the scroll

While I was reading Conor Friedersdorf response to David Frum’s critique of Ron Paul, as well as Andrew Sullivan’s endorsement of Ron Paul, one question kept coming into my mind: “What about former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson?”

Friedersdorf makes the case for Ron Paul on the basis that he is different from all the other Republican candidates, but that is just not technically true. Gary Johnson is essentially Ron Paul but without the racist newsletters.

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Criticizing Holder is Not Racist

December 20th, 2011 at 12:59 am 77 Comments

In a New York Times piece ostensibly characterizing Eric Holder’s Justice Department tenure as tenacity in the face of partisan beligerence, the US Attorney General gives opponents the equivalent of manna from Heaven: “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him…both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

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Sanctions With Teeth

David Frum December 19th, 2011 at 3:31 pm 38 Comments

In my column for CNN, I discuss Senator Mark Kirk’s plan to impose sanctions on Iran’s central bank:

On the other hand, despite the tightening, the sanctions remain pitifully inadequate to the job. Iran’s most crucial import is gasoline, because this oil-producing nation cannot refine enough gasoline for its automobiles. Gasoline imports to Iran are supposedly sanctioned. Despite sanctions, Iran has increased its imports of gasoline over the past 90 days, according to news reports.

As sanctions fail to bait, the options on halting Iran’s nuclear program get uglier.

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It was the noted atheist Christopher Hitchens who remarked in a debate before his untimely death last week, that if indeed there was “all-seeing god” watching over us, “it would be like living in North Korea.”

And now the latest in the family of hereditary dictators of North Korea has died at age about 69 – Kim Jong-il, leaving his third and youngest (known) son , Kim Jong-un, as heir to impoverished country at age 28.

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Newt Gingrich claims to be an historian (rather than, heaven forbid, a lobbyist), who was paid over a million dollars by Freddie Mac. Taking the former House Speaker at his word—if only temporarily—one has to assume that the giant, federally-protected home mortgage security company wanted Gingrich to help it better understand the historical events and forces that have shaped our political processes and institutions; his history lessons, it is implied, would help Freddie further its interests on Capitol Hill and within the Executive Branch. All of that would be a completely legitimate purpose, albeit a tad expensive one (even by K Street standards).

One cannot help but wonder, however, just what Mr. Gingrich said–from a historian’s perspective, of course—about one of the most consequential events in our nation’s history, the 1803 Supreme Court decision known as Marbury vs. Madison.

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Jay Root at the Texas Tribune came out with a huge scoop this past week regarding the personal finances of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Apparently, Perry has technically retired as a Texas state employee and has started receiving pension payments. This has garnered quite a bit of criticism for various reasons, including the fact that Rick Perry is still the Governor of Texas.

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has proposed a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving, which strikes me as a good idea in principle. But like so many good ideas, we cannot judge it by its facial appeal. Moving beyond that, one needs to ask, does the federal government have the authority to enact such a law? And if so, how will it be enforced?

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The Land Without Smiles

December 19th, 2011 at 8:35 am 15 Comments

A brisk look at KCNA, the North Korean regime’s news agency hosted from Japan, used to form an occasional part of my reading routine. It was a source of comic relief at first. As the rest of the world lurched between crises, the inhabitants of North Korea seemed splendidly insulated from anything approaching hardship or even inconvenience. Dear Leader Kim Jong Il – depicted by KCNA scribes as a man so absolutely devoted to improving the lives of his citizens that you wondered if he had a life of his own – was unrelenting in his efforts to spread prosperity and tranquillity among his people.

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Journalists need good, shocking examples of the country’s still serious unemployment problems and one offered itself this past weekend when people filled out more than 16,000 applications for about 750 positions as a new Cleveland casino. The deluge of applications made for good TV and appeared on dozens of websites.

Only one problem: dramatic as they are, the long lines of job seekers for a hotel are meaningless for a hotel or big casino are meaningless. (The Cleveland operation has no hotel as such but does offer hundreds of hotel-like jobs.)

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Here is a real effect Occupy Wall Street is having on the liberal left. They will start to blame the current bad economy explicitly on income inequality.

Here is Heather Boushey writing at the Center for American Progress:

Take, for example, the housing bubble of the 2000s. It was facilitated in no small part by exotic mortgages that were sliced and diced and sold to investors who pushed home prices to hitherto unknown heights. And when it popped, millions of American families—through no fault of their own except the decision to buy a home—were left with mortgages greater than the value of their homes. High rates of foreclosure still plague our economy.

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The Right to Rise? Ok!

David Frum December 19th, 2011 at 12:00 am 244 Comments

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Gov. Jeb Bush celebrates the “right to rise,” a concept he credits to Rep. Paul Ryan.

The idea behind the phrase is a powerful one: “We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise.” At a time when Americans born into the poorest fifth of the population are less likely to rise into the next fifth than people in almost any other advanced democracy, the governor’s urging is welcome. But how to make it real?

Gov. Bush’s op-ed is built on the assumption that the over-regulation of business is the most important impediment to upward mobility in the United States:

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Vaclav Havel has died. I did not spend time on his plays but read his essays avidly. He was a great hero of the free. One of the things I admired about him, as noted in this piece, is his disregard for his own crowd’s leftist pieties. He never ceased to criticize Castro and Cuba for the elimination of human rights and self-government. He also supported the removal of the tyrant Saddam Hussein.

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Asked once whether he would like to be remembered as an author or as a politician, Vaclav Havel answered that he was first and foremost a, “dramaturge who acted as a citizen and thanks to this circumstance was able to spend a part of his life in a political position.”

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On December 1st, David Frum participated in an episode of BBC’s Question Time. The episode focused on strikes that were taking place in England, and it has since been uploaded to YouTube:

Last week, I took a (semi) objective look back at the 1990s nostalgia craze in our politics, from Democrats who remember the time with all the glory and majesty as the most ardent Fox Newsie remembers the Reagan ’80s, to Newt Gingrich’s comeback on the Republican side of the ledger.

Before I sign off for the year next week (I’ll be back with reviews of two late December/early January wide releases, Meryl Streep’s look at Britain’s indomitable Iron Lady, and the awards-bait adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Everything is Illuminated), I thought that perhaps a more personal look back at what and where I was “coming from” in that article was in order, having come of age in the 1990s myself.

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What Was David Stern Thinking?

December 17th, 2011 at 12:17 am 6 Comments

As the joke goes, there are two sides to every story–no two ways about it. You’d have to work awfully hard to find another side to David Stern’s decision to veto the recent three-way deal among the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, and Houston Rockets. This move (made possible because the NBA owns the Hornets) was one-sidedly dumb.

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Last week in Brussels, the United Kingdom for the first time in a long time refused to be dictated to by continental elites. David Cameron, under enormous pressure from the Commission, other “core” Union members, and the (then) sotto voce pro-Europe disposition of his LibDem coalition members, refused to agree to the “fiscal compact” to include all 27 member states. By doing so, he has shaped the battlefield over all financial regulation in the Union, which remains very much in play, and very important to the British financial industry.

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In David Frum’s remembrance for Christopher Hitchens, he notes that the first time he viewed Hitchens as a friend was when they appeared on C-Span together:

[A] few weeks later, I had my own face-to-face encounter with him. We were guests together on C-Span’s morning program, which convened at 7 AM. He rolled in looking absolutely like hell. Of the dead, nothing should be said but good, but … wow. Christopher’s eyes were bloodshot, his clothes were crumpled, his face was ghastly. And then he started to talk. And then he made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

C-Span has the full video on their site but if you just want to see the part with Christopher Hitchens and David Frum, it has been uploaded to YouTube:

You can find the full video on this channel.

The Anti-Lincoln Brigade

David Frum December 16th, 2011 at 9:32 am 151 Comments

You know what’s really discouraging?

This is discouraging, this apologetic by Matt Welch, editor of Reason magazine, on behalf of Ron Paul.

Welch takes exception to my restatement of the I thought notorious fact about Ron Paul’s preference for the Confederate over the Union cause in the Civil War. Welch:

There is no hyperlink on that “openly prefers the slaveholding cause in the US Civil War.” A Google search leads me to this Paul interview with Bill Maher, in which the lifelong anti-war advocate asserts that “the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery,” and avers that there were better options for ending the peculiar institution, formulations that he also gave in 2007 on Meet the Press. Here’s the relevant part of the Maher interview:

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The World Loses a Light

December 16th, 2011 at 2:54 am 14 Comments

Hitchens is gone. And the phrase that echoes in my mind is Nehru’s at the death of Gandhi: “The light has gone out of our lives.” For every young writer – and every victim and opponent of authoritarianism – there is now darkness.

To Hitchens, there was no difference between the two: he rejected the line that separates the observer from the doer. The master stylist of the English language was also the Western world’s most forceful opponent of authoritarianism. He savaged intellectuals who, obsessed with playing the thinker, refused to engage with reality and often became apologists for tyranny.

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