Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Foreign Affairs

Obama's Predator Lawyers

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."
Categories > Foreign Affairs


A Two-fer Saturday

Turns out the Washington Post has already posted online my Sunday Outlook piece about Reagan, Palin, and the Tea Parties.  Likely to stir up more controversy and fill up my e-mail box, like my last Post piece.  Enjoy!
Categories > Politics


Climate Gore Exposed

And I do mean exposed!  I've been absent from the blog because it's been a ferociously busy but productive week.  Here's the first fruit--the cover story of this week's edition of the Weekly Standard, out this morning, on the growing meltdown of the climate campaign.  Don't miss the cover art, especially the two polar bears getting a good laugh at Gore's expense.  I know, I know, too easy. . .

More to come this weekend.  Don't turn that blog-channel!
Categories > Environment


Rousseau at the Tea Party

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.

Categories > Conservatism


Re: Trust Government?

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. 

Categories > Congress


Trust Government?

"In government America must trust," or so argues former Clinton adviser and political theorist Bill Galston.  Protesting this conflation of the state with the nation, the Sage of Mt. Airy discourses on the Madisonian foundation of a sign he once spotted at a gun show:  "Love your country, but never trust your government."
Categories > Politics

The Family

Of Acorns and Oak Trees

George Will is on a roll this week:  this time with an op-ed in the Washington Post.  Today his theme is one close to my heart:  obsessive, hovering parents terrified that some freakish accident or stray step away from their carefully cultivated plans (a.k.a., "life") will torment little Johnny just enough to make him (gasp!) doubt himself.  And we all know that no one--I repeat, NO ONE--should ever dare to doubt himself in this modern world where "self-esteem" is the key to what we foolishly call "happiness."  Moreover, we've given self-esteem an almost mystical power over our lives.  Why, if one doubts himself he might . . . no, I don't dare even to speak the words . . . well, dash it!   I must speak them:  he might . . . he might fail.  And then, by God, the earth really will shift off its axis--even without the assistance of an earthquake in the southern hemisphere! 

Will, never to be duped by the alleged good motives of unbalanced and unhinged human beings now bathed in self-righteous and sticky-sweet-earnest "sincerity," quite rightly offers this gem as a rebuttal:  "Children incessantly praised for their intelligence (often by parents who are really praising themselves) often underrate the importance of effort." [Emphasis mine.]

What these kids really need to help them achieve, Will insists (this time via yet another book to be added to my Amazon wish list) is actually pretty simple:  bed-time and discipline.  They need bed-time and discipline for real--and not like they need that proverbial hole in their heads--because, in fact, they've already got that hole in their heads.  (You've always suspected it . . . now here's the scientific proof!)  The neurons and circuitry of the human brain are not completely "wired" until a person reaches something like the age of 21. (Are you listening to that, young Ashbrooks?)   And so , the more you learn in a day, the more you need sleep to help it "sink in," so to speak.  Your grandmother, it turns out, was absolutely correct when she counseled you to, "Get a good night's sleep."  This is why cramming (though sometimes, no doubt, absolutely necessary) is much less effective than the slower route to knowledge.  We have to marinate in things in order, really, to make them a part of ourselves.  All acquisition of anything really worth having requires a sustained and steady effort.

Recently, we watched the movie Rudy with our kids.  I absolutely loved that movie (based on a true story) because it is about a very average kid (in size, in athletic ability, and in academics) who sets for himself the seeming impossible goal of attending Notre Dame and of playing on the varsity football team.  It's not some Cinderella story about his self-esteem or some sappy, gauzy "belief in himself" magically propelling him into an honor student and sports legend.  Rudy never becomes the star of Notre Dame's offense, neither does he become the darling of its defense.  He does manage, finally, to get the grades required for admission to Notre Dame . . . but barely.  But more important than any of that, is that in the process, Rudy becomes one helluva man.  He becomes a better man than best player on Notre Dame's team--and everyone, even that best player, can see it and must honor it.  The whole thing is less a modern fairy tale about "self-esteem" and getting what you really want than it is an old-fashion story of American grit and determination to draw out what is best in your nature.  It's about taking ownership of your successes and your failures and making the most of both in order to grow into a fine human being. 

Will ends his column today with this admonition:
"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?
Categories > The Family

Men and Women

Manliness and Immaturity

George Will reflects on men "defecting from the meritocracy."  This is an ever present reality and theme among students, and not just the men.  I do say--in defense of young manly men, gentlemen--that they are not yet gone, in fact, are conscious of the problem and have put their shoulders to it and are making themselves more visible.  If it be man's work, they'll do it.
Categories > Men and Women


Ways and Means

Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan will Chair Ways and Means, rather than Pete Stark of California.  Good move  I bet both Republicans and Democrats were in favor of the move.
Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

The Sun is Setting on the Atlantic Alliance

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.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Just when you thought it couldn't get worse for New York Democrats...

First Governor Paterson announces that he will retire, then Charlie Rangel loses his chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and now freshman congressman Eric Massa (D-NY) has announced that he will not seek reelection.  It is assumed that his decision stems largely from allegations that the married-with-children Massa sexually harrassed a male staffer.  The fact that he represents one of the state's most heavily Republican districts likely had something to do with it as well.
Categories > Politics

The Family

Same Sex "Marriage" and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Jennifer Roback-Morse blogs here about some of the unintended consequences of the District of Columbia's new recognition of same sex unions as "marriages."  She wonders if everyone who instinctively turned to their sense of compassion for friends and relatives in same-sex relationships also understood these inevitable consequences when they voiced their support for the change in the law. 
Categories > The Family

The Family

Men Will Be Boys . . .

George Will writes in Newsweek about the growing phenomenon of men seeking eternal youth--not so much in sports cars or girlfriends who could be their daughters--but in things that are often much less dramatic or spectacular . . . things such as, well, Dave and Buster's--the Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups.  Will--partly through an examination of this book by Penn State historian, Gary Cross--seeks to trace the emergence and subsequent worsening of this trend by looking at the changes in parenting (particularly in what we call fatherhood) beginning in the post-War years of the 20th century. 

It's probably not a coincidence that in the post-War years, American fathers began to be chastised to become more "huggable" (i.e., more like mothers) and to treat their children with the respect "due to a business associate" (i.e., the respect due to an equal).  For this was also a time when more women and mothers began entering the workforce and, as a consequence, such hugging was probably needed as moms either were not there to offer them or were likely often too tired to note the need and supply the demand when they were.  If women picked up some of the slack for men, then it was only natural for them to expect that men would pick up some of theirs.  The trouble is that slack of this kind is only rarely picked up by substitutes in a way that is satisfactory.   Obviously, wonderful fathers have always demonstrated love and affection for their children--but a father's love is and must be different from a mother's love.  Not inferior, mind you.  But different.  You can tell a child that a father is just like a mom for the job of offering the oft needed hug of forgiveness and acceptance--but don't be surprised if you meet skepticism and resistance.  In this we can probably account for the other piece of advice then offered to dads--treat your children as equals.  If they aren't to be mothered or fathered, are children really to be expected to continue in their designated role?  If they are expected to pick up some of that slack too--consoling themselves, teaching themselves, designing their own expectations, and increasingly, fending for themselves--then I suppose they really are due the respect of a business associate.  Of course, this makes a house a lot more like a corporation than a home . . . but there we are.

All of these things cause men, according to Will, to begin to feel marginalized in their own homes and uncertain as to what, exactly, their roles as fathers ought to be.  Perhaps even the title of the 1945 magazine from which Will extracts this bit of "advice" for fathers is telling:  Parents.  "Parents" is gender-neutral.  And the advice it usually offers (even to this day) might just as easily be passed along to a nanny or to a day-care worker.

Across the board, Will sees a lowering of expectations for men.  The inevitable result is also a kind of sad raising of expectations for women and for children.  We sell this by claiming it as liberation and enlightenment:  Women today are now free to work!  Kids today are so "independent!"  But the reality very often falls short of the sales pitch.  Is it really a wonder that so many boys now want to grow up to be boys in an age when so many real boys are expected to act like men?   

Thanks to Kate for passing this along.
Categories > The Family


America the Exceptional

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.

Categories > Conservatism

Health Care

Religious Liberty and Health Care

If the federal government requires us to buy health insurance, would Christian Scientists be exempt?
Categories > Health Care


Take Your Meds

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? 

Categories > Politics

The Civil War & Lincoln

Lincoln-Haters Beware!

Abe is coming to get you, and this ax is for you! H/T to the beautifully named Infinite Monkeys. In all seriousness, the Gettysburg Address is about the resurrection of the patriotic dead, so, with all lack of seriousness, why not a railsplitting vampire-slayer.


"Undemocratic" NY Democrats and Harold Ford

Harold Ford is not happy with the way that the Democrats in New York have conducted themselves.  He is deeply dissatisfied with the direction the party seems to be headed and he believes that the attitude promoted by leading NY Democrats--i.e., one that would exclude the likes of him--is the attitude responsible for the apparent (and coming) misfortunes of the larger, national Democrat agenda.  He is on to something.  His argument boils down, in a way, to an argument against Democrat arrogance . . . and, ironically, Ford correctly identifies this attitude among "Democrats"  as something that is profoundly undemocratic.  Ford appears to harbor a special ire for Democrats who have gone around the bend ideologically; placing a left-of-center ideology ahead of local interests. 

But you would be misreading Ford if you think that he is arguing for a more moderate Democrat Party in New York out of principle or because the leftism itself is somehow offensive or contrary to his view of American purposes--after all, his objection to the healthcare legislation seems to have at least as much to do with proposed exclusions for abortion funding as it does with the increased taxes it would require to keep it funded.  No, he is offended by the leftward tilt of Democrats only because it does not, to his mind, appear to square with the interests or desires of his would-be constituents . . . would-be, that is, if he had finally decided to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand's nomination for the NY Senate seat to which she was appointed after it was vacated by Hillary Clinton.  But Ford has decided against such a move--noting, in more than one venue, that Democrats are "scared" about November.  He claims that he does not want to do anything that would damage Democrat chances in the fall and thereby contribute to Republican gains . . . but his lukewarm (if it even rises to that temperature!) support for Gillibrand ought to suggest to anyone with a pulse that Ford's concerns in this instance mirror the general tendency of his deeper political concerns.  That is to say, they're more local . . . a LOT more local. 

I've also got a feeling that a return to "all politics as local" (in the sense that Ford here understands "local") may contribute to even more Democrats deciding to sit this round out. 
Categories > Elections


Don't Tell All Gore!

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."

Categories > Environment


Declaration of Dependence

The Washington Times reports on the record numbers of Americans dependent on the government for some part of their income, explaining: ". . . for the first time since the Great Depression, Americans took more aid from the government than they paid in taxes . . . the tentative revival of consumer spending in the second half of last year appears to have been fed largely by an extraordinary flood of government spending, as growth in other kinds of income has disappeared."

Categories > Economy


Citizenship and the Census

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? 

Categories > Politics


Blurring Fame and Infamy at Princeton

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!

Categories > Education


Who said it?

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.

Categories > Politics

Health Care

A Good Showing

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.    

Categories > Health Care


We are the News!

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.

Categories > Education


Mitch Daniels

Ross Douthat praises Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.  Good last paragraph: "For a Daniels candidacy to catch fire, what's left of the Republican establishment, currently (if reluctantly) coalescing around Mitt Romney, would have to decide that he's the better pick. That would mean gambling that the best way to defeat the most charismatic president of modern times is to nominate a balding, wonky Midwesterner who reminds voters of their accountant.Stranger things have happened." 

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.

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Europe's Tango with Terrorists

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.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Obama vs. Madison

David Marion chastises president Obama's attack on the Supreme Court during his State of the Union Address and reminds us of what's at stake "in the on-going debates over such matters as governmental regulation of the economy, taxation and entitlement policies, and federal-state relations."

Categories > Courts


Crimes of the Mind

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. 

Categories > Courts

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Some Post Potpourri

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. 

Health Care

The Man Who Could Save the Country

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.

Categories > Health Care

Health Care

Alot to Lose

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. 

Categories > Health Care


Everything That's Wrong With Al Gore in One Sentence

From Al Gore's extended rant about climate change in today's New York Times:

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.

There's lots more looniness in Gore's article, but this takes the biscuit.  Walter Russell Mead's summary of Gore bears repeating:

I think Al Gore failed the climate change movement and that his negligence and bindness has done it irreparable harm.

That's exactly why I hope Big Al keeps talking; he's the best weapon climate skeptics have going for them.
Categories > Environment