SEMI-PARTISAN SUMMARY

CULTURE

Amanda Marcotte, writing at Slate magazine, makes a compelling case for movie scriptwriters and directors to show more condom use in their movies. She makes a fair point: “In the world of movies and TV, people seem to be having sex all the time, but they almost never talk about or are shown using contraception. Since so much of movie sex serves the plot, you get encounters that are much more spontaneous than they would be in real life, without any pause in the action to wrap it up. Young viewers could easily get the sense that the norm is to hop right in bed with someone without ever worrying about unintended pregnancy.” And it’s true – if realism is your aim (and admittedly this is not always the case), pretending that people hop into bed with each other without going through that awkward “fumbling in the bedside cabinet drawer” moment is a misrepresentation, and one that can be easily (and, if done well, humorously) corrected.

Jim Henson Studios, creator of The Muppets, is boycotting Chick-fil-A over that company’s president’s condemnation of gay marriage. In a stern rebuke, their statement reads: “The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors”.

Proco Moreno, Alderman of Chicago’s 1st Ward, joined in the anti Chick-fil-A backlash, stating that he would block the restaurant chain’s attempts to open their second Chicago outlet in his district because of the aforementioned statement issued by their CEO. His statement is somewhat over-the top – “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward” – it is hard to see how any discrimination is taking place, as the restaurant does not check the sexual orientation of its customers upon entry, or have any policies in place that discriminate against one or another. But the fact remains that needlessly coming out in favour of a regressive social policy position that has no direct impact on your business or bottom line, can cost you money.

Getting in on the act, The Onion reports on Chick-fil-A’s new homophobic sandwich. Reports The Onion: “In a press conference to reporters, company representatives said the homophobic new sandwich will include the national fast food chain’s trademark fried chicken filet wrapped in a piece of specially-smoked No Homo ham that would be topped with a slice of Swiss cheese and lathered in a creamy new Thousand Island-based Fag Punching sauce”.

 

BRITISH POLITICS

The UK economy shrank by another 0.7% according to the latest figures released today. Iain Martin, writing in The Telegraph, thinks that George Osborne has six months to turn things around. I would guess that this estimate sounds about right, but I am not optimistic that Osborne will do anything differently, given his obstinate refusal to implement the needed supply-side reforms, and his obsession with trying to score cheap political points from Ed Balls, a diversion which should be beneath him.

The Guardian’s foremost education journalist twists herself in knots trying to explain why she is against private schools, and yet is sending her daughter to a private school. She takes a whole article, and many unnecessary words to explain what I can say in just three – she’s a hypocrite. She says: “I remember reading about Diane Abbott’s decision to send her son to the £10,000-a-year City of London school. She said she was a mother first and a politician second, a point that resonated strongly with me.” Precisely. She’s happy to inflict her left-wing social engineering on other people to make them conform to her ideal worldview (uniform standards, uniform people, uniform outcomes), but as soon as her own interests come in to play, she takes the conservative position.

 

AMERICAN POLITICS

Oh noes. The house of cards built by Grover Norquist has started to come crashing down as more and more elected officials repudiate his “tax pledge”. Whether you think the current tax burden in America is sustainable or not, I think most reasonable people can agree that Norquist’s pledge is overly restrictive on lawmakers, preventing them from closing unwarranted and discriminatory tax loopholes on the grounds that doing so would constitute a “tax increase”. Norquist, and his advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, are one of several significant hurdles standing in the way of a fundamental simplification of the existing byzantine tax code. We should all cheer its demise, and hope that similar obstacles from the American left fall by the wayside too, in the name of meaningful, lasting reform.

It is hard to disagree with this piece from Marbury, discussing the old-fashioned political art of persuasion, and the relative aptitudes of Obama and Clinton at using it. Through the lense of the Northern Irish “Good Friday” peace accord, Marbury looks at the way that President Clinton was able to flatter, cajole and reassure the key parties so that they reached a point where a deal could be signed, and how this skill is currently lacking in the Obama administration. Money quote: “Obama likes the big set-piece speech. But every policy he has backed, from the stimulus to healthcare, has declined in popularity the more speeches he made about it. His speeches explain things very well, very precisely. But they don’t change minds. This, it turns out, was the big hole in Obama’s campaign rhetoric of unification, of bringing red and blue together. He spoke about it eloquently, but he was never going to be the president who put it into action. Obama is a preacher, not a persuader. He’s terrific if you already agree with him, but doesn’t have much impact on those who don’t.”

Jacob Weisberg, writing in Slate magazine, effectively deconstructs the Romney campaign’s attempts to smear President Obama with the “Chicago machine politician” label. Says Weisberg: “Of course, Romney isn’t interested in this kind of nuance. ‘Chicago-style politics’ is mainly just a way for him to call Obama corrupt without coming out and saying so”.

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On Young Voters And The GOP

Republicans - GOP - Young Voters

At least some people in the Republican Party seem to have woken up to the demographic timebomb ticking away under their feet, and have started to lament, if not yet analyse, the fact that the vast majority of young people in America today would sooner give up their loud music and Pac-Man video games (or whatever it is that young people do for fun these days) than vote for a GOP candidate in a presidential election.

There is an article worth reading on this topic by Jeff Jacoby in today’s Boston Globe, entitled “As Dems rack up debt, youth should flock to GOP”.

Mitt Romney is apparently the latest Republican to develop a sense of outrage that no one outside of the grey haired brigade would be seen dead voting for him:

‘I don’t mean to be flip with this,’’ said Mitt Romney during a Q&A with students at the University of Chicago last week. “But I don’t see how a young American can vote for a Democrat.’’ He cheerfully apologized to anyone who might find such a comment “offensive,’’ but went on to explain why he was in earnest.

The Democratic Party “is focused on providing more and more benefits to my generation, mounting trillion-dollar annual deficits my generation will never pay for,’’ Romney said. While Democrats are perpetrating “the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in the history of humankind,’’ Republicans are “consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down and creating economic growth and opportunity so we can balance our budget and stop putting these debts on you.’’

At which point the needle on my “Are You For Real?” machine jolted as far toward the “You Must Be Kidding” end of the spectrum as it could go before the whole machine exploded in a shower of sparks.

The author himself does a good job of pouring cold water on any Republican claims to the mantle of fiscal restraint:

But that debt wasn’t piled up without plenty of Republican help. During George W. Bush’s presidency, annual federal spending skyrocketed from $1.8 trillion to $3.4 trillion, and $4.9 trillion was added to the national debt. Bush left the White House, in fact, as the biggest spender since LBJ . Granted, the profligacy of Barack Obama has outstripped even Bush’s bacchanal: CBS reports that Obama has added more to the national debt in just three years and two months than Bush did in his entire eight years. Still, younger voters can hardly be blamed if they haven’t noticed that Republicans are “consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down.’’

Therefore I do not intend to say anything more about the glaring, shameless hypocrisy of the Republicans – the party that gifted America two unfunded wars, large tax breaks not balanced by spending cuts and the joke that is Medicare Part D – laying any claim whatsoever to competency in handling the nation’s finances. Except that I will say that much of the “profligacy of Barack Obama” mentioned by the author was the result of a fiscal stimulus implemented (despite its imperfections) at a time when the US economy was in freefall, and without which the tepid recovery currently being experienced would likely be nothing but a sweet dream.

Mitt Romney and those others in the Republican Party who scratch their heads wondering why young people don’t like them miss the point entirely when they sulk that young people should embrace their economic policies. Though their fiscal policies may perhaps benefit young people in certain ways (and even this is arguable), there is no evidence based on past behaviour that they will actually have the political courage to implement them if voted into office. Old people (the beneficiaries of the “wealth transfers” that Romney claims to lament) actually vote in large numbers. Younger people don’t. The policy priorities of our political candidates duly reflect this fact.

Besides, it is not the GOP’s economic policies that are the main problem. The problem is the fact that in a bad economy, the opposition party is spending more time talking about abortion, contraception, mass deportations of illegal immigrants, repealing ObamaCare, questioning the president’s eligibility to hold office, and reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and a host of other socially regressive policy positions which are anathema to a majority of young people today than they are about how to reduce unemployment and help a population ill-equipped to perform the more highly-skilled, non-manufacturing jobs of tomorrow.

Rick Santorum in particular often complains that the media focuses on his socially conservative policy positions and not his economic plan, but he can hardly expect young voters to thrust him into office on the back of his inspired ideas on the economy (spoiler – they are not that great) when they are more worried that he will cut off their unemployment insurance, or close down the Planned Parenthood centre where they go for medical care, or start a war with Iran.

It is no coincidence that the one Republican presidential candidate who actually walks the fiscal conservatism walk and who doesn’t continually bleat on about social issues and the culture wars – Ron Paul – vastly outperforms his rivals with young voters, in primary after primary.

Newsflash to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich:

Even if you had a cogent economic policy (which, by the way, none of you do) you will never appeal to young people by just tweaking your fiscal message a little bit. You had a choice when you started your presidential campaigns, and in your desperation to secure the party base you chose to fearmonger and rant about “taking back America”, and fret about turning into a socialist state, and speak about the importance of individal freedom in one breath while promising to impose your religious values on the whole country in the next.

Many young people would like an alternative to President Barack Obama, but you offer them nothing by way of a contrasting, conservative vision for the country that they could ever find acceptable. You offer them nothing. You offer racial minorities nothing. You offer women nothing. You offer the working poor and the unemployed nothing. And all of these constituencies will dutifully line up to vote for Barack Obama, and you will lose the presidential election on November 6th.

It could be otherwise, if only you offered the American people a genuine acceptable choice when they cast their votes.

Arizona Joins ‘The List’

I have a partly tongue-in-cheek list of US states that I am currently ‘boycotting’, or have no intention of visiting in the immediate future, either because of unfortunate things that have happened to me there, or most usually because of particularly stupid and offensive laws that have been either proposed or actually voted on and passed in their legislatures.

Arizona was already strongly competing to join this exclusive list (it is difficult to join and even harder to be removed from the list) with the signing by Gov. Jan Brewer of their famous anti-illegal-immigration law, allowing state police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant (quite how you tell such a person from a natural US citizen by their appearance or behaviour is anyone’s guess, but I think we all know the criteria they have in mind):

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/us/politics/24immig.html?_r=1

But then came this gem that I was alerted to by a friend on Facebook – now, the Arizona State Senate Judiciary Committee (a pompous title for a pompous group of individuals) has endorsed a controversial bill that will, if passed, allow Arizona employees to exclude contraception coverage from the healthcare plans that they offer to their employees, if their religious beliefs or moral convictions encourage them to do so. Furthermore, the bill would also allow employers to demand proof of a medical prescription (for non birth-control related reasons) if an employee wishes to claim for contraceptive pills on their health insurance policy.

http://www.statepress.com/2012/03/12/senate-judiciary-committee-endorses-controversial-contraceptive-bill/

Let me count the ways that this is an offensive and idiotic proposal.

The author of the bill – one Debbie Lesko, Republican of course – says that:

“So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Okay, well guess what. Maybe I’ll set up shop in Arizona and start a small business. But I am from a small and little-known religion that doesn’t believe in mammograms or cervical cancer screening. I don’t know why, my particular interpretation of my hypothetical holy book just tells me that to test for these diseases to allow early intervention would be an affront to God. So none of my female employees will get to benefit from these forms of healthcare as part of the insurance plan that I provide them. Oh, and my new religion also thinks that heart disease and erectile dysfunction are punishments from God that should be meekly accepted rather than treated, so no Viagra or anti-cholesterol medication for the gents. If you need Viagra to treat some other ailment not connected with erectile dysfunction we can maybe talk about coming to an agreement, but I’ll need a signed letter from your doctor explaining your precise medical history and needs.

Can you imagine the uproar?

Let us be quite clear. This is not about freedom of religion. Many states have been living under an expressed requirement that employers include birth control coverage in their healthcare plans for many years with nary a whisper of complaint until a Democrat named Barack Obama occupied the oval office. This is about slowly trying to establish a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America, one in which even the overwhelming majority of Christians, myself included, would not wish to live in were it fully implemented. Republicans – who once criticised Obama because of the type of Christian church that he attended and the pastor who preached there – have decided that it would now be more politically fruitful to fan the embers of suspicion that he is in fact a muslim, and that he is launching an all-out assault on “Judeo-Christian” principles.

And while we’re on the topic, can someone please initiate a sensible conversation about moving away from the current employer-based health insurance system in America? Aside from the damage it does to the economy in terms of issues such as impeding mobility of labour (especially important during the current fragile recovery with unemployment so high), if individuals purchased their own health insurance rather than relying on the employer to do it for them, we could sidestep this whole argument about coercing employers to act against their moral beliefs. If Debbie Lesko ever chose to leave her political career and return to the private sector, she wouldn’t have to stay up all night worrying about what naughty things her employees might be doing with the healthcare coverage that she paid for, because the employees would be paying the premiums and taking their chances that they won’t be struck down by lightning for daring to use a condom, or the pill. And I think everyone would sleep better at night as a result.

Arizona, you have been teetering on the brink for a long time now. But congratulations,  you have officially made the list.

On Being A Good Catholic

I decided to join the Roman Catholic church at eighteen years of age, and went through the Church’s RCIA programme (the Rite of Catholic Initiation of Adults), which required attending weekly lessons with the parish priest over a period of six months. I look back on the night that I was confirmed into the Church as one of the happiest and most sacred moments of my life, and though the strength of my faith (and my weekly Mass attendance)  has seen several peaks and rather more lows in the intervening decade, I still consider myself a member of the Church, and I always intend to be.

Many people have made similar conversions to the Church, notably two of the current Republican presidential contenders, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum. It is said that there is no zealot like a convert, and though I may be the exception to the rule, Gingrich and Santorum appear to prove it rather well with many of their public pronouncements. In many respects, both men are probably better and more observant Catholics than me, at least now (Gingrich), and I don’t presume to judge them at all. What I will do, however, is call them out when they claim to represent the only political party that will defend Catholic teachings and priorities. Because that is pure, grade A baloney.

Said Newt Gingrich of the ObamaCare requirement for employers operating in the public sphere, serving the public and employing people regardless of their religious affiliation, to offer health insurance that includes access to birth control:

“I frankly don’t care what deal he tries to cut; this is a man who is deeply committed. If he wins re-election, he will wage war on the Catholic Church the morning after he is re-elected.”

(Yes, I fear that the O RLY owl is going to be a frequent visitor to this blog).

Really, Newt? Wage war? I’m curious to see Obama’s glistening new clone army sitting in storage, waiting for Inauguration Day in January 2013 when they will be activated and unleashed to desecrate churches and force people into unwilling same-sex marriages across the land.

If I could talk with Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum, I would say: the protection of life should not end at the moment of birth. I will never understand my Church’s current teaching on contraception – especially when male sexual enhancement drugs, in vitro fertilisation and other techniques that can result in the creation or destruction of a fertilised embryo are given a free pass, while contraception, the morning-after pill and stem cell research are not. But I can appreciate the consistency of the argument that all human life is precious, is worthy of respect, and that none should be taken unnecessarily. My own views on abortion are not yet fully developed, but I know that I would want it to be as rare as possible, and yet readily available at least under some limited circumstances (such as the survival of the mother, rape or incest, or in the case of catastrophic developmental anomalies). I understand your policies for caring for and protecting life while it is in the womb. But what effect would your policies have once these children are born? Is it important, as you so often say, that they are born into loving (married, heterosexual) families who are ready for a child, or does it not matter if they are unwanted and abused, or end up in the custody of the state until they reach eighteen years of age? It’s all very well advocating strongly for a new life until it reaches the nine month threshold, but what then?

And to the Bishops, I would say: why do you deny holy communion to politicians who advocate for general public access to abortion services (while not supporting the practice themselves), but welcome with open arms those who support the death penalty, fight measures to improve social justice, support the torture of enemy prisoners or beat the drum for pre-emptive wars around the globe? You diminish your public standing, your credibility and the importance of these other important Church teachings when you do so.

Andrew Sullivan makes a similar point in his excellent blog, with regard to the current enthusiasm in Republican circles to go to war with Iran:

“I’d also argue that pre-emptive war based on an enemy’s alleged intentions, when it publicy declares the opposite, or based on inherent evil or insanity is counter to just war theory. Certainly the rhetoric of Santorum and Gingrich on this subject is a profound attack on Catholic just-war teaching. But don’t expect the Bishops to make any fuss about that. War and torture seem trivial issues to them, compared with access to contraception or gay rights.”

(http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/03/is-an-iran-war-morally-justifiable-.html)

Seriously, maybe I missed this in my RCIA classes. Will a Republican (since they are the ones who claim to have the direct hotline to God these days) please let me know which of these Church teachings it is okay to brazenly defy while still declaring myself a proud standard-bearer for the Church, and which are so inviolable that I would be literally declaring war on Catholicism if I dare to dissent? Thanks.

On The Tea Party

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society’, whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil” – Sarah Palin, August 2009

“Barack Obama is the most dangerous president in modern American history. This administration has intellectually disarmed, it is morally disarmed, it is incapable of describing what threatens us” – Newt Gingrich, Republican Presidential Candidate, February 2012

“People have birth certificates. He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time” – Donald Trump, Improbably Rich Idiot, March 2011

On the Federal Budget.

The US national debt stood at $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office, and in 2011 reached $14.6 trillion. Cue lots of self-righteous bluster from the American right that Obama is wrecking the national finances and, to use a much overwrought phrase “running up the national credit card” that the next generation will have to pay off.

You can agree or disagree with Obama’s economic stimulus, and TARP, and the auto bailouts – though as I remind my Republican friends, it is easy to criticise all of these measures and claim that they had no positive effect when none of us will ever have to live in an alternate reality where they had not taken place. What you cannot do, however, is pose as a staunch fiscal conservative and a concerned American worried about the financial stability of the United States if you have done any of the following:

  1. Voted to approve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without seeking additional revenues to fund them.
  2. Voted for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug programme for elderly Americans, again with no commensurate revenue increases (strange how “government-run healthcare” is an assault on individual liberty, with the huge exception of Medicare).
  3. Voted for or supported the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 that were not met with equal cuts to government spending.
  4. Obstructed the recent vote to raise the US debt ceiling, raising fears of a default and directly resulting in the downgrading of the government’s AAA credit rating.

On Religious Liberty.

I have amused myself watching several of the Republican presidential candidates twisting themselves in rhetorical knots trying to make the case that the founding fathers were only joking when they enshrined a “wall of separation between church and state” in the constitution (in Rick Santorum’s case, he went as far as to say that it made him physically sick to contemplate). Or rather, that it exists in much the same way as a cell membrane permits osmosis, allowing religion (or rather, certain favoured religions and denominations) to impose their beliefs beyond their congregations on the entire US population while making religious organisations themselves immune from any requirement to conform to state or federal laws.

If we take as one example the recent furore over the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA, ObamaCare) mandates that insurance companies provide birth control coverage, it is telling that many of the religious prelates – including many Catholic Bishops – have lived under similar requirements to provide employees with insurance that includes birth control in their home states for many years without raising a chorus of objection, until the same issue came up at a federal level. One cannot help but feel that religion and the concept of religious freedom are being used as a convenient cudgel with which to bash the Democrats in an election year, rather than being truly respected and protected by the GOP.

In terms of the Tea Party, there seems to be a genuine if uneven split between the minority true libertarians (of the Ron Paul mould) who believe in a separation of church and state and have the courage to say so, and the bulk of those others who are able to maintain in their minds the cognitive dissonance that must surely arise when you advocate for individual liberty in the economic realm on one hand, but insist that people abide by select teachings from your holy book (whichever it may be) on the other.

On Healthcare.

Being a conservative used to mean being a realist, dealing with the world as it is and hopefully proposing pragmatic, typically non-radical solutions. One of the persistent problems with the US healthcare system is the “free rider” problem. Hospitals are required to treat and care for any patient that arrives suffering from a grave, life-threatening injury or illness, regardless of whether or not that patient carries health insurance. Of course, this includes the more than 30% of Americans who lack such insurance. Even the most fervent tea-partier would (probably) pause before proposing that people be left to die on the street if they are in need of medical care but lacked insurance.

Unfortunately, this creates a rather significant free rider problem, with US taxpayers and health insurance policyholders essentially paying to cover the cost of these uninsured healthcare expenses. This contributes to the unsustainable rate of inflation in US healthcare costs, makes no sense and is just plain silly. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation used to think so too, and at one time proposed an individual mandate requiring all citizens to purchase at least basic health insurance (http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2011/10/20/how-a-conservative-think-tank-invented-the-individual-mandate).

But now any such mandate is considered a grave assault on liberty. Okay, constitutional scholars can debate that point for a long time. But pragmatic conservatives should surely try to find a way around this issue, to solve the serious free rider problem which makes healthcare more expensive for everyone. Instead, the tea party rail against the “tyranny” of having to purchase healthcare, and yet say nothing about the free rider problem which hurts lower income people most of all in the form of higher insurance premiums and medical bills. Neither do they propose an alternative solution to address the fact that so many of their fellow citizens – some through choice but many through no fault of their own – live with the daily fear that accident or sudden illness could bring them to ruin. And no, promising to clamp down on medical malpractice lawsuits and muttering quietly about perhaps allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines, while both sensible ideas, do not solve a problem of this magnitude.

I could go on to talk about “death panels” – the GOP’s term for the basic idea that end-of-life care counselling should be offered (not mandated, just offered) as part of health insurance policies in order that more people are given the opportunity to make these key decisions while they are young and healthy, and potentially avert the suffering and huge proportion of total lifetime medical expense which is incurred during the end stages of terminal diseases, through the issuance of Do Not Resuscitate Orders etc. But there is no need, because anyone who reads the language in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and somehow extrapolates in their mind that offering end of life counselling as part of an insurance plan could in any way equate to a “death panel” that decides whether the disabled or infirm should live or die is clearly smoking something quite mind-alteringly potent and will not be swayed by anything committed to print here.

I could also talk about the fact that the GOP’s constant use of the term “government-run healthcare”, or suggestions that government has taken over the healthcare industry (i.e. nationalisation) are ludicrous, alarmist and clearly and demonstrably false. But again, there is no need, because any thinking person should be able to see that while government may have now infringed on the way that consumers choose their health insurance provider (to some limited extent, in certain cases), this insurance and the healthcare itself is still provided by private-sector or non-profit organisations as much as it ever was. Those who scream “government takeover” or “socialism” would do well to go back to school and relearn the meaning of those terms – were it not for the fact that getting a college education is, of course, a form of snobbery these days.

But there is no need to talk about these things. At present there is no reasoning or engaging at all on the topic of health reform with the Tea Party-beholden GOP, who, in the words of David Frum, “followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and [were led] to abject and irreversible defeat”. (http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo). ObamaCare is here now, with all of its benefits and imperfections. The Republicans had an opportunity to engage with the Democrats and ensure that some more conservative principles were included in the law. Instead, they chose obstructionism and got none of what they wanted.

Why Now?

I am curious about this, and I would love for any thinking, Tea Party-supporting readers to comment and to help educate me. I do not believe that the recent groundswell of constitutional originalism and small government fervour is entirely the result of resentment that a black man currently occupies the Oval Office. I think it is a factor, but not the only one, or even the main one necessarily.

However, given the fact that the US federal government expanded in terms of raw expenditure, percentage of GDP, scope of activities and power over the individual for many years prior to the election of Barack Obama, I would like to understand – why the Tea Party, why now? Why the sudden need in 2009 for people to buy pocket editions of the US constitution, to dress up in 18th century clothes, to attend these rallies and rail against the subversion of America? Why deselect long-serving and relatively competent congressional representatives in favour of unknowledgeable and in some cases laughable primary challengers who vowed even before getting to Washington (or declaring on television that they are not a witch and being comprehensively beaten, in one depressing case) that they would never seek to strike a bipartisan deal?

If you are a fiscal conservative, that’s great, campaign for greater fiscal responsibility. If you believe in small, limited government – marvellous, advocate strongly for it (I assume that your enthusiastic support of individual liberty applies to peoples’ bedroom and nuptial activities too though, right?) If you believe that some of the key edifices of the American social safety net and federal government are technically unconstitutional, then you can probably make that argument quite convincingly. But before you do any of those things, and if your name is not Ron Paul, please explain where you stood, and who and what you voted for in the months and years prior to Inauguration Day, 2009.