Chapman’s News & Ideas | Page 15

Tunisia’s Significance–the Interim Phase

Max Boot, the defense and foreign policy writer now lodged at the Council on Foreign Relations, was on the same International Republican Institute observer mission for the Tunisian elections the past week. His well-presented descriptions in the Weekly Standard are all ones I can endorse.

Tunisia, with a population about the size of Illinois, has made real progress, as Max points out. The next election–for President, a somewhat ill-defined post–will say a lot about the ability of disparate groups to work together. The struggle in Tunisia now is not so much Islamism versus secularism as free marketers versus statists. The old system was a familiar developing world type: part state-connected crony capitalism, part socialism. It’s a bad mix, unless you like stagnation.

This matters to America for several reasons. First, we need a regional model for Muslim countries working in a democratic framework with broad human rights (including minority rights) guarantees.

Second, Tunisia has the potential to show how a third world economic approach can be changed with new economic policies. The Afec party (“Aspiration”) is made up of young people who know their stuff and other parties respect them for it. The moderate Islamist party (Ennhahda–“Renaissance”), oddly enough, is probably more open to economic liberalism than the now-leading party, Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia), which includes many of the technocrats from the old dictatorial regime. Read More ›

Tunisia Offers New Hope for Democracy in Islamic Land

A Sample Ballot

A Sample Ballot

The elections in Tunisia yesterday showed that democracy is a real and growing commitment in the country where the “Arab Spring” began three years ago. Maybe because free choice has taken such a varied beating elsewhere in the region, Tunisians seemed determined to use the levers of the franchise to create a new political reality in this overwhelmingly Muslim land on the African coast south of Sicily.

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Tunisia’s Big Moment Sunday

The imminent American mid-term elections should not close our minds to the important elections taking place tomorrow in three friendly,but crucial states: Ukraine, Brazil and Tunisia. In some ways, Tunisia is most pivotal. Four years after the “Arab Spring” began with a Tunisian vendor in Sidi Bouzid setting himself on fire in desperation over harassing government regulations–and thereby setting fire also to a revolution that ended a long time dictatorship–the most promising Muslim electorate in the region is about to move toward a more stable and tolerant democracy. There have been three U.S.sponsored observer delegations here to take account of developments in the recent writing of a new constitution and now in the parliamentary elections. A presidential election will be Read More ›

They Check Voter IDs in Tunisia

Official foreign observers are in Tunisia this week for the parliamentary elections that take place on the 26th–three years after “the Arab Spring” revolution that returned democracy to this nation of 10 million. Today, leaders of the Independent Election Commission that has put 15,000 trained polling officials on duty assured the International Republican Institute delegation (of which I am a member) that every effort is made to avoid fraud.

For example, if someone appears at a voting center without acceptable ID, he or she will be turned away. Without exceptions. Read More ›

World War I Without Americans

In Paris, and here is the “Exposition on the Front”, the story of the Great War–World War I–at Les Invalides, in the same complex that houses Napoleon’s tomb. There’s a problem: there is almost no mention of the American role in bringing the war to an end. That is despite hundreds of photos, posters, memorabilia, etc. on the French, the British, the Italians and the Germans, the Austrians, etc. The briefest of mentions in a slide show refers to American “contingents” that arrived in 19l8. The implication is that they were incidental to the outcome. The French suffered terribly–and most–in the First World War. But their sacrifice was not made alone. If this were DeGaulle’s day the exhibit’s omission would Read More ›

Canon White & Tough Dealings in Iraq

photoCanon Andrew White, the Anglican “Vicar of Baghdad”, has seen his congregation shrink from 6000 to 160 since the Iraq War began in 2003. The Christian population of Baghdad “will never come back,” he fears, many of them now in camps in Northern Iraq’s Kurdish areas. Some Christians have made it to America.

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The Spectacle of a Political Committee Pulling its Campaign Spots

The very public decision of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to pulls its TV ads in Kentucky in support of Democrat Alice Lundergran Grimes’ campaign–because they now expect her to lose–is an example of the increasingly callous abuse of parties and candidates by pollsters and consultants. It stimulates the “horse race” coverage of elections and demoralizes the party faithful. And the cynical spectacle is not only limited to Kentucky.

Publicly pulling a fund-raising group’s financial support is also a cruel trick to play on candidates. Various political operatives help persuade a candidate to run, then feel no embarrassment later for undercutting the candidate publicly in the often-crucial weeks of a campaign. The candidate not only loses monetary backing, but he or she also is damaged by the “loser” label applied in the media by erstwhile friends.

Alice Lundergran Grimes is a good example. She is no match for the experience and political acumen of Sen. Mitch McConnell, whom she seeks to replace. But she also seems to have a surplus of humility in the presence of campaign consultants who no doubt have told her not to mention whom she voted for in the presidential races of 2008 and 2012. Several other candidates on the Democratic ticket nationally are taking the same strange stand and you can almost hear their advisors insisting that such a position is necessary in a country where President Obama is increasingly unpopular. Surely someone with common sense–including the candidates themselves–would have figured out that the ploy would backfire and that voters would decide that someone who refused to answer such an obvious question is not ready for the big time.

So taking such bad advice hurts the candidate. Then the fundraising pros take the money away–because the candidate is weaker now. Read More ›

Someone at Harvard Gets It

Was it really sixty some years ago that Harvard stood up against Sen. Joe McCarthy and and his exaggerated charges of communism on campuses? Today, Harvard has swung far to the other end of the ideological spectrum. For example, it has new policies that encourage tendentious prosecution of males who have sex with females without getting adequate permission. The whole idea is ludicrous. It’s hard enough to get students to use birth control, let alone to abstain. But to arrange some sort of sex contract? Get serious. (Some are suggesting that the new rules are such a turn-off that rampant sex on campus will have cold water thrown on it, so to speak. Not altogether a bad thing. But threatening prosecution for sex acts after the fact is a strange way to achieve moral reform.)

Some Harvard Law professors have, indeed, become serious and are objecting to Harvard’s new standards as extra-legal and ethically unsound. Their arguments make sense and, one hopes, will have influence on faculty at other universities.

But, meanwhile, why do universities think it is their business to adjudicate rape charges in the first place? We have good civil/criminal laws on the subject. A charge of rape is far too serious to be handled by appointed university boards–especially since many of them are kangaroo courts. Call the police, people! Read More ›

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis; Political Crisis to Follow?

Leftist Venezuela is joining leftist Argentina in a downward economic spiral brought on largely by the government. Economic mismanagement does tend to lead to economic distress, then to social and political turmoil. Two Harvard professors expect a Venezuela default on its debts.

Unlike Argentina, Venezuela is oil rich. But free-spenders have boosted inflation to about 65 percent. The government-run oil industry pumps two million barrels a day. But its spending habit needs world prices of $200 per barrel, while actual prices are declining toward the low 80’s.

The weakening global economy, combined with U.S. fracking and other oil development, are responsible for the falling oil prices. North Dakota and Texas will slow production, most likely, as will sheikdoms in the Middle East. Iran and Nigeria will feel the pain. But the countries that will hurt the most include Russia, whose economy is dominated by fossil fuels, and Venezuela, a nation that is falling deeper and deeper into the inflation trap and experiencing consumer scarcities brought on by government price controls and reckless spending. Read More ›

Detective Columbo of Chemistry: “I Don’t Understand Evolution”

A renowned chemist says he doesn’t “understand” evolution. What he means, he subsequently makes clear, is that Darwin’s theory doesn’t make sense to him. His humility, like that of Lt. Columbo in the famous TV detective series, covers a tough, analytical mind.

Dr. Tour

Dr. Tour

Dr. James Tour of Rice University, regarded as one of America’s 50 top scientists, is quoted by Christian News about his innocent-sounding discussions with fellow scientists in private. “‘Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science—with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners,’ Tour stated. ‘I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public—because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said—I say, ‘Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?’

“The answer he inevitably receives, Tour explained, is: ‘no.’

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