Category Archives: The Left

Another Day, Another Koch Hit Piece

As I’ve written, I was once a Koch Fellow, and I’m proud of that. I spent Charles Koch’s money (among other things) researching the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine (you can find details about my related Washington Post op-ed).

But leftists hate the Kochs, or at least love to pretend they hate them. They make a convenient demon: They’re wealthy—automatically a sin for today’s nihilistic egalitarians—and they work in the energy industry—a sin for today’s nihilistic environmentalists.

The latest in an endless stream of hit pieces against the Kochs comes from Chris Young, writing for Slate. Young’s basic complaint seems to be that, because of the Kochs, it might be the case that a tiny few American students might very occasionally be exposed to ideas other than leftist ones in tax-funded schools.

Hat tip to Jeffrey Tucker (with whom I have many disagreements), who tweets about the article, “Happy day! I make an appearance a Slate hit piece. How long I’ve waited for this day! Patience pays off.” Congratulations, Jeff.

Incidentally, Charles Koch published a self-defense earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal titled, “I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society.”

Of Course Communists Are Promoting Violence in Ferguson

As Charles Johnson reports for Little Green Footballs, members of the Revolutionary Communist Party have been in Ferguson promoting “violent revolution.” Johnson cites Antonio French, who reports a “white guy” from Chicago “was trying to incite a riot.”

In related News Michalle Malkin persuasively argues that some members of the media in Ferguson seem to have forgotten that their job is to report the news, not create it.

Maximum Wage Talk Begins

As I wrote recently for the Objective Standard, if government imposes “a minimum on what employers may pay so as to establish a ‘living wage,’ logically, there is nothing stopping government from also imposing a maximum wage.” Now, just a few days later, Vox has come out with an article, “The Case for a Maximum Wage.” The author, Matthew Yglesias, maintains a fantasy that a “super-tax” (or something like it) might “avoid seriously reducing the number of hours people work.” But obviously a maximum wage—either absolute or de facto via the tax code—would discourage some of the most productive people from producing (or would encourage them to move). I’m reminded of a 2011 union rally in Denver in which some people chanted, “Eat the rich!” Morally, a maximum wage is an outrage that violates people’s moral rights to associate voluntarily and to operate their businesses and run their lives as they see fit.

The Progressive Gas Guzzler

ProgressNowColorado just launched an awesome new fundraiser offering a “Progressive” bumper sticker for the low, low price of $5 (or, for the real bargain shoppers out there, two for $10).

My favorite aspect of the campaign is that the featured image shows one of the “Progressive” bumper stickers on the back of a V8 Toyota Tundra. (See my screen capture on Picasa.)

Talk about a carbon footprint! This glorious gas guzzler gets an impressively low 16 miles to the gallon for city driving. (The figure varies slightly by model.) I definitely have some energy envy; my Honda Civic gets 50 percent more miles to the gallon. Foiled by the progressives again! I may have to take some extra leisure drives up to Boulder just to keep up the pace.

Can I trust that Colorado’s so-called progressives will now stop haranguing people for their gasoline consumption? Now that would be progress.

‘Twas the night before they occupied the North Pole

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published by Grand Junction Free Press.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has found a new place to protest. But instead of camping out in tents they “community organize” from hastily-constructed igloos. Participants call it “Occupy the North Pole,” or ONoP for short. Their primary target: Santa Claus.

We contacted Invidia Elf, declared ONoP’s spokesperson by unanimous uptwinkles, to discuss the group’s goals. Following is her statement.

“We’re sick and tired of that so-called Jolly Old Elf reaping all the benefits of Christmas magic. While Santa lives in his grand Christmas castle, 99 percent of elves live in tiny huts or workers’ quarters. Some elves in the wood-toy construction department have even had to set up triple bunk beds due to lack of space.

“Santa owns 60 percent of the North Pole’s developed property, and he controls 80 percent of the Pole’s wealth. Nearly the entire North Pole economy is based on the production of Christmas toys, and who controls that entire enterprise? You guessed it: Santa Claus. He’s nothing but a Robber Baron monopolist.

“I won’t even get into Santa’s dietary habits. He eats more calories every day in cookies and milk alone than most elves eat all week. And his clothes! How many fluffy red tailored suits does the man actually need?

“Don’t even get me started on Mrs. Claus, dashing around in her fancy, stainless-steel sleigh like the Queen of the town. She even gets her own chauffeur. Did you know it takes a whole division of elves just to tend the reindeer? The Clauses’ barn alone is ten times the size of an average elf house, and it consumes fifteen times the electricity.

“Santa himself doesn’t actually do any work; he merely oversees and directs all the work of thousands of other elves. We’re the ones who do the real work around here, and I say it’s about time we got to call the shots. It’s high time to subject the means of production of Christmas toys to a more democratic process.

“A ‘living elf wage?’ Ha! There’s no law whatsoever setting wage standards. Sure, we don’t have the unemployment problem you have in America, but at least there workers are protected by laws that force employers to spend more on wages. Did you know that until about a decade ago a new elf employee got paid only room and board? Not even a stipend!

“I tried to unionize the workers a while back, but Santa said ‘Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas’ and everybody started feeling all cheery again. It’s like a Jedi mind trick or something. A lot of these elves don’t even know how bad they’ve got it; they’re deluded into thinking they live a wonderful life. It’s just a good thing I’m here to educate them.

“The Nog Party? What a bunch of drooling dwarves. Laughably, they think it’s a good thing if some people get super rich; it’s like they think their so-called ‘free market’ is guided by invisible magic or something. We know what’s in their nog! But here in the real world people have to fight for their lick of the candy cane.

“Oh, sure, Santa spends most of his time making toys to give away. But does he give to everyone equally according to their need? No. Instead, there he sits in his office, day after day, going through his list not just once but twice, checking to see who’s naughty and who’s nice. And if for no good reason he puts you on the naughty list? Too bad for you! You get nothing but coal.

“It’s not the naughty kids’ fault. They were not born with the same advantages of nice kids. Why should the nice kids get all the rewards? They already have plenty. Instead, Santa should give the naughty kids most of the gifts to help make up for their disadvantages in life.

“Santa delivers free toys to all the (nice) children of the world, but he does that only one day a year! Here’s Santa, the most magical elf of all time, this guy who’s been building up his powers for centuries, and all he can manage is a single day of holiday bliss? You’d think Santa could have worked himself up to delivering gifts at least two days a year.

“Just this last winter Santa took a trip with the missus to the Caribbean. Do you know how many times I’ve relaxed on Caribbean beaches sipping pina coladas? That’s right: none. Santa has more inborn ability than fifty other elves together, so what’s he doing taking all that time off? ONoP demands that, henceforth, each elf contribute according to his ability, as decided by a democratic process.”

To us, it seems an awful lot like Invidia is attacking Santa for his virtues.

We called up Santa for a reply, but all he said was, “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas! And to all a good night!”

The Justice of Profits

The Objective Standard just published my latest article, Contra Occupiers, Profits Embody Justice. Following are a few excepts:

According to various Occupy Wall Street protesters, profits hurt people and constitute injustice. … [F]ar from undermining justice, protecting the right to profit in a free society is an instance of justice. … Unfortunately, many Occupy Wall Street protesters call for ‘social justice,’ which is a euphemism for more looting. True justice neither needs nor permits the adjective ‘social’ before it. Justice necessarily applies in a social context…

Check out the entire piece!

Incidentally, following is the interview at Zuccotti Park that I quote from.

Occupy Wall Street: In Their Own Words

Thankfully, the Tea Partiers are now taking useful action in politics, rather than holding endless rallies. For the Occupiers, holding endless protests is their political action. I think the Occupations, often violent, law-breaking, trashy affairs, don’t ultimately do much to help the leftist cause. But they do help define the debate in America: many people now openly debate the merits of socialism and capitalism, and that is a good thing. It’s about time we got back to fundamentals.

I visited Occupy Wall Street in New York on November 3, where I captured several interviews. Note that, while I ask some challenging questions and editorialize a bit, my goal here was not to debate but to interview. It always irritated me when journalists covered the Tea Parties without actually talking to the Tea Partiers. So I wanted to give the Occupiers the chance to say what’s on their mind. In many cases, their positions are more subtle and nuanced than perhaps many of their opponents tend to recognize. Here my main goal is to present the Occupation case; later I’ll pursue the discussion more forcefully.

Also see my editorial video from the day, “Wall Street Occupiers Depend on Capitalism.”

Here is some of my coverage of the Tea Parties:

Voices of the Tea Party

“Eat the Rich?” Unions, Tea Parties Stage Opposing Denver Rallies

Tax Day Tea Party: Denver 2010

Tea Party 9/12 March on Washington Video Interviews

NYT Smears Tea Partiers

Wall Street Occupiers Depend on Capitalism

“Free the Wage Slaves” — read the mass-produced T-shirts sold by the entrepreneur at Zuccotti Park. The Occupiers used the tents, paper, clothing, food, and other products of capitalism — to condemn capitalism.

After I filmed several interviews at the park, I caught up with my wife and friend across the street at McDonald’s, where they celebrated American capitalism. Interestingly, numerous Occupiers also seemed to enjoy using the facilities at McDonald’s (though the day after I filmed this one of the Occupiers trashed the restaurant). On a personal note, I’d like to thank Apple for producing the iTouch pocket computer and camera with which I filmed the interviews.

Occupy Denver Steals Services, Destroys Property

Last night I argued that camping out in government parks in the city (where overnight camping is always illegal) is not a First Amendment right.

This morning, I point out that the Occupy Denver movement stole services from Xcel Energy, destroyed property, and cost taxpayers untold thousands of dollars.

9News reports, “Officials say the protesters tapped into the electricity of park structures (like lighting fixtures, etc.) to run their equipment. Xcel is repairing the damage the protesters caused, structure by structure.” Those costs get passed along to other energy customers. What, do the rest of us also get to steal services so long as we’re protesting something? Hey, A-Basin is open; maybe I can just hop on the ski lift without paying if I wear a political shirt.

I have not seen a figure for how many state patrol and Denver city officers were involved in the night’s activities — no doubt scores at least. So how much will tax payers in the region end up coughing up to cover these costs? Who’s going to calculate that tab?

And then there are the dump trucks required to clean up the mess. The Denver Post reports, “Dump trucks were brought in for tents and other trash that authorities picked up and threw away.” Dump trucks, as in plural? How much did that cost taxpayers?

I recognize the long and noble history of civil disobedience. Think about Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and those who refused to obey the Fugitive Slave Act. Today’s Tea Party gets its name from an act of civil disobedience. Strategic civil disobedience in the name of a great cause to advance individual rights is a sacred thing.

But the Denver Occupiers do not belong in the same company. They have no noble cause, nor even a coherent message. Instead, they’re stealing, destroying, and looting the taxpayers as a cause unto itself. Call it the Narcissist Invasion.

Occupy Denver and Free Speech

At this moment I am watching live camera feeds from 9News and the Denver Post of the “Occupy Denver” protests. Earlier today, Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers held a media conference pointing out that it’s illegal to camp on government property in the city at night. But the “occupiers” said they aren’t leaving. Yet, at 11:17 p.m., nothing much seems to be happening. (The idea is that the “occupiers” must clear out their tents between the hours of 11 and 5.)

[Update (11:58 pm): The state capitol property runs right along city park property, so it's unclear to me where the tents are actually located. The Denver Post just reported that "Suthers read the Colorado law that forbids camping on state Capitol grounds." So apparently at least some of the tents are on capitol grounds. Whether the relevant government is the city or the state, the reasoning here applies equally. I have lightly edited some of my earlier text in this light.]

The interesting discussion is over the First Amendment and free speech.

9News reporter just asked somebody whether “our First Amendment rights override” the laws against camping on government property. The ACLU’s Mark Silverstein told 9News that pitching tents is “symbolic speech that’s protected by the First Amendment.”

But such comments largely miss the point of the First Amendment. No doubt pitching a tent can be “symbolic speech.” But you don’t have the right to pitch your tent in my front yard in order to express yourself. The right of free speech must be rooted in property rights.

The complication arises on government property, tax funded property. People have the right to protest on government property, but they do not have the right to impede other people’s reasonable use of that property, as by blocking traffic. Pitching tents in these city parks in fact poses risks to safety and health (where are these people going to the bathroom?), and it’s entirely reasonable to outlaw camping on such property. Essentially what the “occupiers” are doing is asking other regional taxpayers to clean up their mess and property damage.

Recently my wife and I went to a state park to camp. We paid $70 for an annual state parks pass and $22 per night to camp at the facilities. Should I have just been able to say I was “occupying” the camp space and exercising my “symbolic speech” by pitching my tent so as to avoid paying the fee? Obviously not.

The problem is that governments can potentially abuse their management of tax-funded property to prevent reasonable protests. If a government simply disallowed a group from holding a protest, then that might justify civil disobedience. But I have never heard of anything like that in Colorado.

Of course, ultimately the problems of government property can be mitigated simply by limiting the amount of government property. For example, in New York the “occupiers” have taken over a private park; in that case, the owners of the park properly set the policy.

Yes, the “occupiers” have the right to protest. Hell, I even agree with some of what they have to say. Just a while ago the group in Denver was chanting, “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” That’s exactly right. But let’s not hear any more nonsense about “free” camping in government parks somehow bearing First Amendment protection. Our Bill of Rights deserves more serious treatment than that.

See also:

Occupy Wall Street: Bob Glass Reports

How to Actually “Separate Government from the Corporations” (The Objective Standard)

How ‘Occupiers’ Can Separate Government and Corporations

The Objective Standard has published my latest article, “How to Actually ‘Separate Government from the Corporations’.”

I argue, “Beyond the basic role government properly plays in protecting individual rights, government should remain separated from churches as it should remain separated from corporations.” I outline four main ways to separate the government from economics: stop interfering with businesses, stop subsidizing them, stop taxing them, and respect the free-speech rights of corporate members.

I conclude:

Members of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement should be careful. If they logically think through their goal to “separate government from the corporations,” ultimately they will end up championing capitalism. And then they might decide that Pennsylvania Avenue offers a more appropriate center for a protest.

Check out the entire article!

Occupy Wall Street: Bob Glass Reports

Bob Glass filed the following report from New York. Photo credit:Wikipedia.

On Wednesday I went to Zuccotti park in lower Manhattan to see what all the hoopla was about concerning the swelling crowds gathering to protest Wall Street and Capitalism. Zuccotti park, one of the few private parks in New York City, had been turned into a command post and staging ground for the myriad of groups and individuals who had gathered to vent their rage against the disparity between what they perceived to be the haves and have nots in this country.

The scene was part Woodstock (minus the talent and music) part rave (minus anything resembling ecstasy) and part public forum (minus anything resembling intelligent dialogue). The overwhelming majority of people were in their teens and early twenties — lost souls not quite sure what they were angry about. I spent a few hours going through the crowd talking to as many people as I could, and it seemed that each person had a different agenda, a different bone to pick, and a different cause celebre.

In addition to the young people in search of life’s meaning and some type of government handout there was the usual assortment of left wing organizations, including but not limited to the Communist Party USA, the Socialist Workers Party, Workers World Party, and dozens of unions including the SEIU. It became clear to me that the rhetoric of class warfare championed by Barack Obama and dutifully spread by the major media had permeated the crowd and was the only common thread holding the rabble together.

They all seemed to agree that greed and capitalism are the roots of all evil and culprits for all of society’s ills. They shouted the usual left-wing slogans like “Tax the rich feed the poor,” “Jail the bankers,” and “The people united will never be defeated.” They were particularly upset about the taxpayers bailing out all of the big Wall Street banks and investment houses, but no one seemed to make the connection that the person most guilty of this is Barack Obama.

It soon became clear to me that I was witnessing the formation of Obama’s shock troops, those he will try to exploit to bully and intimidate his way back into power.

The supreme irony was not lost on me that so many of these people had ipads and ipods and were using them with great success to organize their movement. I could not help but remember Lenin’s famous quote, “The capitalists will sell us the rope that we will hang them with.” And I thought of the passing of Steve Jobs, one of America’s greatest inventors, entrepreneurs, visionaries and capitalists. A man who will forever change the way we all live for the better.

Considering what little the occupation crowd has made possible, compared to what the great champion of the free market Steve Jobs has made possible, I could only shake my head. As Howard Roark reminds us, “Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light.” The occupation forces seem eager to throw in the torch.

The Saul Alinsky Connection: Obama’s Unprincipled Class Warfare Threatens the Nation

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published September 16 by Grand Junction Free Press.

President Obama proves difficult to pin down. On the campaign trail, he opposed mandated health insurance; as president, he sought to impose it. He decried deficits even while ramping up federal spending. Obama answers the domestic jobs crisis by throwing ever more money at it; he answers the Iranian nuclear threat mostly with evasion.

What explains Obama’s slipperiness? After all, this is the man who succeeded a wildly unpopular Republican president on the vague and still-undefined platform of “hope and change.”

A hint to Obama’s character comes through an examination of the original Chicago “community organizer,” Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicalsfrom 1971, the Bible for many on the left. As Peter Slevin writes for a 2007 Washington Post article, Alinsky once offered Hillary Clinton a job (she turned it down), and “a group of his disciples hired Barack Obama” to implement Alinsky’s vision.

We have nothing against radicals per se; indeed, many rightly see in us a radical bent. The term comes from the Latin word for roots; a radical is somebody who tries to get to the root of the matter. Our two favorite radical quotes come from Barry Goldwater — “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” — and Martin Luther King — “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

But the term “radical” doesn’t reveal which roots a person seeks. On the good side, America’s Founders became the best sort of radicals in their struggle for liberty.

But radicals can also bear deadly poison. A radical racist dyes the whole world a race-tinged hue; radical socialists slaughtered scores of millions of people during the 20th Century.

Our problem with Alinsky rests in his particular sort of radicalism of class warfare and character assassination.

Beneath his platitudes about democracy and the “importance and worth in the individual,” Alinsky reveals his core goal: to “use power for a more equitable distribution of the means of life for all people.” As Obama reformulates it, the goal is to “spread the wealth around” through political force.

In Alinsky’s world, “Mankind has been and is divided into three parts: the Haves, the Have-Nots,” and those in between. “Rules for Radicals,” he explains, “is written for the Have-Nots on how to take [power] away” from the Haves.”

Observe the unmentioned premises behind Alinsky’s project. He presumes that wealth just somehow arrives around us, and some people unfairly grab it first. On such a premise, class warfare becomes inevitable, and forcibly redistributing “the wealth” becomes the radical’s goal.

But in a free society that protects people’s rights, individuals create wealth by reshaping aspects of the natural world using their intelligence and hard work, then trading on a voluntary market. In such a society, the “Haves” earn their wealth through productive effort, and they provide the employment (and at times the voluntary charity) that enables the “Have-Nots” to get ahead in life.

In a free society, some people produce vastly more wealth than others, and profit accordingly, while all remain free to live their lives by their own judgment and participate in a broadly prosperous economy. In a free economy all can prosper, though to different degrees. The mark of a free economy is peaceful and voluntary association, not the power struggles of class warfare.

Unfortunately, in the power-controlled world created by the presumptions that both Alinsky and Obama share, politicians forcibly transfer wealth from those who justly earn it to the politically-favored “Haves.” We call such programs things like “bailouts,” “stimulus spending,” “quantitative easing,” and “entitlements.”

Alinsky preaches the dogma of class warfare while pretending he opposes all dogma. The community organizer, Alinsky writes, “does not have a fixed truth — truth to him is relative and changing.” You may read Obama’s campaign slogan in Alinsky’s line: “Man’s hopes lie in the acceptance of the great law of change.”

Alinsky’s ever-changing world lacking timeless truths gives rise to his unprincipled pragmatism. He openly mocks those concerned about whether the ends justify the means. “The real arena is corrupt and bloody,” he writes, so “one does not always enjoy the luxury” of upholding “individual conscience.” Moral rhetoric on this view becomes a political weapon; “Moral rationalization is indispensable at all times of action,” he writes.

Guided by such views, the left continually employs character assassination against its opponents; note the groundless demonization of Tea Partiers as violence-prone racists. Alinsky explicitly encourages such tactics; he writes, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” He adds, “One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” As for the truth, well, there’s no such thing, and all that matters is the “moral rationalization.”

Everyone who wants to restore American liberty should read Alinsky’s book, not only to better understand Barack Obama and his allies, but to learn the tactics of the left and how to fight them.

I’ll Rejoin the ACLU When It Stops Promoting Tax Hikes

I used to be a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. No, I do not agree with everything the organization does, but often it does some good work in terms of sticking up for the rights of free speech and for those abused by government agents.

But when the Colorado ACLU promoted a tax hike in 2005, that was too much. Not only was the issue far outside the ACLU’s mission, but forcibly transferring wealth violates people’s liberty. No, I don’t expect the leftists running the ACLU to defend economic liberty, but I do expect them not to attack it.

Since I dropped my membership, the ACLU has sent me numerous “final membership renewal statements.” (It doesn’t seem to quite get the idea of what “final” means.) I’m confident the ACLU has now spent more money mailing me these statements than I ever contributed to the organization.

I’ve written to the ACLU, explaining the conditions on which I will rejoin, but apparently my letters have been tossed in the trash (which is where I’ll toss the latest renewal plea). Just as soon as the ACLU pledges not to support future tax hikes, I’ll rejoin the group.

You guys at the ACLU obviously know how to reach me.

More on the African Roots of the Tar Baby Motif

Yesterday I wrote an article blasting the left for smearing Congressman Doug Lamborn for using the term “tar baby,” a reference to African folklore.

This morning Peter Boyles invited me on his show (630 KHOW) for an hour to discuss the matter; see the online recording.

On the air, Boyles mentioned the African “gum baby” as a precursor to the American “tar baby.” (The original sort of tar was made from pine pitch and so closely related to gum.) I thought I’d track this down.

Google pointed me to a Kansas publication The Pitch, where Gina Kaufman writes:

While coauthoring African Tales of Anansiwith her father, Mackey discovered “Anansi and the Gum Doll,” the African ancestor of Joel Chandler Harris’ “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.” The dialect written into the Brer Rabbit stories is actually a remnant of the oral tradition of Ghana, and the wiley Brer Rabbit is the descendant of a trickster spider…

This tipped me off to the book, Framing Identities: Autobiography and the Politics of Pedagogy. That work (by Wendy Hesford) states the following (page 170):

The tar-baby image appropriates an African folktale. The basic elements of the tale are that a trickster approaches a figure made of tar, rubber, orj some other sticky substance. The trickster speaks to the figure and holds it until it can be apprehended. Versions of this folktale have been reported from the Guinea coast area, the Congo, and Angola, and are repeated throughout Africa. See, for example, “Anansi and the Gum Doll” and “Brer Rabbit” (Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend).

I see that book remains for sale, though I’d have to buy a bound copy to read it. But, by now, the fact that the tar baby story comes from African folklore is incontestable.

MoveOn Smears Lamborn for Invoking African Tar Baby Folklore

It seems that the phrase “tar baby” has become something of a tar baby for me as well. Yesterday I waded into the debate over CongressmanLamborn’s use of “tar baby.” Peter Boyles read the piece and invited me on to his radio show to discuss the matter tomorrow at 7 am. So, in preparation, I’ll do some more poking around (despite my busy schedule).

It seems like I should be spending my time addressing our nation’s crushing debt, the high unemployment rate, Lamborn’s ties with the hard anti-abortion right, or any other real issue. Lamborn’s use of the phrase “tar baby” is an issue only because of the pathological codependency between the left’s outrage mongers and their lap dogs in the sensationalist media. In a sane world, in which the left focused on issues instead of character assassination, and the media devoted its resources to reporting real news, Lamborn’s comment never would have raised a blip.

Yet I poke another limb into the “tar baby” tar baby here. In doing so, I draw inspiration from an oriental tale in the ancient tar-baby or stickfast motif about Prince Five-weapons. The story is recounted by Joseph Campbell on pages 86-88 of his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In this story the tar baby is an ogre. After failing to smite the ogre with arrows and other weapons, the prince “struck the ogre with his right hand. His hand stuck right to the ogre’s hair.” The prince proceeded to stick each of his limbs into the ogre, then finally the prince landed a blow with his head, getting that stuck as well.

The ogre is impressed by the prince’s bravery, thinking him “some man of noble birth… [f]or although he has been caught by an ogre like me, he appears neither to tremble nor to quake!” The ogre asks the youth why he is not afraid.

The prince answers:

Ogre, why should I be afraid? for in one life one death is absolutely certain. What’s more, I have in my belly a thunderbolt for weapon. If you eat me, you will not be able to digest that weapon. It will tear your insides into tatters and fragments and will kill you. In that case we’ll both perish. That’s why I’m not afraid!”

The ogre releases the prince. So let’s see if we might find a thunderbolt or two.

David Sirota’s position is that “tar baby” is “an obviously racist term.” (He uses this term writing this for the publication Salon, which has also featured an article with left-leaning commentator David Corn using the term “tar baby.”) But, according to Sirota, Lamborn’s use of the term is especially bad “because he explicitly used the term to describe a black person.”

Is Sirota’s claim true? No. It is obvious from context that Lamborn is referring to the “problem” of the debt-ceiling controversy. He is definitely not saying that Obama is a “tar baby” because he is black, and to pretend otherwise is to libel Lamborn. In his original comment, Lamborn used the word “stuck,” clearly invoking the historically correct (as opposed to the racist) usage of the term “tar baby.”

Let us pause to note how the left is helping to destroy the very democratic openness it claims to champion by employing the tactics of smear, slander, and character assassination. If we want our elected officials and candidates to speak openly with their constituents, then we can’t try to crucify them for innocently using an innocuous phrase.

As I’ve reviewed, the cultural origins of the tar-baby motif are very old, very widespread, and very diverse. Back in the ’40s Aurelio Espinosa found the oldest examples to come from India.

Obviously “tar baby” as an English phrase originated in the English-speaking world, and it was the term first used by African slaves to describe a legend from old African folklore. The “tar baby” story originated in Africa, and it was brought to the United States by slaves. So the notion that invoking African folklore inherently reveals racism against African Americans is frankly absurd. One might as well claim that wearing African-style scarves is racist.

Here’s how Peter Addo describes the origins:

Most of the Stories referred to as Brer Rabbit are actually Anasne Stories brought to the Americas by the African American Slaves introduced here Centuries ago. In an attempt to keep their Culture alive in this Strange and forbidden place they found themselves, they tried against all odds to keep alive the few songs and stories about the homeland they would never see again. It was something they could remember and so they held on to the Ananse the Wise Trickster figure they were all familiar with from the Land of their birth.

Here the act of Story Telling was a very important part of their Lives since it was by this Oral Tradition that History was kept alive and transmitted from one generation to another. Secondly all the Ananse Stories ended with Specific Messages, Morals or Advice, Proverbs or a Very Wise Saying. What they had then was an Instrument of transmitting Knowledge, Morals, Ethical Values, and an Instrument of sharing but also Preserving their Common Values in a new Land. Thus the very close similarity between the Ananse Stories of Africa and the Brer Rabbit Stories.

A review in USA Today — another paper now lashing Lamborn — refers to “the tar baby in Afro-American folklore.”

In his autobiography, President Theodore Roosevelt writes that his uncle Robert Roosevelt wrote of the “Br’er Rabbit” story before Joel Chandler Harris popularized it with Uncle Remus. I haven’t been able verify Roosevelt’s claim about the publication of the work, but his comments make clear that the stories predated Harris. (I used Wikipedia to help run down some of these links.)

Even those critical of Harris’s work recognize the African origins of the stories. Consider this 2009 commentary by the Associated Press:

[B]lack authors like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker — who was born in Harris’ hometown of Eatonton —- have denounced the author and say he stole the stories unjustly. … For Curtis Richardson, who is one of several regular storytellers who perform at the Wren’s Nest, being black in a museum that celebrates such a controversial body of work can be tough. Richardson said he refused to tell Harris’ version of Tar Baby stories until he researched their roots back to West Africa and the Caribbean. Now he tells the older versions as a way to honor the stories’ heritage and skip the modern associations with racism.

Turning to “The Wonderful Tar Baby Story,” Harris himself supposes that the story originated in Africa. (We may note that in his introduction Harris uses race-loaded language properly off-limits today.)

The premise of the story (in Harris’s account) is that a fox is trying to catch a rabbit. The fox mixes tar and turpentine and fashions it into a “tar baby,” a sort of mannequin. Note that the important characteristic of tar is that it is sticky, not that it is black. The rabbit ambles by and, thinking the tar baby is a real person, wishes it a good morning. Of course the tar baby fails to reply. The rabbit mistakes this as rudeness and grows irritated. Incensed, the rabbit strikes the tar baby, getting entangled with it. Interestingly, the story ends on an ambiguous note; Uncle Remus says the story has no ending. Maybe somebody helped free the rabbit, but maybe not.

So what is the theme of the story? The rabbit makes two basic mistakes. First, he misconceives the nature of what he’s dealing with. As a consequence, he develops totally unrealistic expectations regarding that thing. In misplaced anger, he lashes out, becoming ensnared by the thing.

Interestingly, the story is a perfect metaphor for those calling the tar baby inherently racist. They fundamentally misunderstand what a tar baby is. They lash out in anger over an innocent use of the term. And now they are ensnared in a controversy that makes them look like illiterate partisan hacks.

If we take the story as metaphor for the racist American South, then the most sensibly reading is that the rabbit represents the African American, while the tar baby represents a trick by white oppressors. (Wikipediasuggests this reading.)

How, then, did the term “tar baby” get caught up with racist overtones? Quite simply that comes from ignorant and illiterate racists fundamentally misunderstanding what a “tar baby” is. But surely we ought not let ignorant racists destroy a meaningful story from African folklore!

The basic mistake is to think that “tar baby” refers, not to a sticky and ensnaring problem, but to a black person. Consider, for example, the existence (pathetically, still on the market today) of “tar baby soap.”Bernie Mac, the brilliant comedic actor who sadly died in 2008, wrote of his childhood, “Kids called me ‘tar baby,’ ‘spooky juice.’ I was scary.”

There is nothing inherently racist about the African concept of the tar baby. The racist overtones arise only from sheer ignorance. Again, I decline to let ignorant bafoons ruin a perfectly good cultural symbol.

Of course, none of the background about the tar baby matters to the hysterical left. Participants with the hard-left MoveOn protested at Lamborn’s office. One fellow said Lamborn should be tossed in the briar patch — because apparently it’s racist for Lamborn to invoke African folklore but perfectly acceptable for his critics to do the same.

I wonder why MoveOn declined to protest the Denver Post or Westwordwhen left-leaning writers for those papers used the term “tar baby.” (Seeyesterday’s post for details.)

Unthinking critics have created an unfortunate feedback loop. John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and John McCain have all used the term “tar baby.” The two Republicans apologized for it. But the journalists covering these stories apparently have never bothered to wonder whether they actually had anything to apologize for. But now it’s a tradition: if you’re a Republican and you innocently say “tar baby,” that makes you a racist and you must immediately apologize. And never mind the facts.

Well, I say the true racism is to smother references to important African folklore in an attempt smear political opponents.

***

Anonymous comments on August 4, 2011 at 7:42 AM:

Ari,

I appreciate your precise approach to this issue. You have definitely honed your sword. Great research. Joseph Campbell has been played and replayed on PBS. The left must approve of his tar-baby definition.

You have also brilliantly illustrated how the left has us all sidetracked on non-issues.
The left, including Sirota and his ilk, are hyper sensitive. They see racism everywhere, even when it does not exist.I do believe there is a pill for this condition of hyper racial sensitivity and other delusions.

For the good of humanity, maybe Sirota should find a new career rather than pedaling snake-oil? The problem with this type of distracting snake-oil is that it is poisonous.

Jeff

Anonymous comments September 19, 2011 at 1:37 PM”
funny… for quite a while I’ve been calling out Sirota on a variety of topics for his “snake oil” sales tricks and rhetorical spins. Thought I was the first and only, but evidently not.

Lamborn Strikes the “Tar Baby” Tar Baby

What’s amazing about the phrase “tar baby” (as others have noted) is that in today’s world of political character assassination a politician strikes a tar baby merely by uttering the phrase.

Just ask Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn. As of the moment of this writing, the top Google hit for “tar baby” is a USA Today article, “GOP lawmaker apologizes to Obama for ‘tar baby’ remark.”

Here’s what he actually said regarding the debt-ceiling debate, reports the Denver Post‘s Allison Sherry: “Now, I don’t even want to be associated with him. It’s like touching a, a tar baby and you get it . . . you know you’re stuck, and you’re part of the problem now, and you can’t get away.”

Lamborn quickly apologized for using the phrase. But that hasn’t stopped the left from blistering Lamborn.

Because she is an expert in linguistic analysis, Sherry helpfully adds, “Though the term is often defined as a sticky situation, it carries some historic usages that are racially insensitive.”

According to David Sirota, “Lamborn’s choice of words shows how the fringe right is mainstreaming racist language.”

As Westword‘s Michael Roberts reviews, even the free-market Wayne Laugesen says Lamborn shouldn’t have used the phrase.

But what does “tar baby” actually mean, and is it racist? Or (as usual) is the hard left manufacturing outrage to smear a Republican officeholder for partisan purposes?

The Wikipedia entry is actually useful here. It notes a tar baby entraps “Br’er Rabbit” in the classic story. But that’s hardly the origin of the symbol.

Wikipedia also references Joseph Campbell, and thankfully I happen to have a copy of his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces on my desk. On page 87, Campbell describes “the celebrated and well-nigh universal tar-baby story of popular folklore.” Cambell in turn references a 1930 article by Aurelio Espinosa and some other works.

Here’s how Espinosa opens his 1943 follow-up article:

In my Notes on the Origin and History of the Tar-Baby Story… I examined and studied one hundred and fifty-two versions of the tale. In subsequent articles I have continued to affirm my belief in the India origins of the tale in the sense that India is as far back as we can trace it, and that it is not of African origin as some have believed. I have now in my possession two hundred and sixty-seven versions…

No doubt the term “tar baby” has been used by some with racist intent. But obviously Lamborn does not fall in that category. And lots of ordinary words and phrases have been used to convey bigotry, but that doesn’t mean we must eradicate all that language. Rather, we should seek to eradicate the underlying bigotry, where it exists.

A “tar baby” in its oldest and widest use means simply something that entraps you if you start to fight or mess with it. It is now the perfect self-referential phrase.

But is Sirota right that Lamborn’s use of the term “shows how the fringe right is mainstreaming racist language?”

Well, let’s look at some other examples.

In 2004 John Kerry, that veritable champion of the “fringe right,” used the phrase (and took flak for it).

On August 31, 2003, the Denver Post‘s hard-left columnist Jim Spencer wrote, “Last week, those same leaders started looking to the United Nations to pull them free of a Middle Eastern tar baby.”

On July 3, 2006, the Denver Post‘s center-left columnist Bob Ewegen wrote, “Mighty clever fox, that Brer Owens seems to be. First, he appears to sucker Brer Romanoff into tangling with that political tar baby, ‘immigration.'”

On March 9, 2002, the often-left-leaning Denver Post editorial board wrote, “When the House Civil Justice and Judiciary Committee voted 7-2 on Thursday against creating a special panel with subpoena powers to investigate Columbine, it was only the latest public agency to decline hugging this tar-baby issue.” On April 14, 2002, it wrote, “Meantime, a parade of public officials has pirouetted out of the path of a tar baby they’d rather not dance with…”

Over at the left-leaning Westword, the term has been used by Alan Prendergast (and again) and editor Patricia Calhoun.

(Update: Here’s another little irony: while Sirota wrote his screed forSolon, another left-leaning writer, David Corn, used the term “tar baby” in an article for Salon several years ago.)

So I’ll go ahead and hold my breath waiting for Sirota to denounce Joseph Cambell, Jim Spencer, Bob Ewegen, the Denver Post, Alan Prendergast, and Patricia Calhoun for helping the “fringe right” mainstream “racist language.”

Or he could just stop smearing Republicans over make-believe issues.

***

Wayne Laugesen commented August 3, 2011 at 11:31 AM:
Great column, Ari. You nailed it, as usual. — Wayne Laugesen

Amie commented August 4, 2011 at 1:01 PM
The difference between the incidents given is that it was used towards a person of color not a situation. To refer to a man as a “tar baby” is different than referring to a particular situation as a tar baby. Big difference!!

Ari commented August 4, 2011 at 1:03 PM
Amie, You are simply misstating what Lamborn actually said. Please see my follow-up: http://bit.ly/oK016g

Anonymous commented August 4, 2011 at 1:34 PM
This is a copy of my letter to Wayne and it applies to you too Ari: Wayne, Your comment about the 3 little pigs is far reaching. Tar baby is and was a derogative term used against people of color. It’s a term used to belittle them and encourage hatred. You can continue attempting to defend Mr. Lamborn or you can fess up and admit that such a mean spirited term easily rolling of his tongue is unacceptable.
The fact that others have used it doesn’t make it the right thing to do. You know that.
In today’s climate of increasing hate and acceptance of bigotry any and all innuendos, whether intentional or not need to be stopped immediately.
Pat Hill

Ari commented August 4, 2011 at 1:39 PM
Pat, Your claims are complete nonsense, and they reveal a basic ignorance about the origins of the tar baby. The tar baby is an African folktale! Please read my two follow-up articles:

http://blog.ariarmstrong.com/2011/08/moveon-smears-lamborn-for-invoking.html

http://blog.ariarmstrong.com/2011/08/more-on-african-roots-of-tar-baby-motif.html

Amie commented August 4, 2011 at 2:13 PM
Ari – you are going to defend him regardless of the IMPACT that was felt. Please google Intent vs. IMPACT? It is the IMPACT that matters.
“Even if some people say, ‘Well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ they will hold the President responsible. Now, I don’t even want to have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get it, you’re stuck, and you’re a part of the problem now and you can’t get away. – He was using the term to describe President Obama not a certain situation. And why is MR. Lamborn deleting comments from his Facebook page?

Ari commented August 4, 2011 at 2:16 PM
Amie, Your argument is again complete nonsense. If it’s “the impact that matters,” then the logical course would be to repeal the First Amendment. What matters is motivation. In your reading of Lamborn’s comments, you are conveniently neglecting the terms “stuck” and “the problem.” I imagine that if Lamborn’s staffers are deleting Facebook comments, its because some posters are libeling the guy. -Ari

Anonymous commented August 4, 2011 at 2:26 PM
Ari,

You missed the entire point of my email – which being – the term is used negatively. The roots of the term are irrelevant. It’s the current conception of the word that is. Even the N word wasn’t quite the connotation that it is today. You are trying to find excuses for it and there just aren’t any. Pat (and please, I don’t call you words nonsense, irregardless of what I think of them, I’d appreciate the same courtesy).

Ari commented August 4, 2011 at 2:32 PM
Pat, In calling your arguments nonsense, I am making a factual assessment, and one I stand by. The roots of the term are extremely relevant, for they reveal that the racist misuse of the term is an aberration based on fundamental ignorance of the folklore. As I’ve indicated, the real problem is obliterating important African folklore simply because a few idiots abuse it. And, as my examples make clear, the term has been widely used in its proper meaning up to the present day. (Please note that I may decline to continue posting back-and-forth that does not significantly advance the debate.)

James Howald commented August 4, 2011 at 2:55 PM
When I taught composition to freshmen at USC, it was always a struggle to get them to accept that the associations their audience would bring to their choice of words was every bit as important as what they meant when they wrote them. A skilled communicator considers connotation as well as denotation, even though connotation may be more slippery. Lamborn’s statement was a mistake because it got people talking not about his point but about his personality and his choice of words. He failed to get the spotlight on Obama, and directed it at himself instead. If you are in public life, you need to able to manage the discussion. Lamborn made a rookie error, although he’s no rookie at this point.

Anonymous commented August 4, 2011 at 3:02 PM
The term has also been used even more widely as a racial slur. The existence of one (literature) does not negate the existence of the other (racial slur). They both “are,” and both are valid.

If Lamborn was giving a presentation on literature and used the term, no foul. But the fact is, Lamborn used it from his podium as a US legislator to describe our Black President.

Lamborn is a duly-elected representative of his district and constituents, which include not only readers of Br’er Rabbit but also African-Americans. He failed to fulfill his obligations to all. He offended his consituents. Period.

Ignorance is not an excuse, nor do I personally buy that he didn’t know exactly what he was saying. Racial code words abound since we have elected a Black President. But I digress.

Bottom line: Lamborn should have known better. Is ignorance of a racial slur an excuse to use it? Not at all. Just like ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break that law.

Using Lamborn’s logic, the same would be true of this scenario:

Lamborn runs a red light, seriously harming a pedestrian. It was unfortunate, yes; intentional, no. He should not be held accountable as he wasn’t aware that running a red light was against the law. And further, “If there’s reasonable people, they’ll know this was totally unintentional on my part.”

Although mighty creative, Lamborn’s argument is laughable. And I’m sure Lamborn even in his lawyer days, having presented that argument, would have been laughed right out of court. And the Judge, being a reasonable guy, wouldn’t give two bits that Lamborn felt he was being “unreasonable.”

Ari commented August 4, 2011 at 3:06 PM
The claim that Lamborn called Obama a tar baby is simply a lie, and I will not post any additional such lies on this page.

Anonymous’s analogy to striking a pedestrian with a car is so strained, so ridiculous, that it demands no rebuttal.

Ari commented August 4, 2011 at 3:29 PM
Please allow me to soften the above comment. I’ve carefully explained why the claim that Lamborn called Obama a tar baby takes Lamborn’s actual statement out of context (again, observe the words “stuck” and “the problem”). Given I’ve done that, I’m really not interested in posting additional comments here that continue to take Lamborn’s comments out of context. I really do need to extricate myself from the “tar baby” tar baby at some point! But I apologize for coming across as overly heated, and I do appreciate people reading my posts, even (or perhaps I should say especially) when they disagree. Our mutual goal should be to reach valid conclusions through reasoned review and debate.

Anonymous commented August 4, 2011 at 4:03 PM
Analyzing Lamborn’s remarks from an English grammar point of view: I don’t even want to be associated with him. It’s like touching a, a tar baby. The word “him” in this sentence refers back to President Obama, and “a, a tar baby” refers back to “him” which refers back to President Obama. If any of the White, male presidential candidates in 2008 were president now, Do you think Lamborn would have chosen that phrase, “tar baby”? Neither do I. Just as we no longer refer to “Little Black Sambo”, “tar baby” is passé. And actually I’m beginning to think that only men and/or politicians use this term. I have NEVER heard it in conversation–except when I lived in the Detroit area where it was used by Whites as a racial slur along with the word “Sambo”.

Ari commented August 4, 2011 at 5:46 PM
Dear Anonymous, Why do you think it’s remotely fair to quote only part of Lamborn’s comments? In context, he obviously means the tar baby remark to refer to getting “stuck” in “the problem.” As is abundantly obvious to anyone who has given a live presentation, it is impossible to always state all of one’s points with absolute, crystal clarity. That is simply the nature of extemporaneous speaking.

Why are you so determined to take Lamborn’s quotation in the worst possible light? Those who assume, without evidence, that Lamborn is a racist simply want to see Republicans as racists, and no amount of evidence to the contrary will persuade them.

As to how you’ve heard the term used, that reveals nothing about the essential meaning of it. But, for what it’s worth, I’ve never personally heard the term used with racial overtones, and I’ve offered numerous examples of it being used in its legitimate meaning.

Thanks, -Ari

Anonymous commented August 5, 2011 at 7:08 AM
Schizophrenics often suffer from paranoid delusions. They see things that don’t exist.

We need a new term, racialphrenics. Basically a type of schizophrenia in which the victim sees racism when it does not exist. Characterized by a hyper sensitivity to their surrounding resulting in racial delusions.

Anonymous commented August 5, 2011 at 9:27 PM
Seems like some folk’s day just isn’t complete till they’ve been offended….just say’n.

Anonymous commented August 6, 2011 at 1:57 PM
Ari perhaps you have not studied black history. Hot tar was poured over slaves and then they were covered with feathers and displayed to the rest of the plantation to invoke terror. The term “tar baby” invokes memories of this practice and should not be used toward any black person let alone the President of the United States.

RUKM commented August 6, 2011 at 5:50 PM
Ari,
Thanks for your in-depth study of the origin and use of “tar baby”. I appreciate it. Of course, Lamborn was referring to the debt-ceiling “crisis” and not to a person. But, don’t expect any logic from the fringe left!

Ari commented August 8, 2011 at 7:56 AM
Tar and feathers is most associated with upstart colonialists targeting disfavored public officials. Clearly it is not an inherently racist term. And, obviously, tarring and feathering has nothing to do with a tar baby. Or should we simply ban tar and its term?

A Koch Protest and a Smile

The leftists were out in full silliness mode protesting the Koch brothers near Vail on June 26. Both Progress Now Colorado and Colorado Common Cause promoted the protest, as did Colorado Pols and ColoradoIndependent.

I love the Denver Post’s headline: “Koch brothers hold secret GOP business retreat in Vail.” It was so secret it drew coverage in the largest regional newspaper. An alternative term for “secret” is simply, “private.” Apparently, whenever free-market advocates meet in private, that’s ominously “secret,” but whenever radical leftists meet in private, that’s just a fun little gathering.

I do like a comment from a Koch spokesperson quoted by the Post: “The purpose of this conference is to develop support for the kind of free-market policies and initiatives that can get our country back on the path to economic prosperity and sustained job creation.”

I hope the Kochs are immensely successful in this mission, as it is precisely what the country needs. (As I have noted, because I already held free-market beliefs, I actually worked indirectly for Koch money one summer. I spent most of my time fighting unjust sentencing that disproportionately harmed African Americans.)

So what could one find at the rally? In Kelly Maher’s excellent video, one can hear a Progress Now representative claiming that Paul Ryan’s entitlement reforms “will basically throw Grandma out on the street.” That is a bald-faced lie, which is perhaps why another protester cleverly blocked Maher’s camera so that she could not continue to record the speaker making a complete fool out of herself.

Or consider the photo of a sign uploaded by Alan Franklin, which says, “Create American Jobs for Americans! Pay Your Taxes!” Because, you see, when the Kochs build a successful market business, that doesn’t “create jobs.” Only when they pull money out of their productive enterprises and hand it over to politicians and bureaucrats do they “create jobs.”

And leftists wonder why most Americans think they are absolutely bat-guano crazy.

Another sign says the Kochs are “Wanted for climate crimes,” apparently because the Kochs produce, among other things, energy to run our cars. Because, as we all know, the leftists all walked to Vail rather than drive a vehicle. (My guess is that all of the protesters use some Koch product or other.)

Finally, consider a couple of posts from Progress Now’s Twitter feed. AP reporter Kristen Wyatt Tweeted, “Koch bros. fire back at protesters headed to Vail, point out that ProgressNow doesnt disclose all its donors either.” Progress Now retorted, “It’s all about consent. … Our donors knowingly give to a political cause. Koch Bros $$$ comes from consumers & shareholders who didn’t consent.” Because, you know, the Kochs literally hold a gun to their customers’ heads and force them to buy their products. And, if Progress Now is going to play the “consent” card, what about the customers who made some of their own donors fabulously wealthy? Did they consent to indirectly funding Progress Now? Some rich leftists give to leftist causes, some rich conservatives give to conservative causes, and some rich free-market advocates give to free market causes. The only thing surprising about any of this is Progress Now’s self-righteous hypocrisy on the matter.

My only complaint about the Koch brothers is that they do not currently direct any of their money to me.

Walter Walker Opposed Grand Junction’s Socialists

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published April 15 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Back in the era when the Daily Sentinel was “published every day in the year, except Sunday,” and a monthly subscription cost just fifty cents, the paper’s editor Walter Walker waged rhetorical war against the city’s socialists.

Karl Marx published his Communist Manifesto in 1848, and his ideas gained traction in subsequent decades, culminating in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and a socialist sweep through much of Asia.

American intellectuals too flocked to socialist ideas. The so-called Progressives arose in the early 1900s, and in 1927 some of future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s advisors-to-be visited Joseph Stalin. See Amity Shlaes’s book on the Great Depression for details.

Jeannette Smith writes for the Fall 1997 Journal of the Western Slope that, by 1913, “socialism had thrived for many years in Grand Junction and Walter Walker stood as one of the movement’s staunchest foes.” Smith notes that, in 1909, using a system of ranked voting, the city elected Thomas Todd of the Socialist Party as mayor. Based on Smith’s notes, we looked up several fascinating old articles.

To get a sense of the local popularity of socialism, consider this September 7, 1908 story: “Nearly one thousand people crowded and packed into the Park opera house last night to hear Eugene V. Debs, the socialist candidate for president of the United States.” It was “one of the greatest audiences that ever turned out to hear a political speaker in Grand Junction.”

Yet Walker consistently opposed Mayor Todd’s socialistic program. For example, the editor relentlessly derided Todd over his city-run ice house. The January 26, 1912 paper quoted Todd, “I am firm in the belief that the city should own and operate its own ice plant.” Yet Todd’s proclaimed savings of $30,000 a year defied reason, as “only $24,000 worth of ice was used here last year,” Walker retorted. (Note: while the articles are unsigned, we’ll follow Smith in attributing the anti-socialist editorials to Walker.)

Walker concluded the essay, “Municipal ownership of everything — whether that thing is paying while privately owned or not — is the song of the radical reformer. We have the municipal owned wood pile, now we are to have the municipal owned ice plant: wonder if the mayor will call attention to the need for a municipal owned lumber yard next?”

A few days later, on January 30, Walker pushed harder, suggesting “that the mayor demonstrate his abounding love for his ‘masters’ by cutting down the price of lumber at the yard he owns and operates in this city.”

The paper argued “that the man who experiments with his own money, or who is willing to cut his own profit for the benefit of the people, is more of a patriot than he who wants the public to put up for his benevolent operations, and whose great heart yearns first to take over somebody else’s business.”

We can only imagine what Walker might say to today’s local politicians who control recreational facilities, golf courses, theaters, swimming pools, ambulances, and so on.

Just a few weeks earlier (December 22, 1911), Walker had lambasted the “socialistic municipal wood pile.” The article mocked, “Even some of the socialists have smiled to see the lack of the ‘Reds’ on the woodpile.” Instead, four to six men worked the pile daily for food and accommodations at the jail; “the only men at work are some hoboes who drifted in… No family men have applied.” Moreover, the article notes, the “the Coal Dealers association” vowed to “fight against the city entering into the business.”

Not long after the controversies over the wood pile and ice house, Walker berated Todd yet again over the city’s support for the socialistic Industrial Workers of the World.

“The Grand Junction city administration was engaged in a mighty poor businesses yesterday afternoon when it made an appropriation to feed the members of the notorious I.W.W. who are passing through the city this week,” an April 9, 1913 article relates.

Walker continues, “We are not surprised at the socialist mayor pulling off a stunt like this: but we are surprised at the other commissioners for standing for it… Thus again does this city come under the lime-light as a ‘haven for hoboes…’ What right have the city commissioners to make an appropriation to care for these worthless, country-hating, law-denouncing drones? …Grand Junction has been made a laughing stock in such matters often enough. It is time to call a halt.”

Walker noted the hypocrisy of the city supporting those who “denounce the country, the government and the laws, and urge the use of revolutionary methods,” while at the same time dragging to jail “some poor devil down in the flats [who] gives another a swig of whiskey.”

We’re sure that, if Walker were around today, we would often enough find reason to criticize his views. We’re also sure that often we would unite to condemn the modern heirs of Todd’s socialist schemes.

Spare Us the ‘Sputnik Moment’

Am I the only one creeped out by Obama’s loving references to Mother Russia? He can’t get enough of his “czars,” and now we are supposed to be inspired to greatness in a “Sputnik moment.”

Yes, even the socialist Soviet Union could produce a functional space vehicle, the Sputnik. Meanwhile, the Soviet government oppressed, starved, and looted its subjects for the benefit of elite rulers. Like the Egyptian pyramids, the Sputnik was impressive, but I wouldn’t want to live under the government that produced it. Notably, to the degree that the Soviets succeeded at anything, they did so mostly by accepting help from the West, stealing intellectual property from the free world, and permitting its people to violate Communist principles by trading on the underground market.

Of course Obama did not mean to imply that we should strive to model our own efforts after those of the Soviets. Instead, he alluded to the American response of the moon missions. He may not have noticed that the last moon walk was in 1972, and the federal government has made little progress toward space exploration since then. Thankfully, private space companies are now kicking off a real space race.

Here’s what Obama said:

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology –- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

In other words, Obama wants central planners to redirect forcibly seized wealth to corporate welfare for medicine, technology, and energy. Because if there’s one thing you can say about the Soviets, it’s that they proved the efficiency of central planning. But forcibly transferring wealth from those who earn it to those adept at kissing bureaucratic ass does not “create jobs” or benefit the economy; it takes resources out of the free economy to benefit the politically connected. Obama would know this if he bothered to check in with Bastiat or Hazlitt.

It is indeed telling that Obama wishes us to draw inspiration from the “achievements” of the Soviet Union. But neither our economy nor our liberties can handle much more of Obama’s Soviet-inspired controls.

***

Comment

Anonymous January 27, 2011 at 10:52 AM
One of my economics professors penned the following couplet. He called it “Cheops Law.”

Screams of Slaves cannot Diminish,
The Grandeur of the Works we Finish.

c. andrew