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As a rule, items about foreign affairs are posted first, but today Kevin Williamson has written a great piece on the importance of property. Not just to our prosperity, but also to peace.
There is not very much good to say about the life and career of Vladimir Lenin, but give the pickled old monster this much: He cut through more than two centuries’ worth of bull and straight to the heart of all politics with his simple question: “Who? Whom?” Which is to say: Who acts? Who is acted upon? Even here in the land of the free, meditating upon that question can be an uncomfortable exercise.
The foundation of classical liberalism, and of the American order, is not the rule of law, a written constitution, freedom of speech and worship, one-man/one-vote democracy, or the Christian moral tradition — necessary as those things are. The irreplaceable basis for a prosperous, decent, liberal, stable society is property. Forget Thomas Jefferson’s epicurean flourish — John Locke and the First Continental Congress had it right on the first go-round: “Life, liberty, and property.” …
… But we do not have any property.
The governments of these United States, from the federal to the local level, have managed to insinuate themselves between citizens and their property at every point of significance. In that, our governments are very much like most other governments, liberal and illiberal, democratic and undemocratic. We have allowed ourselves to be in effect converted from a nation of owners to a nation of renters. But while medieval serfs had only the one landlord, we have a rogue’s gallery of them: the local school board, the criminals at the IRS, the vehicle-registry office, etc. Never-ending property taxes ensure that as a matter of economic function, you never really own your house — you rent it from the government. Vehicle registration fees and, in some jurisdiction, outright taxes on automobile ownership ensure in precisely the same way that you never really own your car: You rent it from the government. Stock portfolio? Held at the sufferance of politicians. A profitable business? You’ll keep what income they decide you can keep. Your own body? Not yours — not if you use it for profitable labor.
A Who down in Whoville? You should be so lucky: Welcome to Whomville, peon. …
… You want a less polarized politics? Consider that the God of the Old Testament asked only for 10 percent, and had Ten Commandments, not ten thousand.
Mark Steyn connects the dots between the downing of the Malaysian plane and the present fighting in Gaza and Israel.
The two big international headlines of the moment are the downing of the Malaysian jet over Ukraine and Israel’s incursion into Gaza. On the face of it, these two stories don’t have much in common, but they are in fact part of the same story. To know Israel it helps to know Ukraine, and to know Ukraine it helps to know Israel. …
… In the Sixties and Seventies, many anti-colonial movements used terrorism to advance their nationalist goals. Hamas uses nationalism to advance its terrorist goals.
Likewise, the forces Putin has loosed in eastern Ukraine: They’re a terrorist movement masquerading as “separatists”. And Putin is to these guys as Iran is to Hamas. That’s to say, he could make the desecration of the MH17 site end – with one phone call.
And yet he chose not to. Because whatever misgivings he had about what his killers had done were quickly allayed by the feeble passivity of Obama’s response, and the mulligans and do-overs President Fundraiser has had to take in the days since. …
… Were Obama willing to accept the role, he would have spoken to Putin as “the leader of the free world” and said that, having conferred with the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, the United Kingdom, etc, he wanted to let him know an investigatory team representing the countries of those murdered was en route and expected full access to a properly preserved debris scene.
But Obama doesn’t believe in “the free world” and certainly not in America as “leader” of it. And so Putin took his wretched passivity at face value, and figured there was no need to stop his ghouls from mugging the dead.
In Ukraine as in the Holy Land, civilization sits precariously on a field sodden in blood. Israel understands this. Obama and Kerry never will.
Bret Stephens reviews the Putin record.
… Vladimir Putin‘s first major act in power had been to lay waste to the city of Grozny in a manner reminiscent of Tamerlane. Next he went after his domestic opponents in show trials that recalled the methods of Andrey Vyshinsky. Soon he linked hands with Jacques Chirac of France and Gerhard Schröder of Germany to try to stop the Iraq war—which is to say, to keep Saddam Hussein in power. Then he supplied Iran with its first nuclear reactor.
In 2005 Mr. Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. In 2006 a mysterious pipeline explosion left Georgia without gas in the dead of winter, a tactic used against several of Russia’s neighbors. Later that year came the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, a muckraking journalist, and Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence officer who had defected to Britain and was dispatched with a dose of polonium. A few months later Estonia, another free-world thorn in Russia’s side, was subjected to a massive cyberattack.
This is only a partial list of the evidence available at the time of the debate. But it suggested a definite trend. The invasions of Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine still lay in the future. So did the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the prison sentences for Pussy Riot, the legal harassment of Alexei Navalny, the asylum granted to Ed Snowden, the cheating on the IMF Treaty.
And now the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the murder of its 298 passengers and crew, followed by the coverup. How do you “reset” that? …
Speaking of “reset,” Jennifer Rubin wants to know how non-intervention and “smart diplomacy” have worked.
… Russia is especially illuminating. There are few people who have been wrong about Russia as Hillary Clinton. She was the champion of the Russian reset. She repeatedly went to Russia looking for help with Syria’s civil war (the naïveté is stunning). She championed START, with which the Russians may not be complying, and admission of Russia into WTO. (She was still cheerleading about that in 2012.) Also as late as April 2012, she was insisting Mitt Romney was delusional about Russia, insisting, “In many of the areas where we are working to solve problems, Russia has been an ally.” At the State Department she opposed the Magnitsky Act until its passage was inevitable. All of this was entirely misguided — with the results playing out to this day. Along with prematurely celebrating the decline of al-Qaeda (and taking her eye off the ball in North Africa and elsewhere) her wrong-headedness about Russia was expressed in too many places in too many contexts to entirely extricate her from responsibility for the fiasco that is/was our Russia policy. She can rewrite just so much history. (In her infamous 60 Minutes softball interview with the president she cooed, “I mean [our relationship is] very warm, close. I think there’s a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn’t even take words because we have similar views. We have similar experiences that I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some, but has been really at the core of our relationship over the last four years.”) …
It’s time for a look at what the elections might bring in four months. Jay Cost from The Weekly Standard is first.
Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) has released a new poll of the North Carolina Senate race, featuring Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan squaring off against Republican state house speaker Thom Tillis, with ostensibly good news for the Democrat: She’s up seven points and expanded on her lead. Their headline: “Hagan continues to grow lead.”
But dig a little deeper and the story is mixed for the Democrat. Hagan’s seven-point lead is due largely to the libertarian candidate, who is polling 8 percent. In no cycle since 1986 has the libertarian pulled more than 3.4 percent in North Carolina; on average the libertarian has won 2.1 percent of the vote. And a deeper dive into PPP’s cross-tabs suggests that a large portion of the libertarian support is actually Republican.
In the head to head match-up, excluding the libertarian, Hagan’s lead is 3 points, which is less than the 4 point lead she posted in their last head-to-head poll. Moreover, she pulls just 42 percent of the vote, a bad spot for any candidate with 90%+ name recognition.
Another complication worth noting: PPP has a peculiar method in the spring and summer months, when they poll “voters.” I do not mean registered voters or likely voters, but people who voted in previous cycles, including presidential ones. This means that they are inevitably sampling an electorate that is much broader than what we will see in November. Turnout in 2012 was 60.2 percent of the voting age population in North Carolina; in 2010 it was 36.4 percent. I know of no other pollster that uses this methodology.
I think the bottom line is that North Carolina joins a list of nearly a dozen states where the real world state of the race is within spitting distance of a tie, with 15 to 20 percent of the electorate still undecided. That is how I would characterize the Democratic-held seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Carolina, as well as Republican-held seats in Georgia and Kentucky. …
… the most surprising factor in these two races is candidate quality. Democrats had high hopes for Rep. Braley, but his non-stop gaffes on farmers and abrasive personality have sent voters fleeing. Ernst has had a few rocky moments but has capitalized on Braley’s slips and radiates a positive, populist message. She was able to unite both tea party and establishment Republicans in her big primary win. Colorado Republicans got a high-quality candidate when Garner not only decided to run but cleared out other Republican opposition. He’s been on the offensive — battering Udall on Obamacare and on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Now remember, Republicans thought they had a clear path to the six Senate seats needed for a victory even without these states. Most pollsters have relatively easy pickups for the GOP in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Throw in hobbled incumbents running in states Mitt Romney won in 2012 (Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas) and it’s hard to see how the Democrats could hold the Senate if they lose either — and surely if they lose both — Iowa and Colorado. …