28 February 2010

An Incoherent Foreign Policy

Jake is currently mid-flight across the Atlantic, and I am posting on his behalf.

The Bush administration got a lot of things wrong—but at least they usually had some idea of who America's adversaries were and who America's friends were. For example, Bush's policy of maintaining the special relationship with Britain was a simple recognition of the close bonds of alliance, friendship and interests that the British and Americans have had since World War I.

In contrast, [President] Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are apparently clueless about some of the most basic aspects of foreign policy: supporting one's friends and fencing in one's adversaries. The declaration of neutrality on the issue of the sovereignty of the Falklands issued by the U.S. State Department is clear proof of the uselessness of the Obama administration.

In the grand scheme of things it makes little sense for America to give moral support to the Kirchner government in Argentina. [President Cristina] Kirchner is no friend of the U.S. and Kirchner's government is in deep domestic trouble for its gross mismanagement of the economy and its attempts to suppress the press criticism of the regime at home. One has to wonder what benefit America gets out of hurting Britain on this issue. Perhaps Obama thinks that the more Leftist Latin American regimes will somehow approve of the U.S. If that is the case, he is truly mistaken, as most Latin American nations dislike the Argentinians, and have little sympathy for the mess Argentina got into over the Falklands.

But this mess is just typical of the drift in U.S. foreign policy—if one can say that it even HAS a coherent foreign policy these days. . . . In his first year in office Obama made numerous apologies for America's past to the Third Worlds, he effusively greeted the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, he bowed low to the Saudi ruler, and called for a "reset" of relationships with Russia—all the while implying that America was at fault for all these problems. At the same time he rudely undermined the security of America's Eastern European allies by cancelling the ballistic missile defense with no notice and no prior discussion, he failed to push for a free trade agreement with Columbia—America's strongest ally in South America—and he supported Chavez's allies when they tried (luckily unsuccessfully) to unseat a democratic and pro-U.S. government in Honduras.

24 February 2010

Glenn Beck At CPAC 2010

See for yourself what all the complaints/hype was about.

I liked it.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

20 February 2010

CPAC 2010 Day 3

Like any good conference, CPAC builds up to the the last day. The first speaker of the morning is Rick Santorum, beloved of social conservatives, hated by the left. After Santorum is Andrew Breitbart, scourge of Hollywood and ACORN. Then comes a panel with Jonah Goldberg and so on from there.

Last year Matt and I commuted from our friend Michele's place every day of the conference. I had pneumonia at the time and waking up early enough to make it to the conference (and keeping the late hours that we did) just about killed me. The combination of no pneumonia and staying on site has made for a much more pleasant experience. Even at that, we're all still tired.

Per usual, I'll update the blog throughout the day, but for the up-to-the-minute, blow-by-blow stuff, follow the various twitter feeds here, here, here, & here.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

19 February 2010

CPAC 2010 Day 2 (UPDATED)

UPDATE 11:22p EST: You must watch these two videos of Andrew Breitbart. The man was one of my and Matt's favorite speakers last year at CPAC and he's had a great 2009, helping James O'Keefe & Hannah Giles to break the ACORN tapes. This video is classic Breitbart and exposes the liberal media.

UPDATE 6:29p EST: I'm just going to state right up front: I do not understand the appeal of Ron Paul. People chant "End the Fed" throughout his speech and... what do they propose to do once they accomplish this pipe dream? Ron Paul's speech? He revises the last 150 years of American history in favor of his brand of libertarianism/conservatism.

This isn't to say that there isn't some stuff to recommend Mr. Paul. For example: I stand with him in his defence of the Constitution. I just can't abide his more outlandish proposals, like ending the Fed.

The best speakers we listened to today were, in no particular order, Mike Pence, John Ashcroft, and Viet Dinh. Mike Pence delivered a speech that some people described as the best in CPAC history. I wouldn't go that far as there've been a lot of good speakers here over the year, but it was very good. Pence could very well run for and win the Presidency in 2012. I would not be shocked.

John Ashcroft (see my tweets) delivered a passionate defense of Bush-era legal handling of enemy combatants, etc. Given that Obama has mostly continued the Bush legal legacy, I'd say Ashcroft and co. have mostly been vindicated.

Viet Dinh was the man we did not know who delivered the goods. He was involved in a debate about relationship between liberty & security and he soundly (to my mind) whipped Bob Barr. Dinh's knowledge of relevant legislation and American legal history was on full display. I suggest you do a Google search and read what you can by Mr. Dinh.

The biggest disappointment, for me, was Tim Pawlenty. As the Old Man said, "the message was right, the delivery just left something to be desired." He did not have the charisma, presence, and speaking ability of Mitt Romney or Mike Pence. Granted, these largely superficial things are not everything, but it would be nice to have someone who can make a more compelling case for conservative principles. His speech was largely a rambling stream of consciousness that was at times too self congratulatory. This is the type of thing that bothers me from Obama. It bothers me no less when the person is a Republican. If a candidate is going to speak about his or her life, I want it to be in a self-deprecating manner. They should let someone else talk them up.

I begin today's CPAC blog post the same way I ended yesterday's, with a link to a Politico article about Mitt Romney.

Everyone who ever writes or talks about Romney's chances in 2012 always pounds on his Massachusetts healthcare plan and rightly so. It has elements of a government takeover of healthcare that conservatives to not like. Romney pitches it as an issue wherein states ought to be able to choose what they want to do, rather than the federal government. This is an interesting response, using the conservative argument for federalism to defend his unpopular-among-conservatives healthcare plan.

CPACers are a hard charging bunch. They conference hard during the day and party hard through the night and then somehow, many of them make it up the next morning in time for the 8:30a speaker.

Rather than going to one of the many CPAC-related soirees, we went to dinner at Pot Belly, a local's favorite sandwich establishment and followed that up with the Syracuse vs Georgetown men's college basketball game--a game won by Syracuse. We were collectively struck by how well Syracuse traveled for the game as they literally occupied the entire upper portion of the arena and the Orange was spread liberally throughout the rest of the Verizon Center. The only problem was, none of us AT&T users could get our cell phones to work. I don't know whether to blame Verizon or AT&T.

Like yesterday, the best CPAC coverage from us and everyone else is on that Twitter. Click here for me, here for Matt, and here for the #CPAC10 aggregator.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

18 February 2010

CPAC 2010 Day 1 (UPDATED)

UPDATE 4:52p EST: Here's a good report by Ben Smith of Politico on Mitt's speech.

MATT UPDATE: 4:52p EST Before heading off to dinner and the Georgetown v. Syracuse basketball game with friends, we're finishing the day with Wayne LaPierre, NRA lobbyist extraordinaire.

LaPierre clearly knows how to argue guns. And although libs may claim he obfuscates the issues, certainly nobody better understands the unintended consequences of gun control. He is excellent, and worth every dollar he makes from the NRA.

As Jake mentioned, who could possibly make a surprise visit tomorrow that would surpass today's visits? Regardless, I'm looking forward to Tim Pawlenty and John Ashcroft tomorrow. I'll even admit some anticipation for Ron Paul, if only to snicker at his more outrageous proposals, and to hear a hundred "End the Fed!" shouts from the crowd. Those Paul people, they're crazy.

UPDATE 3:52p EST We're watching a video of John Boehner's greatest hits. The music? Kings of Leon. I can't imagine K of L are conservatives (or would like their music to be used by a Republican) but if so, good on them.

Matt and I just walked around the exhibition hall and ran into a person who looked like an overweight and short Michael Barone. He is Barone's doppleganger, right down to the signature glasses. The only reason we knew for sure it wasn't Barone is that we saw him last year.

Everybody is talking about Dick Cheney, Scott Brown, & Mitt Romney. Friday & Saturday have a lot of work to do to match today's performance.

I'm beginning to understand why so many writers tend to be overweight. There are all kinds of complementary drinks and snacks for media-types and they mostly consist of soda, chips, & cookies. The only thing that save me is that I have a year's worth of student living (& eating) between events.

UPDATE 2:27p EST I'm trying to update using my iPhone. Apologies in advance for any errors/typos (more than usual). Romney killed it today at CPAC. Matt and I were especially impressed with his command and narrative us of American history to link cnservative ideals to American Founders. The whole speech bears reading, that section in particular. At one point he called liberal democrats neo-monarchists for their desire to command and order more of American life. This was a particularly powerful historical allusion.

From a purely political calculation perspective: Linking with MA Senate winner Scott Brown is a good way to put Romeny squarely on the side of the Tea Party movement--no mean feat when you are the former governor of a liberal state.

UPDATE 11:51am EST: Rubio rocked, DeMint rocked, Jason Mattera drew applause, laughter, and offended the left and somehow, Dick Armey re-established himself in the center of the Tea Party and conservative movement. God Bless Texas.

Blogger registration opened 8 minutes ago. I guess that means it's time to get up and get ready. Last year I turned up at the site of CPAC 2009 the day before it began and the place was pretty dead. Yes, they broke attendance records, but like I told my dad yesterday (and my brother agreed), it was more about conservative commiseration than anything else.

We'd been beaten pretty badly and everybody just wanted to get together and trade stories and talk about how optimistic Ronald Reagan had always been and how he would have seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

CPAC 2010 is an entirely different atmosphere.

Yesterday when we arrived Matt saw Wayne Lapierre as we pulled up in our cab and the guy looked like he was spoiling for a fight. All the other CPAC 2010 attendees in the hotel were excited and pregnant with anticipation. Ditto every comment I've read in every blog and tweet and in all the email listservs.

What a difference a year makes.

Your first reading assignment is this Politico article, linked on Drudge. I'll be updating the blog throughout the day, but as I mentioned in my last post, the place to get the most up-to-the-minute information is on that Twitter. Click here for my stuff and here for Matt's. We'll attend every possible speaker and panel we can and post our quick reactions as fast as we can.

We wish you could be here, but since you aren't, we're glad to share our thoughts and impressions via the interweb.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

16 February 2010

CPAC 2010, Here We Come

As many of you know, tomorrow I fly to Washington DC for a week of research and a few days of CPAC 2010. I'm fortunate in that the place wherein most of my American research will take place also happens to be the location of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference--a conference I first attended with my brother last year.

What is even more serendipitous is the fact that next week is reading week at my university. Given that I teach a seminar and conduct an office hour every Tuesday, this means I don't have to find someone to fill in.

It's like they planned the reading week so I could attend CPAC 2010, or something.

Anyway, early tomorrow I fly London to Detroit and thence to Reagan National Airport (appropriately) where I will meet up with my old man and brother and head on over to the site of CPAC 2010 where we will spend the next three days. We are, the three of us, credentialed bloggers for the event (yes, they'll give them to practically anyone) and will be chronicling our experience via this blog and something with which some of you youngsters are already familiar--that Twitter.

As far as I know, none of the CPAC authorities did anything about my suggestion from last year (that there be designated blogging locations in each of the conference rooms, complete with a table and internets connectivity), which means the most constant, up-to-the-minute information about CPAC will be had through my and everyone else's Twitter account.

You can follow me, here and Matt, here. If/when the aforementioned Old Man gets a twitter account, I'll list that one too.

As I say, we'll post here at lybberty.com, but we'll really be posting on that twitter, so follow us.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

Weekly Links: NYC, Neoconservatism, Secret Intelligence, John Bolton, Teh Panty Bomber, Tea Parties, Chessmasters, & Paul Krugman

In any given week, I collect so many links to good articles on which I'd like to opine, I'm unable to get to all of them. Thus, these weekly link dumps. If you're looking for something good to read, read one or all of these, listed in no particular order of priority.

(these aren't all political)

In NYC, old real estate families are getting back in the biz after the bubble burst on the new comers. (h/t Scott L.)

Father/dean of neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz, answers questions about his ideology and why Jews tend to be liberal, among other things. (h/t Matt L. or Scott L.)

The Binyam Mohamed trial last week in London resulted in the release of secret American intel given to their British sources. According to high ranking British sources whom I personally questioned, the real concern is over the day to day sharing of intelligence between the middle management types. This will inevitably affect the long term development of intelligence.

My favorite ex-diplomat, John Bolton, makes the case for a military strike against Iran to preempt their development of a nuke.

Michael Mukasey, former US Attorney General, breaks down, point by point, why the administration's handling of the "panty bomber" did not have to be handled the way it was--Miranda rights, etc.

Russian opposition leader, Garry Kasparov, updates and warns us about current US policy towards Russia & Iran.

Finally, Paul Krugman makes an interesting argument on the one hand, if the Euro is to succeed, for greater EU political union and on the other hand, against the hubris of adopting an single currency. (h/t Taylor B.)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

15 February 2010

David Broder On Sarah Palin

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game—a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm. . . . This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains. But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty—and potentially, to Obama as well. . . . Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.
(Via the WSJ)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

11 February 2010

Daily Links UPDATED

Francis Fukuyama thinks President Obama should promote democracy in Iran.

Daniel Henninger crystallizes the current national debate about the size & scope of government and the importance of private entities.

Holman Jenkins thinks Apple may turn into Microsoft (in a bad way).

Newt Gingrich gives us 10 GOP ideas/solutions to our health care problem.

This is an old one, but: Michael Lewis looks at AIG.

Dean of Columbia Business School, R. Glenn Hubbard, looks into his fiscal crystal ball and doesn't like at least one thing that he sees: higher taxes.

Fouad Ajami thinks the Obama spell (wherein people think he is the harbinger of liberal utopia) has been broken.

UPDATE 2:26pm BST: The Global Warming "consensus" (fraud) is falling apart, opines the Washington Times. (h/t Scott L.)

UPDATe 2:52pm BST: A friend of a Friend of Lybberty recently started a blog and his first post critiques Barbara Boxer's so-called Taxpayer Fairness Act.

Finally, a little more than just a link, I'll leave you with a little knowledge. We already learned from Heather Mac Donald that poverty ≠ crime. Now, James Kirchick informs us that poverty also ≠ terror.
Of the 30-odd attempted terrorist plots against the United States or American installations abroad that have been foiled since 9/11, roughly a third have been uncovered in the past year alone. What is new, and particularly frightening, about these recent attempts is that the budding perpetrators were initially indoctrinated inside the United States, with help from extremist websites or Islamic preachers. It was only after they had been brought some ways along the road to holy war that at least some of these would-be jihadists sought training and logistical support from al-Qaeda and others overseas. . . .

While they come from diverse ethnic and regional backgrounds, most of the men involved in homegrown plots fit a similar profile: they are middle class and well-educated. The same can be said of many, if not most, Islamist terrorists, whether it be the son of the former Nigerian finance minister who attempted to bring down a plane on Christmas Day near Detroit; the seven British doctors (and one medical technician) who plotted to carry out car bombings in 2007; or Osama bin Laden himself, whose family operates a massive construction empire worth billions of dollars. This reality contradicts the trendy, post-9/11 contention, as wrong then as it is now, that terrorism is caused by poverty.
This kind of rains on the parade of people who, wherever they look, see class warfare and jealousy-caused conflict between the "haves" and the "have nots."

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

10 February 2010

Of Wal-Mart, Health Care, & American History

Sometimes I get so burned out from reading talking about nothing but slavery and the poor treatment of Native Americans and women in the American History seminar I teach (I have to stick to the syllabus) that finally reach my limit and lash out.

Mind you, America is not perfect. The aforementioned Big Three sins were real. But they aren't all there is to American History. And it doesn't help that we are teaching practically nothing more than those three plus the British hobby horse (class warfare) to British freshers who hardly even know who George Washington was.

Just in case the supervising professor on my course (or anyone else from my university, for that matter) read this post let me say up front: I don't blame them; this is the state of academia.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, sometimes I reach my limit and go on an I-love-America-liberty-markets-free-trading-are-awesome rant.

Like yesterday. We reviewed a bunch of reading that characterized the increased interdependence, division of labor and specialization of the American economy in post-Reconstruction America as horrible because it made the rich richer and the poor poorer and so on and so forth. One article we read trumpeted "economic independence" as an ideal that was somehow lost or never was or some other such nonsense.

That is, in the New South, capitalists from the North built factories to process raw cotton and tobacco and mine and coal and extract and refine iron (later steel) because it was closer to the source (reducing transportation costs) and laborers in the South were much less likely to unionize, thus resulting in lower labor costs.

And all of this was bad, bad, bad.

Missing is the fact that all of these developments brought jobs to the South (where there had been, prior to the Civil War, a lack of industry) and a higher standard of living. The fact that there were now stores near every railroad depot (another feature of post-Reconstruction America) selling goods people hadn't even imagined before was not a good thing, it was bad because people went into debt to the bad Northern capitalists who produced these goods and duped the stupid poor Southerners into buying them.

The post-Reconstruction period in America is widely considered by economists to be a Golden Age of commerce. Standards of living increased significantly. But the historical narrative is one of worker exploitation, etc. etc.

So I took a moment and tried to teach something about the power of competition and how it both reduces prices and improves quality.

Now the Wal-Mart & Health Care part of the blog post title: Stephen Spruiell made the point last Friday at The Corner that the mere presence of Wal-Mart in the health care industry would improve quality and drive down costs--even for those who never went to Wal-Mart for their open-heart surgery. He's right. This, my friends, is the power of markets in health care.

Because other people would have to compete with Wal-Mart in supplying health services to individuals, the quality would go up (just as there is Nordstrom) and the price would go down (think of the many different price-comparison websites on the internet).

Unlike Europe, we ought not care about the difference in income between the richest and the poorest so long as the poorest can become richer and the richest aren't ensconced, by some government diktat, as the ruling class. Indeed, though the spread between richest and poorest may increase, America remains the country where the most people are able to move between the five infamous quintiles on the income scale. By and large, the poorest do not remain the poorest and the richest die like everyone else.

In Europe, regulation, law, and other preferential treatments have resulted in fairly static class organization. The middle class remain the middle class and the upper class remain in the upper class and this continues on, ad infinitum, generation after generation. The modern European welfare state has created, as I point out to my friends who will listen (or at least act as though they are listening) a permanent underclass. In France, for instance, this underclass is populated mostly by Muslim immigrants who, despite the ever-increasing benefits being thrown their way by the French liberal elite, continue to burn cars.

They burn cars not because they want another 10 Euros a week to pay their mobile phone bill, but because the barriers to getting a job and generally breaking into civilized French society (for instance) are for all intents and purposes, impenetrable.

The same is basically true, to a greater or lesser extent, in every other modern welfare Western European state.

This is essentially what liberal utopia (aka social democracy) looks like. The Great Society largely reversed several generations of gains by African Americans (from the Emancipation Proclamation through the Civil Rights movement). Thomas Sowell has shown how African Americans income, education, standard of living, etc., increased right up until liberal good intentions destroyed the African American family and made them America's permanent under class.

African Americans now vote, practically en masse, for liberal Democrats who, in turn, promise them an expansion of welfare programs which do nothing more than make them, as a people, more dependent on the state and the "good will" of liberal elites.

How to wrap this up? Eric Foner, of all people, wrote about Frederick Douglass's concerns regarding liberal paternalism in his article, "Rights and Black Life in War and Reconstruction."
Frederick Douglass himself had concluded in 1865 that the persistent question "What shall we do with the Negro?" had only one answer: "Do nothing.... Give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!" Douglass realized that the other face of benevolence is often paternalism and that in a society resting, if only rhetorically, on the principle of equality, "special efforts" on the freedmen's behalf might "serve to keep up the very prejudices, which it is so desirable to banish."
America need not make the same mistake as our friends in Europe. Liberty and responsibility are inextricably tied together and our government laws and policies--whether health care or welfare or whatever--ought to reflect that relationship.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

2012: 538 Looks At Sarah Palin Vs. Mitt Romney Vs. Mike Huckabee Vs. Field

It's posts like this one that keep me going back to FiveThirtyEight. This kind of electoral and poll analysis play to his statistical strength. The rest, wherein he invokes his liberal condescension and plays Obama apologist, makes me want to bang my head against the wall, repeatedly. There's nothing learned in those posts and the tone makes them practically unreadable.

Back to his 2012 Republican primary post: There is a lot about this race that is unknown, like, who's going to run? There are so many names out there, even guessing who might be in it in 2012 is a crapshoot. Now add to that the difficulty of analyzing the prospects of various candidates who may or may not be running in 2012.

Of the 3 mentioned in the post title, readers know my preference: Romney, then Palin, and I don't care for Huckabee at all, and I'd love to vote for General Petraeus, though it's unlikely he runs.

The whole post is worth reading, I'll just excerpt the part on Romney:
Conversely, Mitt Romney's paths might look something like this, and are probably somewhat more straightforward than Palin's.

Romney Plan A. Win Iowa. Win New Hampshire. Game over.

Romney Plan B-1. (If Palin is knocked out) Lose Iowa. Win New Hampshire. Win Nevada. Sweep orange states on the basis of organizational strength. Veer slightly to the left, emphasizing electability and cleaning up in delegate-rich states like California and New York. You probably outlast a Southern opponent like Huckabee, perhaps even fairly easily. A Midwesterner that could win states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania might be more challenging.

Romney Plan B-2. (If Palin survives) Lose Iowa. Win New Hampshire. Win Nevada. Split orange states with Palin on the basis of organizational strength. Hope that gold or purple states came up next, in which case you should build up a substantial delegate lead. If so, the party infrastructure may start to close ranks around you. If green states come up instead, Palin is tougher and you're in for a war of attrition with flagging momentum.
I'm headed to CPAC next week and will get to listen to Romney and a number of the other potential Republican candidates in 2012. I'll also get a sense of base enthusiasm for 2010 and a number of other things.

Watch for lots of CPAC-related posts 18-20 February.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

08 February 2010

Education: More Evidence Vouchers Work

A report released last week by School Choice Wisconsin, an advocacy group, finds that between 2003 and 2008 students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program had a significantly higher graduation rate than students in Milwaukee Public Schools.

"Had MPS graduation rates equalled those for MPCP students in the classes of 2003 through 2008, the number of MPS graduates would have been about 18 percent higher," writes John Robert Warren of the University of Minnesota. "That higher rate would have resulted in 3,352 more MPS graduates during the 2003-2008 years."

In 2008 the graduation rate for voucher students was 77% versus 65% for the nonvoucher students, though the latter receives $14,000 per pupil in taxpayer support, or more than double the $6,400 per pupil that voucher students receive in public funding.

The Milwaukee voucher program serves more than 21,000 children in 111 private schools, so nearly 20% more graduates mean a lot fewer kids destined for failure without the credential of a high school diploma. The finding is all the more significant because students who receive vouchers must, by law, come from low-income families, while their counterparts in public schools come from a broader range of economic backgrounds.
Expansion of vouchers and broader choice in education could literally transform this country. Students in areas with failing schools would no longer be locked into a losing future. The dynamism brought on by increased choice would bring higher graduation rates to those our current system consistently fails.

Central planners, teachers' unions, and their Democratic enablers will continue to clamor for more money for failed programs or tweaked versions of ones that have failed in the past. Vouchers and choice and increased competition in education (as in everything) would bring higher quality and lower prices and this means more children would be better educated.

Those opposed to choice in education should be ashamed.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

The Tebow Ad

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

05 February 2010

Michael Barone On President Obama's Populism

Why has the politics of economic redistribution had such limited success in America? One reason is that Americans, unlike Western Europeans, tend to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward and that people can work their way up economically. If people do something to earn their benefits, like paying Social Security taxes, that's fine. But giving money to those who have not in some way earned it is a no-no. Moreover, like Andrew Jackson, most Americans suspect that some of the income that is redistributed will end up in the hands not of the worthy but of the well-connected.

Last year Mr. Obama and his policy strategists seem to have assumed that the financial crisis and deep recession would make Americans look more favorably on big government programs. But it turns out that economic distress did not make us Western Europeans.
(h/t Scott L.)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

Roger Kimball On Howard Zinn & American History

With Howard Zinn, contemporary American academia found its court historian. Zinn, who died January 27 at 87, was like a gigantic echo chamber, accurately reproducing—and actively reinforcing—every left-wing cliché with which the academy has abetted its sense of election these past several decades. . . . Zinn's biography tells us that he was the author of "more than 20 books." But only one matters: A People's History of the United States. Published in 1980 with appropriately modest expectations—it had, I read somewhere, an initial print run of only 5,000 copies—the book went on to sell some 2 million and is still going strong. Its Amazon sales rank as of February 1, 2010, was 7. Seven. That's a number most authors would climb over broken bottles to achieve 30 days after their books were published. Here it is 30 years on.

How to explain such phenomenal success? The publisher had doubtless assayed the book's intellectual merits and proceeded accordingly. Left out of account was the presumption of its political message. The extremity and consistency of that message—that America is and always has been an evil, exploitative country—guaranteed its success among the tenured radicals to whom we have entrusted the education of our children. More to the point, this history "from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated" nudged out all other contenders for the prize of becoming the preferred catechism in American—that is to say, anti-American—history.
(via the WSJ, natch)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

03 February 2010

Iraq: The Unapologetic Tony Blair

And with good reason. The logic he and President Bush used to invade Iraq and take down Saddam was sound and based on the best available information.

In the wake of his testimony before yet another UK inquisition, the WSJ cribbed a few of his best quotes and reminded us all of what we knew, what we didn't know, and why Iraq was and remains important.

Mr. Blair offered a ringing defense of the decision to invade Iraq, and a very different set of lessons for the present. "This isn't about a lie, or a conspiracy, or a deceit, or a deception. It is a decision," Mr. Blair told a packed room that included relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq. "And the decision I had to take was, given [Saddam's] history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking U.N. resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons program?"

That's a point worth remembering over all the Monday-morning recriminations about "dodgy dossiers" and missing WMD. We have never for a moment believed that the British or U.S. governments deliberately misled their publics over what they thought they knew about Saddam's weapons. Every Western country, including those opposed to the war, believed Saddam had WMD.

But the important point was never so much about what Saddam did or did not possess so much as it was about what he intended. And as Mr. Blair pointed out Friday, "What we now know is that he [Saddam] retained the intent and the intellectual know-how to restart a nuclear and a chemical weapons program when the inspectors were out and the sanctions changed, which they were going to do. . . .

"Today we would be facing a situation where Iraq was competing with Iran, competing both on nuclear weapons capability and competing more importantly perhaps than anything else . . . in respect of support of terrorist groups. . . . If I am asked whether I believe we are safer, more secure, that Iraq is better, that our own security is better, with Saddam and his two sons out of office and out of power, I believe indeed we are."

Mr. Blair was no less clear-eyed about the threat posed today by Iran and its nuclear program, against which he counseled that the international community had to take a "very hard, tough line." Iranian interference was a large reason why the Iraq war "very nearly" failed. Iran remains a sponsor of terrorism and a cause of instability from Afghanistan to Lebanon. The lesson from the Iraq war isn't to avoid action for fear of unanticipated consequences, which are inevitable in any war. It is to take action to prevent the most foreseeable of disasters, namely the combination, in a single regime, of fanaticism, links to terrorism and nuclear weapons.

"The decision I took—and frankly would take again—was, if there was any possibility that he [Saddam] could develop weapons of mass destruction, we would stop him," Mr. Blair told the commission. Listening to him, we are reminded why he ranks with Margaret Thatcher as a pre-eminent statesman of postwar British politics, an achievement unlikely to be matched by the Lilliputians who seek to embarrass him.
Polite British academic company (including my supervisors, etc.) requires that I keep my admiration of Blair (at least on this point) to myself. The shroud of semi-anonymity (at least enough that I can plausibly deny and they can plausibly ignore) allows my full confession of guilt here: I reluctantly endorsed the decision to invade all the way back when (when all the Democrats voted for it and the public heavily supported it) and stand by that decision now.

Things could and would be a heck of a lot worse.

(h/t Scott L.)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

Down With Public Service Unions

I wrote about these leaches a week ago. They're on the WSJ Op-Ed page radar again. And with good reason:
As we can see from the desperate economic and fiscal woes of California, New Jersey, New York and other states with dominant public unions, this has become a major problem for the U.S. economy and small-d democratic governance. It may be the single biggest problem. The agenda for American political reform needs to include the breaking of public unionism's power to capture an ever-larger share of private income.
Eventually these public service unions kill the host. See above-mentioned NY, NJ, & CA.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

02 February 2010

ConSource: Good News For People Who Love America & The Constitution

Got an email this morning from a good friend of mine who helped found ConSource, the post-partisan effort to collect and digitize primary source documents related to the creation of the American Constitution. It seems a heretofore unknown/identified early draft of the Constitution has been found by Lorianne Updike-Toler, also a friend of the blog.

(It would be more accurate to say that she's a friend of the blog's author as I have no idea what she thinks of the blog as such.)

Researcher Lorianne Updike Toler was intrigued by the centuries-old document at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

On the back of a treasured draft of the U.S. Constitution was a truncated version of the same document, starting with the familiar words: "We The People. . . ."

They had been scribbled upside down by one of the Constitution's framers, James Wilson, in the summer of 1787. The cursive continued, then abruptly stopped, as if pages were missing.

A mystery, Toler thought, until she examined other Wilson papers from the Historical Society's vault in Philadelphia and found what appeared to be the rest of the draft, titled "The Continuation of the Scheme."


"This was the kind of moment historians dream about," said Toler, 30, a lawyer and founding president of the Constitutional Sources Project (www.ConSource.org), a nonprofit organization, based in Washington, that promotes an understanding of and access to U.S. Constitution documents.

"This was national scripture, a piece of our Constitution's history," she said of her find in November. "It was difficult to keep my hands from trembling."

As other researchers "realized what was happening, there was a sort of hushed awe that settled over the reading room," Toler said. "One of them said the hair on her arms stood on end."

Two drafts of the Constitution in Wilson's hand had been separated from his papers long ago. One of them included the beginning of still another draft and was apparently seen as part of a single working version, instead of a separate draft.

Toler said "The Continuation of the Scheme," including its provisions about the executive and judiciary branches, completes that draft, making it a third.
As always, if you're interested in learning more about or supporting the efforts of ConSource, please click the link.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me atlybberty@gmail.com.

01 February 2010

Story Of An American Sniper

Very very cool.

(h/t Scott L.)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

It Could Be Worse; We Could Be France

Here in the good ol' US of A, we give civilian trials to foreign terrorists responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. And we allow failed (panty) bombers the right to remain silent.

But it could be worse; we could be France.
On Thursday, a court outside Paris will rule on a claim lodged by one Ilich Ramírez Sánchez. Better known as Carlos the Jackal, the 60-year-old Venezuelan was the Osama bin Laden of the 1970s and 1980s. On behalf of Palestinian and various Marxist-Leninist causes, Ramírez organized and carried out a series of notable terrorist attacks. The French finally nabbed him from a Sudanese hospital in 1994 and jailed him for life for the murder of two French policemen and a Lebanese informant. Carlos the Jackal now spends his time invoking his rights under the French constitution.

In the case before the court in Nanterre, he and long-time lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who also married him, are suing a French production company for the right to review and "correct and edit" a forthcoming made-for-TV film about him entitled "Carlos." Ms. Coutant-Peyre alleges the filmmakers are out to "demolish Carlos." Her client wants to protect the intellectual property rights to his name and "biographical image." The court has taken this case seriously enough to hear it.

A lawyer for the film company, Film en Stock, asked the Libération daily in Paris, "How could we possibly tarnish the image of Carlos when he himself claims to have killed some 2,000 people?" There's also the small matter of a right to free press and speech that should, one would assume, shield the filmmakers from a litigious terrorist.
I suppose Carlos is thinking about starting a line of t-shirts in the mold of mass murderer, Che Guevara. You know the ones, with Che's "iconic" image, worn by idiots and hipsters everywhere.

These "revolutionary" shirts are like the Nazi Swastika and Soviet hammer & sickle to me--symbols of murder, terrorism, & tyranny. I resent anyone and everyone who wears such things--whether they do so in be-clowning ignorance or knowing full well the murderer Che was or, alternatively (in the case of the hammer & sickle), the many millions who died as a result of communist ideology, thus revealing themselves to be mentally sick.

Words and symbols matter, dear reader. Look through your clothing and be sure you're not unknowingly wearing & espousing belief in a system or person responsible for death and destruction.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.