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March 2012 Archives

March 1, 2012

Government Charges Plenty to Regulate You

The first default of progressives is to call on government to solve any perceived problem, and the clever way to do that is to hide the cost. Regulation is the result. It has increased over 20 percent under President Obama. All the Republican candidates for President mention this theme, but it doesn't lend itself to sound-bytes. Nonetheless, The Economist--the prestigious magazine that supported the election of Barack Obama in 2008--is picking up on it, and so are such writers as Mark Landsbaum at the Orange County Register.

It is interesting to think how big a drag on recovery all these new regulations are. How many people don't have jobs as consequence?

March 2, 2012

Christians' Fears Rise in Syria

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The two and a half million Christians in Syria are afraid that the civil war there will result in their being forced to emigrate or face death. That was the choice for a large share of Christians in Iraq, some of whom (ironically) wound up in Syria. However bad Assad is, he does not especially persecute Christians. That will not be the case if and when Al Qaida and other Islamist extremists in the opposition start feeling powerful. Though the fanatics are not the majority within the opposition, the fog of war is likely to provide cover for anti-Christian attacks. Again, that happened in Iraq and has happened also in Pakistan, Nigeria, and, of course, Egypt.

Indeed, Western media--who tend to be secular and even anti-religious--show little interest in the peril of Christian minorities in Muslim lands. The US Government, at least publicly, is not much more solicitous. It would be a positive development now to include protection of the Christians in any discussions our government is having with the anti-Assad rebels.

Christians have been in the Middle East, obviously, for two thousand years. We should not allow them to be pushed out now.

Sr. Fellow Richards on NY Times Bestseller List

by Rob Crowther

We just learned that Discovery Senior Fellow Jay Richard's book, Indivisible , co-authored with James Robison, has just hit the New York Times bestseller list at No. 5 this week. Earlier this week the Huffington Post pleasantly surprised us by publishing an excellent piece on the necessary role of faith in public life, by Richards and Robison ("Accepting the Obvious: Faith Is an Integral Part of American Public Life"). If you want to get a signed copy of Indivisible, be sure to join us March 13, 2012 for the launch of Discovery's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality featuring Jay Richards and George Gilder. And finally, keep up with all the related news on the new blog Indivisible Review .

UPDATE: Indivisible is number two on the Wall Street Journal list for non-fiction! Paper comes out tomorrow, but the list is available now.

March 6, 2012

New Worry About Fate of Christians in Syria

The media still are ignoring or downplaying the peril faced by Christians in Syria. Now the Maronite (Catholic) patriarch, Bechara Boutros Rai, has warned of the danger, even while backing the need for reform in Syria.

"All regimes in the Arab world have Islam as a state religion, except for Syria," he says. "It stands out for not saying it is an Islamic state."

Why the media silence? Perhaps because this subject doesn't fit the anti- Assad template. Bad as he is, Assad's government has protected Christians, while many in the opposition (as in Egypt) may be totally intolerant Islamists.

Before the U.S. starts aiding the rebels, as Sen. McCain urges, maybe we should be clear who we are dealing with and what is their plan for religious liberty, once they are in power.

It bears recalling that two thirds of Iraqi Christians fled that country in fear. Only now are some returning.

March 13, 2012

So Much for Polls

Rassmussen is better than most polls, yet the voters have a way of upturning the most expert expectations. That certainly was true tonight in Mississippi and Alabama. Rick Santorum won both. But the Rassmussen still had posted its homepage its final prediction:

"Mississippi Primary: Romney 35%, Santorum 27%, Gingrich 27%, Paul 6%
"Alabama GOP Primary: Gingrich 30%, Santorum 29%, Romney 28%, Paul 7%"

Again: when the actual votes were counted, Santorum won.

March 14, 2012

A Dishonest Issue

George Weigel, noted Catholic writer on public policy, says of the current debate over contraception: "One of the most maddening aspects of this otherwise bracing debate has been the refusal of those who support either the HHS mandate or the bogus administration accommodation to debate honestly, in terms of the facts, and fairly, in terms of the rhetoric."

This is exactly so. The reason the left will not debate honestly is that they think they can win if their rhetoric is disingenuous. And the reason they can hope to win is that the major media cooperate with them.

The issue is not about "women's access to reproductive health." It's about government's power to require Catholic or other religious institutions to pay (one way or another) for services to which the church has moral objections. It's about the power of the federal government to impose its will on churches.

Weigel's article is here.

The ruthlessness of the Obama Administration--the willingness to misrepresent--may prevail politically in the short term. But many eyes have been opened by this experience that had not been open before.

March 15, 2012

More Disingenuous Rhetoric

Is the energy issue really a conflict between a President who wants to develop all kinds of energy resources and opponents who dismiss development of alternative energy sources? Really. That, however, is what the President is asserting.

"Lately," he told a crowd in Maryland, "we've heard a lot of professional politicians -- a lot of the folks who, you know, are running for a certain office, who shall go unnamed -- they've been talking down new sources of energy. They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels," Politico reported the President said, "They were against raising fuel standards because apparently they like gas guzzling cars better. We're trying to move towards the future, and they want to be stuck in the past."

Mr. Obama would have it that way. However, when he says he favors an "all of the above" strategy of energy development, he is echoing the mantra of Sen. John McCain, his opponent in 2008, and not his own. More importantly, while it may be true (or at least arguable) that some GOP candidates dismiss the value of alternative fuels like wind and solar and over-promise lower gas prices, it is the Administration that has downplayed the potential of convention fuel sources--namely oil and gas and coal--to the extent that efforts to expand drilling and mining have been curtailed or impeded in state after state by the Federal government over Mr. Obama's tenure.

The future of solar and wind and biofuels is real, but limited. If we want to free ourselves from dependence on foreign energy sources, is there any doubt who is standing in the way? The record is clear.

New Economic Center Already Successful

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This week launched Discovery Institute's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, led by George Gilder and Jay Richards, also starring Michael Medved and our new Fellow, Scott Powell (late of Hoover Institution).

5 big lies.jpgMichael, of course, recently published The Five Big Lies About American Business. The nationally syndicated talk show host and public intellectual has an excellent ten minute podcast here explaining the new Center, with David Boze (another talk show host well known in the Seattle area) conducting the podcast interview.

March 13 Richards and Gilder spoke at a reception opening the new Center. Richards' co-authored new book (with James Robison), Indivisible, already has made it on the New York Times Bestseller List for two weeks in a row. indivisible_3d.jpg

It obviously could not be better timed to address issues now on the public's mind. Jay described to a sold-out crowd at the Rainier Center his own intellectual journey and ended with a tribute to George Gilder, whose writing of the classic Wealth and Poverty (1981) had influenced him in his college years.

W&P.jpgAs it happens, a somewhat updated version of Wealth and Poverty is slated for republication this year by Regnery. Meanwhile, George has just finished his first draft of a sequel to W & P, Knowledge and Power. Regnery plans to bring it out in early 2013. In his remarks, George described his latest work as a new economic theory that undercuts the materialist assumptions of both many libertarian conservative writers of the past and all the leftist economists of our own day. In science, technology and economics alike, George said, innovation and progress usually come as a surprise, and government attempts to shape, censor, limit and provide incentives and punishments for economic outcomes almost always are deleterious.

The new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality thus fits nicely into Discovery's mission of "Purpose, Creativity and Innovation" in public policy and culture.

March 23, 2012

"Narcissism as Analysis"

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James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal "Best of the Web" column (subscription only) has skewered the pomposities of liberal legal commentators who seek not only to disagree with, and misrepresent, conservatives on the subject of ObamaCare, but also would have the reader think that everyone who is the least bit smart agrees with the liberal evaluation. If they don't agree, then, that just shows that they are not smart. A wise managing editor would not allow such impishness to see print.

Taranto's target today is Dahlia Lithwick (Newsweek and Slate), who writes that the case before the Supreme Court is "uncontroversial" because it's obvious that the law is constitutional. The only question is whether a majority of justices will agree, or instead will stoop to invidious politics.

"The second proposition, however, disproves Lithwick's claim that the first proposition is uncontroversial," Taronto points out. "Indeed, the very fact that there is a controversy before the court is sufficient to disprove the claim that the constitutionality of ObamaCare is uncontroversial. Lithwick seems to mistake the absence of doubt in her own mind for an absence of controversy. It's narcissism as legal analysis."

Well put.

A bird of similar feather to Lithwick is Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times. She explains that it isn't necessary to give respectful treatment to critics of ObamaCare because they are beyond the pale of sensible opinion. Yesterday, Taranto quoted Greenhouse on her standards:

"'Journalistic convention requires that when there are two identifiable sides to a story, each side gets its say, in neutral fashion, without the writer's thumb on the scale. This rule presents a challenge when one side of a controversy obviously lacks merit. But mainstream journalism has learned to navigate those challenges, choosing evolution over 'intelligent design,' for example, and treating climate change naysayers as cranks.'"

Get that? You don't have to think about intelligent design, nor do you have to treat critics of climate change as anything other than cranks.

Indeed, there is a whole list of cranks who don't deserve to be taken seriously. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research would be in that category. So would people who are alarmed by the increase in government sanctioned euthanasia or assisted suicide for newly born infants and seriously ill adults. Tea Party protests against runaway public spending.

Every dictator and every dictatorial mass movement attempts to demonize and degrade its opponents this way. It is why liberalism in the classic style came about in the first place. However, much of the left decided to become illiberal a generation ago (a la Herbert Marcuse). Real public dialogue can't take place in such an environment or propagandizing. No wonder incivility and crudeness reign.

Continue reading ""Narcissism as Analysis"" »

March 26, 2012

Afghanistan: Finally an Opportunity for Plain Talk

American War in Afghanistan Photo (5).jpg
By John R. Miller

The recent unintentional Koran burnings and the mass anti-American demonstrations and killings of four American officers have occasioned not only abject apologies from President Obama and our military commanders but the usual excuses from the American State Department and their foreign policy think tank friends. "We must work harder to gain the trust of our Afghan allies" goes the chorus.

But what seems like a setback is not one--it is an opportunity for the United States to deliver a message to the Afghan government and, more importantly, the Afghan people.

Imagine if President Obama said the following:

These past weeks the American people have watched as thousands of Afghans have demonstrated against the United States and called for us to leave Afghanistan. These demonstrations have occurred with increasing frequency over the past several years and are often supported by government action or inaction. We have also watched as two American military officers were shot in the back in Afghan government headquarters. These killings of American and coalition personnel working with Afghan forces also have occurred with increasing frequency over the past several years. Over the last several years we have also watched while your government has wasted millions of dollars of American aid, issued anti-American statements and made unilateral demands for apologies and changes in our efforts to help you.

The reasons given for the recent demonstrations, killings and demands focus on the unintentional killing of Afghan civilians and the unintentional burning of Korans by American forces.

What the American people have not seen are any demonstrations against the Taliban for their entirely intentional killings of thousands of Afghan men, women and children, even though these intentional killings, according to the UN, outnumber the entirely unintentional killings by NATO forces by over three to one.

What the American people have not seen are any demonstrations thanking the United States for sacrificing over a thousand of our young soldier and Marine lives to free you from the Taliban. What the American people have not seen are any demonstrations thanking the U.S. and its coalition partners for the hundreds of millions of dollars they have contributed to help you set up a stabile, democratic government.

During the coming days the American government and people will watch to see what kind of demonstrations occur and listen to messages from the Afghan people and government on whether you want to see us continue our efforts in your country. If the answer continues to be "no", we will not leave as planned in 2014; we will leave immediately.

We realize our immediate departure may well leave Afghanistan to the Taliban and we do not relish the terror that may follow. However, we live in the 21st century and all peoples must make their own choices. The choice is yours. We await your answer.

No one, least of all the Afghans, believes that President Obama will deliver such a message. And yet how refreshing it would be to hear our leader leave the diplomatic double speak aside and talk sense.

Continue reading "Afghanistan: Finally an Opportunity for Plain Talk" »

March 27, 2012

Eat Your Broccoli, Buy Your Insurance

An overwhelming percentage of Americans --87 percent--believe that the US Government cannot constitutionally order citizens to buy broccoli, as in the question posed by Justice Antonin Scalia today. Eight percent believe it can, and, indeed, presumably believe the Government constitutionally can order you to do anything. In the case at hand, 62 percent believe the Government cannot constitutionally order you to buy health insurance, a la ObamaCare.

Polls, of course, can wobble with the course of events. They sometimes measure amount of opinion rather than the weight of opinion. Nonetheless, there is a persistent American majority against the kind of compulsion ObamaCare represents.

In Canada the government, and the courts, order people around with abandon. The only check in the end is probably public opinion. Canada, for all its merits, lacks a constitution like ours.

Meanwhile, that Constitution--the US Constitution--is on trial right now at the Supreme Court. The Government is talking nonsense; it can't even be clear whether the health care law includes a tax or not. It cannot define any limit at all to the Commerce Clause. It really holds that those in governmental power can do whatever they like.

The Obama Administration may win five votes, but it will face fierce anger from an activated populace. If it loses, it will appear incompetent. President Obama spent down the good will he had coming into the Presidency on an issue that was not central to people's concerns--unlike the economy and jobs--and indulged instead an ideological fixation.

March 28, 2012

Photo ID Good; Photo ID Bad

On the front page today the New York Times offers sympathetic treatment of decisions to require high school students taking the SAT exams to present a photo ID in order to prevent cheating. Article by Jenny Anderson.

A few inches away Michael Cooper and Jo Craven McGinty provide a skeptical treatment of laws to require new voters to present photo IDs, as in Florida and a number of others states. Special attention is paid by the Times to a dropoff in high school and college registrations this year, at least in comparison to this season in 2008. Some people, they acknowledge, might suppose that the decline reflects the decline of Barack Obama's popularity among youth (recall the excitement four years ago?) and the fact that the Democrats have no primary competition this year for President.

But, no, that can't be it. Must be racism and classism. It's so unfair to expect high school and college students to have IDs. At least for voting. Not for taking the SAT, however. Not for driving. Not for making many purchases or appearing at a doctor's office. Not for flying on an airplane, or for a myriad of other occasions when photo IDs are simply expected. Only photo IDs for voting registration offend the New York Times.

Is Dr. Pepper "Good at 10 and 2 and 4"?

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Vice President Joe Biden must have been in need of a little caffeine refreshment when he thanked "Dr. Pepper" instead of "Dr. Paper."

March 29, 2012

Mr. Obama's Hobbesian Health Care

It's a war of all against all. See the Daily Caller article below by Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith:

By seizing control of health care benefits and coverage, the Obama administration set primal forces into motion that will soon have us fighting each other like a pack of hyenas battling over a small carcass. Indeed, by creating a system in which we perceive that the money our neighbors spend on medical care reduces the resources available for our own, Obamacare has sown the seeds of cultural discord and cracked the foundations of societal comity.

As in nature, resource shortages usually hurt those least able to protect themselves. Thus in the United Kingdom's socialized National Health Service, invidious rationing is already a way of life. Indeed, repeated exposes in the U.K. media have shown that the elderly and disabled are often denied efficacious treatments in order to pay for those deemed more deserving based on "quality of life."

But that is just the beginning. Some now want to punish the obese too. For example, Cristina Odone, the former editor of the Catholic Herald, recently mounted a decidedly un-Christian attack against "the fat" at the Telegraph, opining that they should be forced to the back of the health care line:

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Center on Human Exceptionalism, a consultant for the Patients Rights Council, and a special consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Continue reading "Mr. Obama's Hobbesian Health Care" »

You Have Two Cows

2 cows.jpg

A variation of an economics lesson from my youth:

Capitalism: You have two cows, you sell one and buy a bull.

Socialism: You have two cows, the government takes one and gives it to your neighbor, then taxes the milk you sell from the other.

Communism: You have two cows, the government confiscates both and lets you have back a bit of the milk.

Nazism: You have two cows, the government takes both and shoots you.

Bureaucratism: You have two cows, the government regulates both, takes the milk and pours it down the drain.

Obamanism: You have two cows, the President lends you two new cows on credit as part of the Stimulus program, and shows up for a photo-op, just days before you go broke.

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