This story reminds us why Unions, however necessary sometimes, can also cause a great deal of trouble.
A Queens teacher who collects a $100,000 salary for doing nothing spends time in a Department of Education "rubber room" working on his law practice and managing 12 real-estate properties worth an estimated $7.8 million, The Post found.
Alan Rosenfeld hasn't set foot in a classroom for nearly a decade since he was accused in 2001 of making lewd comments to junior-high girls and "staring at their butts," yet the department still pays him handsomely for sitting on his own butt seven hours a day. . . .
The DOE can't fire him.
"We have to abide by the union contract," spokeswoman Ann Forte said.
Michael Lewis' essay-review of Louis Menand's Marketplace of Ideas in the February, 2010 Commentary (not available online) points to a 2007 survey of the political opinions of America's university professors:
The percentage of social-science faculty members at elite colleges and universities who voted for George Bush in 2004 was--statistically speaking--zero percent. Likewise among their colleagues in the humanities: zero percent.
Lewis comments: "This is the sort of results that usually sends worried statisticians scurrying back to their data to see what went wrong." The proble, I fear, ain't the quality of the survey.
I've been enjoying visiting left-wing sites to see the outrage over the Supreme Court's recent Citizens United decision. I'm particularly struck by one recurring trope--that the decision places the country squarely on the road to fascism; see, for example, the Huffington Post, but an internet search using the terms "Citizens United," "Supreme Court," and "fascism" yielded some 86,000 hits. Yes, I know that the whole "fascism-as-capitalism" theme was pushed hard by the Communists in the 1930s and 1940s, but it surprised me that marginally intelligent people believe it today. In fact, big business barely existed in the semi-industrialized economy of Mussolini's Italy, and it didn't fare well at all in Hitler's Germany. In fact, a couple of recent economic histories of Nazi Germany--Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction and Goetz Aly's Hitler's Beneficiaries--show how corporations were subjected to bureaucratic micromanagement, constant threats of expropriation, or imprisonment of their managers, and, in particular, crushing taxation. Aly points out that, from 1933 to 1939, the only tax that the Nazis significantly increased was the corporate income tax, which reached 60 percent by the final years of the war. Much of this, it should be added, went to fund a cradle-to-grave welfare state.
So where is the line about "corporate fascism" coming from? It seems that many of them have hit on this alleged quote by Mussolini: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."
On the surface this would seem to be pretty damning; however, there's no evidence that Mussolini ever said it. A reading of his most important writing, "The Doctrine of Fascism", yields all sorts of references to a "corporative" system and a "corporate" state, but he clearly wasn't talking about business organizations. Rather, he was claiming that the role of the state was to play a harmonizing or balancing role among the various interests in the nation. In other words, fascism looks a lot more like progressivism than it does anything the Roberts Court mentioned in Citizens United. At the very least, the willingness of the Left to make such breathless claims gives the lie to the accusation that Tea Party-types are uniquely prone toward hyperbolic Hitler comparisons.
Can't let January pass without noting that this is the 175th anniversary of the publication of Alexis de Tocqueville's enduring classic, Democracy in America. It may well be the best book on democracy and the best book on America ever published, as Harvey Mansfield has argued. (I dispute the second claim.)
A recent re-reading affirms that Mansfield's edition is by far the best. So far as I know it is the only one that catches Tocqueville's altering of Madison's words in Federalist 51 from "popular form of government" to "tyranny of the majority" (p. 249). Other translations simply adopt the text of the Federalist. The attractive Penguin edition commits politically correct atrocities such as translating "sauvage" as "primitive people"--he means savages! The readable Lawrence translation just makes passages up. Now comes James Schleifer's beautiful, four-volume bilingual edition of Democracy, published by Liberty Press--indispensable for the serious Tocqueville student.
Noteworthy too is Jim Ceaser's essay on Tocqueville on China, part of AEI's Tocqueville on China project.
UPDATE: I found this CSPAN Tocqueville Tour program, featuring Mansfield, the late Delba Winthrop, our own Peter Lawler, Schleifer, Dan Mahoney, and some other characters, engaging in Tocquevillean meditations with Brian Lamb.
That's the conclusion of the latest and most comprehensive study of the program ever conducted, writes Andrew Coulson, "This study used the best possible method to review the program: It looked at a nationally representative sample of 5,000 children who were randomly assigned to either the Head Start." The conclusion, "by the end of the first grade, children who attended Head Start are essentially indistinguishable from a control group of students who didn't."
Yesterday in the State of the Union address, President Obama suggested we use "common sense" in reforming our laws and instutions. According to Coulson, "the president already raised spending on the program from $6.8 billion to $9.2 billion last year." In light of the latest, peer-reviewed science, perhaps he should call for ending Head Start, and using that same money for voucher and charter school programs that have shown more promise for improving our schools.
There are two prevailing interpretations of the recent financial and economic unpleasantness. Liberals tend to blame the Reagan/ Conservative order which, they say, has prevailed since the 1980s. The financial collapse shows it to be a failure, they say. Others suspect the true cause is that the New Deal Order, which Reagan et al did not really change, is no longer viable. Walter Russel Mead has some intersting thoughts on the latter thesis. In the 1970s, he says, the private sector side of that order fell apart:
As the old system dissolved, companies had to become more flexible. As industry became more competitive, private sector managers had to shed bureaucratic habits of thought. Lifetime employment had to go. Productive workers had to be lured with high pay. The costs of unionization grew; in the old days, government regulators simply allowed unionized firms to charge higher prices to compensate them for their higher costs. The collapse of the regulated economy (plus the rise of foreign competition from developing countries) made unions unsustainably expensive in many industries.
But the government side did not. It is crashing now. It simply costs more than we can afford, and does not deliver goods and services nearly as well as do private companies. (Perhaps I should say truly private companies, and not ones that are overly regulated, like health insurance companies).
The collapse of a social model is a complicated, drawn out and often painful affair. The blue model has been declining for thirty years already, and it is not yet finished with its decline and fall. But decline and fall it will, and as the remaining supports of the system erode, the slow decline and decay is increasingly likely to bring on a crash.
Meanwhile, Arnold Kling argues,
that there is a discrepancy between trends in knowledge and power. Power in the United States is remarkably concentrated. We are creating increasingly specialized knowledge, which means that the information needed to make good decisions is located outside of Washington, D.C. And yet we have a central government attempting to do for 300 million people what governments in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark, and Switzerland do for many fewer people. . . .
These days, most of the people who complain that the U.S. is ungovernable are looking for solutions that would allow progressive technocrats to be even more powerful. I believe that the solution is to decentralize government.
To push things a bit further. Reagan did what was politically feasible in the 1980s. As a result, he gave the New Deal Order an extra twenty or thirty years. Finance became an industry in and of itself, rather than the industry that supports and enables the others. Manufacturing in the U.S., meanwhile, remains difficult thanks to a regulatory structure that is out of date. The goal should not be simply to scrap these anachronistic regulations, but rather to change them to make them less onerous. Obama is right, we need a new politics. The trouble is that the "new" politics he wants is an extension of the the old politics that got us in trouble in the first place.
Justice Alito's disagreement with President Obama's interpretation of the Citizens United case is drawing much comment. The consensus is that Alito is correct. Even a Lefty like Linda Greenhouse thinks so. I'm not so sure, however. The question is whether the case, by overturning the restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations and unions, also overturns the prohibitions on like expenditures by foreign corporations. My question is this: for several years now, the Court has been collapsing the distinction between U.S. citizen and foreigner, (and, to a lesser degree, between U.S. law and foreign law). By what logic can U.S. law discriminate between U.S. corporations and foreign corporations in elections, when it can't discriminate between the two in so many other ways?
I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president. . .
Literature, Poetry, and Books
John Miller has compiled a top ten of contemporary conservative fiction writers--the usual suspects are there, such as Drury, Dos Passos, Wolfe, McCarry, and Helprin, but not always for the novels you might have urged. I have no particular quarrel with this list (though Tolkien deserved a mention), but compare it with the greatest novelists (or poets) at hand--Henry James, to name one. Or just consider some from the 19th century: Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoi, and Trollope. David Lodge would have been a daring choice for this list. Whom would you have picked?
CORRECTION: As per Richard Adams' comment #2, below, my mention of the Europeans is inappropriate; John clearly intended this to be an Americans only list. An even greater blunder on my part was to omit Melville and Twain from my list of 19th century authors.
According to this morning's Wall Street Jounral President Obama "will make small-business hiring the centerpiece of" his "jobs agenda." Question: does anyone have confidence that there is a politically feasible way, in current circumstances, for the federal government to foster the creation of jobs in the private sector?
Part of me wonders whether that explains the turn to health care. If the administration concluded that it could do little, other than get out of the way and wait, as the economic crisis runs its course, then why not try to do something else in the mean time.
When he says that "the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office." The trouble is a good deal of that anger is aimed at the very things that he, even more than President Bush, represents.
Here's what I wrote on this subject in June, 2008. So far, it's looking fairly accurate:
If Senator Obama becomes president, and if the Democratic party has control of both houses of the legislature in 2009, as seems quite likely, governing might be a rude awakening. The benefit of being in opposition is that one needn't be specific. The trouble with governing is that one must be so.
If part of the reason why President Bush has had such a rough time of things is that Americans are tried of the modern administrative/ bureaucratic state (even as they don't want their own benefits cut, or many regulations eliminated), and if Democrats think that the reason why Bush is unpopular is that he's been governing as a conservative, they could be in for a rude awakening.
Bush turned his back on the limited government/ leave-us-alone side of the conservative coalition. Now that the party of government is fully and obviously in charge blame is being placed where is more properly belongs.
I've noted in the past that Richard Cohen frequently departs from the liberal party line (unlike, for example, E.J. Dionne, who is no longer worth reading), and today he delivers another sparking commentary on the Edwards business. A number of people have observed that the same folks who decried McCain's selection of Palin as a running mate have been strangely silent about John Kerry picking Edwards in 2004. Cohen steps up:
I have been particularly harsh on McCain for his irresponsible choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. I withdraw none of it; the better we got to know Palin, the more egregious a choice she became -- astonishingly unprepared and unsuited for the presidency. She proves, if anything, that McCain was, too.
But what, then, can we make of Kerry's choice of Edwards? It is not quite in the Palin category, since Edwards had been in the Senate for one term and had made a career for himself as a stunningly successful trial attorney. Still, not only did he lack legislative achievement, but, in retrospect, it's clear that little was known about him. He dazzled as a political matinee idol -- a profile, a speech, a mirage of a marriage.
But along the way Cohen raises doubts about Barry Obama, too:
I will also throw Barack Obama into the mix, not because I know something nefarious about him but because I realize more and more that I know so little about him.
When, for instance, the call goes out to let Obama be Obama, I'm not sure what that is. For the moment, it's a tendentious populism, but the sound of it is tinny and inauthentic, a campaign tactic, nothing more. When, however, we were asked to "let Reagan be Reagan," we could be certain it was a call for a hard-right turn.
When people have lost their money, they strike out unthinkingly, like a wounded snake, at whoever is most prominent in the line of vision.
Corrections & Amplifications:
Passage of Measure 66 would increase Oregon's personal-income-tax rate by nearly two percentage points for the state's richest taxpayers. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it would increase the rate by almost 2%.
I'm alarmed to learn, after half-a-century of speaking and writing English, that there is an important distinction between "nearly" and "almost" that no one has ever explained to me.
Men and Women
The Hill reports that there is footage of a female Democrat describing Capitol Hill girls' room chatter, wherein a female Republican suggested the whole health-care package could have been resolved if they just sent the boys home and let the women handle taking care of the family. The statement was received with bipartisan applause and a general accord that women know more about caring for their own.
I really don't see a scandal here - my better half is an angel when I'm sick, whereas I'm reduced to asking if she can stop being sick long enough to remind me where we keep the medicine and heating pad. I'm actually delightfully surprised that ladies of both parties still make jokes about men in the bathroom! That's encouraging.
The episode reminds me of perhaps the most controversial passage in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, wherein he mentions, as a defense of the traditional role of men as the head of the house, that women are too willing to abandon justice in the defense of their families. Women, Lewis observes, harbor an "intense family patriotism" and are the trustees of the family's interests, whereas the function of the husband is to moderate the family's "foreign policy" so as to protect other people from this natural preference of the wife.
Describing Obama's decision-making following the attempted Christmas Day bombing as "myopic, irresponsible and potentially dangerous," WaPo retracts its original support of federal prosecution. Powerline has the story and commentary here, as well as a good perspective on the overarching failures here.
Such language from the WaPo editorial pages was par-for-the-course during the Bush years, but if Obama is losing this bastion of liberal talking-points....
So say's the Pope! Just wanted to point out (as I always knew) that we here at NLT are but pious pilgrims under the imprimatur of the Holy Father to carry out the Lord's good work....
I've not been a big fan of Jon Stewart since he stopped being funny during the Bush-Kerry election, but sometimes he strikes gold - such as his take on Olbermann's meltdown over Brown's victory in Mass.
And the hits just keep on coming.
So, here's what happened: In 1999, a freelance writer in England was told over the phone by an Indian "glaciologist" that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. The Englishman published the prediction in a magazine read by a environmentalist group which used it in a campaign ad. The UN's IPCC cut-and-pasted the campaign ad into its official global warming report (the basis for global warming alarmism for which it won a Nobel prize).
The claim was so ridiculous that it only took the global warming community 10 years to take notice - at which time, of course, the glaciologist (the single source for the unverified prediction) denied making the claim and admitted, if he did, it was mere conversation with no foundation in science or research. The IPCC chief, after mocking those who cast doubt on the glacier data, "was forced into a humiliating apology and admission."
Climategate, Warmergate, Glaciergate... none of them decisively refute global warming, but each of them sweeps away purported evidence thereof and reveals the corrupt and political nature of the pro-warming community.
But not as much as the Obama Administration, which announced indefinite detention of as many as 50 Guantanamo prisoners. The Administration seems fixated on providing lawyers for terrorists while threatening the Bush Administration lawyers such as John Yoo, who tried to deal with terrorists. In the last segment of his Uncommon Knowledge interview Yoo surprises with his sympathetic account of the Obama Administration's terrorism policies. John was promoting his new book, Crisis and Command, a history of presidential power. He recently spoke at AEI, fresh from his drubbing of Jon Stewart, who apologized for his inept performance.
Highly notable in this regard is Ben Kleinerman's Lincoln-focused conception of executive power in time of crisis. He urges a much more politically astute presidency when it uses its powers for controversial purposes, however justified. This is much in line with the advice of friendly Yoo critic Jeff Rosen, at the AEI panel above.
So wrote The New York Times on that most controversial of decisions handed down by the Supreme Court on this day, 37 years ago. As usual, the Grey Lady was reporting wishfully, rather than prophetically.
Due to the economy, Roe v. Wade is not presently commanding public attention and will not likely play a significant role in November. Abortion presently ranks as the 10th most important issue to Americans, with 41% ranking it as "very important" (I'd wager 5%-10% are single-issue voters). Abortion won't likely emerge again until a Supreme Court seat opens up, and even then will be muted, as Obama will likely swap pro-Roe justices.
However, abortion has established itself as a permanent feature of American politics. The economy will recover and wars will diminish - and abortion will again dominate the headlines. This is unique to the U.S. and provides an insight into a peculiarity of American democracy.
The clamorous and convictional abortion debate which has marked American politics for 40 years owes its persistence to two factors: morality and democracy.
First, Americans have not surrendered morality to the private sector. Europeans consciously eschew hard moral debates in public - having lost the boldness and sense of obligation to battle over profound issues - deferring to the guidance of government agencies. They have abandoned the pursuit of public morality on the grounds that they individually lack the authority, and should reserve the judgement, necessary to enforce personal preferences. Tolerance has triumphed over substantive moral conviction in the hierarchy of virtues. Let others lose their souls, they privately think, who am I to judge?
Secondly, pro-life Americans feel a bitter sense of indignation at the Supreme Court's pre-emption of this moral decision and usurpation of the democratic process. Roe completely altered the nature of the abortion debate in America, introducing a provocational lightning-rod which expanded and came to dominate the debate (protesting Roe v. Wade is now synonymous with opposing abortion).
Like slavery before it, abortion is an issue of moral absolutism marred by legal intrusion which divides the nation along irreconcilable fronts. Its perseverance indicates that Americans are still morally and intellectually alive, full of fight and vigor, devoted to the principles of a just democracy.
One cannot help but wonder if Obama learned nothing from his disastrous overreach on health-care.
Of course, this over-night policy priority is an attempt to change the subject from the Dems' legislative collapse and to ride the populist wave which washed away his health-care sand-castles. It remains to be seen whether this attack on the banks will parallel and channel voter unrest or be received as a smokescreen sham imposing yet further taxes to be passed on to the public.
The answer will likely emerge after Obama features this new initiative as a centerpiece of his State of the Union speech next week. I predict Obama may be surprised that his credibility has sagged to such an extent that even his lofty rhetoric will fail to heal voter disillusionment.
First, Scott Brown trounces Martha Coakley in Massachusetts.
Then the Supreme Court finds for the good guys in the Citizens United case.
And now, AirAmerica has announced that it's filing for bankruptcy.
What could make this week better? Oh yeah--tomorrow I'm headed for Boca Raton to give my talk on Captain America.
Drudge has the cable news returns for Tuesday's election.
FOXNEWS HANNITY 6,809,000
FOXNEWS GRETA 6,399,000
FOXNEWS O'REILLY 5,228,000
FOXNEWS BECK 3,446,000
FOXNEWS BAIER 3,338,000
FOXNEWS SHEP 3,241,000
CNN KING 1,681,000
CNN COOPER 1,508,000
CNN BROWN 1,308,000
MSNBC OLBERMANN 1,274,000
MSNBC MADDOW 1,236,000
CNN BLITZER 1,135,000
CNNHN BEHAR 845,000
MSNBC HARDBALL 798,000
Let me do the math for you:
Seems the public is expressing its opinion on far left agendas both at the polls and on the tube.
From WaPo: "Speaker of the House says she does not have enough votes to pass the Senate version of the health-care bill."
The bill is dead.
We now enter an entirely new phase of the health-care debate. Everything now weighs upon how the parties react to the brave new world in which they find themselves. I expect a new debate will begin, and I hope Republicans struggle to take ownership of a more reasonable health-care package.
It's in the Democrats' interest to pass something, even at this late hour when no glory will be taken from the battlefield. The GOP should have the upper-hand now, forcing the Dems to pay a price for the bi-partisan cooperation they once scorned.
When neither party defends the reasoning of a precedent, the principle of adhering to that precedent through stare decisis is diminished. Austin abandoned First Amendment principles, furthermore, by relying on language in some of our precedents that traces back to the Automobile Workers Court's flawed historical account of campaign finance laws, see Brief for Campaign Finance Scholars as Amici Curiae; Hayward, 45 Harv. J. Legis. 421. (Emphasis added.)
Guess I should buy an extra nice bottle of wine somewhere up the the valley today.
On the eve of his first anniversary as President of the United States, Obama was given a spoonful of bitter medicine. The election of Scott Brown as Republican Senator #41 was a clear rejection of a President and political policy agenda which were embraced with hopeful optimism a mere one year ago. This assertion is supported by the earlier gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, the wide-spread disenchantment with health-care reform and leading polls which have Obama at the lowest approval rating of any president at this stage of his first term
Furthermore, the President will likely be stopped in his tracks for the foreseeable future. Yesterday's shocking election does not simply deprive the democrats of their essential super-majority in the Senate, but Democrats are surely losing confidence in their own security as they reflect on recent election results. The path to survival may require a show of independence, which would paralyze the hyper-partisan legislative course upon which Obama staked his success.
So, with his first year a demonstrable disappointment (a conclusion which will be mercilessly repeated during the looming State-of-the-Union Address) and nothing hopeful upon the horizon (particularly given the Democrats' prospects in the November mid-term elections), Obama might need a second glass of Champaign to wash down his year-end celebrations.
Men and Women
In November 2008 Barack Obama won 53% of the popular vote in the state of Virginia. Twelve months later, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate there won 41% of the popular vote, 12 percentage points less. Obama won 57% of the vote in New Jersey, one year before incumbent Democratic governor Jon Corzine won 45%, also a 12-point difference. In Massachusetts Obama won 62% of the vote. Martha Coakely appears likely to wind up with 47% of the vote in today's special senatorial election, a drop of 15 percentage points.
One way of connecting those three dots is to say that any Democrat running for senator this year in a state that Obama carried with less than, say, 56% of the vote is likely to have an interesting election. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, which gave Obama 45% of the vote in 2008, has already decided to spend more time with his family. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, which gave Obama 39% of its vote, has one of the most difficult challenges facing any incumbent in 2010.
Among the states Obama did carry, but not overwhelmingly, are these:
If the pattern in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts holds that would be five Republican holds and four Republican gains.
Could we have blamed the relentless phone bank callers, as Pete (Comment 1, #4) suggested? That is, could potential Brown voters have been turned off from voting by the blitz of calls, live and robo? As a sometime phone banker myself, I could see this happening. When I brought my concerns to the phone bank boss, she maintained there were political science studies supporting the over-the-top calling strategy. I've found some support for that viewpoint, but I have also come up with some research suggesting that Pete may be right.
Here is one study by a Princeton prof, arguing that phoning increases turnout. He goes after these profs, below, who claim it decreases turnout (sorry, no links):
Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green. 2000. "The Effects of Canvassing, Telephone Calls, and Direct Mail on Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment." American Political Science Review
Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green. 2001. "Do Phone Calls Increase Voter Turnout? A Field Experiment." Public Opinion Quarterly
Had enough? The quality argument appeals to me. I've gotten fewer nasty responses than my colleagues by beginning my call with "Thank you for voting today..." I guess all I need to do now is to reproduce this result, so I'll have data instead of an anecdote and publish it in a big-time poly sci journal. I prefer door-to-door campaigning, meeting real voters and chatting with them. Ultimately, though, it comes down to the quality of the candidate or issue. That is the element these putatively scientific studies need to control for, and I don't think the rules of science allow them to factor that in.
Political campaigns waste a lot of their budgets. Like the welfare state, these hired guns throw money at a problem to solve it. Yet they also send ill-informed doorbellers out with inaccurate street maps and bad voting records.
UPDATE: Classy Brown remarks.
Some commentators are saying that President Obama will "double-down." He'll now follow the FDR strategy of bashing economic royalists, and use that to push even harder for the further nationalization of health care. Banks are not popular now, and neither are insurance companies. Hence he has room to run, focusing on what needs changing, instead of what's in the bill.
That being the case, the opposition probably should follow suit. To block the "the other side wants the status quo" argument, it's time to push for a very simple bill: tort reform, opening the interstate market, a pre-existing conditions fix, and a portability law. Perhaps those aren't exactly the ideas to push, but you get the general idea. It's time to start talking about a genuine bipartisan reform, rather than a transformation and takeover.
A short distraction from today's election. Of late, I have been reading an increasing number of people saying that America is sending too many people to college. They neither want nor need to spend the years after age 18 in college, but do so because it's what the system tells them they have to do. Meanwhile, an increasing number of students in college need remedial education because they're not learning what they ought to learn in high school. Plus our schools of education are not producing quality teachers. On top of that, education funding at all levels is being squeezed. In particular, campuses are feeling the pinch.
Obvious solution: close some of the campuses in America and reduce the size of others. Plus, change the law so that an advanced degree in a subject is sufficient qualification to teach that subject in high school. And let the teachers who no longer have a place in higher education go to the high schools. I see synergy.
Obama drives David Brooks crazy. He praises Obama for his "pragmatism," commitment to open debate (Fox news?), and "moderate temper"--while condemning him for seeming to become "like the sovereign on the cover of [Thomas Hobbes'] 'Leviathan'-- the brain of the nation to which all the cells in the body and the nervous system must report and defer."
President Obama has shown himself to be a fine administrator, but he erred in trying to make himself the irreplaceable man in nearly ever sphere of public life. He erred in not sensing that even a pragmatic government could seem imperious and alarming.
This is the error of a pragmatic man? Sounds more like the ideological fanatic that Hobbes strove to contain but instead spawned.
UPDATE: A sidebar on the Brooks article contains a brief symposium on the first complete Hebrew translation of the Leviathan. It also has the striking Leviathan frontispiece Brooks mentions. One contributor mentions that only recently "complete Hebrew editions of Locke, Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill have appeared for the first time -- each restoring material about the Bible and religion that earlier Israeli translators had elided." What these commentators miss is that Hobbes founded two traditions--the liberal one that the state exists to protect individual rights and the totalitarian one that the sovereign defines all legitimate activity.
Aside from sending millions of dollars in aid to Haiti, the U.S. has deployed thousands of troops to restore safety, accepted thousands of refugees into its own borders and, critically, established the rapid and competent leadership which keeps airports open, facilitates international logistics and allows massive relief efforts to execute.
In another world, this would be recognized as the behavior of a great and noble nation exhibiting compassion and courage in the face of tragedy. U.S. troops have already died while attempting to quell mob violence and national appeals for ever-greater aid increase by the day. America has shown the sort of leadership and selfless-sacrifice befitting the kingdom of heaven.
France, of course, will have none of it. Though international aid groups devoted to humanitarian assistance have expressed complete satisfaction with America's administration of relief efforts, the French, in full temper-tantrum mode because one of their flights carrying aid was prioritized below a U.S. flight carrying peace-keeping forces, has accused the U.S. of "occupying" Haiti.
Note that such language is not arbitrary. Haiti has been occupied by both the French and U.S. during the last century, so the accusation is intended to aggravate old wounds and incite resentment and suspicion among the Haitians (potentially exposing U.S. soldiers and aid workers to greater risk of violence).
Further, this is the sort of slander which European news outlets find irresistible. Rather than commending the U.S. and offering our example as a model of international charity and partnership, European news media is fostering resentment toward the U.S. by portraying America as an arrogant, bully nation hampering European aid efforts simply because we can.
When one ponders European prejudices against America, it would be prudent to remember the efforts of nations like France and episodes such as this. Nations, like people, possess a sort of character - America's character has been exhibited by our response to Haiti, and France's character has been exhibited by its response to America.
In the wake of Massachusetts' stunning special-election results - filling Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, safely in Democratic hands since 1953, with Republican Scott Brown - all attention is fixed upon the Democrats' national health care proposal. Indeed, the Massachusetts election was almost certainly a referendum on that albatross legislation. And "Republican Senator #41," as Scott Brown should be titled, has shattered the Democrats' all-important, filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority and will likely derail the entire health-care bill.
President Obama and the Democrats thus find themselves in a no-win situation: they can attempt various procedural tricks to force the bill through Congress (shady, desperate tactics which would show an utter contempt for prevailing public opinion), they can scale back the bill to lure a Republican defection (infuriating a liberal base which would consider this tantamount to failure) or they can simply accept defeat (conceding an incapacity to govern on behalf of the people). Though the ball is still in their court, Democrats are on the defensive and damage-control is likely vying with legislative success as the highest priority on their agenda.
On the other hand, Republicans are in a position of flux. Voter rejection of the Democrats might promise an incidental boon to the only other viable alternative - but it does not yet translate into approval for the GOP. Americans are starving for leadership attentive to their will. They thought they had found it in Obama, and their retribution for having been fleeced was apparent in Massachusetts. They'll give Republicans a chance to show them a worthy alternative, but they aren't going to hold their breath.
So, Republicans can either be satisfied with the detritus of the Democrats' disintegration, or they can seize the unmanned reigns of leadership and try their hand at governing.
First, they must present a unified, principled and populist resistance to the current health-care bill. The American people want health-care reform, but reject the Democrats' solution. Republicans must reflect the peoples' opposition to the latter while assuring their commitment to the former. While embracing the Democrats' spur as "the party of 'no,'" as applied to their stance on the current bill, Republicans must emerge as a party of idea, cleaning up the mess of a failed Democratic end-run.
Should the health-care bill founder or Democrats begin to show signs of retreat, the GOP must immediately - in full view of the public - seek bipartisan support for a handful of broadly-popular, practical and achievable health-care measures. Options on the table include: tax credits for low income families purchasing insurance; resource pooling by states and businesses to lower premiums; dependents under 25 remaining on a parent's insurance; tort reform; facilitating the purchase of out-of-state insurance; expanded health savings accounts; mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions; policy security in the event of serious illness; closing the Medicare Part D prescription drug "donut hole;" and an appeals process for grievances against abusive insurers.
Again, these measures should be limited to select, popular reforms. The GOP mustn't overreach - that was the Democrats' doom - but rather they should target specific reform measures appealing to a broad majority of Americans. A certain amount of debate and controversy will accompany even the most popular of proposals (the Devil's in the details, after all), but such bi-partisan negotiations and compromises are expected by the public and construed as the product of a healthy democracy. Proposals might even be submitted as individual bills, so that poison pills cannot be shoved into a bundle of proposals to complicate matters.
The GOP would potentially claim victory regardless of the ultimate outcome. If the measures pass, Republicans have (at least partially) usurped a centerpiece of the Democrats' policy platform, boasting a success (as a minority party) in providing at least a few common-sense reforms to the system (with the promise of more to come if vindicated at the polls in November). If they fail, the GOP have further evidence that an ideologically-paralyzed Democratic party is simply unwilling to compromise and have prioritized the government's control of medicine above the health-care needs of the country.
The essential element of this strategy is a Republican party offering sensible, practical ideas emanating from the public. Resistance posturing must swiftly evolve into proactive and energetic leadership. The GOP must listen to public sentiment - as they have in opposing the Democrats' plan - remaining flexible and responsive to shifting public concerns and opinions. Then they must demonstrate the practical competence to translate what they hear into achievable goals. A bit of competent leadership over the coming months would go a long way in November, and Republicans may not see a better opportunity to define themselves - to the country, and themselves.
The NYTimes considers the Plan B options for Dems if they lose in Mass. today.
1) "[P]ersuade House Democrats to approve the health care bill that the Senate adopted on Christmas Eve, obviating the need for an additional Senate vote.... Democrats could move forward with the Senate-passed bill and then push through a raft of changes during the upcoming federal budget process." This is the best option for the Dems, but a Democratic House aide relates that, as of now, "the House view of the Senate bill had not changed."
2) "[T]ry to pass a revised health care bill in the Senate before the new Massachusetts senator is sworn in." But, this tactic "would prompt howls from Republicans and accusations of foul play." A legislative victory (of any sort) might be worth the reprisals likely to follow such an obvious smack at the prevailing public opinion (as will be indicated by today's Mass. vote), but this definitely puts the Dems between a rock and a hard place.
3) "[T]ry to use a procedural tactic known as budget reconciliation that would require only 51 votes." But, "budget reconciliation would most likely require scaling back the scope of the health care changes." And it would, again, seem to the public that the Dems had done something underhanded.
It is probably noteworthy that the Times does not even bother to offer up persuading any of the GOP as an option.
If they realize that they are going to fall short of 60 votes, I expect that other Dems will jump ship in an attempt to save their political careers back home. Even Harry Reid would likely see the benefit of shifting gears in order to preserve a few more Democratic seats in November, rather than having vulnerable members go down with the ship by voting lock-step for a lost cause. But, perhaps I am being too generous....
The courts have asked this question in a recent case in New Jersey. Here's what happened:
A New Jersey judge has ruled that a gestational surrogate who gave birth to twin girls is their legal mother, even though she is not genetically related to them.
The ruling gives the woman, who carried the babies in an arrangement with her brother and his male spouse, the right to seek primary custody of the children at a trial in the spring.
This reminds me of another case from 2007:
A New York man who said he donated sperm to a female co-worker as a friendly gesture and sent presents and cards to the child over the years likely will owe child support for the college-bound teenager, according to a judge's ruling.
This is a trend. (here is another case, and here is the first one I recall seeing, a case from Sweeden in 2005). Our friends on the Left like to say that marriage is a social construct. Yet our Courts keep putting biology (sometimes as raw genetics, and sometimes as the fact of carrying a baby to term) back in.
A further, and related point. I have wondered before whether, given the rise of out-of-wedlock births, our courts will re-create something like common law marriage. If they may impose obligations on, and discover rights for, people who agreed not to be considered parents, so much more would it follow logically for the law to impose obligations on parents who were a couple when the baby was conceived.
. . . that Massachusetts, the only state in the union which already has social health care, would elect a Republican to replace Ted Kennedy, and he would cast the deciding vote to derail the Democrats' national healthcare legislation, leaving Obama, who ran for president as an anti-war candidate, touting a "surge" of troops in Afghanistan as his only achievement during his first year in office . . .
Well, I'd have laughed, but admitted, "Anything can happen in politics."
Pope Benedict XVI visited the Synagogue of Rome yesterday, continuing along the path of reconciliation and dialogue spearheaded by his predecessor, John Paul II. Aside from the usual chatter which accompanies such high-profile agendas (the improvement of Judeo-Christian relations amounts to a "theological obligation," in the Pope's words), the meeting provided a forum for discussing the controversial role of Pope Pius XII's Vatican during the Holocaust.
Pius XII seems to me to be one of the most maligned figures of modern history. Whereas Allied powers did nothing to directly prevent the Holocaust (except, of course, by winning the war against Germany), Pius was consistently and unreservedly critical of NAZI Germany and is credited with saving nearly a million Jews by siphoning them through local parishes into foreign nations. Jewish and world leaders fully recognized Pius' "heroic virtue" until his name was defiled by a seemingly KGB-sponsored German play which portrayed the Pope as a devotee of Hitler. The German government and Jewish leaders condemned the historical revision, but the myth (welcome among those who always welcome such derisive slurs) endures today.
I should hope that historians of good will might take the opportunity to repair the historical record and ensure that propaganda and soft bigotry do not prevail. Historical veracity has not defined the academic profession as regards Church history.
UPDATE: A commenter provided the following link to "a nearly-exhaustive list of articles and texts on this topic." The resource deserves front page coverage: http://popepiusxiiandthejews.blogspot.com/.
Unappreciated is King's emphasis on natural law and the western tradition. That emphasis gave legitimacy and moral transcendence to what could have been a merely lawless movement. One sees this attention, for example, in his Lincoln Memorial speech, Letter from Birmingham Jail (about a third of the way down), and his final speech (see third paragraph). Doubtless much of this derived from documents in the black American political tradition such as this extraordinary 1774 slave petition for freedom (it's a short document, RTWT and look at the last sentence):
That legacy is what makes this American our greatest political spokesman for natural right and therefore our most sigfnificant conservative.
This book supports the argument here.
Republican senate hopeful Scott Brown's Sunday rally featured Curt Schilling, Doug Flutie, and Cheers star John Ratzenberger (Cliff). Coakley's featured the entire Democratic establishment and the President (whose remarks seemed pretty tone-deaf). Whom would you rather show up for you? The key stat to remember is that Hillary beat Obama 56-41% two years ago in the Massachusetts primary (h/t Patterico). Moreover--and please correct me you descendants of the original Tea Partiers--Massachusetts politics remains white ethnic politics; they elect black politicians (Brooke, Patrick), but the racial edge remains.
Just consider the Boston Celtics, long regarded as a white team (just as the Cubs are in Chicago; Obama of course is a White Sox fan, as he said at the Coakley rally). I recall Clarence Thomas saying to a group many years ago that he experienced more racial animosity in Massachusetts than he had in Georgia.
To recognize such realities is of course not to endorse them. In this context, Obama's appearance may aid Coakley, but it could help sink her.
UPDATE: See Pete's comment below.
On the flight from Rome to Prague, I caught up on my Czech politics with the blessed, English-language Prague Post. The lead story covers a lawsuit by the government to formally ban a tiny, fascist political party with neo-NAZI sympathies. Intriguing as this scenario may be, it is largely recognized as a test case for an anticipated assult upon a far more formidable opponent: the Communists. The latter represent the third largest party in Czech, though its critics claim that it is incompatible with, and seeks to destroy, democracy.
The argument reminds me of Lincoln's belief that man did not have the right to vote himself into a state of slavery. The Czechs are claiming that the democratic process cannot be used to elect totalitarianism. It is a largely historic allegation to which I, as a Western foreigner who became acquianted with Communism in a classroom, feel somewhat unqualified to speak. But it raises compelling questions as to the limits of democracy imposed by human nature, natural law and a just God.
Men and Women
In honor of the ongoing California Supreme Court trial of Prop 8, I thought I would post a bit of wisdom about marriage in general. Many today say that marriage is not about child-rearing. On the contrary, they say, marriage is fundamentally about the partnership of two adults. That's not how most people used to think (I suspect it's also not how many think about it today).
Anyway, here's a young John Adams, in his diary, thinking through the question of when divorce ought to be legal. (Adams was a son of the Puritans, and Puritans, as you may recall, were open to legal divorce. For them, of course, marriage was a civil, not religious ceremony):
Is it for the benefit of society, for the convenience and happiness of human life, to allow divorces, in any cases. I think it is. I think that either Adultery or impotence are sufficient reasons of divorce. But Quere, if Dissonance and Disputations is a sufficient Reason." [Adams suggests] "this may be known, if sufficient caution is taken beforehand" [to get to know the person]. "But would an unlimited toleration of Divorces promote the multiplication of Mankind or the Happiness of Life.
Suppose every Man had a Power by law, to repudiate his Wife and marry another at his Pleasure. Would not such a power produce confusion, and misery? After a man and woman had cohabited 7 years and had as many Children a separation would be very inconvenient and unhappy. If either retained all the Children the other would be deprived of the Pleasure of educating, and seeing [them]. But if the Children were divided, each would want to see and provide for the others half.
James Ceaser's latest, The Roots of Obama Worship is characteristically insightful. I hesitate to quote any of it, for it's a deep analysis, but to whet the appetite, here's what I take to be the central paragraph (I didn't actually count), Ceaser writes:
The combination of confidence in science and a religious-like enthusiasm was the hallmark of the Obama campaign, just as it is the most salient characteristic of the contemporary progressive impulse. Confidence in experts and the pledge to "restore science to its rightful place" went hand in hand with chants of "Yes we can" and with celebrations of the gift of charismatic leadership.
When the modern "religion of humanity" meets political necessity, the result is not a happy one. The result may be post-partisan depression.
Update: I wrote a bit hastily yesterday. I should also note that Ceaser ties those ideas quite intelligently to Comte's "Religion of Humanity."
In the WSJ a leftist historian surveys the economic consequences of and responses to disasters from the Lisbon earthquake to Haiti. (Great artwork and photos.) I would add one reason for the suffering: The absence of Wal-Mart. (They've donated $600K to Haiti.) See David Brooks' column earlier this week for the importance of civil society institutions: "This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story." And "we don't know how to use aid to reduce poverty."
Since the New Deal, liberals have exploited Puerto Rico as an experimental subject for their Third-World poverty policies (e.g., artificial contraception). The telling instance is FDR's appointment of New Deal theoretician Rexford Guy Tugwell as the Commonwealth's governor. The Clintons can scarcely come up with something worse for Haiti.
The Civil War & Lincoln
There isn't a chance that these clowns will come up with the right answer, because they're the problem. Simply put, the reason our intelligence service keeps failing to connect the dots is because the officials in charge don't know how.
Remember the Amirault case in Massachusetts, about the family who allegedly sexually assaulted young kids in their care, in spectacular fashion? Dorothy Rabinowitz details Martha Coakley's role in the sordid prosecution. This is the world inhabited by liberals.
If the current attorney general of Massachusetts [Coakely] actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison--the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest--that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley's concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo--her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.
In case you've been locked away from media today, the impoverished Caribbean island of Haiti has been devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake which struck near, and largely destroyed, the capitol city of Port-au-Prince. Thousands are thought dead, infrastructure has collapsed and the country is largely without electricity - all indicators that disease, hunger and desperation are staged to kill many more without a rapid response.
We offer our heartfelt prayers for the dead and mourning.
If you'd like to help save lives, may I recommend donating here.
Anti-Catholicism has been called the last acceptable prejudice, and its occurrences are consistently monitored by the likes of Bill Donohue's Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Of course, the bias can easily be extended to Christians as a whole ("poor, uneducated and easy to command," in the Washington Post's opinion) if not the entire conservative movement (consider NPR's bias).
Over here in the EU, Italy's Rocco Buttiglione was rejected as an EU Commissioner when it was revealed that he, as a Catholic, privately believed in marriage between men and women. Buttiglione lamented: "The new soft totalitarianism that is advancing on the left wants to have a state religion. It is an atheist, nihilistic religion - but it is a religion that is obligatory for all." Luxembourg's Viviane Reding may also be derailed for no reason other than reputedly being a practicing Catholic.
Yet such intolerance is not confined to Europe. Obama's nominees have been a virtual "who's who" list of extremists, from Van Jones to Cass Sunstein and John Holdren to Kevin Jennings (nevermind associates such as Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers). Recent nominees, however, go beyond merely anti-Catholic views.
Obama re-nominated Dawn Johnson to head DOJ's powerful Office of Legal Counsel, though she has published anti-Catholic literature and claims the Catholic Church ("The real enemy" of the U.S.) should be legally punished for promoting pro-life views. Obama appointed Erroll Southers to lead the TSA, though he has stated that the nation's highest security risk is posed, not by Muslims with bombs in their undies, but by the homegrown threat of ... pro-lifers and groups with a "Christian identity." As FRC notes: "Unfortunately, that makes him the perfect choice for Homeland Security's Janet Napolitano, who last year included pro-life and pro-marriage conservatives on the domestic 'watch list.'"
I'm reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, and he writes that he enjoys the liberal perspective of Christianity, which allows one to believe in large portions of the world's complimentary religious traditions, as opposed to the intolerance required by his former atheism, which forced him to conclude that nearly all people at all times in history were simply wrong on the most fundamental level.
I am wondering if the Obama administration thinks it vaguely dishonorable to be popular. If you mention to Obama staffers that they really have to be concerned about the polls, they look at you with a certain . . . not disdain but patience, as if you don't understand the purpose of politics. That purpose, they believe, is to move the governed toward greater justice. Just so, but in democracy you do this by garnering and galvanizing public support. But they think it's weaselly to be well thought of.
At the risk of injecting facts into the Reid dust-up: "Despite being hit especially hard by the bad economy, job losses and the high rate of foreclosures, African Americans' assessment of race relations and prospects for the future has surged more dramatically during the past two years than at any time in the past quarter-century, according to a new [Pew] poll." Here's the complete report.
This surge in black optimism was all to be expected. What the poll also confirmed is that most whites and Hispanics (if one takes this group separately) don't regard Obama simply as black, not that this particularly helps the embattled Majority Leader:
The study also found that Americans tend to construct their own view of the president's race based on their backgrounds. In response to a question about Obama's racial identity, 55 percent of black respondents said Obama is black, while about a third said he is mixed race. Among whites, the pattern reversed. Fifty-three percent said he is mixed race, while just a quarter said he is black. Hispanics were even more inclined than whites to see him as mixed race; 61 percent identified him that way.
Like Harry Reid, Bill Clinton is in a little trouble. During the 2008 campaign, Clinton told Senator Kennedy "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."
In the abstract, the phrase is not racially charged. Clinton may have, and probably has, used the phrase countless times to describe someone who has risen quickly, and, he thinks, undeservedly. That's often unfair, but not racially charged. But when he used the phrase about someone whose father is African, it is considered to be such. Not sure if that's right or wrong, or good or bad, but that's how it has played out, and how most pundits, and politicians, see it.
Three instances of conservatives saving Republicans and fellow conservatives from ludicrous arguments:
The Reid episode seems the work of leftists within his own party. He simply repeated what is common knowledge among American blacks: That there have long been separate social institutions for lighter-skinned blacks. Obama's Dreams from My Father grapples with such themes.
Since I've written so profusely on global warming - and because my lovely lady is a European, spoon fed the doctrine of environmentalism since birth and yet resistant to my rehabilitation efforts - I feel compelled to provide updates as scientists and politicians plug their ears and dig in their heels at the mounting evidence (mostly piling up just outside their windows) contradicting their beloved theory.
David Rose's article in Britain's Daily Mail (where "climate-gate" is coined "warmer-gate") reports that leading members of the global warming community are now admitting that the cooling trend which began during the last decade was only the beginning of a progressively cooler trend likely to continue for another 20-30 years! That's a total of 30-40 years of cooling.
Scientists are daily more able to explain why computer climate models have proven wrong 100% of the time, the Arctic (rather than two years from complete thaw) has expanded 26% in the last two years, and we are battling record cold even as we are supposedly on the brink of overheating. The article bears reading as much for the perspective it lends on "die-hard warming advocates" as for its evidence against global warming (man-made or otherwise).
UPDATE: I have belated become aware that the veracity of the underlying article for this post has been forcefully disputed. Such is the nature of real-time blogging that we must depend upon external reporting, and sometimes that reporting is inaccurate. Hopefully, the mockery of such media bias or cluelessness is the subject of a blog post. But, alas, sometimes we are taken in by such errors and opine on the basis of fallacies. For a refutation of the Daily Mail story, go here.
Two pieces today contrast health care in the U.S. and Europe, and beyond that the rest of the world. Peter Pitts relates a personal story of quality and efficient care in the U.S.:
The Europeans -- who suffer under socialized medicine -- were mostly amazed.
Amazed that we didn't wait hours for an emergency-room bed.
Amazed that we saw a doctor in less than five or eight hours.
Amazed that we weren't told to go home and come back at a later date -- because her white-blood-cell count was only slightly elevated and the appendix wasn't in danger of bursting.
And not amazed but astounded that the surgery was done immediately. That there was actually a room available and that it was vacant -- at a large urban hospital -- they couldn't even fathom.
Here is one verbatim comment from a continental comrade: "I waited three days in London to see a GP and 20 hours at ER for an 'exploratory op.' It burst and I nearly died (to say nothing of the two life-threatening incidents whilst I was being 'cared' for). But hey! The public option is better . . . right?"
Meanwhile Mark Constantian notes that's the general story:
The comparative ranking system that most critics cite comes from the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO). The ranking most often quoted is Overall Performance, where the U.S. is rated No. 37. The Overall Performance Index, however, is adjusted to reflect how well WHO officials believe that a country could have done in relation to its resources.
The scale is heavily subjective: The WHO believes that we could have done better because we do not have universal coverage. What apparently does not matter is that our population has universal access because most physicians treat indigent patients without charge and accept Medicare and Medicaid payments, which do not even cover overhead expenses. The WHO does rank the U.S. No. 1 of 191 countries for "responsiveness to the needs and choices of the individual patient." Isn't responsiveness what health care is all about?
Update: Added the link for the second story.
I have long believed that everyone (of consequence) in the world is either a Beatles of Elvis person. And the decision between the two expresses a deep insight into the cultivation and state of a person's soul. I was always a Beatles guy, but admit that, as time has passed, to have undergone the sort of inner crisis Allen Bloom would well understand.
Nevertheless, today would be Elvis Presley 75th birthday.
Powerline runs a must-read annual post on Elvis which pays particular attention to his 1970 meeting with President Nixon. The altruistic patriotism and almost child-like innocence in his letter to Nixon (in which he requests to be secretly deputized by the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) permits an endearing and ultimately tragic (given his eventual demise from drug-use) glimpse into his uncanny character.
So here's to the King! If only he'd reigned a bit longer....
From today's Wall Street Journal:
The office market in Washington, D.C., is poised to topple New York as the nation's most expensive, reflecting the declining fortunes of the nation's financial center and the government expansion under way in the U.S. capital.
Rents declined in almost all of the 79 American cities tracked by Reis Inc., a New York based-research firm, in the fourth quarter of 2009. The largest fall was in New York, where average effective rents -- or the net amount tenants pay after landlord concessions -- fell nearly 20% to $44.69 per square foot annually. It was the sharpest decline in rents ever recorded by Reis since it began compiling data in 1981.
By contrast, average rents in Washington were $41.77 per square foot, down 3% annually. Reis estimates that by the end of this year, rents in New York will come down to around $41.07, slightly below their estimates for Washington of $41.27.
"The financial crisis hit New York hard, which is why it's down so much, whereas the government is one of the few sectors that has actually added jobs," said Robert Bach, chief economist for Grubb & Ellis, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based brokerage firm.
Many conservative commentators have noted that President Obama often blames Americas problems, at home and abroad, on President Bush, (often with some justice). The irony is that at the start of his term he did not go as far as would have been politically wise. A year ago, when he took office, he could have said, "Our economy is in very bad shape. It is quite likely that we will face 10% unemployment and slow growth for quite some time. On top of that, the deficit has expanded greatly. It will take several years for us to fix things, and it will get much worse before it gets better . . ."
But Obama did not go that far, however much he blames on Bush. Instead, he sold a huge stimulus bill by saying it would keep that from happening. Hence he is currently taking some of the heat.
There is one point that might appear superficial but is hard to miss. Quite simply, the students of Directed Studies and the Humanities appear very happy. . . . They show a love of college and learning that I do not see from the students brooding over econometric regressions or deconstruction.and this:
Part of the reason students (like me, initially) don't pursue traditional liberal arts education is that they simply don't know why they might want to. . . . Nobody doubts the value of the sciences or the utility of the social sciences. But freshmen aren't so sure about the liberal arts. As such, the duty should fall to university administrators to ensure that freshmen at least give it a try and can find classes about literature that aren't actually about politics.Of course, what Shaffer is talking about is the pursuit of something worthy and serious--a pursuit inspired, above all, by love. Because so many people today think that love is just a feeling that comes of its own accord and offering no explanation or justification for itself, our educational system is loath to suggest to students that they can develop better and higher loves than those their adolescent brains suggest to them. These more fleeting passions and temporary rushes of excitement--necessary, perhaps, to spark an interest--are not in themselves sufficient or satisfactory to the work of the human mind. Thus, a kind of passing interest in anatomy or mechanics will not sustain a man in long career focused on those things--no matter how "expert" he becomes in that field. Human beings need to love.
Men and Women
The fur is beginning to fly inside the beltway.
Then, asked if such closed-door meetings were not a violation of Obama's campaign promises, Speaker Pelosi attacked the President: "There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail." The quip (as a Pelosi aide coined the phrase) charges Obama with betraying his campaign promise not to tax the middle class by supporting the Senate bill's "Cadillac tax" (which would tax the lavish health-care packages enjoyed, for example, by many labor unions - a vital Democratic voting block).
Tempers are flaring as final negotiations near. Obama wants a health-care "victory" (read: anything will do) for his state-of-the-union speech in February. Senate Dems have already discarded the public-option centerpiece of their health-care ambitions and House Dems are likely helpless but to follow suit. And all of the infuriating compromises are being forced by dissenting Democrats!
All a Republican can do is sit back and try to enjoy the hissing and clawing.
The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.
The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.
Very suggestive. (I'm reminded of Peter Jennings' famous comment that in the 1994 elections, the people "threw a temper tantrum.") Brooks, although he sometimes makes light of the prejudices and lemming-like behavior of America's elite class, ultimately fits comfortably in that group. Many liberals define their positions as those that intelligent people take. Hence any critique is uninformed, by definition. But what happens when what is called "intelligence" is something else? (I suppose it might be something similar to what happens when what is called "science" is defined as nothing more than calculations and correlations).
P.S. It might also be worth noting that the "educated class" is probably much less unified in opinion than it was thirty years ago. (Back then, there were many fewer conservative law professors, journalists, magazines, and think tanks). Perhaps that's partly where the anger comes from. It is becoming harder and harder to claim that there is a unified "educated class." As that becomes the case, the myth that smart people agree on issues becomes harder and harder to maintain. As that happens, the myth of technocracy (build on Pragmatism) is exposed. I suspect that it is disagreement about that ideal that gets under Brooks' skin.
P.P.S. Brooks writes "The Obama administration is premised on the conviction that pragmatic federal leaders with professional expertise should have the power to implement programs to solve the country's problems." An I thought they believed in diversity? Only a truly federal system would allow that. But technocrats don't want there to be fifty different sets of laws regarding health care, etc.
Is it ironic that the push for universal health insurance is NOT being driven primarily by concern for the poor? The truly poor already have Medicaid. In other words, this is not a safety net issue. It's about the relationship between citizens and the government. Should government guarantee health care for people other than the very poor? (It already does so, of course, with Medicare, and that might be part of the story too).
As I understand it, What's the Matter with Kansas suggests that lower-middle class whites in rural America ought to vote for liberals who will give them hand-outs, rather than conservatives with whom they agree on social issues. By the similar logic, shouldn't the AFL-CIO support reducing or eliminating immigration into the U.S.? On the other hand, in The Road to Serfdom, Hayek wrote, "the erroneous belief that there are purely economic ends separate from the other ends of life. Yet, apart from the pathological case of the miser, there is no such thing."
Is it possible that the tax on "Cadillac health plans" if it goes into effect will be, ultimately, a way of means testing the health care hand-out, rather than making it an entitlement of all Americans? In principle it could, over time, create a situation where a certain, basic items are covered for all Americans, but, above that line, individuals and families (other than the truly poor) have to pay, either out of their own pocket, or through insurance for which they pay themselves. Given bracket creep, and some inflation, in time most health insurance will be in the "Cadillac" category. I know this seems unlikely, and probably is, but more ironic things have happened.
The answer won't surprise you, coming from the Danes, but the reading is fantastic. (The byline of the article reads: "The U.S. president - the practical saviour of our times.")
I guess not everyone overseas has grown disenchanted with Mr. Obama.
Speaking to the United Nations in September, Barack Obama stated, "I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world." No doubt, Obama believed that such high expectations would be accompanied by a concominent commitment of cooperation from a sympathetic world community. Indeed, global praise greeted the news of Obama's election, and a new era was promised by the harbinger of "change."
Of course, political rhetoric, even when sincerely spoken, and $5 will buy you a cup of Starbuck's Joe. The news seems to daily multiply the countries which have become disillusioned, if not outright defiant, of America's all-talk president.
Iran, for example, has shown the most boldness in rebuking and seeking every opportunity to humiliate America. Over the weekend, Iran announced that Sen. John Kerry had sought to meet with members of the Iranian parliament - a request which Kerry had hoped to keep quiet until Iran had agreed to the visit. In broadcasting the news, Iran also stated that the request would likely be denied.
In response to a U.S.-led, UN-sanctioned ultimatum with a 2009 year-end deadline to use Iran's own stockpiles of enriched uranium as the raw material for producing nuclear fuel rods for Iranian research reactors, Iran responded with its own ultimatum to buy the fuel outright or swap in small installments (preserving sufficient uranium in Iran for weapon-grade conversion). Obama may have agreed to support the regime in opposition to demonstrators for democratic reform in exchange for Iran's secret consent to the plan it has now rejected.
Iran has now declared it will hold massive war games to coincide with the deadline it has set for the West to decide upon its counter-proposal. Not an entirely subtle message. If the West fails to concede to the Iranian ultimatum, the rogue nation has threatened to produce its own nuclear fuel - which would require the sort of uranium enrichment methods used to produce nuclear weapons and which the West is desperate to halt.
Even among our allies, Great Brittain has announced that information relating to the Christmas day underwear-bomber was passed along to the U.S. prior to the flight. In this breach of protocol, which would usually have matters of intelligence gathering and dissemination remain undisclosed, the British government seems to have intentionally thrown the Obama administration to the wolves.
Further, many countries have simply ignored Obama's call for heightened security measures on all U.S.-bound flights. Such resistance might have been expected from the likes of Lebanon, Syria and Libya, but the uncooperative countries also include Germany, France and Spain.
As noted in Robert Lieber's similarly themed L.A. Times article criticizing Obama's well-intended but inept operational style on foreign policy, nations on every continent "have failed to accept Obama's outstretched hand." In fact, some of these countries are trying to bite the hand that feeds. Russia is again asserting itself over Eastern Europe while stalling progress on Iranian sanctions, China sent Obama home with absolutely nothing to show for his visit, all of Europe is reticent to support Afghanistan or to accept Gitmo inmates, Israel is beginning to simply ignore U.S. peace talks while it is likely preparing to strike Iran in direct defiance of U.S. requests and Obama was personally scolded at the UN on the issue of nuclear proliferation by the French.
Lieber blames Obama's foreign engagement failures upon his penchant for projecting himself as the personification of U.S. policy, his belief that our adversaries simply react to U.S. rhetoric rather than pursuing their own self-interests and Obama's inexperience and aloofness. All of these causes are likely valid, as is Lieber's tally of Obama's many foreign policy blunders. The question is whether Obama will learn from his mistakes and adjust.
I wouldn't expect much in the way of improvement in year two. On the one hand, people simply do not quickly undergo the sort of fundamental ideological change needed by Obama. His naivety toward human nature and its expressions in global diplomacy requires a complete reassessment of first principals and reformulation of political doctrine. Such revolutions of thought are not swiftly resolved.
Furthermore, it has not become at all clear that Obama is aware of his failings. Perhaps he believes the process of his rhetorical diplomacy is slow but sure, and time will justify any perceived shortcomings. Bush adopted this view as a matter of conviction, as was clearly observed in his ordering of "the surge" in Iraq. Events in Iraq have favored Bush, but his faith was justified by a belief in the U.S. military. Will Obama's faith in Putin, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Assad be similarly rewarded?
With all the ruckus of the presidential election, two wars and an economic recession, America has been preoccupied with the President and Congress over the past year or so - allowing the Supreme Court to enjoy a period of relative peace and quiet. Most of the fervor surrounding judicial issues has arisen from the trial court level, reflecting Obama's decision to try terrorists in civil courts rather than military tribunals.
Tocqueville observed, however, that political controversies inevitably turn into legal controversies in America. WaPo is reporting that opponents of the health-care bill are likely to bring immediate challenges in federal courts as to the constitutionality of the bill's individual mandate clause (which requires that people purchase health insurance or pay a fine of 2% or more of their income).
Conservatives make two primary arguments against the mandate. The first is that an individual's inactivity -- in this case, the failure to buy health insurance -- does not qualify as interstate commerce, and thus Congress does not have the power to regulate it under the Commerce Clause. The second is that the financial penalty the law would impose goes beyond Congress's ability to lay and collect taxes.
Randy Barnett has an article at The Heritage Foundation advancing this opinion. The article begins by quoting a 1994 memorandum from the Congressional Budget Office:
A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.
I have doubt as to the viability of such a claim in the Supreme Court. As is customary, the result may depend upon the swing vote of Justice Kennedy. (For a noble attempt to dispel the prevailing notion that Kennedy's centrism is the result of a lack of actual judicial philosophy, see Frank Colucci's newly released Justice Kennedy's Jurisprudence: The Full and Necessary Meaning of Liberty).
When questioned as to Congress' constitutional authority to impose individual mandates, majority leader Nancy Pelosi responded by repeatedly asking in mocking disbelief, "Are you serious?" While I have reservations that even the Robert's Court can reign in the unlimited power of Congress under the Commerce Clause, I expect that Pelosi's arrogance reflects something in her character and statesmanship other than a profound sense of juridical certainty.
Liberal justices on the Supreme Court are responsible for discarding judicial deference in favor of an expansive judicial review of legislative policies. It would be ironic if this activist trend were to derail the liberal centerpiece of the Democrat's health care reform.
The [state's civil service] system was set up so politicians like me couldn't come in and fire the people (relatives) hired by the guy they beat and replace them with their own friends and relatives.
Over the years, however, the civil service system has changed from one that protects jobs to one that runs the show.
The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life.
But we politicians, pushed by our friends in labor, gradually expanded pay and benefits to private-sector levels while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages that pay ex-workers almost as much as current workers.
Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide for most officeholders. But at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact that 80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs.
Either we do something about it at the ballot box, or a judge will do something about in Bankruptcy Court.
It's about time.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has belatedly realized that acts of terror are often conducted by people from terror-sponsoring states. According to the NYT, TSA has ordered a "'full body pat-down and physical inspection of property' for all people who are citizens of or are flying through or from nations with significant terrorist activity." The list of countries seems to include Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Savory places, all.
As was to be expected, protests have issued. While most Americans no doubt scratch their head in bewilderment that travelers from these destinations were not previously subjected to elevated security checks, civil-rights groups and the government of Nigeria have both cried foul, citing racial-profiling as the basis for opposing these new security standards.
And, in truth, they are correct. In fact, it is racial/religious/cultural-profiling, dressed up in a more palatable disguise. Most of the listed countries are predominantly Muslim (Cuba is a communist aberration), and they are on the list because they are dominated by Islam. The connection between Muslims and terrorism may be unfortunate, but it is a simple reality. The Religion of Peace website estimates 14,626 acts of Islamic terrorism since 9-11, and Religious Tolerance notes that Muslims are involved in 21 of 25 current global religious conflicts.
While technological and behavioral methods of locating a would-be airline-terrorist should be fully endorsed, it seems absurd that other characteristics which are almost universally common to all terrorists should be ignored: Ethnicity (Middle Eastern), Religion (Muslim), Age (20s-30s), Gender (Male). TSA's new security implementation is a good beginning, but it should immediately be expanded to include a full spectrum of relevant characteristics - of which nationality and country of departure are only two examples.
Such criteria have been successfully implemented by a country which has never boarded a would-be terrorist onto a plane, despite unparalleled terror threats: Israel.
The left's fear of profiling should be shared by Obama, but for a different reason. At present, the TSA's heightened measures will only be applied to foreign flights (which require a national passport). But should another act or terror arise upon a domestic flight, a flight which did not implement TSA's foreign security profiling guidelines, would I be premature in calling for the broadest series of executive resignations in the history of the United States?
As my good friend Christopher Armstrong wisely noted, my favorite civil liberty is the one that says I get to not be blown up. Here's to lingering common sense.
After years of relentlessly humorless comics attacking conservatives and the GOP, the WaPo finally shifts its sights and strikes gold:
So reads the "above the fold" on Drudge Report this morning, proving that the 1970's "global cooling" scare might have been a better angle for the environmental movement than the global warming charade they finally settled upon. (I spent the past weeks traveling between Italy and Czech - the former was paralyzed by the worst blizzard conditions in 20+ years and the latter was so cold that it must certainly be the ground-zero epicenter of global - if not universal - cooling.)
The Australian predicts that, following Copenhagen's collapse, the odds of producing a post-Kyoto treaty at the next conference in Mexico City are "virtually zero." Four reasons are provided, all relating to the "changing climate in Washington":
1. Democrats have other priorities.
2. Americans are rapidly "losing faith in the science of man-made climate change."
3. If the rest of the world can't agree on a global warming strategy, why should America disadvantage itself by going-it-alone?
4. Massive energy taxes are unpopular in election years.
Coinciding with the international halt on climate change initiatives, the Democrat's domestic initiatives have also stalled. Obama's only recourse now is to ignore the popular outcry which has frozen cap-and-trade in the Senate and to use the EPA's carbon-as-a-pollutant designation to unilaterally implement a national regulation.
I can't see environmental issues becoming more popular among America voters in the next few years. A growing number of skeptics are reminding people that "it didn't start with Climategate." (See also, "Global warming is too big to fail.") The deceptive manipulation of evidence and corrupt suppression of dissenting opinions have been staple practices of the environmental lobby since its inception. The foundation of global warming policy from Kyoto to the present day rests upon the scientific consensus of the UN's 1996 IPCC climate report - even though we now know that, following final consensus, the document was secretly altered by a leading alarmists to remove language and evidence casting doubts on man-made climate change. A sample of the redacted language:
"None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases."
"No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed to date] to anthropogenic [man-made] causes."
Rather spoils the whole "scientific-consensus" mantra, doesn't it? But then, suppression of dissent has long been synonymous with universal consent among the petty tyrants of the world.
Further, I don't expect the Democrats to walk away from next November unscathed. While they will likely retain control of Congress, their filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate will likely vanish.
Hence, the good money rides on a respite in climate change initiatives for at least the next few years. And as the world continually fails to end as continually predicted by the experts, popular opinion will continue to sway against the urgency and credibility of a climate-related catastrophe.
Seeing The Blind Side yesterday reminded me of this November story I've neglected: At age nine an immigrant from Sierra Leone, Madieu Williams graduated from the University of Maryland and wound up playing free safety for the Minnesota Vikings. He recently established the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health Initiatives. "The former U-Md. star is providing a $2 million endowment. It is the largest gift to the flagship school from an African American alumnus and the largest sum donated by someone so young." Whatever their means, all immigrants should express gratitude to this country (as should all citizens and potential Americans throughout the world). Recall these remarks.
I recently asked an inspiring local parish priest, a Cuban immigrant, whether he had heard anyone confess to the sin of being in this country illegally. He hadn't. But isn't this a worse sin than, say, shoplifting? Now priests should not be in the business of trying to get people deported; in fact, I'd take our parish congregation, illegals and all, over any other random group as fellow Americans. As with this and other political debates, more is involved than rights or legality; attitudes toward fellow citizens weigh heavily.