Chapman’s News & Ideas

Canada’s Understandable Slam of Putin

Many diplomats’ eyebrows at the G-20 Summit held in Brisbane probably went up slightly when mild-mannered Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was leader to tell Russia’s Vladimir Putin bluntly to “get out of Ukraine.”

However, it might bear noting that Canada is home to the third largest population of Ukrainians (1.200,000) outside Ukraine itself and Russia. Harper’s slam probably was appreciated by those citizens back home. Read More ›

Hospice: A Place for Compromise

“Do you want a solution or do you want an issue?” That is an old political challenge to the ideologue. Our Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith, who coined the term “human exceptionalism”, is a pronounced opponent of assisted suicide. There are proponents who seem to want the “issue” more than any compromise that fails to provide easy access to suicide–which is to say, a choice made under duress.

However, there are people on the side of allowing assisted suicide who are willing to recognize that most ill and hurting people in what may be the end of life mainly want surcease from pain. That is where hospice often comes in. The trouble is, the economic choice is often to continue fighting a disease OR to enter hospice. It is a Hobson’s choice, as Wesley Smith says–with Arthur Caplan of NYU –in this USA Today column. Read More ›

Mia Love: Symbol for GOP’s Challenge in 2016

Mia_Love_by_Gage_Skidmore“Miracles happen,” said venerable Sen. Oren Hatch of Utah, speaking of Republican gains in the Senate Tuesday night, but he might as well have been speaking of the victory of Mia Love as the first black Republican woman to Congress, maybe ever. From lily white Utah, no less.

Love’s win came late in a day full of political news, so its significance may have been lost to mainstream media and even the conservative press. Love, a former small town mayor, is an outspoken conservative, the sort that have to start showing up more often in Republican ranks if that party is to have a chance in elections going forward.

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Thank You, Candidates

We pause before the election returns come in to thank the candidates of both parties (and independents) who ran this year. Because of you, the voters had choices. The process is grueling and candidates are often twisted around by consultants and managers to be something in a campaign that they are not in real life; it’s humiliating. Imagine for example that you were one of the Democrats who declined to say whether they had voted for Obama. That was consultants using them a puppets.

Matt Miller, who lost a Democratic primary race for Congress in California earlier this year, writes for Politico Magazine an unusual and fully credible account of what it is like these days to be a candidate. Candidates in both parties could relate to what he describes.

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Putin Slides Further into Authoritarianism

It used to be possible to understand Vladimir Putin, if not defend him, but now one has to wonder what his game plane is. Even assuming he wants to recreate the fabled glories of Greater Russia, his behavior doesn’t make sense. Perhaps he is just living day to day.

Now his government is kicking Catholic priests and nuns out of Crimea, following a law passed by the Russian Parliament that handicaps foreigners and takes a dim view of Russian citizens who deal with foreigners. In the case of Catholic priests in Crimea their “foreign” nationality is chiefly Ukrainian.

So first you engineer a fake revolt in Crimea and provide Russian special forces without Russian uniforms to operate it. Then, after the takeover, you kick out the “foreigners”–people who have lived there all or most of their lives. The Catholics now, the Tatars later.

What does President Putin get out of such high handed actions? His country is on the verge of recession because of falling oil prices and the sanctions provoked by his takeovers and intimidation of Western neighbors. Small banks are closing weekly and even formerly sympathetic overseas investors are being frightened off by Putin’s increasing bellicosity and unreasonableness. Tourism at Sochi, the costly resort renovated for the winter Olympics, is virtually defunct, and what business arriving there comes from Putin policies that subsidize it for Russian cronies and government employees. Crimea, too, is a burden, not a cash cow.

The conventional answer to my question as to what Putin hopes to get from all this is that he gets even greater popularity at home by stirring up Russian paranoia about other countries. It is a great and a traditional Russian distraction from a contracting economic future.

But surely he knows that a failing economy eventually will become obvious to the public at large, and that the blame will have to go to the leader in charge. He can’t at that time blame foreigners and suggest that attacking them will solve things. Read More ›

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 ›