Monthly Archives: June 2012

Aren’t We All “The Help”?

I know I have brought up the issue of race in the last few posts which, ipso facto, makes me a racist, but here’s more evidence that I like to wear sheets and burn crosses.

I watched the hit movie The Help last night. Well,to be honest, I only watched the first minute or two. I have a standing rule which stipulates that I will not continue watching a movie past the point at which it sinks to utter, ax grinding stupidity.

With The Help, the stupidity started right off-the-bat. The Help, I have read, depicts the lives of black maids somewhere in the South during the days of Jim Crow. I assumed that it was going to be a tear-jerking guilt trip which would reward modern, white liberal viewers with a self-congratulatory boost to their already enormous sense of moral superiority over their benighted parents and grandparents.

But of course I had to watch it. How could I not when so many of my liberal friends and relatives had asked in earnest piety: Have you seen The Help?, in much the same tone in which people asked, “Have you seen Schindler’s List?” (A politically correct morality test parodied hilariously on an episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry is caught “making out” with his girlfriend during the movie.)

But why couldn’t I get past the first minute of The Help? The film opens with a writer, a white woman I guess, interviewing an elderly black woman. The writer asks something like, How did it feel to spend your life raising white children when someone else was looking after your own children? which caused the elderly maid to become emotional over, I assume, all that she had missed while she was raising “white people’s children.”

That’s when I stopped watching. I know I’m a heartless old fart, but I just could not rise to this emotionally contrived bait.

The scene raised a question that has been on my mind a lot these days, as opposed to the horrible dark ages of the recent past: How does it feel today for millions of women of all races to be working 15 hour days sucking up to customers, clients, and/or their bosses while someone else raises their children? And how do these women feel about the many organizations and self-appointed individuals who claim to represent and speak for “women” when they pressure women to abandon their children to others and pressure the taxpayers to subsidize and enable the outsourcing of child care?

Yes, I know that many women have to work to support their families, but so did the black maids who earned money raising white children.

The only difference seems to be race. Black people working for white people when they might have been with their own children is unjust. But remove the racial angle and, voila, women working long hours and neglecting their children is called progress and liberation.

It’s A Tax, Stupid!

W’s Mistake

Back in March, I predicted in this space that the Supreme Court would find some way to uphold Obamacare and that Chief Justice John Roberts would be Obama’s enabler. Here is what I wrote on March 30th:

Anyone who listened to the Supreme Court hearings on Obamacare knows that the opponents of the law won the argument. Still, if I had to bet, I would put my money on the court declaring the law constitutional, perhaps with an explanation.

The Supreme I would worry about most is Chief Justice Roberts. According to most reports, Roberts is very sensitive about the court’s image, especially after the 2000 election debacle when the court had to bring the chaos to an end, a decision that, in effect, made Bush the winner. It is also reported that Roberts likes to avoid 5 to 4 decisions when it comes to major controversial issues, if possible.

Roberts also knows that Obama, the Democrats and their media will make the “right-wing, unempathetic” Supreme Court a major whip-up-the-base issue in the coming war, er, campaign. And if Anthony ” The Weather-Vane” Kennedy agrees to make it 6 to 3, all the better.

If Roberts votes with the majority for the law’s constitutionality, he, as I understand it, will get to write the majority opinion where he can deal with the “Is there any limit on Congress’s power?” issue by employing the allegedly “unique” nature of medical insurance argument. In that way, Roberts, Kennedy and the 4 Democrats can claim that there is some at least theoretical limit to federal power under the Commerce Clause which has yet to be discovered. It’s there all right; we just can’t see, hear, feel, smell or taste it right now. But someday…

Of course, this whole mess could have been avoided if the Democrats had done what a Washington Post editorial suggests in today’s edition:

[Congress] could have enacted a broadly based tax to pay for the health care it wants to subsidize.

It didn’t…for a couple of reasons. One was that reform advocates didn’t seriously entertain the constitutional vulnerability of the mandate. But the bigger reason is a more familiar one in Washington these days: None of the politicians wanted to acknowledge the costs.

The pols love to bash insurance companies that exclude anyone with preexisting conditions. They demand that the companies charge less for old people than the actuarial tables would dictate. They want to give insurance to poor people who can’t afford it. But they, like their voters, don’t want to pay for the subsidies implied by any of those rules. When President Obama was running in 2008, he insisted he could deliver universal coverage without a mandate. Once in office, he found that wasn’t true. But he still didn’t want to use the word “tax,” and neither did anyone in Congress…

So I was right about Roberts, but did not realize that he could rewrite the law by simply renaming what the law specifically calls a “mandate” a tax.

So what we now know about the “brilliant” Bush-appointed Roberts is that he can be mau-maued as Obama so tastelessly did to the Court during his 2010 State of the Union address. Add that to the apparent success of Obama’s personal attacks on Romney’s business career (according to recent polls) and his shameless pandering to Hispanics, and you can conclude that what columnist John Kass calls the “Chicago Way” is a winner.

Of course, we should not discount the role race played in Roberts’ thinking. I doubt he relished the idea of being the First Chief Justice to overturn the “Signature Legislation” of the First Black President of the United States, a charge Chris Matthews and the Democratic media stood ready to make if the law had been struck down. Thus he found a semantic hook on which to hang his hat: It’s a tax, not a mandate. No sweat.

The Definition of Illegal

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona immigration law seems perfectly reasonable. Clearly, the Constitution gives control of immigration to the Federal Government; it would be unworkable to allow the states to decide who is in their domain legally. Constitutionally, it’s not really a close call.

Everybody knows the reason Arizona and other states passed such laws: Hint – it’s not racism. No, it is because the Federal Government has refused to enforce Federal immigration laws, and not only Obama and the Democrats. Back in 1986, Congress passed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act which was signed by Ronald Reagan. It was supposed to curb illegal immigration by:

requiring employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status,
making it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit unauthorized immigrants, and it
granted amnesty to certain seasonal agricultural illegal immigrants and
to illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided here continuously.

If that “bi-partisan” law had worked, Arizonans would not have felt the need to pass its law and the Supreme Court would not have had to rule. Since 1986, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S., now 4% of the population, has increased exponentially.

The fact is that lots of people benefit from illegal immigrants. Businesses benefit from cheap labor, working couples have easy access to inexpensive child care provided by “nannies” who are often in the country illegally, and the Democrats have yet another interest group to whom they can pander.

What really interests me is why Latinos who are American citizens or who are here legally, having played by the rules, are supportive of people who have not played by the rules. Why do so many Hispanics want to give such law breakers “amnesty,” and why do they vote for politicians who pander to them so nakedly?

I used to ask black acquaintances and friends why they direct so much anger at cops whose job it is to prevent crime rather than directing their anger at the large and disproportionate number of young, black men who commit the types of crimes people fear most: murder, rape, theft and assault. Such a question was and is considered racist.

Did Jews get angry over the prosecution and imprisonment of Bernie Madoff and Jack Abramoff? Jews may be ashamed that Madoff and Abramoff are Jewish, but they don’t claim that they are victims of racist prosecutors. Nor would they have cheered had Madoff or Abramoff been acquitted as many blacks did when O.J. Simpson was declared “not guilty” of double murder.

Many Italians object to their being portrayed in movies as gangsters, but they don’t complain when real-life Italian gangsters are imprisoned for their crimes. At least not yet.

George W. Bush’s immigration reform bill, which was similar to the ineffective 1986 law, went down to defeat because a significant number of Americans wanted nothing more than that the government enforce the law. Being in the country illegally is, uh, illegal.

What about that don’t politicians and many Hispanics understand?

The Secret Magical Power of Race

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is a fine and interesting writer. In her column today, she comes tantalizingly close to getting at the dirty little secret at the heart of the Obama phenomenon, but ultimately she refuses to go where few men (or women) have returned unscathed.

Here’s what I mean:

…An odd fact: Republicans more than others, amazingly, have internalized and hold to the idea that this president has some secret magical powers he’s just waiting to unleash. Those powers normally go by the name “eloquence.” But the eloquence was always exaggerated, and to the extent it existed, there’s no sign it’s about to kick in. Do you remember any phrase or sentence the president has said in a speech or statement the past 3½ years? One? Anything, in all that talking, that entered your head and stayed there? You do not. He is interesting, his words are not. Republicans obsess on his eloquence because it allows them to pretend they lost in 2008 because the American people were gulled by pretty words. The truth is he won because he seemed the furthest thing possible from the Republicans who’d presided over two unwon wars and the great recession.

The president’s rhetorical powers are not a factor in the campaign. Mr. Romney is not more boring than Mr. Obama. That’s not a compliment, precisely, but is true…

Dear Peggy: The Republicans are not afraid of Obama’s “eloquence.” He is and has never been any more eloquent than most politicians. You are right that Romney is no more boring than Obama, and you are wrong that even Obama himself is an interesting person. He is and always has been a bore.

So what are the Republicans really afraid of? Two words: The Race Card. It’s the Race Card that scared away candidates like Chris Christie, Haley Barbour (a white Republican from Mississippi?), Mitch Daniels and others. If you’re young, you can afford to wait and run against a white candidate; even running against a white woman is less risky than running against a black.

Peggy Noonan does not discuss why so much is made of Obama’s “eloquence” and “magical powers.” It’s similar to Thomas Sowell’s argument against racial quotas in college admissions where the black kid who should have gone to Philadelphia Community College gets into Penn State and the black kid who should have gone to Penn State is admitted to the University of Pennsylvania and so on.

The sad fact is that every ability, other than athletic, when exhibited by black people is exaggerated in the liberal mind. This humane racism may be destructive to black self-respect, but it does wonders for the egos of white liberals who need to feel morally superior.

In reality, Obama is merely reasonably articulate and intelligent. He’s not eloquent and he’s not “brilliant.”

The only thing interesting about Obama is that he isn’t “white.” That and the knowledge that he and his supporters will use the race card against their opponents is what scares the bejesus out of Republicans.

Pleasuring Spielberg

According to Douglas MacKinnon, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal:

…Mr. Obama sat down with Steven Spielberg for over three hours at DreamWorks Studios to hear the famous director’s various campaign strategies to defeat Mitt Romney in the fall…

Now, everybody knows why Obama would spend three hours listening to Spielberg: He does it in return for the big checks the mogul writes to Obama’s campaign and the influence he has on other big Hollywood check writers. But why would a putatively smart guy like Spielberg think that Obama really wants to hear what he thinks? Can he be that deluded?

Actually, he and other show business big shots who get publicly involved with politicians are that deluded. It just isn’t enough for a guy like Spielberg or George Clooney that they are good looking (well Clooney is), somewhat talented (Spielberg may be skillful with a camera, but he’s bereft of any ideas that are not liberal pieties), and of course, impossibly rich. Yet, all that isn’t enough; they need to taken with great seriosity (a term coined by Woody Allen).

So the president pleasures the mogul and then receives a fat fee for his services. There’s a word for that. But it’s all perfectly legal.

Bush 41: Look Who’s Talking

I am not a big fan of George H.W. Bush, aka 41. I think he was a lousy president for a number of reasons.

He wanted to be president, it seemed, only to do foreign policy which to him meant jousting with the Soviet Union like Truman, Kennedy and Nixon had done. When the Evil Empire collapsed due to the efforts of his predecessor, Bush seemed disappointed and tried to prop up it up with what William Safire termed his “Chicken Kiev Speech.”

Then he went and followed the advice of Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, his foreign policy mavens, who urged him to leave the odious Saddam Hussein in power after ousting him from Kuwait. This limp-wristed “Desert Storm” strategy confirmed the world’s view of post-Vietnam America, that we never have the guts to follow through on any military action, which also convinced Osama bin Laden that he had no fear of American retaliation for successfully murdering 3,000 people on 9/11/2001.

41 saw himself as too classy for domestic politics which led to his cave-in to Democrats on taxes after having conspicuously promised he would not raise them. Remember Read My Lips? He campaigned for re-election against Bill Clinton with an attitude that the whole thing was beneath him. He deserved to lose.

Between 41 and 43, I’ll take W. He made some tough decisions after 9/11, the wisdom of which time will sort out. Yes, he mismanaged the aftermath of Saddam’s downfall, but so did Lincoln mismanage the Civil War and Truman the Korean War to name only two screw ups by past presidents. But at least W didn’t act like politics was beneath him.

Which brings me to Maureen Dowd, the second worst New York Times columnist. Last Sunday, she had a column in which she interviewed 41. Apparently “Poppy” (as she nauseatingly likes to call the elder Bush) agreed to talk to her to promote an upcoming documentary about him. Supposedly MoDo admires the elder Bush in comparison to the utter contempt she has always expressed for his son. An amateur psychiatrist, MoDo sees W’s actions as president as an attempt to resolve his Oedipus Complex. Heavy!

But here is MoDo on what 41 (and his wife) thinks of his son’s presidency:

…the chip on 43’s shoulder prevented him from seeking the counsel of 41 while in the Oval. And his lack of preparation for the job left the insecure W. vulnerable to manipulation by two of Washington’s greatest bureaucratic infighters, Cheney and Rumsfeld. W.’s parents blame Cheney for bad decisions, but that suggests W. wasn’t in charge…

If there is one thing that Bush, the elder, is famous for, it is not passing judgement on any of his successors, not Bill Clinton and not Barack Obama. So I find it unbelievable that he would weigh in on his own son’s administration. Of course, nowhere in her column does MoDo actually say that Bush expressed to her the feelings she attributes to him and his wife.

Is there anyone out there who knows where MoDo got this scoop about the famously reticent George H.W.Bush? And why does it appear that no one that I know of is asking?

You’re Nothing Special

David McCullough, Jr., the son of the famous historian who is a high school teacher at Wellesley, Massachusetts High School, delivers a commencement address students probably did not want to hear:

…From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet… And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not…

What’s Not To Like?

The media tells us that the voters “like” Barack Obama, but don’t “like” Mitt Romney. Or in mediaspeak, Barry’s likeability numbers are high and Mitt’s are low. The media also tells us that same sex marriage is becoming more popular every day and that its eventual acceptance by all but a handful of old “homophobes” is a certainty.

That is what J.K. Galbraith once termed the “conventional wisdom.” But I say be wary of any public opinion poll in which the “wrong” answer to the question being asked will result in your being labelled a bigot.

This phenomenon was once called the “Bradley Effect.” From Wikipedia:

The Bradley effect, less commonly called the Wilder effect,… is a theory proposed to explain observed discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in some United States government elections where a white candidate and a non-white candidate run against each other…The theory proposes that some voters will tell pollsters they are undecided or likely to vote for a black candidate, while on election day they vote for the white candidate. It was named after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American who lost the 1982 California governor’s race despite being ahead in voter polls going into the elections…

The Bradley effect theorizes that the inaccurate polls were skewed by the pheno menon of social desirability bias….Specifically, some white voters give inaccurate polling responses for fear that, by stating their true preference, they will open themselves to criticism of racial motivation. Members of the public may feel under pressure to provide an answer that is deemed to be more publicly acceptable, or ‘politically correct’. The reluctance to give accurate polling answers has sometimes extended to post-election exit polls as well. The race of the pollster conducting the interview may factor in to voters’ answers…

Yet, I am unaware of any skepticism in the media or any mention of the Bradley effect concerning either Obama’s “likeability” or whether or not the public favors same sex marriage.

First, the Obama favorability numbers. I cannot think of even one career politician who is genuinely likeable. Disingenuousness comes with the politician’s territory, and Obama is off the charts when it comes to faking sincerity and playing fast and loose with the truth. In addition, he exudes the attitude of a mean spirited, self-satisfied S.O.B. who considers anyone who disagrees with him to be either immoral or stupid. Hence, it is really hard for me to believe that the more than 50 percent of voters who don’t “like” his policies nonetheless truly “like” him personally.

I mean, it is really easy to tell a pollster that you don’t like a rich white guy like Mitt Romney, but a lot harder to say you find a reasonably articulate, attractive, “black” man who wears his pants above his rear end to be unlikeable. As they say: What’s not to like?

The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins homed in on Obama in a recent column:

…Mr. Obama’s great political talent has been his knack for granting his admirers permission to think highly of themselves for thinking highly of him. The self-approval of his supporters is the engine of his political rise, albeit married to the kind of hardball that drove his two most formidable rivals out of the 2004 Senate race in divorce-related scandals

In other words, people like Obama because he makes them feel good about themselves, an appeal a mere white guy like Mitt Romney could never possess. So if you vote for Obama, you are a morally superior person; if you vote for the rich white guy, well…

The same self-congratulation attends the gay marriage debate. The media does not seem much interested in the fact that gay marriage has yet to survive a free and open popular referendum on the issue, even in the bluest of blue states, California. Yet, we are told that it is now a 50-50 proposition with all the indicators pointing to a gay movement triumph – sooner rather than later. That triumph may happen, but in my opinion, it won’t be because the majority of people approve of it, but rather because the Supreme Court (really Justice Anthony Kennedy) approves of it.

Discount the opinion polls on gay marriage and Obama’s personal popularity; they are tainted by fear of political incorrectness. On those issues, the only opinion that truly matters is the one expressed in the privacy of the polling booth.