Saturday, April 30, 2005

Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness Lecture Series

TIA invites you to attend a teleconference lecture series, "The Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness," by Robert Tracinski.

Lecture 1 - "19th-Century 'Globalization': A Brief History of the British Empire"
June 2, 8:30pm-10:00pm Eastern time, 5:30pm-7:00pm Pacific (including Q&A).

To understand the nature of America's global influence, it is important to understand its predecessor: the British Empire--a global political and economic network that laid the foundation for what is now called "globalization." This lecture will survey the history and legacy of the British Empire, with special emphasis on "the Jewel in the Crown," India.

Lecture 2 - "The Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness"
June 16, 8:30pm-10:00pm Eastern time, 5:30pm-7:00pm Pacific (including Q&A).

Observers of "globalization" have identified it as an economic phenomenon or as a tradition based on shared language and political values--and leftists have condemned it as a nefarious American "empire." TIA contributor Jack Wakeland has identified it in more profound terms, as the influence of a uniquely American moral idea: the Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness. In this lecture, Robert Tracinski will expand on the meaning of this idea and what it implies for the future of America and the world. (Mr. Wakeland will participate in the Q&A.)

Lecture 3 - "Dispatches from the Empire"
June 30, 8:30pm-10:00pm Eastern time, 5:30pm-7:00pm Pacific (including Q&A).

Evidence for the spread of the Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness keeps pouring in from every corner of the globe. This lecture will survey that evidence, gathered from news reports and private discussion, ranging from Ukraine to Kenya, from Lebanon to Afghanistan, from Mexico to Mongolia.

All lectures begin at 8:30pm Eastern time, 5:30pm Pacific; one hour plus a 30-minute Q&A. Just call in to our conference call facilities--purchasers will receive a phone number and access code--and participate in these three lectures by TIA editor Robert Tracinski.

Lectures are $49 each, $129 for all three.

Join the Empire: sign up here.

Friday, April 29, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Expanding the "Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness"

Robert Tracinski expands on TIA's thesis about America's influence on the world in a series of live teleconference lectures offered through TIA.

Top News Stories
• The Bush Press Conference: Phasing Out Social Security—Over 70 Years
• The Bush Press Conference: In the Long Run, We'll All Be Dead
• The Bush Press Conference: Putting Religious Politics to Rest?
• The Bush Press Conference: What I Learned from George Bush
• The Bush Press Conference: The Metaphysics of Social Security
• Commentary: Who Lost the Vietnam War

• Human Achievements: Desktop Nuclear Fusion
• Things of Beauty: Pens

The Metaphysics of Social Security

The reason President Bush's push for a partial quasi-privatization of Social Security is faltering is that he has not challenged the altruist morality behind the system—indeed, he has embraced that morality. So the only hope of passing his plan will be if he can make headway on a new theme he has been emphasizing recently: the metaphysics of Social Security.

He certainly doesn't put it that way, but there is a clear, deliberate trend in his statements of emphasizing the fact that Social Security represents "promises" and "a filing cabinet full of IOUs"—while private accounts represent "real assets" that won't "just go away" because of an arcane government rule (as Social Security benefits do when a spouse dies before age 62).

"Transcript of President Bush's Press Conference," New York Times, 4/28/05

"BUSH: I feel strongly that there needs to be voluntary personal savings accounts as a part of the Social Security system. I mean, it's got to be a part of the comprehensive package. And the reason I feel strongly about that is that we got a lot of debt out there, a lot of unfunded liabilities, and our workers need to be able to earn a better rate of return on their money to help deal with that debt.... Now, it's very important for our fellow citizens to understand there is not a bank account here in Washington, DC, where we take your payroll taxes and hold it for you and then give it back to you when you retire. Our system is called pay as you go. You pay into the system through your payroll taxes and the government spends it. It spends the money on the current retirees and with the money left over, it funds other government programs. And all that's left behind is file cabinets full of IOUs.

"The reason I believe that this ought to work is not only should a worker get a better rate of return, not only should we encourage ownership, but I want people to have real assets in the system. I want people to be able to say, Here is my mix of bonds and stocks that I own, and I can leave it whomever I want....

"One other point on Social Security that people have got to understand is that the system of today is not fair for a person whose spouse has died early. In other words, if you're a two-working family, like a lot of families are here in America, and two people working in your family, and the spouse dies early—before 62, for example—all of the money that the spouse has put into the system is held there, and then when the other spouse retires, he or she gets to choose the benefits from his or her own work or the other spouse's benefits, whichever is higher, but not both. See what I'm saying? Somebody who's worked all their life, the money they put into the system just goes away.... If you have a voluntary personal savings account and you die early, that's an asset you can leave to your spouse or to your children."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Social Security Charade

Social Security privatization is failing because no one wants to face the real issues. Democrats want to pretend that there is nothing wrong with the Ponzi scheme, while Republicans are being sunk by "free lunch" advocates who want to reduce payroll taxes without reducing Social Security handouts.

Top News Stories
• The Social Security Charade
• Syria's Charade
• Annan's Charade
• The "Virginia Jihad"
The Desert Phoenix
• Commentary: Putin's Charade

• Human Achievements: Ergonomic of Writing
• Things of Beauty: History of the Pen, Part 1

Feature Article
"Normal Life" Revisited
by Robert Tracinski
The Mechanism by Which Liberty's Example Is Changing the World

The Desert Phoenix

Here's another important story no one is covering: the 25th anniversary of a crucial event on the road to September 11: the failure of a tiny, timid rescue operation mounted by the Carter administration during the Iran hostage crisis. Our soldiers took the failure like men, vowing to improve their skills and resolve so that such an embarrassment would never happen again. Our political leaders, alas, drew no such lessons.

"America Remembers Desert One Heroes," Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service, 4/25/05

"Air Force Lt. Gen Norton Schwartz, director of the Joint Staff, called the failure of the Iran hostage rescue mission a seminal event in recent American military history. He said the mission was 'so important that the nation's self-image, its standing and reputation in the world community, and the fate of a presidency hung in the balance.' When the mission failed, media reports were full of recriminations, and nations around the world called the United States a toothless lion. 'Yet at the same time, the memory of Desert One propelled a generation, of which I am a part, to assure that America would never again repeat that searing, transforming experience of the 25th of April 1980,' Schwartz said.... The general said that all Americans share the grief of the families who lost loved ones that day. But they died trying, Schwartz said. They kept the promise. 'Because on that murky night, when they faced America's adversary and their own fears, your men did not submit,' Schwartz told the families. 'They did not retire. They didn't then, and we, their successors—in large measure in their honor—do not and will not now.' "

Friday, April 22, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Earth Day Fades Away

The lackluster response to this year's "Earth Day" indicates how, thirty-five years on, the environmentalist movement is in disarray.

Top News Stories
• The Jihad on the Judiciary
• Another Small Victory in Lebanon
• Earth Day Fades Away
• Fingering a Con Artist
• Commentary: The Real Quagmire in Iraq
• Commentary: The Budget Crisis Is a Moral Crisis

• Human Achievements: The Giant of Miniatures
• Things of Beauty: Moore's Roses

Feature Article
The Return of the Powell Problem
by Robert Tracinski
Whom Is Our UN Ambassador Supposed to Serve?

The Return of the Powell Problem

Whom Is Our UN Ambassador Supposed to Serve?

by Robert Tracinski

Just when we thought Colin Powell was safely eased out of the decision making process for America's foreign policy, we find out that his malignant influence is still having an effect. According to an article in today's Washington Post:

"Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell is emerging as a behind-the-scenes player in the battle over John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, privately telling at least two key Republican lawmakers that Bolton is a smart but very problematic government official, according to Republican sources.

"Powell spoke in recent days with Sens. Lincoln D. Chafee (RI) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.), two of three GOP senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who have raised concerns about Bolton's confirmation, the sources said. Powell did not advise the senators to oppose Bolton, but offered a frank assessment of the nominee as a man who was challenging to work with on personnel and policy matters, according to two people familiar with the conversations....

"Bolton served under Powell as his undersecretary of state for arms control, and the two were known to have serious clashes. Powell's tenure as secretary of state was often marked by friction with the White House on a range of foreign policy issues, disagreements that both sides worked to keep from surfacing."
The conflict in recent days has nominally been about accusations, dredged up by Democrats, that Bolton is "temperamental" and has a history of berating people who work with him. The allegations look pretty flimsy, and they are certainly not the main reason Democrats have opposed Bolton. The main reason is indicated by Powell's role.

In a February 1, 2002, column titled "The Powell Problem," I identified the essence of the problem with Powell's outlook:

"In this, as in most of his official actions, Powell is reversing the proper role of the Secretary of State. As the nation's chief diplomat, Powell is supposed to be America's advocate in dealing with the rest of the world. It is his job to stand up for America, to insist on our essential interests, to make our case to the world, and, if necessary, to make our threats.

"Instead, Powell has consistently acted as the world's advocate in America, representing the views and demands of our European and Arab 'allies.' Sure, it is his job to know what our allies want and to report their requests to the president; but it is not his job to go to bat for them. His job is to advise the president on how to achieve our interests, not how to placate our allies and enemies."
I don't agree with the Bush administration's approach to the UN, which mirrors their approach to the welfare state: they're not against it, they just want to "reform" it and manage it better so that it "works." But at least Bolton has been a vocal critic of the UN, and his past statements indicate that making the UN "work" means making it serve American interests. The prime example being bandied about by Bolton's critics is a 1994 speech in which he declared: "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that can occasionally be led by the only real power left in the world—and that is the United States—when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along."

That is the issue at stake in this nomination fight.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank inadvertently made the premise explicit when he described Democrats as attacking Bolton for "disparaging the very organization he would serve"—that institution being the United Nations. But the obvious rejoinder is that, as America's ambassador to the UN, Bolton will not "serve" the UN. He will, should, and must serve the United States.

The central question of the Bolton nomination is: whose interests are America's ambassadors supposed to serve? Are they supposed to represent and fight for America's interests—or are they supposed to be the ambassadors of appeasement, urging our leaders to accommodate our policy to the interests or demands of the rest of the world?

And that is why Bolton's nomination must be confirmed: to give the correct answer to this question.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Dying Constitution

The American system has survived because each side is occasionally forced to invoke its best traditions in its own defense. It is dying because each side seeks to destroy the system when it goes on the offensive, as demonstrated by the conservative jihad on the judiciary—and by a leftist conference on using the "living constitution" to impose socialism.

Top News Stories
• Lebanon's Next Turning Point
• Condoleezza Rice and the Putin Problem
Here Are the War Heroes
• John Paul II the Second
• The Dying Constitution
• Commentary: Amtrak Is "Brain-Dead"

• Human Achievements: Moore's Law Turns 40
• Things of Beauty: Mountains in Fog

Here Are the War Heroes

I have been asking recently why our newspapers and television reporters aren't presenting more articles on the many war heroes who are proving their mettle in Iraq, so I was very happy when I saw the article below. This article is great for another reason: it focuses, not on heroes who died, but on those who lived, primarily courageous and fast-thinking Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Butler.

Those war heroes who have given their last full measure in Iraq do indeed deserve to honored. But the glory of the American approach to warfare is that we don't do most of the dying. We do most of the winning. As General Patton put it (cleaned up a little for mixed company): no one ever won a war by dying for his country; he did it by making the other guy die for his country.

Hence the best line of all in this report: "Husaybah townspeople later reported 21 insurgents dead and 15 wounded. No Marines were seriously hurt."

"Pa. Native Thwarts Car Bomb Attack," Elliot Blair Smith, USA Today, 4/17/05

"The daylight attack on this remote US military base fits a pattern of recent insurgent attacks on US military strongholds. On Saturday, a mortar attack at Camp Ramadi killed three servicemembers, and there was a coordinated assault two weeks ago on the US-run Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. US forces have repelled each attack, inflicting large losses on the insurgents while incurring few casualties. The base commander at Camp Gannon, a former Iraqi customs and immigration post at the edge of one of its most dangerous cities, credits Butler with preventing massive deaths here. 'Butler—that day, that Marine—that's the critical error the insurgents made,' Capt. Frank Diorio says. 'They thought they could keep the Marines' heads down. But he gets back up.' "

Monday, April 18, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Revolution Will Be Advertised

America's indirect role in the spread of liberty and representative government across the world is indicated by a fascinating report on how a Lebanese executive with a Western advertising firm, fresh from working on campaign ads for the Iraqi election, helped "brand" the street demonstrations against Syrian rule.

Top News Stories
• The Revolution Will Be Advertised
• China's New Enemy
• The Death of the European Union?
The Pope and the Religious Left
• The Papal Horse-Race
• Commentary: Leftists Fail, Complain that Life Is "Unfair"

• Human Achievements: Technology Transforms Classical Studies
• Things of Beauty: Mauve

The Pope and the Religious Left

The American religious right—largely a Protestant bunch—has somewhat incongruously spent the last month heaping praise on John Paul II and the Catholic Church. That is partly because John Paul II provided a philosophic foundation for anti-abortion doctrines, but it is also, perhaps, a psychological confession that American Protestants secretly envy the political power that the Catholic Church has historically wielded.

Be that as it may, this article points out that the religious right might well get a rude awakening, as the College of Cardinals is likely to elect a Pope that will lean much farther to the left than John Paul II, including liberalizers on contraception and divorce and advocates of a Marxist-inspired political doctrine John Paul attempted to suppress: "Liberation Theology."

"The Liberal Conclave," Washington Times, 4/18/05

"John Paul II appointed more than 95 percent of the cardinals. Paradoxically, however, most of the prominent cardinals hold leftist positions that depart from the traditional Catholic moral teachings he defended. In 1978, when John Paul II became pope, radicals and conservatives were fighting over what the church would become when the dust settled from the revolutionary Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. Today, there are no pre-Vatican II traditionalists left in the hierarchy. Forty percent of Catholics worldwide come from Latin America, which has a powerful clique of 21 voting cardinals. Most of these have been decades-long backers of liberation theology, the dangerous concoction of twisted religious tenants and Marxist principles that espouses class warfare and proletariat revolution. Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world, putting Sao Paulo Archbishop Claudio Hummes at the head of the pack of frontrunners. Cardinal Hummes is outspokenly anti-American and supports confiscation and redistribution of property belonging to the rich. Likewise, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga supports Third World debt relief and the 'equalizing' redistribution of global wealth.

"European ecclesiastical leaders are as liberal as their secular counterparts. Four prominent cardinals from the old world are Brussels Archbishop Godfried Danneels, Scot Keith O'Brien, and Germans Walter Kasper and Karl Lehmann. These European cardinals have opened the door for changing church law against divorce, contraception, women and married clergy and more flexible positions on abortion and homosexuality. At 20, Italian cardinals comprise the largest national voting bloc. Many cardinals lean toward tapping an Italian because they have centuries of experience running the Rome-based church bureaucracy. Milan Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi backs condom distribution and has spoken supportively to anti-globalization rioters."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Jihad on the Judiciary

The post-election threat to liberty has taken its full shape: a holy war against the independent judiciary, fought more or less openly as an attempt to give the Christian religion veto power over American government.

Top News Stories
• Frist Joins the Jihad on the Judiciary
• Spitzer's Lawlessness
• The Return of "Bracket Creep"
• Assad's Last Stand
Empire and Anglosphere
• Commentary: The Jihad on the Judiciary

• Human Achievements: Giant Telescopes
• Things of Beauty: Calla Lily

Empire and "Anglosphere"

The closest anyone has gotten to identifying the phenomenon that we call the Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness is the thesis, popularized by James C. Bennett, of the "Anglosphere"—the civilizational sympathy among those nations influenced by the English language and Anglo-American ideas. Bennett has now written a book on the topic, reviewed here by Australia's Keith Windschuttle.

From what I have seen, the "Anglosphere" concept is very valuable but has two limitations, both of which come from conservative premises. Bennett seems to define the Anglo-American spirit too loosely, missing its moral heart: the egoistic view that the purpose of life is the pursuit of one's own happiness. Instead, he tried to root this essentially radical, anti-traditional idea in the conservative deity of "tradition."

"Sphere of Influence?", Keith Windschuttle, National Review Online, 4/15/05

"Bennett has constructed his own thesis of the Anglosphere out of this Anglo-Protestant historical inheritance. 'It is our core values and characteristics that have made us dynamic,' he writes, 'and it is to those values that we must return': individualism, rule of law, the honoring of covenants, and an emphasis on freedom. The core of Bennett’s Anglosphere comprises the countries where these values are dominant: the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, English-speaking Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean. He also includes the educated English-speaking populations of South Africa and India as important 'nodes.' He describes some other former colonies, including Zimbabwe and the Philippines, as outside the inner circle but still closer to the center than to the periphery. Bennett wants to distinguish the Anglosphere from other models of international alliance that he believes have outlived their usefulness. The principal one is the concept of 'the West': the European-descended countries that constituted Western civilization. The widening gulf between continental Europe and the US shows that the concept of the West is already anachronistic. It was artificially prolonged anyway, Bennett argues, by the need for an identity to tie NATO together during the Cold War. In the post-Soviet era, there is nothing to inhibit the development of a separate identity for the English-descended civilizations."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Republicans Against Republicanism, Democrats Against Democracy

In the fight to kill the filibuster, Republicans are arguing for unlimited democracy--while Democrats are upholding the republican principle of institutional checks on the tyranny of the majority.

Top News Stories
The Filibuster Fight
• The Pendulum of the Arbitrary
• Iraq's Assembly of Women
• America Garrisons the Middle East
• China Inherits the Wind
• Commentary: How to Topple the Mullahs

• Human Achievements: Dr. Hilleman's Vaccines
• Things of Beauty: Origin of "Things of Beauty"

The Filibuster Fight

The fundamental issue behind the Republican attempt to eliminate the filibuster is whether the American system was intended to be run on the principle of mob rule, or whether it was meant to include checks on the tyranny of the majority. Ironically, Republicans and Democrats have, for the moment, switched sides on this issue, with the Democrats now defending checks on unlimited majority rule.

As appalling as that contradiction is, this is how the American system has managed to survive more than a century of concerted attacks by statists on all sides of the political debate. Every party tries to destroy the American system and impose mob rule when they feel they have a majority--witness the Republicans today--but they all rally to defend the American system when they are in the minority.

"Filibuster Fight Isn't Lost for Democrats Yet," Maura Reynolds, LA Times, 4/13/05

"The arithmetic is fairly straightforward. Frist says he needs 51 votes to change the filibuster rule, and there are 55 Republicans in the Senate. One of those votes can come from the vice president, who as president of the Senate can vote to break a 50-50 tie. That means that in order to win the fight, Frist can change the rules if he loses five senators; Democrats will win if he loses six. Two Republicans--John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island--have said they would vote with the Democrats against the rule change. Four other senators have said they have concerns about changing the rules and are considering voting against it....

"Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid...referred to comments by former Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, who told National Public Radio earlier in the day that 'you have to be very careful...before you start tinkering with the rules' because one day Republicans will be in the minority and need to use the filibuster.... Democrats argue that unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate was designed by the Founding Fathers to be a forum that decided issues more on consensus and not strictly by majority rule."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: TIA Daily's One-Year Anniversary

As part of our celebration of TIA Daily's first year, we give our readers a look at the first prototype for TIA Daily, which we e-mailed out to a test audience one year ago today.

Top News Stories
The Democrats' Plan for Social Security
• The Fourth Election
• Canada's Watergate
• Detente Between India and China
• The Coming Russian Collapse
• Commentary: How Conservatives Are Losing the Privatization Debate

• Human Achievements: "Extreme Textiles"
• Things of Beauty: Beautiful Screwdrivers

Feature Article
• TIA Daily's One-Year Anniversary, by Robert Tracinski
A Year Ago Today, We E-mailed the First Prototype for TIA Daily

The Democrats' Plan for Social Security

Well, a Democratic politician has finally come out and admitted it. Since they oppose private accounts, benefit cuts, means-testing, a raise in the retirement age, and just about every other plan to deal with Social Security's budget crisis—what do they plan to do? The solution is easy, says New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine: we'll just print money—and "solve" the crisis through massive, runaway inflation.

"Stop the Presses," Deroy Murdock, National Review Online, 4/12/05

"President George W. Bush traveled April 5 to Parkersburg, West Virginia, to visit the so-called Social Security Trust Fund: a filing cabinet filled with paper. 'There is no trust fund—just IOUs,' backed by no economic assets whatsoever, Bush noted. Senator Jon Corzine (D, NJ) called the president's remarks misleading. In a conference call with journalists, Corzine said: 'US Treasury securities have the ability to be paid under any circumstances based on the ability of the government to print money.' While Corzine's press secretary denies this comment was a concrete proposal, at this writing, the senator proudly highlights this quote on the front page of his website. So, as Corzine sees it, come 2041, when the federal government's plunging tax revenues will cover only 70 percent of its exploding pension obligations, Washington will trigger Treasury Department printing presses to finance Social Security checks."

Monday, April 11, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Dogs that Stopped Barking

There is a tendency in political reporting to dwell only on the negative—i.e., only on the crisis that is the greatest emergency at the moment. But sometimes the story is "the dog that didn't bark."

Top News Stories
• The War on the Judiciary
• America's "Exit Strategy": Victory
• Rent Control Fades Away
• The Old Regime of Class Action Looting
• Gun Control Fades Away, Too
• Commentary: Pies and Guns

• Human Achievements: Feynman's Authorless Book Tour
• Things of Beauty: Galileo Thermometer

Feature Article
• The Religion of the Pursuit of Happiness vs. Catholicism
by J. Patrick Mullins
The American Creed Trumps the Dogmas of the Church

Pies and Guns

The left's love for theatrical street protests has given rise to an attempt to convince us that certain forms of physical assault are "non-violent"—a triumph of Orwellian double-speak. This Washington Times editorial identifies the danger of this trend, but not its deepest root: a malevolently anti-intellectual contempt for persuasion and public discussion by a political movement that no longer has anything to say.

"Pie Throwers and Goon Squads," Washington Times, 4/11/05

"Consider the case of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. In 2002, he was on the verge of a general-election victory. About a month before the election, protesters had thrown two cream pies laced with urine in Mr. Fortuyn's face. The Dutch media dismissed this as non-violent protest. Mr. Fortuyn, however, began expressing fears for his safety. Just a week before the election he was shot to death. This is not to suggest that those who have attacked conservatives here will one day swap their pies for guns. But someone else with less conscience might. That's because once violence, however harmless it at first appears, is accepted as an appropriate means of protest, it tends to escalate. The media should highlight these cases not as the jokes they are perhaps intended to be, but as unacceptable perversions of the First Amendment."

Friday, April 08, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The War on the Judiciary Intensifies

The religious right puts its real cards on the table, unveiling a sweeping attacking on the American judiciary, including a shocking proposal to exempt church-state issues from judicial review.

Top News Stories
DeLay Targets Judges, Hits Senate Conservatives?
• Church and L'Etat
• Hillary and the Holy Rollers
• In Praise of Partisanship
• The Saudi Society of "Status"
• Commentary: The Tipping Point at The New Republic

• Human Achievements: Snake Venom and the Human Genome
• Things of Beauty: Unfurling Fern Frond

DeLay Targets Judges, Hits Senate Conservatives?

The bad news: the religious right apparently has been readying a war against the independent judiciary for some time now, and they have chosen the Terri Schiavo case as an opportunity to launch it. Note the worst proposal mentioned in this article: "to remove court jurisdiction from certain social issues or the place of God in public life," i.e., exempting religion from the constraints of constitutional government.

The good news, such as it is: at least all of this is coming into the open now, before the looming battles over the president's judicial appointments (including, possibly, to the Supreme Court). And the religious right's threats are so obvious an attack on the American system that they are likely to produce a backlash, stiffening the backbones of a few Senate Democrats and undermine public support for Senate Republicans.

"DeLay Says Federal Judiciary Has 'Run Amok,' Adding Congress Is Partly to Blame," Carl Hulse and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, 4/8/05

" 'Judicial independence does not equal judicial supremacy,' Mr. DeLay said in a videotaped speech delivered to a conservative conference in Washington entitled 'Confronting the Judicial War on Faith.' Mr. DeLay faulted courts for what he said was their invention of rights to abortion and prohibitions on school prayer, saying courts had ignored the intent of Congress and improperly cited international standards and precedents....

"'The failure is to a great degree Congress's,' Mr. DeLay said. 'The response of the legislative branch has mostly been to complain. There is another way, ladies and gentlemen, and that is to reassert our constitutional authority over the courts.'... Mr. DeLay alluded to Congressional authority to 'set the parameters' of courts' jurisdictions and its obligation 'to make sure the judges administer their responsibilities.' The organizers of the conference and Congressional staff members who spoke there called for several specific steps: impeaching judges deemed to have ignored the will of Congress or to have followed foreign laws; passing bills to remove court jurisdiction from certain social issues or the place of God in public life; changing Senate rules that allow the Democratic minority to filibuster Mr. Bush's appeals court nominees; and using Congress's authority over court budgets to punish judges whom it considers to have overstepped their authority. 'I am in favor of impeachment,' Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said in a panel discussion on abortion, suggesting 'mass impeachment' might be needed."

Thursday, April 07, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: "If Not Now, When?"

A lawmaker asks, about Social Security privatization, "If not now, when?" The Republicans' own timidity on the issue may be providing the answer: only when our leaders stop praising the moral premises on which Social Security was founded.

Top News Stories
• "If Not Now, When?"
• The New Battle of Iraq
• The Small Step from IRA to "Rafia"
• The Real Tradition of the Church
• Where Are the War Heroes?
• Commentary: Friedman Almost Discovers the Empire

• Human Achievements: Wal-Mart Media Conference
• Things of Beauty: Spring Grass

Feature Article
• Suing the Bulldozer
by Jack Wakeland
The Rumbling Advance of Western Civilization—and Its Political-Esthetic Opponents

Friedman Almost Discovers the Empire

Tom Friedman somewhat belatedly catches on to the full scope and possibilities of the new global economy—which goes well beyond the liberal politicians' wailing about "outsourcing." But he still hasn't identified the deeper trend that promises an extraordinary liberation of human talent around the globe: the Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness.

"It's a Flat World, After All," Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, 4/3/05

" 'Outsourcing is just one dimension of a much more fundamental thing happening today in the world,' Nilekani explained. 'What happened over the last years is that there was a massive investment in technology, especially in the bubble era, when hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in putting broadband connectivity around the world, undersea cables, all those things.' At the same time, he added, computers became cheaper and dispersed all over the world, and there was an explosion of e-mail software, search engines like Google and proprietary software that can chop up any piece of work and send one part to Boston, one part to Bangalore and one part to Beijing, making it easy for anyone to do remote development. When all of these things suddenly came together around 2000, Nilekani said, they 'created a platform where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere. It could be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced, and put back together again—and this gave a whole new degree of freedom to the way we do work, especially work of an intellectual nature. And what you are seeing in Bangalore today is really the culmination of all these things coming together.'... Andreessen is touching on the most exciting part of Globalization 3.0 and the flattening of the world: the fact that we are now in the process of connecting all the knowledge pools in the world together."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: "Their Time Is Over"

The selection of new leaders for Iraq marks the effective end of the battle against dictatorship and terrorism—and opens up a new, still unsettled contest over the role of religion in the new Iraq.

Top News Stories
• "Their Time Is Over"
• Bush's Encirclement Strategy
• The War on the Judiciary
Maryland Legislature Loots Wal-Mart Stores
• What the Pope Did in Poland
• Commentary: The Power of Truth

• Human Achievements: Gene Editing
• Things of Beauty: Poppy Buds

Maryland Legislature Loots Wal-Mart Stores

After Republicans in Congress embarrassed themselves by passing a bill that applies to only one person, Terri Schiavo, Democrats in the Maryland legislature match that lawlessness by passing a bill dedicated to the looting of one company: the "Wal-Mart Bill," which dictates the exact level of the company's health-care spending, allowing the state to grab money for its own welfare programs.

"Bill Would Raise Wal-Mart Health Spending," Gretchen Parker, AP via Yahoo, 4/6/05

"A bill that would force Wal-Mart to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll on health benefits or pay the difference to a state fund is moving through Maryland's General Assembly with majorities that supporters say will be veto-proof. Republicans on Tuesday decried the proposal—dubbed the 'Wal-Mart bill'—as the most anti-business legislation lawmakers have debated in a decade. The bill, the Fair Share Health Care Act, would require Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll on health care benefits for its employees or put the difference into Maryland's Medicaid fund. The act applies to any company with more than 10,000 workers, but so far in Maryland only Wal-Mart meets that criteria. Gov. Robert Ehrlich has promised a veto. If vetoed, an attempted override would not occur before the 2006 session in early January."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Intellectual Chaos of the Right

Conservative columnist David Brooks tries to argue that intellectual chaos is good for the right. But if he is correct that conservatism consists of a shifting combination of contradictory ideas—what does that actually imply for the future of the right?

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"Indecency" Controls Threaten to Metastasize

Public ownership of the airwaves—the ominous dictatorial idea that forms the legal basis for the FCC—is a premise so dangerous that it will spread if it is not repudiated. As an example, witness a new attempt to use the laws against undefined "indecency" by broadcasters as a precedent to impose censorship on cable television, which has historically been shielded from government controls. After that, what's next?

"Indecency Proposal Getting Static from Cable," Sallie Hofmeister, LA Times, 4/5/05

"Historically, the cable industry has been immune to indecency regulations because it does not use the public airwaves, instead relying on private networks and requiring viewers to subscribe. Then, Janet Jackson's breast-baring incident at last year's Super Bowl unleashed a broad public outcry about explicit entertainment, prompting Congress to propose raising indecency fines on broadcasters. With cable and satellite TV now reaching 85% of all U.S. homes, the question in Washington has become why broadcasters alone should face such penalties. [Alaska Senator Ted] Stevens, the 81-year-old lawmaker, has emerged as a leading critic of cable since January, when he became chairman of the Commerce Committee, which oversees the broadcast industry. In March, he vowed to take on cable programmers who argue that any attempts by Congress to rein in cable would run counter to constitutional guarantees of 1st Amendment rights that have been upheld by the courts. 'We wonder why our children are sexually active at a young age,' Stevens said in a speech to the National Assn. of Broadcasters. 'The public airwaves are increasingly promoting sex…. Cable is often worse.'... Disney has infuriated the industry by supporting the move to hold cable to the same indecency standards as broadcast.... [O]ne Disney source, while acknowledging that Rose and Stevens talk frequently, said it was only fair to level the playing field now that most homes have cable. 'If a kid is sitting with a remote control that has 70 channels on the up and down buttons, how stupid is it that the indecency rules only apply to six or seven of them?' this executive said."

Monday, April 04, 2005

Faith and Freedom

Pope John Paul II represented—and shaped—the basic intellectual trend of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the attempt to fuse the ethics of religion with the politics of freedom.

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by Robert Tracinski
John Paul II and the Intellectual Spirit of Our Age

The Decadence of the Right

I have argued that the religious right overreached in the Terri Schiavo case—but that is just a symptom of a general smug complacency on the part of conservative politicians and commentators, who have been so emboldened by recent election victories that they are openly revealing the ugliest parts of their agenda. Worse, they are also devoting less energy toward the work of convincing those who disagree with them.

A good case study is this column by Mark Steyn, whose has almost always had interesting things to say, despite a somewhat undisciplined style that relies too much on humor. Here, however, all of the vices of his writing are on display: the lapses into long, pointless, strained attempts at mean-spirited humor, used to support an argument that is a wildly implausible caricature of his opponents' views.

The only worthwhile point in this piece is at the very end, just before Steyn finishes with the grand rhetorical flourish of making fun of Ted Kennedy for being fat. He says that "these days most of the intellectual debate is within the right." That is not true yet—but it could be, if a pro-liberty "secular right" can find the ideological confidence necessary to oppose the pervasive influence of religious right.

"Party of Let's Pretend," Mark Steyn, Washington Times, 4/4/05

"Once you get used to designating living, breathing bodies as 'nonhuman entities,' it's easy to bandy them ever more carelessly—as they do in the eminently progressive Netherlands, where their relaxed attitude to pot and prostitution led to a relaxed attitude to euthanasia which looks like relaxing the Dutch people right out of business. It's all done quietly over there—no fuss, no publicity; you go in to hospital with a heavy cold and you're carried out by the handles.... In Holland, you can taste a cookie without signing a legal waiver, and, if you get food poisoning, the doctor will discreetly euthanize you to spare your family the trauma of waiting six hours for an available stomach pump....

"The Republicans did the right thing here, and they won't be punished for it by the electors. As with abortion, this is an issue where the public will move slowly but steadily toward the conservative position: Terri Schiavo's court-ordered death will not be without meaning. As to 'crack-ups,' that's only a neurotic way of saying these days most of the intellectual debate is within the right. If, like the Democrats, all you've got are lockstep litmus-tests on race and abortion and all the rest, what's to crack up over? You just lose elections every two years, but carry on insisting, as Ted Kennedy does, that you're still the majority party. Ted's a large majority just by himself these days, but it's still not enough."

Friday, April 01, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The War on the Judiciary

The aftermath of the Terri Schiavo case defines the main front in the religious right's war against liberty: its assault on the independence of the judiciary.

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The Ultimate Resource

Anyone who opposes immigration should read this astounding story from Wired magazine about four "undocumented" (i.e., illegal) Mexican immigrant kids at an Arizona high school who entered a national underwater robotics competition—and won, beating teams from MIT and other universities. This is an inspiring illustration of Julian Simon's point that the "ultimate resource" is human talent.

"La Vida Robot," Joshua Davis, Wired, April 2005

"The school buildings are mostly drab, late 50s-era boxes. The front lawn is nothing but brown scrub and patches of dirt. The class photos beside the principal's office tell the story of the past four decades. In 1965, the students were nearly all white, wearing blazers, ties, and long skirts. Now the school is 92 percent Hispanic. Drooping, baggy jeans and XXXL hoodies are the norm.... Across campus, in a second-floor windowless room, four students huddle around an odd, 3-foot-tall frame constructed of PVC pipe. They have equipped it with propellers, cameras, lights, a laser, depth detectors, pumps, an underwater microphone, and an articulated pincer. At the top sits a black, waterproof briefcase containing a nest of hacked processors, minuscule fans, and LEDs. It's a cheap but astoundingly functional underwater robot capable of recording sonar pings and retrieving objects 50 feet below the surface. The four teenagers who built it are all undocumented Mexican immigrants who came to this country through tunnels or hidden in the backseats of cars. They live in sheds and rooms without electricity. But over three days last summer, these kids from the desert proved they are among the smartest young underwater engineers in the country."