Monthly Archives: January 2010

I know you are but what am I?

Are Liberals Smarter Than Conservatives? It’s a good question – if in large part because the former seems always to suggest exactly that. Jason Richwine tackles the issue and offers sound and honest insight.

While it may raise some interesting points of consideration, ultimately such a question does not meaningfully advance serious public policy discourse. This is the conclusion Richwine reaches, and it seems a reasonable one.

I suggest that any conservative who has ever been confronted by liberal intellectual arrogance read this article, and read it well.


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Filed under Culture, Philosophy and Ethics, The Left

State of the Union

President Barack Obama basically stuck with a left wing program – not much in the way of a pivot to the center, as some had speculated might be the case.

  • He started the substance of the speech with the economy. Smart, and necessary. He defended against a) the notion that the administration hasn’t been focused on the economy and b) the notion that earlier effort on the economy was ill advised. On both counts he invoked the much maligned stimulus package, saying he and Congress “hated it,” but that it was necessary, if not popular.
  • He railed against big banks and Wall Street, and said they’ll be forced to pony up dough to Uncle Sam to help community banks make loans to small businesses. Oddly enough, he also channeled main street confusion (or contempt, more likely) with wall street firms getting rewarded for bad behavior – I think he thought everyone would assume he was talking about big bonuses for corporate executives, but in fact he might has well have been referencing the bailout (which would put him on the side of rewarding bad behavior, undercutting his attempted populist rhetoric).
  • He said all combat troops would be out of Iraq by August of this year. This surprised me, making a major and specific promise like this, given his failure to meet his Gitmo pledge.
  • He pushed for repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell. How serious he is about it I don’t know – it may have been just to throw a bone to a Democratic Party constituency that has been making noises about being under-appreciated by a White House they thought would be an aggressive ally. I disagree with the president on this issue, but moreover, it would simply seem like a tough one to accomplish politically, at least any time soon.
  • He called for Congress to keep working on health care.
  • He called for Congress to do something on cap and trade.
  • And had all the usual stuff about the determined optimism of America, etc.
  • There was an extremely awkward moment where he seemed to introduce Michelle Obama almost as an after thought – and she seemed to offer an icy reception in reply. It’s hard to be sure simply watching on tv, but this didn’t look good. He said something like “oh and by the way, our First Lady Michelle Obama is working on such and such a thing….” Very, very odd. Poor form. He played it down by saying she was embarrassed, but the whole moment was just painfully awkward. I wonder if that’s what contributed to a rather mediocre delivery of the rest of the speech. His timing, normally impeccable, seemed a bit off in a few key moments of the night.

All in all, this speech is not going to help Obama that much. To the degree that he projected humility and expressed a desire for a more civil tone, sure, maybe he slows the bleeding a bit as far as his deteriorating public image – but this administration’s agenda is still going nowhere fast.

If he hasn’t already started learning this lesson from his international diplomacy efforts, Obama may learn after tonight that using words alone to hit the “reset” button on serious political issues doesn’t make debates dissolve and problems magically disappear.

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Filed under General & Miscellaneous

Musician in the Spotlight: Caleb Johnson

My brother Caleb Johnson is a violist, studying at the respected Peabody Institute of John’s Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. He just launched a website showcasing his professional musical pursuits and background.

If you are looking to enjoy live classical music in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, consider an ensemble group like Vivre Musicale, Charm City String Quartet, or Peabody Camerata. In the former two cases, you could probably even secure the services of the same.

The site looks great, Caleb! I look forward to hearing you play when I’m in town for CPAC next month.

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Filed under Entertainment, Music

Rap Battle extraordinary

But not the kind you’re used to – if you’re used to any kind at all, that is.

Here’s “Fear the Boom and the Bust,” a rap battle featuring dueling impersonations of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August von Hayek (Personal note: Read F.A. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom, it’s heavy but it’ll blow you away). 

Everybody appearing in the video is a professional political scientist or economist. The limo driver, whom we see briefly, actually serves as a department chair at Duke University. (or something along those lines – he sat on one of my professor’s dissertation committees back in the day).

All in all, pretty good. I think they gave a fairly decent presentation of both viewpoints.

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Filed under Economy, Entertainment

Read to enrich life

This weekend I’ve taken on a number of reading tasks. Actually, that word, tasks, does not do the activity justice. Reading has enriched my life this weekend, and for some reason I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the incredible significance and joy that comes from this simple act.

Yesterday and today, I’ve acquired new insight into the worlds of health care policy, educational psychology, auditory neurophysiology, American federalism, the changing face of modern journalism and the compositional form and historical legacy of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. And I’ve still got nearly 27 hours left in the weekend…

Anyway….you know those bumper stickers, Kill Your Television? Well, I can see the wisdom and beauty in that notion. Not that I agree, of course, but there’s a certain truth there. Even the most valuable or entertaining programming – or at least, what I consider to be such  – has diminishing returns for any one viewing individual.

That said, after a day of reading I’m pretty stoked to slide in a DVD of one of my current favorite shows and relax for the night:) Then back to the books tomorrow.

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Filed under Personal Living

Obama foreign policy review

This week, Charles Krauthammer delivered a lecture reviewing President Barack Obama‘s first year in office. His remarks focused on the administration’s foreign policy strategy (in its generalities and particulars) and its results.

If you watch any political programming on tv, this is something you should watch. As always, the speaker’s thoughts are substantial and devastatingly poignant. So carve out half an hour of your weekend, and check it out.

The event is the Heritage Foundation’s annual Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture. Krauthammer’s speech: The Age of Obama, Anno Domini 2.

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Filed under General & Miscellaneous

The importance of Glenn Beck

I’ve never really been a regular viewer of Glenn Beck‘s weekday afternoon show on the Fox News Channel – although I have listened to his morning radio program semi-regularly for several years. Beck’s personal on-air presentation style limits his potential resonance with certain audience segments (he lacks the subtlty, cool detachment, and self-conscious displays of cleverness that comprise the dominant aesthetic of more youth-oriented programming like Colbert or Stewart). Nonetheless, Beck has skyrocketed to the top of the ratings game in recent months, drawing plenty of attention – and mocking criticism – in the process.

I haven’t watched the tv show much because I only have a finite amount of time to watch cable news opinion programming, and Beck’s format doesn’t always appeal to me. Admittedly, he’s a bit conspiratorial at times. But at the moment, I’m watching Beck and have been blown away by the program. It’s shows like today that make Beck one of the single most important popular political commentators in the country today. The talk show host has been studying the intellectual origins, history and relationships of political movements of the left – from early in the last century until today (and yes, common linkages do run through these movements over this time period).

His work in this regard should be regarded as a major public service, particularly as it accompanies his exploration of the ideological orientation and motivations of current presidential administration members and allies.

Today, Beck took a look back at genocidal atrocities in the early and mid twentieth century. Radical leftist ideologies motivated these crimes, no matter if the Nazi movement has been (incorrectly) re-branded as right-wing by some. In the Ukraine, Stalin starved millions, forced peasants into farm collectives, and exported the region’s desperately-needed grain to fund the central planning fetishes of the Soviet machine.

Anyway……that’s it for now. Back to beck.


Filed under The Left