When Edward Gibbon embarked on his great history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, he began his narrative with the accession of Commodus. Marcus Aurelius, the father of the new emperor, was a man who, in the noblest traditions of the Roman people, had combined the attributes of a warrior, a statesman, and a philosopher; Commodus was none of these.
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We economists, especially those of us who have had some responsibility for educating students, have a lot to answer for. Presumably all the politicians strutting across our television screens did attend some sort of educational institution at one time. Indeed, many attended institutions of so-called higher learning. Yet somehow their economics teachers failed them.
Another trend that has sapped Congress’ influence is the decline of congressional expertise on foreign policy and national security. Simply put, legislators used to know more about foreign policy than they do now. Greater expertise strengthened Congress’ formal and visible role, since committees could engage in greater oversight of the executive branch. Expertise also reinforced Congress’ invisible means of constraining presidential power. Presidents had to think about how a seasoned committee chair or member would assess a policy. During his initial escalation of the Vietnam War, for example, President Lyndon Johnson was careful to maintain the support of powerful committee chairs, such as Senator J. William Fulbright, who led the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1959 to 1974. Fulbright shepherded the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution through the Senate in 1964, but two years later, his probative hearings helped shift public opinion against the war.
The salient question should never have been who to blame for blacks’ predicament, but who is able to fix it. If the problem were simply a lack of cash, then the government would be the ideal candidate. But if we learned anything from the explosion of violent crime and single motherhood following welfare expansion in the late 1960s, it was that cash transfers cannot solve a problem that the absence of cash didn’t cause. Herein lies one of the many issues with reparations: it would not address the root causes of black underachievement. Fans of the concept should ask themselves: what will happen the day after reparations are paid, when black students still spend less time on homework than their white peers, blacks are still making poor financial decisions, and two out of every three black kids are still living in single-parent homes? On that day, I’d hope to see progressive scholars acknowledge that they had been asking the wrong question for 50 years. But I would not be shocked to hear them insist that, if only the reparations checks had been a bit larger, black America’s problems would have been solved.
A lot of interesting revelations and happenings took place over this past week and because of my desire to write more I figured I would give a short summary and my personal conclusions as to the purpose and level of importance. In the future I will try to make time to write both English and French translations but will do simply English for now.
Alfie Evans: Alfie Evans was in the news quite a bit in the UK but not so much in the US. Evans was a couple years old child who developed a degenerative but undiagnosed brain disease which reduced his functionality down to 30%. The story made news because the UK health services ruled via courts that the boy ought to be taken off life support and denied nutrition in order to speed up the eventual death. Naturally his family were very much against this notion and fought the courts by taking their fight to the public. The Evans case brings a lot of questions up that unfortunately are not going to be answered. For one it calls into question who ought to have the final say on matters of a childs care: the parents or the state. Yes I am aware that the NHS isn’t technically part of the legislative area of the UK government but lets not get bogged down in semantics since the government enforced the court’s rulings. Another important question that the case raises is whether or not its better to go through life in pain or simply to go through life in comfort. Many started pushing forward a very quasi-euthanasia perspective with the phrase “die with dignity.” I have yet to see where the dignity is in simply giving up on life when for most people, especially religious believers, life is considered incredibly precious and worth fighting for. The problem was only exacerbated more by the attempts of the Italian and Vatican envoys to bring the child to their hospitals since the courts mandated the UK hospitals cease care of the boy. Overall this was a terrible look for state sponsored health programs and the over use of bureaucracy when common sense clearly points to a better alternative option. I could understand the state stepping in to advocate for the boy if the family was refusing care but it seems patently absurd for the state to be the ones to refuse care. If it was the family refusing care then the state would consider it criminal which is why its only right we hold the health care system and government to the same standards.
Kanye West: Kanye West was in the news but I didn’t follow this story too much. Essentially Kanye decided to bring out his inner Trump supporter much to the chagrin of the mainstream entertainment world who believe they have a monopoly on the discourse. If anything he served to show how ridiculous left leaning ideologues are when they expect to have your vote simply due to your position or skin colour. That being said I don’t particularly care what West has to say about anything and I am not a fan of his music. But by all means please shatter peoples’ bubbles.
North Korea: North Korea has decided to do a complete reversal of their policy or at least it would appear that way. The North Koreans have been conducting diplomatic talks with the US and South Korea as they seek to allegedly bring an end to the Korean War stalemate officially and to cease their nuclear program. I have never been a fan of the sunshine policy of the Moon government so I am incredibly skeptical of these talks given the North’s track record. Furthermore I am of the belief that the North Koreans have already gotten to the level of nuclear technology that they desire so testing isn’t important for them at this point. I will be monitoring this story as it develops.
Baseball: Baseball season is back but it has not been the greatest start for my Royals who are almost at 20 losses. Hopefully this tanking and transition from the World Series team happens sooner rather than later. But it is nice to be able to watch baseball games again.
Movie pass: Movie pass has decided to change their policy from unlimited movies to 4 essentially one free movie a weekend for $10 a month. I have been very pessimistic about this service for a while and still not sure how they will eventually monetize to make the investment worth it. A good concept but I am not a fan of the company.
I haven’t been writing my own pieces much as of late so I’ve decided to make a more concerted effort to write original thoughts and posts in the future.
That being said lets discuss the current happenings on the geopolitical stage. The US along with allies France and Great Britain decided on punitive action via surgical strike against the forces of Bashar al-Assad in response to a chemical attack that took place there. Many took to social media to either show their clear enjoyment with the proceedings particular the news media who thrive off this sort of coverage. Others seemed to have this hyperbolic reaction which appears so common place in today’s political discourse where things must be taken to an extreme length. And there were those that condemned the attack either due to principles or more self serving motivations for not supporting such endeavors. I will try to address all the different viewpoints.
Firstly nothing in the past 24 hours has suggested that the conflict will as of yet escalate to world war or even simply war proportions as of yet. No leader has suggested the utilization of ground forces or that the air strikes will be continuous so long as Assad doesn’t further employ the use of chemical weaponry. Therefore I feel that calls for world war three are simple hyperbole. In today’s discourse everything is a call back to some momentous historical event. Everything is the next civil rights movement or everything is the next prelude to a new world war. This is utter nonsense and illogical. Moreover the strikes carry minimal risk due to advanced weaponry and the knowledge that Russia and Iran won’t counter in direct action because 1. they can’t and 2. it would be foolish.
I have much more sympathy for those who question such action because of their principles either they are against armed conflict under most circumstances or they simply want more information on the planned military actions before they occur. I empathize with both since governments are known to practice withholding information from the public. I too believe that governments should be more transparent on these matters. However if the action is limited, the evidence is clear, and the conflict is not escalated then I feel that the actions are perfectly reasonable and can be supported.
Here are some figures from the strike: US Tomahawk launch count: Cruiser Monterey: 30 Destroyer Laboon: 7 Destroyer Higgins: 23 Submarine John Warner: 6 Additionally: JASSMs launched by B1B bombers. Missiles additionally launched from French Frigate Aquitaine, French Jets and UK Jets. Syrian forces fired close to 40 counter missiles but did so in an ineffective and ineffective manner.