Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


RIP Frank Buckles

Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of the Great War, has died at the remarkable age of 110. When the United States joined WWI, he lied to the Army about his age so that he could enlist and go drive ambulances in war-torn France. In 1941, he was on business in Manila when the Japanese occupation came and held prisoner for over three years. In the 1950s, he became a cattle rancher, and worked the farm until the age of 106. He has made it his mission over the past few years to try make sure that people do not forget the sacrifices made in that first monumental conflict of the previous century. Thus passes the last of a great, great generation. He will be buried with full military honors in Arlington. 
Categories > Military


Technology, Politics, and War

The future of warfare in the 21st century becomes more and more clear with every passing year. Robots, drones, cyberspace-- these are the tools and places of warfare for the future. The Department of Defense has recently commissioned some techies in Massachusetts to build new robotic tools for our country to employ in its defense. In what seems to be a mixture of Power Rangers Zords, Transformers, and The Terminator, the robots commissioned are a cheetah-like creature that can run up to 30 MPH, a hummingbird-lookalike spybot, and man-like ATLAS, which bears an eery resemblance to a Terminator prototype. These manmade creatures will join others like BigDog, which was created a few years ago to help soldiers carry 300 extra pounds of gear around. The robots will have various uses for civil and military use. Within the realm of warfare, they--like our new drones and other computer-powered aircraft--will allow us to engage in risky operations with less risk to human life. As our population ages, they will also become useful in helping an elderly population, as robots do in Japan today.

Meanwhile, the Internet continues to turn into more and more of a dangerous battlefield. Cyberterrorism is now considered a major threat to American interests-- a serious attack could derail the economy or cut off vital services. Politically, we have already seen the power that the Internet plays in world affairs in recent months--from Iran to WikiLeaks to the Jasmine Revolution. Tyrants are increasingly struggling to try control this powerful weapon. We have already seen cyberwars play out-- the Russian attack on Georgia in 2008 (preceding their invasion of Georgia), Chinese attacks on American intelligence agencies, the cyber attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, and more. Cyberwarfare poses the same problem that terrorist cells do, though, complicating the problem-- non-government entities are fully capable of engaging in battle over the Internet themselves. There are two good and recent examples of "independent" (or "rogue") cyberwarfare. The first is the Battle of WikiLeaks over the past few months-- when infamous computer hacker Julian Assange began to release the secret documents, WikiLeaks and those internet services supporting WikiLeaks found themselves under attack, with hackers claiming that the first Cyber War had officially begun.

For the past several years, a second group of internet hacker activists ("hacktivists") called Anonymous has been gaining more notice in the fields of cyberwar. They have long fought the Church of Scientology, sending out a message in 2008 where they pledge to "expel the church from the planet." They have constantly attacked and temporarily taken down Scientology websites; they have organized hundreds of demonstrations against Scientology (in which most people show up in Guy Fawkes masks); they made it so that the second thing that pops up in Google Search when you type in "cult" is "Scientology". Their other targets have included the white supremacist Hal Turner, the Iranian government, the government of Zimbabwe, Ireland's Fine Gael party, several Arab governments throughout the recent revolutions, and the Westboro Baptist Church. They were asked to help fight WikiLeaks, but they instead sided with WikiLeaks and attacked websites that turned against Assange's band of hackers. This past weekend, Anonymous has declared war on the Koch Brothers, accusing them of subverting democracy. Yesterday they attacked the websites of Americans for Prosperity, and pledge to continue their attacks. The US Government, for its part, understands the growing threat of both state-sponsored and rogue cyberwarfare, and is stepping up recruitment to help prepare us for combat in this new field of battle.

So, there you have it. War and politics increasingly exist in the worldly plain ruled by Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, and hackers who seem to really be into V for Vendetta. Everything from pets to receptionists are increasingly robotic. They have beaten us at chess, and now at jeopardy. We still have an opportunity to follow the warnings of The Terminator, The Matrix, Battlestar Galactic, I Robot, and pretty much every other SciFi story, before it's too late! In any event, "I for one welcome our new computer overlords." 
Categories > Technology


Obama And The Opt Out

Obama's is back to pretending to be flexible on health care reform.  He is saying that states can opt out of the provisions of his health care reform, but only if they mandate the kind of comprehensive health care prepayment model of Obamacare.  So you can have your government-run medicine with ketchup or mustard - cause he is all about flexibility. 

Obama wants to seem a lot more reasonable and open minded then he is.  One of his strengths is his ability to project moderation in service of leftism.  I think the best way for conservatives (and especially conservative governors) to shatter his facade of moderation is to take him at the moderate tone rather than the recalcitrant fine print of his remarks.  You want us to be flexible?  We are going to implement HSA/catastrophic coverage for public sector workers.  We are going to convert our states' Medicaid programs into a voucher for high deductible insurance.  We are going to use the flexibility you say you want us to have to transform our states' health care markets.  We aren't even going to ask permission first.

This approach has the advantage of boxing Obama in.  If Obama chooses not to fight these changes then the number of Americans on consumer-driven polices will increase and thereby make the full implementation of Obamacare that much harder.  If Obama chooses to fight these policy changes then he can explain "Well, when I said flexibility, I meant flexibility to implement single-payer not free market-oriented health care."  Republicans can then attack him for dishonesty while pushing a positive program that would save the government money and increase the take home pay of a significant subgroup of American.  Not only does Obama's image as a moderate take a hit, but conservatives can also use the argument to increase public awareness of, and support for, market-oriented alternatives to Obamacare. 

Categories > Politics


Did Gov. Christie Lay The Smackdown On Palin?

Some folks seem to think so, but I mostly don't.  I think that the part about "unscripted moments" was primarily about Palin and it is not the first time he has made such a comment.  I heard him say the same think weeks ago and I chose not to write anything about it because it seemed like such an obvious and innocuous observation.

I think Christie's more interesting comment was about how you can't be "blow-dried and poll tested."  I don't take that as a shot at Palin.  There are multiple legitimate complaints about the limitations of Palin's approach to public commentary, but being "poll tested" isn't one of them.  Does anyone think "wtf" or her rambling statement about Obama and Egypt were poll tested?  Give Palin credit.  She doesn't need a poll or a focus group to tell her what her supporters want to her.  I think Christie might have been thinking of another "blow-dried and poll tested" ex-governor who is thinking of running for President. 

Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

Absolutely the Last Word

. . . on celebrity commentary about politics and the culture, comes in yesterday's WSJ from Joe Queenan.  It's un-Bieber-lievably good.
Categories > Pop Culture

Pop Culture

The Oscars

Tonight is the night that Hollywood comes to a standstill to watch the glitz and glamor of its stars. While often criticized for its liberally-dominated crowd and exuberant excess, I like to see it as the one night that tinseltown, mostly dominated nowadays by stars who prefer to go to premiers in jeans and t-shirts, returns to that good old Hollywood glamor. Despite how it has often become a soundstage in recent years for certain actors or directors to espouse their political beliefs, the Academy itself tends to choose well its winners (though they are, of course, sometimes prone to making horrible decisions, such as snubbing Waiting for Superman at this years awards). I think that, more often than not, they do tend to reward excellence in the individual crafts of filmmaking.

Many friends of mine have asked how exactly these awards are chosen. Hollywood native that I am, I decided to put it in writing for them. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of some 5700 voting members who are sorted by their individual crafts-- music, costumes, film editing, directing, documentaries, etc. Members of each individual craft are able to nominate within their field. All members are allowed to nominate films for Best Picture. Once all of the nominations have been finalized, all members of the Academy are able to vote on the winners-- provided that they can prove they have seen the movies. The Academy will usually ship copies of all nominated films to members in order to help with their voting (the films have "Property of the MPAS" pasted upon the screen sometimes, and must be returned after voting is closed). Once ballots are collected, if a film has more than 50% of the vote, it will be the winner-- if not, then the Academy will eliminate the smallest vote-getter from the pile and send out new ballots until one reaches 50%.

So, for example, my grandmother is a costumer (most noted for getting an Emmy nomination for her work on MacGyver) who votes in the Academy. She is only allowed to nominate people for the Costume Design and Best Picture categories, but is allowed to vote in all categories provided she watches the films (as a child I remembered loving the month of January because she would have dozens of new movies for us to watch with her). Tonight, the results are stuffed in envelopes and only two individuals from the accounting firm that counted the results will know what the envelopes say before they are opened. Only films from the preceding year are considered (so the 2011 Oscars honor films made in the year 2010).

I've personally been pushing for The Kings Speech and its star, Colin Firth, among people I know. It is an excellent film and, while not perhaps as "hip" as its main contender, The Social Network (about the rise of Facebook), it is a far, far superior film than all others this year in almost all aspects. I have a feeling that the Academy will reward excellence tonight in the Best Film category. If not... well, my hope that the stunted glamor of Hollywood might have some redemption in it will continue to fade.
Categories > Pop Culture

Political Philosophy

Ghadafi as Philosopher-King

Mr. Kurtz's International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness anticipates Ghadafi's wish for an international organization for philosopher-kings--the practice of one would approach that of the other.  See a serious political scientist, Robert Putnam (an admirer of Tocqueville and Edward Banfield), on his conversation with the Libyan dictator back in January, 2007.  Putnam compares his visage to that of "the aging Mick Jagger."

There were some translation problems:  "Libyan history includes nothing remotely analogous to Rotary or Little League or the Knights of Columbus, so we settled on "veterans' associations" as the only intelligible illustration of my argument."  I thought Putnam was at Harvard, not Syracuse. 

By the way, the Edward Banfield website has been renewed, with downloads of several of his books, links to his writing, including his fiction, and others on him, such as Leo Strauss's praise of him.  Banfield is clearly one of the major political scientists of the late twentieth century. 

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day: Obama vs Reagan

Well, the United States has finally moved to freeze all of Gaddafi's assets (several days after the Swiss had already decided to do so). This is what President Obama had to say about the Colonel in his statement today: "By any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi's government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable."

Yes, we are freezing his money because he is not normal or decent by international standards (a vague statement that could be applicable to many of the world's leaders). That is the extent of his commentary on Gaddafi himself, saving the rest of his statement for the less personal "government of Libya."

President Reagan referred to Colonel Gaddafi as the "mad dog of the Middle East" and gave this address from the Oval Office as he ordered airstrikes on Libya. "Colonel Gaddafi is not only an enemy of the United States. His record of subversion and aggression against the neighboring states in Africa is well-documented and well-known... He has sanctioned acts of terror in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as the Western hemisphere... Despite our continued warnings, Gaddafi continued his reckless policy of intimidation, his relentless pursuit of terror. He counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong."

At that time Gaddafi wasn't even slaughtering his own people. When nations like France, Germany, and Luxembourg (whose foreign minister simply referred to Gaddafi as a "dictator who shoots at his own people") are taking a harder rhetorical line against this bloody villain than the American president, there is an issue. We don't need to go bombing or invading Libya, but President Obama should at least have the, to use his words, "common decency" to call a tyrant a tyrant and a murderer a murderer.
Categories > Quote of the Day


Unions, Law, and History

If, as many on the Left seem to think, it's okay to tar today's conservatives with the sins of conservatives in previous generations, why does the same not apply to Unions?  Consider the motives behind the Davis-Bacon act, from a review of David Bernstein's Only One Place of Redress

Depression era legislation, though officially colorblind, was often highly discriminatory. A case in point was the Davis-Act requiring construction firms with federal contracts to pay "prevailing wages." As defined by the Department of Labor, the prevailing wage usually equaled the union wage thus freezing low-skilled black workers out of many projects. As Bernstein points out, "contractors had every incentive to hire unionized workers for skilled positions. Union members were generally the best-trained workers, and they could be hired quickly and efficiently through union hiring halls."  Many backers of Davis-Bacon did not hide their racist goals. The testimony at the hearings for the bill by William Green, the president of the American Federation of Labor, was a clear example. Green praised the proposed law because it would make it more difficult for contractors to "demoralize" wage rates through use of low-wage "[c]olored labor"

In general, in American history, American Unions have not covered themselves in honor on racial matters.


Categories > History


The Mask of Soros

It is amusing to see how angry the Left is at the Koch brothers nowadays, but they seldom discuss the money that George Soros and other wealthy Lefties use to fund everything from Think Progress to Common Cause.  It would be nice to see the establishment media explore the relationship between these guys and the Leftosphere.
Categories > Politics

Refine & Enlarge

Letters from an Ohio Farmer

Most of you know that we do some interesting, maybe even often consequential things, at the Ashbrook Center.  Some--do I dare say most?--are quite interesting.  I have always said that we never let a good idea go to waste, we take advantage of opportunities to think and act in public, and we can turn on a dime, like the Marine Corps.  Well, we are up to something rather interesting, and maybe even consequential.  We have launched a new project, in the works for months: Letters from an Ohio Farmer.  These are letters aimed at the new Congress and the public.  Please read how we how we introduce ourselves in the project itself, and also read the first letter from an Ohio Farmer

I do hope you understand the spirit in which we launch this project, why the many authors will not be identified, why each letter is the product of many pens, and why only Roger Beckett or your humble servant, will publicly talk about the project.  Above all things we would like the Letters to speak for themselves, and over time--we will offer up one each week--we hope that our effort will have a modest effect on the national conversation about constitutional  self-government.  As we put it when we introduce the project: "The Ohio Farmer is not primarily concerned with immediate policy questions, though he will necessarily discuss them; he hopes to refine and enlarge the public's view of the larger political principles implicit in our policy debates. He is a friend to all who love this country and wish it well; he is searching for that common ground that can unite all reasonable parties who wish to maintain America's glorious tradition of constitutional self-government."
Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Foreign Affairs

Turmoil in the Middle East and the Decline of al Qaeda

I recorded a podcast yesterday with David Tucker on the turmoil in the Middle East.  David is very smart on this stuff and he makes a number of interesting points, one of which is that the unrest in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere is likely a sign that al Qaeda will lose more respect and power among Muslims in the coming months.  Of course all is in flux and it's impossible to make predictions on much of anything until the dust settles a bit, but I think this is a likely outcome under most scenarios.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Blog Updates

Over at NRO's Corner, I draw attention to Bill Galston's shrewd observations about Obama's unfolding re-election strategy, which he finds defective.  It is must reading for NLT folks, as Ohio is central to Galston's analysis.

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Dancing Dictators

All of the usual suspects of the Americas--Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega--are expressing solidarity with their old friend Gaddafi as he fights to the bitter end in Libya and trying to blame America for the chaos in Libya. Like China, they are worried that the protests throughout the Muslim world will ignite fires elsewhere and are subsequently moving to fortify their repressive regimes.

Meanwhile, nuclear-seeking tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has condemned Gaddafi for oppressing and murdering his own people and expressed solidarity with the people of Libya in their quest for liberty. Apparently he has forgotten about when he oversaw the crackdown on and deaths of his own citizens two years ago, and his decision yesterday to start confiscating television satellite dishes around Iran in order to further his control on information. Or maybe he is just jealous that Gaddafi's Libya gets to join such prestigious nations as China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia on the United Nations Human Rights Council while Iran is forced to keep its anti-Semitic, anti-American rhetoric to the General Assembly.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Fighting For The Right

Local sport radio talk-show host Michael Felger likes to ask "What are we trying to do here?" whenever means and ends don't seem to be aligning.  The recent commentary on Mitch Daniels' refusal to focus on right-to-work legislation in the face of a walkout by Indiana's Democratic state reps has me asking the same thing.  So here are some points,

1.  This isn't about public employee unions.  As Avik Roy pointed out, Daniels has already ended collective bargaining for state employees and his proposed education bill would curtail collective bargaining for teachers along lines similar to Scott Walker's, while vastly expanding school choice.

2.  This line from NRO's The Corner comments is very interesting.  The commenter writes in response to Daniels, " Palin 2012  The lady knows how to fight"  What does this mean?  As governor, Daniels has slashed spending, instituted market-oriented health care reforms, signed pro-life legislation, taken on the public employee unions, and won a fight for a cap on property taxes in the Indiana state constitution.  Now, in the second half of his second term, he is working for a radical right-leaning education reform plan.  To the extent that "fighting" figures of speech have a place in our democratic politics, hasn't Daniels not only fought but also won the kinds of major substantive victories that have been all too rare on the center-right?  What are we trying to do here?

3.  But I do think that the commenter is getting at something important in our political culture.  Even though Palin never turned Alaska into a right-to-work state, and Alaska state employees are unionized, she is able to stir the US vs. THEM emotions of many conservatives.  She might not have instituted an HSA/catastrophic coverage program but she wrote about death panels.  She fights.  This reminds of how some liberals responded to Howard Dean.  He wasn't much more liberal than your average Democratic presidential contender (in some ways he was less liberal), but he gave many liberals the sense that he shared their frustrations and their contempt for President Bush.  That created a powerful bond for a while, but it also limited his appeal beyond his largely white upper middle-class liberal base.  Palin has a wider base, but the point isn't Palin or Daniels or anybody else.  It is that any conservative who wants to get elected President in 2012 will have to engage conservatives not only on substance, but by appealing to their sentiments.  There is more than one way to do this.  Obama appealed to the sentiments of liberals even more strongly than Dean, but he was far less alienating to persuadable.  The trick for a reformist conservative presidential candidate will be to be able to speak movingly to conservatives and persuadables at the same time about the kinds of policy changes we need.  This politician would have to be an authentic conservative without seeming like a rightworld provincial. Those are some choppy cultural waters to navigate, but it isn't impossible.  Chris Christie is one example of how to do it and Bob McDonnell is another - though I think they would both run into some authenticity issues of their own if they ran for President. Maybe Daniels will be able to do that if he runs for President and gets into campaign mode rather than pass major legislative priorities mode (and let's not dismiss the possibility that getting the most possible good policy right now might end up being good politics in the end.)  Maybe he won't.  But if we are going to get the kind of reforms we need to avert either a debt crisis or the emergency imposition of social democratic policies or both, we are going to need a conservative politics that is both substantive and populist, and that has intense appeal to self-described conservatives while being attractive to persuadables..  So that is something for Daniels (or Christie or Rubio, or whoever) to think about.    


Categories > Politics


Baby got Beck

Now would be a good time to remind all union members of their rights under the Beck decision.  No union may force its members to for political activities, among other things.  Relatively few union members know about the decision. 
Categories > Economy

Political Philosophy

Income Inequality and Justice

Hunter Baker gives us a thoughtful and concise reflection on the meaning of justice when it comes to recognizing income inequality.  People get confused about the meaning of justice in this regard because our every instinct tells us that justice must be a form of equality.  And it is.  But what kind of equality?  When we are children, for example, getting your "fair share" of the M&Ms means you get the same number (and I mean, exactly the same number!) as your sister gets.  That's clear enough.  But life gets more complicated than that when we move past candy.  What does equal justice mean with respect to work and income?  To what should your income be equal?  Should it be equal to your sister's income?  Equal to your effort?  Equal to the results you produce?  Equal to the value your employer places upon it?  Baker gives us a good tutorial on the subject that invites further reflection or, as the case may be, a re-adjustment in your point of view.


Lincoln and the Current Secession Crisis

Has anyone been quoting Lincoln's First Inaugural on the secession in the Wisconsin and Indiana state legislatures?  That good ol' grit, the Sage of Mt. Airy nailed it.  Republicans, return to your roots and defend the rule of law.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government, is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority, in such case, will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which, in turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them, whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it. All who cherish disunion sentiments, are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this. Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new Union, as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks, and limitations, and always changing easily, with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people, Whoever rejects it, does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy, or despotism in some form, is all that is left.

Categories > Politics


Uncommon Wisdom

In the latest Uncommon Knowledge, or own Bill Voegeli does his customary bang-up job discussing the welfare state, modern liberalism, and book, Never Enough.
Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

Americans Killed by Pirates

For the first time in centuries, pirates have spilled American blood. Four Americans, each of them over the age of fifty, were murdered by pirates off of the coast of Somalia today. Jean (age 66) and Scott (age 70) Adam of Marina del Rey, California, had been sailing from port to port for several years aboard their yacht, stopping to pass out bibles and evangelize wherever the seas took them. They were joined on this particular trip by friends from Seattle, Phyllis Macay (59) and Robert Riggle (67). Several days ago, their yacht was captured by Somalian pirates-- the first American ship to be successfully captured since the Maersk Alabama was taken in 2009. In the previous incident, Navy SEALs rescued the hostages in a dramatic episode that left a few pirates dead and one in custody-- and all hostages safe. The pirate in custody, the first to be captured by American forces since the Barbary Wars, was sentenced recently to 33 years in prison.

In today's tragic unfolding, a U.S. naval destroyer was shadowing the captured yacht, negotiating for the release of the hostages. President Obama had authorized them to use lethal force if they deemed it necessary. This morning, the pirates launched a rocket-propelled grenade at the US ship (which missed). It is currently unclear what happened next exactly, but it involved Navy SEALs boarding the yacht amid gunfire. The four Americans and four pirates were killed, and an additional fifteen pirates have been captured. Some pirates, who have been marauding the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia for most of the past decade, have indicated that their new willingness to kill their hostages is in response to the reaction of nations to their piracy-- chiefly, our trying of pirates in court and Russia's dumping captured pirates deep in the ocean with just a raft.

The United States Navy has joined an international flotilla of warships in patrolling the area off of the coast of Somalia, but the US and NATO have resisted Russian suggestions to invade Somalia to deal with the piracy problem, which is costing the world millions of dollars in international trade a year. Their new brazenness and the ruthless murder of four Americans may end up being their undoing, though, as they may now learn the hard way why "To the Shores of Tripoli" exists within the hymn of our Marines. It is worth noting that the ship involved in this latest incident is the USS Sterett, named after Commandant Andrew Sterett-- commander of the USS Enterprise during the First Barbary War.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Gaddafi Memorial

Michael Ramirez comes up with a most fitting memorial. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Red Menace

The Washington Post's Steven Mufson explains that a) total government debt has hit WWII levels and b) the debt problem is much worse now.  Mufson argues that we are unlikely to see the kind of economic growth and inflation that brought down the debt incurred in WWII . 

The problem is actually even worse than that.  We are not going to see the kind of sharp spending cuts we saw at the end of WWII.  There are several reasons for this.  First, some significant demobilization was very popular.  We can argue about whether the defense budget was cut too much as a percent of GDP, but there were enormous and uncontroversial savings in cutting the military.  The US military is now a much smaller percent of GDP, and while some cuts might be needed given our current situation, cuts to defense spending would have to be both gradual and prudent.  Defense might be due for some cuts (though I want to see some details and some thoughts on how the cuts affect global stability), but we shall not be saved by defense cuts.

We also won't be saved by the higher (by our standards) inflation rates of 1946-1948.  The key drivers of our debt at the federal level are Social Security and Medicare.  The structures and political incentives built into those programs leave them both practically inflation-proof.  Social Security benefits are indexed to wage increases and any inflation will eventually be reflected in higher nominal wages.  The more we inflate, the more Social Security we will have to pay.  Medicare looks more promising, but in reality is just as bad.  The federal government sets reimbursements for Medicare.  Now technically, if we had high inflation and if the federal government did not increase Medicare reimbursements (or just increased them more slowly than inflation), we could inflate our way out of some of our Medicare-create budget problems.  The problem is that there is no reason to expect such a thing to happen.  Medicare costs are already increasing faster than inflation for the simple reason that a) if Medicare reimbursements become too low, medical providers will stop providing services to Medicare clients b) Medicare clients want to receive services c) Medicare clients vote.  If the political will existed to set reimbursements at a sustainable level (or to establish a more consumer-driven system), we wouldn't need inflation, and inflation will not remove the political incentives for ever increasing Medicare reimbursements.  Inflation might do some good in eroding  the real value (and therefore the costs) of some defined benefit government-employee pensions, but it would increase US borrowing costs, not deal with the main drivers of the federal deficit and bring other problems besides.

So are we screwed?  Probably.  There are worthwhile policies for dealing with the Red Menace, but there are huge problems in enacting them.  Part of the problem is public opinion.  A linked problem is that the institutions of the center-right are not well organized for advancing a policy-oriented agenda for dealing with the Red Menace.

Hopefully more later this week. 

Categories > Politics


Visalia, California

I want to make sure that you know it is the California Visalia I am talking about and not the one in Kentucky.  They are, oddly, related, and not only because I have ridden through the one in Kentucky (which has, maybe thirty houses), but because the fellow--Nathanial Vise--that founded the Visalia in California (capital of Tulare County) named it after his ancestral home in Kentucky.  Anyway, I went there last Friday, gave a noon talk at the College of the Sequoias, and then spoke on Old Abe at the Tulare County Lincoln Day Dinner.  Lovely event, even better people.  I really liked this place from every angle, especially the good folk, all patriotic and decent and hard-working.  Lovely and gracious town, you can tell at first glance that the people living there care about it.  The Central Valley is the most productive agricultural area in the nation, and it is impressive in itself and also close to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, including Mt. Whitney, which I saw each day.  The fact that the county  (21st Congressional District, Cong. Devin Nunes, R) is full of robust Republicans probably explains the charms of the place.  Stephen Tootle was the one babysitting me, and he did a great job. I am gratfeul.  Fine place.  Represents the best (and is among the oldest of settlements, 1850's, between San Francisco and Los Angeles) of California.
Categories > Leisure

The Family

Playing Toward Princeton

The always entertaining and thought-provoking Lenore Skenazy writes an insightful and amusing piece today in the Wall Street Journal gently castigating and poking fun at the marketing gurus and parents who package or who seek to find packaging of ordinary playthings as devices geared toward the development of a super-genius.  While attending an international toy fair in New York last week, Skenazy discovers that the common sense purposes of a ball no longer speak to its value.  Now, we are told, it is a "tactile stimulating sensory aid that helps develop gross motor skills."  As she puts it, every article once sought for the pure joy the thing might offer is now touted as "early intervention in a box."  It is not enough that a baseball comes with the promise of someday throwing a four-seam fastball and Big League dreams; it now must argue its merits on its contribution toward your child's future admission to Princeton--and I'm not even talking about a baseball scholarship!  Ugh.  How sad, and, unfortunately, how familiar!

Since my own children are long past the tiresome world of eager pre-school interventionists--with their well-meaning but often unimaginative theories about the best ways to develop gross and fine motor skills--I had nearly forgotten how depressing and oppressive that world could sometimes be.  Depressing because so uninspired and oppressive because it seems part of some large conspiracy to mold every otherwise capable mother into a ball of self-doubt and confusion:  "I know your Nicky enjoys playing with Legos . . . but is he maximizing his capacities with respect to the pincer grip in this activity?  And what will this mean for his handwriting and scissor skills in kindergarten?  Will he be behind?  And how will he ever make it on to geometry from there?" 

I used to wonder what it might be like if, say, instead of contemplating the possible benefits to hand/eye coordination in a boring drill of picking up beads with a pair of tweezers, parents and pre-school gurus were to place at least as much emphasis on the moral imagination of the children in their charge.  What if, instead of worrying so much about paving a path toward Princeton, we instead started worrying about paving a path toward an ordered soul?  Wouldn't Princeton (if that's even something remotely in your child's cards) take care of itself?  What if, instead of only striving to create "good students" we instead began to strive toward creating good people?  (Think how many "good students" of your acquaintance happen also to be rotten little brats . . .) Then, perhaps, we could stop de-constructing every activity that a normal child will do anyway (when left to his own devices), and parents and educators instead could focus their energies on teaching children the difference between such concepts as right and wrong, good and bad, noble and ignoble, sublime and base, joy and sorrow, justice and injustice--and a few I'm, no doubt, forgetting at the moment.  Does anyone imagine that such children would someday find it impossible to master video games or fly fighter jets?  Would it be impossible to teach such children to throw a four-seam fastball?  Could not a soul, so turned, take on the wonders of geometry or the mysteries of the universe?  Experience tells us that they can, but hubris suggests we can perfect the formula.

The worst thing about the direction our minds seem to be tilted toward when it comes to educating very young children is not that we are sucking the joy out of their experiences (though we do try, mightily, sometimes to do that); it is that we are making moral idiots and buffoons out of ourselves in the process.  We are focused on all the wrong things.  Children can take care of their play time with minimal intervention from adults.  But if adults spend most of their time fretting about children's play time and the tactile experiences these offer, they are in danger of squandering the precious time they have with those children by neglecting to point them toward the higher kinds of learning seen in glimpses at their own hard-won wisdom and experience.  Perhaps then the paucity of our own wisdom and experience (and the subsequent doubt we must feel because of it) explains our reluctance today to so display it?

Yet this question remains:  does Princeton offer any improvement?
Categories > The Family


In Further Honor of Washington

A former government colleague of mine, a young history enthusiast, has put together a handsome website on George Washington, "First in Peace," well worth a visit. 

I was going to peruse President Obama's proclamation of the national holiday, but I can't find the official document on the White House website.  Can anyone come up with it?  Thanks.

Treppenwitz:  I forgot to post this charming essay on Washington in art in three dimensions, by Catesby Leigh, who is writing a book on American public architecture.  Look for his essays in the Wall Street Journal

Categories > Presidency

The Founding

In Honor of Washington

FRC senior fellow Bob Morrison writes on the occasion of Presidents' Day:

By Act of Congress, this is still George Washington's Birthday. Although car dealers and shopping malls have told us over and over again it's Presidents Day, the law is clear: We are honoring today our first president, the Father of our Country.

George Washington has been described as "the gentlest of Christendom's captains." As a military man, he was incredibly brave, facing enemy bullets not once, but many times. But when he put away his sword, he placed a dove of peace--a biblical symbol--atop his beloved Virginia home, Mount Vernon. He was eulogized at his death in 1799 by Gen. Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee. The elder Lee called Washington "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Washington was an inspiration to virtually all the presidents who came after him.

Thomas Jefferson, our third President, said of George Washington:

For his was the singular destiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of its independence; of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quiet and orderly train; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example. . . . These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of God, having been formed on an acquaintance of thirty years. . . .I felt on his death, with my countrymen, that 'verily a great man hath fallen this day in Israel.'

Abraham Lincoln sought to model his own conduct on that of George Washington. Leaving Springfield by train for Washington, D.C. 150 years ago this month, President-elect Lincoln bade farewell to his Illinois neighbors with these touching words:

I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

So impressed with Washington's conduct was Lincoln that he made a point of kissing the Bible at this own inauguration--just as Washington had done in 1789. Washington's reliance on the Bible was fully shared by Lincoln, who called it "the best gift God has ever given to man...But for it we could not know right from wrong."

Through the centuries, some few Americans have sought to pull themselves up by pulling Washington down. This tendency was most exaggerated in the 1920s, when so-called Progressives thought they could "de-bunk" American history by giving it a Marxist slant. But when a book purporting to show that Washington was a failure was published, President Calvin Coolidge was asked what he thought of it. "Silent Cal" wasted few words on the muckraking book. He looked out the window of the White House toward the Washington Monument and drawled: "He's still there."

Ronald Reagan surely admired George Washington. When Ed Meese, Reagan's loyal lieutenant, was informed several years ago that Americans in an online poll had voted Reagan the greatest of all Americans, Mr. Meese was stunned. "He didn't think so," the former Attorney General said, "Ronald Reagan thought George Washington was the greatest American."

Today, let us thank God for the life of George Washington, the Father of our Country.

Categories > The Founding

Foreign Affairs

Gaddafi's Bloody End

A Tunisian friend of mine, and former Ashbrook Scholar, has been involved in the revolution in his home country. I had tried getting a hold of him last month when Tunisia started to change, but revolutions can be rather distracting; our mutual friend in Egypt told me that they had spoken and he was alright. He did finally get in touch with me today, but only to bring my attention to the chaos in neighboring Libya. He referred to the situation as genocide, and sent me a link to a video showing said genocide (I will not share the link as it was graphic enough to make even my stomach churn and will likely be removed soon from public viewing for that reason). Most of the governments have been relatively restrained in their responses. Muammar al-Gaddafi, the "Brother Leader" of Libya, is showing no such restraint, and has vowed to fight to the last bullet to maintain his grip on the nation that he has ruled for four decades.

Gaddafi came to power in a military coup back in 1969, overthrowing the King of Libya. Twenty-seven years old at the time, he envisioned am empire of Islamic-Socialism and looked to Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, and Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser as his heroes. His foreign policy consisted of actively aiding Palestinian attacks on Israel, invading neighboring Chad, financing the Black September Movement (responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre), arming the IRA in Northern Ireland and FARC in Colombia, and being one of the few Arab leaders that forged strong relations with the Soviet Union. However, in the past decade, he has been seen as moderating himself and seeking warmer relations with the West. He began to turn over Libya's WMDs, ceased funding of terrorist groups (and was subsequently removed from the USA's terrorist list), and paid compensation for the Lockerbie, Berlin discotech, and UTA Flight 722 bombings. President Bush even resumed diplomatic relations with Libya in 2008. Yet despite these improving relations, he is still an eccentric egomaniac. He has consistently attempted to build himself up as the leader of a pan-African state, naming himself "King of the Kings of Africa" a few years ago, and threw a temper-tantrum at the 2009 Arab League Summit that led to him storming out after declaring himself the "Leader of Arab Leaders" and central figure of Islam. His best friend on the international stage is Hugo Chavez (Ahmadinejad doesn't really like competition for 'leader of the Muslim world' much). Oh, and in case you were wondering who killed JFK, it was Israel-- according to Gaddafi's expert insight.

And now his regime is crumbling, as people inspired by Tunisia and Egypt rise up against him. However, Libya is not like these other nations-- it lacks a national identity. It is tribal, and Gaddafi's success has been largely due to his ability to manipulate tribal leaders against each other. Even the military is tribal, meaning that is it unable to play as critical a role as militaries are playing throughout the other Arab revolutions. Combined the fact that Libya is, thus, not really a nation with Gaddafi's refusal to step down and you have a growing international nightmare. Rather than step down, he has ordered the full might of his regime to murder every last dissenter. Fighter jets and helicopters are flying over the streets of Tripoli, firing without discretion upon what were peaceful protests. His thugs now roam the streets, looting and murdering at will. This in itself will be his undoing. The longest-ruling non-royal national leader alive has become even too ruthless for his supporters to continue supporting him. In response to the aerial bombings of his own people in Tripoli, and the massacres taking place in the countryside, members of his government are resigning left and right-- including most Libyan diplomats, among them senior Libyan officials to the United Nations and the Arab League. Today, part of his air force refused orders to bomb Tripoli-- some engaged pro-Gaddafi planes while others defected to Malta. Reports are that Gaddafi has fled the country for Venezuela, but both Gaddafi and Chavez have denied the reports.

With Gaddafi's bloody fall sinking Libya further into chaos, the threat of all-out civil war in this tribal and oil-rich area looms on the horizon. The United States has been largely impotent in this matter, so far only able to get out a statement that we think murdering civilians is wrong. We are looking at sanctions, but at this point we don't know who to sanction and international oil-interests will ensure nothing too harsh is done to Libyan exports by the UN. I have a feeling that we will need to rely on the European Union to try get a handle of the situation, but given their lackluster response to Italy's pleas for help in dealing with Tunisian refugees, I'm not hopeful.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

The Power of One (Percent)

During law school, I learned of the "80-20 rule," which holds that 80% of effects are due to 20% of causes. For example, 20% of students are usually responsible for 80% of extracurricular activities - at dinner one night, I was part of a random conversation among friends which concluded with our dividing up the leadership positions of every conservative group at the school for the next year.

I thought being part of the 20% was notable, but Ethiopia's Catholic population puts me to shame. A Q&A with Bishop Saldarriaga, apostolic vicar of Soddo-Hosanna, mentions the following statistic:

Although Catholics number less than 1% of the population, the Catholic Church runs more than 90% of the social programs in Ethiopia.

An "80-20 rule" is impressive, but a "90-1 rule" is uncanny.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


What's Rights?

Former public-sector Union boss Andy Stern complains of "a 15-state Republican campaign to strip workers of their rights."

Interesting language.  The rights in question are not natural rights.  The right of workers in general, and of workers in our government to form unions, and to negotiate collectively is not something men deserve because they are men.  It is a right in the very old fashioned sense. It is a right that the government of Wisconsin granted to many government employees many years ago.  Hence, taking that right away is only in a limited sense an assault on rights.  It t not a fundamental rights or a human right.

I suspect that many on the Left don't see it that way. My understanding of their position is that rights are not from nature.  On the contrary, rights are created in History.  Hence once a right is acquired, it is to be understood as a permanent acquisition, for History is a tale of progress.  To deny that, is to deny Truth, as the Left sees it.  Hence the charge, by Jonathan Chait and others of "Republican Nihilism."  To disbelive in History is, from the Left's perspective, nihilism.

The joker here is that History is having the last laugh.  The Left's idea of what is possible in the world of human events is crumbling before out eyes. As a rule, they prefer to shoot the messenger.  As Horace famously said, "you can drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she always returns."

Categories > Progressivism

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Billy Collins' Aristotle

I have been reading a bit from Billy Collins again this morning, including this, his "Aristotle", which, no doubt isn't that hard to critique, and yet, you must admit is a good effort.  This guy Collins is a poet of everything he sees and touches and hears and sees.  Impressive.  There is also this, "Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles", and also, "Her".

I just got one of his volumes of poems called, "The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems," and I just noticed the epigraph in it is from Henry James: "My idea of paradise is a perfect automobile going about thirty miles an hour on a smooth road to a twelfth century cathedral."  That's probably the best thing James ever wrote.

Foreign Affairs

The Question of Islamic Democracy

Over at NRO, Andrew McCarthy has harsh words for Islamic democracy within the context of an apostasy trial in Afghanistan. NLT has similarly questioned the prudence of supporting democracy in Egypt, precisely due to the possibility of an Islamic Brotherhood majority imposing sharia law.

This is the first great question of the 21st century. George W. Bush answered in the affirmative that all people and religions are capable of sustaining a free and just democracy. Many share or hope to share his optimism, but the years to come will surely test our faith.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Obam-o-bots on the Internet

Patriot Action Network blows the whistle on Obama's attempt to subvert the internet in an article titled, "US Gov. Software Creates 'Fake People' on Social Networks to Promote Propaganda."

The US government is offering private intelligence companies contracts to create software to manage "fake people" on social media sites and create the illusion of consensus on controversial issues. ...

According to the contract, the software would "protect the identity of government agencies" by employing a number of false signals to convince users that the poster is in fact a real person. A single user could manage unique background information and status updates for up to 10 fake people from a single computer. ...

[Leaked e-mails describe] how they would  'friend' real people on Facebook as a way to convey government messages.

It just gets worse from there. I lack the tech savvy to detect if this is legitimate news or an elaborate hoax - but if true, it's damning to the hope and change president who promised transparency and a new way. I've said it before, but, just for perspective, George W. Bush never imagined violating the principles of liberty and privacy in this way. Where is the outrage from the left?

Categories > Technology


National Institute for Civil Discourse

The University of Arizona is opening a center to focus on civility in political debate. This strikes me as the final victory lap of the leftist pundits who recklessly and slanderously blamed the Tuscan tragedy on "toxic" rhetoric from conservatives.

An institute devoted to monitoring and debating political discourse could produce interesting observations and a thoughtful exchange of ideas. But the Univ. of Arizona provost admitted that the Tucson shootings were not linked to public discourse - just before saying they "created a space for us to think about civil discourse," and that "if anyone should lead this conversation, it should be the University of Arizona."

So, the Univ. of Arizona, due to its proximity to a national tragedy, should be the one to lead a national debate on the issue of political rhetoric, which admittedly had nothing to do with the tragedy. The only link between the Tuscan shootings and political discourse was the shameful attempt by disingenuous liberals to blame conservative rhetoric for the murders. This, apparently, is the nexus to be deeply mined and propagated by the university's new institute. The New York Times' editorial page must be pleased, indeed.

Categories > Education


What Got Cut?

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers described the Continuing Resolution as:

a monumental accomplishment for each and every American who believes that their government is spending too much. It dramatically scales back the size and scope of domestic government programs, eliminates $100 billion in spending compared to what the President asked for last year, and will mark the beginning of a new trend of reductions that will take place throughout the next year.

The House Appropriations webpage lists a lengthy, interesting and vastly satisfying roll call of the many programs and positions slashed under the CR.

Categories > Economy

Foreign Affairs

Tyrants Clamping Down

As interest groups argue over who best represents democracy in the struggle for deciding who gets to decide what perks public employees get with their jobs, and as they compare their opponents to Nazis and other such tyrannous scum, very real fights are taking place against very real dictators throughout the world. Inspired by the apparent success of Egypt, protests are picking up from North Africa to the Far East. However, many of these regimes are not showing the type of relative restraint that was seen by Mubarak's government and the Egyptian military. In Libya, Moammar Kadhafi's thugs have been openly shooting at dissenters, including murdering mourners at a funeral. In China, the mere whisper of dissent has led to more internet clamp-downs and dozens of arrests. The Bahraini people have suffered some death and tragedy, in recent protests, but there is hope for talks now. Yemen spirals further into chaos. In Burma, recently-released pro-democracy leader Aung Suu Kyi is already receiving open death threats from the military junta ruling the nation. Similar events are playing out in Algeria, Oman, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan, Gabon, and Kazakhstan-- some with more success than others.

Then, of course, there is Iran--- where lawmakers have started demanding that opposition leaders, such as former reformer president Khatami, should just be executed. Even as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad takes credit for the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, he has directed state security forces to arrest scores of dissenters and further regulate the internet. (H/T to Jon Stewart's recent piece on the Holocaust denier.)

The point is, as tyrants are clamping down on people fighting for the basic right to gather and say what is on their minds, it would do well for the people gathered in Madison to perhaps try to stop playing themselves up as champions of democracy and stop comparing their opposition to Nazis or Communists. Decrying the loss of some health benefits pales in the "championing democracy" category when you have pro-democracy leaders like Suu Kyi and Khatami worrying if they'll live to see next year, and neither Governor Walker nor the union leaders should have to suffer such insulting nomenclature when there are true thugs like Kadhafi and Ahmadinejad still wielding power in this world. Words matter. Use them carefully.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Collective Bargaining and School Performance

Supporters of the public employee unions have recently been circulating state-by-state information on collective bargaining, and then comparing it to statistics on ACT and SAT performance in the respective states.  This "data" started to be passed around via Twitter and Facebook; for example, "5 states forbid collective bargaining for educators: SC, NC, GA, TX, & VA. Their national rank in ACT scores: 50th, 49th, 48th, 47th, 44th."

A friend of mine who is a public school teacher--and who is obviously closely following events in Wisconsin as well as closer to home, shared this with me, along with the claim that good ol' progressive Wisconsin ranks #1 in ACT/SAT testing.  I investigated this claim, which traces back to this chart.

As it turns out, these ratings are bogus.  For each state it adds the ranking for SAT scores to the ranking for ACT scores (and it's not even clear what year the data comes from), but it doesn't take into consideration the percentage of the population who take either test. The College Boards specifically warn against doing state-to-state comparisons for the SAT, because in some states all students are required to take the text, while in others only the best students do. Only 4% of Wisconsin students took the SAT in 2010, and since they tend to be the cream of the crop it's not surprising that Wisconsin does well (but third in the nation, not first). On the other hand, 69% of Wisconsin seniors took the ACT in 2010, and Wisconsin comes in 17th in terms of composite ACT scores.

A more thorough debunking of these statistics may be found here; among the revelations is the fact that the data is from 1999.  The owner of this site is actually an advocate of "student organizing"; it is to his credit that he has the intellectual honesty to challenge claims that purport to back up his side of the argument.

Does collective bargaining correlate with performance by students on standardized tests?  Of the five states whose students performed worst on the ACT, three--Michigan, Tennessee, and Florida--mandate collective bargaining with teachers' unions.  The other two permit school districts to bargain collectively, but do not mandate it.

Categories > Education


Discrimination in Ohio Schools

Student Free Press reports a study by the Center for Equal Opportunity which claims Miami University and Ohio State "discriminate based on race and ethnicity in the admissions process." CEO Chairman Linda Chavez said:

The study shows that many, many students are rejected in favor of students with lower test scores and grades, and the reason is that they have the wrong skin color or their ancestors came from the wrong countries.

If this seems unbelievable 60 years after the civil rights movement, it's because you're making the wrong assumptions. The study found that the universities preferred "African-American, Hispanic and Asian students over white students."  

Now, if the bigotry seemed untenable when you thought it harmed blacks, shouldn't the same outrage accompany the revelation that it harms whites? Of course, it doesn't, because we've grown accustomed to the "soft bigotry" of affirmative action and racial preferences for minorities. But the principle of government preference for certain racial groups is just as loathsome to American morality as ever.

H/t: NRO's Corner

Categories > Race

Political Parties

A Comparison of Character

Large-scale demonstrations don't necessarily draw the most refined participants, but they provide a useful cross-section of the relevant interest group. Right now, dueling rallies are being held in Wisconsin between left-wing union Democrats and right-wing Tea Party Republicans.

Power Line has a good blog post on the Tea Party's pro-democracy anti-demonstration, with pictures of clever rally signs and videos of political speeches. Like all Tea Party rallies, the demonstrators will likely leave the area in a cleaner condition than they found it and the media will search in vain for any sentiment of racism or untoward vulgarity.

The Power Line post also provides unique coverage of the anti-democratic union rally, with videos of doctors illegally writing fraudulent sick notes for union protestors. Michelle Malkin reveals the sort of toxic and violent rhetoric common to protest signs at liberal rallies.

From calls for African American lynchings at Common Cause rallies to a shut-down of the Wisconsin legislature due to threats of violence, liberal protests always seem to contain the most degenerate sort of behavior. Pro-life advocates hold prayer vigils while pro-choice advocates countenance child-rape and sex trafficking. Republicans in the minority complain on Fox News Sunday morning talk shows, while Democrats in the minority abandon their posts and shut down the government in order to subvert the democratic process.   

This isn't a scientific analysis of character composition among political ideologies - but it's a solid starting point.  

Categories > Political Parties


Public-Sector Unions, Why not?

Professor Bainbridge explains the problem with public sector unions.  He gives a good analysis, which I recommend in its entirety, but here's what I take to be the key paragraph:

A core problem with public sector unionism is that it creates a uniquely powerful interest group. In theory, bureaucrats are supposed to work for and be accountable to the elected representatives of the people. But suppose those bureaucrats organize into large, well-funded, powerful unions that can tip election results. With very few and very unique exceptions, no workplace in which the employees elect the supervisors functions well for long. Yet, research by Terry Moe (22 J.L. Econ. & Org. 1) into the electoral power of teachers' unions finds just such an outcome.

Categories > Economy


Are Democrats Defiant or Deaf?

WSJ reports that the House voted to cut at least $61 billion from this year's spending levels. However, the bill must now pass the Senate, where "Democratic leaders have made it clear they view the House cuts as extreme, saying they want to keep spending at the current levels."

I know Senate Democrats are government employees, but in the private sector there's a solution for employees who refuse to listen to their bosses.

Categories > Economy

Political Parties

Wisconsin Options

According to Article IV, §8 of the Wisconsin Constitution:

Rules; contempts; expulsion. Section 8. Each house may determine the rules of its own proceedings, punish for contempt and disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds of all the members elected, expel a member; but no member shall be expelled a second time for the same cause.

Expulsion is probably a bridge too far, given the 2/3 hurdle, but, at least, Republicans should consider some form of censure for the contemptible behavior of the missing Democrats.

Eschewing expulsion, I simply wonder aloud as to the possibility of declaring the Democrats to have abdicated their offices. Article IV, §14 states:

Filling vacancies. Section 14. The governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies as may occur in either house of the legislature.

How long must a member be absent before his seat can be deemed vacant? The maximum required period for eviction in Wisconsin is 30 days - perhaps the governor should begin sending out notices.

UPDATE: The "Badger 14": Escape from Wisconsin is a new blog about "why and how the "Badger 14" -- the Wisconsin senators who vacated their seats and fled the state -- should be replaced with new senators."

Categories > Political Parties

Political Parties

Where's Waldo: Wisconsin Edition

I've only intermittently followed the debacle in Wisconsin, but I've not heard much of the most obvious conclusion regarding the state's elusive Democrats. There is simply something untoward about politicians in high office hidding outside their jurisdiction in order to disrupt the work they have sworn to conduct. These are not the acts of statesmen or noble characters. It's shameful that their fellows, at the national level and throughout the states, have not readily condemned such childish and hypocritical antics.

Just for perspective, Democrats should observe that George W. Bush never imagined such disruptive, anti-democratic measures. When Republicans lost, they accepted defeat without abdicating their responsibilities and seeking to wreck the democratic process. Democrats have been as haughty and overbearing in victory as they are now spiteful and ridiculous in defeat.

Again, where is the outrage on the left?

Categories > Political Parties

Political Parties

They Bravely Ran Away . . .

In honor of the Wisconsin Democratic party, a link to The Tale of Sir Robin seems to be in order. Brave, brave, brave, brave Wisconsin.

Categories > Political Parties


Defunding Begins: Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has been defunded by the House. Rep Mike Pence and FRC's Tony Perkins explain the legislation in a Daily Caller op-ed: "Getting Taxpayers Out of the Abortion Business." The article identifies Planned Parenthood as the largest abortion mill in America (888 per day) and the largest recipient of federal funds under the Title X family planning and health services grant program which prohibits grants from funding abortion. 

Planned Parenthood's funding hypocrisy is only surpassed by its women's rights hypocrisy exposed in the series of Live Action videos showing Planned Parenthood "aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking."

Categories > Economy

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government...The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable."
~Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Categories > Quote of the Day

Political Parties

Wisconsin GOP "Accusations"

The New York Times almost makes it around to reporting on union rhetoric in Wisconsin which is exponentially more vile and malicious than anything uttered by conservatives in recent history. The story is titled, "Republicans Accuse Liberals of Hateful Rhetoric in Wisconsin," and confines itself to describing images from a GOP video (see below). 

It actually seems that liberals have used hateful rhetoric, and the Times might have reported on it sua sponte, without hiding behind Republican "accusations." The media did not timidly report "Democrats Accuse Conservatives of Hateful Rhetoric in Arizona," but was happy to report as fact Republican culpability for the shooting in that state. 

The video below is worth a thousand Times articles dancing around the truth.

Categories > Political Parties

Political Parties

Wisconsin GOP Double Agent

If the Wisconsin legislature can't vote until they have a Democrat present to create a quorum, can't one of the GOP switch parties and announce himself "present" as a Democrat?

And how long until the Democrats can be declared to have abdicated their offices and a special election can be held to fill their vacant seats?

UPDATE: Commenter William Schumacher correctly observes that the necessary quorum does not require a Democreat, per say, but 20 persons present - and the GOP have only 19. So, skip my first question and move to my second: what is the timeframe for abdication?

Categories > Political Parties


On Wisconsin

Since I've criticized Joe Klein of Time magazine when his assessments seemed way off the mark, it's fair to cite and commend him for writing some smart and brave things about the political storm in Wisconsin:

Isn't it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote? Isn't it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn't it interesting that some of those who--rightly--protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in  the Wisconsin Senate?

An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can't be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters. And it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker's basic requests are modest ones--asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions' abilities to negotiate work rules--and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time.

The most thoughtful assessment of besieged Madison (both the author of the Constitution and the city named after him) comes, as usual, from Walter Russell Mead of The American Interest. Mead has argued for some time that the "blue social model," which gave America the post-New Deal order where Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor argued but ultimately collaborated on the administration of Big Prosperity, has become obsolete.  The "chief division in American politics today," he wrote last year, "is between those who think the blue model is the only possible or at least the best feasible way to organize a modern society and want to shore it up and defend it, and those who think the blue model, whatever benefits it had in the past, is no longer sustainable."

Public employee unions are not only the principal beneficiaries of what's left of the blue model, but its most passionate advocates on ideological as well as self-interested grounds.  The Democrats of our day are the party of government in two senses: they advocate more government intervention in the economy as the indispensable means to improve social conditions; and they represent the interests of all the government's wards and wardens, the recipients and deliverers of benefits. 

There is a basic tension here.  The commitment to successful government interventions will require the party of government to insist on rigor, clear standards, and vigilant economizing - all the things likely to antagonize the party's constituencies in government.  As a result, Mead argues, the blue model routinely costs more than we can afford while failing to accomplish things we really need done.  Or, as Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana put the point to an interviewer, "I argue to my most liberal friends: 'You ought to be the most offended of anybody if a dollar that could help a poor person is being squandered in some way.'  And some of them actually agree."  But a lot of them don't agree, and you can find them shouting in the Wisconsin capitol this week.

Categories > Politics


Global Competency and Human Grace

For six years, many students of Ashland University participated in a type of movement and argument that I, from what I know, seemed to be fairly unique. It was not to gain more campus spoils or protest some foreign war; instead, it was a rather simple (at least, so we thought) request to let Greek and Latin stand beside French and Spanish in the university language requirement. For all of our efforts in those six years, we students were shockingly defeated time and time again (a detailed story that I shall get around to writing about sometime in the future). Opponents of classical liberal education, misguided in their views as to the purpose of a university, always seemed to win the day.

We tried to reason with them, we tried to shame them, we tried to pressure them with public support. It all seemed to be to no avail.  My peers and I would sit in committee after committee and get no where. The Faculty Senate, at long last recognizing it was unable to successfully challenge our arguments in favor of learning ancient languages, began a process of just trying to get rid of the language requirement at Ashland altogether. Currently they are trying to replace it with "global competency"-- an idea that, as stated in the literature passed around by the proponents of this, all students must become aware of their roles as global citizens who have particular (unspecified) global responsibilities. In the midst of this six-year debate, we had seen the university take away German and Ancient Languages; in its home stretch we were not going to let them change the very purpose of an education at the university. We stood before the Faculty and begged them to realize that there was more to an education than simply learn how something works-- and that there was a greater goal to education than producing people capable of getting a job in an increasingly globalized market. 

There is a beauty and magic to language in particular that extends past simply being able to help it advance you in the workplace. Language structures how the mind thinks; thus the best way to understand a people (whether you seek to understand modern-day Russia or ancient Sparta) is to try understand how they think and view the world. Yes, things can be translated and nearly everything is-- but a translation always, at a certain level, keeps part of the truth of that person's words out of reach. There is something truly remarkable about language that exhibits the grace of the human mind in its full glory-- it is what separates us from the beasts and enables us to be political. And now there is some science to prove it; bilingual individuals fare far better against Alzheimer's disease because they have more control and better use of their minds. Even if you aren't fluent, the practice of learning a language is a tremendous, tremendous exercise of the human mind.

At times I thought us to be like Horatius at the gate. Though, perhaps we were and are just tilting at windmills; in his humor, Dr. Schramm complimented me with a copy of Don Quixote shortly before I graduated. At the end of the day, the student-led movement was simply outvoted by members of the Faculty. However, as futile as it might have been to try take on these progressive strands of relativism and narrow specialty that have been poisoning academia for so long, the fight in and of itself was good and noble-- and I am pleased to say that, from what I'm told, it seems students at Ashland may soon have the opportunity to study the languages of the Ancients under the direction of some of the good minds at the Ashbrook Center. Sophos kagathos. 
Categories > Education


Mitch Daniels Links

Jeb Bush hearts Daniels.  I kind of thought Jeb Bush was a Romney guy.  Not much reason for that feeling.  I saw a 2009 event with Bush, Romney and Eric Cantor at some pizza shop taking questions.  They were all talking about the need for substantive, policy-based approaches.  Bush tended to overuse "dream" tropes in his remarks (pursuing dreams, working toward dreams, chasing dreams...)  Despite that, Bush came across by far the best prepared of the three.  I was thinking that he should be the one running for President.  Nah.

Run Jeb Run (for the Senate.)

I think Maggie Gallagher is mostly right about Daniels - but not necessarily totally right.  The social issues truce stuff is both silly and self-destructive.  If Daniels is going to be nominated he will need not only social issues positions (which he has and which are well conservative), but a social issues agenda - however incremental and deemphasized.  That being said, the social conservative critique of his CPAC speech is misplaced.  Daniels did not give a stump speech touching every issue of controversy and making a special appeal to every constituency he hopes to win.  Such a speech has its place, but it should not be confused with the speech Daniels gave.  Daniels' CPAC speech was a meditation on the chief contemporary problems of political economy and it was a powerful and honest statement of reality.  Daniels will have to answer on the other issues or (probably) doom himself, but that was not the time.

It is worth pointing out that Daniels' problems with social conservatives are of his own making.  It was not an actual flaw of his CPAC speech that he did not mention abortion, gay marriage etc. The problem was that many social conservatives saw his economics-centered speech through the prism of his earlier truce talk.  Daniels has earned suspicion and the suspicion has become self-sustaining.

Some guy saw how this truce talk was going to work out for Daniels when he wrote, "Ironically, Daniels' not talking about social issues will create a spiral of commentary on Daniels not talking about the social issues....the best way for Daniels to minimize having to talk about the social issues is for him to have something of substance to say."   

Categories > Politics

Health Care

Obama Has No Conscience For Catholics

Obama has rescinded a federal conscience clause "designed to protect health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on personal or religious grounds." The Bush-era law was principally intended to protect Catholic health-care facilities (accounting for more than 20% of U.S. admissions) and religious workers by allowing them to opt out of providing abortifacients such as Plan B.

Obama and Democrats apparently have no interest in protecting Catholics. If only these hospitals were Muslim, or the workers were Democrat-voting union members, I'm sure Obama devotion to diversity or self-interest would have softened his heart. But a man who refused to oppose infanticide is unlikely to sympathize with pro-life Catholics.

Obama's foreign policy is often criticized for punishing friends and rewarding enemies. At least domestically, Obama's Chicago-style instincts are just as one would expect.

Categories > Health Care


"It starts with not alienating and proceeds to persuading."

I don't normally title my blog posts with direct quotes from the article to which I mean to draw your attention, but it is impossible to top that sentence as a summary of Peggy Noonan's latest.  It is also impossible to top it as a governing philosophy for those engaged in real, grown up, political speech.  Noonan examines and takes cheer from two recent speeches offered by popular Republican governors (Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie) who have entered the fray without fear.  I note that the absence of fear in Daniels and Christie is an absence of fear of either the Left or of the Right. 

Recognizing this lack of fear in them, however, does not mean that conservatives should be ready to embrace either of these guys with the all the warmth and trust reserved for a familiar grandma.  But right now, we don't need a grandma who will bake us cookies and tell us everything we want to hear.  We need a grandpa who will tell us when we're out of line at the dinner table and offending cousin Sally.  We also need a grandpa who can persuade cousin Sally to sit up straight at the table and clean up her mess when she's finished. 

Having said that, I'm not fully on board with every word of Noonan's fine column.  She makes what I think is a somewhat unfortunate mention of the "Reagan Democrats."  I'll take Democrat votes always . . . but I do hope we don't strive to create "Christie Democrats" or "Daniels Democrats."  Real persuasion ought to consist in creating new Republicans. 
Categories > Politics


The Good Old Days

I was perusing some old articles that I am organizing and came across the following statement in an analysis of a Clinton Tax Memo from October, 1994 (no link, sorry): "Recently leaked budget documents, prepared for the President by his top budget aide...reveal that last year's record tax increase was a complete failure in curbing future deficits. The Administration now admits that the budget deficit will climb in eight out of the next ten years, rising to almost $300 billion after the end of the decade."

Ah, to go back to the days when $300 billion seemed to be an outrageous amount of money for the government to spend...
Categories > Economy


Social Conservative Review

The Ashbrook Center appears in the fourth consecutive installment of Family Research Council's Social Conservative Review. David Foster and I join a long list of luminaries (Rep. Mike Pence, Robert P. George, George Weigel, Michael Rubin, Sen. Jim DeMint) in this edition. As always, I recommend you browse and drink deeply.
Categories > Conservatism

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Mark Helprin's Appreciation of Winter

In many ways, technology has allowed us to conquer mother nature. With things like cars, insulation, and air conditioning, we have largely overcome the difficulties that nature can present. This is one of the reasons I love winter: it is one of the few times when a lot of snow (and this year, ice) can occasionally get the better of us and force us to put life on hold for a day. 

In tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, Mark Helprin offers a beautiful appreciation of winter. It is another fine read that is reminiscent of his novel A Soldier of the Great War. (Though I am most fond of his three book trilogy of the story of Swan Lake, which he recently released as one volume in A Kingdom Far and Clear.)


The Next Green Hypocrisy--Ahead of Schedule!

So last week I predicted environmentalists would reverse course on one of their major positions.  It took less than 48 hours for this prediction to come true.  For details, I throw it over to our pals at The Corner.
Categories > Environment


The Sub-Prime Directive?

Stephen Meister argues that government caused the housing bubble:

Federal policy was the chief cause of the crisis. Prior to the end of World War II, the percentage of US home ownership ran well below 50 percent; after the war -- with Veterans Administration assistance to returning GIs -- we saw it climb into the low 60s. But, as the chart above shows, it didn't skyrocket until mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration began pushing its "affordable homeownership" agenda.

In 1996, HUD set an explicit target, commanding that 42 percent of the loans bought by Fannie and Freddie be to people with incomes below the area's median. That target rose to 50 percent before Clinton left office -- and was pushed even higher in the Bush years.

Meanwhile, Washington used the Community Reinvestment Act to muscle banks into making loans to minority borrowers with poor credit ratings who put down miniscule down payments.

On the other hand, one could say that the bubble would not have happened absent government pushing banks to loan more to people with weaker credit is like saying that the machine gun would not exist if gun powder did not exist.  That's probably too strong, but it seems more reasonable to say that pushing banks to loan more to less qualified borrowers was a necessary, but not sufficient explanation of the bubble.  It's a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the financial crisis.

Categories > Economy

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

Henry Adams, uber-realist?  "Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man."
Categories > Quote of the Day


Let Him Be Clear On the Budget - It's Bush's Fault

FactCheck and Politifact, both left-leaning watchdogs, have conceded that Obama's claim that "by the middle of this decade ... [w]e will not be adding more to the national debt" is false. In fact, Obama plans to increase the budget by the better part of a trillion dollars every year after 2012 (when the increase is above $1 trillion).

Having made the statement for public consumption (delivered by an acquiescing media which worthy of any third-world dictator), the president has now "clarified" his fallacy by saying he excluded interest payments on the debt. Of course, that's not what he originally said and it's a ridiculous way to analyze the issue. It's of no difference whether debt is increased by new spending or interest on old spending when the goal is to reduce debt.

Obama has elevated the "blame Bush" strategy to unimagined heights. Apparently, his budget is not responsible for any interest payments on the debt he received from Bush, so he's just ignoring that interest. Obama's reality is impregnable to logic, shame and the most basic laws of mathematics and finance. I hope Americans do not accept his offer to buy land there.

Categories > Economy


Scott Walker, Wisconsin Public Employees and Obamacare

I was going to title this "Scott Walker Vs. The World", but it wouldn't have been appropriate.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is going after Wisconsin's public employee unions.  The part that most interests me is not the cap on raises or the attempts to weaken the collective bargaining power of the unions, but the changes to public employee health insurance.  Walkers plan will double the employee contribution toward health care premiums.  That might help with budgeting in the short-term, but if premiums keep rising, Walker's plan only limits the state government's exposure. 

Walker and Wisconsin might benefit from offering public employees at the state and municipal level an optional HSA/catastrophic coverage option like in Indiana. It will save Wisconsin money (it saves Indiana 11% in health insurance costs.)  It will save the public employees money.  Such a program might be even more attractive to public employees after the increase in their share of premium payments.

While good for Wisconsin, it would also be good for America.  Institutions create interests.  Public employees with HSA/catastrophic coverage will have a stake in preventing their plans from becoming illegal under Obamacare.  US health care politics is a race between those who want to centrally ration all care and those who want empowered consumers choosing between competing providers.  Don't just go after the benefits of public employees.  Restructure their benefits so that on one issue at least, they end up on the side of market-oriented reformism.  We need all the help we can get.

Categories > Politics


Visualization of the Budget Proposal

The New York Times has an interactive visualization of President Obama's 2011 Budget Proposal. You can compare it to the 2010 budget, and there is even a button to hide the mandatory spending for entitlement programs-- further evidence at how much reform is needed to control the spiraling debt. It will be good to have around as we prepare for the inevitable fight over cuts between Congress and the White House. This is useful for those of us who have difficulty visualizing the federal budget, its expenses, and its debt.
Categories > Economy


States Derailing Obama's High-Speed Dream

Governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have declined funds for Obama's high-speed rail (for which their democratic predecessors had lobbied). Florida's Rick Scott stated the project would cost more than the allotted federal funds and would operate in deficits - both requiring tax-payer subsidization.

The Obama administration didn't even attempt to deny that the project would almost certainly exceed federal estimates, but argued that they had "eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses." It apparently never occurred to Obama's staff that a governor might also wish to protect businesses from soaring costs and bankruptcy.

Not to be deterred in spending tax-payer money, Obama promised to redistribute the funds to other (bluer) states. Florida Democrats howled that it was fiscally responsible to take the money: Since everyone knows Obama is going to spend it anyway, we might as well let him spend it here!

Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have taken a principled stand against economic waste. Every state should likewise oppose the federal project in a bottom-up approach to forcing fiscal restraint on the White House. The GOP should follow Obama's initiative and make a national issue of high-speed rail - calling out any governor who continues to feed from Obama's federal trough.

Categories > Economy


Trends in Faith

The National Council of Churches' 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches reports the longstanding trend of growth in conservative churches (Catholic, Mormon, Assembly of God, Jehovah's Witness) and decline in liberal churches (Presbyterian, Episcopal, Church of Christ). Every pro-life, pro-marriage church saw member increases, whereas, as Bill Donohue quips, "those religions whose teaching on abortion and marriage approximate the views of the New York Times and NPR are in free fall."

I'm sure prodigal liberal churchgoers are swelling the ranks of "spiritual but not religious" self-identifiers and non-attending non-denominationalists. The moral relativism, progressive policies and multicultural sentiments of liberals put them at odds with the theology and culture of religion. It makes more sense for them to discard religion than to search for a mildly inoffensive brand thereof. The lingering human appetite for spirituality in these would-be atheists explains the modern rise in counterfeit religious substitutes. Psychotherapy replaces confession, social networking replaces parochial community and spiritualism replaces faith.

Faith and reason are mutually complimentary and reinforcing. Liberalism within the context of faith is unreasonable, and hence unsustainable. Conservatism is naturally more compatible with faith, and the trends reported today are likely to continue ad infinitum.

Categories > Religion

Political Philosophy

Pragmatism, Prudence, and Progressivism

[This is cross-posted today with our peeps over at Power Line.  Extra credit for NLT readers if you can spot the Dune reference without Googling.  John Moser not eligible for this contest.]

Over at NRO's Corner last week, I offered a sermonette of sorts about what Pat Moynihan used to call "semantic infiltration," which he described as "the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality."  (One smart-alecky reader wrote in to accuse me of being "anti-semantic."  Yuck, yuck.)  Another example of the phenomenon is occurring in what I've been calling the  "liberal body snatching operation" on Ronald Reagan.

The media-academic complex line on Reagan relies overwhelmingly on one idea or one term, namely, that far from being an ideologue, Reagan was a "pragmatist."  And guess who else the media mentats call a "pragmatist"?  Why, Barack Obama himself.  Obama's ostensible "move to the center" following the November "shellacking" is seen as "pragmatism," though cynics might call it more like "survival instinct." 

Pragmatism as ordinary people use the word just means practicality, and in political terms it means reaching compromises.  Every successful politician makes compromises; every good politician, then, can be called a "pragmatist."  So are we really saying anything important or distinctive by calling someone a pragmatist?  Yes, I think we are. 

When the media-academic complex uses the term, it takes on a different hue, even though no one may be explicitly aware of it.  Keep in mind that once upon a time "pragmatism" was a formal political philosophy, whose leading advocate was John Dewey, one of the pre-eminent thinkers of Progressivism.  Dewey's pragmatism was really just an Americanized version of Hegelianism, and in political terms "pragmatism" came to replace prudence as the highest attribute for a statesman, because for a pragmatist, the ends we seek to achieve no longer arise from human nature of other fixed principles, but come down to us from History, and change constantly.  The job of the "pragmatic" statesman is to adjust to the changing ends prescribed by History.  And if those ends happen to be egalitarian socialism, so much the better.

In other words, pragmatism masquerades as a non-ideological assault on ideology, but in fact it seeks to substitute "Progressivism" for the classical view that the limits of human nature prescribe the limits of politics, but without having to argue for it from the ground up.  To call someone a "pragmatist" today is to divorce him from his ideology or any fixed principles.  In Reagan's case, calling him a pragmatist is a clever way of denigrating or downgrading his conservative principles; in the case of Obama, calling him a pragmatist is a way of concealing or denying Obama's radical ideology.  In both cases, such as Time magazine's celebration of the Obama-Reagan "bromance," it represents an evasion of clashing principles about government.  Either way, we should regard "pragmatism" as another form of highly suspicious semantic infiltration.  I'll take the older Aristotelian idea of prudence instead.  Prudence keeps the fixed ends always in sight and always on our mind.

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Billy Collins

A friend brought to my attention the poet Billy Collins and his Snow Day.  Just returned from Alaska, no different from Ohio.  White with "the grandiose silence of the snow."  I think you might like this.  It tastes good.


Fallout from CPAC

Someone named Kevin McCullough is outraged that the winners of the straw poll taken at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC last weekend were Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Gary Johnson.  This result, he believes, was due to libertarians' "stuffing the ballot box."  After all, many social conservatives decided not to attend this year in protest of the decision to allow the gay and lesbian group GOProud to participate.  McCullough's candidate of choice, Mike Huckabee, apparently did not do as well as he had hoped, despite the fact that he allegedly "has beaten the president head-to-head in nearly every poll taken."  The fact that Huckabee didn't bother attending may have had something to do with that.

Aside from being puzzled as to why a bunch of libertarians would have voted for Mitt Romney, and wanting to see those poll results that show Huckabee consistently beating Obama, my general response to Mr. McCullough is this: if you and your friends are going to boycott CPAC for fear of catching a bad case of teh gay, don't complain when those who do show up cast their votes for candidates who are not social conservatives.  That's not "stuffing the ballot box"; it's simple math.

Categories > Conservatism


Entitlements Are On The Table

The GOP have struck hard against Obama's leadership since the release of his entitlement-silent budget. Obama attempted to deflect criticism at a press conference today, promising that he indeed intends to confront entitlements:

You guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn't happen today, then the assumption is that it's not going to happen. This is not a matter of 'you go first' or 'I go first.' This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately everybody getting into that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over.

Translation: I'm waiting for the Republicans "to go first" and lead, so I can demagogue them (before adopting some of their ideas).

The GOP recognized the tactic, called out Obama on his continued hedging and, again, asserted their willingness to lead on entitlements in the president's stead:

The American people are ready to get serious about tackling our fiscal challenges, but President Obama's budget fails to lead.  The President's budget punts on entitlement reform and actually makes matters worse by spending too much, taxing too much, and borrowing too much - stifling job growth today and threatening our economic future.            

The President says that he wants to win the future, but we can't win the future by repeating the mistakes of the past or putting off our responsibilities in the present.  Our budget will lead where the President has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms so that we can have a conversation with the American people about the challenges we face and the need to chart a new path to prosperity.  Our reforms will focus both on saving these programs for current and future generations of Americans and on getting our debt under control and our economy growing.  By taking critical steps forward now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement.  We hope the President and Democratic leaders in Congress will demonstrate leadership and join us in working toward responsible solutions to confront the fiscal and economic challenges before us. 

Categories > Economy

Foreign Affairs


Austria is the latest European nation to fall prostrate before Islamic claims of supremacy. After speaking at a political event on women's rights and jihad in the Middle East, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff reasoned that Mohammed was a "pedophile" for having sex with his 9 year old wife. An Austrian court decided today that making the connection between sex with a child and pedophilia is a criminal act and convicted Sabaditsch-Wolff.

Europe has never honored or protected the freedom of speech as has America, but over the past years they've become shamefully delinquent. Were someone to similarly slander Christian leaders, no court in Europe would consider criminal prosecution. Europe's infection with the sort of multicultural pestilence recently criticized by David Cameron has corrupted their most basic principles of equality and justice under the rule of law.

Militant Islam's 1,000 year war to conquer Europe won another battle today.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Men and Women

Bush Sr. Receives Medal of Freedom

George H.W. Bush has been awarded the Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award in the United States - along with 14 other recipients. Bush received a long standing ovation.
Categories > Men and Women

Bootleggers, Baptists, and Three-Legged Stools

Over at the Washington Examiner today I take up the strange alliance between environmentalists and natural gas interests.  Meanwhile, on NRO's Corner, I dilate how Mitch Daniels can learn to walk on three legs.


On Obama's Leadership

From Paul Ryan:

Americans expect their presidents to lead, they expect their presidents to take on the country's biggest challenges, and arguably the biggest domestic challenge perhaps in the history of this country is this crushing burden of debt that is coming our way. The president punted on the budget and he punted on the deficit. That's not leadership

From Jeff Sessions:

We are faced with the difficulty of taking on something as complex as entitlements, as deeply emotional as entitlements, and the President of the United States is not even in the game, and doesn't even suggest it has to be done? I'm sure he didn't want to have a debt crisis as big as he's now finding, but leaders have to deal with the problems they've got, and we need his help

From Andrew Sulivan:

[Others] have to lead, because this president is too weak, too cautious, too beholden to politics over policy to lead. In this budget, in his refusal to do anything concrete to tackle the looming entitlement debt, in his failure to address the generational injustice, in his blithe indifference to the increasing danger of default, he has betrayed those of us who took him to be a serious president prepared to put the good of the country before his short term political interests. Like his State of the Union, this budget is good short term politics but such a massive pile of fiscal bullshit it makes it perfectly clear that Obama is kicking this vital issue down the road.

To all those under 30 who worked so hard to get this man elected, know this: he just screwed you over. He thinks you're fools. Either the US will go into default because of Obama's cowardice, or you will be paying far far more for far far less because this president has no courage when it counts. He let you down. On the critical issue of America's fiscal crisis, he represents no hope and no change. Just the same old Washington politics he once promised to end.

From Yuval Levin:

Until the last few weeks, there might have been room to wonder whether President Obama might respond to the 2010 elections by moving to the center and seeking some politically advantageous but meaningful middle ground. ... This budget puts an end to that possibility. The president appears to have decided to spend the next two years pretending there is no problem to solve, and therefore that Republican proposals to rein in spending are just mean-spirited cuts offered up for kicks.
This is, above all, an appalling failure of leadership. When we look back on this period a decade or two from now, I think we'll identify this moment ... as the last real opportunity we had for a gradual bipartisan course correction. That option now seems closed off, and it is up to Republicans to decide if the alternative is to march off the fiscal cliff in order to avoid political risks or to propose a gradual course correction to voters and make the case for why it is sensible, responsible, and essential.

The only mystery is why anyone would be surprised by Obama's failure to lead. Can you name a single occasion in his life when Obama has ever shown leadership? I can't.

Obama's game is transparent, isn't it? He is playing a game of chicken. He puts forward a series of proposals that he knows are more or less insane; but he also believes that Republicans will come to his rescue. They, not being wholly irresponsible, will come up with plans to reform entitlements--like, for example, the Ryan Roadmap. Ultimately, some combination of those plans will be implemented because the alternative is the collapse, not just of the government of the United States, but of the country itself. But Obama thinks the GOP's reforms will be unpopular, and he will be able to demagogue them, thus having his cake and eating it too. Is that leadership? Of course not. But it is the very essence of Barack Obama.

From Eric Cantor:

Unlike the President, unlike Harry Reid who doesn't even admit there needs to be any reform of Social Security. We are going to lead.

Categories > Presidency


Obama's Spending Promises, Then and Now

Power Line's John Hinderaker strikes gold comparing Obama's 2010 fiscal projection for 2012 and his actual 2012 budget "cuts."

In its 2010 budget, the Obama administration projected that in FY 2012, total federal outlays would add up to $3,662,000,000,000. In its actual FY 2012 budget, the administration is asking for total outlays of $3,729,000,000,000. That's right: the Obama administration has responded to skyrocketing deficits and heightened concern about federal debt by increasing the amount it is requesting for next year, compared to its projections of just two years ago, by $67 billion. Only in Washington is this a "cut."

As regards the deficit:

Moreover, in its 2010 budget, the Obama administration projected that in FY 2012, it would run a deficit of $581 billion, or 3.5% of GDP. Now, the administration tells us that its FY 2012 budget will run a deficit of $1.1 trillion, or 7% of GDP, nearly double what it had projected.

The cheerleader media is simply reading their scripts, praising Obama's budget cuts. Is there no one who gets paid to cover politics who is capable of the slightest research and objectivity in this country?

Obama is an addict - he can't control his spending and will say anything to get his fix.

Categories > Economy

Foreign Affairs

The Guns of Switzerland

"Switzerland does not have an army; it is an army," goes a common saying among the Swiss. I had the good fortune of spending an evening in the beautiful town of St. Moritz in the upper Engadin this past September, and struck up a conversation with a local at the bar attached to my hotel. We got to prying each other's minds about each other's people, and in exchange for my attempting to explain what a "Tea Party" was to him, he explained Swiss neutrality to me. I inquired how a nation that counts France, Germany, and Italy among her neighbors has managed to stay relatively unmolested in post-Napoleonic Europe. Apart from the massive geographic deterrence of invasion (great mountains and narrow passes), there is an ever greater military deterrence-- nearly every household in Switzerland has a gun in it and someone well-trained in using it. Every able-bodied Swiss male between the ages of 18 and 34 (then volunteers up until the age of 50, and female volunteers) regularly participates in combat training. The entire nation is so heavily-fortified that shelters can accommodate 110% of this well-armed population, and many key tunnels and bridges throughout the country are still wired with explosives and tank traps should anyone try to launch an invasion.

It is estimated that there are over 2 million firearms circulating in this neutral country of 7 million citizens. In response to data that the rates of suicide using firearms is three times greater in Switzerland than elsewhere in Europe, some center-left parties and non-governmental organizations pushed to a referendum vote a ban of army-issued guns in Swiss homes. My weekend in Switzerland was the first I had heard of the proposed ban, and the fellow at the bar seemed to explain opinion on the issue the best-- "Rather than dealing with the problem--the rate of suicides--they seek to destroy our proud tradition." The ban was soundly rejected by the Swiss; they shall remain an army, and maintain their tradition of causing even powerful maniacs like Hitler to think twice before antagonizing them.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Notes On Daniels

I've had a little more time to digest the Mitch Daniels speech at CPAC and here are some thoughts,

1.  Unlike Romney and Pawlenty, Daniels did not deliver a stump speech.  In a lot of ways it wasn't even a Mitch Daniels speech.  Daniels outlined the challenges that a reformist conservatism will face in the coming decade, and discussed how to handle them.  The speech works just as well as advice to a 2016 Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, or Bob McDonnell presidential campaign.  The speech reminded me a lot of Reagan's 1976 address to the Republican National Convention.  There was the same sense of radical contingency and the same paucity of applause lines. He didn't want you to cheer him, he wanted you to listen and trusted that you would understand.

2.  Daniels' speech had moments of enormous prudence.  He said, "It is up to us to show, specifically, the best way back to greatness, and to argue for it with all the passion of our patriotism. But, should the best way be blocked, while the enemy draws nearer, then someone will need to find the second best way. Or the third, because the nation's survival requires it."  There is a great deal of maturity and realism there.  Conservatives are going to have to compromise with each other in crafting a "realistic, actionable program of fundamental change, one that attracts and persuades a broad majority of our fellow citizens" and when we think we have that, there will have to be even more compromises.  There will be setbacks, and circumstances will foreclose certain policy options.  Sticking to principle while maintaining relevance is going to an enormous challenge. 

3.  There is even more (and painful) realism when he says " But we, too, are relatively few in number, in a nation of 300 million."  Yes.  We are far fewer than you would think from looking at the 2010 election results.  Most Americans (and maybe most self-identified conservatives) have never heard, in any detail, why turning Medicare into a defined contribution program is a good idea.  

4.  This is a good approach to the expected liberal attacks on conservative reformism: " When they call the slightest spending reductions "painful", we will say "If government spending prevents pain, why are we suffering so much of it?" And "If you want to experience real pain, just stay on the track we are on." When they attack us for our social welfare reforms, we will say that the true enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who defend an imploding status quo, and the arithmetic backs us up."  Well it sounds good anyway. 

5.  Good for him for putting earmarks in perspective.  Do you hear him John McCain?

6.  This is important and not spoken of often enough: "We should address ourselves to young America at every opportunity. It is their futures that today's policies endanger, and in their direct interest that we propose a new direction."  Very true and talking to the young is one of the most intractable problems of the center-right in the present media environment.  Obama's policies are an unspeakably bad deal for the young, but they are also his strongest demographic.  And don't just blame the kids (and their slightly older siblings.)  Conservatives are doing a lousy job talking to them. Conservatives are best able to get their messages out in the right-leaning media, the traditional news media, and ads.  The right-leaning media is the friendliest format but its audience skews older.  The traditional news media is less friendly to conservative ideas, but smart and disciplined conservatives can use the conventions of the traditional news media to get their message out.  The problem is that the audience for this media also skews older.  Ads are fine, but most commercials are thirty seconds to one minute and are heavily dependent on familiarity with certain ideas, political buzzwords and personalities.  Many political commercials are just nonsense to many younger voters.  It isn't that young people are rejecting a reasonable, relevant, and intelligible conservative message.  They have literally never heard such an argument made at any length in language they understand.

7.  Daniels wrote and thought the heck out of that speech and the above excerpts don't do it justice, but his language could use some work.  Most of the people he needs to win over don't know what "summoned to General Quarters" is supposed to mean. 

Categories > Politics


In Praise of Contingency Fees

An Ecuador court has fined Chevron $8 billion in an environmental case - and the plaintiffs' lawyer is considering an appeal on grounds that the award is too low.
Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Civis Americanus Sum

As JFK noted in his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, "Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was 'civis Romanus sum.'" [I am a Roman citizen.] A Roman enjoyed the rights and privileges of his citizenship wherever he traveled, cloaked in the mantle of Roman law and might even in distant lands.

Has citizenship fallen so far that a former American president can be hounded and exiled from the wider world by threats of imprisonment in foreign lands for actions taken while presiding in office? Is America so low in estimation to the respect once due to Rome?

It seems likely that George W. Bush was forced to cancel a visit to Switzerland for fear that he would be arrested and tried for war crimes in a foreign court. Such threats have been made against other Bush administration officials, CIA agents, Donald Rumsfeld and Henry Kissenger (who has actually fled threatened abduction and prosecution abroad).

That American citizens must fear to travel abroad, lest foreign powers exert control over their liberty and judge them for acts of political administration in the United States is so far from acceptable as to provoke open hostilities on the national stage. David Frum correctly chides Obama for not protesting such a threat upon his predecessor (which he would also have reason to fear for drone attacks in Pakistan, were he not the darling of the leftist rabble raising such threats). Switzerland ought also to answer for the threat, clearly extending it's welcome to American citizens and assuring them of safe passage.

"Universal jurisdiction" is an attack upon national sovereignty to which the United States has not succumbed. It is not rule of law, but rule of the defeated and discontent. The world must be made to know that the mantle of American law and might protects her citizens in every land known to man.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Too Little, Too Late

President Obama has released a $3.73 trillion budget for 2012, including $1 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years (3/4 spending cuts, 1/4 tax hikes). Those reductions fall woefully short even of the $4 trillion recommended by Obama's own deficit commission. And the House GOP are calling for far greater short-term cuts ($62 billion in the remainder of 2011).

Obama's failure is in his unwillingness to confront Medicaid and Social Security (and, adversely, to correct corporate and individual tax codes). Some in the GOP would surely love to stand back and watch Obama touch the "third rail" of politics, but Republicans are honestly offering to take bipartisan credit/blame for a massive overhaul. The (Tea Party) moment will never be better for reform - this is the only time in recent history such a venture could prove popular among a majority of Americans. All that's missing is presidential leadership and will.

The GOP should stake their flag on these economic issues and live or die on principle. Compromise around the edges, but take the middle ground while the fates are with you.

Categories > Economy


The Fast Track to Government Waste

Robert Samuelson lays bare Obama's plan to "pay states $53 billion to build rail networks that would then lose money - lots - thereby aggravating the budget squeezes of the states or federal government, depending on which covered the deficits."

Is anyone unaware that high-speed rail would simply create another inefficient government program which fails to achieve any promised benefits and requires massive tax-payer subsidization to stay afloat? Under what system of reasoning is this a good idea?

Against history and logic is the imagery of high-speed rail as "green" and a cutting-edge technology.

It's a triumph of fancy over fact. Even if ridership increased fifteenfold over Amtrak levels, the effects on congestion, national fuel consumption and emissions would still be trivial. ...

Governing ought to be about making wise choices. What's disheartening about the Obama administration's embrace of high-speed rail is that it ignores history, evidence and logic. The case against it is overwhelming. The case in favor rests on fashionable platitudes. High-speed rail is not an "investment in the future"; it's mostly a waste of money. Good government can't solve all our problems, but it can at least not make them worse.

Categories > Economy


Sky Cowboys

The Flying Bulls, a aerobatics team from the Czech Republic, are astounding crowds around the world. Beyond their aerial talents, the civilian team is quite unique for the composition of its members: their leader is a 62 year old woman, and the other fliers are all over 50.

Their signature maneuver is "mirror flying," whereby two planes form mirror images (see below) and the remaining planes circle them in a barrel roll.

Categories > Leisure

Foreign Affairs

Islam's Reception of Democracy

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a former Middle Eastern specialist in the C.I.A.'s clandestine service and the author of "The Wave: Man, God and the Ballot Box in the Middle East." He has penned a New York Times editorial contemplating the force and effect of democracy upon the Islamic world.

Noting that the Middle-East has always been "resistant to the ideas and institutions that made representative government possible," Gerecht observes:

President George W. Bush's decision to build democracy in Iraq seemed so lame to many people because it appeared, at best, to be another example of American idealism run amok -- the forceful implantation of a complex Western idea into infertile authoritarian soil. But Mr. Bush, whose faith in self-government mirrors that of a frontiersman in Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," saw truths that more worldly men missed: the idea of democracy had become a potent force among Muslims, and authoritarianism had become the midwife to Islamic extremism.

One of the great under-reported stories of the end of the 20th century was the enormous penetration of the West's better political ideas -- democracy and individual liberty -- into the Muslim consciousness.

Gerecht continues to explore the "evolving" relationship between Islam (particularly groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood) and democracy (increasingly equated with justice and freedom). Gerecht's auguries are the most sanguine I've yet read - and, blessedly, the most realistically hopeful.  

Categories > Foreign Affairs


It's Official: China is #2

China is now the world's second largest economy, toppling Japan after 42-years in the contender's box. Purchasing-power-parity adjustments favor developing countries like China and somewhat skewer GDP data. And per capita GDP in China is a poverty-level $4,412, compared to $42,431 in Japan. But, China's emergence must be recognized.

Speculation has it that China will overtake the U.S. by 2020. I think it doubtful. China's continued rise depends upon a number of stability factors subject to doubt in an authoritarian regime. Further, China's per capita GDP (or quality of life standard) is not competitive.

It's not yet time to begin speaking of a new Evil Empire. But China would love the title.

Categories > Economy


Clarence Thomas' Deafening Silence

In "A Man for All Seasons," Thomas Cromwell exclaims of St. Thomas Moore, "His silence is deafening all Europe" So too is Justice Clarence Thomas' silence apparently deafening the NY Times, which notes that Tuesday will mark five years since Thomas has spoken at oral arguments. The Grey Lady is somewhat critical of this silence, implying that Thomas might be failing to perform his duties (expect this line of reasoning to crop up at the next Common Cause rally as a justification for impeachment - before they offer to "lynch him" again)

I've had several opportunities to meet Thomas, and he was open and sincere about his reluctance to speak at these events. For the most part, they are merely oral reiterations of written briefs formerly submitted to the court. Further, the questions are often not aimed at the lawyers, but the other judges. I expect Thomas would reply that he respects his fellows well enough that his disagreements with them can be sufficiently expressed in his written opinions - to which they are free to join should they be so moved.

Yet it's interesting to note the stark contrast between Thomas and Scalia. The latter of the originalist stalwarts talks more than anyone else on the bench. But Scalia is Italian. God bless him, he'd fit right in at my family get-togethers - you gotta talk loud if you wanna get heard, and Scalia's always got something to say. (His jocularity also provokes more laughter than any other member of the court.) I assume he talks principally just so as not to get board. If only they served pasta, ciabatta and a little wine during orals, he'd probably quiet down a bit. 

Categories > Courts

Refine & Enlarge

Music and Faith

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev - archbishop of Volokolamsk, permanent member of the Holy Synod and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, and a classical composer - spoke at my law alma mater, The Catholic University of America, about the relation between music and faith.

Alfeyev divides classical music as pre- and post-Bach, then treats 20th century and modern artists before touching upon his own experiences as a composer. I wager it's almost impossible to read his speech without learning something of value. If you enjoyed Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, Alfeyev is required reading. His introduction is below:

I would like to begin with a thought on the relationship between music and creativity. I am convinced that culture and creativity can enhance faith, but they can hinder it too. The artist, composer, writer and representative of any creative profession, can, through his artistry, glorify the Creator. If creativity is dedicated to God, if the creative person puts his efforts into serving people, if he preaches lofty spiritual ideals, then his activity may aid his own salvation and that of thousands around him. If, however, the aim of creativity is to assert one's own ego, if the creative process is governed by egotistical or mercenary intentions, if the artist, through his art, propagates anti-spiritual, anti-God or anti-human values, then his work may be destructive for both himself and for those about him.

We are familiar with Fr. Pavel Florensky's view that 'culture' comes from the notion of 'cult.' We may add that culture, when divorced from cult, is in fact opposed to cult (in the broad sense of the word) and forfeits the right to be called culture. Genuine art is that which serves God either directly or indirectly. The music of Bach - though not always intended for worship - is clearly dedicated to God. The works of Beethoven and Brahms may not directly praise God, yet they are capable of elevating the human person morally and educating him spiritually. And this means - admittedly indirectly - that they also serve God.

Culture can be the bearer of Christian piety. In Russia during the Soviet years when religious literature was inaccessible, people learnt about God from the works of the Russian classics. It was impossible to buy or find in a library the works of St. Isaac the Syrian, yet we did have access to the writings of the elder Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov, which were inspired by the works of St. Isaac. Russian literature, art and music of the nineteenth century, albeit secular in form, preserved a deep inner link with its original religious underpinnings. And nineteenth-century Russian culture throughout the Soviet period fulfilled the mission which, in normal circumstances, would have been the work of the Church.

Now that religious persecution has ceased, the Church has entered the arena of freedom: there are no obstacles to her mission. A wall, artificially constructed in Soviet times, isolated the Church from culture. But now that it is no more. Church ministers are free to co-operate closely with people from the world of the arts and culture in order to enlighten the world. Church, culture and art share a common missionary field and undertake the joint task of spreading enlightenment.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Political Philosophy

Jumping on the Monocultural Bandwagon

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is joining British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the former prime miniisters of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, and Australia, John Howard, in describing multi-culturalism as having "failed."

We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.

Apparently, the rest of the West is deciding that multiculturalism is so 20th century - chic leaders are now proving their street-creds by promoting their nationalist pride. I say the rest, because Obama hasn't yet caught onto the new style. However, if his Egyptian trend of following the crowd and claiming their direction as his own serves as any indication, the president will be giving a speech in favor of Americana any moment now.

Refine & Enlarge

Paul Rahe on the Tea Party

Paul Rahe offers some thoughts on How to Think About the Tea Party in Commentary. A taste:
The Tea Party movement is, however, testimony to the fact that all is not lost. When confronted in a brazen fashion with the tyrannical impulse underpinning the administrative state, ordinary Americans from all walks of life are still capable of fighting back. ... In 1776, when George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, he included a provision reflecting what the revolutionaries had learned from the long period of struggle between Court and Country in England and in America: "that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." What we are witnessing with the Tea Party movement is one of the periodic recurrences to fundamental principles that typify and revivify the American experiment in self-government.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Saving Social Security?

Michael Boskin in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: "Gradually move from wage to price indexing of initial Social Security benefits. This would eliminate the entire projected Social Security deficit without cutting anyone's benefits or raising anyone's taxes."
Categories > Economy


After all, it is a new government we hope to form, a government we will ask our fellow citizens to trust to make huge changes.

I liked Mitch Daniels' CPAC speech.  I'm not sold that he will win (though I like him far more than any of the candidates doing better in the polls), but just having him there fighting for a principled and responsible economic conservatism will be good for the Republican Party and the country.

Run Mitch Run.

Categories > Politics

The Civil War & Lincoln

The Long Recall

Herman Melville's beautiful poem The Conflict of Convictions is the inspiration for the title of Walter Russell Mead's project at the American Interest to create a Sesquicentennial blog about the Civil War:

On starry heights
A bugle wails the long recall;
Derision stirs the deep abyss,
Heaven's ominous silence over all.
Return, return, O eager Hope,
And face man's latter fall.

How long it is that America has been set about the project of recalling the great events and the wretched horrors of our Civil War!  There is no shortage of books about or interest in the thing.  Indeed, Civil War mania in some quarters is too big even to be called a cottage industry.  But is there understanding in measure equal to the interest?  As 150 years have passed, time sets a great fog of distance combined with lore and confusion upon those events.  And generations of American schoolchildren have had but a surface treatment offered up classes and in texts aimed mainly at satisfying some mere antiquarian curiosity.  The lessons of that war mainly go untaught as the trivia abides.  Yet, as Mead notes, "Nobody can hope to understand the United States without understanding the Civil War and its legacy."

To aide in correcting this problem, The Long Recall serves as a daily aggregator of the news, events and commentary, in real time, as it appeared throughout the conflict.  It will come to readers as it would have come to intelligent and curious citizens of the Civil War era, had they had access to the internet.  Think of it as the "Real Clear Politics" of the Civil War generation, brought to the readers of today.

In noting The Long Recall on this day, however, I would be remiss if did not also recall that yesterday was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's farewell to Springfield and the day he set off on his long, though far from triumphant, journey to Washington to assume the duties of the Presidency.  Once there he would find himself immediately thrust into the midst of the beginning of this long and bloody conflict; a conflict that, for him, could have no assurance of a satisfactory result.  The only certainty then was that there could be no happy ending. 

I would also be remiss if I did not note that today is Lincoln's 202nd birthday.  There probably is not a better way to recall that great man's birthday than to recall the great burden that must have beset his mind as he began his journey 150 years ago and The Long Recall is a wonderful tool to help us in approximating some understanding of that.

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

Since this has come up in a comments section, I thought it would be worth quoting John Quincy Adams' comments, on moving some resolutions on the Louisiana Purchase.  

By the treaty with France we have  acquired all the rights of sovereignty over the inhabitants of Louisiana which France could impart; but as, to use the language of our declaration of independence, the just powers of a govern­ ment can be derived only from the consent of the governed, the French Republic could not give us the right to make laws for the people of Louisiana, without their acquiescence in the transfer. I never considered this as an objection against the ratification of the treaty, because I did not deem it indispensable that this con­sent of the ceded people should precede the conclusion of the com­pact. That would indeed have been the most natural and most eligible course of proceeding, had it been practicable, and such was the opinion of our own executive before the negotiation of the treaty. But theoretic principles of government can never be carried into practice to their full extent. They must be modified and accommodated to the situations and circumstances of human events and human concerns. But between those allowances necessary to reconcile the rigor of principle with the resistance of practice, and the total sacrifice of all principle, there is a wide difference. If in the Louisiana negotiation our government had insisted on obtaining the consent of the people before the con­clusion of the treaty, in all probability the treaty itself never could have been concluded. A momentary departure from the inflexible rigor of theory was, therefore, perfectly justifiable, and in con­cluding the treaty we acquired a power over the territory and over the inhabitants which requires, so far as relates to the latter, one thing more to make it a just and lawful power. I mean their own consent. For although the necessity of the case right excuse us for not having obtained this consent beforehand, it could not absolve us from the obligation to acquire it afterwards.

(My text is from elsewhere, but the only online link I can find is here.  Goto p. 25 for the full thing.)

Categories > Quote of the Day


Stop the Hate!

Amusing video from Andrew Klavan, via Instapundit.
Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

Promising Revolutions and the Harsh Realities of Re-emerging Tyranny

Jeff Sikkenga writes nicely and concisely in USA Today about the situation in Egypt.  As he puts it:  "A free society is within the capacity of any country, including Egypt."  So there is always good cause for hope.  Human beings are meant to govern themselves.  But the stark realities in the wake of nearly every modern revolution, following ours, ought to give us pause.  Our democratic republic "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" is absolutely the exception, and not the rule in the history of all political life.  Those seeking to discredit the notion that America is an exceptional nation should brush up on the history of modern revolutions and, I fear, pay close attention to the events unfolding in Egypt. 

We can hope that things in Egypt may get better than they have been in recent history.  And we should certainly pray that they do.  But to imagine that cries for "freedom" and the establishment of a "democracy" alone can sustain a society in justice and prosperity is to imagine that scaffolding is the same thing as a sound and beautiful structure.  It is not. Without a grounding in the habits of virtue or the principles of equality, similar to those that sustain (but are constantly under assault from within) the United States, Egyptian democrats may find themselves less than satisfied with the new boss. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Beware the Semantic Infiltration of "Values"

The late Pat Moynihan, during his glory days as UN ambassador in the mid-1970s, highlighted the useful phrase "semantic infiltration" (he credited its origin to Fred Ikle), which he described as "the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality." Moynihan noted especially how totalitarian regimes would advertise themselves as "liberation movements," and warned further that "we pay for small concessions at the level of language with large setbacks at the level of practical politics."

Moynihan's observation came back to me as I read through Harvey Mansfield's splendidessay on The Federalist in the latest issue of The New Criterion (subscription required). Writing with his usual subtle clarity, Mansfield notes the problem with the term "values" -- a very popular term with social conservatives:

The Constitution is intended to make and maintain a free people, so it consists mostly of powers and procedures of institutions rather than goals that would tell a free people what it must do. That might seem to allow a people free to live by its "values." I put the word in quotation marks to indicate disdain for a term that Publius, the shared pseudonym of the authors of The Federalist, never used and would have rejected. "Values" is a recent verbal noun indicating that your goals are yours or your group's and exist by virtue of your valuing. They are particular to you and changeable when you change--for no reason you can cite. Having no reason behind them, values make no claim on the attention or agreement of others; one must either bow to them or get out of the way.

Allan Bloom made a similar point vividly in The Closing of the American Mind, noting the contrast between the uproar when Reagan called the Soviet Union the "evil empire" and the lack of any such objection when in a later speech he described the U.S. and the U.S.S.R as two nations with "different values." The point is, "values" is a term derived from philosophical subjectivism (specifically from Nietzschean nihilism), and as such makes a huge rhetorical concession to moral relativism. Conservatives shouldn't use it. (This means, among other things, that the Traditional Values Coalition is wrongly and indeed even unhelpfully named, as is the Values Voters Summit.) 

I know this is an uphill fight that won't get anywhere (ditto for my crusade against the similarly subversive and overused term "paradigm shift" -- some other time perhaps), but "principles" is a better term to use. Mansfield succinctly hints at why in the sequel to the passage above:

The Federalist, however, is avowedly based on political science that has a solid foundation in a permanent and fixed conception of human nature.

(Crossposted at The Corner.)

Ashbrook Center

John Ashbrook Award at CPAC

Speaker John Boehner received the John Ashbrook Award at CPAC tonight. He will also be speaking at the Ashbrook Center on April 8 at our annual fund raising dinner for our Ashbrook Scholar program. I hope you will join us.
Categories > Ashbrook Center


Fresh Faces?

Virginia Senator Jim Webb is retiring.  The Atlantic has the bloggy rundown.  The speculation seems to be pointing to a George Allen-Tim Kaine showdown of former governors.  I'm not sold on either candidate without looking at alternatives.

I though Allen was overrated as a candidate even before 2006.  It isn't that he is a bad candidate exactly.  The Republicans have, in the last decade run plenty of candidates who were less principled, less competent or both.  Macaca comment aside, there is just something about Allen that feels out of sync with the moment.  He was a classic three-legs-of -the-stool conservative (economic conservative, social conservative, national security conservative) back when just securing voters with preexisting center-right commitments was enough to win in Virginia.  I don't think that is the case anymore.  That doesn't mean conservative Republicans can't win high profile races, but it does mean the game has changed.  Virginia Republicans would probably be better off with a solidly conservative but wonky and persuadable voter-oriented candidate like Bob McDonnell who is able to reassemble the older conservative coalition and win over suburban voters who shift between the parties.  Then again, Virginia Republicans might not have another McDonnell in their ranks.

I also think Kaine is weaker than he looks. The Virginia Democratic governors of the aughts built their brand partly by differentiating themselves from the national Democratic Party.  Kaine might poll well now, but his role as Democratic National Committee Chairman means that he won't be able to put any daylight between himself and the Obama agenda.  Good luck explaining Medicare cuts, cap-and-trade, public funding of abortion (yeah, I know it is complicated but I would love to see him try to talk his way out of it), and trillion dollar annual deficits. I also don't think Kaine is all that great a candidate.  He was succeeding a very popular Democratic governor, the Virginia Republican Party was a mess and the 2005 environment was brutal for Republicans (Bush had a 40%  RCP average job approval rating for November 2005.)  I really doubt that Kaine will have so favorable an environment next year or that he will be as appealing a candidate to moderates.

Both parties might be better off with currently less well known candidates.  Assuming of course that those candidates don't have even bigger weaknesses than the former governors that people are currently talking about. 

Categories > Politics


Governor Herbert on State Powers and Healthcare

The Honorable Gary Herbert of Utah spoke at the Heritage Foundation this afternoon on healthcare, entitlement reform (including the issue with Medicaid I mention in my previous post), and the fight of the states against the growing powers, mandates, and intrusions of the federal government. Here is the video, just under an hour long. He's very thoughtful of federalism in his approach to governing and addressing the nation's problems; from his State of the State address-- "If we as a state fail to vigorously fight to protect and defend our rights under the Constitution, those rights will invariably be seized and usurped by the federal government. I remind Washington, we are a state, not a colony."
Categories > Conservatism

Shameless Self-Promotion

Conceding Good Faith

The fine folks at First Things have published an article of mine entitled, Conceding Good Faith. It's was fun to write, as it reflects on my time in D.C. among a group of hard-left, Peace Corps liberals (who happened to include my girlfriend - hence my inclusion).

The article touches upon the need, in most cases, for a mutual concession on good intentions in political debate. As Charles Krauthammer once observed:

To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.

At most, Krauthammer doesn't go far enough (maybe he doesn't have any Peace Corps friends). I suggest a sort of truce - if liberals truly want an end to toxic, impoverished political discourse, they must allow that conservatives also seek good ends, but simply disagree as to the most effective means.

I would wager most RONLT (Readers of NLT) have experienced similar trials. I hope you'll RTWT.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Reaganpalooza Comes to Southern California

Just a heads up for any NLT peeps in the San Gabriel Valley--I'll be lecturing today on "Reagan at 100: Why the Gipper Matters for the 21st Century" at Azusa Pacific University at 4 pm (part of my centennial Reaganpalooza tour, or "Ronaroo" if you like).  I don't have a web link for the site, but it's at the LAPC Room on University Way just across from the football stadium.

Quotation du Jour

Since the scope of federal power is a hot topic now, it might be worth pondering this bit from Hamilton's Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States (emphasis added):

It is conceded that implied powers are to be considered as delegated equally with express ones. Then it follows, that as a power of erecting a corporation may as well be implied as any other thing, it may as well be employed as an instrument or mean of carrying into execution any of the specified powers, as any other instrument or mean whatever. The only question must be in this, as in every other case, whether the mean to be employed or in this instance, the corporation to be erected, has a natural relation to any of the acknowledged objects or lawful ends of the government. Thus a corporation may not be erected by Congress for superintending the police of the city of Philadelphia, because they are not authorized to regulate the police of that city. But one may be erected in relation to the collection of taxes, or to the trade with foreign countries, or to the trade between the States, or with the Indian tribes; because it is the province of the federal government to regulate those objects, and because it is incident to a general sovereign or legislative power to regulate a thing, to employ all the means which relate to its regulation to the best and greatest advantage.

In the founding era, the debate was between strict and loose construction. Nowadays, we might say that it's between construction and deconstruction.


Turnabout is Fair Play

The Living constitution vs. the New Deal:

What Tribe forgets is that the constitution is a living document. The constitution's meaning is not fixed by the New Deal. The constitution evolves to meet the needs of the people in the here and now. Tribe's interpretation of the commerce clause, which may have been appropriate for the age of steel and iron, is not necessarily right for the age of genes and bytes. We are fortunate, the constitution lives.

It's time for Professor Tribe to stop clinging to his horse and buggy constitution, and get with the times.

Categories > Courts


HuffPost Goes Corporate

Arianna Huffington has sold the Huffington Post (and herself) to AOL for $315 million. Arianna will control all of AOL's on-line material. AOL spent 40% of its cash reserves in the acquisition, which it hopes will reverse last year's 26% revenue loss.

AOL is following the MSNBC model, driving to the left in hopes that a liberal niche or name recognition, however infamous or notorious, will save them from insolvency. The most amusing coverage of the merger has been questions of whether HuffPost will abandon its far left ideology now that it is part of the "MSM." The obvious answer is that it doesn't need to move right - the MSM has already moved far enough leftward to meet HuffPost just where it is.

I previously worked for AOL's politics blog Political Machine (now Politics Daily). PM's producers, Coates Bateman and Michael Kraskin, as well as lead editors such as David Knowles, strove to keep the site above mere partisan ranting and struggled to retain ideological balance. All of the fine bloggers with whom I wrote (with the exception of the odious Cenk Uyger) delightfully played their parts in the agreed upon larger drama. But reports indicate that the blog may soon be folded into HuffPost - and with it, I fear, any semblance of ideological balance or journalistic integrity.

Watch AOL follow in the footsteps of MSNBC toward the echo-chamber of liberal lunacy.

Then again, if anyone is looking to buy up No Left Turns for a 9-digit sum . . .

Categories > Journalism


Multiculturalism and Birthright

Reacting to David Cameron's recent comment that "multiculturalism has failed," Peter Kirsanow notes that the U.S. "hasn't traveled as far down the road of multiculturalism as Britain," but he also notes that we've gone further than many think.

One area that might be worth highlighting is in the area of citizenship.  The day someone becomes a U.S. citizen, he becomes an American in the most important respect.  His character as an American is whole, perfect, and complete.  By contrast, familes can be citizens of France or Britain for generations, but still not be thought of as British or French.  The same is true in most countries.  What sets the U.S. apart is that citizenship in America has been, in principle, primarily political.  It has not been based on soild or blood, but, instead, it has been based upon being party to the compact built on the principles of 1776 and confirmed when we the people ratified the compact in 1787-88. 

By making citizenship depend primarily on soil, and also, to a degree, on blood, birthright citnzenship changes that.

The efforts we have seen in the past few decades to make it easier to be a citizen of the U.S. and another nation fit in here too.  (Dual citizenship makes no sense if citizenship is primarily political, but which is possile when citizenship is cultural--Once we're talking culture, however, citizenship probably is no longer the best word. Race or ethnicity would probably be better). The efforts to weaken our citizenship oath in the same line.  These efforts are all, ultimately, of a piece with a reading of the constitution which separates citizenship from the principles of 1776.

Categories > Race

Foreign Affairs

If Bill Clinton Were Italian...

WSJ reports that Italian prosecutors want Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to "stand trial on charges of patronizing an underage prostitute and abusing his powers in an attempt to cover up the relationship." The minor is a 17 year-old Moroccan dancer who goes by the nickname "Ruby." Berlusconi, by my count, is 74, and allegedly committed the infraction during a "bunga-bunga" party.

I previously mentioned this incident while introducing "Berlesconism" to the political lexicon, meaning the condition of acting in the most egregiously juvenile manner while in a position of utmost authority without ever suffering the slightest consequences. I suspect the good fortune of il caveliere has not yet run dry and Berlesconi will survive this latest siege with a wink and a smile.

Bill Clinton was a prude by way of comparison.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Lot's of Catching Up To Do

Some time over the last week my NLT blogging software got buggy on my computer and I couldn't post, but NLT's outsourced computer specialists in India in-house webmasters finally got me sorted out.  

I've had my arm twisted out of its socket to do some long form posts for our friends at Powerline, and also at NRO's Corner, so I'll be cross-posting more than a migratory egret.  This morning I deliver a rather long smack-down of Eugene Robinson's WaPo column on Reagan the big government liberal, while at the Corner I note a dog-bites-man story out of Hollywood.  (Teaser: It features Sarah Palin!)


The Coming Crisis

Generations have been scarred by war and disease in the past. Lives have been destroyed by tremendous disasters-- hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, plagues. Often times these crises come with little warning and are not understood until it is too late to stop them. The crisis facing the current youth of this nation, though, is entirely foreseeable-- and entirely avoidable. We actually know that it is going to happen, why it is going to happen, when it is going to happen, and how bad it is going to be. We have all the tools and knowledge at our disposal to avert this doomed future. Yet, despite this tremendous foresight, we do nothing. We lack the will to meet this challenge and slay this beast before it devours a generation of people.

The issue I speak of is our massive debt. The scope of this danger is generally misunderstood by the public, and often spoken of in vague terms by our politicians. It is not very romantic or seemingly heroic to want to tackle it, but at times our leaders pretend to. It has become common of late to entertain arguments over the defense budget, foreign aid, funding the National Endowment for the Humanities, whether or not Smithsonian museums should start charging for admission, and shrinking the federal bureaucracy. Democrats and Republicans argue over these issues as if they will have any impact on the coming crisis. Noble as it may be to tackle the government's discretionary funding, it will do nothing. The government can shut down every branch of the Armed Forces and pull the salaries of every bureaucrat in Washington and this nation's fiscal future will still be doomed. If we are to avert this disaster, then our leaders must become statesmen willing to go after the programs that are usually sacrosanct in the minds of politicians-- entitlements. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will force this nation to its knees and bring about the economic ruin of the greatest economic force the world has ever known. Imagine the chaos we have seen in Greece amplified a hundred-fold. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if something is not done, then by the year 2050 the tax rate will be 47% for the middle tax bracket and 66% on the highest earners; in 2082, it will be 88% on the highest earners.

Congress must turn to the entitlement programs within the next four or five years if we are to avert this crisis. We can see it; we can do something about it. Unfortunately, the people that these programs are most important to are also the ones who politicians are most beholden to, because they tend to be the ones who vote. Young people need to start speaking up more about this if Congress is to really be held accountable on this issue. This is why programs like the Heritage Foundation's Slay the Beast are useful and should be spread and replicated. And, for those of you who (like me) sort of get a glazed look in your eyes when economists bring out graphs and start talking about numbers, videos like this are of huge help (as are this one and this one).
Categories > Economy

Pop Culture

Another Reagan Moment?

When recalling Reagan, how can we not remember Lady Thatcher--now the subject of a movie starring none other than Meryl Streep.  I'm skeptical about this.

TreppenwitzSteve Hayward has a better movie idea:  An enviro film crossing "Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth ... with Mel Brooks's The Producers."  I can visualize that opening scene now....

Categories > Pop Culture

Health Care

Obama Administration Lawlessness

A prime example of the Obama Administration's lawless behavior is its exemption of entities from the legislation Congress passed and he signed into law--waivers.  The sober Columbia University law professor Philip Hamburger (see his Separation of Church and State) has pointed out how the Obama Administration has undermined the rule of law and the separation of powers, and led us back into the Middle Ages with its practices:

The Department of Health and Human Services has granted 733 waivers from one of the statute's key requirements. The recipients of the waivers include insurers such as Oxford Health Insurance, labor organizations such as the Service Employees International Union, and employers such as PepsiCo. This is disturbing for many reasons. At the very least, it suggests the impracticability of the health-care law; HHS gave the waivers because it fears the law will cost many Americans their jobs and insurance.

More seriously, it raises questions about whether we live under a government of laws. Congress can pass statutes that apply to some businesses and not others, but once a law has passed -- and therefore is binding -- how can the executive branch relieve some Americans of their obligation to obey it? ....

As it happens, waivers have a history. In the Middle Ages, the pope granted waivers, known as dispensations, and English kings soon followed suit....

Categories > Health Care


No More Third Way

Having lost half their numbers in 2010, as moderates swung heavily for the GOP, the Democratic Leadership Council is boarding up their windows and closing their doors. The platform of Clinton's moderate "third way" agenda, DLC was the dwindling centrist coalition of the Democratic party.

Its collapse is symbolic of the ever-more liberal nature of the remaining Democratic party. One can't help but to recall Nancy Pelosi's famous assertion that Democrats were punished in November for not being liberal enough.

The media trumped up a faux scandal by claiming dissention in the GOP ranks during the rise of the Tea Party - but the effect of this dissention was a massive electoral victory. Perhaps the monolithically liberal Democratic party could use a little scandalous dissention of thier own. But DLC's demise makes that dissent a little less likely.

Categories > Progressivism


Ohio's Heartbeat Bill

Ohio is preparing to introduce the nation's most protective abortion law. The "Heartbeat Bill" would proscribe abortions after a child's heartbeat is detected - as early as 18 days after conception.

Pro-life advocates likely have the votes in the legislature, but even the executive director of Ohio Right to Life concedes the law is outside the allowance of judicial ruling on abortion rights and will not likely survive a constitutional challenge.

In light of renewed calls from the left for nearly unlimited congressional regulatory power in order to justify Obamacare, it is revealing that the left also believes Congress to be nearly without power to regulate abortion. Constitutional law is not intended as a results-oriented exercise in social engineering. Democracy is results-oriented - and hence separate judicial and legislative branches of government. Abortion continues to be a glaring hypocrisy in the pseudo-jurisprudence of the left.

Categories > Courts

Refine & Enlarge

America's Governing Electoral Majority: Who Are They and What do They Want?

Henry Olsen writes an indispensable examination of recent political history and polling for the purpose of asking the all important question of whether the governing electoral majority in America is--as the popular narrative of conservative optimists tells it--"center right" or if that majority is merely, "anti-left."  Olsen comes down closer to the latter interpretation but does not go so far as to throw a tall bucket of ice-water on the embers of the more optimistic "center right" narrative.  He seems, instead, to say that the "center right" narrative should be true and, if it isn't quite true yet, it could be true with a little patience, education and determination from would-be Republican statesmen. 

Olsen sees plenty of freedom-loving material to work with in the block of white working-class voters who have been the decisive voice in all recent elections and have tended (at least since the 60s) to fluctuate between the parties and confuse many observers of American politics.  Instead of assuming that these voters are merely ignorant or schizophrenic about their electoral decisions--as some frustrated pundits and, even, politicians have been inclined to do--Olsen looks for a central and unifying theme that explains their voting patterns.  Olsen wants to know who these voters are and what, in fact, they want from American politics.  It is the first question that every politician who understands the American concept of "consent" ought to be asking--and given the wild fluctuation between the parties in the last several decades that has characterized their voting, it is painfully obvious that very few would-be statesmen have bothered to ask it.  THIS, above all other sins, is the cardinal one afflicting all past Republican majorities.  It is also the sin that they must seek to avoid the near temptation of if they mean to avoid future electoral penance.

Olsen does not hold all previous Republican victors in equal contempt of the American commandment to know and understand the electorate.  He has a special fondness, for example, for Reagan and his ability to frame the argument for freedom in such a way as to not strike fear in the hearts of those whose notions of "rugged independence" and risk-taking included with it some reliance on the idea that society would provide a safety net to catch them if their best efforts failed.  He took these Americans at their word that they did not expect to be carried but neither could they afford to be dropped.  So Reagan sought to talk to Americans about the meaning and the purpose of freedom.  Freedom, properly understood, is our best means of security.  It means jobs and prosperity.  It means independence and a better way of life for future generations.  Security that comes at the expense of freedom is a meager and--ironically--insecure kind of security.  It makes us weaker--both as individuals and as a nation.

This line of argument was also very successful in the 1994 welfare reform debates.  Republicans then did not allow the opposition to paint a picture of them as being willing to pull the rug out from underneath people.  Instead, they framed the argument by arguing that the best way toward security for individuals was to eliminate programs that worked against their interests in liberty and in economic prosperity.  Welfare was reining in the unlimited potential of people and hurting them.  It did not work as it was intended to do.  Therefore it had to be changed--not merely because it was expensive--but because it was hurting the people WE seek to uplift. 

Olsen offers solid advice to Republican majorities seeking to do something worthwhile with (and, of course, to shore up) their new-found political prominence.  Olsen understands that a careful rhetoric that comprehends and re-directs the fears and misgivings of these voters without patronizing or pacifying them, is necessary.  Moreover, he understands that the stakes have never been higher.  Today's Republicans do not have the luxury of time or the hope that failure now will instruct them better in some future battle.  They have to fight this battle now and to win it now.  If they mean to do it, they had better understand the real character of the American electorate and what motivates them.  The left has constantly underestimated the drive in Americans toward freedom.  The right, conversely, has been too dismissive of the average American's desire for security.  The job, then, is to give an honest accounting not only of how freedom and security can be reconciled--but of how these goods are indispensable to each other.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Missile Defense

Friends and interested parties in the Washington, D.C. area may be interested to attend a panel this Thursday titled, "Rethinking Comprehensive Missile Defense" which is part of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration at the Heritage Foundation.  The panel will feature many prominent speakers and experts in the field, including Ashbrook graduate, Rebeccah Heinrichs.  The panel is also available for viewing live and on-line if you are unable to attend.    
Categories > Military


Movement On The Third Front

Terrific letter by Mitch Daniels in the Wall Street Journal today.  Good example of how states can help advance the argument against Obamacare.  Only two suggestions:

1.  It isn't enough to threaten to not cooperate with Obamacare.  It would be even better if states like Indiana (and other Republican-governed states) worked to establish facts on the ground as quickly as possible to make the implementation of Obamacare (or any kind of government-run health care) politically more difficult.

2.  There is a gap in conservative public rhetoric when it comes to health care.  There is a wonky policy-driven rhetoric that you find in magazines like National Affairs and a populist health care rhetoric you find in the broadcast right-leaning media. Neither rhetoric is sufficient to our situation.  The first relies on a reader's knowledge of terms and ideas that are unfamiliar to the vast majority of the public.  The second relies on the audience already sharing certain premises about socialized medicine, getting the government out of health care, tort reform, etc. We are lacking a public rhetoric that can explain the wonky ideas of the National Affairs gang (and the records of politicians like Mitch Daniels) in populist everyday language.   

Categories > Politics

Political Parties

The End of the Southern Democrats

The Deep South has a long history, stretching back to before the Civil War, of Democratic politics. Being a Democrat was not just a preference; it was tradition. In recent decades, beginning in the 1960s with Barry Goldwater, the South has shifted towards the Republican Party in presidential elections. Over time, congressional seats and governors mansions have also slowly moved over to the GOP. However, at the local and most of the state levels, most offices remained affiliated with the Democratic Party. They are considered "old-school" (or "Blue Dog") Democrats who embraced FDR (and, often, JFK and LBJ) as their standard-bearer, rejected Jimmy Carter, fell in love with Reagan, and warmed up a bit to Clinton.

Within the past decade--and particularly within the past couple of years--support for the Democratic Party in the Deep South has almost vanished. What few Democrats that actually managed to win in the mid-terms have started switching sides, claiming that the Democratic Party has strayed too far from them. In the party that has often touted itself for having a "big tent" of diverse people and opinions, "you really can't be a conservative" anymore. Since November, dozens of state legislators have left the Democratic Party, sometimes switching majorities in the legislatures--- Louisiana Republicans now have a state House majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Even last week, the final remaining Democrat holding a state office in Louisiana, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, defected. This near-total realignment of southern politics, fifty years in the making, will have tremendous ramifications as many of the states begin to combat the growing size of the federal government. 
Categories > Political Parties


Obama Does Something Right

The White House Super Bowl Sunday tail-gate party includes bratwurst, kielbasa, cheeseburgers, deep-dish pizza and Buffalo wings with sides of German potato salad, twice-baked potatoes and assorted chips and dips. Yuengling Lager and Light, as well as Hinterland Pale Ale and Amber Ale, are on tap to wash it all down.

This is especially commendable on the part of President Obama, who (like many men across the nation) is surely going to take one for the team when his wife, the First Lunch-Lady, tallies up all the calories consumed on game day.

So, here's to Obama being one of the guys!

Categories > Sports

Foreign Affairs

Uncontacted People

Power Line notes the amazing story of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon which has been untouched by outside influences. Survival International claims that 150 million "uncontacted" tribal people live in more than 60 countries around the world. "Isolated" is the politically-correct term, apparently - as many of these people have been contacted, but have sought to remain insular.

The status of these people is extremely interesting. One cannot avoid the paternalistic role demanded of states within whose borders these people live. Well-intended activists wish to create a legal mandate that nations recognize and enforce these people's isolation. But this seems, in itself, a somewhat egregious form of evolutionary control. It is a peculiar accident that these people have been excluded from the progress of the entire human species. Surely it is an authoritarian act to decide that they must remain in such a state until they sua sponte develop a social instinct to the contrary. One may suggest with equal validity that they should be contacted immediately with a reader's digest update on what they've missed over the last several millenia or so. Who knows, they might like football, pizza and the Beatles.

Whatever the answers, that these people must obviously be treated differently than others people in their respective countries is a notable commentary on the equal application of laws (they aren't paying taxes on their war paint and spears, after all, and I assume they are administering their own "cruel and unusual" forms of punishment). One cannot help but to draw back from this extreme example to more mundane social perplexities, such as religious and cultural minorities which might seek similar accomodations. Muslims might well ask: if them, why not us also?  

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Comeback Kids Come Up Short

It's only fitting to note with somber lamentation that the black and gold finally failed to surge ahead as the underdog champion to win the game in the end. Sometimes good does not immediately overcome evil....

There's always next year.

Categories > Sports

The Founding

Tocquevillean American Exceptionalism

We interrupt, or supplement, this Reagan moment for a review of two new works on Alexis Tocqueville, by Harvey Mansfield. Mansfield addresses Tocqueville's slighting of the Declaration of Independence:

Tocqueville was not friendly to philosophers or "theoreticians," as several letters confirm. In "Democracy in America," he ignored the political philosophy in the principles of America's founding, calling the Puritans and not, say, John Locke, America's "point of departure." He emphasized the practical work of the Constitution (based on theories, to be sure) and never even mentioned Jefferson's more theoretical and Lockean Declaration of Independence. Yet Tocqueville was interested in "theoretical consequences".... 

To this definition and endorsement of American Exceptionalism one might object, and doubters of that idea today do object, that a country maintaining slavery could not congratulate itself for being an example, let alone the exemplar, of political freedom or thoughtful choice to the rest of mankind. Tocqueville agreed, and in his letters on America after his visit he inveighed against the taint put by slavery on America's reputation around the world, particularly since other countries had already abolished it. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 he grew increasingly concerned; it was one thing not to abolish slavery where it was long established, quite another to extend it to new territories. This was a point made by Lincoln, but Tocqueville died in 1859 without learning of the man who would have shown him the greatness he most praised: great thought from the doer of great deeds.

But this begs the question:  Does Tocqueville's framework of aristocracy versus democracy, with equality as an historical force, provide us with the best means of understanding Lincoln?  Moreover, at least one of Tocqueville's letters testifies to his knowledge of Americans' passionate embrace of the Declaration (July 16, 1831).  Here Tocqueville recoiled at that "piece of humbug in some farce" by a lawyer making world history's "consummation in the United States, seated at the center of the universe."  Tocqueville left, "cursing the speechifier whose gab and famous national pride had dampened the vivid impressions the rest of the [Fourth of July] ceremony had made on me."  Might Tocqueville have been reminded of that lawyer and dismissed Lincoln as one of his ilk?  Did he not see the logos behind the passions?

Categories > The Founding


More Tributes to Reagan

Here are a couple more good pieces on Reagan: Peter in today's Columbus Dispatch and Steve Hayward over at Power Line. The best tribute is just reading Reagan's own words. Among the many good ones, I am particularly fond of his Farewell Address.
Categories > Conservatism


Cameron Displays British Backbone

Aside from the introductory blather differentiating peaceful Islam from militant Islamism, British Prime Minister Cameron gave a truly interesting, prudent and politically-incorrect speech before the Munich Security Conference. The Telegraph summed up the speech as:

British Muslims must subscribe to mainstream values of freedom and equality, David Cameron declared that the doctrine of multiculturalism has "failed" and will be abandoned.

Cameron is calling for an end to Britain's multicultural, "passive tolerance" of the segregated communities which breed Muslim terrorists. Rather, he seeks an "active, muscular liberalism" which promotes core British values at all levels of society. 

The relevant portion begins at 2:30.


How very lamentable that I must live vicariously through Britain for sensible, courageous leadership.

Categories > Conservatism


States Must Lead On Third Front

Dave Weigel notes that Senators Lindsey Graham and John Barrasso have introduced a bill that would allow states to opt out of most provisions of Obamacare.  The Senators are calling this the "third front" against Obamacare (the other two are presumably the bill for repeal and the court cases against the individual mandate.)  I think it is a good idea, but the Graham-Barrasso third front won't amount to much by itself.  If nothing else happens, the Senate Democrats will block the bill from passing and that is the last you will hear of it.  The only way Graham-Barrasso will attain broad salience is if there are positive and relevant state policies that are seeking shelter under the bill.

It isn't enough for Republican-run state governments to oppose the individual mandate.  That part of the health care fight will work its way through the courts and Congress.  There is something state governments can do to frustrate the ultimate implementation of Obamacare regardless of what Anthony Kennedy ends up thinking about the individual mandate.  One of Obamacare's purposes is to get everyone into a kind of health insurance that amounts to comprehensive health care prepayment as preliminary to establishing a single-payer system.  One way to frustrate this purpose of Obamacare is to maximize the number of Americans who are on consumer-driven policies where Americans pay more of their first dollar health care costs in return for greater take home pay.  States governments could increase the number of people on consumer-driven policies partly by changing their state rules on health insurance and partly by offering consumer-driven policies to state and municipal workers and Medicaid clients.  The larger the number of people on such policies, the harder the political task of making such policies illegal. 

Now technically, the Department of Health and Human Services can now deny state governments the right to establish such policies, but that is where the Graham-Barrasso bill comes in.  One weakness of Obamacare is that the rules for establishing comprehensive prepayment (the coverage mandates) go though the Department of Health and Human Services.  The rule making and waiver (over seven hundred waivers at last count) processes at HHS are opaque and there is no reason to assume they have any popular support at the moment.  If the state governments are pressing for policies that will save both government and individuals money, it sets up a fight that Republicans are in a good position to win.  States can pass policies expanding the numbers on consumer-driven policies and start putting those policies into effect right away.  This is one of those cases where it is better not to ask permission.  If HHS doesn't move against the states, fine.  Congressional Republicans can then push legislation to codify the powers of state governments to offer such policies.  At the very least it makes the future full implementation of Obamacare that much harder politically.  If HHS raises objections then states can apply for an HHS waiver even as they continue to implement the policy.  If waivers are good enough for McDonalds they should be good enough for Texas, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida.  This exposes a Democratic weak spot.  Who does Obama think he is to think he knows that government employees and Medicaid clients shouldn't have access to HSA/catastrophic insurance policies that save the government money and increase the take home pay of individuals while maintaining their health care security?  It would be a healthy debate to have.  It also puts Democrats in a kind of lose/lose situation.  One of the main liberal talking points against Graham-Barrasso is that it is superfluous.  Liberals argue that there is already a waiver process that does the same thing.  If HHS refuses waivers to states that seek to expand consumer-driven health insurance, the waiver process is exposed as a joke, and the states (as well as those people now on consumer-driven policies) can move to press Congress to pass Graham-Barrasso.  If HHS grants the waivers in order to maintain the shaky legitimacy of the waiver process and avoid granting the Graham-Barasso bill more attention, conservatives will have won a major victory by expanding the numbers on consumer-driven health insurance and can still try to get Congress to codify the legality of consumer-driven policies. 

But for the third front to work, the states need to have positive and relevant market-oriented health care policies and be willing to challenge the Obama administration to stand in their way.  The Republican gains in the state houses and state legislatures could, if the Republicans are smart and coordinated, be the a major factor in averting government-run health care.     

Categories > Politics


Judicial Assassination

It's always a toss-up deciding whether it's worth the time to correct the New York Times - even if you limit yourself to the most egregious absurdities, it's still a full time job. Today's editorial page offers a truly clueless indictment of Justices Scalia and Thomas. The Times has championed the living Constitution and judicial activism as the basis for liberal decisions undermining the democratic process for decades. It's beyond ridiculously hypocritical that the same paper is using the very charge of judicial activism against textual interpretations of the Constitution now that liberals do not hold an unassailable majority on the bench.

The truth is that liberals are furious that they cannot faithfully rely on the Supreme Court to implement any political policy which they fail to pass in the democratic process. Abortion, contraception, privacy, unlimited federal spending and regulatory power, homosexual matters, gender issues, etc., etc., etc. On every issue which the public demurred, the Court has been there to ensure the liberal agenda was secure.

But now the dynamic has changed and some cases are ruled in accordance with the Constitution, rather than the social-psychological formulas and auguries known only to progressive judges. Liberals can't simply rage that they've lost their trump card on unfavorable turns of democracy, so they've taken the shameless approach of charging any unfavorable ruling with the very corruption they've practiced for so long.

I continue to hold out hope that the editors of the New York Times are simply unprincipled partisans - it would be a true scandal if they were really dumb enough to believe the things they write.

Categories > Journalism


Reagan for Life

On Reagan's 100th birthday, FRC notes "what most of the tributes leave out: Reagan the pro-lifer."

In 1987, while Reagan was still in the White House, Ted Koppel was the host of ABC's Nightline TV news show and noted that if you can say anything about Ronald Reagan, Americans know what this President believes. If you took any 50 Americans on any street corner in America and asked them what he's for, he's against, they could tell you: He's pro-life; he's against the Communists. Pro-life, against the communists. No doubt then. No memory now. President Reagan spoke of the unborn in both his Inaugural addresses, and his State of the Union speeches. He supported legislation, proposed constitutional amendments, and issued Executive Orders backing up those pro-life convictions. In his budgets, he zeroed out Planned Parenthood for eight years running. He wanted no federal money for this evil enterprise. And he wrote a book--the first President to do so while in the White House--titled Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation. He condemned no one--including pro-abortion politicians. He wouldn't dream of criticizing the members of the Supreme Court as they sat before him at a State of the Union address. But he sent his representatives up the steps of that eminent tribunal with a call to correct the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling. On this Ronald Reagan birthday weekend, let's remember the greatest pro-life president and thank God that he was born.

It's noteworthy that the Great Communicator was not only a principled politician, but a gentleman-statesman.

Categories > Conservatism


Faith on the Hill

Over at First Thoughts, Joseph Knippenberg notes a pew reasearch report on the religous composition of the 112th Congress.

This report provides an interesting picture of the religious landscape of the new Congress, and even compares it with its predecessors.  The authors note that Protestants are overrepresented in Congress, by comparison with their share of the population as a whole, and that the religiously unaffiliated are substantially underrepresented.  Among Protestant denominations, the "old line" (Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, for example) are overrepresented, and Baptists and Pentecostals are underrepresented.  Over the long term, old line denominations have lost "market share" in Congress, while Baptists and Catholics have been among the big gainers.  The "most overrepresented" groups are (in order) Episcopalians, Jews, and Presbyterians.

Meanwhile, Russell Moore considers why nondenominational churches are the fastest growing in the country:

Are we witnessing the death of America's Christian denominations? Studies conducted by secular and Christian organizations indicate that we are. Fewer and fewer American Christians, especially Protestants, strongly identify with a particular religious communion--Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc. According to the Baylor Survey on Religion, nondenominational churches now represent the second largest group of Protestant churches in America, and they are also the fastest growing.

Categories > Religion


Standards of Hypocrisy

A fifth-grader in California had to lawyer-up this week in order to overcome the public school's unwritten prohibition on singing religious songs in a talent show. Also this week, a Michigan public school voluntarily amended their weapons-in-school policy so as to permit Sikh students to carry daggers on their persons.

The right to sing about Jesus at a talent show requires legal action, whereas carrying a knife to school is freely allowed out of a misguided sense of cultural sensitivity and tolerance of diversity.

This is the ridiculous but natural result of progressive principles in practice.
Categories > Religion


Moral Equivalence Gone Wild

Scott Shane, writing for the New York Times, can't help but report (this is not an op-ed or editorial) the striking similarity between the Muslim Brotherhood terror organization and the Catholic Church.  

Its size and diversity, and the legal ban that has kept it from genuine political power in Egypt for decades, make it hard to characterize simply. As the Roman Catholic Church includes both those who practice leftist liberation theology and conservative anti-abortion advocates, so the Brotherhood includes both practical reformers and firebrand ideologues.

Let me get this straight: Catholics who practice the sort of "leftist liberation theology" palatable to liberals are akin to "practical reformers" in the Muslim world, whereas those loathed "conservative anti-abortion advocates" are the equivalent of the jihad-is-our-way "firebrand ideologues" in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yes, pro-life Catholics are exactly like Muslim terrorists calling for the political domination of the world, complete Islamic compulsion on pain of death and the extermination of every last Jew. In truth, even comparing liberation theology to the creed of Islamic terrorism reveals a deep psychosis on the part of the Times.

It is lunacy to believe that Catholics praying the rosary for the right of unborn children to live are somehow comparable to Muslims indiscriminately detonating roadside bombs. This absurdity is what passes for moral caliber and general sanity at the New York Times.

P.S. It bears noting, in case anyone missed the point, that "liberation theology" is a Marxist social-class movement that has been largely condemned by the Catholic Church - so the New York Times' message is that the only good Catholics are heretical, socialist Catholics.

Categories > Religion


Reagan Honored

Stephen Knott knows a lot about Reagan (see At Reagan's Side and The Reagan Years), and this is his tribute to the man for what would have been his 100th birthday.There will be a few more of these that I will bring to your attention over the next few days.  Here is one from Peggy Noonan.  I also mention Steve Hayward's NR cover article (even though he has already promoted himself, surprise!).  I must say that there is no better way to honor the Gipper than to buy Steve's books: The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Liberal Order: 1964-1980,and the second volume, The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterevolution: 1980-1989.  They are available in most local bookstores.

Categories > Conservatism

Foreign Affairs

Good Company

Nobel Peace Prize leaureate Barack Obama may be succeeded in that honor by Wikileaks founder and Nobel Peace Price nominee Julian Assange. The latter was described as a "natural contender" for the Norwegian prize by virtue of "disclosing information about corruption, human rights abuses and war crimes." Assange would worthily join such luminaries as Al Gore (2007), Mohamed El Baradei (2005), Jimmy Carter (2002), the UN (2001) and Yassar Arafat (1994).

When they aren't honoring terrorists like Arafat and failures like the UN out of genuine ideological sympathy, the Nobel committee is trading its credibility for cheap, political pot-shots. How the (would-be) mighty are fallen.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Where is the UN?

Anne Bayefsky, voice of the UN watchdog Eye on the UN, criticizes the UN for having abandoned the people of Egypt:

It is not difficult to figure out why the people of Egypt had nowhere else to go. The U.N. human rights authorities devoted their time, attention and (American taxpayer resources) to attacking Israel and enabling Egypt, while the Obama administration spent its capital claiming Jews living on any Arab-claimed land were the key obstacle to Middle East peace and stability.

The Egyptian people were abandoned by the U.N. They were left to their own devices by an Obama administration mired in pro-U.N. rhetoric and basing its judgment about the efficacy of the institution on ill-informed advisors. Today, we are all paying the price for that neglect and ignorance.

No doubt, Beyefsky's observations are true - the UN has long been obsessed with Israel to the exclusion of just about every other nation. But the UN's impotence to curtail human rights abuses in Egypt or to direct the popular uprising among would-be democrats is due as much to its general inefficiency and ideological schizophrenia than to any specific preoccupation. The UN is heavily (if not predominantly) influenced by nations and leagues adverse to democracies and supportive of the "wrong" sides in Egypt's present struggle. The best thing for Egyptian protestors is the absence of the UN's interference. 

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Ethical Austerity in New Jersey

Social conservatives have targeted several private groups for congressional defunding as a means of tightening the federal belt and enforcing ethical austerity. NPR, the NEA and Planned Parenthood are at the top of the list. All have suffered damaging scandals as of late - yet another acorn-undercover-style video has arisen showing a Planned Parenthood clinic manager assuring a "pimp" that his child-prostitute sex-slaves can circumvent the law to get abortions (take a stroll around youtube to find plenty of other examples). The tolerance of pro-abortion, feminist liberals for (female) child rape and sexual abuse - when weighed against the greater good of confidential abortions - is nearly as revealing as it is revolting.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie provided an example to the national government today by vetoing a bill to fund Planned Parenthood with tax dollars. Christie will call down the fury of the most radical elements of the left, but I think he has the backbone to weather the storm. Let's hope the GOP-at-large is susceptible to the infection of Christie's courage of conviction.

Categories > Conservatism


In Defense of Nutella

Sometimes a story hits so close to home that it's hard to write about it through the haze of bewilderment and dumbfounded rage. This is such a moment.

Probably inspired by the federal government's obesity campaign, a lawsuit has been filed against Nutella. The mother of a 4 year-old was apparently "shocked" to learn the ambrosial hazelnut delight was not health-food, but rather "the next best thing to a candy bar."

1. It isn't the "next best thing to a candy bar." It so far surpasses candy bars as to be humiliated by the comparison.

2. I'm holding a beautiful glass jar o' the creamy goodness at this moment. The back clearly reads: 2 tbsp. = 200 Calories. That's a daily intake of fat in 8 seconds of weakness! How utterly stupid do you have to be...?

3. It's chocolate! How utterly stupid...? 

4. An entire continent just across the Atlantic practically raises their kids on the heavenly nectar - and they're half our size (often literally).

5. Speaking of Europe, the first ingredient here in America is sugar, whereas, interestingly, the first ingredient in Germany is cocoa. A reflection on our (4 year old's) tastes....  

6. I'll bet anything to anyone that this woman is the personification of a prude...

7. ...who voted for Obama.

8. Somewhere, Michelle Obama is smiling.

9. In a sane world, the debate wouldn't be whether this mother can get money from Nutella for voluntarily feeding it to her kids, but rather whether she is obviously too deranged to raise kids.

10. She'll probably win.

Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Boots on the Ground in Egypt

Mike Totten at Power Line has posted the last entry of a blogger known as Egyptian Sandmonkey. The 10 paragraph transcript is an unusually candid perspective from the frontlines - an articulate indictment of tyranny in practice, a lament of the "amalgam of Stockholm syndrome coupled with slave mentality" paralyzing those unprepared for liberal democracy, and a rallying cry for heroism deserving of a patriot.

The road will be hard - as it is for all - but we all hope the Egyptians are prepared for liberal, democratic self-rule.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Give Unto Caesar

Pope Benedict XVI observed today that "secular authorities want the best of both worlds with regard to Church-state relations."  

On one hand, the political authorities take care not to grant public places to religions, understanding them as merely individual ideas of faith of the citizens. Sought, on the other hand, is the application of criteria of a secular public opinion to religious communities. It seems that they would like to adapt the Gospel to the culture and yet, they seek to impede, in an almost shameful way, that the culture be molded by the religious dimension.

These words follow an interesting interview with Archbishop Crepaldi of Trieste in Italy. The Archbishop distinguishes between competing definitions of "secular" as being autonomous, indifferent or in outright opposition to religion. He notes French President Sarkozy's coining of the expression "positive secularity," indicating "a secularity that expresses an attitude of positive openness in facing religion." The short dialogue is worth reading for anyone interested in Church-state relations.

Categories > Religion


Syncing Old and New

A new application for the iPhone related to confessions has received the first stamp of imprimatur from the Church.

Categories > Technology


Friends In High Places

One of the most significant scandals (which should be) surrounding Obamacare - aside from the process of its enactment and its conversion of 1/6 of the economy to government control - is the post-enactment waivers issued by the Obama administration. As of last week, Obama had granted 733 exemptions to Obamacare. As the Wash. Times notes:

This is key: The waivers aren't meant to protect victims from unintended consequences of Obamacare; they are meant to exempt them from the very intentional increased costs of health insurance that the law causes. ...

In short, the administration has decided that you will face increased health insurance premiums, but special friends in the unions will not.

In a parallel move, Obama is now exempting GE from global warming standards passed in January. The Wash. Examiner concludes:

Maybe GE CEO Jeff Immelt's closeness to President Obama, and his broad support for Obama's agenda, had nothing to do with this exemption. But we have no way of knowing that, and given the administration's record of regularly misleading Americans regarding lobbyists, frankly, I wouldn't trust the White House if they told me there was no connection.

Don't get me wrong - the best thing for America would be a 100% waiver option for every policy affecting economics signed by President Obama. But coupled with Obama's politicization of the DOJ and other examples, the ever-more apparent cronyism of Obama's selective exemption policy reveals a blatant trend of disregard for the rule of law.

Categories > Presidency

Shameless Self-Promotion

Social Conservative Review

The Ashbrook Center is again featured in Family Research Council's Social Conservative Review. John Moser and I have articles on "Family Economics." As always, the SoCon brings together a wide range of authors to cover a broad range of topics. It's a worthy read.

The Founding

Appreciating the Genius of the Constitution: 3/5 Clause and All

In taking Congressional Republicans to task for leaving out the 3/5 clause of the Constitution  during their recent public reading of the document on the House floor, David Foster writes one of the clearest expositions I have read, to date, on the ways in which the compromise was made in the service of freedom and justice.  Since studying the Constitution in American Political Institutions and Ideas (102) during my freshman year at Ashland, it has been an ongoing and pet frustration of mine that the majority of otherwise intelligent people--and people of every political variety imaginable--persist in a kind of anti-Founding mythology on this point that has overgrown actual understanding of ideas and events.  If I only had a nickel for time I have heard:  "But the Founders thought black people were only worth 3/5 of a white person!" I could have funded enough scholarships to the Ashbrook program to have eradicated such ignorance.

If you happen to be a person who thinks there is anything to the charge that the 3/5 clause proves the racism of the Founders (and don't be embarrassed if you are as it's barely possible to escape this oppressive misconception), David Foster's 744 words are the most important ones you will read in your lifetime to date.  
Categories > The Founding

Pop Culture

And Now for Something Completely Different

Yes, this may indeed be the best car commercial ever.

I also agree with the commenter who said the little kid here shows more emotion in 45 seconds than Hayden Christiansen showed in his two movies in the role.
Categories > Pop Culture

Foreign Affairs

Madison and Egypt

As Egyptins protest against their dictatorship, several commentators are discussing whether this vindicates the argument that the U.S. should promote democracy.  That's rather too simple.  In many times, and in many places, democracy is not the best form of government available.  Sometimes, voting will produce bad government.  As Madison noted in Federalist 51:

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.

It is not true that democratic government will, in all cases, be more just than other governments.  In the American republic, democracy is essential, but we should not assume that it always true elsewhere.  The 13 colonies had the most democratic governments in the world in 1776.  That's why it made sense to create a democratic republic.  Absent a wide distribution of property, experience with elections and democratic institutions, secure property rights, widespread literacy, an open press (or, at least, relatively open, as was the case in the colonies in 1776), among other things, the jump to democratic-republicanism can be dangerous. Witness France in the 1790s, and numerous examples thereafter.

What people want is decent government, that treats them with respect, and does not prosecute them arbitrarily and capriciously.  In history, democratic governments are not the only means to that end.   Not every country is lucky enough to be a democratic republic.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

An Egyptian's Words on Egypt

A former classmate of mine, a native Egyptian named Ahmed who studied abroad at Ashland, is now a journalist in Cairo. His newspaper has joined with the protestors against the Mubarak government. This became a problem today when, for the first time in this crisis, pro-Mubarak demonstrators clashed violently with anti-government protestors. The linked article mentions that, during a violent clash in Tahrir Square today, the military just stood by and remained idle, claiming that they had no orders to take one side or the other-- for now, it seems, the Egyptian military is continuing to remain neutral and letting this play out on its own. Below I will be copying and pasting Ahmed's Facebook posting for the day, with his permission (the permission being the first quote given). These are his accounts and views on what is going on, not mine, to give some insight on what some of these protestors are thinking:

 "February 2 at 11:16am
sure..go ahead. 
My hands are tied now. I am inside the newspaper and I am trapped. waves of thugs are attacking us!"
"For All my friends...
I am safe and fine. 
I have seen death with my own eyes. I have seen a protester getting killed by life ammunition 2 meters away from me. 
we are not going to stop till Mubarak leaves. 
12 hours ago "
"300 Martyrs. Their blood shall not be in vain. 
We shall not stop till the terrorist flee the country.
12 hours ago "
"More than a 100 thug were attacking the headquarters of our newspaper 2 hours ago. We created barricades around our newspaper and we are armored with guns, sticks, and knives
We received threatening phone calls from powerful business men of the ruling party.
7 hours ago "
"Tahrir Square is now being bombarded with rocks and bombs made of benzine and gas. The military is just standing their. Watching!
7 hours ago 
"My dear American friends. 
All the tear gas bombs that I have swallowed during the last week while I was covering the revolution...
They were all made in USA....
Send petitions 2ur congressmen...stop sending anti riot weapons to the Egyptian police
4 hours ago"
"Bad News: At least 500 injuries, tens dead, in today's clash with Mubarak Thugs
Good News: a news presenter in the State run TV quits her job in protest of falsifying news..
3 hours ago 
"off to Tahrir Square...
Praying that I would get their safe...
3 hours ago
The president has agreed to not run for reelection, hoping that it would quell the demonstrations against him. However, protestors are demanding that he resign immediately. The military will likely be the deciding factor in all this.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


On Wealth and Poverty

We've heard a great deal in recent years about the growth in income disparity in this country.  But while the rich may be getting richer, as Steve Horwitz argues, so are the poor.  The poor (defined as those in the bottom fifth percentile of income) are, first of all, better off in absolute terms than their counterparts ten, twenty, or fifty years ago.  Not only are they wealthier (the poorest fifth make, on average, $28,000 more per year than they did in 1991, adjusted for inflation), but have access to amenities that even the middle class did not have ten years ago (i.e., cell phones and internet service).

Moreover, the vast majority (86 percent) of yesterday's poor are part of today's middle class.  This shouldn't be terribly surprising, because demographically the largest portion of the poor are the young, who tend to work in relatively low-paying jobs.  But, of course, as young people acquire more experience their income rises.

Finally, although it is true that there is currently a higher than normal percentage of the population below the poverty line (not particularly surprising given the underperformance of the economy in recent years), the percentage of the population in extreme poverty--that is, with an income less than half the poverty line--has remained stable at between 5 and 6 percent since 1980. 

As an aside that speaks to the issue of civility in politics, Horwitz received a slew of nasty e-mails over this, including one that accused him of being a "house kike for the neo-cons."

Categories > Economy

Foreign Affairs

Some Thoughts on Egypt

Ashbrook program graduate and current adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Rebeccah Heinrichs, discusses the situation in Egypt on Fox News.  
Categories > Foreign Affairs