May 13, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem burn effigy of Israeli soldier (TIMES OF ISRAEL, May 14, 2017)

Ultra-Orthodox revelers set fire to an effigy of an Israeli soldier Saturday night in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She'arim, to cheers and claps from the audience. [...]

The incident is the latest incident in which ultra-Orthodox Jews have attacked members of the community who join the Israeli military. The ultra-Orthodox have also held dozens of demonstrations to protest mandatory enlistment of religious Jews, following years in which they were allowed to avoid conscription.

A religious IDF soldier was attacked last month by a mob of ultra-Orthodox Jews during a rally in support of two draft dodgers from their community who, at the end of a short furlough, were driven back to military prison in a white stretch limousine.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Donald Trump Does Not Surprise (Ross Douthat MAY 13, 2017, NY Times)

Far too many observers, left and right, persist in being surprised at Trump when nothing about his conduct is surprising, persist in looking for rationality where none is to be found, and persist in believing that some institutional force -- party elders or convention delegates, the deep state or an impeachment process -- is likely to push him off the stage.

Start with the president's Republican defenders. Not the cynics and liars, but the well-meaning conservatives who look at something like the Comey firing and assume that there must be a normal method at work, who listen to whatever narrative White House aides spin out and try to take it seriously.

In this case this meant saying, well, there was always a reasonable case for firing Comey over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, the president was just following his deputy attorney general's advice, and anyway it would be simply nuts to fire someone out of pique while they were investigating your campaign's ties to a foreign power, because that would just bring more attention to the investigation, so surely not even Trump would be that crazy, right?

Wrong. First the White House sprung more leaks than a cracked dike in a North Sea flood, most of which suggested that the president had acted out of personal frustration with Comey's perceived disloyalty to Trump himself, and annoyance at what he saw of the F.B.I. director on TV. And then the president went on national TV himself to explain that he would have fired Comey regardless of what his attorney general's office recommended, and by the way he had indeed been thinking about the Russia investigation and how it detracted from his glorious electoral victory when he made the decision to get rid of the man supervising it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


White House 'systems failed' with Comey firing, but Trump pushed the buttons (Philip Rucker, May 13, 2017, Washington Post)

Across Washington, Trump's allies have been buzzing about the staff's competence as well as the president's state of mind. One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately about whether Trump was "in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion."

Trump has been stewing all week, aggrieved by sharp media scrutiny of his decision to fire Comey and of his and his aides' ever-shifting explanations, and has been quick to blame his staff, according to several people who have spoken with him.

Privately, Trump has lashed out at the communications office -- led by press secretary Sean Spicer and communications director Michael Dubke -- and has spoken candidly with some advisers about a broad shake-up that could include demotions or dismissals. The president personally has conducted post-mortem interviews with some aides about the Comey saga, investigating the unending stream of headlines he considers unfairly negative, according to several White House officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because Trump is cracking down on unauthorized leaks.

...he's not as bad as Frank Underwood!

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


The future of conservatism in an age of alienation: A long-read Q&A with Yuval Levin (Yuval Levin, James Pethokoukis, May 10, 2017, AEIdeas)

As I was reading the essay, I also thought of the famous, infamous Life of Julia cartoon. Back during the Obama administration, there was a cartoon and it showed a daughter of a single mother. Did we ever see the mother in this?

I don't think we ever saw any other human.

No, right. 

There was a child at some point. It's not exactly clear how that happened.

It showed this woman's progression of her life and government intervening and helping her along. There was a lot of mockery on the right for that -- that this is progressivism and the Obama administration's view of society. And there were conservative versions, "Life of Somebody Else," showing more of a self-starter, entrepreneurial person. But perhaps, the right, Trump voters, have accepted the Life of Julia cartoon. Instead of a single mom, is it a coal miner? A working class person, asking somewhat different things, but again, nothing between them and government. And of course, the president summed it up during the campaign when he said--and again, I'm paraphrasing--"Only I know how to fix this. I can fix this."

 Is this what people on the so-called right really want, the Life of Julia cartoon, but just a little different?

Well, I think a lot of the political debate we've had in recent years, to me, has seemed like evidence of the need for--what I at least think of as--conservatism. The debate over the Life of Julia stuff in 2012 was evidence for that too because the Republican response to that was "We don't need help. We did build that"--that whole argument.

That happens all the time.

It was really an argument between two kinds of radical individualism, one of which suggested that all you need is government to address material problems and then you're free. The other suggested that you don't need anything. I think conservatism emphasizes what happens in the space between the individual and the state. What happens in the space that's filled by families, communities, and society. Because of a certain understanding of the human person, there's an understanding that sees the human person as dependent on other human beings. The conservative argument against dependency has always seem to me as very misguided. Everyone is dependent, that's just a human reality. The question is: Can we address that dependency in a way that also encourages responsibility? And I think you do that by addressing it in that space in between the individual and the state rather than addressing it by a faceless provision of resources to people. And the argument for that is an argument from conservatism. It's an argument that starts by seeing the human person as fallen--let's say--as imperfect, as prone to vice and always in need for moral formation and correction. It's an argument that begins from looking at an imperfect society and being impressed by the institutions that function, by the institutions that help us become better rather than only being impressed by what's failing and standing in our way. That, in turn, leads to a kind of politics of gratitude, rather than a politics of outrage. And I think that's a genuine conservative politics. It says that moral progress really only happens in the lives of individuals, and that means that enduring progress has to consist in sustaining institutions that help us become better people.

I think that's conservatism. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


The Syrian War : Adam Shatz talks to Joshua Landis (London Review of Books, 4/21/17)

In this episode of the LRB podcast, Adam Shatz talks to Joshua Landis about Syria. Joshua Landis is the Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and his blog, Syria Comment, has long been an indispensable guide to a country that has never been easy to see, both because of the nature of the Assad regime and because of the fog of war since the uprising began there in 2011. [...]

AS: It's rather striking, Josh, that in Syria a minority sect, the Alawites, rather like the Sunni minority in Iraq, created a state, or dominated a state, based on a superficially universalist ideology - the ideology of pan-Arabism. Syria, of course, was known as the beating heart of pan-Arabism during the Cold War. And I think what you're suggesting is that in Syria as in Iraq or, for that matter, a country like Yugoslavia, where Yugoslav identity was most passionately embraced by a minority, the Serbs, that this universal ideology essentially became a fig-leaf for what were a network of familial and clan interests.

JL: Absolutely. And we see that right across the Middle East, where Arab Nationalism was the presiding ideology, from the successful struggle against colonialism that ends at the end of World War II, when both Britain and France retreat from the Middle East. Now, that's partly ... not because of the success of Arab nationalism - it's largely because Europe was in its own civil war, the thirty years' war between World War I and II, and it weakened itself so severely that it had to withdraw from the Middle East. But Arab Nationalism became the prevailing ideology right up until ... it's been ... the Iranian Revolution, where Islamism successfully challenged it there, but then continued to build Islamist parties around the Middle East. And today Arab Nationalism is really a very weak reed - you know, Arafat gone in Palestine; Boumédiène; Ben Ali; Saddam Hussein. In many ways, Assad is the last of these.

AS: So was Arab Nationalism particularly attractive to minority groups, such as the Alawites or the Sunnis in Iraq, because it was a way for them to transcend their minority status, submerge themselves in something larger, and also, in a sense, conceal themselves within a kind of larger community of interests?

JL: Absolutely. It was a way to safety for minorities. They embraced Arab Nationalism more heartily than Sunni Arabs. Now, of course, there was an elite of Sunni Arabs who also embraced it - it was very important that there were these sort of cross-cutting alliances between minorities and a Sunni elite, all of whom saw Arab Nationalism as the way to bind together these very fragmented societies, and to build the foundations for a new state - I mean, people bought nationalism after World War I, it was the growing ideology. But because the nationalist governments turned out to be, in fact, hijacked by minorities ... it's important to understand that minorities were able to come to power, and to grab authority in the state, in every one of the Levantine countries after World War II, and this is largely because of the colonial occupation. The colonial powers, Britain and France, used minorities to divide and conquer and to keep their power in all these countries, and this meant that minorities were able to grab the state once colonial powers left - this is true for the Maronites of Lebanon, the Catholic Christians of Lebanon; the Alawites of Syria, who are about 12 per cent of the population; the Sunnis of Iraq, 20 per cent of the population; and also the Jews of Palestine, who were a third of the population by the time the British withdrew in 1948 and they got independence.

AS: To some extent that was also true of the Kabyles of Algeria, who were, at one and the same time, disproportionately influential and intermittently persecuted and forced to repress their ethnic identity.

JL: Well, and it's true of the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan as well, which in some ways was a foreign implant in Jordan - not that foreign, because it's only from Arabia, the Hejaz, and it has Islamic legitimacy; but in all of them, they've been challenged - these minoritarian states. Now, the Jews were able to become a majority - they're the only minority that were able to become a majority in numerical population, because ... through war, and because two-thirds of the Palestinians either fled or were driven out of Palestine. And, of course, the process is not an easy one - the Palestinians are still trying to get a hunk of the state; but their fortunes seem to diminish with every year.

AS: In a sense, you're almost arguing that what we're seeing now in Iraq and Syria are latter-day Nakbas?

JL: Yes, we are. Because the majority population is trying to get rid of minoritarian rule. And that begins in 1975 in Lebanon, with the Lebanese civil war, which was driven, at the most simplistic level, by the Muslim population, which had grown to be 60-65 per cent - 60 per cent perhaps, 66 per cent - it was a majority of the Lebanese population; and it looked up at the Maronites and Christians that were presiding ... had a lion's share of power, and said, Why should you rule? One man, one vote. And it used democracy, and the call for democracy, to challenge the supremacy of the Christians. The Christians, of course, were terrified. They thought, If we lose power, we're going to be driven out, in the same way that Armenians had been driven out of Turkey and so forth. So they clung on to power, they fought bitterly ...

AS: Of course, in all the cases that you're describing - Lebanon, Iraq, and now Syria - not a single one of these conflicts has been a pure internal struggle; in each of these cases the borders of the state have been porous and permeable, and powerful outside actors have profoundly shaped and made more violent the dynamics of the conflict. In Lebanon, for example, the Israel-Palestine conflict exerted a very significant influence, since you had a large Palestinian refugee community and the PLO was based there, etc. And now, with both Iraq and Syria, we see no less intense dynamics of external meddling both by regional powers and by international powers.

JL: Absolutely. All these wars turned into regional wars. And not just regional wars, but also ... international powers, because they pulled in the Cold War Russia and America, which were competing. Today, of course, the dynamic is Iran versus Saudi Arabia, Shi'ites versus Sunnis. Those are the fault lines in the Middle East; but Russia, of course, has sided with the Shi'ites, and America has sided with the Sunnis, by and large. And so, those divisions go right up onto an international level - they're very geostrategic; they're not just about religion, they're being driven by geostrategic struggle for balance of power.

AS: That actually brings me to another question that I wanted to ask you about Iran's proxy force in the Syrian conflict - Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia political and military organisation led by its General Secretary, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah has played a critical role in protecting the Assad regime, and it's made two claims about its support - one made early by Nasrallah in the conflict is that Hezbollah is fighting against taqfiris - against extreme jihadists. The other claim is that it is fighting to defend Shia shrines in Syria. Hezbollah hasn't spoken much about its major reason for entering the conflict, or what some believe to be its major reason - protecting its supply line, so that Iran can continue to provide it with weapons. Josh, can you assess Hezbollah's relationship to the Assad regime and its long-term project in Syria. I'm also wondering, if Hezbollah is successful in protecting the regime, how might this affect Israeli-Syrian relations, as Hezbollah potentially acquires power inside of Syria - is there a greater chance that Israel might be tempted to get drawn into the war?

JL: Yes. We do have to see this as a regional war, which is what you're outlining. In a sense, there is a super-struggle going on between Saudi Arabia and Iran, between Sunnis and Shi'ites, for authority, influence and dominance in the Middle East. And what we're seeing happen in the northern Middle East - that's Iraq, Syria and Lebanon - is that ... Shi'ite minorities in Lebanon - Hezbollah; Syria - the Assad regime, the Alawites; and of course a Shi'ite majority in Iraq - which has been brought to power by the United States and really ... un-clinched this regional war, and allowed for a reshuffling of the balance of power, and allowed for Iran to see a way to dominate the entire northern Arab world.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


How the unions wrote Corbyn's manifesto  (Ben Riley-Smith, 13 MAY 2017, The Telegraph)

Labour's draft manifesto includes more than 100 policies demanded by trade unions that are bankrolling its election campaign, The Telegraph can reveal. 

A secret list of policies requested by unions obtained by this newspaper reveals huge areas of overlap with party's plan for government. 

Whole chunks of Labour's leaked manifesto appear to have been almost copied and pasted from proposals put forward by unions. 

The question is why anyone else should vote for them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


On the Limits of Loyalty (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, May 13, 2017, National Review)

What Comey owed Trump is honesty, nothing more or less. 

'Jumped the shark" is an overused expression straight out of 1970s situation comedy. It is the most charitable interpretation of the moment President Donald Trump pressed "Tweet" on Friday morning. After nearly four months of the once jaw-dropping novelty of presidential tweeting (the equivalent, in dog years and media exhaustion, of five sit-com seasons), the routine has grown stale, the former reality-TV star apparently out of "don't touch that dial" ideas.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


How Trump May Save the Republic (Bret Stephens, 5/12/17, NY Times)

The question in the title of Timothy Egan's latest column for The Times is "Who Will Save the Republic?" My answer is Donald Trump, of course.

I mean this in the Anna Sebastian sense -- Madame Sebastian being the shrewd, sinister and very Teutonic mother played by Leopoldine Konstantin in Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 classic, "Notorious."

Anna's adult son, Alexander (Claude Rains), is part of a group of well-heeled Nazis living and scheming revenge in Brazil when he marries Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), a beautiful young woman he deems trustworthy because her father was a convicted German spy.

Too late, Alexander realizes that Alicia is really an American agent, and that exposure of the fact will mean certain death for him at the hands of his fellow Nazis. When he confesses the problem to mother, she responds with the most reproachful reassurance in movie history:

"We are protected by the enormity of your stupidity -- for a time."

Just so with our 45th president. His views are often malevolent, and his conduct might ultimately prove criminal. But we, too, are protected, for a time, by the enormity of his stupidity.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Trump Attempts To Blackmail Comey. Really (ROD DREHER, May 12, 2017, American Conservative)

Think about it: the President of the United States is threatening to blackmail the former chief of the nation's top domestic law enforcement agency in an attempt to shut him up.

Maybe Trump is bluffing, which would be outrageous enough. But what if he's telling the truth? We have no way of knowing. Now, every single man or woman who goes into the White House to converse with him now has to worry that the president is secretly recording their conversation, and has no scruples against using what is said to blackmail them. What say you, Sen. Mitch McConnell? What say you, CIA director Mike Pompeo?

This is banana republic stuff. This man is out of control. How can we have a functioning government if the President feels entitled to threaten blackmail, and every single official who meets with him in the White House has to worry that they're being bugged, and that words they say in confidence could be used against them?

Note well that Trump manufactured this crisis out of his own ineptitude and corruption.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Donald Trump thinks exercise will kill you (Julia Belluz,  May 9, 2017, Vox)

The Trump "human body as non-rechargeable battery" theory was first detailed by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher in their 2016 book, Trump Revealed:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn't work out. When he learned that John O'Donnell, one of his top ca**no executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, "You are going to die young because of this."

On the campaign trail, we learned that Trump didn't dedicate any extra time to breaking a sweat because he believes exercise is actually harmful, according to this 2015 New York Times profile:

Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ''All my friends who work out all the time, they're going for knee replacements, hip replacements -- they're a disaster,'' he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ''That's exercise.'"

Let's pause to consider how remarkably backward this is.

There was a time when doctors would have concurred with Trump on this. That was the Victorian era.

He brain must be fully charged too.
Posted by orrinj at 10:55 AM


How Donald Trump, darling of the Israeli right, reinvigorated Mahmoud Abbas : Netanyahu has to be careful now. He doesn't want to get one of those letters from DC telling him, 'You're fired' (AVI ISSACHAROFF May 13, 2017, Times of Israel)

[T]rump, the darling of the Israeli government and the Settlers (Yesha) Council, has out-Obama'ed president Barack Obama by reinstating Abbas at the center of the diplomatic stage. The American administration has made it crystal clear that far from ignoring Abbas and the Palestinians, as some Israeli officials had hoped Trump would do, it will treat them with kid gloves.

Trump invited Abbas to visit, listened to the Palestinian delegation's (fairly lengthy) diplomatic survey, was amazed at the extent of the IDF-PA security coordination, and apparently concluded that the Palestinians may not have been the only ones to blame for the failure of peace talks. He listened approvingly as Abbas, at their joint press conference, asserted that the PA is "raising our youth... on a culture of peace." He praised Abbas for speaking out against terrorist groups. He hailed ongoing US partnerships with the Palestinians on regional security.

He deployed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to meet with the Palestinian team. He had already sent Jason Greenblatt, a religiously observant Jew who studied at a yeshiva in Gush Etzion, to visit to a Palestinian refugee camp. And now Trump is planning a visit to Bethlehem -- and will meet Abbas again, for the second time in a month.

How ironic that it is Trump, not Barack (Hussein) Obama, who is revitalizing Abbas diplomatically. Now Trump wants to revive the negotiations and perhaps even hold a three-way summit. So Abbas has immediately been catapulted to the position of a significant political figure in Middle East -- one who meets every other week with leaders of Arab countries in order to coordinate positions with them. Talk of a regional agreement has been forgotten; so, too, have pipe dreams about annexing parts or all of the territories.

Posted by orrinj at 10:50 AM


The Barghouti backfire (Avi Issacharoff, 5/13/17,,The Times of Israel)

The move, which included broadcasting pictures of Barghouti huddled in his toilet, eating the wafer that had been planted in his cell, barely made a dent in the inmates' hunger strike; it did not prompt a Palestinian outcry and the collapse of the strike over Barghouti's ostensible perfidious snacking, as Erdan presumably expected.

The number of prisoners participating in the strike actually went up this week, and on Thursday Fatah's Central Committee called upon all Fatah inmates to join in. Previously, the leaders of the Central Committee had not supported Barghouti's strike and, some say, even tried to sabotage it.

The victory cries coming from Erdan's office were premature. The press conference he convened in order to embarrass and humiliate Barghouti backfired: the snack sting increased support among the Palestinians for Barghouti and the hunger strikers.

Some say that Israel Prison Service officials were not enthusiastic over the instructions coming from the internal security minister's bureau. But at this point it is futile to argue who birthed this bad idea; the damage has been done.

The hunger strike is far from winding down. There have been more and more demonstrations, strikes of businesses and schools, stone-throwing incidents, and clashes, despite the intensive efforts of the Palestinian Authority's security services.

One tends to be skeptical of such stunts, but at the point where a guy wolfs down a salt packet like it's a Big Mac you have to believe.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


Black voter turnout fell in 2016, even as a record number of Americans cast ballots (JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD AND MARK HUGO LOPEZ, 5/12/17, Pew Research)

A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall voter turnout - defined as the share of adult U.S. citizens who cast ballots - was 61.4% in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008.

A number of long-standing trends in presidential elections either reversed or stalled in 2016, as black voter turnout decreased, white turnout increased and the nonwhite share of the U.S. electorate remained flat since the 2012 election. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


'Looking Like a Liar or a Fool': What It Means to Work for Trump (GLENN THRUSH and MAGGIE HABERMAN, MAY 12, 2017, NY Times)

After the "Access Hollywood" scandal, Mr. Trump raged at Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, for going on TV to defend him, arguing that he wanted to attack Hillary Clinton, not play defense. Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign manager until he fired him, repeatedly groused to friends that he was forced to absorb all of the criticism for the campaign's practice of confining reporters at rallies in small pens. Mr. Trump, he told two people close to him, had ordered him to do it -- but placed the blame on Mr. Lewandowski when reporters complained about it.

The firestorm touched off by the Comey firing has only reinforced the lesson Mr. Trump has usually taken away from past crises, that only one person was truly capable of defending him: the man in the mirror. It would be a "good idea" to end the daily news briefing, he told a Fox News host on Friday, suggesting that he was considering hosting his own news conferences every two weeks or so.

"Trump is putting a lot on the backs of his spokespeople, while simultaneously cutting their legs out from underneath them," said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and a former adviser to Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. "There is nothing more discouraging or embarrassing for a spokesman than to have your boss contradict you. In political communications, you're only as good as your credibility."

The view that the communications dysfunction begins at the top of the White House organizational chart is bipartisan.

"The most hazardous duty in Washington these days is that of Trump surrogate because the president constantly undercuts the statements of his own people," said David Axelrod, a communications and messaging adviser to President Barack Obama.

"You wind up looking like a liar or a fool, neither of which is particularly attractive."

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Tom Watson: Labour determined to stop 'Thatcher-style' Tory landslide (Anushka Asthana, 12 May 2017, The Guardian)

Tom Watson has urged voters to back their local Labour MP in order to avoid a "Margaret Thatcher-style" landslide that would make it difficult to hold the Conservatives to account.

Labour's deputy leader said the party had a "mountain to climb" over the four weeks until the general election and was lagging behind in the polls with all income groups, including working-class voters.

New Labour was only able to defeat the Tories by getting to their right, just like Bill Clinton with GHWB.  Corbyn ain't no Blair.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Is there a crown in Charles's future? 'King Charles III' looks into the crystal ball. (Peter Marks,  February 16, 2017, Washington Post)

It just so happens that, to further tantalize a Shakespeare Theatre Company audience, the crisis enveloping the Crown and its subjects is a constitutional one, provoked by the idiosyncratic man who's about to wear it. Bartlett's premise is that Charles, awaiting investiture after the death of Elizabeth II, startles the Labour government by asserting the king's prerogative to oppose a new law that restricts freedom of the press (occasioned by the actual phone-tapping scandal that convulsed the nation a few years ago). A separate, and more personal, dilemma envelops Prince Harry, played expertly by ginger-haired Harry Smith, as he tries to come to terms with his own pointless position in the pecking order.

A classical theater in the nation's capital proves to be the optimal location for Bartlett's handiwork, because the play is a seriocomedy revolving around process and legality. The confrontation between Parliament and Buckingham Palace plays out as an entertaining study of the challenge of maintaining a constitutional monarchy in the modern world. A figure like Charles, whom we all imagine to have been champing at the bit all these years as he waited for mum to depart the scene, seems the right sort of personality to upend a government's expectations for royal docility. When Charles takes his principled stand and makes an enemy of the prime minister (a superb Ian Merrill Peakes), the playwright has the opportunity to explore the question of what relevance there is today for a ruler who is not a ruler, who must make his mark not by command, but by intellectual stealth and the fine print in official texts.

...and why the Founders made the Executive more powerful than the King.

There's a strange sort of tension inherent in the British lack of a constitution.  On the one hand, the King could presumably step in and stop any government action that violated the "constitutional" order.  On the other, he may retain that power only by not ever having exercised it.  We'll see....

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Alexander Hamilton: An Unorthodox Conservative Mind (Mark DeForrest, 5/11/17, Imaginative Conservative)

Hamilton despised ideologues, condemned the "rage for innovation," and declared himself more willing to "incur the negative inconveniences of delay than the positive mischiefs of injudicious expedients." Always on his guard against the preachers of an "ideal perfection," certain that he would never see "a perfect work form imperfect man," he was prepared to leave much to chanced, and thus presumably to the works of prescription, in the social process. He was never so eloquent as when he declaimed on the favorite conservative theme of the mixed character of all man's blessings.  "The truth is," he wrote to Robert Morris in 1781, "in human affairs, there is no good, pure and unmixed." "'T'is the lot of every thing human," he lectured Rufus King in 1791, "to mingle a portion of evil with the good."

Unlike Jefferson, who was captivated by the French Revolution, Hamilton understood immediately that the French Revolution was nothing but a blood-drenched attack on the very idea of civilized order. As Rossiter notes, "[h]e reads exactly like Burke or Adams in his attacks on 'The Great MONSTER' for its impiety, cruelty, and licentiousness, for its spawning of an anarchy that lead straight to despotism, for its zeal for change and assaults on property for its imposition of 'the tyranny of Jacobism, which confounds and levels every thing.'"

While there is little doubt that Hamilton would be uncomfortable with portions of the ideological rhetoric employed on the modern Right, conservatism (to rely on an observation by Russell Kirk) is not at its core an ideological commitment. It is a commitment to tradition, prescription, custom and prudence, along with an abiding conviction in the principles of religion and natural justice. Compare Hamilton's views, as explained by Rossiter above, with Kirk's own enunciation of the fundamental conservative approach to questions of political and legal order. There is little, if any daylight, between Hamilton and Kirk. Kirk's own appreciation of Hamilton's contribution to conservatism is on display in his Portable Conservative Reader, containing as it does excerpts from Hamilton's writings (and interestingly enough, no excepts from Jefferson's works).

Again, this is not to say that Hamilton would be entirely at home with the modern Republican Party--Rossiter points out in his study of Hamilton (printed in 1964 during the rise of the Goldwater-Reagan wing of the GOP) that "Hamilton was not a model for the average conservative to imitate." Hamilton believed strongly in an active government, constrained by constitutional limits but free to aid in the development of the country through internal improvements and the support of American industry, as Rossiter points out.  On a host of issues--his refusal to defer to the privileged place in the young republic held by the Southern planter-slaveholder aristocracy, and his commitment to the industrialization of the American economy, to name two--Hamilton could embrace a radical position as well. Like Burke or Lincoln, Hamilton is difficult to place in terms of our ideological categories--to quote Rossiter here, Hamilton has the "ability to defy classification." But like Burke and Lincoln, Hamilton's fundamental political principles, his instincts, were conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


This is peacemaking? (Dexter Van Zile, 5/13/17, Times of Israel)

The Palestinian Authority owes a hospital in Israel $41 million. The hospital in question is Augusta Victoria Hospital. Augusta Victoria, located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, is operated by the Lutheran World Federation, an umbrella organization of Lutheran churches located across the globe.

The hospital is hugely important to the welfare of Palestinian children in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These children are able to obtain all sorts of medical care such as cancer treatment and kidney dialysis from the hospital. The Palestinian Authority is supposed to pay for the treatment.

The PA, however, does not pay its bills and as a result, Augusta Victoria is in dire straits financially. Relaying information obtained from a press release published in Arabic, blogger Elder of Ziyon reports, "The Palestinian Authority owes the hospital NIS 150 million ($41 million) and the debt has been accumulating at the rate of $4 million every month." [...]

In 2016, USAID gave the hospital $11 million to cover approximately 30 percent of the PA's outstanding debts to the hospital. This left the hospital more than $25 million in the hole. In August, 2016, ELCA issued an update on the hospital's cash flow crisis. In the update, ELCA thanked its members "who have been engaged in advocacy for Augusta Victoria Hospital this year and last year!" The update continues:

Amazingly enough, the American Jewish Committee helped ELCA lobby Congress. Writing for the Jewish News Service, Rafael Medoff reported in late March that "for the past several years, senior officials of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have undertaken the task of pressing U.S. officials, including members of Congress, to pay millions in unpaid bills the PA has racked up at the Lutheran-sponsored Augusta Victoria hospital in eastern Jerusalem."

Rabbi David Rosen, who represents the AJC in Jerusalem, told Medoff that in addition to lobbying Congress, he spoke with American diplomats in support of the effort to get American taxpayers to pay the Palestinian Authority's unpaid debt to the hospital. After the story came to light, the AJC stopped its lobbying efforts.

On one hand, giving money to a hospital seems like the right thing to do. Augusta Victoria needs the money and the Palestinian children need the medical care provided by the hospital.

The problem, however, is that by covering the PA's unpaid debts, the United States government is subsidizing terrorism against Israelis. This is undeniable. It is a fact -- an indisputable fact.

We happily fund worse.