstop all over conservative talk shows on radio and television.  It was a huge and disturbing story, but there was total silence in the liberal media.  That kind of censorship was shockingly unprofessional.  The liberal major media were trying to bury the story by ignoring it.  Now I am a former member of Planned Parenthood and a strong supporter of unconstrained reproductive rights.  But I was horrified and disgusted by those videos and immediately felt there were serious breaches of medical ethics in the conduct of Planned Parenthood officials.  But here’s my point:  it is everyone’s obligation, whatever your political views, to look at both liberal and conservative news sources every single day.  You need a full range of viewpoints to understand what is going on in the world.”

I am Rich Weinstein


“I really want to stay out of the limelight,” said Rich Weinstein, a Philadelphia investment adviser. “This is not about me.”

“Too late,” say those of us who appreciate Rich Weinstein’s efforts to expose the Jonathon Gruber, “Stupidity” videos. We want you, Rich Weinstein, to know that what you did was a “big (expletive) deal” to some of us. To those of us who have witnessed the media, and later Hollywood, canonize whistle-blowers like Mark Felt (deep throat) and Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), we would like to send out our own form of media thank you to you, the citizen journalist from Philly, who reopened –and in some cases opened– the eyes of the public on the revelations you exposed about the behind the scenes machinations involved in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, or Obamacare.

Photo by BYKST Kai Stachowiak (Age 47) from Hamburg, Deutschland on Pixabay

The anonymous, concerned citizen named Rich Weinstein

“Rich Weinstein,” characterizes Howard Kurtz of Media Buzz, “Is a slightly obsessed citizen” who was concerned about Obamacare. “He is,” according to Lucy McDermott of Politco, “Just an angry guy from Philly who says he lost his health insurance because of Obamacare.” He is, according to me, simply a frustrated citizen, one of the millions in the country, who opened up a letter one day from his insurance company to find out that he, in fact, would not be able to keep his insurance policy if he wanted, even though he had been promised by all those Democrats that were willing to do whatever it took –and say whatever needed to be said– to pass a bill that the Democrats had been trying to pass in Americans for over sixty years. He is also a concerned and frustrated citizen who found out that if he wanted to have health insurance at all, his premiums would double. He is that guy who answered the call so many have made in their general “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” complaint. He is anecdotal evidence (unfortunately) of the idea that most apathetic Americans are willing to just sit back and allow Washington to pass whatever they pass, as long as those Americans get their bread and circuses.

Rich Weinstein is simply a concerned citizen, equivalent to the concerned citizen reading an article from a relatively anonymous blogger, and he is equivalent to an anonymous blogger writing an article like this one. He is you. He is me. I am Rich Weinstein, you are Rich Weinstein, and if there were more Rich Weinsteins –who took the idea of active citizenship to the point of watching countless hours of video taken at academic conferences and in other settings of discussions on Obamacare– politicians everywhere might be more concerned about passing legislation that their constituents might hold against them in the next election.

The subject of the video clips Rich Weinstein found, Jonaton Gruber, was not even Rich Weinstein’s initial target, as his initial focus was another administration adviser. After watching these countless hours of video, Mr. Weinstein found a video that had the M.I.T. professor stating that: “ObamaCare subscribers wouldn’t get tax benefits if their states didn’t set up health care exchanges.” Weinstein thought this video was so important that he wanted others to see it, and possibly be more informed on an issue that bothered him.

“That’s when Weinstein used every means he could think of, from Facebook to phone calls, to get the attention of journalists,” writes Howard Kurtz in his Fox News piece. “He (Weinstein) says he tried getting messages to Fox News, Forbes, National Review, Glenn Beck and a network affiliate in Philadelphia where a friend worked. Nobody bit. Nobody called back.

“It was so frustrating,” Weinstein said. “I tried really hard to give this to the media. I had this and couldn’t get it to anybody that knows what to do with it.” All he wanted, Weinstein says, was a train ride to D.C. for him and his lawyer, and “I was going to give them everything for nothing, no money, all I wanted was autographed pictures of the people I was working with to hang on my office wall.”

“It wasn’t until shortly before the midterms that Weinstein found what came to be known as Gruber’s “stupidity” video. He plastered it on his Twitter feed days later, sometimes inserting the names of journalists to try to grab their attention. This time, the news was quickly picked up by Fox, the Daily Caller and other media outlets (but not the broadcast networks or major newspapers).

Rich Weinstein is not a mainstream journalist, he’s not even a journalist. He is not a political operative or professional opposition researcher, and he did not do research on these videos, or release them, for any form of fame. As Howard Kurtz wrote, “Weinstein could not be coaxed into an on-camera interview, or even provide a photograph. He doesn’t want his 15 minutes.” He does not want to become “Rich the Plumber”.” He’s not a guy who lives in his mother’s basement. He does not wear a tinfoil hat. He is simply a man who took an age-old complaint, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this!” complain to heart and decided to do something.

Howard Kurtz excuses his compatriots in the media for not beating Weinstein to the Jonathon Gruber “Stupidity” videos by writing that “the tedium involved in Weinstein’s research is perhaps the best reason why a “Self-described regular guy” was able to unearth what the media could not. Few news organizations could afford to have a reporter spend a long period searching for a needle in an online haystack, especially without a tip that the needle existed at all.” That makes a great deal of sense when one factors in the limited budgets most media outlets are now operating with, until one plays what former CBS reporter Sharyl Atkisson calls the substitution game, and we replace the headline of this particular story: “The behind-the-scenes deception involved in the passage of Obamacare” with the headline “The behind-the-scenes deception involved in the (Republican president’s) passage of a tax cut”. If the latter were the headline of the story that a mainstream reporter pitched to an editor, one can speculate that most editors, of those mainstream media outlets, would bust the budget trying to come up with their own “Gruber in the haystack” video to momentarily humiliate the Republicans involved and potentially diminish the idea of tax cuts for the long haul.

If nothing else, the fact that Rich Weinstein wants to maintain his relative anonymity should prevent the videos he presented to us from being discredited by the cynical media who perpetually declare that anyone that speaks out in such a manner is only doing it with ulterior motives and for personal enrichment. It also allows those of us concerned with the sometimes dubious machinations of Washington –and frustrated with the bread and circuses contingent of our society who don’t seem to care enough to know how their lives are being affected– to identify with a concerned citizen that simply wanted to get the word out.

Rich Weinstein is the man leaning out the window in the movie Network, repeating the Paddy Chayefsky line: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The difference, of course is that Mr. Weinstein didn’t just engage in this time-honored, relatively inactive, and largely symbolic art of complaining –that seems indigenous to Americans– Mr. Weinstein actually did something about it.

What he did, some have speculated –by providing these “American Stupidity”, Jonathon Gruber videos– may end up doing more than providing other American citizens greater ability to make an informed choice on this specific issue, but it may affect the decisions that Senators, and Congressman, make on the hill. It could also, others have speculated, inform future decisions made by the Supreme Court judges, on the future of Obamacare. It’s also possible that these videos end up amounting to nothing more than filler for certain 24-7 news broadcasts, and radio talk-shows, that have a constant need to fill their news cycles. In the greater sense, as it applies to his desire for fame, Weinstein doesn’t appear to care one way or another.

What should bother Weinstein, and all anonymous researchers performing countless hours of research for the purpose of informing whatever portion of the public that reads their articles, is the general reaction to Rich Weinstein and other citizen journalists. Rich Weinstein is mocked, in some quarters, for being “mad” –a characterization often given, by media types, to any that speak out, or vote against, Democrats. He is depicted as angry, in the manner Travis Bickell (a character from the movie Taxi Driver) was angry; he is angry the angry the way William Foster (Falling Down) was angry, with a vigor that they suggest can only be autobiographical, but his anger could probably best be defined (by the elitist members of the establishment media) in the symbolic and directionless anger expressed by the Howard Beale in the movie Network shouting out his window to simply let out a little bit of steam. What should also bother Richard Weinstein is that the media knows nothing about Rich Weinstein, any more than they know anything about the rest of us, that they throw under the “cuckoo” umbrella as a fallback explanation for a common, concerned citizen suggesting that a Democrat could be wrong, and acting in a deceptive manner, with regards to a specific issue.

Those of us who engage in a “Weinstein” number of hours researching stories, trying to do whatever we can to inform those people that they read our articles, or those of us that fall under the “cuckoo” umbrella, would like to send out a big (expletive) thank you for your efforts Mr. Rich Weinstein, and before you slip back under the cloak of anonymity –that you prefer– let me stick my head out the window for one second and shout “I am Rich Weinstein!”

Attn: Apathetic America! We’re Watching You!


Getting out the vote is a term that most of us know, but few of us define. When we hear that politician A beat politician B, because politician A was better able to get out the vote, we all accept that as a standard measure of a successful campaign, but few of understand what that term actually means. We assume this means that politician A’s platform encouraged groups who normally don’t vote to vote, we also assume that politician A has built a ground game that has state and local supporters encouraging their friends and family to vote. We may even think of local people who drive to elderly people’s homes to assist them to their local voting booth. Those who were fortunate enough to receive a letter similar to the one in the accompanying photo, with an accompanying post card, before the November 4, 2014 election, now have an alternative definition of getting out the vote.

Chances are if a voter is a resident of North Carolina, New York, Kansas, Alaska, Illinois, or Florida, and they are a registered voter with a spotty record of voting, in one of these “projected-to-be” close elections, they received something along the lines of this letter. Chances are they were shocked and outraged at the ominous, threatening, Orwellian, and some would say invasive language used in this mailing. Chances are, at one point or another, they’ve heard others complain, and grow outraged, at the invasion of privacy that is occurring in America, but it’s never affected them, so they’ve always found it difficult to get worked up over it. Chances are, if you were one that received one of these mailings that has now changed for you.

Voter-Indimidation-back

Photo from Jim Lakely’s http://blog.heartland.org/

Various election commissioners, and spokesmen, gained some distance from this activity by saying that voters have nothing to worry about with these letters, because they did not write these letters. A public relations firm, they said, wrote the mailings. The election officials may have approved the mailings, but they did not read them, and they had no input into the language used. We can guess that the public relations firm who wrote the mailing devised an answer for the campaign to use in this defense. We can also guess that this is a ‘go away’ answer that PR firms develop to answer the question without really saying anything. The answer follows the Clintonian blueprint of delay, delay, until the situation goes away.  

For those who don’t find this answer acceptable, one election official floated a trial balloon that suggested this ‘get out the vote’ campaign was “Used by Democrats to counter the suppression efforts that Republicans employ” –the most prominent of which is the requirement that a voter provide identification when they register to vote. This tactic attempted to take focus away from the activity in question by focusing it on the enemy. 

This election official, a New York State Democrat Committee spokesman named Peter Kauffmann, then added, “The difference between Democrats and Republicans is they don’t want people to vote and we want everyone to vote.” If that doesn’t do it for you, how about something along the lines of ‘We all need to do whatever it is we have to do rid our country of the politics of hate!’ This might seem like a silly tactic, but it works for those who hope it’s true.

If the reader is still not satisfied after all that, well, they’re just going to have to accept the fact that they received this ‘get out the vote’ mailer, because they are perceived to be a lazy, apathetic person who needs to be threatened with language that a New York Post piece characterizes as “better suited to a mob movie” that culminates in a “Democrats: vote or we’ll kick your ass!” type of message that may intimidate you into turning off the Minecraft to vote!

If the voter is still upset after Democrats remind you that “Our democracy works better when more people vote, not less”, and they consider these tactics to be along the lines of public shaming and a “we’re watching you” form of personal intimidation, they’re probably just going to have to well … shut up. It’s the new way of getting out the vote, as a result of the findings from various behavioral studies, including a 2008 Yale University study, that suggest that these tactics are very effective, so we had all better get used to it.

One would have to assume that if market testers put these mailings before the American public, and they asked these Americans how effective they thought these tactics would be in turning out the vote, these mailings would never go out. We can guess that 99 to 100% of the test subjects would suggest that not only would these tactics not work, and that they might cause a reflexive rebellion. What would be that form of rebellion? One would have to guess that a majority of these test subjects would say that they might include the recipient voting for the opposite party, if they had access to the party responsible for sending them the intimidating letter. “Americans won’t respond well to such intimidation techniques,” is something that most of us would say in our exit interview.

I’m sorry, but you’re wrong, these behavioral studies suggest, and the New York Post piece furthers, reporting that “Such attempts to shame people to vote –what politicos call “social pressure” or peer pressure– has become more common place, and it was used in the ‘get out the vote’ 2012 Obama campaign.”

The Democrat National Committee (DNC), feared a backlash from voters when the idea of attempting to shame them into voting was first presented to them (circa 2006). As evidenced by the mailings received by registered Democrats, in 2014, and an October, 29 2010 New York Times piece on this matter by Sasha Issenberg, the DNC is reported to have received enough evidence between 2006 and 2014 to suggest otherwise.

“Before the 2006 Michigan gubernatorial primary,” writes Issenberg, “Three political scientists isolated a group of voters and mailed them copies of their voting histories, listing the elections in which they participated and those they missed. Included were their neighbors’ voting histories, too, along with a warning: after the polls closed, everyone would get an updated set.

“After that primary, the academics examined the voter rolls and were startled by the potency of peer pressure as a motivational tool.  The mailer was 10 times better at turning nonvoters into voters than the typical piece of pre-election mail whose effectiveness has never been measured.

“Political consultant, and manager of Al Gore’s first Senate campaign Hal Malchow, was intrigued by the results of that initial mailer.  Machow started a direct-mail firm and attempted to coerce its clients, The DNC and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., to use these tactics to increase their voter turnout.  As stated earlier, these clients blanched at first, fearing that the language sounded intimidating, and that they could result in a backlash.

“In reaction to those fears, Malchow softened the language of a future mailer sent to over 11,000 New Jersey residents, as that state prepared for a gubernatorial election.  The language in this letter was less ominous “while still making it clear that recipients’ voting habits would continue to be monitored.”  The softened language of that mailer went as follows: “We hope to be able to thank you in the future for being the kind of citizen who makes our democracy work.”  The result was less effective than the original mailer Malchow had proposed, but it increased voter turnout by 2.5%.  Future letters also thanked voters for their past participation while hoping to encourage current participation at the same time. ”

The Issenberg article goes on to describe the various behavioral science techniques employed by others, and the history of behavioral science influencing elections. It does not describe, however, how the language in this mailing went from the softened, thankful language Malchow employed in the New Jersey campaign and the ominous “We’re watching you!” letters received by the residents of the states listed above in 2014.

Another website, called Outside the Beltway, doesn’t provide an explanation either, but it does provide a reason stated by a spokesman of the New York State Democrat Committee, a Peter Kauffmann, behind the need to intimidate people. The exact question put to Mr. Kauffmann regarded why the state of New York would tacitly approve such a mailer:

“This flyer is part of the nationwide Democrat response to traditional Republican voter suppression efforts – because Democrats believe our democracy works better when more people vote, not less.”

The site also lists the intimidation some Floridians experienced from a letter sent by a group funded by the state and national realtors association that included the message:

“Your neighbors will know. It’s public record.”

The final “vote shaming” letter the site presented on this site is one received by residents of North Carolina. The North Carolina Democrat Party sent this particular letter, and as the author of the Outside the Beltway piece, Doug Mataconis suggests, it “contains some of the exact same wording as the New York letter.”

“Public records will tell the community at-large whether you vote or not. As a service, our organization monitors turnout in your community,” the letter says, according to WRAL in Raleigh. “It would be an understatement to say that we are disappointed by the inconsistent voting of many of your neighbors.”

Some versions of these letters include an ominous warning at the bottom that anyone that has had a stern grandmother, or a strict nun for a teacher, will know well:

“If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not.”

If you had that stern grandmother, or strict nun for a teacher, you know that piercing glare that often follows such disappointment. That piercing glare rises over the horn-rimmed glasses, into the subject’s soul, until we all experience a reflexive shudder. Another, similar version of this letter states:

“We will be reviewing (Your) County official voting records after the upcoming election to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.” 

Remember, while reading the full-fledged letters, and the excerpts contained herein, that registered, Democrat voters are the most common recipients. Those that read such letters may reflexively conclude that the party of Big Brother, the Republican Party, is sending them out. Other than a 2014 letter that Mitch McConnell sent to Kentucky voters that some call intimidating, that after reading numerous times I find difficult to call intimidating, and a 2012 letter in Virginia, I was not able to find another Republican engaging in any similar tactics.

“Who you vote for is your secret,” one of these campaign mailers state, “But whether or not you vote is public record.”

Anyone that has watched the TV series, The X-Files, can imagine these words coming from the smoking man, bad guy –with pictures of Republicans in his background. To show you how shocking this would be if it were on TV, as opposed to real life, this chunk of The X-Files’ dialogue would be coming come from the good guy —with Democrats pictures in the background— the Fox Moulder character.

The sites that show these letters, report the activity, and comment on the text therein, are careful to add that none of these tactics are illegal. The letter, with the accompanying post card, even instructs you that there is nothing-illegal going on here, with its qualifier, “Who you vote for is secret, but …” One has to wonder why they felt the need to include this qualifier? We can guess that they knew the outrage they would receive, but they were willing to endure that if they saw a 2.5-to-10% increase in turnout? Did they fear lawsuits, voluminous calls to the election commissioner, or the secretary of state? Did they add the bit about “Whether you vote or not is public record” to assure you of the letter’s legality? If it did, did it also assure you that the letter wasn’t, in any way, treading along the line of ethics? Did it assure you that this letter wasn’t the least bit creepy? Did it lead you to believe that it wasn’t, in anyway, infringing upon your right to be apathetic? The latter may seem a goofy right to champion, but among the many rights we have in this Republic, is our right to sit on our couch and play Minecraft straight through an election if we want to.

A site called Gothamist listed some reactions from recipients of this mailing in the state of New York:

“I’m a regular voter and loyal Democrat, so I was taken aback by this creepy and almost threatening letter from the New York State Democratic Committee that I got in the mail today,” one disturbed reader in Downtown Brooklyn told us.

“Another who received the mailer on the Upper West Side added, “I can’t believe they think this will actually make anyone more likely to vote, and it certainly doesn’t make me want to vote for any of the Democratic establishment candidates.”

The unofficial target of these letters appears to have been registered voters that do not vote 100% of the time. Another unofficial target, in most of these states, appears to have been registered Democrat voters that do not vote 100% of the time, and the final unofficial target of these letters –that we assume through inference– was uninformed registered Democrat voters that do not vote 100% of the time. (The latter inference is made based on the reasonable assumption that a number of young, Democrat voters registered in the past for the sole purpose of voting for Barack Obama as president, but that they did not have the same passion for the candidates of a midterm election in their state and locale. We also base this inference on the assumption that most informed-to-well-informed voters need less prompting to vote.) For all of these apparent targets, there are other stories of twelve-year-olds being the subjects of these mailings, and others that do not meet the age requirement, and still others that happened to live in another state during an election that they were reported to have missed.

One could say, based on the public shaming and “we’re watching you” form of personal intimidation contained in these letters, that their primary message is that citizens need to fulfill their patriotic and civic duty and vote. Some might suggest that this campaign tactic dates back to the campaign to elect George Washington, but the “we’re watching you” text, the “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not,” that the New York Post characterized as a: “Democrats: Vote or we’ll kick your ass!” tactic is new to some of us.

It’s not new that politicians, and political parties, and election commissions, call upon you to vote. What has not been a point of concentration of theirs, or that of our society in general, is the call for people to educate themselves before they vote. Friends and family may call upon you to vote, to fulfill your civic and patriotic pride. They inform the uninformed of the thousands that have died to maintain this right/privilege/honor for them, but if the undecided voters decides not to educate themselves –for whatever reason— on the issues, or the politicians, how is going through the motions of voting doing a service to those in the past, present, or future? They will be filling in ovals, touching computer squares, or punching out chads.

No one is saying that this duty to cast an informed vote requires that the voter buy a subscription to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or the local newspaper. No one is saying that the uninformed voters become political junkies, but every civic-minded patriot that plans to vote should know the basics of the politicians, the initiatives, and the judges they vote on. These people will affect the voter’s community, state, and country. If the undecided voters grows sleepy at the mere mention of the word politics, or you get so irritated by the subject that you run out of the room screaming, once your Uncle Joe starts in, and you’re going through the motions in the voting booth so everyone will shut up about you dishonoring those that have sacrificed their lives. Don’t vote.

Don’t vote if you have a proclivity for voting for the cutest candidate. If you are one that has a propensity for voting for the candidate that is taller than their opponent is, or one that you’d most like to have a beer with, don’t vote. Don’t vote for a person that makes you feel more comfortable, but you can’t put your finger on why. People, and now parties, will try to make you feel guilty for failing to vote, but you should do everything you can to resist heir intimidation tactics. Don’t listen because you know enough to know that your vote could lead to you voting for the worst possible candidate for your community, state, and country. Don’t vote, no matter how guilty others try to make you feel for not doing so, because you know that the best thing you can do to fulfill your patriotic/civic duty to your community, state, and country is to avoid inflicting upon them your willful ignorance.

If, however, you are an apathetic citizen that is wearing down under the weight of all this pressure to vote –even if you don’t educate yourself– just vote! You may not understand it, but you just can’t fight it anymore. If this is you, and you were further intimidated into voting by this letter, with an accompanying post card –even though you find it hard to believe that all of these behavioral studies suggest this works, and that they will continue to use it in upcoming election based upon their findings– go ahead and vote. Take note of the political party that approved this mailing, be it Democrat or Republican, and vote the opposite. If an exit pollster pesters you about the candidate to whom you cast your vote, tell them, and tell them why. Tell them that you don’t care about its legality, or the information they’ve gleaned from their precious behavioral studies. Tell them that you regard the letter as an attempt at personal intimidation, and that you want to punish such behavior.

Weaponized Compassion


Ask a modern-day liberal how they arrived at the notion that the progressive method of problem solving is more effective than conservative one, and you’ll undoubtedly hear the word “kindness” dropped at one point in their explanation. If they do not use that word, they will undoubtedly drop the words “compassionate” or “nice” in some form. If we point out that most of the nice and compassionate big government fixes for ending poverty have resulted in numerous unintended consequences, and that it could be argued that many of those programs have resulted in doing more harm than good, we should be prepared to hear their “best intentions” argument. Those who vote Democrat want these programs to succeed of course, but they are not so concerned with the programs’ success that they would vote to “fix” them, or change them if some cold, numbers-oriented accounting spreadsheet proved them ineffective. Their greater concern is that their favored politician puts forth an effort to solve the problem.

Political philosophy professor Leo Strauss says that it’s a mistake “to presume to understand important political philosophers better than they understood themselves, unless one had already put in the hard work necessary to understand them as they understood themselves.”

In an attempt to avoid undue partisan characterization, when it comes to trying to understand why common, ordinary citizens profess an allegiance to the progressive method to problem solving, we provide a characterization of the progressive ideology from one that could be said to be a forefather of modern day liberalism, former President Franklin Roosevelt:

unitab-head-vs-heart-600-36222“Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”

If the manner in which most progressives characterize their philosophical pursuit of problem solving is this stark, then it stands to reason that a politically astute observer who opposes it must be cruel, greedy, and callous. If this is not the case, then the next logical conclusion would have to be that the observer who rejects the problem solving approach of the modern liberal is either not very astute, or woefully uninformed.

On those occasions when I’ve discussed such matters with a liberal voter, I’ve found that they make an exception for me, because I’ve established the idea that I’m a nice person who means well. They might question my sources of information, my overall knowledge of the situation, and my status in life, such that it places me above those who in need. Yet, most of them find it difficult to view me as inherently evil, because they know me, but they choose to view me as anecdotal evidence of those who share my evil mindset. Those extreme characterizations, William Voegeli writes in his Imprimis piece, are a natural result of the repeated messaging from liberal politicians and activists that he calls “weaponized compassion”.

Using compassion as a weapon against the opponents of modern liberalism can be viewed in the following quotes:

“I am a liberal,” public radio host Garrison Keillor wrote in 2004, “and liberalism is the politics of kindness.”

Last year (2013) President Obama said, “Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. When I think about what I’m fighting for, what gets me up every single day, that captures it just about as much as anything. Kindness; empathy—that sense that I have a stake in your success; that I’m going to make sure, just because [my daughters] are doing well, that’s not enough—I want your kids to do well also. Empathetic kindness is “what binds us together, and . . . how we’ve always moved forward, based on the idea that we have a stake in each other’s success.”

Conservatives might view this type of “Mean People Suck” messaging as so condescending and simplistic that it could not possibly be effective, but it is. In election after election, exit polls reveal that such themes have worked for liberals, for generations. The reason for this, writes Voegeli, is that Republicans have never mounted an effective defense against it.

“If conservatives had ever come up with a devastating, or even effective rebuttal to the accusation that they are heartless and mean-spirited: a) anyone could recite it by now; and, b) more importantly, liberals would have long ago stopped using rhetoric about liberal kindness versus conservative cruelty, for fear that the political risks of such language far outweighed any potential benefits. The fact that liberals are, if anything, increasingly disposed to frame the basic political choice before the nation in these terms suggests that conservatives have not presented an adequate response.”

The problem that exists for Republicans, as it has for most of my life, is how does one defeat a negative? How does a political party prove to the population that they are not mean? An individual candidate can try to prove that they are personified evidence to the contrary, but that candidate will usually end up like John McCain did in the 2008 Presidential Election, expending so much of their time and resources trying to defeat the charge of being mean that not only do they get distracted from other substantive issues, they leave the electorate wondering if they are protesting too much and, in fact, a mean person.

Money

If these two philosophical pursuits of problem solving can be broken down to admittedly simplistic structures, it could be said that when one sifts through all of the rhetoric that both sides of the aisle engage in, the crux of the difference between the two philosophies revolves around money. Those who allocate more tax payers dollars to a problem are deemed more compassionate, and those that don’t are viewed as mean, cruel, and in favor of the rich.

Renown budget cutter, and former Indiana Republican Governor, Mitch Daniels believes he has at least one effective counter to the idea that the austerity measures that conservatives employ for problem solving are hateful.

“You ought to be the most offended of anybody,” he says to liberals, “If a dollar that could help a poor person is being squandered in some way.”

I think that we can say that most honest, and well-meaning liberal citizens believe that when their hard-earned tax dollars are devoted to helping the poor, they don’t mind paying those taxes, and they will vote for any politician who pledges to do so. The question I’ve always had for these citizens of good intentions is what percentage of that tax dollar, ostensibly devoted to fighting poverty, ends up being allocated to a bureaucracy devoted to fighting poverty? What percentage of that dollar goes to administrative costs, various other bureaucratic expenses, and what percentage ends up being fraudulently wasted, abused, and trapped in the bureaucratic red tape of redundancies? What percentage of that hard-earned, tax payer’s dollar actually makes it to the poor people that that bureaucracy is intended to help, and what percentage ends up being squandered in some way?

Another way of framing the same question I would have for those who vote Democrat for the expressed intent of helping the poor, or resolving economic inequality, through the various methods of tax allocations, government regulation, etc., is what are the various programs’ rates of success?

Some would suggest, through confusing and somewhat contradictory figures, that the poverty rate was 14.7 in 1966, and it was listed at 15.0 in 2012. This rate, no matter how one chooses to define and redefine the term poverty, is a paltry number when one considers the projection that there has been an average of over one trillion dollar American tax payer dollars devoted to ending poverty, since the largest liberal program The Great Society was put in place in 1964.

The liberal response to former Governor Daniels’ quote is that he is hateful, racist, against the poor, against women, and mean. If Daniels followed the John McCain strategy of countering such charges, he would then spend so much of his time defending himself against this charge that his central message would get lost in the shuffle, and people would walk away thinking that he’s mean. It’s called weaponzied compassion.

The aspect of Mitch Daniels’ argument that Mitch Daniels doesn’t discuss, in his rational argument against liberals, is that the solvency issue, or the effectiveness of the welfare program, isn’t of primary concern to liberal citizens. They simply want more for more, and anyone who attempts to cut the amount of money going to entitlement programs, or decreases the increase from the previous year, is deemed mean, hateful, racist, and engaged in a war against the poor.

When these numbers are put into actual and proverbial spreadsheets, it can be proven that while the welfare program has expanded exponentially in the last two generations, the needle of the poverty rate hasn’t moved much at all. This appears to be of less concern to liberal citizens, when as Daniels points out it should be their primary concern.

Why doesn’t the welfare program work very well? Why have there been so many problems with the wealth redistribution aspects of Obamacare? Why has Lyndon B. Johnson’s (LBJ) 1964-65 Great Society program failed to move the poverty level over the last fifty years, and why do most of the well-intentioned plans of liberalism fail to achieve on a level that could promote liberalism as the ideal political philosophy for all Americans, as opposed to the twenty some odd percent that maintain unwavering belief?

The cynical conservative would say that these programs have inherent flaws that keep those immersed in these troubled programs voting for the career politicians who promise to fix them in every election cycle. These programs are never fixed, but politicians have vowed to fix them, or the system, for as long as most of us have been alive. 

While this might apply to liberal politicians, the liberal citizen would inform you that they have nothing to gain from the stagnancy, or failure, of the program for which they advocate. They don’t understand how a conservative could be rooting on the failure of a program ostensibly designed to help the poor. Most conservatives are not, of course, they just have a different way of approaching the matter, but the conservative methods to fixing the problem are complicated, difficult to understand, numbers oriented, long-term, and very difficult to sell on a campaign trail. When people can’t grasp the totality of such an approach, they feel stupid, and when they feel stupid they need someone to help them understand it, or if that’s not possible, to, at least, make them feel better about not understanding it. What better way is there to relate to these people, and their confusion, than to call those with alternative, and complicated, solutions names? People understand name calling, it’s street, and it reaches us on a base level equivalent to bathroom humor –a tool that some comedians employ when they fear they’re losing an audience. This type of response unites us all in a manner –a Jerry Springer manner– that a complicated explanation with long-term problem solving techniques cannot.

“I conclude that the machinery created by the politics of kindness does not work very well–” writes Voegeli, “in the sense of being economical, adaptable, and above all effective– because the liberals who build, operate, defend, and seek to expand this machine don’t really care whether it works very well and are, on balance, happier when it fails than when it succeeds.”

To accentuate this particular point, William Voegeli pulls out his Oxford English Dictionary to provide us with the literal definition of compassion.

“Compassion means suffering together with one another. Compassion is the feeling or emotion, that a person is moved by when witnessing the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it.”

This definition of compassion does not include a wish to suffer the identical fate of the sufferer, but that they want to suffer the trials and tribulations of others vicariously, and they do want someone to do something about it, regardless how effective that something is.

As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Emile:

“When the strength of an expansive soul makes me identify myself with my fellow man, and I feel that I am, so to speak, in him, it is in order not to suffer that I do not want him to suffer. I am interested in him for love of myself.”

Those who reject this characterization as simplistic still need to ask the question why liberals would be for programs that have, historically, proven ineffective? Why would their answer to the problems that everyone acknowledges exist in the welfare program be more welfare? With a fifty year track record of failure, why would so many liberals consider LBJ’s Great Society program to be a success?

The co-editor of a book called Pathological Altruism, Barbara Oakley explains her point of view:

“It’s the indifference –blithe, heedless, smug, or solipsistic– that liberals have to actual results that defines them as pathological altruists. It’s the idea that they can appear compassionate by being for these programs,” and thus be perceived as wonderful people by their peers, “That drives them to be for these programs even if they have a poor track record.”

Those who have introduced a results-oriented refutation of these programs to liberals or people that are generally for such altruistic programs have either witnessed genuine surprise on their face, or they’ve been greeted with a very frustrated person who reacts in a manner that suggests that a results-oriented presentation is obnoxious. To those who are surprised, some of us have recognized that not only did they not know these facts and figures that we’re presenting to them, but that the very idea of investigating for this kind of information never occurred to them.

“Pity is about how deeply I can feel,” wrote the late political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain. “And in order to feel this way, to experience the rush of my own pious reaction, I need victims the way an addict needs drugs.”

As a former fraud investigator of charitable enterprises, experience informed me, firsthand, that some people are pathologically altruistic. There’s nothing wrong with giving, of course, and there may be some merits to blind, uninformed giving, but those merits, as Rousseau points out, are generally immersed in how one views themselves, or how they want to be viewed.

There’s an old line that suggests: “Who cares why people give, as long as they give.” The same could be said, I suppose, when it comes to why some people are for government programs ostensibly designed to help poor people: “Who cares how effective they are, as long as they have the best of intentions.”

The calls I made to these charitable givers involved a disturbingly high number of givers claiming that it was my company’s responsibility to police these charities, because we allowed them to use our payment service for their transactions. It was, in fact, our job to see to it that the charities who used our service were giving a universally accepted rate to intended recipients, but I couldn’t shake the idea that by castigating the company I worked for, these givers were absolving themselves of the responsibility of knowing, or learning, the true percentage of recipients that were actually being helped by their charitable giving and making more informed choices for their charitable giving going forward.

The givers did their part, in other words by caring enough to give money, and their responsibility concluded at that point. The same could be said, I believe, of those who absolve themselves of the effectiveness of federal government poverty programs. “I pay my taxes,” is something one might hear from one that learns that the poverty rate hasn’t moved in fifty years, “and I vote Democrat. I can’t help it if they can’t get their act together.”

As a fraud investigator of charities, I was not permitted to provide those I called the actual percentage of the charitable givers’ dollar going to support the organization’s stated cause, but I was able to tell them where to find that number. The very idea that I would call these people to ask them questions about their charitable largess did raise some concerns about the institution they selected for their charity, but they were in the minority.   

The question I would’ve loved to ask those (too few in my humble opinion) who were concerned about the charitable institutions I was calling about, had my company allowed me to do so, is “Even though, as you say, it’s our responsibility to police this charity, will you continue to give to this charity? Even though you now wonder if the practices they engage in are, at the very least, questionable?” The answers, I believe, would’ve been fascinating for political scientists and psychologists to study, for it would’ve suggested that the most important part of charitable giving, for some, is to prove that they care, and the actual responsibility of seeing to it that people are helped is another entity’s responsibility. One could argue that most people, conservative and liberal, work very hard, and they are too busy to dot the I’s, and cross the T’s involved in the process of giving, and they they have to rely on others to see to it that their generosity is pushed through to its end. My firsthand experience with altruism revealed that most people care more about caring than they do the ultimate reality of other people being helped.