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After a measly 3 months, I have finally finished Daniel Walker Howe’s Pulitzer prize winning ‘What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848′. ‘Wrought’ is part of the Oxford American History series….. This work of history was obviously wide ranging, covering such a long and overshadowed period of American history between the years of our Founding Father to the precipice of the Civil War. This time period contained many momentous events in our nation’s history but has been eclipsed by those two defining events.

Howe’s book has several themes (I would hope so with 850+ pages and 30+years to cover!), but the overriding one can be summed up in one word; Growth. The early to mid 1800s were a time of tremendous technological and societal transformations which when combined with the substantial increases in the American population, economy, and geographic reach showed the world a country on a meteoric rise. Howe specifically focuses on the technological and societal revolutions that took place, with the book’s title coming from the contents of the first telegraph message sent by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1944. The message, ‘What Hath God Wrought’ perfectly combines the theme of technological breakthroughs and the preeminence of Christianity (the phrase comes from the Bible) in American culture.

The book has many strengths; first of which is Howe’s ability to transform years of research into a readable text that is accessible to novice readers, though its length surely scares off many. ‘Wrought’ proceeds mainly in chronological order, starting with the War of 1812 and ending with the Seneca Falls women’s conference, but consists of many subchapters which take the reader from the high politics of American presidents such as John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk to such topics as immigration/migration, religion, Indian removal, slavery, etc. One of the most impressive aspects of the book were the sections covering the substantial number of Christian denominations and revivals that occurred throughout the nation during the early 1800s. It is in these parts that I personally learned the most. Howe’s coverage of John Smith and the growth of the Mormons proved very intriguing reading. Another highlight was the section on the American-Mexican war, specifically General Winfield Scott’s march from the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico City. It is a common mistake to think of wars won in the past as easy victories. We too often forget the unknowns and challenges that were faced at the time and Howe’s description of this water-land invasion and conquer of a foreign capital city does a splendid job bringing to life an impressive and historical feat.

This impressive work of history is not without its faults, however. Disappointingly, Howe’s opinion of key actors and parties is blatantly clear. Howe’s heart bleeds for John Quincy Adams and the Whig Party (and its predecessors) while Andrew Jackson can do little right. From the very first pages, Howe’s skepticism of Jackson is made clear and this continues through the next 800 pages. All writers have opinions and objectiveness can never be fully obtained, but a work of this magnitude deserved a more restrained author. This period in American history is filled with human travesties and injustices. The leaders of America in the early 1880s were as human as our leaders today. There is much to judge in the lives and policies of Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, etc, but ‘Wrought’ is filled with pages denouncing one side while the other side’s intentions are left to the reader to be thought mostly pure and good. I believe Howe let his 21st century mind and sensibilities seep into his analysis of this period in American history as his sympathies so clearly lied with the progressive thinkers and leaders of the day (ie John Quincy Adams). Page after page you read about the devious and dictatorial actions of the Jackson administration, while his popularity with the American people (especially the middle to lower classes) is constantly downplayed. This book could have been subtitled ‘Andrew Jackson: Not So Great’ as Howe seems to have made that an underlying theme. Andrew Jackson surely has many faults, ones that are timeless (overreaching executive power) and ones that are specifically tied to his day (slavery), and his presidency should be scrutinized to the highest degree. But a reader deserves a more impartial, less subjective portrayal from the author.

‘What Hath God Wrought’ is not a perfect work of history, but a worthy effort that will benefit anyone interested in this impactful, if mostly overshadowed, period of American history.

Here is final part of ‘Ungoverned Space: American Foreign Policy’:

Technology and Policing Ungoverned Space

Community policing has more less now become a traditional policing strategy, which has proven its effectiveness in the past and still today, but our modern, globalizing world demands ever more adaptive and innovative policing methods to keep up with criminals/terrorists who continue to utilize ungoverned space and gaps.  In a world with a globalized economy creating ever more state-of-the-art technologies and commodities (cell phones, ipods, Internet, weaponry) there will inevitably be criminal and extremist perpetrators who will try and find gaps in which they can exploit these new-found toys.  As Reid succinctly articulates;

“The unprecedented speed of change and development in the 21stCentury provides us with those unique opportunities.  We’re wealthier.  We’re more mobile.  We’re more knowledgeable than before.  But as citizens benefit from those opportunities, so do the terrorists who exploit them or the criminals who find new paths.”[1]

It is the critical job of law enforcement today in the US, EU, and everywhere, especially in locals experiencing Absolute or Quasi ungoverned space, to fill these gaps created by modern technological advancements, commodities, and globalized networks of trade before criminals or terrorists can abuse them.  The US and British police systems have already done a remarkable job using and adapting their policing methods with modern technologies and techniques, such as the use of Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTC), border and custom patrols have implemented biometric passports and visas, and increased efforts at curtailing the misuse of identification documents.  Partnerships between the public and private sector are vital.  The British government’s partnership and work with Telecom’s Network Providers, which led to the creation of a system to ensure that stolen mobile phones were made unusable by thieves, is just one example of how effective this collaboration can be.  Criminals and extremists will always be looking for a gap, a hole they can slide through to commit their criminal and terrorist acts, and law enforcement need to do whatever it takes to find, analyze, and close that gap as soon as possible.   

Multilateral Groups

To help mitigate the effects and growth of ungoverned space in critical parts of the globe the United States must depend on the efforts, skills, and partnership of many other nations and multilateral groups.  Though the US must lead the charge, it cannot come close to combating this scourge without much international and regional help.

The US government is already a member of several useful organizations and initiatives that if properly led could slow down or contain terrorist and criminal activity stemming from and breeding in ungoverned spaces.  The State Department led Regional Strategic Initiative (RSI) is one such effort that seeks to develop flexible regional networks of interconnected Country Teams to combat and ‘eliminate terrorism safe havens, but also to address the conditions that terrorists exploit for recruitment.’  The State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism works with ambassadors and interagency representatives in key terrorist theaters of operation to assess the threat and devise collaborative strategies, plans, and policy recommendations.  In this regard, RSI strategy groups are already in place for Southeast Asia, Iraq and its neighbors, around the Mediterranean, and the Horn of Africa.  These RSI groupings provide an opportunity for cooperation around shared security concerns, pooled resources, and to strengthen regional and transnational partnerships in areas in need.  We just need to make sure these groupings remain focused on specific Absolute and Quasi ungoverned areas and targets.  The Vienna-based UN Office of Drugs and Crime and its action-arms Global Program on Terrorism and Global Program against Transnational Organized Crime assist member nations in combating both threats and is a program with international backing and legitimacy that the US should support and play a lead role in.  These UN crime and terror programs strengthen the ability of regional and national customs officials, immigration officers, and border guards to counter narcotics, weapons, and human trafficking as well as provide guidance to states in legislating and implementing anti-terrorism measures.  There are many other useful multilateral groupings with institutions that target transnational crime and terror elements which the US is already a member and should deepen relations with, such as the EU, OSCE, and G8.

Concerning international law enforcement agencies which have and been crucial and need our support to stem the tide of transnational crime and terrorism, the Southeastern European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) Center, based in Bucharest, and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), based in Lyon, must be provided greater financial provisions.  SECI takes a strong regional approach in assisting member states trans-border crime fighting efforts and has an Anti-Terrorism Task Force which focuses on helping its members counter the nexus between organized crime and terrorism.  Southeastern Europe has been a transit route for narcotics from Afghanistan and Central Asia and a hotbed of organized crime itself.  The US, Germany, France, and many others are currently observer members and we need to build on this relationship.  INTERPOL’s efforts are well-known, but its Fusion Task Force, which analyzes linkages between crime and terrorism in order to ‘facilitate the disruption and dismantling of criminal entities that play a central role in the funding or support of terrorist activities.’[2]  The Fusion Task Force has six additional regional task forces in Southeast Asia, Central Asia (Afghanistan/Pakistan), South America (Colombia), Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.  The organization’s paltry $33 million annual budget deserves our attention and financial support.[3]  SECI and INTERPOL may have their operations based in rather secure, governed lands, but their presence helps contain, dismantle, and prosecute criminal and terrorist networks that both breed in Quasi and Absolute ungoverned spaces and find gaps in governed lands.  The US should help to bring about, or strengthen already existing, these types of regional crime/terrorism law enforcement agencies in the Middle East, Central Asia, Central America, and South America.


Ungoverned space and the nefarious elements that grow from its loins is not just a US national security problem or even just an international security problem, it is one of the defining challenges of our modernized and globalized civilization.  Earlier centuries witnessed great wars and conflicts between world powers which caused unspeakable horrors and destruction, but that world is largely gone, and our current challenges stem from transnational criminal and terrorist networks that use the shadows and cover of ungoverned spaces to plot their next attack or offense against our society.  To combat this modern scourge the US needs to lead the world in closing these gaps and spaces of poor governance and weak institutions which leave only meager options for many of the world’s citizens.  Accomplishing this will be a long and at times treacherous path, and one in which we will make mistakes in our chosen policies and with the instruments utilized to carry them out, but this does not a mean we can shrink back into our homeland, for the menacing elements that come from ungoverned spaces will find their way back into our lives.

What did you think? How would you define ‘ungoverned space’? What are its major implications? What is the best method for combating its ill effects? What is the most effective long term solution?

[1]  Reid, John, “Crime and Counter-Terrorism Opportunities and Challenges,” Milstein Lectures, June 20, 2007, pg. 14.

[2] The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL),

[3] Sanderson, Thomas M., “Transnational Terror and Organized Crime: Blurring the Lines,” SAIS Review¸Vol. XXIV, No. 1, Winter-Spring, 2004.


Ungoverned Space: American Foreign Policy (Part IV)

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Here is Part IV of ‘Ungoverned Space: American Foreign Policy’:

UGS Overall US Foreign Policy Recommendations

We have laid out what ungoverned space consists of, thrives from, and how it threatens national and international security, but how should the United States, its allies, and the global community contain and minimize its presence in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Colombia, small areas here at home, and in the world? The US will need to be the leader in this fight as it is the only nation with the combined resources and will to combat this threat. But the problem of ungoverned space is too complicated and prevalent for the US to take on alone. The use of military force as the dominant instrument to bring good governance to a region, state, or territories has been discounted as military leaders from the US and NATO stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq can attest. To roll back ungoverned space throughout the globe the US will have to lead multiple multilateral groupings with a strategy that consists of hard power, military, law enforcement collaboration, projection of power through bases, and soft power, aid to develop civil society, economic and political structures, and a culture of lawfulness.

Culture of Lawfulness

We believe that where there is ungoverned space, there is an opportunity for a backward, distrustful culture to foment that takes on a life of its own, trapping its people in a cycle of unproductive stagnation, where life is probably harsh, painful, and short. We advocate the aggressive promotion of the Culture of Lawfulness Project led by Roy Dobson’s National Strategy Information Center. This non-governmental organization is publicly and privately funded and has already helped a number of governments, school systems and civil society leaders to improve their knowledge and attitudes toward the rule of law. The Project focuses on educating the next generation of citizens, and through them their parents and community, and also engages with other critical sectors of a society mentioned above, specifically business and labor groups, religious institutions, local non-governmental organizations, and the media. A culture of lawfulness has successfully brought order and a higher quality of life to several locals with diverse backgrounds, including Sicily, Hong Kong, and Botswana and we are confident its reach can go much further. Instituting and growing a culture of lawfulness will have a greater chance of success in Quasi and Governed Spaces where there exists some forms of civil society and law enforcement to build around. In fact, the CoL Project already has ongoing educational, civil society, and law enforcement training programs in Colombia. The US State Department is ‘proud’ to support the Project and in 2004 contributed over $1 million dollars to its cause. (get updated budget) We believe the US government and private donors can do much more to support this project and make sure that its influence and efforts target the strategic areas of the globe in most need of good governance.

Community Policing

A central part of building a society firmly based on the rule of law is a productive and close relationship between the community and local law enforcement. Neighborhood and community policing has proven a successful tool in lowering crime rates and creating an environment conducive to law enforcement/populace cooperation, specifically regarding terrorist activities. Community policing, a police strategy that involves embedding policemen inside targeted neighborhoods and keeping them there, letting them get to know the locals and the ins-and-outs of the area, has proven effective in London and New York City and should be promoted as a method in helping to alleviate areas of ungoverned or quasi-governed space experiencing criminal and extremist elements. Former British Home Secretary John Reid believes that the reintroduction of neighborhood policing has been one of the British law enforcement’s ‘great successes.’ He argues that this is ‘what people want,’ a police force that is ‘visible, accessible, and responsive.’ If done correctly and professionally, community policing can build people’s trust and create breathing space for those citizens who want to support the law and challenge those that desire to circumvent and abuse it. The US should help fund and train law enforcement agencies in Colombia, Afghanistan, Southeastern Europe, and anywhere else where crime and extremists elements threaten the peace and stability of a population.

Final part will be coming soon:


Embassy Attacks: This Is No Spontaneous Uprising

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Over the last several decades, a variety of movements have arisen in the Arab and Islamic countries–a radical nationalism (Baath socialist, Marxist, pan-Arab, and so forth) and a series of Islamist movements (meaning Islamic fundamentalism in a political version). The movements have varied hugely and have even gone to war with one another–Iran’s Shiite Islamists versus Iraq’s Baath socialists, like Hitler and Stalin slugging it out. The Islamists give the impression of having wandered into modern life from the 13th century, and the Baathist and Marxist nationalisms have tried to seem modern and even futuristic.

But all of those movements have followed, each in its fashion, the twentieth-century pattern. They are antiliberal insurgencies. They have identified a people of the good, who are the Arabs or Muslims. They believe that their own societies have been infested with a hideous inner corruption, which must be rooted out. They observe that the inner infestation is supported by powerful external forces. And they gird their swords. Their thinking is apocalyptic. They imagine that at the end they, too, will succeed in establishing a blocklike, unchanging society, freed of the inner corruption–a purified society: the victory of good. They are the heirs of the twentieth-century totalitarians.

Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism, 2001

The above quote, like the attacks on 9/11, is over a decade old, but in light of the recent violent demonstrations against American people and symbols across the Middle East, its strong theme is sadly showing itself to be just as true today as it was in 2001. Contrary to what the mainstream media and the current US administration are pushing, these recent attacks and uprisings have very little to do with a hateful and ignorant movie (actually a movie’s preview) that has probably been viewed by a minimum amount of those doing the rioting. The murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Libya shows planning and the Libyan government claims it was launched by Al Qaeda. The fact that the Ambassador’s murder and the Egyptian overthrow of the American embassy occurred on 9/11/2012 also has to raise concern that this was not some spontaneous occurrence. Paul Berman is still correct. ‘Anti-liberal insurgencies’ in the Arab Muslim world are still alive and well. These attacks and demonstrations are not anti-’latest culture medium to offend Muslims’. These are violent demonstrations that are anti-liberal and anti-American.

The rioters may only represent a small minority of these cultures and populations, but they are significant nonetheless. They view their version of Islam as the only true way and believe that American and liberal ideals, backed by American power, corrupts their way of life. Therefore, American power and liberal values, represented by our Embassies, must be challenged and hopefully removed. There is very little the US can do to appease those Arab Muslims who feel this way. We could tell Youtube to stop showing the video. We could bring all our troops home. We could make a million speeches about how we want to get along. None of it will work. What do we do then? I’m not sure, but I know that the above won’t change a thing and may in fact embolden these radicals.

These events change by the day and creating and augmenting a policy direction toward them is an arduous task, but that is our government’s job. I would recommend that the administration curtail their denouncements of the film as that is just a sideshow, makes America look guilty when we’ve done nothing wrong, and goes against our constitutional rights of free speech. It is easy to defend free speech when no one is offended by it. It is times like these that really put our beliefs and convictions to the test. The Obama administration also needs to make it clear to all governments who host our embassies that they must be protected. Egypt’s President Morsi’s over 24 hours of silence while his citizens were burning our embassy’s flag and replacing it with another is unacceptable. Just imagine if a similar event occurred with the Egyptian embassy in Washington D.C. The future of Egypt will have a major impact on the future of the Middle East and events of the past few days should give us much pause.

The anti-liberal, anti-American voices in the Muslim world are regrettably still vibrant enough to cause much heartache both in their own countries and across the globe in our own. President George W. Bush could not change the minds of these radical Islamists by replacing two tyrannical regimes with fragile democratic governments. And President Barack Obama with his Muslim background and sincere outreach to the Muslim community could not do so either. These efforts may yet bear fruit, and I hope they do, but today there are radical groups attacking American embassies and the ideals and policies they represent in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, and even Australia. As Berman asserts, these groups desire a ‘purified society’, which by definition cannot include the United States or its liberal values.


The Olympics and Great Power Politics

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The Olympics have finally concluded. These 2012 London Olympics will be remembered in many ways: NBC’s recorded coverage, Michael Phelps, Gabby’s 10,000 watt smile, 100 foot tall Valdemort, Usain Bolt, and British rock band after British rock band performing with strange props. It was an inspiring couple of weeks and I enjoyed watching these amazing athletes do amazing things. As a proud American, I also took joy in watching my country win the medal account yet again. A country’s performance at the Olympics does not always mean that it has reached success at more meaningful metrics of well being and power (economic growth, employment, health, safety), but the two are not mutually exclusive. Creating and sustaining world class athletes takes resources and a culture that promotes competitiveness. The Olympics’ wide variety of events, from ping pong to weightlifting, also allows a country to showcase its diversity.

The Olympics provides a peaceful venue for the world’s great and not so great powers to put to the test their national resources, culture, and diversity. Though the Olympic spirit of goodwill is strong, each country desires to show themselves well. In the case of the United States and China, though not as intense as the Cold War battles between Russia and America, the fight for eminence is strong. Can we view the results of this latest Olympics in the prism of great power competition? Of course we can! Will Inboden of Shadow Government does a service in ranking the top medal winners of 2012 along with their nominal GDP and defense budget size to give a high level view of current status of today’s great powers. Here’s his list:

Country 2012 Medal Rank GDP rank Defense budget rank

USA 1 1 1

China 2 2 2

Russia 3 9 3

United Kingdom 4 7 4

Germany 5 4 9

Japan 6 3 6

Australia 7 13 13

France 8 5 5

South Korea 9 15 12

Italy 10 8 11

India 37 11 8

Brazil 16 6 10

My takeaways:

- China and United States are in a fierce battle for Olympic and world power. This is not a hot conflict, but it is a cold one, with each side trying their best to top the other.

- Russia has a million problems, but her competitive spirit and commitment to invest resources on their athletic programs still keeps her at a high level not only at the Olympics, but in the game of thrones that is great power politics.

- The sun may have set on the British Empire always, but it is still a vibrant nation with great rock bands.

- Japan & Germany: What can you say, near the top as always.

- India & Brazil: Two rising powers that still have a ways to go to reach the status of the big boys. Brazil had a nice showing at the Olympics and as host to the 2016 games will have their chance to show their growth and prosperity very shortly. In regards to India, which only received 6 medals (1 gold), I asked an Indian friend why his home country fared so poorly. He replied, ‘Unless its cricket, we don’t care’.

I can sympathize. Where was the baseball?!


American Dynamism Vs. Chinese Statism

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One does not have to look hard to find publications or experts pronouncing or describing an America in decline. They have now become ubiquitous and in many circles pass for the conventional wisdom of the day. In a similar vein, it is not that hard to find arguments that other countries, particularly China, have a more efficient, productive economy and government. Living in California, I’ve heard many unfavorable comparisons to our attempt at building a high speed train to China’s already extensive train network. While, I understand the United States faces deep fiscal issues; and our current political class appears incapable or unwilling (both?) to tackle them, I am still an optimist about my country. After all, the US is not alone in facing headwinds to a prosperous future. We cannot judge ourselves accurately without looking more closely at our peers, with China being the most obvious target. Analyst Ian Bremmer makes a strong attempt at this and finds that China’s very system has plenty of warts:

China has indeed grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. That’s a huge credit to a country that has modernized and industrialized on a previously unseen scale. And because of its 1.3 billion citizens, China has quite a bit of growth (read: catching up) still to come. China’s style of governance leaves the country light on regulation. However, it’s also light on rule of law, transparency, freedom of speech and several other key features that make the U.S. economy go ’round. Just because the Chinese government can move a village and build a road without holding a single hearing doesn’t mean the free market has taken hold. Indeed, it shows the opposite: China’s economy is largely state-planned, state-owned and state-run. The government uses capitalism only as a tool to reach its ends, not as a true expression of a free market.

Bremmer is right. China can indeed get many things done, but all of these accomplishments come from a centrally planned government, not a dynamic society or economy. The human race has yet to create an omnipotent, all-wise group of men and women that can lead a society to ever growing levels of prosperity. Economic growth cannot just be planned, as the market contains too many forces coming from too many different directions. The Chinese have opened up portions of their economy to the ‘animal spirits’ of capitalism, but as Bremmer points out, this is not really as it seems. There is no such thing a free market in modern China:

where the Chinese government compromises the free market, it does so to fulfill its own desires of effective control over the entire country. It’s capitalism of the state, by the state and for the state, where the state is the principal economic actor. That’s in marked contrast to where the U.S. compromises on “pure” capitalism, adding things like the social safety net, worker safety, product safety, health insurance and retirement planning.

One of the major problems China has had with its economic model is that at nearly any time, the majority owner of most of its economy — the state — can jump into an enterprise and distort it for its own purposes. It can cook the books, it can pull out profits, it can hide losses, it can launder money and it can even shut down a company altogether.

The United States has its challenges. At times, I have strong feelings of doubt that we can get ourselves back on track. Back to being a nation built on rugged individualism that produces dynamic outcomes. It is impossible for me to imagine an Apple being created in Beijing, but I would not be surprised to see a similar story (Pomegranate?) arise in the US. American culture isn’t without flaws and embarrassments, but no other on earth has proven to be so productive and resolute. It just keeps on ticking and with it American power and influence.

The below is a back in forth between FMFP and I that took place over the past couple weeks:

GPP: What do you make of the Occupy Wall Street, (Boston, Washington DC, etc) movement? Basically, what are your first impressions?

FMFP: On first glance, I think they are a disorganized group of young college kids looking for a reason to protest. On second glance, I don’t see much more. After milling around the crowd at Liberty Square (about a block from the NYSE) a few days ago, I came away with a few observations. First, it was not a pleasant smell. Showering and changing clothes are part of most people’s daily hygiene habits for good reason. If they want to appeal to your average American (not to mention the supposed “99%”), this is not helping.

Second, the politics of the protesters was anywhere from anarchist to socialist. Signs everywhere promoted the destruction of the capitalist system, a rewriting of the American Constitution and the violent end to America. Oh yeah, mixed in were some signs and literature promoting the President’s jobs bill. If they can’t bring down the whole system, I suppose they’ll settle for Congress passing President Obama’s jobs bill. Very logical leap, I know.

Third, there were the beginnings of organization setting in. By this I mean, I saw union organizers walking around with their clipboards and walkie talkies trying to coordinate the madness in to an effort fighting to protect exorbitant pensions and lifelong tenure. Again, good middle ground if they end up failing to rewrite the US Constitution.
I’m fascinated to see where this movement goes, if anywhere. Right now, it’s pretty difficult to take them seriously. Although I do enjoy watching supporting Democrats try to defend these protesters sh*%ting on police cars and stinking up the center of some very liberal cities.

FMFP: While the protesters deny they are associated with any political party, the Democrats and some major public unions have demonstrated public (and perhaps financial) support for the protests. Do you think this is a wise move? And what would you advise if you were a Democrat Party or public union official?

GPP: Great question. Though the Occupy movement has a myriad of differences with the Tea Party phenomenon, one thing they surely have in common is the difficult position they put the political establishment in. The Tea Party movement helped bring to office many very fiscally conservative Republicans (Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio), but it also cost the GOP in several winnable races in 2010 (Nevada, Delaware). In my opinion, the Occupy demonstrators pose a much greater risk for the Democrat Party. It is well-known that though most of the American populace has major grievance for Wall Street, most of those actually protesting are what I would call ‘permanent protesters’. It doesn’t take much to get many of these people to join a sit-in, march, etc for a liberal cause, be it the environment, ‘social justice’, or war. My feeling is these ‘permanent protesters’ are much closer to representing the 1% than the 99%. I believe most Americans view their demonstrations with skepticism and wariness. Very few Americans have much sympathy for those on Wall Street who got tax payer bailouts, but I don’t think they have anymore sympathy for those who spend their days chanting slogans instead of going to work a 9-5 shift. If your a Democratic politician do you really want to tie yourself to this Occupy group that you cannot control and who many Americans view as fringe? If some of these protests make a turn for the worse (i.e. Seattle WTO meeting), no one will want to be associated with this group. Another negative aspect for the incumbent Democratic administration is that these Occupy protests are just one more sign of the disappointment that many Americans are feeling toward our current national state. As FMFP poignantly referenced above, aren’t these protesters asking for change, and wouldn’t that have to mean a change of who’s in charge of Washington?

Now, I’ll let you tackle the Union side of this question:

FMFP: SEIU has fully thrown its support behind the movement and seeing as how it’s one of the President’s best friends, one could easily assume a connection. Also, behind the effort is our friend George Soros, liberal funder extraordinaire. His main group used to spread money to progressive groups, the Tides Foundation, has funded the group Adbusters, which is a social agenda driven magazine that practices in “culture jamming.” Adbusters first ran teasers of the OWS event back in mid-July. Hashtags were created and an ad was placed in their magazine for the September 13 event. The Working Families Party of NY was also involved day one with the protests. Just a little digging finds that WFP shares the same mailing address as ACORN and SEIU. Interesting to say the least. But don’t hold your breath on the media cracking this case. Reuters ran a story yesterday drawing attention to the Soros-Adbusters connection to OWS only to be quickly smacked down by fellow media pundits for even attempting to imply that OWS is not an organic, sincere movement.

Where do you think these protests are going? Will they have legs?

GPP: I think they have already shown some legs. Unfortunately for the movement as a whole, these legs are kicking in Oakland, Calilfornia and polls are starting to show the public souring on the movement. Nevertheless, I think that a decent portion of the protesters will survive the winter and keep up their fight. I can imagine ‘Occupy’ protesters at both the Democratic and Republican Presidential Conventions and I would say this is more of a threat to the former. As long as the economy is in the tank, these protests will keep up, but I feel they are unlikely to have a major impact on American politics either now or in the future. There will always be those ready to drop everything (sometimes this is just a Chomsky book) and hit the streets with signs, but a majority just want to have a good job and once one arrives….

When it comes to explaining the American conservative viewpoint, few are as articulate, convincing, and engaging as Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio has only been a Senator for about a year, but he is definitely making a name for himself. I have watched him in action (aka Youtube) several times, including his campaign victory speech, on the Senate floor, and on the sides of Florida’s streets and come away impressed every time. This week he spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and once again failed to disappoint. The twenty-three minute speech is full of heartfelt conviction clearly laying out the conservative political and social message and includes some great lines, including my favorite; ‘Conservatism is not about leaving people behind. Conservatism is about empowering people to catch up.’ Check out the whole speech:

1. ‘Hard Times, Fewer Crimes, James Q. Wilson, Wall Street Journal/City Journal

Preeminent political and social scientist James Q. Wilson debunks the myth that crime is caused mainly by economic factors. So then, what causes crime to increase or decrease? Wilson has a few provocative proscriptions in this must read piece:

When the FBI announced last week that violent crime in the U.S. had
reached a 40-year low in 2010, many criminologists were perplexed. It
had been a dismal year economically, and the standard view in the
field, echoed for decades by the media, is that unemployment and poverty
are strongly linked to crime. The argument is straightforward: When
less legal work is available, more illegal “work” takes place.

The economist Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, a Nobel
laureate, gave the standard view its classic formulation in the 1960s..

Yet when the recent recession struck, that didn’t happen. As the
national unemployment rate doubled from around 5% to nearly 10%, the
property-crime rate, far from spiking, fell significantly. For 2009, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation reported an 8% drop in the nationwide
robbery rate and a 17% reduction in the auto-theft rate from the
previous year. Big-city reports show the same thing. Between 2008 and
2010, New York City experienced a 4% decline in the robbery rate and a
10% fall in the burglary rate. Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles witnessed
similar declines.

2. ‘Give Me That Old Gray Religion – If the New York Times says it, is it the “absolute truth”? – James Taranto, Wall Street Journal

Taranto does here what he does best: offer a scathing critique of poor and dishonest journalism, this time with the New York Times as his target:

It may be the most revealing quote ever published in the New York Times. It appears in a story about the New York Times, and its source is a top editor of the New York Times: Jill Abramson, who will become the top editor of the New York Times in September, when Bill Keller steps down, the New York Times reports:

Ms. Abramson said that as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she considered being named editor of The Times to be like “ascending to Valhalla.”

“In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion,” she said. “If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth.”

The Times has of late acted a great deal like a corrupt religious institution. This column has chronicled its often vicious and dishonest attempts–both on the editorial page and in the news sections, which Abramson will head–to shore up its own authority by trying to tear down its competitors. Examples:

3. ‘Ike, D-Day and the Age of Accountable Leaders, Mark Salter, Real Clear Politics

On twitter (@gtpowerpolitics), I often finish my tweets with #whereareourleaders? after I post a link to an article about our sky rocketing debt and seeming inability to tackle major problems. It is in this light that I read this moving piece describing the quietly strong leadership of Dwight Eisenhower during the D-Day invasion of France in 1944:

The heavy burdens of his command were plainly evident in his behavior. Eisenhower drank 15 to 20 cups of coffee and smoked four packs of cigarettes a day. He had high blood pressure and migraines. He suffered from insomnia, so he often worked through the night.

Ike had a bad temper, but he never complained or gave the slightest impression he thought he deserved anyone’s sympathy. He disliked flattery and had no use for the perquisites of high command. He had been given a mansion as his quarters, and rejected it for a modest two-bedroom house in a London suburb. Only to his wife did he write of his loneliness and doubts. “No man can always be right,” he told her. “So the struggle is to do one’s best.”

His statement to his troops was broadcast at every embarkation point, ending confidently with an assurance of success:

“I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

In his shirt pocket, he carried another statement. He had written it alone, and informed no one of its contents:

“Our landings . . . have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

4. ‘Accusation That Voter ID Is Racist Demeans Blacks‘, Mark Prager, Real Clear Politics

In what George W. Bush called the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ there are many people out there, mostly on the Left, that view such policies as showing a photo ID at a polling both, racist toward African Americans. Prager takes those who promote this idea to task for either wallowing in ‘white guilt’ or for using it strictly for political opportunism:

Democrats and others on the left virtually unanimously condemned all Republican attempts in state legislatures to pass legislation requiring voters to show a photo ID. The Democrats labeled it a means of “disenfranchising” blacks. Many Democrats compared it to Jim Crow laws.

“Jim Crow, move over — the Wisconsin Republicans have taken your place,” charged Wisconsin Democratic State Sen. Bob Jauch, referring to his state’s new voter ID law.

It is hard to imagine a more demeaning statement about black America than labeling demands that all voters show a photo ID anti-black.

This is easily demonstrated. Imagine if some Democratic politician had announced that demanding a photo ID at the voting booth was an attempt to keep Jewish Americans from voting. No one would understand what the person was talking about. But why not? Jews vote almost as lopsidedly Democrat as do blacks. So why weren’t Jews included in liberal objections to voter ID laws?

5. ‘No, You Can’t Keep Your Health Insurance, Grace-Marie Turner, Wall Street Journal

Despite one President Obama’s major promises during the health care debate, that if you like your plan you can keep, a recent report the highly reputable McKinsey & Company shows a different story:

ObamaCare will lead to a dramatic decline in employer-provided health insurance—with as many as 78 million Americans forced to find other sources of coverage.

This disturbing finding is based on my calculations from a survey by McKinsey & Company. The survey, published this week in the McKinsey Quarterly, found that up to 50% of employers say they will definitely or probably pursue alternatives to their current health-insurance plan in the years after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014. An estimated 156 million non-elderly Americans get their coverage at work, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Before the health law passed, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that only nine million to 10 million people, or about 7% of employees who currently get health insurance at work, would switch to government-subsidized insurance. But the McKinsey survey of 1,300 employers across industries, geographies and employer sizes found “that reform will provoke a much greater response” and concludes that the health overhaul law will lead to a “radical restructuring” of job-based health coverage.

The first round of Circuit Court hearings on the Obama health law took place earlier today in Richmond, Virginia’s Fourth Circuit. Two cases were heard by the three judge panel (Liberty University appealing a ruling for the government and the Justice Department appealing a ruling for the State of Virginia). It’s worth noting that while the 4th Circuit is composed of 14 judges – 7 appointed by Democratic presidents and 7 appointed by Republican presidents – the 3-judge panel for today’s oral arguments were all Democratic appointees (2 were appointed by President Obama, the major beneficiary of this law being upheld). That being the case, it is widely figured that it was over before it began.

After listening to both sides arguments (as I did), a neutral observer could certainly hear the difference in the panel’s tone and questions toward the two counsels. As some individuals in the audience have described, the audio sounds more like the judges were looking to the government-appellee to help write their opinions while looking to attack the plantiff-appellant at every turn.

While the basics of the case are quite clear – the Commerce Clause requires at least some form of activity, even if the act has an insignificant effect on interstate commerce – never discount lawyers’ ability to play verbal gymnastics with a relatively simple term (e.g., remember Bill Clinton’s famous statement questioning the definition of “is”?) Here’s one example from today:

During appellant’s argument (Liberty), the panel focused on the question of what qualifies as an activity. They used as an example someone receiving a gift (let’s say it’s marijuana) from their neighbor. The neighbor, now in possession of marijuana, is now subject to Congressional regulation under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which stems from the Commerce Clause power. The neighbor did nothing to seek out, buy or acquire this gift but they are still subject to regulation.

So how is this different than those who do not seek out health insurance? I mean, Congress has the right to regulate marijuana just as much as the health care market. If your neighbor gives you marijuana and you accept it, you become subject to the CSA. The act is one of accepting the gift. Same as if someone offered to pay for your health insurance. If you accepted the gift, you would now be subject to Congressional regulation as it pertains to your health insurance.

Clearly, the difference with the individual mandate is that no neighbor has come over to give you anything. You are just sitting in your house all alone when the government knocks on your door and mandates that you buy a product. It’s reasoning? Because you chose not to accept the gift from your neighbor (whether it be marijuana or health insurance), you made an economic decision and consequently participated in economic activity. Voila, you are now involved in commercial decisions even when you’re sitting at home not buying anything. Don’t tell me this passes the laugh test.

The second point worth noting from today’s argument pertains to the necessary and proper clause. The government asserts that since:

A) Congress has the authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate the insurance market by prohibiting lifetime limits or denying consumers with pre-existing conditions, and

B) To make these reforms work, everybody must participate in the system


C) They can exercise powers that would otherwise not be constitutional – force people to buy a product from a private company.

To paraphrase the government’s lawyer, “the Necessary and Proper clause allows Congress to fill in the gaps of a comprehensive scheme.” Essentially, the Justice Department has yet another quite expansive claim – that the Necessary and Proper clause is an additional power unto itself that can expand the other powers. Yet this has never been the interpretation of it. It has always been seen as a provision ensuring laws with a constitutional basis can be implemented. It is a logistical provision – if you can raise an army, you can obviously raise and expend the money to pay that army.

The government’s approach goes way beyond modern precedent. If allowed, this would mean Congress could pass any unconstitutional law it wanted (e.g., individual mandate), so long as it was “necessary” to make a constitutional law workable (prohibition on pre-existing conditions)!

Moreover, this line of reasoning completely ignores the second half of the analysis – Is it proper? Well-established precedent says it’s not “proper” if it violates the founding principles, one of which is a government of limited and enumerated powers. This hits on the first part of our discussion – where is the limiting principle if Congress can regulate any “mental decision” or decision to not participate in an activity because it has economic implications? This would be granting Congress a de facto “police power,” something the Founders intentionally avoided doing.

No one is expecting the Fourth Circuit to rule against the government (and they’ll probably get a 3-0 ruling). But that doesn’t mean all Americans shouldn’t be outraged and terrified by the implications of the government’s position. We can only hope that the 11th Circuit, which will review Judge Vinson’s ruling striking down the entire law, (and ultimately the Supreme Court) provides a panel that has an interest in what our Founders intended and what has made this country so great.

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