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The shadow of conservatism

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The definition of conservatism fluctuates depending on whom you ask. If I had to find a common thread, I would argue that the traditional consensus is that conservatives believe in a small government coupled with a strong social fabric which espouses traditional values of home, family, and religion.

That doesn’t mean a conservative must be religious, necessarily, but he certainly should acknowledge the positive role of religious motivation in sculpting modern society.

But beyond this simple definition of small government mixed with traditional morals, there are actually two distinct factions of conservatism, and the distinction centers around the question: what are conservatives trying to conserve?

The difference between constitutional conservatism and practical conservatism is the basis for the quandary of what could be done vs. what should be done

In my opinion, the truest form of conservatism is constitutional conservatism, the group to which I belong. Constitutional conservatives seek to conserve the founding principles of our country, we believe in unalienable rights as defined by the Declaration of Independence and that God is the source of these rights, and we treasure the pillars of Western Civilization. Everything we do, every policy we push, and every goal to which we aspire — politically, economically, culturally — stems from the notion that all men are created equal and that our natural rights must be preserved.

This means that constitutional conservatives can, should, and often do defend every position they hold in terms of how it will advance freedom, how it will secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. A constitutional conservative’s stance is logical, since liberty is always beneficial to society, but it is also moral, for there are few concepts more virtuous than individual freedoms and God-given rights.

The other chief form of conservatism is shallower and unfortunately, I think, far more common. This is what I call practical conservatism.

Many on the Right refer to it as “fiscal conservatism,” but as I often lament, Democrats talk about starving children and Republicans use the word “fiscal.” It’s a boring word that instantly squanders public interest. A more accurate yet no less snooty title would be “pragmatic conservatism,” but I hesitate to go there for the same reasons. Thus, practical conservatism.

This branch of right-wing ideology promulgates largely identical principles to constitutional conservatism, especially when it comes to economic policy, healthcare, and immigration. But the two arrive at the same conclusion along different routes. Constitutional conservatives promote policy because it is right; practical conservatives endorse it because it works.

Now, there is some crossover. As I said, constitutional conservatism, while primarily concerned with the virtue of preserving natural rights, is also impeccably logical in its advocacy for capitalism, free markets, and cultural assimilation. Similarly, every practical conservative I know is pro-life, acknowledging that a fetus has a right to life. There is a recognition of right and wrong from both groups, but that is not the practical conservative’s primary concern. Nor is the constitutional conservative’s foremost consideration the economic outcome but rather the question of morality.

The late Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) was one of the pioneers of constitutional conservative thought. In his landmark book The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), he noted, “I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.” If his constituency demanded action that he felt unconstitutional, he was prepared to deny it, no matter how urgent. To him, nothing justified the violation of human rights. Anticipating blowback for this position, he continued, “If I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

Defending rights will not always correlate with increased efficiency. Slavery would likely yield a thriving economy, considering low production costs, thus greater profits and reduced customer price. But I think we can all agree that efficiency is irrelevant in the name of a morally gross institution such as slavery.

Sadly, amid the infighting of the Republican Party, there exists further division among the already precious few conservatives — between the practical sort and those who seek to uphold the Constitution. We see this most recently in considerations for the Graham/Cassidy healthcare bill, a slight reduction on Obamacare which takes some positive steps but doesn’t adequately reduce spending, remove stifling provisions, or preserve states’ rights.

In deciding how to vote on this legislation, conservatives will be left to consider not only whether the bill will be a positive move for the economy and the image of the Republican Party, but whether it sufficiently advances the cause of individual rights.

The difference between constitutional conservatism and practical conservatism is the basis for the quandary of what could be done vs. what should be done. I, for one, believe that there is no greater virtue in politics than the conservation of natural rights — regardless of what will work best, I try to side with what will be best.

Practical conservatism is subject to change with the ebb and flow of efficiency. There is little reverence for any guiding philosophy apart from success.

For this reason, I see practical conservatism as just a shadow of true conservatism. It retains the same outline, but at its core it is empty, lacking in definition, and an incomplete representation of the structure it reflects.

Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards. Follow him and The New Guards on Twitter, and check out The New Guards on Facebook.

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Conspiracy Theory

Many Democrats support Mueller investigation without knowing what it’s about

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“Trump stole the election!”

Two years and two elections ago, something happened that has Democrats scratching their heads even today. Hillary Clinton lost. She wasn’t supposed to lose. She was cheated some way, somehow.

This is what they hope to be proven by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 elections. The problem is a majority of Democrats think the Russians did something that Mueller’s team isn’t even investigating because there’s absolutely no hint of a possibility that it could be true.

67% of Democrats believe “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President.”

Let that sink in.

Robert Mueller Poll

If you believe Russia attempted to influence the elections by using social media and other venues to spread anti-Hillary rhetoric, you’re almost certainly correct. In fact, the Mueller investigation has assumed that to be true from the beginning. The question isn’t whether or not Russia tried to influence the elections in this way. It’s whether or not Americans helped them, in particular members of the Trump campaign.

What’s not being considered is whether or not Russia tampered with vote tallies. They did not. It’s not even a consideration in Mueller’s investigation, yet two-thirds of Democrats believe it to be true.

67% of Democrats can’t wait for Mueller to prove their theories correct even though he isn’t even investigating vote tally tampering at all. It’s reminiscent of the days after Obamacare was launched when Democrats asked, “Wait, it’s not free?”

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Entertainment and Sports

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs would be terrible if the Coen brothers didn’t make it

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs would be terrible if the Coen brothers didnt make it

Directors often get too much credit for making movies great. That’s not the case with the Coen brothers. In their latest release, their presence in the director’s chairs and behind the writing desks took what should have been a mediocre Old West anthology and made it clever enough that most viewers will enjoy it. Others, like me, will hate it despite their presence.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Coen brothers film made for Netflix that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is why 91% of critics reviewed it favorably on Rotten Tomatoes. But the thumbs-up/thumbs-down approach by Rotten Tomatoes makes the rating a bit misleading. Many of the “positive” reviews I read were essentially homages to the Coen brothers. There were many complaints about the six-part anthology that were followed by “… but it’s the Coen brothers, so…”

That’s the big plus in the movie. The Coens were able to tell the six stories the way only they could with such attention to detail that I almost watched it a second time even though I hated it. The critic in me detested what the movie tried to do. The fan in me loved how the Coens tried to do it.

Unfortunately, that means the only valid reason to watch it is to see the Coens do their thing. That’s enough of a reason if you’ve already seen all of their other extraordinary works. If you’ve missed any of them, I’d start there before using The Ballad of Buster Scruggs as a filler to get you through until their next masterpiece.

I normally don’t do spoilers. In fact, I make a point to not even spoil important components like mood or tone. Since this is a case where I’m not only going against the grain of other reviewers but I’m also trying to dissuade certain people from seeing it, I’ll go ahead and warn that there are spoilers ahead.

As noted already, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously. There are six completely separate stories tied together by two things: death and the historical Old West. We’ll deal with the death aspect shortly, but one good thing I can say about the movie is that I’ve never seen one capture the beauty of the period like this one. Even on a small screen, the sets are stunning. It’s a shame that such amazing cinematography will have so few see it on the big screen.

Now, let’s deal with death. It’s the overarching theme throughout, and it’s noteworthy that none of the reviews I read seemed to catch onto the specificity of the deaths. In order from first to last, the deaths are whimsical, ironic, undeserved, deserved, and tragic. This is done in a very particular order to keep the audience engaged. It’s an emotional ebb and flow that the Coens have mastered over three decades of filmmaking.

The opening story shares its title with the movie itself. It’s a live-action cartoon with stunning aspects that make the viewer laugh, marvel, and finally scratch his or her head. Buster Scruggs’ death is as quick and unexpected as the death the character dishes out throughout his story.

The second story, Near Algodones, demonstrates the inevitability of death for one who chooses a life of crime. Both times the lead character is captured and set to hang are comical and ironic, as if saying Death won’t be cheated by death. His final scene is the last real laugh we get in the movie.

As is common for the Coen brothers, there’s no attempt to ease in to a drastically changing mood. From beginning to end, Meal Ticket makes us feel melancholy and turns it up near the end of the third story. The only temporary relief is seeing an orange chicken mesmerizing a simple-minded crowd with its ability to do basic math on command, a not-so-subtle allusion to President Trump and his adoring fans.

The star of the anthology is the fourth story, All Gold Canyon, as Tom Waits delivers on multiple connections. He touches nature as both an intruder and its defender. He talks to his goal, “Mr Pocket,” like a friend about to deliver the good news of riches heading his way. The best line of the movie comes out in a dialogue between Waits and the pocket of gold when he says, “I’m old, but you’re older.” All of this combines for a deep connection we’re able to feel with his character. We may like or dislike other characters, but we actually connect with this one. Any of the stories could be fleshed out to be a standalone film, but this one would probably yield the best one.

The fifth story, The Gal Who Got Rattled, is another one that could easily expand. It made me think someone could make an interesting series about life on the Oregon Trail that followed the guides back and forth in their exciting journeys. Instead, we get a glimpse at the trail, another glimpse of irony surrounding an annoying dog that survives both of its masters, and then a fleeting glimpse of real action as Grainger Hines fearlessly takes on a group of Commanche who want his scalp and the young lady he’s protecting.

The Mortal Remains rounds out the movie. It’s the only story that doesn’t end in death, though it’s predicated by death; two of the five characters in this story are bounty hunters with the body of their most recent prey strapped to the top of the carriage they’re riding.

There are different interpretations for this segment of the movie. Some say the self proclaimed “reapers” are taking the souls of the other three passengers to their resting place. This theory lends to the apprehension and dread they demonstrate when they finally get there. Others say they simply fear that death may come to them soon, which is why they hesitate to enter the hotel. I lean towards the first interpretation. The three in the carriage with the bounty hunters/reapers died normally while the body on the roof had to be hunted down, which is why he has to be carried to his final resting place instead of walking there like the other three.

Who knows? The Coens.

The stories in this movie were accumulated over 25 years. It’s very possible that there is a much deeper underlying meaning to all of this that the Coens may or may not ever reveal. It could be personal, like their own private joke about Hollywood; watching Meal Ticket definitely lends itself to the notion that the highest level of art can’t be as popular as a counting chicken. There may be nothing to it at all. The Coens know, and unless they’re changing their style, they aren’t telling us their secrets.

An uncanny number of reviews I read noted a variation of the idea that the whole was less than the sum of the parts.

The bottom line: Lots of people loved this movie for everything the Coen brothers bring to the table. Some, like me, hated it because it’s six stories that individually could have been great but compressing them into one movie didn’t do them justice.

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Economy

To those who don’t care about the national debt, consider this

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To those who dont care about the national debt consider this

The national debt has been growing dramatically for decades. It’s so great that most Americans seem to dismiss it altogether; if we haven’t been harmed by it already, it obviously can’t hurt us, right? This sort of “head in the sand” thinking is why lawmakers refuse to tackle it. As long as the people don’t seem to care, why should they?

It’s time to care. It’s been time to care for a while but the collective ignoring of it has brought it to the level that now, in 2018, we are nearing the point of no return.

Why? Because the astronomical interest is now going to noticeably affect how the government operates. We’ve spent years pretending like the interest isn’t a big deal even though it was growing to unsustainable levels during the Clinton administration. Now, we’re seeing it reach levels that are tangible. Why? Because the cost to cover it is now great enough that other areas are going to need to be cut.

In 2017, the interest on our debt was $263 billion. That’s 6.6% of federal government spending. We’re on track to spend more on interest than Medicaid in 2020 and more on interest than defense by 2023. Let me repeat that:

By 2023, we will spend more in interest on the national debt than we spend on national defense.

Normally, we can take CBO predictions with a grain of salt because they’re usually off (see Obamacare predictions for CBO’s epic failures) but this one relies on simple math. Even in a humming economy with the best case scenarios in play, you can’t overcome interest without paying down the debt.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have any intention of paying off the debt. This is why candidate Trump went from promising to pay off the national debt in eight years, then ten years, then paying part of it off, then finally proclaiming himself the “king of debt” – all within the period of one month on the campaign trail.

To get the national debt in line will require an ironclad commitment backed by irrevocable legislation that spans two- to four-decades. It means entitlement reform, budget limits, cutting entire agencies and possibly even departments, and commitments to rein in all forms of discretionary spending.

In other words, the only way to get the national debt to a manageable level – not even getting it to zero but somewhere much lower than it is – would require commitments by politicians that none of them are willing to make. Oh, there might be a couple of Senators and a handful of Congressmen who would embrace such measures, but even those ones won’t buck the system to the point that they’d push hard for it without a mandate by voters.

We are the only hope for the very near future. If Americans don’t care that our tax dollars are being used to pay interest on the mountainous debt that has been accumulated in recent years, let alone the debt that preceded it, then we shouldn’t expect politicians to care, either. This can has been kicked down the road for decades, but the road is coming to a very abrupt end soon. It’s beyond unsustainable. We’re on the verge of collapsing under the weight of our own mistakes.

As long as voters ignore the national debt, neither party will pay attention to it, either. We will drown in our own ignorance if we don’t act soon. In the past, they said the debt will affect our children and grandchildren. Now, the debt is starting to affect us.

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