alien & sedition.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
  This Week in Conservative Organs: Altered States

Conservatives don't believe in retreat; they merely advance in another direction. This week our organists grapple with the Decider's State of the Union address, trying to parse out whether he's still leading the conservative charge, especially on the home front. On some issues, there's a letdown. On others, they're happy to report that in the Bush administration the conservative project is alive and well. That project, of course, is the regression of government and society to whatever they supposedly used to be, long long ago. Don't say conservatives don't believe in evolution: they merely evolve in a backwards direction.

TWICO Feature: The Purpose of our Suffering is Only More Suffering

"No Shock, No Awe," declare the editors of the National Review. But they're pretty happy with the SOTU anyway: "where was this Bush a year ago?" The president, we are told, "made a solid case for victory in Iraq." (As he so often does - I, meanwhile, have repeatedly made a very solid case for being given a magical flying pony, but have yet to receive it. I blame the Democrats.) The editors also love the health proposal: it's "genuinely innovative." Indeed, if you consider a great health plan to be one that wrecks the current system, mainly benefits the wealthy and healthy, and shifts risk onto individuals, then, as the editors say, "the Democrats will not be able to come up with a similarly attractive package."

The National Reviewistas are not so fond of Bush's energy proposals or his immigration rhetoric. Oh, and:
Where were the social issues? It is widely accepted that opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage are two of the few issues that have been helping the Republican party lately; why abandon them now?
Nobody ever claimed that the National Review was a libertarian publication, but this underlines it. At a time when economic conservatives are loudly raising the alarm about the health of the conservative coalition, and debating how quickly they can cut off the social conservative deadweight, here's NRO actually claiming that abortion and gay marriage are the future of the Republican Party. Don't ever change, kids.

Anyway, the editors note that "the truth is that the president is down, way down, and the State of the Union address is not going to do anything to change that." But speech consultant T.J. Walker has good news!
Bush now thoroughly knows his way around a Teleprompter. He moves his head well, pauses sufficiently, and does not rush. Bush finally shows a full range of facial expressions.
Then there's my favorite part:
Fantastic improvement!
I actually agree. Just goes to show that the words can be clear as a bell even if the message still doesn't make any sense.

OTHER REVIEWS FROM THE NRO'IANS: Michael Cannon totally digs the health care plan: "It would be difficult to overstate how dramatically the president’s proposal would reduce government influence in the health care sector." John Fonte likes the sound of 'assimilation' (it's a sibilant sound) but judges Bush's conservative tack on immigration to be "too little, too late." And Clifford May seems to forget who's in the driver's seat now:
The White House is betting that some Democrats will come along on each of these issues — not out of respect for Bush; not even out of respect for his office, but for self-interest: While in the minority Democrats could be satisfied merely to oppose. Now that they are in the majority, some Democrats may want to show they can do more than carp and criticize from the sidelines.
Right - because that's all they've done so far.

Veronique de Rugy makes an interesting point: "In apparent surrender to the Democrats, the president didn’t mention making his tax cuts permanent. Also absent from the speech was his commitment to Social Security reform." Jim Webb's response, meanwhile, left her indignant. Forget all that nonsense about the struggling middle class - the fact is that people are getting richer "whether they feel it or not." I've just got to try and feel it more.

ALSO AT NRO, Max Schulz and Henry Payne are unimpressed with the president's alternative fuel proposals. Schulz argues that "making vehicles more efficient will actually increase gasoline consumption," since it'll just mean people can afford to drive more. Payne, meanwhile, says that the Renewable Fuel Standard exists mainly "to satisfy the auto and farm lobbies" - the former, because it allows them to skirt fuel efficiency laws, and the latter because, ya know - sell more corn.

AND, Larry Kudlow wonders why it's so hard for everyone to just admit that the economy is doing super! (Here are some reasons, Larry). Meanwhile, Jennifer Roback Morse finds herself faced with a bit of cognitive dissonance: The New York Times says that marriage is in decline. What to do if you 1) Also like to insist that marriage is in decline, but 2) Believe that the Times is filled with nothing but sulphurous liberal lies? Oh, it's not as hard as you'd think:
The point of the story was to convince the public that this decline is inexorable, like a force of nature, and that only old fuddy-duddies complain about it.


MORE... Deroy Murdock continues his one-man crusade to cast Giuliani as a Conservative After All, this time making the argument that, since abortions declined in New York during Rudy's term, and since Rudy didn't actively try to prevent that decline (by, what - standing out on the street with a megaphone and a placard demanding HAVE MORE ABORTIONS?), he's pro-life in his own special way. Meanwhile, Michael Cannon reveals that ArnoldCare would rely on a lot of money from other states (aka Federal money), Jonah Goldberg urges us to not think of the children, and poor Kathryn Lopez talks about a "vision" problem, which seems to have something to do with seeing everything backwards: she says that Iraq will be a "great burden on the campaign trail" for Democrats, and that "we can't wish away a war we didn't start" (this last quote would make sense if by "we" she meant Democrats, but no - she means the United States. And guess who she thinks 'started' it? Rhymes with 'errorists.')

Up-is-Downism Award: You Made It Real, You Can Make It Unreal

Our Up-is-Downism winners this week are the Weekly Standard's Masters of Destruction, Frederick Kagan & William Kristol. These bold strategists pour scorn on Hillary Clinton's proposal to cap the number of troops in Iraq, arguing that if we did so, the Iraq war might start to go badly. But the Dems seem to be willing to let the war go on for years:
Perhaps the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the forced migration of millions would eventually lead to a certain exhaustion [no kidding! - ed.]. Is that the outcome Senators Clinton, Dodd, and Obama have in mind? It's a far cry from the Democratic party that insisted on sending American forces to stop ethnic cleansing in war-torn Bosnia in the 1990s, to the one that now declares an Iraqi bloodbath no concern of ours.
They have a point: remember how we invaded Bosnia, a nation which had been at peace and hadn't attacked us, thus provoking years and years of bloodshed which our troops, despite great sacrifice, were unable to contain? Remember how none of the Bosnians wanted us there and how everything we did just seemed to make the situation worse? Oh, right.

Anyway, the point is we should just trust Petraeus:
There is one man who should be recommending the size of American forces in Iraq, and that is the incoming commander, General Petraeus. ... And when he has spoken, Senator Clinton and her colleagues should carefully weigh the burden they will take on themselves if they dismiss his advice.
So now it's cool to listen to the generals? When did that happen?

Then there's this, which is just really, really neat:
The efforts of Clinton and others would prevent the new commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, from working effectively to bring the violence under control. There is every reason, therefore, to imagine that violence would continue to increase. This would be the effect of Sen. Clinton's legislation.
That's right. The violence in Iraq would be Hillary's fault. There really is nothing we can't blame on her!

ALSO AT THE STANDARD, Tom Donnelly continues the Petraeus worship. after making the obligatory Churchill reference, Donnelly gives us the good news:
Happily, Petraeus, whom I've known and observed for nearly 20 years, wears "the mask of command" as well as any current officer. He's already done so successfully for Iraqis.

I'm not going to be the one to argue against knowledge gained from 20 years of personal friendship, so I'll let William Arkin do it. Anyway, record be damned. The important point is that he's "charismatic" and lots of people seem to like him.

AND, Irwin Stelzer takes an interesting look at Barney Frank's ideas for the House Financial Services Committee, which include the notion of improving corporate democracy and moving towards British-style 'principles-based' regulation of corporate governance, as opposed to the 'rules-based' regulation used in the U.S. Unfortunately for CEOs, it seems, the principles-based system leaves them feeling a little exposed when it comes to shareholder suits and fraud prosecutions. Also, Harvey Mansfield has a fairly interesting meditation on the philosophical meaning of courage - despite his gratuitous swipes at feminism - and Wesley J. Smith praises the UN's new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which specifically mentions the "right to life," and suggests that conservative NGOs need to start trying to get more ideas on the World Government's agenda.


As I've written elsewhere, conservative intellectuals may be abandoning their denial of global warming (in favor of treating it as a "long-term" technological challenge). The American Spectator, though, seems to have missed the meeting. Both Peter Hannaford and William Tucker flog the new book by oil industry-funded warming denier Fred Singer (can't they find one denier who doesn't take oil money?) - though Tucker is willing to grant that warming may be partially our fault.

MEANWHILE, John Tabin praises the president's SOTU for painting a good picture of the enemy (he paints that same picture over and over again - he's like Degas and ballerinas). Tabin argues that the Dems will do nothing about Iraq, and takes a moment to engage in that favorite pastime of pro-war pundits: projecting his opinions onto the American people:
The public is pessimistic about the prospects of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the mood of the country is not yet so dark that leaving the Iraqis to slaughter each other is a winning position.
But my question is: who calls it "Operation Iraqi Freedom" anymore?

ALSO, David Hogberg looks at the domestic side of the SOTU: Health plan? Two thumbs up. Budget? One thumb up - should've mentioned corporate welfare. Energy: "Ugh." Meanwhile, Doug Bandow rails against card-check elections for unions, while Jeremy Lott wonders just what the hell Alberto Gonzales is smoking.

ON THE LIBERTARIAN SIDE, Katherine Mangu-Ward has an interesting piece at Reason. She considers the implications of a lawsuit against, over whether individual users could post discriminatory preferences (e.g., 'vegetarians only') in their for-rent ads. That kind of thing is mostly forbidden (with a 'Mrs. Murphy' exemption for small units), but the real question is whether sites like or Craigslist can be held responsible for misconduct by their own users:
To make such ads illegal would require overturning parts of the Mrs, Murphy exception and the Communications Decency Act. The latter is especially disturbing since it puts a whole host of Web 2.0 sites at risk, including Wikipedia, MySpace, and blog engines. Any website with user-generated content (including the comments section of could be legally on the hook for anything users post.
ALSO AT REASON, Jacob Sullum excoriates the Bush administration for its FISA tomfoolery:
By exposing the hollowness of President Bush's national security justification, his tardy compliance with FISA demonstrates more contempt for the rule of law than continued defiance would have. [...]

The reason for the delay in complying with FISA is clear: When it comes to fighting terrorism, the president considers obeying the law optional. As Gonzales emphasized, the administration still maintains the president is not obligated to follow FISA; he is doing so only because he has decided that "involving all branches of government on such an important program is best for the country." Given the president's view of his "inherent" powers, he could go back to evading the courts and flouting the will of Congress any day.
AND FINALLY, Cathy Young considers the state of the culture war six years into the new milennium, Ronald Bailey suggests that the ban on federal funds for stem cell research may have been the best thing that could have happened for the research, thanks to the resulting explosion in state and private funds, and Charles Oliver, in an article titled "The Era of Big Government Never Ended," looks at the state of libertarianism in a post-Cold War era. Can liberty survive in the modern welfare state? And what about the need for security?
The challenge of liberty in the near future will be to show how those philosophical arguments about liberty and order, freedom and safety, bear on current debates regarding the powers assumed by the government in the War on Terror.
Oliver's musings are worth a look. He's a man in search of his true self. How archetypically American can you get?

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Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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