The Spectacle Blog

Thoughts on The Fall of the Berlin Wall 25 Years Later

By on 11.9.14 | 8:08PM

It has been 25 years since the fall of The Berlin Wall and with it the reunification of Germany.

During my visit to Ottawa this summer I received a piece of that wall. I had been visiting some friends of mine who are planning to move at the end of the year. They had no use for it and asked me if I wanted it. 

I took that piece of the wall because I want to be reminded of how Communists kept their own people imprisoned for nearly 30 years. I also keep it as a reminder of freedom's fragility.

When President Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate he implored Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down that wall and just over two years later, liberated East Germans heeded those words. Yesterday, Gorbachev stood at the Brandenburg Gate and warned of a new Cold War. Sadly, these days Gorby is an apologist for Vladimir Putin blaming the U.S. for triumphalism. Given how Obama ceded ground on missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic and has let Russia run roughshod over Crimea and Ukraine that is hard to believe. But peace can only sustained through strength and when one party abdicates the wise use of power a Cold War is sure to follow.

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The Connecticut Compromise — What Was That All About?

By on 11.9.14 | 1:37PM

Students of the Framers’ 1787 debates over the Constitution will recall that the country came close to splitting apart after the Connecticut Compromise in July of that year. And what was the compromise? It centered over whether states should be equally represented in the Senate, or whether they should be represented according to their population, as in the House of Representatives. The small-state delegates won that one, giving us equal representation by states in the Senate, prompting some large state delegates to contemplate a walkout. 

For many years this was thought to shape American politics in an important way, and in fact probably did so. With equal representation by states, the Senate was perhaps more isolationist and certainly more sympathetic to farmers. We also saw more pork, in the shape of government offices and military bases, in places such as West Virginia and Alabama than we would have otherwise. 

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Higher Than What?

By on 11.9.14 | 1:29PM

Days before an election for governor in which candidates had spent more than $100 million on TV commercials, students on the campus of the University of Central Florida in Orlando couldn’t identify either candidate when shown photos. UCF is one of the nation’s largest government universities with an enrollment just south of 60,000.

The video was filmed by an outfit called Knight News. One student told Knight’s Danielle Apolinar when shown a picture of Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott, “I’ve seen him in a commercial, I just can’t remember his name.” Another student, shown the same picture, identified Scott as Mitt Romney. They didn’t know who Democrat Charlie Crist was either.

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Are Ed Miliband’s Days Numbered?

By on 11.9.14 | 2:54AM

Britain's Conservative led coalition government has faced a rough road during its term in office. David Cameron hasn't gotten on with Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrat junior partners, the UKIP has cut into Tory support and London Mayor Boris Johnson is clipping at his heels. Under these conditions, the Labour Party should be ready to return to power with Ed Miliband as a Prime Minister in waiting.

And yet Ed Miliband is very much in danger of losing his job. It isn't a matter of policy so much as it is a seriess of awkward gaffes be it having trouble eating a bacon sandwich, giving money to a beggar, being unable to shake hands with voters or kiss his wife. In the grand scheme of these things are trivialities. Yet the Labour Party's National Executive Committee is meeting to discuss Miliband's leadership. Labour MPs and potential succesors Alan Johnson, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham (who I had the unfortunate experience of working with when I was a parliamentary intern with Tessa Jowell nearly two decades ago) say they stand firmly behind Miliband but that only fuels speculation. Well, so much for David Axelrod's help. 

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Why Republicans Will Confirm Loretta Lynch

By on 11.8.14 | 11:07PM

I am inclined to think that the newly elected Republican Senate will confirm President Obama's appointment of Federal Prosecutor Loretta Lynch to be the new Attorney General.

First, anyone Obama could have appointed is an upgrade over Holder. I realize that's a pretty low bar to pass, but after nearly six years of Holder the bar has just been elevated even if only a few inches. Given that Obama wasn't going to appoint a conservative Republican, this was probably the least bad choice he could have made.

Second, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has praised Lynch's professionalism. If anyone is knowledgeable about New York prosecutors it would be Giuliani. If Lynch had engaged in dubious behavior in her office, Giuliani would surely sound the alarm.

Third, Mitch McConnell can and should choose his battles very carefully. Unless new information comes to light which demonstrates that Lynch has said or done anything unlawful or unethical, I think Republicans will confirm Lynch.

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Young, McGehee Named AL & NL Comeback Players of the Year

By on 11.7.14 | 5:02PM

Seattle Mariners pitcher Chris Young and Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee have been named the 2014 AL and NL Comeback Players of the Year.

Young went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 2014 with the Mariners after being released by the Washington Nationals near the end of spring training. Young, who was named to the NL All-Star Team as a member of the San Diego Padres in 2007, had won a grand total of 11 games between 2009-2012 during stints with the Padres and Mets and did not pitch at all in 2013. The Mariners came within a heartbeat of gaining an AL Wild Card spot and Young contributed significantly to that effort.

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Obama Begs Iran for Help Against ISIS

By on 11.7.14 | 4:16PM

President Obama has apparently written a secret letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei begging him for assistance against ISIS. In exchange for this assistance, the Obama Administration would go easy on Iran in any nuclear deal. The deadline for such a deal has been set for November 24th.

This is, of course, a fool's errand. Why would Iran help us against ISIS anymore than they've helped us against al Qaeda? Yes, Iran is Shiite and al Qaeda and ISIS are both Sunni. But it hasn't stopped Iran from harboring bin Laden's inner circle for years. A Treasury Department report from February of this year indicated that senior figures in the Iranian government and in the Revolutionary Guard having been backing al Qaeda in Syria.

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A Prescription for Dr. Ben Carson: Stop Comparing America to Nazi Germany & Call Me in The Morning

By on 11.6.14 | 10:32PM

As Emily informs us, Dr. Ben Carson is one step closer to seeking the 2016 GOP nomination.

With that being case let me take this moment to offer the good doctor some advice, a prescription if you will.

Don't compare America to Nazi Germany.

It has something he has done on more than one occasion

For his part, Carson dismisses the criticism by arguing, "I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany', but I don't care about political correctness."

This has nothing to do with political correctness. Comparing America to Nazi Germany in any way is just plain wrong and utterly stupid.

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First Federal Appeals Court Upholds Bans on Gay Marriage

By on 11.6.14 | 5:15PM

The timing is fortunate for Republicans who were able to mostly avoid this issue in Tuesday's elections: Two days later, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal appeals court in the country to uphold state bans on gay marriage.

The 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits have already ruled that such bans are unconstitutional.

The 2-1 opinion (two Republican appointees in the majority with a Democrat appointee dissenting) delves into fundamental issues of the role of courts:

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And The First Republican Contender for 2016 Is…Ben Carson

By on 11.6.14 | 3:55PM

It starts, not with a bang, but with a forty minute documentary about Dr. Ben Carson.

Yes, the 2016 race for the White House has already gotten started -- and it looks like Dr. Ben Carson is first in the ring.

Carson, a famous pediatric neurosurgeon and conservative political star, will air a nearly 40 minute-long ad introducing himself to the American people this weekend, an aide to Carson confirms to ABC News.

The documentary titled “A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America” will air in 22 states and Washington, DC. The paid video will detail some of his biography and family life, including his rise from being born to a single mother with a poor childhood in Detroit to director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins for almost 40 years, known for his work separating conjoined twins, to potential 2016 presidential candidate.

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