Monday, February 15, 2010

Who Are the Tea-Partiers?

Law professor Glenn Reynolds whose blog Instapundit was one of the first and most successful attempts to exploit the new medium of internet blogging, has an article at The Wall Street Journal recounting his experience at the tea party convention a couple of weeks ago.

What he describes is nothing like the impression one gets of these people from, say, watching Keith Olbermann for 30 seconds or more. These are serious people - light-hearted, cheerful, and enthusiastic - but serious about implementing the agenda, or at least part of it, that Barack Obama promised he'd implement but hasn't.

Here's Reynolds' lede:

There were promises of transparency and of a new kind of collaborative politics where establishment figures listened to ordinary Americans. We were going to see net spending cuts, tax cuts for nearly all Americans, an end to earmarks, legislation posted online for the public to review before it is signed into law, and a line-by-line review of the federal budget to remove wasteful programs. These weren't the tea-party platforms I heard discussed in Nashville last weekend. They were the campaign promises of Barack Obama in 2008.

Mr. Obama made those promises because the ideas they represented were popular with average Americans. So popular, it turns out, that average Americans are organizing themselves in pursuit of the kind of good government Mr. Obama promised, but has not delivered. And that, in a nutshell, was the feel of the National Tea Party Convention. The political elites have failed, and citizens are stepping in to pick up the slack.

This response has brought millions of Americans to the streets over the past year, and brought quite a few people to the posh Opryland Resort (with its indoor waterfalls and boat rides, it's like a casino without the gambling) for the convention.

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry - and they are - but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when ne w-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

A year ago, many told me, they were depressed about the future of America. Watching television pundits talk about President Obama's transformative plans for big government, they felt alone, isolated and helpless. That changed when protests, organized by bloggers, met Mr. Obama a year ago in Denver, Colo., Mesa, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli's famous on-air rant on Feb. 19, 2009, which gave the tea-party movement its name.

Tea partiers are still angry at federal deficits, at Washington's habit of rewarding failure with handouts and punishing success with taxes and regulation, and the general incompetence that has marked the first year of the Obama presidency. But they're no longer depressed.

Instead, they seem energized. And surprisingly media savvy.

If you've heard rumblings about the tea party but don't know who these people are or what they're trying to accomplish, Reynolds' column is a good place to find out.


Airborne Laser Shield

Back in the eighties Ronald Reagan was ridiculed for proposing that we could be made safer from a nuclear missile attack by developing the technology to shoot down incoming Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The illuminati in the media and the scientific establishment in general enjoyed hearty guffaws at their Georgetown dinner parties at the expense of Reagan whose idea was derisively labeled the "star wars" defense.

The idea that we could essentially shoot a bullet with another bullet was exactly the sort of idea you might expect some rube like Reagan to come up with we were told in editorial after editorial. Scientists of various competencies were trotted out to declaim on the absurdity of doing what Reagan proposed, and besides, they opined, even if we could do it it would only provoke our enemies to strike first before the system was installed.

Reagan, however, was convinced that the technology would work and he kept at it through all the snickers and snide remarks. Even after he was gone his successors continued to pursue testing and development. The thinking was that the less sure an aggressor could be that a missile attack would succeed the less likely they'd be to try it.

Eventually, a number of systems were developed, successfully tested, and deployed on Aegis class cruisers. Land based anti-missile missiles have also been deployed which, like the Patriot system, target incoming missiles and collide with them in the air, achieving what the liberal "brights" thought impossible.

Now, however, another giant stride has been taken with the successful test of an airborne system that shoots down missiles in their boost phase using directed energy (laser) beams. This video shows how it works:

It's hard, perhaps, for today's young people to imagine the fear of nuclear missiles that many people lived under during the 60s, 70s, and into the 80s. Now with the rise of a nuclear armed Iran and North Korea the fear may well return. Fortunately, we're quickly developing the means to defend ourselves from an attack, at least an ICBM attack. The Left, which has always opposed American military might, no longer scoffs at the prospect of a missile shield. Indeed, they have no good argument against erecting one except the financial cost. Nevertheless, ideological inertia keeps them from conceding that Reagan has been vindicated. No one clings more tenaciously to the past, after all, than do progressives.

Anyway, President Obama, being the progressive's champion, has himself expressed dislike for the idea of a missile shield. Perhaps the fact that the airborne system is both more effective and cheaper than previous systems will persuade him to support it.


Heather Mac on Root Causes

A week or so ago we did a post titled Root Causes which discussed Heather MacDonald's column in City Journal about urban crime. In the piece she argued that crime is not a result of poverty, but rather a result of fatherlessness.

She was invited to appear on Journal Report with Paul Gigot where she elaborates on her thesis and what the most effective short-term means of reducing crime are. It's pretty interesting, especially if you grew up in the sixties and seventies and had your mind filled with the sociological theories that she dismisses: