Evening Photo: Thatcher, Reagan sit on an Oval Office patio – summer 1987

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I’m still reflecting today on the passing of the Baroness Thatcher. Thought this photo was a lovely reminder of days gone by. I look at this, and wonder what they were discussing. Whatever it was, their mutual admiration was clearly visible.

Thatcher and Reagan

A picture dated July 17, 1987, shows former President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the patio outside the Oval Office. – via AFP/Getty Images

As seen from the Wall Street Journal piece: The Thatcher/Reagan Mutual Admiration Society, Remembered

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Gone but not forgotten: Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher passes away at 87

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Sad news this morning from Britain:

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an outspoken woman known to many as “The Iron Lady,” has died at 87 after suffering a stroke.

“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” Thatcher spokesperson Lord Bell said in a statement.

Thatcher led Britain’s Conservatives to three election victories from 1979 to 1990, the longest continuous period in office by a British prime minister since the early 19th century. Alongside former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher battled against communism and saw the Berlin Wall get torn down in 1989.

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his trip to several European countries after the announcement of Thatcher’s death.

“We have lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton,” Cameron said in a statement.

Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth II was sad to hear the news of Thatcher’s passing, adding that she would be sending a private message of sympathy to the family today.

Downing Street said the Queen has authorized a ceremonial funeral — a step short of a state funeral — to be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It said the funeral will be attended by a “wide and diverse range of people,” and the service will be followed by a private cremation. But it did not provide further details on the timing of the service, saying only that the arrangement are “in line with the wishes” of Thatcher’s family.

During 11 bruising years as prime minister, Thatcher transformed her country by a ruthless dedication to free markets and infuriated European allies. She transferred large chunks of the economy from the state hands to private ownership.

The former PM, alongside our great former President – the late Ronald Reagan – are among the most inspirational and fearless leaders of our time who, although gone, will always be studied, analyzed, fondly remembered, and highly respected. Their beliefs in individual freedom over centralized government were strong and formed a permanent bond between the two in what became a storied alliance and personal friendship, which stood the test of time.

Rest in peace, Baroness Thatcher, and may God bless your family and your country at this bittersweet time.

Sunday Book Review: The Founders’ Second Amendment

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**Posted by Phineas

book-cover-founders-second-amendment

The right to carry a weapon and the efforts to restrict that right, the latter euphemistically called “gun control,” have been much in the news lately. In the wake of horrific mass-killings at an elementary school and a movie theater, the liberal left in America (and other people genuinely appalled at what happened) have called for new restrictions on the kinds of firearms people are allowed to have. Strenuous efforts were made in the federal Senate to reinstate a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” while the states of Colorado and New York have recently passed highly restrictive new firearms laws.

Central to this debate (more of a screaming argument, really) has been the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Since the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are documents meant to limit the power of government, a central question has been “What does the amendment mean, and what does it allow the government to do?”

One would think the question would be an easy one, the phrase “shall not be infringed” being quite clear, but things are no longer so simple. Advocates of strict gun control have variously argued that the Second Amendment refers to a group right, not one held by individuals; that it refers to the right to bear arms solely while serving in a militia, not to have them in one’s home; that the right is limited only to hunting and other sporting uses, thus allowing the government to regulate firearms “not necessary” to that; that the frontier no longer exists, so there’s no need for militia-style defense; and that the progress of technology has made weapons too dangerous for individual use, thus rendering the amendment obsolete and non-operative.

Defenders of the right to bear arms, on the other hand, not only point to the plain text of the amendment, but argue that one must look to the experiences of the founding generation at the time of the amendment’s writing and how they understood the precise words they used in it and other areas of our core documents. In other words, one must consider their original intent.

Stephen A. Halbrook’s “The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms” (hereafter “TFSA”) provides an invaluable contribution to the “originalist” argument in defense of the right to keep and bear arms. Halbrook explains his intention thus:

This work seeks to present the views of the Founders who actually created the Second Amendment. It is based on their own words as found in newspapers, correspondence, debates, and resolutions. Generous quotations from the Founders are used to allow them to speak for themselves, thereby avoiding the appearance of re-characterization of their views.

The “Founders” were the generation of Americans in the eighteenth century who suffered in the final stages of British colonialism, fought the Revolution and won independence, debated and adopted the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and established the republic. The members of that generation passed away by the early nineteenth century, but their constitutional legacy is, if not immortal, a singular triumph in the history of human freedom. (Kindle edition, beginning at location 175)

Halbrook covers the roughly 60 years from 1768 (the British military occupation of Boston) to 1826 (when Adams and Jefferson died) and the Founders thinking on the right to keep and bear arms in great detail, from the colonists’ original assertion of their rights as Englishmen through the writing of the first post-independence state constitutions, the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and the debate over the Bill of Rights. He cites not only the opinions and arguments of the first-tier, well-remembered Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Madison, &c.), but also of nearly forgotten but influential men such as Tench Coxe and St. George Tucker. Quotations come from both those who supported the ratification of the Constitution (“Federalists”) and those who opposed it (“Anti-Federalists”), as well as those who would support it only with a Bill of Rights, with the right to bear arms being primary among their concerns. To make sure we understand the meanings of the amendment’s words as the Founders’ did, he frequently cites from Noah Webster’s “Compendious Dictionary of the English Language” (1806).

On reading TFSA, several things become clear:

  • That, as the Founders understood it, “rights” vest in individual people and cannot be taken from them, only suppressed through tyranny.
  • That governments have no rights, only powers, and these powers can be restricted by the People.
  • That the keeping (as in “possession of property”) and bearing (“carrying”) of arms covered everything from hunting to self-defense to defense against oppressive government, and that this was a private right of the citizen, not something granted by the State or to be used only when the government permitted it. Indeed, the bearing of arms was considered the hallmark of a free citizen and necessary to the defense of his other rights, while the banning or restriction of arms in Europe was seen as prima facie evidence of oppression.

In no case, Halbrook avers, did anyone among the Founders acknowledge a government “right” to restrict, ban, or confiscate the arms of law-abiding citizens.

TFSA also spends a great deal of time on the question of a “militia” versus a “standing army,” which was a topic of overriding importance at the time, given the Americans’ experience of tyranny and violence at the hands of British regulars. Halbrook argues, to my mind convincingly, that the militia clause of the Second Amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,…” is a statement of purpose, not proscription limiting the right to bear arms to militia service. It is an assertion that the People’s right to keep and bear arms cannot be denied because a militia, composed of the body of the People, is essential to enforce the laws, suppress rebellion, defend against invasion, and as a last resort against tyrannical government, that last being something the Founders had very personal experience of in their own lives.

Regarding style, Halbrook’s writing is straightforward and easy to follow. If the book sometimes seems tedious, it is because the author is making a strong effort to be thorough and to bring home the point that early American opinions on the right to bear arms were remarkably consistent. In this case, this thoroughness is a virtue, not a flaw. However, the Kindle version, on which this review is based, is plagued with frequent typographical errors that look to be the result of scanning from the original without a subsequent editing. While very annoying, this does not detract from the book’s immense value in the current debate.

“The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms,” by Stephen Halbrook, is available in both paperback and Kindle format. (Fair disclosure: Buying a copy nets me a few pennies.)

Highly recommended.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Quote of the Day: Obama really is the second FDR edition

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**Posted by Phineas

They made and broke the same promises:

FDR deficit history Obama

Compare that to this statement by the Man Who Would Be FDR:

“This is big,” wrote White House director of new media Macon Phillips in a February 23, 2009 blog post, ”the President today promised that by the end of his first term, he will cut in half the massive federal deficit we’ve inherited. And we’ll do it in a new way: honestly and candidly.”

Indeed, President Obama did make that promise that day, saying, “today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay — and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.”

The 2013 budget the president submitted today does not come close to meeting this promise of being reduced to $650 billion for fiscal year 2013.

Few remember today that Roosevelt ran to the right of Hoover on spending, decrying government that “costs too much.” Obama, in his turn, promised to go through the budget “line by line” to make D.C. more frugal.

In other words, both took over from presidents who had already expanded government and increased spending, both promised to get the budget under control, and both broke those promises to instead grow government and government spending massively.

Time was right: Obama really is the second FDR.

Time cover FDR Obama

FDR graphic via Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

President Obama sez: “I am not a dictator” – sound familiar?

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In the midst of the President’s undignified, petulant whining over the sequester yesterday was this interesting exchange:

(CNN) – Asked Friday by CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin why President Obama can’t simply refuse to let congressional leaders leave a room until they reach a deficit-reduction agreement, the president said he can’t “force Congress to do the right thing.”

“Jessica, I am not a dictator, I’m the president,” he said while speaking to reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room. “Ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we need to go to catch a plane, I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway.”

“I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington, and that somehow–even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal–the fact that they don’t take it means that somehow I should do a Jedi mind-meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right,” he added.

First things first, you can’t do a “Jedi mind-meld”, Mr. President, because it doesn’t exist. Secondly, it was a ridiculous rhetorical question by Yellin, who knows the President can’t do that but nevertheless gave him the softball question he needed to provide his “I”m the only one doing what’s right in this town/walking against the wind” answer.   Thirdly, there is this:

Food for Thought

Image via ‘I will not be intimidated’ Facebook page.

You know what they say – denial is a river ….

The 20 most embarrassing moments in Democratic Party history

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**Posted by Phineas

I know, I know. “Only 20″, you ask? Via Liberty Unyielding, let’s think of this as a Greatest Hits album. Here are the first six:

 1) The Trail of Tears (1838): The first Democrat President, Andrew Jackson and his successor Martin Van Buren, herded Indians into camps, tormented them, burned and pillaged their homes and forced them to relocate with minimal supplies. Thousands died along the way.

2) Democrats Cause The Civil War (1860): The pro-slavery faction of the Democrat Party responded to Abraham Lincoln’s election by seceding, which led to the Civil War.

3) Formation of the KKK (1865): Along with 5 other Confederate veterans, Democrat Nathan Bedford Forrest created the KKK.

4) 300 Black Americans Murdered (1868): “Democrats in Opelousas, Louisiana killed nearly 300 blacks who tried to foil an assault on a Republican newspaper editor.”

5) The American Protective League and The Palmer Raids (1919-1921): Under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson, criticizing the government became a crime and a fascist organization, the American Protective League was formed to spy on and even arrest fellow Americans for being insufficiently loyal to the government. More than 100,000 Americans were arrested, with less than 1% of them ever being found guilty of any kind of crime.

6) Democrats Successfully Stop Republicans From Making Lynching A Federal Crime (1922): “The U.S. House adopted Rep. Leonidas Dyer’s (R., Mo.) bill making lynching a federal crime. Filibustering Senate Democrats killed the measure.”

Now, none of this is to say that the average voting Democrat today is a sheet-wearing racist terrorist or a supporter of arresting people for daring to criticize the government. Far from it.

But, as I’ve written before, the Democratic Party has successfully whitewashed its dirty history on race and made the Republicans, the party that fought slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, and supported civil rights look like the historical villains. This record is in desperate need of correction.

Click through for the rest and for a great Jonah Goldberg quote from Liberal Fascism.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Sunday Book Review: “The Communist,” a biography of Barack Obama’s mentor

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**Posted by Phineas

book-cover-kengor-communist

Mentors matter. For better or worse, there are people who, in our formative years, influence the way we see the world and how we act to shape it in our adult life. And if the mentored individual becomes a powerful person –President of the United States, for example– then the mentor’s influence affects our lives, too, making it worth our while to know something about this person.

This is the thesis behind Paul Kengor’s “The Communist,” a political biography of Frank Marshall Davis, who Kengor contends was a hugely influential mentor to President Barack Obama. That Davis was also, as Kengor shows, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party – USA (CPUSA), a doctrinaire Stalinist and defender of all things Soviet, and a hater of the Western world, should make us curious about what influence, if any, he had on young Barack Obama.

Kengor traces Davis’ life from his birth in Arkansas City, Kansas, in 1905 to his death in Hawaii in 1987. Along the way, we see the incidents that lead Frank to reject “the American Way.” Living under Jim Crow and in fear of White racist violence (at age five he was nearly lynched by White school children), it’s not hard to see what lead Frank to reject what he saw as fake democracy and exploitative capitalism in favor of an ideology that promised, however falsely, fairness, justice, and and racial equality. Indeed, Kengor admits that he, a conservative Catholic historian, can’t help but feel sympathy for his subject, even while rejecting and condemning Davis’ devotion to a murderous ideology.

The lion’s share is devoted to Frank’s work as an columnist for various newspapers in Atlanta, Chicago, and Honolulu. With extensive quotes from Frank’s own writings, many of which had lain forgotten in archives until recent years, he demonstrates Frank’s devotion to the Soviet Union, his adoration of Stalin, and his propaganda spinning in service of Moscow’s ends.

He also chronicles Davis’ hatred for the colonial powers, Britain and Churchill especially, and for the Democratic Party in the United States. This makes sense when one recalls Frank’s devotion to Soviet communism and the firm stance taken against that menace by Truman and other leading Democrats of the day. Kengor shows that charges of “McCarthyism,” made when Frank came under investigation by the Democrat-controlled Congress and repeated by his liberal and progressive defenders until his death, were ludicrous: not only had he spent his professional career defending and praising the Soviet Union (and Mao’s China and communist Viet Nam), but his CPUSA membership number was part of his FBI file, and the Senator who lead his questioning before Congress was the same man who ended Joe McCarthy’s red-baiting. “McCarthyism” was a smoke-screen, a distraction thrown in the faces of critics for one purpose: to deflect from the fact that Davis (and others) really were Communists.

Davis moved to Hawaii from Chicago, where he had known and worked with relatives of both Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, close advisers to Obama. (These relatives were also either Communists or highly sympathetic to Stalin’s USSR.) In Hawaii, he edited and wrote for the Honolulu Record, a paper funded by the Soviet-aligned International Longshore and Warehouse Union. It was after this, in retirement, that Frank was introduced to young Barack Obama, who had been brought to Frank by Obama’s White grandfather, who wanted a Black mentor or father figure for the future president, whose own father had run out on him.

It is here that Kengor reaches the question that most interests the reader: How much influence did CPUSA-member Frank Marshall Davis have over Barack Obama, the teen who would grow up to be President of the United States?

The answer Kengor gives is “quite a bit,” but the exact influence of Davis’ mentorship on President Obama’s career and policies is left for the reader to decide. Through an examination of Obama’s writings –his memoir “Dreams from my Father” and some poetry he wrote in college– Kengor concludes that Davis was very important influence on Obama’s youth, perhaps the most significant. As for his policies as president, Kengor shows parallels between policies Frank demanded, such as universal health care, first proposed by Senator Claude Pepper in the 1940s (Pepper’s top aide was, it turned out, a paid Soviet agent), and those programs Obama has pursued. Even in targets for disdain, Obama shows Frank’s influence. For example, Frank despised Winston Churchill, and one of Obama’s first acts in office was to remove a bust of the Prime Minister, a gift from Britain, from the Oval Office. While Kengor never says outright that Obama is pursuing Frank’s goals, the parallels, at least in domestic affairs, are striking. And given that Obama, as Kengor points out, has never shown a moment of “conversion,” of rejecting the Far Left and moving toward the Center, it’s fair to assume that whatever Frank taught Obama, he still at least finds much of it agreeable.

Stylistically, “The Communist” is written in a casual, almost chatty manner that does not detract from the seriousness of its subject. The book is well-documented (it has to be, given the rabid reaction one could expect from the Left), and Kengor is fair to his subject. There is nothing sensationalistic or scandal-mongering about the book, and it avoids the lurid rumors about Frank’s sex-life to concentrate on his politics.

Paul Kengor’s “The Communist” fills an important gap in our knowledge of the education of Barack Obama, of the early, important influences on his life and thought. Taken in combination with Kurtz’s “Radical in Chief” (reviewed here) which covers Obama’s career and involvement with Socialism and Socialists from college to the presidency, we have a good, two-volume political biography of the man who would come to lead (and take over much of) the largest economy in human history.

Highly recommended.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Reading this book has reminded me yet again of what a miserable job the mainstream media did vetting Obama prior to the 2008 election. None of the material Kengor cites would have been all that difficult to find for a dedicated researcher. Sadly, they chose to devote their time to shielding him from scrutiny, instead, while covering the things that mattered to them the most, such as Sarah Palin’s tanning bed and wardrobe. Their dereliction is inexcusable.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

About that armed deputy at Columbine

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**Posted by Phineas

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, some have suggested that perhaps, since “gun-free zones” have been shown to be ineffective at best and an invitation to disaster at worst, it might be a good idea to have people qualified to carry firearms at schools.  Whether it’s faculty and staff, or police officers, or paid armed security, the idea is the same: take down the shooter as fast as possible, because every second counts.

In reply, some gun-control advocates have pointed out that there was an armed deputy at Columbine High School in 1999 when two teens went on their rampage. Fair enough, but that’s not the whole story. NRO’s Dan Foster supplies important information the anti-Second Amendment forces don’t mention:

…but it isn’t like the deputy was sitting around eating doughnuts during the Columbine massacre. He traded fire (that is, he drew fire) with Harris for an extended period of time, during which Harris’s gun jammed. The deputy and the backup he immediately called for exchanged fire with the shooters a second time and helped begin the evacuation of students, all before the SWAT teams and the rest of the cavalry arrived, and before Harris and Klebold killed themselves in the library. Harris and Klebold had an assault plan — a sloppy plan, but a plan nonetheless. They had dozens of IEDs, some of which detonated, others of which did not. And there were two of them. In this highly chaotic tactical environment, the deputy acted both bravely and prudently, and who knows how many lives he saved by engaging Harris.

This illustrates an important point liberty-advocates have been trying to make in this “debate:” the point of an armed defender isn’t just that he can (we hope) kill or otherwise neutralize the shooter. The armed defender also distracts the gunman, drawing his attention away from his intended targets, giving them time to escape. While 13 students were killed by Harris and Klebold, untold others were saved precisely because there was someone armed on campus. Far from being an example of the uselessness of armed, trained defenders (1) in schools, Columbine illustrates why we should want them on the scene.

It does not make one a drooling, mouth-breathing gun nut to wish someone at Sandy Hook had been similarly armed.

One other point. As David Kopel argues in the WSJ Online, mass shooters are often easily stopped by armed civilians, sometimes even taking themselves out:

Finally, it must be acknowledged that many of these attacks today unfortunately take place in pretend “gun-free zones,” such as schools, movie theaters and shopping malls. According to Ron Borsch’s study for the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, active shooters are different from the gangsters and other street toughs whom a police officer might engage in a gunfight. They are predominantly weaklings and cowards who crumble easily as soon as an armed person shows up.

The problem is that by the time the police arrive, lots of people are already dead. So when armed citizens are on the scene, many lives are saved. The media rarely mention the mass murders that were thwarted by armed citizens at the Shoney’s Restaurant in Anniston, Ala. (1991), the high school in Pearl, Miss. (1997), the middle-school dance in Edinboro, Penn. (1998), and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. (2007), among others.

At the Clackamas Mall in Oregon last week, an active shooter murdered two people and then saw that a shopper, who had a handgun carry permit, had drawn a gun and was aiming at him. The murderer’s next shot was to kill himself.

(via Dan Mitchell)

The same thing occurred at Sandy Hook: as first responders closed in, the killer killed himself. But that was after several minutes had gone by, giving him plenty of time to kill and kill and kill even more.

Again, wouldn’t it have been better if someone trained in the use of firearms and in how to respond had been on the scene from the start? How many might have been saved?

Footnote:
(1) If one is uncomfortable with teachers or other staff being armed, school districts could also look at hiring private security that uses former military or off-duty police.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)