Saturday, December 29, 2007

Everton 1 - Arsenal 4

Arsenal was very fortunate to defeat Everton 4-1 at Goodison Park earlier today. As lopsided as the score was, Arsenal looked to be the better team for an astonishingly small fraction of the game time. In the Boxing Day fixture at Portsmouth, the Gunners ran into an athletic, motivated side. Arsenal looked to be the better team, but embarrassingly toothless in a nil-nil draw.

Here, Arsenal were outphysicalled and surprisingly outskilled by Everton, but poured in the goals. Arsenal have not played their best football for about a month now, but the holiday fixture congestion ends on New Year's Day home to West Ham and as I write the Gunners are top of the table by two points. If Arsenal play their best game they are the best team in the League. If they can recover Cesc, Hleb and Robin Van Persie to their best form while continue winning until then, they will win the title. If I had to guess now, I think they will.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Are you really ready to be President, Mr Huckabee,

.......if it takes you two weeks to get ready to talk to Tim Russert for a half hour?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Fog Lifts

It's primary time for the GOP, and this season is the most disjointed that I can ever recall. One thing that has happened over the last ten days or so is that I've decided, at least one for one GOP supporter, the optimal preference order for the major GOP candidates. Drum roll please:

1. Thompson/Romney
2. McCain
3. Ron Paul
4. Huckabee/Giuliani

I'd put McCain on the same level as Romney and Fred if it weren't for the partisan aspect of the Presidency. That is, the President is de facto the leader of the party as well. I could live with McCain's apostasies on campaign finance reform or immigration, except for the fact that his leadership of the party will undercut the ability of Republicans or other conservatives to oppose him on those issues. I'm afraid, at the end of the day we're going to end up with someone a lot worse than him anyway.

Ten days or so the situation looked pretty bleak, for me at least. The two very worst candidates from the whole field were the national polls frontrunner and the hot candidate. But now at least there's a scenario brewing that has at least a decent chance of coming off. Giuliani is falling in the polls, both the nationals and in the important states. He's weak in both Iowa and New Hampshire. If both trends continue, we can hope he gets knocked to the canvas on New Hampshire primary night and doesn't get up. His support will forced to find another home. At the end of the day, Huckabee is not going to win the nomination, so it's not as bad if he wins a couple of early ones. Then the party and the gods get to pick from Mitt, Fred and John McCain, and truth be told that's not so bad.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Only slightly an exaggeration this. There's a difference between cheering your horse, and mindless fan-boyism. Unfortunately, Hugh Hewitt is too often on the wrong side of that line.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Speech

By now, the political world is atwitter that Mitt Romney will reprise the JFK in Houston speech, being a member of a religious minority running for President.

It's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. The public at large will finally get to see how Romney wants the rest of us to perceive his Mormonism. And if we're lucky, we might get a chance to see the "real" Romney in such a way as to discredit the "cardboard cutout" rap.

This primary season has been very frustrating for a GOP base conservative, not least because the whole thing has turned into a Chinese fire drill. But worse than that, this primary campaign season is miserably failing at the things that primaries are supposed to accomplish.

We _still_ don't know who out of these candidates can take some heat. Rudy Giuliani is transvestite New Yorker with a short fuse. Mitt is a Ken-doll flip-flopper. The Ron Paul campaign has attracted more flakes and quackjobs than Area 51. Mike Huckabee is a Jimmy Swaggart who got elected governor and likes to raise taxes. These guys have all earned their labels, to some extent they're legit. Who out there, can melt away his oppo-research facade and show us that there's something underneath that's worth our support? I for one am hoping that with this speech at College Station, Mitt Romney is going to be the first to try and get a bite of out of that apple.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two Cheers for Frum

There's a certain small segment of people for whom David Frum inspires a great deal of bitterness, mostly paleolibertarians and cranks. At bottom, the bitterness amounts to the fact that throughout his career, Frum has been willing to write in the mainstream press and work for mainstream pols, and deal with the notoriety and compromise goes along with that.

It is true that he unfairly criticized columnist Robert Novak for some supposedly unsavory antiwar associations in an article he wrote in National Review back in 2003. For that he ought to apologize, something I very much doubt will be forthcoming.

But in the main it's a bad rap. Frum is one of the most perceptive figures on the Right today, precisely because of his appreciation for what certain political figures can (or can't) do, with the constraints they operate under. For example, in the current issue of National Review Frum reviews _Heroic Conservatism_, by former Presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson. Frum is correct to emphasize that the gap between President Bush's lofty words and faltering actions have resulted in the unfortunately reality that most Americans just mentally tune him out.

I thought of this because, in the latest twist in the Republican Presidential race, Mitt Romney has decided to reprise JFK's speech to the ministers in Houston. I was going to write something about this but Frum beat me to it, and to a substantial extent has already put to pixels what I was going to say anyway.

Frum is correct that nobody is afraid that Romney will be beholden to some elder in Salt Lake City in the same way that people were legitimately afraid that JFK would be conscience-bound to take direct orders from the pope. On the other hand, some of the doctrines of Mormonism are just really weird. And, I differ with Frum to the extent that I think it's perfectly reasonable for voters to hope that Romney can stipulate that they are irrelevant to the performance of duties in public office.

It's a fool's errand in American politics to pretend that voters care about something which they don't, or that they shouldn't care about something which they do. If a substantial enough number of them care about Romney's Mormonism to the extent that it hurts his candidacy, he has to address it. And Kudos to Romney for doing it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Living in Interesting Times

According to the latest round of polls, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is gaining in Iowa at the expense of Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. This is just the latest twist of a primary season that has been as unpredictable as anything except college football.

For a while now, I've disagreed with the conventional wisdom that the Republicans have an especially weak field. In many ways, they are very accomplished men. McCain, Romney, Ron Paul, Fred Thompson, and Giuliani are all first tier talents in their own way.

I've tried to recollect some of the various worthies and not-so-worthies who have tried to get the GOP nomination over the last few cycles. And basically, there's been two kinds. First are the establishment candidates who have tried to position themselves in way or another inside the GOP base as it's developed since Reagan. Then there are the insurgent candidates, sometimes one-issue guys, who maybe aren't trying to win so much as to influence debate within the party or within the country. Of the former, there's Pete DuPont, Jack Kemp, Lamar Alexander, Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, Steve Forbes, John McCain, Dan Quayle, Richard Lugar and maybe some others I've forgotten. Of the latter, I can think of Pat Buchanan, Alan Keyes, Pat Robertson, Bob Dornan offhand. The point being is that it's the mainstream guys are the ones who define the center of gravity for the party. There's more of them, they have all the support and the money, and the others attempted to define themselves in relation to that center of gravity.

This year's field isn't weak so much as it is unconventional. For Romney, McCain, Giuliani, and Ron Paul (among others), there's just too much mental gymnastics required to get to the point where we can say, "Well, I guess _____ is okay."

And this was before the rise of Mike Huckabee, and I gotta admit I'm at a loss for this one. I'm not a huge fan of Rudy Giuliani, but the logic behind his candidacy makes perfect sense to me. But what is it exactly, that would make somebody want to call on the leadership of Mike Huckabee, either for the party or the country at large? He's a glad-handing, smooth talking, sticky-fingered Republican Bill Clinton nanny-state exemplar. As far as principled social conservatives go, Senator Sam Brownback is a much better.

I suppose there's just enough interesting narrative behind the story of losing 100 lbs. to hope that Huck can escape the Bible-thumping ghetto. And assuming he gets that far, that he's ready to compete on the big stage of American politics. It seems like a vain hope to me.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Aston Villa 1 - Arsenal 2

The Gunners picked up a crucial three points at Aston Villa today, in circumstances that bode well for their title chances in come May. The opponents were a good team (among the Premier League also-rans at least), playing well, and at home. Arsenal, OTOH, were struggling to get some players back from injury and have sometimes in years past have lost form in December, just when the fixture congestion starts. From a pessimist's point of view, this game had "dropped points" written all over it.

But it didn't happen that way. It's especially auspicious that the goals were not the typical Arsenal scores either, Mathieu Flamini with a drive from the edge of the box and Adebayor with a header. This is significant because the defense had lots of players in their area at the time (Adebayor was marked twice). Scoring goals like this will defeat the fortress mentality of many opponents.

The second half was scoreless. Truth be told Villa had the better of the game at that time. But as Arsenal fans know well, the winner of a football match is the team that scores the most goals, not necessarily the one that looks like the better side.

This is make or break time for the Gunners. A third of the season is in the books now. Another third of the season finishes in February. Arsenal will have to carry through the middle part of the season at less than full strength, due to injury and the African Nations Cup. If Arsenal can carry through this stretch with a bigger lead than they have now, they will win the League. We know that Arsenal have the talent to win, but do they have the perserverance?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Bush Doctrine Wins One

According to this blogpost from the Weekly Standard, the North Korean regime is now in existential jeopardy. This is the sort of thing to be taken with many grains of salt. Nonetheless, it illustrates the bankruptcy of the "realist" school of foreign policy, one of my favorite whipping boys.

The realists are correct to emphasize that success in foreign policy demands competent execution. That notwithstanding, it is always a mistake to concentrate on means to such an extent that their ends are forgotten. In the case of North Korea, our ends are the demolition of their nuclear program, and preferably regime change too. The reason for this is very simple, though it's one of the more controversial elements of the Bush Doctrine. The nature of the North Korean regime is simply evil and cannot be dealt with.

Even if we cannot accomplish these goals directly, they cannot be forsaken either. With hope comes opportunity, which might be manifested in unexpected ways. Without it, you give up on the whole loaf for sure, and the half loaf you thought you were settling for, well you might not get that either.

Grover Norquist is Useless

This cheeses me off a little bit, not because he's picking on my quasi-supported candidate (HT to The Corner).

First of all, it ought to be pretty clear by now that the level of communication between the Washtington Republican establishment and the conservative base is atrocious. Several times over Bush's second term, either the President or the Republicans have been caught completely flatfooted at the overwhelmingly negative response to their initiatives, eg, immigration, Harriet Miers, William Jefferson's money in the freezer, etc. I've wondered what actually happens in his Wednesday morning meetings. Whatever it is, somebody is not getting the memo.

About this particular incident, it just seems like Norquist hasn't updated his playbook since 1990. Right now, the most likely scenario after the next election is that the D's will control the Presidency and both houses of Congress. I'd give the GOP a better chance to defend the Maginot Line than to successfully prevent tax increases in that scenario. We all know that fetishizing a balanced budget is a green eyeshade trap. But somewhere over the rainbowsome kind of ballpark relationship to outlays. If there's no pressure at all to discipline spending (and I can never recall an instance of Norquist applying any), holding the line on taxes is increasingly implausible.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Lives of Others, pt II

In _The Lives of Others_, the conduct of the Stasi was petty and cruel, but never barbarous. I suspect this was done by design, but even if it was by accident, the effect is the same.

The viewer is never revolted by the events in the movie to the point where he must turn away from the screen to recover his own bearing. Because we, the audience, can safely pay our attention to the story in front of us, we can appreciate the content at a deeper, less abstract level. It's not just that most of us are fully capable of the various cruelties of the Stasi, but actually more hopeful than that. We are also capable of the heroic subterfuge of Herr Wiesler as well, which we feel all the more acutely because we feel the same dread at the risk of discovery that he did. To that end, we can forgive the producers some historical inaccuracies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Lives of Others

As I've written before, the history and drama of the Cold War is surprisingly obscure today. As recent as it is, it seems to have slipped away from our collective memory. This is unfortunate, not simply for the sake of historical remembrance, but also because during that era, we were forced to strengthen and use spiritual resources which, since then, seem to have gotten collectively weaker among us.

With these things in mind I was very keen to seem _The Lives of Others_, a German film about life under the shadow of the Stasi, the East German secret police. The subject of the surveillance is Georg Dreyman, a prominent Socialist playwright who heretofore had been thought to be above suspicion. But the real protagonist is his Stasi minder, Wiesler, a distant, meticulous man, even among the Germans.

But it's important to realize that those facts of his nature and his past describe Herr Wiesler, they don't define him. He can still see the reality of the world outside himself, he can still choose his actions, and informed by his own conscience, he can still choose the good and reject evil. He can choose these things at his own personal cost even. In his own way, he can stand for the freedom of the playwright to write and the integrity of the relationship between the playwright and his girlfriend. But, notwithstanding these choices, and the spiritual awakening that came with them, Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler is still the same meticulous distant German that he was before. By the end of the movie, even though Dreyman is able to appreciate and acknowledge the sacrifice that Wiesler made for him, they never actually speak face to face.

As a final note, Wikipedia claims that this movie cost $2M to make yet has grossed $73M so far. This conforms to a pet theory of mine, that the audience hungers for real drama at the heart of the person and his ability to perservere in diverse or adverse circumstances. If Hollywood, or artists in general could write this drama, they would be more successful, both financially and artistically.

Rudy and Abortion

Hadley Arkes writes about the connection between the Giuliani campaign and the abortion issue here. Frankly, Rudy has been a lot more durable than I thought. If Rudy is nominated I'd probably even vote for him but his candidacy is very disconcerting nonetheless.

First, I personally oppose abortion but even if I didn't, it's important to realize that the presence of the pro-life movement as part of the Republican party is a good thing. It's a matter of simple arithmetic. Demographically speaking, it's the presence of the Religious Right that separates the United States from the UK or Canada or the major Continental nations. Those who don't like Ralph Reed or whoever should decide how much they like paying a marginal tax rate of 70% or whatever it is in Germany because that's the alternative.

Second, if Giuliani is elected, the pro-life movement is in for some bleak times. For the rest of us, even if he upholds his promises regarding judges, or at least intends to, we'll be living a colder, less friendly place nonetheless. There's a certain warmth and enthusiasm that comes from the realization that we can take some inconvenience when somebody else really needs us, and heck, the extra burden isn't that heavy anyway. That, I fear, is what President Rudy Guiliani will cut us off from.

The contrast with Mitt Romney is palpable. Mitt seems to believe the "right" things, except that he hasn't been able to convey why he believes them except for political expediency. If ever he can, I suspect his candidacy will be a lot stronger than it is now. In any case, I'd still take him over Rudy as it is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Before the Iraq war, some antiwar advocates polemically argued that we were the ones who gave Saddam Hussein his weapons in the first place. Though it's not exactly clear why that train of thought should determine whether or not we invade Iraq, it obviously was intended to be a moral rebuke to America.

In any case it isn't so, here's a useful link. We supplied very few of Saddam's armaments, and those that we did were supposed to be a counterweight against the regime of the Ayatollahs in Iran who were fighting against Iraq at the time. You don't hear very much about this any more. Saddam has had his date with the hangman and frankly nobody misses him very much, so as practical matter it's not that big a deal. But, it is indicative of several important things.

It's been a theory, prominently but not exclusively of the paleolibertarians, that we can solve our Middle East problems if we just take the ball and go home. Mostly, this is insinuated rather than directly argued, and the above is a good clue why. We are never told what level of disengagement by America is supposed to work. Those disposed to oppose America are not especially fastidious. We are blamed for the things we are doing, but the things we did ages ago, things we only thought of, things the British did in the '20s, or in the above case, things we did very little of.

Most importantly, the hatreds and the rivalries in the Middle East are part of the cultural fabric there, and are substantially not created by us. In this particular case, Saddam Hussein was going to get his weapons from anyone who would sell them to him. This is why, even if we'd left Iraq a year ago and the violence there stayed at its grotesque nadir, it's still not our fault. This isn't to deny that the stubbornness and smugness of the Administration, and the state of denial in important quarters of the American Right, were not serious mistakes, mistakes that we're still paying for today. Nonetheless, they are not the real cause of our problems.

The biggest problem we have, is that almost all the major players there are immediately and opportunisticly willing to resort to violence to achieve their political ends. One very important upside to winning the Iraq war is that we can show to the players there, ourselves, and anyone else who's watching, that it doesn't have to be that way. Something else is actually possible, smack dab in the middle of the Middle East, at the end of the Persian Gulf. Thus there is another way for the actors there to achieve their political ends. Who knows, some of them may even try it.

It is the realist thesis that we have to rely on the powers that be, Saddam Hussein, Assads, the Saudi princes, etc. to keep a lid on the violence in the areas they have control over and quarantine it away from us. And truth be told, on many occasions we may have to do exactly that. But that should always be a tactical decision and never a strategic one. First of all, we have to rely on the control that those rulers have over their societies which may not be sufficient for us (and are probably maintained with very brutal methods). Second, it's not clear why these rulers, who have clawed their way up the greasy pole, should be looking to do favors for us. In some cases, like Osama, that's obviously a nonstarter since his raison d'etre is to commit acts of violence against us.

Ultimately, with the advance of globalization and technology, we live in the same world as the Middle East. At the end of the rainbow, their world is our world. To a substantial degree, we can insulate ourselves against the problems there. But, if we have no hope of those problems actually being resolved, we're just living on borrowed time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Organization Man

As the cliche goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Sometimes the world is governed by what's best, and sometimes by what's the most popular. That's just a fact of life that we all accept, even if we don't like it some of the time. As it pertains to politics or cultural affairs, that means whoever gets the most votes wins the election. Whoever sells the most records gets played on the radio, et cetera, et cetera.

But public effectiveness also requires more than mere popularity. It requires energy for promotion and the ability to harness that energy toward concrete ends. In short, organization.

I was thinking about this in the context of (what else?) Ron Paul's campaign. It's worth mentioning that heretofore, nothing associated with the paleolibertarians has ever been worth a tinker's dam when it comes to organization. The paleocons are essentially professional pains in the ass. They would much rather argue with the mainstream Right (or themselves) to organize anything useful. The libertarians on the other hand, disdain organization. Organization is about putting common purpose ahead of individual autonomy and that reminds them of the government, which they hate. There is always a decent amount of libertarian sentiment wafting around America, but the Libertarian Party has always been a joke.

I don't criticize Ron Paul's campaign on this account. Again, it is by far the best anything associated with the paleolibertarians have ever done. It's just that their enthusiasm is of a piece with an eight-year-old boy who finds a cool new toy under the tree on Christmas. "Wait, you mean we can get together around stuff we all agree on, get more done _and_ have more fun than if we were all by our lonesome? Wow, I didn't know you could do that." The Sierra Club and the NRA (and the major parties and the unions and umpteen other groups) have been playing this game for a long time now. RP's campaign has a lot of catching up to do. A lot of RP's supporters would like to think that he polls at 2% because The Man is Keeping Him Down. I think the real answer is a lot more prosaic than that.

Reading 1 - Arsenal 3

The Gunners were back in action today with a comfortable 3-1 win at Reading. As a practical matter, the upshot is that Arsenal earned three League points and returned to the top of the table. But the game also illustrated a few things that are worth mentioning in their own right.

First of all, some Arsenal fans have deluded themselves for a couple of years now that the Premier League alsorans have to put "eleven men behind the ball" in order to keep from being dominated by the Arsenal attack. This is just plain wrong on many levels.

First of all most teams, even the ones just trying to hang on a scrape out a nil-nil draw, don't play eleven behind the ball, because that's a terrible defensive formation. It just about guarantees that your team will be under constant pressure the whole game. There's not enough guys who can get forward to catch the opponent on a counterattack. And furthermore, there's often times nowhere to outlet the ball to maintain possession if you're lucky enough to get it. Today's game was actually an exception. For the first half, while the game was scoreless, Reading was completely negative. And during that half, they barely touched the ball. Most importantly, it's not the other team's responsibility to play in a way that makes Arsenal comfortable. It's Arsenal's responsibility to figure out how to beat the other team no matter how they line up.

Related to that, for as succesful a season as Arsenal has had, I still worry about the team's ability to generate chances from possession. If the opposition tries to pack the penalty area, there are at least two things to do. First is to send in crosses from the wing for headers. Second is to blast the ball at the goal from 25 yards or so and poach rebounds. But so far, Arsenal hasn't shown the desire or aptitude for either one.

I believe this is mostly down to coaching and training methods, but it also at least a little bit related to personnel. Emmanuel Adebayor either needs to play better or the team has to find some other options at forward. This is a bit of a hidden problem. As a team, Arsenal leads the League in goals scored and Ade is second among players with seven. But of those, only one from open play either tied the game or gave Arsenal the lead (another was a penalty). Most of his goals come when Arsenal already has the lead, and those are worth a lot less. Fortunately for the Gunners, the midfield is pouring them in. But I'd like to rely on that a lot less.

Finally, Reading's consolation goal essentially served as comic relief for both teams. As a rule of thumb, 90 minutes is long enough and the skill level in the Premier League is high enough to figure that you might give up one goal against the run of play. Therefore, the typical strategy of trying to score a goal first and then go back to the castle and pull up the drawbridge doesn't work in must-win games. And for a team like Arsenal, that's almost all of them. Therefore, Arsenal has generate enough chances to get at least two a game. When you're up three-nil, you don't have to sweat a bad bounce here or there too hard.

Can I get on the CIA payroll too?

Is this guy representative of Ron Paul's support base? I'd feel better if he weren't, but I fear that he is.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The lazy man's candidate

Fred D. Thompson entered the race a while ago, and it's safe to say he's nestled comfortably within the first tier of candidates without doing anything exciting. He's taken the lead on immigration, but otherwise done very little to dispel the rap that he's a candidate whose heart really isn't in it.

It's a thin line really. We want to have a President with some energy, aggression and passion, but at the same time has enough humility to deploy them in the service of a higher purpose, not merely his own ego. I think it's fair to say that our last two Presidents have been better on the campaign trail than on the job. It's especially sad in the case of Mr. Clinton, who was notoriously protective of his place in history. Nonetheless, he was more or less a bystander to the major events of his era. After all the turmoil associated with him, his substantive accomplishments are more or less nil. He would be better off if he were Coolidge, who operated that way on purpose.

That aside, back to Fred Thompson. The essence of his candidacy, IMO, is that he uniquely is positioned to restore the Republican party as the majority in America. That's a big job, since the GOP is has less credibility now (more precisely, in the aftermath of the 2006 election) than at any time since 1974. Observers within the party and outside of it are skeptical that it can be done.

The Republicans are caught in a bad pincer. President Bush is regarded as stupid, and the Republicans in Congress are regarded as venal. Put the two together and Republicans in general are stupid _and_ venal, and that's a deadly combination. A well-adjusted person might, under some circumstances, have respect for a person (on in this case, an institution) that is one or the both, but to be venal and stupid together is to invite contempt with a flashing neon sign.

This is the hole that Fred Thompson can dig us out of. More so than most of the other candidates, he has the opportunity to clearly and aggressively define what the party stands for, away from the cul-de-sac that it's currently in. But that will take more energy that we've seen from him so far.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Keepin' it real

Among those who oppose the Iraq war there's four main schools of thought:

1. Haters of President Bush and the bourgeois America that he represents.
2. Dogmatic pacifists of any stripe.
3. Paleolibertarians
4. "Realists"

The first is something that respectable people simply ought to shun, though unfortunately sometimes they don't. The second is a little too abstract, so I'll pass on that for the moment at least. The third and fourth are pretty similar to each other. The paleolibertarians are those such as Presidential candidate Ron Paul who are essentially isolationist with respect to the Middle East for one reason or another, though it's difficult to see exactly what level of disengagement would isolate us from the turmoil there. The realists are those exemplified by Henry Kissinger, James Baker or Brent Snowcroft who suppose that we ought to rely more on good execution of the nuts and bolts of diplomacy. The realists and the paleolibertarians are IMO the most interesting of the opponents of the war among other reasons because it's only in the context of plausible alternatives that we can make intelligent choices.

I mention this because there's an interesting editorial in the LA Times today. Professor Bacevich is a realist, as he mentions in the article. Most of it is unobjectionable, uncontroversial even. Certainly now, I think both the military and civilian leadership have a better understanding of how many military resouces it takes to accomplish something, and would like to get a better bang for the buck than we've gotten in Iraq so far.

The fly in the realist ointment, of course, is 9/11. The professor writes,
"Reinvent containment. The process of negotiating that accommodation will
produce unwelcome fallout: anger, alienation, scapegoating and violence. In
collaboration with its allies, the United States must insulate itself against
Islamic radicalism. The imperative is not to wage global war, whether real or
metaphorical, but to erect effective defenses, as the West did during the Cold

Unfortunately, 9/11 proved we couldn't isolate ourselves from radical Islam with Realpolitik. If those dysfunctional societies are left to their own devices, they will be represented by Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden or the ayatollahs, because they are the ones strong enough or vicious enough to end up on top.

We should know that most of the tribal societies of the Middle East are not necessarily our close friends. But, it seems that there's a legitimate chance that we could live in reasonable peace with them if we could interact directly with them. If we are smart, we might figure out a way to do that with less cost in life and treasure than we have seen so far. It seems that there is an opening for our scholars and politicians to look for it. I hope somebody finds it, but frankly I don't know where to look.

The Dog That Didn't Bark

Given the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, it seems that there ought to be an opening for a Republican antiwar candidate for President. But if there is, then the Ron Paul campaign is a dog that is manifestly not barking. Heck, it's not even whimpering or wagging its tail. The fact that Ron Paul raised $4M in a day doesn't change this in the slightest.

The fact is, there is no reputable poll where Ron Paul consistency gets at least 5% support, either nationwide or in any topical state. Furthermore, over the past 10 months or so, 2 additional GOP candidates have plausibly entered the first tier, Huckabee and Fred Thompson.

The Ron Paul supporters seems to have to carry a "hidden juggernaut" mentality that seems to me to be historically myopic and frankly inexplicable. If The Man would just quit stepping on his neck, we would all be rallying around him. But we've seen this movie before. Howard Dean, Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader all failed as Presidential candidates, and Ron Paul has a long way to go to get to where they were.

But what has he really accomplished so far? Lyndon LaRouche ran, several times, for the Democratic Presidential nomination with campaigns that were both nuts and incoherent. If nothing else, Ron Paul has proved that he's not incoherent. So he's not the Republican Lyndon LaRouche. Faint praise, I'd guess.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Politics by Other Means

This is one of the most fascinating pieces I have ever read, regarding immigration or any other subject for that matter (Hat tip: Derbyshire, who circulated this in the Corner a few months ago). Immigration is a multifaceted thing, of course, but IMO the most volatile part of it is the intent to undermine popular sovereignty in the effort to liberalize immigration. And this is not distaste for some imaginged knee-jerk reaction against the brown hordes crossing the border, but the attempt to create a permanent ruling class against the interest of the citizens. See also here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Fallout

I had a friend in college who was a member of a fraternity and their house a specialty drink, the PhiNuke. I forget exactly what God-awful ingredients were mixed to make a PhiNuke, but the joke was "It's not the impact, it's the fallout."

So it is for the Republicans. 2006 was the impact, and 2008 is the fallout. In 2006 the GOP bubble burst. The staleness of incumbency, corruption, and the Iraq War combined to perfect storm that swept away majority in both houses of Congress. The only good news that is Democratic party never closed the sale as anything other than as a vehicle for frustration with the Republicans. Frankly they didn't really try even.

So that leaves an opening. The GOP still has issues that ought to command some support from the voters, eg abortion, national security, immigration. But first they have to survive the fallout. The Republicans have lost their political sinew: party identifcation, candidate recruitment, fundraising, message discipline. These are areas where the Republicans have had an edge for a while, but are now swimming upstream*. If one party is dominating the battle of ideas none of this matters. But that is a dim hope. If the GOP wants to materialize that hope, it needs to get its house in gear quickly.

* Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry have an article in National Review laying out just how much trouble the Republicans are in. Unfortunately the link is one of those lame-ass teaser things. If they ever fix it, I'll update.

Why I never thought of that

After the usual sturm und drang, the Democrats in the Senate acquiesce to the nomination of Michael Mukasey as United States Attorney General. This, combined with the continuation of the Iraq War under a Democratic Congress and a couple of other things, has fueled frustration on the part of the Democratic base and their anti-war supporters. The anti-war majority in the country at large is not getting very much mileage out of their electoral success in the 2006 election, and they are none too happy about it. The Wall Street Journal has more here.

Unfortunately for them, this is the result of the cynical mentality of the Democratic Establishment, which heretofore had been somewhat hidden. Truth be told, most Democrats in Congress are motivated by bitterness and opposition to the President than anything else. What the President is for, they are against. But that game works a lot better in the minority than the majority, where they have real responsibility for what happens and the voters are watching a lot closer. And so now we find out what the Congressional Democrats really think about Iraq and the other big ticket terror-related issues. And the answer is, not much of anything really.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

We Win, They Lose

More from O'Sullivan:
"My theory of the Cold War is that we win and they lose." - Ronald Reagan

What can we apply from our victory in the Cold War to the War on Terror? Well, we can adapt Reagan's theory of the Cold War for starters. And contrary to the naysayers then and now it is not merely an expression of mindless belligerence. It is a statement of intent. Sometimes it can be advanced with violence, sometimes without, but the intent is the same regardless.

Btw, this is why the Ron Paul campaign is now and forever shall be a joke, no matter how popular or unpopular the Iraq war is. Ron Paul does not particularly care about winning the War on Terror, if he even believes such a thing exists. That puts him outside the mainstream of the American people and even further outside the mainstream of the Republican party. Even then, he still might be a plausible candidate except for the fact that he makes no effort to persuade those who might disagree or even acknowledge they exist. Great job for someone who wants to be the chief executive of a constitutional republic.

Okay that aside, let's get the lay of the land in the Middle East and see who the main players are. In general, there are three sorts: the nation states, the terror groups, and the underlying tribal societies. Here the analog to the Cold War gets murky. First of all, the terror groups weren't nearly as significant. But most importantly, we have no real idea what civil society in Middle East might be like if we ever got the opportunity to engage it directly. In the Cold War, the people were our friends. To this day, America is in no place more popular than among the people of former Soviet satellites. Now, it's a grab bag. We have seen, in the space of 18 months or so, a change from bitter enmity to something approaching real friendship, at least among some of the Sunni Iraqi tribes. All in all, we shouldn't expect something like a real victory in the War on Terror to happen quickly.

But whether it's quick, or slow, or never happens at all, our intent is still the same.

Glory Days

The other day I bought the latest book by John O'Sullivan, _The President, The Pope, and The Prime Minister_, about Reagan, John Paul II, and Thatcher of course. To the extent I update this blog, I'm sure that I'll have several go-rounds about it. But while the subject material of the book is near and dear to my heart, it fills me some dread anyway. The problem is, most of the Reagan hero-worship comes off as the political-cultural version of 80s nostalgia, like Members Only jackets and A Flock of Seagulls for those who watch the McLaughlin Group. Jonah Goldberg makes a similar point here.

Nonetheless, this first impression is wrong in the final analysis. The lessons of the 80s are still topical today, especially for those of us who would in some way be considered part of the American Right.

Let's start with simple political demographics. The electoral success of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States is the finest fruit of the Buckley Renaissance of American conservatism which started a few decades earlier. As a coalition it was pretty simple: anti-Communist in foreign policy, low taxes and pro-family domestically. This has been pretty stable since then. Now, the Communists are gone and the terrorists are here, so we can substitute anti-terrorism for anti-Communism and not miss a beat. Furthermore, this was also more or less a winning coalition until 2006.

Now, this is in a state of flux. 2006 was a bad year, not just for the GOP, but also for the coalition animating it. The scale of the losses were large enough, and the prospect of further losses in future elections plausible enough, to the point where the whole viability of the Reagan coalition is in question. But at the risk of sitting aroun' telling boring stories about the old days, that is still the best option for the GOP.

This is true for three reasons. First, the things that the voters rightfully blame us for (largely the Iraq war), we can't do anything about. Second, the other core conservative issues are still popular: there's no point in abandoning the base on guns, abortion, immigration or defense. Those are going to be the elements of the GOP resurrection if there's going to be one. Finally, we will never outbid the Democrats on domestic butter issues so it's futile to try.

What's left? Well, we can do our best to get rid of GOP negatives that the conservative base never wanted in the first place, ie, fiscal and sexual corruption in Congress and the cronyism of the Bush43 administration.

There's also one final point to be made about Reagan and principle, contrary to Jonah's article above. It is true, as Jonah asserts, that Reagan as President made all sorts of compromises and sellouts, some of which were apparent at the time, and some of which weren't. But Jonah is wrong to suggest that he was less a man of principle because of them. In Reagan's case, it precisely because he held a few basic principles so firmly that he could make compromises while still in steadfast pursuit of them. This is especially topical of the GOP Presidential field today. We as mainstream conservatives have real reason to think that Giuliani, McCain (and maybe Romney too) don't share the same principles as the GOP base. I suspect that nominating any of them will cause substantial unforseen problems.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Psychic Pathology of Energy Production

The other day I was playing cards with a guy who sells security systems for a living. For $1500 or some other amount of money you could buy something with motion detectors, window sensors, passive notifications to police, etc. I mention this not because this business is in any way extraordinary but actually because it isn't. A producer offers some sort of product or service and the consumer decides if he wants it or not.

This is the way most business works, but there are exceptions and energy production is one (health care is another). In the modern bourgeois world, the consumer must purchase energy from those who have it to sell, and both parties know it. And this reality has very important psychological consequences. The equality between the producer and consumer is disturbed. The consumer (that is, you and me) has lost the ability to say no to the oilman or the power company and therefore feels in some unspoken way subservient and inferior. And frankly, we don't like it very much.

Most of us, most of the time, don't carry a thief mentality. If we want a bedroom set, or a blender, or a big screen TV, we understand that those things cost money and we have internalized that we have to pay whatever that cost is. But in a weird twist, energy is so valuable that we expect to get it for free. That isn't as strange as it sounds. As the cliche has it, the best things in life are free. The love of our families, the ability to enjoy yourself whereever you stand, friends who will cut you a little slack when you screw up, these things are priceless and free at the same time. But energy is not one of these things. The factors that produce energy are the same ones that produce a blender: rent on land, labor, industrial organization, return on capital, raw materials, etc. Simply put, all those factors must be compensated or else the end product goes away.

From here, the bourgeois energy consumer demonstrates a special case of what the psychologists call projection. We don't want to come to grips with the high cost of energy and our vulnerability to its scarcity. Instead, we try to take it out on the energy companies. They are routinely demonized for environmental insensitivity, price gouging, global warming, etc. No doubt some people really believe energy companies are really guilty of these things, but nonetheless the whole thing has an air of ritual theater. Oil company CEOs can be hauled before Congress and be made to grovel and power companies will make television ads extolling their environmental virtue. But the oil and power companies are going to get paid anyway. Recall, the factors of production must be compensated or the end product goes away, and we as bourgeois consumers will not accept the loss of our access to energy.

But even though oil companies still make money, the consumer's projection of energy production as "dirty" still has very important consequences. Mostly, we try to get by with as little energy production as we possibly can. Right now, some of the world's biggest problems (Iraq, "peak oil", etc) have roots in our unwillingness to compensate energy production just as we would any other business.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A feature not a bug

David Frum's correspondent hits on two essential facets of Fred's candidacy.

1. The Goldwater-Reagan GOP is a winning coalition. That is a lot more questionable now that at any time I can ever recall. Nonetheless I believe it is true, in 2012 if not now. My fear is that all of the other major candidates alienate significant chunks of this coalition. And given its tenuous state at the moment, there's a good chance that the GOP in its current form won't recover. And I can't see any other coalition that wins.

2. I think it's a good thing that Fred does not see himself as some kind of titanic figure on the world stage. Every serious candidate in today's world sees himself as the reincarnation of Reagan or FDR, depending on the party. These were men who combined the circumstances of their times, the vague yearings of the American people, and their own exceptional personalities to change the course of history.

But for most pols, this is a trap. In particular, Clinton and Bush fils are more or less ordinary men. And they would have been far more successful Presidents if they had come to grips with that instead of shooting for their "one sentence in history."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lenin makes the hajj, pt. 2

Kristol on The Daily Show

My friend JR clued me into an appearance by William Kristol on The Daily Show, hosted by Jon Stewart. This has been going on for a while apparently, and Kristol's most recent visit is linked above. They were talking about the Iraq war, of course, Kristol is pro and Stewart is con.

The segment is pretty short considering how important the subject is (7+ minutes), and without being very technical this interview gets to the crucible of the dilemma wrt Iraq, much more than most debate we have seen about the subject in the public arena. Kristol explains why he thinks the surge is succeeding, but Stewart replies, "Why should we trust you?" meaning the President, Kristol, or supporters of the war in general.

I was very moved by Stewart's question, because that's exactly the core of my frustration (as someone who supports the war) toward those who oppose it. To a large extent, the debate isn't about what we think, but who we are and what we are motivated by. That's why, as distasteful as it may be, we're going to have to get to the bottom of the "chickenhawk" vs. "unpatriotic" sorts of argument.

For my part, it's pretty simple. I want the United States to win the war in Iraq. And at the moment, that seems to me like a completely plausible outcome, so I favor continuing the American troop presence in Iraq until it is not plausible any more. There might be a time when I feel differently. Obviously I can't predict when that will happen, but I can say that I tend to give credibility to sources who also want to win the war. And on that score it's not really a close call.

Bush as LBJ

In Robert Novak's memoir Prince of Darkness, there's an interesting anecdote from the Johnson administration. Dean Rusk, or one of the higher-ups, has an off-the-record meeting with members of the press, wherein he says some highly impolitic things regarding the Vietnam war. One of the participants, Walter Lippman or some other Establishment luminary, leaks the proceedings to Novak, who promptly publishes a synopsis of them in his column, published in the Washington Post and a thousand other places.

As I read it, I thought of the George W. Bush and his difficulties. We have several plausible foils for him already. There's Clinton, a successful politician for himself but a failure for his party. Truman made hard choices regarding Korea and containment and was very unpopular in his time, but vindicated in history. Wilson made a fetish of democracy and Western ideologies of politics and did his best to export them across the world to the detriment of the U.S. national interest.

But reading Novak's book, there is Bush as Johnson as well, and it goes deeper than Bush:Iraq::Johnson:Vietnam. Johnson entered the White House after dominating the Senate as Majority Leader. W inherited a host of family connections and the associated loyalties as head of the Bush clan. But, what appeared initially as stuctural strengths in fact hid weakness of character.

Both Johnson and Bush fils thought they had it all figured out. They tended to disdain any sort of give-and-take with anybody outside their political in-group. Then, when they wanted to reach outside of it (a la Rusk above) they found out that they couldn't.

That's convenient

Apparently, Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is out for two weeks with an "injury" just after he commits two major blunders in the first two League games of the year. Jens might still be a serviceable keeper at the moment, but it's very important that the situation not be allowed to deteriorate into David Seaman redux. Sometime soon, Arsene Wenger needs to figure out who his #1 goalkeeper is, and frankly I don't think he knows.

Unfortunately, situations like these (and Eduardo for that matter) have been a blind spot for Wenger. He can find talent better, cheaper, and younger than anybody else, but when it comes to first-team needs, he tends to hope there's enough in the cupboard when the time comes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Don't ever take sides with anyone....

.....against the Family again. Ever."

So saith Michael Corleone to his hapless brother Fredo.

Within the American body politic, there's been a lot of bitterness spilled over the Iraq war, and in particular two sorts of arguments are the most incendiary. The anti-war Left accuses the pro-war Right of being "chickenhawks", and feels aggrieved when their adversaries "question their patriotism."

Both arguments have an air of cheapshots about them. But as I've thought about it a bit, I've decided that both arguments are in principle legit and to some extent inevitable even. But arguments change meaning a lilttle bit depending on how they are handled, and these two have to be handled very carefully.

It is legitimate to say that supporters of the war are making positive declarations about things they have little or no experience to substantiate. But it is contrary to our culture and our form of government to say that those who haven't served in the military cannot be heard on foreign policy issues. Besides which, it's a self-defeating argument in any case, as many others have pointed out. If the franchise were restricted either to veterans or active duty servicemen, the war would have a great deal better political standing than it does now.

On the flip side, it is also an injustice to suggest that those who do not support the decision to go to war were disloyal. Even if they were, the American people are more forgiving about that sort of thing than Michael Corleone anyway. But many of those who oppose the war attempt to speak in America's name (while at the same time not very much concerned about America's interests). Unfortunately for them, we have a lower-case-r republican nation in the United States, and ultimately the American people are sovereign over it. And even if they are more forgiving than Michael Corleone (to the dismay of some on the Right), there are limits.

We all know the war in Iraq has had, and no matter what the outcome, will continue to have substantial partisan political consequences for a good while. Nonetheless, in conjuction with the patriotism thing it is very important to emphasize success or failure in the Iraq war is a matter of success or failure for the United States as a whole, not just the Republican party or George W. Bush.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why Russia?

Daniel Larison seems to be stupefied about why anybody ought to be worried about Russia, particularly since Vladimir Putin became President. This one seems pretty simple to me, and it has a great deal to do with the changes in history about what constitutes a great nation.

First of all, let's recognize that in practical terms Russia is currently a basket case. It's a demographic nightmare, it's economy is a shambles, the criminal element is wildly out of control, there is no rule of law but there are rogue nuclear weapons. What's not to like? Moreover, in spite (or because of) these things, Putin, the Russian leadership and to a substantial extent the Russian people regard Russia as a Great Power, equal to or at least roughly of the same stature as the United States. This would be very funny if it were meant as a joke.

Instead, Russia intends to use its energy resources to bully other nations into adopting Moscow's line on the various controversies bouncing around world. Often, Moscow doesn't really care about the substance of its own line very much. But, by defending it aggressively and forcing other countries to come to heel, Moscow demonstrates its capacity to exercise power and preserves its amour-propre.

This would be a great strategy if we still lived in the 18th century. National powers were of necessity much more restrained. Theoretically a monarch might have absolute power but his real control over society was limited by logistics of enforcing it. Therefore the hunt for position and treasure among nations could be endured, because there was hope at the local level that the adverse consequences might miss them. Today of course, there is nowhere to hide from Big Brother.

Unfortunately, Vladimir Putin is still pretending to be the second coming of Napoleon. It ought to be the diplomatic policy of the United States to tell him that that game is stupid. If there were any point to that game, America would have won it a long time ago. America is the preeminent nation in the world today because it has shown that it can see the world through a bigger lens than its own parochial interest and can act on what it sees. The other nations of the world willingly give America its power. When it hits the fan and something needs to be done, people know who to as (hint: it's not France or Russia).

The latest on L'Affaire Beauchamp

Today has been a busy day. Jonathon Chait has published a cri de coeur on behalf of The New Republic, essentially reprising the "who are you to question my patriotism" gambit that worked so well for Mike Dukakis. Everybody and their brother has got their two cents in since, including Daniel Larison, Rich Lowry, Matt Feeney, Ross Douthat, Dean Barnett, and "Alenda Lux."

This last of these impressively and lengthily defends Kristol from the substance of Chait's gripes, but at this point really who cares? From the state of play right now, it's likely that most or all of Beauchamp's shocking assertions, published by TNR, will shown be unsubstantiated at best, plain lies or scandalously exaggerated at worst. It is a lead-pipe cinch that at the time of publication, TNR showed a jawdroppingly cavalier regard for their truth. Given the recent history of TNR's journalistic malfeasance, the only thing that matters now is the Howard Baker question: what did the TNR editorial authorities know, and when did they know it? The magnitude of fallout from this issue cannot be overstated. Journals of opinion like TNR are small niche publications. Questions of credibility and the purpose of the common editorial voice have to be answered. It wouldn't surpise me if TNR is eventually forced to cease publication as a result.

Let's also make one other point. The motivation for TNR to publish Beauchamp is actually pretty simple when you think about it. TNR is a political opinion periodical of the liberal/Left. It is not a carbon copy of The Nation, but broadly speaking it is clearly on the Left nonetheless. The support of the war by TNR has cost it dearly, in public credibility and personal relationships. Eventually, Peter Beinart bitterly repudiated the magazine's support for the war. Nonetheless, the memory of its prior support did not vanish. Publishing Beauchamp was an act of penance by TNR, toward their colleagues on the Left but most importantly toward its own insitutional sense of guilt for being on the wrong side of a momentous issue like Iraq.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Arsenal 1 - Blackburn 1

Today's game was a disappointment on several levels. First the result itself wasn't quite as bad as it could have been, now that all the top four have dropped points so far this season, and ManU have dropped a bunch. Nonetheless it was an opportunity missed to let the other guys chase us for a change.

In contrast where Arsenal have gotten poor results from domination in play, Blackburn were full value for the draw and were clearly the better side for the whole second half. That won't be such a big deal for one game but cannot be allowed to continue. The same with Lehmann's blunder. That's two for him so far this year, & three strikes you're out.

It was far more depressing that Arsenal were not able to show any resiliency or sense of urgency after Blackburn equalized. There was 20 minutes left, counting injury time. Maybe they should have scored a goal in that time, maybe not. But 20 minutes is more than enough time to assert superiority over a game if they have any superiority to assert. Their failure to do so was very very bad in my book.

Also, the signing of Eduardo da Silva has to be regarded as questionable at best. Not that we can regard him as a failure after one hour of competitive play, but it will be difficult to resolve his role on the team. He is a tweener of a young prospect and first-team contributor. We have several good prospects at the club already for his position. As an automatic selection, he has to be compared to Carlos Tevez, Nicolas Anelka, and Obafemi Martins, other strikers who played for lesser Premier League teams last year who may have been (or may be) available. Each of these other three are proven at the highest levels at club football, and are acclimated to the Premiership. In comparison to these three, it is very difficult to justify the signing of Eduardo.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Arsenal 2 - Fulham 1

There's a bunch of things that can be written about today's game, but the most important one is that Arsenal left the pitch with three points, and live to fight another day. The nature of the League has changed a little bit over the past few years: the teams at the top win more often than they used to, so draws are less and less useful.

It was a typical Arsenal effort in many ways: lots of chances but not so much scoring. But if there's anything positive to take from today, it looks to me like the team has a little better handle on how to quit dancing in possession and get a shot off. We can hope it's a good omen that the winning goal was by Sasha Hleb.

Big Billy and You

Please Mr. President, or whoever resurrects the next attempt at "comprehensive" immigration reform, get around this for a moment.

Btw, Rod Dreher linked to this as well. He believes the problem is largely irreformable because illegal immigration is behind so much of the prosperity behind our consumerist lifestyles to the point where we as a people can't afford to give it up. I have some sympathy with the underlying complaint but nonetheless it's a crock.

The owner of Big Billy's economically benefits very much from illegal immigration. You and I, probably not as much.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I pile on

The brouhaha over this has largely gone down the memory hole by now, but I can still point out that a substantial motivation behind the self-identification of today's "progressives" is the embarrassment of being associated with the 60s-70s connotations of being "liberal." In that context, it's worth pointing out that "progressivism" has it's own dirty laundry too.

I used to be an Anglophile

I guess I still am in a way, but now it seems more a matter of nostalgia than real friendship and shared purpose.

Arsenal and the Premier League 2007-2008

I haven't written too much about this, but today was opening day for the Premiership, maybe the most exciting sports league on the world. There is enough quality to be motivated to follow the better teams, but also enough parity so that everyone knows that the big dogs don't get gimme wins against the also-rans. There's no playoffs, so all the title contenders' games are meaningful, kinda like baseball used to be before divisional play. The three teams at the bottom of the league are relegated out of the league.

My team, Arsenal, has finished a disappointing fourth for two straight seasons, the bottom of the "top-four" teams who legitimately consider themselves to be title contenders before the start of the season, and the lowest place to earn entry into the Champions League, the major continent-wide club competition. The manager, Frenchman Arsene Wenger is a revolutionary figure for opening the league up to skilled, relatively cheap foreign players. But he's been there ten years now, and his enormously successful first generation of recruited players have largely retired or moved on to other teams. He has replaced them with a bucketload of young talent, who in some cases have excelled individually but have yet to form an intimidating side.

Is this the year? I don't know, but I do think the question is a matter of character rather than skill or workrate. So many of the players have basked in the glow of being prodigies without ever being forced to feel the real sting of being blamed for failure.

One way or another we'll begin to see answers soon. Tomorrow Arsenal opens their season at home against Fulham, a team good enough to avoid relegation but no better. Again, due to the structure of the League, this game matters a lot more than you might expect. IMO, it's no exaggeration to consider this a must-win game on the first day of the season. One-nil to the Arsenal, or it's going to be a long, long year.

Army of Davids

When I was studying Polish at UCLA, I had to give a presentation on a topical journal article in Polish. The professor was a Polish native, but intellectually an exile from the political/religious mainstream there. The article I picked happened to push just about every one of his buttons. I didn't pick it to spite him, but by the time I figured out what the article said, I had put in too much work in it to change.

In any case, the subject of the article was the proposed EU constitution, and the author's point was that the refusal of the constitution's writers to acknowledge the Christian heritage of Europe in the preamble was discrimination against Poland as an EU member state. But more importantly, it was also an act of willful amnesia. Ie, without the historical significance of Christianity, the continent has no real basis for cultural unity. Furthermore, the Euro-elites were too afraid of Christianity as a challenge to their authority to allow even an insignificant mention of it in the preamble to the EU Constitution.

At the time, a classmate asked me if I agreed with the substance of the article. I said no, but I couldn't exactly say why, since my brain was frazzled from a whole weekend's worth of translation work. But now, in the middle of a lazy summer, it's easier to explain.

The Euro-elites establishment are empatically not afraid of a resurgence of Christianity as a threat to their power. What they are scared to death of is real popular sovereignty. The people are reactionary and fickle. That is why there are significant extra-governmental institutions (supranational courts, social charters, NGOs, etc.) that backstop the elected governments against real change or debate in the issues that can't be let out of the attic: immigration, anything dealing with homosexuality, anything dealing with race, anything dealing with the "right" to welfare, anything dealing with Islam.

Here in the United States we have, just barely, real popular sovereignty. Even when the establishment is united upon some course of action, the popular will can veto it, if it's willing to get off the couch long enough to mobilize. The failure of the most recent immigration bill is a prime example.

This is a substantial part of the reason why Europe (especially Old Europe), is fading into cultural insignificance relative to the United States, for at least two reasons. First of all, the message to the people living in these countries is, that when push comes to shove, they don't count. This message is internalized, and the citizenry of these countries are less prepared to handle the challenges that come up.

Second (and predicted by Hayek), the Euro-"elites" don't have enough information or talent to handle the dynamic modern world. In the United States, anybody can have a business, a blog, a cultural movement, or an independent net worth. These things exist largely outside of the control of the government or any other central authority for that matter. Therefore the American people have resources to adapt to problems as they occur, resources that aren't available in the rest of the world, especially to the governing classes.

I personally get defensive when I hear people trashing the American lumpenproletariat and its various nicknames (flyover country, Religious Right, red states, etc) even when the criticism is largely on point. The alternatives are much worse.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Prince of Darkness

I'm in Los Angeles at the moment and on the way over (and a little bit since), I've been reading the memoirs of Robert Novak, one of the most interesting figures in Washington for the past several decades. The Prince of Darkness has lots of interesting minutae (Did you know Bob Novak is Chris Caldwell's father-in-law? Me either, though I'm sure it isn't any kind of state secret.) But the overall portrait of the author is most compelling.

First of all, to me Novak has come across as the paleoconservative who didn't fit. He agrees with them about most on most of the controversial things, but somehow it's difficult to see him taking the career track of E. Michael Jones or Joseph Sobran. The reason why is because Mr. Novak represents not the Eastern Establishment exactly, but the mainstream of the American press, and comfortable in it. He worked in the vineyards as a correspondent in Nebraska and Indiana before establishing his Capitol-based franchises. This is a far cry from the let's-return-to-the-soil tradition of the paleocons.

Second, there is distinct lack of sentimentality of warmth in his personality. This is especially apparent in his writing regarding his partnership with Rowly Evans, who always seemed to me to be a gregarious good egg when I saw him on television. In this way, I guess his reputation is well-deserved.

But in spite of this, I still have to commend Mr. Novak for his ability to tell a straight story, in my view the prime reason why he has had a successful career as he had. This extends even to his own failures of character. In one anecdote, he admits that he softpedaled James Baker as chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan as a silent quid pro quo for Mr. Baker ceasing to badmouth Novak in the President's name. It's the sort of thing that any profession person with a substantial career has done that he is not proud of. I give quite a bit of credit to Mr. Novak for owning up to it.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Larry Kudlow is a likeable guy, & I tend to agree with him in broad strokes (in fact, I agree with most of what he wrote in the link). But for some reason, establishment types tend to get very blinkered when they've made up their mind.

The decline and fall of Ted Stevens (if in fact it happens) is the best news the GOP has had in a while. Mr. Kudlow is confusing the disease with the cure. The Republicans have already suffered from the disease, they might as well enjoy the benefit of the cure, even if it hurts a little.


Somehow, I'm pretty confident that FoxNews has more than enough journalistic integrity not to try something like this.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Real Conservative is Whoever Agrees With Me

Pray tell Greg, what exactly makes Bruce Fein a real conservative and say, Larry Thompson a closet socialist in sheep's clothing?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hope Over Experience II

Newt Gingrich recently spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the American Spectator. He's a smart guy, and do better a lot of jobs than the guy who is doing it now. But President of the United States is not one of them, if for no other reason than he would self-destruct at least five times before taking the Oath of Office. As Geraghty writes, it's reasonably likely that he will run for President in '08, but the idea that he will succeed is again the triumph of hope over experience. On the other hand, it might help the rest of the GOP crowd if they have to battle against somebody with some game.

The Republican party is in bad shape, but it has the opportunity to right its ship quickly. The Democrats haven't sold the body politic on anything except for the fact that they're not the Republicans. But the most important thing the GOP will accomplish this election cycle has nothing to do with the D's. That is, as Newt says, the GOP will continue to be the major vehicle for center or right-wing political organization in the United States, and that it will escape the shadow of George W. Bush. Right now, restoring confidence in the GOP brand is more important than the Presidency or control of Congress. But if the Democrats going to return to the Greatest Hits of the 70s, they may get them too.

Hope Over Experience

Samuel Johnson famously suggested that second marriages were the triumph of hope over experience, and that's more or less my thought on William Kristol's glass-half-full appraisal of the Bush administration. That's not entirely meant to be facetious either. It is very important for the Right to keep hope in its political future, so as not to allow the appearance of misfortune to become reality.

Nonetheless, Kristol is ultimately not persuasive. First of all, the grand judgment of history is not going to care if W is succeeded by a Republican or a Democrat. If W's reputation is going to be better in posterity than it is now then his model will be Harry Truman, who was succeeded by Ike, not a Democrat.

More importantly, Kristol fails to appreciate that the failure of the Bush Administration is a function of character at least as much as policy. It's not so much that Bush has bad character, as that he has the wrong character.
Bush is viewed, with substantial justification, of being clannish, insular, stubborn, complacent, and not too bright besides. He has bottomed out all the reserves of character that he had and it doesn't look like he has access to any more.

Under these circumstances, it is just about impossible for anyone to have a successful Presidency, not matter what policies the Administration pursues or what events intervene.
Nobody feels that Bush is representing them in the world at large. Anything that succeeds has nothing to do with the President (or works in spite of him), whereas all failures are directly his. Bush could personally defeat the insurgency in Iraq bare-handed and then walk on water for an encore and he would still command our attention about as much as the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons. It's not even so much that he has been rejected by America, he has just been tuned out instead.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bush's Brain

Mark Shea has more or less gone cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs over the Bush Administration, so it's a pleasure to link to something more measured, and perhaps not coincidentally that I agree with.

Centrism and the War

Ok, most of the GOP Congresscritters still support the Prez with respect to the Iraq war, at least to the extent that they will vote for the appropriations that fund the troops. A significant minority of them, are looking to cut our losses, both the loss of American lives and treasure and the political support of the country at large for the Republican party.

These fence-straddlers aren't going to make anybody happy. It's not sufficient to pacify either Daniel Larison or Rod Dreher, as should be pretty clear if you read the links above. More importantly, it's not going to satisfy the GOP base either. The typcial Republican from Paducah is not particularly enamored of George W. Bush, but he also believes the point of the Iraq War is to win it. Not just to militarily defeat Saddam Hussein, but to leave the place in such a way that the overall US interest in the region is furthered rather than hurt. And this goes not just for the Republican base, but also for a fair number of independents and Democrats as well.

More importantly, these Senators and Congressmen are making a calculation that doesn't work. We as Republicans have, fairly, taken the blame for the failures of the Iraq War so far and we'll continue to suffer loss of support if things do not turn for the better. The idea that we can change course now is just not credible. The American public knows very well that GOP were, politically speaking, the enthusiastic energy behind the war and the D's were dragged along. This helped the Republicans in the past but it hurts them now. In any case, it's fixed star in the politcal constellation. If any GOP Senator wants to flip on the war, he has to be able to sell his case on principle, because the political expediency isn't really there, it's just an optical illusion.

Btw, this whole business of the ISG recommendations are part of the problem instead of the solution. Whenever official Washington wants to resolve a contentious issue, they try to farm the whole thing out to a "bipartisan" group of (supposedly) worthies. The Iraq Study Group is just about the Platonic archetype of such things. If someone, such as Senator Richard Lugar, wants to speak in his own voice against the surge or any other element of the War on Terror, great. The saber-rattling against such people by Hugh Hewitt and the likes strikes me as mostly empty threats. But he's an exception. The American people won't accept the attempt to defer responsibility away from Congress because there's nobody else that's big enough to take it.