Last week the Dalai Lama, the religious leader of the Tibetan people, announced that he might not reincarnate, a suggestion that has sparked a flurry of commentary and speculation about the future of the Tibetan independence movement.
America! For more than two hundred years the word has represented hope, opportunity, a second chance, and freedom. In America the accident of a man’s birth did not serve as an inescapable weight that dictated a person’s fate or that of his family. The individual owned his own life and was free to shape it as his own mind guided him.
It is a rare occurrence when Hollywood produces a film that neither glorifies the welfare-warfare state, nor vilifies capitalists and businessmen. Yet that is exactly what Marvel Studios has managed with the Iron Man series. In the character of Tony Stark we see the pinnacle of the capitalist fantasy: an ingenious businessman who values property rights and self-defense, and who does not compromise those fundamental rights in the face of government intimidation and force.
In yet another uninspiring performance by our unengaged and unengaging president, this time a press conference at the end of a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama discussed, among other things, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which, according to The One, “we” have achieved.
Want to know why capitalism will always triumph over collectivism? It responds to people’s desires, even those who would consider themselves enemies of capitalism. A case-in-point is the ubiquitous Che Guevara t-shirt. Anyone who has spent any time walking down a city street will have come across at least one young person wearing Che’s famous likeness. Some leftists have argued that the sheer pervasiveness and popularity of the image is proof of the enduring principles of which Che has sometimes been seen as a symbol. Yet that is not the case.
In a recent appearance before a congressional committee, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told them that the agency’s proposed sweeping carbon-regulation plan was “really an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control.” If the plan isn’t about pollution, the primary reason for the EPA’s existence, why bother with yet more regulation of something that is not a pollutant—carbon dioxide—despite the Supreme Court’s idiotic decision that it is. Yes, even the Court gets things wrong.
All over the world, advocates of the free market are looking askance at Pope Francis. Since succeeding Benedict XVI in 2013, Pope Francis has mounted a vocal challenge to what he sees as the now dominant global ideology of capitalism.
When asked to imagine the birthplace of our contemporary republican democracy, most educated people point to the democratic traditions of ancient Athens and to the institutions and offices of the Roman Republic. Yet, Athens was destroyed and its democracy destroyed centuries before the birth of Christ, and the Roman Republic succumbed to imperial despotism in 27BC. These shining examples continued to burn as embers of remembrance long after their practical extinction, thanks to a political and intellectual class dedicated to the preservation of ancient documents and knowledge. But while preserving the records, the successor states of both Athens and Rome were neither democratic nor republican in character.
It’s beginning to sink in with the intelligentsia: The flood of illegal aliens (yes, I said “illegal”) and particularly the tsunami of children traveling alone — parents risking their youngsters’ lives by sending them from Central America through gang-ravaged Mexico — threatens to turn the immigration debate into a major political liability for Democrats in November.
A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of bureaucratic incompetence played out in Ireland over the last several days. American country music star Garth Brooks was scheduled to play five concerts in the Croke Park arena, one of the largest venues in the country. In all, 400,000 tickets were sold. That is an astonishing number, considering Ireland’s population is just under 4.6 million. Close to one in ten citizens was planning to attend!
It was long the case that American presidents held less power on domestic issues than the Congress. The executive branch could only enact the laws of the legislature with a limited tendency to veto. The president’s real power lay in setting foreign policy, as he had much more freedom of action in that arena than on the home front wherein the checks and balances of the Constitution were in full force. That traditional balance has been overridden in the current political system. The fault for this breakdown of traditional magisteria of influence lies with both the executive and the legislative branches.
The recent meeting in Mozambique of the signers of the Ottawa Convention, which bans the use of landmines, has brought the subject of landmines back into the spotlight. To date, 161 countries have signed the treaty, and its aims were included as official United Nations policy in 1999. Long a vocal opponent of landmine proliferation and usage, President Barack Obama opened a review of America’s landmine policy in 2009. He has yet to take a major action, but many Obama-watchers fear he will soon take action to sign the treaty. He would be wrong to do so.
So much blood and treasure was wasted during the long occupation in Iraq that there was a sigh of relief across America when the troops finally left. Yet the end of the American presence has resulted in chaos. Islamist extremists in recent days have been making gains against the Iraqi military, seizing several towns, including the city of Mosul. The sheer rapidity of the collapse of law and order in Iraq led to a lot of hand-wringing in the White House. President Obama finally decided to send a few hundred troops to bolster the beleaguered regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This choice will only serve to further diminish the status of the United States in the region.
The dearth of transplantable organs remains a serious problem in the United States and in much of the world. There are 123,000 Americans currently waiting for an organ. 18 of them die every day because demand continues to exceed supply. The problem has drawn the attention of many activists and policymakers, but sometimes the proposed solutions have proven more unpleasant than the problem. Chief among these unsavory solutions is the policy of opt-out organ donation.
The American Dream is one of the driving concepts in our country’s national story, one that occupies a special place in the national discourse. It is a sort of national ethos, born out of various statements of the Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The aggressively statist, socialist government of Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro styles itself as a Bolivarian revolutionary regime for Venezuela. Named for the great 19th century South American independence hero, Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan Bolivarian movement claims to be the fulfillment of that leader’s legacy. Yet virtually everything we know about the man and his political philosophy suggests he would be horrified by “his” revolution.
The siren song of independence and national self-determination has sounded once again across Europe. It is a song that holds echoes of a century ago, when the internal force of nationalism convulsed the European empires into world war. Yet, while the song remains the same, the tune has changed.