Paul Smith Jr has a new home for his blog: www.gazizza.net. Click to go there now!
Friday, September 23, 2005
A conservative vision of social justice
Jonah Goldberg: Is this the end of 'compassionate conservatism'?
In many conservative circles, "social justice" is synonymous with socialism or radical individualism. No wonder: For decades, the political left has used it as a Trojan horse for its big-state agenda.
It's why my eyes galze over whenever most Catholics speak of social jusice: whether they know it or not, they're really talking about socialism.
Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond are charting a new vision of social justice. It recognizes that the problems caused or aggravated by the growth in government cannot be corrected by a crude reduction in its size. Policy must also deliberately foster the growth of what Edmund Burke called "the little platoons" of civil society: families, neighborhood associations, private enterprises, charities and churches. These are the real source of economic growth and social vitality.
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Here's my silver-lining hope this hurricane season: George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism gets wiped out like a taco hut in the path of a Cat. 5 storm.
The neocons didn't oppose the welfare state per se. They opposed a welfare state that made society worse. (Irving Kristol even argued for a "conservative welfare state.")
First, as a political slogan, compassionate conservatism was always a low blow. Almost by definition, people who claim to be compassionate conservatives are suggesting that other kinds of conservatives aren't. Conservatism, rightly understood, never needed the adjective.
The second problem is that compassionate conservatism necessarily demands government activism.
Inheriting from the neocons a basic philosophical comfort with the concept of the welfare state, compassionate conservatism -- which also goes by "big government conservatism" -- sees no pressing need to pare government down to its core functions. Traditional conservatism, on the other hand, considers a lean government essential to the task of fulfilling its core responsibilities.
A good article from Jonah. Raises a lot of valid criticisms, and shows why many conservatives (like myself) don't really like neoconservatives.
You are the only one in the Wall Mart checkout line not talking on a cell phone to pass the time while waiting for your turn to pay.
When you walk down the street with your friends you're talking only to them instead of multitasking - talking or text messaging with someone else on your mobile phone while talking to them at the same time.
You don't use IM to let all of your friends know where you are at all times.
You haven't downloaded hundreds of ringtones because you think spending 99 cents per ringtone is a ripoff.
You don't download songs every night to load on your iPod.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Truth Trumps Partisanship
OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan
If you think I doth protest too much, you may be right. Because it strikes me that prominent thinkers on the conservative side in the culture wars are more honest and open to rethinking their positions in public than historians and commentators on the Left. I can’t, for example, think of any well-known liberals who have spent time debating why the Left was so wrong about the workers’ paradises being created in Mao’s China or Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Not the way prominent writers on the Right are willing to rethink old views.
A good example is the way conservative pundits reacted to the recent anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. There was no party line in conservative circles. Thomas Sowell and Jeff Jacoby defended the position associated with the American right for half a century now. Pat Buchanan and Charley Reese argued the time has come to condemn what we did to Japan.
Walter E. Williams: Is it permissible?
Mr. Bush decided long ago--I suspect on Sept. 12, 2001--that he would allow no secondary or tertiary issue to get in the way of the national unity needed to forge the war on terror. So no fighting with Congress over who put the pork in the pan. Cook it, eat it, go on to face the world arm in arm.
I think Peggy makes an excellent point. In the President's mind, no issue is more important than the War on Terror, so he won't let anything detract from the coalition he needs to fight it.
I think he could do a little more on other issues, but I think it's a common mistake to underestimate the effect September 11th had on the Bush presidency. Everything since then has been impacted by that.
The administration, in answering charges of profligate spending, has taken, interestingly, to slighting old conservative hero Ronald Reagan. This week it was the e-mail of a high White House aide informing us that Ronald Reagan spent tons of money bailing out the banks in the savings-and-loan scandal. This was startling information to Reaganites who remembered it was a fellow named George H.W. Bush who did that. Last month it was the president who blandly seemed to suggest that Reagan cut and ran after the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon.
Poor Reagan. If only he'd been strong he could have been a good president.
Before that, Mr. Mehlman was knocking previous generations of Republican leaders who just weren't as progressive as George W. Bush on race relations. I'm sure the administration would think to criticize the leadership of Bill Clinton if they weren't so busy having jolly mind-melds with him on Katrina relief. Mr. Clinton, on the other hand, is using his new closeness with the administration to add an edge of authority to his slams on Bush. That's a pol who knows how to do it.
At any rate, Republican officials start diminishing Ronald Reagan, it is a bad sign about where they are psychologically. In the White House of George H.W. Bush they called the Reagan administration "the pre-Bush era." See where it got them.
It is strange that a White House that understands the effect September 11th had on the nation so completely misreads the effect Reagan had on the GOP and the country. A Republican president cannot get away with criticizing the Gipper. That's bad mojo.
First and foremost Mr. Bush has abandoned all rhetorical ground. He never even speaks of high spending. He doesn't argue against it, and he doesn't make the moral case against it. When forced to spend, Reagan didn't like it, and he said so. He also tried to cut. Mr. Bush seems to like it and doesn't try to cut. He doesn't warn that endless high spending can leave a nation tapped out and future generations hemmed in. In abandoning this ground Bush has abandoned a great deal--including a primary argument of conservatism and a primary reason for voting Republican. And who will fill this rhetorical vacuum? Hillary Clinton. She knows an opening when she sees one, and knows her base won't believe her when she decries waste.
Second, Mr. Bush seems not to be noticing that once government spending reaches a new high level it is very hard to get it down, even a little, ever. So a decision to raise spending now is in effect a decision to raise spending forever.
Third, Mr. Bush seems not to be operating as if he knows the difficulties--the impossibility, really--of spending wisely from the federal level. Here is a secret we all should know: It is really not possible for a big federal government based in Washington to spend completely wisely, constructively and helpfully, and with a sense of personal responsibility. What is possible is to write the check. After that? In New Jersey they took federal Homeland Security funds and bought garbage trucks. FEMA was a hack-stack.
Here's my question: Were the nation's founders, and some of their successors, callous and indifferent to human tragedy? Or, were they stupid and couldn't find the passages in the Constitution that authorized spending "on the objects of benevolence"?
Some people might say, "Aha! They forgot about the Constitution's general welfare clause!" Here's what James Madison said: "With respect to the two words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
Thomas Jefferson explained, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." In 1828, South Carolina Sen. William Drayton said, "If Congress can determine what constitutes the general welfare and can appropriate money for its advancement, where is the limitation to carrying into execution whatever can be effected by money?"
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
jwz - How To Turn Your Hamster into a Fighting Machine!!
Because I know you were asking how.
Link via The Corner
"I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it." —Benjamin Franklin
"Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purpose is beneficent." —Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
"I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. [To approve such spending] would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." —President Franklin Pierce
"[T]he role of the judge is limited; the judge is to decide the cases before them; they're not to legislate; they're not to execute the laws... Judges don't have a license to go out and decide, 'I think this is an injustice and so I'm going to do something to fix it.' That type of judicial role, I think, is inconsistent with the role the Framers intended." —Chief Justice nominee John Roberts
"As we hear calls for a 'compassionate' response to the victims of this [hurricane] tragedy, it is important to remember that you can't be compassionate with other people's money. This difference is as simple as the difference between my reaching into my pocket for money to help someone in need and my reaching into your pocket for the same purpose. The former is charity—the latter is not." —Michael Tanner
"Government has a tendency to treat splinters with tourniquets when a simple band-aid would do. One dishonorable ne'er-do-well in an industry of thousands can prompt congressional hearings, expensive investigations and an entire library full of new regulations. But sometimes it's not that complicated. Sometimes the remedy is as simple as removing the sliver, treating it with a dab of alcohol and moving on." —Jason Wright
"Expecting Republicans to curb spending when they're in power makes about as much sense as standing between Sen. Joe Biden and a live mike." —Debra Saunders
"The Pledge of Allegiance was outlawed Wednesday over a misinterpretation of the separation of church and state. What the Founders meant by banning a national church was to allow each state to establish its very own religion. Under the original plan, Californians today would be swearing in court to tell the truth so help me Self." —Argus Hamilton
Jay Leno... "Welcome to our 3000th show tonight. We did our first show in May of 1992; a man named George Bush was president, his approval rating was only 39 percent, and someone named Clinton wanted to replace him in the White House. So nothing has changed really.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
OpinionJournal - The Western Front
Thomas Sowell: Random thoughts
In the presidential campaign last year, Democrats were said to be counting on some misfortune--terrorists attacking on American soil, the Iraq War taking a turn for the worse, the economy going south--to help them beat George W. Bush. That didn't happen, of course. But now disaster has struck, and it's becoming increasingly clear that Democrats are better off for it. In ripping through the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina has peeled back the lid on Republican rule and many Americans aren't happy with what they see.
This isn't about a slow response anymore. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is on the ground, troops have restored order, and the water in New Orleans has long since begun to recede. President Bush and Republicans in Congress are now taking a hit not for when but rather how they have responded. And unless they change course, Republicans will pay a steep price in next year's midterm elections and leave Democrats in the driver's seat for 2008.
What we're seeing in the wake of Katrina is that despite all the winks and assurances to the contrary as they passed the energy and transportation bills, Republicans in Congress don't know how to control spending and are at a loss as to why they even should. That's one way to govern. But if Republicans no longer believe in smaller government, why not put the Democrats back in charge?
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What can we be certain of from history? That human beings have been wrong innumerable times, by vast amounts, and with catastrophic results. Yet today there are still people who think that anyone who disagrees with them must be either bad or not know what he is talking about.
Students can graduate from even the most prestigious colleges and universities wholly unaware that there are not simply different opinions about particular issues but a whole comprehensive framework of ideas and analysis through which those issues can be seen in a way that leads to very different conclusions from the ones their professors have taught or insinuated.
Do the people who are making so much noise about the difficulties of creating a constitution in Iraq have any awareness that it was 13 years after the Declaration of Independence before the Constitution of the United States was created?
When Ronald Reagan said that the government was spending money like a drunken sailor, he apologized to the sailors, who were after all spending their own money.
It is a shame that ancient history is seldom taught in our schools. Finding out that people thousands of years ago were basically pretty much the way they are today -- people of every race, color, creed, national origin, political ideology and sexual orientation -- would reduce our chances of having Utopian hopes for big changes any time soon.
With various people complaining about "price gouging" as gasoline prices rise and as higher prices are charged for other things in areas struck by hurricanes, economist Walter Williams has coined a new term: "Tax gouging." But government is never accused of either "greed" or "gouging" -- not even when they bulldoze people's homes in order to turn the land over to businesses that will pay more taxes.
[Peter] Wallace, IT director at AAA Reading-Berks in Wyomissing, Penn. has been bringing a card reader with him on business trips to see what's on the magnetic strips of his hotel room access cards. To his dismay, a surprising number have contained his name and credit card information - and in unencrypted form.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Robert Novak: Chuck Schumer's defeat
"The Founding Fathers believed that our Creator gave us certain inalienable rights. The Pledge of Allegiance simply reinforces the beliefs that led to the birth of our great nation. It is an oath of our fidelity to our country, and I am disappointed that the [9th Circuit] Court chose to rule against this American treasure." —House Speaker Dennis Hastert addressing a federal judge's ruling Wednesday that schools permitting students to freely recite the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional
"I think the question of what went wrong is a very simple one. It actually [was] a failed local and state government. And when you're in that situation, there's a limit to what the national government can do... DeTocqueville understood this in 1840, when he published Democracy in America. He said a nation can establish a free government, but without municipal institutions, it cannot have the spirit of liberty. And that's the point. That's what we saw on September 11th, that it was in the Mayor and the police and the fire departments, and the other municipal institutions in New York, that you saw the spirit of liberty, and you measured the health of that society. And that's what has failed with this guy who's the mayor of New Orleans, and with this governor of Louisiana, and this hysterical meltdown by Senator Landrieu of Louisiana." —Mark Steyn
"The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of these United States are covenants we have made not only with ourselves but with all mankind. Our founding documents proclaim to the world that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few. It is the universal right of all God's children." —Ronald Reagan
"[N]early every institution with which I come into daily contact—my library, my grocery store, my search engine—has already donated time or money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and I don't think this makes me or my community unique. A Zogby poll conducted last week found that 68 percent of Americans had donated money to hurricane relief. An ABC News/Washington Post poll published yesterday found that 60 percent had already donated, and a further 28 percent intend to... [T]he worst failures of the past two weeks have been big government failures. The biggest successes, by contrast, have come out of this country's incredibly vibrant, amazingly diverse and fantastically generous civil society. Sooner or later, it will be impossible not to draw political lessons from that paradox." —Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum
"Politics is evil. Ten years ago I thought politics was misguided. But the events of the past decade—indeed, of the past 10 or a dozen decades—have proven me wrong. The sum and substance of politics was expressed in the 1860s by Nicholas Chernyshevskii, a prescient Russian radical: 'Man is god to man.' And politics violates the other nine commandments as well. Politics could hardly function without bearing false witness. Likewise, without taking the Lord's name in vain. This is especially true given that, in politics, the Lord who is so loosely sworn by is Mankind. In the modern era politics has taken the place of mere tyranny. The result has been more killing in one century than in all the preceding centuries combined. Covetousness and stealing define redistributive politics. Without redistribution politics would have no political support. Graven image is as good a name as any for the fiat money by which politics operates. Politics' insistence upon involvement in every human activity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is more anti-Sabbatarian than golf. The Social Security system is no way to honor thy father and thy mother. And as for adultery, there was, and there may be still, Bill Clinton... Observe our national politics. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics through the ages. Does it look like God's handiwork? When it comes to having a role in politics, that would be the Other Fellow." —P.J. O'Rourke
"Reporters covering the evacuation of New Orleans last week have noticed an interesting phenomenon. People who have lost everything are staying in shelters. And who are running those shelters? Churches. Christians were the first to arrive on the scene—literally the first responders—the first to help with the devastation in New Orleans, even before the first government assistance arrived. And Christians shouldn't be surprised at this, even if reporters are. Because throughout history, Christians have been passionate about human dignity. We believe all humans are made in the image of God. This is why Christians throughout history have rescued abandoned babies, fought slavery, and passed child labor laws. Today, we care equally for the mother dying of AIDS in Africa, the six-year-old sex slave in Thailand, and the homeless family in New Orleans... As the story of Hurricane Katrina begins to fade out of the news, as it inevitably will, we must not let our memories fade with it. Loving our neighbor requires perseverance. Those rendered homeless by Katrina will need help for years to come—and as we have recently seen, we cannot always rely on government help... Christians reaching out to those who suffer offer a tremendous witness to secular observers—a witness to the fact that throughout history, whenever there are people who suffer, it is Christians, just like now in New Orleans, who are the 'first responders'." —Chuck Colson
NPR is for the poor!
Both Biden and Schumer would have turned judicial nominees into political candidates, who would then gain overwhelming support for confirmation by endorsing a liberal laundry list. Roberts responded to Biden that judges "decide cases according to the judicial process, not on the basis of promises made earlier to get elected or promises made earlier to get confirmed."
Roberts has won the argument. Law writer Stuart Taylor Jr., in an Aug. 1 Legal Times article, indicated he had changed his mind and now felt that if Democrats "ever succeed in forcing nominees to detail their views, it will not only corrupt the integrity and independence of new justices. It will also, perhaps, open the way for presidents to pack the court with people who have virtually pledged their votes on a long list of issues." Taylor cited the position by Laurence Silberman, a senior judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court, that every case must be tried on its merits and weighed against the Constitution rather than decided on broad considerations of social philosophy. That is precisely the standard put forth repeatedly by Roberts.
In response, the Democrats have so hardened their posture that a unanimous Judiciary Committee vote by them against Roberts is probable. In the full Senate, the most that Roberts can hope for is probably eight Democrats, or 63 total votes.
Compared to the general public, NPR listeners are 152 percent more likely to own a home valued at $500,000 or more; 194 percent more likely to travel to France; and 326 percent more likely to read the "New Yorker."
I've said it before
: PBS is nothing more than the rich taking money from the middle class and poor so they don't have to pay for it themselves.