Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political Philosophy

All About Eve

While perusing an old essay about John Adams, I stumbled upon this pearl of wisdom: "After [reading] a long and learned discourse from St. Augustine on the thesis that copulation was not known to Adam and Eve until after their expulsion from Eden, Adams could stand it no longer. 'Had Eve Bubbies?' he exploded. 'Could Adam see them, or feel them, without Concupiscence?  Were they not made to Suckle Infants? For what was the Uterus made?"

Is there a better, short introduction to the idea of nature?

Education

Standard Deviations

How low are the standards in New York City's schools?  Would you believe that one can pass the test, and move up to the next grade, by guessing the answers?

Categories > Education

Shameless Self-Promotion

Morning Joe

MSNBC has posted a link to my segment this morning (7 minutes long).  Mika and Joe are laughing in the middle about an especially saucy quote I include from Pat Buchanan about homosexuals and AIDS.  Joe and Mika were giving him lots of grief during the commercial break.

Pop Culture

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

At least for the tramp-stamp set.  (And no, this is not my wife!  In case you were wondering.)

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Categories > Pop Culture

Elections

Krugman, Nixon, and Campaign Finance Reform

Paul Krugman waxes nostalgic for the Nixon era, not because he likes Nixon, but because back in those days "moderate" Republicans and Democrats could come together to pass pretty much any piece of legislation that a liberal might want.  The piece would be unremarkable if not for this line: "our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s."

Let's leave aside the blithe assumption that if things aren't developing as Krugman would like, it must be that evil corporations are to blame.  Surely it can't be that le Peuple, repositories of all that is virtuous, are opposed to Nancy Pelosi's health care proposals.  Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that he is correct.  Large corporations are not new to the United States, nor are campaign donations.  Shouldn't the fact that this "corporate-cash-dominated system" has allegedly arisen in the environment created by the Federal Election Campaign Act and, more recently, McCain-Feingold make us a just a tiny bit skeptical about campaign finance reform?  In this context, this 1995 study by Brad Smith seems more relevant than ever.

Categories > Elections

Environment

Today's Shout Outs

Finally got on the "Morning Joe" show on MSNBC this morning, but got moved around up to the last minute, so I never posted it here.  Anyway, some funny off camera stuff about Pat Buchanan that I'll pass along later when I have a link to the segment.

Meanwhile, thanks to George Will, who give a generous shout-out to Ken Green and me in his latest Newsweek column about the unreality of the cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions targets.  (It's in the second half of the column.)
Categories > Environment

Health Care

The Unlikely Path to Health Care Reform

For a while now I've wondered whether Obama and Congressional Democrats had the wit to note the possible precedent of the tax reform effort of 1986.  A bill came out of the House that neither Reagan nor House Republicans liked, but Reagan asked the House GOP to support it promising that the Senate would either fix it, or that Reagan would veto the final bill if it still wasn't any good.  The Senate started from scratch, and wrote a bill that, while far from optimal, represented a genuine compromise wherein both Republicans and Democrats got something big that they each wanted.

Today in the New York Times Bill Bradley lays out exactly how the tax reform lesson might be replicated today.  Basically, the Democrats would have to give up the trial lawyers, and Republicans would have to give in to expanded care.  I give it less than one chance in ten of happening. 
Categories > Health Care

Political Philosophy

WHAT?

Lawler, are you and your peeps trying to bait me with the impertinent post immediately below?  Of course Reagan was a conservative, but he didn't fit into any of the usual sub-categories to which most of us on the right pledge our troth.  He was an American conservative, a distinct species that still is hard to make out.  (I commented in my recent review of Patrick Allitt's book that calling the Founders such as Jefferson and Madison "conservative innovators" would be an oxymoron anywhere but America.)

Here's how Reagan explained his affinity for Thomas Paine (which several of the discussants below note with arched eyebrows) way back in 1965:

The classic liberal used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny.  That is now the conservative position.  The liberal used to believe in freedom under law.  He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything.  He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom.  The conservative now quotes Thomas Paine, a long-time refuge of the liberals: "Government is a necessary evil; let us have as little of it as possible." 

There's much more to say here, of course, but then everyone knows where to find it now.

Political Philosophy

Was Reagan a Conservative?

Here's an interesting discussion of this issue, featuring ME, Richard Gamble, Dr. Pat Deneen, and our brilliant Pete. I admit I'm not a WWRD man today, but we were blessed to have him president when we did.

Journalism

Is this really the Washington Post?

A favorable profile of an opponent of same-sex marriage appears in today's WaPo Style. Not without the typical WaPo condescension, however.

Categories > Journalism

Pop Culture

Who can take your money...

...with a twinkle in their eye? Take it all away and give it to some other guy?  The government!  The government can!
Categories > Pop Culture

Journalism

Michael Tomasky's Elastic Rules of Decent Political Discourse

Michael Tomasky, the American columnist and blogger for the U.K.'s Guardian, is shocked and dismayed that some conservatives have written venomous things about Ted Kennedy in the days since he died.  Tomasky lets the case against the tweets by Andrew Breitbart speak for itself, on the plausible theory that retrospectives including the terms "villain," "a big ass [email protected]#$er," "duplicitous bastard" and "pile of human excrement" harm the eulogist's reputation more than the departed's.

Tomasky was more direct with those who posted "deeply tasteless" comments in response to his own obituary of Kennedy.  "What's the matter with you people?" Tomasky says.  And to those who want to reduce Kennedy's biography to Chappaquiddick, "Shame on you."  He pushes back against comment section critics who thought he was too generous to Kennedy and, a couple of weeks earlier, too stingy in writing Robert Novak's obituary: "All I said then was I disagreed strongly with his politics and thus couldn't offer the man a deeply heartfelt eulogy.  I didn't even mention the homeless guy he hit with his car."

There's a small and a not-so-small problem here.  The small problem is that if you applaud yourself for not mentioning something, and then mention it in the course of applauding yourself, the number of people who will join in commending you for your restraint is likely to drop sharply.  This is particularly so when a liberal criticizes a conservative for hitting a homeless guy with his car, and fails to mention that the accident occurred because of the conservative's brain tumor, which neither he nor his doctors knew about before the auto accident and was diagnosed a couple days after it.  By choosing to leave that part of the story unreported, but including the detail about the pedestrian Novak hit being homeless, Tomasky unfairly leaves the impression that the political menace Novak posed in print and on television was of a piece with the public safety menace he posed behind the wheel.

The bigger problem is that the conduct Tomasky deplores is about as tasteless, and about as representative, as the behavior of those on the Left after Ronald Reagan died in June 2004.  America is now in the midst of a bitter debate over health care reform, but the moment five years ago was politically charged, too, as the campaign to deny George W. Bush a second term was intensifying.  Most Democratic politicians and journalists dutifully said the right things and avoided saying the wrong ones after Reagan's death.  They slogged through "a week of praise for a man they didn't really like," one reporter wrote at the time.

But in a big country, where lots of people are politically engaged and some are politically enraged, message discipline is never universal.  As the news that Reagan was dying reached some anti-war protesters in front of the White House, one said, "We need to clap when he dies."  Another called him "the arch-enemy of the poor people of the world and of the people of the United States," while a third said, "He is a slime; basically, a horrible, horrible person.  People didn't like him.  They despised him."

Some of the Reagan haters had megaphones bigger than those available to street demonstrators.  An article by the playwright and activist Larry Kramer said, "The man who murdered more gay people than anyone in the entire history of the world is dead. . . More people than Hitler even."  The famous New York columnist Jimmy Breslin said Reagan "proudly hurt the boroughs of this city more than anyone before or after him.  [Since this column appeared almost three years after 9/11, this includes Osama bin Laden.]  If you live in Brooklyn, the record shows that Ronald Reagan hated children."

As for the Village Voice obituary by Tom Carson, you had to read it not to believe it.  "He should have died alone - a long, long time ago," it begins, before turning hostile.  The ensuing condolences include:

  • "I think that Reagan, like no other American, deserves the honor of being the first person ever embalmed at Disneyland." 
  • "Ronald Reagan is the man who destroyed America's sense of reality - a paltry target, all in all, given our predilections.  It only took an actor: the real successor to John Wilkes Booth." 
  • "No other chief executive has been so at ease with his own preposterousness."
If Michael Tomasky publicly rebuked his political allies for the way they reacted to Reagan's death, Google hasn't heard about it.  We do know that in 2004 Tomasky was the executive editor of The American Prospect.  Four days after Reagan's death its website published "What Reagan Taught Bush," by David Lytel, who was then running a group called "ReDefeat Bush."  Lytel's distillation of Reagan's politics included:

  • "While overt racism is unseemly, a Republican leader should signal to white-power proponents that he agrees with them: Reagan pioneered insulting the poor and powerless and proved how popular this is with white men." 
  • "Bust unions whenever you can, because those people are a danger to the continued concentration of wealth and power in the hands of trust-fund Republicans." 
Summing up, Lytel says, "In reality, Reagan was the first figurehead president, incapable of answering questions about the policies of his administration that he understood in only the most summary way, and responsible only as the public spokesperson for decisions made by others.  Reagan enhanced the role of the Republican Party as the primary vehicle for the sale of influence to corporate decision-makers eager to undermine the national government, the only institution powerful enough to confront global commercial interests seeking to evade environmental, labor, and other standards of conduct."

What's the matter with you, David Lytel?  Shame on you, Michael Tomasky.

Categories > Journalism

Technology

Great Sounds

This Alex Ross article from The New Yorker is worth reading.  It tells of Pristine Classical, a place where you can get extraordinary remastered historic performances of not only Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson, but also Toscanini's 1947 Otello, Willem Mengelberg's "swaggering" 1941 take on Strauss's "Eign Heldenleben," and so on.  Very impressive.  Here is the site: Pristineclassical.  You will hate yourself and if you don't visit and listen and download.

Categories > Technology

Education

Silent Language

Mark Bauerlein claims rightly that those students who are always texting, etc., are missing something about "the silent language".  A reasonable point, one reason why we shouldn't allow the use of computers and other gadgets in a classroom, where both kinds of conversations--and verbal and non-verbal--take plac.

Categories > Education

Pop Culture

Harley to India

The Wall Street Journal reports that Harley-Davidsons will soon be selling bikes in India (12 models).  You learn something about Harley's troubles, but more about India's prospects for wealth creation.  Good for them. 

Categories > Pop Culture

Politics

A Note on Ted Kennedy

You may have noticed that on the news stations it is Ted Kennedy, twenty four seven (Hayward's book hardly mentioned).  Although a bit dreary, some of the reports do have the virtue of reminding me of some interesting political history over the last fifty or so years, not all of it to Teddy's advantage.  It took me a few hours to become conscious of the fact that the late senator's political life roughly coincided with my own.  That is, at about age fourteen (1960) I remember liking Jack Kennedy over Nixon, well, because JFK seemed tougher on foreign policy.  I also remember what a silly sight Teddy was running for the U.S. Senate in 1963, still in his salad days, still green in judgment, winning only because of the name.  I stopped liking the Kennedys soon thereafter (also Nixon).  So now everyone is talking about this "Lion" of the Senate (RIP) and what great good the third longest serving person in the Senate did.  Well, that is all disputable, of course.  But he was a fierce partisan and did outlive most of his opponents, thereby becoming a bit of an anachronism himself, of course.  Jay Winik, in praising Ted Kennedy, reminds us of the Senate's "Golden Age" the large personalities dwelling therein.  I also note, along with Nick Gillespie, that I never heard any commentator mention that Kennedy was instrumental in deregulating the trucking and airline ticket pricing in the 1970's, "two innovations that have vastly improved the quality of life in America even as--or more precisely, because--they pushed power out of D.C. and into the pocketbooks of everyday Americans. We are incalculably richer and better off because something like actual prices replaced regulatory fiat in trucking and flying."
Categories > Politics

Politics

O'Rourke Crushes WaPo

P.J. O'Rourke is a wit worker without example, and he aims at the amazing fact that the Washington Post is alarmed by the conservative tendencies of some of our citizens, you know them, the "town hall hecklers," "birthers" and the other scary people.  PJ nails Perlstein, MacGillis, et al, to the wall, calling them everything but stones and blocks and worse than senseless things.  The piece is too funny to read with coffee, but a cigar calms your innards enough to read on.

Categories > Politics

Ashbrook Center

Welcome to the New No Left Turns

In the seven years since October 2002 when we launched No Left Turns, our authors have written over 14,000 entries on this blog and our readers have left almost 60,000 comments. In the past year, over 350,000 people visited the site. We think the site has been long overdue for an upgrade, and we are happy to launch it today.

In addition to looking a bit better, the new site allows you to share our writer's comments on Twitter, Facebook, and many other web sites, it offers many improvements in the ways readers can comment on blogs, it offers a much better set of RSS feeds for those of us who use newsreaders like Google Reader, and it helps us fend off those pesky spammers who cluttered up the old site.

Take a look around, and if you have any suggestions for the site, please leave them as comments to this entry. Happy reading.

Categories > Ashbrook Center

Economy

Clunkers advantage foreign manufacturers

Reuters reports that Japanese and South Korean automakers registered the biggest market share gains in the U.S. government's "cash for clunkers" program that ended this week. Ford Motor Co was the only domestic manufacturer to hold its own in market share compared with its performance so far this year, while GM slipped and Chrysler stumbled noticeably.
Categories > Economy

Presidency

On the CIA investigation, Obama is the decider

While much can be said on the Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. decision to reopen the investigation of CIA interrogators, Robert Alt makes one large point: Holder has given President Obama an opening to overturn his decision, and he should. Also see this note at Powerline. If allowed to stand, this decision is likely to have great political consequences, none of them favorable to the Democrats.
Categories > Presidency

Congress

EMK, RIP

Sen. John F. Kennedy formally announced his presidential candidacy on January 2, 1960. Since it was carefully planned and well-funded, it is safe to say that the campaign was already moving at full speed in August 1959. The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, then, puts a closing bracket on a half-century during which one or more of three Kennedy brothers were among the most famous and influential politicians in the country.

For the final 41 of those 50 years, following the assassination of Robert Kennedy, his younger brother Ted was not only the leader of a political family, but a synecdoche for American liberalism. Conservative candidates and organizations raised millions of dollars using Kennedy's image and words in direct mailings. Kennedy was the nation's leading liberal for so long that it seems obvious that the conservative opposition to liberalism was identical to its opposition to Kennedyism.

The story of the entire half-century is a little different, and more interesting. During John Kennedy's 34 months in the White House there were a number of signals that both he and his brother/consigliere Bobby couldn't stand liberals for the same reason that conservatives couldn't, and can't. Specifically, JFK seemed to disdain the sob-sister liberalism of Eleanor Roosevelt and Hubert Humphrey, which collapsed the distinction between politics and social work. The Kennedy administration, instead, was supposed to usher in the age of "liberalism without tears." Kennedy also seemed to disdain the high-minded dithering of Adlai Stevenson and the "amateur Democrats" who idolized him. Kennedy liberals prided themselves on being tough, decisive and vigorous. They were professionals.

Kennedy's admirers praised the tone of cool irony he brought to national politics. Conservatives weren't among those admirers, but felt that JFK's irony operated at only one remove from his cynicism, which they found reassuring. As president, Kennedy delivered Ted Sorenson's resonant lines about domestic policy impressively, but used or risked very little political capital to advance the liberal domestic agenda. His involvement in the civil rights issue, for example, was conspicuously cautious, even reluctant. It was clear, during his presidency, that Kennedy was no crusader, and far from clear what he really cared about and wanted to accomplish.

After Dallas, however, all of that ironic detachment was transformed into moral urgency. The rhetoric about which JFK had seemed so equivocal and done so little was transformed into sacred scripture. As James Piereson has argued, Kennedy's family and retainers began an aggressive campaign to turn his murder into a politically resonant tragedy, one that would see him remembered "as a martyr for civil rights and equal justice for all." Sen. Mike Mansfield, the Democrats' majority leader, said in his eulogy, "He gave us his love that we, too, in turn, might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down." For the record, Mansfield was speaking of Kennedy's assassination rather than Christ's crucifixion.

"Once having accepted the claim that Kennedy was a victim of the national culture," writes Piereson, "many found it all too easy to extend the metaphor into other areas of life, from race and poverty to the treatment of women to the struggle against communism." Dallas saw the demise of liberalism without tears, which was replaced by a liberalism regularly operating at the brink of hysteria. Both the surviving Kennedy brothers got swept up in it. It wasn't sufficient for Bobby Kennedy to say that the war in Vietnam he had helped his brother launch was a mistake, or that the national interest would be better served by choosing a more promising and important battlefront for repelling Communist aggression. Rather, he told an audience in 1967 that what America was doing in Vietnam was not that much different from what Hitler did to the Jews. Nineteen years later, Ted Kennedy was equally fair-minded in declaring his opposition to Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution."

John Kennedy's death started an era where that sort of rhetoric was common and even obligatory. It would be a step forward if Ted Kennedy's death marked the beginning of an era where national issues, even the most important ones, are debated in the belief that decent, reasonable and intelligent people can disagree.

Categories > Congress

Health Care

How Much is Health Care Reform Going to Cost?

Ask the Congressional Budget Office. Then, at the very least double that amount. In the words of the great P.J. O'Rourke, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."
Categories > Health Care

Shameless Self-Promotion

There's Always Tomorrow

Okay, so maybe I am starting to get a little superstitious. The first volume of my Reagan project arrived in bookstores on Sept. 10, 2001, so needless to say I didn't do any electronic media for it. This time, I thought, I'll have better luck. Then I arrived at my hotel in New York on Monday to hear I'd been bumped to Wednesday on "Morning Joe," and the hotel clerk handed me my room key. Room 911.

And so up early today to hear the news of Sen. Kennedy's passing, and getting bumped again to an unspecified date down the road. Whenever it happens, I'll let you know, along with my prayers for the health of Robert Byrd. I'm back down in DC now, where I shall be on Bill Bennett's radio show live in the studio for a full hour tomorrow morning starting at 7 am eastern time. Then on to the Cato Institute for a book panel at noon that should be interesting. Meanwhile, I have a long piece up over at NRO explaining the writing of the book.

UPDATE: C-SPAN says they will broadcast my Cato Institute book panel at noon (eastern) Thursday. This might change too, of course, but if it does go off as planned, tune in! Should be interesting because of the respondents, Bill Niskanen and James Mann.

Health Care

"Death Panels"

This provocative piece by Will Wilkinson suggests that no matter what happens to the Obama health care plan we're likely to see something resembling Sarah Palin's "Death Panels," if Medicare is to remain at all solvent.
Categories > Health Care

Presidency

Obama's Hold Music

Would you believe that the music played as 1,000 Rabbis waited to hear the President on the phone was "Deutschland Uber Alles"?
Categories > Presidency

Presidency

E.J. Dionne, George Bush and David Foster Wallace

E.J. Dionne explained yesterday why governance in a democracy is so difficult and thankless. "The hardest slogan to sell in politics," he wrote, "is: 'Things could have been a whole lot worse.'" Avoiding a "cataclysm" is likely to be "an invisible achievement."

The problem, in essence, is epistemological. Precisely because the disaster did not befall us, there will always be doubts that it was ever really heading our way or even all that dangerous. The preventive measures taken against it may have been successful and necessary, but the non-cataclysm can just as easily be used to argue that they were excessive or even hysterical.

Inevitably, many of those measures were conceived and executed hurriedly, on the basis of incomplete and ambiguous information. The adversarial nature of our politics guarantees that critics who want to will find many reasons to belabor the measures' costs and disparage their benefits. The typical reaction to the invisible achievement of avoiding a cataclysm, according to Dionne, is that many people "whose bacon was saved . . . do not want to admit how important the actions of government were." What happens instead is that "ideologues try to pretend that no serious intervention was required."

The ostensible point of Dionne's column is that George Bush, Barack Obama, and the leaders of other industrialized nations, deserve great credit "for acting swiftly when the global economy began coming apart" last year. The massive, unprecedented fiscal and monetary measures they fashioned and implemented at a time of contagious worldwide panic were decisive in preventing the world's economy from plunging into the abyss.

It's clear, however, that Dionne's framework can be employed more generally. As we approach the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it must be gratifying to George W. Bush that one of his most severe critics is now laying the groundwork for the argument that the Bush administration succeeded admirably at what became its central task. Bush served in the White House for seven years and four months after 9/11, during which there were no subsequent jihadist attacks on American soil.

The aggressive measures his administration undertook, overseas and at home, were routinely castigated by "ideologues" who, as each month passed without a second 9/11, became bolder and more disdainful in declaring Bush's policies unwarranted abominations. The implicit premise of these attacks is that no hard choices were required to prevent the next 9/11; the menu of policy options included many ways to combine a scrupulous concern for civil liberties and world opinion with the efficacious protection of civilians' lives and peace of mind.

One intellectually honest exception can be found in a few brief lines written by the late David Foster Wallace for The Atlantic in 2007. In them he asked if we should choose "to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?" Rather than hypothesize that the Patriot Act and Guantanamo were entirely unnecessary, Wallace entertains the possibility that they "really have helped make our persons and property safer" but still asks whether they are worth it: "Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don't even want to consider whether some things trump safety?" Braver Americans will, instead, incline to the belief that "a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price" of keeping our society free.

There are two problems with this position. First, there is no guarantee that if terrorists are not thwarted by our government they will limit themselves to attacks that occur "every few years" rather than every few months, and kill "hundreds or thousands" but not tens or hundreds of thousands. What even those who agree with Wallace are prepared to regard as "reasonable precautions" may, under those circumstances, evince much less self-restraint.

Second, among the reasons to regret Wallace's suicide, which occurred less than a year after this argument appeared in print, is that it makes it impossible to assess the question he raised so provocatively. The cool detachment with which Wallace contemplated the murder of thousands of his compatriots can never stand outside the shadow cast by his own death. In 1949 the Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson famously argued that the refusal to "temper . . . doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom" would "convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact." Wallace leaves behind a critique of the war on terrorism that turns a metaphor into a tangible, and chilling, possibility.

Categories > Presidency

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Hallowed Ground, even in Los Angeles

Chris Flannery the poet sings mystic chords of memory, in a lyrical recollection of Los Angeles National Cemetery, where some 85,000 veterans rest in peace.     

Health Care

Free Health Care

From over-regulation. Sally Pipes sheds light on the sources of many of our current difficulties--in the pages of today's New York Post:
"Private insurance works well where it's least regulated. To find the unaffordable disasters, you must head to states such as New York or New Jersey that have pioneered the reforms Obama is peddling for the entire country. . . .

A 55-year-old man in Allentown, Pa., can choose from 99 plans starting as low as $141 a month for hospital coverage. A zero-deductible HMO plan costs $418 a month. Or he can pick a more flexible PPO, with a higher deductible and pay less monthly out-of-pocket for the premium.

Young people, "the invincibles," often skip insurance, because they have few assets to protect and little fear of getting sick. The congressional Democrats' solution is a tax increase by another name: Force employers to keep paying for them on their parents' expensive plans until age 26.

Yet the market has responded with products targeted at the needs of the young, such as Wellpoint's Tonik, which offers excellent protection, prescription drugs and preventive care for less than $100 a month for the under-30 set. . . .

Change the zip code from Pennsylvania to neighboring New Jersey, and choice plummets even as the cost per plan skyrockets. In New York, our 55-year-old has only 12 plans to choose from."

Read the whole thing. 
Categories > Health Care

Economy

U.S. Debt Clock

This is extremely cool, but also extremely troubling.
Categories > Economy

Economy

Call me Ishmael

Trouble in Saudi Arabia:
Ahmed Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers Co., a family-owned Saudi company known as Ahab, filed a lawsuit accusing Maan Al-Sanea, the billionaire owner of the Saad Group, of ``massive fraud,'' the Financial Times reported.

The suit, filed in New York, alleges that Al-Sanea ``misappropriated approximately $10 billion'' by obtaining loans and then diverting the funds received for his own use, the FT said.

Saad Group, also based in Saudi Arabia, told the newspaper it hasn't seen the claim and, if served with it, will respond vigorously.

Categories > Economy

Congress

No First Amendment for Capitol Hill GOP

An important element of the Republican success in the revolution of 1994 (the "Contract with America") was the Democrats' exemption of Congress from federal laws.

Now comes the news that Democrats on the franking committee are censoring Republican mail to their constituents. The Democrats maintain that the Republican mailings violate the non-partisan rule for franked mailings.

"Cap and tax" was not the only phrase that was barred by the franking commission.

In addition to demanding changes to terminology about the Democratic energy bill, a proposed e-newsletter from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) was returned to his office with notes asking for detailed citations to back up passages critical of Democratic policies. In one instance, the commission asked that the word "Democratic" be removed from the text and "majority" be put in its place.

"The franking commission is not there to fact-check," Franks said. The commission "is not there to tell us what our own vernacular should be."

Franks said he was also asked to remove his reference to the stimulus package as the "so-called stimulus."

Franking rules stipulate that taxpayer-funded mailings cannot be used for campaign purposes. The rules also state that comments about policy or legislation "should not be partisan, politicized or personalized" and should avoid "excessive use of party labels."

But Franks said that by barring Republicans from using phrases such as "government-run health care" in communication with their constituents, Democrats "truly diminish free speech itself."

Categories > Congress

Shameless Self-Promotion

Book Video

Okay, I couldn't help it. Here's the short YouTube I did to celebrate/explain the new book, which officially launches today. (A couple small glitches in this video, but it works well enough):

UPDATE: Thanks to our pals at Powerline for some major props for the book.

Presidency

Obama as Jimmy

I didn't say it: Richard Cohen did in today's Washington Post. Sample:

More and more Obama is being likened to Lyndon Johnson, with Afghanistan becoming his Vietnam. Maybe. But the better analogy is to Jimmy Carter, particularly the president analyzed by James Fallows in a 1979 Atlantic magazine article, "The Passionless Presidency." "The central idea of the Carter administration is Jimmy Carter himself," Fallows wrote. And what is the central idea of the Obama presidency? It is change. And what is that? It is Obama himself.
Categories > Presidency

Shameless Self-Promotion

Book Podcast

John Miller interviews me in one of his Between the Covers podcasts over on NRO.

Presidency

National security & CIA turbulance

I bring to your attention three different events or reports that may be related to one another, and could have explosive consequences. The Justice Department "ethics office has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects, according to a person officially briefed on the matter." And then note this: "President Obama has approved the creation of an elite team of interrogators to question key terrorism suspects, part of a broader effort to revamp U.S. policy on detention and interrogation, senior administration officials said Sunday." And then note this from ABC News: "A 'profanity-laced screaming match' at the White House involving CIA Director Leon Panetta, and the expected release today of another damning internal investigation, has administration officials worrying about the direction of its newly-appoint intelligence team, current and former senior intelligence officials tell ABC News.com."
Categories > Presidency

Shameless Self-Promotion

T-Minus 1

Book launch is tomorrow. Order your copy today and beat the rush!

Meanwhile, for TV viewers, I'm scheduled to be on "Morning Joe" with Joe Scarborough at about 8:40 am (eastern time) tomorrow morning, as my first media event. Scratch that: I've been moved to Wednesday morning, at 7:45 am (even worse for you west coasters).

In the meantime, Ed Driscoll, the impresario of PajamasMedia's "Silicon Graffiti" series, has posted this recent interview with me, which mentions and includes an excerpt from an appearance at Ashbrook back in 2001.

Sports

Wow

You won't see this but once every 50 years or so. An unassisted triple-play to end the Phillies-Mets game.

Andy McCarthy offers useful commentary on how truly extraordinary it was.

Categories > Sports

Environment

Me in the WaPo Today

The Washington Post asked me and my climate studies partner Ken Green for a brief comment on the prospects for cap and trade in the Senate. Here's our answer. We didn't have enough space to propose the obvious solution: combine cap and trade with the health care bill!!

Since health care reform will require rationing, why not give out carbon and health care allowances to everyone, and then let us start trading amongst ourselves. I'll trade a colonoscopy for a month of driving Schramm's Hummer, for example. (Schramm doesn't have to have the colonoscopy; he can trade it for some high-emitting cigars.) Why this hasn't occurred to the same geniuses that gave us cash for clunkers is beyond me.

Categories > Environment

Economy

The Latest Studies on Money and Happiness

Studies show that money can make you more happy if you know how to spend it. Buying status doesn't work that well. Spending on experiences--being more social--works better than spending on stuff. And philanthropy turns out to be a the most reliable form of hedonism. Although money can't buy me love, the happiest spenders are guided by love. This new theory may or may not slight unempirically the Aristotelian view that the happiest spenders are also good at displaying their excellence through spending that reflects their taste or class. In any case, restoring the connection between virtuous, "prosocial" personal spending and happiness is a particularly convincing way of opposing the huge spending of big government, which is hardly, of course, a display of the taxpayers' virtue.
Categories > Economy

Elections

Harry Reid in trouble

A recent poll reveals this, according to a Las Vegas paper: "It's the highest stakes ever for a Nevada election, and former boxer Sen. Harry Reid is on the ropes early. Either Republican Danny Tarkanian or Sue Lowden would knock out Reid in a general election, according to a recent poll of Nevada voters.

The results suggest the Democratic Senate majority leader will have to punch hard and often in order to retain his position as the most accomplished politician in state history, in terms of job status.

Nevadans favored Tarkanian over Reid 49 percent to 38 percent and Lowden over Reid 45 percent to 40 percent, according to the poll." .

Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

Statistic du Jour

From the latest Barron's:

The Center for Strategic and International Studies projects that China will have more than 438 million over 60 by the year 2050; more than 100 million of them will be age 80 and above. There will be just 1.6 working-age adults to support people 60 and older, versus 7.7 in 1975, when food scarcity and overpopulation were more pressing concerns.

One child left behind.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Politics

All-purpose Alinsky

Saul Alinsky's tactics are being used by conservative protesters now, the NY Times cackles. See these excerpts.

While Alinsky was very much a man of the left, he hated bureaucracy. Perhaps that, and not leftist politics, is the soul of the man. That, at any rate, is my recollection of him, from a talk he gave when I was an undergraduate. He even poked me in the chest to emphasize his point about a question I asked about Madison and factions. "Yeah, that's what I'm getting at"--countervailing power.

Categories > Politics

Economy

The Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get....Richer

Austrian economist Steve Horwitz has been going over census reports from 2006 on average household income. It turns out that the percentage of American households earning $100,000 or more annually more than doubled between 1980 and 2006. The percentage of those making between $75,000 and $99,999 also increased somewhat, while the percentages in every category making less decreased. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, these are constant 2006 dollars.
Categories > Economy

Politics

Remember when Dissent used to be Patriotic?

Imagine, protesters comparing a president to Hitler and making death threats. But that was okay, because Bush was in the White House then.
Categories > Politics

Presidency

Comunity Organizer in Chief

Apparently, President Obama is trying to use his to organization and his bully pulpit to get America's clerics to preach for socialized medicine. Beyond that he wants his sub-organizers to do their part at, seemingly, all civic events across the land. Will Americans take well to this permanent campaign? Do we think of ourselves as one, big community? Do we want to be so organized? Do we want our religious leaders to get talking points for their sermons from the President?
Categories > Presidency

Economy

Garage sale regulation and death panels--the tie-in

Now the government wants to protect you from buying faulty products at garage sales. The next move will be to tax garage sales. To soberly discuss "death panels," Charles Krauthammer, shooing Sarah Palin out of the room, winds up channeling her. In both instances the heavy thumb of government distorts the making of human choices.
Categories > Economy

Elections

Ends and Means

Sen. Edward Kennedy is gravely ill with cancer. Beyond his medical problems he and his party face a political problem: If Kennedy is unable to attend Senate sessions and cast votes, the 59 other Democratic senators might be stymied if health care legislation needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. If Kennedy dies or resigns, his successor will be the winner of a special election to be held within five months of the vacancy in the Senate. No provision in Massachusetts law allows for a vacant Senate seat to be filled before that special election.

No provision in current law, that is. Before 2004, the governor would appoint someone to fill a vacant Senate seat, a procedure used by many states. The law was changed by the Democratic state legislature that year to prevent Gov. Mitt Romney from appointing a Republican to the Senate in the event that John Kerry won the presidency.

Now, Kennedy has asked that the law be . . . adjusted. In a letter to the governor and legislative leaders of Massachusetts, Kennedy calls on the legislature to give the governor, no longer a Republican, the power to appoint an interim senator to serve until the special election is held. The request, according to the Boston Globe, "puts Massachusetts lawmakers in a delicate position" because "Democratic lawmakers [are] nervous about being accused of engineering a self-serving change to help their party."

Kennedy's request puts some prominent advocates of Obamacare in a delicate position, as well. Michael Tomasky, for example, says, "If Republicans were up to this sort of thing, to pass a major tax-cut bill, would I criticize it? Quite frankly, I probably would. So, as much as I want health-care reform to pass, I can't quite put my heart into defending this. . . . I'll certainly grant that changing a law that's just five years old that was changed for political reasons in the first place is not the best way to do things."

Other liberal bloggers are not so fastidious. Ethics, schmethics, according to Matthew Yglesias: "When you have a state whose state legislature is firmly and forever in the hands of one political party, the smart thing is for the legislature to be constantly changing rules based on short-term considerations. Nothing's stopping them from changing the rules back later." Ezra Klein doubles down, saying that what appears to be a delicate situation for Democrats is really a moral dilemma for Republicans, one of whom could prove that the Senate traditions of civility and comity really count for something by voting for cloture against a filibuster of health care legislation as a measure of respect to an ill or deceased Ted Kennedy: "Conversely, if not one Republican can be found who feels enough loyalty to Kennedy to make sure that his death doesn't kill the work of his life, then what are all those personal relationships and all that gentility really worth?"

The obvious question about the shoe being on the other foot - would Klein insist that a Democrat vote to pass a major GOP initiative out of respect for an absent Republican senator - is not worth the trouble of pursuing. Both Yglesias and Klein are unapologetically committed to the position that justice is the interest of the stronger. The only criterion for determining whether the game is being played fairly is whether the right side is winning. Changing the rules as often and flagrantly as necessary in order to advance its prospects is just one more egg that needs to be broken to give the country the omelets it needs.

What's interesting is that at the same time they are making Sophists' arguments for achieving political goals by any means necessary, Yglesias and Klein are lamenting the way narrow, parochial concerns prevent the pursuit of the public interest - as they, broadly and selectively, define it. Yglesias is increasingly baffled by the "cynicism and immorality displayed in big-time politics." Klein, similarly, cannot understand why he is the lone Diogenes in Washington who doesn't worry whether it's "uncouth" to contend that votes against cap-and-trade and Obamacare are "literally consigning thousands of people to death."

When the life-and-death issues are not the ones Yglesias and Klein want addressed, however, the standards of civilized discourse are suddenly retrievable and relevant, even crucial. I think it's a safe bet that neither admires the bold commitment to principle of the protesters in front of abortion clinics who scream "Baby killer" at the cars entering the parking lot, and would not sit still for a long explanation of how American law since 1973 has consigned literally millions of babies to death. Nor would either be receptive to arguments that the consequences of a suitcase nuclear bomb being detonated in Times Square or Lafayette Park are so grave that the imperative to take the actions, overseas and at home, to find and thwart terrorists will necessarily take precedence over international law and civil liberties. To talk about consigning thousands of people to death in that context would be uncouth, manipulative, hysterical and jingoist.

Yglesias and Klein are both very young guys who've become blogosphere stars, so they may not have outgrown Attention Deficit Disorder. Neither seems to notice when an argument in one post doesn't square with one they write the next day. When lamenting the craven indifference with which legislators consign literally billions of people to death by not being Dennis Kucinich, both adopt the position that the graveyards are filled with indispensable men. They shake their heads at the vain, calculating politicians who would gladly see every last organism on the planet shrivel and die if it meant they wouldn't have to cast a vote that displeased a local interest or donor, reducing their reelection prospects by a fraction.

Neither mentions, however, that Sen. Kennedy has had 16 months to solve the problem of his succession without changing Massachusetts law. He could have resigned at any point after his brain tumor was diagnosed, leaving plenty of time for a special election to designate a senator who would vote for health care reform. If yielding office for the sake of a higher principle is noble, this particular hero could have extricated his party from their current dilemma at any point. Instead, Kennedy's long Senate career is destined to be bookended by two shabby, transparent maneuvers. He was elected to the Senate seat vacated by his brother John, but only after a compliant place-holder agreed to keep it occupied until Ted turned 30 in 1962. Now, again, the protocols of even-handedness are to be sacrificed for the greater good, and the greater good is to be defined to give maximum scope for Sen. Kennedy to define and pursue his ambitions.

Categories > Elections

Health Care

Cash 4 Clunkers Dead; Obama Resurrects Health Care Alternative

Even as thousands of bureaucrats were hired to streamline Cash 4 Clunkers, the Administration pronounced the program dead, as of Monday. The President referred to "victims of success."

But replacing it on Tuesday will be "Cash for Cadavers." Employing cherished Lincolnian imagery from the Gettysburg Address, President Obama declared that anyone who brings in the corpse of a beloved who had reached the biblical limit of "four score" years (within 24 hours of passing) would receive $300,000 applicable only toward the survivor's medical care. As the Administration respects the right of privacy, only minimal questions about the causes of death would be raised.

As acceptable as these pop-ins, would be "walk-in" 4-scorers who chose to terminate all means of life support, including feeding and hydration, in a hospital or other approved facility. The procedure for termination might be compared to that of the aforementioned Clunkers, with perhaps a little more (or less) emotion involved. See the procedure lovingly described of "Killed Clunkers" entering "Auto Heaven." Heaven, no Limbo or Purgatory--there is hope on the hoof! An edifying theology of the car-cass.

As the President puts it, reach "four score" and no more, and score some medical cash, and let this be a new birth of freedom, a transcedence of the realm of freedom and necessity.

Categories > Health Care

Religion

Religion and the health care debate

Yesterday, President Obama apparently said that there is a "core ethical and moral obligation" to provide health care for all. He was speaking to liberal religious activists affiliated with this group. For the way they'd like to talk about the health care debate, go here. For more coverage, go here.

I note that the issue guide to which I linked above is careful about avoiding public funding for abortion and accommodating the conscientious scruples of health care providers. This is good, but I wonder whether the President has this in mind when he thinks about the moral dimensions of health care. The guide also points out that there's a gap between morality and policy. I may feel called to care for the hungry and sick and not regard government as the best vehicle for my concern. (See here for more on this point.)

I'll have more to say when I can lay my hands on a transcript of the President's remarks. (I note in passing that the White House website provided transcripts both more reliably and in a more timely fashion during the last Administration. So much for a new era of transparency.)

Categories > Religion

Presidency

Obama's POMP

Why don't we refer to it as the "Post Office Medical Plan"?

For a quick hit on how Obamacare and the clunkers program dovetail, see Brewster Rocket, August 18.

Categories > Presidency

Military

This Sounds Like a Bad James Bond Movie Script

New York Times reports "hijacked" ship may have been on nefarious mission with military contraband. Cue the Bond theme here. Keep your eye on this. I expect we haven't heard the last of it.
Categories > Military

Presidency

Dr. Kesler operates on Obama and the Republicans

As he had before with his exegesis of The Audacity of Hope, Charles Kesler hits all the high notes in his latest thoughts on Obama's ambition and Republican haplessness, which appear, again, in that indispensable organon The Claremont Review of Books.

One issue I would give more emphasis to: Kesler rightly wants conservatives and Republicans to outflank Obama by returning to the principles of the American Founding, instead of being distracted by this or that tactic or even worse by misunderstanding Reagan conservatism. But even here Obama can readily block the right by his own appeal to the Declaration of Independence, as he does in his books. And Republicans play along with this--Kesler does not note how often Bush appealed to the Declaration--by failing to make the Declaration a document affirming limited government, a denial to the death that government is based on arbitrary will.

Both the left and the right make the Declaration a justification for active government. That is one reason liberals like it and conservatives hate it. (Robert Bork's misguided cynicism about the Declaration was on to something.) Kesler is of course right about returning to the founding, but we're in the fight of our lives against a post-modern post-nationalist who has embraced the Declaration for the wrong reasons and will twist it to his convenience. Speak of the triumph of the will! The argument is that basic, about who we are as Americans. And, despite the Obamacare setback, he is still the Tiger Woods of the course.

Categories > Presidency

Health Care

I Knew It Was Out There Somewhere

Way back in 1993, in the midst of the Hillarycare debate, I wrote a cover story for Reason magazine about the disaster of Medicare. Here's the link to the piece. Remarkable how well it holds up under the specter of Obamacare.
Categories > Health Care

Economy

Bureaucrats for Clunkers

The Department of Transportation triples the number of bureaucrats who process "Cash for Clunkers" claims:

The government is tripling the number of contractors and federal employees helping to process claims in the "Cash for Clunkers" vehicle trade-in program, a Transportation Department official said.

By the end of the week, there are expected to be up to 1,100 people processing paperwork on vehicles that have been traded in for vouchers towards the purchase of new cars. At the end of last week there were roughly 350 workers dealing with the applications, but many dealers have complained of backups on the computer system. (Italics added.)

Where are the "death panels" for the bureaucracy?
Categories > Economy

Health Care

Hey, John Mackey: Open a Whole Foods in Ashland!

2003: Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks makes disparaging comments about George W. Bush while onstage during a concert in London. Country music fans respond by demanding that the band's songs be pulled from the airwaves, and by boycotting the band's concerts. The Left cries foul. The boycott is "an issue of free speech"; an example of "demonizing dissenters." Martin Sheen calls Bush "a bully" for not coming to their defense.

2009: John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of the grocery-store chain Whole Foods, writes an op-ed criticizing the Obama/Pelosi health care reform, and suggesting alternatives. Left-wing groups express their disagreement, but respect his right to offer his opinions in a public forum.

Nah, just kidding. They're organizing a boycott of Whole Foods.

Categories > Health Care

Environment

Next: Cap-and-Trade

Liberals who are disappointed by Obama's apparent willingness to back down on the "public option" for health care may soon have something else to complain about. In a possible omen of things to come, the Australian Senate has voted down that country's version of cap-and-trade.
Categories > Environment

Health Care

Death Panels: The Dutch Experience

Beware of going "dutch treat" on this provision of Obamacare. The Dutch experience is detailed in this 1991 book by a physician and Ph.D. in public policy: Buy it used for $.01 on amazon.
Categories > Health Care

Political Philosophy

Fancy Dancing by Harry Jaffa

NRO has another Peter Robinson five-series interview with the renowned Lincoln scholar and political philosopher Harry V. Jaffa. Essential conversation for all conservatives and for all Americans. One point would confront those who claim political superiority on the ground that they "believe in science": They need to make sure they are worshipping the right gods.

Presidency

The Great Conversationalist

Ann Althouse parses Obama.
Categories > Presidency

Fred and Ginger and Happiness

It’s been a moderate summer, but not the last few days. Yesterday it reached 96. I sat inside listening to Norah Jones and flipping through a prosaic issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association feeling the weight of the heat when I got hungry. The only thing in the fridge was a piece of salmon and a bottle of Kris Pinot Grigio. Got ’em both and set myself up in my best chair and flipped open my Sunday Times (Kindle, actually). The Pinot Grigio was a delight, perfect with salmon on such a day. It is vibrant with a touch of citrus, with none of that artificial and heavy oak-like and over-ripe sophistication you find in many Chardonnays. The high-plumed wine aficionados don’t praise this wine much and they are offended when us half-learned folk like it and are vocal about it. And, say the haughty ones, folks drink it like lemonade when you are supposed to sip wine! Well, to Hell with them, I was enjoying my Pinot, even as I was reading articles about war and pestilence and bad politics. And once I ran out of salmon I lit up a Cuban, but stayed with the Pinot, and then--to my delight--latched unto this fine piece by Alistair Macaulay in the Arts section of The Times. What a great piece on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (and note the terrific Youtube videos on the left)! He explains the dance, the romance, the beauty of the movement, and how it is that in parts of a dance they "become divinities." Well, I can tell you that the day became less heavy and less hot as I watched Fred and Ginger dance and dance. I watched and re-read the fine piece by Macaulay, poured another glass and lit up another fine cigar and I was in heaven. Read the thing yourself and watch the divinities. Give yourself time.

Health Care

So Crazy, it Might Just Work

Ever wonder why the cost of medical practices such as Lasik eye surgery and liposuction have gone down in recent years, while costs for just about everything else related to medicine have gone up? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that such practices aren't covered either by private insurance or by Medicare/Medicaid. Maybe instead of talking about creating a massive new government bureaucracy we should be considering treating Americans more like consumers, and less like children.
Categories > Health Care

Health Care

Community, rationing, and Health Care

Does the fear of "death panels" show one of the inherent problems with nationalizing health care (further) in the US? As several commentators have noted, medicine, like any other scarce good, must be rationed. The question is how, by whom, and for what reasons? Is it good to have a single, open, republic-wide discussion of such things? Will there ever be anythig like consensus about such things? Do we really want a frank and open, nationwide discussion of when not to pay for a hip replacement, or a heart bypass?

Progressives, with their faith in technocracy, are often content with the idea that experts can, across a large system, make reasonable calculations about such things. If a 85-year-old has a 20% chance of benefittig from a liver transplant, then give the new liver to someone else, etc. Is it better to have a system like the one we currently have, where there is some chance involved? In that chance, there is, I suspect, more room for individuals to make measured calculations of risk and reward for themselves. There is also less blunt discussion of when it is time for our parents, grandparents, etc., to stop fighting for life. I'm not sure I want to live in a society where such decisions are made by a rule, created by expert ethicists (partly because I don't think that people with PhDs in ethics are, in fact, better at making such rules). But if there is a single payer for health care, there must be such rules. How else can the government make such decisions?

To reiterate a favorite point, the US is not a small republc. In a republic of a few thousand, it might be possible to have a real, and legitimate community consensus about such things, and also to allow some play in the system. In a large republic, of thousands of communities, that's simply not possible. People get reduced to atoms in a health care system that coveres a republic of 300 million.

Categories > Health Care

Doonesbury joins the revolt, and other Sunday funnies

Sunday’s Doonesbury is on Obama carcare, but think Obamamedicalcare. This Sunday’s “Pearls Before Swine” has a back-to-school special, tweaking the tenured professors who blog here. And it’s hard to tell when “Get Fuzzy” is being ironic; I prefer to take much of it more literally, as this older strip on exorcising "Demoncrats" from July 28. See as well the strips following. Here’s a good intro to international relations.

Silly stuff? If you think so, listen to Bill Clinton talking to the Netroots conference.

Presidency

A Naked Obama with Unicorns????

Given the strong reaction folks have had to the posters of Obama as the Joker, what are we to make of these drawings, depicting a naked Obama posed with a unicorn? I know it's the 40th anniversary of Woodstock this weekend, but isn't this taking LSD nostalgia a bit too far?
Categories > Presidency

McWhorter on Zora Neale Hurston and Shakespeare

John McWhorter writes on Zora Neale Hurston. McWhorter is always worth reading, even when one disagrees with him, as I do on this piece where he argues that Shakespeare needs to be translated into modern English. Also note this penultimate paragraph on translations of Shakespeare into foreign languages:

"The irony is that people in foreign countries often possess Shakespeare to a greater extent than we do, since they get to enjoy Shakespeare in the language that they speak. Shakespeare is translated into rich, poetic varieties of these languages, to be sure, but since it is the rich, poetic modern varieties of the languages, the typical spectator in Paris or Moscow can attend a production of Hamlet and enjoy a play rather than an exercise. A friend of mine has told me that first time he truly understood more than the gist of what was going on in a Shakespeare play was when he saw one in French!"

There is some sense to this. Yet, it must be noted that the best native poets (say of Hungary) learned enough English just to translate the Bard and the Hungarian Shakespeare is not modern, but, rather, as my father might have said, better than the original!

"Death Panels," a question

Do some of our elderly citizens already feel pressured about not wasting scarce resources and money? Do they sometimes feel that their children are upset when they live long enough to deplete their assets so the children don’t get what they had hoped as an inheritance? Do they sometimes, already, feel that hospitals and doctors gently suggest that it’s selfish of them to want hip replacements at 75 and heart surgery at 80? Some certainly fear that will be the case, reasonably or not. But do they feel some that pressure already?

The Next Time Someone Derides or Challenges You to Defend Sarah Palin

You might ask how the character and judgment of the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee compare to that of the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Reagan v. Obama Day

So, today I’ve got two articles up comparing Reagan and Obama. The first, on Forbes.com, compares Reagan and Obama on basic questions of leadership--especially how they relate to Congress. The second, on American.com, compares media coverage of and elite opinion about the 1982-83 recession with the current downturn, wondering whether the media will become a cheerleader for Obama now that the economy has (probably/hopefully) bottomed out (for now anyway).

Hat tip to the great Peter Robinson, who loaned me his Forbes.com column space this week while he’s on vacation.

P.S. I almost forgot: Have you ordered your copy yet?

The Case for Tax Transparency

Charles Murray’s latest. Always worth reading.  

Evil-Mongers?

Senator Reid wines that "’evil-mongers’ are using ’lies, innuendo and rumor,’ to drown out rational debate" on health care. In light of the President’s effort to root out disinformation, ought he to have called them "fishy-mongers" instead?

Barry Levinson’s Baltimore

Here’s some more film studies, featuring Dr. Pat Deneen and ME.

Ivan the K on the Politics of Health Care

Here’s a really judicious account of the apolitical or "technocratic" contempt the Democrats and their media allies are showing toward citizens angrily concerned about change they can’t believe in and aren’t properly informed about. My own view is that this unfocused anger suffers from lack of political leadership. There’s a great opportunity for some emerging statesman here. I’m going to my town hall meeting with our Rep. Gingrey this afternoon. Our Republican physician-representative will be pretty much preaching to the converted, and I hope he can focus us on the real issues.

Grandma Got Run Over by Obamacare

Amusing parody.

The Age of Reagan

The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989 landed on my desk yesterday, a week ahead of schedule. Looks great, Mr. Hayward!

Amusingly enough two hours after I received the book, I was in a furniture store in Mansfield (OH) browsing when a salesman came up to introduce himself. We had met about five years back and--he said--I had given him Hayward’s first volume on Reagan, The Age of Reagan, 1964-1980: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, and he had just now finished reading it! Although he said he enjoyed it very much, I thought I detected a groan when I told him about the new volume!

Cap and Trade

I don’t often intrude on Steve’s turf, but I did have a piece in today’s Providence Journal on the effects of the Waxman-Markey capa dn trade legislation. This is right up there with Obamacare as a dreadful idea.

How to think about legislation

Tom Maguire notes an interesting turn in the debate over health care. Liberals like Ezra Klein complain that conservatives are complaining about things that are not in the bill:
Danielle Allen's op-ed this morning. Discussing the insistence of some that health-care reform will result in rationing and death panels, Allen chides those who respond with an accurate description of the legislation. "One can't answer them by saying: 'These policies won't ration; there will be no death panels,'" she writes. Instead, reformers must detail the "institutional checks that will prevent the emergence" of death panels and rationing.

In other words, the questions reformers have to answer is not "when did you stop beating your wife?" It's "what will prevent you from beating your wife?" Given that there is no such thing as a "death panel," nor any policy provision that would establish such a thing, it is hard to explain the institutional checks that would prevent a "death panel" from coming into being. When you have to explain why your bill won't create death panels, and what will make sure that it doesn't, you've pretty much lost the argument.

(Here's a link to Allen's piece).

This argument raises interesting questions about how to think about legislation. As I understand him, Klein is looking strictly at the text of the bill, and thinking about what the bill is designed to do.

By contrast, Allen is thinking about the likely consequences of the bill:

These activists do not claim that the proposed reforms include policies whose explicit purpose is to ration, nor do the more careful among them claim that the policies will establish panels to help people decide when to die. They are not arguing about the semantic content of the policies; that is, they are not arguing about the meaning of the words that are actually in the relevant drafts of bills. Instead, they are considering, as the pragmatist philosopher William James put it, "what conceivable effects of a practical kind the [policy] may involve -- what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare."
For a couple of generations, there has been much discussion of the "unintended consequences" of legislation. Allen is suggesting that these consequences are often predictible, and, therefore, it is not unreasonable to discuss legislation from the standpont not of its intent, or of its explicit language, narrowly construed, but, rather, in terms of its likely consequences. Isn't one point of Cass Sunstein's Nudge that human beings are often irrational in predictable ways. As the recent financial crisis shows, as do countless tales of mistakes by government, that is no less true of elites than it is of the common man. That predictable irrationality would, presumably, also apply to understanding the consequences of legislation.

Quite often the rancor in public debate turns on this distinction between a narrow and broad reading of legislation, with the result that each side thinks the other is arguing in bad faith. Thus it long has been, and probably ever must be.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing for July

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Tim Fitterer

Paul Mitchell

Peter Riebling

Kelly Sparrow

George Alecusan

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter August’s drawing.

Is Our Health Care System Killing Us?

Advocates of reform often cite average life expectancy in the United States, which is lower than in a number of other industrialized countries, as evidence that the nation’s health care system requires an overhaul. However, a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the system isn’t the problem. Specifically, the authors consider mortality rates among those suffering from breast cancer and prostate cancer--diseases for which "behavioral factors do not play a dominant role"--and find that the United States does quite well in comparison with other OECD countries. In short, it’s obesity and smoking that are killing Americans, not the availability of quality health care.

Pub Notice

My review of Patrick Allitt’s book, The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History, is up in this week’s issue of The Weekly Standard.

V-J Day in L.A.

Memory rests lightly on Los Angeles. Part of the city’s laid back charm is that its denizens seem to the outside world forever to be cruising Sunset Boulevard in a convertible, in the happy superficiality of continual newness. But turn east from Sepulveda Boulevard just north of Wilshire onto Constitution Avenue, and, according to Chris Flannery, you... enter a sanctuary of remembrance.

Apatow’s FUNNY PEOPLE

According to Douthat. people are complaining that it’s not as funny as Judd’s other movies. Well, it’s not, and like his other movies it’s needlessly gross. But it’s a movie about comedians. The best of them, of course, are kind of screwed up, shy, and not that funny in real life. Adam Sandler and Josh Rogen do more than decent jobs portraying funny men in public who have a hard time being happy or acting grown up in private. I could criticize the movie a dozen different ways, but it is worth seeing. It’s certainly conservative in defending personal love and family responsibility and ordinary decency and all that, although a liberal might say such a low-level defense of civilization could hardly be the exclusive province of conservatives. (I can’t believe ol’ Ross wasted one of his NYT shots on this.)

Ross mentions in passing the great comedic filmaker John Hughes, who just died and richly deserves a column’s sustained attention. My question to you: Which of Hughes’ great movies is the greatest--SIXTEEN CANDLES, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, or PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES? John Candy, of course, towers over Sandler and Rogen as a genuinely funny, sad man on the screen (although apparently a very happy family guy in real life).

The Right to Health Care, Old Style

I have been reading some pamphlets from the Revolutionary era of late, and that got me thinking about Locke’s ideas about the right to revolution. Locke wrote:


For no Man, or Society of Men, having a Power to deliver up their Preservation, or consequently the means of it, to the Absolute Will and arbitrary Dominion of another; whenever any one shall go about to bring them into such a Slavish Condition, they will always have a right to preserve what they have not a Power to part with; and to rid themselves of those who invade this Fundamental, Sacred, and unalterable Law of Self-Preservation, for which they enter’d into Society.

How might Locke’s ideas apply to the health care debate? As we know, the Progressives, and those who are shaped by their philosophy, simply will say that Locke wrote that in the 17th century, so there’s no reason to listen, and will be tempted simply to ignore the broader question. In general, of course, the Progressives suggested that the ideas of 1776 were passe. (Of course, a century late, so too are the ideas of the Progressives).

But if we take Locke seriously, what are its implications? If they cover essental care, Rahm Emanuel’s brother’s comment run contrary to Locke:

Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years.

Presumably when life saving care is rationed, the principles of 1776, which were, in this respect, the same as Locke’s, would suggest a right to take such care by force if necessary. How far might those principles apply to medicine that serves the cause of living well, but are not essential to simply staying alive?

It’s much easier simply to follow the Progressives and dismiss all that as passe, of course. And, in the mean time, we can be thankful that, under current US law, such rationing is not legal. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Eighty-five years after his death...

...he’s still killing people.

Rumsfeld

Christopher Caldwell writes a review on a book on Rumsfeld worth reading; the book may be worth reading as well.

Woodstock at 40: Woodstock Forever

John Pareles of the New York Times reminds us yesterday that "Baby boomers won’t let go of the Woodstock Festival" Of course not--baby boomers won’t let go of anything they think is a totem of their essential difference and, ahem, moral superiority. I’ve long thought that if the Census Bureau included on its questionnaire "Did you attend Woodstock in 1969?", something like 5 million baby boomers would check the "Yes" box. Has there ever been more nonsense written about an ordinary event? (Pareles points out that there were comparable events at the time, and larger events subsequently, none of which acquired the exalted metaphysical status of Woodstock.)

The most fatuous assessment of Woodstock belongs to Time magazine, which wrote in 1969: "Woodstock may well rank as one of the significant political and sociological events of the age. . . [T]he revolution it preaches, implicitly or explicitly, is essentially moral; it is the proclamation of a new set of values. . . With a surprising ease and a cool sense of authority, the children of plenty have voiced an intention to live by a different ethical standard than their parents accepted. The pleasure principle has been elevated over the Puritan ethic of work. To do one’s own thing is a greater duty than to be a useful citizen. Personal freedom in the midst of squalor is more liberating than social conformity with the trappings of wealth. Now that youth takes abundance for granted, it can afford to reject materialism." They must have been smoking a lot of dope in Time’s newsroom that weekend.

Not to be outdone, lefty Andrew Kopkind wrote that Woodstock represented "a new culture of opposition. It grows out of the disintegration of old forms, the vinyl and aerosol institutions that carry all the inane and destructive values of privatism, competition, commercialism, profitability and elitism. . . For people who had never glimpsed the intense communitarian closeness of a militant struggle—People’s Park or Paris in the month of May or Cuba—Woodstock must always be their model of how good we will all feel after the revolution. . . [P]olitical radicals have to see the cultural revolution as a sea in which they can swim." At least Kopkind wrote in the magazine High Times, which means this can be safely read a self-parody.

I rather liked the comic--I think it was Jay Leno--who joked about the 20th anniversary that aging baby boomers who went back to the scene would likely need to bring LSD suppositories.

Is the Mega-debt Changing Our Culture?

Mr. Zuckerman seems to think so. Americans, in their own lives, are quickly moving from the culture of spending to the culture of thrift, and they really want government to do the same. Not only are jobs being lost, salaries are being cut, and people are somewhat resigned to making do with less. They sort of know that the government is in grave danger of drowning in debt unless big-time prosperity returns, and that’s not so likely. So they don’t want government to spend our way out of the recession in the short term, even if that means the recession lasts longer. Although he does tend to exaggerate, Dr. Pat Deneen might be somewhat right that this bowing to the necessity of belt tightening will be good for our characters. President Obama, unfortunately, is not in touch with this new mood, and even I’m not as sure as Mr. Zuckerman about how pervasive it is yet. Where are Bob Dole and the other old-fashioned responsible Republicans when we finally need them?

What We Owe the Puritans

Is explained by ME, using Tocqueville and the great Neo-Puritanical novelist and scholar Marilynne Robinson. For now, unfortunately, you can only get the first page of the article for free without walking over to your library.

ME on Solzhenitsyn, Technology, Purpose, and Our Future

...can be found HERE. I say a little bit about everything, including health care.

Stelzer on the Economy

It really is getting better. It’s even true that some credit rightly goes to the stimulus package. The president has a decent economic story to tell, although his health care "narrative" is pretty darn discredited. So his most prudent course would be to scale back his health care ambitions for now and try to produce bigger Democratic margins in 2010 as Dr. Fix It on the economy. Stelzer adds some cautionary notes, including the undeniable fact that eventually we get bitten hard by the mega-debt. But who can be against the economy continuing to improve for a while, and who can be against the president backing off health care for a while, at least until people can actually read the whole plan, get a decent executive summary, and have a real national discussion about it? Most of all, the president needs some to figure out what he really wants and honestly make some hard and unpopular choices.

Democracy in Action

"Divided we ever have been, and ever must be"--John Adams


The recent rise in tensions and confrontations as debate heats up over health care reform, is a sign of healthy democracy. It is inevitable that sometimes passions will boil over every now and then. But in a country the size of the US, especially one where each Congressman represents roughly 650,000 people, shouting is going to happen.


Part of what we see on display, however, is a continuation of the underlying tensions that American politics has seen for quite some time. We have two political spectrums in the US. First there is the spectrum that includes all US citizens. In that spectrum, to oversimplify, National Review is about as far to the Right as The New Republic is to the Left.


In addition to that political spectrum, we have the elite political spectrum. In that spectrum, The New Republic is on the center-right. If one tracks the opinions of people who staff our news organizations, our governments (at all levels) and our major corporate bureaucracies, their opinions, particularly on cultural issues, but also on other issues such as immigration and health care regulation, are to the Left of the general mainstream. Particularly among those people who live in New York, Washington, and LA, this is what used to be called the "New Class." In those cities, there tends to be a bit of a bubble because the concentration of members of this group is so high.

Part of the anger aimed at President Bush, and the GOP Congress, I suspect, grew from the tension between the two political spectrums. What is mainstreatm conventional wisdom in Washington is often not mainstream in the US as a whole. The members of the New class tend to see themselves as post-partisan, neutral, well educated people who are simply trying to serve the public. Since they don’t often hear truly dissenting voices, they dismiss protests as irrational. Peter Jennings’ famous comment that in 1994 the voters threw a tantrum in 1994 is the emblematic statement of this attitude. From Jennings’ perspective, the GOP is, by definition, out of the mainstream. The party that captured Congress was, by definition, an extremist movement to Jennings and the other members of his class.

Hence people like Paul Krugman believe that "the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement." One could also say that the dismissal of those who dissent from liberal conventional wisdom as irrational grows from cultural anxiety--one that grows from the tension between the belief in democracy and the belief in the rule of the New class. Krugman’s mainstream is not really the mainstream.

One further point. The GOP establishment is not so far from the elite mainstream in many ways. That reality led to much of the anger directed at the GOP during the Bush years. Now that the Democrats hold all three houses of the legislature, there is more clarity in this situation.

Now we’re thinking

Rather than trying to eliminate the liberty that allows us to harm the environment, find ways to control its effects. Liberty is to pollution what air is to fire.

Help on the Health Care Bill

I wonder if someone out there couldn’t point me to an evenhanded, fair-minded analysis of Obama’s health care proposals. Like those who are going to vote for it, I have no intention of reading the complete bill, and I have a hard time swallowing some of the stuff I’ve heard both from its defenders and its detractors. I’m not naive enough to think there’s anything truly objective that’s been written about it, but some sort of "executive summary" that lists the plans strengths and weaknesses would be much appreciated.

The RV-ing Justice

As Obama spoke in Elkhart, Indiana, where most of the RV’s are made (he also brought gifts), note this conversation with Ginni Thomas about her RV (it’s a forty-footer) trips with husband Clarence. Some of the comments are worth reading. Also see this short story on the same theme.

Poltico Online Chat on Sotomayor

I will be participating in Politico’s live online chat in what they dub "The Arena" today from 12:00 – 12:30 Eastern Time to discuss the Sotomayor nomination. Those wishing to join the chat can do so here.

Power to the People?

What is the role that the philosophy of history plays in the Left’s response to the tea party movement and to the recent visibility people opposed to Lefty health care reform?

The Left embraces the living constitution because it is confident that the constitution will only evolve in a direction it likes. Whenever I am in a constitutional argument with a Progressive friend, and I suggest (with irony that’s usually not noticed) "what the constitution used to mean is not important. I believe in a living constitution, and under current circumstances, x is constitutional" they get rather angry. The constitution is not supposed to evolve in a direction that Left does no like.

Might the same apply to popular protest? Can dissent from the Progressive line be the highest form or patriotism? Or is it a sign of false consciousness? Senator Boxer’s comment that the protestors are too well dressed to be authentic seems to fit this model. The same attitude seems to be present in the Democratic belief that their opponents are nothing more than a mob, and the White House’s requres that Americans report questionable statements and comments to it for vetting. To be sure, some of the people who have made noise are probably connected to larger organizations, but most are probably simply people who read blogs, watch FoxNews and listen to conservative talk radio.

To the degree that this old post is on the mark, it suggests some of the reasons why things are getting tense just now. What if Americans are frustrated with the modern administrative/ bureacratic state, and the feeling that they can’t control it?

Some questions on health care reform

Andy Busch responds to the White House claim that there is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there in the form of a letter to the President. Very good, crisp, and amusing.   

The Columnist as Statesman

A blogger in the Big Apple recently discovered that Paul Krugman has made a remarkable admission:

George Stephanopoulos: "What would you consider a bottom line victory?" (at -03.23):

Paul Krugman: "In a way, since I have my own goals on healthcare, I can’t say what my final, what’s the least I’ll accept, because that then becomes a negotiating point.”


Our blogger comments:

The amazing thing about Krugman’s statement is the extent to which he expressly sees himself as a policy maker with a role negotiating the final shape of any new healthcare bill. He is afraid to say what he wants because that would be used to negotiate against him. . . . Instead of seeing that it is his role to explain what is going on, he obviously believes he was put on this earth to influence the shape of the healthcare bill. He has completely thrown out the window any pretense that he is an objective commentator on the debate.

In other words, when one reads Krugman’s column, one should recognize that he does not think it is his job to help we the people understand the issues so that we may make informed decisions about them. On the contrary, he regards it as his job to shape what he says and does not say, in order to move debate in the direction he thinks it ought to go.


I wonder if Krugman reflects a larger defect in the New York Times. The Times became a great and influential newspaper because it sought to provide information to the people, to help create an informed citizenry. It did that job so well, that the Times started have a good deal of influence in setting the agenda for the Union as a whole. As time passed, the newspaper grew self conscious about that role, and, as a result, started paying too much attention to agenda setting (asking whether a story was worthy of being in the public discussion, and working too hard to decide which facts the people ought to have before them), rather than sticking with the basics. The result has been that the Times has grown weaker as a newspaper, and, at the same time, is becoming less influential. Once the curtain is down, it can’t be put back up.

Health reform populism

Rather than simply opposing what Progressives are supporting in health reform, conservatives ought to suggest some ideas of their own. Here are two that would be popular and save money: tort reform (to reduce the amount of defensive medicine) and immigration reform (to reduce the number of uninsured who are already covered by our hospitals when they need care).


And how about supporting a law that would require Congressmen, Senators, senior staff and bureaucrats to use the "public option" if it passes? If memory serves, one of the popular items in the Contract with America was to apply to Congress all regulations that they passed for others.

A Sign of the Times?

I have joked for a while that someone needs to do an update of Arlo Guthrie’s "Alice’s Restaurant" depicting being arrested for crossing the recycling fascists, and lo and behold, here’s news that Guthrie has become a Republican! I’ll start working on new lyrics during this evening’s cocktail hour.

I can’t hear you, la la la

During the Bush Administration, we were frequently told that the President was kept in a bubble, insulated from critical voices. Democratic proponents of health care reform seem to be heading down that path, with some avoiding the meetings and others (like the current inhabitant of the Oval Office) attempting to discredit the folks who show up to protest the Administration’s policies.

My dad, who sent his Congressman--John Spratt (D-S.C.)--a quick email about health care reform, asking him to protect seniors’"hard won medical insurance benefits", received a non-reply suggesting the message was deleted without being read.

If attacking or ignoring critics was either morally or politically wrong for the Bush Administration, is it any less problematical for their successors?

The "Birthers" in Obama’s strategy

Obama will promote, or even raise, bizarre claims to discredit his opponents. He has done this before, to good effect. It is a more aggressive version of law school debating technique, which gives opponents a minor point that they go nuts on, eating up their debate time, while the debater cleans their clocks on more important points.

Obviously, only someone confident in a lead can afford such a strategy, but the guy is audacious. When the lead dwindles or disappears, such a person may be at sea, though--at least for a while.

What Biden’s Beer Summit Presence Reveals

After denouncing the participants’ choice of brews, Tunku Varadarajan notes that Biden’s surprise appearance changed the racial mix and the appearances of the beer summit--it wasn’t about a black intellectual and a black intellectual-politician versus a white cop, but two white guys and the two black guys. Obama "would not have become president if he’d made white people afraid. The best way to ensure that people are not afraid is to ensure that you’re not threatening--and President Obama had never been threatening until the Gates affair"--unless you had vaguely recalled the Rev. Wright.

Shelby Steele sketches this out further, in case you missed his weekend WSJ op-ed.

Cash for clunkers again

This WSJ piece argues that the only thing accomplished by the "Cash for Clunkers" program is to speed up the natural rate of trading in old for new, rathe than actually prompting otherwise uncontemplated purchases. What will happen to the automobile market when consumers get off this financial methamphetamine? Can you say "Crash for Clunkers"?

This WSJ op-ed is also critical of the program. A snippet:

On the other hand, this is crackpot economics. The subsidy won’t add to net national wealth, since it merely transfers money to one taxpayer’s pocket from someone else’s, and merely pays that taxpayer to destroy a perfectly serviceable asset in return for something he might have bought anyway. By this logic, everyone should burn the sofa and dining room set and refurnish the homestead every couple of years.

Same-sex marriage again

Robert P. George has a most excellent op-ed in today’s WSJ.

A snippet:

Opponents of racist laws in Loving did not question the idea, deeply embodied in our law and its shaping philosophical tradition, of marriage as a union that takes its distinctive character from being founded, unlike other friendships, on bodily unity of the kind that sometimes generates new life. This unity is why marriage, in our legal tradition, is consummated only by acts that are generative in kind. Such acts unite husband and wife at the most fundamental level and thus legally consummate marriage whether or not they are generative in effect, and even when conception is not sought.

Of course, marital intercourse often does produce babies, and marriage is the form of relationship that is uniquely apt for childrearing (which is why, unlike baptisms and bar mitzvahs, it is a matter of vital public concern). But as a comprehensive sharing of life—an emotional and biological union—marriage has value in itself and not merely as a means to procreation. This explains why our law has historically permitted annulment of marriage for non-consummation, but not for infertility; and why acts of sodomy, even between legally wed spouses, have never been recognized as consummating marriages.

Only this understanding makes sense of all the norms—annulability for non-consummation, the pledge of permanence, monogamy, sexual exclusivity—that shape marriage as we know it and that our law reflects. And only this view can explain why the state should regulate marriage (as opposed to ordinary friendships) at all—to make it more likely that, wherever possible, children are reared in the context of the bond between the parents whose sexual union gave them life.

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Read the whole thing.

When the News Isn’t Fit to Print

I’ve been visiting the family in Ohio and I’ve had some interesting conversations with my 80 year old grandmother who is, quite rightly, appalled by the dwindling content and quality of her local paper. She wanted to know why papers seem to be dying and remarked--in the sort of colorful terms only she could summon--on the terrible shame of it. Maybe I should have just shown her this posted today by my friend Rattlergator. The "most trusted" man in television journalism, Walter Cronkite, gets the most untrustworthy send-off possible from the New York Times? The shame of this deserves even more colorful language than my dear grandmother can muster. But that’s why I told her I can’t stand the tyranny of printed "news" and haven’t bothered to subscribe to a paper in more than 10 years (we get our local rag for free and without asking)--that, and the fact that by the time you get your news in a paper, it isn’t "news" anymore.

I understand the not wanting to sit and read on a computer part of the problem (especially at 80) but, in time and with things like Kindle, I expect the comfort issues will be overcome. But even with the strain on the eyes and the inconvenience of having to be tied to a wall or a clunky notebook, I could never go back to the tyranny of a newspaper where you can’t simultaneously search for more information, fact check for yourself, find commentary and then comment to your friends and enemies about what you’ve read. Maybe it’s a sign of my youthful (er . . . well, comparatively speaking, anyway) impatience with slow moving things, but I don’t like my news stale or thrown at me as if I were a peasant and it a bread crumb from on high (which is why I also do not like TV news with its repetitive and obnoxious droning). I don’t want another NYT or Walter Cronkite to emerge and be considered "the leading authority" . . . though God rest both of their souls. Perhaps this means chaos . . . but if it does, I like it. Besides, I don’t miss the ink stains on my fingers, trying to deal with the impossible dimensions of a broadside while curled up in bed or sitting at the breakfast table, or, still worse . . . the flickering of 24 hour television news station while trying to sleep. All the news is not, indeed, fit to print . . . and if it is worth watching, there’s always YouTube. I’m not "Kindling" yet but I hope and expect that improvements will, eventually, drive me to it. But, for now, when I go to the trouble of printing something out and taking it to read in bed, it had better be good.

Time is Less Scarce Than Ever

According to the insightful Mr. Price. So in a way we’re closer to Marx’s end of history than ever and without the blood and guts of revolution. But we can’t get over the thought that we’re wasting time, and that means we still can’t live in the unobsessive way Marx had in mind for us. We dress down more than ever to show how casual our lives are, but in dressing down we look more and more like members of Marx’s proletariat--who exist only to produce and for nothing more. Modern materialism--capitalist and socialist--has convinced us that all we have is time, and so in wasting THAT each of us is wasting what little there is of his or her momentary and paltry being. The less we have to do, the more we’re filled with the thought that time is slipping away. So it’s surely the most religious Americans who’re best in being in love in the present. Marx (and even Locke?), by depriving us of love, deprived us of the present for as long as we remain self-conscious and mortal.

The Fundamentals of the Economy Are Resilient

...according to Kudlow, although maybe not so much over the long term, partly because of misguided government policy. The big issue might be: At what point during the current surge should the older individual get out of stocks for good? Our 401K losses are being cut for now, but...

Classical and Christian Views of History

Here’s a thoughtful site that makes good use of ME in distinguishing between the classical and Christian views of history.