Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political Philosophy

Churchill and Coriolanus

While reading this essay by Jaffa on whether or not there could be another Churchill, a good thing to do on the statesman's birthday, I came across a line that reminded me of something:

"A world made by tides and tendencies, and not by wisdom and virtue, is a world [Churchill] repudiates. He does not really say that it does not exist; on the contrary, he finds that this is the kind of world which, in ever increasing measure, we find ourselves inhabiting. But he does not accept it; he will not accept it. Churchill looks at this aspect of the modern world much as Coriolanus looked at Rome. Rather than submit to it, or acknowledge its power, he will banish it."

Shakespeare's Coriolanus is set to hit the big screen for the first time this coming January. Here is the trailer. Directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes, it maintains a cast of actors well-known for their abilities-- Brian Cox as Menenius, Gerard Butler as Aufidius, and Vanessa Redgrave as the paragon of Roman mothers, Volumnia. This is notable for the primary reason that few people have read this first volume of Shakespeare's Roman trilogy, and even fewer have ever seen it performed. In the study of statesmanship, understanding Coriolanus and his relationship with the common man and his country is a useful thing to do, and may help us to understand Churchill's great virtues even more.

Foreign Affairs

Bill Rood Would Have Smiled

Amateurs (Georgetown students) and an old Pentagon hand beat the professionals at scoping out Chinese nuclear strategy. Professor Bill Rood, the late teacher of international relations, would have approved of this use of his quaint methodology of reading the newspapers and other open sources and speculating on how the evidence fit Chinese interests.  Of note as well, toward the end, is the outrage among the leftist disarmament lobby. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

The Chinese Nobility

As hundreds of millions of Chinese toil under the feudalistic conditions of Communist China, an elite few live in the type of wealth that is rare even in the West. This Chinese class of "Princelings" preach the humble poverty of Mao to their brethren while maintaining a monopoly on power and high-end luxury cars. The heirs of China's revolutionary leaders find themselves with unparalleled wealth, and as the wheels of power begin to turn and a new generation steps up, it appears that the Mao's communist creation is set to be politically and commercially controlled by a group of elite families--who already hold a great deal of economic power and sway with the military.

However, as the Internet breaks down the bonds of ignorance and reveals the secrets of their masters, the Chinese people may start to grow disillusioned with the Party. Chinese leaders may continue to try to censor the Internet, but it is a dam with too many cracks in it to bring them solace forever. With economic conditions in Chinese localities deteriorating, and the Chinese people growing more aware of the types of lives the elite live, the Princelings may be in for a rocky rule. There is some cause for hope, though. Most of the Princelings coming to power now have sent all their children to Western schools, mostly in the United Kingdom and the United States. Perhaps there may be some true nobility grown among this group, and they can oversee some liberalization in China. We can pray.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Israeli Strike in Iran?

Looks like the Israelis are doing the West's work, according to this report from Oz, for at least the second time. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Mark Twain

Today is Twain's birthday and Google has done a clever thing.  It is also Churchill's birthday.  They both smoked cigars, by the way.  I always hesitate to say much about Twain, have the same problem with Shakespeare.  They are too big, too important, too capacious. The human condition demands a Shakespeare.  The new human condition, the American condition, demands a Twain.  Everyone in the world has always loved Tom and Huck and Jim and the big river and the possibilities.  Regardless of the problem, laughter was everywhere, and this is now known to be the American way.  (Lincoln of course was--essentially--a professional comic.)  Even Nietzsche recognized some of this virtue.  He wrote this after he read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: "The American way of laughing does me good, especially this sort of sturdy seaman like Marc Twain. I have been unable to laugh anymore at anything German." Tom Sawyer appeared in 1876, as did Untimely Meditations.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1885, the same year as the final version of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  

Twain (1890):  "We are called a nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear the loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty."
Categories > History

Foreign Affairs

This Isn't Good

On the heels of commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard--which, it is necessary to note, is controlled by the Ayatollah and not Ahmadinejad--saying that they will bomb NATO sites in Turkey should there be any move by another nation against Iran's nuclear facilities (a threat that they issued after a huge explosion damaged a missile site and killed their ballistic missile program's architect), the embattled Assad regime in Syria is turning its Russian-built SCUD missiles in Turkey's direction. Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty is still enough to terrify any non-suicidal entity not to attack a NATO member, right? As Iranian mobs assault the British embassy in Tehran, and as Assad continues his bloody crackdown despite the Arab League itself sanctioning him, one has to wonder if self-interest as we understand it is the guiding principle of these leaders or not.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Lech Walesa and the OWS

It was about six weeks ago that the press was abuzz with news that legendary labor activist Lech Walesa, the man who, more than anyone else, was responsible for bringing down communism in Poland, was planning a visit to the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  The left-wing blogosphere erupted in paroxysms of joy; Brent Budowsky at The Hill summed it up best: "One of history's great leaders for jobs, workers and freedom is now supporting the Occupy Wall Street protest. Lech Walesa has now weighed in, big time, for the good guys."

I forgot all about this until just yesterday, when I learned that Walesa never did make that visit--a fact apparently overlooked by the mainstream press, although it was big news in the conservative blogosphere.  Walesa expressed his views more openly in mid-November in an editorial critical of the OWS movement in the San Francisco Chronicle:

I have lived under the heavy hand of communism, where the state controls virtually everything, and I've lived under freedom. While today's protesters have many legitimate concerns, let me assure them that instead of either cronyism or greater government control, it is dialogue and solidarity leading to freedom that we should all strive for.

In related news, Walesa last week unveiled a statue of Ronald Reagan in Warsaw.
Categories > Politics


Frederick Douglass's Inspiration

Glenda Armand, a former MAHG student, has just come out with Love Twelve Miles Long, a gorgeously illustrated children's book about Frederick Douglass.  (Glenda wrote the text, Colin Bootman illustrated.)  We see young Frederick Bailey's mother explain to him how she manages to walk 12 miles to see him at night, after their separation.  She fills her son with love and hope.  Glenda explains her love of slave narratives at her website--it's family history, for one thing:

As a recent college grad, Glenda visited her grandparents in Louisiana.  While at their home, Glenda came across a Bible that had been printed in 1869. It had belonged to her great-great grandfather, Victor Jones, Sr., who was born a slave.  In one moment, one of the most tragic aspects of American history ceased being a chapter in a history book and became real, tangible, and personal. Victor Jones, Sr. died a free man in 1928. Later the Bible was given to Glenda and remains her most treasured possession.

After many years of teaching in the primary grades, Glenda decided to teach eighth grade.  In preparing to teach US history, Glenda read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. In those pages, Glenda met Harriet Bailey, the mother of Frederick Douglass. As the mother of two, Glenda related to Harriet's heartbreaking dilemma and could not get it out of her mind.  Glenda felt Harriet's guiding hand as she wrote Love Twelve Miles Long.

Categories > Race

Foreign Affairs

Technocrats Fail to Fix Eurozone

In the wake of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's resignation, economist and former European Commissioner Mario Monti ascended to power. Monti's rise to lead Italy is remarkable in the fact that he has never won an election. As Berlusconi's rule came to a close, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano appointed Monti to parliament as a Senator-for-Life then asked him to lead the new Berlusconi-free government. Monti promised as premier a government of experts, a true technocracy tasked with solving the economic crisis threatening to sink Italy and tear down the rest of the Eurozone with it. So this unelected leader and his cabinet of other unelected officials were heralded by the powers-that-be in Europe as the saving grace for the Euro currency. It seems that technocracy needs to be made of sterner stuff, however, as the Italian economy continues to plummet and the Eurozone contagion is now starting to show drags upon the all-powerful German economy. Somewhere, probably in the midst of one of his depraved bunga bunga parties, Silvio Berlusconi--a man elected and reelected and, despite multiple opportunities, never voted out of office--is smirking at his technocratic replacements. Democracy was the last thing Italy had to sacrifice, and it appears to be failing miserably.

President Obama met with the leading bureaucrats of the European Union--European President Council Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso (yes, Europe has two presidents)--at the White House, but the meeting did not provide anything of substance. Obama highlighted our vested interest in the success of Europe, and the EU leaders insisted that the problem will be resolved and brought up America's $15 trillion debt and the need to focus on that as well. Others do not share the optimism of Messrs. Van Rompuy and Barroso. The United Kingdom's Foreign Office is preparing for the collapse of the Eurozone and drawing up contingency plans to help Britons around the European Union in the event of riots consuming the European continent in the midst of a complete banking collapse. As American banks own a huge portion of European debt, there is certainly cause for concern among us as well. The economic forecast does not look good at all. It may be time for the American government and American banks to start taking measures to best protect us from the contagion contaminating Europe in order to try soften the blow when it comes.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Myth of the Wall Street Bailout

A commenter at Power Line writes astutely on the myth of a Wall Street bailout, noting that Wall Street banks were not the target of TARP and illustrating the vast differences between TARP and, say, the auto bailout. By way of introduction, John Hinderaker writes:

I used to think that revisionist history could be written only after lots of people who know better have died. Over the years, however, I have realized that this isn't true. It is common to see history rewritten before our eyes. Still, even in that context, the myth of the Wall Street bailout is remarkable.

Categories > Economy

The Founding

Thanksgiving, Churchill 1944

A friend sent along these few words from Churchill.  It's good as is, and a wonder to hear the great man speak of our day of gratitude.  Just another reminder that all we behold is full of blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Categories > The Founding


Supercommittee Ends; Superelection Begins

"Retrospective determinism" is the term historians use to caution against the mistake of treating the fact that something did happen as proof that it had to happen. Don't forget, in other words, that the chain of events leading to a particular denouement included choices and contingencies, many of which could have gone this way rather than that way, possibly altering the final outcome.

Sometimes, though, it really is hard to see how events could have turned out differently. Congressional and White House negotiators spent the summer trying to come up with a "grand bargain" to, in the short term, raise the debt ceiling and, over the coming decade, make the national debt a shrinking portion, not a growing one, of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. They couldn't strike that deal, so they agreed to raise the debt ceiling, in stages, by $2.1 trillion over the coming year. In exchange, the deal met the demand by the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, that every dollar by which the debt ceiling was increased be matched by a dollar of deficit reduction. 

The August 2011 agreement specified cuts in spending to many, though not all, federal programs.  Additional deficit cuts would either happen automatically, if Congress did nothing, or according to the plans devised by a congressional "supercommittee" that was evenly divided in every way: six members of the House, three from each party; and six senators, three from each party. If the supercommittee came up with a plan that reduced the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, Congress could vote it up or down - but not amend it - and the president could sign or veto the law if Congress passed it.

The failure of the supercommittee, confirmed this week, was foreordained in the sense that the overlap between the list of all the deficit plans congressional Democrats could agree to, and all the plans Republicans could agree to, turned out to be a null set. There was, most fundamentally, no way to split the difference between the Democrats' insistence that any deficit reduction plan had to include some tax increases and the Republicans' insistence that no tax increase could be part of the plan.

The supercommittee's failure to agree on a deal that the full Congress could vote on means that the automatic cuts agreed upon in August are supposed to take effect in 2013. The structure of those cuts was designed to be unpleasant enough that the supercommittee members would have real incentives to come up with a bipartisan plan. At the same time they reflected how each party thinks about what its highest priority does and does not include.

The automatic cuts will affect a lot of federal discretionary spending, but not such big safety net programs as Social Security and Medicaid. Democrats give highest priority to the entitlement programs for two reasons, one political, the other psychological. The political reason is that it's easy to rally voters, especially older ones, against the threat of cuts to these programs. The psychological one is that Democrats regard these programs as their party's most glorious achievements in the 20th century. To acquiesce in curtailing or restructuring them would put a question mark where Democrats want an exclamation point. The problem with protecting entitlements at all costs, however, is that those costs will eventually include some discretionary domestic programs that Democrats believe are vital to the nation's well-being, as Mark Schmitt has argued

The gamble in setting up the supercommittee was that at least some Democrats would be be so opposed to those domestic cuts that they would vote for entitlement reductions as the lesser of two evils. That's not what happened. The other part of the gamble was that Republicans would be so opposed to automatic cuts in defense spending over the coming decade that they would vote for tax increases as the lesser of two evils. That didn't happen, either. As Peter Beinart contended, Republicans have reached the point where national security concerns have been subordinated to the mission of limiting government and holding the line against tax increases. 

That Congress was amenable to serious cuts in discretionary spending on both domestic and defense programs may be construed as an indication that Capitol Hill, for the time being, is content to live with the modest curtailment of deficit spending that results when entitlement cuts and tax increases are both off the table. It could, on the other hand, mean that Congress is content to live with this padlock on future spending because it knows that it will always possess the key to that lock. Both parties, that is, feel that they'll figure out how to avoid the inevitable spending cuts that are supposed to begin in 2013. The history of past efforts to force spending discipline on Congress by threatening automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, such as the Gramm-Rudman limits of the 1980s, gives every reason to believe that Congress can figure out a way around the limits it imposes on itself.

Another sense in which the supercommittee's failure was baked in the cake was that its stalemate is a pretty accurate reflection of the electorate's unresolved marching orders about what the government should do. Republicans prevailed in the elections of 2004 and 2010, Democrats in the elections of 2006 and 2008. With a Democratic president, a Democratic majority in the Senate, and a Republican majority in the House, the voters have given partial, ambiguous endorsements to both party's approaches, but clear, unequivocal support to neither. This ambivalence is not surprising. Clear support for the Democrats would mean big tax increases, and clear support for the Republicans would mean big entitlement cuts. Neither will be pleasant, and the desire to postpone having to choose is understandable.

Nonetheless, the financial pages remind us every day that sovereign debt crises are hard for democracies to avoid, but really, really hard for them to solve. The voters are running out of elections cycles in which they can decide by not deciding. Now that all politics is fiscal, the 2012 election is likely to be dominated by the choice between the parties' mutually exclusive approaches to taxing and spending.
Categories > Economy

Men and Women

Man's Best Friend

I sometimes wonder if dogs were placed on Earth to remind Man of what unconditional love is. Here is a story out of China recently about a dog who is refusing to leave the grave of his recently-deceased master, forgoing food for a week until local villagers began trekking to the cemetery to feed him. This is reminiscent of other tales of dogs grieving their deceased owners; one picture in particular has been making the rounds on Facebook lately of a dog on the floor beside the coffin of a slain U.S. soldier. The devotion of these special animals is something to marvel at. Throughout most of my childhood I had a fantastic companion, a mix between an Australian shepherd and a border collie, who would sleep at the foot of my bed almost every night while I was growing up. He was so protective of me that even if my own parents moved too quickly towards me or lingered with a hug or hand on my shoulder for too long, the dog would begin to make his displeasure known. A wonderful creature that I miss a great deal. Childhood without a dog would have had a dark hole in it. In light of the Chinese story, it is worth mentioning Senator George Graham Vest's Eulogy of the Dog for recollection:

Gentlemen of the jury: A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince...If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

Thank God for dogs.
Categories > Men and Women


Post-Debate Thoughts

I ended up working and attending the debate here in Washington last night; it was an interesting experience. Saw Steve Hayward briefly as he was coming in; he beat me to sharing his notes on the debate over at Power Line. Do read them. The most interesting part of being there in person was gauging audience and candidate reactions. Some things are small--such as Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman being the only ones remaining on stage during breaks, while Michele Bachmann was always running back onto the stage at literally the last second--and others big. The reactions of the live audience are important to shaping the tone of the room. When Cain made his "Blitz" mistake about Wolf Blitzer, the crowd struggled to hold in their laughter, and it was the prolonged giggling that finally clued Cain into his mistake a little while into his answer and allowed him to correct himself. Answers from Perry, Santorum, and Cain most often seemed to elicit eye-rolls, head-shakes, and uncomfortable shifting in the seats. Responses from Gingrich, Paul, Huntsman, and Romney tended to draw the most support, with Paul also receiving his own fair share of eye-rolls in the midst of applause for him.

One of the most interesting exchanges of the night was on the immigration question. Gingrich managed to address it far, far better than Perry has been struggling to over the past few months, and the crowd reacted well to it--Newt's immigration answers drew a lot of applause from the audience. Thought that was interesting. Overall, it was a good night for Gingrich and he'll hold onto his place as the non-Romney candidate for now. Perry and Cain, meanwhile, both continued to have bad nights as they exhibited a sore lack of preparation for addressing foreign policy. I shared some of my real-time notes and pictures over on Twitter. This was the eleventh debate of the primary season; we have three more to go before the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd, and five more before the New Hampshire primary on January 10th. 
Categories > Elections


Small-souled political parties

The formation of majorities is supposed to be difficult under the Constitution.  David Brooks takes a shot at explaining something fundamental about American electoral politics, constitutional government, and our two party system by referring to Sam Lubell's invented political solar system idea.  At any moment there is a Sun Party (the majority party which drives the agenda) and the Moon Party (the minority party which shines by reflecting the solar rays).  He gets it only partly right.  He understands that we are in a volatile period in which the "Sun"-like majority hasn't formed, but he misses the idea of realignment (and/or critical elections) that would help him explain his point. The point is not that both parties have developed minority mentalities, as he says, but rather the point is that neither party is capable of really dividing and polarizing the country in such a way that it may persuade the country to come in its direction (say the way Democrats did in the 1930s, thereby crafting the last of our Suns) electorally in order to create a grand majority, around which the Moon(s) would revolve. The Democrats are currently holding on to "policies" they have created over three generations, but are not persuading new folks that the centralized welfare state is worth saving (or constitutional). Mere interest and passion (entitlements) is what is holding the Democratic Party together, and sometimes it makes for a majority, sometimes not. On the other hand the Republicans are incapable of giving a sustained and powerful argument in favor of limited constitutional self-government. They thought they were doing it in the 1980s with Reagan, but not quite. The electoral victories they have had since seem fleeting. They really must become grand partisans and must make the persuasive intellectual arguments first, before making the electoral gains that could be said to look something like the formation of a new long term majority.  They have yet to do that; certainly the presidential candidates are not doing that; see tonight's debate and discover how none of them were born under a rhyming planet. Therefore, the next many (two, four, eight ?) electoral cycles will be much less meaningful than Brooks would like. Until the voters are presented with a real choice and an argument on an issue that seems critical to citizens, and one that transcends normal party lines or coalitions, there will be no Sun, there will be no long-term majority.  The next couple of decades will be fun, messy and fun, and inconclusive.  For those of you who are miserable in the midst of this massive fact and have no other medicine but hope, read the Letters from an Ohio Farmer.
Categories > Elections

The Founding

Giving Thanks--Reading the Federalist (and C.S. Lewis)!

That appears to be George Washington's prayer in his Thanksgiving Proclamation "for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge...."  That "rational manner" was led by the Federalist Papers.

We remember C.S. Lewis, who died 48 years ago today, November 22, 1963.  Not to be confused with a children's story writer of the same name.

Categories > The Founding


Internet Freedom and Intellectual Property

For the last couple of years I have been telling friends of mine who are interested in law that, if their interest is in helping craft law and making a good deal of money while doing it, they ought to go into intellectual property and copyright law. This is where the major fights are popping up, made no more clear right now than in the battle brewing within the halls of Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) are under debate right now, intent on helping save intellectual property--primarily music and film from Hollywood--that is being pirated and copied and distributed en masse without anything being paid to the creators and owners of those works. SOPA and PIPA would punish companies that post pirate content online and allow the government to shut down websites that post intellectual property. This is mostly aimed at foreign websites, particularly in Asia, that illegally traffic a great deal of American work to the huge black market. Proponents say it is a necessary step to protect the labor and property of U.S. firms from rampant piracy. Opponents claim that this is giving the government and certain firms far too much power, and that it will lead to dangerous curtailments of internet freedom.

The divisions in this show how contentious and big the intellectual property battle will be, and all sorts of odd alliances are appearing. In favor of SOPA you have Motion Picture Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the Recording Industry Association of America, Netflix, the Directors Guild of America, Viacom, Nike, L'Oreal, Ford, Pfizer, NBC Universal, the National Basketball Association, and scores of trade unions, business organizations, and entertainment industry groups. Yes, the AFL-CIO, Hollywood, and the Chamber of Commerce all working together. Silicon Valley represents the bulk of the opposition, which includes Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, eBay, Wikipedia, and Mozilla, in addition to groups such as the Brookings Institution, American Express, Reporters Without Borders, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the Tea Party Patriots. The Tea Party allied with the Silicon Valley giants and ACLU.

Congress is even more split, with all sorts of unusual alliances being made over SOPA. In favor of the act are a diverse sets of members including Howard Berman (D-CA, from Hollywood), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Opponents, meanwhile, include Darrel Issa (R-CA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and John Conyers (D-MI). Odd, yes, to see Rubio, Feinstein, Boxer, and Grassley pitted against Issa, Pelosi, the Pauls, and Bachmann. I have not yet decided, but at this pointed I am leaning towards the argument against SOPA in its current form, and I say that as someone who has a very vested interest in protecting intellectual property, especially that of the entertainment industry. I just fear that there are not enough safeguards in SOPA in its current form, and that it would thus be dangerous to internet freedom and pose a direct threat to social media, Facebook and YouTube in particular. It is imperative that we find a way to stop online piracy, which costs American firms hundreds of billions of dollars a year, but we need to do it in a way that balances protecting both internet freedom and intellectual property.
Categories > Technology


You Choose the Caption!


a) Good thing the school levy passed!
b) It's true what they say: Ashland really is "someplace 'special'"
c) Why I'm sending my kid to private school

Or come up with your own!

Categories > Education

Foreign Affairs

Brussels Bureaucrats on Water

Deciding to look beyond massive problems like the increasingly possible extermination of the Euro, the collapse of the Eurozone economies, and the lack of soul and purpose being felt at the heart of the experiment in European union, the European Commission is rolling out a brand new set of regulations to be imposed upon its member states as laws. After three years of study and who knows how much funding, Brussels has dictated that water bottle producers may no longer say on their labels that water helps hydrate the body. If a producer claims this, they can face a fine and a two-year jail sentence. The British are, understandably, rather perturbed by this latest move by Brussels' bureaucrats, particularly since the British Department of Health recommends drinking 1.2 liters of water a day to avoid dehydration. However, if the European Commission commands that water is no longer a way to stay hydrated, then it must be so, conventional wisdom aside. I suppose there is no more reason, then, to have athletes drink water at European sporting events. This is obviously another reason to be skeptical about allowing a further transfer of power to the Brussels offices of the European Union.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Quotations du Jour

Today's quotes of the day are from Paul Krugman, and provided to us by James Taranto.  From Krugman's Economics:

"There's obviously a relationship between tax rates and revenue. That relationship is not, however, one-for-one. In general, doubling the excise tax rate on a good or service won't double the amount of revenue collected, because the tax increase will reduce the quantity of the good or service transacted. And the relationship between the level of the tax and the amount of revenue collected may not even be positive: in some cases raising the tax rate actually reduces the amount of revenue the government collects."

Contrast that with a recent Krugman column:

In Democrat-world, up is up and down is down. Raising taxes increases revenue. . . . But in Republican-world, down is up. The way to increase revenue is to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

More evidence, as if any were necessary, that Krugman does not regard his column as an intellectually serious endeavor. His job as a columnist is to dish our red meat to the Lefty horde/ use his well deserves credentials in economics to suport his prefered policy presceiptions with whatever means he can find at hand.

Categories > Journalism


CNN Sees What it Wants

Czech news noticed a faux-pas in CNN's coverage of Occupy Wall Street. Reporting that OWS has "spread across the world as a call to action against unequal distribution of wealth," CNN includes a photo of the "Old Town" square in Prague. Yet the Prague protest, while political in nature, had nothing to do with OWS. CNN wrongly assumes that every political protest supports OWS, just as OWS wrongly assumes that 99% of Americans support OWS.

Cnn Prague.jpg

Categories > Journalism


Professor Tribe's Will to Power

Since the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments about the constitutionality of Obamacare, it might be worth looking back at Lawrence Tribe's claim that there is a "clear case for the law's constitutionality."  Moreover, he takes a smart rhetorical strategy, flatterig the Court's conservatives for being above politics. Hence, he claims:

There is every reason to believe that a strong, nonpartisan majority of justices will do their constitutional duty, set aside how they might have voted had they been members of Congress and treat this constitutional challenge for what it is -- a political objection in legal garb.

But what can Professor Tribe mean that the case is "clear"?  To answer that question, we should turn to his other writings, particularly his Constitutional Choices, in which he writes:

Whenever I suggest in these essays, for want of space or of humility, that one or another decision seems to me "plainly right" or "plainly wrong," or that some proposal or position is "clearly" consistent (or inconsistent) with the constitution, I hope my words will be understood as shorthand not for a conclusion I offer as indisputably "correct" but solely for a conviction I put forward as powerfully held.

According to the good Professor, therefore, to assert that any constitutional case is clear, is to pound the table.

In fairness to Tribe, his claim may only be that the heath law is consistent with a chain of precedents that go back to the New Deal.  After all, Tribe believes in a "living constitution."  But, as we have noted before it might be time for Tribe to stop clinging to his horse and buggy constitution, and join the 21st century.

Categories > Courts

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Othello, who did "the state some service"

The Washington, DC Folger Theater presented a noble rendering of Shakespeare's Othello (through December 4). This tragedy deals with race, religion, tolerance, and the costs of living in a diverse society and serves as a companion to The Merchant of Venice.  Stagings of both often suffer from our contemporary views of these issues, which undermine Shakespeare's tragedy and quasi-comedy.  (For a contrast, see Dennis Teti's astounding study of the Merchant, which uncovers Cathollic themes.) The Folger's rendition does not condescend and brilliantly emphasizes the depravity of Iago in the last few seconds of the play--I won't spoil it for now by revealing the technique.

I can rarely think of the play without also recalling the old Redd Foxx Sanford and Son spoof on it.  Howl with laughter:  Part 1, part 2, part 3.  Instructive in its own way, as well.

Men and Women

The Giffords Interview

If you are in need of an uplifting tale, do check out the recent interview with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The determination and relationship between her and husband Mark Kelly are remarkable. The speed of her recovery is awesome. The interview also sheds a lot of light into the damage done to her brain by the madman's bullet, and how that affected her. I cannot even begin to fathom how one can lose control of one's speech and vocabulary. To know what a chair is, but to keep calling it "spoon" or "cheeseburger" must be frustrating. But, in a sign of the remarkable thing that is the human mind, it is able to recover and relearn and remake itself. One of the doctors in the interview said that different parts of the brain will sometimes take over the functions of the damaged parts. Music plays a large role in helping to gain both physical balance and word recovery (something I remember complaining about in my schooling days--why is it so easy to remember the lyrics of a song but not certain mathematical formulas or the names of all of the Caesars?). Again capturing the amazingness of this human thing--the doctors said that they know what parts of the brain control speech and movement, but not optimism, ambition, charisma, and these other qualities that Giffords exhibited. People were unsure if she would get them back. As the interview shows, she certainly did. Good for her. Watch the whole thing when you get a chance.
Categories > Men and Women


Taking out the Trash

My recent Daily Caller article on Occupy Wall Street generally avoided the issue of criminality. I hoped to focus on aspects central to the movement's purpose and perception, and felt that the obvious criminal elements were a distraction from the more fundamental elements which defined the movement (at least in the media).

Since that time, however, OWS has been increasingly defined by its criminal elements. It has made no progress whatsoever in the direction of organizing and formulating a coherent message or policy. Rather than maturing into a political faction or evolving into a broad social movement, OWS has degenerated into lawlessness, filth and depravity. John Moser's post below provides a good summary and John Nolte has compiled an OWS Rap Sheet compiling hundreds of specific crimes.

Even New York City has finally had its fill with the protesters and ousted them from HQ: Zuccotti Park in order to sanitize the site. Over 70 arrests were necessary to clear the park. OWS is no longer a "movement," it is a mob. The association of Democrats (including Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama) with such riff-raff should cause them a deep sense of shame.

Categories > Progressivism


What REAL Protests Look Like

Last year, during the heyday of the Tea Parties, our friends on the Left routinely denied that the Tea Party was not the spontaneous grassroots expression of citizen outrage that its defenders claimed.  It was, on the contrary, carefully orchestrated by powerful corporate interests.  It was, in a word, "AstroTurf."

In light of what's been going on at various "Occupy" events around the country, I am coming to believe that these critics may have been correct.  You see, the Tea Party organizers were new to the realm of popular protest, so they failed to incorporate several elements that are clearly the hallmarks of genuine demonstrations.  Left-wingers, who tend to be experts at this sort of thing, recognized the absence of these elements right away, while conservatives remained in the dark.  Until now, that is.

So what are the telltale signs that an event is not "AstroTurf," but, indeed, a genuine reflection of an engaged, public-spirited citizenry?  Based on the experience of the "Occupy" movement, they would appear to include the following:

1. Tuberculosis, or other respiratory infections.
2. A campaign against microphones, even those being used by supporters.
3. Seemingly sympathetic celebrities cashing in.
4. The creative use of blood and urine.
5. Assaults on the elderly.
6. Violent clashes with the police.
7. Suicide.
8. Murder.

Memo to all sinister corporate interests: If you really want to stage a convincing simulation of a grassroots campaign in favor of limited, constitutional government, you might want to consider incorporating at least a few of the above into the show.
Categories > Politics


The Civil War's Irish Volunteers

I came across a Civil War song recently written by an Irishman from that era in New York City, about the Irish Brigade in the Civil War. Many of the Irish who fought in the war were the children and grandchildren of rebels who fought in the 1798 Irish Rebellion. My family has some particular connections to that uprising and one of its leaders, John Murphy. My grandmother lives in Boolavogue right down the street from the Father Murphy Center, which is on land owned by my grandfather's cousin, Jim. Jim also owns Vinegar Hill in Enniscorthy, where the Irish rebels made their last stand before a British-led massacre saw hundreds executed and the rebel leadership wiped out. Today Vinegar Hill is a small, quiet, nice bit of land overlooking the village. My great-grandfather was struck by lightning twice in his life, once while trying to herd some sheep off of the hill. A century before, that great battle saw it covered red in the blood of Irish rebels, many of whose compatriots and families fled to the United States in the subsequent decades. The Irish Americans represented an interesting part in our war, and supported the Union heavily for several reasons--not least of which was that they saw the United States as their best hope for support against their homeland's oppressors. The ballad below highlights some important historical points of all of this--the connection to the Boys of '98, the refusal to participate in a parade for the Prince of Wales, and the support for George McClellan.

My name is Tim McDonald, I'm a native of the Isle,
I was born among old Erin's bogs and left when but a child.
My granddad fought in '98 for Liberty so dear;
He fought and fell on Vinegar Hill as an Irish Volunteer.
Then raise the harp of Erin, boys, the flag we all revere--
We'll fight and fall beneath its folds like Irish Volunteers!

When I was driven from my home by an oppressor's hand,
I cut my sticks and greased my brogues and come o'er to this land.
I found a home and many friends, and some that I love dear,
Be jeebus I'll stick to them like bricks, an Irish volunteer.
Then fill your glasses up, my boys, and drink a hearty cheer,
To the land of our adoption and the Irish volunteer.

Now when the traitors in the South commenced a warlike raid,
I quickly then threw down my hod, to the Devil went my spade!
To our recruiting office then I went, that happened to be near,
And joined the good old Sixty-ninth like an Irish volunteer.
Then fill the ranks and march away, no traitors do we fear;
We'll drive them all to blazes, says the Irish volunteer!

When the Prince of Wales came over here and made a hubbaboo,
Oh, everyone turned out, you know, in gold and tinsel too;
But the good old Sixty-ninth, they didn't like these lords or peers;
They wouldn't give a damn for kings, the Irish volunteers!
We love the land of Liberty, its laws we do hold dear,
But the Devil take nobility, says the Irish volunteer!

Now if the traitors in the South should ever cross our roads,
We'll drive them to the Devil as Saint Patrick did the toads.
We'll give them all short nooses that come just below the ears,
Made good and strong from Irish hemp by Irish volunteers.
And here's to brave McClellan, whom the army now reveres!
He'll lead us on to victory, the Irish volunteers.

Now fill your glasses up, my boys, a toast come drink with me:
May Erin's Harp and the Starry Flag united ever be;
May traitors quake, and rebels shake, and tremble in their fears,
When next they meet the Yankee boys and the Irish volunteers!
God bless the name of Washington! that name this land reveres;
Success to Meagher, Nugent, and their Irish Volunteers!

Here is some more about the Irish Brigade, their leaders like Meagher, and the battles they fought in.
Categories > History

Refine & Enlarge

A Constitutional Conversation with an Ohio Farmer

Peter Schramm has diligently brought to the attention of RONLT the series of political treatises known as "Letters from an Ohio Farmer." These missives have now been consolidated in book form under the title, "A Constitutional Conversation: Letters from an Ohio Farmer," which is available for download on Kindle.

The farmer describes the book as follows:

We are not the oldest country in the world, but our written Constitution has endured longer than that of any other people. That fact is worth not only celebrating, but pondering.

This is especially important for members of Congress. As these letters have had occasion to observe, Congress is at the very heart of our experiment in constitutional self-government. In the Constitution, Congress comes first: it is Article I. Congress holds the law-making power without which the president has much less to do and the federal courts nothing at all.

In fact, of all the branches, Congress has the primary authority to interpret the Constitution. Like the president or the Supreme Court, Congress receives its power from the Constitution. Just as the president has no authority to act against the Constitution, you in Congress have no authority to pass legislation that violates it. So - as the 112th Congress has distinguished itself by recognizing - every time you consider a bill, the first question you must ask yourself is not: "Do my constituents like it?" or even "Is it a good idea?" but "Is this Constitutional?" That's not a matter of partisan politics; it's a matter of legitimate authority.

That constitutional deliberation must continue in Congress if we are going to restore the American experiment in self-government. For it is in Congress where the American people most fully govern themselves: where the common rights and responsibilities of the American people are submitted to law, and where the variety of the legitimate interests of the American people are most fully represented. When people's representatives engage in constitutional deliberation, the American people engage in it too.

The book's preface, penned on Constitution Day 2011, is worth quoting in full:

The American people have started a historic conversation - about the foundations, purposes, and scope of our government. In a spontaneous movement they rose to challenge long-established orthodoxies, and a sustained exertion of their sovereign power is changing the direction in which the country is heading. The movement began with no headquarters, no recognized leader, and no agreed upon platform. Thousands of independent groups of private citizens gathered in thousands of public squares across the land. Through all the diverse ideas expressed in these gatherings, one theme shone clearly: the federal government has, over the last several decades, stepped further and further outside the bounds of the Constitution.

How did our government get to this point? What would constitutional government look like? What paths are available to the people and their representatives for returning to constitutional self-government? These and related questions were taken up in a series of weekly letters sent to the 112th Congress over the past year, and collected here, as a humble contribution to this American conversation - a constitutional conversation in the broadest sense. The letters continue and can be read weekly at:

The Ohio Farmer is not one person, but a group of citizens seeking to preserve constitutional self-government in America. The Farmer's letters are written in the tradition of the Federalists and Antifederalists in the American founding who wrote newspaper articles debating the new form of government proposed in the Constitution of 1787. They wrote using pen names such as Publius, or Federal Farmer, or American Citizen, to allow their arguments to speak for themselves and be judged on their own merits. The letters from the Ohio Farmer are offered in the same spirit.

The Ohio Farmer is a project of the Ashbrook Center. The various authors who compose each letter from the Ohio Farmer are partisans in one sense: they are partisans of the constitutional self-government they regard as America's greatest gift to the world. The Ohio Farmer is not primarily concerned with immediate policy questions, though he necessarily discusses them; he hopes to refine and enlarge the public's view of the larger political principles implicit in our policy debates. He is a friend to all who love this country and wish it well; he is searching for that common ground that can unite all reasonable parties who wish to maintain America's glorious tradition of constitutional self-government.

The Letters are necessary reading for political philosophers and citizen patriots alike. They possess the element of timelessness which sets apart historic works of political writing - simultaneously capturing the contemporary zeitgeist while evoking fundamental principles of political philosophy.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Shameless Self-Promotion

Moonlight and Magnolias

Since I'm in a posting mood today, I should mention that I am making my directorial debut with the opening of Moonlight and Magnolias tonight at the Mansfield Playhouse.  Here's the description:

Based on a true story, MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS is set in 1939 Hollywood. Legendary producer David O. Selznick has a problem. He's three weeks into shooting his latest historical epic, GONE WITH THE WIND, but the script just isn't working. His solution? Fire the director, pull Victor Fleming off THE WIZARD OF OZ, and lock himself, Fleming, and script doctor Ben Hecht in his office for five days until they have a screenplay. With only peanuts and bananas to sustain them, they work through and act out Margaret Mitchell's bestseller in an effort to make movie history.

The show premieres tonight on the Playhouse's Second Stage.  Popcorn will be served, and beer (Yuengling) will be available for sale.  The show also runs tomorrow night, as well as next Friday and Saturday (November 18 and 19).  Curtain time is 8:00.  Tickets cost $10 each; to reserve seats, call the Playhouse Box Office at 419-522-2883 between 1:00 and 6:00 pm.


"To decry the decline of America is to know nothing about beer."

So begins Alexander Nazaryan's review of The Oxford Companion to Beer, a work that just been added to my Amazon wish list--as well as, I am sure, to that of thousands of other beer geeks.  It is easy to forget that only a generation ago respectable, educated people would never admit to drinking beer--or, at least, to drinking American beer.  Today, perhaps for the first time in history, the world's best beer is being brewed here in the United States.  This is a point that needs to be made more often in a country where pessimism seems so pervasive.  It should also be remembered that the current beer renaissance would have been absolutely impossible had it not been for the deregulation which began under Jimmy Carter (who in 1978 signed the legislation making home brewing legal for the first time since Prohibition) and which continued at the state level (with the legalization by several states of brew pubs) in the 1980s.

I add simply in passing that this weekend I'll be kegging my whiskey-barrel stout, which will be ready in time for the holidays.
Categories > Leisure


Veterans Day

I meant to remind us yesterday that it was the 236th birthday of the Marine Corps, but never got to it. Sorry. My USMC Cpl John doesn't need reminding, of course. He even rides his motorcycle like a Marine should, with pride.

Today is Veterans Day.  This Christian Science Monitor points out that some 41 million Americans have served in the US military since 1775; 23 million of them are still alive, of whom 17 million served during a conflict. Thank you.

Someone reminded me of this, from G.K. Chesterton, on courage: "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. 'He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,' is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice.

He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying." Semper fi.
Categories > Military

Foreign Affairs

Is Turkey Ready?

The successor to the great Ottoman Empire has long sought to regain its role as a regional power in both southeastern Europe and the Middle East. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has worked strategically to improve Turkey's relations with the powers of Europe, the Arab nations, the United States, and Israel. It wants to be powerful once more. However, trying to play such a balancing act may prove to be fatal to its "zero problems with neighbors" policy-- in the past few years, all of Erdogan's maneuvering has been challenged. Hopes of Turkish acceptance into the European Union have been all-but-vanquished. Kurdish separatists are causing problems on the Turkey-Iraq border, which has prompted Turkish invasions into Northern Iraq, complicating relations with both that country and the United States. Relations between Israel and Turkey are now at one of their lowest points in years. As Iran continues to pursue the atom bomb, Turkey has accepted part of NATO's missile shield, roughening relations there. And the nations of Syria and Turkey are practically involved in a war against each other as the former regime massacres thousands of its citizens in reaction to the Arab Spring.

With Europe paralyzed by its own crises, the United States weary of wars in the Middle East, and Israel settings its guns on Iran, the issue of Syria rests in Turkey's court. If they are to be a resurgent power, handling Bashar al-Assad is going to be their first major test, with the Iranian nuclear program following close behind it. Now is the time for Turkey to either prove it can shine or accept that it is not quite ready to claim being a great power just yet.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

The Founding

Obama's Bureaucracy Taxes Christmas UPDATE

The Department of Agriculture is instituting a $.15 tax on Christmas trees--which are actually called that and not some PC holiday shrub or greenery. 

In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board....And the program of "information" is to include efforts to "enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States" (7 CFR 1214.10).

To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52).  

May a government board promote Christmas?  Are we on our way to a state religion?  Or does the taxing of Christmas trees foretell the taxing of churches?  For a look at the founders' view of such matters (here noting the civil piety of Thanksgiving), see this additional commentary by Jefferson and this one by Washington.

UPDATE:  Rush reports that the board's fee (not a tax) has been withdrawn.  The fee is gathered from sellers so the board can come up with ways to help sellers market their product.

Categories > The Founding

Foreign Affairs

Bye Bye to the Big Bunga

Italian Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi announced today that he will be resigning his post after his parliament votes on austerity measures that the European Union is trying to force upon the country. This follows the resignation last week of Greek Prime Minister Papandreou, who stepped down after threatening a referendum that has since been cancelled. The Eurozone Crisis has claimed its biggest victim in toppling Berlusconi, who has a penchant for clinging to power despite corruption and scandal being synonymous with his name. For seventeen years he has dominated politics in Italy, surviving scandals that would doom any other leader in the Western world---sex with underage prostitutes, orgies at his mansions, constant corruption trials, public feuding with his wife in the newspapers, close ties with Gaddafi, even the loss of popular support. Though Italians hate the man, they have often been at a loss for words when asked, "If not Berlusconi, then who?" The fact that he ruled from the conservative party was even more of a bulwark--the Italians are so terrified of giving the Italian Left a chance to govern that they would rather put up with Berlusconi's antics than pass the baton.

In the end, though, the poison spreading through Europe's troubled economies are what did him in. Turmoil in the markets, an absolutely astronomical amount of debt in Italy, and pressure by the other leaders of the European Union have finally ended Berlusconi's time in power. For weeks now, Berlusconi had been seen as one of the largest obstacles towards saving the Euro due to his lackluster support for economic reforms, losing control of his coalition, and a seemingly uncaring, combative attitude in dealing with both rival Italian politicians and fellow European heads of state. He was seen as so much of an obstacle that markets actually have started to pick up a bit on the news of his imminent departure. (Update: Reverse that; Italian bond yields are flying up to unsustainable levels. Not looking good).

The question of who will replace Berlusconi is a much more difficult one to gauge. President Giorgio Napolitano may step in, but the 86-year-old former communist may not be up for taking control of the government during such a crisis; Napolitano will probably play the role of kingmaker. Gianni Letta, Berlusconi's deputy and the one most likely to take charge of the center-right coalition currently governing Italy, is another option--but his closeness to the Bunga may be harmful. The young Angelino Alfano has often been seen as an heir to Berlusconi, but, again, the 41-year-old may be toxic right now due to his relations with his boss. However, Alfano has the backing of Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League and a man integral to any center-right coalition that will form in parliament. Other possibilities are technocratic economist Mario Monti or centrist politician Pier Casini, the latter of which is calling for a broad unity government. I personally think that Alfano may be able to pull together enough support if he can talk in Letta to back him. The rest of the year is certainly going to be interesting in Italy, and whoever takes charge will have a profound impact on whether or not the European Union can weather the Eurozone Crisis.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Let's Make a Deal?

As the super committe negotiating how to move closer to a balanced budget moves along, it might be time to get creative in suggesting solutions.  To that end, I have a thought.  If the Democrats are dug in, demanding tax hikes, the GOP could accept some tax hikes (provided they are of the sort least likely to hurt the economy--not all taxes are alike after all). In return, the Democrats would agree to the repeal of a host of regulations, and fire many of the people who currently are employed by the government to create and enforce regulations. That last step would, of course, produce additional savings.

Categories > Politics


Memorials and Warriors

I spent much of the weekend walking around Washington with some visiting family who had never been before. It was a beautiful fall weekend, the trees along the National Mall standing in perfect shades of autumn--such as in the picture below, taken around the Korean War Memorial. There happened to be a large amount of war veterans, too, on the Mall this weekend as part of some organized tour of the memorials. Mostly veterans from WWII and Korea, and it was a sobering sight to see these old warriors staring at that black wall, standing beside those soldierly statues, and gazing around at the water and pillars commemorating the last world war. Volunteers, made up of veterans from more recent wars in addition to civilian volunteers (including, it seemed, most of the Miami-Dade fire rescue team) were pushing them around in wheelchairs, or at least trying to. On more than a handful occasions I saw the old men themselves pushing their empty wheelchairs and walking alongside their assigned volunteer, refusing to be pushed as they walked around the structures we have established to honor their service and the dead. Good for them. Even in their own autumn years they do not expect any special treatment for the tremendous service they gave us. May their memorials forever stand to remind us of what fortitude men are capable of.

Categories > Military

Political Philosophy

Socialism, Anarchism, and Aristocracy

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 1815:

Pick up, the first 100 men you meet, and make a Republick. Every Man will have an equal Vote. But when deliberations and discussions are opened it will be found that 25, by their Talents, Virtues being equal, will be able to carry 50 Votes. Every one of these 25, is an Aristocrat, in my Sense of the Word.

And, Adams noted elsewhere, in the absence of formal institutions to hedge and check the few against the many, the few will steamroll over the many.  Adams, of course, defined a "talent" as something that gives a man an edge, whether it be looks, a famous name, intelligence, connections, ruthlessness, or something else. The doings in Zuccotti Park confirm Adams' insight:

In the minutes of the teach-in on Saturday the 22nd, the leaders recognize that usurping power from the NYC-GA might make people uncomfortable. The Structure WG's eventual proposal was to keep the General Assembly alive and functioning while the Spokes Council "gets on its feet." . . .

When my turn came to speak, I brought up the plans of "the leaders of the allegedly leaderless movement" to commandeer the half-million dollars sent to the General Assembly for their new, exclusive, undemocratic, representational organization. Before I could finish, the facilitators and other members of the OWS inner circle started shouting over me. Amidst the confusion, the human mic stopped projecting what I, or anybody was saying. Because silence was what they were after, the leaders won.

Eventually one of the facilitators regained control of the crowd and explained that I was speaking "opinions, not facts," which is why I would not be allowed to continue. He also asserted untruthfully that I had gone over my allotted minute. Notably, the facilitators and members of the OWS inner circle regularly ignore time restrictions.


1 Year and Counting for the "Underdog"

If Obama is to win re-election one year from today, he'll need to prove a "historic" candidate in less esoteric and more statistically significant ways than propelled him to victory for his first term. He'll have to defy the historic trends for presidential elections as they presently stand. As the Washington Times notes:

At 43 percent approval in a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 28-30, Mr. Obama recently referred to himself as an "underdog" -- with good reason. Of all the presidents since World War II whose job-approval scores were lower than 50 percent one year before Election Day, only one went on to win a second term.

That was President Nixon, whose job approval stood at 49 percent in November 1971. He rebounded to defeat Democrat George McGovern in a landslide in 1972.

Obama's approval rating is much lower than Nixon's and, hopefully, the GOP candidate will prove more formidable than McGovern.

Unemployment is another statistical guide.

No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has won a second term when the unemployment rate was higher than 7.2 percent. Reagan won in 1984 with a jobless rate at 7.2 percent.

Obama, of course, is no Reagan and present unemployment hovers at 9%.

So, Obama has his work cut out for him. But he does have a few advantages going for him.

He is still a formidable fundraiser, having amassed more than $150 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee this year.

Also, his re-election operation is more robust than any of the GOP camps, which are waging a long and costly primary battle. Mr. Obama's campaign is able to build on a 50-state network from 2008, an email list of more than 9 million potential supporters and an experienced staff with unequaled savvy in digital marketing and social networking.

In early polling of head-to-head matchups with potential GOP candidates, Mr. Obama comes out on top in nearly every instance. One poll in the battleground state of Florida this week showed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tied with Mr. Obama.

And the Times contemplates the possibility of a third party candidate siphoning votes from the Republican nominee - but I don't foresee such a option in the tea leaves.

As I've noted previously, Obama is not being blamed by the American people for the state of the country. The buck, it seems, has not stopped with the president. It must be a priority for the GOP candidate to lay blame were it belongs and tie the economy as an albatross around the president's neck. Where the media has deflected blame from Obama, the GOP must nail it to his campaign bus. A Republican cannot win if Obama is not recognized as the culprit responsible for America's woes and deserving of its righteous anger.

Categories > Elections


Man Revisits Yale

The WSJ replaced its weekend interview with an article by Neal Freeman (a 38-year board member at National Review) which imagines a series of interviews between the late William F. Buckley and the conservative movement. It celebrates the 60th anniversary of "God and Man at Yale."

The personal anecdotes of Buckley's life and reflections on the conservative movement's "scrawny" ranks at Yale in those early days (not that those ranks have been greatly increased in academic settings since Buckley's days) make the article an amusing read. And Freeman's assessment of Buckley's would-be judgement on the GOP field, as well as conservative scholars and writers, is noteworthy.

Freeman blinks at the last moment and refuses to throw Buckley's weight behind a single candidate. But we are reminded of the ever-relevant Buckley Rule: Conservatives should support for election the rightward-most viable candidate. 2012 is no exception to the rule.

Categories > History

The Founding

Dilbert on iPhone Government

Almost everything Dilbert creator Scott Adams says here is wrong--it's supersized Progressivism--but he makes a host of wise and witty comments along the way.  Examples of what I mean: 

If James Madison came back, he'd be peeved that he was the primary author of the Constitution and we honor his memory by not caring when his birthday is. When he stopped whining about that, and noticed that the system he designed has turned into a congealed ball of lard that eats money and excretes red tape, he'd probably be more humble about his contribution.

I'm fairly certain Ben Franklin wouldn't be impressed by our pace of innovation. He invented the post office and showed us electricity, and it still took us 200 years to come up with email. We're not good at connecting the dots.

RTWT.  For a closer look at Madison principles see these newly published brief essays, especially this long one by Tony Peacock and this short one

Categories > The Founding

Pop Culture

The Reactionary Left

A song for the Lefties protesting Capitalism. Heighten the contradictions!
Categories > Pop Culture


Less bang for the buck

The argument is often made that a government-run medical system is necessary in this country, because Americans spend a great deal on health care relative to citizens of other advanced industrial countries without getting comparable results.  Might I respectfully suggest that anyone who believes that a government-run system will deliver more bang for the buck consider the case of the public schools?
Categories > Education


Is the Electoral College Outdated?

This is the topic of a discussion taking place at Hillsdale College's Kirby Center this coming Friday. John Fortier, director of the Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center and the principal contributor to the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Commission, will be speaking on the growing support for the National Popular Vote and what the implementation of that system would mean for our nation. If you're in or near Washington, stop on by to participate on Friday at noon. If not, you can also view it online.

While on the subject of the Electoral College, I would also like to bring to your attention a recent memorandum by the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky on the issue.
Categories > Elections

Shameless Self-Promotion

Occupy Wall Street: Facts and Fictions

Daily Caller has posted an article of mine tackling the truths and fictions of Occupy Wall Street coverage.

"Occupy Wall Street" has captured global attention and become the darling of the world press. CNN hosts a "Meet the 99%" webpage advertising the movement on MSNBC's praise of OWS has approached religious awe. Yet for all the attention, many assertions about the movement are flatly inaccurate.

I address fictional media accounts which report OWS as having a "global span" and "global importance," being a "historic movement" (in the image of the Tea Party, Arab Spring and civil rights movement) and having achieved "effectiveness." An example:

Global Span: Claims that OWS has spread to countries around the world - that is, Europe - fail to recall that circuses of this sort have been common in Europe for years. The OWS brand of demonstrator belongs to a quasi-professional cadre of anti-everything crusaders who follow protests like a Grateful Dead tour. Euro-protesters launch copy-cat OWS rallies because that's what they do - they follow protests, not issues. Euro-protests have now reached America, not vice versa.

Several factual accounts are also considered, such as the group promotion of "direct democracy," and projection of "diversity" and "independence." Of course, all of these qualities prove to be liabilities when explored rationally. An example:

Direct Democracy: Commentators report that OWS presents an alternative to established republican government and reacquaints Americans with a strain of direct democracy. This is true, but confuses virtue and vice. OWS looks like direct democracy because it is disorganized, leaderless, inefficient, susceptible to demagoguery, overly influenced by passions and incapable of articulating a coherent philosophy or forming a consistent governing policy. These are precisely the reasons the Founding Fathers prudently rejected direct democracy in favor of representative government.

As always, I hope you'll RTWT.


A Foreigner on Obama

A foreigner made the off-handed comment today that Obama would win another term. As this person does not religiously follow American politics but is a rather perceptive sort, I asked how she could speak so confidently. She replied that everything that could go wrong in America had gone wrong, yet Obama was still popular enough to win. What else could go wrong in America to significantly hurt him?

I reluctantly concede the foundation, while yet refusing to accept the conclusion. As I've posited many times before, the Democrats' greatest weapon and advantage in American politics is not their ideas, policies or message. It is an allied media. Had Fox News not come into existence, Republicans would score 10% lower in every poll against Democrats. But Fox is but one voice among many. Without the media's absolute support of the liberal line, the Democrats would be a different party - and I wonder to imagine a world with a comparable right-wing media dominance and sense of license.

Nevertheless, the world is as it is - which means Republicans must strive to control the message throughout the campaign. The Republican most able to implement this strategy has a significant "plus" as a candidate, and should be viewed as such in the primaries. The ability to control the media directly equates to electability. It is obvious that Obama is able to avoid the blame he deserves for objective faults - it is the Republicans' role to act as a substitute media for the American people.

Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

Sink the European Stability Union

On November 1, 1993, the Maastricht Treaty entered into force, creating the European Union. The treaty faced a tumultuous start as it failed its first Danish referendum, squeaked by with a victory in a French referendum by just one percent, and almost saw the British Parliament overthrow the government of John Major. Denmark and the United Kingdom were pacified by provisions exempting them from certain aspects of the treaty. Eighteen years later, the path towards ever-closer Union has been completely derailed, the news of the day filled by the possibility that, come January, the European Union will be on the road to disintegration--at least in the form that we currently know.

In an effort to avoid the fate of the former Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who was thrown out of office one year ago with the lowest approval ratings in Irish history after forcing a European bailout on his countrymen, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou made a startling announcement that he would be putting the terms of the European Union's Greek bailout, decided at a summit of European leaders last week, to a popular referendum. Recent polls indicate that the bailout is massively unpopular among the Greeks, and unless Papandreou has some trick up his sleeve, the vote in January will be to oppose the bailout. This means that Greece will default and suffer economic collapse, the contagion poisoning what is left of European stability. It will also be the likely first step towards Greece's departure from the Euro currency; perhaps the first of several departures. It will be economic chaos that could very well thrust the world back into a large recession. While that consequence is undesirable, I contend that this is better for Europe in the long-run.

My reasoning for this is that the European Union's leadership went too far last week in assaulting the sovereignty of the people of Europe. Despite the efforts of the German Bundestag and the British House of Commons against it, the "stability union" was approved after Chancellor Merkel's warnings of war in Europe should it fail. This union permits to the European Union the power to approve or disapprove the budgets of member-states--that is, to control the taxation and spending policies of individual nations. In effect, this means that the governments of individual states are no longer answerable to their people on one of their most fundamental reasons for existence: decisions on taxation and spending. With this new "stability union" the power over fiscal policy now belongs to centralized bureaucrats in Brussels, not Europe's national leaders. This cannot be. Though the economic consequences could be terrible for the whole world, Greece is right to challenge this. The popular tide in Europe has always been opposed to the elite-driven experiment in union, and now Europe's oligarchs have gone a step too far. Damn the torpedoes. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs