The Closet Moderate: 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


There's a plague of neologisms and clichés every election season, and this one is no different. What's sticking in your humble bloggard's grammatical craw this year: the re-elect.

No, it's not because I'm a closet Whig who doesn't believe Presidents should ever be re-elected (true?), nor is it because I don't find this particular President worthy of re-election (true!). It's more basic than that: re-elect is a fucking verb! The noun is re-election. I'm not even picky on how you spell it: reelection, re-election, or even, like those pretentious twats at the New Yorker, reëlection. Whatever. Just get the part of speech right.

You politicos who mangle this fairly simple concept sound like a bunch of morons.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Opening Salvo

Is it the War on Christmas season again? The bells and the sleigh, the fife and the drum! Oh joy!

I consider myself a seasoned veteran of the Christmas wars, but I must admit even I find this new front that has opened up nothing less than confounding. Here's the most recent savage attack from those who wish to destroy Christmas and all that is holy.

A Christmas Tree Tax

That's right—the holiday haters have teamed up with the biggest Grinch of the all, Obama, to achieve their two missions at once. They are trying to get you to to quit buying Christmas trees by stealing your hard-earned money and inflating the already massive government.

It all makes so much sense. That is until one thinks about it for more than the time it takes light to travel across one's vacuous skull.

The tax is 15 cents a tree. And it was thought up by the growers of Christmas trees, to tax themselves to pay for advertising for said trees (a la "got milk?", "the other white meat", etc). And there was a year of open public comment on the topic. And the process started 3 1/2 years ago.

What makes me so pissed about this is not that it is a pointless ruse by Republicans to take attention away from important matters and paint Obama as a Christmas hater (?!?). Which it absolutely is. No, that's all well and good and expected. No, what pisses me off is the fact that this tax is just the kind of shit Republicans actually want.

Look, when I wake up every day and I ask myself "WWMRD?" (What Would Mitt Romney Do?), I invariably answer myself: "Be pro-business!". I mean, amiright? Silent Cal said "America's Business is Business". And I think it's probably the winningest argument the right has got at the moment. I don't buy lots of it, but, fine, making it easier for businesses to do what they do, and get the economy back going again, sure, why not? It sure beats granting voting rights to fetuses, I'll give it that. And that is exactly what this tax was about. Not the fetuses, the business thing: allowing a business group to effectively lobby to get some pro-business legislation passed. Not to state the obvious, but a tax like this is a hugely good deal for the Christmas tree growers. It gets around the usual collective action problems and allows them all to pitch in for a common cause. And it's clearly pro-American jobs, as real Christmas trees are largely grown in the US, whereas the fake ones come from overseas. I realize some of my fellow bloggards don't want a penny of government money raised or spent on anything that wasn't spelled out by some crusty dude from the 1700s. Sure, cool, I hear that; y'all are nuts, but at least you are consistent. But for the rest of the Republican establishment the Christmas Tree Tax is exactly what you want the government to be doing with its time!

In closing, the War on Christmas is a special time of year, when people get to say patently ridiculous things like Christians in the US are oppressed, or Kwanzaa is real. I hope this opening salvo is a sign of an especially delightful and wacky War on Christmas season, and I wish you all a very merry War on Christmas!


Saturday, October 15, 2011


In lieu of writing new posts, let's revisit the old ones and see if they're still good ideas.  Two years ago, I wrote a post calling for using stimulus funds to build a second capital city instead of throwing it away on more welfare.

Is this still a good idea?  Would this spending be better than the stimulus spending of 2009-2010?

*looks the country up and down*

Yup, that shit didn't work.  The stimulus is so unpopular that the administration refuses to use the word anymore.  Down the memory hole!  Would my idea have been better?  Meh.  We'd still be in recession.  But there would be a cool place for political types to hang out in the summer.  Maybe those Occupy Wall Street kids would be camping out there.  I call it a win.


OTBNW: Noodles Hahn

The Old-Timey Baseball Name of the Week this week --

--what? Yes, this blog still exists. --

--belongs to Frank George "Noodles" Hahn of the Cincinnati Reds.  Ol' Noodles was a turn-of-the-century pitcher who finished his career with 130 wins.  Because pitchers pitched constantly in those days, he did this in just eight years.  Hahn's biography at SABR will explain his life story better than I could, but here's a few salient facts.  Hey was considered one of the best lefties of his day and had four 20-win seasons.  Probably would've pitched longer, but an injury to his arm in 1905 did him in.

The source of his nickname is unknown.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The End of Pax Americana?

Winds of change are blowing across the deserts of North Africa.  First Tunisians, then Egyptians, and now Libyans crowded the streets in protest and insurrection against their respective despots.  In 1989, when a similar wave of freedom swept the former Warsaw Pact, America's voice joined the voices of the oppressed as they cried out for freedom from their socialist masters.  Now, in Africa, those voices are raised again, but one voice is missing from the chorus.  Ours.

Between mutterings about the United Nations and the international community, between shifting blame to his Secretary of State and making his NCAA tournament picks, President Obama hasn't managed to say the one thing the Libyan rebels long to hear: we are with you.

The shores of Tripoli, 1804
Don't get me wrong: Obama's said plenty of words.  He's great at words.  But words are of no import without the action that makes them true.  Expressions of moral support are fine and good, but they pale in comparison to actual support.  For all the good he's done, Obama might have just changed his Facebook status.  LIBYA SHULD BE FREE!! IF U AGREE POST THIS AS UR STATUS!!!

If he was just a harmless fool with a Facebook page, there would be little reason to object.  But Obama's bully pulpit makes him America's voice to the world.  As Calvin Coolidge said, "[t]he words of a President have an enormous weight, and ought not to be used indiscriminately."  Obama should recall his wise predecessor when he speaks of support that is moral rather than material.  Or, as another wag once put it, don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cash.

America's great power and willingness to use it has created what historians have called the Pax Americana.  Our national strength deters lesser powers from starting wars.  It has been an imperfect pax, to be sure, but without the threat of American reprisals the petty tyrants around the world would have nothing to stop them.  But our current peacenik-in-chief believes that his foreign policy can be all velvet glove, no iron fist.  If we just find a way to make everyone love us, all will lay down their arms.  Peace!  The goal of all good men!

But peace is not an end in itself.  Justice is an end.  Liberty is an end.  Equality is an end.  All of these ends can be applied to American policy at some point in our history.  Peace is often the way to achieve justice but so, at times, is war.  Peace did not keep Saddam Hussein from annexing Kuwait; war did.  Afterward, the knowledge that America would resort to war at need kept other despots' armies in their barracks.  Now, as Libyan rebels cry out for a no-fly zone, the sort of thing Bush and Clinton did all the time to protect rebels, Obama sits and thinks and talks.  But he does not act.  Is it a surprise that no other nation will step forward?  Is it a surprise that Saudi troops are suppressing democracy protesters in Bahrain?  Who's going to stop them?  The international community?


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gorge Yourselves at the Trough of Freedom!

The former writer of this blog would have surely enjoyed this Slate piece in which Daniel Engber finally cries "hold enough" to all of the anti-obesity hatred going around (h/t Megan McArdle).  All of this hand-wringing over fatness disturbs me for a lot of reasons.  Much of it is fueled by bigotry, for one thing.  Skinny people talk about health, but what they really mean is that it disgusts them to see fat people.  And these are the same folks who'll tell you that people opposed to gay marriage are just bigots who are grossed out by two dudes kissing.  The Birkenstock pinches on the other foot, doesn't it?

But even more than their motivations, their insistence on doing something about it bothers me most.  I'm the only libertarian blogger on this site, so my co-bloggards may disagree with me, but this obsession with fixing other people is one of the most loathsome traits in the American character, all the more so because it seems, to me, so un-American.

W. Penn, hale and hearty
Then again, maybe it isn't.  We think about the Pilgrims as folks who were tired of being told what to do by the Church of England and came here to be free.  But that is only half of the story.  What sort of society did they build when they got here?  One as rigid and interfering as the one they'd left behind -- indeed, it was even more concerned with fixing people.  Pilgrims wanted to be left alone, but they weren't too keen on leaving other people alone.  True connoisseurs of liberty should look not to the Mayflower but to the Welcome, the ship that carried the first load of live-and-let-live Quakers to Philadelphia.  And let me tell you, William Penn could've dropped a few pounds.

According to the Slate readers Engber cites, our national weakness is that we are to soft on over-eating among children.  This is a problem Ethiopians wish they had, but even if you believe it to be a real quandry, what does this learned upper middle-class readership think is the solution?  Shame!  Shame!  Shame on fatty!  These hypocrites who quailed at the excerpts of Amy Chua's ideas on child-rearing are willing to bring out the big guns when Junior puts on some extra pounds.  What's more, they want the government to help them do it! 

Unsurprisingly, the Obamas stand ready to tell other people how to live.  I'm not going to bother asking from where in the Constitution they derive this authority -- many of my readers and co-bloggards avoid that document like Kryptonite.  But I will ask this: is this what government is for?  Is this the dream of Washington and Franklin, of Lincoln and Grant, of Teddy Roosevelt and FDR?  For damn sure it wasn't Taft's and Cleveland's vision of a more perfect union.  And was this in the hearts of those first primitives who, arising out of that state of nature into which mankind was born, banded together and formed the first government to protect their precious natural rights from thieves and murderers?  Was their fondest wish that someday, somehow, humanity could live under governments so powerful and so nosy that they could give every girl in America and eating disorder?  Consider, do-gooders, what if you're wrong? 


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

More Slate inanity

This article on Slate caught my eye.  It's about an obscure country, Mauritius, which is always interesting, and it says how much America sucks, which always generates a lot of comments.  As expected, it was stupid and shallow.  It is basically an article about how to succeed by being a free rider. Finance your government by letting other countries' citizens avoid tax, and reduce military spending to zero by depending on other countries to rescue you from foreign aggressors, should the need arise. Great plan, but the nature of free riders is such that only a few can do it.  The thesis is shallow, and ends with a non sequitur about the naval base at Diego Garcia.  It read like a leftist's postcard from a tropical vacation, and such was the depth of research that I half-expected the final sentence to read "sent from my iPhone."

So, I intended to comment on the ignorance of the journalist who authored it and close the browser, feeling smug and satisfied.  Then I read the byline: Joseph Stiglitz.  This is the work of a Nobel Prize-winner?  Could he be serious?  Can such a learned man believe that the solutions found in a tropical tourist destination and notorious tax haven are scalable and applicable to the world's largest economy?  I was truly disturbed.  I know it's not a scholarly journal, but didn't any editor at Slate ask the author why this little island has so much money flowing in from other countries?  The article doesn't even mention it, which would have sent up a huge red flag at the journal for which I once fact-checked.

Tax dodges, sugar cane, textile sweatshops, and beach vacations can employ a lot of people, but I doubt that they can support an economy that provides "free" healthcare and university education to 308 million.  I mean, look at this place.  You could walk from one end to the other in a day.  That's the kind of place that can afford their ridiculously high gas taxes.  Here, not so much.  And even with all of this free riding, the per capita GDP is $12,100.  Not bad, as that neighborhood goes, but a country like the United States (per capita GDP: $47,132) doesn't need to take lessons from them.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Fuck! Cock! Shit!

On a blog, these words are unremarkable, but consider this: today is the first day my fellow Pennsylvanians and I can say these profanities without fear of being cited by the police.  It's a great day for free speech in Pennsylvania.  Surely, this is what James Madison and his Congressional colleagues foresaw when they wrote the First Amendment.