Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Game of Thrones: Second Sons.

Rival queens. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and daughter-in-law Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer).

Game of Thrones Finally Takes Some Mercy on Its Viewers. By Ross Douthat, Spencer Kornhaber, and Christopher Orr. The Atlantic, May 20, 2013.

Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 8: Weddings and Blood Offerings. By Andy Greenwald. Grantland, May 20, 2013.

Discussion of Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 8: “Second Sons.” Panel with Ben Mankiewicz, Brett Erlich, and John Iadoarola. Video. What the Flick, May 20, 2013. YouTube.

More on Game of Thrones here.

Game of Thrones 3x08: Cersei and Margaery. Video. GameOfThrones2013, May 19, 2013. YouTube. Also here, here, and here.

Game of Thrones 3x04: Margaery Continues to Play the Game. Video. GameOfThrones2013, April 22, 2013. YouTube.

Game of Thrones 3x08: Daenerys Meets the Second Sons. Video. Jaqen H’ghar, May 19, 2013. YouTube. Also herehere and here.

Daario Naharis Joins Forces with Daenerys. Video. EvilDarkChris, May 20, 2013. YouTube. Also here and here.

Game of Thrones 3x08: Second Sons | Daenerys Scenes. Video. EmiliaClarke Ph, May 20, 2013. YouTube.

The “Muslims Killed by the West” Lie. By Dennis Prager.

The “Muslims Killed by the West” Lie. By Dennis Prager. National Review Online, May 28, 2013. Also at Real Clear Politics.

Securing Israel Today. By Pete Hegseth.

Securing Israel Today. By Pete Hegseth. National Review Online, May 28, 2013.

How Hafez al-Assad Saved Israel. By Caroline Glick.

How Hafez Assad Saved Israel. By Caroline Glick. Real Clear World, May 25, 2013. Also find it here and here.

Compass Goes to Zakopane: A Photo-Essay. By Alex Berezow.

Compass Goes to Zakopane: A Photo-Essay. By Alex Berezow. Real Clear World, May 27, 2013.

Slovakian countryside. Alex Berezow.

Bob Dole: Republican Party Should Put A Sign Up That Says “Closed For Repairs.”

Bob Dole: Republican Party Should Put A Sign Up That Says “Closed For Repairs.” Video. Real Clear Politics, May 26, 2013. YouTube here and here.

GOP Already Tried the Bob Dole Paradigm. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, May 28, 2013.

Too Many GOP Establishment Deals with Democrats Put Us Where We are Today. By Rush Limbaugh. RushLimbaugh.com, May 28, 2013.

It’s Not the Palestinian Economy, Stupid. By David Horovitz.

Memo to Kerry: It’s not the economy, stupid. By David Horovitz. The Times of Israel, May 27, 2013.

Statesmen Stuck in Middle East Time Warp. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, May 28, 2013.

What Is True Conservatism? By Peter Wehner.

What Is True Conservatism? By Peter Wehner. Commentary, May 24, 2013.

GOP fear of Common Core education standards unfounded. By Michael Gerson. Washington Post, May 20, 2013.


In a recent column, Michael Gerson wrote about modern conservatism’s “two distinct architectural styles.” One approach within conservatism, he said, celebrates those who seek to apply abstract principles in their purest form. The alternative approach is more disposed toward compromise, incremental progress and taking into account shifting circumstances.

What’s worth noting, I think, is that many of those in the first camp consider themselves to be more principled and authentically conservative than those in the second, who are often derided as RINOs and “squishes,” as part of the much-derided “establishment” and who go along to get along. These politicians continually back away from fights like shutting down the federal government, preventing an increase in the debt ceiling, going over the fiscal cliff and filibustering background checks. The failure to engage these battles, and many others, is a sign of infidelity to conservatism.

Now, it’s not as if this critique never applies. There are certainly Republicans who claim to be conservative but don’t have deep convictions, who are in politics not because they care about advancing ideas as much as they care about power and titles. But what is of more interest to me is the divide over what a genuine conservative temperament and cast of mind is. A new book on Edmund Burke, by the British MP Jesse Norman, helps illuminate this matter. Given the contours of the current debate, it’s worth recalling what Burke, whom Norman refers to as “the first conservative,” actually believed.

Let’s start with moderation, a word many modern-day conservatives instinctively recoil from but which Burke referred to as “a virtue not only amiable but powerful. It is a disposing, arranging, conciliating, cementing virtue.”

According to Norman, Burke believed the proper attitude of those who aspire to power is “humility, modesty and a sense of public duty.” He was “anti-ideological in spirit,” deeply distrustful of zealotry and believed self-correcting reforms, while certainly necessary, should be limited, discriminating, and proportionate. For Burke, Norman argues, universal principles were never sufficient in themselves to guide practical deliberation.

“Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect,” according to Burke. “The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.”

“The lines of morality are not like the ideal lines of mathematics,” he wrote elsewhere. “They admit of exceptions, they demand modifications. These exceptions and modifications are not made by the process of logic but by the rules of prudence.”

A Burkean approach would never insist on absolute consistency in conducting human affairs. Politics is about carefully balancing competing principles, ever alert to the dangers posed by unintended consequences. It involves taking into account public sentiments, what Burke called the “temper of the people.” Nor is politics ever as simple as saying we believe in liberty and limited government and therefore the application of those principles is self-evident. Burke’s view, according to Norman, is that “perfection is not given to man, and so politics is an intrinsically messy business… The function of politics, then, is primarily one of reconciliation and enablement.” What deeply concerned Burke were people of “intemperate minds.” What is required of statesmen is wisdom and good judgment, sobriety, foresight and prudence.

Now Burke’s interpretation of conservatism was not written on stone tablets delivered on Mt. Sinai–and even if it were, merely to invoke Burke does not mean one is properly applying his insights to the here and now. But it does strike me that as this debate intensifies, and as various people lay claim to being the True Conservatives, it’s worth reminding ourselves what the greatest exponent of conservatism actually believed.

Orthodox Paradox. By Noah Feldman.

Orthodox Paradox. By Noah Feldman. New York Times Magazine, July 22, 2007. Also find it here.

In Syria, Go Big or Stay Home. By Ray Takeyh.

In Syria, Go Big or Stay Home. By Ray Takeyh. New York Times, May 27, 2013.


From liberal internationalists to hawkish conservatives, a chorus of influential voices in Washington is suggesting that American intervention in Syria would also do serious damage to Bashar al-Assad’s close ally, Iran.

Military action in Syria would demonstrate, so the argument goes, that America is serious about enforcing its red lines. Impressed and crestfallen, Iran’s recalcitrant mullahs would scale back their nuclear zeal and conform to international nonproliferation agreements.

However, given the fact that any intervention by the Obama administration is likely to be tentative and halting, rather than an overwhelming show of military force, it is not likely to end Syria’s civil war or intimidate Iran’s rulers.

The sort of intervention needed to bring about a decisive rebel victory would require more than no-fly zones and arms. It would mean disabling Mr. Assad’s air power and putting boots on the ground. America would have to take the lead in organizing a regional military force blessed by the Arab League and supported by its own intelligence assets and Special Forces. After that would come the task of reconstituting Syria and mediating its sectarian conflicts. As the war in Iraq painfully demonstrated, refashioning national institutions from the debris of a civil war can be more taxing than the original military intervention.

Because it would take all of this to oust Mr. Assad and end the violence, America must accept the need for a robust intervention. There is no easy solution or middle ground. Moreover, rather than intimidating Iran, a less-than-decisive American intervention in Syria would do the opposite. It would convince Iran’s leaders that America doesn’t have an appetite for fighting a major war in the region.

There is something curious about the debate gripping Washington. Although more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed since the civil war began and the Assad regime appears to have violated all norms of warfare by using chemical weapons against civilians, calls for robust intervention are muted.

The legacy of Iraq looms large. A war-weary nation that has sacrificed so much on the battlefields of the Middle East is reluctant to embark on new campaigns. Neither the Obama administration nor its Congressional critics seem to have an appetite for nation-building. And there is a reluctance to admit that half measures like arming the rebels or establishing a no-fly zone are unlikely to end the suffering of the Syrian people in the face of a determined Alawite minority, led by a vicious Mr. Assad, who has no qualms about carrying out ethnic cleansing in a struggle to the death.

A prolonged war in Syria would offer Iran the same advantages that America’s invasion of Iraq did. Once the United States settled into the task of reconstituting Iraq, generals, politicians and pundits insisted that a second front couldn’t be opened in the Middle East. As Washington tried to sort out Iraq’s troubles, it ignored Iran’s mischief and subversion.

While Iran enjoyed immunity from American military force as a result of Washington’s preoccupation with Iraq’s civil war, Iranian proxies in Iraq systematically assaulted American troops with I.E.D.’s and helped derail their mission. In the meantime, Iran’s mothballed nuclear infrastructure was taken out of storage and refurbished.

If a very reluctant Obama administration does becomes entangled in Syria, it is likely to treat Iran with the same degree of caution as the more hawkish Bush administration did — avoiding any direct confrontation with Iran and refraining from issuing ultimatums about Iran’s nuclear program. The result would be an emboldened Iran willing to cross the nuclear threshold and assert its dominance throughout the region.

To be clear, there is no doubt that a decisive rebel victory in Syria and the fall of the Assad dynasty would constitute a major setback for Iran, given that Syria has always been Iran’s most reliable pathway to its proxy Hezbollah. But a rebel rout is highly unlikely without full-scale, decisive American intervention.

Facing public pressure to stop the violence, Washington may soon embark on an incremental intervention that would gradually deepen American involvement without producing a decisive outcome. But such half measures won’t impress Iran’s hardened rulers, who are engaged in a fundamental struggle for the future of the Middle East.

Pleased with Mr. Obama’s much vaunted pivot to Asia, the mullahs in Tehran are already convinced that America seeks deliverance from its Arab inheritance. A major American intervention would give them pause; a reluctant intercession in Syria by a hesitant America would only enhance their resolve.

Paradoxically, an intervention intended to persuade Iran’s leaders of the viability of American red lines could instead convince them that their nuclear program is safe from American retaliation.

Rush Limbaugh: Liberals Think Conservatives Are “Rotten, Evil People.”

The Media Will Not Turn on Obama. By Rush Limbaugh. RushLimbaugh.com, May 28, 2013.


Republicans don’t try to suppress anything. You know, liberals think that we are bad people. We think they have bad ideas. It’s a huge difference. They think we are reprehensible people. We think they have bad ideas. (interruption) Some of them are what? (interruption) Some of the what, the ideas or the people? (interruption) Well, yeah, but my point is that it’s an attitude and a mind-set. The liberal . . . The thing that animates them is that we are rotten, evil people.

To hell with our ideas. I mean, they don’t even go there. They don’t even debate our ideas. We are just rotten, evil people. When commenting on them in public, let’s talk about how their ideas are bad. They are far more grievous and aggressive in their pursuit of us and their attempt to relegate us to irrelevance. It’s the old Obama bromide here of eliminating all opposition. That’s what the IRS scandal was about: Eliminating opposition.

Obama doesn’t want to debate ideas. Obama doesn’t want to debate anybody. He doesn’t want to listen to Republicans’ alternative ideas on health care, alternative ideas on jobs, alternative plans. He doesn’t want to do that. He doesn’t wanna deal with alternative ideas. He doesn’t wanna deal with that. He just wants to eliminate opposition. So the IRS scandal was an overwhelming success, and media isn’t gonna change anybody’s opinion. The media’s not gonna do anything about that.

Wedding Party Plunge Video.

Wedding Party Plunge Video. TheRemedyFilms, May 20, 2013. YouTube. Also here.

Different Wedding Party Plummets into Water After Pier Gives Way. Video. AOL News, May 28, 2013.

Chris Matthews: “Ted Cruz is the Unsmiling, Contemptuous Face of the Wild, Nasty Hard-Right.”

Chris Matthews: “Ted Cruz is the Unsmiling, Contemptuous Face of the Wild, Nasty Hard-Right.” By Noel Sheppard. NewsBusters, May 24, 2013. See also Breitbart, Townhall, Mr. Conservative, Washington Examiner, YouTube.

Ted Cruz Takes Center Stage, Media Increases Attacks. By Breeanne Howe. RedState, May 29, 2013.


Let me finish tonight with this. Ted Cruz of Texas is a disaster, not least for the Party that ran him for the Senate. He says he doesn't trust his fellow Republicans. Neither, he said, does he trust Democrats. He’s putting himself on the national stage as the enemy of compromise, of reasonable comity between the Parties, of bipartisan agreement itself.

No, Senator Cruz wants all out political war. He wants to bring down the budget, forfeit any Congressional control on spending or taxation. He prefers a chaotic order on Capitol Hill where he can stand in the middle of the legislative traffic yelling stop, where he can derail any reasonable budget control in order to bring attention to himself. He’s come to Washington to start fights, to disrupt any chance of ending this dysfunction because dysfunction is what he dearly hopes to someday challenge.

Pay attention to Senator Cruz because he is the unsmiling, contemptuous face of the wild, nasty, hard-right fringe of a Party that once competed with the Democrats to be the country’s governing Party. All Cruz wants to do is prove that self-government is evil or impossible or whatever else will justify his existence as a hard-right political bomb thrower.