Post-Mortem, Episode II

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

— Benjamin Franklin, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787

I do not want to say much about the election today, but I do want to share a few thoughts.

I will begin by referring the reader to my post-mortem of the 2008 election. When I wrote that post, much was still unknown: how Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues in Congress would govern; whether they would unite us or divide us; whether the campaign-trail talk of bipartisanship was at all legitimate or just so much smoke; and so on. Now, four years later, we know the answers. Obviously, half of the people who voted in the last few weeks liked the answers they came up with.  Others — nearly as many, in fact — did not like the conclusions that they reached, and so we are even more bitterly divided than we were four years ago.

As those who know me well — or read this blog — already know, I think last night was a catastrophe. But it was a catastrophe in the sense that a heart attack is a catastrophe for a person who has smoked heavily and drunk too often and too deeply for the first seventy years of his life: terrible, frightening, but hardly unexpected to anyone paying attention. The election was only a symptom of the nation’s condition, not an unforeseeable landslide or a paradigm shift.  This is simply true, whether or not you were happy with the outcome. People went to the polls, and they voted for what they believed in; they did not suddenly reach some new and startling conclusions in the privacy of a voting booth. The results are a symptom: either that we are recovering from many of our maladies, or that we have taken a turn for the worse. Either way, our course of treatment is largely set for at least two more years and arguably far longer.

The good news today is that, as I observed after the 2008 election, we still are a nation, and we have again chosen new leaders with essentially no bloodshed or rioting and with minimal (but not zero) fraud and voter intimidation. The framework set out in the Constitution and its handful of amendments has survived, at least in this sense, for another four years.

As for the bad news, there is plenty of it.  We are a deeply divided nation in countless ways, a reality that only got worse, not better, in the last four years. We are mired in debt, bitter factionalism, and debates that involve more ad hominem attacks than reasoned arguments. There are very few topics that we can talk about without someone hurling (meaningless) epithets such as “one-percenter,” “____-phobic,” “anti-woman,” “anti-child,” and so on. Measured without accounting gimmicks, our deficits and our debt are soaring and are already well beyond levels that can be bridged even with punitive levels of taxation. Indeed, our country’s credit, once seen as the safest in the world, has been downgraded and is on multiple watch lists for further downgrades. Our military is weakening and faced with further, eminent, and debilitating cuts unless action is taken quickly. Our foes are emboldened, while some of our most faithful allies no longer even question whether we can be depended upon; we have proven all too often that, at least for now, we cannot. I pray that our leaders — all of them — can work together to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the people governed by it.

Whether we can overcome the challenges ahead, only time will tell. A look at the history of nations with such deep debts and deep divisions does not bode well. If we are to overcome the tests ahead, it will be a remarkable feat, and it will take all of our effort. As a start, please pray for this nation and her people. They do sorely need our prayers.

Election 2012: Please Vote

I have been quiet about this year’s election, but not for lack of caring.  The last few months have been extremely busy for me; to my shame, my busy schedule has meant that I have been silent about what is likely the most important presidential election in more than 30 years, not to mention extremely important battles for control of Congress, many governorships, and thousands of other state and local elections.

The first and most important thing that I want to say is this: go vote.  Voting for our executive, legislative, and — at the local level, anyway — many judicial and administrative offices is a huge part of what makes this country special.  It made America unique at the time of her founding, and it still makes us unique today for the orderly, peaceful, and overwhelmingly honest and fair way in which we manage transitions of power.  So, vote.  Please.  If you don’t, you can’t complain when whomever we elect does things you don’t like.  Yes, you may still have the constitutional right to complain about it, but the choice not to vote is a choice to waive any moral right to whine about the outcome.  At the very least, it waives any chance of the rest of us taking you seriously.  If you care about how this country — or your state, or your city — is run, go vote.

As for my take on the election, well, I don’t expect to persuade anyone here and now, but I have to share my thoughts anyway, just in case.

I am a conservative first and foremost, in the tradition of Edmund Burke.  My heroes are people like Ronald Reagan and Russell Kirk.  In this post, if I can accomplish nothing else (beyond reminding you again to go vote), I hope to outline briefly why conservatism is the only safe choice for this election.  I am not going to delve into social issues such as abortion, not because they are not important, but because, realistically, how we vote in this election has little to no impact on these issues.

Our nation is at great risk, due to years of inattention to the federal budget, a military with aging equipment and little new materiel coming online, and a foreign policy that is naive at best and timid, even spineless, at worst.  Government increasingly intrudes upon the lives of average citizens, making it harder and harder to afford a good education; harder for our teachers, schools, and universities to pursue knowledge and learning rather than focusing first and foremost on the bottom line; harder to get and keep a good job; harder to start and run a business; and harder even to exercise everyday rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience.  Every new statute, rule, regulation, executive order, permit requirement, or other government action serves only to make government’s powers larger at the expense of the rights of the people.  More startling still, those powers are increasingly concentrated in a national — not federal — government, of which, as Reagan warned, the states are becoming mere administrative districts.  Our democratic federalism is dying, and it is being replaced by a monolithic, paternalistic government of bureaus, administrations, agencies, and czars.

The result is this: our official national debt is 16 trillion dollars — that’s $16,000,000,000,000 — and counting, or more than $51,000 per citizen.  But the real story is far, far worse.  By the standards that public companies must use (known as GAAP), the government has unfunded liabilities in excess of $120 trillion, or more than $1,058,000 per taxpayer.  And it only gets worse; every time the government passes a “stimulus” package which fails to stimulate, engages in quantitative easing, or even repairs a pothole, that number — and your share of it — gets bigger.  This is scary enough when we are only talking about legitimate functions of government, such as defense and administration of a justice system.  But that’s not all we’re talking about; we are also buying countless handouts to private parties, pork-barrel projects, and a reality in which more people than ever are on food stamps, even as it gets harder for employers to offer good jobs due to the crushing regulatory and tax burdens they face.

To fund all of this, we are borrowing trillions of dollars from China, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Taiwan, Switzerland, and so on.  Even worse: the single biggest creditor of the United States government is our own Social Security system, which, when combined with other federal pension systems, holds 5 trillion dollars in federal debt.  Who will be left holding the bag for that?  Our children and even my own generation, because the debt train will run out of track long before we reach retirement.  We need to spend less.  We need fiscal responsibility, but our elected officials don’t seem to have any.

Meanwhile, our military is weak.  Our navy and coast guard have aging ships, and fewer of them than anytime in the last decades.  The air force is flying old and increasingly obsolete planes, leaving us entirely dependent on drones to project air power; it’s not the same, and it’s not enough.  The army drives vehicles that are ill-equipped for a world of IEDs and fighting wars in which the enemy does not always do us the courtesy of wearing uniforms.  Our ever-faithful marines are underfunded, with all of the problems of the other forces.  Our elected officials seem to think the military is an obsolete relic of a dangerous world that no longer exists, which we can always “turn on” again if the world becomes dangerous.  Yet that same military is engaged in multiple undeclared wars and countless “peacekeeping” missions, even as our nation’s diplomatic representatives come under attack and die due to a lack of security.  We need to maintain a strong defense, but we are at risk of losing it.

We need a foreign policy that other nations respect, even if they do not find it pleasant.  There is a reason that President Obama has been endorsed for reelection by the likes of Putin, Chavez, and Castro, and it is not that they think he is strong.  We need a president who recalls that he is President of the United States of America, not of the world, and who bows to no one.

Our country was founded on a simple idea: the people, not their rulers, are supreme.  They have endowed the government with certain powers; the government has not bestowed upon the People the rights that they received from their Creator.  The Founding Fathers gave us an intricate system, balancing the need for unity with the demands of individualism, local needs with national interests, and the need for a strong government with the even more important need that it never be too powerful.  It’s time to reclaim their great idea, and restore a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not of technocrats and career politicians, by the same, for the same.

It’s time for some real hope and change — hope for a stronger future, in which America is prosperous, strong, and free, and in which Americans do not fear their own government’s excesses.  It’s time for a real conservative.  Not a neoconservative who runs up our debt and needlessly engages in protracted wars, not a statist who sees government as the solution, but a Reaganite conservative who sees government for what it is: the problem, not the solution.

As in 2008, I am again endorsing Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates for office.  Governor Romney is a proven leader and strong conservative, as is his running mate, Paul Ryan.  They are merely men, with no pretensions to be more than men, but they are good men and proven leaders.  I honestly believe that this presidential ticket is the most genuinely conservative ticket this country has seen since Reagan proclaimed that “it’s morning in America.”  They are the right choice for America in this election cycle.  When you vote, please vote for these proven leaders and all of the others who want to get this country back on track by restoring the proper balance between the People and their government.

If you are so inclined, please consider donating to help Governor Romney and Representative Ryan bring real hope back to America.

Article on Cultural Property

HistoryNet has an article on the topic of cultural property and who owns it. The article, The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?, addresses some of the same topics I addressed in my comment for the Chicago Journal of International Law at the Law School of the University of Chicago, Keeping the Barbarians Outside the Gate: Toward a Comprehensive Agreement Protecting Cultural Property Internationally, 9 Chi. J. Int’l L. 627 (2009), so I thought I would mention it here.

The End of Multiculturalism

Lawrence Harrison has a great essay out on The End of Multiculturalism, in which he argues that multiculturalism is, ironically, both the root of the George W. Bush administration’s foreign policy difficulties and the causes of major crises here at home. Give it a read.

More on the Berkeley Stupidity

Berkeley is still trying to force out the United States Marine Corps. I can’t even summarize this one; just go read it. Berkeley gives Marines the boot.

There’s opposing the war…

And then there’s trying to undermine the nation’s ability to protect itself. Berkeley wants to treat military recruitment offices like porn shops. Hat tip: Michelle Malkin.

Where the WMDs Really Were?

A new report indicates that maybe they were all smoke and no fire. Interrogator: Invasion Surprised Saddam, Tells 60 Minutes Former Dictator Bragged About Eluding Capture – CBS News

Abdul Rahman to be Released

I posted, a couple days ago, on the situation of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian who was facing the death penalty for his conversion from Islam. CNN is reporting that he will be released “in the coming days.” (Link to follow)

Afghan Christian Faces Death Penalty

In case you haven’t heard, yet, Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man who converted from Islam to Christianity has been arrested and is awaiting trial, at which he faces the possibility of the death penalty. CNN.com has the full story.

This is, obviously, an outrage. While freedom of religion is hardly universal and while other nations routinely persecute Christians and others for their beliefs, Afghanistan has a government the United States helped to create and which the United States is still actively protecting with military force. I’m fairly certain the possibility of people being executed by the new Afghan government for expressing a religious preference other than Islam was not in the minds of any Americans who helped oust the Taliban from power and install the current Afghan government. As Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, said in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, “In a country where soldiers from all faiths, including Christianity, are dying in defense of your government, I find it outrageous that Mr. Rahman is being prosecuted and facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity.”

It appears that our own government and the governments of Germany, Italy, and Canada, are expressing the appropriate level of outrage, at this point; let’s pray they keep it up until Mr. Rahman is free to go home.

UPDATE: In an unsurprising move, Muslim clerics in Afghanistan are saying that Rahman must die. If he is freed, some clerics say, the population will kill him (and some of the clerics seem intent on ensuring that outcome).

Death in London, Madness in Iraq

This morning, as I’m sure you’ve heard, four bombs exploded in the London transit system, killing at least 33 and wounding hundreds. A group calling itself the “Secret Organization Group of al Qaeda of Jihad in Europe” is claiming responsibility. Also, this morning, the al Qaeda organization in Iraq claims that it has killed the Egyptian envoy to Iraq.

Speaking as somebody who has spent a fair amount of time in the Muslim world, I really can’t fathom what the terrorists who committed these crimes might be thinking. So many of the motivations cited – for example, the “facts” that there are 101 Jewish United States Senators, one I heard surprisingly frequently, and that the CIA sends huge numbers of Christian missionaries to the Middle East to convert Muslims – are obviously wrong.

The stated goals are usually ridiculous, as well – some of my Muslim friends told me that the 9/11 victims weren’t innocent, because they should have pulled American troops out of the Arab peninsula. Most of the time, my efforts to explain that American democracy does not mean that each citizen has personal, governmental powers fell on deaf ears.

Of course, some moonbats are claiming that this is because the United States failed to go after terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11, instead launching quixotic campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Right.

Meanwhile, the Democratic governor of Virginia, Mark Warner, on Wednesday decided to blast Bush for failing to unite the country in a “call to common purpose,” after 9/11. I thought, at first, that Warner surely meant Bush should have built more support for the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, so they would not become divisive. No, Warner meant that 9/11 presented an opportunity to work on health care and the deficit. Instead, for some inexplicable reason, Bush used to the sense of unity, post-9/11, to actually deal with the problem of 9/11. You know, Karl Rove was right.

America – the whole world, really – needs to snap out of it. After the 1993 WTC bombing, after the attack on the USS Cole, after 9/11, after the Madrid bombings, and after two intifadas, more than half of the citizens of democratic nations still don’t get it. Our enemies don’t care if we’re nicer to them; our enemies don’t care if they die fighting us; our enemies will never stop. If we are attacked again – and we will be – and if, huddling together in fear, we decide to talk about health care and the deficit, rather than how we will prevent more senseless death and carnage, we are all doomed.