...began earlier today, with the firing of 110 Tomahawk missiles against targets in western Libya.
I'm waiting for the massive antiwar rallies to begin. I'm also waiting for groans from some of the commentators here; after all, how can the country tolerate the embarrassing fact that the French fired first?
Michael Moore isn't the only liberal who adopts a pro-union facade in public but hypocritically refuses to work with the over-paid racketeers in private business practices. An employer even larger than Michael Moore is now shunning unions: New York City.
Unions' share in city construction has dropped from over 85% to about 60% in recent years. And, taking a cue from Wisconsin's curbing of public unions, New York companies are "demanding large concessions" from unions and negotiating for "a 25 percent cut in labor costs, by reducing benefits and changing some work rules."
Liberal New York can't be accused of partisan animosity against unions. The Big Apple demonstrates that the turn against unions (public and private) is founded upon economics, not politics. Companies are becoming less and less willing to pay 30% higher costs simply to appease union bosses - at a certain point, the bad publicity and bad blood threatened by turning one's back on unions is still good business.
Unions have a window of opportunity to preserve their relevancy, or I expect this trend of disinvestiture to continue.
Germany hasn't quite recovered from that dark patch on their history half a century ago. Erring on the side of caution, they were impotent in the face of Gaddafi's violence and failed to muster the nerve to act on behalf of innocent people. Erring on the side of authoritarian socialism, they have begun jailing religious parents who object to having their children taught that sexual morality is synonymous with sexual pleasure as part of a state-mandated sex-ed program. The European Convention on Human Right confirms that "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions," but the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that education "by its very nature calls for regulation by the State." A German family has now been granted political asylum in the U.S. due to persecution in Germany for homeschooling their children.
On the other hand, the European Court of Human Rights on Friday held that crucifixes may be displayed in schools, overturned its own 2009 precedent which held that crosses in Italian schoolrooms were a human rights violation. While the court commendably noted that the crucifix "symbolized the principles and values which formed the foundation of democracy and western civilization," it also, perhaps unintentionally, provided a sad commentary on modern Italy, noting that it found no evidence "that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils."
UPDATE: I see that Robinson beat me to the latter of these stories by 7 minutes. You may have won this time, Robinson, but the war goes on. . . .
The New York Times runs a symposium on the question: "Why are some Americans upset with attempts to encourage more energy efficiency in their homes?"
For starters, the federal government is not merely encouraging us to make our homes more energy efficient; they are forcing us to use a particular type of light bulb, among other things.
We migth add that the trade-off is not merely between the quality of the light and using less energy. There is also a trade-off between energy efficiency and safety. The new eco-friendly bulbs contain mercury, and are, therefore, hazardous when broken.
1. We're in it now. Any outcome where the Gaddafi regime stays in place is an American defeat. Gaddafi will, alongside whatever he does to the Libyan people, become a symbol and inspiration for every destructive impulse in the region.
2. I have heard no clear harmonization of means and ends by the US government. Just today, Clinton was much clearer than Obama that the goal was ending the Gaddafi regime and that the UN resolution was one step in the process of Gaddafi losing power. The Gaddafi regime might be so brittle and whatever element becomes dominant among the rebels might be so competent and decent (in a relative sense) that American involvement is not costly in either lives or other national resources. It is a real possibility. But we shouldn't assume that will be the case. The American people should know that we are willing to do what needs to be done to achieve our (hopefully clearly articulated) objectives. Our enemies should know that too.
3. David Frum started the day by suggesting that we might want to downsize our commitment to Afghanistan in order to redirect resources to Libya. So we should, in practice, abandon our effort to prevent the establishment of an al-Qaeda client state in order to intervene in Libya? Frum later suggests that American success in Libya might be used as cover for American withdrawal from Afghanistan. He writes, "With Saddam and Qaddafi overthrown, it may not matter so much that we were unable to build a stable government in poor and remote Afghanistan at an acceptable cost." And if we get mired in an al-Qaeda-backed insurgency in Libya, I guess we could get out by launching a bombing campaign in Burkina Faso. Am I taking crazy pills?
4. And that reminds me. The Obama administration has used far too little of its energy in making the case for the American counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan and the security stakes for the US.
USA Today has published an article of mine today on the shifting global roles demonstrated during the Libyan crisis.
On the eve of a possible war in Libya, the major players on the world stage have taken their turns and staked out their positions. Yet many players have postured themselves in ways that seem to be reversals of their usual roles. This shift in global strategy is largely the domino effect of a shift in American self-identity under President Obama, and an omen of the future under his new foreign policy for America.
I hope you'll RTWT.
P.S. Just in case you're looking for my post on USA Today's opinion page, you'll find it just above the article by President Obama. He's in good company.
The WSJ reports that leading GOP seem to be seeking a formal declaration of war on Libya. Apparently, Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, stated:
If the Obama administration decides to impose a no-fly zone or take other significant military action in Libya, I believe it should first seek a congressional debate on a declaration of war.
I don't see the reason for a break from tradition on the president's War Powers, and can't imagine the benefit of further delay so that Congress may debate. Obama has done nothing for weeks - Congress had plenty of time to debate. Lugar professes a disingenuous congressional impotence in feigning an inability to take up deliberations prior to presidential invitation. I don't recall similar demands on Bush from the right, and see no reason for a WWII-style resolution for Libya (Europe would not follow suit, and America would appear to be setting the stage for a lengthy invasion - quite contrary to our intent).
Whether Obama has an interest in consulting Congress, however, is an interesting question. It would perhaps pacify Obama's left-wing, setting a new precedent of restraint for a constituency hungry for limits on executive power. It also allows Obama to diffuse the responsibility for war (and funding). Most interesting, it would align Obama with the Constitution - he may defer to the long-established War Powers executive privilege as well as the Constitution's allocation of war decisions to Congress. Having already authorized military options, it would be an act of humility following action. But the effect would likely be a circus in Congress, and the entire crisis would be resolved before Congress actually brought the issue to a vote.
1. If the US is going to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, along with other suggested policies like a no-drive zone near Benghazi to prevent the Qaddafi forces from overrunning the remaining rebel strongholds, aren't the US and allies in practice, and for better or worse, going to war against Libya's government?
2. If we are going to war, shouldn't the US be willing to commit to achieving victory? If America goes to war and is seen to fail, that is much more damaging to American credibility than the refusal to intervene militarily in favor of one side of a civil war.
3. But how do we define victory? If the point is to end the Qaddafi regime's oppression of regime opponents, I don't see how the imposition of a no-fly or no-drive zone around Benghazi helps those Libyans who came out against the Qaddafi regime in those parts of Libya presently controlled by the regime (including the towns recently retaken from the rebels.) Wouldn't victory at minimum require the replacement of the Qaddafi regime with a government that is willing and able to prevent the conversion of all or part of Libya into an al-Qaeda client state.
4. What kind of commitment of time and resources is the administration willing to make to achieve victory? You can imagine a scenario where the US military commitment is fairly small (air strikes, American trainers and advisors, arms and other equipment supplied by the US and allies) and American losses are few. But who wants to bet on that?
5. Shouldn't the US government go into this telling the American people that a commitment to overthrow Qaddafi and support the establishment of a minimally acceptable Libyan government could last a long time, could result in we-know-not how many American deaths and cost who-knows-how-much money?
6. How would Gaddafi react to staying in power? The administration seems to have decided that a Gaddafi emboldened by victory and embittered by his (rhetorical?) abandonment by the US and Western Europe might turn back to sponsoring terrorism.
One of the more perplexing oddities of Europe, in my experience, is their virulent anti-Semitism - or, at least, their tolerance of anti-Semitism in their political leadership. And the higher you look, from the EU to the UN, the more egregious is the open hatred toward Jews and Israel - and the more solidarity one finds toward Palestine. Having spent years in that part of the world, I am confident that the culprit for this perceptional absurdity is an unrelenting and utterly biased international media.
Bret Stephens asks, "Are Israeli Settlers Human?" and notes last Friday's stabbing deaths of a West Bank family (including 11 and 4 year-old children, as well as a 3 month old infant) in their beds by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas denied Palestinian responsibility in an English statement, while an Arab statement praised the Palestinian jihadists for their infanticidal victory. The international community responded with a yawn. "For 60 years," Stephens notes, "no nation has been held to such stringent moral account, or such ceaseless international hectoring, as Israel. And no people has been held to so slight an account as the Palestinians."
Last Tuesday, Israel intercepted a ship from Turkey headed to Egypt and, ultimately, Gaza, carrying Iranian weapons shipped from Syria. This will have no effect on the international community's demonization of Israel's blockade of Gaze. That a slackening of the blockade would have allowed weapons to be delivered and, hence, Jews to be murdered, does not seem to be a serious concern.
Nowhere else on Earth could this situation be countenanced. No other nation with the power to overcome its enemies would live in such perpetual threat. Perhaps Israelis should declare themselves in revolt against the autocratic leaders who claim ownership of their land and join the Middle Eastern movement for peace and democracy. They already have democracy - they have only to successfully demand peace.
The WSJ announces the collapse of internationalism in an editorial which is required reading for anyone interested in American foreign policy:
Not the 28 members of NATO, not the 15-member U.N. Security Council, not the 22 nations of the Arab League could save Libya's rebels from being obliterated by the mad and murderous Moammar Gadhafi. The world has just watched the collapse of internationalism.
The world's self-professed keepers of international order, from Brussels to Turtle Bay, huffed and puffed, talked and threatened. And they failed. Utterly.
But what we've watched is not merely the failure of the gauzy notion of "internationalism." It's more specific than that. What has collapsed here is the modern Democratic Party's new foreign-policy establishment.
The WSJ blames the international community's catastrophic failure in Libya on Obama's "post-American world" foreign-policy. His advisory team consists "entirely of intellectuals" who believe America must always act as an equal member of the global community - we mustn't attempt to lead, but to join.
I was willing to give Obama a momentary benefit of the doubt when our failure to act in Libya was prefaced upon the need to first secure and evacuate American citizens. That pretext for inaction has passed, and the subsequent dallying which most of us anticipated has continued.
Obama's election campaign and presidency in many respects may be reduced to anti-Bush rhetoric and promises. Bush's foreign policy was called the "freedom agenda" - Obama's foreign policy may now justly be called the "anti-freedom agenda."
Matthew Yglesias wonders if the decrease in Democratic partisan ID from 2008-2010 is a sign that our politics is moving in a more racial identity politics direction. I tend to doubt it. Over the last ten years, the two party vote among white voters has tended to move within a small range and in response to events and personalities. Bush won 54% of the white vote in 2000 and 58% of the white vote in 2004. The Republican share of the white vote went down to 53% in 2006. It rebounded to 55% in 2008 and went up to 60% in 2010. It looks like about 7% of the white voting population is made up voters who swing between the two parties based on conditions and the personalities and appeals of candidates. There are multiple stories that can be told from the data. Here are two:
1. Five percent of white voters abandoned the Republican Party in 2006 in response to dissatisfaction with the Iraq War, Katrina, Republican corruption etc. Less than half of those persuadable whites moved back into the Republican column in 2008 in response to the Democrats nominating a liberal candidate (though a smaller fraction voted Republican than when the liberal Democratic presidential candidate had been white.) Then the combination of undivided Democratic government, the enactment of an aggressively liberal agenda, and a labor market in which the unemployment rate stagnated near 10% pushed virtually all of the floating white electorate into the Republican column for at least one election.
2. The floating white population switches parties based on randomly recurring racial identity crises that they collectively announce by voting for Republicans. Their voting patterns are not based on the economy, war or peace. Even the racial identity of the President does not matter until it does. For some reason the President's race was not a problem for these voters when they were voting for President in 2008, but it became a problem when they were voting for Congress in 2010. These people are so weird.
This is actually bad news for the Republicans - though possibly good news for America. If the Republican share of the white vote in 2010 was based on a combination of dissatisfaction with economic conditions and recoil from perceived Democratic left-radicalism, then a combination of an improving labor market and branding the Republicans as right-radicals might put the Democrats in position to win back some of those white voters. That is probably one reason why Obama is avoiding coming out with an entitlement reform plan. If he can brand the Republicans as Social Security and Medicare cutters and the labor market is seen to be improving, he has a decent chance of whittling the Republican share of the white vote back down to the mid-50s. Republicans shouldn't take their 2010 share of the white vote for granted and need to be asking themselves what they have to do to improve their share among the various populations of nonwhite voters.
In an earlier age, the university preferred to think itself as outside of, and if truth be told superior to, the general culture of the society in which it functioned.
For many people today, the more the culture impinges upon the university the better. From the 1960s and perhaps well before, they longed for the university to reflect the culture by being more open, democratic, multicultural, with-it, relevant.He then goes on to suggest that the fall of the universities to these pressures in the 60s was the equivalent in our "culture wars" to the battle of Aegospotami during the Peloponnesian War. American culture, like Athens, may go on . . . but it will never be the same.
James Madison's 260th! Short people power!
A selection from my favorite Federalist paper, #14:
Hearken not to the unnatural voice which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as members of the same family; can no longer continue the mutual guardians of their mutual happiness; can no longer be fellow-citizens of one great, respectable, and flourishing empire.
Cass Sunstein's After the Rights Revolution: Reconceiving the Regulatory State is one of the most horrifying books I've ever read. Now Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OMB), Sunstein has a hand in Obama's expansion and affirmation of the Administrative or Regulatory State. He gives off the appearance of even-handedness but clearly stacks the deck in favor of willful bureaucracy and against "private rights" (that is, natural rights), for FDR and the Second Bill of Rights against the Founders' Constitution. He advises how the bureaucracy can collude with the courts to block off protests of pesky congressmen. Laws after all are not that specific, so the bureaucracy needs to be able to reinterpret such laws to keep up legislative intent with the times.The 1990 book is one of the greatest assaults on the rule of law in our time.
For some examples of such bureaucratic abuses, including abolition of legal rights by bureaucratic fiat, note Columbia law prof Philip Hamburger's essays on Obamacare waivers. His most recent essay is here.
See also Eric Claeys' congressional testimony (subtly pointed at Sunstein) on how regulators might be reined in, in Steve Hayward's post below.
And finally this, also from Steve, on the crony politics of the Administrative State.
Refine & Enlarge
or maybe Obama is more consistent than David Brooks is giving him credit for being. Brooks wonders if the "hubris" of Obama's 2008 campaign has given way to passivity. I think that on domestic policy, Obama is proving to both strategically consistent and tactically flexible. Given that he believes in moving American politics in a more statist, centralist and corporatist direction, his different rhetorical approaches can be explained by the different contexts in which he has had to pursue his goals. When he had Democratic supermajorities he moved to ramp up spending and pass a transformative health care law. Now that the Republicans control the House of Representatives, he is doing everything he can to drag anchor against retrenchment of government spending while at the same time adopting a pose of moderation. He is also looking for a chance to counterattack if the Republicans propose cuts to popular middle-class entitlements. He isn't going to announce a serious entitlement reform until he has been safely reelected and he won't accept one unless it is broadly on his terms.
I am not sure if Libya is a good example of a new Obama passivity. Is there any reason to expect that the US would be decisively intervening in Libya if this was Obama's first year in office?
"Lawyers in Italy are preparing to go on strike Wednesday to protest a new law requiring mediation in commercial cases." The lawyers aren't fleeing their jurisdictions to be holed up in hotel rooms, however. "It's worth noting that the strike period in essence extends a long weekend during prime skiing season."
Quote of the Day
At The Corner Steve (following up on his NLT post below) weighs in with a post about the proposed REINS Act, which, "would require that Congress vote on any proposed regulation that would impose a cost on the economy of $100 million or more."
Isn't that a legislative veto?
Of course, the legislatve veto might be, in some ways, a reasonable response to the delegation of legislative powers to the executive branch or, even worse, to unelected, permanent bureaucracies.
Personally, I think it would be sounder constitutionally, to follow the "Sunshine Commission" model, created by Charles Francis Adams, II, after the Civil War. Adams proposed that the executive bureaucracies would propose regulations and ship them to the legislature before they became law. (The "Sunshine" provision had to do with the one power these agencies had--to require information from railroads, so that the agencies could know what was going on before they proposed rules).
Adapting that model, no proposed regulation would become law unless it was passed by the legislature and signed by the exective (subject to the 2/3 override provision, of course). That would pass constitutional muster more easily, and end the delegation of legislative power to the executive branch and the bureaucracy. It would also obviate concern about bureaucrats gaming the $100 million cost limitation.
"Facebook doesn't just share information," according to Monsignor Paul Tighe of the Vatican's social communications office, "it creates community. People begin talking to each other and sharing ideas." In that light, the Vatican will soon launch a Facebook page dedicated to the beatification of Pope John Paul II (the page will link to video highlights of his 27-year papacy).
Facebook may now claim to be a media hub for world religions, to have spurred revolutions across the Middle East and, still, to have kept each of us in contact with our prodigal high-school classmates. It is a social medium with magnificent flexibility - and, it seems, has thus far been put to rather good use.
Reading on the American founding, I recall a quote (my indebtedness to anyone who can produce the source) which held something "as rare as a Catholic in America." Times change, as Catholicism is now the largest single religion in America.
Chinese war ships entered the Mediterranean today. "As rare as a Chinaman in the Mediterranean," it seems, would be another anachronistic reflection of the past. A Chinese frigate conducting anti-piracy escort missions in the Gulf of Aden rendezvoused with a Greek ship evacuating Chinese citizens from Libya and will dock in Crete.
All of this continues to raise questions not only regarding China's political and economic influence in Africa, but also its emerging military intentions. North Africa has often looked to China as a potential economic model, respecting its rapid growth within an authoritarian regime. However, Franco Zallio's Policy Brief for GMF suggests that "China will prioritize the defense of its economic interests over its political relations with incumbent regimes," and potentinal "new governments in the Mediterranean region will be much less attracted by the Chinese 'model' than the fallen regimes."
Though a country with nuclear weapons, China's military has been kept in check and not played a significant role in domestic or international affairs. However, Rodger Baker provides a warning as China's Military Comes Into Its Own:
For most of modern China's history, the military has been an internal force without much appetite for more worldly affairs. That is now changing, appropriately, due to China's growing global prominence and reliance on the global economy. But that means that a new balance must be found, and China's senior leadership must both accommodate and balance the military's perspective and what the military advocates for. As Chinese leaders deal with a generational transition, expanding international involvement and an increasingly difficult economic balance, the military is coming into its own and making its interests heard more clearly.
Like North Africa, China is on the cusp of generational shift. While many of the dynamics vary, the consequences for world stability are even more perilous. Let us hope America is not again caught by surprise and afraid to confront a potential crisis.
Linda Chavez reminds us that a great deal of the Union-backed protest in Wisconsin is in support of very undemocratic organizations.
Republicans should question why anyone should be forced to join -- or pay dues to -- an organization against his or her will. Unions should be voluntary organizations whose members willingly pay dues because they believe the organization provides a service they support. . . .
Why should unions be different from other organizations? You're free to join the AARP, AAA, or the ACLU, but those organizations have to solicit your membership, and you'll pay dues only so long as you believe you're getting your money's worth.
Moreover, she notes that, under current law, Unions are forever. Wisconsin wants to change that. Under current law:
Once a union has been certified to represent the employees, future workers are excluded from ever deciding whether they still want union representation unless they win a decertification election. And the rules to decertify the union are stacked against employees who want change.
Wisconsin would change the rules, ensuring that workers have the right to recertify their union regularly. What's democratic about a labor organization whose legitimacy is not recertified by periodic elections? Yearly recertification might be rather more regular than is necessary. Three to five years sounds better to me.
The Unions also want to abolish the secret ballot in the cerfication process. Not exactly what democracy looks like, is it.
Lela Gilbert notes that "a series of abuses against Christians has swept across the Muslim world," including "a murder in Pakistan, attacks on churches in Ethiopia, an attempted assassination of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Turkey, and repeated pogroms against the Copts in Egypt. Now, rights groups are reporting new developments in Iran's anti-Christian crackdown, which has swept up nearly 300 Christian believers since June 2010." She also notes a detailed briefing document from January 2011 by Elam Ministries announcing a "severe intensification of arrests and imprisonment of Christians in Iran" and a report this week by Christian Solidarity Worldwide that five Iranian Christians had been sentenced to one year's imprisonment for "Crimes against the Islamic Order."
On a related matter, John Bradley takes a stand against Bush's "Freedom Agenda" and warns in the London Spectator of an "Arabian nightmare" if we "assume that democracy is an enemy of Islamism."
When the gift of democracy is unwrapped in the Arab world, Islamists frequently spring out of the box. The jihadis may be despised by most Muslims, but often in Arab countries only about 20 to 40 per cent of the population vote. It is by no means impossible for the Islamists to secure a majority from the minority, because their supporters are the most fanatical. Whatever the theory of democratisation in the Arab world, the history is clear. Where democracy, however tentatively, has already been introduced, it is the Islamists who have come to power.