the scroll

Today’s question is: will the Gingrich balloon deflate like all the previous Not Mitt balloons?

The answer is: yes of course–but given that these balloons take typically 6-8 weeks to shrivel, the impending Gingrich bust may not arrive soon enough to save Romney. No question though, it will arrive in time to freak out the Republican party.

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I recently had the great pleasure of hearing economist Hernando de Soto speak to a group of think tank types and media members about his perspective on the Arab Spring. De Soto is most famous as an advocate for property rights for the world’s poor.

Henando de Soto’s big argument about the Arab Spring is that despite where it may end up, its origin began with a protest over the inability for Tunisia’s poor to accumulate capital.

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If the GOP Nominates Gingrich

David Frum December 7th, 2011 at 7:37 pm 90 Comments

It is volunteering to spend 2012 re-arguing the Clinton impeachment. Who thinks that’s a good idea?

Before the Gold Standard

David Frum December 7th, 2011 at 4:19 pm 21 Comments

I’m very much enjoying Charles Mann’s 1493. So much of the book has deep relevance to current affairs, including this piece of monetary history on p. 135:

[In contrast to commodity money,] fiat money has no intrinsic value, and is worth something only because a government declares it is. … From a government’s point of view, commodity money is problematic, because the government does not fully control the money supply – the nation’s currency is at the mercy of random shocks. For example, at the time of [Christopher Columbus'] voyages cowry shells were used as currency from Burma to Benin. Then Europeans shipped in vast quantities of shells from the cowry-rich Maldive Islands, in the Indian Ocean. Governments throughout the region were overwhelmed. A financial system that had been in place for centuries disintegrated in a flash.

On the other hand, don’t you think there must have been some Equatorial Ron Paul fulminating against the new-fangled European innovation of shiny disc money, and insisting that if cowry shells were good enough for Benin’s Founding Fathers, they ought to be good enough for the Benin of today?

Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that he’d offer the top diplomatic job to the famously rough-edged Bolton reminds me of the shrewd English definition of a gentleman: one who never gives offense unintentionally.

He Went to Kansas to Say That?

David Frum December 7th, 2011 at 4:11 pm 60 Comments

In my column for The Week, I discuss how Obama’s speech on income inequality fell short:

The Kansas speech was composed of two main parts: a critique of the performance of the U.S. economy over the past generation, and a program for “rebalancing” in the years ahead.

The trouble is that the more convincing you find the critique, the less convincing you will find the proposed solution.

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European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has just floated a proposal to subject all EU members – not just eurozone members – to more rigorous budget scrutiny by Union organs. The proposal is so contrary to the Union treaties and its scope so overreaching to the current eurozone debt crisis that it is doomed to fail.

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The GOP nomination race has proven to be a hostile environment for concerns about, or even an acceptance of the reality of, anthropogenic global warming.

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have made statements that they don’t know what’s causing climate change, in contradiction of earlier statements indicating that they did know. Jon Huntsman now has expressed doubts about the validity and clarity of the science involved. The other candidates have been broadly dismissive of the issue.

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Though Newt Gingrich seems to be styling himself as the inevitable nominee, a look back at the polling in during the Republican primary race in late 2007 suggests that Gingrich’s camp should not get too confident yet.

In December 2007, no polls seemed to show McCain as the frontrunner. Instead, Giuliani and a fast-rising Mike Huckabee tended to dominate in polling.

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Walter Russell Meade captures something about the current moment that can be overlooked to easily. Ron Paul and Barack Obama are forces for Americas that don’t and can’t exist anymore. The America where 90% of the people farm is not coming back.

But less acknowledged is that the post-war America that dominated manufacturing, could spend on social programs and where most people trusted the Government and large institutions to solve problems, and had many more young people than old, is not coming back either.

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Is the “European Endgame” upon us? The tone has certainly intensified ever since the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski stirred some fervor with his Berlin speech, which pointed many fingers yet put many viable solutions on the table.

Sikorski’s comments on the EU’s lack of financial discipline were echoed later that week by Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995. FrumForum reported on Delors interview with the British Telegraph.

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Looks like the EU has found an alternative to German domination of everybody else. It’s French-German domination of everybody else.

The grand “deal” announced earlier this week has something for both France and Germany. For the Germans, France will temporarily stop talking about eurobonds and will agree to automatic sanctions for violation of new budget rules. For the French, those automatic sanctions can be cancelled by a supermajority vote of unknown quantum, but very likely guaranteeing that France will never be sanctioned for its serial ambivalence toward budget rules, whether their own or anyone else’s.

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Rebecca Wodder, President Obama’s nominee to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks will be a topic of discussion in the business meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Thursday. And many Republicans on the committee are sure to raise tough questions about her.

Wodder, the former CEO of the environmental group American Rivers, holds a number of positions that conservatives largely disagree with. But if they actually believe that frequent (and true) conservative refrain that big government damages the environment, she deserves enthusiastic support from Republicans on the committee.

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Noah asks in his post whether one could trust a Randian banker.

By coincidence, I read Noah’s post on John Allison while I was in the middle of reading Donald Luskin’s through-the-looking-glass book on the characters that allegedly either contributed to or didn’t contribute to the financial crisis: I Am John Galt. It has a whole chapter on Mr. Allison and his leadership at BB&T, and how his Objectivist philosophy informed its policies.

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With the race for the Republican Presidential nomination now seemingly down to two candidates – Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney – suddenly Romney is in the uncharacteristic role of underdog.

Astonishingly (to me), polls show Gingrich some 10 points ahead of Romney in the upcoming Iowa primary; 8.6 points ahead in South Carolina; 16.5 ahead in Florida. In New Hampshire. Romney leads by 16.5 points. Nationally, Real Clear Politics has Gingrich leading Romney by 6.2 points.

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Signs of Hope, Part 5

December 6th, 2011 at 11:54 am 66 Comments

Make sure to read previous entries in the ‘Signs of Hope’ series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

As Newt Gingrich surges in the polls in Iowa and other early primary states, several leading conservative columnists are explaining why Gingrich should be rejected by Republicans voters. Their arguments deserve a wider audience.


Ramesh Ponnuru:

Gingrich’s fans say that he isn’t the same man he was then; he has “matured” in his 60s. Maybe so. But he’s still erratic: This year he flip-flopped three times on the top issue of the day, the House Republican plan to reform Medicare. He’s still undisciplined: He went on a vacation cruise at the start of his campaign. He still has the same old grandiosity: In recent weeks he has compared himself to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and said confidently that the nomination was his.

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News that astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope had discovered an Earth-like “Goldilocks” planet where liquid water can exist certainly deserves the attention it has received. In fact, evidence of life surviving–and even thriving–in very unlikely places on Earth tempts one to believe that, given billions of years and a decent supply of organic molecules, life (albeit simple bacterial life) will eventually develop just about anywhere liquid water exists.

All that said, even absolute evidence of bacteria or non-sentient animals on an alien world would offer plenty of grist for scientists in certain fields but little that would change the life for most people in the short term.

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Here is an update my article on Catholic University and same-sex dorms.

Via Ed Whalen at Bench Memos I have learned that the D.C. Human Rights Commission has rejected the claim that Catholic University can not have same-sex dorms. While not the last word on the law the DCHR is highly influential in the DC Courts on this topic. Its a win for religious freedom and common sense.

A horrifying act of sectarian terrorism targets Shiite worshipers in Afghanistan:

KABUL — Twin blasts at Afghan shrines on the Shiite holy day of Ashura left at least 58 people dead on Tuesday, with one massive suicide attack in Kabul ripping through a crowd of worshippers including children.

The attack in the capital and another in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif came a day after an international meeting in Germany aimed at charting a course for Afghanistan, 10 years after US-led forces drove the Taliban from power.

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Pakistan’s national security establishment may be the most dangerous force threatening world peace. Yet not all the news is bad.

Eli Lake has produced an astonishing report detailing the construction of a pro-American counter-establishment within the Pakistani services which is struggling at enormous personal risk on behalf of a secular, democratic Pakistan oriented to the West.

Officially, America’s relations Pakistan’s military and intelligence services were in a tailspin in August. Furious at having been kept in the dark ahead of the Americans’ May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, Pakistan’s military had kept U.S. investigators out of the place until it was scrubbed for evidence and had refused them access to bin Laden’s wives for some time. And the Pakistanis had outed the CIA’s Islamabad station chief, putting his life at risk. Meanwhile, back in America, fears were rising over possible al Qaeda attacks on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

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