February 9, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


A conversation about conservatism (Jennifer Rubin on February 8, 2013, Washington Post)

Just at a time when Republicans are debating what sort of party they should have and what sort of conservatism they can practice and still win elections comes along an important and highly readable book by Hoover scholar Peter Berkowitz, "Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, Self-Government, and Political Moderation." [...]

I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to restate the connection between liberty, self-government and political moderation. "Constitutional Conservatism" represents my attempt to do so.  The book contains chapters on Edmund Burke, "The Federalist" and the high points of post-World War II American conservatism.  You could sum up the results in three propositions:

First, social conservatives and libertarians should rally around, and rededicate themselves to conserving, the principles of liberty inscribed in the United States Constitution.  
Second, dedication to conserving these principles of liberty would yield an alliance among conservatives that is both philosophically coherent and politically potent.  
Third, both the philosophical coherence and the political potency derive in significant measure from the lesson of moderation inscribed in the Constitution and in modern conservatism more generally.

The defense of political moderation is always needed because the tendency to take one single principle, right, or policy to an extreme is endemic to politics, yet we are called upon, particularly in a liberal democracy, to balance and blend competing principles, rights and policies as times change and as new opportunities and threats emerge and others recede. [...]

"Moderation," as you point out, has gotten a bad rap for mushiness or mechanical horse trading. You argue it is something different. Perhaps heterogeneity or "fusion" (Frank S. Meyer's term) would be better. What's the essence of conservative moderation and have you seen examples of such (e.g. Ryan's Roadmap for America, Bush on immigration reform) that embodies that ethos? Should we replace "moderation" with prudence or restraint or balance?

Yes, moderation has a bad name, and in some quarters it always has.  In "Reflections on the Revolution in France," Burke observed that one who seeks to defend a "scheme of liberty soberly limited" is likely to be accused of lacking "fidelity to his cause."  Purists, he says, will denounce moderation as the "virtue of cowards" and will condemn compromise as the "prudence of traitors."

Nevertheless, I prefer to stick with the term moderation -- or better still, political moderation -- because "heterogeneity" is very abstract and "fusion" (which Meyer did not care for) suggests that conservative principles can only be held together by some ineffable cosmic force.

The political moderation I defend has nothing to do with splitting the difference or compromise for the sake of compromise.  The essence of political moderation in a free society is balancing and blending competing and worthy principles for the sake of liberty.  And the essence of conservative political moderation is recognizing the mutual dependence and mutual tension between liberty and tradition.

Political moderation is bound up with an appreciation of the imperfections of human nature, respect for the limits of human knowledge, and recognition of the significance of circumstances in coloring conduct and shaping options.  Together, these yield a generally empirical, skeptical and anti-utopian sensibility.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


'Hitler's Pope' revealed as a secret friend to Holocaust victims (Dalya Alberge, 2/09/13, The Observer)

The Pope's Jews, which will be published next month, details how Pius gave his blessing to the establishment of safe houses in the Vatican and Europe's convents and monasteries. He oversaw a secret operation with code names and fake documents for priests who risked their lives to shelter Jews, some of whom were even made Vatican subjects.

Thomas shows, for example, that priests were instructed to issue baptism certificates to hundreds of Jews hidden in Genoa, Rome and elsewhere in Italy. More than 2,000 Jews in Hungary were given fabricated Vatican documents identifying them as Catholics and a network saved German Jews by bringing them to Rome. The pope appointed a priest with extensive funds with which to provide food, clothing and medicine. More than 4,000 Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries across Italy.

During and immediately after the war, the pope was considered a Jewish saviour. Jewish leaders - such as Jerusalem's chief rabbi in 1944 - said the people of Israel would never forget what he and his delegates "are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters at the most tragic hour". Jewish newspapers in Britain and America echoed that praise, and Hitler branded him "a Jew lover".

However, his image turned sour in the 1960s, thanks to Soviet antagonism towards the Vatican and a German play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, which vilified the pope, accusing him of silence and inaction over the Jews. It was a trend that intensified with the publication of Hitler's Pope, a book by John Cornwell.

However, as the Vatican's ambassador in Germany before the war, the future pope contributed to the damning 1937 encyclical of Pius XI, With Burning Anxiety, and, as Pius XII he made condemnatory speeches that were widely interpreted at the time - including by Jewish leaders and newspapers - as clear condemnations of Hitler's racial policies. Due to the Vatican's traditionally diplomatic language, the accusation that Pius XII did not speak out has festered.

Professor Ronald J Rychlak, the author of Hitler, the War and the Pope, said: "Gordon Thomas has found primary sources ... He has tracked down family members, original documentation and established what really was a universal perception prior to the 1960s. He's shown what the people at the time - victims, rescuers and villains - all knew: that Pius XII was a great supporter of the victims of the Holocaust."

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Scotland's independence referendum question is set, but who does it favour? (Ian Jack, 2/08/13, The Guardian)

As though it had passed through the hands of a newspaper headline writer, the Scottish question has become very short. "Should Scotland be an independent country?" are the six words that Scottish voters will say yes or no to in autumn next year, which, in referendums, may set a record for brevity.
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Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Seven Days on the Queen Mary 2 (DWIGHT GARNER, February 8, 2013, NY Times)

If travel makes you a bit reckless and sharpens your senses, being aboard the Queen Mary 2 in winter doubles this sense of intoxication. The churning ocean, splashing up the sides of the elegant dining room's windows, two feet from your bottle of white Burgundy and your tuna tartare, flips the switch on your survival instincts. You find yourself ravenous: eating a bit more; planning to stay out a bit later; dwelling a bit more upon sex.

What is it about ships (and trains and planes) and sex?  [...]

A crossing on the Queen Mary 2 is the sort of thing people put on their bucket lists. More than a few passengers on our crossing seemed perilously close to kicking that bucket. The QM2's dance club pulled a frantic young crowd after midnight. But the average age on our crossing, I'd guess, was well over 60. There was an abundance of wheelchairs, walkers and canes, so many that if everyone had tossed theirs overboard at once they would have created an artificial reef.

People do die on passenger ships. While I was on a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship (these tours cost $120, and tickets are scarce), a medical officer displayed a small morgue, with metal drawers for four bodies. If more space is required, he said, smiling, there is always the ice cream freezer.

The demographics for cruise ships have always skewed old. Who else has the time to spend eight days crossing an ocean in January? By focusing so exclusively on the retired leisure class, though, the virtues of crossing are being lost on a younger generation.

You do begin to forgive the Queen Mary 2 its dowdy sensibilities. It is, you realize, nothing less than a floating distillation of English inclinations and values, a watertight container of cask-aged nostalgia. It has been built for survival, not speed. It is a place to have kippers for breakfast, clear marmite soup for lunch, well-brewed English tea in the afternoon and a pint of lager in the early evening. You are notified that "military or award decorations may be worn on formal nights." You may even stumble upon a group singalong -- one that I found absurdly moving -- of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." (This is a Scottish song, but let it go.)

A cynic will point out that the QM2, launched in 2004, was actually built in France. This person might also note that the ship's registry, in 2011, was switched to Bermuda, ending 171 years of British registry for Cunard ships. He or she will disclose that since 1998 Cunard has been a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation, and that the Queen Mary 2's crew is international. You must maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of these unpleasant facts.

The Queen Mary 2 and her smaller sister ships, the Queen Victoria (launched in 2007) and the Queen Elizabeth (2010), travel almost everywhere there is water: the Far East, Central America, Scandinavia and Iceland, Australia and the Pacific islands, Africa, the Middle East. You can also book a world tour that will keep you in caviar -- Cunard is said to be among the world's largest single buyers -- for three months.

A trans-Atlantic crossing, however, is at the beating heart of Cunard's lingering gravitas. In winter, this is a relatively affordable passage to make: our tickets were a total of about $1,500, though alcohol, spa treatments, Internet and other things can easily cause this figure to double. The QM2 may no longer be the longest, tallest and widest passenger ship extant, but it is still the largest ocean liner -- sailing point-to-point, as in across the Atlantic, as opposed to a cruise ship, which makes a loop that finishes where it started -- ever built. It's the only ocean liner in regular service between Southampton and New York.

A crossing is an interior as much as exterior voyage. Sepia-tinted photographs on the QM2 walls depict the actors, writers, politicians, aristocrats and playboys who crossed regularly during Cunard's Champagne-soaked heyday, before the jet age robbed ocean liners of their reason for being. You recall Cunard's wartime service. Winston Churchill observed that the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth helped shorten World War II by at least one year, such were their troop-carrying capacities.

There's a strong temptation, during your first few days aboard the QM2, to scramble about frantically, trying to sample everything. It takes a few days to realize that the real pleasures of a winter crossing are deliberate ones. First of all there is the Bergmanesque beauty of the ocean, more entrancing to fixate upon than a fire.

You will find yourself devouring many books, because you're mostly unplugged. (Internet service on the QM2 is slow and extortionately expensive.) You will mostly ignore world events, because the small newspaper the ship prints and distributes each morning, culled from wire service reports, is as upbeat and inane as an issue of USA Today edited by cocker spaniels.

Cree spent many of her daytime hours walking the ship's promenade deck (three times around is about a mile) or soaking and reading in the Canyon Ranch Spa. I read, wrote a book review, and spent a fair amount of time in the late afternoons in an outdoor hot tub on Deck 8 with a commanding view over the aft.

It was cold out there, sometimes snowing, so these hot tubs were nearly always empty. The first evening I soaked there, alone in the gloaming, a pint of dry British cider at hand, watching the sky darken and the ship's wake spread out, I was keenly aware that this was perhaps among the top 200 moments of my life.

Thank God I had no cell service; I would have tweeted about it. I spied a smaller ship in the distance, and a snippet from Auden came to mind: "You were a great Cunarder, I / Was only a fishing smack."
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Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Land Battles Rise as U.S. Eyes 450,000 Miles of New Pipe (Mike Lee & Ken Wells - Feb 4, 2013, Bloomberg)

When a power company tried to run cables over land owned by Larry Salois's mother near Cut Bank, Montana, the native American fought the $400 million project.
He lost when the state passed a law forcing him to sell a right-of-way. Typical of U.S. property battles sparked by the quest for energy security, Tonbridge Power Inc. said it needed the most direct path for its electric line to wind farms, even though it would run across land holding a historical icon. [...]

With the natural gas industry estimating that 450,000 miles (724,000 kilometers) of pipelines need to be built in the next 25 years, a distance to the moon and almost back to earth, conflicts will multiply over eminent domain, or the legal power to condemn private property.

Land owners increasingly are pit against private businesses in state legislatures and courts as the U.S. confronts the new transmission lines, pipelines and compressor stations needed to reduce oil imports and produce clean energy at home.