The latest Gallup poll has Romney ringing in the new year at the top of the pack yet again. The theme of the 2012 Republican primary has been one challenger after another racing after Romney, only to shine for a moment and quickly burn out. Thus far, Romney has shown amazing endurance and his rivals have served only to distract the Democrat's ire from the once and future GOP forerunner.
Power Line's John Hinderaker recently issued a full-throated endorsement of Romney, quickly followed by a strong endorsement, on different foundations, from Ann Coulter. Chris Christie is speaking at Romney rallies. This isn't to say that the race is over. Power Line is a house divided, with Johnson and Hayward still resisting the potential inevitability of a Romney victory. But if Gingrich fades and Santorum fails to rise, the options are running thin.
NLT hasn't really come out screaming in favor of a (viable) candidate. Peter Schramm seems to be supporting Romney (or at least opposing Gingrich) along the lines of George Will and Ramesh Ponnuru. I tend to agree. While I'm not in love with Romney any more than the next conservative, he seems to fulfill the Buckley Rule without any aberrations which make him absolutely unpalatable.
This is all just a survey of the present lay of the land. I don't feel sufficiently compelled to root for Romney, and so am still willing to entertain opposition. And, politically, I think it's good for Romney to have continuing opposition - once he becomes the heir apparent, the left's political machine will begin a non-stop smear campaign which is presently diffused among the GOP field. Romney's star rose early, but constant competition has kept him from becoming a bore and beginning to descend.
Nonetheless, conservatives might want to begin privately accepting that Romney will be the party's standard-bearer in 2012.
As a typical conservative, I'm rather fond of patriotism and generally dissent from the "blame Amerikkka" crowd. And while I subscribe to a strain of American exceptionalism, I find patriotism in those of other nations to be highly commendable. In particular, I think Europeans are often lacking in national pride - leading to the sort of cultural drift currently observed in many northern European countries.
On the other hand, the last time France took a stab at patriotic nationalism, they ended up with the Reign of Terror. So, while I commend the latest attempt by the French to introduce substantive prerequisites to French naturalization, I do so with slight hesitation. According to France 24:
Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force.
Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.
"Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought", reads the charter, drafted by France's High Council for Integration (HCI).
Residing in Asia, I'm accustomed to rather strict naturalization laws. Viewing nationality as primarily a matter of blood, many Asian countries take a dim view of non-ethnic naturalization (excepting mixed-marriages) and simply forbid dual-citizenship. The thin-skinned may sense a pervasive racism in such sentiments, but there is an undeniable and obvious truth in the assertion that I, for example, am simply not Asian.
America, of course, occupies the opposite end of the spectrum and is rather exceptional with regard to citizenship. We alone in the world are truly a nation of immigrants and boast no purely ethnic component to citizenship. History has rarely witnessed such a national condition, and never upon so broad a scale. We are truly unique.
Immigration has never been my hot-button issue. Illegal immigration is certainly objectionable, but I can't passionately condemn something that I might very well attempt myself (for the safety and prosperity of my family) were I born into radically different circumstances. I see American citizenship as a privilege which should be available to those possessed of a certain American patriotism and willingness to adopt American culture (i.e., our language and basic civil and moral virtues). Immigration and citizenship are practical matters to me, best determined by balancing national interest with the circumstance of the applicant.
Yet America's immigration discussion generally encompasses Mexicans and the occasional Latin American. France is facing culture-altering waves of Muslim immigrants who have no will to adopt Western culture.
Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, described the [naturalization] process as "a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant", adding that migrants should be integrated through language and "an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy". He stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men: rhetoric perceived largely as a snipe at Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year.
France's interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to "assimilate" into French society should be denied French citizenship.
Earlier this year, Guéant intervened personally to ensure an Algerian-born man living in France was denied French nationality because of his "degrading attitude" to his French wife.
That followed an earlier push by France's former Immigration Minister Eric Besson to revise existing laws in order to strip polygamists of their acquired citizenship.
France is correct in all of this. While Sarkozy is accused of "pandering to the right," he has a responsibility to uphold the basic laws and ethics of France. There is always a danger of such sentiments degrading into ethnic, religious or other forms of prejudice, but the alternate extreme of cultural abandonment is equally perilous. Nations must stand for something, and France is finally standing for something worthwhile.
Law jokes may be a bit funnier to me than to most, but WSJ's Law Blog posted a few resolutions which I thought worthy of sharing.
BigLaw Partner: Spend more time with the family. This year I mean it.
BigLaw Associate: Save more. Bill more.
The SEC: Stop bringing cases in the Southern District.
Justice Department: Get the bankers before the statute of limitations runs out.
Supreme Court: Keep cameras out of the court, knock out a few opinions by July.
Plaintiffs Lawyer: Stop settling so often.
ABA: Spend more time with law schools.
In-house counsel: Avoid the word "billable."
President Obama: Remember to get Justice Kennedy a present.
My own new year's resolutions pertain to spiritual exercises a la St. Ignatius and finding the perfect kim chi. If anyone can suggest superior goals, I'm all ears.
Among a group of seven blesseds soon to be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI as saints, two are of special significance to America.
Blessed Marianne Cope was a nursing sister who joined St. Damien de Veuster at his mission to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk Indian who converted to Catholicism. Blessed Kateri will be the first Native American to be proclaimed a saint.
Anyone unaware of the leper priest, St. Damien de Vuester of Molokai, suffers a great poverty of knowledge and should become familiar with his heroic works of mercy. Blessed Marianne shares in his inspirational works and surely deserves the honors which she now receives.
Blessed Kateri has the honor of being the first Native American saint. She exhibited extraordinary courage as the only member of her Mohawk tribe to convert to Christianity, later making a 200 mile journey (by foot) to avoid execution due to her conversion.
It was once far more common to be acquainted with the saints and heroes of our past. Such familiarization provided important role models and practical guides for behavior - responsibilities which have now largely been transferred to sports and musical celebrities. But it is refreshing to be reminded that great people walk amongst us. I've recently been reading of Saint Therese of Lisieux and her "little way" of simple abandonment to God through the perfection of small duties. I wonder how many "little flowers" are undiscovered acquaintances to each of us today?
This is just worth sharing. The small German town of Mitterfirmiansreut near the Czech border wants its own church, but the powers that be aren't proving generous. So, they've built their own ... from snow.
The church is actually the second of its kind, a precurser having been built a century ago in a similar protest concerning their lack of a local parish. Persistence and ingenuity are obviously among their virtues.
David Brooks on how the Obama Administration used the wrong historical analogy of Progressivism--more government to deal with our crises--to get the nation into deeper trouble.
First, the underlying economic situations are very different....
In the progressive era, the economy was in its adolescence and the task was to control it. Today the economy is middle-aged; the task is to rejuvenate it.
Second, the governmental challenge is very different today than it was in the progressive era. Back then, government was small and there were few worker safety regulations. The problem was a lack of institutions. Today, government is large, and there is a thicket of regulations, torts and legal encumbrances. The problem is not a lack of institutions; it's a lack of institutional effectiveness.
The United States spends far more on education than any other nation, with paltry results. It spends far more on health care, again, with paltry results....
In the progressive era, there was an understanding that men who impregnated women should marry them. It didn't always work in practice, but that was the strong social norm....
One hundred years ago, we had libertarian economics but conservative values. Today we have oligarchic economics and libertarian moral values -- a bad combination.
In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.
The progressive era is not a model; it is a foil. It provides a contrast and shows us what we really need to do.
Brooks concedes far more to Progressivism than he should on both policy and its philosophic soundness: "The country needs a productive midlife crisis." It needs rather to reassert its founding identity. Here are some incisive brief essays on Progressive loopiness and radicalism.
Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,000 year old clay seal that seems to have been used in rituals performed in the Temple of Jerusalem. Aramaic lettering on the seal reads, "Pure for God," and may have authorized an object for use during rituals.
The find marks the first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem's history, and appeared to be a unique physical artifact from ritual practice in the Temple, said Reich, co-director of the excavation.
Very few artifacts linked to the Temples have been discovered so far. The site of the Temple itself - the enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary - remains off-limits to archaeologists because of its religious and political sensitivity.
One wonders what other artifacts await discovery in the Holy Land.
Continuing the theme of yesterday's post, I notice that John Hinderaker of Power Line writes on the same topic and categorically documents anti-Christian violence during the month of November tallied by Raymond Ibrihim of Middle East Forum. The list is too extensive to replicate here, but I urge anyone interested in the topic to view and browse MEF. (Long-time NLT commenter "Kate" also recommends Persecution.com.)
HInderaker echoes my sentiments of government responsibility to address the foreign persecution of Christians.
At a minimum, our government should afford asylum to endangered Christians with at least the same enthusiasm with which it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Muslims, most of them not in any danger at all. So far, that is not happening. More fundamentally, Christians ought not be forced to flee from their homelands. Christians in the U.S. should demand that our government pressure countries that receive our aid to protect Christian minorities-and other minorities, too, like Hindus, Jews and Baha'is, where they have not already been exterminated-before it is too late.
The Obama administration, and Democrats in general, happily inject the government into nearly every aspect of human life - from the light bulbs and toilet flushes in our homes to the global economy and the Ozone Layer. But when it comes to the genocidal murder of Christian minorities, they all suddenly become very unmotivated and reserved.
I am increasingly of the opinion that the only means by which to affect the situation abroad is through state action, and thus Americans must make Christian / religious persecution in the Middle East a foreign policy priority of the United States. This is the sort of diplomacy - freed from the constraints of an "unjust war in Iraq" - at which Obama was supposed to excel. It's time for the president to address the issue, and for Republican candidates to declare their day-one policy.
UPDATE: Apparently, President Obama is a reader of NLT. The U.S. has promised to aid Nigeria in the search for those responsible for the Christmas Day murders. Press Secretary Jay Carney went so far as to admit that the attacks "appear to be terrorist acts."
Today is a magical day. Today, Christians celebrate the birth of God on Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Fully man and fully God, Jesus is later revealed as the second person of the Holy Trinity. While the image of the Infant Jesus is (by design) easy for people to relate, the celebration contains a mystery beyond human experience and intellect. It is a miracle.
Christmas is the first instance of the Good News of the Gospel, but the fallen nature of mankind ensures that Christianity continues to exist in a sinful world. Even the day of Christmas, perhaps the most innocent of all human celebrations, is marred by evil men. As Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace across the Middle East, Muslim murderers chose the holy occasion as an opportunity to shed blood.
Early Sunday, an explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria's capital of Abuja, and an emergency worker reported that 25 people were killed. A second explosion struck near a church in Nigeria's restive central city of Jos, while two other explosions hit the northeast state of Yobe.
Such violence is not exclusive to Nigeria.
In Iraq ... another round of suicide bombings on Thursday killed some 70 people [and]there will be no Midnight Mass. ... Iraq's Christians spend Christmas in "great fear," ... Christians are not displaying Christmas decorations outside their homes.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, the Fides news agency reported that more than 2,500 police will be protecting Christian churches during Christmas. Local sources told the agency that some 430 churches in Pakistan will have "special security measures." ... Christians make up about 3% of the Pakistani population. As reported to Fides by official sources, over the past five years, nearly 5,000 people have been victims of attacks by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan: a quarter of the victims are Christians.
Charles Jacobs at Big Peace [h/t Power Line] summarizes anti-Christian persecution in Egypt.
Gordon College is a Christian school between Salem and Rockport. A few weeks ago I spoke there at a commemoration of Kristallnacht, Germany's night of broken glass, the first mass assault on Europe's Jews and the harbinger of the Shoah. I told the Christian audience how good it was to feel Christian support for Jews in these times, and that even some of the most stubborn of my people were now appreciating Evangelical support for Israel. I also said that we felt this blessed support came from a spirit of Christian altruism. But given the news from the Middle East, concern for others is surely not the only reason Christians need to support Israel.
I asked how many in the audience of 250 knew of Anne Frank. Almost every hand shot up. Then I asked how many had heard of Ayman Labib. I got a mass blank stare. Ayman was a 17-year-old Egyptian Christian who just weeks ago was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates as teachers watched because he refused their demand to remove his cross necklace.
I asked how many knew about the Maspero massacre, which had left at least 24 Copts dead and 270 injured. And whether they knew that since January, there had been more than 70 attacks on Christian churches or institutions in Egypt.
While tonight you commemorate a Jewish pogrom, I told them, Christianity has just suffered its own "Kristallnacht" ... and I have yet to see much of a Christian response.
I invoke Christian suffering and the call for "a Christian response" during this Christmas season because attacks on Christians at this time of year are particularly perverse and the time of year provides a proper context for contemplating a just response.
Christian suffering around the world is curiously unlamented by Christian America. This is partially due to media-induced ignorance. CNN has no intention of interrupting its message of eco-solutions, gay-rights and Democratic talking-points in order to sympathize with Christians. Catholics aren't the folks CNN and their ilk have in mind when they bray about minority rights.
But seeming Christian apathy in the U.S. is also explained by culture and religious sensibilities. Whereas Muslims around the world react to a solitary pastor in Florida burning a Koran with murder and mayhem, Christians are called to respond to violence with forgiveness and by turning the other cheek. Whereas Mohammed issued ultimatums and led armies to war, Jesus preached hope and embraced martyrdom. Christianity retards the natural human impulse for revenge and recommends a response borne of hope.
Of course, that response is often difficult to articulate and may manifest as hesitancy in the search for peaceful, diplomatic channels. Perhaps these occasions of violence are matters of foreign affairs subject to state action. When America refuses to decry such atrocities and threaten repercussions, they seems to go unlamented. But the lamentable fact may be the impotency of the United States to aid in the security of the rights of Christian minorities around the world.
Perhaps a presidential candidate should be asked, "What will you do to protect persecuted Christian minorities abroad?" Surely the matter deserves far greater attention and consideration that it presently receives. A Christian response may be hard to decipher, but it is worth the trouble.
Nevertheless, today insists that Christians retain hope for the future - of this world and for the next. It is nothing less than a miracle that we celebrate today. If the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, the perils of this world must not cause us to lose faith. The Christmas story is one of hardship and suffering, but ultimate triumph. When we reflect upon the hardships and sufferings of this world, we must be mindful of the promise of ultimate triumph.
Some thoughtful exchanges the other day at the Hudson Institute on Theodore Roosevelt's Osawatomie speech, Obama's deliberate follow-up, and the meaning and future of Progressivism. Sid Milkis, Jim Ceaser, Matt Spalding, John Halpin, and E.J; Dionne. To get video/audio you need to click on the "View all events" tab off the home page.. Milkis noted that Obama never mentions his health care reform in his speech--it is focused on class.
If you can bear Dionne's self-promotion (does E.J. stand for Egregious Jerk?), you will hear some thoughtful remarks by the various panelists, introduced by Bill Schambra. And you even get to hear a question from the floor by her royal highness Elizabeth Drew.
Here's a brief historical overview of what is at stake in these speeches.
Gingrich went overboard on his attacks on overboard judges. Here's a far more sober account of what can be (and ought to be) done, by Ralph Rossum. Curt Levey and Carrie Severino add some thoughts on reining in a wacky judiciary without undermining judicial independence--both are essential for the rule of law. Judicial independence is not a license for judiciary supremacy.
An even better lesson can be found in early American political documents that list the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers among the fundamental rights of a free people. Consider for example the Massachusetts Constitution and the Essex Result,
"Consciousness precedes being, and not the other way around, as the Marxists claim....
"[Y]ou Americans should understand this way of thinking. Wasn't it the best minds of your country, ... who wrote your famous Declaration of Independence...and who, above all, took upon themselves practical responsibility for putting them into practice?"
A text of the speech can be found here; the links are unhelpful, though.
In Genesis, God parades the animals in front of Adam, who then names them, and these names are what they are. In the Qur'an, it is Allah who names the animals, not man. Man does not have this power to name.
So begins Robert Reilly of The Catholic Thing in his review of the second Muslim-Catholic Forum which was held on the east bank of the Jordan River last month. The theme of the forum was "Reason, Faith and Mankind," which Reilly distills to a primary tension of reason.
The essential issue here is the status of reason, which is why this latest forum was so important. Can we reason together? This was an issue Benedict XVI dealt with in the Regensburg Lecture. His answer: this is possible only in so far as we and they are Hellenized, which means that we both recognize reason as capable of apprehending reality.
Reilly contends that the Biblical power to name the animals "is symptomatic of the difference between the two views of man in Genesis and the Qur'an."
The power to name is, in a way, the power to know. Joseph Pieper once wrote, "Reality becomes intelligible through words. Man speaks so that through naming things what is real may become intelligible." If you cannot name a thing, can you know it? Can reality be intelligible to you without this power?
Interesting commentary and worthy of contemplation.
Vaclav Havel was a man worthy of the Shakespearean eulogy:
He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
It is often noted that Havel was a "mere" playwright before his activism against communism thrust him into the forefront of politics. But Havel existed in the interim of politics, in the revolutionary moment when character is of greater weight than policy. His instincts for politics, understood classically, arose from his understanding of the humanities and served well his fellow citizens.
The Czech Republic now mourns the passing of a national treasure. Their national sorrow is unique because men of Havel's stature do not largely exist elsewhere in the world. May they take solace in the knowledge of their great fortune in having had such a man for so long. He defined an era of hope and the world is poorer for his passing.
Update: For a powerful recitation of Havel's life and times, read Reason's "Velvet President."
Plastic cutlery at the Ayers-Dohrns? This is a sign of cultural rot. Why is bankrupt Illinois still funding this outfit?
Or maybe plastique?
UPDATE: State Humanities Councils receive support from the NEH. The House should put the NEH Chairman before an oversight Committee.
Megan McArdle on debt crises:
As I think I've said before, I used to cover financial crises (from America) and wonder why governments didn't do things that seemed so obvious. The answer, I now realize, is that politicians can't just do the "obvious best" thing. There is no such thing as a perfect rational maximizer in policymaking.
Politicians are always limited by what their voters think is fair. The voters may be right, they may be wrong, but in the end (hopefully), they're still the boss.
Contrary to Peter's post below, I think the most prudent conservative course of action is to vote for Gingrich--for now. The problem is that conservatives have the choice between a dynamic right-wing Progressive with a flawed moral past, one temperamentally ill-suited for executive power, and a soothing flip-flopper who appears constructed along corporate specs. Which will sell out conservative principles first? Which even knows what conservative constitutionalist principles are?
Unless some sort of white knight appears suddenly to save us (Paul Ryan, Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin....), these are our choices. I propose a test: Vote for Newt, and see how tough, smart, and principled Mitt in return is. Can he show that he is the true, electable conservative? Will he respond with conservative arguments or try to emphasize his moderation? This is not merely Gingrich blowing up and defeating himself. Romney has to win it, and by showing that he is more conservative (not that he has led a better family life, etc.). The only way we can test Romney is by voting for Newt, until he proves himself less of an electable conservative than Romney..
Might this not make Gingrich the winner? True, this would give him victories in Iowa (important to crush Paul, btw), New Hampshire (or a close second), and down south. But proportional delegate sharing will keep the second-place person close, and then we'll see who the strongest conservative will be, or whether we have a conservative at all. Both may flunk the test, but that is a problem for another day.
It would be a bad thing for the future of conservatism to hand the victory to Newt Romney immediately. We would be getting a flawed, erratically right-wing candidate, or a corporate construct who might have defeated Ted Kennedy by being more liberal. Either would be better than Obama, but we can do better than the two choices as they present themselves now. A long, drawn-out campaign will improve both candidates or reveal their fatal flaws.
Our old friend Bob Reilly reflects on the difficulty of interfaith dialogues, taking the instance of Catholic-Muslim exchanges. He sketches how interpreting the seemingly simple episode of Adam's naming of the animals leads to fundamental disputes. The centrality of natural law and reason for Catholics does not appear to have an equivalent in Islam, making dialogue, as an exercise in reasoned speech, impossible on religion. Reilly's book The Closing of the Muslim Mind is a thoughtful study of the development of a Muslim radicalism and its sharpening of attitudes essential to Islam.
Bob's column came to me as I am plunging into a vital work by one of the academy's major thinkers, Robert Sokolowski, Phenomenology of the Human Person. It seems to be trying, among other things, to relate Aristotle's two descriptions of man: as the being with logos and the political animal by nature. Language enables this connection. Politics properly speaking requires persuasion, not brute force. Barbarians only babble; political men debate and deliberate. And for language to exist there must be grammar and syntax that enable us to distinguish between babytalk and real logos.
David Brooks tries to make the case against Gingrich and winds up moderating him in many ways. Moreover, he raises salient issues in the contest between him and Romney: Gingrich probably does see a continuity between himself, TR, and Hamilton. But is there a constitutionalist in the house? If not, is a right-wing Progressive better than a competent manager? Which would bring us back to founding principles?
TR rejected natural rights in favor of a new, collective nationalism, while Hamilton was clear in basing the emerging new republic on natural rights. I haven't seen this concern in Gingrich but rather more a kind of Newt nationalism. How that bears on the Declaration and the Constitution is the issue conservatives face.
E.J. Dionne plays his role exquisitely, showing the link between TR and Obama, though he gets FDR wrong in the process: FDR had laid out his revolutionary strategy in his 1932 campaign, in his speech on Progressive Liberalism.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
I just discovered what a sapphic is. From Timothy Steel:
SAPPHICS AGAINST ANGER
Angered, may I be near a glass of water;
The Czech and Slovak Republics offer an interesting perspective on the European monetary union. Slovakia adopted the euro in 2009, whereas Czech's plans to exchange the Ceska Koruna (Czech Crown) for the euro has been delayed indefinitely. The amicably divorced partners of the former Czechoslovakia thus allow for an interesting comparison.
Slovakia's decision to join the continental currency was deeply lamented when the poorer Slovakia was forced to pay into the Greek bailout fund - a payment for which Czech was not obliged. The Czech prime minister noted: "We can all see how the monetary union is turning into a transfer union or even a debt union."
But this incident simply added insult to injury. The fiscal limitations of a transnational currency have adversely affected Slovakia's economy, whereas the relative flexibility of the crown has allowed Czech to adapt with greater ease and efficiency. This is a condition writ large across Europe. While ostensibly favoring inclusion in the EU, former Warsaw nations regard adoption of the euro as a suicide pact. Writing primarily of Poland's avoidance of the economic pains in Europe, Gordon Fairclough notes in today's WSJ:
Across Central and Eastern Europe, the story is much the same. Governments from Hungary to Bulgaria that once clamored to join the euro club are putting plans on hold and reassessing the costs and benefits of something that used to seem inevitable. The spread of the euro was seen as part of Europe's manifest destiny, and the countries that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain saw the adoption of the currency as a potent sign of success, both political and economic.
The change of heart is an ominous portent for the decades-long process of increasing European economic integration. The common currency is the centerpiece and the leading symbol of that integration. If enthusiasm wanes for the euro, boosters fear, this could spell trouble for other efforts to knit the nations of the Continent together.
Moreover, economies like Poland's and the Czech Republic's are the kind that euro-zone leaders want to bring into their currency union--competitive, with low debt and strong growth prospects.
Czechs believe that a second reason for the diminished economic crisis in central Europe is cultural. Unlike Italians, Greeks and the like, they (and their governments) did not spend lavishly, incur unsustainable debt and expect that rainy days would never arrive. They regard the euro fund as terminally undisciplined and cherish their national economic autonomy.
I have long argued that the New Europe will soon shift the center of gravity away from western powers. But whether this New Europe will remain a union is being decided now by those western powers. Continued fiscal imprudence threatens not only Europe's economic integrity, but its political cohesion.
The Democratic Party chief's Osawatomie speech continues to reverberate, but the commentariat still doesn't quite get how radical it is. Daniel Henninger correctly labels it Obama's "Godfather speech"--"what you'd expect to hear in Caracas or Buenos Aires." But even this doesn't bring out how it builds on Theodore Roosevelt's revolutionary "New Nationalism" speech, delivered 101 years ago, celebrating both the Civil War and the terrorist John Brown. That radicalism is well-summarized in this introductory essay. Obama's speech multiplies the possibilities, including TR's proposal for a "Federal Bureau of Corporations." Try also Sidney Milkis's remarkable study that emphasizes the 1912 campaign.
UPDATE: NRO's commentary has some telling comparisons and contrasts between BHO and TR.
Herewith my annual plea that Roberta Wohlstetter's 1962 classic study, Pearl Harbor, be read by anyone interested in strategy, intelligence, and the post-9/11 world. (Here's a link to the googlebooks version.) As in 9/11, as Wohlstetter shows, U.S. leaders and military knew something was up, but the different "signals" were misinterpreted or not shared with other parts of the government. And unanticipated Japanese technological progress (combined with boldness) made possible a stunning attack. Try to track down her study of the Cuban missile crisis as well.
As I write this, I recall that the book was first called to my attention by the late Claremont professor Bill Rood. It would be fitting if this and Roberta Wohlstetter's other work were recalled at the 2012 APSA at the Claremont Institute panels.
Today is the remembrance of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Like all such days of remembrance, it is a thanksgiving to those who sacrificed on our behalf and a caution that the worst of man's history may not yet be behind us. December 7, 1941 changed the course of human history. Other dates of infamy have done likewise - September 11, 2001 immediately comes to mind.
I was a bit disappointed, though not surprised, that U.S. media coverage in Asia nearly ignored the date and the highest ranking "news" article for Pearl Harbor on google included "truther"-style articles asking, "Who was really to blame?" It's a connection between FRD and Bush which I hadn't previously noted - and won't spend much time entertaining. Rather, I believe FDR's words in the wake of the event (compare to Bush's speech after 9-11) provide the most relevant testimony of the event:
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.
Abstract art is easy to denigrate and abuse. But sometimes one must wonder if the folks who report on the laughable craft truly appreciate its many ironies. Today, CNN "reports on an unusual Canadian artist whose vivid abstracts are making a big splash." The artist, of course, is a painting monkey. He's a hit in the art world and is presently opening his first exhibition in Toronto. (You can't make this stuff up.)
Earlier in the year, a study was celebrated by the artistic community as confirming the objective worth of abstraction. Participants in the study were shown works of abstract art by celebrated artists and works by ... monkeys.
The non-art majors preferred the artists 56% of the time, whereas the art majors preferred them 62% of the time. When it came to judging what was art (i.e., "better"), the non-art majors picked the artists a whopping 65.5% of the time, only slightly topped (67.5%) by the art majors. "In the aesthetic domain," the researchers concluded, "people can recognize that a work is good, but still not like it." In other words, people might dislike abstract art, but they can still tell when it belongs in a museum versus a kindergarten or a zoo. (You can take a version of the test here.)
While the distinction between personal preferences and artistic aesthetics deserves closer appraisal, that is for another day. At the moment, I'd simply point out the incredibly low standard of the art community - when only slightly above half of the general population prefers the craft of a professional, master abstract artist to the work of a monkey, it requires a particularly skewered perspective to claim victory. Even the artistic community can only identify their own work about two-thirds of the time.
I actually appreciate the impressionist movement's visual critique of the cold, heartless propensities to which realism was susceptible. The origins of abstraction were noble and timely - but the point of the movement might just as poignantly been summed up in a few journal articles and op-ed pieces. The point was to sacrifice craft for meaning, perfection for emotion - they were intentionally suppressing the prevailing obsession with procedural skill in order to expose a painting's soul. They wanted to breathe life into art again.
The heirs of the movement lack the underlying and verifying skill which provided their predecessors with credibility, just as they lack an appreciation of aesthetics capable of appealing to an unpretentious soul. Scripture defines man as "only a little lower than the angels" and the ancient Greek concept of metaxy locates man between beasts and gods. By these standards, the abstract artist's craft seems to be quite a bit lower than that of the angels and heavily favoring the beast side of the god-beast ledger. It has been argued that a monkey with a typewriter and an infinite amount of time would produce Shakespeare. That may be true, but it seems a monkey with a paint brush can produce abstract art in a matter of minutes.
In its continuing campaign against Voter ID laws, and other laws, the NAACP has appealed to the United Nations.
The largest civil rights group in America, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is petitioning the UN over what it sees as a concerted efforted to disenfranchise black and Latino voters ahead of next year's presidential election. . . .
According to The Guardian, the group complains that "34 states have introduced a requirement that voters carry photo ID cards on the day of the election itself." Voter ID and other laws, such as laws that strip felons of the vote, at least for a time, are an affront to democracy, according to the NAACP:
Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP's president, said the moves amounted to "a massive attempt at state-sponsored voter suppression." He added that the association will be urging the UN "to look at what is a co-ordinated campaign to disenfranchise persons of colour."
So the NAACP is appealing to a non-democratic institution, and is attacking the American legal system, and American sovereignty, in the name of democracy? How democratic do they think the world would be if the UN ran it?
Osawatamie Obama replays TR's "New Nationalism" speech. One appreciates the radicalism and subtlety of both in comparing the two speeches. For more on the radicalism of TR's speech, see this brief commentary. But Obama is doubling down on TR's Progressivism and demand for the nationalization of everyday life, while playing off of TR's 1910 Civil War reunion setting and the John Brown terrorism. Obama's speech is his now-familiar schoolyard bully pulpit of accusing Republicans of making arguments they have never advanced concerning class favoritism. (But a more extreme version worked for Harry Truman in 1948.) I fully expect Obama to endorse, as TR did in 1910, a "Federal Bureau of Corporations"--to offset the Citizens United case. Republicans make matters easier for Obama when they emphasize their tax cut argument, as though they agree with Democrats that general prosperity depends on the tax structure. Just as Progressives succeeded in their crusade against corporate interests, Obama channels their radicalism in his, well masked by the engaging persona of the Rough Rider.
UPDATE: Here's a money quote (italics added):
It's a simple theory [trickle down] - one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here's the problem: It doesn't work. It's never worked. It didn't work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It's not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn't work when we tried it during the last decade.
Obama ignores the New Deal and the Great Society. He is laying the ground for further waves of Progressivism, probably by executive order, given the likelihood of Republican control of Congress.
David Frum last summer:
In this debt-ceiling fight, I'm having horrible flashbacks to the Republican debacle over health care.
Then as now, what could have been a negotiated deal turned into all-out political war.
Then as now, Republicans rejected all concessions by the president as pathetically inadequate.
Then as now, Republicans refused any concessions of their own, instead demanding that the president yield totally to their way of thinking.
Then as now, Republicans convinced themselves that they had the clout to force the president to yield.
With health care, Republicans calculated spectacularly wrong.
Peggy Noonan last weekend:
Once again the president thought he was playing a shrewd game: The collapse of the super committee would serve his political purposes. Once again he misjudged.
What has occurred is an exact repeat of the summer's debt ceiling fiasco. Then the president summoned a crisis, thinking people would blame it on the Republicans. Instead they blamed Washington, which is to say him, because he owns Washington. Immediately his numbers fell. As they did again this week.
Men and Women
Quote of the Day
George Washington on party unity:
It is too interesting not to be again repeated, that if principles, instead of men, are not the steady pursuit of the Federalists, their cause will soon be at an end. If these are pursued, they will not divide at the next Election of a President; If they do divide on so important a point, it would be dangerous to trust them on any other; and none except those who might be solicitous to fill the Chair of Government would do it.
A fitty homily for the primary season.