Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Wizard to the Cowardly Lion

You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom.
--The Wizard to the Cowardly Lion

There are different types of wisdom. One of them, conventional wisdom, can sometimes be neither wise nor conventional. I am not saying that the four-term Senator from Arizona is a wizard or that the one term senator from South Carolina is a cowardly lion. I guess I just used the quote because the wizard of Oz used "my friend", an annoying phrase used often by John McCain.

The reason for writing this diary about these two Senators running for re-election in 2010 has nothing to do with the horse-race aspect of the election. As much as I detest McCain and admire DeMint both of them are going to be re-elected. My reason for writing this diary is to focus on the money that these two men have raised for other people in 2010. Winning support for a position of leadership has a lot to do with how much campaign support you have provided to your colleagues. John McCain has a PAC, Country First, that has contributed to four candidates for the US Senate. Jim DeMint has two PACS, MINT and Senate Conservatives Fund. The tables below indicate the names of the recipients, and the amount of dollars they received. The Florida US contest is extremely important for determining if Sen. DeMint is rising in the US Senate and Sen. McCain is dropping in the leadership department.

The real comparison between these two men is a choice between having leadership that is authoritarian and progressive (McCain) or libertarian and conservative (DeMint). I am personally rooting for the latter.

The early 20th century progressives were authoritarian in prohibiting booze, and the early 21st century progressives are authoritarian in prohibiting lobbiests campaigning, and consumers buying incandescent light bulbs. As a progressive they know they are smarter and must decide for all of the rest of us what is in our best interest. They lost the argument with the passage of the 21st amendment then, and they are losing the argument incrementally with Supreme Court decisions now. We always need to remain vigilant against these authoritarians. They may go off and hide for a while, but they will be back when they think they see an opening.

I recently watched the movie, Fountainhead. I recommend this movie especially two main characters, Ellsworth Toohey and Howard Roark, for showing the authoritarian progressive vs the conservative libertarian. a Cliff-Notes excerpt:

Toohey knows that a Fascist or Communist state requires a citizenry willing to obey. He can establish a dictatorship only if the majority of individuals are willing to give up personal autonomy - to surrender their minds to a leader. This is the two-pronged goal that he attempts to reach: destroy the independent thinkers like Roark, and, by convincing individuals to surrender their judgment and values, turn them into followers like Keating. A dictator requires a flock of sheep; he cannot hold power over a citizenry of independent men.

Toohey has a clear vision of his role in the collectivist state. He himself is not the brute of physical force who gains dominance by unleashing a reign of terror. His role, rather, is to be the intellectual advisor behind the throne. The brute will hold physical power over the masses, and Toohey will hold spiritual power over the brute. Toohey is a behind-the-scenes puppet master, who surreptitiously wields the real power - and this will be his place in the totalitarian state he seeks.


Country First PAC John McCain

Senate Candidates


Crist, Charles J Jr (R-FL)


Portman, Rob (R-OH)


Thune, John (R-SD)


Coburn, Tom (R-OK)



Senate Candidates


Thune, John (R-SD)


Burr, Richard (R-NC)


Isakson, Johnny (R-GA)


Senate Conservatives Fund Jim DeMint

Senate Candidate


Rubio, Marco (R-FL)


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sarah Palin - A 21st Century Duchess of Devonshire?

In September 2008 the movie, The Dutchess, was released.
A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire, an ancestor of Princess Diana who was alternately celebrated and reviled for her extravagant political and personal lives.

Now I have not yet actually seen this move, but I have read a review of this movie that has moved me to ask the question in my title. I encourage you to read the review and draw your own conclusions. I also do not presume that the author of this review intended any comparison, so just blame me for the suggestion. I will provide some excerpts of this review that I think bolster my suggestion.

I did not expect that, amid the romance, costumes, and drama, I would strike libertarian gold!
It was one pivotal scene in particular that piqued my curiosity. When Charles Fox (played by Simon McBurney), who was Georgiana's mentor and the leader of the Whig party, argues for the importance of "freedom in moderation," Georgiana responds quickly and firmly that there cannot be scales of freedom. Rather, the "concept of freedom is an absolute."

The Duchess of Devonshire lived in a time that bears striking similarities to our own. In the late 18th century, England was rife with tensions between an increasingly powerful state and a swelling grassroots opposition. The frustrated Whigs were becoming increasingly radicalized in their defense of liberty against the corrupt, ever-expanding powers of King George III.

I think you could replace the word Whigs with Republicans and replace the words King George III with President Obama and it would describe early 21st Century US.

But Georgiana was not a shrinking violet. She was fiercely passionate about her party's ideals. Her favorite book was Vertot's Revolutions of Sweden, which is about, as she put it, a "[h]ero fighting for liberty of his country and to revenge the memory of an injur'd friend against lawless cruelty and oppressive tyranny."

Georgiana recognized that liberal ideals could only be spread through dedicated organizing and savvy marketing.

Georgiana was a marketing genius, one of the first to refine political messages for mass communication. She was an image-maker who understood the necessity for public relations, and she became adept at the manipulation of political symbols and the dissemination of party propaganda. She was simultaneously a public figurehead for the Whigs and an effective politician within the party.
To keep morale alive, she held vibrant, theatrical parties, dinners, and rallies.

Georgiana was a powerful asset for the Whigs, serving as campaign manager, strategist, advisor, inspiration, and symbol of the movement. She brought Whig ideals back into fashion with her costumes, balls, and events. She helped shape the strategy and direction of the party, and she charged along when her comrades lost steam.

Driven by strong convictions and a fervent belief in freedom, Georgiana was a master political propagandist, a powerful negotiator, an impassioned orator, and a keen political strategist. In many ways, she was the woman behind the men of the Enlightenment.

So that's it. These parts of this review are what made me think of Sarah Palin. I know some people think that Sarah Palin can do no wrong while other people think she can do nothing right. The truth is somewhere in between. This is not a pro-Palin nor an anti-Palin diary. It is just my personal observation that Sarah Palin can refine political messages for mass communication, and Sarah charges forward when her political comrades lose steam.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Blue and Gray - Then and Now

The Blue and Gray comes from the colors of the uniforms worn by the union army (blue) and the confederate army (gray) during the war between the states. The confederate states were all in the southeast quadrant of the US, and the union states were the northern states and Oregon and California. The confederate states had less freedom for its inhabitants which included slaves. That was then.

Now, William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens have published a paper, Freedom in the 50 States. This document just about flips the map on the states with less freedom(gray) and states with more freedom(blue). The following is a summary of their findings.

We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, defining individual freedom as the ability to dispose of one’s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit, so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual’s ability to do the same. This study improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom for American states in three primary ways: (1) it includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

We find that the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place. All three states feature low taxes and government spending and middling levels of regulation and paternalism. New York is the least free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear. As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and West North Central regions are the freest overall while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom. Regression analysis demonstrates that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration.

The authors of this study have put the data online, and one is able to adopt their own weights to see how the overall freedom rankings change. LINK

Pia Varma is a candidate for the US House seat in Pennsylvania's 1st district, and she has some excellent thoughts on the subject of freedom.

Freedom! That word once started revolutions. There was a time when people pretty much understood that freedom was so precious that nothing and no one should have the power to take it away. America was founded on that basis. No matter your race, gender, religion or social class, as a human being no one could take your freedom without your consent. But individual freedom cannot exist without individual responsibility. That means you own the consequences of your choices: profit and loss, success and failure, happiness and sadness. But that was then, this is now.

Today, millions of Americans have been led to believe that they can have the good without the bad. They never bothered to think about the costs though. Like eating in a fine restaurant, we never see the bill until the meal is over. Even better if someone else is paying. So we vote for nice sounding policies and the people who promote them all because the costs cannot be seen or they are supposedly paid by someone else. But any immediate benefit we get will fade and at the next election cycle we are back at that table begging like Oliver Twist, Please Sir, May I have some more.

Every day, more and more Americans are lulled into relying on the government to solve their problems. They never realize that the cost of doing so is their freedom. No matter how bad the government makes their lives, they still trust that someday it will get better. The sad part is, they genuinely believe that they are safer under that false blanket of protection.

In a free market businesses are forced to provide product and services demanded by the consumer. The consumer controls the quality, quantity and costs. If he does not like the services at one company, he simply fires them and goes to a competitor. But when the industry is in the hands of a monopoly, as is the case with education, the consumer, in this case parents and children, is forced to accept what is offered. Sure you can opt for private school but this option is only available to a select few.

A private business competing in an open market has to listen to its customers or risk closing its doors. Public schools don’t have this problem. Incentives matter.

Government has a duty to prevent those things which can be prevented, but we as individuals have a duty to ensure that we do not become the victims of our own security. More government, more agencies, more money has not, cannot and will not make life perfect.

The two maps below are what the US looked like in 1861, and what, according to the report, the US State Overall Freedom Ranking reveals today. I colored the 17 most free states blue, the 16 least free states gray, and the 17 states in the middle light green.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Who Wrote Your History Textbook?

I recently wrote about the US history that is not taught about some famous American market entrepreneurs. That really is just the tip of the iceberg. In every period of our history there are statist biases being taught to students in classes. Larry Schweikart has written a book that includes a list of lies that can lead to a bitter attitude about this country being formed by the students. It is important to know who wrote your history textbook, and what kinds of bias are evident.

The American Textbook Council is an independent national research organization established in 1989 to review the history and social studies textbooks used in the nation's schools. Since its foundation, the Council has achieved a prominent place in national discussions and exchanges about history textbooks and the social studies curriculum through its many bulletins, studies, and reports. The Council's many projects, evaluations of history textbooks and social studies curricula, and efforts to educate the nation about the civic implications of multiculturalism have earned it a reputation for integrity and fairness.

The Council endorses textbooks that embody vivid narrative style, stress significant people and events, and promote better understanding of all cultures, including our own, on the principle that improved textbooks will advance the curriculum, stimulate student learning, and encourage educational achievement for children of all backgrounds.

To give some guidance to educators who need quick assistance and a place to begin, the history textbooks listed below that have been adjudged in content and design satisfactory or superior to their competition in previous Council bulletins and studies are marked with a plus (+). Textbooks that have been adjudged grossly deficient or inaccurate in reviews are marked with a minus (-). Unmarked textbooks are of mixed quality. Each of the following textbooks is identified alphabetically by publisher, first designated author, and abridged title. BL denotes a book that has been backlisted, i.e., it is no longer actively sold as "new" yet is for sale as inventory. Such books are gradually being retired or may be niche sellers with enduring popularity.

Publisher Author Title Rating
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Joyce Appleby American Journey
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Gary B. Nash American Odyssey -
Houghton Mifflin/McDougal Jesus Garcia Creating America
Houghton Mifflin/McDougal Gerald Danzer The Americans
Pearson/Prentice Hall James West Davidson The American Nation -
Pearson/Prentice Hall Daniel J. Boorstin A History of the United States +
Pearson/Prentice Hall Andrew Cayton America: Pathways to the Present +
Harcourt/Holt Edward L. Ayers American Anthem
BL Harcourt/Holt Sterling Stuckey Call to Freedom
BL Harcourt/Holt Paul Boyer Boyer's The American Nation -

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has on its web site a link to reviewers' findings of some of the textbooks listed. Instead of ranking the textbooks with a (+)or(-) these reviewers assigned a letter grade ranging from C+ to F for the textbooks. The table below shows their results.

Publisher Author Title Rating
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Joyce Appleby American Journey C+
BL Harcourt/Holt Paul Boyer Boyer's The American Nation C-
Pearson/Prentice Hall Andrew Cayton America: Pathways to the Present C-
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Gary B. Nash American Odyssey D
Houghton Mifflin/McDougal Gerald Danzer The Americans F

The meager research I have done on this subject leads me to thinking that the choices for schools in choosing history textbooks are between barely acceptable and completely unsatisfactory. The direction in education in the US is to move toward more uniformity and standardization, and less control by each state. I think that this is a very bad idea, and I applaud Alaska and Texas for refusing to take federal dollars in exchange for losing control of education standards.

There are progressives in both the Republican and Democratic Party who want to attack anyone opposed to the national takeover in education as being someone who doesn't care about all the children getting an excellent education. This line of attack should be answered by informing them that the more local the government the more caring exists. There are so many programs and plans that are talked about in Washington, DC that have absolutely nothing to do with duties and enumerated powers that are listed in the US Constitution for the federal government. They will attack anyone who opposes their programs as someone who just does not care about things that are very important to people. They miss the point of the opposition. Opposition is not because something is not important or because we don't care about people. The opposition is because the local government has the authority to run programs not listed by the US Constitution. The tenth amendment does spell this out fairly well.

The bottom line for me is that I would want my history lessons to come from American Journey.