HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I’m heading out of the country for the holidays and I’m not sure what kind of Internet access I’ll have, so I just wanted to wish everybody a Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

(And I have a roommate who will be here, so don’t think of this post as an oppourtunity to sneak into my apartment and rob me blind!)

Strike Sale

Along my 7-mile walk home to Brooklyn tonight, I passed a health club advertising a “strike sale.” A sign out front boasted: “STAY IN SHAPE FOR YOUR WALK TO WORK!” I love New York. I love capitalism.

New Yorkers: Let’s Sue the Transit Workers Union!

I’m not sure of the legal precedent for this sort of thing, but it would be nice to see a class action lawsuit filed against the Transit Workers Union on behalf of millions of New York commuters and business owners who have been affected by the strike. The economic damages as a result of the strike could be as high as $660 million per day according to New York’s Economic Development Corporation. There is the lost productivity as a result of people being late to work or missing work altogether and lost retail sales during the busy Christmas shopping season. Also, there are additional costs incurred by subway or bus commuters who are forced to shell out money for cabs or car services and some businesses who have rented shuttle buses for employees. Surely an enterprising lawyer can dig up claimants who suffered injuries after being forced to take a four hour walk home. Trial lawyers find a way to sue everybody under the sun, surely there must be some way to sue the TWU for this premeditated, malicious and illegal act of economic sabotage. The union won’t be able to pay all of the claims coming from such a lawsuit, but maybe they’d be forced into bankruptcy like manufacturers who are the targets of asbestos litigation. That would be a just punishment as well as a warning to other public unions who are contemplating illegal strikes.

Will John McCain Please Stand Up

John McCain voted in favor of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act last week and came out in defense of President Bush’s decision to allow the NSA to eavesdrop on the international calls of people with links to terrorists. It would be nice to see McCain push for renewal of the Patriot Act with the same rigor he displayed when leading the charge on campaign finance reform, banning torture and compromising on judicial nominees.

Bush on Christmas and Hanukkah

President Bush has taken heat from conservatives during the ongoing “war on Christmas” controversy for sending out cards wishing everybody a happy “holiday season,” but it seems he is now perfectly comfortable being politcally incorrect. During tonight’s speech about Iraq, he said, “Next week, Americans will gather to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah” and ended by quoting a “Christmas carol” (rather than a holiday carol).

Giuliani on the Patriot Act

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Giuliani writes:

YESTERDAY the Senate failed to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, as a Democratic-led filibuster prevented a vote. This action – which leaves the act, key elements of which are due to expire on Dec. 31, in limbo – represents a grave potential threat to the nation’s security. I support the extension of the Patriot Act for one simple reason: Americans must use every legal and constitutional tool in their arsenal to fight terrorism and protect their lives and liberties.

Read the whole thing here.

Conseratives and Culture

Mark Helprin has an excellent essay in the 50th anniversary issue of the National Review. Unfortunately, the full article is not available online, but you can read an excerpt here.

In the article, Helprin contrasts the way conservatives approach politics with the way they approach culture to explain why they are successful in one area, but not the other. He argues that when it comes to politics, conservatives succeeded because they (and specifically William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan) offered fresh ideas when liberalism went stale. By concentrating on “?assertion rather than defense” and making a positive case for conservative ideas, Reagan triumphed and left opponents in “?a reactive hissy fit.” But while conservatives recognize that initiative is more powerful than reaction when it comes to politics, when it comes to culture, the roles are reversed. In art, music, literature, film and education, liberals seize the initiative while conservatives are reduced to being mere critics. It doesn’t matter if their cultural criticisms are valid, because “?for here as well as almost everywhere the initiative rules.” Helprin writes that, “?any gains in politics, no matter how indelible they seem, can easily be washed away–in a generation, in a decade, year, month or minute–by culture”¦ Even though frequently mistaken as something for which you can buy a ticket, culture is the cradle and crucible not only of all politics but of those things that politics serve and for which they exist in the first place.”

Helprin’s point is a very important one that I’d like to expand upon. I have always been partial to the self-selection hypothesis when it comes to complaints that liberals dominate academia and the arts. Any person considering a career in such fields must weigh their creative desires against practical concerns such as earning a decent living. The practicality impulse tends to be stronger in conservatives than liberals. Many conservatives view artists as lazy or flaky and are more reticent about joining their ranks.

So, to take over academia and the arts, there has to be a conscious movement to encourage younger conservatives to go into those fields. For decades, conservatives have poured money into magazines, think tanks, internships, fellowship programs, etc., and all of these things have been instrumental in furthering conservative ideas. There’s no reason why conservatives couldn’t create more endowments to groom young conservative artists, musicians or literary writers. As Helprin writes, “?Cultural abominations thrive not because they are insufficiently criticized but for lack of adequately supported competition.”

The success of Fox News Channel demonstrates that a large portion of the population was underserved by the media. Along the same lines, perhaps conservatives could start an independent film studio to produce movies that promote traditional values. At the end of the day, Hollywood is more interested in money than politics, and studios are especially desperate these days given that box office receipts are in the toilet. There is no doubt a demand for movies that promote values in line with a majority of the country.

I’m not saying that it will be easy for conservatives to conquer culture–it’s a process that could take decades. But in every other area, conservatives have faith in the power of initiative to overcome any obstacle. When liberals defend social programs by arguing that poor people need the government’s help because they are trapped as a result of racism, insufficient education, etc., conservatives argue that the government should step back to allow people to dig themselves out of poverty through their own initiative. Liberals whine about the oppressive power of corporations. Do conservatives really want to reduce themselves to whining about leftists in Hollywood?

Sullivan on Free Speech and Gay Rights

A recent trip to Los Angeles and other projects have prevented me from keeping up with this blog in the past week, but I want to take a moment to give Andrew Sullivan credit on this post, in which he takes gay rights groups to task for challenging the free speech and free association rights of those who are hostile toward homosexuality. He says, in part:

It seems to me that gay groups need to end their silence about this and rigorously defend the free speech rights of our opponents, as well as their right to practice their religious faith in any way they see fit, and to proselytize within the law as aggressively as they want. We need to defend the free association rights of groups like the St Patrick’s Day parade organizers and even the Boy Scouts, however repugnant their views of gay people. Words cannot harm people; in fact, because those in favor of gay equality are telling the truth, we have every incentive to magnify and extend the debate. Silencing opponents is a sign of weakness, doubt and intolerance. Gay groups can and should do better.

I addressed this topic myself in an article I wrote about a decision by California’s Supreme Court to force a private golf club to extend marriage discounts to same-sex partners. Because of my belief in limited government, I side with gay rights groups in my opposition to sodomy laws and support for gay marriage. But gay rights groups can’t have it both ways. If they want the government to stay out of their lives, they shouldn’t use it to bully individuals and private institutions into accepting their lifestyle. I’m happy that Sullivan can acknowledge this distinction, and wish more gay rights advocates would join him.