The Sermon on the Mount is the last word in Christian ethics. Everyone respects the Quakers. Still, it is not on these terms that Ministers assume their responsibilities of guiding states. Their duty is first so to deal with other nations as to avoid strife and war and to eschew aggression in all its forms, whether for nationalistic or ideological objects. But the safety of the State, the lives and freedom of their own fellow countrymen, to whom they owe their position, make it right and imperative in the last resort, or when a final and definite conviction has been reached, that the use of force should not be excluded.
No, not in the legal sense - but the gourmet!
This is sufficiently funny that I actually hope it was intentional.
P.S. Does this count as a "tasteless" joke?
Science has discovered what everybody always knew:
The full text of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech is here.
The White House admitted that Obama approached the speech with two particularly troublesome issues in mind. The less interesting was his obvious undeservedness of the award, an issue which Obama swiftly and concisely swept aside - as he had done in his first speech on the topic in America - by simply agreeing with the criticism and promising to attempt to live up to an honor prematurely bestowed upon him. For those who find ample evidence for scrutinizing Obama's narcissism, this was an occasion of public humility which served him well.
The second issue was the seeming paradox of a war-time president, in the midst of a troop build-up, receiving a prize for peace. On this front, Obama was far more surprising. If not downright hawkish, Obama was at least far from pacifistic. Midpoint through the speech, NRO's Daniel Foster noted: "This is starting to sound pretty....neoconservative. With a nod, of course, to multilateralism."
Naturally, Obama's speech was not perfect and provided moments of liberal prejudice. By way of omission, he specifically excluded the present war in Iraq from his list of just wars. And while praising the "great religion" of Islam, he equates Christian crusaders to terrorists and claims that "no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint - no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith." Rather unwarranted assertions, I think.
Nevertheless, the substance of the speech was serious and direct. Obama spoke of human nature, Just War Theory, humanitarian intervention, realism vs. idealism, the limits of discourse and his role as a political leader. With a few minor tweaks, this oration could have been spoken by Dick Chaney at a Tea Party rally.
In fact, the speech proved far more aggressive and assertive than has been the actual conduct of this administration. Obama has been criticized even from the left for his docility in foreign policy - until the "surge" in Afghanistan, of course. Perhaps this defining speech provides an insight into a disconnect between Obama's logical thinking and instinctual reflexes on foreign conflicts - as well as which of the two most commonly determines his ultimate course of action.
"President Obama's job approval rating has fallen to 47% in the latest Gallup poll, the lowest ever recorded for any president at this point in his term." Bush, by way of comparison, was at 86% by the same time of his first term (though as a newly-minted war-time president overseeing a relatively healthy economy). Rasmussen corroborates with a job approval of 47%-52% (strongly approve: 27%; strongly disapprove: 38%).
Getting into particulars, Obama's approval is 14% among Republicans, 42% among independents and 83% among Democrats. (May we now lay to rest the absurd notion that Obama was going to bring "change" to partisan politics? Unless the meaning of "change" was division without precedent.) Gallop credits the low numbers to a lack of perceived progress on any of his major initiatives and mounting opposition to healthcare reform. The right and left will likely remain rather fixed in their opinions, but losing the independents will sound the death knoll of President Obama - and the Democrats.
Polls should always be taken with a grain of salt, but presidential job approval ratings are a rather solid snapshot of the national mood. Broad, all-encompassing polls such as this are driven in part by basic emotional trends - the most important likely being confidence (that's why the dissolution of foreign governments follow a vote of "non-confidence"). Two-thirds of voters believe unemployment will not have improved by this time next year. Such fears will always fuel negative approval ratings, and Obama's numbers will likely continue to decline until national faith in economic security is restored.
The most interesting reflection of the broader national picture is Rasmussen's finding that, in "a three-way Generic Ballot test, Democrats attract 36% of the vote, the Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%." Tea Party Candidate? Did this second-ranked third-party even exist last month? The GOP's poor showing isn't as bad as it seems, of course, as very few Tea Partiers are probably left-leaning liberals sympathetic to the Democrats. Nonetheless, the ideological rift in the GOP so desired by Democrats (and many conservative Republicans) seems capable of manifesting itself in ways far more practical than many might have imagined. Could a weak incumbent on the left and an enervated opposition party limping toward the middle lead to a (momentary) third-party revolution on the right?
Einstein defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.
President Obama announced yesterday that he will propose a second (or third, fourth, for those who have been counting) stimulus package targeted at job creation. Obama outlined the multi-billion dollar spending proposal by explaining that the nation must continue to "spend our way out of this recession." According to the Washington Post, the plan's "job-creation ideas build largely on elements of the $787 billion economic stimulus package passed this year."
Though it is quite probable that Obama's new (or, recurring) stimulus plan falls squarely within Einstein's criteria, at least a few emphases of the plan contain a kernel of potential optimism. It will, of necessity, carry a much lower price tag, small businesses will be targeted for tax relief and there seems to be an intention to reigning in debt accumulation. Yet there is sure to be plenty of the sort of unsupervised spending (i.e., waste) which has defined the former stimulus, and there is little chance the bill will even be considered in Congress until next year.
Again, Obama and the democrats are likely to "own" this stimulus package, as Republicans have indicated shock at the administration's obsession with continuing down this rabbit hole. Thus far, such ownership has not benefitted the Dems. Rassmusen polls indicate that Americans oppose this stimulus bill by a 56%-33% margin, with an equal numbers believing the last stimulus either helped or hurt the economy. Further, by 53%-29%, voters believe "the U.S. economy will be helped more by decisions made by business leaders to help their own businesses grow rather than by decisions made by government officials. 59% to 24% believe that an increase in government spending will hurt the economy.
Obama is now facing an uphill battle on economic policy in the face of a American populace which still seems to cling to the traditional, rugged-individualist idea of free-market capitalism - but it doesn't seem that he's taken any notice.
The feature-film-worthy drama surrounding the global warming debate may be reaching it's crescendo at the Copenhagen Summit. In the wake of the still-developing British "climate-gate" scandal, the global summit opened on Monday with typical doomsday predictions (to include an Apocalypse-themed movie aimed at today's children) and a dogmatic recitation from the UN (perhaps in the vein of Big Lie theory) that there is, unequivocally, no doubt that humans are the cause of accelerating global warming - a claim contradicted by a New York Times article released the previous day citing persistent and renewed skepticism. (See Ronald Rychlak's revealing policy study on the manipulation of visual evidence. Hat tip: Prof. Robert Destro.)
A major issues at Copenhagen is whether developed nations will subsidize the carbon-reduction procedures of developing nations. That is, will rich nations pay for poor nations to remain poorer than they would otherwise need, in an effort to curb carbon emissions from those nations. The summit was thrown into turmoil yesterday by the leak of a secret draft agreement (here) by rich nations which would relocate decision making power from the UN to the World Bank (i.e., rich countries), repudiate the Kyoto protocols by enforcing stricter carbon-emission levels on poor nations than rich nations, and heavily condition grants to poor countries.
In the days leading to the summit, an article published in 45 countries (56 newspapers) criticized American "obstructionism" and lamented that Obama was bound by a reluctant, domestically-oriented Congress (which has refused to seriously debate the politically suicidal cap-and-trade legislation). Ever anxious to appease the global community, Obama yesterday announced a counter-intuitive strategy - dubbed by the Powerline boys as "Democracy 2.0" - by which the EPA declared greenhouse gasses (as a source of global warming) to be a health hazard and is thus enabled to regulate U.S. industry without the hassle of bothersome legislation.
Like the Nobel Prize he will soon accept, any laurels placed upon Obama by the UN and Copenhagen attendees will not be perceived by Americans as a success for the U.S. However, whereas the Nobel was of no consequence to our national interest, domestic greenhouse gas regulations and any Copenhagen agreement (including the much maligned, and hence sensible, Danish text) will have potentially sever repercussions on the U.S. economy (a NYT article today prices any Copenhagen accord at "trillions of dollars over the next few decades"). Trading the resuscitation of America's foremost national concern for international progress on an issue of very little importance to most Americans will not improve Obama's abysmal approval rating. One can only hope that a self-preservation instinct will prod Obama into continuing America's proud tradition of "obstructing" the policies of global warming madness.
UPDATE #1: Sarah Palin weighs in here, going so far as to call for Obama to boycott Copenhagen.
The architects of the modern administrative state with its vast array of administrative agencies combining legislative, executive, and judicial powers have sought to displace the system of self-government imagined under limited powers into being by the American Constitution. As we see in the case of the EPA endangerment finding, they have achieved extraordinary success.
Post-modern public intellectual Stanley Fish has long bedeviled conservatives (as well as conventional liberals), but I've found him entertaining and sometimes instructive. One suspects he enjoys being contrarian just for the sake of it. Consider his review of Sarah Palin's autobiography. The last paragraph:
The message is clear. America can't be stopped. I can't be stopped. I've stumbled and fallen, but I always get up and run again. Her political opponents, especially those who dismissed Ronald Reagan before he was elected, should take note. Wherever you are, you better watch out. Sarah Palin is coming to town.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Remember Michael Bellesiles? Back in 2000 he published a book entitled Arming America, which claimed that, contrary to myth, very few Americans of the Early Republic actually owned firearms. Early reviews were fulsome in their praise as academics, excited to see a work that confirmed their antigun prejudices, rushed to promote the book and its conclusions. The author was even awarded a Bancroft Prize, perhaps the most prestigious award in the profession.
Then came Clayton Cramer to spoil the party. Although a published historian, Cramer lacked a university affiliation, and was employed as a software engineer. Nevertheless he picked apart Arming America, finding that the author had misrepresented some of his evidence, took some of it out of context, and made some up out of whole cloth.
Among academic historians the initial response to Cramer's findings was to circle the wagons. Cramer was dismissed as a crank, a rank amateur lacking a PhD, and--worst of all--a member of the NRA. But his discoveries could not be dismissed so easily, and as the weeks went on it became impossible to deny that Bellesiles's work was a fraud. A number of academics broke ranks and joined the rising chorus of criticism. When pressed to turn over his research notes, Bellesiles stonewalled, then claimed that they had been destroyed in a flood. Garry Wills, who had originally written a glowing review in the New York Times, confessed, "I was took. The book is a hoax." The Trustees of Columbia University voted to revoke his Bancroft Prize, and the author was pressured into resigning from his tenured position at Emory University.
Am I alone in seeing strong similarities between the Bellesiles case and Climategate? In the case of global warm...er, climate change, we see the manufacture of a spurious consensus, backed by evidence that researchers have proven unwilling to submit to public scrutiny. We have a number of educated outsiders (as well as some climatologists) challenging the thesis. Meanwhile the climate change alarmists react defensively, furiously denouncing dissenters ad hominem, accusing them of ties to right-wing organizations and business interests.
Is Climategate the functional equivalent of the Bellesiles scandal? I can't answer this; I'm an historian, not a scientist. All I know is that the truth has a way of getting out eventually; let's hope it does before Congress votes on Cap and Tax.
UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the first to draw this parallel.
To recall the line from The Third Man, this time Switzerland may gain distinction by alerting Europe to save itself. Ross Douthat goes behind the Swiss referendum banning the construction of mosques. "The European elites assumed that the divide between Islam and the West was as antiquated as scimitars and broadswords, and that a liberal, multicultural, post-Christian federation would have no difficulty absorbing new arrivals from more traditional societies." Just as Californians and other Americans have used the referendum to do what cowardly legislators failed to do on hot issues such as bilingual education and affirmative action, so the Swiss have acted.
Millions of Muslims have accepted European norms. But millions have not. This means polygamy in Sweden; radical mosques in Britain's fading industrial cities; riots over affronts to the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark; and religiously inspired murder in the Netherlands. It means terrorism, and the threat of terrorism, from London to Madrid.
Today the Swiss live more than ever under the fear of Islamic terrorism, because the secular European elites didn't recognize the threat before them. Post-nationalist elites won't be of any help here in America either.
My Friday lunch companion, who had helped devise the surge strategy in Iraq, despaired of our Afghanistan policy. Somewhat dispersing my gloom comes now Eliot Cohen, author of the indispensable Supreme Command. He argues for an Afghan strategy that necessarily differs from the successful Iraq surge. Cohen maintains that Petraeus et al. still fight within the conventions of conventional warfare. While that works to an extent, a successful anti-Taliban strategy requires a "special kind of soldier" and a "special kind of civilian." The "greatest weakness of the [counterinsurgency] literature: It often lacks deep knowledge of the other side." Furthermore,
In every such war, the counterinsurgents learn the need for local knowlege: language first, and from it, all they can discover about authority structures, grievances, customs and local politics. The broad principles melt away because, as one colonel told me in 2008 while flying over eastern Afghanistan, the counterinsurgent soon realizes that "it's a valley-by-valley war."
The kind of specific knowledge needed does not lend itself to treatises, much less best sellers....
Making [counterinsurgency] work in real time, therefore, requires the right kinds of practioner, vast patience and local knowledge of a kind that is difficult to build up and easily perishable in large organizations. As Obama will discover, even setting the strategy seems easy by comparison.
Some other thoughts in this companion WaPo article, on a village by village strategy. There is no substitute for prudence: "reflective, patient, creative" soldiers and civilians.
Okay folks, here comes a new e-mail from the climate community yesterday that I did not hack (I was copied on it), and it is a case study in not getting it. Back story: Ever since Chris Horner and I were at a conference together with warmenist Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois a couple years ago, Chris and I have been included on Prof. Schesingler's e-mail distribution list, which usually consist of flagging climate news stories. Yesterday we got copied on this message Schlesinger sent to science reporter Andy Revkin:
Shame on you for this gutter reportage. [Emphasis added.]
This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.
The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists.
Of course, your blog is your blog.
But, I sense that you are about to experience the 'Big Cutoff' from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included. [Emphasis added.]
Unbelievable and unacceptable.
What are you doing and why?
So what so annoyed Schlesinger? Here's Revkin's offending blog post, which among other things passes along the amusing story of Copenhagen prostitutes offering free sex to climate campaigners (I'll leave to Mark Steyn the suitable lip gloss on this story), along with some other news items that the climate campaigners don't want reported. Judge for yourself if this constitutes "gutter reportage" and deserves censure from the climate science community. I'll add that one of the CRU e-mails I read mentioned that Revkin is not always reliable from their point of view; I can't now find it, but recall it vividly for the presumption that reporters are supposed to serve as mere transcribers for the climate campaign.
This raises another small but perhaps significant point that I didn't have room to comment on in my Weekly Standard article: How is it possible for a group of smart people to write over 1,000 e-mails over the course of a decade without a single shred of wit or humor in any of them? There isn't the tiniest hint anywhere that any of these guys ever grin. It jives with my experience of environmentalists for 20 years now that they are the single most humorless slice of humanity on the planet. (My favorite: I had a top greenie lawyer for the Audubon Society once say at a conference that "I regard the National Association of Home Builders to be every bit as evil as the National Rifle Association." My comeback was: "I can understand why you'd think that about the home builders, but what's your problem with the NRA?" The guy didn't even crack a smile.) And here we see Andy Revkin threatened with a "cutoff" because he writes--on a blog--something mildly amusing about Copenhagen.
Since my attention had turned to the Vatican for my last post, I should also mention the passing today of William A. Wilson, the first ambassador to the Vatican.
Wilson was appointed to the post by his close friend Ronald Reagan in 1981. However, he first arrived in Rome as a personal representative, or presidential envoy, as an anti-papist law from 1867 prohibited the U.S. from establishing formal ties with the Vatican. This shameful reflection of lingering anti-Catholic sentiment was repealed only as recently as 1984, when Wilson assumed full status as an ambassador (under Pope John Paul II's watch).
As a statesman, it was said of Wilson that he was "a delightful, gentlemanly like man of the old school and he was the perfect diplomat." Georgetown University maintains a collection of his papers. He was known as a rancher and horse lover, ham radio operator and successful oil man. One wonders whether his class of political men pass from the world stage with greater frequency than they are succeeded by men of equal measure.