"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Devil is in the Details

In an election that was supposed to be about jobs and the economy, President Obama now finds himself in a battle over the signature accomplishment of his presidency--namely, ObamaCare. Democrats made a huge miscalculation by rushing the law to passage with a nakedly partisan majority, but now the Obama Administration is compounding the error by pushing ObamaCare through the courts and using its regulations to attack religious freedom in the midst of an election year. This chain of errors stands a good chance of costing Obama re-election.

More than half the states and numerous other parties have joined together to challenge the individual mandate provision which would require every American to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. Meanwhile, although the Catholic Bishops initially supported some form of healthcare reform, they are now united in opposing the implementation of the law by the Secretary of Health and Human Services which will require religious institutions to provide contraceptives that can also be used for do-it-yourself abortions.

As the battle for ObamaCare reached a climax in the spring of 2010, all of the maneuvering and political posturing was exhausted and the final sticking point was an amendment to the bill to ban the taxpayer funding of abortions. The Democratic majority had succeeded in quashing any objections over the enormous cost of the bill and the weakness of many of its policies, but a small cohort of pro-life Democrats led by Bart Stupak of Michigan had managed to hold out. By folding on this issue, Bart Stupak committed political suicide, but he may ultimately end up taking President Obama with him.

Conservatives are hopeful that the Supreme Court will strike down ObamaCare either wholly or in part on the basis of the individual mandate, but if the Court does not strike down the law, this will open up an even more horrifying possibility. If the individual mandate and HHS regulations are upheld, it will mean that there is effectively no limit on what the federal government can compel citizens to do. Indeed, because of Stupak’s cowardice, there is nothing in the law to stop the government from requiring abortions in difficult pregnancies if a bureaucrat decides that saving both mother and child is too costly.

It is ironic that as the debate over ObamaCare is being reignited the Gospel reading yesterday tells of a battle between Jesus and the Devil:

The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit: he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!"

The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."

Like the possessed man of scripture, ObamaCare suffers from a Devil inside. As the old proverb states, “the Devil is in the details,” and in the rush to win passage of the law, Democrats failed to consider the full implications of its various provisions. Indeed, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said, “…we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” By failing to scrutinize the law and allow deliberate consideration of its many provisions, the Democrats have unleashed a terrifying power that is already being turned to evil designs.

America is a nation of laws and although our laws sometimes seem contradictory and inefficient, they are the only protection we have for our most basic freedoms. In the dramatization of Thomas More’s final days, the film “A Man for All Seasons” spells out what is truly at stake in the fight for religious freedom today:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake

We would do well to remember this and to consider the full implications of every new law before we consent to it. Unless ObamaCare is overturned and repealed, we are only witnessing the beginning of a descent into a tyranny that resembles the forced eugenics of Nazi Germany or the population control policies of Communist China. It may seem unthinkable that this could happen in America, but when the law is perverted and its safeguards removed, we are truly at the mercy of the Devil—such as it is—and our destruction is all but certain.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Great Firewall of China and Internet Piracy

A weapon of war

Almost from the beginning, the Chinese Communist Party recognized the power—and the threat—of the Internet and has invested huge resources to limit access to its own people while simultaneously using the internet to undermine the intellectual and economic output of the United States. Whether we admit it or not, we are in a state of digital war with China. How we fight this war today will have lasting consequences not only for freedom on the Internet but also for freedom generally.

The Internet has matured to the point that actions in the digital world can now cause real changes in the physical world. Last year, we witnessed revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere that were started online. We also witnessed a hacking attack which disrupted an Iranian nuclear research laboratory. The Iranians responded by hacking into an American stealth reconnaissance drone and hijacking it—digitally. The Internet is no longer a mere novelty. Digital actions affect real-world events.

One front of this digital war is the rampant and aggressive intellectual property theft which is likely sponsored directly by the Chinese government. State-sponsored and well-funded hackers are constantly attacking American companies to steal intellectual property and the piracy of movies, music, and software is only one element of this attack. Nevertheless, Congress has crafted misguided legislation in SOPA and PIPA to target this small fraction of the onslaught while mostly ignoring the larger conflict.

We must be wary about ever limiting access to the Internet. The amazing power of the Internet to bring freedom to the world is precisely because of its openness. China recognizes this and along with North Korea and Iran is one of the most restrictive countries in the world. There is a legitimate need to combat piracy, but the language of SOPA and PIPA is so broad that the Chinese and other bad actors could actually use it against us by causing self-inflicted restriction of the Internet. This will only benefit the Chinese government’s efforts to restrict access and limit the free exchange of ideas.

The Internet has the power to bring freedom to China, Iran, North Korea, and all the other tyrannical regimes on the face of the earth. As Napoleon once said, "I fear three newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets." Just as Gutenberg’s printing press brought about the Enlightenment in Europe, so too can the Internet bring about a global digital renaissance. America invented the Internet and is arguably the most creative nation in the world. We can use this power to be a force for good in the world—or not. The choice is ours to make.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Iowa Caucus Ends the Myth of Romney’s Inevitability

Mitt Romney received more votes than any other candidate in last night’s Iowa Caucus, but for the establishment and media favorite to win the nomination, that’s not good enough. Romney is not an inspiring candidate, so he needed to win convincingly to prove he can appeal to more than just the moderate wing of the Republican Party. However, instead of emerging as the clear winner, he emerges bruised and weak. Romney’s win last night was so narrow that he will continue to face strong opposition in the weeks and months ahead.

The biggest story is of course Santorum’s stunning rise from relative obscurity to come within eight votes of Romney. One after another, other challengers have surged as the anti-Romney candidate, but they peaked too soon to see any benefit in the caucuses and primaries. Santorum, on the other hand, was right to praise God in his speech last night for his very providential surge on the eve of the first-in-the-nation contest in Iowa. 75% of votes last night were cast against Romney and the winner of that group was unquestionably Santorum.

Romney’s biggest problem is his lack of message. In his “victory” speech last night, Romney merely reiterated his standard nebulous bromides about American greatness and there was even a moment prior to the speech when his staff began setting up a teleprompter in front of his lectern before being hurried away when someone realized this might make for an unfavorable comparison to President Obama. By contrast, Santorum gave an emotional speech which was well calibrated with an appeal to social conservatives, working-class “Reagan Democrats,” and even a nod to the Tea Party.

The lack of a compelling message is a severe handicap for Romney. In the coverage last night on Fox News, Brett Baier stated that the Romney Campaign spent roughly $110 per vote while Santorum only spent about $1.50 per vote. Although the numbers are slightly different, data from BuzzFeed corroborates the vast difference between Romney and Santorum’s spending levels. Looking at it another way, Romney spent about 29% of the total money to win about 25% of the vote, while Santorum spent less than 1% of the total money to get almost exactly the same number of votes.

As a result, Romney’s performance in Iowa in 2012 was no better than his performance in 2008. Despite being the establishment favorite, outspending every other candidate except Rick Perry, higher overall turnout, his many advantages as a campaign veteran, and with better organization on the ground in Iowa than any candidate except possibly Ron Paul, Romney’s share of the vote remained virtually unchanged from where it was four years ago.

In the end, Romney won a costly and hollow victory in Iowa. Although he leads the polling in New Hampshire, the same was true in 2008 before John McCain’s upset there. Because of his perceived weakness, Romney will be the subject of withering all-out attacks from Newt Gingrich, Santorum, and Jon Huntsman in New Hampshire and South Carolina in the next few weeks. If Romney does somehow manage to win his party’s nomination, it will be a long and painful contest.