Friday, March 27, 2015

18 Links to Mark Leibovich's “This Town” and Other Politics

I’ll explain next week, on April Fool’s Day, why Facebook deciding to build UFOs is the perfect time to transition from frequent use of that social media site to occasional blogging. But before that big dose of philosophical sobriety, a round-up of wackier political notes:

1. Ted Cruz, one of the most tolerable members of an evil government, announced his presidential run, and the negative reaction from New York’s own Rep. Peter King may be the best part.

2. Rand Paul, prepping for his own probable run starting the week after next, sounds more pro-military lately. (Admittedly, imperial military might can look awesome, as this RV Star Destroyer does.) But just as there are ways to signal that you’re sympathetic to Christians without, say, endorsing a constitutional amendment against abortion at the federal level, there are ways to show that you take (true) national defense seriously and respect the military without calling for more spending.

That’s socialist thinking. It’s at least not obviously libertarian thinking. Still, he’s about as good as it gets in the current field, and in a blog entry slightly later than the April Fool’s Day one, I’ll have some final thoughts on pre-presidential-candidate Rand Paul.

3. Oddly fascinating and far less fluffy than some of you might expect: a grilling by Glenn Beck of Grover Norquist on the latter’s Muslim ties makes free-market/democratic outreach efforts on Islam look almost as fraught with peril as CIA/military blundering.

4. Damon Root sticks to the long view on libertarian/conservative tensions (like the inherently fusionist Federalist Society at which I saw him speak), describing the pros and cons of judicial activism from a libertarian perspective in his book Over-Ruled: The Long War for Control of the Supreme Court.

5. Charles C.W. Cooke’s Conservatarian Manifesto is here reviewed by a quasi-conservative reviewer at The Week, who contrasts the book with the “spasm of self-delusion” that was liberal-tarianism.

6. If you’re moderate or liberal, you might find all the characters mentioned above more palatable if you think of their (and my) government-shrinking goals as the alternative to the big-government, bloated, corporate-money-sucking cesspool described in the great, hilarious, alarming book This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral -- Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! -- in America's Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich.

You might literally find yourself wanting to vomit as you read its account of the well-connected getting farther ahead, in terms of fame, money, and influence, simply for being unscrupulous insiders in DC, where even funerals are networking opportunities. And it’s not one party or the other. Once you glimpse how things really work, you realize the politicians, lobbyists, and staffers constitute one party – and you are not a member of it.

They actually seem to feel much closer to each other than they do to their constituents. Leibovich, who is chief national correspondent for the New York Times yet no mere tool of the left, observes with barely-concealed horror the arrogance that the political class displays toward anyone not lavishly subsidizing their campaigns and pet projects – noting, for instance, the recurring refrain among Obama insiders that the man would get elected and reelected with 70 or 80% of the vote if only he were governing some country other than the damn U.S. If only!

7. Yet one gets the impression that even the Obama people are aghast these days at the way Hillary Clinton rolls around in suspicious money.

8. And her husband Bill Clinton is fishy in that and other ways, of course.

9. Despite some similarities between the two power-loving towns, I think DC folk would be shocked to discover New York City’s idea of decadence is more like this.

10. But maybe the increasingly narcotic pop culture serves only to distract us from mushrooming government power – and in this video, I think, oft-mocked Alex Jones makes his most earnest, coherent case that those of who aren’t as paranoid as he is ought to start waking up. He may be right.

11. As a March 11 event hosted by the Atlas Foundation underscored and the documentary Poverty Inc. argues, even the most noble-sounding international institutions and well-meaning government or charitable efforts can have devastating effects.

12. Sometimes the bad ideas are fully conscious and intentional, though. Check out the Green Party’s platform in the UK.

13. Environmentalist and globalist-establishment thinking can combine in creepy ways without most of the public even noticing, I now fear, as with this UN-backed Agenda 21 ad that sure as hell seems to be asking the elderly to die for the sake of reducing the Earth’s population.

14. The UN is creepy in numerous ways, and it’s nice to see Jonah Goldberg contrast the UN’s view of “social justice” with Hayek’s in this very basic video. We need things like that.

15. Politicians aren’t all-powerful, though. Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, has to put up with Jimmy Kimmel asking about UFOs.

16. And again, next month’s blogging will begin with that very topic, but for well-roundedness and to avoid insanity, go see the James “the Amazing” Randi documentary An Honest Liar as well. Randi is the one person I’ve long called a hero and inspiration to me, using his magician skills to debunk paranormal claims by such frauds as faith-healers, so-called psychics, and cable-TV ghost-hunters.

But the film also shows him facing the even deeper mystery of immigration court.

17. Randi’s also a guy who was denounced by climate alarmists several years ago just for expressing cautious doubts about their claims. The most intellectually honest people I know tend to keep doing that, regardless of understandable concern about decades-hence coastal flooding (though that doesn’t seem to worry the government enough for it to simply stop subsidizing coastal flood insurance, even as it comes up with other, vastly more expensive abatement ideas and regulatory regimens for us). Of course, we may also suffer reductions in the number of precious snowflakes in Seattle and other effects.

Still, it was a rather frightening thing to see Randi badgered by former fans into making an (unusually humble) apology for having dared to question something, the way we skeptics do. Those sorts of apologies will be demanded of us more and more frequently, I fear. In this as in other things, though, Randi will remain my hero, occasionally bending like a spoon, perhaps, but never truly breaking.

18. Those of us of a vaguely fusionist bent are of course open to debate on topics like the proper role, if any, for regulation, so I look forward to attending this coming Tuesday’s 6pm debate about the FDA at the bar Irish Exit hosted by the America’s Future Foundation, which asks the proper question: shrink or abolish?

It’s important to come at these thorny issues with an open mind.

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