July 4, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Months of Russia controversy leaves Trump 'boxed in' ahead of Putin meeting  (Abby Phillip and Carol Morello, July 4, 2017, Washington Post)

Now nearly six months into his presidency, Trump is set to finally meet Putin at a summit this week in Hamburg after a stop here in Warsaw -- severely constrained and facing few good options that would leave him politically unscathed.
If Trump attempts to loosen sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine or its interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Congress could defy him by pursuing even stronger penalties. And if he offers platitudes for Putin without addressing Russia's election meddling, it will renew questions about whether Trump accepts the findings of his own intelligence officials that Russia intended to disrupt the democratic process on his behalf. 

"The president is boxed in," said Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush. "Why would you give Putin any kind of concession at the first meeting? What has he done to deserve that?" 

Posted by orrinj at 2:42 PM


Qatar flaunts gas strength with plans to boost output (Zahraa Alkhalisi, 7/04/17, CNNMoney)

Qatar Petroleum said Tuesday it was planning to increase production from the world's biggest gas field by 20%.

That would boost the country's exports of liquified natural gas by 30%.

Posted by orrinj at 2:40 PM


The Revolutionary War was conservative (Washington Examiner, Jul 4, 2017)

The war for independence is aptly called the Revolutionary War, but it was revolutionary only in the sense that we revolted against the "establishment of tyranny." It was not a revolution of rapidly changing ideals in our country, as other revolutions have been.

Take, for example, the French Revolution that occurred shortly after ours. It was marked by deep, widespread and wrenching social and political upheaval. Even the calendar wasn't immune. Weeks became 10 days long, and each month consisted of three 10-day weeks. Every day became 10 hours long, with each hour lasting 100 minutes, and each minute was 100 seconds (seconds were slightly shorter than our conventional seconds). This pointless non-improvement of the calendar and passage of time was an expression of a violent passion to uproot and destroy all that had gone before (finding an echo in later revolutions when, for example, Pol Pot decided that Cambodia must return to year zero).

Similarly, the French Revolution produced its "terror," which had no parallel in America. Tens of thousands were executed, price controls were imposed that caused food shortages, Christianity was deprecated and priests lynched. And, of course, France proceeded swiftly into imperial wars of conquest against European neighbors.

In contrast, American independence and the revolution that put it in place were necessary not because the revolutionaries and their leaders wanted everything to change. The revolution here was about upholding timeless ideals. America itself was a new idea, but the unalienable rights we fought for of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are those with which we have been endowed by our Creator since the dawn of time.

Just ask Jefferson himself.

"This was the object of the Declaration of Independence," he wrote in a letter to Henry Lee in May 1825. "Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."

The Anglosphere can't quarrel with the demand for self-determination.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


The Case for a Fourth of July Seder (Alan Burdick and Eliza Byard, July 2, 2017, The new Yorker)

 In the nineteen-thirties, Maxwell House developed and began distributing a Haggadah for free with every can of coffee sold, in part to persuade Jews that the coffee bean is kosher for Passover. A genius stroke of branded content, it is the most popular Haggadah in the world--the U.S. military still uses it--and thelongest-running sales promotion in advertising history.

The Exodus story has been entwined in American history since the very beginning of the Republic. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress tasked Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams with designing the first great seal of the United States. Franklin wanted an image of Moses parting the Red Sea, a doomed pharaoh in hot pursuit; Jefferson wanted an image of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. (Adams hoped that Hercules would appear on the seal, but Congress ultimately went with a coat of arms on one side and a pyramid on the other.) For many early Americans, including Douglass, the Exodus was a common reference point in discussions of slavery, and it remained a pillar narrative for African-Americans through the civil-rights movement and into the present. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his final sermon, said that he, like Moses, had "been to the mountaintop"; like Moses, he never reached the Promised Land.

What would a good Fourth of July Seder look like? We'll let gastronomes work out the menu. But one core ritual, easily carried out in ten minutes, should be to read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Sure, you could read it online or in print--many newspapers devote a full-page ad to it each year. Or you could have it read to you, a service NPR provides annually, or watch the YouTube video in which Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Benicio Del Toro and other celebrities take turns reading lines from it. But, if any document was meant to be enacted at a back-yard barbecue, the Declaration of Independence is it. It's a declaration; let's declare it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Airport Train Project Steams Ahead (ANNE ELISE RIORDAN, June 30, 2017, Icelandic Review)

Reykjavík City Council yesterday approved a cooperative agreement on the construction of a train line between Reykjavík and Keflavík Airport, reports RÚV. Authorities in the neighboring municipality of Garðabær agreed to such a deal earlier in the week, while municipalities in the southern peninsula of Suðurnes had already agreed to the plan last autumn. The project will next be discussed by town authorities in Hafnarfjörður and Kópavogur in the capital region.

"This is all under review, and the train project continues full steam ahead," stated Runólfur Ágústsson, managing director of express train special development association Fluglestin.

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


We Need To All See The American Declaration As Abraham Lincoln Did (Joshua Claybourn, 7/04/17, The Federalist)

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously once said, "Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy." Nearly all European nations trace their beginning to a common ethnic kinship or a cultural characteristic, but America was created by exiles united in voluntary assent to shared political beliefs.

That's why British writer G. K. Chesterton visited the United States for the first time and remarked that America was "a nation with the soul of a church," not because of its religiosity, but because of a common creed enshrined in "sacred texts" of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. [...]

Abraham Lincoln believed that the Declaration of Independence did not necessarily proclaim people equal in all respects. Instead, it meant that all people were created with certain equal, inalienable rights, among which are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." A free society should always strive to achieve these equal rights, even if, as in the case of the Founders, it fell short of that goal in the past.

The Declaration's concept of equality is an aspiration, Lincoln said, "constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere."

That is the genius of Lincoln's argument: that the Constitution is concrete (at least until amended), but the Declaration of Independence is aspirational, and the American project is a constant move toward the aspiration.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


How to Be an American (Richard Nilsen, 7/04/17, Imaginative Conservative)

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn," Ernest Hemingway wrote.

In that book, nearly every theme that identifies our art as American is established and explored: migration, race, individualism, anti-intellectualism, optimism, religion, social-climbing, money-grubbing, and the comfortable informality that marks us as a people.

It's as if Huck Finn were the instruction manual for how to be American. In that, Twain is just as clearly American as Debussy is French or Basho is Japanese. We often look to our art for clues to national identity. But although Twain gives us Americanness in concentrated form, most of the arts made on this continent, from Captain John Smith's General History of Virginia (1624) and Anne Bradstreet's poetry, all the way up to this week's latest rap song, partake in certain common traits.

What are they? First, we need to eliminate some of the things we like to think are particularly American, such as patriotism or respect for the family. Every culture feels these qualities are particularly their own, but in fact, they are universal. Even such negatives as bigotry and racism have their American coloration, but they are evils found in every culture.

It needs to be noted, too, that what we admire in ourselves is not necessarily admired elsewhere. Americans are direct, which others often see as rude. We are informal, which others translate as slobbishness. We are optimistic, which can be taken as arrogance. We believe in individualism, which others see as selfishness. But there are six things that we can see as particularly American: migration, individualism, optimism, religiosity, informality, and expansiveness.

The one thing all Americans share is that we are immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


Why Not Taxation and Representation? A Note on the American Revolution (Sebastian Galiani & Gustavo Torrens, Date Written: June 2017, SSRN)

Why did the most prosperous colonies in the British Empire mount a rebellion? Even more puzzling, why didn't the British agree to have American representation in Parliament and quickly settle the dispute peacefully? At First glance, it would appear that a deal could have been reached to share the costs of the global public goods provided by the Empire in exchange for political power and representation for the colonies. (At least, this was the view of men of the time such as Lord Chapman, Thomas Pownall and Adam Smith). We argue, however, that the incumbent government in Great Britain, controlled by the landed gentry, feared that allowing Americans to be represented in Parliament would undermine the position of the dominant coalition, strengthen the incipient democratic movement, and intensify social pressures for the reform of a political system based on land ownership.

...why did the King prosecute the war?  Why not just cut a deal giving us our own Parliament, or representation in Parliament,  and him as head of state?

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


America's shockingly violent birth (George F. Will, June 30, 2017, Washington Post)

Some American history museums belabor visitors with this message: You shall know the truth and it shall make you feel ashamed of, but oh-so-superior to, your wretched ancestors. The new Museum of the American Revolution is better than that. Located near Independence Hall, it celebrates the luminous ideas affirmed there 241 Julys ago, but it does not flinch from this fact: The war that began at Lexington and Concord 14 months before the Declaration of Independence was America's first civil war. And it had all the messiness and nastiness that always accompany protracted fratricide. [...]

 The war caused "proportionately more" deaths -- from battle, captivity and disease -- than any war other than that of 1861-1865. The perhaps 37,000 deaths were about five times more per capita than America lost in World War II. Sixty thousand loyalists became refugees. "The dislocated proportion of the American population exceeded that of the French in their revolution," Alan Taylor tells us in "American Revolutions: A Continental History." The economic decline "lasted for 15 years in a crisis unmatched until the Great Depression."

After the second civil war, William Tecumseh Sherman declared that "war is hell." Hoock demonstrates that this was true even when battle casualties (only 23 patriots died at Yorktown) were small by modern standards. He is, however, mistaken in suggesting that he is uniquely sensitive to our founding mayhem. Consider two recent books that examine the anarchic violence on both sides.

Nathaniel Philbrick's "Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution" (2013) recounts a patriot mob's long torture, in January 1774, of loyalist John Malcom, a Boston customs officer, who was tarred and feathered: The crowd dislocated his arm while tearing off his clothes, then daubed his skin with steaming tar that parboiled his flesh. Paraded for many hours through Boston's two feet of snow, he was beaten, whipped and finally dumped "like a log" at his home, where "his tarred flesh started to peel off in 'steaks.' "

Taylor's "American Revolutions " (2016) hammers home the war's human costs. A Connecticut critic of the Continental Congress was tarred, carried to a sty and covered with hog's dung, some of which was forced down his throat. Connecticut loyalists were imprisoned in a copper mine, in darkness 120 feet underground. Georgia patriots knocked a loyalist unconscious, "tied him to a tree, tarred his legs, and set them on fire" and then partially scalped him. Some courts ordered loyalists "branded on the face or cut off their ears" to make them recognizable.

It's pretty hilarious when folks whinge that the establishment of democracies in the Middle East seems too difficult or too bloody. If the End of History was easy there would have been no world wars after 1776.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


The Great Immigrant Threat (THOMAS A. FIREY, 7/04/17, Cato)

The situation is grim. Dangerous foreigners are streaming into the United States, killing and abducting innocent Americans. They depress the wages of American workers and hurt American businesses. Something must be done about these invaders!

Is this another warning from Donald Trump? Another column by Sean Hannity? The conclusion of another paper from the Center for Immigration Studies?

Nope, it's a paraphrase of warnings from politicians, unions, and major newspapers from a century ago, about the dangers of Chinese immigrants and other "Asiatics," as well as the businesses they opened, especially "chop suey houses." These warnings would be comical if they weren't so abhorrent.

Only the haters and the hated ever change.
Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Juncker tells near-empty EU parliament: 'You are ridiculous' (Reuters, 7/04/17)

Juncker, himself from the small Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, was visibly annoyed as he watched the proceedings in the near empty parliamentary chamber in Strasbourg.

"You are ridiculous," he told the gathering called to listen to a speech by Malta's Joseph Muscat.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


America The Beautiful : Steyn's Song for the Season by Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel A Ward (Mark Steyn, July 4, 2017, SteynOnline)

In 1893, a Massachusetts professor called Katharine Lee Bates was giving a series of summer lectures on English literature at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs. "One day," she recalled, "some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there."

Professor Bates had not previously traveled in the Rockies or seen much of her country at all beyond New England, and the unbounded beauty of the land awed her - and inspired her. It was "the most glorious scenery I ever beheld, and I had seen the Alps and the Pyrenees," she said. "My memory of that supreme day of our Colorado sojourn is fairly distinct even across the stretch of 35 crowded years," Miss Bates wrote a year before her death in 1929. "We stood at last on that Gate-of-Heaven summit, hallowed by the worship of perished races, and gazed in wordless rapture over the far expanse."

Though she insisted "the sublimity of the Rockies smote my pencil with despair", she was not "wordless" for long. "It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind":

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

She put them down on paper that evening in her room at the Antlers Hotel. Today you'd be hard put to find a quatrain known to more Americans. Whether it's Gary Larson's "Far Side" cartoon of Columbus approaching land and saying, "Look! Purple mountains! Spacious skies! ...Is someone writing this down?" or Rush Limbaugh at noon eastern welcoming listeners "across the fruited plain" to his daily radio show, every anchorman, cartoonist, comedian or advertising copywriter who evokes those words is assured that they're as instantly familiar to his audience as any lines ever written in American English.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Natalie Portman Just Moved Back to the U.S. from Paris - and She Can't Believe How Nice Everyone Is (Jodi Gugliemi, 8/26/16,  People)

"Everyone smiles a lot here. It's so nice," the 35-year-old actress said of the difference between the two iconic cities. "They're very cool in France."

Portman, who is married to French dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, said it took her a little while to adjust to Americans' sunny disposition after living in a city that was a bit more reserved.

"I didn't realize that I got used to it until I got here and I was so surprised when I would get in an elevator and someone would start a conversation," joked Portman, who has a 5-year-old son with Millepied. "Or someone would smile at my child. I'd be like, 'What a good person.' "