Daily Archives: February 7, 2012

Let sleeping culture warriors lie, please…

I’m beginning to suspect that the Left is dissatisfied at the prospect of an election about real national priorities, and is conspiring to get the Culture Warriors of the Right — heretofore MIA — to enter the 2012 fray.

I’m just going by the top three stories on my most recent email from The Slatest:

Federal Appeals Court Deems Prop 8 Unconstitutional

But backers of California’s gay marriage ban are expected to take their fight to the Supreme Court.

Komen VP Resigns in Wake of Planned Parenthood Dispute

Karen Handel defends her work to cut funding to the group, saying it was the best for Komen and the women it serves.

University Selling “Morning-After” Pill from Vending Machine

Students at Shippensburg University now have easier access to Plan B emergency contraception.

Think about this for a minute, people…

The Culture Warriors of the Right have been pretty quiet lately. Their guy in the GOP presidential contest, Rick Santorum, hasn’t caught fire, in fact has been totally an also-ran since Iowa. It was looking like we might have a presidential election about national security and the economy, which I’ve gotta say, would be nice for a change.

So what happens? Culture Warriors of the Left sue to get a court to overturn a public vote on a hot-button issue, and get a favorable ruling from a panel of… the 9th Circuit. This of course will now be taken all the way to the Supremes (who on the right would ever be satisfied with the judgment of the 9th?), assuring that this attempt to overturn a public vote by judicial fiat (talk about waving a red flag at a bull!) will blaze on through the election.

Some of their comrades then go totally ballistic over a decision by one private organization not to help fund another private organization. These Culture Warriors freak out to such an extent over what — $680,000? And the ramifications continue, with everybody on all sides all worked up.

As for the third thing… I don’t know. I’ve been to Shippensburg a number of times, and I’m trying to square this with the images I have of Amish people riding up the High Street in horse and buggy, and Civil War re-enactments. This is a whole new wrinkle…

All I can conclude is that the left just wasn’t happy with the Culture Warriors of the right being all dormant. It’s like there is a concerted effort to make the 2012 election about all this Kulturkampf stuff. Which I, for one, would not appreciate. And I don’t think it’s a good idea for Obama’s re-election chances to get the right’s Culture Struggle machine all hot and bothered.

Oh, you know what the fourth story on the Slatest email was? It was this:

Santorum Poised for 2 Wins in Tuesday’s GOP Contests

But with no delegates up for grabs, the Iowa winner will need to be content with PR victories.

Coincidence? Well, yeah, I think it is a coincidence. But those of us who would rather this election be about something other than abortion and sexuality and the like still eye such developments as all of the above with foreboding.

The good news is that the White House appears to be trying to take down the temperature a bit, on one thing it can control. It may dial back on its recent ham-handed effort to make Newt Gingrich’s ravings about a “war on the Catholic Church” seem to be true. That’s good. I like the sound of that. No-Drama Obama, that’s what I want to see. This was yet another completely unnecessary fight (and with a demographic that the president needs to keep in battleground states, which made it seem particularly weird).

Next, could we all talk about Iran and Israel and Afghanistan and consumer confidence? Throwweights, perhaps? Please? Anything but this hyperemotional stuff…

So far, I’m not on Henry Clay’s list yet

For some reason, I regularly get email releases from U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida. And I have to say, they are disappointing. You see that name, and you expect towering eloquence. But I get stuff like this:

“The federal executive-branch agencies hold an extensive amount of property that includes 429,000 buildings and over a million total properties.  In fact, the federal government is the largest owner and manager of real estate in our country.  If we sold all excess federal properties, proceeds could approach an estimated $15 billion – serious savings – on top of even more savings reaped annually from reducing maintenance and operating costs.

“H.R. 1734 is a cost saving initiative that achieves a reduction in the size of the federal real property inventory through selling or redeveloping underutilized properties, increasing the utilization rates of existing properties, and expediting the disposal of surplus properties. The act shows real respect for the hardworking taxpayers who pay for government buildings and space.  You can do more with less if you do it efficiently; this bill does just that.  Better management of federal property presents an opportunity to reduce expenditures and increase revenue.  As families look for ways to budget and manage their personal finances, our government should do the same,” said Representative Webster.

Not exactly “Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.”

But I guess he does what he can. Here’s what an Orlando publication says about him:

For someone who shares a name with one of the most loquacious and eloquent men to sit in the United States Congress, 8th District Rep. 
Daniel Webster has been nothing like his historic namesake since leaving for Washington. By December 2011, the Winter Garden Republican had yet to make a single major speech on the House floor or introduce a substantive piece of legislation—in marked contrast to the freshman lawmaker he unseated in 2010, Democrat Alan Grayson, by all accounts one of the mouthiest politicians on Capitol Hill.

In a year’s time his office has issued just 31 press releases, and from June through December, Webster, 62, held no public town hall meetings, although he did meet with 25 invited guests at Valencia College in November. One reason Webster has been so elusive may be that a town hall meeting in April turned raucous, provoking some of the meager press coverage about him–after which his office circulated a “watch list” of six Florida activists to other GOP members of Congress.

It goes on to say:

So, what’s up with the bland, soft-spoken, former longtime state legislator and Tea Party favorite? Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at University of Central Florida, says Webster sees himself as “a foot soldier in what the Republicans [are] trying to do, and not necessarily being a leader in the movement.” Donald Davison, of Rollins College’s political science department, takes a similar view. “My impression is, the guy’s invisible,” Davison says. “My guess is he’s following the leaders of the Republican leadership in the House: united opposition to Obama.”

Sounds like he’s sort of the Joe Wilson of the Tea Party movement — more of a “me, too” kind of guy.

Too bad. With the right handlers, the original Dan’l Webster could have been the leader of the Tea Party movement, had he so chosen. Here are other quotes I ran across:

  • “A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.”
  • “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, the power to destroy.”
  • “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.”

What they wouldn’t be so crazy about was when he said stuff like this: “Keep cool; anger is not an argument.” And some of his positions still wouldn’t fly down South: “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”

But you can’t have everything. In any case, they don’t make Daniel Websters the way they used to.

Just in case you weren’t quite totally fed up with Congress yet

The Washington Post has done an analysis of congressional earmarks, and found the following:

Thirty-three members of Congress have steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or near the lawmakers’ own property, according to a Washington Post investigation. Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed.

In the first review of its kind, The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 members and compared them with earmarks members had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008. The process uncovered appropriations for work in close proximity to commercial and residential real estate owned by the lawmakers or their family members. The review also found 16 lawmakers who sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents work as salaried employees or serve on boards.

None of the 33 were from South Carolina, although when you first look at the map, it appears that there is a mug shot looming over our state. But it’s just some guy named Jack Kingston from Georgia.

Not that the Post claims to have caught all the potential conflicts. It invites readers to help:

What do you know?

Help us disclose the undisclosed.

Do you have any specific information about earmarks in which current members of Congress may have had a personal financial interest? Or do you have any tips on undisclosed financial conflicts that could help us create a more complete financial portrait of Congress?

Please submit your info in the box below; all replies will be handled with confidentiality.

Now that I’ve reported this, what do I think about it? I think… I’m still ambivalent about earmarks. I can occasionally get stirred up about them. Unlike members of Congress, I’d prefer that with rare exceptions, projects be prioritized by disinterested bureaucrats, based on criteria that are as objective as possible. But it also seems within the legitimate constitutional purview of Congress to direct spending as specifically as it likes, and sometimes a specific local project actually does have national importance. Charleston harbor, for instance. The Hoover Dam.

As for the cases reported here… well, they get into that fuzzy area that I’ve always had a problem with. The area where “ethics” is defined in terms of appearances, rather than right or wrong.

It occurs to me that, since members of Congress are certainly most likely to advocate projects in their own districts — something that is not inherently wrong, even though it has enormous potential for skewing national priorities — that a certain percentage of such projects will be “near” their own property. What percentage? Well…

If 33 have been caught doing so (and as I said, there are likely to be more), that means just over 6 percent of the 535 members of Congress may have considered self-interest in seeking these earmarks. I say “may” because this is very fuzzy territory. I expect that some element of venality entered the decision-making processes of some of these members. But all, or even most, of the accused 6 percent? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

Take that Jack Kingston guy. He sought beach renourishment money, and he owns a beach house about 900 feet from the beach. Set aside whether you think federal money should be spent pumping sand onto beaches. Is it unusual for members of Congress to help local officials get financing for such projects, whether they own beach property or not? No, it isn’t.

And that brings us to the problem of earmarks overall. Most of the time, it’s a highly flawed way to set spending priorities. But do I think this story is a major “gotcha” on Congress? No. But it will play that way. What’s Congress approval rating down to now? 13 percent? It may go a fractional bit lower, as a result of this story.

Not that it should. 84 percent disapproval seems like enough calumny heaped about these elected heads.