Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


The Best Format Yet for GOP Aspirants

Professor Robert George of Princeton will moderate and question the South Carolina GOP candidates forum.  He is a man of rare substance and grace, who can get to the heart of the matter with few words.  (Read the profile on him in the NY Times Sunday Magazine--damning him with faint praise:  "the reigning brain of the Christian right.")  Having precepted for him years ago at Princeton, I can attest to his ability to get skeptical students to consider questions they would never have thought about otherwise.  If the forum gets boring, I hope Robby pulls out his banjo....

H/t Michael Krauss.

Other candidate forums should consider such non-traditional talent (get the press out of there!):  Peter Schramm of Ashbrook, Larry Arnn of Hillsdale, Brian Kennedy of the Claremont Institute--each could perform such a role superbly and enrich political discussion for not only Republicans but for the general public as well.

Categories > Presidency


Frodo Found

I visited Montana a few months ago and was struck by the scenic beauty, but I seem to have missed one local treasure: a recreation of the Shire from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

There are fans ... and then there are fans.

H/t: Debby Witt at NRO.

Categories > Leisure


Update on Obama's EPA Compromise

Apparently, I overstated Obama's compromise on economically-destructive EPA standards. He hasn't withdrawn them, as originally reported by the media, but merely postponed them until January 2013 - that is, until just after the election.

I'd say this posturing certifies the compromise as a purely political stunt - meaning that Obama hasn't learned anything and is still as determined as ever to wreck the economy on behalf of ridiculous liberal policies.

Iain Murray has a precise summary at NRO.


Categories > Economy


Triangulation Requires Blame

I mentioned below that Obama is setting the stage for his jobs speech by lowering expectations and burying substantive analysis. I forgot to mention the third leg of his preparation: blaming others.

Obama is launching a series of lawsuits against big banks for their role in causing the recession. Whether these banks misrepresented the quality of bundled mortgage securities is a fair question, but Obama's purpose is certainly to frame a scapegoat toward which he can attempt to deflect criticism. Watch for it in his speech. It's not his unprecedented spending, lack of economic proficiency or anti-business regulations which are to blame for the continuing recession - it's the fault of the big, bad banks. (See if he is also able to subtly and indirectly blame the whole thing on Bush.)

Obama has set the stage for a truly meritless campaign speech.

Categories > Economy


Obama's Recession

So much for the "recovery summer." The White House now expects unemployment to remain above 9% throughout the election cycle. "Unemployment will not return to the 5 percent range until 2017," according to the WH budget office.

This is not news in the substance, but rather in the willingness of the White House to belatedly admit the obvious. By their continuing coverage of economic conditions as "surprising," "unexpected" and "worse than predicted," the media still haven't grasped reality.

All of this is pre-text for Obama's "jobs speech" later this week. Obama is trying to lower expectations. There should be no doubt that the speech will contain little to no substance. If it were otherwise, the White House wouldn't have dumped its Midsession Budget Review on a Friday afternoon. The MBR is a by-the-numbers forecast of the President's economic policy effects over the next few years. That is, it isn't a rhetorical campaign speech - so it isn't useful to Obama, who has no ideas to help the economy. This is the sense of the Senate Budget Committee, which clearly and concisely summarizes the President's MBR.

Obama has lost the initiative, and his speech will produce more scorn than relief. The GOP - particularly the candidates - need to step up and seize the moment. There is a vacuum of leadership in Washington waiting to be filled.

Categories > Economy


Predictions I Mostly Believe In

At least partly due to today's jobs report,

1. The President's Real Clear Politics average job approval rating will dip down to 40%.

2.  The Federal Reserve will announce a major open market operation later this month.  There will be a QE3 and it will be big.

3.  Unless congressional Republicans think they are politically bulletproof, there will be a deal to extend this year's payroll tax holiday for workers (which the Obama adminstration wants) coupled with some kind of business or investment tax cut for Republicans.  This could take of an employer-side payroll tax holiday.  The tax cuts will add several hudred billion dollars to next year's deficit.   

Categories > Politics


Related Headlines Reveal Candidate Obama

Today's major headline is that, for the first time since World War II, the economy had "precisely net zero jobs created for a month." And, following on the heels of this economic woe, is breaking news that Obama ordered the EPA to withdraw an environmental regulation that "would cost up to $1 trillion per year and kill thousands of jobs."

It's tempting to hope that Obama has finally learned a lesson, finally become aware of the real harm done to real people by job-killing, economically-ruinous regulations - which, while ostensibly related to environmentalism, are more precisely intended as fines and taxes on "evil" corporations. But, I suspect that Obama has simply been reading the tea leaves and has shrewdly begun "compromising" in order to compete for re-election.

This is the novel sign of practical political savvy from Obama, following years of ideological recklessness with public opinion. That is to say, Candidate Obama has re-emerged. He has finally taken a simple and obvious action intended to create (or, to use his own more exact language, "save") jobs. (These jobs, of course, are being saved from his own regulations, but let that pass....)

Too little, too late? Time will tell.

Categories > Elections

Political Philosophy

Harry V. Jaffa at 93

Harry V. Jaffa will be 93 years old on October 7th.  We should celebrate his long and good life--he still talks and listens, reads and writes, and goes to the gym three times a week--by noting something interesting he has said or written, or maybe something especially good that has been written about him.  I am grateful that his fine mind has made his body so rich and I'll post something every week until the week of Oct 7th, and will start with this interview (about an hour long) conducted by Edward J. Erler about ten years ago.  It is under the Liberty Fund's "Intellectual Portrait Series: Conversations with Leading Classical Liberal Figures of Our Time."  This is a fine interview.  The questions are clean and trim, and he is clear and terse, with a fine peroration on something timeless.  Happy birthday to the Old Man, and I thank him.


Nanny State Tackles...Nannies

In a move that is making even me ponder if California is beyond salvation from the regulatory ilk forced on us by Bay Area politicians, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has introduced Bill 889, intended to create "protections" for all domestic employees-- that is, everyone from a nanny and elderly caregiver to the babysitter and house-sitters. Yes, that is right. If this bill passes the California legislature, it would mandate that parents who ask the babysitter to come over on a Friday night will be obligated to pay at least minimum wage, ensure that they have meal breaks and rest times, and receive overtime pay and workers' compensation coverage. The original bill also mandated paid vacation time for every 30 hours worked, but the Senate--in a brief fit of wisdom--amended that out of the bill.

This is insanity. Why is Mr. Ammiano so intent on ridding us of the days when someone could hand twenty bucks to a person they trusted enough to watch their home or children, tell them to help themselves to anything in the fridge, explain how the remote control works, and leave it at that? If someone thinks that they aren't being paid enough to watch some kids or clean a toilet, then they just won't do it. This forced regulation of people's care-taking of their homes and families is only going to end up hurting the housekeepers, babysitters, and nannies in the long-run, as people will not want to go through the hassle of dealing with such a complex and absurd system. The government should trust people to make the right decisions about who they give their parental or homely powers to, and should trust other people to realize that "Hey, if this kid bites me every time I come over, I should either charge more or just not do it." If 889 passes, then it seems California will have quite literally become a nanny state.
Categories > Economy

The Founding

Jefferson-Sally Hemings Revisited

A new book, out today, questions the now conventional wisdom that Thomas Jefferson fathered illegitimate children through his slave Sally Hemings.  The board responsible for its publication includes such notables as Harvey Mansfield, Charles Kesler, James Ceaser, Paul Rahe, and Forrest McDonald and is chaired by UVA law professor Robert Turner.  Here's the amazon link.  The accusation should not have moderated devotion to Jefferson for his extraordinary achievements, though it could not have had any but that effect.  This book should help us readjust our vision of the man.  Jefferson celebrated enlightenment; let us follow in his footsteps on this accusation as well.

Categories > The Founding

Pop Culture

Mama Bears and Feminists Unite?

I bring this story of a supremely stupid t-shirt offered by JCPenny to your attention merely to note how interesting are the kinds of things that arouse the permitted indignation of the mama-bears of today.  Of course, there is always a similar outcry from conservative and religious mothers when a Miley Cyrus poses for seductive pictures called "art" or a clothing company mass produces push-up bras for girls as young as 7 or 8 . . . but those who express outrage on those occasions are roundly sneered by the knowing laughter of the more "sophisticated" and told to get with it.  I would venture a guess that every sensible mother who condemned those two things I mentioned happily joins the brigade of feminists now irritated by this t-shirt.  We would not buy it, cheer it, or allow our daughters to be caught dead in it.  We would support all efforts to keep our daughters focused on more elevated and worthy occupations and decry efforts of the popular culture to distract them from those purposes.  So why don't many feminists join us in this good faith effort when the rot being peddled is not academic but moral decay?  Fill in your own blank.  You are probably right.
Categories > Pop Culture

Mama Bears and Feminists Unite?

I bring this story of a supremely stupid t-shirt offered by JCPenny to your attention merely to note how interesting are the kinds of things that arouse the permitted indignation of the mama-bears of today.  Of course, there is always a similar outcry from conservative and religious mothers when a Miley Cyrus poses for seductive pictures called "art" or a clothing company mass produces push-up bras for girls as young as 7 or 8 . . . but those who express outrage on those occasions are roundly sneered by the knowing laughter of the more "sophisticated" and told to get with it.

I would venture a guess that every sensible mother who condemned those two things I mentioned happily joins the brigade of feminists now irritated by this t-shirt.  We would not buy it, cheer it, or allow our daughters to be caught dead in it.  We would support all efforts to keep our daughters focused on more elevated and worthy occupations and decry efforts of the popular culture to distract them from those purposes.  So why don't many feminists join us in this good faith effort when the rot being peddled is not academic but moral decay?  Fill in your own blank.  You are probably right.

Pop Culture

Exonerating Beauty

Picking up on Justin's post below, I bring your attention to this recent post on the Economist's blog.  It is an uncommonly good and interesting reflection on why it is that an enterprising and ambitious capitalist, Steve Jobs, has been able to escape the snares of the prevailing brand of class warfare animating our popular culture--especially given that so much of Apple's core customer base is comprised of people inclined to be active on the other side of these battles.  Bill Gates of Microsoft was able to purchase his indulgences with his Bill Gates Foundation.  Mr. Jobs, on the other hand, has inspired a kind of prayerful and silent indulgence with the beauty of his products. 

You see, under the direction of Mr. Jobs, Apple has brought to market products that, "add a dash of elegance to the lives of consumers by selling them gorgeously refined devices at a premium."  (Not to mention that cute little Apple sticker you can put on your car and, thereby, telegraph to the world that you are part of the "cool" club . . .)  Not everyone can or chooses to make the financial sacrifice in order to be part of that club.  But everyone is enticed by it and, on some level, they admire it.  All have a sense that there must be some superior mind at work behind these products--a mind that is, in some sense, in better tune with the eternal order of things

So no matter the lack of what our culture considers ordinary philanthropic commitment on the part of Apple.  Their gift to mankind is the fulfillment of their artistic mission and their continued success in the marketplace.  People cheer true excellence even when they are otherwise inclined to scorn the merely "successful."    Whatever the political or economic inclinations of a person, his experience with an Apple product is generally one of those few times in this world where a thing just works precisely as it was intended to do.  It is a symphony of order in the universe.  And he is grateful for it.  It is--perhaps on a less breathtaking scale--akin to what Pope Benedict described feeling when he heard Bernstein conducting Bach in Munich.  It is something like what I feel when watching an effortless and graceful double play or an over the fence, bases loaded, home-run in the bottom of the final inning with the score tied and a little boy catching the ball in the stands.  It is an experience of the "is" and the "ought" coming together for one, all too brief, interlude.  And maybe it is a promise of something better, deeper, and eternal. 

If, as a people, we were more thoughtful, less petty, and less inclined toward envy, we would reflect that we honor true philanthropy when we admire the accomplishments of a company like Apple.  And, as fine as the work of the Bill Gates Foundation is, Bill Gates would be more celebrated for his humanitarian accomplishments in building a successful business like Microsoft than he is for killing mosquitoes in Africa.  But, then, it is sometimes very difficult to see beauty that does not announce itself in arias. 
Categories > Pop Culture


Obama's Hit List

WaPo reports:

A proposal before the Securities and Exchange Commission would require publicly-traded companies to disclose political contributions. 

Aside from the annoyance of ever-greater regulation by the SEC, the disclosure of political contributions seems to be a more reasonable requirement. Stockholders have an interest in knowing the voluntary contributions made by the companies in which they share ownership.

But this leads to a potential problem in the Age of Obama. Ask yourself, why do unions oppose secret ballots? The answer has been made excessively clear since Obama's term began. Retribution is easier when you know your enemy's name.

Obama has proved himself to be a typical Chicago politician in this regard. He's not afraid to use muscle against those who get in his way. The SEC contribution list would be sorted by party affiliation and companies at the top of the "Republican" side would soon learn the reason you don't mess with Obama.

It's a sad commentary on the state of American democracy - but, alas, I cannot say it isn't true.

Categories > Politics


Huntsman's Latest: Too Little, Too Late

Huntsman seems not to have noticed that he has missed the boat. He's not a contender and - unlike other non-contenders such as Paul, Gingrich and Trump - adds nothing to the conversation.

His latest attempt to appeal to ... someone (I'm not exactly sure who) is a promise to strip the tax code of loopholes and deductions (which sounds a bit like Obama's promise to save entitlements and reduce debt by eliminating "government waste"). Of course, this alone is a promise to raise taxes. So Huntsman adds that he would adopt a simplified three-tier tax structure.

But the devil's in the details. I fear a "moderate" Huntsman tax compromise would cut deductions but do little in the way of lowering the overall tax rate - thereby effectively handing democrats a tax (increase) "compromise" victory. Huntsman's does not dissuade me of this uncertainty by the use of progressive rhetoric, identifying "special-interest" as the beneficiary of tax "carve-outs" and denouncing that liberal boogey-man, "corporate welfare."

Categories > Elections


Benedict on Beauty

The Virgin of the Rocks.jpg Pope Benedict XVI yesterday repeated his invitation to experience God through the "via pulchritudinis" or "way of beauty," which "modern man should recover in its most profound meaning."

Perhaps it has happened to you at one time or another -- before a sculpture, a painting, a few verses of poetry or a piece of music -- to have experienced deep emotion, a sense of joy, to have perceived clearly, that is, that before you there stood not only matter -- a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, an ensemble of letters or a combination of sounds -- but something far greater, something that "speaks," something capable of touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul. 

A work of art is the fruit of the creative capacity of the human person who stands in wonder before the visible reality, who seeks to discover the depths of its meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colors and sounds. Art is capable of expressing, and of making visible, man's need to go beyond what he sees; it reveals his thirst and his search for the infinite. Indeed, it is like a door opened to the infinite, [opened] to a beauty and a truth beyond the every day. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.

Benedict then turns to works of art that are inspired by, and reciprocally inspire, faith: Gothic cathedrals, Romanesque churches, sacred music, paintings, frescos, etc. He identifies an appreciation - a true, deeply felt appreciation - of beauty as a "way of prayer."   

Therefore, may our visits to places of art be not only an occasion for cultural enrichment -- also this -- but may they become, above all, a moment of grace that moves us to strengthen our bond and our conversation with the Lord, [that moves us] to stop and contemplate -- in passing from the simple external reality to the deeper reality expressed -- the ray of beauty that strikes us, that "wounds" us in the intimate recesses of our heart and invites us to ascend to God.

It's always worthwhile to be reminded of beauty and it's effects upon the soul. I find it in "The Virgin of the Rocks" and The Iliad. Peter Schramm finds it in Shakespeare and motorcycles. Wherever she finds you, follow her, for "beauty is life when life unveils her holy face."

Categories > Religion


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