Back in 1989 the film critic and social commentator Michael Medved conducted a wide ranging interview of actor Leonard Nimoy; the interview focused primarily on arts and culture. Although he is most famous for playing the Vulcan Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Nimoy was also a published poet, a professional photographer, a successful stage, film and TV actor and film director. He lived long and prospered, slipping the surly bonds of earth in 2015.
The video below, recorded at Hillsdale College, is of the 1989 interview and subsequent Q &A in which he mused about life, the arts and culture. It is a long video (1:47) and worth every minute.
We are once again faced with the question of whether it is worth voting in the Presidential race and if so, for whom. Before considering any particular candidate, let’s have a look at the question of why vote at all.
Unfortunately, it seems that an awful lot of Americans have been stricken with the superstition that their vote matters in determining the outcome. This belief has taken hold largely for two reasons: (1) the innumeracy of the public which is in large part due to the sheer incompetence of mathematics education in the public schools; and (2) the interest of the two major political parties in propagating the myth.
So if your vote doesn’t matter, why bother to vote at all? The reason is straightforward. Your vote does matter—it just doesn’t matter in any meaningful sense in determining the outcome. Your vote represents your policy preferences. And that matters a lot—or at least, it should.
So let’s take a look at the choices on offer, which can be roughly categorized as (1) re-elect President Trump; (2) replace him with former Vice-President Biden, or (3) somebody else.
A question for Trump fans. Does anybody seriously think that Donald J Trump is suitable as president? It is beyond obvious that he is profoundly ignorant, mendacious and irredeemably narcissistic. He has coarsened an already coarse culture. He has no idea how government is supposed to work; nor does he care. Most of the good things that he has done (and there are some) represent standard Republican orthodoxy. Any Republican president would have done the same.
The policy initiatives that are uniquely Trump’s (like the trade war) represent zero-sum thinking. That approach to the world is the anti-thesis of liberalism, properly understood, and is based on the misconceptions that the Democratic Party has been enthusiastically marketing to the ignoratti for decades. After all, the I-win-you-lose mentality of zero-sum thinking is what is behind the nonsensical wailing about trade deficits. It is the thinly disguised foundation of the neo-Marxist grievance industries, cancel culture and odes to intersectionality.
One area does stand out where Mr. Trump has actually achieved some good. That is the Middle East. He appears to have succeeded in peacemaking where countless others have failed. Whether this success is due to his rather unique brand of diplomacy or a change in the correlation of forces, only time will tell. But it happened on his watch.
We have already had 4 years of Mr. Trump in the White House. We have more than enough evidence to see whether he has shed the ways of a recalcitrant adolescent and has miraculously developed into a mature adult. Unfortunately, he hasn’t; he remains like a petulant child unsuited for the responsibilities of the office.
And now for another question; this one for Biden partisans. Does anybody seriously think that Joe Biden would be a suitable president? He is a human gaffe machine; a bumbling old fool on his third presidential run. He is a man driven by a relentless ambition to become president but without an identifiable, much less compelling, raison d’être.
Who, this side of sanity, really believes that the Hunter Biden e-mails printed by the New work Post lack authenticity? The Biden campaign hasn’t denied their authenticity. Nor has it denied the various pay-to-play schemes detailed in them. Moreover multiple sources, including one of Hunter Biden’s partners, have vouched for them. The schemes may or may not have been illegal. But they provide evidence of corruption, rumors of which have long plagued the Biden clan. Moreover, for the umpteenth time they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joe Biden is a world class liar.
The issue of Hunter Biden’s e-mails goes way beyond Joe Biden’s corruption and his suitability, or lack thereof, for the presidency. It goes to the state of America’s institutions and their politicization. The mainstream press, for instance, has studiously avoided reporting the story. NPR’s managing editor of news, Terence Samuel, went so far as to say:
“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” Samuel said of its refusal to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story. “And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event, and we decided to treat it that way.”
Add to that the fact that Facebook, Twitter and Google have blocked access to the story in whole or in part, and it is clear that they, in conjunction with mainstream news organizations, are running interference for the Biden campaign. That is a level of institutional degradation that is likely to be far more damaging in the long run to the republic than the corruption of the Biden clan.
So what is the intelligent citizen to do? The answer should be obvious. Vote for somebody else. That’s where Ben Sasse, and a little political philosophy, come in.
First and foremost we need to recognize that politics has become way too important in American life. Partisans will immediately point to the other side and shout “It’s their fault”, which simply proves the point. Passions have overwhelmed reason. Each side, brimming with self-righteousness, is convinced of its own moral and intellectual superiority.
Maybe we should understand what being president entails, or at least is supposed to entail. The president is the country’s chief administrative officer. His principal duties, given by Article II of the Constitution are (1) to see that the laws are faithfully executed and (2) serve as Commander in Chief and oversee foreign policy.
He is not your friend, your confessor, your advisor; nor does he feel your pain. He does not “create jobs” high paying or otherwise. His is not going to solve your problems. He does not “run the country”. The country can run itself just fine, thank you very much.
The president does, however, represent the American people as a whole, both within the country and to the larger world. In that capacity he acts, or should act, as a (and not the only) leader of American civic culture dedicated to the proposition that certain Truths are self-evident. Namely, that All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that governments are created to secure those rights.
Securing these unalienable rights is the most important of presidential missions. Moreover, it is a mission that mostly depends on our civic culture. And so the president should seek to bolster and strengthen that civic culture, based on the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
This is a mission for which Senator Ben Sasse (R. NE) is particularly well-suited. With his BA in government from Harvard and PhD in history from Yale; his experience as Senator, and as an official in HHS; and with his tenure as President of Midland University, Senator Sasse has both the experience, temperament and intellect needed to do the job, and do it well. That’s why I have cast my early vote for him as a write-in.
But don’t take my word for it. Watch Senator Sasse on the video below concerning politics, civics and culture. Then ask yourself if he would be a better president than the major party candidates. I think the answer is self-evident.
Ludwig von Mises, a founder of the Austrian School of Economics served as a professor of economics at New York University from 1945 through 1969. He was a towering intellect who was influenced by and associated with some of the great historical figures in academic economics. For instance, his dissertation adviser was Eugene Bohm Bawerk, and he was a student of Carl Menger. Von Mises students’ included Oskar Morgenstern (NYU and Princeton) who along with mathematician John non Neuman, founded game theory. Another was Fritz Machlup (NYU and Princeton) who was one of the first economists to recognize and study knowledge as an economic resource, an idea that is taken for granted by economists today.
Way back in the 1920s von Mises was warning about the dangers of what he termed “Socialist Destruction”. Socialists, he argued, did not engage in reasoned debate over the merits of a proposition; instead they simply denounced their opponents while seeking their destruction. And not just their opponents, whom they considered (and consider) to be enemies. They sought to destroy the institutions of civil society that protect the freedom and dignity of individuals, including religion, the rule of law, due process, free speech, freedom of assembly, limited government and the nuclear family.
Mises was prescient. What he predicted is precisely what is going on today. Same wine, new bottle. It is at the heart of cancel culture and intersectionality that has gained so much power over intellectual and artistic life. First go the statues and symbols, then go the people.
The video below is that of Professor Thomas J. DiLorenzo discussing Mises theory of Socialist Destruction in light of what is going on today. It is a story that can be told over and over, but some people never seem to learn. Until it’s too late.
To win, he has to pull an inside straight. With time running out, it’s not likely. But it is possible.
The Biden campaign strategy has always been to focus the race on Trump’s personality and avoid policy. In this he has been mightily helped by Trump and his compulsive need to be the center of attention. But Trump has not helped himself here at all because his personality is so abrasive and off putting, to say the least.
Further, the most important medium that presidents and candidates use to communicate with voters is television. When a political figure is on TV, it is like he has been invited into your living room. And Trump represents the grouchy, cantankerous guest who simply won’t leave. That behavior appalls coastal America. But when the medium is changed there is a different reaction. In live appearances, his obnoxious behavior thrills the crowds that gather by the tens of thousands to see him.
In contrast, Biden’s entire campaign message has consisted of declaring that he is not Donald Trump. The reason is not simply that Trump’s personality is so distasteful to so many, although it is an important factor. It is also because the hard left of his party is ascendant, and their policy agenda is unlikely to be popular with rank and file voters. So Biden’s strategy is to concentrate on personality, avoid policy, and run the clock out. That strategy allows the rank and file to believe that Biden is a moderate, while the left wing gets to own policy making after the election, particularly if the Democrats sweep the House and Senate.
The election has always been tighter than the national polls suggest. Biden has maintained a consistent lead against Trump for going on a year. But so did Hillary Clinton. The main difference is that there exists a reservoir of fondness for Biden in a good part of the electorate while there was none for Hillary Clinton. Moreover, Trump has the Coronavirus hanging over him, which he didn’t have before. So the question is: How is it possible for Trump to come from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at this late stage?
It is possible because (1) there is lingering suspicion of Biden stemming from the 1994 crime bill, particularly among African-American males; (2) Biden made a significant unforced error on energy policy in the second debate, and (3) while there is hatred for Trump on the left, there is no enthusiasm for Biden.
So how does this square with the polling that shows Biden with a national lead of around 8 to 9 points? It doesn’t. If Biden carries the popular vote with a margin of 8 or 9 percentage points it is virtually impossible for Trump to win. Actually it would be more indicative of a blue tidal wave in which Biden picks up 340 – 360 votes in the electoral college, well over the 270 needed to win. Add to that the probability of Democratic control of the House and Senate.
On the other hand if Biden’s lead in the popular vote slips to 3 or 4 points, it is very possible that Trump could pull it out of the fire. That’s because the battleground state polls are much tighter than the national polls, with much wider margins of error. But for Trump to win the key battlegrounds and gain 270 electoral college votes, the polls have to wrong. What are the chances of that?
More than you’d think. That is because Biden has shown significant weakness, compared to the usual performance of a Democrat, among African-American voters, particularly males. In part it stems from Biden’s criminal justice record, which wound up exacting a heavy price on African-American males. A significant fall-off in the votes of African-American males could tip the margins in Michigan (14% African-American), Pennsylvania (11%), Minnesota (12%) and maybe Wisconsin (6%).
Add to that Biden’s falling into the Energy v. Climate trap during Thursday’s debate. Politicians are prone to claim that costs are really benefits—because they get away with it. But you can only go so far claiming that there will be all these brand new “Green Jobs”, especially when you are looking for votes in a jurisdiction that produces lots of fossil fuel based energy, especially by fracking. When Biden denied he ever said he would ban fracking and then tried to pivot to “transitioning” to clean energy, fossil fuel industry voters in Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma and maybe Minnesota took notice.
Pennsylvania is a critical state. Combine the impact of a lower than usual percentage of African-American Democratic votes in Philly and Pittsburg with motivated energy industry voters; and then factor in a net increase of Republican registrations on the order of of 125,000 voters and a Democratic decrease of 65,000 voters since 2016 and you have the formula for an upset. And it is wise to remember James Carville’s description of the state: In-between Pittsburg and Philadelphia lies Alabama.
Then there is the factor of enthusiasm and its cousin, momentum. While there is a lot of enthusiasm for getting rid of Trump, there is little enthusiasm for Biden. That could make it difficult for the Biden campaign to motivate new voters and get existing registrants to the polls in sufficient numbers. That said, fear of Covid could be a factor motivating Biden voters to show up.
Trump, on the other hand, still retains the loyalty and enthusiasm of his base. But he may be losing suburbanites, particularly suburban women who normally vote Republican. On that score Biden didn’t help himself any when he tried to explain away the corruption issue, news of which is only going to get worse in the next week. Nor did he do himself any favors among affluent and highly educated Republican suburbanites when he pretended that his tax plans would not affect them.
The final question has to do with what pollsters refer to as “shy Trump voters”. That phrase refers to people who are actually in favor of Trump but hide it or lie about it to pollsters because of the chilling effect of cancel culture. It is possible that Trump could actually perform significantly better in the battleground states than the polls currently suggest. If we see the national polls tighten to where Biden is ahead by 3 to 4 points, Trump could possibly eke out a victory at the last minute the way he did in 2016. But if Biden maintains a lead in the 8 to 9 point range, it is virtually impossible.
At the moment, I’d put the odds of a Trump victory at about 1 in 3.
Let’s wait and see if the polls tighten over the next week.
We are being treated to a new level of liberal hysteria, and that is truly impressive when you consider it has being boiling hot ever since the darkest day in American history, November 8, 2016. The proximate cause for the wail du jour has been set off by the NY Post, which had the effrontery to report on what it claims are e-mails that show that Biden Inc. used its influence for personal enrichment in the Burisma matter.
Sure enough Facebook and Twitter went into suppression mode and tried to limit the reach of the story. (Note to Republican Congressman: these companies are private actors and have every right to publish or not publish pretty much whatever they want. So butt out). More to the point, lefty journalists have been very quiet about the subject hoping it will go away. And they have been working overtime trying to silence other journalists who would deign to cover the story.
The usual routine, which is on full display here, is to refer to an inconvenient story as having been “debunked”. Which in no way means that the story has actually been shown to be false or inaccurate. That would require authentic reporting, as in asking who, what, when, where and why. We get precious little of that these days.
But the whole business does raise a rather obvious question, namely why the effort to suppress the story? Surely if the story is demonstrably false it would redound to Mr. Biden’s benefit as well as to any reporter who could produce hard evidence showing it to be false. That has not yet happened, despite the obvious incentives.
Perhaps that is because it is very likely that the story is true. That the Biden family’s financial good fortune is intertwined with Mr. Biden’s political career has been amply documented in the past. It is worth reading, for instance the Atlantic Magazine on the matter. Or this article in Politico. Biden rates an entire chapter in Peter Schweitzer’s “Profiles in Corruption”.
That Biden has used his political positions to enrich his family is not really seriously in question. What he has done may have been legal, in which case we are just talking about legal corruption. What is instructive is the frantic effort to bury the story.
Anything or anyone that threatens the power grab underway by the new authoritarians of the left will be met by whatever means necessary. And if that requires running over pesky constitutional rights, corrupting the courts, changing electoral processes on the fly, and using government power to suppress the opposition, so be it.
There are no enemies to the left, and all that matters is acquiring political power.
Anyone who doubts the Democrats’ all consuming lust for power had only to watch the performance of the allegedly moderate Senator Amy Klobuchar (D.MN) on the Senate Judiciary panel in the hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Here is what she said responding to Judge Barrett.
[“ …I appreciate it, judge, that you said that you didn’t want to be a queen. I actually wouldn’t mind being a queen around here, truth be known. I wouldn’t mind doing yet. Kind of a benevolent queen in making decisions so we could get things done…”].
Vice President Joe Biden, currently masquerading as a moderate, has been a gas bag for pretty much his entire career. But recently he has shown a remarkable reticence. He has refused to discuss where he stands on the Democrats’ threat to pack the Supreme Court, if they take control of the Senate after the November elections.
We hear a lot these days about how President Donald Trump violates norms. And for good reason: He does. That said, it is Mr. Biden who has taken a sledge hammer to political norms in a way that makes Trump look like a piker.
In response to a question about the voters desire to know his position in the matter of Court packing, Mr. Biden said to reporters “They’ll know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over”. He then went on to say “Now, look, I know it’s a great question, and y’all — and I don’t blame you for asking it. But you know the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that.”
Not content to leave it at that, days later Biden went on to say that the voters don’t deserve to know his position, complained that questioners were “probably Republicans” and in any event Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Court was “non-constitutional”. The assertion that the President doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to nominate someone for an empty seat on the Court is simply astonishing, even by Biden standards.
So now we have a situation in which the allegedly “moderate” Democratic Presidential nominee (1) refuses to respond to questions about Court packing, a threat made by his own party, and a truly fundamental issue; (2) complains that if he were to answer the question reporters would write about it, and (3) claims to believe that the President’s nomination for an empty Court seat is “non-constitutional”.
In the meantime the left wing of the Democratic Party is chomping at the bit to pack the Court, end the legislative filibuster, add Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states and end the electoral college. All of this is for the purpose of transforming America into a one party state run by leftist ideologues.
Some discerning voters are curious to know what Mr. Biden thinks about all this. And up until now, Mr. Biden has made it clear that he has no intention of telling them.
Let us remember that a couple of short weeks ago, Mr Biden, in a burst of Trumpian grandiosity, proclaimed himself to be the Democratic Party. So why won’t the alleged moderate who is supposedly the personification of the Democratic Party unequivocally state his position on a matter that goes to the very foundation of the American republic? Perhaps it is because he is an institutional wrecking ball. Or maybe, just a coward.
Before being elected to the US Senate in 2008, Mark Warner (D. VA) served as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. In 2014 ran for a second term against Republican Ed Gillespie, winning by just under 1% of the vote. During that race Senator Warner vowed not to run again.
Needless to say, Senator Warner is running for a third term.
This time Warner is running against Republican nominee Daniel MacArthur Gade. A retired lieutenant colonel, Gade lost his right leg in the Iraq war where he served as a tank company commander. He is a graduate of West Point and has both Master’s and PhD degrees in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Prior to securing the Republican nomination for the Senate, Gade worked as Professor of Practice at American University in the School of Public Affairs.
Gade is no slavish follower of Donald Trump. In his October 3 debate with Warner at Norfolk State University he openly criticized Trump’s response to a question on white supremacy. In the Senate debate he said “If you are a white supremacist and you are watching — I don’t want your vote. I don’t want your money, and shame on your attitudes and disrespect. Now, the president badly fumbled that question.”
He has also called on fellow Republicans to join him in support of social justice for African American citizens. Importantly he makes a distinction between thought and action. He argues that racism is an internal belief; that it is not a domestic security threat unless it is acted upon. Senator Warner on the other hand believes (or pretends to believe) that the US is systemically racist. In response to a question he said “So do I think systemic racism exists? I do,” adding pointedly, “Black lives matter.”
Gade is a self-described conservative. He is strongly pro-life; is adamant about protecting religious liberty, does not support taxpayer forgiveness of student loans and is opposed to taxpayer funded education through college. He does not believe it is up to government to provide an income; nor is it a governmental responsibility to make sure everyone has health insurance. He is a strong defender of property rights and the free market system.
All in all it is fair to describe Dr. Gade as the type of conventional conservative that dominated the Republican Party during the Reagan era.
On the other hand it is also fair to describe Senator Mark Warner as hewing closely to the party line. He is a typical abortion rights fanatic. He supports abortion on demand and is a co-sponsor of S.1645 which, if enacted, would invalidate nearly all state and federal restrictions on abortion. He also voted against confirming Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
In general Senator Warner is a conventional businessman turned politician. He isn’t a member of the wild eyed crowd populated by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But he is not about to lift a finger to protect liberty either. That is the crucial difference between challenger Gade and Senator Warner. Warner is a technocrat; Gade understands the importance of liberty. And that, in the end, is why Professor Gade is going to get my vote.
As the leftist hysteria continues to mount on Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, it may be a good idea to take a look a the libertarian perspective. Here below is a short video from Reason TV that provides such a look.