Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Newt doesn't win Florida

I am waiting to hear from my detractors about my post last week in which, a week ahead of the event, and after considering carefully various sophisticated metrics, and constructing a wide variety of charts and graphs,  I called the Florida Republican primary race for Newt Gingrich. Having been inspired by both CNN and Fox News having called South Carolina before a single vote was tabulated, I decided to follow suit.

If Anderson Cooper could do it, so could I.

But, alas, Newt Gingrich did not win the race. Instead Mitt Romney, one of the remaining two monogamous candidates left in the race, was victorious (Santorum was the other monogamous candidate, but something about his monogamy was not, apparently, quite as appealing to Florida Republican voters).

"What happened?" my detractors will ask. "You blew it. How can you show your face after this ignominious prediction?" Well, they wouldn't say exactly that, partly because I don't think they know what the word "ignominious" means.

Still, I would like to address what went wrong.

I have thought a lot about my method of predicting the outcome of the Florida race over the past 5 minutes, and I have conducted a thorough review over that time of the methodologies I employed in making my prediction. After doing this extensive analysis and producing several long reports, I have determined why my forecast was incorrect.

The problem was that my method was entirely too scientific.

I explained when I made the prediction that, if my prediction was false, it would therefore be falsifiable, and since (as many of my detractors like to point out) falsifiability is a sufficient criterion for a method being scientific, I will consider it proven that my method was, in fact, scientific.

So from here on out, I will go back to the method that sustained me so well when I predicted in 2008, the day after the Iowa primary, that Obama would win the nomination and the general election, putting him hin the presidency; the method that stood me in such good stead (if I can talk about my own state now) when I predicted, on the basis of a few conversations and my gut feeling, that Greg Stumbo would win the leadership race in the Kentucky State House for Speaker.

What method was this? Prophecy. Plain and simple. I will now go back to divine inspiration as my chief mode of political forecast.

You can all go back to your homes now.

PRESS RELEASE: Governor trying to "shift blame" on doomed gambling measure

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY--"The Governor is trying to shift blame from his own inept handling of the now doomed gambling bill so that he can blame it on someone else," said Martin Cothran in response to Beshear's comments today accusing Senate President David Williams of "intimidation." Beshear is trying to blame David Williams for the demise of the constitutional amendment to expand gambling, said Cothran, "but the fault lies squarely with the Governor."

Cothran said the Governor's delaying tactics are what has ultimately doomed the legislation. "He said he would have a bill out three weeks ago. Instead, he keeps delaying. He originally said he would have it out in early January. Now we're into February. He keeps saying 'next week' and 'in a few days.' He's done this so many times now that lawmakers are having a hard time taking him seriously."

"This is the longest drum roll we have ever seen," said Cothran.

The group said Beshear would not be alienating Senate President David Williams unless he had already given up on his own bill. "You don't insult the head of the chamber you're counting on to pass your bill unless you have already given up on it yourself," said Cothran. "If there was any doubt that the gambling bill was already dead, his comments today should have settled it."


PRESS RELEASE: Governor "bluffing," gambling bill is dead

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY--"If the Governor thinks he has the votes he needs, he ought to tell us who they are," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation, after Gov. Steve Beshear's claimed Monday that he had 23 Senate votes to pass a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling. "The Governor says he sees 23 votes. We think it's a mirage. I've had legislators who are in favor of this bill tell me they don't think it has the votes.

"The Governor is bluffing," said Cothran.

"The clock has run out on the gambling bill," he said. "As far as we can tell, this thing is dead. The Governor has waited too long to introduce it and we don't see how he can resuscitate it at this point."

"Support for this bill has been slipping away for several weeks. If he introduces it now, it will be the first time a new model has been unveiled just as the wheels were falling off."


PRESS RELEASE: Family Foundation files open records requests with Governor's office, State Police

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY--The Family Foundation today filed open records requests with the office of the Governor and the Kentucky State Police asking about meetings and correspondence between the Governor's office and casino interests in the formulation of a constitutional amendment to expand gambling in the state.

"We think there should be full disclosure about the individuals and the wealthy corporations who may have been involved in the attempt to rewrite Kentucky's Constitution," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

Cothran said he thought many Kentuckians would find it disturbing if it turned out that wealthy horse tracks and casino corporations were heavily involved in changing the Constitution in a way in which they stood to financially benefit. "People don't want their laws written in smoke-filled back rooms by millionaire businessmen whose names they don't even know," he said. "This process needs to be out in the open."


Monday, January 30, 2012

Group calls for Governor to release names of those involved in "secret meetings on gambling legislation"

For Immediate Release
January 30, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY--The Family Foundation today asked for Gov. Steve Beshear to release the names of the people involved in negotiations on the constitutional amendment to legalize gambling. "We think the Governor needs to tell Kentuckians who has been involved in the secret back room meetings to rewrite Kentucky's Constitution," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

"We think the public needs to be reassured that there were not wealthy casino interests involved in writing themselves into our state's Constitution," he said. "We need to keep corruption and cronyism out of this process."

Cothran said he thought that if horse tracks were involved in writing a bill in which they had a financial interest, it could doom the bill altogether. "This legislation is already in trouble," said Cothran. "If we were to find the fingerprints of some wealthy casino corporation like Churchill Downs on this legislation, it could drive a steak through the heart of this bill."


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Distributism 101: Is predatory capitalism a conservative doctrine?

There are some so-called "conservatives" who are really liberals.

The Bain controversy is the perfect case study to illustrate the distinction at the center of the economic school of thought called "Distributism." And it is a case study in the Fallacy of the Appeal to the Aggregate that seems to infect the rhetoric of a lot of people who call themselves "conservative."

The Bain controversy, let us remember, involves Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's involvement in Bain Capital, a private equity firm. As a private equity company, Bain has invested in numerous companies and, in the course of its regular business, employees were laid off and jobs were outsourced.

In our last installment of Distributism 101, I discussed the Distributist distinction between theoretical and applied economics. "On the one hand," said Hillaire Belloc, "theoretical economics focuses on the way economics laws work. On the other hand, applied economics tell us what the economic state of affairs ought to be."

What people like Romney do to justify their own individual actions in pursuing profits is to clothe themselves in the mantle of "conservatism." But in doing so, they confound the two modes of economic thought: Whatever "works" economically, they seem to suggest, is ipso facto the way it ought to be.

Furthermore, among such people the definition of what "works" is always cast in aggregate terms: if an economic action produces greater aggregate income or greater aggregate employment, etc., then it is automatically considered to be the result the individual ought to pursue.

To propound this doctrine on a policy level is one thing. There, it has a certain air of plausibility--although it is still not unproblematic. But to propound it on the personal level, as Romney has done, is to completely confound both economic and ethical categories.

To say that your personal action is right because it contributes to the greatest good of the greatest number may or may not be the doctrine of Adam Smith, but it is certainly the doctrine of John Stuart Mill. More specifically, it is the doctrine of utilitarianism, the doctrine of which Mill was the most prominent historical exponent. And to acquiesce to such arguments in the name of conservatism is to imply that conservatism itself is a utilitarian doctrine, which it most certainly is not.

The problem, of course, is that there are people running around calling themselves conservatives who are spouting economic utilitarianism and don't seem to realize it, and Romney is one them.

Predatory capitalism is not a conservative doctrine. It is economic utilitarianism, and economic utilitarianism is the soul of liberalism properly so-called. American political rhetoric has developed in a rather strange way and has seen the term "liberal" turned into a reference to someone who believes in socialism. "Liberalism" used to mean--and still does mean in Europe--someone who believes in economic freedom.

In fact, I think partly because of the changed application of the word in American politics, we seem to have come up with a new word to mean what "liberal" used to mean: libertarian. I suppose it gets us out of the problem of calling people we think of as conservatives "liberals."

When Romney was called out for this, out came all the libertarians who have convinced people that they are conservatives to defend him: David Boaz at the Cato Institute, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, and Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity.

But, as I have pointed out on this blog before, libertarianism is not conservatism. In fact, pure libertarianism is almost the exact opposite. This is why social conservatives (the ones who really understand their social conservatism, anyway) should have a troubled conscience in making common cause with libertarians. I'm not saying they should never do it. Sometimes the predations of socialism require it. But we shouldn't forget that conservatism is ultimately inimical to libertarianism. And I'm afraid we forgot that some time ago.

People who think it is right to lay people off and outsource their jobs purely for the purpose of padding their own profits are not conservatives. Conservatives are about conserving things--things like families and communities. This requires an acknowledgement of the efficiencies of the free market in subordination to common good, to which the efficiencies of the free market are sometimes blind.

The extreme individualist utilitarianism that is espoused by some people who want to call themselves "conservative" is corrosive of these things.

They are utilitarian capitalists, which is another word for "liberal."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monotheists for Romney

A number of people, including several of my friends, are saying they cannot vote for Newt Gingrich because of his past marital infidelities. I addressed this in a recent post and pointed out that God seems to be far more concerned with a public official's religious beliefs than it does about how many wives a public official has had (David, Solomon)--or whether he has committed sins of the flesh outside of marriage (Abraham).

In the Old Testament, polytheism is dealt with far more harshly than polygamy or even adultery.

In this connection, I pointed out that Mitt Romney, being a Mormon, is necessarily polytheistic. So why (the question was implied but not made explicit) were my friends taking the position that Christians should not vote for Gingrich, but were not taking the position that Christians should not vote for Romney?

It was an a fortiori argument: "from the stronger." If one can vote for Romney, despite the fact that the reason for not voting for him was (Biblically speaking) stronger, then why can't one vote for Gingrich?

I am, admittedly, a Monogamist for Gingrich. I am going to begin calling my pro-Romney friends "Monotheists for Romney," just to underscore that they are not applying similar standards to their own chosen candidate.

Hopefully, they will still like me.

"Gambling bill may already be dead," says anti-slots group

For Immediate Release
January 25, 2012
LEXINGTON, KYA spokesman for the Family Foundation today predicted that if the Governor did not release his expanded gambling proposal by the end of the week, the issue would effectively be dead this session. "By the time the Governor and his friends in the gambling industry finish divvying up all the millions of dollars they think they're going to pocket through this legislation and come out of their smoke-filled room over in the Capitol building, this whole thing will be over," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group. "In fact, the gambling bill may already be dead."

"Support for the gambling legislation is collapsing faster than a ten dollar tent in a hurricane."

"They didn't have the votes to begin with, and now what little support they have is deteriorating by the day," Cothran said. He said there was a widespread impression among lawmakers that the expanded gambling effort has been plagued by confusion and dissension among expanded gambling supporters. "I think a lot of people are just fed up with the infighting and lack of action and want to move on to other things."

"A lot of legislators, even those who would otherwise support it, are already moving on," he said. "Of course we oppose this bill, but if we were supporters, we would be wondering who was in charge here and what happened. Why was an initiative that seemed like a sure thing when the session started all but fallen apart? This should have been introduced three weeks ago. We're trying to imagine what it's going to look like when a page from the Governor's office comes running down the Senate aisle with a bill draft in his hand just as the President of the Senate is gaveling the 2012 session to a close. They have only themselves to blame."


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Advocacy group calls expanded gambling effort "badly handled"

LEXINGTON, KY—All seems quiet on the gambling front, a phenomenon that has one group wondering how the effort to bring casino-style gambling to the state seems to have stalled, and possibly died altogether. "At first we were worried about an all-out assault from the gambling industry, but now we're wondering if a bill is ever going to materialize," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation.

"This started out looking like it was going to be The Empire Strikes Back, but now it seems more like Waiting for Godot."

Cothran said this was "one of the most badly handled legislative initiatives we have ever seen." He said his group is thankful for the Governor's mishandling of the effort, but he is still surprised nothing has happened given all the money the gambling industry has already spent trying to throw its weight around.

"By the time this bill gets introduced, it will be past its expiration date. We are now into the fourth week of the legislative session. If this bill had been introduced two weeks ago, it may have had a chance. But we think their window of opportunity is gone." He said he thinks the session has already "passed this issue by."

“Not only do they not have the votes in the Senate, but they are losing support by the day."

"Gov. Beshear and his friends in the gambling industry have had a whole year to try to put something together for legislators to look at. But here we are, into the fourth week of the General Assembly, and they can't even decide what they want. They're essentially jerking lawmakers around. We think the patience of most legislators has run out."


Should we not vote for Gingrich because of his past marital problems?

My good friend Francis Beckwith asks the following question, which he calls "uncomfortable and awkward," about Newt and Callista Gingrich on his blog today:
So, let me ask it again in a more extended fashion: Are conservative Christians, who believe in the morality of the natural law and all that it entails about marriage, family and civil society, prepared for America to have a First Lady who was a home wrecker and was once the President’s mistress, with her husband as the national standard bearer for the causes of life, conjugal love, and the common good?
This is a legitimate question, and my answer to it is that I would rather not have such people--sinners--occupying the White House. Adultery is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments and is a mortal sin. On the other hand, I would rather not have a person who is a polytheist in the White House either. Mormonism is essentially polytheistic, a violation of another of the Ten Commandments, and also a mortal sin.

I would far rather have a non-sinner in the White House. As soon as anyone spots one, I'd like to know about it.

But there is an important difference between the two scenarios above--the Gingriches and the Romneys. It is that the former are repentant, and the latter are not. And so I'm not clear on how unrepentant and continuing violation of the first commandment is less problematic than the repentant violation of the sixth commandment.

In fact, if we are looking for God's own attitude toward the relative sinfulness of these two particular sins--polytheism and polygamy--it is not too difficult to see where the greater problem lies. God frequently penalizes individuals--and the nations they lead--for committing the former, but does not seem to have much of a penchant for penalizing an individual or nation for the latter.

In fact, if multiple marriage disqualifies one for public office, it is instructive who is thereby disqualified. We can start with David and Solomon. In fact, it would be an interesting question to consider how a guy with 700 wives would do in the Republican primary. In fact, with the kind of extended family that implies, one wonders if there would be any way he could lose.

I do not believe that the relatively greater divine distaste for polytheism over polygamy is an indication that polygamy was morally acceptable, but it does seem to pose a serious problem for anyone who wants to argue that serial monogamy (which it seems is less of a sin than polygamy) is any more problematic than polytheism.

I have pointed out elsewhere that I agree that character matters, but that I also think that conversion matters more. Not only has Gingrich publicly admitted that what he did was wrong, but as a Catholic convert, you have to do this little thing that involves going into a little room and spilling out your guts--including sexual sins--in detail to a guy on the other side of a panel, who, once you are finished, absolves you of your sins.

I too, like Beckwith, wish that Gingrich had been a little more contrite in his answer--as he has already been when he has discussed this elsewhere. I too, like Beckwith, think he should have been more sensitive about the pain he caused his wife. Maybe St. Augustine was being a little too self-obsessed himself when he said pretty much the same thing about the concubine he abandoned--it pained him.

In fact, it kind of bothered me that Ronald Reagan was a divorcee.

This is not a trivial problem. Gingrich's past bothers me. So does Romney's present. Maybe Santorum's future should concern me as well--he seems pretty squeaky clean so far, but who knows.

One of them will win the Republican nomination and face Barack Obama, who, incidentally, is neither a serial monogamist nor a polytheist.

Should I vote for him? It's an uncomfortable and awkward question.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joe Paterno: The good guys eventually win

Joe Paterno was one of the good guys. In fact, he was one of the greatest of the good guys in modern college sports, and--if you read carefully about the recent Penn State scandal--you will realize that nothing that occurred in the Sandusky child molestation case diminishes Paterno as a coach or as a person.

One story a football coach friend of mine once told me encapsulates much about Paterno as a coach and as a man. It was the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, which pitted Penn State against Miami. Miami that year had a hot quarterback by the name of Vinni Testaverde. The game is now legendary for the contrast between the two teams. Miami was a team that had earned its reputation as a band of thugs. As someone put it, they were the "Oakland Raiders of college football.

And  they were furthermore run by a coach who had no business coaching students: Jimmy Johnson, who later went on to coach the Dallas Cowboys and who has thankfully retired from coaching. He personified everything that is wrong with modern college footbal. The thugishness on the team was something he apparently didn't discourage.

The game would be a contest between the good guys and the bad guys.

The Hurricane players decided to dress the part--in military fatigues. In a pre-game steak fry, to which both teams were invited, Penn State players ribbed the camo-bedecked Hurricanes about their coach, among other things. The humorless Hurricane players walked off in a huff, one remarking, "Did the Japanese sit down and eat with Pearl Harbor before they bombed them? No. We're outta here." The team walked out.

"Excuse me," said a Penn State player. "But didn't the Japanese lose the war?"

When the Penn State players arrived for the game, they stepped off the bus--dressed in suits. As they made their way to the locker room, Johnson's thugs were there to greet them. Paterno referred to both these incidents in his wonderful, Paterno: By the Book:
"I don't know whether Jimmy helped his kids plan their disgraceful walkout. ... But I know he was there. Nor did he raise a finger of caution when we were climbing out of our bus for the locker room as his team ... just about blocked our path, waving and taunting and yelling, 'We'll get you, you mothers.' (I'm only using half their word)."
Paterno cautioned his players, telling them to expend their energy on the field.

After having lost to Oklahoma the previous year in the Orange Bowl, Paterno's players wanted a win, and the attitude of the Miami players made them want it even more.

The game did not start out well for the Nittany Lions. Their quarterback, who had trouble finding any open receivers, was pummeled. Their ground game was in a funk. At one point they fumbled, a mistake which gave Miami a touchdown. Penn State got one of their own, resulting in a 7-7 tie at the half.

But the Hurricane's offense wasn't doing well either. The much vaunted Testaverde couldn't get anything going, despite the undersized Penn State safeties, which the Hurricanes had ridiculed before the game as "smurfs." It began to become apparent to Miami's offense that the Nitanny Lion defensive backs hit. Hard. And even though Penn State's offense kept stalling, Miami began turning over the ball. In the fourth quarter, Testaverde threw to the wrong places, and when he threw to the right place, his receivers dropped the ball. But Miami still managed a field goal, making it 10-7.

Peterno himself was not worried. His philosophy was that you win with defense, and second with special teams. All the offense had to do was not hurt them. This is exactly what happened.

Testaverde, shaken and confused by Penn State's shifting schemes, threw the ball right into the hands of a Penn State defender, who ran it to the Hurricane's five yard line. On the next play, the Penn State quarterback went in for a touchdown. The score was 14-10, and that's how the game ended.

The good guys had won.

When the board of Penn State basically fired Paterno, they sacrificed him on the altar of their own reputation. Rather than do the right thing to the man who had done so much for the university and its players and students, they did the easy thing. Paterno was 85 years old and suffering from health problems. He had already resolved, in order to make things easier for the university, to retire at the end of the year, which was shortly approaching. The board should have left it at that. It didn't.

Paterno called what he did at Penn State a "grand experiment." What was the experiment? It was a simple recipe: "Success with honor." This he accomplished not only by being a moral example to his players, but by doing something that too many college and high school coaches fail to do--some by simply not even trying: ensure their players do well academically.

Penn State football players not only had to perform on the field, they had to perform in the classroom. He produced 37 first team all-Americans. In 2010, the team sported an 84 percent graduation rate, a rate too rare in college athletics. And the emphasis Paterno gave to academics didn't end with the players on the team. He gave millions of his own money and money that he raised to improve Penn State's academic programs.

It is interesting to note that while the Penn State football stadium is named after a former governor, the library is named after him: The Paterno Library.

The scandal itself was not Paterno's fault. Nobody even pretends that it was. He did what he was supposed to do, reporting what little had been reported to him by Mike McQuary to school officials the next day, one of whom was the head of the campus police. But as soon as the scandal was announced, the Monday morning moralists swung into action, spouting casuistry as they came. Local police had known about Sandusky since 1998, but let it go.

And some of the criticism had come from ESPN, which itself had sat on a recording it had of a conversation with the wife of Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, revealing something of the man now charged with charges similar to those against Sandusky--a recording they sat on for years.

Within a matter of hours, the reputation of Paterno who been the paragon of propriety and virtue in a world characterized by two little of either was in tatters.

Even before the report of Paterno's death, the wheels were falling off the moral case against Paterno. Mike McQuery, who witnessed what we know now to have been child molestation recently testified that he didn't tell Paterno all that he had seen. And the board is now being battered by charges from its own alumni that it did Paterno wrong.

He was told of his firing in a phone call from a board member. It was cheap. It was tawdry. And it was entirely without class.

Paterno's reaction to what was done to him, on the other hand, was as classy as the rest of his career. "You know, I'm not as concerned about me," Paterno told one interviewer. "What's happened to me has been great. I got five great kids. Seventeen grandchildren. I've had a wonderful experience here at Penn State. I don't want to walk away from this thing bitter."

He said he was not bitter, although he had every right to be. He wanted everyone to understand that this wasn't a football scandal. "I'm not worried about me. I think the courts will have their decisions as to what happens. That's where I want to leave it. I want to leave it on a high note and let the legal process do what they got to do."

The Sandusky scandal happened to Paterno in the fourth quarter of his life. He was 85 years old, having been head coach for 46 years, and having served at Penn State in other capacities for more years than that. The scandal put him behind as he approached the final minutes.

But Paterno was a devout Catholic Christian who believed that the game doesn't end here. Despite the fact that you are behind as you near the end is not reason to give up hope. It was a message he told his players again and again over the course of his storied life.

Joe Paterno was a good guy, and good guys eventually win.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vital Remnants calls the Florida Republican primary

If Fox and CNN can do it, why can't I?

Vital Remnants is now calling the Florida Republican primary for Newt Gingrich. No, we don't have any actual returns in yet. And, yes, the primary does not actually occur for another week. But I watched both Fox News and CNN call the South Carolina primary before any returns had actually been reported, so my own attempt at augury is not unprecedented.

First, Fox called the race purely on the basis of exit polling before any precincts had reported. I then turned to CNN, to see if they too had called the race without actually knowing how people voted. There, Anderson Cooper and another analyst were explaining very carefully why they weren't calling the race at that moment. So I turned back to Fox. Then, about five minutes later, I turned back to CNN where they too, despite not having any returns yet, had called the race.

Clearly CNN felt pressure because Fox had already called the race and didn't want to look. So I'm going to get a jump on all of them and call Florida.

Just as Fox and CNN have their sophisticated metrics on the basis of which they make their predictions, so do I. My procedure is to read the newspapers, take a sip of coffee, check out certain websites, take another sip of coffee, take a nap, watch some coverage of the race on TV, and go get some more coffee. I then go for a walk. After watching a movie (preferably a Western), I go chop some wood for my wood stove.

I then get out my calculator, add up some numbers and come to a total.  These numbers are basically random and the total they come to has absolutely nothing to do with anything whatsoever, but they give the whole analysis a vague and dreamy scientific feeling which, after all, is the basis for much of social science.

I am then ready to make my prediction, a prediction which generally depends on how optimistic or pessimistic I am feeling about my preferred candidate (which in turn is affected by how much coffee I have had).

Today, I am feeling good about Newt Gingrich after he won South Carolina yesterday. Should my optimism forsake me in the days leading up to the actual primary in which there will be actual returns based on actual votes by actual people, I may revise my announcement retroactively. This too is not unprecedented.

There may be some who think this procedure is unscientific and partisan, to which I respond that it is entirely within the realm of scientific method. After all, my procedure can be verified through the tried and true scientific process of employing the fallacy of affirming the consequent: if my prediction proves true, it counts as evidence for the validity of my procedure. If it proves false, on the other hand, then it is obviously falsifiable, which, according to Karl Popper, the scientists' favorite philosopher of science, is the criterion for the scientific, broadly conceived.

Gingrich. Florida. Trust me on this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pastor prays against gambling before Governor's speech to advocate it

Rev. Herschel York, a Frankfort, KY pastor and the former head of the Kentucky Baptist Convention gave the prayer tonight before the Governor's budget speech. He prayed for help for Kentuckians to "to foster salaries, not slot machines, to build cars, enable jobs, not license casinos." That was just before the Governor argued for fostering slot machines and licensing casinos.

Oh, and State Sen. Kathy Stein (D-Lexington) didn't like it. As opposed, of course to all the prayers given before sessions of the General Assembly that she does like.

Anti-slots group calls governor's gambling plan a "get rich quick" scheme

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY--The Family Foundation tonight called Gov. Steve Beshear's call to pass gambling in order to solve the state's budget problems a "get rich quick" scheme. The comments came in response to remarks in the Governor's budget address. Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group, asked why it was, in light of the sorry state of the Commonwealth's finances, that Gov. Steve Beshear was spending valuable political capital trying to bring gambling to the state when he should be spending it on trying to fix the state's broken tax system.

"The Governor is acting like some guy who thinks that by spending the family milk money on Lottery tickets, he's going to solve his financial problems," said Cothran. "The Governor needs to drop his get rich quick scheme and work on real solutions to our problems."

Responding to the Governor's appeal tonight to pass gambling legislation, Cothran said, "Instead of rolling up his sleeves and doing the hard work of rethinking our tax system, he wants to roll the dice on an unreliable source of revenue. This is just not responsible fiscal leadership."


Monday, January 09, 2012

Distributism 101: The two economic fallacies

Before all the Occupy protesters freeze and lose consciousness, I'd like to point out to them (and anyone else willing to listen) what it is that they should have been protesting about. Instead of taking to the streets and acting like a bunch of spoiled children, they could have been making intelligent criticisms of our economic systems that actually, like, matter.

In this first in a series of posts on the economic theory of Distributism, I want to explain what it is and how it differs from the two extremes in economics: libertarian capitalism and liberal socialism.

Distributism is an economic and social theory that has been gaining a lot of attention for several reasons, I think. The first is a sort of revival in interest in the thought of G. K. Chesterton is recent years. The second is that many of the ideas articulated by Distributists like Chesterton, Hillaire Belloc, E. F. Schumacher--as well as the more contemporary Wendell Berry, seem to be underly the thinking of Philip Blond and the Red Tory movement in England.

Distributism is the idea that capital should be spread widely in society--not concentrated in the hands of government and not concentrated in the hands of big business.

The problem with the Occupy protesters is not that they are wrong about a small number of capitalists having too much power: they're problem is that they seem to think that the solution to the problem is a more powerful government. And the problem with the critics of the Occupy movement is, first, that they think there is no economic problem; and, second, that they think the only right kind of economy and society is a libertarian capitalist one.

Our economic discussion, in other words, is cast in a Scylla and Charibdis form: either you are a capitalist and right (or wrong) or you are a socialist and you are wrong (or right). Well, to put it simply: no, not necessarily.

The best simple introduction to distributist economic ideas is Hillaire Belloc's Economics for Helen, a book out of print for many years, but now back in print thanks to IHS Press.

Belloc makes a distinction that could serve as the first lesson for anyone interested in knowing more about Distributism, a distinction that makes sense of so much of the nonsense in the debate over the Occupy movement and its critics: There is economics considered theoretically and economics considered practically--theoretical economics, if you will, and applied economics.

On the one hand, theoretical economics focuses on the way economics laws work. On the other hand, applied economics tell us what the economic state of affairs ought to be. The main problem in economic debates between so-called conservatives (who are really liberals [in the classical sense] on economics) is that they emphasize the theoretical aspect of economics in disregard of the applied, and the problem of the so-called liberals (many of whom are really socialists) emphasize applied economics in disregard of the theoretical.

In regard to the emphasis on theoretical economics, the law of supply and demand and the law of diminishing returns really are all they're cracked up to be. The Law of Comparative Advantage compares very advantageously, and Say's Law does just what Say said. The market, in other words, works in the abstract and in the aggregate. If it were to operate in total freedom without any interference it would produce the most efficient result--in the abstract and in the aggregate.

The trouble is that all the equations and analyses of the increasing mathematical discipline of economics only tells us about those things that are quantifiable. The gross national product may be higher than it's ever been, but that doesn't mean people are happier than they ever were.

To say, as the libertarian capitalists say, that we should just get out of the way and let the market work, is a value judgment, and one that assumes that the kind of abstract, theoretical efficiency that the market produces is the best state of affairs. And often this value judgment of the best state of affairs is spoken of as if it were a judgment that was part of theoretical aspect of economics, when, in fact, it's not.

Economics (in its theoretical sense--applied economics is really a part of politics) is like mathematics: it can tell us how to get to the right amount of whatever it is we want: it cannot tell us what the right amount is. Economics, like math, is completely theoretical in that respect. Economics cannot tell us what is the best allocation of resources: it can only tell us what we should do to get the allocation of resources we already know is, in fact, the best.

The mistake that assumes that the unfettered market automatically produces the best outcome is the typical mistake of capitalists, and it results from the overemphasis on the theoretical aspect of economics.

The second mistake--that made by socialists--is the mistake of thinking that we can merely transfer more power to well-intentioned big government and trust it to do the right thing regardless of the actual quantifiable damage it can do.

The means to success, thinks this school of thought, is to get together, pass policies with nice sounding names (legislation with "children" in the title always works), and simply command that these good things happen. Unfortunately, because of their disregard for the theoretical aspect of economics, there are usually unintended consequences of these actions. Because of the ignorance of laws of theoretical economics, these actions often result in the mitigation of the sought-for good result or the accentuation of some economic evil that was unforeseen.

Great Society programs, intended to help the poor, instead helped foster and sustain an increasingly permanent underclass through a set of bad economic incentives. Minimum wage laws, intended to raise the wages of workers in low paying jobs, often simply resulted in higher unemployment for those seeking entry-level jobs.

The first mistake is utilitarian, since it sees mere quantifiable results as the measure of economic success, and sees quantifiable results as the test of economic success. The second mistake is romantic, and sees good intentions as the test of economic success.

Neither takes real human beings into adequate account.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Abortion politics trumps access to medical care

Three Kentucky hospitals have moved ahead with a hospital merger, leaving the University of Louisville Hospital in the dust after Gov. Steve Beshear refused to let U of L Hospital join the merger. The new hospital system, called Kentucky One is now the largest network of hospitals in the state.

And U of L Hospital? They're left wondering how they are going to be able to survive at all in a world in which about the only way for a hospital to remain financially sound is to be a part of a larger hospital network.

What is clear from the way things have shaken out is just how committed liberal Democratic politicians like Steve Beshear are to left-wing social groups like the ACLU, The Fairness Campaign, and Planned Parenthood.

The liberals would rather threaten access to medical care for everyone in Louisville than to upset groups whose chief interest is in controlling the population of poor people through "reproductive services."

U of L Hospital is by all accounts in desperate financial straights and is in danger of either going under or having to be bailed out by taxpayers. The Catholic Hospitals didn't need U of L  Hospital, but U of L Hospital needed the Catholic Hospital system bad.

Despite the prospect of another leakage of tax dollars in a system of state government that already leaks like a sieve (just check out the retirement system) Beshear tried to put a halt to the proceedings--an action that resulted in the rest of the hospitals, including Louisville's Jewish Hospital, throwing up their hands and shoving off  without U of L, which was left standing there surrounded by left-wing protesters cheering for their little political victory that won't cost them a dime, but could cost the taxpayers plenty.

Forget the Governor's protestation about U of L being a "public asset that should not be controlled by the private sector," or that the merger was "not in the best interest of the Commonwealth." This was left-wing abortion politics plain and simple.

The hospital was a private entity which operated in conjunction with U of L, which, until 1970 was a private university and is operated by a private non-profit corporation. Beshear's and Attorney General Jack Conway's basic argument is that, since the hospital gets a lot of state money, it's a state hospital. Well, they'll be giving them a lot more money now just to keep them afloat.

And the groups they kowtowed to that put them in this situation won't be the ones paying for it.

Why Republicans almost always nominate moderates

It's simple. One fairly well-known moderate runs. About eight conservatives run. The moderate gets all the moderate Republican votes--or the votes of conservatives who don't know how moderate he is--and gets momentum.

Meanwhile the conservatives split the conservative vote, no one of them ever gets enough votes to get enough momentum.

The result: Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Tolkien snubbed by Nobel Committee in 1961, says BBC

Okay, if you ever wondered what the deal was with the Swedish Academy that decides who wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, now we know. According to the BBC News (via the New York Times), J. R. R. Tolkien was snubbed for the award in 1961 after C. S. Lewis nominated him to receive it.

Said the Academy of his work, “the result has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality...”

Uh, yeah. Right.

Instead, the recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature was that household name ... Ivo Andric. You know, the Yugoslav writer and author of the runaway bestseller, Na Drini ćuprija На Дрини ћуприја.

Wouldn't you know, I've searched my library and I just can't lay my hands on my copy.

If only Tolkien had written in Cyrillic script.

The Swedish Academy frowns on American authors, is a little bit more favorable toward Europeans, and has a curious penchant for giving the award to (you guessed it) Swedes. Other writers rejected by the Academy include James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen, Henry James, W. H. Auden, Emile Zola, Robert Frost, E. M. Forster, and Mark Twain.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Jack Abramoff speaks to a KY legislature about the corrupting power of big money

Although he (or she) is probably getting chewed out right now, whoever it was who invited Jack Abramoff to speak to state legislators at their annual ethics session to begin this legislative session deserves a pat on the back.

Abramoff is the perfect voice for legislators to hear in a session in which the chief issue (once again) is casino gambling. Abramoff went to jail for three and half years in a corruptions scandal that involved lobbyists, congressional aides--and even reached into the White House.

Much of it involved casino money.

Abramoff was convicted in 2,006 for fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy in connection with his lobbying activities on behalf of Indian tribes who paid him over $80 million for lobbying for their interests in Washington. He even bilked the tribes he was working for. He was also indicted in 2005 for his involvement in the purchase of a Florida casino.

His presence in Kentucky is fortuitous, since the gambling industry has given millions in campaign contributions to legislators, many of whom plan on voting for a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in the state--and for the present governor who is pressing their cause.

The last big legislative scandal in the state was BOPtrot, another gambling related scandal. Time will tell whether lawmakers listen to Abramoff's warnings about what big money can do to those who set policy for the state.

It makes you wonder...

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Last Free Man in America is Gone: Gatewood Galbraith, RIP

It was very sad to hear today that Gatewood Galbreath has died. There are some politicians who are greater than the sum of their political parts, and Galbreath was certainly one of these. He was one of the great colorful characters in Kentucky politics and he occupied a unique place in the public consciousness.

Of course, to call him a "politician" is to diminish him. He was a folk hero. He was a perennial statewide candidate, running unsuccessfully for a variety of state offices, something which, for anyone else, would have made him a laughing stock. Instead, it only endeared him the more.

His signature cowboy hat and boots became a familiar sight to those who followed public affairs in Kentucky.

If you talked to the candidates who ran against him or anyone who ever had any dealings with him, the sentiment was the same. Everyone loved Gatewood. Anyone who saw him speak--and he was always the most entertaining speaker on any program--came away saying, "Well, I know he supports legalizing marijuana, but he's smart--and funny."

In fact, someone needs to go around and find out how many people--those you would least expect--secretly voted for Gatewood for Secretary of Agriculture, or Attorney General, or Governor. I'll be the first to step forward.

I did. And I'm proud of it.

Did he have some kooky positions? Sure he did. He was in favor of marijuana legalization, for example. But is that any less kooky than allowing commercials for prescription drugs in a country where prescription drug deaths are legion? He wasn't in favor marijuana legalization for some abstract political reason. He favored it because he saw its advocacy as a strike against the forces of what he called "synthetic subversion," his idea that we have moved from an authentic, agrarian culture to an artificial industrial society. Gatewood Gatewood was a unique amalgam of libertarian and traditionalist, champion of agrarian localism and individual freedom.

Here is an excerpt from his book that gives a taste of the sometimes kooky, but always good humored and largely serious beliefs:
But if you did not know me or what I stand for, and if I only had thirty seconds to get your vote, I would have only one question to ask you. 
And if you answer this question one way, I’ve got your vote, no matter what else you think about me. 
And if you answer this question the other way, I don’t think you understand the question. 
The question is, ‘Did our forefathers’ generation hit the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima so that we would have to pee in a cup to hold a job in America?’ 
The introduction of the police state methods into American culture is fatal to our freedom. The solutions to our problems lie in the words of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln not Mr. Yamamoto or Helmut Schmidt. 
And let’s get this straight. I’m not a racist and I’m not xenophobic. I’m a Nationalist. 
I’ll trade with other countries, I’ll have lunch with them and I’ll play golf with them. But until they adopt a Constitution and Bill of Rights that gives their own citizens the rights and freedoms we enjoy, they are not our political peers. 
If we abandon our principals of individual freedom and dignity, then our liberty and right to self-determination will abandon us. Our standard of living will fall and our jobs will evaporate as our children and grandchildren are thrown open to competition in the workplace with Four Billion other people on the planet, many of whom will work all day for a bowl of rice and a mat to sleep on. 
That is not my vision for Kentucky and its citizens. My vision is rooted in the traditions of our Founding Fathers. 
As to the size of government, Thomas Jefferson said, ‘The least government is the best government.’ 
As to the role of government, Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Prohibition strikes at the very heart of the principles on which this country was founded.’ 
And as far as having to pee in a cup to hold a job, I look to the words of General George Patton. ‘****** you Nazis!’
I ran into him at one of former Gov. Brereton Jones' August picnics. I walked up and shook his hand and thanked him. I told him he forever won my gratitude for walking out in front of a float lying down in the road at a Fourth of July parade in Lexington that Mayor and former hippy Pam Miller had redesignated to also honor the United Nations. He was carried away to jail to the delight of the crowd.

One of the things I most admired about him is his willingness to go beyond a strict libertarian view of culture. He didn't champion a sterile, contentless freedom. His politics was a human politics, which is perhaps why, in recent years, he changed his pro-abortion position to a pro-life one on the issue of abortion.

Ask around Kentucky, and you will find that liberals, conservatives, and people of every political stripe had a great affection for this man. It's a shame to see him go.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

P. J. O'Rourke on popular culture

P. J. O'Rourke is one of the small handful of writers every one of whose pronouncements I make a point to read. Here is in the Weekly Standard, discussing popular culture:
Now we baby boomers are 50- to 65-year-olds, the age cohort upon which everything always can be blamed. No matter what happens in the world, somebody over 50 wrote the check for it. And how are we doing? Obviously we’ve screwed up love, marriage, the dress code, the economy, politics, and the brief hope, when we were in our forties, that there would be a peaceful, cooperative New World Order (Vladimir Putin, 1952). But popular culture has thrived in our hands.

Popular culture has become engorged, broadening and thickening until it’s the only culture anyone notices. Name a living poet, playwright, novelist, serious composer, artist, or architect who holds the place in public esteem once occupied by Robert Frost, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Picasso, or Frank Lloyd Wright.

But also admit we’re well rid of some of the above (all of Miller, most of Mailer, a lot of Bernstein—score for West Side Story excepted—and the decorative influence if not the indecorous output of Picasso). And did highbrow culture really used to be so high? In fact the aesthetic and intellectual atmosphere of 1974 was already stupid. Gerald Ford’s sideburns. Gerald Ford.
Read the rest here.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Courier-Journal favors fairness, except in its news stories

The Louisville Courier-Journal had has dispensed even with the pretense of fairness in the story of the UofL hospital merger, running an article completely devoted to opponents and not mentioning a single voice critical of the governor's decision to pull the plug on the deal.

Not one.

Ironically, one of the panoply of left-wing groups whose comments were featured in the article which was anything but fair was the "Fairness" Campaign.

Maybe, as the paper continues to shrink and staff continue to be let go, the ombudsman office is just empty now. Not that it ever seemed to matter before.