A Trisagion for Europe

EuropeI invite the community to pause and consider what the weekend ahead may mean for Europe as a concept.

Though their prime minister insists otherwise, this weekend the Greek people will vote on whether the mid-range future of Greece is as part of the European currency union or if Greece will begin moving toward a messy, painful withdrawal or expulsion from the Euro. If Greece leaves the Euro, it will mark the first significant setback in the process of European integration in a generation, and arguably the most serious blow to Europe as a unifying idea since the descent of the Iron Curtain following World War II.

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Back in the Game, Skin and All

After an unfortunate absence of well over a year, It feels great to once again have access to all the benefits offered by the best community on the web. I had made the hard choice of letting my membership slip in the face of oncoming marriage and home ownership (belt tightening and austerity was the rage at the time.)

Rejoining, I am reminded of how I first followed Peter and Rob here from NRO. I then joined this site because of the banter offered between them and James on the main podcast. I continued to stop by each day for the well written articles and insight. I still eagerly wait for the newest podcasts of all the great reoccurring shows hosted here.

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Conservative Mike Flynn Takes on the Establishment

Mike FlynnRemember Aaron Schock? Killer abs, big “Downton Abbey” fan, resigned in disgrace? On Tuesday, voters in Illinois’s 18th District will decide which nominee should finish the remainder of Schock’s term and perhaps represent them going further.

Out of the goodness of their hearts, Republican leadership wanted to make the choice for Illinois voters. They anointed Darin LaHood, current state senator and son of CD18’s former representative, Ray LaHood. Most recently, dad flaunted his conservative cred by serving as President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation and demanding Congress spend, spend, spend on an endless list of pet projects. LaHood Sr. now works as a lobbyist, of course, so it’s understandable that Speaker Boehner, et al., want his son to be another cog in the profitable Beltway machine.

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The Ricochet Podcast Ep. 265: Order In The Court

judging

This week on the Ricochet Podcast, we cover the SCOTUS rulings with the best panel anywhere on the internets: Ricochet Editor emeritus Mollie Hemingway stops by to give perspective on how the media covered the rulings, and Ricochet contributor Adam Freedman (buy his new book, A Less Perfect Union) visits to give us the legal rationale — as well as a way the ruling might be circumvented. Also, Rob drives across the country, and we welcome our new community moderator overlords.

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A Random Sampling of Progressive Opinion on Religious Liberty

SCOTUSLest you think that I was overly alarmist in my earlier post on Obergefell’s threat to religious liberty, consider this. I wrote a slightly longer version of the piece for City Journal, which was then posted to RealClearPolitics — so it attracted a fair number of eyeballs outside of the conservative bubble. Here are some of the comments I got:

  • Religion is the problem, not gay marriage. Religion is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that threatens the civil liberties of everyone. Religion is as pervasive as pornography in this country, but much more harmful to our culture.
  • If the institution of marriage is removed from its unnatural cloud of accompanying religious magic . . . it is a right, like any other. As such it should by law available to ALL citizens. In THIS country at very least.
  • I think it’s always dangerous to defend anything based on religious belief.
  • It’s a “threat to religious liberty” only if you think that people should be free to use their religion as an excuse to screw others.
  • There are so many parallels with the 1960′s civil rights movement it is hard for any rational person to fathom how those on the “pro-religious” freedom side expect history to view their backward cause.

Progressives feel momentum on their side and nothing will get in their way. If new rights can be invented by the judiciary, then old rights — like the free exercise of religion — can be just as easily interpreted into oblivion.

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Tsipras Should Take No for an Answer

shutterstock_194968301In today’s Daily Shot, this paragraph describes what’s happened since I last wrote about Greece:

First, [Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras] left bailout negotiations, insisting on a public referendum on the conditions Greece’s creditors were demanding. Then he let his nation go into default on its debt payments. Then, he suddenly realized how bad an idea that was, so he wrote a letter late Tuesday to other European leaders and the IMF, accepting the terms of their bailout. Then he started telling his voters to reject the measure.

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Christie Almighty?

ChristieNow that he’s formally a candidate for president, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie enters the race to a decidedly mixed reception. Some are calling it an ego run. Others would have you believe he’s the king of the GOP long-shots (talk about a backhanded compliment). Still others said Dr. Jekyll showed up to announce; how long before Mr. Hyde makes an appearance? Not a compliment whatsoever. Here’s my take on Christie’s entry. Longer post short:

1) It’s a test of what I like to call the George Costanza theory of recent presidential elections — George deciding, in a Seinfeld episode, that doing the opposite of what his instincts told him was the only way to get women, get a job, and get respect. Translated to elections: Bill Clinton was the opposite of George H.W. Bush (distinguished WWII veteran versus Vietnam draft evader). George W. Bush offered a moral fiber that Clinton lacked. And Barack Obama’s rhetorical skills are a far cry from the younger Bush’s interpretation of the English language. The far opposite of Obama in this Republican field? Try a guy who’s abrasive, blunt, confrontational, probably can’t sing, and hasn’t fit in a 42-long suit in years.

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Vox Indicts Jeb Bush for Manslaughter

imageJeb Bush has few defenders on the right. Both his family name and a number of ill-advised statements have left him on the outs with much of the Republican base. His defeat in the primaries will be lamented by few outside of a fairly small donor class in the GOP. As eager as I am to see his campaign left in smoking ruins, there are limits to the bounds of legitimate criticism.

As you may have guessed, the left’s best and brightest at Vox know no such boundaries. The world’s foremost explainers of things that require little-to-no explanation have published a piece by one Dylan Matthews that essentially accuses Jeb Bush of manslaughter because he doesn’t give enough money to charity. No, really.

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Happy Dependence Day

const4In what may well become history’s greatest example of missing the forest for the trees, we Americans have been so busy arguing about current political events and issues — the Supreme Court’s decisions on Obamacare and same-sex marriage, the ongoing negotiations about global trade and Iran’s nuclear program, immigration, taxes, gun ownership, and the Confederate flag — we haven’t noticed that our country has just had a revolution.

If you’re reading this essay, it’s very likely that your side lost.

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Should Clergy Continue to Register Marriages for the State?

shutterstock_262863614As you may know, nearly all clergy act as marriage agents for their local or state governments. In Connecticut, for example, ordained or licensed clergy may perform marriages as long as they continue in the work of the ministry. The marriage license must be completed by the minister and returned to the city or town clerk. Right next door, Massachusetts clergy themselves must obtain a license to marry before they can fill out valid licenses.

With Obergefell, I know of confessional pastors who are looking hard at whether they should continue this practice. Fr. Jonathan Morris — best known for his appearances on Fox News Channel — had two tweets that sum up the case for this approach.

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Process Matters

imagesOne of the differences between the Right and the Left is that the Left is concerned only about outcomes while the Right is concerned about outcomes and process.

When you think about it, all the major conflicts in America’s history have been more about process than the underlying issue. The American colonist’s slogan was not “No Taxation”; it was “No Taxation Without Representation,” which is fundamentally about process. Even when Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, the colonists weren’t satisfied because they had no say in the matter and thought — correctly — that the repeal was just as arbitrary as the original act. Most of the grievances leveled against King George in the Declaration of Independence were about the arbitrary exercise of royal power. The American Revolution was fought over process; the ability for free men to govern themselves. While the underlying moral cause of the Civil War was slavery, the proximate cause was about the process of laws and policies concering slavery that lead to secession.

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Perfectly Cowardly Answer: Publishing Religious Images That May Offend

BN-GK083_Charli_JV_20150112182529Sometimes I wake up thinking, “I could write something serious and original about the state of the world, or I could have a look at The New York Times and spend my morning shooting trout in a barrel.”

In my defense, the weather is quite hot and The Times made it too easy. Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The Times, yesterday tried to explain why the paper chose not to print Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons depicting Muhammad in the wake of the massacre of Charlie Hebdo staffers in Paris.

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On Judicial Incoherence

In Case of TyrannyThe primary difficulty is in knowing where to start. A consistent run of luck continues to have me in the driver’s seat of an 18-wheeler when news breaks that our philosopher-kings on the Supreme Court have hurled yet another thunder bolt toward the benighted masses for the purpose of jolting us from our fixed creeds and established truths, directing us to trade in the accumulated wisdom of human experience for the latest epiphany of a gaggle of lawyers.

I was somewhere between Memphis and Little Rock, navigating potholes that Evel Knievel would have used ramps to cross, when I learned that Chief Justice Roberts’ restless mind had pondered the words, “established by the State,” and discovered that they actually mean, “not established by the State.” “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” explained Roberts. Uh huh. Well, yes, and Congress passed the National Prohibition Act of 1919 to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages, not to midwife organized crime, but it is not the legal prerogative of the Supreme Court to protect the legislature from the effects of its own laws.

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The Nazi Within

amis_cover_3019706aI recently finished Martin Amis’s novel, The Zone of Interest, the plot of which centers around the conflicts of a host of characters inside a Nazi death camp — German soldiers, their wives, children, and, of course, the Jews. The book was rejected by Amis’s German publisher and received mixed reviews when it came out last year. That’s largely because of the unconventional and sometimes uncomfortable use of satire in a Holocaust novel.

The book reads much like a conventional character drama, centered around themes of jealousy, lust, ambition, and longing. Only, in this case, this rather standard human tale happens to be taking place in the midst of the most inhuman atrocities imaginable. Gruesome and brutal crimes of world-historic proportions serve as a mere backdrop for a story that stubbornly focuses on the mundane and rather unremarkable relationships of those guilty of the crimes.

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‘Comply’ is the New ‘Coexist’

Comply Logo

Several days have passed since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but the kulturkampf marches on. Nearly every media outlet unveiled rainbow flag versions of their logos, rainbow-filtered avatars filled social media, and the President lit up the White House itself in the colors of the pride banner.

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Ex-Im Bank Dead?

At midnight, there will no longer be an Ex-Im bank, channeling tax payer dollars to a handful of large corporations.

After 81 years of funneling taxpayer dollars to favored companies, projects, and geopolitical outcomes under the guise of advancing some vague conception of the “U.S. economic interest,” the Export-Import Bank of the United States will end its financing operations at midnight tonight.

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The Milt Rosenberg Show Ep. 111: What Every American Needs to Know with E. D. Hirsch

A collective cry resounds from coast to coast: “We’ve got to fix our broken education system!” Yet what do we do? Young Americans are caught between schools’ requirements to maintain certain levels of testing and garner a valuable, useful education that can manufacture valuable, able-minded citizens.

E. D. Hirsch is a pioneer in the field of cultural literacy. Being literate on one’s culture is as important as being literate in letters — and the two are indeed married. When one’s ability to read and write at an appropriate level is below certain levels, of course their understanding of their environment and culture is retarded as well.

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Ricochet: Violating the Internet’s Ten Commandments

shutterstock_127272809From Mark O’Connell at The New Yorker:

If the Internet were to receive its own Ten Commandments—picture a Moses figure descending from Mountain View, clutching a stone phablet etched with a listicle of moral directives—somewhere in there would surely be the phrase “Thou Shalt Not Read the Comments.” There are few online experiences more dispiriting, more arduously futile, than the downward scroll into the netherworld of half-assed provocations and inanities that exists beneath the typical opinion piece or YouTube video. It is plainly bad for the soul, the whole business, and yet we do it, all the time…

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Income Inequality is Rising Again. What Should We Think About That?

063015saez1Is this good news, bad news, or a bit of both? From the Associated Press and CNBC:

Incomes for the bottom 99 percent of American families rose 3.3 percent last year to $47,213, the biggest annual gain in the past 15 years, according to data compiled by economist Emmanuel Saez and released Monday by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “For the bottom 99 percent of income earners, this marks the first year of real recovery from the income losses sparked by the Great Recession,” Saez, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, said in a summary of his findings. … Still, income inequality worsened in 2014. The richest 1 percent of Americans posted a much bigger increase in pay: their incomes soared an average of 10.8 percent to $1.3 million. The wealthiest 1 percent also captured 21.2 percent of all income in 2014, up from 20.1 percent the previous year.

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Let’s Demagogue Puerto Rico… For Federalism (Seriously)!

imageVia today’s Cato Daily Podcast, Puerto Rico is in a bit of a mess. Its economy hasn’t grown in a decade, it has net population loss (among U.S. states, only West Virginia has that distinction), and it’s got a debt-to-GDP ratio of 70%, more than four times that of the average U.S. state. And just this week, its state-run electrical utility is expected to miss a payment on its debts this week. It’s not quite America’s Greece, but it’s doing its best to audition for the part.

While many of these problems are the result of the islands’ own bad choices — among them, a refusal to publish its budget in English as well as Spanish, making it much more difficult for others to review — Nicole Kaeding explains that some federal policies are making matters worse. Specifically, she cites shipping regulations that artificially raise prices there (as well as in Hawaii, I presume) and the federal minimum wage. The latter has an enormous effect on Puerto Ricans: 28% of hourly workers there earn it, which means it likely prices many others out of the labor market entirely; unsurprisingly, Puerto Rico has an unemployment rate of 12.2%. If you have seven minutes, take the time to listen to the whole interview.

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The Libertarian Podcast: The Supreme Court and Gay Marriage

Still hungry for more razor-sharp constitutional analysis after yesterday’s Law TalkYou’re in luck. We’ve got a double-shot this week, as Professor Epstein also weighs in on the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in the new episode of The Libertarian. And the conversation here is a little different — for instance, Richard discusses whether Chief Justice Roberts has any discernible judicial philosophy and whether Rand Paul’s suggestion that we get government out of marriage altogether is practical. It’s all available by listening in below or by subscribing to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

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To Defend Religious Liberty Today

shutterstock_159174965Thomas Jefferson was brilliant and essential, but he has never been my hero among the Founding Fathers. As such, it caught me off guard when I found myself deeply moved at the memorial that honors him in our capital. Even crowded by tourists, it feels a little set apart, a peaceful spot from which one can look out across the Tidal Basin and reflect on this city and nation of ours and on Jefferson’s words on freedom cut into the surrounding walls. Words that were true when first written, though not fully realized in law. Words that are true now, even if the laws should abandon them utterly.

Almighty God hath created the mind free.

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