March 27, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


In Memoriam: Priscilla Buckley : Remembering with gratitude one who lived graciously. (Mona Charen, 3/27/12, National Review)

Bill Buckley was the founder, owner, editor, and guiding spirit of National Review. But Priscilla, his sister, set the daily tone at the offices on East 35th Street in Manhattan. Her rule was benevolent and irenic, thank God, because magazines of opinion are known for eccentric and prickly characters and NR was no exception. But while writers would be late with their copy, or fail to show up for meetings, or squabble with their editors, everyone seemed mentally to tuck his shirt in when Priscilla was around. She was so gracious and professional and discerning that people wanted to be better in her presence. (They didn't always succeed.)

She set a standard of unassuming excellence, and deeply appreciated talent in others. James Burnham, her office mate for many years, was a particular hero, but her admiration was catholic. On the other hand, Priscilla would set you straight if you needed correction.

REVIEW: of Living It Up At National Review: A Memoir (BrothersJudd) 

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


German president: Poland is 'Europe's land of freedom' (Deutsche Welle, 3/27/12)

German President Joachim Gauck has praised Poland as "Europe's land of freedom" during a trip to Poland. Gauck broke with tradition by choosing the Eastern neighbor instead of France for his first trip abroad. [...]

The fight against dictatorships in the past as well as the fight for democracy today united the two countries, Gauck said.

Gauck, who arrived with his partner Julia Schadt in Warsaw on Monday evening, chose Poland for his first trip to stress the importance of German-Polish relations.

"Our peaceful revolution in the former East Germany was only possible because our Polish neighbors showed that it was possible to fight for freedom," Gauck, himself a former anti-Communist activist in East Germany, told Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza ahead of the visit.

"It is this admirable story of freedom and democracy that I associate with Poland," said the president.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


The Original Individual Mandate, Circa 1792 (BRADLEY LATINO, 7/23/10, NY Times)

The ongoing debate over the mandate's constitutionality has uncovered an unlikely precedent to the PPACA's individual mandate to possess health coverage. I recently wrote about this overlooked original individual mandate in an article, "The First Individual Mandate: What the Uniform Militia Act of 1792 Tells Us about Fifth Amendment Challenges to Healthcare Reform."

The Militia Acts of 1792, passed by the Second Congress and signed into law by President Washington, required every able-bodied white male citizen to enroll in his state's militia and mandated that he "provide himself" with various goods for the common weal:

 [E]ach and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States . . . shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia . . . .provid[ing] himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein . . . and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service

This was the law of the land until the establishment of the National Guard in 1903.  For many American families, compliance meant purchasing-and eventually re-purchasing-multiple muskets from a private party.

This was no small thing.  Although anywhere from 40 to 79% of American households owned a firearm of some kind, the Militia Act specifically required a military-grade musket.  That particular kind of gun was useful for traditional, line-up-and-shoot 18th century warfare, but clumsy and inaccurate compared to the single-barrel shotguns and rifles Americans were using to hunt game.  A new musket, alone, could cost anywhere from $250 to $500 in today's money.  Some congressmen estimated it would cost £20 to completely outfit a man for militia service-about $2,000 today.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the militia mandate is how uncontroversial it was.  For instance, although the recently-ratified Bill of Rights was certainly fresh on Congress' mind, not one of militia reform's many opponents thought to argue the mandate was a government taking of property for public use. Nor did anyone argue it to be contrary to States' rights under the Tenth Amendment. Rather, the mandate was criticized as an unfair burden upon the poor, who were asked to pay the same amount to arm themselves as the rich.  Indeed, the Militia Acts did nothing to defray costs, although a few years later Congress did appropriate funds to pay militia members for the use of their time and goods-in effect subsidizing the purchases.

Why even pretend the opposition is based on principle? 


Why the Right Turned Its Back on the Individual Mandate: At the heart of the apocalyptic health-care rhetoric is the individual mandate--that not long ago was a conservative idea. (John Avlon  | March 27, 2012, Daily Beast)

The roadmap for what was then the signature Republican approach to health-care reform was provided by the once quintessentially Reaganaut think tank, the Heritage Foundation, which now denounces "the cancer of Obamacare."  The offending document was written in 1989, at the dawn of the first Bush presidency, and its rationale for the individual mandate was as follows:

"There is an implicit contract between households in society, based on the notion that health insurance is not like other forms of insurance protection. If a young man wrecks his Porsche and does not have the foresight to obtain insurance, we may commiserate but society feels no obligation to repair his car. Healthcare is different. If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services - even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab ... A mandate on individuals recognizes this implicit contract."

This is, of course, almost precisely the argument made by both the Obama administration and Governor Romney when he was preparing his signature legislative accomplishment in Massachusetts. Namely, that we have a hole in the social contract, where a lack of individual responsibility causes great financial costs for society as a whole in the realm of health care, which everyone will need at some point in their lives. The solution, reiterated several times by Heritage in policy papers leading up to the fight over Hillarycare, was to put an end to fiscally irresponsible freeloaders by advancing the principle of individual responsibility. By comparison, the Clinton health plan's imposition of a requirement for employers to provide health insurance purchased through HMOs seemed positively socialistic.

In another time, President Obama's adoption of a Republican policy to pass health-care reform could have been characterized as classic Clintonian triangulation, an extension of the dynamic that enabled a Southern Democrat like Lyndon Johnson to pass civil-rights legislation or Nixon to go to China.

But in our polarized era, memory is short and policy consistency often takes a backseat to partisan expediency.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again: The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with predictions. (WILLIAM HAPPER, 3/26/12, WSJ)

Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.

The direct warming due to doubling CO2 levels in the atmosphere can be calculated to cause a warming of about one degree Celsius. The IPCC computer models predict a much larger warming, three degrees Celsius or even more, because they assume changes in water vapor or clouds that supposedly amplify the direct warming from CO2. Many lines of observational evidence suggest that this "positive feedback" also has been greatly exaggerated.

There has indeed been some warming, perhaps about 0.8 degrees Celsius, since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age in the early 1800s. Some of that warming has probably come from increased amounts of CO2, but the timing of the warming--much of it before CO2 levels had increased appreciably--suggests that a substantial fraction of the warming is from natural causes that have nothing to do with mankind.

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Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Another ACORN? Tax-funded course teaching homeless how to squat in abandoned buildings (Greg Goodsell, 3/26/2012, Catholic Online)

A taxpayer-funded nonprofit in the Bronx is teaching the local homeless on a crash-course in "squatting." A group calling themselves "Picture the Homeless," has focused city-owned buildings in particular.  Teacher Andres Perez says that the "best properties are city-owned properties or bank-owned properties.They warehouse these properties. They're sitting on them."

According to the New York Post, who first broke the story, the organization has received $240,000 in taxpayer funds over the last five years.

According to the Post, Andres Perez held a teach-in on how to wrest "control" of vacant apartments. He called it "homesteading."

Even setting aside the centuries old doctrine of adverse possession, driven by our Anglospheric loathing of unutilized property, it's worth recalling that Hernando de Soto became a conservative icon advocating for just such homesteading.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 AM


Declaring War on Newborns: The disgrace of medical ethics. (Andrew Ferguson, 3/24/12, Weekly Standard)

As "After-birth Abortion" spread around the world and gained wide publicity​--​that damned Internet ​--​non-ethicists greeted it with derision or shock or worse. The authors and the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics were themselves shocked at the response. As their inboxes flooded with hate mail, the authors composed an apology of sorts that non-ethicists will find more revealing even than the original paper.

"We are really sorry that many people, who do not share the background of the intended audience for this article, felt offended, outraged, or even threatened," they wrote. "The article was supposed to be read by other fellow bioethicists who were already familiar with this topic and our arguments." It was a thought experiment. After all, among medical ethicists "this debate"​--​about when it's proper to kill babies​--​"has been going on for 40 years."

So that's what they've been talking about in all those panel discussions! The authors thought they were merely taking the next step in a train of logic that was set in motion, and has been widely accepted, since their profession was invented in the 1960s. And of course they were. The outrage directed at their article came from laymen​--​people unsophisticated in contemporary ethics. Medical ethicists in general expressed few objections, only a minor annoyance that the authors had let the cat out of the bag. A few days after it was posted the article was removed from the publicly accessible area of the Journal's website, sending it back to that happy, cozy world.

You'd have to be very, very well trained in ethics to see the authors' argument as a morally acceptable extension of their premises, but you can't deny the logic of it. The rest of us will see in the argument an extension of its premises into self-evident absurdity. Pro-lifers should take note. For years, in public argument, pro-choicers have mocked them for not following their belief in a fetus's humanity to its logical end. Shouldn't you execute doctors who perform abortions? Why don't you have funerals for miscarriages?

As one pro-choice wag, writing about the Republicans' pro-life platform, put it in the Washington Post a few years ago: "The official position of the Republican Party is that women who have abortions should be executed."

And now we know the pro-choice position is that children born with a facial deformity should be executed too, as long as you get to them quick enough. Unwittingly the insouciant authors of "After-birth Abortion" have shown where pro-choicers wind up if they follow their belief about fetuses to its logical end. They've performed a public service. Could it be that medical ethicists really are more useful than aromatherapists?
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Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM

LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US (via John Thacker):

the car that can drive itself (Alisa Priddle, 3/23/12, Detroit Free Press)

Automotive supplier Continental is testing a self-driving car that, by month's end, could be among the first licensed for use on public roads in Nevada, the first state to pass laws governing driverless vehicles.

Continental, which has its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, removed brake and steering controls in a Volkswagen Passat and replaced them with sensors and advanced technology to read the surroundings and drive accordingly.

To qualify for Nevada's special license, Continental engineers have racked up and documented almost 10,000 miles of autonomous driving. That included a recent trip from Las Vegas to Brimley, Mich., near Sault Ste. Marie, where Continental has a development and testing center nestled in the forest. More than 90% of the journey was without a hand on the wheel or a foot on a pedal, said Ibro Muharemovic, one of three engineers riding shotgun.

A final trip is being planned to hit the 10,000 mark in the next few weeks.

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