Oh, Canada

We don’t stand on guard for thee because we in the United States fear Mexico and its people more (think Trump).

I sometimes ask students to think what the United States would look like if we had not fought a war for independence from Great Britain. We would look like Canada, where a sign of national greatness is to be part of the United Nation’s Security Council. U.S. Americans (Canadians are American too) prone to revel in national greatness might sniff at such low aspirations. But Canada’s modesty as a nation should appeal to any real American conservative.

So does the way it appoints its Supreme Court justices — regionally rather than the political hot potato that U.S. Americans prefer:

The nine “supremes” are distributed geographically throughout the country. A limiting factor for appointments is the constitutional restriction that three must come from Quebec. Trudeau would like to appoint the first aboriginal justice, but is caught in the numbers game. The sole Atlantic Provinces justice has just retired, and Trudeau floated a trial balloon implying that it was not automatic that a justice from the region would be selected. The trial balloon turned to lead as Atlantic Province lawyers and politicians (and the region is a Liberal bastion) responded furiously. The idea seems to be set aside—for the moment. Also hiding in the wings is Trudeau’s intimation that new justices should be effective in both English and French upon appointment—a requirement that would highly restrict the pool of available legal talent.

For a peek at a country that U.S. Americans generally disregard, go here.

Why Christians Should Read Mencken

If only the Jerry Falwell’s had considered this:

Preachers, of course, have a right to their political views, but it does not follow that they have a right to become politicians. When they dedicate their lives to religion they give over many of the common rights of ordinary men, the while they take on rare and valuable privileges one of those forfeited rights, I believe, is that of playing politics. Politics is a dirty business. It is inevitably and eternally contaminating. No man can touch it and not carry away his smear. As a profession it ranks with saloon-keeping and bookmaking. As a diversion it ranks with poker and cornet playing.

Preachers had better keep out of it. Let them vote as they please. Let them even, as private citizens, solicit the votes of their friends. But let them beware of going into active politics, as preachers. The public does not want to hear their political views in that capacity. Their training does not give them any appreciable fitness for judging politicians. Their opinions about the tariff, public expenditures and the trusts are no weightier than the opinions of other men. All the more danger, then, when they seek to give those opinions the false force of their ecclesiastical authority. All the more peril when they try to capitalize their good repute.

Wouldn’t Cops Support Gun Laws?

Peter Moskos explains gun legislation is meaningless for cops:

So then we just delve into the gun control debate with all the usual and predictable sides and lack of progress. Cops see danger coming from a small subset of criminals with guns, and not guns in general. Remember: police officers and all their friends are (for the most part) legal responsible gun owners. Cops want laws to focus on criminals and crimes, rather than guns. Collectively, most cops are incredibly pro-gun and equate the 2nd Amendment with freedom (just as you and I might do with the 1st Amendment). Inasmuch as gun laws are seen to infringe their rights while doing nothing to prevent criminals from shooting each other and shooting cops, cops aren’t going to support it.

Consider this: there are (almost) no shootings in Chicago or New York or Baltimore that involves a legally possessed handgun. We’ve already “controlled” these guns and made them illegal. So what would passing *more* restrictive gun laws do to stop this violence? Are we going to double-dog-dare make them illegal? They’re already illegal. We don’t prioritize the laws we do have.

How can we take guns out of the hands of criminals? (Or get criminals to use them less?) That’s the $64,000 question. Most gun-control laws are close to irrelevant here. Perhaps the only way to get guns out of the hands of criminals is to confiscate guns with strong gun control, Australian style. Many people, myself included, like this idea. But the majority of Americans and the current Supreme Court would not agree.

The basic ideological divide is that liberals see guns as the problem and conservatives see criminals as the problem. And nobody on either side has a good plan to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

There are three-hundred million guns in America; ten-million guns are manufactured every year! And yet only about 10,000 of these gun are used to murder somebody (plus suicides, of course). How many millions of guns would we have to confiscate before we prevented a single gun homicide? And how would we go about doing this?

Most proposed gun-control is pretty useless in actually preventing crime (as opposed to preventing a small number of gun sales.) And gun people see this as an ideological battle on gun-owners, so they won’t give in (even on so-called “common-sense” issues). The political reality is that there’s no way right now we could enact gun control so restrictive it would actually do any substantial good.

Cop in the Hood Smoh-Kin

Peter Moskos was on a roll yesterday.

First, he brought up the problem that police fired by one city sometimes acquire jobs in another city. The Department of Justice used to have a database to track cops who lost their jobs, but that’s too expensive:

The Justice Department, which gave the association about $200,000 to start the database in 2009, no longer funds it. The department declined to explain why it had dropped its support, but a spokesman said the goal was “ensuring that our nation’s law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources to identify the best qualified candidates to protect and serve communities.”

If Washington can put a transgender in a bathroom dot dot dot

Second, Moskos linked to a story about the growing rates of heroine additionaddiction and overdoses. He added the insight that the criminal justice system will not fix this (nor should it try):

There’s still the basic and false belief among too many people that somehow, somewhere, there are “programs” to help people. Or that the criminal justice system is a system with so single goal in mind. Like police arrest you, you do time, and you come out better for it. It’s not true. And it never has been true. Sure, sometimes there’s a program here or a grant-funded thing there, but basically, no. There’s nothing. It doesn’t matter what the problem is — crime, drugs, mental illness, poverty (or all of the above) — when somebody calls 911, police will show up. But then what? A lot of people need help. But it’s not the kind of help police officers can give. Especially when police departments themselves need help.

Last, he recognized the growing interest in American hillbillies and pondered why murder rates among poor whites in Columbiana County, Ohio don’t reach the level of urban blacks in places like Baltimore. It’s not the economy, stupid, but the culture (and we’re not talking Shakespeare or Beethoven):

Baltimore City has more unemployment (7.4 percent vs. 5.3 percent). Yeah, sure. And there’s more poverty and extreme poverty in Baltimore. I’m not saying that doesn’t matter. But deep down, no. Poverty is a red herring. Culture matters. Columbiana County’s unemployment could be 20 percent and the murder rate would still be lower that Baltimore City.

There’s something else going on. The nexus of violence is not poverty and racism but public drug dealing and drug prohibition. I suspect addicts in Columbiana County buy their heroin from friends and family and coworkers. Not from Yo-Boys on the corner. Push drug dealers inside and violence plummets. But when police try and do that in Baltimore, the DOJ complains about systemic racism.

Turns out Bunny‘s problem wasn’t creating Hamsterdam but not moving drug dealers inside to the vacant houses.

Acting National

We live in a federal republic, or so the Federalist Papers tried to persuade those Americans on the fence about adopting the Constitution. Trying to tell the difference between a nation and a federation can be tough. In fact, the Anti-Federalists, those who opposed the slightest hint of political centralization, thought the federalists should really be called “nationalists” because the government they proposed was more national than federal. (A federation recognizes the sovereignty of member states, a nation places the state governments in some subjection to the national government.)

When President Obama issued a executive order recently about bathrooms, you could plausibly argue that the president was acting national. Acting federal might have required working with Congress (with its representatives from the states). Or perhaps the president could have called a governors’ conference.

Because of the confusion surrounding “national” and “federal,” it was heartening to see the NCAA put the national in National Collegiate Athletic Association:

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Monday evening that it is moving seven championship events that had been scheduled to take place in North Carolina to other states. The NCAA cited North Carolina’s antigay law, which bars all local laws that protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the ban on transgender people using state organizations’ bathrooms that reflect their identities.

No ambiguity there. The national body rules what the local bodies may or may not do.

Washington D.C. still wrestles with the ambiguity. After all, it is the United States of America not United State of America (that would be redundant).


A war that won’t end:

Thus neither side won the Twenty Years’ War. Victory would mean achieving core aims at an acceptable cost relative to the benefits. Al-Qaeda did meet some of its goals: With limited resources, bin Laden gained incredible notoriety and inflicted enormous damage on a great power. In 2003, U.S. troops left Saudi Arabia—the key goal outlined in the 1996 manifesto. In 2004, bin Laden released a video that compared the costs of the 9/11 attacks to al-Qaeda versus the United States: “Al-Qaeda spent $500,000 on the event, while America, in the incident and its aftermath, lost—according to the lowest estimate—more than $500 billion, meaning that every dollar of al-Qaeda defeated a million dollars.”

But in a broader analysis, bin Laden failed. Yes, U.S. forces left Saudi Arabia, but they did so voluntarily, after Saddam was toppled. Crucially, al-Qaeda was unable to mobilize Muslims around a strict Islamist identity that transcended other loyalties. As Charles Kurzman showed in his book The Missing Martyrs, after 9/11, fewer than one in every 100,000 Muslims became jihadist terrorists. The vast majority of Muslims completely reject bin Laden’s ideology. And national, tribal, and other local identities remain profoundly important from the Palestinians to the Pakistanis. From 2003-2011, confidence in bin Laden collapsed in many Muslim-majority countries, falling from 59 percent to 26 percent in Indonesia, and from 56 percent to 13 percent in Jordan. In a 2013 poll taken in 11 Muslim countries, a median of just 13 percent had a favorable view of al-Qaeda, whereas 57 percent had an unfavorable view.

Al-Qaeda’s loss is not U.S. gain:

Let’s turn first to the United States on offense: the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Recounting the costs is numbing: over 7,000 Americans killed, tens of thousands of soldiers seriously wounded, trillions of dollars expended, and over 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq alone. And there’s the wider impact of spending on America’s debt, of enhanced interrogation and torture on the U.S. global image and ethical standing, and of seemingly endless quagmires on domestic political unity.

In an interview, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, told me, “The Iraq War was unnecessary, self-damaging, demoralizing, delegitimizing, and governed primarily by simplistic military assumptions that didn’t take into account the regional mosaic in which Iraq operates and the internal mosaic inside Iraq.”

The eclipse of al-Qaeda by ISIS is a loss for al-Qaeda but not a gain for the United States. ISIS is an even more ruthless and capable adversary.

Does idealism hurt the United States (and are believers responsible for imbuing America with too many ideas?)?

But the main combatants in the struggle lost for similar reasons: They were hobbled by ideology. Al-Qaeda’s vision of austere Wahhabi Islam and endless global jihad is profoundly unappealing to the vast majority of Muslims. But ideology also shaped U.S. strategy, sometimes in dangerous ways. American idealism is one of the country’s most attractive qualities, central to its moral standing and “soft power.” But idealism also helped to frame the Twenty Years’ War as a struggle between good and evil, which required grandiose goals to topple regimes and build beacons of freedom in the Middle East. It also encouraged Americans to lump terrorists and rogue states together into a big bucket of bad guys. At the same time, Americans are also hostile to the whole notion of nation-building, often seeing stabilization missions as a kind of big-government welfarism, and not something that the country’s warriors should be doing. In a recent foreign-policy speech, Donald Trump said, “ISIS will be gone if I’m elected president,” but at the same time, the United States will be “getting out of the nation-building business.” This combination of beliefs is as American as apple pie.

As a result, the United States is an impatient crusader: eager to smite tyrants and terrorists but unwilling to invest the time and resources needed to win the peace.

I’ll See Your 2 Popes and Raise You 5 Presidents

That would be, after the next inauguration, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all improving the world during the reign of Hilary or Donald. I wonder if Michael Sean Winters had President Obama in mind when he wrote:

All politicians should write their memoirs. After that, they should retire from the public stage beyond the occasional speech and whatever work the management of a presidential library entails. It is unhealthy for a democracy if new slots on the stage are not opened with regularity. Stroking the egos of former presidents is redundant. And, creating these personalized, secular and necessarily politicized charities will, beyond doubt, harm the brand of charity over time.

When professional athletes retire, they have a long life ahead of them. But they have precedents. Color commentators. Coaches. Automobile dealerships. Not so with presidents. Where do you go after being the most powerful man in the free world? Even presiding over Harvard seems like slumming.

Winters thinks the Clintons’ problem is moral earnestness:

The real problem here is not so much the foundation itself as the tone deafness of the Clintons to the suspicions of their motives. I have noted before that there is something creepy about the ethics of the Clintons, something commonly found among the do-gooders of the world. It goes like this: I am a good person, and X is not a good thing to do, yet I did it, therefore X must not be such a bad thing after all. It is true that they no doubt mix up their prideful motives with their altruistic ones. Find me the politician who doesn’t? But they take it to a level that is noxious.

I think it has more to do with their former lack of wealth. Hilary had to find a law job after Bill lost the Arkansas governor in 1980. They were supposedly in serious debt. How do you rub shoulders with the rich and famous (and Yale Law alums) if you aren’t rich? Well, you speculate in real estate, you take really really big speaking fees. Once out of the White House, you form a charity like the Gates. That shows you are philanthropic and rich. But it doesn’t play well with the hillbilly/hound dog in Bill, just as Huma’s break with Anthony Weiner doesn’t make Hilary look all that virtuous for standing by her man.