State of the Union

The Digest

Takeaways from

Rand Paul may be morphing into a more conventional Republican on foreign policy.

Brion McClanahan examines how serious the Founding Fathers were about indivisibility, and where legal questions surrounding secession stand today.

What will the rise of “dignified promiscuity” mean for marriage?

Samuel Goldman is not convinced that the best American literature comes from the South.

What does Jim DeMint’s “ascendancy” to the Heritage Foundation say about the GOP establishment?

Some hard truths about online paywalls.

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The Digest, Dec. 6

A few takeaways from yesterday at

Philip Giraldi asks if we are really going to let the Kagans talk us into prolonging the war in Afghanistan.

Can Catholicism be reconciled with “democratic capitalism”? Elias Crim looks at the Acton Institute’s co-founder’s Moral Case for the Free Economy and the meaning of scriptural prescriptions for economic relationships.

“Common Core Standards” are a bad idea, not for fear of “indoctrination,” but because they stamp a national solution on state and regional problems in education.

Is the power of divine art underestimated in Evangelical culture?

Scott McConnell is probably not alone in his early, but perhaps ill-founded, approval of Egypt’s newly elected Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohammed Morsi.

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The Digest

A few of today’s takeaways from

Sheldon Richman breaks down the vicious circle of financial intervention.

Is good old Southern Hospitality still intact?

On its tenth anniversary, Kelley Vlahos addresses the Department of Homeland Security’s unsound future.

One way to fix the Norquist pledge.

Serious question: Is there any real conservative support for increased protection of copyrights, stronger enforcement and regulation, and stiffer penalties?

Alan Jacobs on fiction’s unmistakable golden years.

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TAC Digest: December 4

Today on, Eric Margolis explained the real problem with Susan Rice. Meanwhile, Scott Galupo took stock of the back-and-forth over taxes rates and entitlement spending:

Republicans will give in to President Obama — reluctantly, kicking-and-screamingly — on the top tax bracket, but they want substantive entitlement reforms in return, and they want bipartisan, Bowles-ian cover as part of the bargain. The outline of a deficit-reduction plan offered by House Republican leaders yesterday in the form of a letter to the president was vague about revenue: a headline number of $800 billion over 10 years was put on the table, but the letter did not specify which deductions and loopholes are on the chopping block. Because that’s not the point. Obama will get his revenue. … Roughly $1 trillion in new revenue for roughly $1 trillion in spending cuts, including modest structural reforms to Social Security and Medicare, is a realistic target to shoot for, all things considered.

Alan Jacobs examined the rich thought at the root of Roger Scruton’s Case for Environmental Conservatism:

To some readers it will feel that Scruton often wanders far from the most heated environmental debates of our day, but this is intentional on his part. He wants to step back from judgments on particular issues in order to train his readers in usefully conservative thought. … The more distant and abstract the place from which environmental initiatives come, Scruton argues, the less purchase they have on the human beings who are acting in ways that affect our planet.

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Whistle While You Work, Congress

Perhaps the signing yesterday of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) is a sign of good things to come for our quarreling Congress. Or, if not, perhaps we should let them know we expect it to be.

The bill, which took 13 years to obtain unanimous consent in both the House and the Senate and encountered its share of thwarting from members of both parties along the way, expands protections of federal workers’ right to report government corruption and wrongdoing safely. Congress last revised the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1994. You may remember hearing of federal air marshal Robert McClean, who, in 2003, leaked an unclassified, TSA-internal directive outlining cuts in marshal coverage for long-distance passenger flights during a terrorist alert and subsequently lost his job, and his petition for review. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the only court empowered to hear appeals of whistleblower cases decided by the Merit Systems Directive Board (which adjudicates whistleblower complaints), has ruled for whistleblowers in only three of 203 cases in the roughly ten years that followed.

The WPEA initiative has been led by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a non-profit that attests to the peeks and troughs the legislation traveled as it struggled to maintain its coalition of hundreds of groups demanding upgrades in protections. Besides closing loopholes in the courts process, like the one that said an employee was protected only if he/she was the first to report misconduct, there are also key expansions provided by the bill.

After 13 years of teeth pulling, transparency seems like something we can all agree on. There’s no reverting the process – say what you will about technology, but one undeniable benefit of its omnipresence is the accelerated rate with which it is demanding accountability from both governments and business. Although it approaches a different scale, one wonders what S. 743 can do for the Bradley Manning case, not to mention in motivating states to look at their own legal systems, and ask to what degree they encourage public sector employees to blow the whistle on wrongdoing and abuse. Stephen Kohn at the National Whistleblowers Center notes that the new provisions still dim in comparison to the basic rights whistleblowers enjoy in the private sector. However, surveys like this one conducted by the first law firm to advocate for whistleblowers who report possible violations of the federal securities laws, indicate that 54 percent of Americans have knowledge of corporate misconduct and nearly one in four still fear retaliation in reporting it.

Dana Liebelson has more on President Obama’s about-face on the issue.

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TAC Digest: November 21

Today on Jordan Bloom tackled the fiscal cliff, Scott McConnell traced some of the implications of the scandal that keeps simmering even as Gaza burns, and Justin Logan reflected on what the aforementioned scandal says for the foreign policy elite. Philip Giraldi uncovered a “fair and balanced” briefing on Gaza, while Rod Dreher continued his critique of politicians’ earth literacy, while providing a glimpse of what Asperger’s looks like. Alan Jacobs juxtaposed mass culture and local people, while regretting to inform that mediocre Bible translations are here to stay. Noah Millman shared one of the most powerful pieces of theatre, as well as a discussion of the fighting retreat policy we’ve seen from Israel since 1993.

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TAC Digest: November 20

Today on, James Bovard declared Rand Paul a work in progress, Jim Antle examined Bobby Jindal’s populism, and Jordon Bloom offered a revisionist take on the election. Noah Millman weighed in on the Unz argument for raising minimum wage, while Alan Jacobs asked if we have reason to believe in university reform. Rod Dreher called for common sense on the question of rebuilding hurricane-prone areas, and revealed some recent changes of heart on the Left. Michael Brendan Dougherty examined Catholic English language aptitude, while Scott Galupo revisited conservative healthcare reform proposals.

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TAC Digest: November 19

Today on, Ron Unz proposed a remedy for income stagnation, Kelley Vlahos explained why a dethroned Petraeus finally means fair game for COIN, while Philip Giraldi argued the real issue in the scandal is the pervasive corruption and entitlement mentality of Washington’s military elite. Even after reneging on its own blueprint, the GOP could advance its standing with millennials by advancing intellectual property reform. Meanwhile, Daniel Larison looked at what matching practice with the rhetoric of humility would mean for foreign policy, as well as why recent incumbent presidents have met no primary challenges.  Rod Dreher urged liberals to be wary even of their own victory, while pleading with Republicans to brush up on their science, and Alan Jacobs contemplated scholarly ignorance.

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Tough Love All Around for the GOP

I can relate to the GOP’s current identity crisis.

It reminds me of a realization I had about myself not too long ago, in a conversation with an Italian banker. As the English tutor for his wife and his two small children I often, and quite enthusiastically, accepted invitations to stay for dinner. Right around the second glass of wine, we would find ourselves talking over the general state of things: the beleaguered but noble idea of the EU; American congressmen’s struggles with monogamy; the Church. One night we were talking about the role of government. As is typical, I was clawing to apply the principles of my Social Doctrine classes, trying to convey that government has the responsibility to create an environment in which people will be more likely to do good. He waited until I finished, squinting to follow my complicated sentence patterns. Then, he simply said, “I tend to pay more attention to what people actually do.”

If you’re out of practice at applying your ideas to real life, you’re message will hold little weight in the eyes of others. This is something for the GOP to remember if they aim to repair the divorce they’ve had with the working class. As reflected by last week’s exit polls, it’s going to require more than empathy, theory, or dressing up the party line, much to the talking heads’ dismay.

In 2008, fewer than half (44.9 percent, according to Census Bureau data) of adults in households making less than $30,000 per year voted. These are people who might be tempted to finance their home insurance through Costco if they have one, are likely renting furniture and paying to cash checks, and are spending afternoons fulfilling work training requirements if they are jobless. We know that holding out subsidized health care, contraceptives, and cheaper student loans is not the answer, but we also cannot expect to rally the full contribution these people can make to their own upward mobility, to their local governments, and to the country by standing at a distance and repeating slogans about bootstrapping or touting prospective trade deals with South American countries.

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TAC Digest: November 8

Today on, Rod Dreher considered the finer points of Mitt Romney and White Horse prophecy, and explained why the marriage debate is now about religious freedom. Philip Giraldi analyzed the Syrian situation, called for a sober, anti-interventionist tract, and Alfred W. McCoy looked into the future of the full-scale weaponization of space. Meanwhile, Ron Unz considered the GOP’s need to diversify its base. Daniel Larison discussed how the Republican Party can re-capture the flag on foreign policy, and Scott Galupo assessed early fiscal cliff negotiations. With the conversation continuing on upper-middle brow art and music, and the blame game ensuing between the Tea and the third partiers, Alan Jacobs testified that it is what students read that has the deepest and most lasting effect on their lives.

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TAC Digest: November 6-7

Today on, Michael Dougherty and Daniel Larison discussed Obama’s win, and proposed that the GOP’s failure to select a foreign policy and economy-competent candidate allowed the Bush shadow to linger and perpetuated the party’s demographic woes. Ron Dreher zoomed out on same-sex marriage victories in Maryland, Washington, and Maine. Scott Galupo offered up a real tax deal Speaker Boehner and President Obama could both live with. Larison attributed Romney and his allies’ failure to understand their opponent to the loyalist, conservative media, and explained that even if campaigning was littered with talk of the American Century, it has now definitely reached its end. This sentiment was echoed in the editors’ case for conservatism’s hour. Meanwhile, George Will is still giving bad advice, which has already led to dangerous assumptions about the electorate. Meanwhile, Jordon Bloom asked if an Article V Convention is the only means for reaching a balanced budget, and Kelley Vlahos reported on marijuana legalization in two states.

On Tuesday, Samuel Goldman argued that election day should be a federal holiday. Noah Millman revisited his election predictions, and Galupo proposed that the closeness of the election would significantly blur the next president’s mandate, something Larison attributed to both candidates’ “unimaginative and vacuous campaigns.” I explained why the candidates’ failure to look at issues through the lens of natural law limited their solutions, Goldman used historical standards to rank the election’s real importance, while both Dougherty and Daniel McCarthy predicted that Obama had this one in the bag. Dreher pulled us all back in and off of the election in a piece about reading as that which affects the imagination, reminding us that people of the book will always belong to a community of minds.

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While My Ballpoint Pen Gently Weeps

Audrey Anweiler

I’ve had my absentee ballot printed and neatly awaiting ink on the kitchen table for weeks now. What has numbed my enthusiasm for the two major presidential candidates this year has not been their haranguing campaigns and pussyfooting policy proposals. Instead, it has been their more basic inability to employ natural law to get at the heart of the domestic and international questions that confront our country.

Cicero was likely the first to define natural law; the use of right reason that is congruent with nature. Centuries later, a young Italian man who had thwarted his family’s schemes to become a Dominican priest, recognized natural law as the order each living organism freely obeyed. It was only men, born as creatures of free-will, who had the ability to determine if they would conform their will to that of God’s reflected in the laws of nature, or attempt to establish himself outside of it. Derivable by reason, it is that from which civil law derives its legitimacy because it reflects the basic moral principles of right and wrong, true and untrue.

As a Catholic, female voter from Indiana, my voting “blocks” have been heavily targeted during this election. We’ve been sliced and diced according to age, race, income level, geography, level of educational attainment, and nearly every other identifiable characteristic that distinguishes us. I’m neither the suburban soccer mom nor the white-collar executive the “women’s issues” speechwriters have been desperately trying to reach, but I’m willing to bet that the unleashing of the feminine genius in American society is tied to something other than free access to birth control and mandated equal pay. Imagine if electoral politics addressed that which unites us, and recognized that underlying the differences of a pluralistic society is an order that doesn’t go away when ignored.

While the modern world brings with it complexities and the relativist temptation, we only thwart ourselves when we try to arrange for solutions to problems without taking into account the nature of the human person.

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