AG Holder has been given his just deserts, but State Department legal adviser Harold Koh may deserve even sterner rebuke. In a lengthy (and fascinating) article in the Weekly Standard (see part 2), NYU law professor Kenneth Anderson notes Koh's unwillingness to offer defense of the legallity of the highly effective Predator drone strikes on terrorist leaders.
Even as the Obama administration increasingly relies on Predator strikes for its counterterrorism strategy, the international legal basis of drone warfare (more precisely, its perceived international legal legitimacy) is eroding from under the administration's feet--largely through the U.S. government's inattention and unwillingness to defend its legal grounds, and require its own senior lawyers to step up and defend it as a matter of law, legal policy, and legal diplomacy.If you didn't know Koh, Ed Whalen told us what to expect. Perhaps Koh, Holder, and any number of Administration attorneys may feel more comfortable in this Swiss legal post, in the canton of Zuerich--an office that defends the rights of animals, including a pike that failed in its 10-minute struggle against a fisherman. "On Sunday, the Swiss will vote on a referendum that would compel all of Switzerland's cantons to hire animal lawyers."
David Brooks sees a parallel between the New Left and the Tea Party movement and cites Rousseau in support of this dubious claim.
[T]he core commonality is this: Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. "Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains," is how Rousseau put it.That is truer of the New Left than of the Tea Party folks. Both movements have their flakes and nuts, but the New Left's openness to or even embrace of Marx shows how radical they were--and they remain in power, in think-tanks and universities. Tea Partiers show far more Locke than Rousseau (and not just Lock and Load, either). That is, they are closer to what actually reflects human nature. There is no utopianism here, rather anti-utopianism.
The Tea Partiers have a sharper edge (and perhaps duller minds) than Brooks would care for, and he somehow denies they hold to a conservatism that believes in original sin and the institutions of civilization. He contends that "They don't seek to form a counter-establishment because they don't believe in establishments or in authority structures.... They believe in mass action and the politics of barricades, not in structure and organization."
Brooks misses their point. The Tea Party folks have rather discovered they live in the leviathan of centralized administration Tocqueville predicted. They object to being treated as a herd with a shepherd ordering them about. And unlike even the astute Tocqueville and our intellectual elites they take the principles of the Declaration of Independence seriously.
In light of Ken's country-government distinction below, Rasmussen has some revelations about America's view of the latter:
10% of voters say Congress is doing a good job, whereas 71% say it is doing a poor job (the highest result in Rasmussen polling history).
63% said it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were defeated, while only 27% said their representative was the best person for the job.
9% believe most members of Congress are genuinely interested in helping people, and, most disturbingly, only 21% believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.
Take-away #1: The Democrats are doomed.
Take-away #2: The Republicans are simply a little less doomed.
On the one hand, Americans expect a bit more from their government (in terms of statesmanship and decency, not entitlements and welfare) than citizens of most other nations. We are, at core, an optimistic and idealistic people. Thus, we are liable to judge human nature in governance somewhat harshly. Pope John Paul II went to confession every day - not because he was particularly sinful, but because he demanded so much of himself (making him all the more aware of his every failing). It is a good thing that we demand much of our government and grade her strictly.
Then again, such dismal confidence has tended historically to result in apathy and revolution. We are not so politically unstable as to easily succumb to such social distress - but the polls don't have much farther to go before the ruling class is entirely devoid of meaningful public confidence. The Tea Party Movement, regardless of one's partisan perspective, may be the gentle, incremental version of an American revolutionary coup.
Today it is the Democrats' immediate problem, but it will be fully inherited by Republicans should they prevail in November. One hopes they have a plan.
"People have been raising children for approximately as long as there have been people. Only recently -- about five minutes ago, relative to the long-running human comedy -- have parents been driving themselves to distraction by taking too seriously the idea that "as the twig is bent the tree's inclined." Twigs are not limitlessly bendable; trees will be what they will be. "Well, "bravo" to that. For surely, you can't grow a fig tree from an acorn. So much of our modern angst and general unhappiness, it seems to me, is centered around the notion that happiness is to be found in some kind of will to power: I'm born an acorn who can, if properly nurtured, grow into a strong and mighty oak tree . . . but, gee . . . I prefer to be a fig. If only I believe it, then I can achieve it. I'm not going to discover the nature and the limits of my purposes. Instead, I will combat them, overcome them, transcend them, defy them. We'd all do well to remember how closely the modern parenting tripe about "self-esteem" can come to resemble something dangerously close to a bitch-slap in Mother Nature's face. Of course, confidence and nurturing are required even for an acorn to become a strong oak tree. But the first has to be earned through effort and the second should come first from love--but perhaps, more important, from understanding. How far do you bend a twig before you break it?
Men and Women
America is the child and heir of English liberty and tradition - our most sacred public virtues are the bloom of an ancient English root. Indeed, the colonists' justification for the American Revolution was the oppression of their rights ... as Englishmen. The Crown had failed to protect them, His Loyal Subjects, from the capricious whims of Parliament, which denied their English birthrights by passing objectionable laws over them without their consent or representation. It was to reclaim the privileges of the Ancient English Constitution that farmers and statesmen shed their blood and founded a new nation to enshrine and protect that eternal law.
Though our early history proved turbulent, America and Great Britain have enjoyed a "special relationship" for nearly a century now - an Atlantic alliance which led the world to victory against Hitler and Communism. Even in recent times, when America was struck on September 11th, Britain rose to our defense without hesitation, marching to Afghanistan and Iraq at our side. We owe them a special debt and duty, which they owe also to us - many times over on each side.
It is of unique repugnance, then, that our president has rejected this shared heritage and obligation, even to the point of spurning our most trusted ally. At the outset of his administration, Obama flouted custom and protocol to make clear his disdain for England during his first visit with PM Brown. Brown provided Obama with priceless gifts: a pen set from the timbers of the HMS Gannet, a 19th century anti-slaving ship, as well as the charter to the HMS Resolute, a sister ship to the Gannet from whose timbers the Oval Office desk was built by Queen Victoria, and, finally, a first-edition, 7-set biography of Winston Churchill, to accompany the bust of Churchill found in the Oval Office since Britain sent it as a symbol of their devotion to America following the attacks of 9/11. Naturally, Brown also provided the Obama children with a half-dozen yet-to-be-released children's books and outfits from a recently opened British store in America.
In return, Obama gave Brown a box set of 25 American films on DVD. American DVDs, probably worth a little over $200, which won't play on DVD-players outside the U.S. And Brown is completely blind in his left eye, with degradation (postponed by experimental surgery) in his right. In case this mockery was insufficient, Mr. Brown's children were each given a toy model of Marine One, alla the White House gift store. Obama also refused to stand alongside Brown under their respective flags, as is custom upon a prime minister's arrival, cancelled a joint press conference and, defiantly refusing invitations to the contrary, returned the bust of Churchill to Brown upon his departure.
This was the beginning - a sign of what was to come, both with respect to Britain and American foreign policy. Eschewing a recitation of other affronts to Britain over the past year, America has now officially discarded her on a matter of Britain's own sovereignty. Responding to a dispute between Britain and Argentina regarding oil-drilling off the Falkland Islands (which are internationally recognized as belonging to Great Britain, though Argentina claims them also), the Obama administration not only refused to support Britain, but called into question her sovereignty.
We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.
Today, "amid smiles and laughter," Hillary Clinton arrived in Argentina and summoned Britain to negotiations, giving "no sign of backing the British position on negotiations." Argentina, whose closest ally is Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, exclaimed Clinton's backing as "a diplomatic coup" over Britain and disclosed that Clinton had offered to mediate. The residents of the Falklands were outraged by America's betrayal, and Britain was forced to politely dismiss the insult.
Obama has invited warm camaraderie from Hugo Chavez and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, while spurning Israel's Netanyahu and the Dalai Lama. He has abandoned or ignored popular struggles to sustain or establish democracy in Honduras, Iran and Lebanon. He has betrayed promises to the Czech Republic and Poland in favor of appeasing renewed Russian aggression. He has prostrated America before China and the Middle East, while emboldening Iran and Hamas through idle rhetoric and indifference.
Obama's foreign policy has revealed not only that he does not value the Atlantic alliance, which has long lead the cause of freedom and democracy in the world, but also that he is not worthy of that special relationship and its honorable legacy.
Four reflections on the American exceptionalism Obama and too many Americans today reject or ignore. Liberalism wants to escape America's past; and too many conservatives take exception to what is truly exceptional in our past. In both camps, globalization poses an economic challenge to American exceptionalism. This SMU economics professor and former Fed economist had some observations on that subject.
Then there's this Richard Samuelson essay on what truly differentiates China from the US.
There is so much wrong with Michael Lind's Salon article, so lets just stick with the self-serving idiocy and malice of his thesis. He writes that the white working class is in demographic decline and that the Republican party is resisting Obama's "change" agenda out of "demographic panic". Well its tough to tell, and of the presidential approval tracking polls don't carry racial crosstabs that I could find, Obama's approval is at 50% or lower in all of them. Whites without a four year degree made up somewhat less than half of the 2008 electorate. So presuming that the half or more of the country that does not approve of the President's job performance, is not entirely made up of working class whites, we would have to expand the circle of anti-change people in "demographic panic". Maybe anti-change, demographic panic is a general affliction among whites. I think that we might inquire into the theory's explanatory value.
Let us look into the intersection of fear of change, demographic decline, and whiteness. President Bush supported adding private accounts to social security. This was a big change. Lind opposed the change. Lind is white. Is Lind's article some kind of projection of his own bigoted anti-change, demographic panic in the last decade?
The Civil War & Lincoln
First it was global cooling, then global warming and now climate change. But if ol' Al finds out about this, we might just have a whole new beacon of environmental hysteria.
It seems that the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chili was so powerful that it slightly tipped the Earth's axis and permanently shortened our days - by 1.26 microseconds (1.26 millionth of a second). Apparently, when a "large quake shifts massive amounts of rock," it is possible to "alters the distribution of mass on the planet" and alter "rate at which the planet rotates." Which, of course, provides the measure of our days.
So, the days are getting shorter because of a natural event. It's only a short distance for Gore to respond that earthquakes are somehow related to man-made events - part of that whole complicated climate-change thing that we can't possibly understand - and man will soon be responsible for shrinking the days until we cease to exist!
I can see it now: "Anthropogenic Global Shortening Threatening Planetary Extinction!" "Fossil Fuels Linked to Temporal Change." "UN Intergovernmental Panel on Time Reduction Report: Computer Models' Tennis Racket Graph Proves Time Will End by 2040."
Over at the Corner, Abigail Thernstrom reminds us to be sure to fill out our census forms. She also argues that the question of counting residents who are here in violation of our laws is moot, since "the U.S. Constitution demands an enumeration of all free persons, excluding Indians "not taxed," and with slaves counted as only three-fifths of a person."
The issue is more complicated than that. The U.S. Constitution, like any legal document, needs to be construed according to the logic of the provision in the larger context of the document. In 1789, the catagory illegal alien did not exist. Hence the question is whether illegal aliens are more like citizens or Indians. Since Indians were excluded precisely because they were not citizens, and were subject to the laws of their own tribes, one can make a very sound argument that illegal aliens ought not to be counted. (By the same logic, of course, the idea that anyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen also does not hold water, if one reads the 14th Amendment closely. I suspect that's part of the reason why Justice Harlan, famouse for his dissent from Plessy, also dissented from the birthright citizenship case).
One further point on the census. The purpose of the census is to determine the political population of the states so that the House of Representatives can be apportioned properly. That being the case, may Congress rightly require us to fill out any other questions? (I realize that according to the Courts, the answer is yes, but, once again, I think they are wrong here).
P.S. It is also interesting to note that the race box on the census is done according to whatever standard the citizen wants to check off. Some employers, however, have definitions for each of the categories, which they give to prospective employees when they apply for jobs. Hence there could be a problem in evidence in disparate impact cases. The two sets of data, might not register the same thing. Personally, I wish that everyone simply boycotted the race box, as that would render disparate impact suits impossible.
P.P.S. Just thought of this. If the census' standard is self-categorization, could employees exercise their right to categorize themselves by race, and check off various race boxes, and hence change the percentage of "minorities" who work for various employers?
The notorious Van Jones, recently ousted from his ludicrous post as green jobs czar in the Obama administration due to quasi-terrorist ranting and associations, has found a more fitting role for a person of his extremist views.
He has accepted a teaching position at Princeton, in the African-American and environmental fields.
This is the man who branded non-activist students as "worthless people" with "worthless degrees" and sees the purpose of a university education as turning students into "revolutionaries" (keeping in mind that his professed revolutionary heroes are communist-Marxist luminaries such as Mao Zedong and Amilcar Cabral). The founder of a communist revolutionary group himself, Jones called for "resistance" against America and the destruction of America's capitalist economy. He also founded an anti-law-enforcement group, a black-identity movement and a radical environmental group which honors the founder of a known eco-terrorist group as its director. And, of course, he thinks George W. Bush was behind 9-11.
So he should fit right in with the faculty of Princeton.
Is this truly the state of the elite institutes of higher education in America? Does this man qualify as a "distinguished visitor" to the Princeton administration? Is there no distinction between a famous and infamous person within the Ivory Tower bastions of relativism? "Elite" universities have long shunned diversity in the political philosophy of their faculty - the Democrat-Republican ratio is often 20 or 30 to 1 (if there are any Republicans at all) - but are Republicans soon to be outnumbered in university faculties by communists?
Hold fast, dear Ashland - I plead, do not go gentle into that good night!
Pop quiz time! What right-wing extremist said the following?
You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating [as] it is, to make sure that there's a broad consensus before the country moves forward.... And what we have now is a president who...[h]asn't gotten his way. And that is now prompting, you know, a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate forever.... And what I worry about would be you essentially have still two chambers -- the House and the Senate -- but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that's just not what the founders intended.
For the answer, go here.
I think that Ross Douthat is too hard on the Republican performance at the health care summit. The Republican were articulate and thoughful in criticizing the President's plan and offered regulatory changes that would have put downward pressure on health insurance premiums and might have taken a small step in the process of moving our health care market in a more consumer-driven direction. Helping to stop a situation from getting worse and limited but real suggestions for making things better isn't bad for the congressional leadership of a party that suffered to straight election defeats.
The Republicans didn't have a big plan and they probably shouldn't just yet. There are many ways of restructuring the health care market in a more consumer-driven direction. One is the Ryan plan of changing the tax code to shift most people to cheap, renewable, individually owned health insurance. Another is a system of forced savings and universal catastrophic government health insurance. Mitch Daniels seems to have gotten good results from a small-scale and voluntary version of such a plan. One could imagine a combination of federalizing Medicaid, voucherizing and reducing the rate of growth in the program and using the saving to expand public health services. All of these suggestions include complicated political and economic trade-offs and there is no reason why John Boehner and Mitch McConnell should have been able to get a consensus around any one of those approaches within the GOP caucus, and the summit was probably a bad time to spring them on the American people. If we are very lucky, we will seen an extended discussion about which of those approaches to adopt during the 2012 Repubican presidential primaries.
But for now, honor to the Republicans for their performance during the summit.
For any of you who feel enlightened by the wise words of NLT - you are not alone!
Well, at least not alone in your medium of news consumption. The web has surpassed newspapers as the more popular news source among Americans. A growing 61% receive news online, whereas a dwindling 50% read the papers. Even the largely conservative talk radio beats newspapers with 54% - hence the impetus for Democrats to pass the greatest assault on free-speech in the history of America, the Fairness Doctrine.
It must truly rankle the editors of the NY Times (which will, ludicrously, begin charging for access to it's web site in 2011) to know they are second fiddle to the Pajamas Media. And national TV news agencies, at 71%, should also be feeling the heat.
Conservatives have long been awaiting the downfall of the liberal main-stream media. With the rise of Fox, the dominance of conservative talk-radio and now the exponentially growing impact of the internet (with its health contributors for the cause of conservativism) - coupled with the downward spiral of rival cable news networks and print media - it seems that a victory of sorts may be in sight.
Perhaps right-leaning bloggers should declare, We are the one's we've been waiting for! But, then again, maybe they shouldn't.
You might want to listen to Gov. Daniels for a few minutes. He spoke last October to a meeting of the Philadelphia Society. We have invited him to speak at Ashbrook later this year.
The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program is a highly successful program which, as the name implies, tracks known terrorists via their financial paper trail. The program relies upon data provided by a consortium of banks and has generated 1,500 reports and leads credited by Europe and the U.S. as having uncovered or prevented numerous terrorist attacks.
But all that will change now that the bureaucratic-nightmare which is the EU Parliament has revoked American access to European records. Privacy-based excuses for walling off EU banks have been largely dismissed as a facade, as plentiful safeguards have been in place for a decade. Even a French judge found the "privacy protections were robust and effective."
The true motivation seems to be the stunning pride of EU parliamentarians, attempting to assert their authority over the EU Council while poking a finger in America's eye. The U.S. and EU Council concluded an agreement last November granting the U.S. continued access to files moved from America to Europe. However:
The Treaty of Lisbon, which took effect in December, gave lawmakers [in the EU Parliament] the power to review and approve measures that affect internal security and counterterrorism, and their vote [revoking U.S. access] was seen as a flexing of that new power.
The EU decision is an invitation for terrorist to use European banks as terror-havens in order to avoid U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies. And the EU has taken this reckless action for no reason other than ... because it can.
One hopes the EU leadership is simply risking our mutual safety for a momentary episode of grandstanding and will soon restore the program to it's full functionality. But one must never underestimate the churlishness and tenacity of an entrenched bureaucrat, nor the willingness of EU leaders to tolerate the "infiltration" of their governments by "Islamic radicals," as is presently being decried by members of Britain's Labor Party.
I previously noted the likely DOJ reversal which would clear Bush administration lawyers of politically-driven disciplinary action for providing legal opinions on interrogation techniques. The 5-year witch-hunt has now concluded as expected, though leaks confirm the partisan malice which motivated the unjust investigation. Andrew McCarthy uncovered a letter from DOJ leadership which "shredded OPR's initial Draft Report and the process by which OPR's preliminary conclusions about ethical misconduct were reached." McCarthy highlights the letter's criticism of basic factual and legal errors in the Draft, exposing the extreme liberal bias of the investigation (Paul Mirengoff dissects the issue here and here).
I mentioned that the curbing of this tyrannous legal assault on free-thought would not sit well with the fanatical Left. On cue, the NY Times runs an op-ed lamenting that the lawyers were not punished for their legal opinions and pleading for disciplinary action against doctors associated with the program. In a summersault of logic, the authors regard the constant and documented medical monitoring and consultation involved in interrogations as evidence of a crime. They admit that both the military medical teams and independent CIA-DOJ teams later charged to investigate the interrogations concluded the methods did not constitute torture.
Of course, that is the very element of their crime. The Left does not seek to punish negligence, recklessness or even behaviour under the criminal statutes of the law. They want to punish thought with the power of the government. It is precisely because these doctors followed the law that they ought to be punished - their dutiful upholding of the law suggests that they willfully consented to those laws, and the policies and beliefs which led to their enactment. And such people - let's call them conservatives - need to be punished when they succeed in passing or obeying laws which are disagreeable to the Left. The NY Times article is a call for political thugery reminiscent of communist Russia - the authors and Times should be ashamed of their hypocrisy, touting tyranny of the mind as the path to liberty.
To the Times and extremist Left: You have met the enemy, and it is you.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
George Will refers in passing to the late Peter De Vries, "America's wittiest novelist." He was overlooked in this top ten list of American conservative novelists. That was a terrible oversight. I like especially Sauce for the Goose, Slouching Toward Kalamazoo, and The Prick of Noon (a reference to a line in Hamlet).
A letter to the editor replied to this story, from earlier in the week: "Colleges call in the big guns to combat drinking." This must rate as the worst headline of quite some time, and the WaPo finally realized it, as the head in the on-line edition differs. The college that comes under analysis is Virginia Tech, scene of that awful massacre. Readers, please nominate your own favorite horrible headlines.
This blunder reminds me of the odious Daniel Schorr, on NPR, once saying that Hamas would "stick to its guns" on a particular issue. Yes, I'm sure it's a general policy. Here's an account of Hamas University. And there's this inspiring story on the assassination of the Hamas leader in the Dubai hotel. A civilized nation that recognizes its enemies and knows what to do about them is a light unto the world.
And the Democratic Party, too, from the health care disaster: The Parliamentarian of the Senate, who could rule that the Senate may not use reconciliation to pass the health-care bill. That would give everyone an out.
The "win-win" way out would be for Republicans Paul Ryan of the House and Tom Coburn of the Senate to develop a health care bill and bring it to a passing vote, with Obama coaxing it along and then signing it. Democrats might choke or commit hara-kiri, but enough would vote for it; the rest could campaign on passing a real bill. Republicans would finally have a positive domestic agenda, though they would likely lose their chance for a legislative majority in 2010. Obama would avoid a disaster. The fact that Obama is not interested in such a scheme or too weak to muscle it through indicates his lack of statesmanship, low or high.
National Review's Reihan Salam writes about what he calls the "Affluence Trap" in which we have much to lose but are not wealth enough to afford the consequences of bad policies. I take Salam to mean unsustainable entitlements and growth weakening industrial policies, but I think that the idea of the affluence trap is useful in understanding the political constraints on conservative reformism.
Over at NRO's health cate blog, John R. Graham writes that "Establishment Republicans are loathe to remove the discrimination against individual ownership of health insurance for employed people because their backers in Big Business support the status quo." I think this is more wrong than right. I think that Graham especially understates the role of public opinion in moving very quickly to a system dominated by individually bought health insurance. Every opinion poll that I have seen indicates that the vast majority of Americans are happy with the level of health care services that they receive. They might have problems with the rate at which premiums are rising and being stuck in jobs they might not like, but the standard of health care services they do like breeds an intense risk averseness. Tax changes that destroy the market in employer-provided insurance plus a tax credit for buying individual policies seem like a bad deal. The tax credit doesn't seem to buy as much insurance. There are all kinds of questions regarding preexisting conditions.
You can argue that expanding the individual market will stimulate all kinds of innovation that will both bring down cost, improve quality of service and increase take home pay. But those are speculative gains and I can see why people might not want to let politicians and policy wonks play "we bet your family's life" with changes in the health insurance market.
Graham argues that McCain's health care plan to transition to an individual insurance policy system ran into a "buzzsaw" of interest group opposition. That is true, but it also ran into a bunch of Obama ads that told the general public that McCain's health care plan will take away your employer-provided insurance and force you to buy inferior insurance on the individual market. This isn't to say that interst group politics aren't important at the margin, but the biggest obstacle to Obama's (and before that Clinton's) health care plan has not been Big Business, but public opinion that thinks that the changes will injure their quality and affordability of care.
Any conservative reform that actually happens will have to take account of both economic and political reality. And the politcal reality is that the biggest problem with simply changing the tax code to destroy the market in employer-provided private health insurance is not that Republicans are big business stogges, but the force of public opinion.
From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.
I think Al Gore failed the climate change movement and that his negligence and bindness has done it irreparable harm.