All posts by Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.
United-States-Constitution

Defense of the Constitution Can Unite Conservatives, Libertarians and Independents … and Save the GOP

United-States-ConstitutionThe GOP confronts what could threaten to be a crippling dilemma.  If real it could prove fatal to its viability as a political party.  Electoral victory requires both its libertarians and its social conservatives.  And they are at odds.

These two crucial elements have a strained relationship.  The libertarians, overrepresented in the party’s donor, underrepresented in its activist, base keep marginalizing social conservatives.  Libertarians keep trying to blunt conservative impact inside the GOP and in campaigns.

This is magnificent.  But it is not war.

Meanwhile, social conservatives look upon libertarians in much the same way as the U.S. Army troops looked at Gort in The Day The Earth Stood Still.    No good can come of this.  My fellow conservatives!  Repeat after me:  Klaatu barada nikto.

Both party elements need to work together to survive the assault by Big Brother.  For many years, libertarians and the social conservatives made common cause against the common enemy of communism.  Communism is dead.   No comparably impressive adversary appears on the horizon. (Obamunism, for all of its horrors, is a pallid threat compared with having 45,000 nuclear weapons pointed your way.)

And, as we discovered in 2008 and 2012, divided we fall.  This is especially true in that the party’s Superconsultants and operatives tend to truckle to the donor base.  And if the donors say to marginalize the social conservatives, well, Republican Superconsultants live by the golden rule: “he who has the gold makes the rules.”   They do so even if it consistently, demonstrably, loses elections.

Will the libertarian-conservative anti-Big-Brother coalition crumble? Will the GOP break into warring duchies?  It could happen.

Consider the Great Christie-Paul War of Words of 2013.  The urban-elite Chris Christie launched a Pearl Harbor attack against the rural-populist Rand Paul.  Enough of that would, of course, leave the field clear for the Democrats to elect the whole federal government in 2016.  And, Gov. Christie, while Time Magazine will reward you with sycophantic coverage for driving wedges in the Republican coalition that’s … trading birthright for pottage.

But a crumble is not the most likely outcome.  The GOP more likely is poised to emerge more strongly than it has been in many cycles. As quantum physicist Niels Bohr once said, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

What the Republican Party is confronting appears more a paradox than a dilemma.  Its predicament could prove a source of strength rather than doom.

The intra-party fracture is most pronounced when it comes to policies touching on sexual mores.  Libertarians tend to reflect the mores of urban elites, favoring gay marriage and, for many (although by no means all), a laissez faire attitude toward abortion.  This sophisticated stand, of course, wins props from The New York Times.  It brings rewards from many, wealthy, party donors.

Yet it has several major handicaps.  The most salient of these is that it demonstrably loses votes.  For a political entity that’s a poison pill.

Traditional values as vote getter (not just within the party base but with Independents — including ethnics and blue collar workers) violates the meta-narrative of the party elites.   Still, the conclusion that traditional values is a net, and a legitimate, vote getter is almost impossible to avoid.

As Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project (with which this columnist has a professional association) has repeatedly pointed out, while sophisticated values has social cachet they lose net votes. Presidential candidate John McCain, refusing to campaign on social issues, lost California by a whopping 24 points.  That same year California’s Prop 8, banning gay marriage, won by 4 points.

This fact makes urban elites uncomfortable.  They consider “traditional values” déclassé … or even bigoted.  Nonsense. America is, after all, a representative democracy.   It is from the “consent of the governed,” the Declaration of Independence says, that are derived “the just powers” for which Governments are instituted among Men.

It is right here, and in the Declaration’s successor document, the Constitution, that the forces uniting libertarianism and conservatism, and the key to the GOP’s salvation, reside.  The Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is replete with guarantees of liberty upon which libertarians and conservatives can build a healthy concordat — even including provisions with which they might not be fully comfortable.

Enter … Constitutionalism.

As George Washington stated in his farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness. . . .”  Prohibiting morality and ethical codes to religion, or to society because based in religion, makes a travesty of the Bill of Rights.  Moral codes of religions have Constitutional dignity.   The State is constrained, by the Constitution, to show some respect.

Whether or not one agrees with orthodox religious values … the adherents are legitimately, and constitutionally, entitled to have, to practice, and to press for the State to reflect their values. Libertarians and conservatives can disagree while taking a principled stand for the legitimacy, under the Constitution, of one another’s position.  Even though many libertarians fully approve of gay marriage they can, with authenticity, also honor the First Amendment guarantee of “… no law …prohibiting the free exercise [of religion].”

Preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights, provides ample grounds for unity between libertarians and most conservatives.  Many of our civil liberties — dear to libertarians and conservatives both — are under assault by progressive forces.

There is much to collaborate on:  preserving freedom of speech, and of the press, and of the free exercise of religion; honoring the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances; not infringing the right to keep and bear arms; rehabilitation the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonably searches and seizures; the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.  Even, casting the net a bit wider, the classical gold standard and the repeal of the Estate tax!

Meanwhile, social democrats have their own, abundant, internal contradictions. Most glaring right now: the American health care system indeed is a scandal.  We get some of the most expensive and worst health care of any industrialized country.  Yet the Democrats’ purported solution, Obamacare, portends to thrust us out of the frying pan … and into the fire.  Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat and one of its legislative architects, called it “a huge train wreck coming down.”  Good intentions are no substitute for making us mere voters actually better off.

American progressives keep promising Denmark, a true socialist workers paradise and the happiest country in the world, and delivering Detroit: now entering the Ninth Circle of Hell.

Bohr’s comment about paradox and progress connotes that there are no such things as paradoxes in nature.  The discovery of an apparent paradox creates the possibility of progress by revealing a fallacy in our perspective.  Only at the far fringes of libertarianism and conservatism do these two worldviews enter red-line-crossing conflict.  They are natural allies.

Call this columnist crazy but … respect for the Constitution, and our constitutional rights, can reunite the GOP, and unite it with ethnic and blue collar Democrats and with Independents, creating a winning combination. Crazy?  This columnist, again, takes solace from Bohr, this time to Wolfgang Pauli: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

Enter Constitutionalism.

This post was originally posted on Forbes.com

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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The politicalization of sanity, or why is Jon Stewart acting like Nurse Ratched?

Comics deserve a lot of liberty to walk the edge. Yet the choice of theme of the Rally to Restore Sanity toys with shameful undercurrents. The comics’ choice of theme is just one step away from referencing Josef Mengele’s sadistic medical “experiments” as a launching pad for … irony.

Progressives like Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart are certain that their worldview is objectively right and, thus, the only possible sane one. (Apparently he is unfamiliar with Lyotard’s definition of postmodernism as “incredulity toward meta-narratives.”) Thus a society that permits political dissent from Stewart’s own worldview can be indicted, “humorously,” as … needing its sanity restored.

Well. A brief refresher course of where this once led might be in order. Branding those who politically dissent as “insane” was practiced aggressively by the Soviets. Like Stewart, the Soviets, too, genuinely believed that those who disputed their view of things were insane.

The psychiatrists of the Soviet Union notoriously diagnosed dissent as a form of mental illness. It is especially troubling that, as noted in the Wikipedia article on Punitive psychiatry in the Soviet Union, official Soviet psychiatry posited “ideas about a struggle for truth and justice are formed by personalities with a paranoid structure.”

This more than vaguely resembles the American elitist diagnosis of the Tea Party as an emanation of “the paranoid style in American politics,” as phrased by Hofstadter in an earlier attack on conservatives, particularly Goldwaterites.

The abuse of psychiatry for political ends famously was dramatized by British dramatist Tom Stoppard, in “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” based on the experiences of Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky.

It presents a dissident committed to an insane asylum and presented with a demand that he admit that his anti-government commentary was a sign of mental illness. Such an admission was the price of release. Are we to suppose that Stewart might find this… hilarious?

One by no means suggests that Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or even much more important progressives — probably not even George Soros or John Podesta — are planning, desiring, or conniving at the abuse of psychiatry for political ends. That’s preposterous.

Still, it is unsettling that Comedy Central’s leading personality would choose to ally himself with Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” rather than that book’s heroic dissident, McMurphy. This makes Stewart’s gig about as funny as, well, Nurse Ratched.

Purely as a matter of taste, not implying anything sinister, a Rally to Restore Sanity — given the shameful historical abuses of the politicization of sanity and the pretext of “restoring sanity” as a rationalization for torturing political dissidents — is about as funny a premise as would have been a “Rally to Restore Racial Purity.” (Ha ha, just kidding!)

Anne Applebaum wrote a trenchant critique of “Jon Stewart’s Million Moderate March,” as it was originally known before it changed its theme. She concludes: “I’m sure his Million Moderate March will be amusing, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun by calling it tragic. But if that’s the best the centre can do, then ‘blackly humorous’ wouldn’t be that far off.”

Applebaum is a respected social critic of Soviet human rights abuses, who earned a Pulitzer Prize (and many other awards) for her landmark work, Gulag: A History. Hers is a voice to be reckoned with and it is not hard to imagine that it was her column that forced the shift in theme by Stewart.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Stewart, by shifting from the theme of a “Million Moderate March” to a “Rally to Restore Sanity,” moved from farce to tragedy.

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Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, is a senior advisor to The American Principles Project. This op-ed originally appeared at the Washington Examiner.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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Truth, Justice, and the American Way: A Conservative’s Defense of Illegal Aliens

“With the destruction of Krypton imminent, scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara placed their infant son Kal-El in an experimental rocket to send him to Earth and safety.” Designed and sculpted by William Paquet

Illegal Alien #1 is one Kal-El, a/k/a Superman.  He illegally entered American airspace, then territory, and has taken up residence.   No visa.  No documents.  He was found, in his tiny rocket ship, and taken in by Ma and Pa Kent, who thereby themselves became guilty of a felony, subject to five years of imprisonment under Federal Immigration and Nationality Act Section 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)(b)(iii).

Superman sets a bad example for American youth (particularly teen boys) in his disregard of the Immigration and Nationality Act, of contempt for the rule of law. The writer himself is a lawyer, and all for the rule of law.  Law, in our system, is combined with equity, and the two work hand in glove.

There is a compelling case for the rule of law.  Our society, and our happiness, depends on it.  But there also are several legitimate approaches to how best to bring it about.  In addition to the strict law and order approach, there are those, including Conservatives who take to heart Anatole France’s observation: The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. Does this imply a certain squishiness in respect for law enforcement?  Not at all.  It implies discretion and a desire for proportionality.   And, perhaps, for a path to redemption.

Then there are those free-loving Libertarians who point out that, according to civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silberglate, the average American unwittingly commits three felonies a day. And you, dear reader, as a Parcbench reader, are an above-average American and thus possibly commit even more felonies each day!

Grover Norquist recently pointed out at CPAC — conservatives did not prostrate themselves at the federally imposed 55 MPH speed limit, did not call for draconian penalties for violators, in the name of rule of law.  We called it out for what it was, a really stupid law, and fought it.

And won.

The current American immigration law is founded, as it happens, in a fundamentally bad deal that we need, badly need, to unwind.  An open, but mostly unknown, secret of the current immigration problem is that it grew out of a back room deal: “The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,” a/k/a Simpson-Mazzoli.

Those who were in that back room are understandably reluctant to discuss that deal.  But the evidence is clear that something very like this happened:

In the negotiations, the anti-immigrant faction was mollified by putting tough employer sanctions on the books.  The pro-immigrant faction was mollified by a firm promise that those sanctions rarely would be enforced.

Result: a moral hazard wherein millions of hard-working, family-minded, and religious Latinos found “sanctuary” in the United States where they could work, put down roots, and enrich their communities.   But they never could get on the path to citizenship and became vulnerable to exploitation and precluded from entering the American mainstream. (The evidence is persuasive that Hispanics are learning English at least as fast or faster than earlier waves of immigrants such as the Italians and the Poles.  Without a path to earn citizenship there are legal barriers to their joining the mainstream yet … they are highly motivated to become Americans.)

Although the anti’s invariably portray immigrants as a drain on the economy, the evidence is very persuasive that immigrants provide far more value than cost.  Where that is not the case it calls for further welfare reform, not immigrant bashing.    As Julian Simon protégé and Supply Side icon Steve Moore observes: “As America’s workforce ages, we need the infusion of young workers — yes, even unskilled workers fill vital niches in our workforce — to keep our economy prosperous and to avoid the kind of serious demographic crisis that may soon beset most other advanced nations.” In other words, it would be more sensible to celebrate immigrants as a form of foreign aid than as a national curse.

One of countless examples: in 1990, Chatham County, NC, was a sleepy, rural and very poor county. According to the U.S. Census a dozen Hispanics lived there.  By 2000, personally observed shortly thereafter, by this writer, Chatham County had become home to 40,000 Hispanics, almost all undocumented, working in the county poultry industry, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the local economy.  Chatham County, according to a personal communication by this writer with its capital’s mayor and police chief, experienced very modest social strains, thanks in part to a wise Latina activist, Ilana Dubester, who founded el Vinculo Hispano/Hispanic Liaison.

SIDEBAR:  One of Ms. Dubester’s accomplishments as it happens, was to precipitate the political downfall of one David Duke, White Supremacist.  He chose to come to Chatham’s capital, Siler City to provoke the locals and enhance his notoriety (and gain the money that comes with that).  Dubester sent out word to the activists in the area to totally ignore Duke and his provocations.  As a result, there was no provocation, no drama, no media.  Word traveled through the activist grapevine to emulate this tactic, ignore Duke, and soon he was on his way to obscurity and poverty.  (Someone who had infiltrated the Duke camp advised this writer personally that Duke expressed dismay at his failure to provoke an outburst and a media storm, recognizing that the perfect counter-strategy to his fomenting of hatred —  and fomenting money via notoriety — had been found.)

America, the evidence really is compelling, has pursued a strategy of prohibition and non-enforcement.  To give a picture, consider how many police there are in New York City alone: 40,000.  In Houston: 12,000.  Now, pop quiz: how many Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are there in the United States?

5,000.

To patrol all of NYC. LA.  Chicago.  Miami.  Houston.  Everywhere.  Every inch of border.  Every port.  Every airport.

To handle customs, the flow of goods.

And immigration, the flow of people.

Under this regime 12 million, mostly Hispanics, mostly Catholic or Evangelical, came to work and form communities in the United States.  Hard working, religious, family, and community minded people.  And patriotic.  More Hispanics have won the Medal of Honor than any other ethnic group.

To cite Norquist again, they came here because they respect what America is in the same way that Conservatives respect America.  Immigrants, documented or not, have conservative values and are in distress  at the handiwork of those officials (Hello, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Reid!  How is that working out for you?) intent on making America more like the lands they fled.

See the threat to The American Way here?

Of course not.  There isn’t one.

Immigrants, legal or not, are Conservatives’ natural allies.  So long as we let the mainstream media attempt to discredit us by spinning nativists as their selected spokesmen for us it will drive Hispanics into the arms of the Liberals — an unnatural act if ever there was one.  Don’t fall for it.

As for Superman.  One of the deservedly most famous issues in this iconic series is Superman #247, Must There Be a Superman. This story ably is  summarized by Joe Maurone in his article, Steve Ditko and “Must There Be A Superman” published in Solopassion.com.

Superman came across a migrant worker crew-boss assaulting a young Latino who had spearheaded a strike at an orchard. Everyone had agreed to strike for more equitable treatment but ultimately only the boy, Manuel, stood his ground. Once Superman arrived though, the workers felt a new sense of confidence and joined together behind Superman. “Let him have it, Superman. Give it to him good,” they screamed. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, Superman turned to the crowd and asked, “Why don’t you handle it?” Angrily, he told them that they were the ones that should settle these disputes and not to turn to him for help.

His behavior toward Manuel, though, was compassionate. Putting his arm around the boy, he led him through the crowd that parted as they passed, and asked the boy to tell him what had happened. As the boy told Superman that his father had sent him to California from Mexico for a better life, images of Jor-El placing him in a spacecraft flashed before Superman’s mind’s eye. “But here I am,” continued Manuel, “just a field picker and life is the same as before.” “You were the one with the courage to strike,” said Superman, and lifting Manuel into his arms, he flew the boy to the migrant camp. At first, he was shocked to see the horrible conditions in which the workers live, but when the people ran to him and pleaded, “Now you have come to solve all our problems,” Superman flew into a rage and told them that he was not there to do anything. “Nothing. Nothing at all,” he yelled. “Whatever help you claim you need must come from yourselves.

The rule of law is an imperative.  Yet it does not preclude either mercy, redemption or discretion when in our national interest, wholly apart from the interests of those directly involved, are at stake.  Provide a clear, rigorous, and decent path to earned citizenship for every illegal alien who can prove that he or she is of good character by their history of hard work and responsible residency.  Concurrently provide practical mechanisms to regulate  border security and future immigration firmly and intelligently.

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Ralph Benko is the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, the eBook of which may be downloaded without charge from http://www.thewebstersdictionary.com.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

More Posts - Website

Micromanager-in-Chief

From:
The President of the United States

To:
Secretary of the Treasury Geithner
Secretary of Defense Gates
Secretary of the Interior Salazar
Secretary of Labor Solis
Attorney General Holder

Dated:  September 7, 2010

Re:       Buggy Whip Manufacturing

Gentlemen (and Lady), it has come to my attention (websurfing on my Blackberry during these interminable staff meetings and out on the links when the rest of my foursomes are teeing off) that there is only one buggy whip manufacturer remaining in the United States of America today: Westfield Whip Manufacturing Company of Westfield, Massachusetts.

This raises a number of troubling implications and interesting opportunities for this Administration.

Tim, my faithful Treasury Secretary, I direct you to engineer a bailout for Westfield Whip immediately.  Please do not let the mere fact that they claim to be solvent deter this.  By virtue of the fact that Westfield is the last surviving member of a once-flourishing industry it is ipso facto “at risk.”

Whatever took down the buggy whip industry as a whole — some of the best minds at Harvard are still debating the cause, something about some sinister guy named “Schumpeter” — may still be lurking out there.  We courageously refused to let healthy banks such as the multi-billion dollar BB&T opt out of the TARP funding.  We got them to reconsider their protest that “their business and balance sheets were perfectly OK and they didn’t need the money” by making very credible menacing noises about burying them in audits by the Comptroller of the Currency.  And we brought to bear the suasion of other regulatory agencies with bureaucratic life-or-death power …  which most people (myself included) had never even heard of until you, Tim, yourself previously (and, come to think of it, still) a lifelong bureaucrat, so kindly pointed out to me.

So … how very clever of me! There are some who say that customers, in a free market, best determine what companies should rise and fall based upon the quality of their products and services, the competitiveness of their prices, and the demand for their goods and services.  That implies that mere businesspeople (not to mention customers — some of whom, I have just learned, shop at tacky places like Walmart and Costco!  Can you believe it?) have better judgment than I, the President of the United States.  How weird is the worldview to which right wingers, tea partiers, and so many little people in the “flyover states” so bitterly cling!  Obviously, I, as President, know better than such as these.  About, well, everything.

Robert, my bipartisan Defense Secretary, I direct you immediately to nationalize Westfield Whip as “critical national security infrastructure.”  There are some who say that buggywhips have no place in modern warfare.  I, let me be clear, know better.  (It is obvious that I know best to all but the most feeble minded tea party types who are failing in their civic duty to listen to NPR instead of those strange fellows Limbaugh and Beck.  I, after all, am the President.  Nobody else is.  QED.  Duh!)

To paraphrase Teddy Kennedy, paraphrasing Bobby Kennedy, paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw, “Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that used to be and say why not?” (Note to my “small s” secretary Katie Johnson:  this is brilliant of me.  Get it over to Gibbs immediately and have him get it around to those piranha in the mainstream media who have stopped swooning at my every cliché.  This may remind them how astute and witty truly I am.)

As late as WWII, The German and the Soviet armies used horses until the end of the war for transportation of troops and supplies. The German Army, strapped for motorised transport because its factories were needed to produce tanks and aircraft, used around 2.75 million horses—more than it had used in World War I. One German infantry division in Normandy in 1944 had 5,000.

Since our secret program to convert most of GM and Chrysler (we still own them, right Tim?) to manufacturing Predators for Afghanistan to keep the Right quiet and Windmills for whoever we can unload them to keep MoveOn quiet is moving forward handsomely, it is by no means out of the question that the United States Army, like the German Army before it, may find itself “strapped for motorized transport.”

I, the President of the United States, having foreseen this distinct possibility in that nice, “no drama Obama but visionary way” of mine, am directing you to position the United States against the possibility of militarily essential buggy whips.  Take whatever steps are deemed expedient to nationalize Westfield Whip.  Mothball it and store it, if need be, next to the Ark of the Covenant over there in the warehouse of the national archives.  But do it.

Secretary Salazar, it has come to my attention that Westfield Whip’s factory is the same building in which it has been manufacturing whips since 1887.    Because it is so old, or something, it has been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  I, lo the President of the United States, find it deeply troubling that actual commercial activity is permitted in a property listed on an actual U.S. National Register.  Commercial activity is so… déclassé.  A necessary evil at best.  To associate the prestige of the United States Government with a mere factory?  Unthinkable.  Shut down its operations immediately.  Quietly let them outsource the manufacturing to Taiwan, if necessary, but … let’s play dumb on that.

Secretary Solis, as Secretary of Labor were you aware that Westfield Whip employs literally dozens, maybe scores, of people?  Given your poor performance in reducing unemployment, let me, the President, given that I am smarter than everyone including, therefore, you, provide guidance here.  Please immediately force Westfield Whip to accept some expansion loans from the Small Business Administration to double their workforce, then put out a press release.  (Katie, send a note to my Secretary of Commerce, what’s his name again?  Oh yes.  Gary something.  Gary Locke?  Clever of me to remember.  Telling him I, the President, approved this.)  This could rapidly generate dozens or even scores of new jobs.  Hilda?  I really expect my secretary of labor to be more proactive in creating jobs.  Can’t you get more power over to the Unions?  That surely will help create more jobs.  Because union members have jobs, don’t you see?  And while you are at it, get the Bureau of Labor Statistics to count those jobs in Taiwan which we created but shutting down the factory into their employment numbers.  Fair’s fair.

I don’t have to time to think of everything without severely cutting in to my golfing schedule.   So get this handled. Stat.  The press is beginning to notice the higher-than-predicted level of unemployment you know.

Mr. Attorney General, it hardly will have escaped your notice that, as the only remaining Buggy Whip factory in America, Westfield Whip is ipso facto (!) a monopoly, which is defined at dictionary.com, sixth entry, as “the market condition that exists when there is only one seller.”   Why does it always fall to me, the President, to have to notice and point these things out?

So, Eric, it has been disappointingly lax of you not to already have commenced antitrust action against Westfield Whip.  Your neglect has allowed them to engage in such monopolistic practices as not selling their products at retail, forcing the public to go through capitalistic parasites such as “distributors” and “retailers.”  Get with it people!  This is the 21st century.  If you can’t buy it on the Web, it might as well not exist.  So Eric, please give your assistant attorney general for antitrust a good hard prompt.  Tell her to stop messing around with Google and other marginal players and bear down on breaking up Westfield Whip.  Do whatever it takes to prevent it from using its chokehold on America to engage in noxious profit-making practices.

I expect you, my cabinet, to be more proactive and to get this country moving!  We can only blame things on the prior administration for about so long. (Note to self: This job seriously is beginning to detract from my golf time.  Katie?  Would you rev up Air Force One and call up the usual suspects?  I have always been keen to try out the links at St. Andrews, in Scotland, where some say golf was invented.  Get Rahm to come up with some kind of fact-finding mission to justify.  Maybe a ceremonial visit to the Stone of Scone, on which most British monarchs have been crowned since the 14th century.  Maybe the Brits, or Scots, or whoever owns it now, will let me sit on it as a photo op?  Surely something can be arranged.  (If some suasion is needed, Gates, you are authorized to go to DEFCON 3 … but no higher without consulting me first.)

To recap your marching orders:  Tim: bail it out.  Robert:  nationalize it.  Ken, shut down its factory operations.  Hilda, use it as a poster child for creating jobs.  Eric, break it up.  I expect to see results by the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Cabinet.   And remember.  I am the President of the United States and, thus, smarter than all of you combined.

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Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to Transform the World, available as a free download from www.thewebstersdictionary.com is a member of the Tea Party Patriots.  And a satirist.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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The cry of Dolores: Will you free yourselves?

Tonight is celebrated an event of symbolic political, social and cultural significance. It is summed up with the phrase, “Death to bad government” and the event is the Grito de Dolores (“The Cry of Dolores,” named for a small town in Mexico).

The Grito de Dolores is the July 4th of Mexico: the celebration of their fight for independence from their own colonial power, Spain. Its rallying cry is “Death to Bad Government,” the tone of it has similarities with that of our Tea Parties, and conservatives well might embrace it.

On Sept. 15, 1810, just before midnight, Father Miguel Hidalgo ordered the bells of his church to be rung to summon his congregation and said:

My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once…. Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government!

So 2010 is the Grito’s 200th anniversary. Among Mexicans, it is “an almost mythic event.” The Grito is redolent of America’s “revolutionary” values, values that reside inside America’s DNA and in the human core.

The Declaration of Independence and the Grito are rooted in the same ground: Dignity.

The Grito represents an opportunity for conservatives and Tea Partiers to celebrate the values we share with Hispanics. Tonight, on the eve of the Grito, half a million people will gather in the plaza outside the presidential palace of Mexico; millions more will rally throughout Mexico and many thousands here. Church bells will echo across the continent. Let us recognize and celebrate those who will “defend your religion and your rights as true patriots.”

The swelling Hispanic population here is a gift to conservatives and to the United States. Hispanic values are core American, and conservative, values, including pro life, traditional marriage, family and community minded, hard working, entrepreneurial, respectful of property rights, religious and deeply patriotic.

More Hispanics than any other defined ethnic group have received the congressional Medal of Honor at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Real conservatives say: Mi casa, su casa.

Bewildered by the moral hazard created by America’s long non-enforcement of its immigration laws, some conservatives have been slow to recognize how potent a cultural, social, economic and potentially political force for bringing the United States back to its moral and free-market roots is our growing Hispanic population.

Once conservatives come to terms with adding a redemptive step so that illegal aliens, if otherwise of good character, can earn their way to citizenship (very different from “amnesty”), it will be our privilege to welcome them into leadership of our councils.

The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles (whose umbrella group, American Principles in Action, I advise) is demonstrating how Hispanics will support conservatives by promoting, within California’s Latino communities, the candidacy of Carly Fiorina to the United States Senate.

Pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-limited government, Fiorina exemplifies Latino as well as conservative values. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the incumbent California Democrat, does not. If Hispanics recognize Carly as their own, they will provide her with the victory margin.

The millions of Hispanics in America make up an invisible conservative electoral El Dorado, “City of Gold,” enriching American society. They are “imprisoned lighting” that can, once unleashed, help restore America to greatness.

Tonight no conservative should hesitate to ring a bell for the Grito de Dolores and for Father Hidalgo’s cry of “Death to bad government.”

Originally posted at The Washington Examiner

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Examiner contributor Ralph Benko is author of “The Webster’s Dictionary: How to use the web to transform the world.” He is also an adviser to the American Principles Project.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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The Elitists’ Elitists: How Flukes and Foibles Turned American Law Topsy Turvy

john_paul_stevensHyde Park Elitist John Paul Stevens, the U.S. Supreme Court’s most liberal member has, at age 90, announced his resignation.  The Supreme Court commands an immense amount of prestige.  But as it turns out … it is a whimsically human institution and the judges, to almost nobody’s surprise, are no more (nor less) principled and capable than an average congressperson.

Both Congress and the Courts are populated with ambitious human beings and both are full of flukes and foibles.  According to the NPR story on Stevens’ announcement that he was retiring, given Stevens’ lack of political ties, his rise was to some extent a fluke, according to his onetime law clerk Clifford Sloan. “It was an accident of history,” Sloan says. “The stars lined up in a way that could not have been possible before that precise moment and probably could not have been possible after that precise moment.”

Flukey?  Before John Paul Stevens, of course, the most noted arch-Liberal on the Court was William Brennan, the guiding hand behind Roe v. Wade.  And Brennan was selected for the Court entirely as a case a mistaken identity.

Washington insiders are fully familiar with a story, believed originally reported by conservative icon (and friend of this writer) Al Regnery.  Last year the backstory, told by Ike’s attorney general, Herbert Brownell, was repeated by James Humes.  Humes, now well advanced in years, was a speechwriter for President Nixon, is an esteemed author, and, among many other things, once directed the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Brownell, for whom this must have been an embarrassing confession, once told Humes the story of how he sold Ike on nominating Brennan because, having been late to a speech he mistook the sentiments of the conservative Judge Vanderbilt for those of the liberal Judge Brennan.  As Humes reminisced about this event in Newsmax.com:

As Brownell related to me, “In May 1956, I was scheduled to speak in Washington to the National Association of Attorney Generals at the Statler-Hilton in Washington. I left my office in the Justice Department a little late. I arrived to hear a brilliant advocacy of ‘strict constructivism.’

“The speaker was explaining that the Court,” said Brownell, “was the weakest branch of government: Unlike the executive branch, it had no sword, and unlike the legislative branch, it had no purse.”

“In other words, the Court cannot send in troops,” said Brownell …“The Court,” said the speaker at the Conference of Attorney Generals, “should adjudicate not legislate. It cannot become a third legislative branch.”

“I went back to the White House extolling the merits of this state Supreme Court judge from New Jersey, William Brennan. ‘Mr. President, he’s a Democrat.’ ‘But in this election year [1956], a Catholic Democrat from the East might be a smart political choice.’”

Brownell said, “Not until after Eisenhower had announced the selection was I informed that Brennan was only reading the prepared address of Chief Judge Alfred Vanderbilt, who was ill.” *** “I had thought the speech was Brennan’s beliefs.” And that is how the most left member of the Warren Court was chosen by the conservative Eisenhower.

As Brownell said, “Jamie, I picked a leftist wolf garbed in the clothing of a conservative sheep.”

Two flukes, two elitists?  Coincidence?  Perhaps not entirely.  And the damage done at the whim of elitists on the high court has been noted even by such independents as investigative reporter Bob Woodward.

As The Washington Post’s then assistant managing editor Bob Woodward wrote in 1989, in The Abortion Papers, upon his inspection of some papers from William O. Douglas’s archives:

EVER SINCE the Supreme Court issued its controversial abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, 16 years ago today, many legal scholars and millions of other critics have cried foul. They have argued that the court was legislating social policy and exceeding its authority as the interpreter, not the maker, of law.

New evidence has now surfaced that some of the justices who wrote and supported the opinion were doing precisely that….  Legal criticism of Roe v. Wade certainly isn’t new. Scott Armstrong and I reported in our 1979 book “The Brethren” that many of the 1973-era law clerks were surprised to see the justices accepting an opinion that reflected medical and social policy rather than constitutional law. Within the court, some called the opinion itself an “abortion.”

The “legislative” issue is important because it goes to the heart of the court’s authority and legitimacy. The Constitution confers the federal legislative power exclusively to the Congress, so any discussion, even in internal memos, about the justices’ “legislative” purposes takes the court onto perilous ground.

The authority of the Supreme Court rests in large part on the public belief that its rulings, no matter how controversial, reflect enduring and permanent constitutional values, that its conclusions are not arbitrary and that the justices, who are appointed for life, work above the political fray.

One hopes that the United States Senate on whom the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee will depend will scrutinize not so much about whether the nominee is liberal or conservative but whether the new Justice will confine herself to ruling from “enduring and permanent constitutional values” rather than imposing their own arbitrary conclusions upon America.

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Ralph Benko, a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC is the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, Websters’ Press, 2008 and which may be downloaded in ebook form at no charge from www.thewebstersdictionary.com.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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Good Government!

http://www.despair.com/government.html

Here is a wonderful poster offered by Despair.com, reproduced.

(reproduced either with Depair.com’s permission with a hyperlink so you may, as have I, and as should you, purchase one or, if Parcbench’s editors found themselves, once again, too overworked or indolent to bother seeking permission, reproduced under a reasonably plausible claim of “fair use.”)

“Government” sums up a rather soberingly realistic view of the capabilities of the federal government of the United States:   “If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.”  Hmmmm….

But not everyone has this opinion of the capabilities of our government.  Some distinguished commentators have a much lower opinion.

Consider some of what H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, had to say.

Mencken is beloved by Liberals and Progressives everywhere, to this day, perhaps for his supporting but decisive role in humiliating populist icon William Jennings Bryan’s defense of creationism in the (entirely collusive) Scopes Monkey Trial (which, lest we forget, Scopes lost).

Some pithy quotes from H.L. Mencken:

  • I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.
  • The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

  • Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
  • It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.

  • Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

And yet, in the afterglow (as good a euphemism for a whacking hangover as this columnist knows) of New Year Eve’s good feeling, and as we begin 2010, upon reflection we discover that there are — quelle suprise! — some things that the federal government has gotten impressively… right.

Admittedly not many, given its 220 some years of trial and error.  But still.

Let’s give the Devil His due.

Herewith, 10 great things done by the federal government in the 20th and early 21st century.  (Probably it did some great things in the 19th century. Buy Louisiana, and Alaska, cheap.   Whatever, that was well before the time of Parcbench’s Resident Geezer, moi.  So let’s stick with more modern times.)

Ten ways the Taxpayer’s Nickel was, admittedly uncharacteristically, well spent:

1. President Franklin Roosevelt defeated the Nazis and brought about the unconditional surrender of the brutal Japanese militarists.  His successors brought out allies, and former adversaries, back to vibrant prosperity:  The Marshall Plan (for which they, notably the French, remain enduringly grateful to us.  Not.)

2.  The federal government, again under President Roosevelt (who, yes, is listed twice but don’t forget he got elected to four terms!) created the social security retirement system, a shrewdly designed, pro-family, minimally bureaucratic social insurance (not welfare) system that has saved millions of the elderly from destitution.

(Hey there, my sell-the-streets Libertarian readers, the social security old age and survivor annuity represents the most popular federal program out there, consistently polling positively in the 80+% approval rating.  And which, by the way, notwithstanding periodic wolf cries of its demise remains, actuarially speaking, fully viable.

Besides which, you free-lovin’ libertarian dudes and dudettes, I don’t exactly see you rushing to get grannie to move back in with you.  Think about it.)

3.  President Ronald Reagan beat the Commies and brought about the peaceful dismantlement of the Soviet bloc and, then, of the USSR itself. Special thanks to our Vietnam era vets — whose valor in fighting communism never has been, and probably cannot be, celebrated enough.

4.   Lt. Colonel John Boyd and his acolytes created, against the determined efforts of the military industrial complex, the F-16 fighter, which gave America and the forces of liberty air supremacy for over a generation, and at an affordable price.

5.   J.C. R. Licklider, his successors and colleagues (Hi Vint!  Hi Bob!  Great work on that TCP/IP thing!) at DARPA imagined and then created the Internet … to make sure that, if we needed to, we could counterlaunch our nuclear weapons against the aforesaid USSR … and then

6.  Under the leadership of then Senator Al Gore (I am not making this up), deregulated the Internet to become what it is today — which more than makes up for his whole global warming c(ha)rusade, a word your columnist just made up on the spot by conflating “charade“ with “crusade“ — pronounced “cha-roo-sade”).  How did our political discourse survive without the word charusade?

7. The Pentagon created the GPS and, on May 2, 2000, under a standing directive from President Reagan and with a serious assist from, yes, I am not making this up, then-VP Al Gore who has some wonderful geek-like qualities (when he’s not out there worshipping Gaia), made it available, without charge, to the rest of us.  So now for the cost of about 10 tickets to lousy movies (yes Wes Anderson, I’m talking about you!) anyone can access a multi-billion dollar satellite system and, more to the point, this geospatially handicapped writer now can stop getting lost on his way back home from the local 7-11.

8. NASA great George Low (and many, many distinguished colleagues) — with a critical inspirational assist from President John F. Kennedy — put men on the moon and brought them back safely.  (Why no women?  Rank male chauvinism, that’s why.)

9. And NASA’s team created the Hubble, which has beamed home innumerable photos of the deep Universe; beauty that seems, to those of us born in the 1950s, to be nothing short of a revelation.

10. Under the stout-hearted leadership of President Bush  and Vice President Cheney, with a critical assist on the surge from leaders like Sen. McCain and Gen. Petraeus, won (if only, so far, provisionally) the war against Al Qaeda and its sociopathic cronies.  (Look, we’re approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11 — with no more big ugly smokin’ ground zeros.)

And word on the street has it that Congress has (Yes, a Festivus Miracle!) finally found its, um, spine and is preparing really toothy legislation to interdict Iran’s refined petroleum imports.  If true, as rumored, this will, in fact, denuke Iran, and maybe even bring down the tyrannical Ahmadinejad.

So.  Happy 2010, Uncle Sam.  Parcbench (or I, anyway, since Brett Joshpe, at least, has a serious dispute with at least one of these notable accomplishments), while acknowledging that Mencken probably has the stronger case, wishes to give you this glowing Testimonial.

And this gold watch.  Now retire.  Please?

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Ralph Benko, a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC, is the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, the eBook of which may be downloaded without charge from www.thewebstersdictionary.com.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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The Apostasy: “Drop Dead, Tea Partiers!”

A public flogging of Patrick Ruffini

In entering an important online debate recently, GOP web celeb Patrick Ruffini horrifyingly takes the elitist position.  He implicitly disses the Tea Parties, the very Tea Party which, in a recent Rasmussen poll, beat the Republican Party 23% to 18%, with a plurality of independents preferring the Tea Party.

Ruffini is basking in the glow of credit as the online campaign aide to Bob McDonnell’s recent Virginia gubernatorial race.  McDonnell’s victory was wonderful, of course, but his landslide 1,163,523 vote victory was statistically indistinguishable from the non-Ruffini-assisted victory of the even more staunchly conservative Ken Cuccinelli in the state’s attorney general race (to which, full disclosure, this writer contributed funds), 1,123,816 votes.

But Ruffini’s now coming down squarely on the side of elitism is no small matter.  In so doing he makes himself the poster child, and in part directly culpable, for the current woes of an elitist GOP estranged from its base.

One of the great themes in American history is that of the fight between the elitists and the populists.  Within the last few weeks there has been a fascinating — and important — debate among commentators as to why Obama did not follow through on his populist “It’s about us” theme from campaigning to governing.  The Obama administration appears to be  attempting (without notable success) to reduce its vaunted 13 million citizens, activists, contributors and volunteers who helped propel him to victory to … listserv minion status.

The debate was kicked off by TechPresident.com’s Micah Sifry’s important column, The Obama Disconnect and was carried forward  by The Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott — between them generating fascinating posts and ripostes.  It was a conversation in which this writer also publicly participated.

Then enter Ruffini. (Insert ominous organ chorda.)

Ruffini’s contribution to this debate centered on why movement activists should — must — be reduced to minion status after victory.  Ruffini weighed in with A Belated Response to Micah Sifry.

Ruffini:

Indeed, it’s easy to dismiss Sifry’s ideal of autonomous, almost leaderless political movements as essentially incompatible with the work of government.

Ruffini:

The job of a campaign is not to transform the ethos of governance.

Ruffini:

Now, what happens when the campaign goes away? What happens when the enthusiasm inevitably ebbs and the hard work of governing begins? The immediate benefits of a bottom-up strategy become less clear. You revert to traditional instincts, where powerful obstacles stand in the way of getting things done — even amongst your base, and the wielding of massive political machinery cannot be left to amateurs.

“Cannot be left to amateurs?”  This is pretty conventional Political Insider thinking, as it happens. What makes Ruffini’s apostasy shocking is his departure from a short but notable career of cheerleading for a bottom up, open-source ethos in politics.  We now see that to Ruffini “bottom up” is a great, one could say Machiavellian, campaign tactic,  “… not simply a noble, unconventional, damn-the-consequences move. It’s pretty darn profitable, generating more signups, more activity, and more money to feed the top-down parts of the campaign.”

And what makes it doubly shocking is how exceptionally candid is Ruffini’s contempt for the grassroots activists.  Most political operatives maintain at least a polite pretense of respect for the grassroots and the activists.

This is not a new fight.  It is one that goes to the very heart of the American identity and is one that populists have had to fight for from the very beginning.  In the constitutional convention of 1787, our founding fathers took sides and the fight could hardly have been more vivid.  The aristocratic Gouverneur Morris moved to restrict the right to vote to property holders, equating working people with children.  “Children,” said Morris, “do not vote. Why? because they want prudence, because they have no will of their own. The ignorant & the dependent can be as little trusted with the public interest.” Morris was passionately countered by, among others, George Mason, James Madison and by the iconic populist Benjamin Franklin, who said: “It is of great consequence that we shd. not depress the virtue & public spirit of our common people; of which they displayed a great deal during the war, and which contributed principally to the favorable issue of it.”

The vote on this issue went, lopsidedly, to the forces of populism.

It is submitted that elitism, not liberalism (or, from a Leftist’s point of view, conservatism), is the mortal threat to America.  There are elitists, as well as populists, of both the Left and the Right.  And a populist liberal will find more common cause with a populist conservative than with an elitist liberal.

On the Left, the populist 5 million member MoveOn.org formed out of a frustration of middle-class, suburbanite progressives with the Democrats’ unwillingness to stand up to the Republicans over the impeachment of President Clinton and the gearing up of the war on Iraq by President Bush.  Populist leaning SEIU president Andy Stern is on record as saying, “How we got to be the party of government, and not of small business, I just don’t get.”  Micah Sifry, of http://personaldemocracyforum.com, may be one of the truest populists in American history.

On the Right, the most notable populist impulse today arises within the Tea Party movement, most broadly represented by http://teapartypatriots.org (to which this writer belongs), furious with the GOP’s conniving at the spending orgy.  Millions of philosophically aligned mostly middle class Americans whose activist high point, so far, may have been the million plus person march on Washington last September 12th.

This populist uprising, famously called by Tapscott “the Middle America Rebellion of 2009,” is sick and tired of the political elites engaging in a never-ending orgy of debt-fueled spending.  This movement is made up of people who are fed up with the privilege and the impunity with which the political elites conduct themselves.  And with the smugness with which they look down on us ordinary working people.

If the populists of the Left and Right ever make common cause — and there are abundant principled grounds to do so, with, perhaps, the Left taking on Big Government and the Right taking on Big Business — critical mass will be attained.  On that day, if such a day ever comes, there will be a political transformation of historic proportions.

Political visionary, and former Reagan aide (and business partner of this writer), Jeffrey Bell originally redefined populism and elitism for the 20th (and 21st) century in his classic 1992 work published by Regnery, Populism and Elitism: Politics in the Age of Equality.

Therein he redefined populism as “optimism about ordinary people’s ability to manage their own affairs, relative to the ability of an elite to do so for them.”  Elitism, of course, is the converse of this.  Bell’s book had a disproportionate impact on the political discourse, bringing the epithet of “elitism” to the fore.  But somehow, Bell’s refined definition of populism is only now entering the conversation.  Perhaps its time finally has arrived.

America’s political future now hangs in the balance.  The fight is not so much one between Left and Right, although that matters.  But what matters most is the attitude of the political elites towards the regular people.

Reagan understood this perfectly.  Reagan once observed:

I wonder about the people in those cars, who they are, what they do, what they are thinking about as they head for the warmth of home & family. Come to think of it I’ve met them–oh–maybe not those particular individuals but I still feel I know them. Some of our social planners refer to them as ‘the masses’… They are not ‘the masses,’ or as the elitists would have it, ‘the common man.’ They are very uncommon. Individuals each with his own hopes & dreams, plans & problems and the kind of quiet courage that makes this whole country run better than just about any other place on earth.”

Paul Collier, of Freedomist.com, who found and shared this observation by Reagan, points out the poignancy of how … this very quote was used by a much younger Patrick Ruffini, perhaps before he had chosen, or changed, sides, in Ruffini’s own review, at Amazon, of Reagan, In His Own Hand…..

The elitists of the GOP, like the current Patrick Ruffini, wish to dismiss us as “amateurs.”  There is another, older, nobler word for who we are, Patrick.

Boston Tea Party, July 4, 2009 / Ralph Benko

Boston Tea Party, July 4, 2009 / Ralph Benko

Citizens.

This is how Reagan saw us.  This is who we are.  And, as such, we very much can be trusted — more than the discredited political elites — with the “massive political machinery” of government.  We do not need you or your friends, Patrick, Republicans or Democrats, to take power from us, to take power over us, or to make our decisions for us.

Thanks to Sifry, Tapscott, and, yes, Ruffini (caught slipping the GOP some political cyanide) the heart of the agony of the Republican Party, and of the United States itself, now is distilled and made lucid.  It boils down to a fight for the authenticity of the party and for the legitimacy of the government.

As an astute observer of the political scene recently observed, The real problem is that there is too much political machinery.  If there were less, it wouldn’t matter so much who ran it.

At base, it’s an old fight between populists and elitists. Each time gravely underrepresented, the forces of populism have prevailed.

And, in large measure thanks to the Tea Parties, and to populists both Republican and Democratic, the people again shall prevail.

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Ralph Benko, who served as co-emcee of the July 4th Boston Tea Party, is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.  It is available as a free eBook from www.thewebstersdictionary.com and in book form from Amazon.com and finer bookstores everywhere.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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Beauty So Difficult

iphoto

iPhoto by Mikel Rouse, originally from the liner notes to Gravity Radio; www.MikelRouse.com

“Beauty is difficult, Yeats” said Aubrey Beardsley
when Yeats asked why he drew horrors
or at least not Burne-Jones
and Beardsley knew he was dying and had to
make his hit quickly

Hence no more B-J in his product.

So very difficult, Yeats, beauty so difficult.

So, famously, wrote Ezra Pound in Canto LXXX, recounting a cocktail party exchange between William Butler Yeats (Pound having served as Yeats’ personal secretary) and artist of the exquisite, the grotesque, the decadent, Aubrey Beardsley

Yet perhaps, thanks to the iPhone, the difficulty of beauty is no longer quite as true as it once was.  An entirely new artistic medium is, perhaps, emerging: iPhontography, dedicated to photos taken on the iPhone.

Singer/songwriter Knox Bronson has recently published www.iPhontography.org to the World Wide Web, a site with which this writer, entranced, is associating himself:

a site dedicated to iPhone photography, the wondrous digital imagery made with the iPhone, reaffirming, for us, anyway, that the eye of the artist is always more important than the technology in the creation of beautiful art.

For a handful of clicks you may send along your iphontographs for review by the gallerist of a prominent Berkeley, California art gallery for consideration to be printed and hung in a show to take place early next year, and to be included in its catalogue.  And you may vote, and have your friends vote, on your artistry.

Or merely to go and marvel at the emergence of a new populist art form. Ah, the Web!

Political relevance?  Zero.

High coolness factor?  Priceless.

Ralph Benko, a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC, is the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, the eBook of which may be downloaded without charge from www.thewebstersdictionary.com.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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Little Nell on the Tracks: A Melodrama premiering in 2010

Untitled1Last season’s entertainment offerings from Channel Obama (Health Care Reform, Cap’n Trade, and Card Check) are wrapping up to mixed reviews and a decidedly tepid audience response.

Card Check never even got into production.

The Evil Cap’n Trade was, pardon the pun, anticlimatically derailed by an unidentified Secret Agent in an episode called Climategate just before the scheduled showdown in Copenhagen, spoiling the planned triumphant outcome.

Health Care Reform, while not yet over, took a weird twist in which the proponents, much to the dismay of its intense fan base, stripped out the maniacal Public Option, inserting a surreal provision requiring citizens to buy health insurance under threat of incurring huge fines or imprisonment. And called it “universal health coverage,” weirding out everyone except the health insurance providers, who were, to say the least, thrilled at having 30 million new customers marched in at gunpoint.  Viewers tuned out in droves.

But … never fear, they were only warming up for The Big One.

Channel Obama’s political producers have set the stage for their most thrilling prime time soap opera yet!  No spoiler alert, so read on.

Notwithstanding their faltering major efforts to drive up America’s cost structure, enough was done courtesy of the Bailouts, as well as Congress’s insatiable spending practices, to tee up next year’s prime time offerings.

Thanks in major part to a critical assist from series sponsor, The Federal Reserve Board, the Administration was able to borrow a plenitude of “Uncle Ben’s Converted Dollars” (Hello Peso!  I, the Dollar, will be meeting you in Tijuana soon for some really sleazy good times!) at a zero percent teaser interest rate.

The government now is on the hook for an enormous credit card balance at an interest rate, as this writer has recently pointed out elsewhere that is about to start rising … dramatically.

How dramatically?  Well, according to the New York Times, the interest component of the federal government is projected, by the White House no less, to rise from around $200 billion a year to … $700 billion a year!  Not to put too fine a point on it, but … that effectively will crowd out all federal spending except for entitlements, such as social security and medicare, and the defense budget.

Meaning:  something’s got to give.  Meaning: there is effectively no way to cut spending dramatically enough to cut our way out of this.

So, the series producers, have tied Little Nell (that would be Us!) to the railroad tracks.  They have, off camera of course, started this runaway interest payments locomotive barreling down directly at our Helpless Heroine (remember, that’s Us!).

Nancy Pelosi is saddling up her trusty steed, named VAT, getting ready to ride to our rescue.  A VAT, or Value Added Tax, is a sales tax that is buried in the price structure of the goods and services — food, clothing, shelter, movie tickets — and doesn’t show up at the cash register.  Although we pay every penny of it as higher costs, technically it’s not a tax on individuals, preserving the president’s promise not to raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $250,000 a year!  Wowza, diabolically brilliant!

How much will the VAT raise the cost of our food, clothing, shelter, movie tickets, and everything else?  Oh, well, just… 25% or so.  Equivalent to a 25% pay cut and cut in the value of our savings!  Now that, of course, would cause a violent voter reaction; nor is the Congress’s credit card interest bill scheduled to triple (ok, more) overnight, but … over ten years.

So… the Pelosi Solution has been scripted to be introduced just a little at a time.  2%, maybe 3%, in the beginning, as an “emergency measure” and “temporarily.”  While the politicians get costs (which, of course, are on a fast track upward) under control, you understand.

Winkie winkie, as award-winning journalist Mark Tapscott might put it.

The most wonderfully engaging, even cunning, aspect of this script is that it will be presented by the Democrats as a fiscally responsible, “conservative” solution, a necessity really, shrewdly designed to split the Republican ranks. Back before the late Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan, Republicans willingly assumed the role of what we Supply Siders called “tax collector for the welfare state.”

The producers at the Obama Channel are counting on it that the GOP will willingly resume that role, consigning itself to permanent minority status, with the Liberals giving away the goodies and the Conservatives presenting the duebill.

Will we?

Therein lies the Drama.

Clearly, the GOP cannot stand idly by while the locomotive decapitates Little Nell (Us!)!  Neither any level of economic growth that could be elicited by tax cuts, nor the savings from spending cuts, will be sufficient to stop the spending locomotive in, as it were, its tracks.

Those who are enthusiastically working to Europeanize America (Hello Gucci shoes, Armani suits, Fellini movies, film festivals, topless beaches!  Hey, the life of Eurotrash is not all bad, they do have style over there!) — which is founded on the VAT that is ubiquitous in Europe— have set this up perfectly.  This writer stands in awe.

If checkmating the Republicans into supporting a VAT is all that there were, however, next season would be destined to be a major yawnfest, drama-wise.  Casting Republicans as Scrooge?  How dog bites man!

Luckily for us viewers: there is one wild card in the deck.

The GOP, rather than defaulting to its preferred “Party of No” stock character, or its legacy as “Tax Collector for the Welfare State” role has a much more interesting Supply Side option open to it.

Someone credible can play the gold card.

No, the gold card does not refer to some fancy AmEx plastic.  It refers to the gold standard.  Back in the pre-Internet days of wooden sailing ships and ox carts (1981, to be specific) this writer was summoned by the Reagan Treasury Department to testify before its Gold Commission on the constitutional history of American monetary policy.

This is an esoteric subject in which he was then (and still may be) considered one of the two existing experts.  Of course, the commission voted against gold.  A few copies of The Gold Commission’s minority report, by commissioners Lewis E. Lehrman and Rep. Ron Paul, The Case for Gold may still be kicking around for purchase.

In the course of completing the research for the testimony this writer tripped across some astounding facts.

Under the gold standard, not only was inflation effectively nonexistent but that home mortgages could be had for around 3% and, directly pertinent here, the federal government (as well as the best blue chip companies) could finance long term debt for around 1%.

Moreover the mechanism of gold convertibility actually, it turns out, is a practical one, nothing antiquated or esoteric about it.  It has been reinstalled in numerous countries over the years to what was then hailed as miraculous effect.  Turns out, done right it proves tonic for the people, and, what really counts in the minds of elected officials… salvation for elected officials.

So, it’s a compelling conservative counterproposal to a VAT and by all appearances … the only one.

There is an almost theological aversion to gold by the political elites—heck, gold, though promoting robust economic growth, gently but firmly constrains our ability to spend beyond our means!  Integrity?  Bummer, dude, where’s the fun in that?  And yet, when they become desperate enough, it is not impossible for them to reach for something with integrity….

The elites have worked darn hard, and with great success, to wiggle out of that provision in the United States constitution that charges Congress with the responsibility to “coin Money [and] regulate the Value thereof ” (together with fixing the Standard of Weights and Measures).   Article 1 Section 8.  (You could look it up.)

Botheration, how tedious.  So much nicer to kick that over to some faceless bureaucrats.  Alas, it has been kicked over to the Feckless Fed rather than the sober-sided weights and measures guys over at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  NIST is, this is not made up, in charge of keeping the inch exactly one inch long, the ounce exactly one ounce in weight, and the minute precisely sixty seconds long.

NIST has proved marvelously proficient at this.  Through classical gold convertibility, NIST certainly would prove equally proficient at keeping the dollar worth exactly… a dollar!  So Congressmen, take heart!  You can redirect this over to a better class of faceless bureaucrats!  No heavy lifting!

There is a slightly startling degree of popular support for the gold standard.  Many rank and file citizens apparently, go figure, find some uncanny appeal to the idea of being able to refinance their mortgages at 3% in a reliably inflation-free environment.  Small businessmen would like to finance their receivables at 2%.  That sort of thing.

Pesky citizenry, yeah. Nothing an elected official would wish to concern herself with, right?

Still, would create a lot of jobs.  Hmmmm.  Get the populace off your back?

Even some exceptionally enlightened members of the elite, such as BB&T’s John Allison and Forbes’ Magazine’s eponymous publisher Steve Forbes, affirm not merely the constitutional appeal of gold convertibility but — more to the point — its unrivalled track record to provide robust economic growth.

In fact, true gold convertibility — rather than some poor substitute like price rule targeting for the Fed’s Open Market Committee — is the one major pillar of the Supply Side proponents of the Reagan Era that has not yet been adopted.  Well:  Integrity.  And prosperity.  Jobs!  Thrilling?  And yet …

There is one more plot twist….

There is a wonderful old cartoon by Auth stuck to this writer’s filing cabinet.  It shows Reagan as Santa in a sled with a sack labeled Tax Cuts, hitched to a recalcitrant elephant, wielding a whip and calling out, “On Dumbo!”

Most of the GOP leadership didn’t “get it” the first time and is certainly not going to “get it” this time.  So prepare for a lot of ridicule.  (No problem, we Supply Siders, although having been demonstrated right time after time, and seen most of our agenda — especially low marginal tax rates — adopted to great effect worldwide, are used to it.  Expect cries of Voodoo Economics!)

Let’s face it.  Mere integrity and prosperity almost certainly are not enough to motivate the supremely unimaginative Republicans on this one.

But the urgent political need to rescue Little Nell (Us!)?

The dire need to cut interest rates so interest on the debt doesn’t take over all that lovely discretionary spending for which Congressmen live?

The manifest inadequacy (not to mention dramatically shopworn) devices of calling for tax cuts and spending cuts in opposition to a VAT is highly likely to call forth an optimistically populist leader to take up the virtues of Gold.

Someone almost surely will cast herself in that role and ride in on the Gold Standard just when it appears that: All.  Is.  Lost.

Nancy riding in her ugly old VAT vs. Someone on a Golden Steed?

A Republican who, just maybe, has gone rogue? 

Fearless prediction:  this will turn into a really riveting drama.

So tune in.

Ralph Benko, a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC, is the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, the eBook of which may be downloaded without charge from www.thewebstersdictionary.com.  A full copy of his testimony before the U.S. Gold Commission may be found in the National Archives right next to the Lost Ark of the Covenant.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko is a principal of Capital City Partners, of Washington DC. He is also the author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, for policy and advocacy groups to use the Web powerfully.

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