Article I, Section 8

I want to endorse Bonnie Kristian’s proposal at RealClearDefense. Regardless of who is elected president in November, the president’s blank check for waging war needs to be removed:

The War Powers Act requires congressional authorization for the president to deploy troops longer than 60 days—and if we take President Obama at his word that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended in 2011 and 2014, respectively, then congressional permission to fight ISIS is long, long overdue.

Smith himself initially supported anti-ISIS strikes, but he began to be uneasy as weeks turned into months without a peep from Congress. “I began to wonder, ‘Is this the Administration’s war, or is it America’s war?’” he said. “The Constitution tells us that Congress is supposed to answer that question, but Congress is AWOL. My conscience bothered me.”

He remains bothered still—but now with the support of constitutional scholars who say his complaint is correct. Advising the suit is Yale’s Bruce Ackerman, who argued nearly a year ago that a suit like this might and should succeed. “The biggest casualty in the struggle against the Islamic State so far has been the American Constitution,” he wrote, pointing out that since the Vietnam War, “Existing case-law establishes that individual soldiers can go to court if they are ordered into a combat zone to fight a war that they believe is unconstitutional.”

Even if the Supreme Court ultimately “upheld the [Obama] administration’s view,” Ackerman notes, “it would put future presidents on notice that the justices will seriously scrutinize further efforts to transform the resolutions of 2001 and 2003 into open-ended grants for new military adventures.” After the last decade and a half of costly foreign entanglement, surely that sort of accountability should appeal to all but the most reckless hawks.

Ackerman isn’t the only scholar who agrees the AUMF (and executive war power more broadly) has been stretched beyond on all reasonable scope.

Under Article I, Section 8 of the U. S. Constitution the power to declare war is given exclusively to the Congress. Fighting undeclared wars is not a reasonable exercise of the president’s authority as commander-in-chief. It’s an arrogation of congressional power.

If the only way to impel the members of Congress to reassert their prerogatives is by imposing term limits on them, so be it. The status quo twists our system out of all recognition.



Barring something remarkable in the national political events, the events that surround them, or external events, if the candidates are expecting big bounces from their respective conventions, I strongly suspect they’ll be disappointed.

Convention “bounces”, frequently short-lived improvements in approval ratings, are largely a thing of the past and have been since the advent of 24 hour news coverage and social media. There will be no 16 point swings in opinion for either candidate (given the provisos in my first sentence).


Carol Burnett vs. Star Trek

In honor of the opening of the Ghostbusters re-boot.


Why the Attention Now?

As I read this post at American Prospect on the National Urban League’s push to diversity employment at the Federal Reserve, I couldn’t help but wonder why now? Wouldn’t a better time to worry about diversity have been in 2007-2010 when small banks were being persecuted and big banks bailed out? The effect of that was to reduce the number of women and minorities in banking.

Meanwhile, I’ll just observe that about a quarter of economists are women (about an eighth of full professors) and fewer than 2% are black.

Assuming that we need a Federal Reserve at all, my formula for reform would be more bankers, fewer economists.


Let Them Eat Organic Cake

As I read this post at ACSH by Alex Berezow, on the decision by many European countries to ban the growing of genetically modified crops:

The European fear and obsession over GMOs is truly pathological. EU regulations allow higher levels of real contaminants (such as insects, sticks, and manure) in their food than GMOs. In the words of the authors, “science-based regulation seems to have taken a back seat in the EU.”

Of course, what does the EU care? For the most part, Europe is wealthy and well fed, and its native population is shrinking due to a low fertility rate. So, as Europe continues its genteel decline, it can still afford the luxury of organic food grown in the Garden of Aphrodite and fertilized with unicorn droppings.

my reaction was a bit tangential. “Europe” means a lot of different things, doesn’t it? It means

  • a geographical area
  • the countries in that geographical area
  • the people who live in those countries
  • the European Union which, as we are learning, is quite a bit different from the people who live in the countries of Europe
  • the elites who run the European Union
  • Germany and France

I’ve never really understood this particular controversy. Practically all crops are genetically modified. They’re just modified the slow, cumbersome, old-fashioned way—by selective breeding. Have you ever seen the ancestral forms of wheat or corn? Without selective breeding agriculture would never have been efficient enough for us to adopt a sedentary habit. Where the abandoning of GMO crops is least practical is the highly populous countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It would be a death sentence for billions of people.


Not the Picture Book Kind

I agree with nearly everything that the author of this article, a parent of a child with autism, has to say:

Because for every boy with autism who manages his high school basketball team, there are 20 boys with autism who smear feces. And for every girl with autism who gets to be on the homecoming court, there are 30 girls with autism who pull out their hair and bite their arms until they bleed. And for every boy with autism who gets to go the prom, there are 50 boys with autism who hit and kick and bite and hurt other people.

This is the autism that no one talks about. This is the autism that no one wants to see.

The one reservation I have is that I hope the author’s prescriptions aren’t construed as letting the classmates of a child with autism assume primary responsibility for the care and support of their classmates with special needs. While it’s good, helpful, and even necessary for children to receive proactive strategies they can use to avoid unpleasant or even harmful developments, that responsibility needs to remain with parents, teachers, and other professionals.

Read the whole thing. It might give you a window or at least a keyhole into the lives of parents of many of the children with autism.


Liberal Democratic Government Lost in Turkey

What the heck happened in Turkey? As they’ve been reported the facts are a) a military coup was announced and b) is was suppressed. Everything beyond that seems to be conjecture.

Now there are various claims. For example, it’s being claimed that the Turkish people chose democracy in Turkey. Is that really the case? Or did they choose Erdogan? Maybe they chose democracy in the sense of mobocracy but certainly not in the sense of liberal democratic government since that selection wasn’t on the menu.

It’s also being claimed that the supposed coup was actually a false flag operation that will empower Erdogan to seize more autocratic power than he already has.

Is that the case? Was the attempted military coup an attempt to reinstate Ataturk’s secularist Turkey or an expression of frustration with lack of Islamism? I don’t think we know and possibly never will. Does secularism in Turkey foster liberal democratic government? By all indications Erdogan’s Islamism threatens it.

Whatever has happened I think we can conclude that liberal democratic government lost in Turkey.


Star Dust Memories

In a corner of the Mariano’s store at which I occasionally shop, there’s a baby grand piano. On Sundays pianists come and play there. As I waited in the checkout line, today’s pianist began playing the song in the video above.

Me (to the cashier): Do you know what song he’s playing?

Cashier (in her late teens or twenties): No.

Me: That’s Star Dust, Hoagy Carmichael.

The original version of Star Dust, composed in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995 and into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2004. Considered by many the finest song of the 20th century, it has been beloved by three generations.

But culture is ephemeral now and the young people of today barely know the popular music of last year let alone of the last century. Or if it’s in a Disney cartoon. That suits the corporate owners but not the culture. Poetry and stage plays are practically unknown. The Sound of Music is a movie starring Julia Andrews spinning in a mountain meadow or, worse yet, a television program featuring Carrie Underwood. Camelot is known only from the execrable movie.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely nights
Dreaming of a song.
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you.
When our love was new, and each kiss an inspiration.
But that was long ago, and now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song.


Forum Preview

The Watcher’s Council forum question for this week will be “Is Islam compatible with a free society?” I strongly suspect that my answer will be somewhat different than those of my fellow Watchers.

Of course it is. To the same extent as Christianity or Judaism is.

Islam is inclusive of more diversity of beliefs than Christianity and enormously more than Judaism. Within it is contained variants that are completely compatible with a free society, whatever radical conservatives within Islam and foes of Islam of other confessions might think.

The question is somewhat beside the point. For me the much more important question is whether Wahhabist/Salafist Islam is compatible with a free society and to that question the answer is “No” and, honestly, I think that those who profess the Wahhabist/Salafist versions of Islam would agree with me.

The additional challenge is that the Wahhabist/Salafist variants of Islam are on the rise, largely propelled by the money of Gulf Arabs, not just among the Gulf states but everywhere including the West. Something like three-quarters of all imams in the United States are foreign born, most of those are Saudis, and a distressingly large proportion of those hold to very conservative Wahhabist/Salafist beliefs.

Then the question is what is to be done? I’ve already expressed my opinions on that subject.

I would welcome the contributions of my readers on this subject so that I may better inform my own views. Please weigh in in the comments.


The Attempted Coup in Turkey

As you’re presumably aware members of the Turkish military attempted a coup yesterday but have apparently failed. That appears to be the long and the short of it at this point. This isn’t a news blog; it’s an analysis and commentary blog and I think that analysis and commentary are premature.

The only remark I have is that it reminds me of something I heard once about a movie that pitted the Mafia against vampires. There was no one to root for. You would prefer if both sides lost.

Erdogan is not a good guy and Erdogan’s Turkey is not our friend. They’ve been either in fact or in effect supplying DAESH since the beginning and hampering U. S. efforts to combat terrorism in the region for a lot longer than that.

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