The Insatiable Progressive Lust to Shove Change in Your Face

“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” H.L Mencken. Were he alive today, Mencken might choose for his famous aphorism the verb “improve humanity,” what, since one hundred years on, with indoor plumbing, bountiful food production, antibiotics, and childhood vaccination, we’ve pretty much claimed the low hanging fruit of things that need saving. But improving, there is to infinity and beyond left of improving to do.
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Take the current national dust up over monuments to slave owners and confederate soldiers. Well, that’s a sticky wicket and a story with seven sides. Arguments about history, about reasons the North and South reconciled like family instead of hostile nations, arguments about loyalty of warriors to place and people and family that had nothing to do with slavery,arguments about transcendent moral principles that should be shouted still today, lots of arguments.
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Now, some people might think that a nation fighting a civil war, adopting three Constitutional amendments, passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 all to attain equality before the law, and then establishing Equal Opportunity Offices in state and federal governments across the land, all to spot and prosecute unlawful discrimination, is a world historic achievement toward equal rights and opportunity.
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But, those people don’t understand the governing principle of endless tinkering and improvement. Government’s work is never done. And there are new wrongs to discover. Some monument perched in the same spot for 150 years suddenly decided to start oppressing and offending someone’s domestic tranquility. So, off with its pedestal.
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Not to be left out of the progress sweeping the historic South, one Colorado politician posted this message to her friends:
 
Help me grow a Colorado-specific list. If we were to remove tribute or vestiges of confederacy, white supremacists, KKK located right here in Colorado, what would you remove or rename? SHARE if you think others can help us create this list.
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There followed a thread of 122 comments with suggestions for place names, monuments, historical figures, etc., that need to be airbrushed from the Mile High landscape. The interesting thing about this is the direction the prompt came from. It not a case of aggrieved neighbors or descendents, or even ambitious school children identifying a problem and raising it for resolution. No, it is a government activist effectively asking people to comb through street signs, parks, cemeteries, maybe dig up a few skeletons, and make suggestions for historic purification.
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Like I said. Government’s work is never done. That kind of captures the divide between a classical Constitutional vision and a progressive state improvement vision.
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Believers in limited government and maximum freedom believe government’s role is to secure the peace and safeguard people’s rights, fundamentally, the right to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which of course covers the rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights including speech, worship, and property, and much more.
With a federal and state structure organized to protect national security and domestic tranquility, the pieces are in place to let people pursue happiness.
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To the progressive mind, that is a barbarically bare set up, and we might as well live in Somalia (except, it’s a stupid comeback, because Somalia doesn’t offer its people any of those elements of peace and stability). Progressive see a different mission for government and a different relationship between people and the state. Progressives want government policies rooted in the Leftist idea that Western Society is unjust and decadent in every important way. It is pervasively racist, sexist, economically exploitive, and corruptly consumerist. They want government that is engaged in the permanent project of transforming society and perfecting humanity by regulating, prohibiting, fining, and fine tuning these flaws of the patriarchy out of existence.
That opens every door. Nutrition. Energy consumption. Yard watering. Mode of transportation. Style of living. Manner of speaking to each other. Civil rights moves from barring discrimination to attacking “cultural appropriation” or mandating the correct pronoun for every known gender and those yet to be discovered. Policing bathroom portals. Etc.
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When the mission of government is perfecting humanity and the world we live in, there will never be a moment to declare “mission accomplished.” The noble hunt for the next problem and the next law will prove that there actually is such thing as perpetual motion.
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And that is just how progressives want it.

Torn America’s Desperate Need for Moderation; Moderation’s Fatal Temptation.

Lately it feels as if division and ugliness are everywhere. Politics and culture produce a stormy sea with battering waves and treacherous currents that seem impossible to avoid. Discussion too easily becomes debate and then bitterness. Friendships strain and tear.
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A thoughtful friend recently posted this lament on social media:
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“This country is tearing itself apart because the moderate voices have been silenced and the extreme fringes of both sides have grabbed the stage. We need to denounce the actions of the radicals on both sides and reengage in the civil discourse our country requires to function properly, or we will cease to be one.”
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What he says is plainly right but also challenging and uncertain in its ideal application.
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It is true the most extreme and hateful voices are all around and too often predominate. We absolutely need to practice and cultivate more moderate voices, more civil, and more respectful debate. This is easy to propose, but harder to achieve or even make progress. All we can do is start with ourselves and try harder. One thing I’ve realized is the occasions I am able to decide to stay calm, and not get angry, it helps two ways. First, as it takes two to tango, one calm voice makes escalation less likely to occur. But, second, if another person does become heated or personal, I can let it go and not let it raise my bile or blood pressure.
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To clarify, I’m describing a few successful experiences, not claiming this is my pattern. Too many years debating on Facebook have increased my tendency to brawl. Too, the new era of for-Trump, anti-Trump, and trying-to-call-it-as-I-see-it-Trump seems to have injected steroids into the cyber-ether.
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But “voice” is just the way we communicate about the real stuff—substance and policy. Americas are deeply divided on important issues and principles. Some of these disagreements are fundamental and likely irreconcilable.
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If the only way toward less rancor is for people to adopt more moderate positions, and if moderation is defined as compromising somewhere in the middle between competing proposals, that yields unhappy consequences for seekers of more freedom and limited government. Government will continue to grow. Its power and control over our life will continue to expand and penetrate. Every new proposal for power, taxing, and spending, even if cut in half continues an inexorable march, the march America has, with fleeting interruptions, experienced since its founding. The only crumb from the moderate table for the liberty minded is that these unwelcome trends will unfold at a somewhat slower rate than government builders might wish.
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As a matter of despair and anger for citizens who hope to shrink the growing Leviathan, this trend holds true whether Democrats or Republicans are in control. Even when Republicans control both houses of Congress and the presidency, they seem to talk big but deliver small. Or perhaps they talk small, but deliver big, like Democrats, who are at least candid in their desired direction.
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Anyone who believes America has departed harmfully from the Constitutional formula of limited central government, separation of powers, and strongly respected individual liberties including speech, worship, and property, and means to push meaningfully back in that direction could never hope to be described as “moderate” by the major media. Their goals would be described as radical and they likely would be smeared as racist, sexist, oppressive, possibly even fascist (an absurd bastardization of the term).
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It is difficult but attainable to be a principled conservative or libertarian and to engage in civil debate. But it is not possible to push in that direction and be called moderate. The only thing such politicians can hope for is to be described as reasonable or civil. But, if moderation means agreeing to meet in the “middle”—whatever that is–on all substance and policy, then we will simply continue on the trajectory of the last century or two of an ever expanding federal state that puppet masters the life of its citizens.
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One more thought. Some differences are irreconcilable. Between those that want to expand the federal government and those that want to restore a more Constitutional approach, there is no common ground. There is no compromise. The only path forward is winning. That is, the hard work of politicking on the playing field of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That means everything from teaching our children, engaging with our neighbors, recruiting and supporting good candidates, staying involved and supporting good legislation, and trying to help adopt the policies consistent with our values.
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That can be done civilly, but it will never be called moderate.

Amidst US Fury and Soul Searching, is there Good News From North Korea?

North Korea’s Jong dynasty has made a lucrative habit of rattling nuclear arms, real or imagined, and shaking down the United States and the West for ransom, er, humanitarian and technical assistance, in exchange for promising to put their toys away. Until next time.
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Little Un just tried it again. Subsequent events didn’t follow the script. I admit Trump’s response threatening “fire and fury” was jarring and worrisome. Are the critics right? Is he a madman loose with a twitter account and the nuclear codes? Lo and behold, reports are that China has pressured N.K. to back off, and Un seems to be putting his toys back in the box. And no ransom or concession given that we yet know of!
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Billions will breathe a sigh of relief if the news holds. What will not happen is any serious reflection in the major media, academia, or others in permanent hysteria about the fact of Trump’s existence and election. They will not candidly ponder or publicly discuss the possibility Trump worked closely with his advisors, played a shrewd hand in circumstances more difficult than those faced by any of his predecessors, and produced a better result than any of his predecessors.
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That would be utterly incompatible with their manufactured slow march to impeachment for some reason, any reason.
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Here is one serious scholarly reflection of just what Trump might be up to, that was published before the good news broke. Amazing what sober thinking can perceive when one isn’t willfully participating in a group-think frenzy to manufacture high crimes and misdemeanors.

Meanwhile, let us be grateful and celebrate the billions of lives including our own that seem not to be under a cloud. Until next time.

 
 

I don’t Know, Mr. Krugman, What Do You Do When the President is Un-American?

Paul Krugman, former economist and current leftist flamethrower for the New York Times has penned a piece with an interesting title: When the President is Un-American. You can click to see Krugman’s thoughts on that dilemma. But, it is an interesting question which necessarily embeds other questions about what the reader believes are core concepts of Americanism.
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Anyway, I don’t know, Mr. Krugman, I kind of think Americans would hope to expect their American-minded president would not, for example…
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Bring to office a pronounced distrust of free enterprise in the private sector and on obvious greater trust in public management, and a cavalier attitude that entrepreneurs don’t really build businesses, taxes and public infrastructure do;
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Devastate the nation’s health care and health finance system by ramming through on a party line vote a complex bureaucratic scheme built on plain lies that people could keep their doctors and plans, and their premiums would go down, then, simply ignore the truth and rely on media cover when millions of Americans lost their plans, doctors, and experienced skyrocketing premiums and deductibles;
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Usher in as part of that health scheme a new federal effort to sue and force churches, religious companies, and companies owned by religious believers to break their faith and fund chemical abortifacients;
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Funnel thousands of guns to Mexican drug lords to try somehow to document a domestic case for gun control, and when the disaster explodes in American fatalities, lie and obfuscate and hide evidence from Congress until his Attorney General is cited for contempt;
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Oversee an EPA that overreaches and suffers a string of embarrassing defeats at the Supreme Court for lawless and arbitrary oppression of property owners;
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Blow away a foreign head of state in Libya with no Congressional authorization of war, no plan to stabilize the decapitated nation, and no clue what happens next;
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In that same nation, run a covert arms pipeline to Syrian rebels, and then provide lax security to the covert annex in order to present a reelection fantasy narrative of expanding peace and stability;
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When said covert operation is disastrously attacked and four Americans are killed, concoct a lie about videos and protests and hide the truth of a successful terror attack to prop up his false reelection story of expanding peace and stability;
Whisper on a hot mic to Russia’s president to relay to Russia’s dictator that he can be more flexible with Russia after his last election;
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Encourage his IRS to use its awesome powers to harass, torment, and obstruct the civic activities of conservative Americans, to avoid opposition during his run for reelection;
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Work to eliminate international sanctions against Iran, negotiate secret deals to secure Iran’s path to nuclear weapons, and bribe Iran with billions in cash, including millions delivered secretly on pallets, off budget, while lying to the public and Congress about the details of the deal;
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Trade five Taliban generals from Gitmo in exchange for a deserter who cost American lives, and have his underling declare the deserter “served with honor and distinction”;
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Ignore the sweeping results of Congressional elections and American voters rejecting his policies by declaring “I have a phone and a pen”;
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Spy on Republican candidates for president in the coming election and change security rules to enable leaking and attacks on the eventual winner;
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Immediately turn to carping and criticizing the winner, in unprecedented move of ex-presidential treachery and narcissism that seeks to thwart the new president and undermine the nation.
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The list is much longer, but this is all in a few minutes without Googling. What do you do when the President is Un-American, Mr. Krugman? Apparently you write fawning columns for the New York Times praising his excellency and savaging his critics. 

Because, Mr. Kaepernick, There is Much More To Respect And Appreciate Than There is to Spit On and Condemn.

Denver recently experienced a late summer flurry. Not the fun weather kind, but a brief wordstorm from the local sports media trying to pressure the Broncos into signing NFL quarterback Colin Kaeprnick. The tempest faded when word came from the Front Office that under no circumstances would that happen. Which, makes sense, because whatever kind of early flashes he showed, Kaepernick just isn’t very good.
 
Of course, his talent and performance weren’t the big reasons for most people’s interest in the story. Rather, it was the Rorschach reaction to Kaepernick’s stand–to use the right word in an awkward context—on the National Anthem and the US flag. When Kaepernick refused to stand for the Anthem, probably the majority were curiously indifferent. Probably a large plurality were somewhere between troubled and offended. Probably a minority respected and supported Kaeprnick’s expressed intent to protest racial injustice in America.
 
This correspondent didn’t feel very strongly, but shares the view that Kaeprnick’s bent stance reflects immaturity and a lack of knowledge and perspective.
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Let me support that criticism by digressing to tell a story about some students in a high school civics competition several years ago. As a Colorado lawmaker I was helping judge the event. For part of their project, students from an affluent Denver suburb shared their updated and improved version of the Pledge of Allegiance:
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“I pledge allegiance to the flag—because the Supreme Court doesn’t enforce the First Amendment—of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands—an imperial power that swept the native inhabitants off their land—one nation under God—because the Supreme Court still doesn’t enforce the First Amendment, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all white, male, heterosexual, upper middleclass property owners.”
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The reader finished. The students and I eyed each other, as my mind raced for a way to express a different perspective without being a stiff, Republican scold. Lightning came to me.
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“I can feel your aspirations and good will. You see injustices and challenges in your world, and you want to fix them. You see wrongs and you want to right them. I hope you’ll be able to do that. But before you decide your society deserves your condemnation, would you consider a couple things?
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“Consider that the United States, with its free enterprise, for-profit system, produces more food, more clothing, more shelter, and a higher standard of living for more people than any other system, anywhere on earth, anytime on earth. Consider that in our country, poor people suffer the problems of obesity far more than of hunger. Cell phones, air conditioning, and cable TV are ubiquitous.
“Maybe material stuff and prosperity isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re more concerned about social justice. Yes, America has slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination in its history. But consider that America and England led the global fight against slavery. Consider that this nation fought a Civil War, adopted three Constitutional Amendments, passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to attain equality, and established Equal Opportunity Offices in state and federal governments across the land, all to spot and prosecute unlawful discrimination.
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“Consider that as a woman, a minority, or a dissenter from the dominant culture, here in the United States, more than anywhere else on earth, you have more chance to pick the life you want, to start a business, or find your crowd…to do what the Indian immigrant Dinesh D’Souza calls ‘writing the script of your own life.
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“I hope you’ll accomplish what you want. Solve those problems; right those wrongs. But please consider that maybe your nation, the society your parents, grandparents, and great great grandparents gave you, deserves not your condemnation but your gratitude. Maybe you can try to make things better here while appreciating what you’ve been given.”
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There are a lot of reasons those privileged kids thought their birthplace was mostly a raw deal for the less privileged. But they have the excuse of lack of experience and opportunity to see further and know that it’s probably the best deal on earth.
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A college graduate with a multi-million dollar sport contract and unimaginable privilege has less cover. But feeling more or less warmth toward America isn’t even the point. Kaepernick can believe America has a lot to fix, but still respect the civil norms and observances that unite a community. The Anthem and Pledge speak of America’s aspirations. They don’t endorse its abuses.
 
There’s no reason Kaepernick couldn’t work for change without spitting on social moments of participation. No one would bat an eye if Kaepernick went on the speaking circuit to deliver blistering indictments of social injustice. The problem as I see it is, his chosen path rejected the social part. He was apart. He was more enlightened than the fools and sellouts who stand for the flag. His gesture meant this society deserves his contempt, not his appreciation.
 
Mr. Kaeprnick, you earned the disapproval of millions and the arms length wariness of owners who are in business to make money, not to subsidize divisive distractions. And perhaps most importantly for your own aspirations, you haven’t shown all that much to general managers or talent scouts.

Are Politicians, Corporate Cronies, and Safety Marms Coming for Your Car?

By most reports, Congress can’t get anything done. But, one legislative vehicle seems to be on the fast track. A bill to address the fast emerging issue of driverless cars roared unanimously through the Energy and Commerce Committee late last month and is headed to the House floor for debate.
 
According to the congressional newspaper The Hill: The bill “would prohibit states from imposing laws related to the design, construction or performance of self-driving cars. But local governments would still maintain traditional auto responsibilities, such as licensing, registration, insurance and law enforcement.” The philosophy seems to be to prevent states from imposing a quilt work of inconsistent requirements that might stifle development of the vehicles, but still to allow local governments to deal with administrative issues.
 
 
The legislative scrambling responds to recent buzz in the technology, automotive, and transportation fields about the rapid advance of self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles. They are the hot new topic.
 
Industry publications praise the emerging technology with promotional zeal, assuring consumers that a revolution in convenience, safety, and affordability is about to transform American life. The benefits will be so great that some experts predict self driving cars could become dominant as early as 2020 and not long after, most households will opt not to own automobiles.  Instead, they’ll rely on a roving fleet of ready carriages, that can be summoned faster than Uber, drive more skillfully than Danica Patrick, and deliver bigger savings than double coupons at Walmart.
 
 
Self driving cars also offer mobility to people with driving limitations, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, or people who have lost privileges for drug or alcohol offenses. The future sounds rosy but many complex questions abound.
 
 
The timeline sounds implausible. Old habits die hard and Americans might resist giving up their traditional mobility. For example, the internet has transformed and continues to transform the way people shop, but it didn’t happen back in the 90s as experts predicted. Instead it gradually unfolded over two or three decades.
 
 
As consumers adopt the new mode of transit, what complications might arise between autonomous and traditionally driven vehicles? Some lawmakers have questioned whether special lanes should be designated for autonomous cars. Others have suggested cars with drivers should be restricted to certain lanes, both to clear the way for the new, and to incent people to make the switch.
 
 
Regarding the carrots of incentives and the sticks of restrictions, will superior driving, accident reduction, and lifesaving potential of autonomous cars create pressure to prohibit traditional human-controlled driving? Many, including entrepreneur Elon Musk believe it could become illegal for people to drive cars, thought Musk says he hopes it will not. Still, the pressure could come from sources beyond just regulators and safety advocates. Corporations, whether startups or current automakers adapting to opportunities, would obviously salivate at the profits possible from mandating a complete turnover of America’s auto fleet in the span of a few years. It would dwarf the audacity of GE pressing Congress to ban incandescent light bulbs and every corporatists rent-seeker in America would leap to play.
 
 
Aside from the sticky political and economic issues, some question whether the rosy predictions of much greater efficiency make logistical sense. As a resource facing demand peaks, auto availability would have to meet the needs of morning and evening rush hour. Could a fleet large enough to carry commuter traffic be utilized much more efficiently the rest of the day and night?
 
 
Also, Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers’ Association raises a few questions about the optimistic projections: First, cars that respond to a ride request will often be empty, which could put more cars on the road going to and from pickups, actually worsening congestion. Second, for automated cars to reduce vehicles on the road, people will have to adopt car pooling in unprecedented numbers. That old idea has not caught on much better than the metric system. Third, if automated on-call vehicles make travel cheaper, more people are likely to make more trips on highways, again, increasing road usage.
 
 
The technology of driverless cars is certainly accelerating. The future is coming at us. How fast and how hard it hits remains to be seen when we get a look under the hood.
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