Modes of Leadership

There is a form of ‘leadership’ in which a candidate (or elected official) attains a broad approval by catering to the public whim, often little more that a consensus of ignorance. Demagoguery is an effective tool for attaining office and power. There is a downside to gaining the world at the expense of your soul.

There is another style of leadership that is principled but ineffective in the short run. This involves a boldness and taking actions (or proposing actions) that go against current public opinion. Candidates and incumbents who take such positions tend to lose elections.

The third course demand great skills in persuasiveness and communication. This allows public opinion tome gradually modified.

Barry Goldwater employed the second mode and LBJ the first. Dishonesty produced a landslide victory for LBJ but honesty was never a quality associated with the person. His name is seldom invoked in any positive context while Goldwater is held in far greater esteem.

The intra-party differences between Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill seem to have followed a similar pattern but dire circumstances proved Churchill right and he triumphed in the court of public opinion in spite of post-victory humiliation.

The third mode of leadership proved effective for FDR in the area of foreign policy. He catered to the isolationist until the Folly of Munich began to be understood. He cleverly nudged public opinion towards an internationalism that seemed to have died with the end of the Wilson Administration.

There was an absence of leadership demonstrated during the Carter Administration, one that had been put in control by a narrow victory in an election that was more a repudiation of Nixon (who was not on the ballot) than an approval of the amorphous change associated with the Democrat.

Reagan followed with style of leadership akin to that of FDR. It worked and allowed the policy of containment begun by Truman to brought to fruition.

In the current race, the adulation associated with Obama provides an example of the first style of what passes for leadership and has an echo of Jimmy Carter. It is also a cult-of-personality candidacy in which the perceived charm of the candidate means more than the meager (but telling) record of past accomplishments and concrete goals. McCain needs to demonstrate an ability to communicate and persuade.

A lot hangs in the balance.


The word ‘populism’ has become almost synonymous with the practice of the politics of envy and an arbitrary economic leveling. Its practitioners were often a dime’s worth of difference from socialists.

It had a peak of support as a political movement during the Golden Age in which some dinner parties featured gold flatware and cigarette girls passing out products rolled with segments of hundred dollar bills. Railroads were seen as rapacious instruments for robbing men of the soil of the fruits of their labor and those who robbed trains of cash were often treated as popular heroes.

During our Great Depression, few truly starved and the Rockefellers spent part of their fortune constructing a complex that was a short-term risk. Yet jobs were created and future profits were assured.

The politics of envy seems to have lost its effectiveness. There are some very wealthy people but dynastic fortunes seem to vanish after a couple of generations. Involuntary hunger is a rarity. Upward mobility is not hampered by a caste system or other arbitrary barriers.

The free market has its fluctuations but has never allowed the near-universality of poverty associated with socialism.

But should we seek a society where socioeconomic Darwinism rule in a harsh and arbitrary fashion? Those who would take the writings of Ayn Rand as holy writ with the same uncritical eye as present in the most rigid Christian Fundamentalist might agree. Yet there are needs for safeguards and safety nets.

Should we envision a new and refined version of populism?

Banks (especially the larger ones) have created automatic mechanisms for rapacity. Charges for services often bear no resemblance to their cost. When the operations involve credit cards, matters get even worse. A couple of payments that are a day or two late can result in escalation of interest rates to levels once deemed to be criminally usurious. Subsidiaries of ‘respectable’ banks may offer ‘payday loans’ to the unsophisticated at rates over 100% per annum. Self-serving ‘public interest’ advertisements may be run on programs unlikely to be watched by their usual clientele but the ads to provide some window dressing.

Insurance companies may use arcane evaluations of credit reports to justify escalation of rates. While this might seem appropriate for habitual deadbeats, a credit score approaching 800 and no record of default is not a shield. A number of ‘gotcha’s are available to rip off the consumer. One excuse is an account with a balance near the credit limit. This can be among a number of accounts with no balance and others well below the limit. The single offending account may have been recently opened to obtain a discount on a major purchase. A first payment well over the minimum should give a hint that the purchaser is going to pay off the entire amount in a few months to avoid paying any interest. Automated evaluation does not take this into account.

One problem in Ireland was the drain on the local economy of absentee landlords. Many of the locals were descendants of persons dispossessed by conquerors. They had to pay increasing rents for property taken from their ancestors without any compensation. Disputes often provoked violence and the landlords did hold valid titles. A related situation exists in Delaware and it involves the sites of ‘manufactured home’. The plots of land are small and many are owned by person with powerful connections. Rents escalate in an often arbitrary fashion. What is the answer? Legislators seem unable to fashion an equitable solution.

We need more elected officials who can balance a respect for property and a sense of fairness. Such persons would not be likely to get any campaign contributions from some moneyed special interests but the battle needs to be waged.


The use of camouflage is an accepted military practice but impersonating members of the opposing force can get one shot on sight. So-called ‘progressives’ have been using both techniques in their plans to implement incremental victim disarmament under the guise of ‘gun control’.

For several election cycles, quite a few candidates for office have believed poll numbers that seem to indicate a popular support for ‘gun control’. This false belief likely cost Al Gore the election. His identification with the cause did not help him in West Virginia and even his home state. Both went for Bush.

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms (in the traditional sense) became a non-issue but some ‘progressives’ attempted a form of deceptive triangulation that would not alienate their radical core support but (at least partially) allay the fears of part of the community of firearms enthusiasts. This was done through a narrow appeal to the interests of hunters. This limited approach ignored the interests of the majority of the people who considered the RKBA as a political effort and it seemed to backfire. John Kerry in fresh hunting garb with a shotgun did not seem as ludicrous as Dukakis in a tank but the earlier image was called up.

Then came the creation of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus. Alliance with this group gave anti-gun politicians in states with hunters a form of protective coloration amidst a majority of members whose respect for the Second Amendment went beyond just hunting. While the likes of the more rabidly anti-gun Senators Boxer, Clinton, Feinstein, Mikulski, Obama, and Schumer are missing, quite a few members of both houses who have similar views sought the camouflage.

A ‘truth test’ was provided by a recent Amicus Curiae brief signed by 55 Senators and 250 Members of the House. This brief supported for respondent Heller in his suit against the District of Columbia law that prohibits him from possessing a handgun in his home. A lower court has already found in favo of Heller’s position. A comparison of the two lists helps to differentiate between the true believers and those wearing camouflage. The true test was signing the Heller brief. Those who claimed membership in the Sportsmen’s Caucus but did not sign the brief are merely disguising their disdain for the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Those who signed the brief without being members of the caucus demonstrated support for the traditional concept of the intent of the Second Amendment.

Among Republican Senators, only Senators Ensign and Warner sought the ‘protective coloration’ without signing the Heller brief.. The Democrat phonies were: Conrad, Dorgan, Durbin, Harkin, Landrieu, Pryor, Stabenow, and Whitehouse.

Among House members, Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD, 1) got his first true primary challenge in February but the ‘Sportsmen’s Caucus’ card was not an ace. He was defeated by a double-digit margin. One infamous Democrat House member to be a member of the ‘Sportsmen’s Caucus’ was William ‘Cold Cash’ Jefferson.

Another Heller brief was signed by some House members but this was not a bipartisan document and none of the signatories were members of the ‘Sportsmen’s Caucus’. Among this crew of thug-huggers and would-be ‘gun grabbers’ are ‘jailhouse Muslim’ Keith Ellison, ‘Kerosene’ Maxine Waters, Bobby Rush, and slow-talkin’ John Conyers. Maryland Representative Al Wynn signed and he was the second House incumbent o go down in 2008. The issue in his defeat seemed to be more about allegations of spousal abuse than guns.

A gaggle of ‘progressive’ Democrats created another deception in the form of ‘The American Hunter and Shooters Association’. This ‘organization’ appears to be more of a façade than an true, member-based organization. Its alleged president and founder was former footballer Ray Schoenke, one-time second-string Democrat gubernatorial candidate in Maryland. The rather uncommon last name of Shoenke is listed as a contributor to the anti-RKBA group HCI and the donations add up to $20,000. This could be a mere coincidence. Schoenke has an interest in left-wing politics that goes back to his days as a McGovern supporter. He has made a lot of money peddling insurance and donates substantially to ultra-liberal Democrat.

His ’organization’ appears to be little more than a web site and some slogans and a board of directors made up of the usual suspects. They solicit ‘memberships’ but appear to provide no services.

Senator McCain is listed as a member of the Sportsmen’s Caucus and he did sign the Heller brief. Neither Clinton nor Obama signed on as members of the Sportsmen’s Caucus nor did they sign either brief.

One wonders when either of the two Democrat aspirants will don hunting garb and show up at a well-planned hunt to create a photo op in the style of John Kerry. Obama has already made a gesture in this direction with some hollow words in support of the Second Amendment but has added some conditions that would twist a natural right into a legal nullity.

My sympathy for the Palestinians is somewhat limited

Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided in late 2003 that it was doing Israel little good to continue its occupation of the Gaza Strip, and put forth complete withdrawal plans. By the end of August, 2005, the last of the twenty-one Jewish settlements in Gaza had been evacuated, and the remaining Israeli soldiers pulled out in the first couple weeks of September.

This was great, the first step to a lasting peace. In this story on National Public Radio, Nigel Roberts of the World Bank tells Renee Montagne about rebuilding prospects and obstacles to economic recovery. Mr Roberts was concerned about the high unemployment in Gaza, especially among 16-24 year old men.

But while Gaza lacks much in the way of infrastructure, it has one amazing natural resource that could have been easily developed and brought in billions of euros: Gaza has the kind of beaches that ought to attract wealthy European travellers — and their money — if they’d just clean them up and build some decent hotels and resorts. And tourism is easily the resource that could be most rapidly developed and bring in the most foreign capital of anything the Palestinians have.

Oh, one other thing: the Palestinians would have to stop shooting across the border at Israel; Israel doesn’t put up with that crap, and it’s hard to develop a decent beach resort if it’s subject to being bombed.

    60 Gazans Killed in Incursion By Israel¹
    Operation Follows Use of Longer-Range Rockets by Hamas
    By Griff Witte, Washington Post Foreign Service

    JERUSALEM, March 1 — The Israeli military launched a major operation against Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing 60 people — about half of them civilians — and sending in a large contingent of ground troops to stop rockets streaming daily out of the territory into southern Israel.

    The violence, which also resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers, imperiled an already fragile peace process just days before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive to try to jump-start the flagging talks. Both sides indicated Saturday that the intensified conflict could cause the negotiations to collapse. That would mark a heavy blow for the Bush administration, which has made Middle East peace a top priority for its final year.

    The fighting Saturday was the worst yet following a significant escalation Wednesday. In the four days since an Israeli missile destroyed a van carrying five Hamas members suspected of plotting an attack inside Israel, 94 Palestinians have been killed and more than 300 have been injured, according to hospital sources in Gaza. During the same period, at least 180 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel, causing one death and 11 injuries, the Israeli military said.

    Palestinian leaders called on the international community to step in to force Israel to stop the attacks and suggested that peace talks should be halted until the violence subsides. They also warned that Israel’s tactics would backfire by radicalizing the Palestinian population.

    “It is beyond comprehension,” said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. “What they are doing is pushing people beyond their limits. They are creating a very strong reaction among the people, so the people will become more desperate and hard-line. Israel is not securing its own interests by this kind of massive killing.”

    Israeli officials have warned that there will be more to come and that operations may intensify, as long as Hamas continues to fire its rockets. Israeli officials say they are especially concerned that Iranian-made rockets began landing in Ashkelon in the past week. The coastal city has a population of 120,000, and with its center about six miles north of Gaza, it had previously been out of range of the crude Qassam rockets that have been the mainstay of Hamas attacks. On Saturday, seven more rockets with greater range and lethality, known as Grads, landed there.

Much more at the link. But it’s difficult for me to generate much sympathy for the Palestinians. Israel withdrew, unilaterally, without any pre-conditions, from Gaza. The Israeli government, in effect, gave the Palestinians every chance to show what they could do — and would do — with an independent state. Would they develop it, would they try to build something in which their poor people would have a chance at increased prosperity? Or would they use the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers as an opportunity to increase terrorist attacks against Israel?

It should have been an easy choice. The Palestinians had complete control of their own destiny in Gaza. Israel wasn’t going to interfere — and was actually providing Gaza with food and power — and the Palestinians living there could have proved to Israel and to the world that there was no reasonable risk from granting them their own state, that all they really wanted was peace and a chance to live their lives without Israeli checkpoints and Israeli occupation and Israeli interference.

But Palestinian logic is apparently somewhat different from democratic Western thinking. Rather than do what Westerners naturally thought was the reasonable, safe and easy thing to do, the Palestinians took another path: they used the withdrawal of Israeli troops as an opportunity to launch more terror attacks against Israel. And now comes the most pathetic, most laughable, statement of all, from The Washington Post story:

    Palestinian leaders called on the international community to step in to force Israel to stop the attacks.

Well, duhhh! If the Palestinians hadn’t been shooting rockets into Israel, if they hadn’t started using longer ranged rockets to try to terrorize Israeli citizens, Israel wouldn’t be striking back, Israel wouldn’t be trying to knock out the Hamas terrorists.

If “Palestinian leaders” want Israel to stop striking back, then they need to keep their own irredentists from picking fights.

As Abba Eban famously said, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

¹ – The Washington Post, Sunday, 2 March 2008, p. A-1

Street fighting

Much of the politics that I have seen is a contact sport but I grew up in Baltimore.

There are times when the cerebral approach works and other times when the gut shot works best. Tactics need to be altered to fit the circumstances.

I took a rather high road when I dealt with the powers that be at the Baltimore Sun when I ran for the General Assembly. It was a three against three contest and I was the only Republican to get the nod.

I went negative against one Democrat and the issue was irrelevant to the office he sought but not to the voters. We had been friends years before and had represented me pro bono in a civil matter. Yet he was a crook and even worse. I had only lived in the district a little over two years and was running against long-time residents. I lost by almost 1000 votes out of 20,000 and the other guy was so hurt by the campaign that he left politics.

Ever bit of ammunition that is available needs to be thrown at the Democrat nominee. This is not some meaningless Super Bowl or World Series or sweet sixteen but the future of Western Civilization. We will likely survive the worst case outcome in November but it will not be pretty.

The Politics of Envy Thrive in a Climate of Ignorance

In a recent posting, Dana reminded us:

All taxes are paid by the end consumer of a product.

Yet this does not prevent many politicians from exploiting the politics of envy by claiming that they are ‘taxing the rich’.

The slogan does work from time to time but William Jennings Bryan went a bit too far for the electorate by touting inflation as an economic panacea.

There are certain economic laws that are ignored at one’s own peril. There is no free lunch. The cost of barroom fare was paid from the profits on beer bought by the barrel and sold by the glass. Such an arrangement made sense for both sides but when Government gets into the act, the results tend to be counterproductive. This applies to all manner of handouts including B. Hussein Obama’s menu for ‘moon pie in the sky’.

Proposals to heavily tax oil companies might find some favor with the asses among the driving masses but would it encourage more production and lower prices? Is the slogan ‘Let them burn ethanol’ really an answer?

The Bush family has never been noted for extreme brilliance and this was confirmed when George H. W. Bush got suckered into signing a ‘Luxury Tax’ measure. This devastated the domestic boatbuilding industry and shifted business to foreign builders. People who could afford high-end could buy them offshore and duck the tax.

This is not to say that the members of the Bush Clan are not well-meaning and decent. The inherent decency and compassion of the incumbent President may constitute weakness as well as strength. We are often obliged to choose beteen an imperfect candidate and one who is thoroughly despicable. The electorate got it right in the last two presidential campaigns.

A good day with my daughter

With the two inches of global warming that we got over Friday night, I figured that I needed to go to the plant and plow the yard. It got into the upper thirties today, so I thought that the sun might have cleared the snow away, but I couldn’t be sure.

Well, my sixteen-year-old daughter has been bugging me for a chance to try to run the front-end loader, and she really insisted today, so off we went. I got lucky, and the sun had taken care of most of the snow, so plowing wasn’t necessary, but she still wanted to see the loader. So, I opened up the garage — I park the loader in the garage on cold nights, because it starts easier when it’s warm — showed her how to check the oil (it needed a quart) and the hydraulic fluid (added some there, too) and the radiator. Then we took it outside, and I let her drive it around a little and showed her how to pick up and dump material. She thinks running the loader is “awesome.”

Later on, when we got home, I had a little, really nothing project in the shop: I had installed a white melamine workbench top at the miter saw station, because melamine is slick and wood will slide on it easily. The edges were just the particle board core, and looked bad; I had some scrap oak trimmed to 1″ x 1½ inch, enough for me to edge-band the worktop.

Well, said younger daughter heard me working in the shop, and just had to investigate. There were a few places where four hands were better than two, so she jumped right in to help. I was just going to install the edge-banding as is, but she wanted to stain it, and I had some Red Mahogany stain lying around. We measured the pieces, cut everything to size, sanded it (she helped) and then I showed her how to use the stain.

After a couple hours of drying time, we pre-drilled the nail holes — always a wise idea with oak if you don’t have a pneumatic nailer — and I showed her how to use the drill press. Then we took the pieces over to the melamine workbench, glued the mating edges and installed the banding. Since there was another piece of oak lying around, we made a base molding for where the top meets the wall, just to decorate it up. A final finish of clear gloss polyurethane, and it looks pretty good — at least for a workbench.

Of course, she also noted that there are about three different color woods and stains used in that area: the mahogany stain around the top, a shelf I had just polyurethaned, and a frame for some white pegboard where I had used some walnut stain on poplar, just to see what it would look like. The kid is never satidfied!

Brilliance and glibness

We associate glibness with comedians and some politicians who are more successful at getting elected than at statesmanship.

Some clever phrases may seem devastating but prove to be hollow after a bit of analysis. But by then,the cheering crowd has left the hall or the votes have been counted.

Quite often glibness can be pre-packaged into clever, even moving slogans.

In a contest of slogans between Clinton and Obama, what will really be said? Are there any true differences? Is either one known for any brilliant or courageous deed? Both are grasping and greedy hacks who have a façade of greatness. Hillary’s facade is collapsing but still might survive.