Now That Took Some Balls

My friend and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Jerry Doyle tells the story of running for Congress in Hollywood as a Republican. The short version: it more or less cost him his career in TV, movies, and voice-over work in a city that is so rabidly intolerant of non-leftists that agents will sacrifice their ethics, their friendships — or at least what might have seemed like friendship — and even their own financial well-being rather than work with a conservative. (And Jerry isn’t even that conservative; he’s much more of a libertarian.)

In Hollywood these days, along with other bastions of liberal elitism, being L, G, B, or T is not just acceptable. It’s downright cool. Transgender actress Laverne Cox, best known for her role in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black (often called a “star” of the show even though her part is no more important than that of a dozen other members of the cast), was invited to Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner as a guest of the gay-oriented Washington Blade newspaper.

The evening before, as if to emphasize the coolness of the tiny fraction of the American population that is transgender, Cox’s new MTV show — she’s the executive producer — Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word (“about seven brave transgender youth”) won the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Special. If that doesn’t sound like an award created just to show how diverse and tolerant the television industry is...

Ms. Cox is on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people. She’s gone nude for Allure magazine, and has spent time with President Obama.

In other words, the LGBT movement — much like the feminist movement before it — has already won. In Hollywood, it hasn’t just won, but it no longer even has a loyal opposition.

So when it comes to revealing oneself as gay or, as Bruce Jenner did in a marathon interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Friday night, as identifying with the opposite gender from that which people have long known you, it takes a modicum of courage but there’s very little real risk of harm to reputation or employability, at least in television and film.

Yes, Bruce Jenner said to millions of people on national television, “for all intents and purposes, I'm a woman.” But the real display of bravery came when Sawyer played a clip of President Obama using the word “transgender” in a State of the Union speech, trying to get Jenner to praise the president, to which Jenner responded, “Not to get political, I’ve just never been a big fan; I’m kind of more on the conservative side.”

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62523/now-took-some-balls

Does Hillary Inspire Anyone?

Who other than college students enamored of voting for the “first woman president” — because voting for the “first black president” has worked out so well — will be inspired by the candidacy of Hillary Clinton?

I don’t mean in contrast to any of the increasing number of interesting Republican candidates whom liberals object to with unbecoming condescension.

I mean in her own right.

Putting aside what many of us understood to be the true nature of Barack Obama and despite his vapid rhetoric about “hope and change,” the man was to many Americans an inspiration.

Ronald Reagan, because he understood and spoke honestly of the true nature of man and of Soviet communism, remains an inspiration and will do so long after history doles out to Barack Obama the verdict of failure he so richly deserves.

Other candidates have had individual traits that offered some inspiration, or at least a commendable example of how to live a life, even if the men in their entireties were not great candidates (if they lost) or not great presidents (if they won). These — and there can be honest disagreement about the praiseworthy aspects of each of them — could include essentially every Republican and Democratic presidential nominee since, but not including, Jimmy Carter.

(I realize this is very generous to both Al Gore and John Kerry, neither of whom I can think of a serious reason to compliment, but let’s play nice. After all, John Kerry managed to marry two women each with nine-figure fortunes while appealing to the anti-war Left and Algore invented the Internet, or at least had the cojones to suggest as much, while appealing to anti-humanity environmentalists who want us to use only one square of toilet paper per evacuation. It’s also worth noting that these two men — the most difficult since Carter to laud based on their characters or ability to inspire normal people — both lost, for which I thank them.)

But whom does Hillary inspire? And if you have an answer please explain how she does so.

Please read the rest of my article for The American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62488/who-does-she-inspire

Hillary's Fatal Conceit

Even if you were naïve enough to believe that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was actually listening to anything through her mercifully brief “listening tour” to Iowa — during which she met with a handful of hand-selected and bused-in Democratic activists — the whole adventure demonstrates what Nobel prize-winning economist F. A. Hayek called “the Fatal Conceit.”

While in the Hawkeye State, Mrs. Clinton’s fabrications — no doubt so frequent due to an overdose of Liagra — included the lie that “all my grandparents, you know, came over here (as immigrants).” Even the liberals at PolitiFact point out that only one of her four grandparents was not born in the United States.

Still, let’s engage in a willing suspension of disbelief and take Mrs. Clinton at her word when she explained, “before I roll out my policies, I want to hear from you on the front lines.” She added that she wants to “build on what works” in Obamacare and, as the liberal British Guardian newspaper put it, she “leans left out of Iowa with a bold progressive checklist.”

I understand: You’re trying not to laugh when I suggest going along with Hillary’s claim that she really wants to hear from the people before putting out a platform, rather than that she’s basically doing her own polling to find out what she can get away with politically and avoiding giving the media and her Republican competitors fodder for hard questions. But again, let’s say she means it. Is that actually a sign of something good?

Hillary, in addition to being a prototypical Wellesley radical coed smitten with Saul Alinsky, has an unfading Progressive streak running through her every condescending and elitist thought. Namely, she believes that she and other smart people and “experts” are so much wiser than you or I — it’s a wonder we can even make it through our pathetic work days — that we ought to gratefully accept a technocratic bureaucracy of ivory tower-cloistered PhDs whose beneficence should be given control over every important aspect of our lives.

The problem, as Hayek point out, is that no expert or group of experts could ever hope to “generate and garner greater knowledge” than can all of us troglodyte participants and believers in “spontaneously generated moral traditions underlying the competitive market order” as we manage our own businesses, know our own customers, suppliers, employees, local market peculiarities, etc.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62441/hillary%E2%80%99s-fatal-conceit

Yes, allow Colorado grocery stores to sell full-strength beer and wine

Whenever business owners try to justify regulations that benefit themselves but harm consumers, it always starts the same way: "I'm for free markets, but ... ."

The brewing debate over whether to allow supermarkets to sell full-strength beer, wine and perhaps spirits is already highlighting this dismaying entrepreneurial hypocrisy.

Battle lines are being drawn between two new organizations: Colorado Consumers for Choice is an association of retailers, primarily supermarkets, that may support a 2016 ballot measure to loosen Colorado's restrictive laws preventing any person or company from owning more than one location that sells alcohol. (These 70-year-old laws are why, for example, only one of the Trader Joe's locations in Colorado — on Colorado Boulevard in Denver — sells wine and beer.)

Keep Colorado Local is a coalition of small breweries and liquor stores that claim — the latter with a better case than the former — that such a change would hurt their businesses and the state.

Although the issue is highly charged — attempts to modify the current restrictions have repeatedly failed in the Colorado legislature — it is fundamentally a simple question: Should consumer choice be sacrificed to benefit particular interest groups?

Please read the entirety of my op-ed for the Denver Post here:
http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_27888516/yes-allow-colorado-grocery-stores-sell-full-strength

Rand Paul Jumps In

Although it is not named for the hero of Ayn Rand’s influential novel Atlas Shrugged, Louisville’s Galt House Hotel was an appropriate place for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to make official his candidacy to be the next president of the United States.

On Tuesday, in front of a crowd cheering “President Paul! President Paul!” the ophthalmologist turned politician made a strong case for a libertarian brand of Republicanism in a dynamic, well-delivered speech.

“We’ve come to take our country back!” began the senator, attacking special interests and “the Washington machine that invades every nook and cranny of our lives.” Paul reminded the throng that nobody thought he could win his 2010 U.S. Senate primary (against clear frontrunner Secretary of State Trey Grayson who had the support of Sen. Mitch McConnell), a useful point in a crowded Republican field, and then drew a contrast with members of Congress who “become part of the Washington machine… [but] that’s not who I am.” (That’s not who Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or Scott Walker are either, but let’s not quibble.)

Humanizing a candidate being a key part of any campaign, Rand Paul described the joy he receives from restoring the vision of poor people in Guatemala (which he’s done repeatedly over the past fifteen years), including of a man and wife who literally hadn’t seen each other in seven years. He told a story that his fans have heard before about how he “became the eyes” for his grandmother so they could continue collecting coins together, which inspired his choice of medical specialty. His is a metaphor of selflessly getting important things done rather than just talking about it.

Running as an anti-establishment outsider, Rand Paul has a needle to thread in trying to win the Republican nomination. He got cheers for accurately stating that “both parties and the entire political system are to blame” for Americans’ fear of a declining future for our children and grandchildren.

He continued the bipartisan attack: “Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration, and it’s now tripling under Barack Obama’s watch. President Obama is now on course to add more debt than all previous presidents combined.… This vast accumulation of debt threatens not just our economy but our security.”

Some pundits wonder whether an occasionally anti-Republican Republican will be forced into a more conventional primary campaign. Sen. Paul dispatched that theory in short order: “In order to restore America, one thing is for certain, though: we cannot, we must not dilute our message or give up on our principles.”

Though it remains to be seen whether he will live by these words, this approach promises to make an already interesting Republican field that much more so with multiple candidates offering more than lip service to the importance of adhering to the Constitution and to freedom as an end in itself and — something few Republicans other than Paul Ryan seem able to explain — as the best way to help the poor.

Please read the rest of my article for The American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62338/rand-paul-jumps

Chuck Todd's So-Called Freedom

On July 2, 1964, the United States enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in “places of public accommodation” on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” It also barred practices aimed at keeping blacks from voting and required the desegregation of public facilities and public education.

Conservative radio talk-show host Paul Harvey, already well known for his The Rest of the Story segments on ABC radio, offered his own commentary on the law, at one point noting that “this so-called civil-rights legislation has divided the Democratic party.”

In his commentary the following Monday, Walter Cronkite, who less than a year earlier, in his first broadcast as anchor of the newly named “CBS Evening News,” reported on Alabama governor George Wallace’s effort to block black students from registering at the University of Alabama, reacted angrily to Harvey:

That such a highly regarded figure as Mr. Harvey should denigrate the most important progress in America since the Civil War toward freedom and equality by referring to it as “so-called civil rights legislation” demonstrates an intolerable cynicism about what every schoolboy and schoolgirl knows is at the heart of this nation’s mission and purpose.

Neither Harvey’s statement nor Cronkite’s response happened; I invented them. But if the exchange had been true, most Americans, Democrats as well as Republicans, would have joined Cronkite in objecting to the word “so-called” to describe a law guaranteeing the protection of constitutional rights. (Harvey, who died in 2009 at age 90, was in fact a published scholar of Southern history, including that of the civil-rights era.)

Yet such is the weak historical memory and strong cognitive dissonance of oh-so-tolerant American liberals that Chuck Todd, the current host of NBC’s Meet the Press, promoted last Sunday’s show by announcing that there would be discussion of “the fight over those so-called religious liberty laws that are splitting the Republican party.”

Please read the entirety of my article for National Review here:
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416610/religious-freedom-not-so-called-ross-kaminsky

Can’t I Support Gays and Religious Freedom?

I’m a not particularly religious Jewish libertarian, which means — if you wouldn’t have guessed — that I don’t have a moral objection to, nor a public policy framework for, homosexuality.

But the reaction by many others who aren’t social issues conservatives to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act — modeled on a federal law sponsored by liberal Democrat Chuck Schumer (NY), passed 97-3 in the Senate in 1993, and then signed by President Bill Clinton (while Democrats still had majorities in both houses of Congress) — borders on the insane.

The NCAA wondered how the new law would negatively impact the upcoming Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis. The obvious answer: it won’t.

Openly gay actor George Takei (of Lieutenant Sulu fame from the original Star Trek series) is “demanding that socially responsible companies withdraw their business, conferences and support” from Indiana.

Liberal bloggers, in a typical mindless reaction, are calling for boycotts of products made in Indiana.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff blocked any corporate travel to Indiana by his employees and, on Twitter, encouraged other CEOs to do the same. One wonders if he’ll also block travel to Connecticut or Illinois or the seventeen other states that have laws roughly identical to Indiana’s. (States passed their own RFRAs following a Supreme Court decision that said the federal law applies only to the federal government. A further eleven states have seen court decisions that theoretically implement RFRA-like protections.)

Benioff was one of the first and loudest voices to imply that Indiana’s law somehow means that his customers or employees there will undoubtedly “face discrimination.” It troubles me greatly to see a fellow Jew offer little more than libel and character assassination of devout Christians. More importantly, there is no basis for Benioff’s fear.

Please read the reest of my article for The American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62243/can%E2%80%99t-i-support-gays-and-religious-freedom

Starbucks and USA Today Can #RaceTogether By Themselves

Rarely has there been such condemnation of a still-gestating corporate policy as the past week’s kerfuffle over Starbucks’ “Race Together” initiative. Rather than instigate a “national conversation about race” — as if race-weary Americans need more of that right now — news of the plan united critics and comics on the right and the left in going after Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz’s plan to have baristas write “#RaceTogether” on patron’s cups of hot liquid in order to goad us into talking about an important issue.

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg and liberal PBS television anchor Gwen Ifill don’t agree on much, but they agreed on this.

Goldberg: “If I don’t have my coffee in the morning, I get a headache that feels like a Hell’s Angel is trying to press his meaty thumb through my forehead. This is not the most propitious moment to engage me in a conversation about my ‘race journey.’”

Ifill: “honest to God, if you start to engage me in a race conversation before I've had my morning coffee, it will not end well.”

And, for the record, me: Not least because “barista” is Italian for “I have a degree in transgender Eskimo comparative literature from Vassar,” even if I were obsessed with the issue of race and even if I thought a conversation about it could make a difference, why would I choose Starbucks at 7:17 AM as the time and place for that conversation?

Actually, I feel bad for the Starbucks employees who — although Schultz says participation is voluntary — are being pushed into uncomfortable situations outside of what they have always assumed to be their job description. As one writer put it, “Being a barista is hard enough. Having to talk #RaceTogether with a woman in Lululemon pants while pouring pumpkin spice is just cruel.”

Can you imagine all the discomfiting permutations? A black barista and a white customer? The other way around? What about a black barista and a black customer, or white and white, or black and Asian, etc.? As another liberal feminist predicted, sharing Gwen Ifill’s exact instincts, “This just can’t end well.”

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62145/starbucks-and-usa-today-can-racetogether-themselves

Obama's Mandatory Voters

On Wednesday afternoon, speaking at the City Club of Cleveland, President Barack Obama suggested mandatory voting in the United States as an alternative to campaign finance reform — also known as restricting the free political speech of Americans.

It’s not surprising that Obama would support such a policy: He recognizes that he and his party have done poorly during midterm elections when turnout, particularly among minority and young voters, drops off substantially from presidential elections.

He is also a bully at heart, unhesitatingly compelling Americans to bend to his will, whether in buying only those health insurance plans which he deems adequate, accepting federal regulation of the Internet, or paying more for electricity because he hates, hates, hates coal and oil.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest backed away slightly from the idea on Thursday, saying that “The president was not making a specific policy prescription for the United States.” But, as is part of the job requirement for an Obama administration spokesman, Earnest was making a distinction without a difference or, more precisely, lying.

While many factors determine how somebody will vote, there is a strong correlation between income and political leanings: The salary analysts at PayScale put out a simple chart following the 2012 election showing that those earning less than $75,000 per year favored Barack Obama while those above that level went for Romney.

Another simple chart shows a large positive correlation between income and likelihood of voting.

In other words, those Americans least likely to vote are the most likely to support Democrats. It’s no wonder that President Obama would love to coerce universal voting even though it’s the philosophical equivalent of complaining about lazy poor people.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62122/obama%E2%80%99s-mandatory-voters

Return To Sender

The recent “Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” that was signed by 47 Republican senators led by Arkansas freshman Sen. Tom Cotton reminds us why the GOP can’t seem to get away from its reputation as having an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of political victory.

The letter explains to the Islamofascist apocalyptic ayatollahs how “our constitutional system” regarding the ratification of international treaties works, essentially saying “We senators will be here long after President Obama is gone and therefore you should not expect any deal you make now to be respected by the United States for longer than the 22 months remaining in Obama’s term.”

To make sure the message was received, Senator Cotton sent a Farsi translation to Iran’s “supreme leader,” president, and foreign affairs minister, who is negotiating details of an agreement with Secretary of State John Kerry.

(Strangely, in a Senate hearing on Wednesday, John Kerry said that “we are not negotiating a, quote, legally binding plan,” to which Senator Cotton responded via Twitter, “So then what exactly are you doing?” and “Important question: if deal with Iran isn’t legally binding, then what’s to keep Iran from breaking said deal and developing a bomb?”)

From domestic politics to international affairs to the constitutional functioning of our government, the number of negative political consequences from one short letter makes it all the more noteworthy that only seven Republican senators were wise enough not to sign it: Lamar Alexander (TN), Dan Coats (IN), Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). (More on this motley crew later.)

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:
http://spectator.org/articles/62030/return-sender

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