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:

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:

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:

Déjà Vu All Over Again

We all know — and are still suffering for — the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was defeated by an incumbent who had (and continues to have) abysmal approval ratings while presiding over an economy that is leaving millions of Americans living a nightmare rather than the American Dream.

Prior to the 2012 election, polls, reporters and pundits across the political spectrum pointed out how Barack Obama was vulnerable. That conversation, as true as it was, neglected the weaknesses of Mr. Romney, which were further magnified to the point of caricature by the Obama machine and its useful pawns in the “mainstream” media.

When it comes to 2016, it is becoming increasingly likely that we’ll see a mirror image of this play out to the benefit of the GOP.

Let’s go over some of the main weaknesses of candidate Romney as over-analyzed in the pre- and post-mortems of the 2012 election:

  • Romney is so rich that voters didn’t believe he really understood them and their problems.
  • Romney was “not a strong campaigner with little ability to build connections with people.”
  • Romney moved so far to the right during the primaries that he made it difficult for swing voters to buy him as a moderate, even though he had governed Massachusetts as a moderate.
  • Romney’s gaffes (or at least political unforced errors) reinforced the idea that he did not understand the ordinary American (“47 percent,” “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs,” “Severely conservative”) and was outside of the mainstream of American thought (including the majority of Republicans) by proposing “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants.
  • Romney was the worst possible Republican to argue against Obamacare because of his implementation of Romneycare in Massachusetts.
  • Romney’s ties to Bain Capital were twisted to show his finances as somewhere between inscrutable and corrupt, including claims of avoiding taxes.

A version of each of these (with the possible exception of the third, depending on which other Democrats enter that party’s primary fray) is likely to have an analogue for Hillary Clinton, leading to 2016 playing out as a repeat of 2012 with, as strange as it might seem, the Democrat being portrayed as the out-of-touch barely-likable fat cat.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:

My first article for National Review: The Left’s Outrage over Giuliani Rings False

I'm pleased to announce my first ever article for National Review's website. I hope to contribute to them on a regular basis going forward.

Does anybody really buy the Left’s faux outrage over former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s opinion, offered at a private event for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker last Wednesday, that President Obama does not love America? After all, it’s a matter of orthodoxy on the right that Barack Obama’s opinion of America ranges from mild disapproval to outright hatred. In my own estimation, it is somewhere between.
A thought experiment for you: How do you think a spouse, a friend, or a colleague would react if you suggested — in your nicest voice — “I think you’re wonderful, but I want to fundamentally transform you”? After all, nothing says “I love you” like telling someone you want to change everything about her. A proper reaction would sound something like, “Go transform yourself, buddy.”
Yet in 2008, just before his first election, then-candidate Obama said, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” To be sure, he went on to specify a few items of economic policy that fell into his transformative plans. But it is simply not credible to believe that he was speaking only of “expanding the middle class,” as he suggested in a 2014 interview with Bill O’Reilly.
Instead, the transformation that Obama envisions encompasses everything from government control of health care to massively diminishing the power of the United States in international affairs so that “no world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed.”
None of this is surprising from a man who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” After all, nobody is exceptional if everybody is, and if the U.S. isn’t exceptional, that’s just one less reason to love it.

Please read the entirety of my article for National Review here:

Leadership Program of the Rockies 2015 Annual Retreat

The Leadership Program of the Rockies Annual Retreat, which this year is on February 20 and 21 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, is always one of the highlights of my year. Full of lovers of liberty, and packed full of some of the most interesting speakers you’ll ever hear (if you’re interested in politics, and especially if you have a conservative/libertarian pro-free market viewpoint), the 2014 event promises to be another great one. And the hotel is so fantastic, that even non-political spouses love the event.

The registration deadline is February 13th.

I highly recommend the "deluxe" attendance packages (either for an individual or for a couple) which include the VIP reception on Friday night. It's a great chance to mingle and converse with some great (and like-minded) people, including members of Congress and state and local political leaders...and to meet and have your picture taken with the keynote speaker. And the Standard Package, though not with the VIP reception, is a GREAT deal.

The keynote speaker for the Friday night dinner will be Wall Street Journal columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan.

Other great speakers include Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Fox Business personality Charles Payne, Mary Katharine Ham, and for the Saturday lunch, National Review editor Rich Lowry. You can see the whole lineup of speakers on the Retreat's web page (any of the links in this note.)

Click here to learn more and register online. The sooner you book, the better your chances of getting one of the block of discounted rooms.

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’re in your own little corner of paradise now.”

The words could have been straight from the “just what I’d expect him to say” files — Jeremy is a marketing manager for the resort — yet they were strangely comforting, and proved happily accurate for our family, much in need of a respite, even if brief, from the intense stress and deep sadness of my wife’s father’s death less than a week earlier.

Our trip had been planned eight months prior and was intended to end in Australia with a celebration of Bob Baillie’s 70th birthday (please do click on that link); instead it ended with his memorial service after a brief but brutal battle with merciless pancreatic cancer. But his wife, my mother-in-law, was insistent that we go on our trip as planned because Bob (whom she more frequently calls Rob) had been so enthusiastic about it for us and particularly for our children. Indeed, he had paid for much of it; Bob was always a remarkably generous person.

We had arrived at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort on the northeastern coast of Borneo after spending a couple of blurry jet-lagged days in Kuala Lumpur, the major highlight of which was taking our kids to the Sunway Lagoon, which includes the world largest waterpark ride. We were joined that day by my wife’s friend Kristina, whom she has known since second grade and who lives in KL with her husband, the headmaster (English for “principal”) at a large international school. They enjoy life in Malaysia, and not only because it’s easy to afford a maid. The major downside is that since locals drink very little alcohol, it being a plurality Muslim country with a very Muslim government, beer and wine are taxed heavily in Malaysia, making drinking an expensive proposition — something no good Aussie accepts without complaint.

At Sunway Lagoon in KL (check the giant funnel slide!)
[All pictures displayed in this article were taken and are owned by me or my wife;
none of the pictures linked to within the article were taken by us.

The trip to the resort from the airport at Kota Kinabalu (“KK”), the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, was in its own way noteworthy — and not just because we took Malaysian Airways despite warnings from over-cautious friends and family.

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:

Democratic Pickpockets and Purse-Snatchers

Like walking in a neighborhood full of pickpockets and purse snatchers, living under the Obama administration should leave all Americans worried about what will be pilfered from them next.

In one of the most hypocritical moves yet — and that’s saying something — by a man who exhaled a lot of hot air in recent weeks, including during the State of the Union speech, talking about the importance of a college education, President Obama is now proposing to end tax-free withdrawals from 529 college savings accounts, diminishing (or perhaps even eliminating) their attractiveness as savings vehicles and thereby reducing incentives for millions of American families to create a college nest egg for their children.

Contributions to 529 plans are not deductible for federal income tax purposes but are deductible in 34 states and the District of Columbia. (Since seven states have no state income tax, 529 plans receive favorable tax treatment in all but nine states.) The income earned within a 529 plan can be withdrawn tax free when used for “qualified higher education expenses.”

The most recent study of the 529 program by the College Savings Plan Network says that “total assets and total number of open accounts have reached new record levels of more than $244 billion and 11.8 million, respectively.” The number of 529 accounts grew by six percent in the first half of 2014 alone.

President Obama is one of those 11.8 million, having contributed a stunning $240,000 to his daughters’ 529 plans in 2007. Since the president’s proposal would impact new contributions rather than those already made, it would leave his daughters’ college savings in good shape; he had the financial wherewithal to drop a quarter million dollars into those accounts all at once. But for those of us (including me) who make modest monthly or annual contributions to our children’s futures, we’re out of luck.

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:


Delayed Reaction (to SOTU)

It took me a couple of days to summon the strength to watch President Obama’s seventh State of the Union Address (the sixth if you don’t count his 2009 address to a joint session of Congress); the speech was an hour-long exercise in deception, hypocrisy, and narcissism — which is to say it was more of the same from the most insular and self-absorbed politician of our generation, a man who never stops campaigning.

Within the first seconds of his long-winded address, the president, missing only a cone-shaped hat and a magic wand in his attempt to recast reality, said that while the first part of the 21st century was replete with terrorism and economic turmoil, “tonight, we turn the page.”

Yes, the man who told us that his election would cause the end of rising seas now suggests that the thrilling chapter of history in which The One, outdoing even Moses, saved his people and perhaps the world, has come to an blissful close and we are now to enter a new gilded age of pax Americana in which everyone can have everything for free. Apparently our president studied at the Big Rock Candy Mountain School of Public Policy.

He also hopes — perhaps with good reason — that Americans are ignorant of some basic facts.

Obama noted that the economy is growing but neglected that this is the slowest economic recovery in modern American history. He pointed out the declining unemployment rate but neglected that much of the drop is due to people simply leaving the workforce. He cheered our declining dependence on foreign oil but neglected to mention that he has opposed increased domestic energy production at every turn and (in)famously said “you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” (Actually, we can. And the Energy Minister of the United Arab Emirates made clear last week that OPEC’s decision not to try to prop up prices is because they want to force American shale oil producers out of business.)

Perhaps the most galling line of the speech — and that’s saying something — was the president’s claim that “the shadow of crisis has passed,” a remarkable assertion as ISIS (which the president, nearly alone, insists on calling ISIL to avoid reminding people of his failure in Syria) is seizing territory in Iraq, Syria, and now “gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda.”

How stupid does Obama think we are? (Don’t answer that question.)

Please read the rest of my article for The American Spectator here:

Can’t We Do Better?

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist — and I certainly have nothing on Paul Craig Roberts whose most recent article, helpfully disseminated by the Ron Paul Institute, claims the Charlie Hebdo attacks to be a “false flag” operation — but I can’t help but wonder if the “mainstream media” is playing up the potential presidential candidacies of Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum simply to depress Republican voters.

Or, going the full tin-foil-hat route, maybe these guys are themselves double agents, part of a (does it still exist?) sleeper cell which was just activated (by someone who doesn’t get that Americans don’t want to talk about the 2016 election in January of 2015). Their goal: To make the GOP look so ridiculous, so full of unappealing candidates, that independent voters scoff and Republicans begin considering staying home in 2016 the same way they did in 2012, handing an eminently winnable election to a living national nightmare in a pants suit.

To be sure, some press coverage of Mitt Romney is skeptical, with recent articles describing Republican ambivalence (to put it kindly) about his potential candidacy. Other pieces, though, including in liberal outlets such as the Boston Globe (an outfit that knows Romney better than most), seem to be trying to help Romney push an explanation for his “stunning change of heart.”

The thing is, Mitt, I don’t care why you changed your mind.

Please read the entirety of my article for The American Spectator here:

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