Author Archives: Ron Lipsman

The Search for Truth, Knowledge and Beauty – in Decaying Buildings

The purpose of the university is two-fold: first, the search for truth, knowledge and beauty; and second, the dissemination of the results of that search. In this essay, I will describe how the first purpose has come to dominate the second in the modern university and how this development has undercut a fifty-year quest for a suitable teaching facility at my university.

The classic role of American higher education was first to establish an environment in which man’s quest for knowledge, search for truth and identification of beauty could be pursued avidly and in an unhindered way. The complementary purpose was to transmit what had been learned – of course in the most recent quests, but especially what had been learned and verified over time – to students, colleagues and, indeed, to all in the public who were eager to learn of the fruits of the ongoing search.

Alas, the skill sets for performing these distinct, but related functions – that is, research and teaching – often didn’t line up. Any of us who has spent time within the halls of academia has encountered splendid researchers who could not teach their way out of a paper bag and, conversely, superb teachers who lacked the originality and/or persistence to do meaningful research. This disparity was evident to all who paid attention. Universities coped with this in several ways. Sometimes they refined their mission, becoming either a research-oriented institution or one that focused mainly on teaching. More commonly, universities retained their dual character, but faculty roles became specialized between teaching and research. It soon became clear that universities felt compelled to choose which of the two faculty modes to favor and promote. Today, it is evident that they chose research over teaching. Why did that happen? Here’s my assessment:

  • The primary reason was the competition for academic recognition. For decades, a small cadre of institutions (the Ivies, MIT, Cal Tech, and the University of Chicago) was universally recognized as elite. Following World War II, amid the explosion in university enrollments, almost all the State universities, plus many private universities “below” the stature of the Ivies, developed an almost compulsive desire to be ranked among the elite. They pursued that ephemeral dream in many ways: seeking increased funding, upgrading facilities, setting higher student admission standards, and massive PR campaigns; but primarily by enhancing the quality of the faculty. And the primary measure they used to evaluate faculty quality was research, not teaching.
  • A second reason was the techno revolution in university instruction. Through new software products, hardware platforms and innovative facilities and programs, high quality university teaching became inexorably intertwined with technological advance and instructional innovation. The latter were not cheap, nor easily implemented. The amount of time and effort required of a faculty member to modernize his teaching credentials was substantial – providing yet another advantage to research over teaching.
  • Another factor was the well-documented decline in the percentage of college courses taught by tenure/tenure-track faculty. As more and more resources were devoted to faculty research, the teaching load was increasingly assigned to adjunct faculty. This only enhanced the imbalanced evaluation of faculty excellence based on research instead of teaching.
  • Research brought in dollars to build facilities and pay high salaries. Federal, state and corporate grants poured money into the research enterprise. Not only did teaching endeavors not do likewise, they were often a drain on resources. Yet another factor moving the needle toward the emphasis of research over teaching.
  • Finally, in some sense, the university chose between its faculty and its students on whom to lavish more attention and resources. It wasn’t a hard choice. Faculty careers can last a lifetime; student careers no more than a few years.

In summary, over the last two generations, we have seen on campus a dramatic shift in attention to research faculty at the expense of teaching faculty. A corollary as well as a cause of that shift has been a de-emphasis on teaching credentials among the tenured faculty as well as weak qualification in the tech aspects that have grown fundamental to modern instruction.

Now let’s tie that assessment to a remarkable development at my university.

I recently retired as Professor of Mathematics at a large state university. At my institution virtually all of the freshman- and sophomore-level math courses are delivered in large lecture format: the instructor lectures three times per week in a lecture hall seating up to 350 students and students meet once or twice per week with a TA in a small classroom. We service literally thousands of students per semester in this format.

The lecture halls are located in a building called the “Armory.” It has that designation because the building was constructed during World War II to serve the needs of the relatively large ROTC contingent on campus. The building housed a rifle range and several large warehouse-type rooms in which guns, ammo and other military equipment was stored. After the war, it was retrofitted with multiple large lecture halls.

When I arrived on campus in 1969, I was told that there was a serious plan afoot to replace the Armory with a modern building containing up-to-date lecture halls. Not surprisingly, the project experienced some delays. Forty one years later, I retired – still waiting for the lecture hall building. I continue to teach part-time and this January, more than forty-five years after my first foray into the Armory, I will deliver lectures in a lecture hall therein – its configuration only modestly updated from what I encountered nearly half a century ago.

But not to despair. A benefactor dropped an eight figure donation on the campus not long ago and – hallelujah – it will provide seed money to finally build my new lecture hall building. In fact, ground was broken just this past fall. If I am still doddering around in 2017, I might be able to finally teach a class in a modern lecture hall. But maybe not!

The university has decided to open the facility to bidding by campus departments prepared to do innovative things. I don’t know what will happen but it seems likely that, although the whole point was to replace the antiquated classrooms in the Armory (used almost exclusively by Math), in the end Math will get only some of the classroom time in the new building, and maybe a small portion at that.

For as a consequence of the trends described above, the Math Department is not in as good a position to utilize the new facility as was originally envisioned. Actually, the Math Department does a good job in discharging its teaching obligations. It has an excellent curriculum for Math majors. But, although with recent emphasis on STEM subjects, the number of majors has gone up, the total is still relatively modest. In fact, Math is largely a service department, providing lower level Math courses for Engineering, Natural Sciences and Social Science majors. These courses are largely pedestrian, staffed by adjunct faculty and the method of delivery is severely dated. There is little technology or teaching innovation because too many resources were funneled into research instead.

I have been waiting 50 years for the new lecture hall building. I promised the Department that, when it was built, I would put in my teeth and come over and teach a class. Now I may not be able to fulfill my 50-year old dream. And if that happens, it will be a direct consequence of the increased emphasis on research at the expense of teaching that is the state of higher education in America today.

This essay appeared in a slightly abridged version in the online web site of ACTA, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

Which of the Two Dozen 2016 GOP Contenders is the Right One?

Although it is not without precedent, the number of contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination exceeds two dozen. It’s actually a somewhat ridiculous situation – especially as the number of Democrat candidates at this point is essentially one. I also say ridiculous because I maintain that the choice of the next GOP presidential candidate is one of the most consequential choices the country will ever make. Why do I say so?

The progressive remake of the United States is now a work that is just over a century in progress. One can argue that its political debut dates to 1900 – the year that Teddy Roosevelt entered the White House; or perhaps 1912 – when Wilson became president; but certainly no later than 1913 – upon the establishment of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the 16th and 17th amendments to the Constitution [income tax and direct election of senators]. As I said, a little more than a century.

I shan’t review in detail the myriad ways that the progressive putsch has changed America from a free market, limited government, bourgeois culture, constitutional republic that maximized individual freedom into a big government, crony capitalistic, libertine cultural mess that emphasizes group rights and government dependency. Let me just say that the march from the former to the latter has been relatively steady – under both Democrat and Republican administrations – with major lurches to the left under Roosevelt and Johnson. Obama aspired to be the vehicle for a third major (and even greater) move to port, but the outcomes of the 2010 and 2014 elections suggest that he has not succeeded.

There have been two exceptions to the overall trend: the administrations of Harding-Coolidge and of Reagan. In each of these cases, the interval of sanity did not survive the departure of the conservative leader who ushered it in. I will say more about how Reagan succeeded and failed momentarily. For more about the 1920s era, I recommend you to the books (manly dealing with Coolidge) of A. Shlaes and G. Tucker.

Now it is my assertion that the vast majority of GOP politicians over the last century can be classified into one of the following three categories:

        1. RINOs – meaning that they do not really believe that progressivism and big government are bad for America – it’s just that the Democrats are screwing it up and Republicans should be entrusted with the task of implementing the progressive agenda because they will do it more efficiently and cost effectively than liberal Democrats have or could.
  1. CRUELs – that is, confused Republicans who are unable to exercise leadership. These are conservative politicians whose hearts and minds may be in the right place, but they are unable to: (i) articulate their beliefs; (ii) explain the connection between progressivism and the ills that beset the nation; (iii) describe clearly how conservative policies will enhance liberty and economic prosperity; and (iv) deflect the vicious slanders that the Democrats hurl at them.
  2. CCCs – that is committed, conservative constitutionalists. These are politicians who have a clear understanding of what the progressives have wrought and how the country has changed. They can envision and describe the bleak future that awaits us if we don’t have a major course correction. Furthermore, such people also have a clear idea of what must be done to return the country to its founding ethos, re-institute the ideals of free market capitalism, constitutional and limited governance, and American exceptionalism and thereby restore the republic. Moreover, they can explain these ideas clearly and simply.

I’m not sure whether there are more RINOS than CRUELs or vice versa. But I am sure that there are far more of either of them than there are triple Cs. That sorry fact and the palpable shift of the Democrat Party sharply to the left have helped to pave the way for the advent of the Obama era. That era is highlighted by the willingness of the people to elect – and re-elect – the most anti-American, anti-Constitutional, radically left, lawless president in American history. Thus it would appear that the progressive transformation of America is nearly complete. If we do not slam on the brakes and initiate a reversal of the transformation soon – very soon – then it will be too late and the United States of America – the most noble and successful experiment in human freedom the world has ever known – will be doomed to fail just shy of its quarter millennium birthday.

It is a tragedy that I contemplate with dread – that is, that I might see the completion of the progressive putsch and the final conversion of the US into the soft tyranny of a perhaps benignly inspired but ultimately oppressive, economically disadvantaged, centrally managed, social welfare state. It is quite possible that, unless we can elect a CCC in 2016, we will indeed see the end of the American experiment.

So is there a savior in the crowded field? If so, who is it? Well, here are my assessments of the various candidates (the list will not be exhaustive).

RINOs: Romney, Christie, Graham, Snyder, Ehrlich, Gilmore, Kasich;
CRUELS: Santorum, Perry, Palin, Cain, Bachmann, Paul;
CCCs: Cruz, Carson, Pence, Walker, Bolton.

You have, of course, noted several missing names: Bush, Huckabee, Rubio, Jindal, Ryan. These are the folks that I am unable to definitively pigeon-hole. Several (like Huckabee, Rubio and Jindal) are not RINOs, but I can’t decide between the other two categories. The other two (Bush and Ryan) might be RINOs, but I am not sure.

The point is that my opinion is not what matters. Over the next two years, the GOP electorate will choose. I hope that it will choose wisely and then that the choice will be endorsed by the overall electorate.

Even if this sanguine scenario transpires, I must, however, inject a note of caution – actually, two notes. First, think back to Reagan. When he entered office, he had three broad objectives: (i) defeat the Soviet Union and rid the world of the communist menace; (ii) restore the American economy to health; and (iii) shrink the government, restore federalism and reduce the federal debt. He succeeded brilliantly at the first two, but failed miserably at the third. Alas, in some ways a new triple C president in January 2017 would face analogous crises in all three areas. First, the communist menace has been replaced by the Islamist menace. The nuclear feature of the conflict is not replicated (at least not yet), but our current opponent’s fanaticism, murderous ambition and vicious intolerance are, if anything, even worse than the Soviets’. Jimmy Carter suggested that we get over our “inordinate fear of communism.” It is clear that Barack Obama feels likewise about radical Islam. But if we don’t confront and destroy it, we and the rest of the world are in for some very rough sailing.

Second, the economic crisis of 2008-2009 was arguably as serious as the crisis of the late 1970s. Although Obama and the Dems have done nothing to heal it, the US economy is so resilient that it has healed itself. But only partially, as we still have significant economic problems: historically low labor participation, stagnant salaries, colossal debt, a middle class that is gaining no ground and excessive income inequality. These problems will command the attention of a new conservative president.

And of course there is the third major crisis: the need to shrink the government, restore federalism and reduce the debt will be on the new president’s plate – assuming that he or she can, unlike Reagan, get past the first two crises. Which brings me to the second note of caution. It is impossible to restore America politically and economically if it is not restored culturally. Reagan understood this, I believe, as exhibited by the words in his farewell address. But he never seriously addressed the issue – either because he didn’t have time or perhaps he lacked the belief that he could make a difference. We can never know. But, the matter of the culture is critical to the success of the conservative restoration project. For in fact, culture trumps politics.

This idea was grasped by turn of the century progressives – especially Antonio Gramsci. They understood that in order to radically alter the politics of the United States, they had to first undermine bourgeois culture and replace it with a more libertine version. They understood that the flow of influence runs downhill from culture to politics. And so they set about changing America’s culture. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Today, the left controls virtually all of the opinion-molding organs of American society: the media and the arts, public schools, foundations, seminaries, museums, libraries, higher education, the federal bureaucracy, the legal profession and so on. Classic American culture celebrated individual liberty, limited government, free market capitalism, strong morals grounded in religion, intact traditional families and vibrant cohesive communities, individual responsibility and the meritocracy, and American Exceptionalism – in particular, the idea that America is a model and force for good in the world. That culture has been supplanted by one that values: group rights, big government and crony capitalism, loose morals and banishment of religion from the public square, global American weakness and disengagement, and an obscene focus on the warts in American history. It is little wonder that in such a culture, the least experienced, most anti-American, anti-Constitutional, radically left, lawless president in American history could be elected and re-elected.

We must recapture the culture. It took the left a century to overthrow America’s classic culture. It may take us a century to win it back. A program for doing so is for another essay. What we need now is not just another Reagan, but a succession of triple C presidents who understand the cultural issue, as well as the foreign and economic policy issues, and who have the requisite ideas, understanding and political skills to bring about a conservative renaissance. Through their leadership we can take back our country. At the moment, I’ll settle for a first person in that line. Which of the two dozen contenders is that special person? I pray that we find out soon.

This essay also appeared in The American Thinker

An Egghead’s Advice to Conservative Political Activists

The following is a transcript of a talk given at the Maryland Center-Right Coalition on January 8, 2015.

Many of the people in this room are long-time political activists. I admire your dedication to the task. The countless hours that you spend: in planning sessions, cultivating candidates, monitoring elections, raising funds, refuting opposition arguments, promoting policies and programs, and pursuing tedious grunt work is truly admirable. The conservative cause is deeply in your debt.

However, I fear that it may be that in the unending hours, which you devote to your activities, the underlying reasons why you labor so mightily is sometimes lost sight of. Or more seriously, you are so focused on the details of your latest task that you have forgotten – even if only temporarily – the fundamental rationale for your efforts. Consequently, you do not explain it to yourself, or to the people you are working so feverishly to convert to the cause.

I, on the other hand, am an egghead. I don’t run around to meetings, rallies and press conferences. Instead, I just sit around and think. Then I write and talk about my thoughts. The point is that while the foot soldiers of the movement are absolutely essential to the success of the cause, ultimately they cannot succeed without the conceptual thinkers who provide the rationale and motivation for their actions.

History is replete with corroborating evidence for this assertion. The American Revolution does not occur without the contributions of the eggheads named: Montesquieu, Locke, Donne, Smith and Paine. I’m sure you could add a few more names to the list. The modern computer revolution does not happen if Babbage, Turing and von Neumann had not recorded their ideas. The civil rights revolution in America is stillborn if words and thoughts do not emanate from Gandhi, Lewis and of course King. By the way, Martin Luther King is a good example of an instance in which an a priori thinker also played a major role as an activist.

Alas, the concept works for evil as well as good. The leftist revolution that has swept America in the last century was modeled after the ideas of Debs, Gramsci, Dewey and La Follette. And of course the twin totalitarian evils that plagued the twentieth century, Nazism and Communism, were inspired by Marx, Engels, Nietzsche and Darwin (in certain respects) and that guy who wrote Mein Kampf. Tragically, the twenty-first century is witnessing its own totalitarian plague, that is, radical Islam or Islamism or Islamofascism. We may be having a hard time naming it, and, amazingly enough, some of us are even having difficulty acknowledging that it exists. But its malevolent activities are evident to anyone with half an eye open and half a brain unclenched – and it too has its theoretical instigators, for example al-Banna and Qutb of Egypt and Khomeini of Iran.

It is my contention that the conservative counter-revolution in America, which we are fitfully experiencing, follows the same model. The idea people who kicked it off in mid twentieth century were Russell Kirk, Leo Strauss and William Buckley. These politically seminal thinkers actually had economic/social counterparts: Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

Now here is a self-evident fact. Clearly, in every case that I have cited, the work of the seminal thinkers preceded the concrete implementation of the ideas they addressed. But it is also absolutely clear that in every case, it was decades before success was achieved. It takes time for the brilliant and influential ideas of the originators to disseminate, and of course time for the development of an army of activists to bring about the implementation of the ideas.

Now here is a perhaps less self-evident fact. Even decades after the original ideas are born and while people are implementing them, there is always a second generation group of thinkers, putting out amplifications and refinements of the thoughts of the seminal folks. For example, as the American Revolution proceeded, it continued to receive inspiration from the words of Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. In the last decade, the computer/techno revolution continues to benefit and be influenced by the ideas of Jobs, Zuckerberg and Dorsey.  And I would contend that the Civil Rights movement in America continues to be shaped by the ideas of people like Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein and James Q. Wilson  – although I suspect that our friends on the left would dispute my choice of second generation influential thinkers.

I do not believe that there are any meaningful continuing modern influences for either of the Nazi or Communist movements, reflecting the fact that those movements are dead. Glory be! But Islamofascism is certainly not dead and I warrant that there are folks out there continuing to put out ideas, which inspire the lunatics who are chopping off heads in the Levant, kidnapping and raping young girls in Africa and even murdering innocent people in the name of Jihad in France, Bulgaria, Australia and also in the US. I am not sure who they are and what they are writing, but I have no doubt that they exist.

If I am correct about a movement’s ongoing need for intellectual succor and stimulation, then the conservative, counter-cultural revolution, which was launched a half century ago, but which by any objective measure has achieved only limited success; that movement, our movement is in need of continuing intellectual and conceptual input. Fortunately, it has been forthcoming. In that regard, I would cite: Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Greenfield, Rush Limbaugh – and once again, I will stop, perhaps prematurely, and let you fil in more names.

Now I do not presume to place myself in the same company as the distinguished gentlemen whose names I just dropped. But, borrowing from them and from other enlightened conservatives, I would like to put before you four ideas or recommendations that I think any current conservative thinker would urge upon a modern conservative political activist. Hopefully, as you work to restore America to its moorings as a constitutional republic, these ideas can provide some energy and guidance for your activities.

Culture trumps politics. This idea was grasped by turn of the century progressives – especially Antonio Gramsci. They understood that in order to radically alter the politics of the United States, they had to first undermine bourgeois culture and replace it with a more libertine version. They understood that the flow of influence runs downhill from culture to politics. And so they set about changing America’s culture. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Today, the left controls virtually all of the opinion-molding organs of American society: the media and the arts, public schools, foundations, seminaries, museums, libraries, higher education, the federal bureaucracy, the legal profession and so on. Classic American culture celebrated individual liberty, limited government, free market capitalism, strong morals grounded in religion, intact traditional families and vibrant cohesive communities, individual responsibility and the meritocracy, and American Exceptionalism – in particular, the idea that America is a model and force for good in the world. That culture has been supplanted by one that values: group rights, big government and crony capitalism, loose morals and banishment of religion from the public square, global American weakness and disengagement, and an obscene focus on the warts in American history. It is little wonder that in such a culture, the least experienced, most anti-American, anti-Constitutional, radically left, lawless president in American history could be elected and re-elected.

We must recapture the culture. It took the left a century to overthrow America’s classic culture. It may take us a century to win it back. We’d better get started. Here are a few suggestions. Instead of Sheldon Adelson dumping tens of millions of dollars into a futile attempt to nominate Newt Gingrich, we would have been better served if he bought CBS. Thank God for Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Talk Radio. But conservatives will have to take control of a lot more organs of the American media for us to make significant progress in the long quest to reassert traditional American culture. Thus I am suggesting that instead of trying to elicit money from donors for, for example, futile runs against Chris Van Hollen, you should try to get those donors to buy the Washington Post or start a conservative organization of school teachers to rival the NEA or create more Hillsdale and Grove City Colleges or start a foundation like Heritage or CATO or the Manhattan Institute, or fund tens of conservative law professors at Ivy League institutions.

In short, we need to replace – or at least supplement – our laser focus on politics by a new and sustained effort to reorient America’s culture back to its historical roots.

Elevate the right GOP candidates. (Pun intended.) Activists need to discover, recruit and if necessary train GOP candidates who understand the previous point about the culture. Equally important, nurture candidates who not only have a clear understanding of what the progressives have wrought in the last century, but who can in addition explain exactly how the results of the leftist putsch have damaged the Republic. Finally, stand up candidates who can describe how a return to conservative principles will undo the damage and enable our citizens to lead lives of greater prosperity and freedom.

In spite of the assault on its merits by their school teachers, most Americans still revere the Constitution and believe it constitutes the founding document to which American government should adhere and be faithful. Conservative candidates – which, if recent history is any guide, will be almost exclusively GOP candidates – must be able to explain to voters why almost all of the program of the modern Democrat Party is in direct violation of the Constitution. Furthermore, they must be able to explain how a return to Constitutional principles and the traditional American ethos will reverse the economic stagnation, constriction of freedom, loss of control of world affairs and diminution of the American spirit that are the hallmarks of twenty first century America, which has been under the hypnotic sway of progressivism for far too long.

Too many Republican candidates and elected officials fall into one of the following two categories:

  1. RINOs, meaning that they do not really believe that progressivism and big government are bad for America – it’s just that the Democrats are screwing it up and Republicans should be entrusted with the task of implementing the progressive agenda because they will do it more efficiently and cost effectively than liberal Democrats have or could; or
  2. In tune, but inadequate. That is, candidates whose hearts and minds may be in the right place, but they are unable to: (i) articulate their beliefs, (ii) explain the connection between progressivism and the ills that beset the nation; and (iii) deflect the vicious slanders that the Democrats hurl at them. Regarding the latter, Reagan parried the attacks with humor. David Horowitz believes we should fight as dirty as the Dems do. However GOP candidates combat Democrat demonization of their GOP opponents, those candidates must understand that the Dems no longer feel constrained by “Marquis of Queensbury” rules in political contests. We need to recruit candidates who understand that and are prepared to deal with it forthrightly and effectively, but also with optimism and good-nature.

Arguably the greatest good that conservative activists can do is the identification, nurturing, support and promotion of GOP candidates who meet the criteria just stated.

Shorten the Time Frame with a Major Constitutional Initiative. As I said, it took progressives a century to capture the culture and, as a natural consequence, to reorient the politics. As I also said, it might take conservatives another century to recapture the terrain. But perhaps the process can be speeded up.

I believe that there were several fundamental changes effected by the progressives a century ago, which, if they didn’t speed up the putsch schedule, at least they had the effect of signaling that America had changed significantly and was on a new path. I am speaking of the nearly simultaneous passage of the 16th, 17th and 19th amendments to the Constitution [the income tax, direct election of senators and women’s right to vote] and the establishment of the Federal Reserve. (Actually, three of these four occurred in 1913, women’s suffrage in 1920.) Extending suffrage to women was absolutely the right thing to do, although it had the predictable effect of skewing the overall electorate somewhat to the left. But I have no doubt that the other three steps had an overall negative effect on liberty, economic prosperity and constitutional government. Their arrival at nearly the same time signaled a major shift in American society.

Well, let’s kick start the engine in the reverse direction. Once again, the place to start is the Constitution. Conservatives should make a major effort to pass and send to the States one or more amendments that would herald a return of the Republic to its founding constitutional ethos. In his recent book, “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic” Mark Levin has offered up a number of conservative amendments that would fill the bill. They range from repeal of amendments 16 and 17 to term limits (for both the legislative and judicial branches) to limits on federal spending, taxation  and regulation to one designed to grant the States the right to amend the Constitution. I urge you to read them if you haven’t and join the effort to actually bring some of them before Congress.

Most inspiring of all would be a call for a new Constitutional Convention to consider these amendments. Of course this could only happen if sufficient numbers of Americans joined the conservative cause and became convinced that the century-long and ongoing progressive revolution has done severe damage to the US – damage that needs to be repaired as part of a major effort to reconstitute the nation and the Constitutional Republic that it was for more than a century.

It’s still about winning elections. My first three recommendations – culture, candidates and constitution – are, if you will, big picture items. For activists the objective is, of course, still primarily about winning elections. So let me offer a few suggestions for doing so. Here, I may very well not be telling you anything that you don’t already know, but I think it worthwhile to highlight a few important points. Of course, if we succeed in my three big picture items, then electoral success will follow naturally. Nevertheless, here are a few suggestions for winning elections:

  1. Our candidates must be attractive – no more witches, “legitimate rape” apologists or crooks or kooks. It is self-evident, but we should be putting forward people who are knowledgeable, articulate, poised, experienced and optimistic.
  2. I believe the defect that I am about to mention has been corrected, but our efforts must involve the most advanced technology. Technology is a constantly moving target and we need to stay on top of it.
  3. The electoral process has become enormously expensive and it looks like a trend that will only accelerate. We need to devote special attention to conservatives in those sectors of society that can afford to give big time – big corporations of course, but also the entertainment industry, successful entrepreneurs, and even those whose wealth is inherited. At the same time – not that we haven’t been doing it – we should try to broaden the base of donors.
  4. Recognize that the Dems play dirty. Be ready for it and if necessary, fight fire with fire.
  5. The demographic issue. Actually, I believe the situation is not as dire as the pundits are saying. There are encouraging signs of an increased number of conservative women, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. We should be open to these communities, proselytize to them, recruit among them for candidates and we should be tireless in pointing out to them how progressive policies – supposedly designed to help these communities – in fact harm them. Romney’s 47% remark was catastrophic. We need to contest the whole field. If we could in fact convert substantial numbers from these communities, then the electoral map would bleed bright red.

Finally, let me clarify my intent. I do not mean to cast any doubt about the self-awareness of the activists in the room. Certainly many, likely most of you are keenly aware of the underlying rationale for the conservative cause and have clearly in mind what motivates you to wage your worthy fight. Except that I do believe that it is natural – for any of us – to sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees.

My words were meant to reinforce your strength and desire to continue the struggle by highlighting what I see as some of the fundamental reasons why you and I are in this battle, as well as to offer some hopefully novel, but concrete suggestions as to how to wage it. I wish you Godspeed and I hope that we will live long enough to see America’s progressive slide firmly and irrevocably reversed.

Malevolent Distortion of Tea Party Objectives

An article appeared in the Washington Times under the heading “Texas professor teaches students tea party akin to Nazi party.” A psychology professor (named Armstrong) at South Texas College drew a direct comparison between the Tea Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s. Here are a few of his words:

“In 1931, which was really interesting, the Nazis — people were kind of tired of them. They’ve been around since 1920, 11 years now. They’ve won seats — they’re like the tea party! That’s such a good example. … But in the sense of how they politically came to power, there’s a good analogy there. That eventually, people realized, ‘Oh these Nazis are a bunch of nuts [and] these tea party people are a bunch of nuts.’ I mean, the analogy really is a good analogy.”

The mind boggles, and not just at the wretched English. First of all, there can be little doubt that Professor Armstrong believes that his comparison is valid. Second, I doubt that his opinion represents an isolated occurrence of this kind of mental malady. Third, although he actually implored his students not to spread the word about his opinion, he has undoubtedly shared his assessment with others on prior occasions. And finally, the monumental stupidity of his idea completely escapes him. [For a video of his presentation, you can go here.]

Woe is our Republic! Among three hundred million citizens, it is not surprising to encounter some whose touch with reality is slim and who are willing to spread the poison that infects their souls. What is astonishing is that there are literally millions of Americans who would not be troubled at all by Professor Armstrong’s distorted view of reality. After all, only one student in the class rebelled at the Professor’s lunacy. Of course there may have been others in the class who objected – alongside too many who accepted the assessment as legitimate. But the fact that a college professor could freely, and without reprimand, spout this kind of offensive and incendiary nonsense speaks volumes about the sorry state of freedom in the United States today.

How have we come to this? The T.E.A. in Tea Party stands for taxed enough already. The movement arose in reaction to the wanton federal spending that exploded in the first year of the Obama administration. The fundamental tenets of the movement were and are:

  1. The federal government is too big, taxes and spends too much, and interferes with the lives of American citizens with an authority far beyond what is granted to it in the Constitution.
  2. A reaffirmation that individual liberty is the raison d’etre of this nation and that it is the primary (one could argue, the sole) objective of the federal government – which is supposed to operate only with the consent of the people – to protect the rights afforded to the people by the Constitution.
  3. Legislation, such as Obamacare, which infringes on the rights of the people, must be rescinded.
  4. Elected and appointed government officials must be subject to the same laws as are the people.

Sounds just like Mein Kampf! That is what Professor Armstrong believes and what he would have his students believe. Unfortunately, his opinion is shared by far too many government officials, journalists, media types, public school teachers and, alas, college professors. Of course, they would reject the above four points as representative of the Tea Party’s objectives. They would assert – and in their madness – probably believe that the fundamental goals of Tea Party people look more like:

  1. The federal government must be reined in so that big corporations, powerful groups like the NRA and rich people like the Koch brothers are able to control the country and determine its agenda.
  2. Maintenance of privilege for white people as implied, if not provided for, in the Constitution.
  3. Legislation, such as Obamacare, which runs counter to objectives 1 and 2, must be rescinded.
  4. Minorities, women, gays and illegal immigrants must know their place and respect it.

How can we possibly bridge the gap between the pure and wholesome motives of the Tea Party and the subversive, regressive interpretation of it by leftists like Professor Armstrong? It is not possible!

Therefore, we must recognize that there is a battle taking place between those who would restore the United States to its Constitutional roots and those who would overthrow it in favor of a statist, Euro-style social welfare state. There is no middle ground upon which the two sides can meet and establish some hybrid system. The hybrid system already exists and it is inexorably evolving into the form of government that the statists desire.

Either the Tea Party beliefs will triumph and America will revert to the land that once was and is envisioned to be again. Or we will continue the descent into the hell envisioned by Professor Armstrong. There is no other alternative.

The benighted professor is beyond help. But the students in his class are not. The rise of the Tea Party signaled a new effort by conservative/traditional Americans to take back their country. Professor Armstrong and his ilk are resisting that effort with all their might. One of the weapons they deploy in the battle is the distortion and demonization of the objectives of the Tea Party. Shall they succeed?

This essay also appeared in Canada Free Press

What the Hell is Wrong with RG3?

One of the most perplexing mysteries of the current NFL season is the surprisingly dreadful play of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin – known commonly as RG3. The Skins spent a fortune (in dough and draft choices) to acquire the right to draft him in 2012. In his first season, he didn’t disappoint and the exorbitant cost to the Skins looked to be a wise investment. But RG3’s 2012 season would end with a serious knee injury. And in the two seasons back from the injury, RG3 has played terribly. An incomplete litany of his failures includes: poor timing and missing open receivers, seemingly no pocket instinct and numerous sacks, diminished foot speed, suspect throwing mechanics, inability to read defenses and questionable decision-making skills.

How can this be? How can the athlete who played so superbly in 2012 have morphed into the wretched shell of a QB on display in a Skins uniform the last few weeks? His ignominious benching in favor of a lowly-ranked Browns cast off is indicative of how far his stock has fallen.

Several reasons have been offered up for RG3’s catastrophic decline:

  1. He never really was that good to begin with. In fact in his rookie season, the Skins started out 3-6 and although he showed flashes running the “read-option,” his overall play was not consistently stellar in the first half of the season. But then the Skins went on a 7-0 tear to finish the season and make the playoffs. However, let us remember that RG3 was injured during that streak and missed a game and a half. Moreover, the winning streak might be attributed more accurately to Alfred Morris and a spectacular running game. The defense played very well also. In short, although RG3 was the face of the team during the streak, the hype and hoopla attending it might well have overemphasized those moments when he played extremely well over those not insignificant times when he didn’t. It’s possible that Skins fans and football pundits – conditioned by twenty years of mediocre-to-awful Redskins teams – saw more flash in RG3 than was truly present. Still, the numbers posted by RG3 in 2012 were quite impressive.
  2. Perhaps it was the injuries. During the seven-game win streak in 2012, in a game against the Ravens, RG3 performed one of his patented awkward slides and had his leg whipsawed. That injury resulted in the one and one half game hiatus. Upon his return, he played well, but there was clearly something amiss with his leg. He continued to perform well, but some of the flash was missing. Finally, in the playoff game against Seattle, he appeared to be severely hobbled and eventually he suffered a catastrophic knee injury. After a rushed rehabilitation, he was thrust into the starting lineup in the first game of 2013 (with no pre-season appearances) and proceeded to play awfully. The wretched RG3, who has now become familiar to Skins fans, was in evidence from the start of the 2013 season. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that physically, and perhaps also mentally, RG3 never recovered from the multiple knee injuries suffered in 2012 – and either because of physical limitations and/or because of mental “impairment” that sometimes follows severe physical injury, he is nowhere near the athlete that he was in 2012.
  3. Some speculate that the coaching change (from Shanahan to Gruden) has hurt him. It is said that Gruden doesn’t really favor the read-option and has not meshed with Griffin. Ergo, RG3 doesn’t really know what is expected of him. Of course, that doesn’t explain the horrible performance in 2013.
  4. Others point to his supposed “loss of the locker room.” They say he is overly cocky, arrogant and self-centered. His teammates don’t particularly like him and are not playing hard for him. Considering that they haven’t played exceptionally well for either of his replacements (Cousins or McCoy), I find this excuse less than compelling.
  5. Finally, it’s Snyder. There is no question that Dan Snyder has destroyed the Redskins. He took a team that had been highly successful for twenty years and turned it into a 20-year-long wreck. From the failure to hire a competent GM to unwarranted interventions in football operations to poor management of fiscal operations to horrendous public relations, Snyder has poisoned every aspect of the Skins operation. It is said that he bet the farm on RG3 and then coddled and spoiled him – perhaps resulting in the situation outlined in #4. Who knows! RG3 and the people around him are professionals. I find this explanation for RG3’s precipitous decline, like those in numbers 3 & 4, to be lacking in credence.

Therefore, I believe the explanation is some combination of numbers 1 & 2. I think RG3 was oversold and expectations were unreasonably high. It seems to me that if he was intrinsically as good as the hype, it would have been impossible for him to fall this far. I also think that physically, he is not the equivalent of what he was before the multiple injuries. If I am correct, it is hard to envision a return to the form we saw (somewhat sporadically) in 2012.

But maybe it is #5. Dan Snyder is the absolute worst thing ever to befall the Washington Redskins. His machinations (cf. the ball coach, Jim Zorn, Vinny Cerrato, and a host of overpriced washed up veterans [Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Jeff George], etc.) have been abominable. I’ve had season tickets for 44 years. Neither of my sons will go to the games with me anymore. I’m thinking seriously of junking the whole thing. RG3 is just the latest in a long line of disasters perpetrated on the long-suffering Redskins fans by the despised Dan Snyder. As long as he owns the team, we can expect more failed projects like RG3.

This essay also appeared in The Sports Column