Patricia Arquette, Sean Penn, and The Stale, Played-Out Politics of the Oscars

(Photocredit: left, Getty Images, right, Kevin Winter/Jason Merritt/Christopher Polk/Getty Immages)

(Photocredit: left, Getty Images, right, Kevin Winter/Jason Merritt/Christopher Polk/Getty Immages)

By now, the Twitterverse has gone through its own Big Bang over “Boyhood” starlet Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech about women and pay equity. After giving the typical award platitudes to her agent and make up artist went on to say this:

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

As I went on to say in a Facebook post today, this devotion by pundits to the financial livelihoods of extremely well paid female artistans, business execs, media personalities, and other handsomely paid professions amounts to what I have dubbed, “corporate feminism.” Despite the fact that they’re are well established that they’re are well-established economic facts that explain the (ever-narrowing) pay gap between men and women that have absolutely nothing to do with institutional discrimination or any other simplistic dogma, should the amount of media time devoted to how much Patricia Arquette or Meryl Streep occupy more time than on the low wage waitress or cashier?

Another Oscar flub was Sean Penn’s joke about Best Director winner of the movie “Birdman,”Alejandro González Iñárritu. After opening the golden envelope, the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” star quipped “who gave this son of a bitch a green card?,” referring to Mexican-born Iñárritu. Naturally, Twitter, being the bastion of irony and general joke-getting as it is, had a hissy-fit that rivals that of a chastised prom queen on MTV’s “My Sweet 16.” The Huffington Post, always a reliable outpost of snobbish indignation, wrote shortly after how that so-so joke may have gone so far as to “ruin the Oscars.” Keep in mind, as was acknowledged in the ceremony last night, the 1968 Oscars were cancelled out of respect to recent assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., four days earlier. That ruined the Oscars.

Back to Penn, as Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie opined, commenting on the complaint that they’re were plenty of British and Australian nominees in the audiences that he could have used that joke on, insinuating a racial animus on Penn’s part, that the fact that he used it on a Mexican Oscar winner was the punchline, and the intended target was the U.S. government’s racialist immigration policy that disproportionally burdens migrants from black and brown countries. Says Gillespie:

“But that’s the joke, isn’t it? That for no good reason Mexicans and other Latinos are singled out for anti-immigrant sentiments in a way that other, more “acceptable” ethnicities are not? “The problem w Sean Penn’s statement is that it limits what #Latinosare entitled to,” tweeted Entertainment Weekly‘s Nina Terrero, “certainly nothing which belongs to whites.” The joke may not be funny, but it’s clearly an attempt to undermine stereotypes and exclusion, not reinforce it.”

What the social media public exposes in it’s drone-like praise of Arquette and equally robotic condemnation of Penn is that that people are increasingly feeling the need to express their opinions in all matter of ways that merely massage the ego, rather than informing the consumer of anything meaningful.     

Feingold Comeback Could Be Trouble for Johnson But Signals Weak Democratic Bench

(Photocredit: Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press)

(Photocredit: Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press)

National Journal and other news outlets are reporting that former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold will exit his post at the State Department as a U.S. envoy to Africa amid speculation that he will run for Senate in 2016.

Feingold was defeated by his opponent and now current Senator Ron Johnson in 2010. Since then it appears he has been spurring for a fight and 2016 might be the year to have one.

The Wisconsin Democrat only lost to Johnson 51.9% to 47%, or about 106,000 votes out of about 2.1 million ballots cast. Furthermore, if next year turns out to be a good for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, that would translate well down ballot to Feingold, who will be running in a state that has a sizable progressive population that is politically well organized.

What also works in Feingold’s favor is that polls show Senator Johnson is not doing well among likely voters in Wisconsin. Influential political commentator Larry Sabato of Center for Politics at the University of Virginia has rated the Wisconsin Senate race as “toss-up,” indicating that were Feingold to run he would be facing a relatively weak incumbent in a presidential election year that traditionally favors Democrats.

Wealthy Republican donors for their part have not been opening their checkbooks to support the embattled GOP incumbent. The latest campaign finance reports show Johnson has only banked a meager $600,000 for his reelection campaign as of the beginning of 2015, according to the National Journal. And GOP strategists consider him to be one of their most endangered senators up in 2016.

It is likely that these facts and more has led to change of strategy and tone for the conservative Wisconsin Republican representing a blue/purple state.

For one, Johnson has been talking much more about finding “common ground” with Democrats in the Senate, and chastising his fellow Republicans for wanting to shutdown the government over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. He also touted his record working with his liberal Democratic counterpart, Senator Tammy Baldwin, and has accepted the fact that Republicans still don’t have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

All of this suggests that Johnson is trying to walk the narrow tightrope of putting as much distance between himself and his fellow Tea Party-style senators like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as possible, while also not appearing too moderate so as discourage the conservative base turning out.

However, potential challenger Feingold is also not without his disadvantages. For one, it is always an extremely tough undertaking to defeat an incumbent, even a weaker one like Johnson, who can wield the national microphone whenever he chooses.

What’s more, Wisconsin, though it has voted reliably Democratic in the last six or seven elections, has been trending purple with a redish hue since Feingold’s 2010 defeat, bringing to power not only Johnson, but several conservative Republican House members, a GOP takeover of the state legislature, and most importantly Governor Scott Walker, whose presidential bid if successful could trickle down to Johnson.

Also, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Preibus, is himself a native Wisconsin and will likely bring a large amount of party resources to bear on the state in support of Johnson.

The new campaign finance landscape may also play against the former three-term senator. During his time in the Senate, Feingold was a champion of restricting the First Amendment rights of political candidates, parties, and independent citizens groups through the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, colloquially known as McCain-Feingold after its two chief Senate co-sponsors.

And since several Supreme Court and lower court decisions abolishing independent political spending limits by corporations and unions, spending by super PACs and activist nonprofits have equalled or even surpassed the spending of candidates and parties, who are still bound by strict contribution limits. Were Feingold to embrace these independent groups, he could be painted as a hypocrite by the opposition and the media. But if he doesn’t, it is all but certain his campaign will be overwhelmed by Johnson and Republican-aligned groups.

All that aside, though, Democrats are extremely lucky to have Feingold run if he decides to. And that might be the party’s biggest problem going forward in future elections.

The fact that the Democratic Party is more and more dependent on legacy candidates due to their repeated electoral wipeouts in the US House of Representatives, governors mansions, and state legislatures, means that their farm team is very weak relative to the GOP, who have the opposite problem of having far too many candidates. And if Feingold doesn’t run, it’s hard to see what candidate has the ability to take on Johnson.

So whether Senator Johnson wins or loses his bid for reelection in 2016, structurally the GOP will remain in a stronger position going forward than the Democratic Party.


The Libertarian Case for Making the District of Columbia the 51st State

(photocredit: Patrick Madden/

(photocredit: Patrick Madden/

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a libertarian. This means that I like liberty and don’t care much for Big Government, so naturally this should predispose me to opposing statehood for the District of Columbia. After all, giving granting full representation to the citizens of D.C. will almost certainly produce two hard-left senators and at least one hard-left representative in Congress.

In addition, the proposed state of New Columbia, as it would likely be called, freshly freed from congressional constraints, would be emboldened to pursue and enact an agenda of higher taxes, more government regulations, and more programs. And since I’m likely to become a resident of the federally-controlled city in the coming months, it should be in my interest in maintaining the status quo.

But I don’t. In fact, I have become a steadfast supporter of the New Columbia plan for many reasons and believe libertarians, conservatives, and other anti-statists should, too.

The first and most basic argument for D.C. statehood is that all qualified citizens should have the right to vote in a free society. And although it’s often and unfairly downplayed or derided by many limited government advocates, many throughout the American history have fought and died for this right. And the fact that many libertarians are openly hostile to the very concept of the democratic electoral process should not prevent those who aren’t from voting.

Secondly, granting full enfranchisement to all citizens of the 5[emphasis added] states would give more credibly to to US diplomatic efforts to liberalize other non-free countries around the world who often use D.C. disenfranchisement as an excuse to deny their own citizens their full rights at the ballot box.

Third, giving D.C. residents their own state would not change the balance of power in Washington in any meaningful way. Republicans would still maintain a control of the Senate even with two new Democratic senators, and one extra voting member in the House of Representatives will not register more than a blip.

Fourth, the state of New Columbia would be able to enact certain pro-liberty legislation like it’s marijuana legalization measure passed in last years elections that is currently being blocked by Congress. And the fact their are many libertarian think tanks and activist organizations in the city means that they could have more of a role in shaping public policy.

Fifth, while it’s a Democratic stronghold now, it might not always be that way. When Hawaii and Alaska were admitted into the Union, Alaska was a Democratic state while Hawaii was a Republican. Now, they’ve switched entirely. There’s no reason to believe that District residents couldn’t be amenable to greater liberty and free enterprise.

Sixth, it will bolster Republican arguments that they are committed to federalism and local control. Granting DC statehood is the ultimate proof that the GOP is about giving citizens control over their own local affairs.

Seventh, DC statehood could be used as a bargaining chip to leverage greater concessions from Democrats. Perhaps in exchange for a national right-to-work bill or monetary reform.

These are just some of the arguments that libertarians and conservatives should consider before they mindlessly assume that creating a new state of Columbia would be automatically bad for them. We as advocates for small government shouldn’t discount the passionate human desire to participate in one’s own government. And while we libertarians rightly consider individual rights to be sacrosanct, we shouldn’t discount the right to vote in our greater pantheon of liberty.