So says Kevin Hassett over at Bloomberg.
One prominent industry where this is a problem is journalism. Today the route to journalism begins in journalism school. In the old days, you just started out on the bottom, earning low wages and were promoted if you demonstrated competence. Because they didn’t all go to the same school, you ended up with journalists with many different viewpoints. Especially since political affiliation had nothing to do with being hired on to the city crime desk. Today, thanks to making their training more academic and less practical, ideological conformity has replaced real world competence. As a result, the old stereotype of the non-nonsense ‘newsman’ with rolled up sleeves and a bottle of bourbon in the bottom desk drawer is out of date.
Let’s take another example: teaching. What do they teach in teacher’s college? How much of teachers college involve imparting practical teaching skills and how much on imparting dogma? Judging by the ideological conformity and fervour in the teaching profession today (and it wasn’t always this way), I can venture a guess at the answer. Again, by emphasizing formal education over real world experience, we get the same result: ideological conformity instead of everyday competence.
This emphasis creates two problems for our society. We have less diversity in thought, and less skill in carrying out everyday tasks. I don’t think it is an accident that two of the most influential innovators in modern times - Bill Gates and Steve Jobs - were both college drop-outs.
If you get the impression that the professions and industries that suffer most from credentialism are the ones that are dominated the most by the left, then you might be right. I think this illustrates a fundamental problem with today’s liberal. They have spent all their formative years in school learning theory, with very little time left over to gain practical experience. Not going through the school of life means that they naturally prefer theoretical over practical solutions. In contrast, conservatism is less a dogma than an approach to life, one based on custom and tradition, i.e. the lessons learned from the school of hard knocks.
To give a more personal example, a brother of a high school friend is now a philosophy of science professor with several advanced degrees in mathematics and philosophy under his belt. The only time he ever did manual work was the summer he had a student job mowing lawns. At the end of the summer, he vowed that he would never do real work again. Hmmm...I wonder what his politics are.
Toronto Mayor David Miller got some nice space from the Toronto Star's website this afternoon, complete with the kind of flattering, statesmen-like photo the Star prefers for Miller, under the headline "Mayor Urges Pay Freeze."
Wow! Has Miller suddenly discovered fiscally responsibility? The answer is no, and the Star's readers weren't fooled this time. In less than 88 minutes there were 37 comments pointing out why this is not what it seems.
First: Miller is not advocating a pay freeze for unionized staff (by far the majority of city employees), who are getting ready to demand 3-4% wage increases every year for the next three years. The police union already won a 10% increase over three years last December, making them the highest paid police force in Ontario.
Second: Miller is also not calling for a pay freeze for city councillors. These same councillors gave themselves a 9% increase in 2006 and have since been pushing it up over inflation every year.
But what amazed me was the readership response to this article. All of the comments complained either about Miller being in bed with the city unions or Miller's councillors' pay increases. Most of the comments had 15 to 20 people who registered "agree" with the comment, and almost no one registered "disagree." All of these comments were critical of Miller and many called for him to be booted from office in the next election.
The Toronto Star is the most left wing large-format newspaper in Toronto, yet it is clear from this little wave of anger from their readership that Miller is finding it more difficult to hide the fact that he is the fat-union mayor, and not the mayor of the little guy. If the comments about this column are anything to go by, the taxpayers--even the left-leaning ones who read the Star--are getting restless, and that's not a good sign for any incumbent politician.
Let’s look at the particulars of Natasha Richardson’s ski accident. She fell down on a beginner’s hill, got up, seemingly OK, laughing and carrying on as if nothing serious happened. And in most cases that would have been it. Except that hers was the one case in 100,000 where it wasn’t OK and she died later from brain trauma. In a normal society, this would be viewed as a tragic but freak accident, a reminder to the rest of us about the fragility of life. But we are not in a normal society so that is not what we do. Our reaction, or at least the reaction from the Province of Quebec, is to consider mandatory helmet laws for skiers. This is ridiculous. People fall down hard on ski slopes all the time and nothing bad happens to them. Professional boxers take massive blows to the head as part of their sport and live on to old age. Albeit with an increased risk of Parkinson’s, but that is their choice.
Not only is this ‘safety-first always’ approach ridiculous, it is also indicative of pathology present in our society. The problem with our world is not that it is too dangerous but that it is too safe. It is so safe that we tend to forget that no matter how well we arrange our affairs, there will always be an element of precariousness to living, an element that cannot be eliminated because it is an irreducible part of life itself. The proper attitude is to face this residual danger with an air of stoic disdain. What happened to Natasha Richardson was tragic, but it is also very, very unlikely to recur.
An unfortunate consequence of our success in purging our environment of most physical danger is that we, or at least many of us, have forgotten this fact. In the words of the late Col. Jeff Cooper, many people think that “food comes from the supermarket, safety from the policeman and bad news is something that happens to other people.” And they are the worse for it. Though they believe that it is possible to eliminate all the unpleasantries and messiness of life, they are incapable of enjoying what is, in effect, an unprecedented bounty. Instead they stay up late into the night brooding about statistically insignificant hobgoblins.
This mindset is one of the prime movers behind the nanny state, which we conservatives rightly resist. We know that perfect safety is a chimera. But there are those among us who want the nanny state to coddle them. They want laws mandating helmets and seatbelts, or ‘cracking down’ on street racing.
In a seemingly unrelated bit of news, a condo in Scarborough, near where I live, was made uninhabitable because a fire in the electrical room caused a loss of power to the building. It was not that the residents were physically prevented by the fire from accessing their apartments and their property. Rather, they were banned by the police and fire departments from entering their own homes because the fire alarm and sprinkler systems were now inoperative. Though nobody likely would have wanted to remain living there while there was no power and water, most did want to go back to get some belongings or perhaps their car so they can commute to work. But no, this was not allowed by the representatives of the nanny state. For what if there was a fire in that short time when they were getting their things? Those safety systems were not on to protect them. This was the prevailing logic at Markham and Kingston Rd. My God! What happened to the legal principle that a man’s home is his castle? The really depressing thing is that the residents seemed resigned to this decree. In an earlier age, when our instincts for self-reliance were more sharply honed, such a rule would have been impossible to enforce. If anybody had tried, they would have been tarred and feathered.
These two incidents illuminate perfectly the principle that it is impossible to be free and safe at the same time, and that too many among us today prefer safety to freedom. Unfortunately, these people will discover sooner or later that Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that those who prefer security to liberty will end up with neither.
The headlines ran everywhere, from left-wing science websites like Redorbit to Fox news: the Antarctic ice sheet is going to melt and flood us all! Global warming fans are screaming that this is a desperate warning, and we must do something about carbon emissions now.
Of course, no one wants to look too closely at the science. The study actually states that the west Antarctic ice sheet has melted many times and that it would take an estimated 9 degree global temperature increase sustained for nearly a thousand years to cause it to collapse. Uhm, doesn't sound like an imminent threat. Doesn't sound like the sea levels are going to rise in our time or even our great-grandchildren's time.
But that's not what you'd think from the rants of the global warming crowd or the urgency of the headlines. Time to stop funding these studies if they're just going to twist them to generate panic.
One of the principle organizations defending the rights of gun owners in Canada, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA), is under attack from the antigun CP24 news organization. They are running this story.
It is important to remember that the fundraiser that they refer to in the article is one of the CSSA's principle vehicles for raising money to fight for the rights of gun owners. If you are a gun owner and ever run afoul of some stupid bureaucratic gun law, then the CSSA will likely help you out with money raised at that event.
In conjunction with this story, there is a Daily Poll, whose question is: Is a semiautomatic handgun an appropriate raffle prize for a gun lobby event being held next month? Make no mistake about it, that poll is attacking your rights.
Please go and vote on the poll.
polls are unscientific but we won't hear about how unscientific they are if
they get the results that they are looking for.
Internet polls are unscientific but we won't hear about how unscientific they are if they get the results that they are looking for.
There has been a dawning realization among conservatives recently that in order to triumph over the left, we have to win over the culture. As Mark Steyn has observed, “culture is upstream of politics.” What happens there eventually percolates down into politics. The real enemies of conservatism are not Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi or Chris Dodd. They are merely placeholder for our real opponents: Oprah Winfrey, Michael Moore and left wing directors like Steven Soderbergh.
This newfound awareness has led many conservatives to despair because they understand that we are weak on culture. Well, I say they are wrong to despair. The glass half full not half empty. Just consider how far we have come in the last two decades. 20 years ago, what the right sorely missed the most was a right-wing news media. Surely, if good news sources existed, our work would be done for us. Well, now we have got it: talk radio, the blogosphere, Fox News, conservative books. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made us invincible. But it has helped in many tangible ways. But in achieving it, we also able to see better what else is required. Conservative political parties and news sources aren’t enough. We need conservative culture as well. However, conservatives should be heartened that the trend line is positive. We are advancing. And the foundation for a lasting conservatism is being built, one brick at a time.
Nevertheless, conservative politicians (and conservative media outlets) can do a number of things to help out.
First, support conservative allies in Hollywood. We have a surprising number of fellow travellers in the entertainment industry, much more than we would have at first supposed because most of them are under deep cover. In Hollywood, the default culture is liberal and orthodoxy is rigorously enforced. But once conservatives there are organized, they can surface more easily and pursue conservative cultural activities more openly. Every effort should be made to encourage them. This is the idea behind Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood website and the Friends of Abe group in Hollywood, headed by conservative actor Gary Sinese. Conservative politicians must realize that the entertainment industry is not fluff. In fact, that it is more important than the serious financial and foreign policy stuff we are more comfortable discussing.
Second, support conservative allies in academia. Like the media, we have a surprising number of friends and allies there but we don’t know it because they have all hunkered down. This is why organizations like FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) are so important. For a long time, speech and political freedom has become increasingly under attack on campuses because of speech codes and campaigns to purge opposing viewpoints in the guise of fighting racism and harassment. However, in the past 5 years there has been pushback. Thanks to the fine folks at FIRE, many States have instituted free speech codes for universities that want to keep receiving government money. The long-term benefit of these laws cannot be overstated, even though this issue is under the radar screen of everyday politics.
Third, governments must begin to insist on political neutrality where coercion and/or public money is involved. For instance, university student’s organizations are unabashedly left. Thanks to university rules, they are entitled to a share of the tuition money collected by the school and are typically elected by only 10% of the student body. Student associations shouldn’t be allowed to expropriate student’s money. If they have a service to offer, then they should have to make their case to the students and operate on a voluntary basis. How about left-wing think tanks? How many of them receive government money vis a vis conservative think tanks? And then there are government funded public broadcasters like the CBC and the BBC. Most of these institutions are egregiously left wing and answer to no one. In Canada, there is also the National Film Board (employing 490 people!). This must change. Then there are labour unions that divert part of their budget to left-wing causes that have nothing to do with representing their workers. While I believe that how a union disburses its own money should be none of the government’s business, I think this argument falls down when a closed shop is allowed. Nobody chooses their jobs based of what the union does with ones dues. People consider it as just another one of those nuisances that one has to put up with in life. But they shouldn’t have to.
In Canada, we have to defang the Human Right’s Commissions, at least with regard to speech and ideology issues. Thanks to people like Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn not buckling under when they were brought before them, Canadians have recently developed a new-found awareness of what these kangaroo courts really do in the name of human rights, and they don’t like it.
In the US, the Presidency is a bully pulpit - to borrow a memorable phrase from Teddy Roosevelt. The only conservative President who used the bully pulpit to address broad cultural issues was Ronald Reagan. As a result, the cultural and sexual mores of America were far more restrained in the 80’s than they were before or since. It became cool to study manners, to be an entrepreneur, and to dress respectably. In the 80’s, monogamy was an in’ word and promiscuity was an ‘out’ word. (This happened long before the AIDS scare went mainstream, which was in 1985 when Rock Hudson was diagnosed. Prior to that, the heterosexual majority did not really think about STDs at all.) One obvious problem to implementing this strategy is that Barack Obama is President, and he is the most leftist occupant of the White House in history. However this is temporary condition (probably only another 3 ½ more years, the way his administration has been progressing). The more serious problem is that no conservative President other than Reagan ever spoke out on cultural matters. The first Bush did not. W didn’t either (not counting the war on terror, which is a security matter). The next Republican President must.
Another mistake made by Bush was that the intelligence community was not reformed after 9/11. And not only was it not reformed but it remains completely unreformed to this day. The root cause of the problem was the Church Commission of mid-70’s which recommended rules and restriction that prevented the CIA from effectively running human intelligence gathering operations (“wouldn’t want the CIA to be associating with anybody unsavoury”). Another problem is that there are simply too many agencies doing the same thing. Personally, I believe the money - $25 billion per year – is sufficient. The problem is more of lack of will than a lack of resources.
Mercifully, the stupid ‘intelligence czar’ idea concocted by the idiotic 9/11 Commission was never adopted. The last thing the intelligence establishment needs is another layer of bureaucracy. The problem was that George Bush kept incompetent Clinton appointees in the CIA (George Tenet) and FBI (Louis Freeh) way too long. Both should have been fired right after 9/11.
Instead of preserving the status quo, Bush should have shaken the intelligence establishment to its core. One suggestion: he should have instilled competition between various intelligence agencies by telling them that their future share of the federal budget will depend on their performance in the War on Terror. Simultaneously, he should have freed them up to act more independently and aggressively. And he should have told them that incompetent agencies will be eliminated altogether.
The CIA should have been gutted and rebuilt as a vigorous hands-on agency in the spirit of Wild Bill Donovan. The same should have gone for Foggy Bottom. George Bush should have insisted that the status quo will not be tolerated and that from now on, only results count.
A good example of what the status quo has brought the Bush administration (as well as a demonstration of disloyalty to the War on Terror) was the way the CIA and the State Department subverted Condoleeza Rice’s idea of supporting and fermenting revolt in Iran, through the training of anti-Iranian agents in Iraq as well as the installation of anti-mullah radio stations along the Iranian border. Both programs were quietly subverted into ineffectiveness by hide-bound bureaucrats.
UPDATE: In the
comments section below, Tom M has taken me to task for calling former FBI
Director Louis Freeh incompetent. My assessment is based on a series of
incidents that occurred at the FBI during his tenure that reflected badly on
the Bureau and his leadership.
In the comments section below, Tom M has taken me to task for calling former FBI Director Louis Freeh incompetent. My assessment is based on a series of incidents that occurred at the FBI during his tenure that reflected badly on the Bureau and his leadership.
First there were the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents. These incidents, together, are the two most disgraceful episodes in the entire history of federal law enforcement. While both incidents occurred just prior to his becoming FBI Director, he was involved in the after-action investigation of both. A Justice Department report recommended that Freeh be censured for bungling the Ruby Ridge investigation. In the case of Waco, Janet Reno sent in US Marshals to seize Waco related materials from FBI headquarters. After these incidents, what the Bureau needed was a comprehensive top-to-bottom overhaul of its entire operation. Thanks to Louis Freeh, it did not get this. Instead it got a couple of whitewashed investigations that buried the truth and diffused the blame.
Second, there was the Oklahoma City bombing. It has been claimed by several sources that there was a larger element in the extreme right wing conspiracy that got away because the FBI again bungled the investigation and possibly protected a source.
Third, there was the Chinese penetration of Los Alamos in the mid 1990’s, when they stole many US nuclear secrets, including blueprints for the warhead on the Trident II missile (the most advanced warhead in US possession) and software that models nuclear explosions (very valuable in an era when all nuclear testing is banned). One person, Wen Ho Lee was caught, but he only pled guilty to 1 of 59 charges and was subsequently released after the trial (because he spent 278 days in pre-trial custody). A Justice Dept investigation reported that the FBI bungled the case. To sum it up: the ChiCom’s got away scot-free.
Fourth was escalating terror attacks against the US: the Khobar bombings, the US embassy bombings in Africa and the USS Cole bombings. The first World Trade Center Bombing occurred just prior but was investigated and tried on Freeh’s watch. I think it would be charitable to say that prior to 9/11 (when he was in charge), the FBI was largely ineffectual in its response to this growing threat. For instance, the criminal trial of the World Trade Center bombings resulted in a massive release of critical intelligence information to the public, which greatly aided Al Quaida. The source for this opinion is Andrew C. McCarthy, the DA who prosecuted this case and who now writes about terrorism issues for the National Review. Ask him what he thinks of Louis Freeh.
Fifth, there was the case of illegal Chinese government money finding its way into Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign. Multiple media sources in early 1997 allege that Freeh may have run political cover for the Clintons when the FBI investigated the matter.
Sixth, I remember an American Spectator article that details a case that occurred when Freeh was an assistant DA in New York City in the 80’s involving the Marciano brothers (the owners of Guess Jeans). According to that article, Freeh had aided the Marciano bros. by getting the IRS to investigate their chief rival, Jordache Jeans.
Seventh was the revelation in the early 2000’s of the FBI crime lab screwing up and possibly falsifying evidence going back many years.
It has often been commented that the requirements of intelligence and counterintelligence work often conflict with civil society. That is, that those policies which aid counterintelligence agencies the most also tend to be the biggest threat to civil liberties, meaning that there will always be a tradeoff between security and liberty. The above incidents suggest that under this standard, Louis Freeh achieved the worst of both worlds: his FBI maximally antagonized the citizenry while remaining impotent to real threats to America’s security.
For similar reasons, Business Week called for Freeh’s resignation in 2000.
In fact, after reviewing these incidents for this update (which I had not thought about for many years), I begin to feel that I have been too harsh in my criticism of George Bush on intelligence issues. I had forgotten what a disaster he inherited.
My information sources on these screw-ups include: three books (Ambush at Ruby Ridge by Alan Bock, The Ashes of Waco, An Investigation by Dick Reavis and No More Wacos: What’s Wrong with Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix It by David Kopel and Paul Blackman); one award-winning documentary film (Waco: Rules of Engagement); and numerous articles written in the 90’s in the American Spectator, National Review, Reason, Liberty and other publications.
The last paragraph in his comments seems to invoke credentialism, specifically that I am unqualified to criticize Louis Freeh because Freeh is more experienced and credentialed than me in law enforcement and intelligence. The problem with that argument is that it proves too much. For instance, on these pages I have often called Stephane Dion incompetent. Given that Dion has a PhD Sociology, held a tenure track job in his field and has significant experience at the ministerial and party leadership levels, he is more competent than me. This makes me - and almost every professional columnist in the Canadian media - unqualified to criticize Dion. The argument taken to its logical conclusion implies that a person can justifiably criticize only those who are less competent than himself – an absurd proposition.
I do make one correction from my original post: Louis Freeh resigned just prior to 9/11 instead of just after it, as I had mistakenly remembered. This makes my criticism of George W Bush on this point unwarranted.
However, regardless of the precise date of Freeh’s departure, I think it would be apropos to conclude this discussion with one of the best protest slogans of the nineties:
“Freedom isn’t Freeh.”
Thursday’s by-election resulted in the best possible outcome for PC Ontario. After the self-inflicted 2007 provincial election loss, the party urgently needed rebuilding. The best way to do that is with a leadership race attracting new ideas and face faces to the demoralized party, and now it is getting that chance. The worst possible outcome from a party perspective would have been for John Tory to eke out a slim victory in what is the safest conservative seat in the province. A weak, wounded Conservative leader continuing to dangle over the edge of the abyss - that would have made an ideal gift for Dalton McGuinty.
Much has been made of John Tory’s nice-guy personality from conservative-leaning pundits. Having met the man twice, I can personally attest to that aspect of him. Nevertheless I have long lost any sympathy for the man. After two electoral disasters under his belt (the first being Kim Campbell’s 1993 election campaign – the single worst election catastrophe in Canadian history for any party - which he managed), he needed to do the honourable thing and quit. And if he had done that right away, an opening would have been made for his rehabilitation. He could have then run in the next provincial election as an ordinary candidate. As a former party leader who had the good sense to leave gracefully, he would have been guaranteed a cabinet post by the new party leader once McGuinty was dispatched.
But instead, he made the classic weak man mistake of clinging to an untenable position (cf. Joe Clark), and, as a result, he delayed the beginning of his party’s healing process by a year and a half with his quixotic quest for a seat in the provincial legislature. That was a fundamentally selfish act and that is why I shed no tear for him today.
The good news is that there is still plenty of time left to rebuild the party before the next election is upon us. Even though a leadership race will take about a year, there will still remain at least another year for the new leader to find his footing before the writ is dropped. And whether the Conservatives have 23 or 24 seats at Queens Park right now doesn’t matter a whit, thanks to the commanding majority Tory gave the Liberals in 2007. As well, Haliburton – Kawartha Lakes – Brock will be an easy pick-up for Lauri Scott when the party is under decent leadership again.
It has been said that he who succeeds in framing the debate will likely win it. As George Orwell pointed out, words can be worked out that connote the very opposite of what they really mean; e.g. ‘Ministry of Love’ for the secret police, ‘Ministry of Truth’ for the propaganda department, etc. The term ‘fiscal conservative’ falls into the same category because it gives the voter the misleading impression that in terms of fiscal policy, there is a legitimate choice to be made between ‘fiscal conservatism’ and ‘fiscal liberalism’.
Why is it that the choice between fiscal conservatism and fiscal liberalism only exists in government? In our personal lives or if you are running a business, nobody asks for an accountant who is fiscally liberal. While it is true that nobody asks for a fiscally conservative accountant either, this is only because it is understood that a fiscally conservative accountant is the only kind of accountant you would want. In the real world, there are two types of management: proper, ethical and legal management (i.e. fiscally conservative management) and profligate, fraudulent and illegal management (i.e. fiscally liberal management). Only in the government is this dressed up as a legitimate option.
Though on second thought, perhaps I am hasty in my conclusion. Upon closer inspection a few examples of fiscal liberalism in the private sector now come to mind. First, there are the big three auto makers. GM CEO Rick Wagoner burned through $2 billion a month for the seven years before he got GM plugged into the teat of the Federal government. Goodness knows how fast GM is losing money today. If there is any doubt about his fiscally liberal credentials, consider the fact that he believes his worst decision as CEO was "axing the EV1 electric car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids. It didn’t affect profitability, but it did affect image." GM’s image. Obviously the top issue you face when your company is bleeding $2 billion a month. And going back a few years, there was the notoriously fiscally liberal hep-cat Ken Lay of Enron fame and all his confreres at WorldCom. Closer to home you have that hothouse of fiscal liberalism, Nortel Networks.