Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


FDA Saves US from Amish Threat

Those dangerous and disorderly Amish were finally brought to justice by the Food and Drug Administration after a federal sting exposed a vile black market operation that the poor souls still trapped in a previous century were engaged in. The contraband that they have been smuggling between Pennsylvania and Maryland is now safely under the control of the Federal Family, and no longer shall we have to worry about the terror coming from Rainbow Acres Farm, as wretched a hive of scum and villainy as Tijuana and Bora Bora. Yes, that's right, the same people who alerted us to the dastardly job-stealing ways of ATMs, who kept us safe by arming criminal cartels with weapons that they could use to overthrow the Mexican government and shoot at border agents with, who gave us nicely-infected trailers after Hurricane Katrina and improved our healthcare by making it more expensive--- they have now come to the rescue once again! The Federal Family has used our tax dollars wisely in a year-long sting operation and subsequently saved us from the terrors of... milk.

Unpasteurized milk, according to the FDA, is capable of carrying harmful bacteria-- much like dirt, most produce, pets, and small children are. Because of this, the federal government has banned interstate sales of raw milk (I think you're still able to bring small children across state lines, though; still awaiting a response from Health and Human Services on that one). The Amish folks at Rainbow Acres in Pennsylvania had dared to sell milk to people in Maryland who like their food to be au natural. An even more grievous offense was that they dared to sell the raw milk in jugs without labels. The shame! Thank the god of Bureaucracy that we have the Federal Family there to be at our side and prevent us from seeking to drink milk that has not been processed. It almost makes you question how humanity got along drinking milk without the FDA for the past several thousand years. Maybe now these Amish types will learn their lesson and plug in an iPod so that they can listen to podcasts of Obama warning them about how the Internet is taking away their jobs and way of life.
Categories > Economy


Poisoned Wells

We are having a weird fracas about the President's request to give a prime time address to a joint session of Congress on his economic plans.  I wonder to what extent Boehner is reacting to the hyperpartisanship and cynicism (and empty posturing) of Obama's response to the Ryan budget.  The House Republicans are not obligated to provide Obama with a propaganda platform at his convenience.  Rather than asking him to move the speech a day, they might think to tell him that if he has serious legislative proposals he should send them to the clerk of the House and the Congressional Budget Office to be scored and analyzed by budget experts who are not interested in his rhetorical flourishes.  If he wants to give campaign speeches he should do on his own time and in a venue paid for by his campaign rather than the taxpayers.  They might remind him that he is welcome to deliver the traditional State of the Union speech next year.     

Categories > Politics


The Jobs Speech Spat

With President Obama apparently having completed his proposal to create job growth in the United States after only two and a half years in office, he decided that he wanted to tell Congress about it. Thus, earlier today, the President sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid asking them if he could deliver an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, September 7th. That coincidentally just happened to be the same night that NBC and Politico were hosting the Reagan GOP Presidential Debate in California, but of course the White House said that was not a factor at all in their choice of a time slot.

Shockingly, and for the first time in history, Mr. Boehner said... come back tomorrow. Citing the fact that the House of Representatives is not due to be back in session until 6:30 on Wednesday, and reminding the President that his invitation is contingent on the House adopting a concurrent resolution in favor, the Speaker said that it would not be enough time to secure the Capitol for his speech and requested that the President deliver his speech on Thursday, "at a time that works best" for his schedule. (Again, apparently also coincidentally, Thursday night happens to be the NBC NFL Kick-off between the Saints and the Packers). A Speaker of the House has never publicly told a President to change dates like this before; it is usually done behind closed doors. Thus this is a move that is very telling of President Obama's weakened political authority in Washington and how far the House GOP has come on controlling the negotiating table.

GOP aides have also come forward and complained that the Speaker was only notified of the date Obama wanted 15 minutes before it was announced, and said it is unprecedented for the President to request a joint session without consulting Congress first. Historically, the President usually does give the Speaker more of a heads up to work out a time before going public. Now, the speech is in limbo as the Legislative and Executive branches dance around each other and try not to come off as petulant in front of the public. Parliamentary intrigue, congressional tradition, separate but equal branches, large personalities, Reagan's shadow, football-I find this all humorously exciting, partially because, at the root of it, I think everyone knows that whatever the President gets up and talks about will be fairly inconsequential. He has forfeited most of his authority to govern, which he never seemed to enjoy much anyways, and is fully in campaign mode. This spat will be fun to watch unfold.
Categories > Politics


A Conversation Between Robots

Engineers at Cornell University wanted to see what would happen when they made two rather clever "chatbots" talk to themselves. The resulting exchange got rather testy and involved talk of unicorns, God, philosophy, and miscommunication--and was not all that indistinguishable from human chatter. However, it was a fair way off from fully coherent human conversation. If this is the extent of robot thought at the moment, I think we still have quite a ways to go before we need to gaze at our robotic counterparts with Hollywood-instilled fear. Though, the "female" robot does ask rather inexplicably if her "male" counterpart would like a body, and he answers in the affirmative just before the discussion ends. Hm. Maybe they are up to something!
Categories > Technology


Chairman Krueger the Clunker

The research interests of Obama's pick to chair his Council of Economic Advisers (with highlights):

[Princeton economist Alan] Krueger has done leading research on why a minimum wage does not increase joblessness and why job growth can lag during otherwise prosperous economic time. [uncertainty?]  He served as chief economist in the Treasury Department from March 2009 until November 2010 ....

During his time at Treasury, Krueger advocates a number of key administration measures designed to stimulate the economy, including a tax cut for businesses that hire new workers, the "cash for clunkers" auto trade-in program, and "Build America Bonds" that allowed states and localities to raise funds for building roads and other construction projects.

BTW, I don't know why the Senate has to confirm the President's advisers.  But the hearings could be amusing.

Categories > Economy


Two Statues, Two Political Science Meetings

The annual meeting of America's political scientists takes place over the following several days, for the first time in Seattle, Washington.  It is fitting that they gather in this progressive city.  In fact, most of the political scientists might rally around this infamous statue.  A few others, such as those who prefer the Claremont Institute panels, might honor this one.

Have a great time in that beautiful city--see you next year where we laissez les bon temps roulez.  No Lenin statutes there, though they do have one to Calhoun.

Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

The Libyan War

Admittedly I did not think that Tripoli would fall so easily and that Gaddafi would go into hiding without unleashing the deadly, poisonous weapons at his disposal first. Congratulations to the rebels on ridding their capital of a tyrant, and good luck to them in bringing him and his lieutenants to justice. It is good that the mad dog is now being hunted in the streets (or, rather like a rat, under them). From a purely tactical standpoint, overall the war in Libya was executed very well--we spent limited resources, endangered no American lives, and minimized civilian casualties in our bombings. However, because of our strictly limited involvement, Barack Obama and his supporters should not be claiming credit. Additionally, from a strategic standpoint, I still fail to see how destabilizing Libya serves our national interests and how this way of waging not-wars can help us in the future.

Already some have held this up as a viable alternative to President Bush's type of regime changes-- a validation of the so-called Obama Doctrine. Yes, without outside involvement, the rebels would not have been able to so quickly advance nearly as far as they have. But this means that we are in fact not engaging in regime change; we are supporting an insurgency against an already-established government, sitting on the sidelines and throwing them a few missiles now and then. Additionally, Libya was easy, and likely will not be repeated. First of all, Britain and France were actually very interested in being involved because they have direct material interests in the future of Libya; good luck getting the French to want to do anything else. Secondly, the Arab world is in a state of revolutionary shock right now and thus supportive of measures against Gaddafi. Third, the fight was against Gaddafi, one of the few remaining egocentrically insane thugs left on the planet and thus easy to rally against. Finally, there were a lot of people in Libya who not only hated Gaddafi but were pretty well-positioned to at least put up a fight.

Transpose this to Iraq and Afghanistan; totally different scenarios. This is not something we will be able to repeat. Regime change will not come so easily in places like North Korea, Iran, or Syria. Just look at Cuba! We've been trying this sideline business for a half century and Castro is still running the place. We got lucky in Libya. And even that is contentious-- I still think that the country is going to spiral into the turmoil of a civil war once Gaddafi is found, and there's still a possibility he won't be caught for a while and that he'll maintain a strong insurgency against the new government that the rebels throw together. Additionally, if a Gaddafi Loyalist insurgency or tribal war break out, the nation will be faced with a humanitarian disaster that we are already beginning to see the start of.

Finally, even if the Libyans did all get together and sing Kumbaya over Gaddafi's grave, and even if the NATO intervention could claim credit for that, it does not justify the way in which President Obama went about this. He has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars killing people in a faraway land without authorization or supervision. He has interfered in the affairs of a foreign nation by actively aiding a rebel insurgency with the intentions of removing a head of state from power. He has shirked his responsibilities to the U.S. Constitution and the American people by doing this. Even if this does turn out well and it could be replicated (which is might not and it certainly can't), if I had to choose between the two I would still prefer President Bush's method of regime change as at least he submitted his plans to Congress for approval first, however tenuous his evidence was. Additionally, the Obama Doctrine has no applicable use anywhere that matters to U.S. interests. The White House and their supporters have nothing to gloat about; they cannot claim full responsibility for the rebel successes in Libya, victory cannot be claimed until stability is returned to that war-torn and starving country, and in the process of it all President Obama has launched a more egregious assault on the limitations of the Constitution than President Bush did with his various claims of war powers throughout his administration. How I wish the anti-war Left and Congress would stop letting him off easy.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Red Wine and Chocolates

There are some self-evident truths NLT readers know: motorycles are good for the soul, poetry is useful--Falstaff lards the lean earth as he walks along--beauty without heart is suspect and turns crowned kings into merchants, not all politicians are caterpillars of the commonwealth, even yellow roses die when to perfection brought, red wine is good for your heart, and now we learn, so is chocolate!  Truth is truth.
Categories > Leisure

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Literature as an Intramural Game

Joseph Epstein reviews "The Cambridge History of the American Novel" and finds it wanting, no, he actually mocks it.  This stuff is entirely academic, i.e., the contributors to the volume talk to one another and no one else....human beings who love stories don't talk about "alterity" and "intertextuality," or "heteronormativity."  In effect, he explains why English Departments are "intellectual nursing homes where old ideas go to die."  Despite this, there are still young people interested in good books, indeed, are even intoxicated by them.


Hayward Teaching

Steve Hayward's class met for the first time last night.  I stayed for most of it, and should take the whole darned thing, actually.  Very good and clear stuff, a delight.  Good to have him aboard.
Categories > Education


Atlas Slouched

Saddled by years of government strangulations, threats, and insults, Victor Davis Hanson discusses why America's productive, entrepreneurial individuals are growing tired and hunkering down, waiting out the current storm rather than forging ahead with the American experiment. Despite the enormous debt we have accumulated, despite the president blaming "the rich" and those pesky self-interested businesses for our economic woes, despite threats to make those who already pay 60% of the nation's income taxes pay their "fair share" of the tax burden, the Atlases of America have not completely shrugged us off. They are not rushing off to other lands (for the most part), and they are not shuttering the businesses they have built-- but they are stopping investments, holding off on hiring, and saving their pennies until the current crisis is abated and the successful are no longer so vilified by our leaders.

However, rather than understanding that the uncertainty of the future (Will taxes be raised? What will Obamacare really do to us? How is the Fed going to manipulate our currency? Will any free trade agreements be signed? Is energy going to skyrocket because of Obama's policies and the Arab rebellions?) and the tone of public discourse are giving these investors and entrepreneurs the jitters, the Obama Administration and many on the left, led by Keynesian champion and alien aficionado Paul Krugman, are instead insisting on forcing capital to flow once more into our system. Despite ballooning deficits and the oppressive debt that we are enslaving future generations to, Krugman and his ilk are bringing forth the same old tired argument that government spending is the path to prosperity, using World War II and the end of the Great Depression as their great example of this.

For the record, again, war does not help the economy. Wars end lives and destroy things. That is all. Yes, they may spur technological advancement (sometimes for our benefit, sometimes not), but overall they are not a net gain for the economy. Neither World War II nor the New Deal ended the Great Depression. As Hanson points out in an additional piece, we experienced a tremendous economic boom after the war due to the fact that all of our competitors in the world had quite literally been obliterated and that, during the war years, Americans pinched and saved every penny-- meaning they were sitting on wealth to spend once stability was returned to the world and they felt safe spending their savings. The same people who make the WWII argument also look at disasters like Hurricane Irene as opportunities for economic growth-- though, as Kenneth Spence at the Acton Institute points out, even the media is having a hard time buying that argument. Disasters destroy wealth and end lives, and as a result they cause people to want to save their money even more for fear of needing to recover from such a disaster in the future.

If we want to get ourselves out of this economic mess, then we need to stop vilifying the job creators of America and increasing burdensome regulations on our businesses. We need to deal with the uncertainty surrounding our energy supplies and bad laws like Obamacare. The government needs to stop ballooning our debt with market-distorting stimulus injections to our economy. This Keynesian way of managing an economy is directly related to the growth and eventual popping of economic bubbles; if we want sustainable, safe growth, we need a stable environment where individuals feel comfortable spending money and investing in things. Until then, America's Atlases will continued to remain slouched inside the safety of their shells, their money kept close by. Until then, we will not be able to experience real economic growth and allow the American experiment to continue to flourish in prosperity. 
Categories > Economy



A very good man, unquestionably among the most talented I ever had the pleasure to know, passed away last weekend. He will be sorely missed. At the funeral service, I was asked to read 3:1-6,9 from the Book of Wisdom-- a common reading at funerals, about the peace of the dead. At mass this morning, I opened the Bible to read the full passage. It is a very good one, that gives hope to the ultimate triumph of the just over the wicked in this world, and why we ought not despair so long as we remain on the side of the just:

But the wicked shall receive a punishment to match their thoughts, since they neglected righteousness and forsook the Lord. For those who despise wisdom and instruction are doomed. Vain is their hope, fruitless their labors, and worthless their works. For the fruit of noble struggles is a glorious one; and unfailing is the root of understanding. For should [the wicked] attain long life, they will be held in no esteem, and dishonored will their old age be in the end; Should they die abruptly, they will have no hope nor comfort in the day of scrutiny; for dire is the end of the wicked generation.

Here is the whole passage. The Book of Wisdom has long been among my favorite philosophical and theological writings, and is aptly named. It deserves a reading over now and then.
Categories > Religion


Obama's Sliding Approval Rating

Dr. Schramm points me to a story on an AP-GfK poll which shows Obama losing ground among white voters (especially white independents), women, and independents (I wish I could find the actual poll crosstabs on the internet rather than just those publicized on news sites.)  The 36% approval rate among white voters is ugly. We're talking losing a 45 state landslide in 1980s America-type ugly.  It look a little better at Real Clear Politics.  Obama's job approval average has been stuck in the 43% range for the last several weeks.  That is below his previous floor of 44% and well within danger-of-losing range, but Harry Reid had a lower job approval rating, higher unemployment in his constituency, and was still reelected with several percentage points to spare.   
Categories > Politics


Obama Clock

I don't tend to advertise for much on NLT, but this smartphone app is too good. Obama Clock "is a countdown to either Barack Obama's second inauguration or his final days as President of the United States."  The app constantly updates the following "voter metrics":

Approval Rating
Public Debt
Unemployment Level
Gasoline Cost Per Gallon
Housing Price Index

Here's an interesting self-test. Noting that all of these metrics are simply factual statistics, did you have the feeling that this app was created by someone who was pro- or anti- Obama? The answer, I think, reveals how you think the President is objectively doing when measured against reality.

Categories > Technology


Religious Tests at the New York Times

Bill Keller drags the New York Times to ever-new lows by submitting a series of mocking questions on religion (he follows up here) to the Republican presidential candidates. I can't begin to convey the hypocrisy of Keller's insistence that Republicans answer his derogatory questions, whereas Obama's radical faith was of no concern to these same news organs of the Democratic party.

Stanley Kurtz responds beautifully at NRO with a series of unanswered questions on faith for Obama. They are just as timely and relevant now as they were when Kurtz first asked them in 2008. Scott Johnson jumps on the bandwagon with a list of questions for his long-time whipping-boy, "Louis Farrakhan's first congressman" Keith Ellison. John Hinderaker notes that Keller's obsession with outing Michele Bachmann as a "dominionist" is akin to the media's previous breathless pandering to leftist prejudice in their biased and unwarranted coverage of the rapture.

While I object to the condescending tone of Keller's questions - his article is obviously a hit piece, intended to smear religious conservatives by indirectly identifying them as out-of-the-mainstream extremists - I don't see anything amiss about questioning candidates on their faith. Religion is the most important factor in many - if not most - American's lives. Voters have an interest in knowing their leaders' opinions on the matters that are most important to them.

But the New York Times isn't attempting to answer voters' lingering questions. They are an outlet of hypocrisy and bigotry. If they showed the same determination to educate the public on candidates' religious views, Obama might not be the president today.

Categories > Religion


Honoring Saint Augustine

Today is the feast day of my christened namesake, St. Augustine of Hippo. The Church's latter-day Prodigal Son, Augustine's life and philosophy should be well-known by all who would call themselves learned. His was a conversion story fit for legend. During his youth he lamented:

Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"

Though he confronted many of the great heresies of the Church during his time and rose to such heights of philosophy that his mind has found few peers in human history, on the wall of his home he kept a simple commandment:

Here we do not speak evil of anyone.   

As a means of venerating the great Doctor of the Church, may I suggest that any devout pilgrims reading this post remain mindful that St. Augustine is the patron of ... brewers.

Categories > Religion


Epstein, Buffett and the Pope Walk into a Bar....

Libertarian Richard Epstein asks in the Hoover Institution's Defining Ideas Journal, How is Warren Buffet Like the Pope? Epstein answers, "they are both dead wrong on economic policy," and spends much of the article criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for his supposed socialist sympathies.

Epstein begins well enough:

A successful and sustainable political order requires stable legal and economic policies that reward innovation, spur growth, and maximize the ability of rich and poor alike to enter into voluntary arrangements. Limited government, low rates of taxation, and strong property rights are the guiding principles.

But Epstein quickly derails, lambasting the Pope for criticizing those who put "profits before people." The Pope's sentiment seems not only reasonable but mundane. Yet Epstein hysterically calls this worldview "a wickedly deformed foundation for social policy." The article continues as a tirade against socialism as Epstein foolishly identifies the Pope's position as hoping for "a world without profits." This straw-man routine wickedly deforms Catholic social teaching.

The offensive language which causes Epstein such palpitations was the Pope's response to a question while en route to Madrid for World Youth Day:

Q: Europe and the Western world are going through a profound economic crisis, which also shows signs of a great social and moral crisis, of great uncertainty for the future, particularly painful for young people. What messages can the Church offer to give hope and encouragement to the young people of the world?

Benedict XVI: [We see] confirmed in the present economic crisis what has already been seen in the great preceding crisis: that an ethical dimension is not something exterior to economic problems, but an interior and fundamental dimension. The economy does not function with mercantile self-regulation alone, but it has need of an ethical reason to function for man. This can be seen in what was already said in John Paul II's first social encyclical: Man must be at the center of the economy and the economy must not be measured according to greatest profit, but according to the good of all.

The full text is worth reading and quickly reveals that only a distorted reading, reducing the Pope's comments to a pre-determined absurdity, can interpret his remarks as proposing that the common good includes neither consideration of individual man nor the practical effects of poverty. Catholic hospitals and missions care for the sick and poor of the world who suffer privation due to poverty - not Epstein's colleagues at NYU Law or the annual libertarian association conference.

While the Church teaches that "blessed are the poor" and elevates many virtues and goals above the perils of wealth, it is most certainly not adverse to profitable national economic systems. In fact, the Church has consistently - since the present Pope was a schoolboy in Germany - condemned exactly the sort of socialist ideology which Epstein falsely claims as its own. These conclusions are obvious from Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, and Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the 100 year anniversary of the former letter, Centessimus Annus.

Leftists and libertarians alike have long felt wronged that the Holy See's refuses to adopt their economic dogma, but Church doctrine clearly repudiates economic socialism. Yet it also cautions that free-markets should always serve the common good - a common good well-understood, which Epstein willfully fails to appreciate. 

Epstein's multi-front attack on Buffett and the Pope is simply a desperate plea for libertarianism. Buffett's recent statements on the economy have been heavily criticized by the right over the past few days, and the left never grows weary of slandering the Pope, so Epstein saw an opportunity to employ a tired refrain of libertarian politics: left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican - they're all the same; only libertarians are truly special.

Of course, the inability to recognize differences between these comparables is either the result of woeful ignorance or political extremism. Anarchist - to whom libertarians are often compared - see everyone else as a clone from their perch so far off the accepted political spectrum. So it is with libertarians - they just wear better suits. 

Epstein's amoral and dehumanized libertarianism is the only "wickedly deformed foundation for social policy" revealed in his article. 

Categories > Economy


"Chapell-royall, park, and Tabyll Round"

In college, I wrote a paper on King Arthur as the final exam for a class on Winston Churchill. (My professor was a wise man who justly rewarded my insights - and charitably resisted the likely instinct to fail me.) The exact historicity of the ancient king pales in importance to his legend and legacy as the quintessential British ruler.

However, any hint that the legends are true is a welcome revelation. The London Telegram reports "King Arthur's round table may have been found by archaeologists in Scotland."

Archaeologists searching for King Arthur's round table have found a "circular feature" beneath the historic King's Knot in Stirling.

Ultimately true or not, any reason to reflect upon a more noble and disciplined Britain - particularly in these days of looters and hooligans - is a good thing..

Categories > History


Girl's Best Friend

Astronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond....

That's right. Reuters reports that scientists have discovered a new planet that is "far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon."

Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.

And Obama just cancelled America's space program. That decision, coupled with this discovery, could very well loss him the entire female vote! Perhaps Obama's encyclopedia entry will mirror Jimmy Carter's, commencing with the excuse, "Barack Obama was an unlucky president...."

Categories > Technology


Smallest Boy

I was able to spend most of this morning with Mr. Earl Hawkins (and Sally and Corky) now ninety seven and a half years old (in a few days he'll be on the second half of that half, as he would say).  I have known him for over twenty years, but recently I have been able to spend less time with him than I would like.  I regret this because he is, as the Poet might say, not one of the indifferent children of earth. He is an extraordinary man, meriting every success he has ever had.  It was a great pleasure to hear him talk, to be reminded of human excellence in such a direct and manly way.  So I pass along a few points, much worth noting, especially during these whining times, when too many complain too much about the hardness of the world.

A flu epidemic killed one of his brothers and made him the smallest boy in the family.  But he survived with one good eye. He left Braxton County, West Virginia in 1935 and walked into Ohio with ten dollars in his pocket.  He worked at every opportunity and saved everything he could.  His National Guard unit was activated in 1940 and he spent the war in the Pacific, including Bouganville.  In a shortened way it may be said that he was the perfect American citizen-soldier: Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star.  Then peace came, and eventually, he set up a fruit stand in Wooster and prospered.  That became a number of super markets, and he continued to prosper, as did his friends, family, and the causes he believed in.  His formal education stopped in the 9th grade, but it continued, as Lincoln might say, "in littles," and he always supported both the University and the Ashbrook Center, wanting to give all the young an opportunity to learn how free men could be prosperous.

He told me that his family didn't attend church much in West Virginia, partly because the Baptist Church was too far up the dirt road and the Methodist Church very far down the dirt road, but my sense is that his mother didn't like the fact that the Baptists said that the Methodists would not get into Heaven because they baptized by sprinkling, not immersing.
His mother instructed him to live by the Ten Commandments, which hung on the wall of their small house.  She said they must all work for things they needed, but not on Sundays, and always be strictly honest.  He told us that through the McGuffey Readers he learned that whatever he gives to help someone in need will be returned to him tenfold. This is true, he adds.

His life, in times of hunger and pestilence and war and then prosperity, may be read in a book he wrote over a dozen years ago, My Experiences in War and Business: One Man's Story of Success in America.  It is a well written story, the story of the small boy becoming a big man and an entirely honorable American gentleman. It is a great pleasure to be reminded of such good things from such a good man, and I thank him.
Categories > Education



Michael New writes at NRO:

pro-lifers were given a lot to think about by last Sunday's New York Times Magazine article about women who, after simultaneously conceiving multiple children, chose to have all but one of their children aborted.

Will Saletan's Slate article on the same subject tackles the

puzzling unease among abortion-rights supporters [who are] uncomfortable with the notion that in a single pregnancy, one twin is wanted and another with an identical genome can be discarded.

New suspects a more self-interested and pragmatic rationale.

Supporters of legal abortion typically do not argue that they want abortion to be common or widespread. They make the case that it should be a legal option for women facing unique or difficult circumstances.

Child-reduction abortions would not be good for the PR campaign. 

Consider a related issue. "Humane" methods of administering the death penalty were a bittersweet victory for those who oppose capital punishment, since more acceptable methods have the effect of softening public opposition to the act itself. Inversely, the more barbaric forms of abortion, such as partial-birth and sibling-reduction, tend to aid the pro-life movement's greater goal by souring public opinion toward abortion in general. One hopes that examples of abortion's moral pollution have the effect of further awakening public sentiment to this peculiar institution - that good can ultimately come from evil. 

Categories > Bioethics

Shameless Self-Promotion

The Tea Party Postmaster

Reading the tea leaves, I suspect that the Tea Party Republican transformation I observe in the post below in Wisconsin and Washington will eventually shift the entire culture and balance of political power in America. I mention a single example today in my home-away-from-home at Intellectual Conservative.

Noting that "the U.S. Postal Service is a barometer of big-government, socialized policies," I find it unsurprising that it is "a failed business." What is surprising is the Postmaster General's strong stance against the congressional regulations and labor unions which are crippling the USPS's ability to compete in the free market (despite monopolistic advantages awarded by Congress).

the postmaster general threatened on Friday to break labor contracts in order to lay off 120,000 workers and to revoke employee health and retirement plans in favor of cheaper alternatives. These measures are "threatened" because they do not represent the postmaster general's hopes, but rather his Tea Party inspired strategy to coerce Congress into loosen its strangling regulations and labor unions into reasonable compromise.

Apparently, the postmaster general took notice of the Tea Party's debt-ceiling strategy and concluded that the only way to get Congress to act on a crisis is to propose an even worse ultimatum. . . .

The Postal Service is also taking a cue from the Tea Party's influence in Wisconsin by staking out an opposition stance to public sector unions. Breaking union contracts would have been unthinkable in the pre-Tea era.

 As they say, please RTWT.

Refine & Enlarge

From Woodstock to Waterloo in Wisconsin and Washington

George Will updates the situation in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill "already seems to have repaired many communities' budgets, in addition to the state's."

Will compares Wisconsin's liberals to Woodstock hippies, but I'd suggest they are only a few steps from the London rioters. They show a frightening propensity to resort to "revolution" and anarchy. The gang assembled outside (and inside) the Capital threatened violence, destroyed property and attempted to bring down the democratically elected government (with trespassing mobs disrupting legislative sessions and politicians abandoning their duties by fleeing in the night to another state). All because liberals The Democrats should still be apologizing in shameful contrition for the behavior of their thugs in Madison.

Nevertheless, Will explains that union attempts to extract vengeance through extravagantly expensive, yet unsuccessful, recall elections have actually fiscally crippled their power even further. Unions just seem unable to appreciate that money is a limited commodity and that there are limits to what money can buy.

Leaving unions aside (as Americans seem to be doing with increasing frequency), Will turns to Walker's broader success:

Walker has refuted the left's sustaining conviction that a leftward-clicking ratchet guarantees that liberalism's advances are irreversible.

Peter Schramm made a similar observation in reference to John Boehner's success in shifting the national conversation to "fundamental constitutional questions."

Boehner and his Republican troops have disproved an assumption held by progressives and liberals since the New Deal: that government will always grow in size and scope, that all spending increases are permanent.

From the victory in Wisconsin against liberal unions to success in Washington curbing liberal tax-and-spend policies, Republicans seem to be riding the Tea Party wave to political transformation. This is a profoundly important lesson for the next Republican presidential candidate to keep in mind.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Exception to the Rule

On this one occasion, a Left Turn is permitted on NLT. Tim Groseclose is the author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Scott Johnson contends that "it may be the book of the year."

Professor Groseclose measures media bias with social-scientific methods and concludes that: (i) all mainstream media outlets have a liberal bias, and (ii) while some supposedly conservative outlets--such as the Washington Times or Fox News Special Report--do lean right, their conservative bias is less than the liberal bias of most mainstream outlets.

None of this is new, of course, but Groseclose provides fresh evidence and methodology to support the obvious conclusion. Peter Robinson interviews the author here.

Categories > Journalism


Overcoming Segregation

To the mix of all the stories about Martin Luther King's fight against the injustice of racial segregation, I add the following:  Living in Richmond, Virginia ten years ago, I would frequent a soul-food restaurant, Mrs. Johnson's.  Inside the front dining room was a heavy wooden half-door.  It was not just decor--it was the backdoor where blacks used to get take-out, while the restaurant offered table service to whites only.  When Mrs. Johnson, who was black, bought the restaurant, she reinstalled it in the front.  I don't know whether the place has survived in another form, but this old description of its delights rings true.
Categories > Race


Pop Quiz?

What caused the quake?

A. Global Warming

B. Racism

C. Greed

D. George W. Bush

Categories > Politics


Please Don't Do This

There isn't much that is more more crazy and self-destructive than the Republicans supporting tax cuts for high earners while at the same time demanding tax increases for those workers whose incomes cluster just below the median.  It is just as bad to advocate tax cuts for the high earners while publicly bemoaning the light tax liabilities of those whose earnings put them in the second quartile (and usually failing to mention that these workers pay the regressive Social Security payroll tax.)

Do you remember when making the Republicans look like the party of interest group politics for high earners used to be the job of the Democrats?   

Categories > Politics


The Church Gets Another Doctor

Pope Benedict XVI announced Saturday that he will name Saint John of Avila as the 34th Doctor of the Church. I try not to hold it against John that he gave up the career in law to study philosophy and theology with the Dominicans. He was preparing for a mission to the Americas when the Archbishop of Seville prevailed upon him to remain in Andalusia in order to preach to a Spanish population newly liberated from Islamic occupation.

The Doctors of the Church are ecclesiastical authors by whose doctrinal writings the whole Church derives great advantage. They are distinguished by great learning, great sanctity and proclamation by the Church. Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome and Pope Gregory I are the original Great Doctors of the Western Church. To this list, names have been added very sparingly - until today, only 33 in two milenia. The Apostle of Andalusia is now counted among a litany of the most profound thinkers in history.

I'm not readily conversant in the works of John of Avila, but it will be interesting to learn whether a particular aspect or theme of his writings commended his inclusion to Pope Benedict. The announcement was fittingly made in Spain during World Youth Day. The last saint to be honored with the title of Doctor was St. Theresa of Lisieux, also on World Youth Day, in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

Categories > Religion


The Martin Luther King Memorial Opens

This Sunday the Martin Luther King memorial officially opens, though beginning yesterday the grounds were open to the public.  I am skeptical--it seems too grandiose--but I withhold judgment on the 30-foot sculpture until I get a chance to view it:

The design gave form to a line from Dr. King's "Dream" speech -- "With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope," said Mr. Jackson. In the memorial, he noted, Dr. King is seen emerging from the stone of hope. The two towering mounds set slightly behind him, forming a sort of passageway to the statue, are mountains of despair.

Some visitors said they did not like the fact that Dr. King was facing the Jefferson Memorial, not the Lincoln Memorial, but Mr. McNeil said he did not mind.

That Dr. King looks at Jefferson raises a few questions:  Is he acknowledging Jefferson's good start?  Is he reproaching him for the incompleteness of his achievement?  Is he recognizing the thralldom of blacks to FDR's memorial and the Democratic party? 

There is another angle on Dr. King that demands reflection:

A bizarre paradox in the new secular order is the celebration of Dr. King's birthday, a national holiday acclaimed as the heartbeat of articulated idealism in race relations, conscientiously observed in our schools, with, however, scant thought given to Dr. King's own faith.

This is Willliam F. Buckley, Jr., from his speech in response to an Oct. 20, 1999 tribute by the Heritage Foundation.  H/t Lucas Morel. 


Categories > Race

Foreign Affairs

Reading Europe

Peter Schramm brings good things into my life. The first time I met him, as a college freshman who had already figured out all there was to know in the world, he threw Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice my way (literally - I had to duck). He later introduced me to "Madison and the boys" (as he comradely calls them), the political science of horsemanship and the art of reading poetry aloud. So when he off-handedly throws something my way, I still duck - but also give whatever it is its due attention.

Peter has recently passed along a couple sites relating to European happenings which I thought might be of interest to RONLT (Readers of NLT). The first is Open Europe, a think-tank proposing EU reforms from a pro-business perspective, including "economic liberalisation, a looser and more flexible structure, and greater transparency and accountability." Also of note is Eurozine, a "network of European cultural journals" which provides "a Europe-wide overview of current themes and discussions." These are just a couple gems which might fly just below the casual reader's radar.  

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Biden Doesn't Second-Guess One-Child, One-China

Obama is having a hard enough as it is, so one must ask if Biden has ever been anything but a liability? Did he deliver any votes in 2008, was he a boon as the debt-reduction czar and are his public statements a net positive for the administration? I think not, on every count.

Biden is now in China, where Obama was previously chided like a schoolboy and shamefully equated China's human rights record with that of Arizona. One might hope the administration would send Biden with stronger sentiments, in the wake of our previous posture of timidity. But that would be a silly hope in the Age of Hope and Change.

Biden not only failed to speak sternly to China's human rights abuses, but deliberately stated his indifference while responding to a question from the audience.

Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second-guessing -- of one child per family.

It's difficult to express the moral depravity of Biden's expression of moral relativism. Does the Vice-President of the United States "fully understand," without "second guessing," the forced abortion, infanticide, sterilization and gendercide that is China's horrific one-child policy? Is it possible that an American - any American, let alone our second highest-ranking political leader - lacks the moral clarity or personal character to recognize and denounce the most blatant human rights violations in the modern world?

But Biden's cowardice didn't end there. China's state-controlled Xinhua news agency reports:

Biden also said the United States will firmly stand by the one-China policy and will not support 'Taiwan independence,' adding that the U.S. fully acknowledges that Tibet is an inalienable part of China.  

The U.S. has tried to back-track this report, saying that Biden didn't use the precise language quoted later in Xinhua's article. But there has been no statement on the part of the U.S. that Biden opposes China's oppression of would-be pro-Western nations. In truth, Biden didn't speak at all about Taiwan or Tibet in his prepared remarks. His conciliatory remarks must have been made in the sort of negotiations best left to principled statesmen.

As Biden represents a president who voted in favor of infanticide and has shown shockingly little concern over the massacres of pro-democracy advocates around the world, one is forced to entertain the unimaginable when it comes to progressive morality and principles. This is the reason Obama rarely speaks without a teleprompter, and cringes when Biden goes off-script. During a quick-fire Q&A session, someone might accidentally say what Obama and his ilk actually believe. 

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Civility, Democrat-Style

"And as far as I'm concerned, the tea party can go straight to hell."

- Rep. Maxine Waters (D - CA), August 20, 2011

Just pile it on to the growing list of slurs, such as "terrorist" and "hostage-takers," aimed at the Tea Party by Democrats in the New Age of Civility.

Do you think Ms. Waters has any clue that the Tea Party is synonymous with mainstream America, that the Tea Party's fiscal policy is the overwhelming preference of American economists and that her vulgar disparagement is actually an insult to the majority of American citizens? Even California isn't so insular an echo chamber that Waters is incapable of recognizing that her views, not those of the Tea Party, are "outside the mainstream." That's why Democrats like Waters use coded language when explaining their ideas: tax hikes = revenue; spending = infrastructure; redistribution = equality; abortion = choice; censorship = fairness. If Democrats had the courage of their convictions - or really believed the American people shared their views - they would speak as clearly and honestly as the Tea Party.

Categories > Economy

If They Come, You Will Build It

Slate's Annie Lowrey writes that the Texas economy really is pretty strong - growing twice as fast as the overall national economy, and generating 40 percent of the jobs created since the recession officially ended in 2009, despite having 8 percent of the national population.  The governor of Texas, presidential candidate Rick Perry, deserves credit for none of this, however.  Indeed, she argues, public policy is largely irrelevant to the state's economic strength.  Perry can't take credit for rising prices for oil and natural gas, which have helped a state where energy remains one of the biggest industries.  Nor did he have much to do with keeping in place the restrictions on over-leveraged home mortgages, put in place after the Savings and Loan wipeout of the 1980s.  As a result, Texas never had the run up in home prices and subsequent real estate meltdown, which has debilitated other Sunbelt states, including Arizona, California, Florida, and Nevada.

So far, so good.  But then Lowrey asserts, "Texas' economy is growing because Texas is growing. Indeed, the state's population has swelled more than 20 percent in the last decade,  by 4.2 million people. And it has added residents faster than any other state since the recession started. In this case, supply creates its own demand. All those folks buy food, pay rent, and drive cars, helping to support local businesses and create jobs."

Huh?  The normal understanding of causal flow would be that places that have strong economies are attractive places to raise families and operate businesses.  Lowrey contends that any old place where a lot of people start showing up acquires a strong economy by virtue of their presence.  Michigan - the only state that had fewer residents in 2010 than in 2000 - had a strong enough economy, according to this logic, until people started leaving the state.  Maybe they had lived through enough of its winters, or gave up on the Detroit Lions ever having a winning season.  Whatever the motives, it was the declining numbers of people buying food, paying rent, and driving cars that harmed local businesses and destroyed jobs. 

So the key, apparently, is to get people to come to your state, and then the economic problems will more or less solve themselves.  Lowrey attributes the increasing numbers of Texans to a "growing economy, nice weather, great barbecue, and cheap real estate," none of which Gov. Perry had anything to do with.  The mystery of people voting with their feet seems to track with a couple of other coincidences, however.  According to the 2010 census, the nation's population grew by 9.7 percent in the decade after 2000.  Five states grew more than twice that fast: Texas, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada.  All five of them are "right to work" states, where private-sector unions are vestigial.  Of the five states that had the slowest rates of population growth - Michigan, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Ohio, and New York - only Louisiana has a right-to-work law.  Its population barely grew during the past decade because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 - that is, unless you think the outflow of population from Louisiana caused the hurricane.

Here's another coincidence that has no cause-and-effect impact on the population shifts that ignite economic growth: In 2009, according to the Tax Foundation, the burden of state and local taxes was, for the nation as a whole, 9.8 percent of per capita income.  Of the five states with the lightest tax burden - Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming - only South Dakota's population grew more slowly than that of the nation as a whole.  Of the five states with the highest state and local tax burdens - New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island - Connecticut had a population growth rate that was barely half the national rate, and the other four grew significantly more slowly.

The moral of the story is clear: States' populations grow and shrink for mysterious, idiosyncratic reasons.  A strong economy results from, but does not cause, these population shifts.  Since a vigorous economy does nothing to attract and retain residents, states are wasting their time trying to strengthen their economies through public policies like right-to-work laws and tax reductions.  Since those policies have nothing to do with economic strength or population growth, states should go ahead and elect as many Democrats as possible, hoping the random variable of a growing population will just happen to favor a state pursuing high-tax, pro-union policies, and a booming economy will magically follow.   


Clarence Thomas and GOP Discontents

One reason Republicans are dissatisfied about their presidential candidates is that they have unbounded riches in the person of Justice Clarence Thomas--not merely the preeminent conservative political officeholder in America.  "Thomas's scholarly and influential jurisprudence" is detailed in the most unlikely venue of the New Yorker, by Jeffrey Toobin.  As did Jan Crawford in her Supreme Discontent, Toobin demolishes leftist cliches about him.  He shows how Thomas, often by a lone but principled dissent, has decisively changed the Court's jurisprudence in crucial areas--which may culminate in the judicial dooming of Obamacare.  Toobin's treatment of the more recent controversies is far less satisfying, albeit exculpatory--who can really believe that Justice Thomas's vote is going to be influenced by his wife's activity? 
Categories > Courts

Political Philosophy

Inflection Points and the New Rules of Fiscal Politics

Not to sound like a Haywardian troglodyte, but Steve is on his game today. 10 paragraphs to make you wiser on the last three years of American politics. Read it and tell me if I'm lying....

Political Philosophy

Who's Afraid of Neoliberalism?

Only yesterday I premised that an obvious distinction between the London looters and Madrid missionaries was traditional, religious education and rearing. NLT's ever-faithful Cowgirl brought to my attention Walter Russell Mead's excellent article on the dwindling religiosity of the poor and uneducated (which would aptly describe the lot in London) and the comparative rise in faithfulness among the rich (many of whom undoubtedly flew into Madrid for their celebration with the Holy Father). I believe that I wrote on this same theme some time ago, but these trends - and the dire consequences - seem obvious to a casual observer of moderate intellect and powers of perception.

Enter the liberal discontents and their airs of smug superiority, lacking both knowledge and prudence. They have discovered the true devil beneath the shallow culprits fingered by "dumb moralisers" such as myself.

Margaret Thatcher is the reason for London's riots.

Pankaj Mishra writes: "London's rioters are Thatcher's grandchildren." Polly Toynbee's Guardian article ridicules that "small-staters blame the collapse of moral values, school indiscipline and feral beasts without fathers or consciences." She sees beneath the veil: "Grab what you can, winner takes all, no wealth is ever too much, this neoliberal amoral creed has reigned unquestioned since Margaret Thatcher."

What exactly do they mean? "Neoliberalism," explains Brendan O'Neill.

This claim, the outrage-heavy but evidence-lite argument that the rioting is a product of the unleashing of market forces into every area of life, captures what the term 'neoliberalism' represents in modern public debate: not a serious attempt to analyse or describe events, but an expression of political exasperation, a borderline childish belief that a bogeyman, in a Thatcher mask, is responsible for every terrible thing that happens. The screech of 'neoliberalism!' is meant to sound assertive, radical even, but really it speaks to an extraordinary intellectual passivity and unwillingness to face up to the true forces laying waste to British communities.  

So the same liberal social engineers who cringe at the sound of words like "moral," "good," "evil," "religion," "God" and the like - preferring "diversity," "multi-cultural," "faith-tradition," "values," "relativism" and so on - are now claiming that the decay in public virtue is not the result of having banished virtues from the public, but rather the economic policies of free-markets advanced by Hayek and Friedman in response to the failures of Keynes' quaint socialism.  

Politics is full of absurdities like this. Sometimes just making the claim that your opponent is responsible for your own most egregious fault is an effective tactic. The truth is so obvious to rationale observers that it seems ludicrous to mount a defense. But these attacks aren't aimed at the rationale - they target the ignorant and gullible. 

During John Kerry's run for the presidency, Democrats identified themselves as the "Catholic party" and insisted that their platform was the most consistent with Catholic social teaching. Partial-birth abortion advocates accuse pro-life prayer groups of condoning violence. Obama repeatedly promised that Obamacare and stimulus spending would reduce the deficit - whereas the Republicans secretly wanted deficit spending. And, of course, liberals call conservatives "terrorists" while admonishing them as the party of heated rhetoric. 

The use of such elusive academic-sounding terminology as "neoliberalism" is also purposeful. Few people would go along with the claim that a lack of government interference in private business is the reason young people do drugs and commit violent crimes - and even fewer would agree that Eastern European / Latin American socialism is the solution to this generational decay. So, capitalism becomes the unintelligible "neoliberalism" and socialism becomes "social democracy."

This is a common trend among liberals - who themselves have now evolved out of their "liberal" cocoons and emerged as "progressives." For the party of "No Labels," liberals seem to have no shortage of appellatives to cast about. Christians have pretty much been calling themselves the same thing since Rome and the Middle Ages - there's a valuable lesson in conservation there.

Leftists who liken themselves "academics" will never admit the banal truth observable by the unwashed masses. Truth, in the minds of these modern-day Gnostics, is their enlightened reserve. And like Tertullian, they believe it because it is absurd - only their object is not unfathomable divinity, but their own self-righteous conceit. 


We Have the Warriors Gone?

A beautiful letter from George S. Patton to his son, June 6, 1944:

At 0700 this morning the BBC announced that the German Radio had just come out with an announcement of the landing of Allied Paratroops and of large numbers of assault craft near shore. So that is it.

This group of unconquerable heroes whom I command are not in yet but we will be soon--I wish I was there now as it is a lovely sunny day for a battle and I am fed up with just sitting.

I have no immediate idea of being killed but one can never tell and none of us can live forever, so if I should go don't worry but set yourself to do better than I have.

All men are timid on entering any fight; whether it is the first fight or the last fight all of us are timid. Cowards are those who let their timidity get the better of their manhood. You will never do that because of your blood lines on both sides. I think I have told you the story of Marshall Touraine who fought under Louis XIV. On the morning of one of his last battles--he had been fighting for forty years--he was mounting his horse when a young ADC [aide-de-camp] who had just come from the court and had never missed a meal or heard a hostile shot said: "M. de Touraine it amazes me that a man of your supposed courage should permit his knees to tremble as he walks out to mount." Touraine replied "My lord duke I admit that my knees do tremble but should they know where I shall this day take them they would shake even more." That is it. Your knees may shake but they will always take you towards the enemy. . . .

And much more. Read the whole thing.

Categories > History



Pundits have gotten a case of the vapors over Sarah Palin's latest youtube video. Take a look below. It does seem to be a campaign video - but then again, if it's just Palin's way of staying relevant and in the news, it's working. As long as people are talking about whether she'll run, she has a platform from which to speak. I hope Palin is just staying in the spotlight. Her candidacy would be problematic (to say the least), but her message is a good one.

Categories > Elections


Perry Has New York Times Running Scared

In the apparent absence of any worthwhile scandals to report, the Grey Lady is running one substanceless hit piece after another on Perry. Today's paper leads:

Over three terms in office, Gov. Rick Perry has doled out state aid to his most generous supporters and their businesses.

In the wake of Obama's unprecedented stimulus spending - which did nothing for the economy, but lined the pockets of union bosses and other liberal interest groups - as well as Obamacare waivers for generous liberal donors, it seems ridiculous that the Times would have the audacity to accuse Obama's opposition of political favoritism. And yet, New York Times, shamelessness be thy name. 

The Times sneers at Perry for "enacting policies that have benefited allies and contributors," as well as,

helped Mr. Perry raise more money than any politician in Texas history, donations that have periodically raised eyebrows but, thanks to loose campaign finance laws and a business-friendly political culture dominated in recent years by Republicans, have only fueled Mr. Perry's ascent.

Again, the implication that raising record campaign funds is somehow wrong, coming from the same paper which praises Obama for the same acheivement, is absurd. The Times simply states that Perry has done nothing wrong, but asks the reader to conclude malfeasance on the part of the governor and Republicans nonetheless. It likely never occurs to the Times that Perry's "allies and contributors" may be business-minded individuals who recognize that Perry shares their interests: growth, job creation and wealth.

The article goes on ad nauseum listing people who have benefited from Perry in some manner, and then revealing their political donations to him as a form of scandal. One will wait in vain for a similar roll call article on union donors to Obama's campaign.

This sort of hit job relies on low-hanging fruit. Politicians surround themselves with like minded-people, and people contribute to like-minded politicians. It is a symbiotic relationship typical to every politician in America. There is no scandal unless donors receive illegal or unethical favors - such as waivers from general laws, as unions commonly receive. 

The Times' desperate attacks on Perry imply that he is a strong candidate, and the shallowness of their attacks imply that he hasn't given them much ammunition. Both are fine indicators that Perry is a serious candidate for the Republican nomination.

Categories > Elections

The Family

The Tale of Two Youths

One should not miss the comparison over the last week of youth descending on the cities of two European nations. In England, hundreds of young thugs spent the week rioting with aimless violence and general impunity in cities across the nation. Meanwhile, in Spain, over a million young pilgrims arrived in Madrid to celebrate the Catholic Church's World Youth Day. Two more stark profiles of today's youth would be difficult to produce. I would just as readily entrust our future prosperity to the latter group as I would commit the former to prison sentences excluding them from any participation whatsoever in the future of planet Earth.

A social scientist somewhere should observe a representative share of both communities over the next several decades and report on their respective contributions to civil society. A subsequent report on the comparative methods of rearing employed during the tender years of these sample populations, including values instilled and disciple-enforcement, would provide a interesting - though predictable - social commentary.

The way to avoid scenes like those in London is rather simple. Madrid is presently full of one million examples. When the parenting methods which produce this latter sort are rejected, it's no great mystery why they turn out as little more than prison fodder. Simply because a publisher will print the latest breakthrough in child developmental theory, it does not follow that human nature will respond favorably to such progressive nonsense.

Categories > The Family


Remembering the End of the Prague Spring

On this day in 1968, the Soviet Union led a Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring. In January of the same year, Slovak reformer Alexander Dubček had begun a decentralization program in Czechoslovakia, focusing on the economy and democracy. He liberalized regulations on personal freedoms and orchestrated the country's peaceful division into the Czech and Slovak Republics. Russia would not accept these reforms and used military force to restore soviet order. Czechoslovakia would remain under Russian control until the 1989 collapse of East Germany spread across central and eastern Europe in the following year.

Gorbachev credited the Prague Spring for inspiring glasnost and perestroika. The only difference between the Prague Spring and Gorbachev's reform movement has been described as "nineteen years." While not ultimately as successful as the Polish Solidarity Movement, the Prague Spring was a watershed moment for political freedom - and its defeat by Russian militarism was a critical blow to Communism's moral and intellectual standing.

Categories > History


Races to Watch: Brown vs. Warren

The Washington Times reports that "consumer advocate" Elizabeth Warren has filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee for a possible challenge to Mass. Sen. Scott Brown in 2012. If you don't recognize her name, Warren was the architect and first czar (since Republicans opposed for appointment as director) of Obama's latest bureaucratic boondoggle, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is the latest attempt to massively expand the federal government's (and, particularly, the executive branch's) regulatory power over everything, since the agency's authority is very broadly defined and it operates largely beyond the reach of Congress.

The CFPB provides an insight into Warren's political philosophy as a czar, shall we say, of big-government liberalism. However, she - like all liberals - has attempted to masquerade as a moderate conservative (the prevalence of liberals pretending to be conservative, and dearth of examples in the opposite direction, is an interesting topic for another time). In a Weekly Standard article, "Elizabeth Warren, Closet Conservative: The Most Misunderstood Woman in Washington," Christopher Caldwell praises Warren's 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap.

Todd Zywicki, blogging for The Volokh Conspiracy, chides Caldwell for falling for Warren's ruse. Zywicki observes that Warren intentionally hides the impact of higher taxes on middle-class families by using a different calculation with regard to taxes than other expenses.

What this means is that once taxes are converted to an apples-to-apples comparison-percentage change in dollars instead of percentage change in percentage-household spending on taxes actually increased 140%, not 25% [as Warren misleads].

Conservatives often note that the MSM never seems to make a mistake which disadvantages liberals or Democrats - "mistakes" are reserved for conservatives and Republicans. Is it mere coincidence that Warren's "mistake" conceals the disastrous role of taxation as the central culprit in her thesis problem?

Warren has now resumed her post as a Harvard Law professor, where here views are very likely regarded as conservative. And in Massachusetts, it may be likewise. But in the nation as a whole, she seems to be a liberal wolf in sheep's clothing. Scott Brown's senate seat is a boon for the GOP which cannot be surrendered lightly.  

Categories > Elections


The Climate (Change) Among the GOP

It would be a full time job monitoring all of the partisan bias and factual-errors peddled by the New York Times. Consider yesterday's story, "Climate-change science makes for hot politics," in which the Times plays scientist and concludes:

Human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is pumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and warming the planet.

As I write this, CNN's international broadcast is running a pre-Durbin UN climate change conference, shame-on-America special about global attempts to reduce carbon in order to fight climate change - and the science of man-made global warming, don't you know, is settled.

The Times can be excused for its ignorance of the immense damage done to global warming alarmists by both skeptics and their own revealed dishonesty and politicalization, since the Times rarely bothers to cover news harmful to one of their golden-calf platforms. The same is true for CNN and the whole lot of the derisively-labeled MSM.

At least, the Times reminds readers that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and the on-again (since he lost the presidential election) media doll John McCain have toed the liberal line and accepted the media narrative on global warming. The Times delights in reporting that Huntsman actually ridicules conservatives on the issue of global warming, having recently branded the GOP as "the anti-science party" and "a bunch of cranks," as well as tweeting, "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." John Hinderaker at Power Line rights ponders why in the world this guy is running for president as a Republican.

Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann continue to strongly pronounce the science of global warming as bunk. While the Times' story is ostensibly about the GOP's political division on the issue, it doesn't even actually bother to quote Perry - but it does provides a link on the side of the webpage to "Rick Perry's made-up 'facts' about climate change." So the story continues the Times' proud tradition of fair and balanced news coverage. 

This is just one of many issues which will separate Perry and Bachman from Romney in conservative circles. While climate change will not emerge as a hot topic in this election, it is a useful litmus test for conservative credentials and isn't an issue upon which conservatives should retreat.

Categories > Environment


What the Candidates are Reading

The Republicans' reading lists (as compiled by Tevi Troy) confirm one's prejudices about them--though in the case of Michele Bachmann, one is pleasantly surprised:  She attributes her conversion from the Democrats to having read Gore Vidal's Burr--a "snotty little novel" that "mocked our Founding Fathers."  

Obama's summer reading list is literary, as one might expect of the author of Dreams From My Father.  Among his reading is The Warmth of Other Suns, an account of the Great Migration of blacks from the South to, among other places, Chicago.  Its author includes a mention of having met Barack Obama and then voting for him.

Having toiled in the Washington bureaucracy, I most emphatically endorse non-policy wonk reading for our politicians (provided they have some clue about public policy).  And I like the idea of the political class reading sophisticated fiction to give them moral and intellectual depth, plus some imagination--though one would like to see less contemporary work and more classics on those lists.

BTW, I do not begrudge Obama his vacation.  He should tend to his family's well-being and his own re-energizing.  But what of the manner and mode of his form of vacationing?  My own view is that he treats his presidency with the same ironic mockery that he displayed in his autobiography.  From the first page of chapter 7, p.  133:

 In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer.

There wasn't much detail to the idea;  I didn't know anyone making a livng that way.  when classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn't answer them directly.  Instead, I'd pronounce on the need for change....

That's what I'll do, I'll organize black folks.  At the grass roots.  For change.

What Obama's friends and most of his critics don't see is that this sardonic cynicism has carried over into the White House.  When I read his book the summer before his election, I thought that the insouciant attitudes it betrayed alone disqualified him from being President.  Now we can add his deeds to the word.  Politically, this means he doesn't care.  He's having the time of his life, and he gets to golf and party too. 

No leftist who read Obama's autobiography can possibly feel snookered, and no conservative who read it could be more outraged. 

Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

The Siege of Tripoli

In a startling turnaround, the rebel forces in Libya have launched an offensive that has brought under their control most of the major resources of the nation and isolated Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. As the rebel army advanced on Zawiya, a strategic city about thirty miles from the ancient city, people began to flee from Gaddafi's capital. Over the past week, more and more of his allies have defected or fled. Surrounded by insurgents to the south, east, and west, and facing a NATO blockade to the north, the Mad Dog has been cut off. As of now, an unusual level of explosions are being heard throughout the capital city and a rebel leader has announced on Al Jazeera that the rebels are working with NATO forces to lay siege to Tripoli right now and finally undo the tyrant Gaddafi.

Though there are now rumors circulating that Gaddafi may have fled with his remaining sons, even if this were true it would not necessarily mean everyone in his government would give up without a fight. The rebel forces are prone to poor strategic mistakes and infighting, and would be unlikely to capture the fortified city without a long, bloody siege. Additionally, I fail to see how much NATO planes flying thousands of feet in the air will be able to help rebels fighting in a city as densely populated as Tripoli. Unless an airstrike gets lucky and kills off the tyrant and his inner circle, or unless he really has fled and his allies surrender, the hopes for rebel success in Tripoli are dim. If it is discovered that we ended up putting any boots on the ground during this siege, and if Congress just lets the president off with maybe a stern resolution for doing such a thing, I will have officially lost hope in our future as well.

In any event, Gaddafi's days are numbered and there will be a new Libya to reckon with. While reckoning with this crisis on the Mediterranean ought to have been a European problem, we have been dragged into it and thus have some sort of interest in what post-Gaddafi Libya looks like. When the strongman is gone, there are several troubling scenarios that could erupt-- a protracted civil war between the various tribes and/or the rise of Islamist groups chief among them. I think it is unlikely that the tribal factions will join together peacefully under a new government; at least not initially. When they are done fighting Gaddafi, they will begin fighting each other. The war has also ruined Libya's oil capabilities for at least the near future, meaning whatever comes up will be mostly bankrupt as well. In response to this, President Obama and other NATO nations will feel some need to get involved and begin yet another failed experiment in nation-building.

As said, this should be a European problem. It's France's mess; let France handle peacekeeping and humanitarian aid. But, with the Eurozone collapsing and the Europeans always being squeamish about these things, they will try get "NATO" (IE: the USA) to handle all the hard work. We cannot remain embroiled in the Libyan Civil War. We can hardly manage Iraq and Afghanistan as it is, have to keep an eye on growing problems posed by Iran, and are dealing with our own debt crisis that is likely going to include some cuts in defense spending. Leave this mess to the Europeans and the Libyans. Let the rebels handle the siege of Tripoli, and then let them try to sleep in the bed they've made. We ought not be as involved as we are now, and we simply cannot get more involved.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Apple Provides Perspective

The Reuters headline says it all: Apple is worth as much as all euro zone banks.

One U.S. Company. All EU banks combined. That's a hint of the power of America's private industry, which someone on the right who would like to be president might think of trumpeting as a clue to our economic recovery.

William F. Buckley famously quipped:

I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.

I'm not an advocate of corpocracy, but does anyone seriously doubt that Steve Jobs and a handful of folks from Apple Inc. could create more jobs and grow the U.S. economy faster than Barack Obama and the Democrats? Apple and its CEO are far more faithful to promises made to shareholders than is our government and President to promises made to citizens.

Perhaps the authority to regulate interstate commerce should have been omitted from the powers vested in Congress. America's Second Estate, private industry, might have proved a more trustworthy custodian. 

Given the present state of affairs, however, is there any way to convince Apple to begin operating banks in Europe...?

Categories > Economy


Feeling Badly

Too amusing not to notice, from Jay Nordlinger.
Categories > Education


"We May Have Been Tricked"

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." ~Senator Barack Obama, Feb. 5, 2008 (following Super Tuesday).

I spent last night listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl with some friends and family, all hopelessly liberal. Conversation drifted towards politics, and frustration with politics, and annoyance with this Tea Party thing, fear of Congresswoman Bachman and Governor Perry, and disenchantment with Barack Obama. There was frustration at his foreign policy, his weakness in the debt debate, and many other domestic policies of his. One in the party said something I found to be very telling, and very important, when asked if the president might yet still improve. "I don't know. I don't think he really believes what he campaigned on. I think we may have been tricked." That is, even in Hollywood are former admirers of President Obama beginning to think that he may just be a normal politician more interested in reelection and legacy than anything else. Telling.

On a related note, I stumbled across an old JibJab video with a comic President Bush reviewing the year 2005. Among the problems that Bush sings about are terrorists, Kim Jong-Il throwing fits, pirates in Somalia, a nutjob in Iran, problems in the Gaza Strip, a rising deficit, low approval ratings in the United States, low approval ratings in Europe, high gas prices, scandals with allies in Congress, scandals in the White House, Gitmo, and economic woes. Last time, Barack Obama campaigned on change-- leaving the woes and actions of the Bush Administration. Though all signs indicate that he plans to still run as a Washington-outsider, man of the people, hope and change type, that is going to be a lot harder to do. That's the problem when you try to portray yourself as a radical harbinger of change in a wonderfully divided constitutional republic. Like McCain was to many conservatives in 2008, Obama will be to many liberals in 2012-- the least undesirable candidate. Having only won the popular vote by ten million votes in 2008, with all the hype surrounding him, this should worry the president-- whose victories in North Carolina, Indiana, Nebraska, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania were narrow enough that a drop in enthusiasm among activists from "the change we've been waiting for" to "we may have been tricked" could dramatically alter the electoral map in 2012. This is the GOP's race to lose.

(Another interesting addendum-- in conversation of potential GOP candidates, there seemed to be some admiration of Chris Christie. While none would vote for him, they were drawn to his personality and how unlike a usual politician he is. This could be good.)
Categories > Elections


Has Obama Lost His Mojo?

Since Steven Hayward is now blogging at Power Line, it's necessary for us to occasionally bring him back to NLT:

So let's see where we stand this week: the stock market tanked another 419 points today, the housing market continues to slide, the European banks are on the brink, and Obama decides to . . . take a bus tour.  Followed by vacation in Martha's Vineyard.  And announce that he'll have a plan next month.  Perhaps a new federal Department of Jobs.  Yeah, that's the ticket; that'll surely work just as well as Jimmy Carter's remedy for the energy problems of the late 1970s--the Department of Energy.  (Just how many BTUs of energy does DoE produce?  [Crickets laughing.])  Why not just skip the nonsense and just go straight to a Ministry of Silly Walks?

Either Obama's handlers are negligently failing him, or his vanity is persuading him that he needn't heed their advice. Try to imagine the media frenzy if Bush had taken a luxury golfing vacation in the months following 9-11 (promising to get back to us with an Iraq plan in a month or so) and the slight criticism now befalling Obama should seem blessedly mild. The mind boggles attempting to decipher the strategy behind blatantly campaigning and vacationing during unmitigated national suffering. The only message seems to be one of disconnect, callousness and frivolity.

My purpose is not to simply denigrate Obama for his poor leadership and perception decisions, but rather to note that these political missteps are being made by a politician lauded for his political savvy. During the 2008 campaign, it was easy for conservatives to find fault in Obama's tune, but he routinely managed to hit the notes on key. One wonders if two-and-a-half years in office have corrupted his instincts and robbed him of his all-important cadence. It will be interesting to see if Obama can replicate the prowess of his former campaign. I think, despite the greatest efforts of the media to the contrary, Obama will prove unequal to his former glory - and nothing rewards so unkindly in politics as disappointed expectations.

Categories > Elections

Literature, Poetry, and Books

The Devil's Music?

Did Robert Johnson, the most famous blues musician, sell His Soul to the Devil? Did he make a Faustian bargain?  Are these stories about the crossroads and the murder true?  Ted Gioia writes a good essay which refuses to sanitize the issue. It was a serious issue for Johnson and his contemporaries, listen to Me and the Devil Blues or ("one of the most powerful blues ever recorded", says Gioia) to "Hellhound on My Trail" for confirmation.  Gioia thinks it is time to give the Devil his due.  I like this quote from Eric Clapton: "Up until the time I was 25 if you didn't know who Robert Johnson was I wouldn't talk to you."


Obama's Secret Jobs Plan

Only 31 months into his presidency and Barack Obama is now set to unveil a plan to create jobs in the United States. While some sources say that the plan may include an attempt to curb the rising costs of healthcare (which the President has admitted his Healthcare law did not do), waste more tax dollars on stimulus spending (because it's obviously worked so well over the past few years), fix the debt problem (which was impossible for him to do back when his party controlled the entire federal government), or fight space aliens (oh wait, that's just Paul Krugman being insane), I have a different theory.

President Obama's plan to create jobs in the United States is to use the all-powerful Internet Kill Switch that Congress is contemplating giving him. Then, without the Internet and all the other wonders of technology, Americans will finally be able to have jobs, because obviously Price Line Negotiator and eBay are stealing jobs along with those pesky ATMs. Later phases of his job plan will include getting rid of motors so that horse trainers and carriage makers can get work, abolishing fast food restaurants in order to create more job opportunities for waiters, ordering that all clothing be hand-sewn and all toys be hand-carved, and having the federal government revert to communicating solely through written letters individually hand-delivered by personal secretaries and pages. Only then will we be able to live in a prosperous country. Sounds like a winner to me.
Categories > Economy

Political Philosophy

What Happened to Obama? Absolutely Nothing.

He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president.

So asks and answers Norman Podhoretz, who has must-read material in the WSJ. I'd missed it until today, but his views are spot on. It seems to be an obvious thesis to those who saw Obama as Obama (rather than "Jesus Christ Superstar") from the start, but those who were led astray are just now coming around to the truth. It's the sort of article that reads like the inside of a hard-back dust-jacket, a teaser for a book full of delicious tidbits and insights, which leaves you longing to read more.

Just a sample:

I disagree with those of my fellow conservatives who maintain that Mr. Obama is indifferent to "the best interests of the United States" (Thomas Sowell) and is "purposely" out to harm America (Rush Limbaugh). In my opinion, he imagines that he is helping America to repent of its many sins and to become a different and better country.

But I emphatically agree with Messrs. Limbaugh and Sowell about this president's attitude toward America as it exists and as the Founding Fathers intended it. That is why my own answer to the question, "What Happened to Obama?" is that nothing happened to him. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind.


Obama Losing on the Issues

While President Obama's dismal 39% approval rating made news this week, his newly released approval ratings on the issues are even more disastrous.

Obama Approval.gif

Since May, Obama's approval rating on every issue has plummeted. Overall approval declined at -11, terrorists -10, foreign affairs -9, education - 13 (since February, no data in May), Afghanistan -20 (the SEALs effect having apparently worn off), economy - 11 and the federal budget deficit -8.

Further, these numbers would be far, far worse except for the resiliency (some would say obliviousness) of Democrats.Obama Approval by Party.gif

Can it really be that 60% of Democrats approve of Obama's job creation record? Do they actually approve of record unemployment and share Obama's seeming acceptance of America's increasingly Euro-style social democracy (with it's high unemployment and robust welfare bureaucracy)? One hopes these partisans are simply lying to pollsters in order to artificially prop up their candidate. Thankfully, less than a quarter of independents [Though who are those 24%?] share the Democrats' view.

RONLT know that I generally downplay the importance of polls until about 48 hours prior to an election. However, these numbers show two important factors for the present. First, Obama's rapidly decreasing popularity could allow a Republican challenger to gain a foothold among voters just out of the gate. Simply being "the other guy" could suffice to propel a challenger into a comfortable lead.

Secondly, Democrats and Republicans couldn't be further apart. And the reasons for this divide can only be explained, as Steven Hayward and others have been intimating, by a deep ideological gap on first principles. The Republican failure to acknowledge this philosophic dissonance led to the Tea Party revolution. The next GOP candidate would do well to mind this underlying division, acknowledge the Tea Party's charge on this front and present the contrasting ideologies with crystal clarity to the rest of the nation.

Categories > Elections


3 More Endorsements for Perry

Greg Pollowitz, at NRO's Media blog, notes three reactions from MSNBC on Rick Perry:

Perry's been in the race for a few days now and we have Maddow lying about the governor wanting to lynch Ben Bernanke, we have Ed Schultz calling him a racist and we have Chris Matthews calling him "Bull Connor" with a smile. What a trio of sad-sack lying hacks MSNBC has chosen for their political coverage.

If three MSNBC "sad-sacks" such as these are salivating to denounce Perry ... well, he can't be all that bad. The more screeching, cliched and ridiculous are the slurs from the usual suspects, the more I am persuaded that Perry has something worthwhile to contribute to the nation's politics.

Categories > Elections


Churchill and Welfare

Over at the American Scholar, George Watson makes an attempt to take Winston Churchill and hold him up as a darling of the Left and the founder of the British welfare state. This "forgotten Churchill" ought to be remembered not just for his war leadership and stubborn defiance of Hitler and Nazism, argues Watson, but for his creation of the National Health Service and fighting sweatshops. While it is true that Churchill engaged in creating social insurances as a young politician, his reasons for doing so were far, far different than the Left's-- he wanted to prop up some welfare programs in order to stem the advance of socialism, which is why most socialists in the United Kingdom fought against his measures (as Watson rightfully points out). As Steven Hayward draws attention to at Power Line, Churchill did not support social engineering and never thought that government central planning could be smarter than the marketplace. He acknowledged the fact that higher taxes are not the road to prosperity, embraced a pre-Hayekian opposition to central economic planning, and thought that socialism and all its ilk was dangerous and immoral.

Churchill spent his entire life seeking to fight what he saw as a war for the very character and existence of all that is great in Western civilization, from Nazism to communism to their parent socialism. For that he will never, ever be forgotten. That supporters of an expansive welfare state would reach to take the memory of Winston Churchill and twist it to try support their purposes speaks both to the greatness of the man and their desperation to bulk up their increasingly unjustified positions. As Hayward says, "I'm glad Obama sent the Oval Office Churchill bust back to London. It would soil the memory of the great man if Obama kept it around."
Categories > History


Keep the Internet Free

In the wake of the riots in London, the rise of dangerous "flash mobs" around the United States and Europe, and protests from the San Francisco Bay to Green Bay, Western authorities are increasingly looking to follow in the footsteps of such upstanding people as Hosni Mubarak, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hu Jintao in targeting social media and mass communication as they grapple to restore order. This is a dangerous, unjust, and immoral vein of thought that is atypical of the dictators of the world who are so desperate to maintain power that they neglect that which is causing unrest. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron has told Parliament that he is considering banning people from sites like Facebook and Twitter while ordering news broadcasters to comply with police by surrendering unused footage of criminal activity to the authorities. This ignores the fact that the private owners of things like YouTube, Twitter, and Blackberry are usually more than willing to regulate themselves (YouTube is constantly taking down terrorist propaganda) and assist authorities with addressing criminal activities and handling emergencies (as Blackberry did during the recent riots in London).

Meanwhile the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco cut off cellphone usage in an attempt to stop planned protests against BART and police for the fatal shooting of a homeless man. In light of flash mobs--which are groups of mostly young people that organize usually on the Internet for a surprise mass action, sometimes for something humorous like a "spontaneous" dance but recently for actions of violence and thievery in places like Cleveland, Philadelphia, and the Wisconsin State Fair--some authorities are considering extending PATRIOT Act-like infringements on privacy to social networking and texting services or cutting people off from them (Philadelphia recently decided just to institute a curfew on young people and not attack the Internet). Citing the need to protect the nation from a serious cyber attack, Congress has been working to grant the President the extraordinary authority to use a "kill switch" to turn off the Internet in the event of an emergency (on that note, it is worth mentioning that President Obama has declared more disasters and emergencies than any of his predecessors).

While people do use social media and communications technology for dangerous, violent, and bad things, that does not merit the government attacking the entire system. Regulating or banning social media because a minority uses it for evil things would be akin to shutting off television because someone says something offensive or prohibiting protests because the Westboro Baptists are vile human beings who say cruel and hurtful things. Though cybersecurity is a serious issue that must be looked at and dealt with, it must be done so in a way that does not endanger people's rights to speech and privacy. Instead of clamping down on communications, BART and the UK and others should instead look at what is causing these acts and address those causations, not take away tools that are the right of all society to possess.
Categories > Technology



Having received an unexpected two week break from things in Washington, yesterday I hopped on a plane back to my native Los Angeles for some rest, relaxation, and visiting friends and family. Despite once more having to raise my hands over my head as if I were some criminal during the body-scanner, the trip through the TSA security checkpoint was far less annoying than it had been in recent trips of mine, thanks in part due to the few people traveling. I napped between Cleveland and Chicago, reread Bastiat's The Law between Chicago and Las Vegas, and tuned in to my iPod. In Vegas I did not switch planes; we just dumped off most of the rest of the passengers and took in a few more. Having chatted off-and-on with the crew during the flight and while waiting on the runway, they gave me a complimentary beer and some extra crackers. The plane was mostly empty when we pulled away from the gate, and I had the row to myself; a relief to these lanky legs of mine that constantly yearn for some stretching room. A woman and her two boys filled in the row behind me, and as we took off began to argue with each other over who would get to sit by the window. 

Once up in the air, I glanced over my should at the two of them gawking out the tiny window at the wide world below us, a look of wonder on their faces. I myself glanced outside my own window at the red desert, rocks, and mountains, flying between clear blue sky and some large white clouds. It was the first time in a few years that I had really been unable to draw my eyes away from this view, and reminded me of this wonderful invention of human flight. Here I was, sitting on a chair in the sky with a beer in hand and music in my ears, in apparent defiance of that earthly umbilical cord that is gravity, seeing as far away as untold billions in history have only been able to dream of seeing. When less than an hour later the plane landed on the runway at Burbank airport, I had traveled thousands of miles in just a few hours. What a wonderful and often-underappreciated thing is flying.
Categories > Leisure

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Robert Burns in the morning

We know that Lincoln loved Shakespeare and knew much of it by heart.  But he also loved Robert Burns, the affirmer of honest poverty, from a very early age.  Burns is wonderful aloud, which is the only way they would have read him then (so should we now).  Good earthy language of love and liberty and the common man; his language is often vulgar, often very funny narrative, short quips being his virtue.  Some of Lincoln's favorites were: Tam O'Shanter and Epistle to a Young Friend.  Here is one of Burns' fine love poems, this to his wife:

I love my Jean

Of a' the airts the wind can blaw
I dearly like the west,
For there the bonie lassie lives,
The lassie I lo'e best.
There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
And monie a hill between,
But day and night my fancy's flight
Is ever wi' my Jean.
I see her in the dewy flowers -
I see her sweet and fair.
I hear her in the tuneful birds -
I hear her charm the air.
There's not a bonie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green,
There's not a bonie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean.


Paranoid Style, Alive and Well

In his Empire of Liberty, Gordon Wood claims that:

Educated and reflective observers found it increasingly difficult to hold to the eighteenth-century conspiratorial notion that particular individuals were directly responsible for all that happened.... [W]ith the spread of scientific thinking about society many of these sorts of conspiratorial interpretations began to seem increasingly primitive and quaint.

But as Noemie Emery notes, such "conspiratorial notions" are alive and well, among our credentialed elites no less than anyone else, for "Some think their beliefs are so true and self-evident that principled and/or informed opposition to them is simply impossible, and that their opponents must be fools and/or villains. They also feel themselves under permanent siege, from the press, from the establishment, and most of all from the centrists in their parties."

Human nature 1, historicism 0.

Categories > History


Art Parodying Life

As pleasant as Wolf Trap Barns' performance  of The Tales of Hoffmann was, it left me with a feeling of disquiet--maybe it was the resemblance between the Republican presidential field and Hoffmann's different lovers:  the first a mechanical creation ("physics" her inventor boasts), the second a tragic imitation of her dead mother, and the last a seductress that leads him to give up his soul and murder his rival.  That's all fancy of course.  Hoffmann discovers that his true love was there all the time, and that the omnipresent devil can be defeated.  Is there any such girl next door for the GOP?

Categories > Presidency


The Republican Trinity

Pawlenty's departure, Perry's entrance and stagnation among Gingrich, Santorum, Huntsman and the other hard-to-remember GOP candidates seem to indicate that the Republican nominee will emerge from a battle between Perry, Romney and Bachmann.

Marc Thiessen has a solid case for Perry in today's WaPo. Much will be decided for Perry in the next few weeks. If he flounders and disappoints expectations, voters will quickly look elsewhere. But he has the potential to rally a base divided between a lackluster resignation toward Romney and hesitant uncertainty toward Bachmann. Perry needs to thread the needle and poach supporters from both candidates - all the while representing himself as the GOP moderate between Romney's unreliable conservatism and Bachmann's uncompromising conservatism.

Romney and Bachmann are still in the fight because they emerged as leaders of the pack - Romney as the party's crown-prince and Bachmann as the hero of the people. Perry needs to define himself as something superior to both - and soon - if his star is going to rise as far as the nomination.

Categories > Elections


Gas Tax Repeal

What's the craziest thing Obama could suggest in the present Tea Party-dominated moment of economic hardship?

How about a tax hike at the pump to make gas even more expensive?

That's the suggestion offered to Obama by the New York Times, which is desperate to preserve (and actually increase) the federal gas tax set to expire next month. One has to hand it to the Grey Lady - she's standing up for principle against the obvious will of the people. This is likely the impetus for the editorial - the Times hopes to prepare the battlefield by firing the first salvo, before Republicans raise their voices in opposition to extending the tax.

And that is exactly what Republicans should do. Republicans should ensure that the "gas tax repeal" is the next headline-capturing battle in Washington. Republicans would be on record seeking to lower gas prices (in light of Obama's refusal to do anything on that front - since gas is a form of energy, and skyrocketing costs are just part of the plan). And they would have an opportunity not only to oppose tax increases, but to actually cut existing taxes. Since the taxes expire in the absence of congressional action, the tax cut is immune to a presidential veto and is possible to acheive with only one house of Congress.

If Obama comes out against the GOP, he is on record in favor of higher gas prices. More prudent would be a capitulation by Obama, allowing the tax to expire. This would be viewed as a Tea Party victory, but Obama would share in the victory and have a bi-partisan talking-point. Further, lower gas prices can only help his re-election chances.

Either way, the GOP have a win-win situation. The public will support their position, so Obama either alienates the public and further proves himself addicted to taxes, or the GOP score a victory for the middle-class by lowering taxes.

The only way the GOP lose is if they do nothing. If Democrats preserve the gas tax without a peep of protest from the Republicans, they quietly maintain the tax and gas-price status quo with no repercussions - and the Republicans lose yet another opportunity to stand on their convictions.

Categories > Economy


Bush's Troubling Legacy?

A few days ago Peter Wehner said that he is worried about what he calls The GOP's Philosophical Straitjacket, namely the belief that tax hikes are always bad.  In particular, he highlights an incident in the most recent GOP debate:

"I'm going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage," Baier said. "Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron said, spending cuts to tax increases.... Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you'd walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?"

All eight candidates raised their hand 

And he comments, "Now on one level I understand this response. Republicans should not negotiate with themselves, and a willingness to reveal one's demands in advance can weaken one's position down the road," be he continues:

Are Republicans in 2011 saying that a deal that would be far better than one Reagan expected and agreed to is simply beyond the pale?

If so -- if taxes cannot be raised under any circumstance -- then we have veered from economic policy to religious catechism.

It is interesting that Wehner has moved from something "philosophical" to a "catechism" in a few paragraphs.   And today, in response to Charles Murray's claim that the position is reasonable because "there is no such thing as a real spending cuts deal," Wehner notes that the question was a hypothetical one, in which there were real cuts.  Fair enough.

But I would like to consider how this became a GOP catechism.  It seems to me that much of the blame might go to George W. Bush.  President Bush, perhaps because of his philosophical views (that federal policy ought to show "compassion"), and perhaps because the GOP had such small majorities (when they had majorities in Congress), that tax cuts were the only policy upon which there was GOP consensus, (and the small majorities made porkbarrelling more important) made tax cuts more of a fixed idea than they had been before his presidency.  To be sure, when his father broke his "no new taxes" pledge, it was a big deal.  Perhaps my reading of history is wrong, but the importance of not raising taxes as a fixed point seems to have taken on increasing importance in the last decade.

President Bush, who gave us the prescription drug benefit, "No Child Left Behind" (the latter written by Ted Kennedy's staff, if memory serves), and legions of porkbarrelling, (let's not forget that Porkbusters began ni 2005), not to mention, a great deal of expesive regulation, could appeal to small government types only by promoting tax cuts. 

Historically speaking, the conservative Republican coalition had three legs: foreign policy, economic policy, and social policy. By giving such short shrift to the libertarian/ classical wing, Bush may have reduced the "conservative" position to tax cuts, and nothing but tax cuts.

It might be that if we can make genuine cuts in the size and scope of government, there will be more room for a discussion of whether certain tax hikes might be a worthy price to pay for such a deal.  It might also be that only such a deal would justify GOP support for tax increases.  The trouble is, having learned to equate tax cuts with limited government, we must relearn that a tax cuts are but one means to a larger end.

Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

Morality: A Luxury Item?

How our would-be elites see it:

It was startling to hear what local broadcaster Steve Adubato, who has done informative programming, had to say with regard to the news that young women are hooking up with older men to exchange sex for payment of their college loans. He thought it perfectly fine. When asked if he would like to see his daughter do that, he said that she would not have to because of her higher socioeconomic status, but that for women of lower means, he thought it was fine. Pressed by his co-commentators to show more democratic spirit, he added that if his daughter were at a reduced socioeconomic status, unlikely to happen, it would be fine then too. It was really cringe-making to see a man reveal such an absence of values so absolute.

I am reminded of Irving Kristol's famous quip:

The liberal paradigm of regulation and license has led to a society where an 18-year-old girl has the right to public fornication in a pornographic movie--but only if she is paid the minimum wage.  Now, you don't have to be the father of a daughter to think that there is something crazy about this situation.

The class dimension, however, might be new, or at least more explicit.

Categories > Pop Culture

Pop Culture

Western Civ Story?

Arthur Herman's post arguing that John Dollard is the real man behind the riots, reminds me that roughly the same idea was set to music a few years ago:

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!  . . .

Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset;
We never had the love that ev'ry child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents,
We're misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good! 

Categories > Pop Culture


Obama's 39%

Obama is resilient. Despite economic catastrophe, hyper-partisanship and a growing list of deeply unpopular decisions, Obama has consistently polled above Congress, general sentiments about the state of America under his watch and even his own policies. He is striving to become the next Teflon president.

The single most significant factor in Obama's resiliency is undoubtedly the support he enjoys from the mainstream media. Rick Perry's presidential campaign has already endured more stinging attacks by the media than Obama has faced during his entire presidency. John Hinderaker noted today that Michele Bachmann's appearance on several Sunday morning talk shows included a barrage of persistent questions about ... gay marriage. The reason, of course, is not that anyone is talking about gay marriage, but rather a partisan drive on the media's part to portray Bachmann as a socially conservative "extremist" who holds "out-of-the-mainstream" views (nevermind that Obama ostensibly shares the same views). The liberal media has kept Obama afloat by simply ignoring scandals, explaining away failures and stubbornly enforcing a double standard toward conservatives.

As a result, Obama has been able to remain above 40% in opinion polls until now. But a bit of dust is being raised over Obama's dip below 40% for the first time on Sunday. Continuous pounding by the GOP (who have snatched the spotlight) in the wake of a bruising debt-ceiling confrontation have driven Obama's approval rating to 39%-54%

While 39% is dismal, it is neither unprecedented nor apocalyptic. It surely stings liberals that George W. Bush was at 60% at this point in his first term, but George Bush Sr. was at 70% and failed to gain re-election. Clinton and Reagan both had comparable approval ratings in the mid-to-low 40's and easily won second terms. And Carter had already sunk into the 20's by this point.

So Obama's numbers are bad, but not dispositive of his 2012 fortunes. Carter nearly doubled his approval rating in just over two months, though to no avail. Voters have short memories and polls are event-driven. Indeed, the single most important variable - the identity of his GOP rival - is utterly uncertain. So predictions at this early stage are useless. All that is certain is that Obama is entering the presidential race with the political winds blowing against him, and he is trending southward.

Categories > Elections


The Day After

Saw Bachmann on a couple of the Sunday morning interview shows.  Dr. Schramm pointed out to me her interview with David Gregory on NBC.  She was terrific (and I say this as someone who is not a supporter.)  Gregory thought he was dealing with a crude dummy and she made him look like a liberal and partisan, out of touch elitist.  She couldn't have asked for a better foil.  She knows exactly what to say to obscure the consequences of not increasing the debt ceiling and having to balance the budget in one year with no tax increases (and cutting taxes on top of that!), without cutting Social Security spending or funding for Afghanistan.  That is good for her but bad for the country.  She was also good (though not quite as good) on the tougher and smarter FOX Sunday morning program.

Categories > Politics


Narrative Fail

Pawlenty didn't fail because "Unfortunately for Pawlenty, the GOP zeitgeist doesn't seem to support nice guys, when niceness is their most salient attribute."  It would be better to say that Pawlenty failed because he treated Republican primary and caucus voters like yokels. Do we really have to go back over the time when he called on conservatives to take inspiration from an act of alleged domestic violence?  Is that nice?  Was it "nice" to try to weasel out of having to give an answer on waterboarding?  Was it nice to coin Obamneycare when Romney wasn't around and then weasel when asked to defend the term to Romney's face?

Pawlenty's economic record as governor and his stands on social issues made him a good fit to run for President.  Pawlenty didn't run as that guy.  He ran as a guy who seemed to "learn" everything he thought he knew about conservatives from reading hostile accounts in liberal-leaning media outlets.  For all her flaws, at least Bachmann understood that filing a bill to repeal Obamacare was closer to the desires of right-leaning voters than talking a bunch of nonsense about taking a nine iron to Obama's agenda. 

There is more than one reason why Bachmann showed greater appeal among conservatives than did Pawlenty.  One of those reasons was that Bachmann showed them respect, while Pawlenty showed them condescending obsequiousness

Categories > Politics


Pawlenty Quits

Pawlenty-Bachmann 2012

- Justin Paulette, May 25, 2011

Quite simply, the Iowa straw poll "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

- Justin Paulette, Earlier Today

If you're going to be wrong, you might as well be really wrong. I stand corrected. Tim Pawlenty is out of the presidential race and Iowa apparently matters quite a bit. Speaking of the Iowa straw poll, Pawlenty stated:

We needed to get some lift to continue on and have a pathway forward. That didn't happen, so I'm announcing this morning on your show that I'm going to be ending my campaign for president

Many of us thought that Pawlenty's experience as governor of a blue state, record of successfully negotiating with a hostile legislature and "generic" character would prove a potent foil to Obama's shrill partisanship, failed policies and empty rhetoric of hope and change. Perhaps it would have proved so. But Pawlenty apparently didn't believe that he'd ever make it out of the primaries in order to test the theory.

I think the withdrawal is premature. Other candidates haven't had sufficient time to implode, which is a distinct possibility. Further, some candidates' stars are still on the rise, but may soon crest and descend with equal alacrity. Bachmann has the potential for both of these perils and her demise would have opened up the conservative field for Pawlenty. Pawlenty has called it quits at the same time that Rick Perry is just announcing his candidacy (Perry will likely lead the rush to pick up Pawlenty's donors and political aides).

Nevertheless, with Pawlenty out, Perry in and Bachmann rising, the GOP field proves fluid, diverse and energized.

Categories > Elections


What's Wrong With Iowa?

There's fly-over country, and then there's Iowa. Basically a patch of corn somewhere in mid-western America which no one could point to on a map without the little dotted lines marking state borders, Iowa assumes untoward influence during each presidential election cycle for no other reason than someone has to go first in the primaries. And Iowa makes the most of its privileged position - yesterday they had a pre-primary test primary, just to get warmed up. And in the absence of any other electoral news 15 months out from the actual election, this is just the sort of breaking news which is irresistible to Washington-centric journalists.

The fact that Ron Paul consistently ranks among the forerunners in these straw polls (he ranked second this time) ought to indicate their absurdity. Mitt Romney, the obvious GOP frontrunner, didn't make the top three. So Bachmann's first-place result should neither console her followers nor distress her adversaries. Quite simply, the Iowa straw poll "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Categories > Elections


Cards On The Table

There has been a lot of comment about the fact that, at the last debate, none of the Republican presidential candidates raised their hands when asked if they would take a deficit reduction deal that was 10 to 1 spending cuts to tax increases.  I think that the best, the very best, budget deal that conservatives can get through our political process is some favorable combination of the Simpson-Bowles Plan on taxes and discretionary spending and the Rivlin-Domenici Plan on health care policy.  This will mean, even in a transformed entitlement system, that we will be paying more for Medicare than is budgeted in the revenue neutral Ryan Path to Prosperity.  That means the government will need more money.  That can be gotten with a tax code that is more pro-growth than the one we have. 

There is a strong case to be made that conservatives should emphasize that entitlement reform and public sector consolidation should be looked at before tax increases, but holding out for not even one more penny of tax money is a good way to make sure that the budget ends up looking more like how Nancy Pelosi wants it than how Paul Ryan wants it.  That doesn't mean I want the Republican presidential candidates to come out for tax increases, but there is something unreal about our discussions of crafting a sustainable budget.  It is of course even worse with President Obama, who has not come close to proposing a plan that would produce a sustainable budget..  There might even be some upside to leveling with the public.

Categories > Politics


The More the Merrier

Rick Perry makes it official: He's running for president.

The best commentary I've yet heard on Perry - and his best endorsement yet - comes from Kevin Williams in NRO:

The guy that NPR executives and the New York Times and your average Subaru-driving Whole Foods shopper were afraid George W. Bush was? Rick Perry is that guy.

Perry's the new kid on the block and has the national microphone for the next few days - let's see what he can do with it.

Categories > Elections


Some Possibly Too Late Advice For Pawlenty

When you go after Bachmann, you shouldn't just go after her failure to influence policy during her time in Congress.  You should go after how she turned her failure into self-promotion even as policy got worse.  This works best if you first set up a vivid narrative of doing the things Bachmann only talks about.  For instance:

"When the Democrats and some Republicans in the state legislature sent me big spending bills, I vetoed then.  And those vetoes stuck.  And spending went down.  When the Democrats shut down the government to get me to agree to higher taxes, I said no.  The government got back to work and taxes stayed the same.  When the transit union struck for higher benefits, we didn't give in. We won one for the taxpayers of Minnesota.  That was real money.  Those were real wins for the taxpayers.  That was real limited government.

"So let's look at what Representative Bachmann did in Washington. She has a press conference.  TARP passes.  She gives some speeches.  The Obama stimulus passes.  She sends out some fundraising letters.  Obamacare passes.  She announces she is running for President and sends out some more fundraising letters.  The debt ceiling raises.  This is a disastrous record for the American people.  Representative Bachmann has gotten herself a lot of television time, but we've added trillions to the deficit.  This is a choice between real limited government where spending goes down, and employment goes up, and show biz limited government where we get big talk as we hurtle towards more and more spending and eventual bankruptcy."  

Yeah, I know it isn't really fair, but it is more connected to reality than Pawlenty's economic growth targets. 

h/t Ramesh Ponnuru, who made the Pawlenty case better than Pawlenty ever has. 

Categories > Politics

Refine & Enlarge

America's Favorable Head-Winds

Blogging on Peter Schramm from the pages of NLT is somewhat akin to voicing an opinion on Lee Iacoca from the floor of a Chrysler plant in the mid-80's. Nevertheless, the man with his fingerprint on our masthead opined this week in the Columbus Dispatch, and his words deserve contemplation.

Ever the contrarian, bating onlookers to defy his logic, Schramm celebrates the messy congressional convulsions most Americans have recently condemned. Bipartisanship is overrated:

The truth is that our Constitution builds in division.... Divisions are built into the Constitution so that the natural divisions that arise in a free regime might become, over time, less willful and more rational. 

If the Framers had wanted a democracy, they wouldn't have formed a constitutional republic of separated powers, limited government and onerous checks on the will of the majority. (Steven Hayward makes a similar point on the implausibility and undesirability of compromise between 1789-minded conservatives and 1960's-minded liberals here.) 

Schramm is a macro political scientist. eschewing the "details" and "logistics" of the debt-ceiling debate, he notes John Boehner's monumental achievement in shifting national attention to "fundamental constitutional questions."

Boehner and his Republican troops have disproved an assumption held by progressives and liberals since the New Deal: that government will always grow in size and scope, that all spending increases are permanent.

Schramm regards the shift in Washington rhetoric "away from the favors government might bestow and to its proper role" as the "most radical change in my lifetime." It's difficult to notice the turning of the Earth at any given moment - though in any 12 hour period, it's as obvious as night and day - but one hopes Schramm's prediction proves astute, and the Boehner compromise heralds a new dawn for self-government.


Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Pop Culture

Weekend Fun

Jack Benny v. Groucho.
Categories > Pop Culture


Oh Perry

Kevin Williamson makes Rick Perry sound like an attractive candidate, at least to conservatives.  Best line: "The guy that NPR executives and the New York Times and your average Subaru-driving Whole Foods shopper were afraid George W. Bush was? Rick Perry is that guy."

I'm sure there's more to the story.  And there's nothing on foreign policy here.

Bonus question: in politically correct America, can the GOP ticket be two white guys?

Categories > Elections

Health Care

Mandating Supreme Court Review

This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives

So reads the majority opinion of a U.S. appeals court decision in Atlanta today, siding with 26 states by ruling unconstitutional Obamacare's individual mandate clause. Interestingly, the court did not overturn Obamacare as a whole, but held the individual mandate severable. This seems contrary to the wording (or omissions) of the law. Nonetheless, the ruling sets up a split on the federal circuit and almost ensures Supreme Court review.

The next Supreme Court term runs from October 2011 - June 2012. Obamacare is thus poised as a key issue for the 2012 election.

Categories > Health Care


Cruel Thoughts

I'm having lunch at the Mad Boar in Wallace, North Carolina. Not bad. Large, Irish-pub-like atmosphere, attractive and competent waitresses serving me a cool glass of Pinor Gris, with a pork stew soup, followed by a whiskey river trout. Second glass of wine, and I'm reading, slower now, reactions to last night's GOP debate. The best is by Scott Johnson at Power Line. Crisp and to the point, even witty when the subject allows it. I agree with his thoughts too bad they have to be cruel.

Categories > Politics


Stray Debate Thoughts

1.  It was a mostly enjoyable debate (if you like that sort of thing - and I do.)  There were some heated exchanges on issues like foreign policy and especially constitutional and policy federalism.

2.  The debate featured almost nothing in the way of talk of entitlement reform or positive health care policy (rather than the grounds and intensity of opposition to Obama's health care policy.)  They also weren't asked questions about it.  There is no sustainable budget without enormous tax increases absent reforms to those partly overlapping sectors and we heard very little about it.

3.  If the Republican nomination race were simply a demagoguery contest, Bachmann would win every state, plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.  Her answers on the debt ceiling were perfectly crafted to hide the consequences of refusing to raise the debt ceiling and thereby having to balance the budget in one year without tax increases. Santorum mentioned the likely consequences one time.  The panelists let her off the hook. 

4. Pawlenty's attacks were feeble.  He still doesn't have a vivid, fact-based narrative of how he brought spending down in Minnesota.  People know that Bachmann fought against this, that and the other thing.  People have, at best, only the vaguest sense of what Pawlenty did in Minnesota and there is no emotional resonance there.  Thanks to Bachmann, people also know (or think they know) that he supported an individual health insurance purchase mandate and implemented cap and trade.  His main argument against Bachmann is that he is a winner and she is a loser.  From what people have been able to see in the debates, the reverse appears to be true.  

5.  As far as I can tell, Bachmann's political skills are limited to those that can appeal to a subgroup of previously committed conservatives, but those skill are impressive within those limits.  I strongly doubt that she can win the nomination, or, if she gets the nomination, the presidency.  I can just barely imagine a scenario where Bachmann gets elected President.  First she wins Iowa and Romney wins New Hampshire.  Perry fades and all the other candidates are marginalized.  Then it comes out that Romney uses puppies for batting practice and Bachmann wins by default.  Then we have a second banking crisis.  Credit is frozen even worse than in 2008, GDP collapses and the unemployment rate starts going up at the rate of 1% a month.  She might still lose to Obama even under those circumstances. 

6.  No one laid a glove on Romney.

7.  Gingrich got back some of his old mojo.  Part of it was he was able to effectively revert to victim politics by positioning himself against the hated gotcha liberal Fox News media that had the temerity to ask him about the management and fundraising problems of his campaign.  Part of was that he actually has a record of getting good policy out of divided government (and then being bounced from power by his own party.)  If he hadn't revealed himself to be a fraud with his cynical attack on the Ryan PTP (and it was the transparent cynicism rather than the attack itself that did him in) people would be talking about him as almost a real contender to get the nomination. 

Categories > Politics


Thoughts and A Bleg

1.Ramesh Ponnuru points out that Obama's job approval ratings have been remarkably resilient given the circumstances and that they have moved within a very narrow range (from the mid 40s to the low 50s) for almost two years now.  Up until now, Obama's Real Clear Politics job approval floor has been 44%.  This week his job approval average has dipped below 44% for several days.  Pretty much every voter who isn't powerfully tied to the Democratic Party (and some who are) are not approving of Obama's job performance.  I haven't seen crosstabs on the most recent polls (including the ones putting his job approval at 41%), but I suspect that his job approval numbers among whites are spectacularly low.  Ponnuru is still right that Republicans should assume that they will need more than just a warm, non-scary body to win in 2012.

2.  Dear People Who Schedule Republican Presidential Debates,

Could you please stop scheduling these debates up against new episodes of World's Dumbest?



Categories > Politics

Political Philosophy

Democracy in Action

The riots in Britain are a case study in democracy run amok.  Consider this post form the Standard:

The issues raised by these riots are generational and cannot be resolved, necessarily, by the government. Traditional structures of authority in the UK have been eroded. Parents have no ability to control their children and instill basic levels of morality and respect. The police--powerless to stop young rioters destroying businesses and private property--have been utterly emasculated. As one officer said, "We can't cope. We have passed breaking point." . . ., The British home secretary, Theresa May, recently announced, before having to backtrack, that the British way was not to enforce the laws. "The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon...the way we police in Britain is through consent of communities," May reportedly said.

Now consider Plato's account of democracy, as reported by John Adams in his Defence of the Constitutions (which I quote because I happen to be reading it lately, and I know exactly where to find it online):

Magistrates who resemble subjects, and subjects who resemble magistrates, are commended and honored, both in public and private; in such a city they of necessity soon go to the highest pitch of liberty, and this inbred anarchy descends into private families. The father resembles the child, and is afraid of his sons. The sons accustom themselves to resemble the father, and neither revere nor stand in awe of their parents. Strangers are equalled with citizens. The teacher fears and flatters the scholars, and the scholars despise their teachers and tutors. The youth resemble the more advanced in years, and rival them in words and deeds. The old men, sitting down with the young, are full of merriment and pleasantry, mimicking the youth, that they may not appear to be morose and despotic. The slaves are no less free than those who purchase them; and wives have a perfect equality and liberty with their husbands, and husbands with their wives. The sum of all these things, collected together, makes the souls of the citizens so delicate, that if any one bring near to them any thing of slavery, they are filled with indignation, and cannot endure it; and at length they regard not the laws, written or unwritten, that no one whatever, by any manner of means, may become their master.


UK Riots And The Sickness Of Certain Elites

The rioting in Britain reminded me of a certain passage in one of Hugo Young's biographies of Thatcher.  I'm not linking for reasons that I hope will become apparent.  This is Young's description and analysis of Thatcher's reaction to a cycle of rioting and looting that occurred during Thatcher's first term.

"'Oh those poor shopkeepers!' she cried, on seeing the first pictures of riot and looting in Toxteth

"A lot of Margaret Thatcher's character is expressed in that single phrase.  It was a perfectly intelligible reaction.  It just wasn't the first response that most people might have made when they saw rioters and police in pitched battle, and watched the disintegration of a run-down city.  Later, seeing looters walking away with armfuls of merchandise, they might [!] have felt for the shopkeepers too.  It was interesting that this should be the first and overriding reaction expressed by the Prime Minister, speaking eloquently for the priorities rooted in the Grantham grocer's shop and the party which, for the first time, had one of nature's shopkeepers at its head." 

Categories > Politics


Congress Must Enforce the Rule of Law

The Obama Administration has shown a contempt for the rule of law time after time since entering the White House. From engaging in an unconstitutional and unauthorized war in Libya to illegally funneling guns to criminal cartels in Central America, from authorizing the assassination of American citizens to issuing health care law waivers, from using drone strikes against individuals in nations we are not at war with to expanding the Bush-era CIA extraordinary rendition programs, President Obama and his Administration continue to only accept a type of law that changes its mode with the mood of his White House. This is a far cry from Candidate Obama's opining in 2007 that there can be "no more ignoring the law when it's convenient. That is not who we are...We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers."

Political convenience, not respect for the rule of law, is what the whims of this White House embrace. This week, the White House announced that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will begin issuing waivers to the ill-conceived and poorly-implemented No Child Left Behind law that would exempt states from certain provisions of the boondoggle. No Child Left Behind is a horrible, horrible law that needs to be scrapped, I do not deny that; but it is the law. Citing the inability of Congress to efficiently edit NCLB and emphasizing "how loud the outcry is for us to do something now", the White House decided to act unilaterally to exempt states from a part of the law foolishly mandating that schools who do not have 100% of their students proficient in state assessments by 2014 be declared to be "failing" institutions.

Convenience and outcry trump legality and separation of powers. This president has time and time again exercised unilateral authority in exerting power and excusing himself from law. Outside of some futile whining, Congress continues to do nothing about it. Peevish schoolboys! They need to grow a backbone and begin reinforcing the rule of law. They need to stop throwing tantrums and then begrudgingly accepting the encroachments on power by the Executive Branch. Separations of power only work if the various branches of government are willing to stand up for themselves.

"No law can force a Congress to stand up to the president. No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as the co-equal branch the Constitution made it."

Then-Senator Barack Obama said that in 2007. Grow a backbone, Congress. Stay on him for the illegal and foolish war in Libya; subpoena his Attorney General for this disgustingly stupid disaster with Operation Fast and Furious; hold the President in contempt for unilaterally suspending parts of the law. Stop griping for a few weeks and then moving on to other issues. If the legislature does not stand up to the executive, we might as well declare that branch of government useless and accept Woodrow Wilson's dream of the unimpeded administrative leviathan. Rein in the President.
Categories > Politics

Quote of the Day

Quotations du Jour

In light of the barbarism in England, a couple of choice quotes from John Adams might be in order, reminding us of how Anglo-American law used to understand the rights of men:

"We talk of liberty and property, but, if we cut up the law of self-defence, we cut up the foundation of both."

Adams also noted that "If a robber meets me in the street, and commands me to surrender my purse, I have a right to kill him without asking questions." 

If only Jack Benny had been carrying . . .

Categories > Quote of the Day

Foreign Affairs

Broken and Sick

Still living in Asian hotels, world news is sporadic - but it seems U.S. economic news has been overtaken by news of British riots. My interest was particularly piqued by mention that the riots had spread to Ealing, my home for a time during grad school. Hardly a hoodlum hang-out, the Ealing Broadway gate serviced the highest concentration of affluent Arab youngsters outside of the Middle East. Discovering whether this demographic was perpetrator or victim of the mob violence would answer several pertinent questions of causality.

Britain's lack of response to domestic terror and urban riots has been as dismaying as it has been expected. Enthrallment to diversity and white-guilt apparently extends as far as thuggery and gangs - who apparently feel their social entitlements extend as far as robbery and looting.

But David Cameron's increasingly militant speeches over the past two days have been refreshing. He refers to the scenes of violence as "despicable," "sickening," "appalling," "criminality, pure and simple," which must be "confronted and defeated." Police forces have been nearly trebled and afforded long-overdue tactical liberties, such as the use of rubber bullets and, potentially, water cannons. Cameron's hesitancy to roll out non-lethal water cannons as Englishmen are being killed is still baffling, but this is, at least, motion in the right direction.

It was heartening to hear Cameron's outright dismissal of "phony concerns about human rights" which liberals are sure to raise when these murderous thugs are arrested and prosecuted. I've long noticed that CCTV only truly offends those who expect to be on the receiving end of a prosecution charge at some point in their life, whereas law-abiding folk recognize that it is an indispensible law-enforcement tool.  

Also encouraging is Cameron's rhetoric and frank assessment of the reasons for the riots. 

There has been a lack of focus on the complete lack of respect shown by these thugs. There are pockets of our society that are frankly not just broken but also sick. 

Cameron claimed the problem was "as much a moral problem as a political problem," repeatedly citing the looters' "irresponsibility," and leveled blame at the undisciplined British school system and a broken welfare system. 

The sight of those young people running down streets, looting, laughing as they go, is a complete lack of responsibility - a lack of proper parenting, proper upbringing, proper ethics, proper morals - that is what we need to change.

Strong words for an increasingly thin-skinned electorate which, as Cameron identifies, prefers to blame society for their own irresponsibility. Most reports identify the rioters as belonging to immigrant communities, poignantly illustrating Cameron's previous assertion that British multiculturalism has failed

It has widely been conceded that European nations have devolved into nanny states, producing dependants rather than citizens. Britain should now fully appreciate that a bit of Old Testament paternal virtue is sorely needed. These youngsters desperately need to be taken out to the woodshed for a lesson in civility.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Uncovering Newsweek Covers

Newsweek's cover photo of Michele Bachmann--see others here--continues a practice going back at least to their1964 cover of Barry Goldwater.   For much of the left, religious fervor and fascist rallies are one and the same phenomenon.  Responsible journalism attempts to educate readers to this underlying truth.
Categories > Politics


Obama and the media

As this New York Times editorial and this Dana Milbank op-ed reveal, President Obama is losing the authority the liberal media once gave him.  I have watched much more TV news during the last week or two than I care to admit to, but it turned out to be useful, for I see something I hadn't seen before, or only saw glimpses of: He is losing his base of support in the liberal media. His supporters overestimated his capacities, his intellect, his judgment, his rhetorical abilities, and they are now wondering what to say, where to go with this unpleasant insight.  The straw that broke the camel's back was the amazingly inartful talk he gave as the markets continued plunging, ignoring him altogether.  Everyone is admitting that it was a very bad speech, and a revealing one.  Where we go from here is an open question (challengers in the primaries?), but that it is a new and unhappy world for this White House is a certainty.  You can see it in the media's eyes, you can feel the regret in their once braying voices.
Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

"Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit"

In light of the London violence, Kevin Kosar (a frequent Weekly Standard contributor) reminds us of the late political scientist Edward Banfield's sly--and revealing--comment on urban riots.  It's not a lack of government spending, discrimination, poverty, etc.  Often young men riot because it's fun to do:

Often, though, people riot "mainly for fun and profit," as Banfield put it in The Unheavenly City. Riots, as he reminded us, have been around as long as there have been cities. "In Pittsburgh in 1809 an editor proposed satirically that the city establish a 'conflagration fund' from which to buy twelve houses, one to be burned each month in civil celebration."

Kosar concludes, "[O]ne sure accelerant to riots present and future, Banfield explained, is the widespread belief that one can get away with it."  RTWT for clear thinking and illuminating links.  Kosar's website, covering higher education, reviews, Banfieldiana, and whiskey, can be found  here

Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Times They Are a Changin'

Walter Russell Mead, who seems to have become a blogging superstar lately, has a long, interesting reflection on the phenomenon of "flash mobs" and not of the amusing kind.  He connects the problem with other social trends, and concludes that it is yet another way that the Progressive consensus is failing.  He notes the:

Growing public perception that sixties liberalism doesn't work undermines the consensus for sixties racial as well as immigration and economic policy.

The trouble is that the Progressive branch of liberalism cannot function without the myth that there is a consensus about what comes next.  Without agreement that things must move in a particular direction, a living constitution cannot function. 

Not long ago, Secretary of State Clinton described piracy as a "17th century problem."  Mrs. Clinton noted that we still have piracy today, and was pointing to what she regarded as an anomaly.  Aristotle, of course, said that piracy is one of the five natural ways by which men put bread on their table. By that, I take him to be saying that there always will be pirates among us.  The idea that certain ideas, habits, customs, ways of life, moral beliefs, etc. belong to certain ages is not natural. It is a particular idea.  That idea might be under stress, too. As Mead notes in another recent post:

For two generations markets have mostly thought of risk in terms of tame risk: the risk that an asset might lose some of its value, the risk that a particular counterparty might not fulfill its side of a transaction.  But now we are back to the world of real risk or wild risk: the risk that a currency might disappear, the risk that a major government (as opposed to the occasional banana republic) might default on its debts, the risk that a financial crisis could erupt and that no government, no central bank could limit its scope or temper its impact.

After the Berlin Wall fell Jesus Jones sang that we were "watching the world wake up from history."  Perhaps we're seeing the end of History in Hegel's sense, and the return of history, in the classic sense.  Perhaps the change is not so dramatic.  Ever since Adams and Jefferson began their argument, the American mind (if there be such) has been torn on this question.  Ending the debate might have serious consequences.

Categories > History


Arresting Critics

The Italian government, increasingly seeming like it will break beneath the burden of its enormous debt contagion, raided the offices of the Moody's and Standard and Poor's credit rating agencies in Milan. Thinking that it cannot be entirely the fault of the government for the dire situation infecting the Eurozone, the authorities claimed they were just making sure that the credit rating agencies were abiding by regulations. Italy has joined the rest of Europe in criticizing S&P for daring to downgrade the rating of such beacons of fiscal sanity as Greece. After S&P warned the Italian government that it would lower its rating if it did not get its debt figured out, the government launched an investigation of the agency-- and expanded its investigation after S&P criticized the austerity measures passed by the government last month. Of course, we would not just round up and arrest rating agencies for their criticisms of government policy over here in America. They only arrest government critics in places like Burma. Unless, of course, Michael Moore has his way.

Michael Moore, the overhyped and hyperactive documentarian, called on President Obama to "show some guts" and arrest the head of S&P for lowering the country's credit rating, ruining the economy in 2008, and being friends with the Bush family (the most grievous offense one can commit in Mooreland). Praising the actions of the Italian government, he referred to S&P as a bunch of criminals who started the recession in 2008 and said we must toss them in jail before their cause another recession.

While individuals do put way too much faith and power in the opinions of the credit rating agencies, throwing them in jail for saying things like "if the government is too laden in debt it may have dire consequences" is not a logical conclusion. However, all logical conclusions point towards the progressive dream of the administrative leviathan being dangerous and unfeasible. With their ideology now so completely shaken and leading to disastrous consequences, it makes sense that they would instantly react the same way other sinking ideologues have in the past-- arrest the critics, blame them for everything, and pretend everything will be better now. The more desperate they get, the more it proves the weakness of their position.
Categories > Economy


Hollywood's Race to the Bottom

The diversity racket in action:

For those unfamiliar with TV staffing, the networks have initiatives that require most shows to set aside one staff position for a writer of diverse descent. The diversity hire is often the only writer on staff whose salary does not come out of the show's budget, but is paid by the network . . .

Here is what mostly happened: My agent pitched me on the phone as a diversity candidate, but once at the meetings my appearance confused people.

"Your father must be very light-skinned," one executive said.

When I told another that my paternal grandparents were interracially married in the 1940s, having met as founding members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), she said, "So really, you are only a quarter black. You have more white blood than black blood."

Good to see that Hollywood rejects the one drop rule.

Categories > Race



Michele Bachmann has called on the President to propose enough cuts to balance the budget for this year.  Okay.  Representative Bachmann voted for the Ryan budget, which cut 111 billion from the 2012 federal budget.  The 2012 Ryan budget resolution Bachmann voted for still had a 995 billion dollar deficit.  I would love to see the 995 billion dollars of cuts Bachmann wants in order to balance next year's Ryan budget without any tax increases.  Here are some of the Ryan budget's numbers to play with (in billions and please forgive the formatting):

Security                                                                            683

Global War on Terror                                                       118

Non-Security                                                                     485

Medicaid                                                                           259

Medicare                                                                           560

Social Security                                                                   760

Other Mandatory                                                               408

Net Interest                                                                       256

Bachmann is on record as wanting to "stay the course" in Afghanistan (and good for her), so there isn't much chance for savings in the 118 billion dollar GWOT category.  To be fair, Bachmann didn't call on herself to propose enough cuts to balance the budget in one year without any tax increases.  So it isn't like she is a hypocrite.

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Shi Lang

As Peter draws attention to below, the maritime rise of China is causing concern among its neighbors, particularly Japan. For the first time China has officially admitted that it is adding an aircraft carrier to its fleet, retrofitting an old Soviet carrier while "secretly" constructing two new carriers itself (they have not yet officially admitted to building new ones). This is understandably causing jitters among its neighbors, and many of them are increasing their own defense budgets in the wake of the Chinese military build-up. This is because of territorial disputes that China has with all of its neighbors. In fact, some maps in Chinese school textbooks include as Chinese portions of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Burma, Bhutan, Russia, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Brunei, Indonesia, and most of Mongolia. The claims they make that are most volatile at the moment are their maritime claims, which include waters claimed by Japan and much of southeast Asia.
Another big issue is Taiwan, which the Chinese are still very feisty about. Historically, whenever the United States placed its ships close to China to protect Taiwan, the most that China could do is issue a complaint. Now, the Chinese will be able to flex muscle and send out its own ships-- Taiwan will not enjoy the same protection that it has in the past, nor will China's maritime neighbors be as able to maintain their protests against the Chinese territorial claims. While the strength of China's fleet should not be overstated--the United States still has more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined, including all of the biggest ones with bigger ones being built--geopolitically this is going to really shift the balance of power in southeast Asia. It should not be seen as a threat to the United States, but our grand strategy must adjust to account for this.
The United States should join China's neighbors in not buying into the claims that their new aircraft carrier is purely for research and training purposes, and watch the developments with a cautious eye. The aircraft carrier is called the Shi Lang, named in honor of the Ming-Qing admiral who conquered Taiwan. The island should certainly be concerned, and so should we. The Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter wrote a book in 2005 on how the Taiwan situation could still explode into a larger conflict, and recommended that, in light of growing Chinese superiority in the region, we adopt a more prudent position in regards to the Taiwan issue in particular-- and gives some worthwhile examples on how to handle the delicate situation. To ignore the problem while maintaining current positioning could be disastrous. With the geopolitical reshuffling in southeast Asia, we need to move beyond pure military deterrence and begin using other tools at our disposal to help our friends in the region and keep the Shi Langs of China at bay. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Aristocracy in America

New York's Democratic machine, where the powers that be decide who is "entitled" to serve in the state legislature.  "Democratic" party, indeed!
Categories > Elections


Take a Hike . . .

Tax hikes conservatives can support, according to Glenn Reynolds:

One of the things that's been floating around the Web over the past week is a video clip from 1953. . . . seeking the end of a 20 percent excise tax on movie theaters' gross revenues that had been imposed at the end of World War II as a deficit-cutting measure. (Yes, gross, not net).

In the film, figures ranging from industry big shots to humble ticket collectors talk about how the tax is hurting their industry and killing jobs, and ask Congress to repeal the tax. [Which Congress did] . . .

Were I a Republican senator or representative, I would be agitating to repeal the "Eisenhower tax cut" on the movie industry and restore the excise tax. . . .

I'd also look at the tax and accounting treatment of these industries to see if they were taking advantage of any special "loopholes" that could be closed as a means of reducing "tax expenditures." (Answer: Yes, they are.)

Professor Reynolds also notes that government employees often get a big salary bump when they go to work for the very industries they have been busy regulating, (or writing regulations for):

Because much of their value to their employers comes from their prior government service, I think that the taxpayers deserve a share of the return, say in the form of a 50 percent surtax on any earnings by political appointees in excess of their prior government salaries for the first five years after they leave office.

If memory serves, he has elsewhere suggested a windfall profits tax on lawyers in class action settlemnts.

I'm sure we can come up with some other taxes that conservaties might support.

Categories > Politics


Reactions to the Credit Downgrade

Standard & Poor's officially took away their AAA credit rating for the United States yesterday. Anticipation of this likely was the cause of the large drop in the market on Friday, and when markets reopen on Monday there will likely be another drop. Growing fears that the United States recession is about to take a downturn and be worse than before, on top of the Euro crisis, are making people jittery. The Eurozone crisis is making people even more upset than before because Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has ruled out calling for early elections to get him out of office and allow a new government to solve their debt debacle. All in all, though, I don't think any of the reactions to the credit downgrading were all that surprising.

China: A lot of saber-rattling about changing the world reserve currency away from the dollar and telling the USA that it is fiscally insane, all-the-while ignoring their own impending crisis. "China, the largest creditor to the world's sole superpower, has every right to demand the United States address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets," said the Chinese government. I think there was something tongue-in-cheek on the superpower comment. China also said that the United States needs to stop letting its domestic electoral politics hold the global economy hostage. The U.S. government ought to have responded with something nice about liberty and rights and politics and such, but President Obama seems to agree with China's view on government administration.

President Obama: The president is, true to form, standing behind a microphone and blaming partisanship in Congress for the credit downgrading. "Both parties have to work together on a larger plan plan to get our nation's finances in order." Too bad the Democrats insisted that there be no further discussion of the debt ceiling until after the 2012 elections.

Secretary Geithner: The Secretary of the Treasury is mulling quitting his job as some conservatives demand his resignation for things like saying in April that there is "no risk" at all of a credit downgrade. The Treasury, for its part, is officially disputing the logic behind the downgrade. Okay. Good luck with that.

GOP Candidates: A lot of blaming Obama for everything and not making any suggestions on how to solve our debt problem other than the typical vague talking points.

Europe: British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy all happen to simultaneously be on vacation this weekend. Really. That's Europe for you.

Friends: Japan, South Korea, and Australia all said everyone else is overreacting, they're keeping an eye on the situation, and economic cooperation between nations should remain strong right now. Australia was also quick to point out that the other two international credit rating agencies still have the United States at AAA.

All-in-all, I'm with Australia and Japan on this one insofar as people are overreacting to the downgrade and placing too much importance on what S&P thinks of the United States. As hypocritical as the Chinese complaints are, they have very good points about the United States reaching a point where we must realize we cannot borrow our way out of problems anymore. Additionally, ignoring the plunge in the stock market for a moment, the bond markets in the United States and Europe are offering far more cause for concern. But our government, despite this tumult surrounding us, will not sit down and figure out a way to solve the problem. As Pete points out below, we need a new person in the White House if there is to be any hope of averting disaster, and whoever that person is needs to be able to have a conversation with the American public about why we need true reform.
Categories > Economy



I would second Ken's praise of the sage Sage especially in this one respect: there is very little chance that the forthcoming super committee will produce a deal that will be the framework for a long-term left/right compromise in crafting a sustainable budget  If the differences between the two parties were the differences between Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell on the Republican side and Erskine Bowles and Alice Rivlin on the Democratic side, then a long-term and fairly stable compromise would probably be in sight.  The problem is that Rivlin and Bowles don't anchor the Democratic side of the debate at the national level. The Democratic side is best understood by looking at the policy implications of President Obama's speech in response to the Ryan budget.  The implications of Obama's approach are broadly higher taxes (unarticulated, but implicit in his domestic discretionary spending and Social Security policy postures) and centralized bureaucratically administered Medicare cuts.  I see no reason to believe that President Obama is, on these matters, to the left of his party's House or Senate leadership  

This means that any deal that comes out of the super committee is going to be some kind of short-term tactical maneuvering or else be rejected by one or both sides. The Democrats will come around to a deal that conservatives can somewhat stomach under two scenarios.  First, if the political environment is such that agreeing to some slightly watered down version of the Republican policy agenda is their best chance for political survival (which is to say that Republicans have won the argument on spending levels and the restructuring of entitlements.)  There is no reason for the Democrats to believe that the Republicans have won the argument on those issues.  Second, Obama and the Democrats get blamed for some national and/or international calamity that allows the Republicans to back into control of the presidency and working control of both houses of Congress thereby allowing them to unilaterally enact the Ryan agenda.  This is a possible outcome, but one that is deeply irresponsible to bet on. 

It also happens that there isn't a lot of time for the Good Luck Fairy to come to the rescue of the Republicans.  Douglas Holtz-Eakin is explaining to anyone who will listen that we are headed for a fiscal crisis within the decade.  If we wait until the crisis is upon us, then the choices are going to be brutal.  It is easier to quickly raise taxes than to responsibly reduce entitlement programs aimed at the elderly.  It is easier to quickly get bureaucrats to deny services than to introduce market-oriented innovation into Medicare. And we are running out of time.  The closer we get to the crisis, the harder it will be to avoid Bernie Sanders(ish) policies of taxation and entitlement reform. A reelected President Obama, having no hope or fear of facing the voters again, would not be someone the congressional Republican leaders should want to deal with in case of a fiscal crisis in late 2013. 

That means that the Sage is right on the most important thing.  We have to beat'em.  That means a different President.  It is only prudent that Republicans assume that they will only win if they earn it.  That being the case, it also means that the Republican candidate would ideally be one who can explain right-leaning reforms that would lead to a sustainable budget while reassuring the voters that they are competent and responsible enough to see those reforms through in a humane way.  

Run Bobby Run.  

Categories > Politics


Silver-Haired Heroes of the Sky

I draw your attention to this piece on the famous Tuskegee Airmen, a name given to the 15,000 African Americans who broke the barriers of color and gravity in service to their country during the Second World War. These old warriors now number just over a hundred, move a little slower than they did in battle seventy years ago, and are a little harder of hearing, but they still stand proud at their annual gathering to remember lost comrades and their days in the sky. Good for them, and good for us.
Categories > Military


Separating the Liberal Sheep from the Hardy Goats

I kind of like the goats, especially those on the Sage of Mt. Airy's farm, where I blog from today.  The Sage dissects  Dr. Charles Krauthammer (a former Hubert Humphrey speechwriter, btw) on the debt deal. 

To begin, removing "loopholes" has only lately, and conveniently, become a demand of the American Left.  The fact is, various loopholes, alongside a progressive income tax scheme with multiple and increasing marginal rates have historically been the bedrock of liberal tax policy....

With all due respect to Dr. Krauthammer, the only sure solution to the debt crisis is the very real prospect of electoral defeat by the Democrats, not contracting clever deals with them.

RTWT.  And scroll down to read the Sage beating up on many conservatives who caved to liberals and shunned the Tea Party on the debt negotiations.

Categories > Congress


The Latest in Food Regulation

"The Obama administration is after your Lucky Charms, or at least your children's":

Put forward by an interagency working group, the guidelines will establish nutritional standards that most cereals flunk--and not just those of the "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs" variety. Corn Flakes will not be advertisable to children, along with Raisin Bran, Special K, Rice Krispies, and Wheaties. Plain Cheerios squeak by the proposed 2016 rules but fall foul of the "ultimate goal" for sodium effective in 2021. 

While cereals are the most obvious targets of the guidelines, all foods marketed to children will have to meet the proposed nutritional standards. Many don't. Peanut butter (both smooth and crunchy) has too much saturated fat. Jelly has too much sugar. Forget about apple-cinnamon instant oatmeal and Mott's apple sauce.

My sense is that we're getting close to a tipping point with these kinds of regulations.  One of the things that energizes the tea party, Bill notes below, is that Americans are getting tired of being told what to do in all kinds of small ways.  Speaking of hope and change . . .

Categories > Progressivism


One Solution? Let's Prohibit People From Voting if Their SAT Scores are Lower Than Jacob Weisberg's

Even for those conservatives who are not unreservedly pro-Tea Party, it gets ever easier to be anti-anti-Tea Party.  The latest evidence that the Tea Party is fortunate in its detractors comes from Slate's Jacob Weisberg.  The culmination of his Krugmanic argument that wise and necessary economic policies are being thwarted by troglodytes is the assertion "that there's no point trying to explain complicated matters to the American people."  Weisberg doesn't explain how he arrives at this doleful conclusion, apparently feeling he would be wasting keystrokes trying to lay out the bitter truth for readers so dim they haven't already grasped it.  The core problem, apparently, is that complicated matters are, well, complicated and the American people are, well, simple.

Given the entire rhetorical cast of his article, which never admits the possibility that the complex choices before our republic are ones about which decent and reasonable people can disagree, there's every reason to believe that what qualifies as successfully explaining complicated matters to the American people, in Weisberg's mind, is getting a large majority of them to assent to Weisberg's policy preferences.  The healthy thing for a small-d democrat to do after a political defeat or disappointment is to commit new energies and arguments to the task of persuading his fellow-citizens to adopt his viewpoint.  Weisberg is having none of that.  If the American people don't agree with him it's because they're stupid, and our experiment in self-government cannot possibly survive such stupidity.  We are, instead, doomed to a slow, "excruciating form of self-destruction."

Weisberg's article is the latest attack on the Tea Party that inadvertently clarifies why there is a Tea Party.  As Walter Russell Mead argued this week, it's "impossible to grasp the crisis of the progressive enterprise unless one grasps the degree to which voters resent the condescension and arrogance of know-it-all progressive intellectuals and administrators....  The fight for limited government that animates so many Americans today ... is a fight to break the power of a credentialed elite that believe themselves entitled by talent and hard work to a greater say in the nation's affairs than people who scored lower on standardized tests and studied business administration in cheap colleges rather than political science in expensive ones."

Or, as another observer wrote last year, "Our new meritocratic masters have been more conspicuously smart than wise. They know a lot, but don't know what they don't know.... Their expectation that the rest of us will be deferential to their expertise, like citizens of European nations that are social but not especially political democracies, has triggered the Tea Party backlash, and the resurgence of the 'Don't Tread on Me' spirit."

The problem is not that it's impossible to explain complicated matters to the American people. It's that the people who have been making the explanations don't seem to understand the complexities quite as thoroughly as they imagine: "A leadership class that actually improved ordinary Americans' security and opportunities would be forgiven condescension ... It's when the people running the country are both disrespectful and ineffectual that folks get angry."  For example, well-educated and utterly self-confident elected officials told us, over and over, that a key part of their economic recovery plans was for the federal government to devote billions of borrowed dollars to "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, only to admit a year later that "shovel-ready" is more of a punchline than a program.

The American people can be forgiven for tuning out such leaders.  It's not because they use big words or complicated equations.  It's because, despite the words and equations, they don't really seem to know what they're talking about.  It's not a complicated phenomenon.  Perhaps someday even Jacob Weisberg will comprehend it.
Categories > Progressivism

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Adam Zagajewski

I can't tell you much about this poet, save that he's Polish, teaches in U.S., he is translated; and I just started reading him.  I like him, and there is more on him here, with a couple more poems (I like "Great Ships" especially).

This one is called, "Mute City."

Imagine a dark city.
It understands nothing. Silence reigns.
And in the quiet bats like Ionian philosophers
make sudden, radical decisions in mid-flight,
filling us with admiration.
Mute city. Blanketed in clouds.
Nothing is known yet. Nothing.
Sharp lightning cleaves the night.
Priests, Catholic and Orthodox alike, rush to shroud
their windows in deep blue velvet,
but we go out
to hear the rain's rustle
and the dawn. Dawn always tells us something,


How to Beat a Recession

Coolidge style, Charles Johnson notes:

Like the current administration, the Harding-Coolidge administration faced a tough recession from 1919-1921. But unlike the current administration, the Harding-Coolidge and Coolidge-Dawes administrations cut taxes, balanced budgets and slashed government spending, reducing federal debt by over a third in a decade.

The economy grew, averaging just over 7% from 1924 to 1929, the years of his presidency. So did Coolidge's popularity. He was so popular that even during the Great Depression's height song-writer Cole Porter compared his lover to the "Coolidge dollar."

Coolidge also saw how government efforts to help often did nothing of the sort:

For Coolidge, then, fiscal matters were a moral question that tested the founding-era premise that free people can govern themselves. He encouraged Americans to "begin to work and save," in good and bad times. Only "our productive capacity," he told Depression-era readers in his autobiography, published in 1929, "is sufficient to maintain us all in a state of prosperity if we give sufficient attention to thrift and industry."

That productive capacity, Coolidge knew, was sapped by the spendthrift--he called it "socialistic"--notions of government that sought to be all things to all people. Coolidge, making note of federal farm subsidies and flood insurance, criticized the thinking of "expect[ing] the government in some miraculous way to save us from the consequences of our own acts."

Categories > Conservatism


Gas Prices Still Rising

Despite President Obama's decision to tap into our strategic petroleum reserves, which I took issue with here and in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago, the price of gas has continued to rise. On June 23rd, when the president made this decision, the average price of gas was $3.61 a gallon for regular unleaded. Today the nationwide average is $3.70 a gallon. Meanwhile, one-third of our offshore drilling fleet has left the Gulf of Mexico since President Obama issued a moratorium on drilling and there are over 70% fewer drilling permits being given today than in previous years. The administration's misguided energy policies have depleted our emergency reserves and caused the price of fuel to increase, and they need to change.
Categories > Economy



So I was watching some of the 3:00 PM MSNBC show.  The host summed up the over-the top Maureen Dowd column where she compared Tea Party supporters to cannibals, vampires, zombies, and he chest bursters from Alien.  There was actually something that was worth talking about in the column.  It was the part where Dowd quotes Jason Zinoman as saying "The monster has traditionally been a stand-in for some anxiety, political, social, or cultural." That is a pretty good jumping off point for talking about how liberal attempts to demonize and dehumanize Tea Party supporters (terrorists, vampires etc.) says a lot about how many on the left-of-center hate and fear the thought of a determined, democratic opposition that uses peaceful, constitutional means. 

So the MSNBC host brought on a guest and they proceeded to describe Tea Party supporters as delusional and psychotic and compared them to addicts and the Norway mass murdering terrorist.  All in the name of rationality of course.   

Categories > Politics


The Liberal Job Killing Machine

Remember the Spotted Owl? Apparently, not only are our efforts to save it failing miserably, . . .  (subscriber link only):

The truth is that no one fully understands why the spotted owl continues to decline. The rise of the barred owl poses an unexpected, but not surprising, complication. If the natural world would just remain static, species preservation and ecological management would be far simpler. But Mother Nature relishes competition, and the barred owl is a fierce competitor. Are we really prepared to send armed federal agents into Northwest forests in search of barred owls?

But also, those failed effofts also cost many many jobs?

In the 1980s, before the owl was listed as threatened, nearly 200 sawmills dotted the state of Oregon, churning out eight billion board feet of federal timber a year. Today fewer than 80 mills process only 600 million board feet of federal timber. In Douglas County, for example, several mills dependent on federal timber have closed. Real unemployment in many Oregon counties exceeds 20%, double the national average.

Your tax dollars hard at work.

More evidence that a regulatory holiday would be a good way to get the economy moving.

Categories > Environment


If You Can't Stand the Heat . . .

After Vice President Biden compard the Tea Party to "terrorists," and various members of the Left has used similarly strong language.  In light of Lefty calls for "civility" in our discourse, many conservatives are having fun pointing out the hypocrisy of the Left. Pete Wehner, for example, has a little fun:

I don't know about you, but it's not quite clear to me how accusing one's (law-abiding) fellow citizens of being terrorists and part of the "Hezbollah faction of the GOP" helps us to heal and sharpens our instincts for empathy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say those words are meant to wound. You might even conclude from what liberals are saying the Tea Party Movement is comprised of people who aren't simply wrong but who don't love their country.

Moe Lane suggests that "liberals are in deep, deep denial about their own incivility issues," pointing, in particular to a New York Times column complaining about the recent debt deal:

"Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them." He adds: "Much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people." These "intransigent" spending cutters were indifferent to "blowing up the country" in pursuit of their goals.

I would suggest that what we really have here is a teachable moment.  Liberals may be in denial, but that's nothing new.  The Left is in deep denial about human nature.  Contention, in most cases, is not a problem; it is a sign of a healty polity. When we are arguing about serious things, we inevitably will use heated language.  A friend of mine likes to joke that Americans don't need sensitivity training. On the contrary, he says, we need "insensitivity training." We need to accept that life can be difficult, that tempers can flare, and that sometimes we use heated rhetoric. 

Civility has its place, but so do polemics. The issue isn't Lefty hypocrisy; it is Lefty utopianism.

Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

Japan and China

A short news story in today's Wall Street Journal is worth noting: "Japan intensified its rhetoric against China's military, accusing Beijing for the first time of "assertiveness" and saying it needs to keep a closer watch on how China views the contested waters between the two countries."  Also note that China is supposed to launch its first aircraft carrier this month.  Also more here on the maritime rise of China.  When clouds are seen, wise men put on their cloaks....
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Everyone Needs a Hobby

Or so the saying goes. In Sweden, 31-year-old Rich Handl is currently under arrest because his hobby was attempting to build a nuclear reactor on his kitchen stove. An inquisitive scholar, he was storing radioactive chemicals like uranium at home because he wanted to see if it was possible to split an atom in his kitchen. He blogged about his experimentations. Finally, sometime after he experienced a nuclear meltdown on top of his stove, he began to question if what he was doing was considered legal or not, and called Sweden's nuclear authorities to clarify things, and they immediately sent the police to fetch him and the nuclear materials. If convicted, he may spend two years in prison. For his part, Handl now says that it was probably not a good idea to create a nuclear reactor in his kitchen and that in the future he'll stick to theory.

If you're geeky but not so geeky enough to want to build a nuclear reactor in between cooking meals, your hobby may be to boldly go where no man has gone before (except Indiana Jones). Perhaps to the far-flung seaside town of Aqaba in Jordan. Not, of course, to see the ancient city of Petra-- but to see the city of the future that Jordanian King Abdullah II is helping build. The king is heading a project to create a full-fledged Star Trek theme park at the new Red Sea Astrarium resort being built in Aqaba. If you can't make the trip to the Middle East any time soon, you can settle with a mere Star Trek exhibit in Florida. I'll get excited when there is a Star Wars theme park.
Categories > Leisure


China's Cyber Dominance

China learned much earlier than the United States of the importance that the Internet and cybertechnology will play and is playing in global power politics. For years hackers originating from China have been able to infiltrate many of our government and corporate servers and steal information from them. Now, the security firm McAfee has reported the largest cyber-spying ring in history, and has indicated that it is not a single group behind it but a state actor. 72 corporations, governments, and inter-governmental organizations have been infiltrated, from the Associated Press to the United Nations to the International Olympic Committee to various U.S. defense firms. The intruders were after data on sensitive U.S. military systems, satellite technology, natural gas companies, electronics, and more. Associated Press reporters covering China received emails with malicious links that compromised their entire systems. McAfee called it "a massive transfer of wealth in intellectual property that is unprecedented in history."

While McAfee would not confirm who was behind the spying, most analysts agree that it was China. They are really the only non-Western nation, outside of Russia, that has the ability to pull off these attacks-- and the information they were going after was not the type of information that Russia usually bothers with insofar as it was mostly corporate and technological secrets that they wanted, and targets included a lot of entities that China is unhappy with, namely Taiwan and the press. The United States and the United Kingdom might have the ability to perform such infiltrations, but it is unlikely that we would be spying on ourselves. We obviously have tremendous computer talent here in the West, much of which is unfortunately targeted at the United States right now-- perhaps it would be good to figure out a way to turn their sights to the East, and try to regain some ground in the realm of cyberwarfare, a realm where we are surely being outmatched by the Chinese.
Categories > Technology


God's Blog

Divine comedy from Paul Simms in The New Yorker.

UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I've come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I've done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.

Comments follow.

Categories > History

Ashbrook Center


"No Left Turns," in Hangul (Korean).

I'm taking a driving test tomorrow. My cultural pain is your educational gain. NLT is a global force!

Categories > Ashbrook Center


Tea Party Constitutionalism

My esteemed colleague Pete, on the debt fracas, below: "the whole controversy was ugly and at most minimally productive."  To the contrary, I think this was the most important constitutional debate in memory (other than Obamacare, though I admit I am getting old and forgetful).  I wonder whether the Tea Party critics have ever purchased a car.  Do they pay the sticker price?  They used the power they had to educate the people on our disastrous situation.  Would the public be more aware of the crisis had a routine raise been voted through?

My high esteem for Senator Coburn has increased.  He exposed Grover Norquist's odd accounting on what constitutes a tax increase:  Cutting a subsidy (ethanol) would be a tax increase, in Norquist's view.  If that's the case, then reform without a tax increase is impossible.  To be fair, a cut in the subsidy would hurt the industry being subsidized and cost jobs, etc.  The press coverage of the new law emphasizes the temporary harm to the economy, caused by a cut in public spending, though the reforms will have a good long-term effect. 

As with Obamacare, the debt ceiling bill exposed Washington's ways.  What shocks us about Washington procedure is in fact routine.  Congress passes laws that no one reads through and that grant the real law-making power to bureaucracies.  That is the problem.  That is what the Tea Party, for whatever naievete it exhibits, has exposed:  Our routines are rotten.

Categories > Congress


Romney and Associates

Lawyers for Romney include Judge Bork, Mary Ann Glendon, Lee Casey, David Rivkin, Gary McDowell (actually not a J.D. lawyer), Wendy Long, Jeffrey Rosen--huh, Jeff Rosen!?--and many other legal luminaries beloved of Beltway conservatives. 

Categories > Politics


Tactics And Strategery

I'm glad there was a debt ceiling deal and that the federal government didn't face a funding crisis, but the whole controversy was ugly and at most minimally productive.  Watching the fury and wailing on MSNBC made me feel better for a moment, but...

All that political friction, intra-Republican fighting, going to the edge of disaster, and we got one trillion dollars of back loaded cuts to discretionary spending and some cuts to be named later.  And we still haven't come close to dealing with the real health care and entitlement-related drivers of our unsustainable budget deficits.  It reminds me of the nominally center-right Karamanlis government in Greece.  It was in power from 2004-2009.  The Karamanlis government would announce a policy to incrementally liberalize some tiny corner of the labor market or to privatize this or that.  There would be protests and carrying on.  Sometimes the Karamanlis government would back down and sometimes it wouldn't.  The Greek state and economy continued heading for the rocks at the same speed.  The fights the Greek center-right took on were the best sign that neither the politicians, nor the public were willing to tackle real issues. 

Comparisons shouldn't be pressed too far.  Most conservative Republicans are much more serious about producing a sustainable level of government spending and a competitive economy than was the last center-right Greek government.  But they are making a similar strategic mistake.  The long-term structure of government spending is almost as important as the level of spending.  Winning public opinion battles now and implementing incremental changes in the next several years is more important than the size of spending cuts enacted for this year or next. 

How we cut is just as important (politically even more important) that how much we cut.  The potential across-the-board Medicare provider cuts in the new agreement are stupid as policy and unsustainable as politics.  As Reihan Salam points out, " winning deep cuts in FY 2012, which really could be destimulative, isn't nearly as important as getting buy-in on some version of premium support from grassroots conservatives, moderates, and elected Democrats" I would extend the point to include changes to the health care sector in general rather than just Medicare.

But how to do that?  First, let's start from where we are.  The structure of the provider cuts in the debt ceiling agreement, along with the Medicare cuts in Obamacare, along with IPAB should be on the lips of everybody on the center-right.  This is what Medicare in an Obama second term will look like.  It will be some combination of meat cleaver program cuts drawn up by politicians in midnight meetings and denials of care managed by unaccountable bureaucrats.  And as Obamacare unravels the private insurance market, we can expect most Democrats to try to move Americans into a Medicare-like system for everybody.  That is a Mediscare I can get behind. 

We also need a plan of our own.  Salam likes Domenici-Rivlin.  I like Capretta-Miller.  The Ryan Plan in the PTP isn't quite good enough as either policy or politics.  It probably doesn't budget enough money for Medicare, and outright ending the FFS program for future retirees is both too scary for marginal voters and might not even be ideal policy in some circumstances (like rural areas.)

We also need to incrementally move the ball on health care for the under-65 crowd.  One way to do so would be to form alliances with state and municipal-level elected officials to let them enroll their employees in Indiana-style HSA/catastrophic health care plans.  This could save state and local governments (and taxpayers) money while increasing the take home pay of their workers and increasing the constituency form market-oriented health care reform.  That kind of regulatory change would be worth twice as much as this week's debt ceiling deal.  

Conservatives are right to be unhappy with the debt ceiling deal, but the problem isn't that it didn't cut enough.  The problem isn't that the House Republicans weren't willing to jump into a government funding crisis in order to insist on a balanced budget amendment that wasn't going to happen.  The problem was that we weren't even arguing about the kinds of programmatic changes that we need and that there is no consensus for those kinds of change in either the Congress (what with Democratic control of the Senate), the White House or the country.  Getting that consensus is the political challenge of our time.  

Categories > Politics


Presented Without Comment

"What has been really striking has been the eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P., coming not from some radical fringe but from the party's leaders. John Boehner, the House minority leader, declared that the passage of health reform was "Armageddon." The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the committee's chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on "the firing line." And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.

All of this goes far beyond politics as usual. Democrats had a lot of harsh things to say about former President George W. Bush -- but you'll search in vain for anything comparably menacing, anything that even hinted at an appeal to violence, from members of Congress, let alone senior party officials." Paul Krugman

"They have acted like terrorists."  Joe Biden

Categories > Politics

Political Philosophy

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Yes, I remember hearing that somewhere. And it seems to be the theme of foreign critics, who can only bring themselves to admit America's greatness when they want something from us (which they lack the greatness to do themselves). Foreign nations have been sharply critical of the U.S. for putting their delicate nerves in a flutter with our down-to-the-wire debate over the debt-ceiling. That cuddly Russian dictator Vladimir Putin went so far as to call Americans "parasites" on the global economy "living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy."

It seldom occurs to foreigners that we have great power precisely because we don't act as they act. Europeans have plenty of fiscal beams in their own eyes to divert them from the speck in ours. And yet, uncomfortable as it is for me to agree with a Russian, Putin is partially correct. America has been living beyond its means and, as a result, has been a drag on the global economy.

But Putin misses the fundamental point that it was precisely a battle to reject ruinous, European-style, beyond-our-means spending which just occurred in the American Congress - and, for the most part, the fiscally-responsible Republicans were victorious. While foreigners are relieved that Republicans will not cause America to default on its fiscal obligations, they fail to appreciate the broader and more important point that Republicans just forced the nation to take a small, first-step toward avoiding the bankruptcy and default endemic to Europe.

Long ago, Europeans lost the stomach for conflict - militarily, socially and politically. America has just concluded an important battle in a larger war of political philosophy. It was ugly and uncertain, but worth fighting. We recognized the potential consequences of a prolonged conflict and so sued for peace before the sun had fully set. That is, we waged war while observing responsible rules of engagement.

As the powerful American economy controls the temperament of the global economy, Europeans may be expected to protest when American strife sweeps the economic seas into a tempest and causes them fright. But they fail to understand that it is precisely this continuing civil conflict which has sustained our great power and preserved us from becoming like them.  

Foreign Affairs

The Ottoman Republic

When General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk forged the Republic of Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire ninety years ago, it was a disgraced and decrepit nation known as the Sick Man of Europe, the old ruins of the ancient Byzantine Empire and the once-powerful Ottoman Empire surrounding its beleaguered people. Ataturk, as dear to the Turks as Washington and Lincoln are to we Americans, sought to change this. Through the great force of his character and vision he reached out to create from this sick man a new nation that embraced modernity, Westernization, and secularism. He pulled together East and West, forging a republic in a Muslim-majority nation.

His legacy, though, was not always so protected by his vision. Parties with Islamist tendencies, scornful of the secular Turkish nationalism that Ataturk returned to his people, have throughout the last century gained power and started to enforce harsh laws on the Turkish people. The military has long been a check on this, overthrowing democratically-elected governments with Islamist tendencies over and over again, enforcing secularism and Westernized stability at the expense of political freedoms. In 2001, though, these hardliners came together to dominate a new political party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP in Turk). In this time, the Prime Minister and leader of the party, Recep Tayyipd Erdogan, has advocated for the long-sought Turkish acceptance into the European Union and repeatedly stated that his party has no religious axis. Nonetheless over the past five years, a strong core of Islamists led by Turkish President Abdullah Gul has been gaining more power within the party. Gul's nomination to the presidency was blocked initially by the secular Supreme Court for fear of his Islamist tendencies. Popular support, though, forced them to allow him in, and he became the first devout Muslim to hold the seat in Turkey's young history.

The AKP is able to maintain such widespread popularity because it feeds on the poor and uneducated masses of the countrysides; they blend a social welfare state with a religiously conservative message and win over the poor vote. Importantly, though, the AKP has begun to figure out how to merge the nationalism instilled in the nation by Ataturk with their message of Islamic conservatism, and now even within certain educated sectors they are beginning to grow in popularity. This caused the military to grow suspicious, but now the AKP had the upper-hand over the once all-powerful secularist military. Over the past year and a half, dozens of high-ranking military officers have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government in a coup d'etat. While 90% of the Turkish citizenry said they trusted the military in 2002, now only 60% do. Last week, the military finally surrendered with the simultaneous resignations of its leader, General Isik Kosaner, and the leaders of the air force, navy, and army. In this day and age, in a nation like Turkey, a coup against the democratically-elected government was just not possible.

For years many have held up the Republic of Turkey as a shining example of an Islamic nation embracing democracy without foreign intervention forcing it upon them. This dream, though, may be dying. A newspaper columnist in Istanbul wrote, "This is a symbolic moment where the first Turkish republic ends and the second republic begins." More likely than not, this second republic will resemble something far more Ottoman than the Westernization envisioned by Ataturk. With the old guard now out, the military may slowly be transformed into a tool of the state as it is in Iran. Prime Minister Erdogan's Islamist coup over the past decade was brilliantly performed; by acting and looking like a European, he delegitimized the military and held the old guard up as dangers to democracy. While claiming to be working towards meeting the stringent entry requirements to join the European Union, Erdogan has clamped down on civil rights. Most importantly of all, though, is that with the government now secure from the pro-Western secularists that have been keeping an eye on its over the past century, its Ottoman ambition can now be satiated.

Geopolitically, few nations are as strategically positioned as Turkey, the gateway between West and East. While it has been a willing friend to its NATO allies, international alliances are not permanent things. Turkey will soon grow tired of the double-talk it gets from the European Union, which has long dabbled membership in front of the nation all-the-while pundits and politicians throughout Europe have criticized them and declared that Turkey can never be European. This will not bother Turkey for long, and I feel they will soon abandon their bid to be European when they can instead embrace the glory of their Ottoman history. They can exercise tremendous influence within their geographic sphere; indeed, it seems that Turkey is already courting their Arab neighbors and standing up as the power in the Middle East opposite of Iran. Turkish resurgence in the region can pose several great problems for the West-- particularly in regards to the Cyprus question, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the persecution of Kurds both in Turkish Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan.

But why should Turkey fear bulking up its foreign influence? The European Union is imploding. NATO has proven to be disorganized and incapable of even containing the puny Gaddafi. Greece, now essentially owned by grumpy German banks, will hardly be able to lift a finger over Cyprus. The United States, suffering from its own financial woes and seeking to withdraw from its entanglements in that side of the world, would at worst just issue low-key complaints as we do about crises in Syria, Sudan, Burma, and elsewhere. No, Turkey will seek to restore itself as the dominant regional power in the Middle East, in control of its sphere of influence, without care of what the politicians in Brussels and Washington whine about. At least they may provide another balance to Iran in the same way the Saudis do and Iraq did. People would do well to pay close attention the AKP and its relations abroad.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

Everyone is noting that Vice President Biden called the Tea Party "terrorists," but I think Representative Doyle's comment is more illuminating:

"We have negotiated with terrorists," an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. "This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money."

That says wonders about how Congressional Democrats see their job.

Categories > Quote of the Day

Refine & Enlarge

Farmer Letters

Today's Letter from an Ohio Farmer is called The Sense of the People and is not unrelated to the negotiations of today, and the vote tomorrow.  You might also note the previous Letter, called Willful Majorities or Constitutional Majorities, which I forgot to bring to your attention last week.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge