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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hobby Lobby and Karl Polanyi

Interesting that Hobby Lobby, in its Supreme Court case, is merely looking to provide health insurance that excludes abortifacients; the health "insurance" it  already  provides covers the Pill, which is as cheap and available as aspirin.  As Patrick Ledeen argues here, this is merely a rearguard skirmish. The profane world of the market took over a long time ago.  He enlists the Hungarian economic historian Karl Polanyi to make his case about how the profane world of the market economy not only dominates our lives, but has even changed our fundamental nature.  (Polanyi did not believe that market exchanges are part of the natural order of things, and didn't play a big role in until the 19th century or so.  I read his classic "The Great Transformation" too long ago!)  His piece worth reading if only to remind us that not everyone thinks in classical economic terms. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/hobbylobby/

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Sandy Fluke's Long March

Corporations have personhood status under the law.   Sorry: This is an ancient juridical principal and is supported by the Supreme Court.   But it is being vigorously disputed by the Left.   ( I understand that. Fighting against business interests is what they do.)  Hobby Lobby''s case if before the Supremes as it attempts to defend itself by not offering health insurance that contravenes its pro-life values.  Note Bene: Contraception requires NO health insurance.  You can buy it cheaply over the counter.  This is never mentioned.  Why should we all the health insurance subscripers assume the cost of someone else's contraception or abortion?   Anyway, the piece below by Sandra Fluke is typical:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sandra-fluke-at-the-supreme-court-a-potential-contraception-catastrophe/2014/03/24/4c41f4aa-b38a-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html

Sandra Fluke (rhymes with...never mind.  The u is short.) went to Georgetown Law schoool and began her public career there by insisting that the nominally Catholic university provide coverage for contraception.  She has also argued that sex-reassignment surgery should also be covered.   We suspect that was her real agenda all along.  See here: https://www.catholic.org/news/politics/story.php?id=45074

Sandra is a Gramscian "intellectual" engaged in the "long march through the institutions."  She's running for state senate in California and doubtless she'll win.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Empire Lover

I read Robert Kaplan regularly in Stratfor and other places.  He's the John Gunther of his generation.   He's correct in emphasizing geography's preeminence in determining state behavior.  But his writing is hit-or-miss.  Last year I plowed through his book "The Revenge of Geography," and thought it was aimless and hastily written.   I have never bought his "Coming Anarchy" thesis, which seems to define anarchy as any bad stuff happening in faraway places.  Geopolitically, this is a more stable age than the Cold War was, with less lethal wars.  Still, there might be something to the idea of empire's benefits for minorities and its cosmopolitan outlook.  (A final quibble:  Why some writers interpret Kipling's "White Man Burden" poem as an exhortation to empire puzzles me; it clearly is ironically written and was intended as a warning to the AEF in the Philippines.  See also the title of Max Boot's "Savage Wars for Peace.")

See Kaplan's full piece on the defense of Empire in Atlantic here:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/04/in-defense-of-empire/358645/

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nationalism is Still Standing, and That's Not a Bad Thing

All other ideological rivals--communism, liberal internationalism--have either faded or have failed to inspire, leaving nationalism as the last man standing.  See this piece by journalist John O'Sullivan on the cast for nationalism and how healthy nationalism is a prerequisite for democracy.  He writes:
A final brief argument is perhaps the strongest: Nation-states are an almost necessary basis for democracy. A common language and culture, a common allegiance to national institutions, a common sense of destiny, all within a defined territory, with equal rights for all citizens—these seem to be the conditions that enable people with different opinions and interests to accept political defeat and the passage of laws to which they strongly object. There are a few exceptions to this rule—India, Switzerland—but many more confirmations of it.
The whole piece is here: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303802104579451504265877512?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303802104579451504265877512.html%3Fmod%3DWSJ_hp_RightTopStories

Putin is NOT a nationalist, he argues, but an imperialist.  (Debatable.) It looks like Putin's motives have been for Russia's security. (This piece explains better than most why Putin's gambit deserves to be opposed.  But he's right in noting that a strong sense of identity and obligation to the nation-state probably is the best bulwark for democratic freedoms. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Britain Serves International Oligarchs

"You pay them, you own them."   Ben Judah explains Britain's role today.  This article referenced in the Shaxson piece.  It is even more hard hitting.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/londons-laundry-business.html?_r=1
The City of London and the Empire

Sanctions against Russia are bound to have little impact because the City of London has too much at stake with Russian financial interests, licit and illicit.  This article by Nicholas Shaxson explains the real power of the City of London as ground zero of offshore money and "secrecy jurisdictions."    Much of this piece was taken from his worthwhile book "Treasure Islands,"  a key source for understanding how globalization really works.   It also gives some insight into how hamstrung states are in bringing dictators and criminals to account.  The laissez-faire ideology, which works against state sovereignty and national economic planning, is sustained by the City and other offshore interests.  (One of Shaxson's more important points is that seedy offshore locales like the Cayman Islands really distract us from the real tax havens, which are the legitimate financial institutions of the U.S. and the UK.)

http://www.the-american-interest.com/articles/2014/03/19/the-much-too-special-relationship/

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Strident Urgency of the Climate Change Crowd

This piece highlights the latest warnings from the IPCC.  As the evidence of severe climate change becomes less conclusive, the tone of the warnings has grown more alarmist.  http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/official-prophecy-of-doom-global-warming-will-cause-widespread-conflict-displace-millions-of-people-and-devastate-the-global-economy-9198171.html

It impresses me how this mindset has even captured people who make their living in industry.  They seem unaware of the consequences of constantly giving in to pseudoscientific arguments. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review of "Duty" by Robert Gates

I just finished reading "Duty," a 600-page mataburros (donkey-kller, as the Mexicans call a big doorstop of a book).  Gates is something of a hero to me, being the only analyst ever to head the intelligence community and a William and Mary graduate to boot.  He was one of the best senior executives in government service since World War II.

A few highlights of the book:
  • Makes the important point how 9/11 psychologically impacted the Bush administration.  A general feeling that they had let down the country and they desperately wanted to prevent another attack.  He noted the sense of "fear and urgency."  The decision to use waterboarding--see Bush's approval of this in "Decision Points"--to interrogate the most culpable (e.g., KSM) of the terrorists should be seen in this light.  In tne end, our values won out, as this method of interrogation was shut down pretty early on in GWOT.
  • How the JCS was essentially defeatist about Iraq by the time he took over as Secdef in 2006.  The leadership had to change.  He considers Bush's decision to go ahead with the 30,000-man surge in Iraq as one of the most courageous political decisions he had witnessed in public service.
  • We contributed to making the level of distrust between Washington and Kabul by essentially trying to oust Karzai in an electoral coup d'etat.
  • He attributes his greatest accomplishments to getting more MRAP (anti-mine) vehicles to Iraq and getting more ISR to Afghanistan, often having to drag the Pentagon bureaucracy kicking and screaming. 
  • Some of the smaller details of the book stuck with me the longest:  how in denial the Army medical bureaucracy was about the conditions at Walter Reed Hospital...How the remains of dead servicemen were being poorly handled at Dover Air Force base...how the Air Force sent nuclear weapons flying across country without knowing it.  
  • President Bush 43 comes off well in the book.   President Obama is viewed more critically, but he gets high praise from Gates for his graciousness and his support for the Afghanistan surge.  Obama did not however support our policy in Afghanistan despite calling this "the good war" during his presidential campaign.  By pointing out this fact obvious to everyone,  Gates has been attacked by Democrats as "betraying" Obama.
  • Gates lambasts Congress on every occasion for being meanspirited and lacking any sense of the public good.  That Congress fails in its basic function of appropriating funds infuriates Gates.
  • He offers a revealing account of his devil's advocacy against the raid on Osama Bin Laden.  It was interesting seeing his reasoning.
Last note:  You'll be disappointed in reading this book if you are looking for big insights on the future of US foreign policy or grand strategy.  A conventional thinker, Gates does not dwell much on the rightness or wrongness of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He accepts the logic that we must prevent terrorist "safe havens,"  even though our main threat now is home-grown terrorism.  He endorses the view the world has become more dangerous, despite having spent his formative years in public life during the height of the Cold War.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"The Culture War Isn't Over, but..."

..."it's in the final rounds."   So says the "marijuana entrepreneur" in this article.   A great piece, because it exposes the whole medical marijuana swindle.  Recall that California rejected legalizing marijuana, and in several places voters are having buyers' remorse about medical marijuana dispensaries.  Are the feds simply going to drop marijuana's designation as a Schedule 1 narcotic? How will that be justified--sorry, we goofed, its really good for you after all?  Marijuana is being legalized simply because cultural mores are changing, not because we have any new discoveries about it.  It's the same weed it's always been.  The shame is this will actually hurt a lot of people, and will totally undermine parents trying to convince their kids to stay away from the stuff, but who cares about them?  We mustn't stand in the way of our inalienable right to be stoned.
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303630904579419033028056534?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303630904579419033028056534.html%3Fmod%3DWSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Autumn of the Patriarchs?

Mexican historian Enrique Krauze thinks the Venezuela regime is on its last legs.  Some years back he argued in a long book that Chavez was really a fascist and that Venezuela should be rightfully governed by social democrats like himself.   He didn't seem to recognize Chavez in fact picked up most of the old Accion Democratica (social democrat) voters, who are now his most loyal supporters.   In this piece, he is probably underestimating President Nicolas Maduro's legitimacy.  He also makes too much of these protests, which Chavez endured practically nonstop from 2001-2003. Maduro still has the Chavez system behind him, which includes the Army.  This accounts for a lot.
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116918/venezuelas-protests-age-latin-american-dictator-over

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Where is our Cincinnatus?

Steve Krason of Franciscan University reminds us that often the President has had to act decisively on domestic policy, sometimes on an "extraconstitutional basis," to defend the fundamental law of the constitution. One example he might have cited was Eisenhower's efforts to enforce desegregation in Arkansas, which helped overcome social inertia and resistance in the South.  Krason is thinking about the overreach of Obamacare and the EPA and other federal agencies bent on reducing basic freedoms.  Still this article will arouse some controversy, as few conservatives see much to like in the presidency these days.
http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/presidential-power-a-rescuer-not-a-nemesis

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Human Disease

What is difficult for many to understand is how radical the enviromentalist has become.  We assume they merely want reforms to safeguard against pollution, to make the enviroment safer for humans.  In fact, radicals in the movement want to make the enviroment safe from humans. They want to prevent economic progress because they see it fundamentally as an assault on Mother Earth, whom they regard as a living entity.  I spoke with an oceanography not long ago who lamented that conversion to natural gas has enable the U.S. to reach its emissions quote under Kyoto without having to enact any draconian policies. The point to him was not to achieve this goal, but to decrease our use of fuel, period.  Anyway, check out this article by Wesley Smith on the mentality behind this movement:
http://www.discovery.org/a/22591

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dr. K:  Ukraine as a New Finland

A sensible approach here by "Dr. Kissinger," who is right at home thinking about the great power relationships of the post-Cold War.   (Kissinger can't still be writing himself; I saw him a few years ago at the airport, wheelchair-bound, frail, and detached.)  The "West" apparently saw the Ukraine's rejection of a free trade agreement with the EU as a hostile act.   But events are moving swiftly now; the Crimea seems poised to join Russia, which will be quite an afront to the values that have guided international affairs for the last several decades.  
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/henry-kissinger-to-settle-the-ukraine-crisis-start-at-the-end/2014/03/05/46dad868-a496-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html?hpid=z3

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why Are We Still in a Cold War Mindset?

Russia occupies its own sphere of interest and does not threaten vital American interests.  True, she has given asylum to the traitor Snowden, but Germany probably would have too.   Our dubious decision to back Pretorian politics in the Ukraine must be seen as a threat to Moscow.  The media reaction against Russia's moves in the Crimea has been remarkable.  (Note we invaded Panama in 1989 when we saw a vital strategic interest at stake.)  Peter Hitchens, who has no illusions about the nature of the Putin regime, offers some thoughtful points on the manufactured crisis here:
http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/

Monday, March 3, 2014

Goodbye, Chavez

As predicted, Venezuelan President Maduro's invocation of Chavez's legacy has only diminished him in the eyes of his supporters.  See article below.  What the article fails to note is that the disturbances in Venezuela are nothing new.  Chavez had to deal with them, in spades.  I doubt Maduro has seen demonstrations the size that faced Chavez back in 2001 and 2002, sometime numbering 500,000 or more.  The problem for Maduro is he can't rally his side like Chavez could. 

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0302/Chavez-legacy-fades-in-Venezuela-as-crowds-fill-the-streets-video