Friday, February 12, 2010

How Come So Much of What Honest Abe Spoke of 150 Years Ago Seems Relevant Today?

How come so much of what Abraham Lincoln spoke of 150 years ago seems relevant today?

A careful reading of Abraham Lincoln's speeches seems to bring up pertinent comments on or about: the stimulus, the ever-increasing debt and deficits, the arguments for reforming (and ditching) the Constitution, the Democrats' double standards, and the caricature made of the Republican Party and their members (such as Sarah Palin) and like-minded people (such as the tea partiers) contrasted with the heroic image bestowed upon the Democrats and progressives' standard-bearers (such as Barack Obama), and the élites of the East Coast, the Ivy League universities, and Hollywood.

Incidentally, Dan Greenberg's and my graphic novel biography of Honest Abe, The Life & Times of Abraham Lincoln, is slated for publication later this year…

Doesn't Abraham Lincoln's Speech in the Illinois Legislature on the State Bank (January 11, 1837) sound somewhat like the subprime mess, the stimulus, and the search for ever-larger deficits?
It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the people's money being used to pay the fiddler …

These capitalists generally generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people, and now, that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel.

… I make the assertion boldly, and without fear of contradiction, that no man, who does not hold an office, or does not aspire to one, has ever found any fault of the Bank. … No, Sir, it it the politician who is the first to sound the alarm, (which, by the way, is a false one.) It is he, who, by these unholy means, is endeavoring to blow up a storm that he may ride upon and direct. It is he, and he alone, that here proposes to spend thousands of the people's public treasure…
Doesn't Abraham Lincoln's June 20, 1848, Speech on Internal Improvements (first para below) and his February 13, 1848, letter to a Josephus Hewett (second para) sound like he is talking to those who wish to ditch or at least reform the Constitution and the Electoral College?
I now wish to submit a few remarks on the general proposition of amending the constitution. As a general rule, I think, we would much better let it alone. No slight occasion should tempt us to touch it. Better not take the first step, which may lead to a habit of altering it. Better, rather, habituate ourselves to think of it, as unalterable. It can scarcely be made better than it is. New provisions, would introduce new difficulties, and thus create, and increase appetite for still further change. No sir, let it stand as it is. New hands have never touched it. The men who made it, have done their work, and have passed away. Who shall improve, on what they did?

I was once of your opinion … that presidential electors should be dispensed with; but a more thorough knowledge of the causes that first introduced them, has made me doubt. Those causes were briefly these. The convention that framed the constitution had this difficulty: the small states wished to so frame the government as that they might be equal to the large ones regardless of the inequality of the population; the large ones insisted on equality in proportion to population. They compromised it, by basing the House of Representatives on population, and the Senate on states regardless of population; and the executive on both principles, by electors in each state, equal in numbers to her senators and representatives. Now, throw away the machinery of electors, and the compromise is broken up, and the whole yielded to the principle of large states. … Have you reflected on these things?

Doesn't Abraham Lincoln's 1854 Fragments on Government sound like he is (re)asserting what true Americans stand for — belief in the individual and the common man?
Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of equal rights of men … ours began, by affirming those rights. They said, some men are too ignorant, and vicious, to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and, by your system, you would always keep them ignorant, and vicious. We proposed to give all a chance; and we expected the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant, wiser; and all better, and happier, together.
Moreover, with regards to Washington politicos trying to submit every part of society (and their allegedly ignorant, vicious members) to government control:
This is a world of compensations, and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.
Doesn't Abraham Lincoln's Speech on the Sub-Treasury at Springfield (December 26, 1839) sound somewhat like he is refuting what the holier-than-thou Democrats insist is the difference between themselves and the greedy, flawed, treacherous members of the demonized opposition party?
Mr. Lamborn [a prominent Democrat] insists that the difference between the Van Buren party [the Democrats], and the Whigs [to a certain extent, the forerunners of the Republicans] is, that although, the former sometimes err in practice, they are always correct in principle — whereas the latter are wrong in principle — and the better to impress this proposition, he uses a figurative expression in these words: "The Democrats are vulnerable in the heel, but they are sound in the head and the heart."

The first branch of the figure, that the Democrats are vulnerable in the heel, I admit is not merely figuratively, but literally true. Who that looks but for a moment at their Swartwouts, their Prices, their Harringtons, and their hundreds of others [who have also handled the nation's purses in, uh, less than an honest way], scampering away with the public money to Texas [then an independent republic], to Europe, and to every spot of the earth where a villain may hope to find refuge from justice, can at all doubt that they are most distressingly affected in their heels with a species of "running itch."

It seems that this malady of the heels, operates on these sound-headed and honest-hearted creatures, very much like the cork-leg, in the comic song, did on its owner: which, when he had once got started on it, the more he tried to stop it, the more it would run away. At the hazard of wearing this point thread bare, I will related an anecdote, which seems too strikingly in point to be omitted.

A witty Irish soldier, who was always boasting of his bravery, when no danger was near, but who invariably retreated without orders at the first charge of an engagement, being asked by his Captain why he did so, replied: "Captain, I have as brave a heart as Julius Caesar ever had; but some how or other, whenever danger approaches, my cowardly legs will run away with it." So with Mr. Lamborn's party. They take the public money into their hand for the most laudable purpose, that wise heads and honest hearts can dictate; but before they can possibly get it out again their rascally "vulnerable heels" will run away with them.

Seriously: this proposition of Mr. Lamborn is nothing more or less, than a request that his party may be tried by their professions instead of their practices. Perhaps no position that the party assumes is more liable to, or more deserving of exposure, than this very modest request.
Doesn't Abraham Lincoln's demonstration of the Democrats' double standards in the 1852 election between his party's Millard Fillmore and the Democrats' Franklin Pierce remind you somewhat of the clueless-Palin-vs.-dream-candidate-Obama double standards during the campaign?
O ho! Judge [Douglas]; it is you, is it, that thinks a man [or a woman] should furnish proof of superiority of statesmanship, before he [or she] is looked to as a candidate for the first office? Do please show us those proofs in the case of your "gallant and honest man, Frank Pierce." Do please name a single one that you consider such. What good thing, or even part of a good thing has the country ever enjoyed, which originated with him? What evil thing has been averted by him? Compare his proofs of statesmanship with those of Mr. Fillmore, up to the times respectively when their names were first connected with presidential elections.

Doesn't Abraham Lincoln's "few words" defending maligned Republicans and conservative principles "to the Southern people" during his Cooper Union speech of February 27, 1860, sound like he is speaking about principled Republicans and earnest tea partiers to today's Democrats, élite Easterners, university professors (and students), Hollywood bigwigs, and other self-declared liberals and progressives?
You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us a reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to "Black Republicans." In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of "Black Republicanism" as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite — license, so to speak — among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

And — mournfully — this from Abraham Lincoln January 27, 1838, Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield:
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

Aaaany Day Now...

I’m surprised that no-one called for a “summit” yet.

The European Union could announce "very strong sanctions" against Tehran within "days or weeks," Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb said on Thursday (11 February). Last week, Iran declared itself a "nuclear state," prompting the US to call for tougher sanctions.

The UN security council should take the lead on sanctions, but if that is not successful "we'll do it through the EU. I would estimate, in a matter of days or weeks," Mr Stubb said at a press conference in Ottawa, after meeting his Canadian counterpart.
And here’s the part that always falls apart in the face of German companies, in particular, being able to make the sale:
Sanctions would involve a financial embargo and "issues related to energy," he said.
Which makes me ask after all of these years: how’s that “tough love” thing working for ya?
«Iran resumed uranium conversion activities today at a nuclear facility – a step that Europeans and the US warned would prompt them to seek UN sanctions against Tehran.»

- 08-August-2005

Now we’re getting somewhere! What next? Emo-kid suicide threats?

The GOP should wear the "Party of No" as a badge of honor; They should market it

Democrats are going full steam at bashing Republicans as "The Party of No"
reports Nolan Finley (thanks to Vincent).
But what's the downside to obstructing an agenda a majority of the American people oppose?

The GOP should wear the "Party of No" as a badge of honor. They should market it.

Because what Republicans are saying "no" to are the same things the American people are saying "no" to. They're saying no to a massive expansion of government, no to outrageous deficit spending, no to the inevitable tax increases, no to job-killing mandates and no to policy-making from the extreme left.

Who wouldn't say yes to politicians who say no to all that?

So How Are We Supposed to Remember What Happened in 1950? China "Took Over" Tibet!

"China, which took over Tibet in 1950", writes the BBC in a story about Obama's upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama. It sounds almost like Beijing's invasion, occupation, and subjugation was the result of a mutual agreement or, at worst, nothing more ominous than a hostile… takeover in business transactions.

Nothing as bad — naturally — as what happened, say, in Iraq under Bush (and Blair)'s "catastrophic" invasion and "disastrous" war…

A Tale of Two Weasels

A bilateral EU-US agreement to comb through SWIFT clearinghouse financial transaction data to look for tell-tale signs of imminent terror attacks has been indignantly shot down again on the basis that Europeans are protecting the privacy of European citizens along with the privacy of terrorists.

As usual, the favored soundbites have a neo-soviet ring to them along with the omnipresent rustling of a straw-man in the background.

"The US Administration may have wrongly thought they could deal with the European Parliament like Gulliver with the Lilliputians. Under the Swedish Presidency, European governments and the Council also made a mistake to believe it would be possible to force the European Parliament to give its consent on an unacceptable agreement based more on the US approach to security than on the EU's defence of citizens' fundamental rights."
Too bad he's unfamilar enough with the story to undertand that the Liliputians were a metaphor for the small-minded and pedestrian who manage nonetheless to chain down Gulliver. Perhaps he thought that this was making some complex literary reference to the Smurfs and Garagamel.

It's also hard to believe in the American-malevolence angle vis-a-vis the Swedish EU presidency given that this issue has been voted on before and kicked around since 2003.

In that same spirit, the German Federal government will be conscenting to a German State government buying stolen personal data in order to violate the privacy of individuals' financial transaction:
But now we know — in case there was ever any doubt — that the whole German hue and cry about the Rechtsstaat [ed.: a self=aggrandizing name for a nation dedicated to rights] was never serious anyway. Thus, last week, the German government announced that, in the name of combating tax evasion, it was going to purchase personal account data stolen from Swiss banks. German authorities will reportedly pay the data thief some €2.5 million. The purchase will be made by the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia, with the federal government’s blessing. With the help of the stolen data, authorities hope to be able to recover up to €400 million in lost tax revenues according to the latest estimates. (The latter have been notably inflated by a factor of four as compared to the initial reports.)
However, to quote a German Green politician nodding along with our Liliputian lionizing Socialist looking for love in all the wrong places:
Today will be remembered as an important day for democracy in the EU.
Heady days, indeed in the state dedicated to and right that sounds kind of heroic.
This is not the first time that German authorities have purchased stolen bank data in the name of combating tax evasion. In early 2008, it was revealed that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, had purchased data stolen from the Liechtenstein-based LGT Bank to the same end. Not only did the BND pay over €4 million for the stolen data. It is also reported to have provided the presumed thief, Heinrich Kieber, with a new identity to boot!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Twice as Good as any one of Stalin’s Glorious 5 Year Plans!

France and Germany to unveil 10-year plan
Double plus good!
However, Mr Sarkozy's proposal of a "Franco-German minister" was rejected by Berlin for "political and institutional reasons," the French paper notes. Instead, the respective EU affairs ministers in some cases will be able to join meetings of the other cabinet.
And no EU measure is complete without Kabuki legislative sessions.
The idea of having a full joint ministerial session was aimed at letting the new German ministers get to know their French counterparts, after last year's elections changed Ms Merkel's coalition partner.
Elsewhere: catfight!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For What It's Worth…

Incidentally, the notes on Sarah Palin's hand have been described as saying "Energy, Budget cut (with the word Budget crossed out), Tax, and Lift America's Spirit."

It seems clear to me that the hand note does not say "Tax" all by itself, but that that word replaces the crossed-out word (Budget) in the phrase above to form "Tax cut" (instead of "Budget cut")… For what it's worth…

Pamela Gellar Rips Into Ron and Joy

On the subject of Sarah Palin, Pam Gellar takes on Joy Behar and Ronald Reagan's son (jelly beans to Greerwyn).

If you Lie Down with Dogs, you Get up with Fleas

Nigerian Nobel prize winner Wole Soyinka reminds us, once again, that there is a difference between having an open mind, and letting your brains fall out, calling it a “cesspit” of extremism.

I can’t tell by his statement if part of this is transference of the developing world’s problems onto the UK as a former colonial power, or it he is being entirely direct, but it is nonetheless a sharp lesson for philosophers who don’t explore, or thinkers who leave too much to chance.

He added: “Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence. And yet England allows it.

“Remember, that country was the breeding ground for communism, too. Karl Marx did all his work in libraries there."

Mr Soyinka said Britain took pride in its “openness” and added: "I doubt you can have the kind of indoctrination schools in America as you do in the UK…The Muslims there are open Muslims, whereas in Europe they tend to go into ghetto schools.”
His assertions is reflects rather badly on Britain, and he seems to be averring it it strongly enough that he seems rather emotional about the bath the philosophical path the most visible and influential in the UK has been on for the past century or more.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Progressives think that the 2008 election gave them the right to operate like China's autocracy

Outstanding comment from Arnold Kling (thanks to the Professor):
…from two months ago there is Thomas Friedman,
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.
Everyone agrees that the Republicans are just throwing sand in the gears of good government and not offering any ideas. What that means is that they are not offering ideas to enlarge government. Congressman Paul Ryan's ideas do not count, because those would cut back on government, particularly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

My point here is not to champion Republicans. It is not to champion democracy. My point is that the ones throwing the temper tantrum right now are the Progressives. They think that the 2008 election gave them the right to operate like China's autocracy, and they are lashing out hysterically at those they perceive as preventing them from doing so On the one hand, the villains are a small minority in the Senate. Or maybe the villains are the incoherent majority of the people.

The important point is that Progressives are never wrong. Top-down reform is the only way to fix the health care system. Anthropogenic global warming is scientifically proven, and its solution requires strenuous exercise of political control over individual behavior. Deficit spending is necessary and sufficient to create jobs. Technocrats can make banks too regulated to fail. Markets without technocratic control are like adolescents without adult supervision. Individual happiness can be improved by political authorities using scientific knowledge. Concentrated political power is the wave of the future, and it is good.

I am not a populist. I fear the mob. But how can I fear the Progressives any less?

EU “Competition Czarina” Hires new Lieutenant

The incoming commissioner for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, is planning to hire Dutch Prince Constantijn for her cabinet, despite pressure to reduce nations' hold over the top political levels of the European Commission.
It takes a certain panache to do this, and even more not to crack up.
Constantjin, the youngest son of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, is expected to help Commissioner Kroes to develop her digital agenda. The new cabinet is set to take office on 10 February, together with the new Commission as a whole.

The appointment of Constantjin is a cause for concern in Brussels, since it comes just as the EU executive is trying to make the cabinets of commissioners less nationally-oriented.
It’s all in a day’s work for EUvian department of fairness. I guess they’ll get to nepotism and unelected appointments, especially of inherited positions of leadership, some other century.
Kroes is not the first Dutch commissioner to maintain close links to the crown. Indeed, Prince Constantijn has already served as a cabinet member of a Dutch commissioner. He worked for Hans van den Broek in the Commission chaired by Jacques Santer, until the entire college was forced to resign amid accusations of financial fraud and nepotism.
Elsewhere: excellent opportunities available to any charlatan or creative joker.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Acorn Continent

“[The recipients] do not question the EU to the extent they would if they were not being funded by it,” said Pieter Cleppe, from the euro sceptic think-tank Open Europe. “That’s the whole point of the grants”.
An outfit set up and funded to gin up good news for the EU puts in some mild criticism of NGOs, GONGOs, and other miscellaneous Astroturf flunkies for taking money. It’s kind of rich, and that’s where the fun starts, once you realize that they DO have a price... it’s more that the EU is giving them, but they do have a price.
But some argue that Clepp is ignoring the big budgets of some of Europe’s NGOs and think tanks.

For instance, the €146,000 the European Policy Centre receives, accounts for just over 5% of its budget, according to its chief Hans Martens. “You can’t buy us for that price […] We’ve never felt any pressure because of it,” he said.
No, no, of course not. Think about this, you either have SO little public interest in policy that the think-tank would never be funded by citizens, or funding is getting piped to it from other government funded interest-groups and universities as well as Brussels.

So you either have a bunch of clucks who just don’t see a reason to scrutinize governments, or a bunch of clucks who think getting funded for its’ own sake to effectively say nothing substantive is better than working for a living.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Eliard's Restored Higgins Boat Heads for Juno Beach

Hugues Eliard's restored Higgins Boat heads for Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed on D-Day. Of the three easternmost beaches during Operation Overlord (the one stormed by the British), Juno Beach in the centre was the roughest…

The Daily Life of a French Drug Dealership

Luc Bronner has a long article in Le Monde (two full pages in the arbre mort version) on how drug trafficking and dealing takes place in Nanterre, France.
Le Monde raconte la banalité et le quotidien d'un trafic de drogue, le va-et-vient des clients, l'organisation des dealers, le rôle des guetteurs, les règlements de comptes, le management par l'argent et la peur... Un monde artisanal et violent marqué par l'extrême dureté des rapports humains. Une microsociété avec ses propres lois, ses chefs, ses hommes de main et son prolétariat.
While the increasing home growing of cannabis worries the police, writes Isabelle Mandraud, and while cocaine and heroin have become fashionable, according to Jean-Michel Costes, Le Monde readers testify as to why and how they acquire drugs…

Dreams of their Cousins

Have you ever wondered why those French brown-shirt, red-flag types are so in love with the ‘muscular, white Russian’ image? It isn’t because they have wet dreams of Russia annihilating the US, it’s because of this kind of thing. Something they wish they could do themselves.

Police detained up to 100 anti-Kremlin protesters, including leading opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, in central Moscow on Sunday, despite an appeal by rights group Amnesty International to let the rally go ahead.

Hundreds of people gathered to protest against what they say is a long-running Kremlin campaign to dismantle the constitutional right to peaceful protest, one of the few avenues open to Russia's weak and fragmented opposition.