Monthly Archives: February 2016
by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 2/19/16
Here are some thoughts for the season, as we all try to make sense of the American way of choosing finalists in our quadrennial elections sweepstakes. And of course, 50 states and 8 territories have their own rules.
1) The other day I saw a quote from Groucho Marx’s role in “A Night at the Opera”: “You big bully, why are you hitting that little bully?”
On the whole, Americans don’t like bullies. We tend to prefer interacting with people who are modest and respectful. But then there’s political life. The Groucho quote seems a good test in the current rough-and-tumble Republican primary struggle. Will the biggest bully win? A small-to-moderate one? Someone too nice to be a bully? Did one big bully, C., as his last act in the play yard, take down a littler one named M. in order to give himself a better chance at being someone else’s vice-presidential pick?
The next few weeks may give answers, but in any case let’s keep our eyes on the bully/insult/aggressiveness theme. And I think Groucho would find a lot more laughs in our “system.”
Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Ralph F. Stitt, Rivoli Theatre
2) “Before Donald Trump, There Was Jan Brewer” by Josh Marro, New York Times, 2/10/16, quotes the former Republican Arizona governor as saying
“Voters want somebody that can solve the problems and can do it effectively and do it right…. They just don’t want somebody that says ‘no, no, no.’ ”
Could that be good advice for the many present and now former candidates who speak against immigrants, Social Security, Medicare, Latinos, Muslims, the economically deprived, women’s rights, gun violence prevention, climate change mitigation, diplomacy, foreign countries, the President of the United States, the Pope, and a lot more…
keep reading at Politics: A View from West Chester
By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 1/25/16
The billionaire brothers are championing criminal-justice reform. Has their formula changed?
On the night of November 2nd, well-dressed Wichita residents formed a line that snaked through the lobby of the city’s convention center. They all held tickets to the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala, which had drawn thirty-five hundred people. The evening’s featured speaker, Charles Koch, had lived in town almost all of his eighty years, but few locals—even prominent ones—had ever laid eyes on him. Charles, along with his brother David, owns virtually all of the energy-and-chemical conglomerate Koch Industries, which is based in Wichita and has annual revenues of a hundred and fifteen billion dollars. Charles’s secretive manner, right-wing views, and concerted campaign to exert political influence by spending his fortune have made him an object of fascination, especially in his home town. “You never see him,” one local newsman whispered. “He hates publicity.” He paused. “Please don’t quote me on that!”
It was therefore a surprise when Koch made it clear to the gala’s planners, last fall, that he wanted to headline the event….
continue reading at The New Yorker
by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 2/8/16
Part I – Krauthammer Conservatism
Charles Krauthammer is the most celebrated contemporary conservative thinker in the United States. However, let it be known that he is not just a theorist. He is man of political action who wants a conservative in the White House to line up with those already in control of Congress. Thus he supports Republican candidates such Marco Rubio and Chris Christie (Ted Cruz, while a “genuine conservative,” is too “radical,” and Jeb Bush isn’t mentioned at all) as potential presidents who would give conservatism its best opportunity since Reagan to become the country’s governing philosophy.” Those are the words of an unapologetic ideologue: what is good for the country is the Krauthammer philosophy of conservatism in control of the government.
What does this mean? For Krauthammer, as for so many other conservative thinkers who have never really evolved away from 19th century capitalist economic theory, conservatism in power means the “reform” of big government, or as he still describes it, “the 20th century welfare state.” Reform essentially means significant downsizing of government in the name of individual “freedom,” primarily in the market place, and, of course, a corresponding cut in taxes for the business class.
There are several things dangerously wrong about Krauthammer’s simplistic approach to “conservative governing.” One is that, in a country like the U.S. with approximately 320 million people (a considerable number of them getting steadily poorer), doing away with welfare state services and regulations seriously risks further impoverishment, increased economic exploitation in the workplace, an erosion of state and local infrastructures, and an explosion in business corruption. While Krauthammer would never agree, it is simply historically untrue that capitalism, without widespread government regulation and significant financial support for basic services, has ever brought prosperity to the majority of any population. The second thing wrong with Krauthammer’s thinking is his apparent inability to understand the difference between inefficiency and government size. Big government is necessary for the social and economic health of big societies. However, increased size does not automatically translate into government inefficiency. The need to monitor the efficiency of all bureaucracies so that they perform their jobs in a smooth and timely fashion is one thing. Downsizing to the point of near dismantlement of necessary government bureaus based on the conservative ideological assumption that they are chronically inefficient and overly expensive dead weight is quite another. The former will make things better. The latter will risk societal collapse. …
continue reading and follow links at To the Point Analyses