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March 2013 Archives

March 1, 2013

Foul Speech Now the Norm in White House?

We all have noticed the progressive sector's attack on dissenters in the media ranks, on almost any issue, but especially lately on the sequester. First it was Woodward, then Lanny Davis, next Ron Fournier. But what interests me most about Fournier is his statement in The National Journal that foul speech and attempted intimidation have become emblematic of the Obama White House.

Is it true? Does anyone care? Do we still think that presidents and their staffs set a model for the country, especially children?

Continue reading "Foul Speech Now the Norm in White House?" »

Pipeline Report: State Department Swallows Hard

Everyone knows the rule in Washington: if you want to downplay a report, issue it late on a Friday afternoon. The press will have gone home and most won't be back until Monday, when other news will have happened. And so it is we have the State Department's report this Friday afternoon on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

I haven't seen the report, but the New York Times story describes it as not finding any environmental objections to the pipeline. Well, that alone is amazing, given the trigger happy environmentalists in the Obama Administration, always ready to suppose the worst. The report therefore is as close as State will get to an endorsement.

Continue reading "Pipeline Report: State Department Swallows Hard" »

Herald-Tribune, the Long Goodbye

I.H.T., R.I.P.

The New York Herald Tribune went out of business almost 47 years ago. I know because I wrote the last editorial, unwittingly marking the end of my job as a baby editorial writer for a major daily. It probably was also the beginning of the end of the Republican Party in New York State and the East Coast. The paper was the masthead for the GOP for almost a century. Walter Thayer, president of Whitney Communications, which managed the Trib under the ownership of John Hay Whitney, had been Dwight Eisenhower's financial chairman in the 1956 campaign. "Jock" Whitney himself had been Ambassador to the Court of St. James under Ike.

Thayer also was a mentor to many--such as the columnists Evans and Novak--including me. That spring of the Trib's New York death watch Walter offered me a job as an editorial writer on the paper's international edition, published in Paris. "How's your French?" he joked.

Continue reading "Herald-Tribune, the Long Goodbye" »

March 4, 2013

Regulations, Polite Term for Red Tape


The estimable World Magazine for March 9 contains a revealing interview by editor Marvin Olasky with William (Chip) Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice--and "Regulation Slayer."

In only a couple of pages the interview gives some excellent examples of how regulatory excesses crimp economic growth--and human freedom. The poor are disadvantaged most by over-regulation, though most conservatives are slow to talk about it and media almost never point out the truth.

Continue reading "Regulations, Polite Term for Red Tape" »

March 5, 2013

Best "Washington Monument" Example Ever

When you want to make people think you have wrung all the savings out of the federal budget that you can, the classic tactic (as I wrote before) is to announce that you might have to "close the Washington Monument" to tours. Now this tactic has been taken to an even more exquisite level: Closing the White House to public tours! It's because of the Sequester, don't cha know?

March 12, 2013

It's a Middle Class Tax Increase

A semi-serious fuss is being made about the unexpected way that the Obamacare law is affecting animals as well as people. The reason is that medical devices are being taxed now at a higher rate, and since many of those devices are used on people's pets as well as on people, dog and cat owners will wind up paying to support Obamacare.

However, to me the most significant thing about this story is not the pet angle, but the dawning realization that when government taxes some company that makes things or taxes some class of professionals (such as health care providers), the costs usually are going to be passed along It's not just about the pets, folks, it's about all of us who use the health care system and pay for insurance or pay cash--or just pay taxes. Ultimately, the government doesn't have any money that it doesn't get from people, including (again)

Continue reading "It's a Middle Class Tax Increase" »

March 13, 2013

Dawkins Ranks Live Pig Above Human Fetus

Discovery fellow Wesley J. Smith hammers Richard Dawkins for his Tweet that a human fetus has less intrinsic value than an adult pig. Presumably, many on the right will share Smith's dismay. But how many are willing to acknowledge that the Dawkins view is the logical extension of his Darwinism?

Does it matter? Well, yes. Dawkins, Pinker, Coyne et al are the new advocates for eugenics.

March 14, 2013

Pope Francis Faces the Curia

Pope Francis jpg

Thumbnail image for jpgAmong the many investigations attempted into the mind and heart of Pope Francis (formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio), few will be as incisive as that of George Weigel (pictured to the right) today in National Review. Weigel, the official biographer of John Paul II and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, is well-acquainted with Vatican City and the leadership of the world-wide Catholic Church. He didn't predict the selection of the new pope, but he has interviewed him and knows a lot more about his background than probably any other American observer of the Vatican (at least). His analysis is well worth considering. I have not yet read George's new book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church, but it certainly is timely.

Pope Benedict XVI made a number of valuable reforms and left a fine legacy on several matters., Like his predecessor, John Paul II, he helped transform the clergy with appointments of orthodox bishops and cardinals. Sadly, Pope Benedict did not clean house in the Curia, the bureaucracy. On financial matters, he urged Vatican "dicasteries" (departments) to find their own funding. Inevitably, finding your own funding can lead to unfortunate compromises, as when, in 2009, the Pontifical Council on Culture ran a conference on evolution that disallowed participation by supporters of intelligent design. The reason was not a policy directive from the Pope; on the contrary, the Pope did not agree to welcome the conference, let alone speak to it. No, the reason was that the staff head of the American foundation that funded the conference had made it clear to the Council, as a condition of the supporting grant, that intelligent design proponents would not be invited. Only when called by AP did I, representing Discovery Institute, decide to make this fact known.

Continue reading "Pope Francis Faces the Curia" »

March 17, 2013

New Republic Becomes Unpredictable

The March 25 New Republic, which is not yet available online, carries an attack on Howard Zinn, the leftist whose People's History of the United States is an unreliable and ascerbic account of American history, a repudiation of almost any favorable rendering of this nation's past. Zinn's work is used by Marxists and others who want to diminish any idea of American exceptionalism and, indeed, to indict this country as unusually racist, sexist, you name it.

David Greenberg's book review of Martin Duberman's biography of Zinn (Howard Zinn: A Man of the Left) almost loses touch with the book. It focus is Zinn, not the book about him. It relentlessly assails the progressive, but profoundly anti-liberal, perspective of a writer whose misinformation and disinformation lamentably infects a great deal of American education.

Continue reading "New Republic Becomes Unpredictable" »

March 18, 2013

Share the Art

Thanks to that ran this over the weekend:

Here's an idea for our local Medici's: Give a large grant to your favorite museum so it can distribute some of its mostly unseen treasures to institutions in smaller communities; to schools, to libraries and to local government offices. "Share the art." Otherwise most of it goes unseen for long periods and some may never be shown in public.

Meanwhile, individuals and families might take care before consigning their heirlooms to a museum. The Tacoma Art Museum recently sold a fine collection of Chinese court robes and jade items that were donated by the family of Col. John C. and Mary Lee Young three decades ago. Selling it probably seemed like a sensible move for the Tacoma Art Museum, whose "mission" doesn't include Chinese works of art.

Continue reading "Share the Art" »

March 19, 2013

Wrong Second Guesses on Iraq

Iraq 2.jpg

The tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has nearly everyone, even the hawks, stating that if they knew then what they know now--that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction after all--they would not have backed an invasion. The left purported to believe that President George W. Bush did know the truth, but ignored it. Historians know differently. The intelligence agencies at the time were persuaded that Saddam did have the WMD and the political leaders of both parties accepted that conclusion.

Iraq3.jpgHere's what's wrong with the conventional wisdom, in any case: Saddam expected that the US, following UN reports by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Hans Blix that there were no WMD, would not invade. After that potential crisis passed he fully intended to go back to development of WMD. He told this to the US intelligence case officer, George Piro, the Arabic speaking FBI agent who handled him during his confinement and trial before he was executed. It was reported on 60 Minutes.

Continue reading "Wrong Second Guesses on Iraq" »

Sex Crimes Not Mere "Disorders"

A South African cardinal, Archbishop Wilfrid Fox Napier, has apologized, albeit weakly, for suggesting that pedophilia should be treated mainly as a psychological disorder, not a criminal condition.

Sorry, but pedophilia is a crime--a version of rape--and should be reported to civil authorities as such. Had the Church not been bamboozled by supposedly enlightened psychology experts of the 1960s and'70s, and held firm instead to its own wise understanding of sin, the disgrace that has befallen the Church would have been avoided.

Continue reading "Sex Crimes Not Mere "Disorders"" »

March 20, 2013

Shaky Chairs for Conservative Professors

Hayward.jpgOur friend Steven Hayward, definitive biographer of Ronald Reagan, among other things, has been offered a three year position at the University of Colorado (Boulder), one of the famous hubs of academic progressivism. Someone in Colorado (probably at a foundation) probably got tired of complaining about the political sameness of teaching at Boulder and offered the university a funded position for an avowed conservative. A competition yielded Hayward.

This has led to some hand-wringing on the left, of course. But also some second thoughts on the right. Minding the Campus site has assembled several voices to offer commentary.

Photo Credit

Continue reading "Shaky Chairs for Conservative Professors" »

Could Russia Buy Cyprus?

Russia's Mediterranean warm water ports in Syria (mainly Tartus and Latakia) are in danger of disappearing as the Assad regime falters. Luckily for the Kremlin there is desperately needy Cyprus. (Syria some years ago allowed a huge expansion of the Russians' Cold War naval sites in Syria in return for Russian forgiveness of most of Syria's Russian debt.)

Cyprus is in financial trouble and unable to pay its debts. Understandably, the Cypriot Parliament was unhappy with the solution of taxing bank depositors for their savings as a way to satisfy the Eurozone. Russia also was unhappy, since wealthy Russians use Cyprus for banking purposes.

Continue reading "Could Russia Buy Cyprus?" »

March 21, 2013

Cyprus Edging Closer to Moscow

The crisis in Cyprus still has not focused the world's attention as it should. Russia is poised to make a huge political/economic gain, almost unprecedented in a country that never before was under its sway. reports from varied sources,

"The Cypriot government announced yesterday that banks and the Cypriot stock market will remain closed until next Tuesday, as it rushed to find a new deal to raise the €5.8bn needed to unlock a €10bn loan from the EU/IMF. Cyprus reportedly submitted a plan which involved creating a fund made up of: revenue from a solidarity tax (not a deposit levy), nationalised pension assets, revenue from restructuring and selling off the two largest Cypriot banks and property of the Church of Cyprus. This was rejected by the EU/IMF/ECB Troika since it would increase Cypriot debt to unsustainable levels. Cypriot political leaders are meeting this morning to adjust the plan with the hope that they can get it approved and then vote on it in the Cypriot parliament this evening.

At the same time, Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris was in Moscow looking to secure further aid from Russia. Sarris reportedly offered Russia the chance to purchase the largest Cypriot banks in exchange for incentives linked to Cypriot gas reserves, although Russia remained cool on the prospect. In an interview with the FT, Russian Prime Minister

Continue reading "Cyprus Edging Closer to Moscow" »

March 22, 2013

Moscow Edging Away from Cyprus

The gas reserves of Cyprus apparently do not sufficiently tantalize the Russian government, at least not enough to persuade Mr. Putin to lend the Mediterranean island some six billion Euros. The government of Cyprus has a new plan to give the big investors a haircut, but it still won't be enough (only about two billion Euros), and the EU is unlikely to approve it.

The Wall Street Journal today editorializes in favor of bankruptcy as the best option for the Cypriot banks, which is what probably should have happened to some US companies in 2008. After a 40 percent loss for large investors (accounts with $100,000 or more Euros), the bankrupt banks would be reorganized. Oddly, some Russian investors in Cyprus would have a big position in the new banks, not that that would be a huge consolation to them.

My Discovery colleague Yuri Mamchur thinks that the political/military temptation for the Kremlin is insufficient to justify the risk of a big loan to the insolvent Cypriots. I guess the gas reserves are in the future and the payout for a loan would be today, so no deal (at least not yet). Also, Yuri points out, the Russian oligarchs who will get the haircut are not the reason Mr. Putin is in power, so why save their tax avoidance schemes?

Billy Wilder on the Purpose of Business

The missus and I watched Sabrina last night, the 1954 award winning film with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, written and directed by the great immigrant film-maker, Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot, One, Two Three, etc.). In the film, the fabulously wealthy Larrabee family owns a vertically integrated series of industries. Of the two sons who stand to inherit the family empire, David (William Holden) is a handsome, cynical playboy who treats his money as a right, but also a joke. The other son, Linus (Bogart), works constantly to expand Larrabee enterprises, even to the extent of planning a morganatic marriage of David to the beautiful daughter of an other industrial family.

David is okay with that plan, but disparages the whole idea of capitalist enterprise. Why work so hard?

"David: "You've got all the money in the world."

Continue reading "Billy Wilder on the Purpose of Business" »

March 25, 2013

"Unfit for Work" Points Mic at "Disabilities"

It's not a report by John Stossel at Fox; it's Chana Joffe-Walt on National Public Radio with a straight on examination of the growing lists of officially "disabled" people in America "Unfit for Work". The ranks are close to doubling in a decade. There are now almost seven times more youth on disability program payments than was the case 30 years ago and most of them are "disabled" by dint of problems like attention deficit syndrome.

Continue reading ""Unfit for Work" Points Mic at "Disabilities"" »

March 26, 2013

Long Live the Urban Courtyard!

Thanks to that ran this on Tuesday, March 26:

Like the revival of salsa music, martinis and Art Deco, central cities as desirable and popular places to live have taken the nation by surprise. Cities like Seattle, that began a decline in the 40s or 50s, are seeing their populations grow again. Except for some scattered buildable lots here and there, condominiums and apartment houses are behind all this growth. After all, few big cities have much developable land left.

Condos and apartment houses add to the tax base, but if you like cities and appreciate their offerings, you have to retain some interest in single-family dwellings. The best option for density-rich family homes is the townhouse. Attached to one another and typically placed close to the street, townhomes often allow for a modest space in back for outdoor enjoyment - the courtyard.

Continue reading "Long Live the Urban Courtyard!" »

March 27, 2013

How Compassionate is a Far-Sighted Conservative?

Our friend Ryan McPherson from Yakima, WA, writing for contemplates the current scene in Washington, DC and wonders what conservatives--fiscal and/or social--can do about the progressives' tactic of making all public policy personal and specific. I don't think he settles the problem, but he does describe it beautifully.

March 28, 2013

Choo-choo Controversy over "Cascades"

What should the public have expected after the expenditure of $800 million dollars on the Cascades passenger rail service in the Northwest? CNN's Drew Griffith, backed by Anderson Cooper, believes that the promise of "high speed rail" has proven illusory, since the speed of the Cascades trains between Seattle and Portland has increased only a few miles an hour and cut only 10 minutes off a three hour and forty minute trip. Where's the "high speed" the Obama Administration promised four years ago?

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Tales from the Coffee House

Part of every day should be spent in a coffee house, providing a time for stock-taking and bonhomie. It is a sign of civilization if your town or district has one that serves creditable espresso and a reliably tasty croissant. My favorite in Seattle is the Grand Central Bakery's place on Eastlake Avenue, where the space is big enough that there is always a table, the staff is over-qualified and consistently kind and the foodstuffs are prepared with a sure skill.

Thumbnail image for Cote de france bakery.jpgA second favorite is the Cote France in Boca Raton, Florida. On most days you can sit outside there, which adds a treat for your eyes to a treat for your palate. Young couples bring babies, single young people run by in groups, twiggy old ladies walk their yappy poodles and I even have seen parrots in the trees across the street.

Continue reading "Tales from the Coffee House" »

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