December 9, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM


The Recalibration of Conservatism (Peter Wehner, 12.06.2012, Commentary)

Messrs. Ryan and Rubio offered intelligent defenses of limited government while also acknowledging the important role of government. And they used terms like "compassion," "the common good," "civil society," and "social infrastructure." Their tone was inclusive, humane, aspirational, and captured the true, and full, spirit of conservatism.

What Ryan and Rubio are doing is widening the aperture of the Republican Party and the conservative movement, which in recent years either ignored (in the case of civil society and education) or took aim at (in the case of compassion) issues and concepts that are morally important and politically potent. It isn't so much that what was being said was wrong, though in some cases (like on immigration) it was; it's that the vision being offered was constricted. 

The task facing conservatives today is somewhat akin to what Ronald Reagan faced in 1977 with the GOP, Bill Clinton faced in 1992 with the Democratic Party, and Tony Blair faced in 1994 with the Labour Party. In this instance, the Republican Party and conservatism have to remain powerful defenders of liberty and limited government. But they also have to establish themselves in the public imagination as advocates for reform and modernization, of the middle class and social mobility, and of a generous, inclusive vision.

More what Margaret Thatcher did than what Reagan did, but exactly what Clinton, Blair, W and Cameron did--reclaim the Third Way.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


How Two Presidents Helped Me Deal With Love, Guilt, and Fatherhood : Guidance from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush taught the author how to accept and understand his son's Asperger's syndrome. (Ron Fournier, December 4, 2012, National Journal)

Our noses were practically touching the wall. Tall, white, and seamless, it was the only thing standing between us and the president of the United States. "Stay right there," a White House aide told me, my wife, and three children. "The president will be with you in a minute." Suddenly, the wall opened; it was a hidden door to the Oval Office. "Come on in, Fournier!" shouted George W. Bush. "Who ya' dragging in?"

It was my last day covering the White House for the Associated Press, and this 2003 visit was a courtesy that presidents traditionally afford departing correspondents. I introduced my wife, Lori, and two daughters, Holly and Abby, before turning to their 5-year-old brother. "Where's Barney?" Tyler asked.

"He's coming!" Bush replied as his Scottish terrier scampered into the room. "Let's do a photo!"

As the most powerful man on Earth prepared to pose for a picture, my son launched into a one-sided conversation, firing off one choppy phrase after another with machine-gun delivery. "Scottish terriers are called Scotties, they originated from Scotland, they can be traced back to a single female named Splinter II, President Roosevelt had one, he called it Fala, Dad says he kept him in the office down there when he was swimming, there's one in Monopoly, my favorite is the car ..."

I cringed. Tyler is loving, charming, and brilliant--he has a photographic memory--but he lacks basic social skills. He doesn't know when he's being too loud or when he's talking too much. He can't read facial expressions to tell when somebody is sad, curious, or bored. He has a difficult time seeing how others view him. Tyler is what polite company calls awkward. I've watched adults respond to him with annoyed looks or pity. Bullies call him goofy, or worse.

But the president was enchanted. Waiting for Tyler to take a breath, he quickly changed the subject with a joke. "Look at your shoes," Bush told Tyler while putting a hand on his shoulder and steering him toward the photographer. "They're ugly. Just like your dad's." Tyler laughed.

Ten minutes later, we were walking out of the Oval Office when Bush grabbed me by the elbow. "Love that boy," he said, holding my eyes. 

I thought I understood what he meant. It took me years to realize my mistake.


When he's not biking or golfing, George W. Bush spends time in his nondescript office in a suburban Dallas bank building. In the cozy reception area, orange leather chairs line the walls, upon which hang pictures of the 43rd president hosting assorted world leaders at Camp David. Tyler pointed to former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and asked me, "Was he an Elvis fan?" How did he know?

"He ain't nothing but a hound dog," Tyler said, making us both laugh.

After a few minutes, Bush's aide came for us. "I changed my mind," Tyler said as we made our way to the  office. "You do this." But he relaxed as soon as he saw Bush. The ex-president was tilted back in his chair with his feet propped on a neat desk and a coffee cup marked "POTUS" in his hands. Tyler seemed to grasp that Bush was not taking himself--or us--too seriously. After quick handshakes and hellos, Bush got down to business.

"Going to school?" the former president asked my son.

"Yes," Tyler replied.

"Do you like school?"

"Pretty good."

"Favorite subject?"

"American studies."

"Do you like to read?"

"Yeah. I read all the time. I don't have a favorite topic."

"Fiction? Nonfiction? Sports?

"I don't know much about sports."


"I really don't like mysteries."

"Most 14-year-olds don't like to read," Bush said, stretching for a compliment.

Worried that the conversation was going nowhere, I reminded Tyler what Clinton had asked him to do eight days earlier.

"Oh, yeah," he said to Bush. "Bill Clinton sends his best."

Bush smiled warmly. "We've been friends," he said. "We've shared experiences. We're like brothers."

I could feel my stomach tightening, worried that Bush would consider Tyler rude or obtuse. I nervously change the subject to sports, a passion Bush and I share. "Stop butting in," I wrote in my notebook. Bush politely engaged with me but quickly turned back to Tyler.

"So, Tyler, at 14 this is probably an unfair question to ask, but do you have any idea what you'd like to be when you get older?

"Maybe a comedian."

"Maybe a what?" Bush said, a bit surprised.

"A comedian."

"Well," Bush replied, "I'm a pretty objective audience. You might want to try a couple of your lines out on me."

"Nah," Tyler demurred. "I don't have any material"

I tried to prod Tyler into sharing a bit of the stand-up act that won him second prize at a school talent show. I nudged him about the improv classes he was taking.

Bush let him off the hook. "Ah, interesting," he said. "I've met a lot of people. You know how many people ever said, 'I think I'd like to make people laugh?' You're the only guy. That's awesome."

Bush had connected. With an impish smile, he told Tyler about the time that rocker/humanitarian Bono was scheduled to visit the White House. The president's aides, knowing that their boss was unimpressed by celebrities, worried that Bush would blow it. "[Chief of Staff] Josh Bolten comes in and said, 
'Now, you know who Bono is, don't you?' Just as he's leaving the Oval Office, I said, 'Yeah, he's married to Cher.' " Bush raised an eyebrow. "Get it?" he asked Tyler. "Bone-oh. Bahn-oh."

Afterward, I asked Tyler about the Bono joke. He said, "Sounds like something goofy you would say." But for me, the exchange was an eye-opener. Tyler was terse, even rude, but Bush was solicitous. Rather than being thrown by Tyler's idiosyncrasies, he rolled with them, exactly as he had in the Oval Office nine years earlier. He responded to every clipped answer with another probing question. Bush, a man who famously doesn't suffer fools or breaches of propriety, gave my son the benefit of the doubt. I was beginning to think that people are more perceptive and less judgmental toward Tyler than his own father is. Bush certainly was. [...]

On the trips to Arkansas and Texas, I saw through both presidents a successful future for Tyler--in Clinton, big possibilities for a boy with a sharp mind and rough edges. In Bush, Tyler's gift of humor as a means to find confidence in himself and connections with others. I learned that while Tyler was not my idealized son, he was the ideal one. In the Oval Office, years ago, I thought Bush had ordered me to "love that boy" in spite of his idiosyncrasies. Now, I realize, I love my son because of them.

This is what I tried to tell Tyler in the car outside the bookstore. "I get it, Dad," he said dismissively. "Now can we go home? I want to play video games." And so we go.

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


Tax Arithmetic Shows Top Rate Is Just a Starter (JACKIE CALMES, 12/09/12, NY Times)

Even if Republicans were to agree to Mr. Obama's core demand -- that the top marginal income rates return to the Clinton-era levels of 36 percent and 39.6 percent after Dec. 31, rather than stay at the Bush-era rates of 33 percent and 35 percent -- the additional revenue would be only about a quarter of the $1.6 trillion that Mr. Obama wants to collect over 10 years.

When returning to the rate that obtained at the time of the world's greatest economic boom cuts the deficit that much you can tell how unserious all the posturing about a "cliff" is.

Posted by orrinj at 12:37 PM


Forget the fiscal cliff: buy America (Philip Stephens, 12/06/12, Financial Times)

A year or so ago, the Beijing-based Chinese Institute for Contemporary International Relations made an unpublished assessment of the various components of US power. The CICIR serves China's intelligence agencies and has a reputation for unvarnished analysis. It found many more entries on the positive than on the negative side of the US balance sheet.

Some of these strengths speak for themselves. America's military reach will be unrivalled for decades. It has a stable political system. The country's demographic profile is significantly better than that of any potential rival. Washington sits at the centre of the world's most powerful alliance system. Its intelligence capabilities are unmatched. The US has huge advantages in technological prowess and intellectual resources. Around the world it exerts a strong cultural draw. It has a global outlook.

The Chinese identified some counterpoints: an underperforming economy, rising public debt and deficits, social polarisation and political gridlock in Washington. What's striking, though, is the qualitative nature of the pluses and minuses. The advantages are mostly permanent. The security afforded by geography is not something the US can lose. The same can be said for abundant natural resources and relative resilience against climate change. Compare this with the identified weaknesses. With a measure of political resolve, they are all more or less tractable.

The implications of the exploitation of unconventional oil and gas reserves has been underestimated. Most obviously, shale oil and gas will reduce dependency on Middle East petrocarbons. Over time that will encourage a scaling back in the US commitment to the region's security, freeing up economic and military resources for Mr Obama's pivot to Asia. Countries such as China that are heavily dependent on imported energy will be much more vulnerable to geopolitical shocks.
The big gain, though, comes in the form of the competitive stimulus promised by abundant cheap gas. The age of offshoring is likely to give way to the era of onshoring. The US growth rate will rise and the current account deficit will shrink.

Europeans are already complaining that cheap US gas is encouraging a flight of energy intensive businesses across the Atlantic. How can, say, Europe's chemicals producers - buying expensive Russian gas - compete with US rivals guaranteed access to cut-price feedstock.

Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM


Evangelicals may boost immigration shift (Joe Garofoli, December 2, 2012, SF Gate)

Richard Land endorsed Mitt Romney, opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights, and is a leader in one of the nation's largest organizations of Southern Baptists.

But on Tuesday he and other conservative Christians - as well as antitax leader Grover Norquist - will be in Washington to lobby for a major goal of President Obama's second term: opening the path to citizenship for immigrants.

It's the right thing to do from a moral perspective, say Land and other evangelical Christian leaders.

The notion that the lobbying is a "but," rather than part and parcel of being a faithful Christian, is the damage the Right has caused.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


The Feminine Mistake (JANE MILLER, 12/09/12, In These Times)

Hobsbawm didn't figure in
 my book, but he was there in spirit
 as the kind of British socialist (E.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams were others) who wrote as though feminism, not to mention racism and multiculturalism, distracted from the core problem for any capitalist society: class.

Eric Hobsbawm, the historian I interviewed for In These Times earlier this year, died in October at 95. An affectionate friend and an impressive scholar, he had one striking blind spot. He saw no point in feminism and disliked the word "gender" as feminists use it. might have thought that dismissing away 100 million Marxist murders was a significant sight defect.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 AM


Maher: Obama Should Implement Carbon Tax As A 'Personal F*** You to the Koch Brothers' (Noel Sheppard, December 07, 2012, Newbusters)

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 AM


Nelson Mandela 'proven' to be a member of the Communist Party after decades of denial (Colin Freeman, and Jane Flanagan, 08 Dec 2012, The Telegraph)

The former South African president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, has always denied being a member of the South African branch of the movement, which mounted an armed campaign of guerrilla resistance along with the ANC.

But research by a British historian, Professor Stephen Ellis, has unearthed fresh evidence that during his early years as an activist, Mr Mandela did hold senior rank in the South African Communist Party, or SACP. He says Mr Mandela joined the SACP to enlist the help of the Communist superpowers for the ANC's campaign of armed resistance to white rule.

His book also provides fresh detail on how the ANC's military wing had bomb-making lessons from the IRA, and intelligence training from the East German Stasi, which it used to carry out brutal interrogations of suspected "spies" at secret prison camps.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM


A free-trade agreement with Europe? (David Ignatius, December 5, 2012, Washington Post)

[A] big idea is taking shape that could revitalize the U.S.-European partnership for the 21st century. It was the talk of Berlin and Hamburg when I was there a week ago, and there's a similar buzz in Washington. The idea is free trade -- specifically, a trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement -- which I'll optimistically call "TAFTA."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tipped the U.S. hand on Nov. 29 when she said at the Brookings Institution, "We are discussing possible negotiations with the European Union for a comprehensive agreement that would increase trade and spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic." She noted the "long-standing barriers to trade and market access" that would have to be removed to make any such deal possible, such as the European Union's protectionist agricultural rules.

Clinton is said to envision an "economic NATO" -- a comprehensive agreement covering trade in goods, services, investment and agriculture. Indeed, a joint working group of U.S. and E.U. officials is about to release a final report arguing for such a comprehensive deal.

It would also shift the UR's legacy even further right.
Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


Stem-Cell Cures Without the Controversy (MATT RIDLEY, 12/09/12, WSJ)

Until Dr. Yamanaka's breakthrough of five years ago, few biologists held out much hope that the cells of an adult person could be made into stem cells, in contrast to those of an embryo. Debate still continues among biologists about whether such adult cells approach the gold standard of adaptability that embryonic stem cells show, but few would now bet against that goal being achieved one day.

It's not far-fetched to conclude that, thanks to induced pluripotent stem cells, the embryonic stem-cell debate is fading fast into history. If stem cells derived from the patient's own blood are to offer the same therapeutic benefits as embryonic stem cells, without the immunological complication of coming from another individual, then there would be no need to use cells derived from embryos.

Indeed, that was one of Dr. Yamanaka's original motivations when he set out to induce pluripotency in adult cells. Though he supported embryonic stem-cell research in principle, he once said: "I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way."

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 AM


How America catches tunes (Geoffrey Clarfield, 12/09/12, National Post)

As I turned off the highway to enter the town of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, I could not contain my excitement. In my mind's ear I could hear that classic 1970s hit song The Weight, penned by the Canadian born guitarist of The Band, Robbie Robertson:

I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin' about half past dead
I just needed some place where I can lay my head,
"Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?"
He just grinned and shook my hand, "no" was all he said.

Nazareth Pennsylvania is the factory town of C.F. Martin and Co. Established in 1833, for the last 180 years they have been producing merica's best acoustic guitars. German émigré master guitar maker Christian Frederick Martin Sr. established the company and it has maintained family ownership ever since, now under the successful management of Christian Frederick ("Chris") Martin the IV, born in 1955. It is one of America's most unique, longest-lasting family businesses.

Dissatisfied with the hierarchical, guild-like structure of the Early-19th-century German guitar-making scene, master guitar maker Martin took his commitment to excellence across the ocean and provided an ever democratizing country with the instrument that has come to express its artistic soul, eventually building his factory in Nazareth after having first established his reputation with the guitar players and musical instrument wholesalers of pre-Civil War New York City and its environs.

Virtually every major figure in modern folk, rock, blues, folk rock and country either plays a Martin or has played one; Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Robbie Robertson, The Kingston Trio, Johnny Cash, Bess and Alan Lomax, Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry and Big Bill Broonzy. Last but not least, yours truly -- committed folk guitarist, singer and proud owner of two Martin guitars.

The Martin Company is aware that so many clients have a desire to see, feel and experience the factory where their instrument was born. And so every day at 11:30 a.m. you can sign up for a one-hour tour of the factory. When the tour guide asked us who owned or had played a Martin almost everyone raised his or her hand. Clearly, here I stood among the blessed, and with these other visitors I began my great guitar pilgrimage at the source of good sound.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:09 AM


Liberals Slam Andrew Cuomo's Deals With New York GOP (David Freedlander, Dec 9, 2012, Daily Beast)

Last month, Chris Hayes, the wonky host of his own morning television show on the liberal MSNBC looked straight at the camera and announced "Democrats cannot count on New York's supposedly Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo as an ally and every Democratic primary voter in the entire country should know that, too."

"One would have thought that a Democratic governor would have worked hard to reverse the Tea Party's 2010 gains in his state," added Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. "You would hope that a governor with his eyes on the White House would prefer to cooperate with the diverse progressive legislators of the Democratic/Working Families Party majority rather than the all-white, nearly all-male moderate-to-conservative GOP minority."

The Daily Kos went even further, with head man Markos Moulitsas accusing the governor of New York of acting in way telling the netroots, that "If you're looking for a successor to Obama who will be a strong Democrat who will fight for Democratic ideals and his or her party, don't be looking at Cuomo ... Cuomo is a worthy successor to the legacy of Joe Lieberman ... It should make him persona non grata in a Democratic presidential primary."