Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


No Faith in Faith-Based

Catholic League president Bill Donohue has lost faith in Obama's sincerity to protect faith-based organizations and has joined liberal critics in calling for an end to government funding.

A few dozen left-wing organizations, some of which are no friend of religious liberty, sent a letter to President Obama this week asking that he rescind an amendment to an Executive Order that allows faith-based programs to limit hiring to people of their own faith. The Catholic League would like to go further: it's time to shut down the faith-based program altogether. 

President George W. Bush sincerely wanted to end discrimination in awarding federal contracts to social service agencies by including faith-based programs. When Sen. Obama was running for president three years ago, he pledged support for faith-based programs provided they were emptied of any faith component: he opposed the right of faith-based programs to maintain their integrity by hiring only people of their faith. ... 

When faith is gutted from faith-based programs--when Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Jews can't hire their own--we are left with a carcass. ... The goal, obviously, is to convert these religious entities into full-blown secular organizations. It would be better not to let them hijack these programs in the name of assisting them, thus it makes sense to shut them down.

Democrats have been hostile to (non-Muslim) religions for decades. It's a sad commentary on their fidelity to liberty that they discriminate against religious organizations with such blatant audacity. Christianity and conservatism are the last acceptable prejudices among liberals.

Categories > Religion


Obama Vs. Obama

In an article entitled, "President Obama hasn't always agreed with Senator Obama," The Washington Post writes rather uncritically of a statement by Speaker Boehner's spokesman: "Senator Barack Obama would be among the Obama Administration's fiercest critics."

It's not a flattering perspective of the President's consistency. The article cites Obama's most recent turnabouts on the executive power to wage war exemplified in Libya and his desire to raise the debt ceiling. (On the former charge, Charles Krauthammer has an exceptional article in today's WaPo.) The Post might have also included Obama's inconsistencies on closing Guantanamo, revoking portions of the Patriot Act, support for labor unions, ethical and policy transparency, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ending special interest lobbyists, ending earmarks, five days of public access to bills prior to presidential signature, the elimination of capital gains taxes, tax credits for small businesses, eliminating 401(k) penalties, etc., etc., etc.

In Obama's own words:

I think that it's important to understand the vantage point of a senator versus the vantage point of a...president. ... As president, you start realizing, "You know what? We can't play around with this stuff.

One might have hoped that a senator would have made that realization. Or, perhaps, a presidential candidate. At the very least, it would be noble and courteous of Obama to acknowledge the realities which faced George W. Bush - Obama has been egregiously critical of his predecessor on policies he himself has now adopted, but proven especially graceless in acknowledging his reversals and his predecessor's vindications.

Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

Morocco's Living Constitution

Jennifer Rubin calls attention to a "historic event" in Morocco:

...a new "landmark" constitution guaranteeing equality for women, empowering an elected parliament and chief executive, and mandating an independent judiciary was rolled out.

A sensible observer of international affairs, Rubin quotes CNN and hopefully observes:

As CNN reported: "[The king's] actions followed a series of unprecedented protests in this North African modern Muslim country, where street protests are normally tolerated by the state, unlike in most other Arab countries."The speech delivered by King Mohammed VI provided a detailed description of a new constitution that will be put to a national vote on July 1. One Moroccan observer said the new government structure was similar to Spain -- a monarch remains, but power is devolved to a democratically elected parliament, protections for minorities and women are concretized, and powers are spread to the judiciary, the parliament and to local government.

The document, and the king's speech in support of it, have garnered due praise. However, as Rubin notes, "the devil is always in the details." Pajamas Media posits a more hesitant and reserved assessment:

Jennifer Rubin thinks we've just seen a number of myths about Islam "explode."  It would be nice, for a change, to be able to associate that sort of explosion with Islam instead of the kind we've gotten used to.  Perhaps she's right.  Being a cautious chap, I think I'll hold off celebrating for while.

While the language of Morocco's constitution is promising, it's quite possible that the original, or textual, interpretation we are presently assuming will evolve as the living document is interpreted by the king and his minions. As with all things Arab Spring, it's a wait and see proposal.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

NATO's Surreal World

The New York Times' opinion page is hosting a protracted and engaging conservation on the future and relevancy of NATO. 

Has the Atlantic alliance outlived its usefulness? The British journalist and writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft raised that question in an opinion article ("Who needs NATO?," June 16) that drew a strong reaction from Ivo H. Daalder, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, who argued that the alliance is more needed than ever (Counterpoint, June 18-19). Sarwar Kashmeri, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's International Security Program and the author of "NATO 2.0: Reboot or Delete?," joins the debate.

Kashmeri's article commences by flagging a misleading assertion I like to call "NINO" (NATO In Name Only). Simply having a NATO stamp on a military mission does not necessarily lend credit to the ever-more-discredited agency. Afghanistan, for example, is NATO-led on paper, but U.S. led in reality. Libya is truly NATO led, thanks to America's reluctance to take the reins - and the mission's malaise is attributable precisely to that fact.

Kashmeri notes an important point when he observes: "Europeans simply do not feel as threatened as Americans do, and are not interested in using their tax dollars to fight in distant lands." Touching upon a theme I attempted to articulate in a recent Ashbrook editorial, Kashmeri continues:

This European/American schism within NATO is further aggravated by a split between Central and Eastern European members on one side, and Western ones on the other.

Noting the need for fiscal and perceptual changes in NATO, Kashmeri concludes:

I am convinced this will to change will only come about when America decides to take away its defense credit card and asks Europe to take responsibility for its own security.

The E.U. is increasingly capable of defending itself under its Common Security and Defense Policy....

C.S.D.P. should be the pre-eminent vehicle to defend Europe; NATO should be bridged to C.S.D.P. and only come into action when Europe, America, and Canada wish to act together in conflicts where all three share vital national interests.

NATO has truly done a magnificent job, but it is time to move on.

This debate will broaden as Obama attempts to alter the de facto, half-century reality of a U.S.-led NATO. If the U.S. is to recede in light of the advent of a truly independent NATO, we must decide if we are willing to support our - and NATO's - new role in the world. NATO is already Euro-heavy, and Kashmeri's formulation of extracting the body (as well as the U.S.) from Euro-centric military concerns seems sensibly prudent.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Freedom for Venezuela?

Venezuelan dictator President Hugo Chávez, who has not been seen since entering surgery in Cuba on June 9th for a pelvic abscess, is reportedly in critical condition in Cuba. The bombastic socialist strongman, who is Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's best friend and defender on the world stage, is now being visited by members of his family who have urgently flown to Cuba to see him. The self-proclaimed spiritual successor of Fidel Castro has ruled over Venezuela for the past twelve years and, in that time, has limited the freedom of the press, rid the country of term limits and separations of power, stacked the courts with his puppets, nationalized the nation's banking and energy industries as well as media outlets, allowed inflation and crime rates to go through the roof, and arrested judges who did not obey him and citizens who went too far in criticizing him. A pupil of Fidel Castro and admirer of Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin, he has consistently sought to build relations with those regimes considered to be among the most despotic and/or dangerous in the world-- Iran, Libya, Cuba, and Syria, while purchasing weaponry from Russia and getting closer to China. He has sought to defend Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a genocidal dictator largely responsible for the crisis in Darfur and the murders in Southern Sudan, and Gaddafi, who we all know by now is not a nice guy. King Juan Carlos I of Spain really put it best when this impudent man was being a nuisance at a international summit, famously muttering to the fellow, "Por que no te callas?"

Because of the force of Chávez's personality and the cult he has built around it, there is no successor to lead his movement in Venezuela. At long last the opposition may finally be able to take power, free the press, and undo the constitutional crisis he has thrown the oil-rich nation into. Any change in the status quo could have major geopolitical implications, particularly in regards to Cuba-- the Castro brothers maintain the communist island's energy mostly through deals with Chávez. However, we should not be too optimistic; because Chávez has completely undone the constitutional order in Venezuela, his absence from power could conceivably thrust the nation into civil strife or an even worse dictatorship. It must be watched closely.

It is also worth noting that the egocentric Hugo Chávez has a thing for theatrics, and that Venezuela will celebrate 200 years of independence on July 5th. It is entirely possible that this thing is just a ruse to silence his political critics so that he can return triumphantly on July 5th. Time will tell.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Pop Culture

Peter Falk, aka Socrates, RIP

Lt. Columbo's character was modeled on the detective in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.  And he in turn was drawn from what we know of Socrates--a shabby, obnoxious inquisitor, who always has just one more question (cf. Nero Wolfe).  One caution:  Why don't we know Columbo's first name?  The best of popular entertainment draws from the best in western civilization.
Categories > Pop Culture


Some Thoughts On Some Presidential Campaigns

Cain - He had (might still have) the chance to be a Ross Perot-style outsider/self-made businessman/populist technocrat while also being an authentic conservative.  He had an excellent chance of winning over that fraction of the Republican primary electorate that is interested in conservative authenticity first while also being able to use his background as a businessman outsider to convince those voters that he was competent enough to be trusted with the presidency.  Cain's approach was always going to wear thin eventually, but it has decayed faster than I expected.  Part of it is that Cain is no Ross Perot, and not just in the size of his net worth.  Perot was vague on the answers to the country's problems, but he was a blizzard of facts and charts on the problems themselves.  I can't remember a thing he said, but he sure seemed to know what he was talking about on the national debt. This gave him (for a time) the air of an expert outsider who would clean up the mess made by the Washington political class.  Cain mostly just reads from the same old script about how he is a problem solving businessman who will get advice from the right people and announce a solution sometime later.  Maybe if Bachmann hadn't shown up to give him competition for that portion of the electorate looking for a (nonlibertarian) authentic conservative outsider, he would be doing better.  Or maybe not.  He won't get very far running as a problem solver if he can't solve the problem of sounding like he is using a line of bs to get through the debates.

Pawlenty - As an Evangelical, strongly pro-life, spending cutting two term governor of a Midwestern state, Pawlenty had an excellent chance to win support from both the part of the Republican electorate that is looking primarily for authentic conservatism and the part that is looking for (conservative-tinged) governing competence.  It hasn't worked out that way.  His public appearances are one disaster after another.  His CPAC speeches treated  his audiences like yokels.  The moderators in both Republican debates have made him look bad.  I caught a few minutes of Pawlenty of the O'Reilly Factor the other day.  O'Reilly (who had previously derided Pawlenty as vanilla) asked Pawlenty out for a vanilla sundae with hot fudge.  It was actually a shrewd question by O'Reilly, in that there isn't an obvious answer that doesn't make one look like either a weakling or a jerk.  I still don't know what I would have said.  Pawlenty responded with his common line about not running for comedian-in-chief and rebuffed O'Reilly.  It was a weirdly nonresponsive answer.  O'Reilly had invited him out for ice cream, not to do set at the Comedy Store.  There was probably some way to make Pawlenty's response seem principled, but he not only seemed stiff, his answer was so obviously scripted (it was obviously his stock answer to any question about being boring etc.) that he seemed phony too.  I want to like Pawlenty (he would probably get my vote if I had to cast a ballot today), but he isn't showing that he can play the game at this level. 

Bachmann - She did well in the first debate.  As Matt Taibbi pointed out in his otherwise venomous profile, the people who mock her are among her greatest political assets.  Every time liberal blogs put together pictures of Bachmann with her mouth wide open so that she looks stupid and crazy, they set expectations that she can easily surpass and they encourage conservatives to choose a side while making it an easy choice.  And it works out all the better for her when she shows up as a politician of well above average intelligence and work ethic because it is a big surprise to many.  She has travelled around the country and knows her audience.  Unlike Pawlenty, she knows that being the first to file a bill repeal Obamacare is a better way to signal conservative authenticity than inviting conservatives to take inspiration from an act of suspected spousal battery.  She speaks social conservatism as a first language.  She knows how to play to the crowd, but she doesn't come across like she is pandering in the sense of being willing to say things she doesn't believe.  I don't know why this hasn't gotten more play, but one of the reasons she did well in the debate (and I think her performance was somewhat overrated) was because she worked at it.  She very probably wouldn't be a good general election candidate.  I doubt her appeal will prove broad enough to win the Republican presidential nomination.  Her biography and affect  are appealing to someone looking for an authentically conservative outsider, but less well for those looking primarily for a chief executive.     

Categories > Politics


With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends?

There's an old joke about a preacher on the American frontier. He's riding a stagecoach to a revival meeting when a rainstorm starts. Shortly after the rain becomes torrential the coach gets stuck in a rut. When the preacher gets out in the rain to help push it back onto the road, he falls into the mud at the moment the vehicle's axle breaks. Standing shin-deep in a puddle the minister looks to the heavens and says, "If this is how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few."

We know how America's government employee unions and their political allies treat opponents, whom they always regard as enemies: comparing them to Hitler, or casually threatening murderous violence. What's more interesting is how the unions treat their friends, such as Connecticut's Democratic governor Dannel Malloy. Narrowly elected in 2010, Malloy set out to address Connecticut's budget deficit in a manner far more conciliatory to the government workers than the approaches taken by Republicans like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Chris Christie in New Jersey or John Kasich in Ohio. Even New York's Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo closed his state's budget deficit by rejecting any tax increase, which necessitated a three-year pay freeze for government workers, nine unpaid furlough days over two years, and higher health insurance premiums.

Malloy, by contrast, made clear the he was proudly lodged in the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. He described the anti-union legislation advocated by Wisconsin's Republicans as "un-American" and "a travesty." He has called himself the "anti-Christie," insisting that Connecticut would follow "a slightly more intellectual approach" to its fiscal problems than New Jersey.

Not that there is anything particularly esoteric about the Malloy template. Where other states have tried to eliminate their deficits entirely through spending cuts, Malloy wants to mitigate such cuts in Connecticut by raising taxes. His "shared sacrifice" budget called for higher sales, income, gas, and estate taxes in Connecticut, $1.6 billion in concessions from public worker unions over a two-year period, and other budget cuts. The plan's success required negotiations with both the state legislature and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), the umbrella group representing 15 different unions of state employees. Even though the state's unions had strongly supported Malloy's campaign against his Republican opponent in 2010, forging an agreement over union concessions required "months of intense negotiations and compromises."

The union negotiators conceded as little as they could, and the Malloy administration was far from adversarial in dealing with its friends. But it wasn't enough - the state's unionized workforce has rejected the deal. The promise that no state workers would be laid off during the coming four years, in exchange for a wage-freeze and health and pension give-backs, apparently won a majority of the 45,000 unionized Connecticut state employees.  Under SEBAC's complicated, solidarity-forever rules, however, the agreement could be scuttled if two of the 15 unions, or 20% of all union members voted against it.  The issue was settled when 55% of employees represented by AFSCME, the biggest of the 15 unions in SEBAC, voted against the package.

Malloy now says that he will move directly to achieve the dollar-equivalent of the negotiated concessions by laying off 7,500 employees, 15% of the state's workforce. He has "ruled out a renegotiation" on the reasonable grounds that if the union representatives across the table for the past few months didn't have enough support from their members to deliver what they had promised, there's no point in securing new promises they may or may not be able to deliver. The Democratic state senator who chairs the labor and public employees committee in the legislature called the SEBAC vote a "nightmare" and a "disaster."  "Nobody in their right mind, under these circumstances, would turn down that agreement," she added. "The private sector folks would die for this kind of package." The senator promised that state employees will "never get another thing out of me."

When we were all reading about Laborgeddon in Wisconsin, a prominent argument was that the Republican proposals to curb unions were gratuitous, since public employee unions understood clearly the gravity of the fiscal situation, and were fully prepared to responsibly negotiate the kinds of concessions necessary to help the state remain solvent. A reasonable guess would be that Gov. Malloy now considers such arguments to be as much of a travesty as the Wisconsin legislation he disparaged.
Categories > Politics

Shameless Self-Promotion

No More Mr. GOP Nice Guy (and Girl)

The Washington Times has published my article predicting the end of the Republican's moratorium on internal feuding.

The Republican presidential candidates have presented a united front. They've held hands and stuck to the message. President Obama is the problem. They - the mature, resolved and above-the-fray Republican opposition - are the solution. Newt Gingrich momentarily strayed from the path by criticizing Paul Ryan's budget plan and was swiftly reprimanded by the greater GOP establishment. Even the recent GOP debate in New Hampshire was more of a GOP powwow. There has been an obvious consensus to defer the intraparty feuding until the GOP has collectively, convincingly and resoundingly identified Mr. Obama as the nation's albatross.

However, Obama's decline and Romney's ascent in the polls "have emboldened the Republican field to abandon their familial camaraderie and adopt a new strategy."

So, after playing nice in New Hampshire - and being widely criticized by the media for refusing to take CNN's repeated invitation to begin in-fighting - the candidates have begun lining up to take shots at the current king of the hill.

Please RTWT.

Foreign Affairs

Low Politics

A very disappointing and very difficult to respect speech last night from the President.  Is there any reason not related to partisan politics why over twenty thousand American troops are being withdrawn timed to September of next year (still during the fighting season) rather than winter?  Why not just synchronize a withdrawal with Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention?  I can't think of the right words to describe the awful reality that yesterday's speech made no reference to the drawdown being conditions-based, but did include a (thinly veiled) plug of Obama's proposed green energy subsidies. 

But let us also give bitter applause to President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  It was their mismanagement of the occupation phases of Iraq and Afghanistan and their mismanagement of the military's force structure that helped bring this to pass.  Even when Bush (rather late) realized that the circumstances required a counterinsurgency strategy, the force was too small and too stressed to fully and simultaneously resource counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is not for nothing that the full Afghan counterinsurgency strategy was implemented by Obama.  It is too bad that Obama seems to be cutting it off too early and taking dangerous risks for a terrible reason.      

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Rabindranath Tagore

The Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore, a favorite of Yeats, is considered in this review of a new collection of Tagore's work.  I have read the paper version, and it is worth the reading (the on-line is only accessible to paid subscribers of TNR.  That Tagore is disputed by various political factions, here and there, is not relevant.  He is worth reading. Here is one I like, "A Moment's Indulgence":

I ask for a moment's indulgence to sit by thy side. The works
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.

Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.

Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and
the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.

Now it is time to sit quite, face to face with thee, and to sing
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.


Greek Fire

Simon Jenkins of the UK's Guardian gets the political incentives of the Greek debt crisis very, very right.  Just the same, I think that a major Greek fiscal consolidation is going to happen regardless.  The question is who else (other than the Greek people) will get hurt as the Greek government tries to prune the state back to sustainability and how it deals with its existing debt. 

I especially like this:

 The lesson is clear. Sovereign states with distinct political cultures should never surrender control over internal affairs to foreign agencies unless their people are amenable to such a loss of autonomy.

The main reason that Greece's political problems are a more-than-local problem is that the eurozone (as it developed) was less a deeply flawed economic policy (though it was that too) than a geostrategic policy whose primary purpose was to advance a deeply flawed conception of the EU project. 

Categories > Politics


Revising the Constitution

After learning of the fact that tiny Iceland is rewriting its constitution, Fareed Zakaria makes the suggestion that our own United States Constitution needs some revisions as well. While it does seem like he would be open to another constitutional convention in order to just rewrite the whole thing if need be, he stops short of calling for that with a clear understanding of American views on the rightfully-respected document. While he rightfully points to the unintended power that the courts have acquired as a flaw within the document that could use some correcting, he then goes on to lament that the Senate and the Electoral College are not democratic enough, exhibiting a lack of understanding of the document. Yes, those two bodies are absolutely intended to limit democratic tendencies and permit some sort of local governments to exist via the states. Like many anti-EC types, he wrongfully points to the disputed 2000 election as a great failure of the system. The 2000 Election was a failure in electoral management by the state of Florida and an arguably bad decision by the Supreme Court to support Florida's decision not to count some votes; had Florida not had the problems it did, and had Bush still won the state, I believe that the arguments against the system would not be nearly as loud despite Bush winning the college's vote and Gore the popular vote.

However, the discussion on new amendments to the Constitution is perhaps a good one to have, and he asks people to mention three amendments that they would like to see. Personally, I think amendments that give a supermajority of the states the power to veto federal legislation, repeal the 17th amendment, and figure out some way to address the mess that the courts are would all be good ones to consider. What amendments would you propose?
Categories > Politics

Shameless Self-Promotion

A Fond Farewell to NLT

After almost ten years of posting intermittently here on NLT, I have to announce with some sadness that I'm moving on.  Our pals at the Power Line Blog, where I've been guest-blogging, have made me an offer too good to turn down--to join them as a permanent partner in the enterprise (and enterprise it is--it is a profitable site).  In exchange they quite reasonably want to have my blogs exclusively there, so I'll be discontinuing my blogs over on NRO's Corner as well as here.

Not to worry: I'll still turn up on the Ashbrook site with feature articles on the home page, and will inflict the occasional podcast with Peter.  I'll probably also post a comment on items here from time to time.  And starting next semester I'll be a visiting professor at Ashland University, starting a new course on political economy.  So I'll still be part of the Ashbrook Center family.  Plus, I'll help promote NLT and the "Ohio Farmer" letters on Power Line from time to time, so this move should actually benefit all of us.

Political Philosophy


Ohio ranks 42nd in George Mason University's Mercatus Center's ranking of the 50 states according to personal and economic freedoms.

Ohio performs poorly in nearly every conceptual area. Spending and taxation are higher than average, with administration, education, and social-service spending especially high as a percentage of personal income. On the plus side, government debt is below average. Ohio, like three other states, does not allow private workers' compensation insurers. However, unlike North Dakota and Wyoming, it does allow employer self-insurance for workers'-compensation. The state's occupational-licensing regime and level of health-insurance coverage mandates are decent. Ohio has improved its eminent-domain regime, but further reform is warranted. Its liability system is only average. On the other hand, Ohio's asset forfeiture laws are quite good, with the state more than a standard deviation better than average. It could improve even further, though, by shifting the burden of proof to the government. Gun-control laws are relatively poor, though not extreme as in the case of states like Illinois or California. In fact, Ohio allows open carry without permit. The state authorizes sobriety checkpoints but does not mandate motorcycle helmets. Marijuana laws are liberal overall, but cultivation and sale sentencing could be reformed. Most gambling is illegal. Homeschooling regulations are unreasonable, including teacher licensure and mandatory state approval of homeschool curricula. However, private-school regulations are lighter. Draconian smoking bans are in place and cigarette taxes are above average. Beer and wine taxes are reasonably good but the spirits tax is fairly high.

Three recommendations are listed:

      1. Aggressively reduce taxes, especially given that tax revenue as a percentage of personal income is almost a whole standard deviation higher than the average. We find that Ohio spends much more than the national average on financial administration (mostly at the state level) and on judicial, legal, and "other governmental" administration (mostly at the local level); thus, we particularly recommend cuts to these areas.
      2. Continue reforming eminent-domain laws.
      3. Look at Indiana as a model Rust Belt state and reform Ohio's regulatory system in line with that model. For instance, consider rolling back occupational licensing and allowing competition in the utilities.

It comes as little consolation that the few states which are less free than Ohio include:

The bluer the state, the less freedoms its citizens enjoy. Hardly surprising. But it bears mention that the George Mason analysis favors liberal fancies such as gay marriage and the de-criminalization of drugs - so the test rewards liberal social policies, and the most liberal states are still the least free.

On the other hand, the most free states include:

The links may be blue, but the states are overwhelmingly red (and Wisconsin only recently joined the top 25 - thanks to Gov. Walker and the GOP).

If you're surprised by any of this, you just haven't been paying attention. If rhetoric equaled results, progressive states would be heavens on Earth - but, in reality, those fly-over states so often ridiculed from the ivory towers of the eastern seaboard are the true lands of milk and honey.

Foreign Affairs

Greek Tragedy

New York Times:

[Greece's] Parliament passed a confidence vote on Prime Minister George Papandreou's new cabinet, formed last week to push through a fresh package of austerity measures required to receive international financing to stave off default.

The passage averts early elections and a stalled government at a critical moment. Now, Mr. Papandreou must face an even bigger challenge next week, when Parliament votes on the new slate of measures, including tax hikes, wage cuts and state privatization, that are required by the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund before it releases the next segment of aid that Greece needs to meet expenses through the summer.


The vote came days after protests over new government cutbacks shook Greece's political establishment and touched off a revolt within the ruling Socialist party. Mr. Papandreou shuffled his cabinet on Friday, sacking his finance minister, who was seen as the architect of the austerity measures....

It's important to understand that there is rioting and massive public protest in Greece because they feel the austerity measures required to have someone else continue to pay their bills are too great a burden on their quality of life. The alternative would be a national default - bankruptcy. But everyone - particularly state employees - insist that someone else, even if they be foreigners, must pay more. There is no accountability, responsibility or deference to economic reality. Greece is the picture of modern, liberal socialism - it doesn't work any better than the old varieties, but is even more culturally pathetic and politically ridiculous.

America has seen the blooming bud of this infestation in Wisconsin, and the vine has stretched across the entire nation. Greece is the natural conclusion of this progressive ideology. The sooner it is plucked from American soil and burnt at the root, the better for our national fortune and prosperity.  

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Health Care

Finding Out What's In It

When Nancy Pelosi famously declared that we had to pass the healthcare bill in order to find out what was in it, there were probably some who did not take her too literally. Now, keen minds uncovered a massive problem buried within the monolithic law. As it stands, middle class families will now be able to claim taxpayer-funded Medicaid benefits, adding up to three million more people to the payroll by the year 2014. Medicaid is reserved for those Americans in most need of assistance and buried in poverty, including low-income children and Alzheimer's patients. Obamacare will already be adding 16-20 million new people to Medicaid (a major complaint for cash-strapped state governments)-- the addition of those who make $64,000 a year would be a great strain on funds. The Obama Administration, after originally downplaying the problem, admitted today that it was a glitch and has said it will take steps to try and fix it.

Yet another knick it what is one of the most sloppily, poorly-crafted federal laws that Congress has ever passed. I can only imagine what other disastrous gems are buried within it pages.
Categories > Health Care


Fiscal Discipline in California?

Shocking, but perhaps partially true! The California legislature did not pass a truly balanced budget last week, resulting in Governor Jerry Brown's veto of the budget. Democrats want to raise taxes and Republicans want to cut programs, hence the trouble in agreeing on a budget. Because they failed to approve a balanced budget, California State Controller John Chiang (D) has decided to strip them of their pay. They will not be able to collect a paycheck until they agree on a balanced budget, as they are mandated to do per the state constitution. If only we could strip the United States Congress of their pay whenever they failed to balance the books!
Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Federalist Society Teleforum on Libya

From the Federalist Society's International and National Security Law Practice Group:

A bipartisan group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives has filed suit against American involvement in Libya.  As Congress continues to debate the extent of the President's authority in Libya under the War Powers Act and the U.S. Constitution, we thought you would be interested in this upcoming teleforum conference call on the same topic.

Join us on Wednesday, June 22 for a Teleforum conference call featuring David B. Rivkin, Jr. and George Mason University School of Law Professor Ilya Somin. To

The Teleforum number is 888-752-3232 and the event will begin at 1:00 PM. If any of our readers participate, I'd be happy to receive your review and analysis.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Deficit Reform as Cultural Transformation

David Marion of Hampden-Sydney College has a thoughtful piece with Ashbrook on "Deficits and Cultural Politics."

Deficit politics in 2011 is reminiscent of racial politics at the time of Brown v. Board of Education in the mid-1950s. It took several decades, and legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, for the expectations embedded in the Brown ruling to be realized in communities across America. In much the same way, a sustainable solution to our long-term deficit problem is unlikely in the absence of a significant cultural transformation.

Marion traces the cultural shift which accompanied and propelled deficit spending, while honestly assessing the difficulties and rewards of a renewed "culture of realistic expectations." Sobering, thoughtful and timely words on an issue of paramount importance.

Categories > Economy


Happy Birthday, St. Paul

Sir Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral in London is celebrating its 300th birthday today. Of course, at 300 years old, St. Paul's is a youngster among England's great churches and cathedrals. Nevertheless, her caretakers decided she was in need of a little makeover, so today also marks the conclusion of a 15 year restoration effort. I'd say she doesn't look a day over 200.

St Paul.jpg

Categories > History

Men and Women

The Most Beautiful Girl in America..., of course, my girlfriend.

Now that that's out of the way and I have enough cover to keep her from killing me for this post - Miss USA, Alyssa Campanella:


Beauty is a beautiful thing. Slidshow here.

Categories > Men and Women


The Ever-Growing Conservative Pool

Former Utah governor John Huntsman has joined the GOP presidential field with a mild-mannered anti-Washington and fiscally conservative message. Now that Huntsman is officially in the ring, Texas governor Rick Perry's expected announcement should just about round out the Republican field.

The only problem with all these delightfully conservative candidates is that they are generally indistinguishable to most Americans - which means that a moderate in their midst, such as Mitt Romney, will be the only candidate who is not dividing his share of the primary vote among a half-dozen other candidates. (The same is true for Ron Paul and the libertarian vote, but I don't expect that vote to pose a threat.)

A fractioning of the conservative vote among all the rest will allow Romney to seize the entire moderate vote in the GOP primary. Romney's name recognition and well-honed political skill could secure any remaining votes necessary to boost him above the fray. A conservative candidate either needs to rise above the crowd, or the herd needs to thin itself out. As it stands, the mere contrast between Romney and the rest bode poorly for conservative hopefuls. 

Categories > Elections


Why Americans don't know history

I meant to post something about this interview when it appeared over the weekend, but internet problems got in the way.  Anyway, famed popular historian David McCullough correctly identifies some of the reasons why Americans don't know their history--unprepared teachers, politically correct textbooks, uninspired classroom methods.  There's a problem that he overlooks, however.  He seems to assume that if more teachers graduated with degrees in history rather than pedagogy there would be an improvement in the population's historical knowledge.  Given what goes on in many university history departments, that may not be the case. 

For years the emphasis in undergraduate history teaching has been on method, rather than content.  That is, students are expected to learn to become historians, rather than to know history.  For example, I was an undergraduate at Ohio University, and had to take a research methods course that went through, in excruciating detail, all of the different reference works with which we needed to be familiar in order to track down sources that we might need to write a scholarly paper.  This course was ultimately useless even for me, since within ten years the internet had made all of those reference works obsolete.  How much more useless was the course for the vast majority of those who took it with me--who, unlike me, did not go on to graduate school?

I was lucky, though, in the sense that most of the faculty at Ohio University were of the old school that understood that, when it comes to historical knowledge, some historical facts are more important than others.  The real danger of emphasizing method over content is that everything eventually becomes equally important.  If, after all, history is only about imparting research methods, communication skills, and (my personal favorite) "critical thinking," then why should some professor whose research interests involve the construction of gender in Massachusetts during the late 1770s be troubled to teach a course on the American Revolution?  Every course could be built around the current research of the individual faculty--and you'd have something like the history curriculum as it exists at most elite institutions of higher learning today. 

With all due respect to Mr. McCullough, if that's the way that history is being taught, it's not clear to me that prospective teachers are any worse off taking education courses.

Categories > Education


Wal-Mart Wins One For Liberty

I previously wrote about the class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart. I sensed that it was another frivolous attack by leftist puppets, manipulated by union bosses, attempting to score political points thought judicial fiat. I was right.

The Supreme Court has ruled for Wal-Mart in its fight to block a massive sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of women who work there.

The court ruled unanimously Monday that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cannot proceed as a class action, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The lawsuit could have involved up to 1.6 million women, with Wal-Mart facing potentially billions of dollars in damages. 

The full text of the ruling is here.

The liberal wing did dissent, in part - de facto arguing for a gender quota in order to ensure equal representation in management. Of course, the disparate proportion of male-to-female managers was not shown to be the result of discrimination of any sort. The infamous 9th Circuit and liberal judges on the Supreme Court simply want to create a world of their choosing through judicial coercion. This is an abuse of their public trust and a degradation of democracy. Wal-Mart scored a victory for American liberty today.

Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Remembering Neda

The video of a young woman dying in a pool of her own blood in the streets of Tehran became the most powerful symbol of the "Green Revolution" that was the 2009 Iranian Election protests. It was one of the most widely-witnessed deaths in history, thanks to the Internet. Neda Agha-Soltan was a 26-year-old woman who had studied philosophy and Islamic theology in college. She worked for her family's travel agency, and was an aspiring singer and musician who was gaining in popularity. Prior to 2009 she was never known to be very political. On the evening of June 20th, 2009, she was driving through Tehran with her music teacher and an old friend, going to participate in the protests against what is widely perceived to have been an election rigged by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After exiting the car and beginning to walk on foot, she stood on the outskirts of the major protest areas to watch what was going on. A shot rang out, and Neda collapsed to the ground with a bleeding hole in her chest. Crying, "I'm burning," the young woman died there on the cement. The shot was fired by a government paramilitary militiaman.

The Iranian government was quick to clamp down on the murder of this poor woman. Her family was forbidden from allowing people to gather to mourn her, and collectively praying for her was banned in all mosques in Iran. Her fiance, Caspian Makan, was tortured in an attempt to make him confess that Neda was actually killed by opposition protestors; he eventually managed to escape Iran to Canada. Famed Iranian author Dr. Arash Hejazi, who was present at the scene and tried to stop the bleeding, was forced to flee the country after the Ministry of Intelligence filed an arrest warrant for poisoning the international atmosphere against the government. Iran's Ambassador to Mexico declared that the entire thing was a plot by the CIA, and state television declared that BBC and CNN had personally manufactured the videos as part of a Western plot to destabilize the regime. In the following months, the government's tyrannous boot would stomp out what remained of the protests.

It is worth noting that the name of this unintended hero, Neda, is the Persian word for "voice". She was like so many young people in Iran, a normal girl who wanted her voice to be heard amid the terrible clamor of a theocratic dictatorship. She wanted her voice to be heard in the same way so many of us in the Western world do. I am sure that she did not expect herself to have the impact that she did. In death, her voice is as powerful as ever-- a kindling fire for the people of Iran. Hopefully, someday soon, those people will be able to have their voices heard without fear of government retribution, and will gather together to remember Neda and the countless others who have perished to make that so.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Aim High - But How High is Too High?

Laying out an economic policy at the start of his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Tim Pawlenty called for a 5% annual economic growth rate, more than twice the pace since the official end of the 2008-09 recession.  The kindest reaction came from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which allowed that the goal is "worthy as an aspiration," while noting that the fastest growth in recent memory came during the booms of the mid-1980s and late 1990s.  In both cases, American economic growth was a bit less than 5%, and those booms lasted four and three years, respectively, while Pawlenty wants the American economy to grow 5% per year for a decade.

Less kind reactions came from other directions.  On the right, Megan McArdle called Pawlenty's ideas "crazy."  From the center, Clive Crook said Pawlenty's ideas were "heights of nonsense."  And on the left, Ruth Marcus contended that Pawlenty's proposal "runs the gamut from delusional to reckless."

I'll note for the record that even though there's no record of sustaining a 5% growth rate for anything close to ten years, there is a political precedent in calling for one.  The 1960 Democratic platform stated, "We Democrats believe that our economy can and must grow at an average rate of 5% annually, almost twice as fast as our average annual rate since 1953.  We pledge ourselves to policies that will achieve this goal without inflation."  The precedent is not completely reassuring, however.  As McArdle reminds us, John Kennedy took the growth goal more seriously than the sound money one, attempting to "actually act on his promise by inflating the hell out of the dollar."
Categories > Economy


Queen Bachmann

I have an article at Intellectual Conservative which expands upon my previous NLT post contemplating the role of Michele Bachmann in the Republican presidential race. The introduction reads:

Remember Sarah Palin? She's the former leading lady of the conservative core of the Republican Party. As of Monday evening, she's a reality TV star, Republican fundraiser and media obsession - but her presidential ambitions are now foreclosed. The reason is that Sarah Palin's quasi-vacant seat at the Republican table has been filled by conservative sensation Michele Bachmann.

The question, however, is the role which Bachmann will play.

. . . Bachmann is not an all or nothing candidate. Should she be surpassed by one or more Republican in the primaries, her influence among Tea Party Americans will likely not have waned. Bachmann's mere endorsement would be a tremendous boon for any candidate, but her name on the national ticket could prove dispositive. She is a conservative lifeline for Romney, for example, and a complimentary asset for Pawlenty (the Minnesota Twins would finally drag their home state back into the red column - the Twin Cities voted for Walter Mondale out of local loyalties, after all).

Categories > Elections


The Kind of People at NBC

NBC covered the US Open today and edited the words "under God" from a children's recital of the Pledge of Allegiance at the commencement of the game. Following severe criticism, they've issued a bland and intentionally unconvincing apology.

It's not surprising from leftist media such as NBC, but another reminder of their true colors. Imagine the kind of people in journalism who decide to conduct this sort of ridiculous censorship. Imagine the breathless, hysterical reaction of these same people at NBC if Fox News edited and censored coverage of a national event so as to exclude mention of homosexuals, racial minorities or any other progressively-favored sub-group.

It would be a tiresome, full time job to document all of the hypocrisy committed by the left-wing media (or just NBC, for that matter), but from time to time it's good to remind ourselves of the kind of unprincipled, radical and loathsome people who deliver much of our news.

Categories > Journalism

The Family

Our Fathers

The Founding Fathers. George Washington, the father of our country. The Holy Father. When you love someone and hold them in esteem beyond words, you call them father. There's a reason for that.

Here's to our dads.

We love you.

Categories > The Family


Douthat And Pawlenty

Ross Douthat blasts Tim Pawlenty's tax plan.  RTWT as they say but this is a taste:

You'll recall that Bush cut taxes on upper earners, capital gains, estates, dividends, etc. He also cut taxes on families and the middle class. He also cut taxes without offsetting the cuts with spending reductions, on the assumption that growth would take care of any deficits that ensued. He didn't reform the tax code by shrinking the number of brackets, as Pawlenty proposes to do. As Schulz notes, Bush's mix of policies earned disappointing results -- not necessarily in terms of overall growth rates (at least before the financial crisis), but in terms of wage growth for middle class and downscale Americans, and in terms of their impact on the national debt. So against that backdrop and amid those memories, the Pawlenty plan would send Republicans to the hustings with a tax plan that's likely to increase the deficit, and with the argument that the reason wage growth for the middle class was so disappointing in the Bush years was that Bush's tax policies were too weighted toward middle-class concerns (!), and didn't go far enough in flattening the tax burden and lowering rates on investors and the rich. In other words: Dear middle class American, we're going to address the economic anxieties you experienced in the '00s with a deficit-increasing tax reform that's much more favorable, in its initial impact, to the wealthiest quintile of the country than were the Bush tax cuts.

Yeah, me too, but my concerns are a little different.  They are:

Pawlenty's tax plan cuts tax revenues far more sharply than Ryan's PTP while planning to spend far less.  Ryan's PTP projects getting spending down to 20.25% of GDP over the next 18 years.  There are reasons to think that this still won't leave enough revenue to pay for Medicare even under a reformed system.  As Reihan Salam and others have pointed out, a more realistic Medicare reform plan would grow Medicare spending at GDP +1 rather than at Ryan's cocktail of consumer prices indexes.  That is going to cost more money than Ryan budgets for (though it is about what Ryan budgeted for in his original Roadmap.)

Pawlenty is for capping federal spending at 18% of GDP.  That would mean taking Ryan's already underfunded PTP budget and cutting it by over 10%. So Pawlenty's program would amount to enormous tax cuts to high earners + large entitlement cuts (they would have to be substantially larger than those in the PTP unless Pawlenty proposed huge defense cuts too.) And, as Josh Barro points out in one of the above links, we would still have an annual deficit of 3% of GDP even under a set of assumptions friendly to the Pawlenty program. 

I'm trying to think of a circumstance where this program could win a general election.  I guess if people were mad enough at Obama that a majority of the public buys that Pawlenty's tax cuts would only slightly reduce revenue (because of the resulting growth) and chooses to ignore the size and consequences of the cuts that would be required in order to make the Pawlenty plan's deficits just barely sustainable.  It sound more like a plan to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  


Categories > Politics