The pale, ghastly silver lining to a second President Clinton

In a commentary for Mercatornet I argue that if Hillary Clinton wins the election she may be so bad she’ll actually have a beneficial purgative effect on American politics by forcing voters to reexamine themselves.

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If your vote matters to you…

John Ivison has a good piece in today’s National Post about the Liberals’ hollow “consultation process” on abolishing the voting system we’ve used since the common people were first admitted to Parliament, in favour of one that will make them almost impossible to beat. And if you’re worried about this change and the undemocratic, arguably unconstitutional way it’s likely to happen, and live in the Ottawa area, you might want to attend the MY VOTE MATTERS Ottawa event this evening at the Ukrainian Community Centre (1000 Byron) from 6:00 to 7:30 and share your concerns.

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And there’s more where that came from

The Washington Post reports, à propos of the lavish compensation Bill Clinton received as “honorary” chancellor of Laureate International Universities while his wife was coincidentally United States Secretary of State, that:

“In addition to his well-established career as a paid speaker, which began soon after he left the Oval Office, Bill Clinton took on new consulting work starting in 2009, at the same time Hillary Clinton assumed her post at the State Department. Laureate was the highest-paying client, but Bill Clinton signed contracts worth millions with GEMS Education, a secondary-education chain based in Dubai, as well as Shangri-La Industries and Wasserman Investment, two companies run by longtime Democratic donors. All told, with his consulting, writing and speaking fees, Bill Clinton was paid $65.4 million during Hillary Clinton’s four years as secretary of state.”

The Post further notes that “The Laureate arrangement illustrates the extent to which the Clintons mixed their charitable work with their private and political lives.”

Yeah. That’s one way of putting it.

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Why history matters… and how

Here’s a wonderful talk by historian David McCullough from 2003, just sent to me by Nick Zahn. I strongly recommend it for such insights as “When the world is storm-driven and the bad that happens and the worse that threatens are so urgent as to shut out everything else from view, then we need to know all the strong fortresses of the spirit which men have built through the ages.” Now that’s history as it should be done. And as we need it in these characteristically troubled times.

McCullough draws together all kinds of things in this talk including the famous 1819 painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull which has been on display in the U.S. Capitol since 1826. It’s not an accurate depiction of an actual historical event, yet somehow it embodies the meaning of the Declaration in a way that continues to compel and attract attention almost 200 years later.

McCullough also describes George Washington’s fascination with architecture and interior design, expressed particularly in his renovation of his Mount Vernon home in the midst of the pressing public concerns that led to the Revolutionary War. “He cared about every detail — wall paper, paint color, hardware, ceiling ornaments — and hated to be away from the project even for a day.”

Which makes this a good moment to remind people of Brigitte’s new C2C Journal piece The Political Power of Art. Such matters are not only a fitting concern for conservatives, they are an indispensable one, because as McCullough says, “it is in their [the American Founders’] ideas about happiness, I believe, that we come close to the heart of their being, and to their large view of the possibilities in their Glorious Cause.”

Their ideas about happiness were not narrow and cramped. But nor were these men without flaws. McCullough’s talk is the 2003 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, a series created by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1972 and described by the NEH as “the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.” And of course McCullough is not blind to the various Founders’ failings including that Jefferson was “evasive, at times duplicitous” and like many others a “stunning” hypocrite in championing liberty while holding slaves.

These men were human, all too human. As are we. History is our story. For as McCullough also wisely notes, “One might also say that history is not about the past. If you think about it, no one ever lived in the past. Washington, Jefferson, John Adams, and their contemporaries didn’t walk about saying, ‘Isn’t this fascinating living in the past! Aren’t we picturesque in our funny clothes!’ They lived in the present. The difference is it was their present, not ours. They were caught up in the living moment exactly as we are, and with no more certainty of how things would turn out than we have.”

I won’t reprint the whole thing here; I hope I have excerpted enough to send you to read it. It is wise and thoughtful and full of fascinating details about these real human beings including Washington’s preoccupation with design of which I confess I was not aware. But I will conclude with one more crucial quotation from it: “Daniel Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, has wisely said that trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.”

This lecture shows how history should be done. And why it matters.

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Bathing suit brouhaha

So there’s this story out of France where the “top court”, the Council of State, has suspended various bans on the burkini, an arguably excessively modest form of swimwear popular among some Muslims. In a characteristic leading paragraph, NBC said “France’s top court on Friday suspended a controversial ban on full-body burkini swimsuits that has sparked heated debate both inside the country and abroad.” And I wonder: Why so much attention to this one?

Now I could write at some length about the way “controversial” is used in the press to mean “thing you should disapprove of”. Or the logic of the ban itself. Or the extraordinary French way of doing things, including that freedom of association is a largely foreign concept as opposed, in the English-speaking world, to a core right that is fast disappearing. (To give another remarkable example, this “top court” of which stories speak, the Conseil d’État, is at once the supreme court for administrative law, that is, for settling disputes about the behaviour of executive agencies, and the legal advisor to the executive branch. In the Anglosphere such an arrangement would be an unthinkable conflict of interest; in France it is seen as commendably efficient in empowering the state to run people’s lives for them.) But for now I want to ask a different question.

Why all this hoo-hah about the French ban, and not a peep about the legal and social restrictions on “immodest” swimwear and indeed clothing generally in much of the Muslim world, including extralegal violence to enforce it? Why are so many people calling the French intolerant on this issue and saying nothing about what goes on elsewhere? Where’s the “heated debate” on bans on infidel attire?

To ask this question is not to suggest that the French ban should not be debated, or that there are not reasonable arguments on both sides. Quite the reverse. And for what it’s worth, as I’ve written elsewhere, I favour considerable freedom of dress provided it isn’t obscene or likely to cause justified public alarm. But I also favour, and indeed regard as inseparable from the former, freedom of association; if I do not like how you are dressed I should be free to shun you personally and, yes, professionally. Especially if you cover your face on the grounds that if I see you, one or both of us will be soiled, which I find deeply offensive. But again, that’s not really the point here.

The point is that we seem to be holding France and the French to a much higher standard than, say, Jordan and Jordanians, let alone Iran and Iranians. For instance, a recent Daily Telegraph Travel/Advice piece said that in Jordan generally, “Women should wear loose fitting clothes, covering the arms, legs and chest area, while T-shirts are best avoided for both sexes. Women’s hair should be dry, as wet hair is said to suggest sexual availability…” What? Are you kidding me?

Obviously I would not want to be judged by that standard. I think we can do better. And the French, for all their foibles and fondness for state direction, generally do better. But for the sake of perspective about such things I also think we should be clear, in going after the French for responding to the menace of radical Islam in their own characteristic way and sometimes getting it wrong, that we are holding them to a higher standard. We might even want to fumble toward an explanation of why.

See, they’re a Western country. And while it’s politically correct to despise Western arrogance, cultural imperialism and so forth, just about everybody knows deep down that… that… that public policy in Western countries is broadly rational and tolerant whereas elsewhere it too often isn’t.

If that’s a “controversial” thing to say, well, I said it anyway.

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Clinton got how much?

Here’s the kind of story that inspires a mixture of rage and bewilderment. NBC reports that while Hillary Clinton has been lambasting “for-profit schools” including Trump University, “Over five years, former president Bill Clinton earned $17.6 million from the world’s largest for-profit education company, Laureate Education, Inc. In his role as “honorary chancellor,” Clinton has traveled the world on Laureate’s behalf, extolling the virtues of the school.” And doing very well indeed. We should be so, uh, lucky.

Now look. I know a lot of people like Bill Clinton, focusing more on the charming than the rogue in his makeup. I am not among them. But a lot of people do.

I also realize that Bill Clinton is a champion schmoozer and makes good connections. He pulls in huge sums for the Clinton Foundation and by no means all of them were people hoping for favours from one H. Clinton when she was Secretary of State. But $17.6 million over five years is over $3.5 million a year. That’s over $9,600 a day, even in a leap year. And it wasn’t the only thing he was doing nor, indeed, the only thing he was doing that brought in vast sums. (For instance The Washington Post says he made $104.9 million giving 542 speeches between 2001 and 2013, an average of $193,542.44 per. And that he was paid $3.13 million in “consulting fees” in 2009 and 2010 by an investment firm whose boss’s charity has given the Clinton Foundation millions more and who did at least try to contact Hillary Clinton for a favor when she was Secretary of State.)

What can anyone do for you on a part-time basis that’s worth nearly $10,000 a day? Per customer? And what has he got to say that’s worth 200 grand a pop, 45 times a year, for over a decade? I mean, we’re out there asking people to support our documentaries and commentaries and other work like the “Ask the Professor” feature with, say, $5 a month, which is about 17 cents a day. That’s less than one fifty-six-thousandth of Clinton’s haul from Laureate Education alone. I’d need 3,226 people to answer that call to make as much in a year as Clinton does for an average speech of the sort he was giving nearly once a week.

I’m not saying I’m in the wrong business. But I am saying if this news bugs you as much as it bugs me, and if you think it’s important to keep the voices that matter to you audible, please do try to find that 17 cents a day for us, and for other groups like Ezra Levant’s The Rebel, Dave Reesor’s Let’s Do It Ourselves, Danny Hozack’s Economic Education Association of Alberta (and yes, I’m professionally involved with two of them) and other similar outfits like the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Constitution Foundation and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (who helped us enormously with our Fix the Constitution documentary project).

Unlike the Clintons, we’re never going to get rich doing what we do. But that’s kind of the point.

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And that’s an argument against it?

The Daily Telegraph reports a warning from Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven that if Britain cuts corporate taxes it will make its discussions with the European Union over a Brexit “more difficult.” He insists that his own country will keep taxing heavily and spending (no, sorry, “investing”) because “Tax cuts are not the future.” Dude, the whole point of the Brexit is that Britain won’t have to keep implementing bad policy because European politicians condescendingly tell them to.

It’s even odd that Loefven believes the EU has leverage to dictate policy to a member whose citizens have voted to leave, let alone that threatening to will make them less determined to get away from such things.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, the Telegraph also notes (you have to read down a bit in the story) that, as if deliberately seeking further to persuade Britons that the Brexit vote was a good idea, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker wants all EU members to open their borders entirely in a gesture of solidarity with the refugees now causing EU members to tighten border controls. Juncker went so far as to say “Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians” which is a mind-boggling fatuity given the horrors governments have inflicted on people from tax rates over 100% to concentration camps. I know, I know, you’re not meant to end every discussion by invoking Hitler. But in this case Juncker’s claim invites the retort from Bertrand de Jouvenel that, as Milton Friedman recounts it, “said he had always been an ardent advocate of world government until the day he crossed the border into Switzerland ahead of the pursuing Nazis.”

Borders exist to protect people from the excesses of big government, from the petty to the ghastly. And Britain is correct to assert within its own the right to have tax policy that favours private initiative over a smothering state.

Hence the Brexit. Obviously.

 

 

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Glavin strikes again

In today’s National Post Terry Glavin has another excellent piece on Canada’s troubling relationship with China. He’s not only very clear on the sinister nature of the government in Beijing and the aggressive style as well as content of its foreign policy. He’s also one of the few commentators I know who understands that we are cozying up to an “increasingly decrepit” as well as “belligerent Chinese police state”.

It is remarkable how wrong the conventional wisdom is about the nature and dynamism of this regime. And Terry is much to be commended for seeing through it.

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