At Large

At Large

Rick Perry’s Indictment Should Scare All Americans

By 9.5.14

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
— Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the Looking Glass

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry should send a shudder down the spine of every American. The vindictive special prosecutor used Humpty Dumpty’s logic to say statutes say the opposite of their plain meaning in order to charge the governor with a crime for exercising his lawful veto. If a popular sitting governor can be indicted on such a flimsy basis, then every one of us is vulnerable.

The facts are straightforward: the police arrested Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County DA, after finding her in her car with a drained bottle of vodka. Her blood alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit. During her arrest and booking, she screamed, beat on the jail cell door, and had to be forcibly strapped into a restraint chair with a spit guard placed over her mouth to protect the deputies. She pleaded guilty.

At Large

Goodbye to All That Central Planning

By 8.26.14

What can you say about a sixty-four year old central planning apparatus that died? That it was vestigial? One may look to India on how to try to dismantle Big Government.

In a bold move, India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, recently fired the Planning Commission, a central planning body established in 1950 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Replacing it, he envisions a think-tank that would engage in free market philosophy and strengthen the role of India’s many states. He has created an on-line forum asking for suggestions on what the replacement should look like.

The Planning Commission, chaired by the prime minister, had consisted of various cabinet officials and experts, many of whom were economists. Its mission was principally to allocate resources to foster Indian development, formulate Five-Year Plans, and assess progress against those plans. The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time reports that the current Five-Year Plan comprises over 1,000 pages.

At Large

The Fight for Civilization

By 8.26.14

Going through my library recently I came across a small, rather battered blue book: the 1943 edition of The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary, addressed to my mother, then on Army service as a nursing sister, “With love from Dad.”

Dad? My grandfather? I remembered him as a serious, white-haired old gentleman, Sir Frank Gibson, long-time mayor of Fremantle, Member of the Legislative Council, patron, president or committeeman of innumerable clubs and societies, Knight of St. John.

He had made a considerable sacrifice, I later realized, to pay my school fees after my father died, but I had never been sure he approved of me, and I had always vaguely, though I now know quite unjustly, felt that he disapproved of “love,” or any other emotion.

Still, those simple words suggested to me that The Last Enemy was something special.

It was. Once very well known, it remains a classic which should not be forgotten, and whose message is as relevant today as when it was written.

At Large

All For Want of a Good Five-Cent Cigar

By 8.22.14

Michael Brown lost his life after pursuing his unrestrained, but not unrequited, love for Swisher Sweets, which he heisted from a Ferguson, Missouri, shopkeeper without even the pretense of subterfuge. I despise his by-any-means-necessary passion for smoking Swishers. But who can gainsay the tobacco martyr’s tastes? Like Ulysses S. Grant, he died for the love of cigars.

Often stale, always sweet, Swishers smoke as the Cadillac of cheap cigars. Before such tobacco promotions became outlawed, I eagerly exchanged multiple proofs of purchase seals for a black T-shirt—worn proudly—with a red Swisher insignia and an uplifting message conveyed in smoky lettering: “Roll out the sweet times.” Say what you will of the decedent’s ethics. Michael Brown knew stogies. He could have stolen Dutch Masters or Phillies. He swiped Swishers. He chose right after choosing wrong.

As far as thieves go, Brown occupies the next-to-lowest rung on the ladder of larceny, right above the cowardly-in-the-crowd looters inspired by him. There is something basely admirable about the safe cracker, the swindler, and the museum burglar. They work hard for your money.

At Large

The Young and the Restless in Beijing

By 8.4.14

Everything in China appears is big. The population is big. The cities are big. The people’s aspirations are big. The state’s ambitions are big.

The battle over the future also is big.

I recently returned from several days in the People’s Republic of China. It’s always a fascinating place with a future as yet unresolved. The country is growing economically, but no one really believes the government’s statistics. The “one child” policy has created a birth dearth that may leave the PRC old before it grows rich. Rising domestic confidence has yielded growing regional assertiveness, sparking an ever stronger negative reaction from once complacent neighbors.

Almost certainly Beijing will end up an influential global player. But when—and whether—it will battle America for world domination is far less clear. The PRC’s international future is not yet determined.

At Large

Cease the Cease-Fires

By 7.29.14

Many years ago, on my first trip around the world, I was struck by how the children in the Middle East — Arab and Israeli alike — were among the nicest looking little children I had seen anywhere.

It was painful to think that they were going to grow up killing each other. But that is exactly what happened.

It is understandable that today many people in many lands just want the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop. Calls for a cease-fire are ringing out from the United Nations and from Washington, as well as from ordinary people in many places around the world.

According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to “open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution.” President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” — again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement.

At Large

Live and Let Die

By 6.6.14

When symbols on the “coexist” bumpersticker come to represent people who would rather you not exist, then it’s time to rethink koexistieren, coesistere, and coexistir. The word, in any tongue, implies live and let live — not live and let murder me.

One can forgive Europeans for growing a bit squeamish about the influx of Muslims. The near hacking off of a soldier’s head with a meat cleaver last year, and the periodic bombings of train-station commuters, tend to shake even the most zealous secularist of a blind faith in tolerance.

At Large

Bilderberg and Big Government

By 6.5.14

This spring marked the 60th anniversary of the Bilderberg Group summit, a gathering of major power brokers so apparently selective it makes the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos gathering in Switzerland look like a blue light stampede at K-Mart.

Charlie Skelton, who covered the three-day summit for England’s left-wing Guardian newspaper, describes this year’s anniversary event as “a red-letter occasion” where the summit’s chancellor has spent his time “deep in conference with the heads of MI6, NATO, the International Monetary Fund, HSBC, Shell, BP and Goldman Sachs International, along with dozens of other chief executives, billionaires and high-ranking politicians from around Europe.”

At Large

Abbas’ Empty Gesture

By 4.30.14

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made headlines on Sunday when, in a written statement, he condemned the Holocaust as “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in modern era.” Abbas’s statement came on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t buying it. During an interview with Bob Schieffer on the CBS program Face the Nation, Netanyahu argued that he could not “reconcile” Abbas’s statement on the Holocaust with his decision to form a unity government with Hamas: 

I think it’s an overture to American public opinion, to world opinion to try to placate and somehow smooth over the fact that he made a terrible step away from peace. He made a giant leap backwards, away from pace, because he embraced Hamas that calls for the extermination of Jews worldwide, for the eradication of Israel.

At Large

Perspectives on Egyptian Politics

By 4.25.14

The Western press corps has clearly misunderstood the character of political change in Egypt. On January 25, 2011, the world’s television cameras were focused on Tahir Square. The images showed approximately five million people expressing their dissatisfaction with Mubarak. After days of protest, the government fell. It was a moment of national jubilation. But it was short lived.

The military establishment restored order and after several months an election was held. On these points, neither detractors of the revolution nor supporters disagree. Then the tire hit the road.

Although there were many interests represented in the election only one was sufficiently organized to take advantage of the accelerated desire for a national vote: the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). It was elected with five million votes, a plurality, but by most accounts a democratic victory. Although supposedly reluctant to run for the presidency, the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi did so and was elected.