the scroll

Austerity Comes to Britain

David Frum December 2nd, 2011 at 12:44 am 39 Comments

Dagenham is an industrial suburb east of London, hard-hit by the decline of manufacturing in the United Kingdom. It was the site of tonight’s Question Time program on BBC, where I occupied a chair hoping that I wouldn’t get asked too many questions about the British educational system.

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We’re not back to the energy glory days, when oceans of east Texas crude fueled the ships, aircraft, and tanks on which the Allies rode to victory in World War II.

U.S. imports of crude oil and petroleum products, however, have dropped a hair below 50 percent. And on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. is exporting more refined petroleum products than it imports, the first time we’ve been in the black with refined fuels since the Truman administration.

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Scottsdale, AZ–Even as he continues to fight off challenges from an ever-changing troop of “flavor of the week” candidates, Mitt Romney’s organization appears to be gaining the type of support it most needs to win primaries–the support of conservative legislators.

Here, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (where I’m a policy advisor) holds its “States and Nation Policy Summit” at a resort in the Phoenix’s super-suburb of Scottsdale, Romney’s name is on everybody’s lips. And this means a lot.

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As an example of the attitudes my friends at the Anglo-Israel Association bump up against in contemporary Britain, there’s this:

A Labour MP has caused outrage by suggesting that Britain’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel has divided loyalties because he has “proclaimed himself to be a Zionist”.

Challenged by the JC to clarify his comments about Matthew Gould, who took up the post last year, Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, said ambassadors to Israel had not previously been Jewish “to avoid the accusation that they have gone native”.

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I’m beginning to think we need to learn the Urdu word for chutzpah. The US discovery that Pakistan for years gave shelter to Osama bin Laden is now being taken as an example of American strain on the US-Pakistani relationship.

Oh and by the way, has Pakistan ever apologized for supporting the killers of US soldiers inside Afghanistan? Thought not…

I was honored to speak Wednesday night to the annual dinner of the Anglo-Israel Association in London.

For those interested, here follows the text of my speech (corrected and abridged from the version delivered).

Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen

I come to you today from a region of the earth torn by tribal hatred and distracted by extremist ideologies, where a privileged few wallow in luxury upon an influx of unearned wealth. I speak of course of Washington DC.

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The past two weeks have seen a dizzying array of proposals from virtually every organ of the EU claiming that they can make the eurozone more efficient, durable, and solvent. If you noticed that no one is saying that they will make the eurozone more democratic, you’re not the only one. The most anti-democratic organ which is being set up is a permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (EMS).

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The American Spectator has decided to attack Newt Gingrich’s position on healthcare because he once praised the work of Dr. Donald Berwick’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement. I must say, as someone who has pretty consistently thought that Obamacare was a terrible way to go about reforming our healthcare system, that the criticism by David Catron is ridiculous.

It would be like criticizing Stephen Chu’s Nobel Prize in Physics for laser cooling and trapping of atoms because he is a terrible venture capitalist in energy companies. True and unrelated!

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In my column for The Week I explain why the European Union needs more democratic accountability:

The European Union is not a democracy because until now it has been regarded as an association of democracies. The institutions at the center of Europe existed to serve democratic governments, not to replace those governments.

When the euro currency was proposed back in the 1990s, opponents of the euro warned that different countries cannot safely share one money. Either the euro would crack up under pressure (as, say, the Scandinavian cracked up in 1914 after 40 years of Swedish-Danish cooperation) — or else the EU itself would have to evolve into a single polity.

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Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge is not even 100 words long, yet it has been blamed for gridlock in Congress and for making it impossible for Republicans to make any constructive negotiations and compromises over the budget. Because of the importance of the pledge (which commits politicians to never raising income taxes) AEI hosted a debate between Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

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Britain’s One-Day Strike

David Frum November 30th, 2011 at 10:39 am 24 Comments

British public-sector workers engaged in a one-day strike today to protest government plans to reduce the generosity of public-sector pensions. I witnessed the big protest march down Whitehall toward Parliament. The crowd was thick, but generally orderly–although past such protests have seen outbursts of violence from the radical fringe, and the day here is not over yet.

But here’s what got me thinking: How did we convince ourselves that the US, the Britain, and the Eurozone just happened by coincidence to be struggling with almost exactly the same problem at almost exactly the same time? We have one global debt crisis, the aftermath of a global debt boom.

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The Cost of the Tea Party

David Frum November 30th, 2011 at 8:47 am 79 Comments

Here’s some interesting data from Pew.

Americans turning against the “tea party” (however they understand the “tea party” to mean) is not exactly a new story, but here it continues to accelerate.

More surprising: the tea party seems to be contaminating the larger Republican brand.

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Gingrich Passes a Very Low Bar

November 29th, 2011 at 7:54 pm 68 Comments

Newt Gingrich has a voluminous history of misdeeds as a public figure. But since he is now emerging as the consensus alternative to Mitt Romney, we should pause to appreciate how he is succeeding where others have failed in auditioning for that role.

I write this not as a Newt Gingrich fan, but in grudging admission that despite the mistakes he has made, his opponents have done worse.

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What is the likelihood that NATO would invoke Article Five–NATO’s collective defense clause–in response to a cyber attack? The possibility first entered media discourse back in October 2010 when the German Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on an internal memo in which NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed the use of Article Five in the case of an cyber attack.

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to ask different people within the NATO structure on the matter.

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Jobless, With Dwindling Options

November 29th, 2011 at 12:00 pm 39 Comments

‘Galatea’ is a columnist writing about her experience looking for work after her recent downsizing. Previous entries in her series can be read here.

When I first lost my job, one of my old writing professors—a reclusive Famous Person who didn’t particularly like people—got in touch with me. Or rather, I got in touch with him by sending a numb email, which ended with something along the lines of “I don’t know what to do next. Just tell me something to make it better.”

In the interests of maintaining his privacy I won’t reprint the email verbatim, but here’s a condensed version of his story.

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Obama’s Pakistani Retreat

David Frum November 29th, 2011 at 7:23 am 52 Comments

Our friend Kapil Komireddi has a devastating essay in Foreign Policy on the Obama administration’s acquiescence in Pakistan’s continuing slide back to military rule.

Kapil opens with this question:

Pakistan is indignant about the killing of 25 of its troops in a NATO air raid on Saturday. The circumstances that led to the assault are still unknown, but Washington and Europe have expressed contrition and promised an investigation. Pakistan has every reason to feel angry. But after a suitable period of mourning, shouldn’t the United States, in the interests of fairness if nothing else, ask the Pakistani army if it plans ever to apologize for — or, at bare minimum, acknowledge – its role in the deaths of hundreds of coalition forces and many more Afghan civilians?

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In an important speech in Berlin, Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski expressed a thought maybe has never been heard before on German soil from a Polish leader:

What, as Poland’s foreign minister, do I regard as the biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland today, on 28th November 2011? It’s not terrorism, it’s not the Taliban, it’s certainly not German tanks. It’s not even Russian missiles which President Medvedev has just threatened to deploy on our border. The biggest threat to the security of Poland would be the collapse of the Eurozone.

And I demand of Germany that, for your own sake and for ours, you help it survive and prosper. You know full well that nobody else can do it. I will probably be first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.

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The German public is in shock as details emerge of a brutal and inhuman neo-Nazi cell that has roamed the country over the past decade.

Current investigations have unveiled that a trio of neo-nazis; Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt have killed ten people, robbed a string of banks and planted numerous “dirty” bombs throughout Germany. More shocking is how German taxpayers have been indirectly supporting their activities.

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The New York Times published an editorial several days ago which discussed the need for reform of legal education in the United States.

This editorial took particular aim at the casebook method approach to legal education (sometimes also called the case method, as in the article) and suggested that the casebook method is outdated and in need of replacement.

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Signs of Hope, Part 4

November 28th, 2011 at 1:42 pm 48 Comments

FrumForum is on the lookout for Signs of Hope that the conservative movement is moving towards intellectual openness. Today’s entry comes in the form of a new Facebook group: Republicans for Responsible Reform.

The group was started by friends of the site D.R. Tucker and Michael Stafford. Tucker and Stafford have taken a lead in calls for Republicans to reform and they have started the group to connect like-minded Republicans together.

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