Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Is it Romney?

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.

Categories > Elections


The French Get Patriotic

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.

Categories > Race


New Year's Resolutions, Lawyer's Edition

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. 

Categories > Leisure


American Saints

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? 

Categories > Religion


Blood in the Water, 1956

The Guardian is running a series on "50 stunning Olympic moments". Number 7 is about the water polo game between Hungary and the USSR in December, 1956, a month after the Soviets crushed the revolution:  "These are the facts: on 6 December 1956 Hungary and the Soviet Union contested a water polo semi-final that has earned a place in infamy, an occasion that seethed with threatened or actual violence from the first minute and ended in chaos after Hungary's young attacking prodigy Ervin Zador was taken, bleeding, out of the pool and straight to the medical room."  The whole thing is worth reading. The Hungarians won 4-0 and a few days later won the gold medal game against Yugoslavia.  Half the team never went home, Zador ended up in California where he became a swimming coach.  He still lives.
Categories > History


The Church of Snow

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.

Snow Church.jpg

Snow Church 1.jpg

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.

Categories > Religion


SOPA Must Be Defeated

When I had first heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act and commented on it some weeks ago, I had not had the opportunity to delve too much into what exactly the bill and its sister in the Senate--PIPA--entail. I have since had an opportunity to explore SOPA more and in that time have actively started to advocate its defeat. Online piracy is a huge problem that leads to billions of dollars being lost every year; most of my family works in the entertainment industry--film, television, music, and stage--and I understand why Hollywood is so behind stopping online piracy. The same goes for corporations and inventors, who lose formulas and business plans to competition, mostly in Asia, with alarming frequency. Nonetheless, the solution is not to give the government the power to become master of the Internet. Potentially under SOPA, just for having a link to a foreign or domestic website that may have pirated content on it is enough for the Department of Justice to shut the website with the link down. This means that the government will be prescreening Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, the blogosphere, and a multitude of other websites, with the authority to shut them down if they do not censor whatever the government orders them to censor.

As Eric Holder's administration has shown, the Department of Justice ought not to be trusted with such authority. As the incompetent, overbearing, and at times downright nefarious Transportation Security Administration has exhibited, some things created for our "protection" can end up proving to be far too much of a burden to reasonably stand. Furthermore, with the examples of China, Iran, and North Korea before us, we ought to be leery of anything granting the federal government any overreaching powers over the web. Piracy of entertainment and trade secrets must be reined in, but not at the cost of Internet freedom. SOPA has good intentions, but it does not too. Whatever bill is past must have a few more checks on government power here so that the medicine is not worse than the poison.
Categories > Technology


The Progressive Era and Obama Error

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. 

Categories > Progressivism


Temple of Jerusalem Discovery

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.


Categories > Religion


Arab Spring as Christian Winter

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

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." 

Categories > Religion


The Hope of Christmas!

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.

Categories > Religion


Wallowing in Osawatomie

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.

Categories > Progressivism


Judging Newt Judging

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,

Categories > Courts


Is the GOP Field Set?

Ron Paul has surged to first place in Iowa, and will probably maintain his position or at least a strong second by the very nature of the caucuses and Paul's enthusiastic supporters. It is important to note that Iowa is generally unimportant when it comes to setting the final nominee, but it can have an effect on donations and momentum. New Hampshire's libertarian bent, combined with a victory in Iowa, could give Paul a boost there, and Jon Huntsman is finally beginning to see his own numbers rise in the Granite State. A close victory for Romney over Gingrich in New Hampshire with Paul and Huntsman on their heels could do away with any "momentum" candidates hope to achieve going into South Carolina, where Gingrich is trumping Romney, and where Paul and Bachmann are both maintaining steady support that could swing up. Gingrich recently won the Tea Party poll--only barely beating out Bachmann. Florida is still up for grabs, and the latest Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal by its popular former governor are leading some to say the field is not set. Is it possible that someone can jump in to swoop up fresh-faced momentum before the major state primaries and their many delegates are up for grabs? If no one else jumps in, I would add that a Paul surge is probably very good for Mr. Romney.
Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

Caesars are just Men

Caesars throughout history have often argued that the stability they bring proves their necessity in ruling. History, of course, shows that this has been a tremendous lie, for the reign of kings has been the greatest source of war and violence in our world. Though a Caesar may reign over peace and prosperity, mankind has the greatly important aspect of mortality assigned to it, and those Caesars eventually die. Occasionally their deaths can be followed by a peaceful transition of power, but this is very much the exception and not the rule. The promise of the United States, upon which the arguments for the exceptionalism of our Founding rely, is that by trusting in the better nature of men to govern themselves while containing the ambition of men with the rule of law, we can maintain peace and prosperity with both liberty and longevity. Our experiment in this line of thinking has been mostly successful, beginning with the voluntary retirement of George Washington and then the peaceful transfer of power from Adams to Jefferson. Our one failing in this formula has been the Civil War, but that particular conflict was unique in that it was not a fight over just who would rule, but what the principle behind their rule would be: the principle of equality, or the principle of kings--that is, the long-held principle of inequality. In that line, then, our Civil War was, as some have argued, more a continuation of the work of the American Revolution than something like the civil wars that wrack other nations.

During the Cold War, another war rooted, however muddled at times, in principle, new Caesars rose around the globe to fill the void left by the waning empires of Europe in the wake of the Second World War. Most of these men came to power in the poorer corners of the world, promising their citizens peace in exchange for liberty, ruling throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Even after the Soviet Empire collapsed, many of these men maintained their position and were seen by the West as necessary evils to maintain global stability and help advance our own security. Unable to change them, we thought that if we just contained them through the use of both carrots and sticks that peace could be kept, with only occasionally lashing out at those we perceived as crossing the line (and this we did not stick to all the time, as evidenced by Iran getting off free after sacking our embassy and North Korea's petulant acts over the past several years going unchecked). The year 2011, however, has been a forced reminder in why the promise of peace from Caesars is always a lie--for they are but mortal men, and men die.

Moammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule came to an end with him being dragged through the streets and sodomized before choking on his own blood. Hosni Mubarak is at the mercy of an Egyptian court as it determines whether or not to find him guilty of crimes and have him executed. Bashar al-Assad is literally at war with his own people, killing thousands in his frantic quest to maintain power. The House of Saud, the most absolute and stable of monarchies, is trying to do what it can to stem the spread of the Arab Spring into its own borders, but its future is uncertain now that the King's heir apparent has died and been replaced by a conservative hardliner unlikely to embrace reforms. The aged Robert Mugabe has cancer, and will likely be dead within the next two years, and Fidel Castro is reaching the end of the road as well. And now Kim Jong-Il, the mad ruler of North Korea and most cruel dictator of our time, has died of a heart attack, the Korean Peninsula being mired in confusion as the world tries to determine if his son, Kim Jong-Un, or his brother-in-law, Chang Sung-taek, will assume power in the impoverished and oppressed Communist nation.

In some respects, the existence of these strongmen did help contribute to relative stability in the world following the end of the Cold War. Occasionally one tyrant would fall to be replaced by another over the past twenty years, and this could be easily contained, but fate has now seen to it that so many reigns came to an end at the same time. Having relied too much on the false promises of these Caesars to maintain peace over the past few decades, we have been caught unawares by this surge in instability. In the year 2012, the world is bound to suffer in a way unforeseen for some time the pains inflicted when men rule in lieu of laws, and when Caesars reign instead of equality in justice. As evidenced clearly in Syria, and disgustingly in Egypt, the fall of kings is almost always a messy affair. While we must not expend our blood and treasure in the pursuit of peace and justice all over the world, and the urge will be tough to fight given our predisposed love for those two ideas, we ought to use this tumult to pursue some good by encouraging the embrace of law and respect for human rights. We must also seek to ensure that we are protected in this new world as it is formed around us. As we go into an election year, our president and his would-be opponent must be constantly reminded of how dangerous, how important, and how opportune the fast-shifting sand of world politics is right now. We need someone who can articulate the idea of America, think in a truly strategic fashion, and best help us act as an example to others of why our principle is superior to those professed by the Kim Jong-Ils and other Caesars of the world. The world could use a city on a hill to look up to right now.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Havel RIP, the Declaration Lives

Following Justin's entry below, recall Vaclav  Havel's message to Congress: 

"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.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Can Muslims Name the Animals?

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.

Categories > Religion


RIP: Vaclav Havel

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."

Categories > History

Foreign Affairs

Mohamed Bouazizi

One year ago today, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire in the middle of the street outside of a Tunisian governor's office, igniting the Tunisian Revolution and the greater Arab Spring protests across the Middle East. For years the young fruit and vegetable salesman had been mistreated and abused by local police, and they were beginning to extort money from him and make his business impossible to run. After a local municipal official humiliated Bouazizi by publicly beating him and taking his electronic weighing scales away, he ran to the governor's office to complain and have his scales returned. When the governor refused to see him, Bouazizi bought a can of gasoline, stood outside of the governor's office, and lit himself ablaze with a match. His last words, shouted angrily at the symbol of the Tunisian government before him, were "How do you expect me to make a living?"

At the time, no one in these autocratic regimes nor in the West knew that one young man's self-immolation in a small town in Tunisia would so radically alter the geopolitics of our world and upend governments that had been in power for decades. After a few weeks in a coma in intensive care, Bouazizi died on New Years Eve. Two weeks after that, Tunisian President Ben Ali fled his country and ended his 23-year rule. Other dictators from Mubarak to Gaddafi would fall, and still others like Syria's Assad are fighting for their existence. The so-called Arab Spring is now a year old, and the fire is still raging and worthy of our intense attention. Fire, as we are learning, can be both a handy servant and a dangerous master. We must continue to hope that this Arab Spring improves the condition of man in the Middle East, but we must prepare for the alternative scenario that we are entering into a new, dangerous, and perplexing period of time in that ever-smoldering corner of the world.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


$15,000 Food Fight?

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.

Categories > Politics

Political Philosophy

A Rationalist Discovers Politics

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.


A Newtonian Quantum Leap

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.   

Categories > Conservatism


A Post That Is Mostly Not About Gingrich

1.  Here is Gingrich's Iowa ad.  The visuals reference Reagan's 1984 Morning In America ad, but the words of Gingrich's ad are nostalgic.  The words revive and restore are prominent.  The Reagan ad was for winners.  The Gingrich ad is for a dispossessed people.  "Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past."  Gingrich says in the ad. 

2.  Reihan Salam notes that, in 1983, the Reagan administration introduced as system of bureaucratically-directed pricing and open-ended budgeting for Medicare that increased use of higher cost procedures and increased medical costs throughout the system, and that this might be part of the reason why US health care costs outpaced those of most other wealthy countries in the 1980s.

3.  Gingrich's Medicare reform plan is a joke that will do nothing to bring down Medicare spending and Gingrich is demagoguing the Romney Medicare reform plan (just like he did the Ryan Medicare reform plan earlier in the year) by saying that it would apply to current recipients.  The man is a charlatan (though possibly not the only one.)

4. Is Gingrich's combination of implied Reagan nostalgia and a Medicare plan that will do nothing to curb the explosive growth of Medicare (even as we head into bankruptcy) what older, right-identifying Americans want? 

5.  I think the answer is more no than yes, but I think Gingrich believes the reverse.      
Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Cameron Makes Bold Stand

British Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire from many corners of Europe and through much of the internationalist sphere for making a bold stand in defense of his nation's sovereignty. Even within his own Parliament and the British media he has come under hugely critical attacks, the future of his coalition government's reign coming under threat. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed before the Council of Europe a true fiscal union for the 27 member states, combining the fiscal powers of the continent in the hands of the European Commission in Brussels. It would allow the Union to enforce monetary policy--taxes and spending--throughout all of its members, effectively stripping the governments of those nations of one of their most basic functions. Germany has been the main muscle between this, believing that the best way for Europe to come out of its fiscal crisis is to enforce their strict budget discipline upon all of its nations. While I agree that German fiscal discipline ought to be a model, it ought not come at the price of sovereignty.

So, in order to preserve the power of the British people, David Cameron exercised his veto and halted the move towards fiscal union. Every nation in the European Union has the right to veto, and any major decision must be unanimous. 26 nations, some with reservations, voted in favor of Merkozy's proposal--only Britain stood apart. Cameron argued that the new treaty would have forced London's banks and financial services to become enslaved by various anti-competitive "harmonization" schemes in the EU; he sought exemptions for the UK from these taxes, but his wishes were denied. Now Eurocrats around the continent are accusing Britain of making the first step towards leaving the European Union, and British Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, Cameron's coalition partner, has said that the Prime Minister is isolating and marginalizing the United Kingdom. The spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party declared Cameron's veto to be "the biggest failure of peacetime diplomacy in more than half a century."

Despite this heavy barrage of criticism, the young prime minister remains unshaken. He has brought into question the moral legitimacy of granting Brussels direct power over the pocketbooks of Europe's people, and asked where sovereignty truly lies. For this he deserves respect and applause. He is not isolating his nation; Britain is more internationally integrated than it has been since the height of its empire, through trade, technology, and culture. They have done more to help European integration than most, and more important than this is the fact the Britain's foreign policy is not geared only towards the European Union--it maintains global relationships. The EU insists on putting up more trade barriers and subsidizing industries; Britain looks to trade around the world. In standing up for his people and their sovereignty, David Cameron is not leaving the European Union---the EU is leaving the United Kingdom. The real blame for the failure of the negotiations rests with Merkel and Sarkozy, who thrust upon Cameron a deal that they knew he and his people could not accept. For now, it seems, the British people agree with their Prime Minister. Hopefully, with their trust and affirmation, Cameron is able to hold the line. The Fiscal Union should be stopped.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Hayward's Heresies?

Readers of this blog will be well served to take some time today and read Steve Hayward's very thoughtful and, apparently, wildly controversial essay entitled "Modernizing Conservatism" in the latest issue of Breakthrough Journal.  The thrust of his argument is that "starve the beast" appears to have failed and so conservatives now might be better served if they move on to a strategy of sending the voters the bill for all of the social and entitlement programs they appear to want. 

After reading the essay, do yourself another favor and check out the podcast with Steve at Infinite Monkeys--appropriately titled, "Inquisition Edition."  I will leave it to your own individual conscience to decide whether Steve acquits himself here or stokes the kindling for his own stake.
Categories > Conservatism


Rated R-17 For Graphic Violence

I'm sorry, but how seriously can we take advice from the writing team of Blood and Gore?
Categories > Journalism


Gingrich is not the one

There are many reasons why Newt Gingrich--the least conservative candidate--will not outlast Mitt Romney, George Will notes one big one: Gingrich faulted Romney for "committing acts of capitalism"   I also like the reference to Romney's "animal spirits," and also to Gingrich's "verbal ticks."  You might also want to read Ramesh Ponnuru's lengthy piece on Romney and why he should be elected.
Categories > Elections

Political Philosophy

Can Interfaith Dialogues Exist?

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.


Osawatomie's Dichotomies

Near the conclusion of his big speech in Kansas this week, President Obama praised business leaders who understand "their obligations don't just end with their shareholders." The president singled out Marvin Windows and Doors, based in Warroad, Minnesota, for not laying off a single employee during the recession, and choosing instead to cut the pay and perks of both workers and management.

This section of the speech is apparently based on a recent New York Times article about the company, one which complicates some of Obama's arguments, however, and highlights other things he declined to address:

1. Marvin Windows and Doors has the latitude to consider obligations beyond those to its shareholders because it doesn't have shareholders. The 107-year-old company is privately held: the president is the founder's granddaughter and her brother is the chief executive. The firm's work force of 4,300 included 16 members of the Marvin family.

2. Marvin also doesn't have, apparently, any obligations to unions; its workers don't seem to belong to any. When housing starts - and orders for new windows and doors - plummeted, management cut salaries by 5 percent, put hourly workers on 32-hour weeks, stopped paying tuition reimbursement, stopped allowing employees to cash in unused vacation days, and encouraged them to take unpaid leaves. Through attrition, the workforce is 14 percent smaller than at its housing-boom peak. The only things the company hasn't cut are jobs and health insurance benefits. There's not a hint in the Times article of any of these changes being voted on or negotiated with anyone - all appear to have been the owners' unilateral decisions.

3. Indeed, there were only two brief mentions of labor unions in Obama's Kansas speech, both treating their decline as an accomplished fact rather than a reversible one. (If "you're somebody whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or by someone in another country, you don't have a lot of leverage when it comes to asking your employer for better wages or better benefits, especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union." And, "The truth is we'll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who's best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages, who's best at busting unions, who's best at letting companies pollute as much as they want." The president doesn't exclude the possibility that we could still be well-above-average at busting unions.)

4. If President Obama thinks cutting pay and benefits is morally superior to laying people off during a downturn, he could have shown his enthusiasm for this idea by using the enormous leverage his administration wielded over General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 and 2010 to insist on significant pay cuts and benefit reductions for their UAW hourly employees as a condition of taxpayer bailouts of those companies. Instead, he didn't even demand small, symbolic reductions.

5. The communitarianism of the Marvin company comes with baggage, according to the Times. The firm dominates the tiny town of Warroad: Another sibling of the two who run the company is the mayor, and the family or the company built the public library, senior center and high school's swimming pool. (The headquarters includes a visitors' center and museum displaying a lock of the founder's hair.) The noblesse oblige that comes with the no-layoffs policy is paternalistic and also, for modern Americans who like the advantages of contingency in many areas of their lives, more than a little claustrophobic. Whether the Marvin company model is a template for the future or a quaint relic is at the very least, an open question.

6. The Marvin company seems to have captured the spirit of the share economy, but not solved its dilemmas.  The company president says she is taking the "long view" by not cutting Marvin's "life blood," the "skills and experience" of its employees. But it's not clear, in the long view, whether that will turn out to be a good business decision. If we're talking about skilled or semi-skilled positions, some employees will have more skills and experience than others. A more cold-hearted company might have decided to reduce employee costs by laying off the 25 percent of the employees who were least skilled rather than reducing the compensation of every employee, from the most to the least skilled, by 25 percent. Figuring out, in theory, which company - Scrooge, Inc. or Benevolent Enterprises - will be more competitive isn't easy, and it will be important to analyze the empirical evidence that comes in over the years from Marvin and its competitors. Some Marvin employees, despite their gratitude for the no-layoffs policy, are leaving the company and the town for more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Are these exiles a representative sample, or does their ambition and attractiveness to other employers suggest that they are in the more-skilled part of the company's bell curve? If the latter, the company is harming itself by refusing to differentiate among employees whose contributions are most valuable, in favor of treating all of them well, but identically. Both Mickey Kaus and Clive Crook raised doubts about the coherence and feasibility of what Kaus called Obama's "charity capitalism." Even the proffered business rationale for Marvin's no-layoffs policy might make more sense as a philanthropic one.

Categories > Economy


In Lieu of a Constitutionalist

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

Categories > Presidency

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Timothy Steele

I just discovered what a sapphic is.  From Timothy Steel:


Angered, may I be near a glass of water;
May my first impulse be to think of Silence,
Its deities (who are they? do, in fact, they
    Exist? etc.).

May I recall what Aristotle says of
The subject: to give vent to rage is not to
Release it but to be increasingly prone
   To its incursions.

May I imagine being in the Inferno,
Hearing it asked: "Virgilio mio, who's
That sulking with Achilles there?" and hearing
   Virgil say: "Dante,

That fellow, at the slightest provocation,
Slammed phone receivers down, and waved his arms like
A madman. What Attila did to Europe,
   What Genghis Khan did

To Asia, that poor dope did to his marriage."
May I, that is, put learning to good purpose,
Mindful that melancholy is a sin, though
   Stylish at present.

Better than rage is the post-dinner quiet,
The sink's warm turbulence, the streaming platters,
The suds rehearsing down the drain in spirals
   In the last rinsing.

For what is, after all, the good life save that
Conducted thoughtfully, and what is passion
If not the holiest of powers, sustaining
   Only if mastered. 


A Fistful of Zloty and Crowns

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.

Categories > Economy


Iowahawk on Obama's Speech

David Burge (Iowahawk) takes to Twitter to summarize President Obama's speech in Kansas: "The only thing we have to fear is a big stick tearing down this wall divided against itself" #PresidentEverybodyButMe
Categories > Politics


Colonel Obama

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.

Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

Learning From Pearl Harbor

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.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Fortuño for the GOP?

Among a range of up-and-coming Latino leaders in the Republican Party is the relatively-unknown, fairly experienced, and ambitious Luis Fortuño, governor of Puerto Rico, and his name is beginning to make the circles as a potential nominee for the Vice Presidency next year. The Georgetown and University of Virginia-educated lawyer served four years as Puerto Rico's representative in Congress, where he held the chairmanship of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and is a member of the National Republican Committee. Prior to that he oversaw Puerto Rico's tourism industry and served as Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce. He was elected governor in 2009, and is currently the leader of the Southern Governors' Association and the Council of State Governments, as well as an Obama nominee to the bipartisan Council of Governors. His governorship has been marked by slashing the size of government and pushing a pro-growth economic agenda.

While his nomination would be a long-shot, choosing the governor of this far-southeastern territory makes more sense than having chosen the governor of that far-northwestern state. Youthful and eloquent, he could bring to the table a particular knowledge of problems in our own hemisphere as he must work frequently with our neighbors in the Caribbean. He could also help usher in a new conservative coalition in the country, and he seems to be interested in doing just that. Governor Fortuño is surely going to be someone to watch in coming years and, perhaps, next year.
Categories > Elections


Day of Infamy

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.

Categories > History


Obama's Osawatomie Talk

Here is the whole of it and here is yesterday's Letter from an Ohio Farmer ("Ceasars and Presidents"), sent out about an hour before Obama spoke and, ironically, it is directly related; it uses the 1912 election to make a few points that are directly relevant to the Osawatomie speech.
I think this is an important speech. It revives hope and change, but makes it better, revives him as an angry populist who thinks that the United States--rightly understood--really begins with the Progressive movement; and explains why they all think Progressive, New Deal, Great Society legislation is more sacrosanct than the Constitution.  The purpose of government has changed.  The meaning of equality and liberty has changed.  If I were a Republican running for the presidency I would reply to this (and to Teddy's 1910 Osawatomie talk) as soon as I could.  This is a great opportunity.
Categories > Elections

Pop Culture

Art as Monkey-Business

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. 

Categories > Pop Culture



"There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly." Thus were the last words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who bowed his head in a gladiatorial gesture to ease the task of his assassination, which was ordered by the Second Triumvirate of Rome. At the time Cicero was the most popular of the Romans, and the public did their best to hide him as the Triumvirate's soldiers scoured the Italian countryside. He was finally betrayed by one of his brother's slaves while he was trying to flee to join Brutus and Cassius. It is said that Octavian Caesar argued with Mark Antony for two days to spare Cicero from proscription, but Antony would not budge. His hatred for the silver-tongued Cicero was such that he had the orator's head, hands, and tongue nailed to the doors of the Senate house--the only individual of the many murdered by the Triumvirate to suffer such a fate. It is also worth noting that in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cicero (who, despite having few lines, is nonetheless greatly important to the plot by helping to reveal the character of both Brutus and Rome) is the only person killed by the proscriptions to be lamented by Brutus and Cassius.

The writings of Cicero had a tremendous impact on the Renaissance and the American Founding; John Adams once said, "As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined than Cicero, his authority should have great weight." Indeed. For those interested in the statesman's life, I highly recommend Anthony Everitt's Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician. Fantastic biography of he who died at the hands of Antony's henchmen on December 7, 43 BC.
Categories > History

Foreign Affairs

NAACP v. America

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?

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Obama the Rough Rider (Updated X2)

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.  

Categories > Presidency


Noonan v. Frum?

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.

Categories > Journalism


Senate Declines to Clarify Domestic War Powers

In another example of the unambitious character of the United States Senate today, there has been a decision to not make a decision about what limits ought to be placed on the war powers of the President in regards to American citizens. The Senate passed a major defense bill and voted 99-1 to make it clear that they were not taking a stand on the currently-ambigious rules around citizen detention. In the same thinking of "We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it", Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said that "We make clear that whatever the law is, it is unaffected by this language in our bill." Whatever the law is. Yes, our lawmakers do not even know what current law is regarding the right of the Executive Branch to detain or execute American citizens on American soil without any due process or review.

Proponents of great powers for the Executive in war argue that we are now in a state of war and that the president has both the authority and the responsibility to exert his power to defend us. The problem is, though, that the Bush Administration turned its authorization to use force against Al Qaeda and those responsible for 9/11 into a general and ambiguous war on Terror itself, leaving it as open-ended and vague as the War on Drugs and the War on Poverty-- though much more dangerous, as it involves the Executive Branch using lethal force. There were no parameters set by either President Bush or Congress to define our goals, and thus the "War on Terror" is now the longest-running conflict in the republic's history. The Obama Administration has assassinated two Americans on different occasions so far this year--terrorist suspect al-Maliki and his teenage son--in the Middle East. There is an argument to be made in al-Maliki's case that they were enemy combatants in an active war zone, and thus the President was authorized to kill him. The current question is whether the Executive Branch has the power to executive or permanently detain in military jails American citizens who are suspected terrorists on American soil itself. This seems to be in conflict with both Posse Comitatus and Sections 2 and 3 of Article III of the Constitution. 

We are fighting a new kind of war, that has been left open-ended for two presidencies now. It is hard to tell the difference between war time and peace time. If Congress is unready to yet figure out its role in when to decide when it is peace time and war time (since they have obviously decided to abscond from being involved in warmaking altogether, as evidenced by the Libyan intervention), they should at least look into what limits the President has on him within our own borders. We need clarification. The lawmakers need to do their jobs and decide what the law is.
Categories > Congress


Impure Thoughts

Sorry I've been away.  I've been trying to keep my NLT commenting free from intra-Republican primary fighting and instead focus on policy, but the Republican primary stuff has been monopolizing my political thinking lately.  Anyway, the distinction only exists in my head so here are some thoughts on the passing scene:

1.  Romney is getting testy with questions about his flip-flops and his support of Romneycare.  I can see why Romney is upset.  Romney has been getting asked these questions for five years.  If there isn't a statute of limitations on these issues, maybe there should be a statute of limitations on focusing on these issues.  Seriously, is there any likely Republican primary voter who doesn't know that Romney flip-flopped and supports a state-level health insurance purchase mandate for Massachusetts?  this has to be especially frustrating since Romney is watching Gingrich surge even though Gingrich has flip-flopped on a FEDERAL health insurance mandate (hey isn't that unconstitutional?) and cap-and-trade.  Gingrich has been out of electoral politics for thirteen years.  Large swaths of the electorate haven't been paying much attention to what Gingrich has been saying and doing during this time.  How come Gingrich's flip-flops aren't the story?

2.  Well I can't feel too bad for Romney.  Romney's argument that Romneycare was right for Massachusetts but Obama's national Romneycare was wrong for America (as a matter of policy rather than constitutionality) doesn't really work.  He has never really explained why he thinks a policy regime of guaranteed issue, community rating, health insurance coverage mandates and a health insurance purchase mandate (all policy similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare) is a good one for a state.  Romney doesn't even admit all the similarities.  He is just trying to wait out public attention.  Good on Bret Baier and FOX News for continuing to dig. 

3.  The good news for Romney is that life is about to get a lot more fair.  Gingrich's flip-flops are real, significant, and recent (they've come after his career as Speaker.)  Gingrich also has the habit of telling spectacular and easily verifiable lies.  He said that Freddie Mac paid him to $300,000 in 2006 to give advice as a "historian" and that he told them that their business model was fatally flawed.  Well it turns out that Gingrich was extravagantly praising the Freddie Mac business model in 2007 and was warning Congress about regulations that might change how Freddie Mac operated.  During last night's Huckabee candidate forum, Gingrich asserted that he had never been in favor of cap-and-trade.  Liar.

Gingrich's rise has been fueled by his debate performances, but those performances have had a dynamic that won't exist from now on.  The other candidates allowed Gingrich to tell of the debate questioners and otherwise perform the Newt Gingrich genius/statesman act with little criticism and the resulting pressure.  Gingrich has the target on his back now. 

Gingrich is in a tough position.  A large fraction of the electorate has a vague or nonexistent idea of how conservative Gingrich hasn't been over the years.  Many of those who do know about Gingrich's flip-flops and sleazy (political) dealings console themselves that Gingrich is an invincible debater and, even if Gingrich is dirty, we need a dirty guy to beat Obama and the Chicago machine.  All of that is over now.  The other candidates aren't going to give Gingrich the space to deflect questions with his "how dare you irresponsible Washington journalists cheapen this process by asking us about our records and policies" act.  It is in the interests of all the other candidates (maybe other than Huntsman) to hit Gingrich constantly and from every direction.  As Ron Paul showed, there are a lot of ways to hit Gingrich.  This will of course increase public knowledge about Gingrich's flip-flops and weaken his support from those who want a more authentically conservative alternative to Romney.  I also suspect Gingrich won't end up looking that good under sustained attack.  Gingrich under pressure isn't a very pretty sight.

I don't see Gingrich holding on to his current level of support until the January 3 Iowa Caucuses.  Where that support goes is anybody's guess.   

h/t to Peter Schramm and John Moser for a couple of the links.              
Categories > Politics

Men and Women

Beauty is a Witch

John Hinderaker at Powerline calls this blog, "There is no excuse whatsoever for this post".  I respectfully disagree.  I fell in love with her at age 13.  Great pictures of Marilyn at 25, never before published.  Focus on her mouth, her smile.  Thank you John.
Categories > Men and Women

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

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.

Categories > Quote of the Day

Foreign Affairs

Elections in Egypt

Front page in today's New York Times

"The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's mainstream Islamist group, appeared to have taken about 40 percent of the vote, as expected. But a big surprise was the strong showing of ultraconservative Islamists, called Salafis, many of whom see most popular entertainment as sinful and reject women's participation in voting or public life."

"Analysts in the state-run news media said early returns indicated that Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the vote, giving the two groups of Islamists combined control of nearly 65 percent of the parliamentary seats."

"The preliminary results extend the rising influence of Islamists across a region where they were once outlawed and oppressed by autocrats aligned with the West. Islamists have formed governments in Tunisia and Morocco. They are positioned for a major role in post-Qaddafi Libya as well. But it is the victory in Egypt -- the largest and once the most influential Arab state, an American ally considered a linchpin of regional stability -- that has the potential to upend the established order across the Middle East."  What was it we fought for, an elective despotism?
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Refine & Enlarge

One People

Just in case you haven't seen the Farmer's latest, One People.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge