Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Toyota Feeding Frenzy

I had been skeptical for some time regarding the claims being made against Toyota in recent months.  Now that Washington and the UAW essentially own General Motors, the ferocity of the government's assault on one of GM's leading nonunion competitors seemed strangely suspicious.  It appears that there were acceleration problems with the Prius that the company is now trying to fix.  However, the story isn't being allowed to die so quickly, and the media has been all over an alleged incident involving one James Sikes.  Michael Fumento has reason to believe that Sikes is lying.  For one thing, there are some significant holes in his story.  At one point Sikes claimed that he was afraid to try putting the car into neutral or hitting the ignition button--even when the 911 dispatcher pleaded him to do so--explaining that he was too frightened to let go of the steering wheel.  But apparently he wasn't afraid to reach down and try to pull up the accelerator with his hand (which, he claims, didn't work).

But what would be his motive to lie?  Well, this site reveals that Sikes is over $700,000 in debt, and among his creditors is Toyota.  He also has a history of filing false insurance claims.  These are tidbits that have yet to come up in the network coverage of the case.  Let's hope that they do soon.

Categories > Technology


Open Conservative Minds

David Brooks insists that Barack Obama, despite his misreading of public opinion, "is still the most realistic and reasonable major player in Washington."  (Look at the abuse leftist commenters heap on him, as your conservatism dismisses this as liberal madness.)  "In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism."  Bring me smarter citizens--the cry of savants throughout the ages!  In truth, Brooks has a point about Obama's Middle East policy and maybe on another issue or two.  But what is at the man's core, what he does he ultimately want to achieve?  Brooks is at odds with, among others', Charles Kesler's reading of Obama, which finds far more ambition (and political extremism) in him than in Clinton or other liberals.

Michael Gerson is even more problematic in his reasoning, making extraordinary parallels based on the relative successes of the gay rights and the pro-life movements:

But so far the gay rights movement has succeeded for many of the same reasons that the pro-life movement (to a lesser extent) has succeeded. Both have taken sometimes abstract, theoretical arguments and humanized them. Both have moved away from extreme-sounding moralism (or anti-moralism) and placed their cause in the context of civil rights progress. Whatever your view on the application of these arguments, this is the way social movements advance in America.

Yes, the way social movements advance is often through spurious comparisons, repeated by authorities.  Moreover, the civil rights movement morphed into racial/ethnic preference pleading that is a key part of expanding the administrative state.  It is the civil rights movement based on the Declaration that must move Gerson, but he has a strange view of it, if he wants to apply it to both pro-life and gay rights. 

Both Brooks and Gerson seem to lack any objective standards by which to assess whether a policy is moral or immoral, just or unjust.  Brooks endorsed a form of gay marriage; is Gerson far behind?    

But as much as some conservatives fail us we should ourselves of how bad liberal establishment journalism was and remains.  See the anti-Fox rant of Howell Raines, former NY Times editor, in tomorrow's WaPo.

Categories > Journalism


The Presidential Peters' Principle

Ralph Peters has a useful meditation on the character of modern presidents in his New York Post column today.  Sample:

Wouldn't it be a fine thing to have another president whose first serious taste of failure didn't come in the Oval Office?  We don't need presidents with exclusive academic credentials. We need presidents who know what it's like to work for a living. We need presidents who understand average Americans. We need presidents for whom the White House isn't just the ultimate résumé entry.

Categories > Presidency

Health Care

Repeal Won't Be Enough

Our brilliant commenter Carl Scott (who should be hired for some full time pundit gig at a major newspaper or magazine) rightly pointed out in one of the threads that if Obamacare passes, "Repeal It" will be the phrase of the day, month and maybe years on the right.  This sentiment might help drive turnout among right-leaning people who consume conservative media, and it might help win some close House and Senate seats.  But I think that "Repeal It" sentiment will prove to be a wasting asset if it is not supplemented with an-almost-as-great focus on alternative conservative policies.  People are risk averse on health care.  That is one of the great advantages that conservatives have enjoyed in the argument over Obamacare. 

The problem is that the moment Obamacare passes, that advantage begins to flip in favor of Obamacare.  Repealing guaranteed issue might seem like a net loss.  Some of the medicare cuts can be repealed.  Whats an extra couple of hundred billion between friends?  We'll take care of it with an... uh freeze...starting in a couple of years.  If premiums rise faster than expected, the blame can be shfted to the mean old insurace companies.  Not only are they raising your premiums, if we repeal Obamacare, they will take away your insurance.  There will be no alternative to patiently explaining the policy problems of Obamacare and pitching the message to the median (and even Democrat-leaning but persuadable) voter rather than commited and inflamed conservatives.  The problem is that it will be tough to sell them on the benefits pre-Obamacare status quo, not because Obamacare will be good, but because, in the short and medium term, the practical difference between Obamacare and pre-Obamacare will be so small.  One would give up security and get in return the pre-Obamacare rate of increase in premiums.  But that rate was already too high, so it might not seem like such a big benefit.  I can see Obamacare being replaced by a conservative policy alternative that promised lower cost and equal or better quality, but I can't see it simply repealed. 

Replacing Obamacare with a free market-oriented alternative will involve huge expenditures of time and energy in explaining the policies and benefits to the public and defending them from what are sure to be furious and well funded liberal attacks.  Conservatives are already years behind in the task of selling the public on free market-oriented alternatives to the status quo.  In the wake of Hillarycare's defeat, the dominant consevative message on health care was 1) greatest health cares system in the world 2) no socialized medicine 3) something about tort reform.  McCain had a health reform plan he could not bother to defend from Obama's attacks.  Perhaps he thought responding would take attention away from more important issues like earmarks and whether Obama had compared Sarah Palin to a pig.  Both of these approaches probably seemed like the easy way at the time.  Explaining how a combination of HSA's and catastrophic coverage (or moving to a system of individually bought insurance through tax code changes) will help bring down costs without hurting the availability of crucial services is tough.  Explaining the policies to help people with preexisting conditions during the transition to such a system will be painstaking because people will be scared, the ideas will be new to them, and the Democrats will be trying to terrify them.  If conservatives have a rhetoric for explaining these approaches to people who aren't CSPAN junkies, I haven't heard it. 

Focusing on "Repeal It" will likewise seem easy. Right-leaning America will have those words on their lips (and as Carl said, bumber stickers too).  It won't mean having to do the hard jobs of settling on alternative reform policies, developing ways of explaining them and having the sheer energy and persistence it will take to defend them in the face of what are sure to be relentless attacks.  But avoiding the hard jobs is one of the reasons why we are on the edge of state-run health care. 


Categories > Health Care


Myth-busting for a Healthy Commercial Republic

Kevin D. Williamson writes a sharp examination of some of the central myths propping up the sentimental (and false) attachment of some conservatives (e.g., Pat Buchanan) and other garden-variety critics of America's free trade system.  "Over time," Williamson says, "Buchanan-style protectionism is much more expensive than bank bailouts, and it's premised on even worse thinking."  Much of that bad thinking, it turns out, has to do with an overly-romantic (and selective) memory of the past and a willful sort of ignorance about today's realities.  Williamson also does not neglect to take into account the powerful influence of today's heightened expectations . . . though--unlike so-called "Crunchies" who tend to be-moan them as the source of our growing (as they see it) degeneracy and perhaps endemic to our system and indicative of a flaw--Williamson notes them with a hint of resignation, if not outright approval.  "Higher expectations are a good thing, too -- a very American thing -- but they have to be taken in a realistic context."

Ay, there's the rub . . . for taking things in "a realistic context" (i.e., a cheerful sense of humor and recognition of life's inevitable imperfection) seems to be a thing beyond the dominating memes of both the right and left today.

Categories > Economy

Foreign Affairs

The Obama Doctrine: Burma Follows Suit

"President Obama took office hoping that constructive diplomacy [read: elegant talking - JP] could yield progress on some of the thorniest foreign-policy challenges facing the United States. Among these was Burma...." Thus begins today's WaPo story, which quickly continues as everyone of reasonable clarity always expected. "This week the regime delivered its answer: Get lost."

Everyone in the world is aware that Burma's ruling junta is guilty of a longstanding "pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights." In 2007, I wrote of the massacre of peaceful, pro-democracy monks and the international community's failure to respond. Burma's junta has now excluded the only opposition party in its sham democracy from participating in anticipated elections.

WaPo concludes: "Mr. Obama was right to offer, cautiously, an open hand. It has been spat upon. Now is the time for something new." The first sentiment is naive, the second foreseeable and the third long overdue. When the WaPo is calling for a - shall we call it,  "smarter" - strategy, one must wonder how long it will take for Obama to (even quietly) concede that the world is a harder place than he imagined - and not just because mean, Western conservatives aren't listening hard enough to everyone else. 

Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Meltdown Continues

Apparently some folks on the left are now upset with a new UN body overseeing climate change research because the panel is. . . wait for it. . .  all male!  This seems myopic to me.  Everyone knows children and the poor will be hardest hit by climate change. 
Categories > Environment

Health Care

Obama's No-Win Situation

The Reason Foundation's Shikha Dalmia tells us why the administration finds itself in the mess it's in over health care, and why, even if the current abomination passes, things are likely only going to get worse for the Democrats.  The problem, of course, is that the public simply doesn't want what they're selling:

The combined unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security--the federal health care and the pension programs for the elderly--are $107 trillion, seven times the current GDP. Meanwhile, Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program, is consuming on average 21% of state budgets, their single biggest ticket item even before ObamaCare dumps another 16 million people into the program, expanding the Medicaid population by 25%. Beyond that, state and local government have promised their employees a trillion dollars more in pension and other benefits than they have funds to deliver.

There are not enough taxpayers in the country or creditors in China capable of financing all these promises. Expanding this massive, multifarious entitlement state even more strikes most normal people as sheer lunacy--especially now that it is visibly coming apart at the seams.

Nevertheless, Obama's own character makes it impossible for him to step back from the precipice:

His goal is not to remake his party as it could be but "remake this world as it should be." In his book Dreams From My Father Obama gives the distinct impression that his gifts are too great for the smallness of our political stage. He regrets not having been born during the civil rights era when the grandness of the cause would have measured up to the grandness of his ambition. He is in search of something big that will allow him to make his mark on the world as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King did. Hence, the defeat of ObamaCare would not just be par for the course in the rough-and-tumble world of politics for him. It would be sign of his ordinariness, his mortality, and that, to him, is unendurable.

Categories > Health Care


How Private Citizens Helped Catch "Jihad Jane"

ABC is reporting the role of "'Net Vigilantes" in leading authorities to the Pennsylvania woman who called herself "Jihad Jane."  Apparently there's a network of internet users who've been following YouTube, various blogs, and other websites where individuals have been making violent Islamist tirades.  They then make their findings public on sites such as The Jawa Report and YouTube Smackdown.  They've apparently had considerable success in getting YouTube to pull the most offensive videos (some 31,000 since 2007), and in persuading web hosting companies to shut down the nastiest sites.  They use pseudonyms, and with good reason, given that they themselves could find themselves the targets of Islamist violence; the person who runs The Jawa Report goes by Rusty Shackelford. (Bonus points if you recall that name as the pseudonym used by Dale in King of the Hill.)

For years, it turned out, Colleen LaRose (who frequently posted as "Jihad Jane" and "Fatima LaRose" had been putting out videos praising terrorists and expressing violent hatred of the United States.  One of the "'Net Vigilantes" in particular began following her tirades closely, picking up bits of information that LaRose provided.  She was, this individual writes, "the perfect recruit for extremist; lonely, isolated, blaming others for her problems, in the middle of a midlife crisis, and upset that she had to care for her elderly mother. She lashed out and converted to Islam then used this as an excuse to lash out further at society for being at fault for her problems and citing her elderly mother she had to care for who did not approve of her conversion."

Categories > Technology

The Civil War & Lincoln

Mac Owens on Lincoln as a War President

Here is Mac Owens on YouTube (this is big-time stuff, Mac!) talking about Lincoln as a war president.  Probably some of the best stuff out there on the topic, yet, if any one of you decide to attack Mac (or Lincoln), I sure would like to see how your dogs of war fare against this Silver Starred Marine.

Health Care

Salt, a Deadly Weapon?

Drudge notes that New York wants to ban the use of salt in restaurant kitchens.  Here we have more evidence, as if it were needed, that socialized medicine and basic liberty are very hard to reconcile. When I am on the hook for your health care bills (and vice versa), I have an interest in what you eat, whether you exercise, whether you engage in risky sports, etc.

I am sure that when socialized medicine was first brought up in the U.S., people said that it would, ultimately, give the government the right to tell us what to eat. I am also certain, that supporters of socialized medicine said that was absurd.  We'll much of American health care is paid for by all of us, collectively, and it is already happening.

Once again, we see that unintended consequences are often predictable.

Categories > Health Care

Health Care

President Telemarketer

Jim Geraghty from NRO's Campaign Spot has an email newsletter well worth the price of subscription (yes . . . it's free).  But this morning it ended up costing me something as the coffee I was sipping ended up on my keyboard.  Anyway, it was still worth it.  Here's why:  writing about the President's continued push for health care legislation in the face of evidence that his efforts can no longer move the numbers (at least not in the direction he wants), Geraghty gives us this gem:

He's turning into President Telemarketer:  incessantly bugging you, trying to get you to buy a product that you don't want, can't afford, and have heard terrible things about.  But he's convinced that this call at dinnertime will be the one that changes your mind.

How do we get our names put on the "do not call" list for this Telemarketing scheme?
Categories > Health Care


Madison, Wilson, Obama

Henry Adams wrote that "The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin."  In an update, George Will sees the replacement of politics by the administrative state, as called for by Wilson and Obama, in the healthcare legislation.  RTWT, but here are the last two paragraphs:

So note also Obama's yearning for something [in healthcare legislation] "academically approved" rather than something resulting from "a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people," aka politics. Here, too, Obama is in the spirit of the U.S. president who first was president of the American Political Science Association.

Wilson was the first president to criticize the Founding Fathers. He faulted them for designing a government too susceptible to factions that impede disinterested experts from getting on with government undistracted. Like Princeton's former president, Obama's grievance is with the greatest Princetonian, the "father of the Constitution," James Madison, class of 1771.

Update:  Jonah Goldberg elaborates on Will's column, with thanks to Claremonsters.

Categories > Progressivism

Health Care

Barack I as Henry V

Our coming St. Crispin's Day, as recounted by Iowahawk.  H/t WheatandWeeds.
Categories > Health Care

The (Eventual) Strange Death of the Filibuster

I think and maybe fear that the argument over reconciliation might have inflicted a mortal wound on the filibuster, but not in the way that liberals might have hoped and probably in a way that they will live to regret - at least for a time.  On the one hand the filibuster will come out of this current scrap okay.  Obamacare will pass or fail based on whether the House of Reps passes the Senate version of Obamacare unchanged.  If the House passes it, the Senate version of Obamacare become law.  The law passed the Senate according to the familiar filibuster rule.  It got sixty votes in the Senate (as the vote was taken before the Massachusetts Senate election). The reconciliation process then might or might not (I suspect not) be used to make some changes in the version of Obamacare we get.

The problem will come when the Republicans again take over control of the presidency and both houses of Congress.  The Democrats remembered how the Republicans in the Bush years threatened to change the filibuster rule (using weak and transparently self-serving constitutional arguments) to back the Democrats off filibustering Bush Supreme Court nominees.  The Republicans will remember how a Democrat President who was a staunch supporter (and user) of the filibuster rule when he himself was in the Senate minority was happy to see the filibuster circumvented.  They will also remember that he abandoned the filibuster in order to pass a major and controversial piece of legislation - exactly the kind of legislation that the filibuster, if it has any purpose, was designed to to moderate in order to garner crossparty support and broad legitimacy.

In the memories of many Republicans, the filibuster will have become a one way door in which the Democrats can pass things by ignoring the filibuster,  but Republicans require supermajorities.  And it will be a door that can be broken by fifty Republican Senators and an allied Vice President.  It is easy to imagine that a Republican President with narrow congressional majorities will take such a path to undo many liberal policies and enact many conservative policies of that would not have gotten sixty votes in the Senate and therefore not have passed in so pure a form or perhaps not passed at all.

Liberals will have many complaints.  The will argue that the "fierce urgency of now"  had given way to the need to do nothing until liberals are back in the saddle for consolidation and broad consensus for major change.  They will also note correctly that they never actually changed the filibuster rule.  But Republicans will remember the bad faith across decades, and the cries of the liberals will not avail. 


Weird Science Update

I commented a few months ago about the wild-eyed theories about time travelers form the future perhaps interfering with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe because it might inadvertently destroy the earth or our whole solar system.  New story out today: the LHC is going to be shut down for a whole year to fix "design flaws" that are keeping it from running at full power.  Hmmm.  I still bet on this as the next apocalyptic scare.  Can a Jane Fonda protest be far off?
Categories > Technology

Health Care

Tea Party Locke-Down

In the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books, editor Charles Kesler explains why Obamacare clashes with America's most fundamental political principles.  Charles notes the massive delegation of power to boards and agencies, among other anti-Lockean (that is, anti-Declaration of Independence) practices.

It was against the threat of such a despotism that proper and not so proper Bostonians threw the original Tea Party. The English East India Company was about to go bankrupt, and the British government bailed it out by passing the Tea Act of 1773, granting the Company's agents a monopoly on selling tea to Americans and filling the government's own coffers by taxing the sales. The Americans had already rejected this tax as unconstitutional in 1767, but it stayed on the books. Among the Company's agents in Massachusetts were the royal governor's two sons and a nephew. They didn't call it Chicago-style politics then, but the principles were the same.

Today's Tea Party movement sees a similar threat of despotism-of monopoly control of health care, corrupting bailouts, massive indebtedness, and the eclipse of constitutional rights-in the Obama Administration's policies. The Tea Party patriots may mistake the President's motives when they compare him to King George. But they are right to suspect in the very nature of modern liberalism and the modern state something hostile to the consent of the governed and to constitutional liberty. The republic will owe them a debt of gratitude if Obama's plans end up just as wet as George III's, floating in the salty tea pot of Boston Harbor.

A desperate response to such attacks on Progressivism from resident WSJ leftist Thomas Frank (subscriber only); here's his conclusion:

Now, here is the revolt against big government stripped down to its essentials. Civilization itself is the [sic.] bunk, its taxes and regulations as artificial and as unhealthy as its diet of booze and candy. For today's cavemen conservatives, the correct model is simplicity itself: It's every man for himself. And if you want a piece of the mammoth, you'd better get to work.
Categories > Health Care

Men and Women

The "Gendercide" Tragedy of Gender Equality as Abortion Rights

Speaking before the UN Commission on the Status of Women yesterday, the Holy See's Archbishop Celestino Migliore assessed that the plight of women over the past 15 years "includes some light, but also many and disturbing shadows." While "cultural and social dynamics" are surely major factors in explaining the continuing realities of "female feticide, infanticide, and abandonment," Migliore also pointed to "principles, priorities and action policies in force in international organizations."

"Gender equality" - the "context" in which the UN and EU discuss women's issues - "is proving increasingly ideologically driven, ... delays the true advancement of women... [and] dissolve[s] every specificity and complementarity between men and women." This radical feminist ideology defines gender (as opposed to sex) as a social construct devoid of natural, genetic or inherent qualities (i.e., boys only act like boys because they're taught to do so - if left alone, men would be mentally and psychologically indistinguishable from girls). Such a misguided principle seeks not to celebrate womanhood or protect a unique female identity, but rather to duplicate masculinity among females in the name of equality.

The result of this fanaticism is the use of abortion access as the principal measure "of personal, social, economic and political rights." Because feminist leaders regard conservative thinking and Christian morality, rather than generational poverty and third-world oppression, as the greatest enemies to their vision of women's rights, their priority is to promote the most radical, divisive and anathema policies in order to offend, defeat and drive-out the competition.

The effect, of course, has been most devastating among vulnerable women. In last week's article, "The worldwide war on baby girls," The Economist relates the disparate impact of global abortion on women, determining that the result is nothing short of "gendercide." Though the natural gender ratio of births is about 103-106 boys for every 100 girls, in some provinces of China the ratio is 130-100, and among third children as high as 275-100. Similar male-heavy trends are scattered throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.

Rather than eradicating abortion as a plague upon female infants, the EU this week fined Poland for refusing to allow a woman to abort her child on the grounds that pregnancy "affected her eyesight" and censured a national Catholic newspaper for simply reporting on the matter. (The offending sentence read: "we are living in a world where a mother is granted an award for the fact that she very much wanted to kill her child, but was forbidden to do so.").

The co-mingled women's rights and abortion rights industries are the single most destructive and fatal forces affecting women today. In their blind radicalism, they devote themselves to the very causes of female gendercide in the name of female empowerment.

Categories > Men and Women


Census and Sensibility

A week or so ago I noted my frustrations with the race box on the census.  Mark Kirkorian suggests one way of dealing with it (the very one that our commentor "Cowgirl" noted she does):

We should answer Question 9 by checking the last option -- "Some other race" -- and writing in "American." It's a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes. In fact, "American" was the plurality ancestry selection for respondents to the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.

So remember: Question 9 -- "Some other race" -- "American". Pass it on.

Categories > Race

The Founding

The Right to Defense?

Cesar Conda does a nice job noting that it is quite a stretch to compare John Adams' defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre with contemporary attorneys who volunteered to defend the prisoners at Guantanamo:

The John Adams analogy that Ken Starr and the other lawyers cite in their statement is ludicrous: At the time of the Boston Massacre we were not at war and the British soldiers he defended were in court facing a criminal charge of murder. Adams was not representing prisoners of war, enemies of the nation, trying to get them released in the middle of a war. And Adams wasn't embarrassed about what he did -- if what the terrorists' lawyers did was so noble, why is the DOJ refusing to tell us what they work on now?

Once the war started, Adams did not think the redcoats deserved jury trials when they were captured.  In this case, the issue is also that some of those same lawyers are now working on the same issue for the U.S. government.  As I understand it, legal ethics usualy suggest that such lawyers recuse themselves in that situation.

Meanwhile, perhaps we should remember what Adams was arguing at the trial. The soldiers, he noted, were exercising their right of self-defense from attack by a mob.  They were exercising their rights under law.  They were not engaging in war.  Under English law, which followed the law of nature, he noted:

"The injured party may repell force with force in defence of his person, habitation, or property, against one who manifestly tendeth and endeavoureth with violence, or surprise, to commit a known felony upon either."  Furthermore, he noted: "In these cases he is not obliged to retreat, but may pursue his adversary, till he findeth himself out of danger, and if in a conflict between them he happeneth to kill, such killing is justifiable."

Wonder what Adams thought about the right to bear arms?

Categories > The Founding

Pop Culture

And Now for Something Completely Different

Okay, this is a bit out of the usual range for NLT, but this trailer for a schlock action film is side-splittingly hilarious.  It's like some Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse crossed with Rambo as re-envisioned by Quentin Tarrantino in some kind of b-movie parallel universe hell.

WARNING--Rated PG-13: Some foul language and some really schlocky shock violence, but I can't stop rolling on the floor.
Categories > Pop Culture


Random Thoughts

So I see in today's WaPo that the Supreme Court is taking up the case of whether to restrict these despicable folks who protest at military funerals that our soldier's deaths are God's punishment for America's toleration of gays.  I had heard of these loathesome folks, but didn't know their protests were quite so extensive.  I'm a fairly strong free speech guy, and I suppose the Court should find that this is protected speech (given their flag-burning rulings, I expect even Scalia--especially Scalia--to come down this way), though I can see some extension of time, place, and manner restrictions.  However, I can easily imagine an extra-legal remedy that would once have been countenanced before we ratcheted up our hyper-legal ways: A group of good folks (I'd join them) would turn up at such a protest and beat the you-know-what out of these people.

Next, SEIU union goons and other folks are having a jolly time in downtown DC today protesting a meeting of health insurance executives at the Ritz-Cartlon Hotel.  (Whose bad idea was it to have health insurance execs meet at a Ritz-Carlton in DC in the current political climate?  Do these people actually want federal regulation?--Ed.  Um, yes, probably.)  Anyway, it's getting big play in the media today, since it is so convenient to media outlets.  Memo to Tea Partiers: How about organizing a big protest outside the next meeting/convention of the American Trial Lawyers Association?

Lastly, as I drive across the Roosevelt bridge to work (not quite) every day, I've been watching a fancy new building with swank shiny domes going up on Constitution Avenue right next to the State Department.  Only lately did I bother to observe the sign about what it is going to house: The U.S. Institute for Peace.  Next to the State Department.  Hmm.  Isn't that redundant?  Or is it competition?  Either way, seems a waste of money and shiny domes.
Categories > Politics


When Tails Aren't Legs and Other Hard Truths

Thomas Sowell's column today at RCP begins with this great bit of wit from Abraham Lincoln: 

Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said "five," Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. "The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg."

The same hard truth, Sowell argues, can be applied today to things now veiled with the gauzy mantle "stimulus" and "jobs bill."  These failed attempts to "prime the pump" have failed (and will continue to fail), Sowell argues, because the whole point of priming a pump is to draw out the water that is already there but reluctant to come out.  Banks aren't lending and the economy is not growing because the "priming" they are getting feels a bit more like an attempt at a draining:

You don't lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back-- either on time or at all. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians are coming up with all sorts of bright ideas for borrowers not to have to pay back what they borrowed and for lenders not to be able to foreclose on people who are months behind on their mortgage payments.

A priming is not supposed to replace the flow of latent waters or to chastise those latent waters for not adequately seeking to quench the thirst of all those longing for a drink. It isn't too much to ask of the thirsty that they come to the well, on their own . . . and with a cup of their own.  For only then will the pump be primed and the waters feel justified in flowing freely.

Categories > Economy

Health Care

Ken Blackwell on the Health Care Bill

Here's Ashbrook Board member Ken Blackwell on some scary specifics in the Senate Health Care bill. (Hat tip to the Right Ohio blog, which has a video of Rush Limbaugh talking about Ken's article.)
Categories > Health Care

Ashbrook Center

No Left Turns Mug Drawing for February

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

John Vaughn
K.W. Thompson
Clark Irwin
Christian Zwick
Marsha Brannan

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 March's drawing.

Categories > Ashbrook Center


Priceless Pictures

Michael Ramirez in today's Investor's Business Daily:


Steve Hayward with the cover story in this week's Weekly Standard (mentioned by Steve below):

Categories > Politics


Life After Suicide

The agony over Obamacare continues.  As Jeffrey Anderson reminds us at NRO, only the House of Reps. matters now.  If the House passes the Senate version of Obamacare, then America get the Senate version of Obamacare.  Period.  Who really cares if the tax on "cadillac" health care plans begins in 2018 or 2016 or 2015 or whatever?

Based on simple self-preservation, it should be impossible for Obama to switch any of the votes of House Democrats who voted no on Obamacare to yes.  Most come from districts who have right-leaning constituencies.  The liberal blog memes seem to be that that voting yes on Obamacare would a) get out the liberal base and save their hides and b) passing Obamacare will show the public that higher taxes and medicare cuts are just awesome and that only Republican spin caused people to doubt our dear President.  I doubt if any of the Democrats being targeted are dumb enough to buy this nonsense.  They come from districts where getting the Democratic base on your side doesn't get you very far when it is an issue where less than 45% of the people are on your side.  They must also know that it will not be helpful to vote for tax increases and medcare cuts in right-leaning districts in a year where the turnout model will skew both older and more conservative.

But there is another, more promising path.  One might argue to these Democrats that they are probably losers no matter how they vote on Obamacare.  It really is 1994 all over again (at least in their districts) and keeping his distance from Clintoncare didn't help Jim Cooper when he ran for Senate from Tennessee.  But there is more than the November election to think about.  There is voting no, sterile defeat, and obscurity and there is voting yes, defeat and attractive options.  The Obama administration and the institutions of the left-of-center have gifts in hand for a defeated member of the House of Reps whose vote made the difference in making real the dream of state-run health care.  For the lawyers, are places on the federal bench.  For those more interested in uh... culture, there are ambassadorships to safe countries with pleasant climates.  For the wannabe academics, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government could place a whole crop of Professors of Distinguished Public Service Who Lost In A Good Cause Because of Unfair Republican Attacks.  And Profiles in Courage Awards for all.  

The most effective argument Obama might haveleft is that the targeted Democrats face electoral death no matter what they do, but if they vote right (or left, if you will), they can find an afterlife of financial stability and and status rewards. 

Categories > Politics


Democratizing Mysticism

In a Tocquevillean reflection on the flattening of American religion, Ross Douthat concludes:

Most religious believers will never be great mystics, of course, and the American way of faith is kinder than many earlier eras to those of us who won't. But maybe it's become too kind, and too accommodating. Even ordinary belief -- the kind that seeks epiphanies between deadlines, and struggles even with the meager self-discipline required to get through Lent -- depends on extraordinary examples, whether they're embedded in our communities or cloistered in the great silence of a monastery. Without them, faith can become just another form of worldliness, therapeutic rather than transcendent, and shorn of any claim to stand in judgment over our everyday choices and concerns.

Without them, too, we give up on what's supposed to be the deep promise of religious practice: that at any time, in any place, it's possible to encounter the divine, the revolutionary and the impossible -- and have your life completely shattered and remade.

A good Lenten practice (for believer and non-believer alike) might be to reread Tocqueville on religion and Solzhentisyn, among others.  And, with Douthat, tunafish sandwiches for lunch.

And in the spirit of democratized Americanized religion, this looks like appropriate reading too, Robert Alter, Pen of Iron:  American Prose and the King James Bible, reviewed by Stephen MillerAlter's editions of Old Testament books and his biblical interpretations are spectacular.

Categories > Religion


Et tu, ACLU

Barack Obama loses the ACLU - in a full-page ad in the NYTimes. Neverminding the silliness of the ACLU's persistent objections that military tribunals are unconstitutional, the ACLU's real value is as an indicator of hyper-liberal mood and temperament. The natives are getting restless, Mr. President.

ACLU Ad Obama and Bush on Terror Trials

Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

Discrediting the Obama Doctrine (in Britain)

I have always regarded as a rare pleasure the opportunity to digress from the views of respected fellows, and so I respond to Richard's post on Obama's potential diplomatic revolution with gracious objection. As amply displayed in my somewhat exhaustive (exhausting?) post on the subject, I am among those on the right who Richard observes complaining about Obama's slights toward brother Britain.

While I would love to concede Obama the credit of pursuing a shrewd, classical foreign policy (even one with which I disagree), I think this would be an unmerited assumption. Obama entered the White House with the unique dichotomy of having almost no foreign policy experience and a broad public expectation that his greatest acheivement would be a complete restoration of American foriegn policy. The President's sharply declining approval rating is a reflection not simply of his own missteps, but of the evaporation of such naive and unrealistic expectations (not being George W. Bush can only get you so far).

The Obama Doctrine, alternatively described as listening and wisely having no docrine at all, is a progressive-liberal's rhetoric-centric foray into a euphoria-induced delusion of we-are-one global diplomacy. That is, it is a great spring-board for riveting speeches, but a lousy arsenal with which to contend with the imperfect state of human nature. This inequality to the task has been painfully evident in objective and demonstrable failures in negotiations with Iran, China and Russia.

With regard to Britain, if Obama's slights were unintended, then he is a frightening amateur devoid of a diplomatic compass. However, If they were intended, as I believe, then the question is ... why Britain?

Richard's desire to link Obama with a Washingtonian statesmanship which prescribes a sort of foreign stoicism as a safeguard of national interest simply does not strike me as plausible. Save for his Nobel Prize speech, Obama has lacked any such desire to promote an arrogant, pro-America foreign posture. Also, the vagueries and niceties of the Obama Doctrine afford no indications of an objective to separate America from global partners - in fact, Obama's bed-side manners approach to global adversaries seems to lead in exactly the opposite direction.

The only exception to Obama's all-inclusive, let's-talk-about-it approach to foreign affairs has been the slighting of Britain, Israel, Tibet, Poland and the Czech Republic. That is to say, Obama seems to believe that the most effective route to proving our sincere desire to dialogue with America's adversaries is to allow them to see us cast aside any allies with whom they hold a grudge. The Obama Doctrine has thus sought to divest America of meaningful alliances with liberal Western democracies in the hope that such disavowals and enemy-of-my-enemy triangulation will win sympathy in oppressive autocracies.

The Obama Doctrine, and Obama's treatment of Britain, emerges from a misguided reflection on human nature and realpolitik, as well as, I suspect, a personal prejudice against the Anglo-American legacy in world history.

UPDATE: According to a poll released yesterday: "A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago.... [B]y a 10-point margin -- 51 percent to 41 percent -- Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama's presidency."

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

A Diplomatic Revolution?

Many on the right have complained that the Obama administration's refusal to side with Britain over the Falklands, combined with other slights aimed at Britain and other European nations, are rookie mistakes.  Perhaps they are or even calculated slights.  But I'm not so sure. There might be more to it.

As President Washington noted long ago, the United States should not make "permanent alliances."  The "special relationship" between the U.S. and Britain, is, in theory, a relationship of that sort.  Beyond that NATO sometimes seems to be similar.

Given the state the many of the nations of Europe are in, it is not unreasonable for the U.S. to start looking elsewhere for aid and support abroad.  Perhaps it's prudent for the U.S. to be more friendly to Argentina and less friendly to Britain.

The trouble with this line of thought, however, is that the very things which are weakening Europe, an extensive administrative and welfare state which is sapping the vitality of the nations of Europe, seems to be Obama's model for America's future too.

Categories > Foreign Affairs