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

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:
http://spectator.org/articles/61878/d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu-all-over-again

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:
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/414330/lefts-outrage-over-giuliani-rings-false-ross-kaminsky

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