Monday, March 06, 2006

Publish or Perish: The Lessons of the Cartoon Jihad

by Robert Tracinski

Robert Tracinski is the editor of TIADaily.com and The Intellectual Activist.


The central issue of the "cartoon jihad"—the Muslim riots and death threats against a Danish newspaper that printed 12 cartoons depicting Mohammed—is obvious. The issue is freedom of speech: whether our freedom to think, write, and draw is to be subjugated to the "religious sensitivities" of anyone who threatens us with force.


That is why it is necessary for every newspaper and magazine to re-publish those cartoons, as I will do in the next print issue of The Intellectual Activist. Click here.


This is not merely a symbolic expression of support; it is a practical countermeasure against censorship. Censorship—especially the violent, anarchic type threatened by Muslim fanatics—is effective only when it can isolate a specific victim, making him feel as if he alone bears the brunt of the danger. What intimidates an artist or writer is not simply some Arab fanatic in the street carrying a placard that reads "Behead those who insult Islam." What intimidates him is the feeling that, when the beheaders come after him, he will be on his own, with no allies or defenders—that everyone else will be too cowardly to stick their necks out.


The answer, for publishers, is to tell the Muslim fanatics that they can't single out any one author, or artist, or publication. The answer is to show that we're all united in defying the fanatics.


That's what it means to show "solidarity" by re-publishing the cartoons. The message we need to send is: if you want to kill anyone who publishes those cartoons, or anyone who makes cartoons of Mohammed, then you're going to have to kill us all. If you make war on one independent mind, you're making war on all of us. And we'll fight back.


But the issue of freedom of speech is too clear, and too well settled, in the West, to be worth spending much time debating it. What is far more interesting is the fact that such a debate is occurring, nonetheless.


This is a fact from which the Western world can draw some crucially important conclusions.


The West has long been aware that, while we hold freedom of speech as a centerpiece of our liberty, the Muslim world does not recognize this freedom. Before now, however, our worlds have rarely collided. The Muslims have not usually dared to extend their dictatorial systems to control our own behavior within our own cities. The Salman Rushdie affair—the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 death edict against the "blasphemous" novelist—was an ominous warning, but Americans did not take it seriously.


Now, seventeen years later, the Muslim fanatics are making it clear: you don't have to come to our country, you don't have to be a Muslim. Even in your own countries and under your own laws, you will not be safe from our intimidation.


For the whole Western world, this is an opportunity to learn an important truth about the goal of the Islamists. Their goal is not to achieve any specific political demand or settlement. Their goal is submission: our submission to their will, to their laws, to their dictatorship—our submission, not just to one demand, but to any demand the Muslim mobs care to make.


Europe particularly needs to learn this lesson. The Europeans have deluded themselves into thinking that this is our fight. If only Israel weren't so intransigent, if only the US weren't so belligerent, they told themselves—if only those cowboys didn't insist on stirring up trouble, we could all live in peace with the Muslims. And they have deluded themselves into thinking that they can seek a separate peace, that having the Danish flag on your backpack—as one bewildered young Dane described it—would guarantee that you could go anywhere in the world and be regarded as safe, as innocuous.


Now the Europeans know better. With cries of "Death to Israel" and "Death to American" now being joined by cries of "Death to Denmark", every honest European can now see that they are in this fight, too—and they are closer to the front lines than we are. Threats against American cartoonists, when anyone bothers to make them, are toothless; there is no mob of violent young Muslims in the United States to carry them out. European writers and filmmakers, by contrast, are already being murdered in the streets. The first people to find themselves living under the sword of a would-be Muslim caliphate are Europeans, not Americans.


The lesson here is not just that the Islamist ideology of dictatorship is a threat to Europe. It is also that the dictatorships themselves are a threat. The advocates of cynical European "realpolitik" deluded themselves into thinking that, if they just made the right kind of deals with Saddam Hussein, or with the Iranian regime, or with the Syrian regime, then the dictatorships over there would have no impact on us over here.


But we can now see that the anti-Danish riots did not explode spontaneously: they were instigated by the dictators, by the regimes in Iran and Syria. To their credit, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and now US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have been pointing out this connection. The lesson for Europe: if you accommodate and appease the dictators, they won't leave you alone. Having gotten some of what they want, they will come after you and take the rest. Europe ought to have learned that lesson, at terrible cost, in 1939; this ought to refresh their memory.


If we want to know why these lessons have not been learned before now, the cartoon jihad also gives us clues to the answer. Note that those who are supposed to help us learn those lessons—the left-leaning intellectuals and newspaper editors, the people who have traditionally posed as the brave defenders of free speech—have been the first to collapse in abject submission to Muslim sensibilities. The New York Times, for example, dismissed the cartoons as "juvenile" and explained that refusing to publish even a single image of the cartoons "seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols."


Note how the New York Times—like many other left-leaning newspapers—hides behind the evasion that the Danish cartoons are "silly" or "juvenile." On the contrary: the best of the Danish cartoons provided a far more serious, hard-hitting, thought-provoking commentary than has been provided in the pages of these same newspapers. While the mainstream media has drooled that Islam is "a religion of peace"—in the midst of yet another Muslim war—it was left to a Danish cartoonists to suggest that Mohammed himself, and the religion he represents, might be the bomb that has set off all of this violence. (To see these cartoons, go to the simply named website muhammadcartoons.com.


But the prize for most abject surrender to Muslim dictatorship has to go to the leftist academics. The first to decry the Bush administration as a creeping "fascist" dictatorship, they are, perversely, the first to fawn in admiration before the world's actual fascists. If you think that's an exaggeration, read an op-ed in Sunday's New York Times by Stanley Fish, a famous "Postmodernist" university professor and defender of "political correctness." Fish writes:


"Strongly held faiths are exhibits in liberalism's museum; we appreciate them, and we congratulate ourselves for affording them a space, but should one of them ask of us more than we are prepared to give—ask for deference rather than mere respect—it will be met with the barrage of platitudinous arguments that for the last week have filled the pages of every newspaper in the country….


"[T]he editors who have run the cartoons do not believe that Muslims are evil infidels who must either be converted or vanquished. They do not publish the offending cartoons in an effort to further some religious or political vision; they do it gratuitously, almost accidentally. Concerned only to stand up for an abstract principle—free speech—they seize on whatever content happens to come their way and use it as an example of what the principle should be protecting. The fact that for others the content may be life itself is beside their point.


"This is itself a morality—the morality of a withdrawal from morality in any strong, insistent form. It is certainly different from the morality of those for whom the Danish cartoons are blasphemy and monstrously evil. And the difference, I think, is to the credit of the Muslim protesters and to the discredit of the liberal editors."


For years, the left has told us that the foundation of freedom is subjectivism; if you are never certain that you are right, you will never be certain enough to "impose" your views on others. But will you be certain enough to defend your mind against those who want to impose their beliefs on you? If Fish is any indication, the answer is "no." Note how he bows with almost superstitious awe before the fanaticism of the Muslim mobs, while describing the old-fashioned liberals' defense of free speech as hypocritical, superficial, "condescending."


And now the "hate crimes" laws pioneered by the left in the name of political correctness, are being invoked by Muslims to suppress publication of the Mohammed cartoons by a Canadian newspaper. The intellectuals of the left, having built a reputation as defenders of free speech by striking a pose of defiance against innocuous threats at home, have now become the leading advocates for self-imposed submission to the Muslim hordes abroad.


Interestingly, intellectuals on the right have now become the loudest, most strident voices in defense of free speech, for which they deserve our admiration. Blogger Michelle Malkin has waged a particularly effective crusade on this issue. And she is not the only one; I linked to many good articles on the topic in last week's editions of TIA Daily.


But the right has its own contradictions, it own source of sympathy with the enemy. For years, conservative intellectuals have been demanding greater "sensitivity" to "religious sensibilities"—at least, to the religious sensibilities of Christians—and calling for a great role for religion in the "public square." The have waged a long crusade to allow religion to serve as the basis for laws against abortion and homosexuality, and for the subordination of science to religion, demanding that this be a "nation under God" rather than a "nation under Darwin."


And so we have seen a few prominent conservatives falter badly in the cartoon jihad. Prominent neoconservative scion John Podhoretz wrote a column in last Friday's New York Post that sounds an awful lot like Stanley Fish's column quoted above:


"For many people, the way to grant Muslims the recognition they crave is to patronize them—to give them nice little nods and winks and talk about what a nice religion they have. That kind of recognition is unsatisfying and condescending. The impulse behind the original publication of the cartoons in Denmark last September was to cut through the condescension. They were literally provocative—designed to provoke discussion about how to deal with the phenomenon that Carsten Juste, the editor of the newspaper that published them, called the 'self-censorship which rules large parts of the Western world.'


"Well, as Juste and his staff have learned to their sorrow, while some of that self-censorship may be the result of cowardly political correctness, some of it is clearly due to simple prudence. Juste and his underlings have been in grave physical danger for months, ever since the cartoons were published. And it would not be too much to say that they and the world would have been better off if they had exercised a little more self-protective caution in the first place."


Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt—a much more dedicated religious conservative—practically squirms with discomfort at the idea of someone criticizing religion. He echoes the idea that the Danish editors were "irresponsible" for printing the cartoons because they could have predicted that it would "provoke" a violent reaction—but he adds a more pro-American gloss to it. He says that the cartoons were irresponsible because the enemy will use them as propaganda to incite riots and try to gain support among Muslims.


"In a wired world, there aren't any inconsequential actions, and everything is grist for the propagandists among the jihadists. That doesn't mean censorship, or even self-censorship. Only a bit of reflection before rushing off to start new battles which divert attention from those already underway. There is a chasm of difference between serious commentary on the Islamic challenge facing Europe and the West…and crude, sweeping anti-Muslim propaganda. It isn't necessary to defend the latter in order to uphold and praise the former."


(See more more of Hewitt's commentary on this issue.)


The weakness of the conservatives is that they think the essence of the West is our religion, our "Judeo-Christian tradition"—rather than our Enlightenment legacy of individual rights and unfettered reason. Conservatives try to evade the clash between religious authority and freedom of thought by claiming that religion provides the moral basis for liberty. But the clash cannot be avoided, and conservatives are forced to choose where they will draw the line: where respect for religious prohibitions, in their view, takes precedence over respect for the individual mind. On this issue—involving a religion alien to American traditions—most conservatives have had no problem drawing the line in favor of freedom. But will they draw a different line when their own religious dogmas are challenged?


This is the final lesson of the cartoon jihad. The real issue at stake is not just censorship versus freedom, but something much deeper: the need to recognize the real essence of the West. The distinctive power and vibrancy of our culture, the source of our liberty, our happiness, and our unprecedented prosperity, is our Enlightenment tradition of regard for the unfettered reasoning mind, left free to follow the evidence wherever it leads.


And this controversy has given our minds plenty of evidence to follow, and plenty of fearless conclusions to draw.


Source: TIA Daily -- February 13, 2006


[This article is available for reprinting free of charge, both in print publications and on websites. For the permission to reprint, write to editor@TIADaily.com.]


The Intellectual Activist magazine articles on the web: Islam vs. the West, Environmentalism's Big Lie, Man's Best Came With Columbus and Altruism's War on Reality.


TIA Daily articles on the web:An Unnatural Disaster, A Real Invasion, The Hinge of the World, Liberty and Union, What Have We Lost?,
Anything Less Is Suicide,
The Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness,
America's War Song, Martha Stewart, "See How America Grew", and
TIA Daily Sample Issue. Recommend these articles to others using the "e-mail this article" link at the bottom of each article.



Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Americans Against the American Dream: To Be Anti-Immigration Is to Be Anti-American by Robert Tracinski

The anti-immigration House Republicans who just pushed through a massive assault on immigration stand for a giant fraud. They claim to be patriots, acting out of a desire to protect America from an "invasion" of illegal immigrants. In reality, they are promoting an agenda that is thoroughly un-American, both in its goal and in its methods.

It has often been said that America is a nation of immigrants, but few people understand how deeply this is true. It is not just that America was settled and built almost entirely by people from somewhere else--from English settlers in the 18th century, to Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants who came at the turn of the 20th century, on through every other racial and ethnic group in the world. The deeper reason America is a nation of immigrants is that the motives and goals of immigrants--and the moral outlook they represent--are the essence of the American character.

Why do immigrants come to America? They come for the freedom to pursue a better life. They do not come merely for jobs that pay more than what they can make back home. They come for the kind of culture that makes those jobs--and a million other opportunities--possible.

The immigrants I know are drawn here by the distinctively American culture of work and achievement that is the essence of our national identity. America was founded on the idea that all men are endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And how is happiness pursued? By hard work and ambitious effort. To become an American, this is the only creed one has to accept: the political ideal of liberty, the economic ideal of a free market, and the cultural ideal of individualism. Many immigrants do not have a full, explicit understanding of all of these ideas. But they do know that they are escaping from stagnant and corrupt nations in which little is possible to them, and they are coming to a land in which everything is possible.

They come because this is a nation where anyone can improve his life through his own effort, limited only by his talents and his capacity for hard work.

That is the essence of what we call the "American dream." It's what most of our forebears did, from the first settlers in Jamestown nearly 400 years ago, to a Polish carpenter named Traczynski (the spelling was later simplified) who came here a little more than a century ago, to the Indian, Chinese, and yes, Mexican, workers who continue to come here today. They all came here in pursuit of the most American of ideals: the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

So why are so many Republicans coming out against the American dream?

Look through the rationalization that these Republicans are only against illegal immigration. These same politicians have spent decades erecting barriers against legal immigration, and they are still doing so today. That is why they have refused to link their crackdown on illegal immigration with any provision to allow existing immigrants to legalize their status, or to allow new workers to come to the US under a "guest worker" program. They are not for legal immigration; they are against all immigration, period.

Also look through the rationalization that the anti-immigrationists are concerned that foreigners come here to mooch off of the American welfare state. Why, then, are restrictions on immigration aimed precisely at those who seek to work? And why do the controls target workers at all skill levels, from manual laborers to doctors and software programmers?

Consider this latest anti-immigration bill. The bill's most odious provision would make illegal immigrants guilty of an "aggravated felony"--the kind of criminal charge reserved for armed robbers and rapists--simply for looking for work in America. But it is not just immigrants who are made into criminals. Extending the provisions of draconian laws aimed at drug smugglers, this bill would brand as "human traffickers" anyone who even offers aid or support to an illegal immigrant. This means that a whole segment of Americans--including employers and even the family members of immigrants--will be threatened with criminal prosecution and jail time. If the problem is that illegal immigrants don't want to work--then why does this bill seek to make criminals of their employers?

One congressman defended this anti-immigration police state by explaining that he is merely responding to the will of his constituents, who are "berserk with fury" over illegal immigration. Someone has gone berserk, but it is unfair of politicians to project that hysterical state of mind onto their constituents. Rather, it is the House Republican leadership that has lost its capacity for rational thinking and self-control.

The real essence of the anti-immigrationists' argument is not that immigrants are unwilling to work, but that they are too willing to work, that they are so eager to work that they will come here and take "our" jobs--jobs that are supposed to be set aside, by governmental fiat, for American workers. Their crude version of being "pro-American" is that they want to protect a supposed monopoly on jobs by native-born Americans, a monopoly enforced at the point of a gun.

This is the welfare-state entitlement mentality of the left, adopted in a crudely nationalistic variation. The premise of the anti-immigration crusade is that native-born Americans have a right to be hired for menial jobs at high wages, not because they have the skills or initiative to perform those jobs productively, but simply because they were born in this country. But the idea that you have a right to a job and a paycheck, just as a reward for being born, regardless of your ability or willingness to do the work--isn't that the worst aspect of the welfare-state mentality of the left?

The message the anti-immigrationists offer to Americans is: you shouldn't have to work hard or compete for a job. You don't have to show your employer that you will be more productive than a Mexican or Indian applicant. You just have to assert your right to that job because you were born here--and your friends in Congress will enforce your claim by threatening to bash some heads in.

Any real American ought to be insulted by this offer. The American dream is not about holding a make-work job set aside for you by a paternalistic government; it is about succeeding through your own effort. The American dream is not the cowering vision of a people who believe that they can never make it in the world if they are exposed to the demands of free competition; let's leave that protectionist fantasy to the French. The American dream is the vision of a proud, self-confident people who know they can make it on their own--and who have often welcomed hard-working immigrants from around the world to join them in pursuing success.

A few weeks ago, I linked to a column by Robert Samuelson in which he pointed out that the myth of "persistent poverty" in America is largely a statistical illusion. The percentage of people who are poor in America tends to stay the same, but the actual people who are poor are constantly changing: those who were poor a decade ago usually rise into the middle class, largely to be replaced by immigrants--who will also rise into the middle class, to be replaced, in turn, by a new group of impoverished immigrants. Some anti-immigrationists seized on these statistics to claim that we could solve the "problem" of poverty in America by blocking immigration. But the constant influx of poor immigrants who work their way up to become productive and prosperous citizens is not a "problem"--it is the glory of America.

This is the real American dream--and we should do whatever we can to protect it from the un-American vision of the opponents of immigration.

Robert Tracinski is the editor of TIADaily.com and The Intellectual Activist.

Source: TIA Daily -- December 16, 2005

[This article is available for reprinting free of charge. For the permission to reprint write to editor@TIADaily.com.]

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Visit www.TIADaily.com

Welcome to TIA Daily Blog. You will find a few samples from TIA Daily on this website. Currently, we are publishing new content on our main website. Please be sure to visit TIADaily.com.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Liberty and Union

Why the European Constitution Had to Fail

by Robert Tracinski


The European constitution has just been destroyed by a one-two punch from the two European countries whose leaders pushed hardest for its creation. I doubt there will be any way to salvage the document now: it was too thoroughly repudiated by French and Dutch voters.

Why?

The motives of the voters were highly mixed, especially in France. Many of the Dutch complained about over-regulation by a stifling European bureaucracy (see here), which is a very good motive. The French, on the other hand, generally rejected the constitution for opposite motives, on full display in an AP article on the French vote.

"I think that the constitution will destroy our political structure. It's just about economic interests," said Anne Le Moel, a "no" voter and 42-year-old professor of philosophy, repeating what had become a battle cry among the charter's opponents....


"This is a great victory," said Fabrice Savel, 38, from the working-class suburb of Aubervilliers. He was distributing posters that read: "No to a free-market Europe."...

In the end, though, the French—torn between wanting to remain one of the engines of an increasingly competitive Europe yet fiercely protective of the generous social welfare benefits they enjoy—stuck with their perceptions that the charter posed another threat to their cherished way of life. "If you look at every sentence, every turn of phrase, practically every article has a mention of (financial) markets," Anne-Marie Latremoliere, a 57-year-old graphic designer, said after casting a "no" ballot at a polling station near the Bastille. "We want Europe to be a beautiful place," she said, "and this is certainly not it."


This article does not mention the even uglier motive behind the French "no" vote. The socialists of the left joined with the racists of the right, who oppose the European constitution because it will allow more immigration by Arabs, Africans, and Eastern Europeans.

The irony is that the Dutch are actually closer to the truth. The problem with the European constitution is certainly not that it goes too far toward implementing free-market capitalism. Quite the opposite: it consists of the establishment of a giant, all-powerful, unaccountable bureaucracy.

George Will provides some nice details in a May 29 column.

"The proposed constitution has 448 articles—441 more than the US Constitution. It is a jumble of pieties, giving canonical status to sentiments such as 'the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen' should be protected. It establishes, among many other rights, a right to 'social and housing assistance' sufficient for a 'decent existence.' Presumably, supranational courts and bureaucracies will define and enforce those rights, as well as the right of children to 'express their views fully.' And it stipulates that 'preventive action should be taken' to protect the environment.

"The constitution says member states can 'exercise their competence' only where the European Union does not exercise its. But the constitution gives EU institutions jurisdiction over foreign affairs, defense, immigration, trade, energy, agriculture, fishing and much more."
Part of the problem is that Europe cannot unify because it does not know whether it wants to be capitalist or socialist.

To get the people of, say, Denmark, to unite under a single political structure is not difficult: they all speak the same language, have a common culture and common values, have a fairly uniform level of education, and, as far as I can tell, pretty much look the same. There is not that much to drive them apart. But it is much harder to unify a whole continent. No narrow, concrete goal will do it, because the people of Europe differ tremendously on every concrete: they have different languages, levels of education, levels of economic development, racial backgrounds, religious traditions, regional economic interests, etc. Only something broad and universal can unite them. Which means: only an idea can unite them. Europe cannot unite until it embraces a single idea about what is the proper kind of society for man to live in.

But Europe does not know what basic ideas it wants to embrace. They don't know whether they want to have the benefits of freer markets (the original purpose of the European Economic Community) or to protect the status quo of their bloated welfare state.

This indecision has awful practical consequences. On NPR yesterday (don't ask why) I heard a brief interview with the owner of a small Dutch window-washing business, who complained that he had to buy expensive new equipment to comply with EU safety regulation for employees who work "at heights"—so he has to buy a cherry-picker instead of using good old-fashioned ladders. But at the same time, the EU opens Dutch markets to competition from Eastern European window-cleaning crews. And since Eastern European economies would never survive if they had to comply with the same minimum wage requirements, work-week restrictions, and safety regulation imposed in Western European countries, they are simply exempted from those regulations. So this Dutch window-cleaner has to shell out money for a cherry-picker—while he loses customers to cheaper Eastern European competitors who are allowed to use ladders.

That is the crazy, contradictory mixture of freedom and controls that is being imposed under the European constitution. The result is that economic "ultra-liberalism" takes the blame for the problems created by the controls.

But the problem is not just that Europe can't figure out whether they want capitalism or socialism. The problem is that Old Europe leans toward socialism. Government regulation is an engine for ripping people apart, for turning them into a mob of competing "pressure groups," each demanding government favors and protections, while trying to strip away the favors and protections enjoyed by other groups.

This is part of the reason why the European constitution is so long and complex. A charter for liberty can be very short: it need only name a few basic government institutions, define their small number of legitimate powers, and explicitly name a few broad principles that limit government actions. That is what the US constitution does, which is why it is so small that you can carry it around in the breast pocket of your shirt and probably even forget that it's there.

To lay out a charter for a socialist government, by contrast, you have to establish dozens of separate government agencies and commissions with complex, interlocking regulatory powers, and you have to limit those agencies with hundreds of concrete exceptions to protect the prerogatives of tiny sub-constituencies. This is why the European constitution is 450 pages long.

It is no wonder that every nation feels uneasy about this document. They have to worry that in this forest of complex regulations, they are going to be the ones who end up being the victims who are looted for the benefit of others. And there is no reliable way for them to tell.

That's what leads to the sense that the European constitution creates an unaccountable, oppressive bureaucracy—because this is what must happen in a socialist society.

One of the consequences of having a constitution that is 450 pages long is that no one really knows what it does or doesn't do. It is so long and complex that only a handful of professional bureaucrats can even begin to comprehend all of its provisions. And I don't think even the professionals can integrate such a chaotic jumble. Instead, the professional bureaucrats will simply comb through the myriad clauses and sub-clauses until they find one that will justify whatever nanny-state regulation or narrow special interest they are trying to advance at the moment. This is the way in which socialism is always, inevitably, inimical to representative government. The more power the people's representatives give to the government, the more power they give away to unelected bureaucrats.

That is the real essence of the European constitution. It is not that people know that it will be used to promote "markets" or that they know it will be used to promote socialism. It is that they sense it will create a political entity whose actions cannot be predicted or controlled. That is the overall sense that actually seems to be uniting Europe, and uniting it in opposition to the constitution. The one thing you hear from both left and right—from French socialists, Dutch euthanasia advocates, and British conservatives—is the sense that the European constitution creates a political elite that is not accountable to its subjects.

If a universal idea is required to unite a diverse continent, the only idea that will actually succeed at that task is the concept of liberty. Only a government whose powers are few and limited can be easily understood and controlled by its citizens. Only a government limited to the protect of individual rights can avoid pitting special interest groups against one another, for the simple reason that it offers so few government favors for them to fight over. Only a continent whose citizens are committed to free minds, free enterprise, and free trade can avoid the temptation to cannibalize one another and form an amicable union.

The Europeans will not discover a way to unite Europe until they discover and embrace the benefits of capitalism. And that is why the European constitution had to fail.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Two Empires: Are These the Last Years of the Roman Empire--or the First of a New Empire?

by Robert Tracinski

Objectivists have frequently compared contemporary America to the last years of the Roman Empire, and the comparison provides many useful parallels to today's situation. The fall of Rome provides timeless lessons about the destructiveness of religious faith, the false alternative between religious traditionalism (at that time, the worship of the old Roman gods) and a new pacifist creed (at that time, the rising faith of Christianity) that disarmed the Romans and allowed them to be destroyed by a horde of primitive barbarians. The players have changed in many way--Christianity is now the established religious tradition, the new pacifist creed is nominally secular, and the barbarians hail from a different part of the world--yet the lessons still apply.

But it is also clear that there is something else going on in the world today--that American power and influence in the world is, in many crucial ways, expanding rather than contracting. When President Bush declares that "freedom is on the march," it is more than mere political rhetoric. The news stories linked to in today's TIA Daily are an indication. If the big story of the previous decade was the fall of Communism and the establishment of free societies in the former Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe, one of the biggest stories of this decade is the liberation of the former Soviet republics, many of whom were Russian vassals for centuries, and many of whom are now becoming American allies.

And this is not just about Ukraine and Georgia. The events in Eastern Europe are having important reverberations in the Middle East, directly inspiring street protests in Lebanon that drove out (and may yet destroy altogether) the Syrian dictatorship.

Yet any such progress seems improbable, if not impossible. How can liberty be spreading in the world--when it is so lacking in philosophical defenders in its home country, the United States of America? How can freedom be on the march, when hardly anyone fully understands what it means and what it requires?

The fact that America's influence *is* nevertheless spreading, and that it is reaching even the unlikeliest corners of the globe, such as Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, is a fact that I have been documenting day by day in TIA Daily, as relevant news stories come to my attention. I have also shared with you, especially in recent months, my thesis about some of the mechanisms by which American influence is being spread--the process that Jack Wakeland has called the Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness. But this is a much larger topic requiring a much more in-depth exploration and a more detailed analysis, which is why I have chosen to make it the topic of a series of TIA-sponsored teleconference lectures I am giving next month.

For more details, and to sign up for these lectures (either individually or as a package), Click here.

There is a great deal that I have to say on this subject that goes beyond what I have already documented and discussed in TIA Daily--and there is, I think, no topic more important to understanding today's world.

This is also an issue that is personally important in shaping one's view of the future prospects for civilization. Are we living in a re-enactment of the last years of the Roman Empire--or are these the first years of the Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness? That question cannot be answered definitively, of course, because the outcome is not determined by any inevitable force of history. But that is precisely why it is so important to understand what is happening in the world today--to understand, not only the forces for evil, but also the forces for good, and to discover the best way to aid the triumph of the good.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Not-So-Religious Conservatives

Intellectuals on the right seem to be taking a moment to ponder whether they really want to back the religious conservatives. Unfortunately, the not-so-religious conservatives tend to be pragmatists who want to "balance" religion and secularism.

Top News Stories
A "Freedom Tower" Worthy of the Name?
• The Empire of Fashion Shows
• America No Longer a Terror-Sponsoring State?
• Creationism Returns "in a Cheap Tuxedo"
• Commentary: WSJ Roots For, Against Religious Right
• Commentary: Brooks Roots For, Against Religion

Departments
• Human Achievements: The 15th Century
• Things of Beauty: The Blue Boy

A "Freedom Tower" Worthy of the Name?

The awful design for the "Freedom Tower" at the World Trade Center site has been scrapped because of "security concerns"—and if you believe that, you also believed that Dan Rather retired because he wanted to work on his golf swing. The column below speculates on the real reason for the change, but doesn't quite get to what I think is most important: everyone wanted to jettison postmodern architect Daniel Libeskind.

Libeskind's design—a tower whose top was hollow and filled with windmills (!) as an "ecological" symbol—was an obvious esthetic disaster, a statement of defeat, not defiance. Note also that, according to another New York Post report, the project's real architect, David Childs, just happens to have a new design waiting in the wings that will be just as tall but will "look a lot different."

"Who Killed 'Freedom'?" Steve Cuozzo, New York Post, 5/5/05

"The original Freedom Tower was what Philip Nobel's book 'Sixteen Acres' called a 'mongrel' project—principally designed by Childs and structural engineer Guy Nordenson, but forced to include Libeskind's off-center antenna spire. The decisive 'architect' was Pataki, who had the final cut. Childs wanted a 2,000-foot structure; the governor chopped that to 1,500 feet, and then stuck Libeskind's spire atop it to reach 1,776 feet. That created consequences only recently understood. The flimsy birdcage structure couldn't support the weight of the off-center spire. And, we're told, the birdcage, significantly shortened by Pataki, no longer provided sufficient space between the windmills to ensure their structural integrity. The NYPD, in other words, saved all hands from having to acknowledge what no one dared say: that George E. Pataki's grand skyline-reclamation was always an impossible dream."

Monday, May 02, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: The Spirit of New York City

Over the past few years, the awful plan for a "postmodern" building to replace the twin towers of the World Trade Center has sunk under a wave of non-enthusiasm. What is being advocated to replace that plan—and what will it say about the spirit of New York City and the spirit of America?

Top News Stories
• PBS Death Watch
• The Spirit of New York City
• The Fourth Referendum on the War
It Reaches Egypt
• Sharansky's Ideals
• Commentary: The Feeble Engines of Despotism

Departments
• Human Achievements: Bicycle-Tricycle
• Things of Beauty: Rebuilding the WTC

Feature Article
• "The Social Security Distortion" Revisited, by Robert Tracinski
Why the Left Fears "Progressive Indexing"

It Reaches Egypt

There have been a lot of reports recently about how President Bush has "lost" his election mandate (see the latest from today's Washington Post). But his election mandate is just fine. It was a mandate to fight the war—a mandate that wiped out domestic opposition to the war, allowing the subjugation of Fallujah and the Iraqi election, and the continuing shock waves that followed, from Lebanon to Egypt.

The latest shock wave in Egypt is very big: a revolt by the nation's judges, who are demanding their independence from the executive—and who are only doing so now because they expect support from the West. Look for this story to get bigger in about two weeks, when a national judges' association meets and many more judges will potentially join this political rebellion.

"Some Judges in Egypt Lend Voice to Chorus for Reform," Megan K. Stack, LA Times, 5/2/05

"The rebellion erupted last month in the sober, stolid quarters of the Alexandria Judges' Club: 1,200 magistrates publicly demanded judicial independence from an all-powerful president, and threatened to refuse to certify fall elections if they didn't get it.... The judges' demand is a symptom of a new, unpredictable energy that has seized Egyptian politics after decades of stagnation—and of the popular discontent snowballing in the region. 'We guess that this is our chance,' said Assam Abdel Gabbar, an Alexandria judge who sits on Egypt's court of appeals, 'and we don't believe it will come again anytime soon.'... The judges acknowledge they are taking advantage of pressure already bearing down on Mubarak's 24-year-old regime. The elections are approaching fast, and US leaders have been unusually critical of Arab dictatorships—including Egypt, a longtime American ally. 'Our main aim from the start was to choose a time when those abroad would hear us,' said Hisham Bastawisi, a Cairo judge on the court of appeals. 'The West didn't used to listen to us; now they're listening. They used to listen only to governments and to back up dictatorships, but recently they're listening to the people.' President Bush's emphasis on democratization in the Middle East, coupled with elections in Iraq and the popular uprising in Lebanon, have contributed to a sense of unease among the region's dictatorships....

"On the books, the maximum monthly salary for an Egyptian judge hovers between $43 and $86. As one former judge said despondently, it's not even enough to pay the maid. And so the judges depend upon bonuses doled out by the justice minister. Some judges collect as many as 20 checks a month, with the bonus pay and fringe benefits such as transportation costs."

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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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"

Departments
• 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"

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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

Departments
• 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?

Top News Stories
• At Last, New Iraqi Leaders
• No Orange Revolution (Yet) for Zimbabwe
• An Ounce of Prevention
• Exploiting the Ultimate Resource
"Indecency" Controls Threaten to Metastasize
• Commentary: David Brooks Says Intellectual Chaos Is Good For Us

Departments
• Human Achievements: The Crick Papers
• Things of Beauty: Leaf Texture

"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.

Top News Stories
• The First of the War Heroes
• The Kurds' Prize
• Progress Toward New Iraqi Leaders
• The Pope's Contradiction
• The Test Ban Takes Its Toll
• Commentary: The Decadence of the Right

Departments
• Things of Beauty: Details of Spring

Feature Article
• "Faith and Freedom"
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.

Top News Stories
• Religious Right "Declares War on the Judiciary"
• Next Steps in Lebanon
• The Jewel in the Crown
The Ultimate Resource

• Commentary: "The Fear of Being Left Behind"
• Commentary: A Voice for the Secular Right

Departments
• Human Achievements: George G. Simpson and the Evolutionary Synthesis
• Things of Beauty: Photo from Pakistan

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."

Monday, March 28, 2005

TIA Daily Contents: Jeb's Rebellion

The Terri Schiavo case is a wake-up call to secular people on the right who thought they could cooperate with the religious right to promote the cause of small government, constitutionalism, and the rule of law—only to have Florida governor Jeb Bush send state police to seize Terri Schiavo late last week, backing down only when threatened with resistance from local police.

Top News Stories
Jeb's Rebellion
• Taiwan to China: "We Don't Belong to Them"
• A New Tipping Point in Iraq?
• The Forward Strategy of Capitalism?
• Taking Property Rights Off the Endangered Species List
• Commentary: "Democracy Is Sexy"

Departments
• Human Achievements: X Prize Inspires NASA
• Things of Beauty: Silent Woods

Letters to the Editor
• Mysticism, Skepticism, and Evolution
• Mysticism, Skepticism, and Abortion
• Mysticism, Skepticism, and Social Security

Jeb's Rebellion

Aside from a few major papers, I don't usually send TIA Daily readers to websites that require registration. But this is an extremely important story that has not apparently been covered anywhere else—even though it ought to dominate the headlines. The Miami Herald reports that Florida Governor Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement officials to seize Terry Schiavo from her hospice in defiance of state and federal courts.

This is the clearest indication of the dictatorial urge lurking beneath the surface of the religious right: their willingness to knock the law flat in the pursuit of their religious agenda. In this case, the lawlessness took a stark form: the prospect of a standoff between two groups of armed men, between state police sent to seize Terri Schiavo's body and local police determined to enforce the judge's ruling.

One can only imagine that there was a moment when a bunch of cops sat wordlessly around a table staring at each other, all took a deep breath, and then decided that it was probably best if they didn't start shooting each other. This is America, after all, not some anarchic tin-pot dictatorship, and that was the message implicitly relayed to Governor Bush—who apparently needs to be reminded of this fact.

"Police 'Showdown' Averted," Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, 3/26/05


"Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted—but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned. Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding. For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called 'a showdown.' In the end, the squad from the FDLE and the Department of Children & Families backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice. 'We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in,' said a source with the local police. 'The FDLE called to say they were en route to the scene,' said an official with the city police who requested anonymity. 'When the sheriff's department and our department told them they could not enforce their order, they backed off.' ... Participants in the high-stakes test of wills, who spoke with The Herald on the condition of anonymity, said they believed the standoff could ultimately have led to a constitutional crisis and a confrontation between dueling lawmen. 'There were two sets of law enforcement officers facing off, waiting for the other to blink,' said one official with knowledge of Thursday morning's activities. In jest, one official said local police discussed 'whether we had enough officers to hold off the National Guard.' 'It was kind of a showdown on the part of the locals and the state police,' the official said. 'It was not too long after that Jeb Bush was on TV saying that, evidently, he doesn't have as much authority as people think.' "

PS: I am still getting a few e-mails with confusions on the legal and scientific issues in this case, so I thought I should post links to several original sources.

The summary of the Florida state court's finding on Terri Schiavo's medical state and on her previous statements about whether she wanted to be kept alive on artificial life support are available in .pdf form. It demonstrates the rationality of the process behind the original court rulings on this case.

There is an excellent analysis of the science and pseudo-science behind the case, including a link to the CAT-scan showing the atrophy of Schiavo's cerebral cortex on a blog called "Respectful of Otters." Thanks to Cox & Forkum's Allen Forkum for recommending this page, which is better than most science reporting from the big newspapers—a further demonstration of the value of blogs.