in the aftermath…#1

President Obama confirms death of Osama bin Laden

Just as the media was rife with coverage of the royal wedding, so now the spinmeisters are  squeezing every last bit of life out of the latest news, Osama bin Laden’s demise. All the details have been revealed and recycled ad nauseum. So too have the endless probing questions put forth by the journalists. It’s made me realize that they’re just doing their jobs, as we all are, prince and princesses, presidents, housewives, reporters. So rather than regurgitate the known facts, I prefer to share some insightful opinions from different perspectives.

Obama’s Finest Hour
by Bret Stephens

There was only one discordant note in Barack Obama’s otherwise masterly speech Sunday night announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden. It came when the president invoked the word “justice” to describe what had just been done to the architect of 9/11.

It wasn’t quite the word he was looking for. But actions speak louder than words.

Justice as we in the West have come to know it, requires due process. It takes place in a courtroom under the supervision of a judge. Prosecutors must prove their case; defendants are entitled to a competent defense; rules of evidence and procedure must scrupulously be followed. A jury must render its verdict. Punishment can be neither cruel nor unusual.

Khalid_Sheikh_Mohammed

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This is the sort of justice the hapless Attorney General Eric Holder had in mind when he sought to have bin Laden’s operational lieutenant, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, tried in a civilian Manhattan courthouse. The people of New York City revolted. KSM will now get better than he deserves in a military tribunal.

As for bin Laden, what was meted out to him was vengeance. Vengeance pure and simple, sweet and sound. Vengeance cathartic, uplifting, necessary and right. Got a problem with that?

I don’t. Nor did the people who poured into the streets Sunday night to cheer outside the White House, or the crowd I saw Monday morning as I walked the perimeter of Ground Zero.

“Why does everyone root for the avenger in feature films?” asks my friend Thane Rosenbaum, who teaches law at Fordham and is writing a book about revenge. “Is it because people are immoral in the dark, or is it because we all realize that the avenger’s quest and duty is righteous and true?”

Thane’s point isn’t that vengeance is better than justice. It’s that there can be no true justice without vengeance. Oddly enough, this is something Barack Obama, Chicago liberal, seems to better grasp than George W. Bush, Texas cowboy.

The former president was fond of dilating on the point, as he put it just after 9/11, that “ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice.” What on Earth did that mean? Of course we sought revenge. “Ridding the world of evil,” Mr. Bush’s other oft-stated ambition, was nonsense if we didn’t make a credible go of ridding the world of the very specific evil named Osama bin Laden.

For all of Mr. Bush’s successes–and yes, there were a few, including the vengeance served that other specific evil known as Saddam Hussein and those Gitmo interrogations that yielded bin Laden’s location–you can trace the decline of his presidency from the moment he said, in March 2002, that “I really don’t care (where bin Laden is). It’s not that important.

Outside of White House after death of Osama bi...

Wrong. It was of the essence. Americans didn’t merely want to be secured against another attack–an achievement experienced only in the absence of fresh outrages and appreciated only in hindsight. Americans wanted vengeance. It’s what they had wanted after Pearl Harbor, too: what took the Marines up Mt. Suribach, the Rangers up Point du Hoc. Revenge is a glue that holds a fractious nation together in the service of a great and arduous cause.

Mr. Obama, for all his talk of justice, understands this. Or, in the education that is the presidency, he has come to understand it. Maybe it’s true, as his critics allege, that his steady focus on finding bin Laden was done for the sake of declaring victory in the war on terror so that he could start rolling up America’s commitments in Afghanistan. If this is his “Mission Accomplished” moment, he will come to regret it.

But I doubt Mr. Obama is that dumb. Nor is there any reason not to take him at his word when he said Sunday that bin Laden’s death “does not mark the end of our effort.” Osama is dead; his franchisees carry on. Count on a self-styled bin Laden Martyrs’ Brigade to take credit for whatever terrorist atrocity comes next.

But even if it does, it will lack the sinister potency of previous attacks. The air of mystery that sustained al Quaeda all the way through Sunday night has finally been laid bare, and it looks like an ugly house that can be located in seconds on Google Maps.

Here is something that Mr. Obama, more than most Western leaders, deeply understands: Symbolism matters. It matters that the ultimate symbol of Islamist rage did not wear a ring of invisibility. It matters that he was taken out not by a laser-guided bomb, but by American fighting men whose names we may someday know. It matters that the story of 9/11 has been brought full circle, even as the fight against terrorists carries on.

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

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There’s been a whiff of sour grapes in some of the right-wing commentary about the president’s speech. Too much emphasis on the first-person pronoun, not enough credit to President Bush, and so on. It’s unbecoming. If ever there was a doubt about just how American Mr. Obama is, Sunday’s raid eliminates it better than any long-form birth certificate. This was his finest hour. It’s for the rest of us, avenged at long last, to rejoice.

(Write to bstephens@wsj.com)

 

england’s monarchy…still relevant?

Prince William and Kate Middleton

Image by AN HONORABLE GERMAN via Flickr

Thought I’d poll readers of hugmamma’s mind, body and soul as to your opinion about the relevance of the British monarchy going forward? What prompted my curiosity is that Bill Cafferty of CNN just revealed that a poll taken by anti-monarchy supporters showed that only 3% of Brits will be tuned into coverage of the wedding between William and Kate. Forty-six percent said they could care less. While only their countrymen know for sure why the disinterest, I wondered if you’d weigh in on the discussion.

As I indicated in the previous post, “entrepreneurialship..the royal connection,” I’m definitely up for the entertainment factor. Prince meets commoner, falls in love, and makes her his princess. I mean I grew up reading fairy tales, imagining my handsome knight in white armor would carry me off to his princely castle, on his magnificent steed. That romantic notion has been imbedded into my brain cells for more than half-a-century. So for me, being happy for Kate is part of the fibre of who I am.

Sleeping rough

Image by sk8geek via Flickr

On the other hand, the wealth of the monarchy in an economy where the masses over whom they are figurehead rulers, makes me wonder about its morality. Just as I’ve difficulty stomaching the upper echelons of society everywhere, having billions to pad their lifestyles, while the majority of the world lives in poverty, I can’t imagine twenty-something year olds William and Kate continuing the inheritance of wealth when people their age are sleeping rough,” as the prince himself has witnessed.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II X

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But the decision is not mine to make, it belongs in the hands of English citizens…like Sylvia. And I know her opinion in the matter. But what’s yours? Leave a comment and we’ll see what “hugmamma’s” poll reveals. No comments will indicate the topic’s irrelevant.

can’t wait to see…what you think…

…..still relevant?…..hugmamma.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visiting ...

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entepeneurialship…the royal connection

Kate Middleton at the Garter Procession (with ...

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As the “wedding of the century” draws near, media outlets are looking for any angle to draw us into their particular “spin” on the story. Being the romantic that I am, I’m a real sucker for whatever they throw at me. Hey! Seems I’m the only one in my exercise class planning to ditch class tomorrow because I’ll be glued to the TV, beginning at 1 a.m. Pacific Coast Time. I may be old, but I’m not beyond being swept away by Kate Middleton‘s Cinderella fantasy-come-true. I’ll be there to “oohhh” and “aahhh” as she confirms her fairy tale ending to her prince charming, Prince William. I know I won’t be alone. My friend Sylvia, a few years older than me, will likewise be hanging out the “do not distub” sign. AND, she’s inviting a few close friends over tomorrow evening to celebrate the marriage of her future king and queen. 

I liked John Berlau‘s “twist” to the story of Catherine Middleton, future queen of England.

The Entrepreneurs‘ Princess

Much has been made of the fact that Kate Middleton, Prince William’s bride-to-be, is a “commoner.” Her mother and father began their careers working as a flight attendant and flight dispatcher for British Airways, respectively. Yet she has known many of the privileges of aristocracy because her parents built a multimillion-dollar business that supported elite educations for her and her siblings.

Some have wondered if Kate will be a “people’s princess,” in the mold of Prince William’s late mother, Diana. But Kate and her family actually embody a noble, if relatively modern, tradition of their own:  a  tradition of bettering oneself and one’s family, while improving the lot of society. In other words, entrepreneurship.

For centuries in Britain, commercial activities were looked down upon by many in the aristocracy, whose wealth lay in landownership and who would not deign to dabble in trade. This week’s wedding can be seen as the culmination of a long process of elevating the social status of entrepreneurship itself.

Kate Middleton fashion at The Goring HotelThe story of the Middletons’ rise to wealth has been told, but its implications for British culture and public policy have been little explored. When Kate was 5, her mother, like many aspiring entrepreneurs, saw a niche that could be filled to help others in her situation. As described on the website of the family business, PartyPieces.co.uk, “Carole Middleton founded Party Pieces in 1987 after finding it difficult to source fun, simple party products for her children’s parties.”

Like Microsoft and Google, which had their beginnings in residential garages, Party Pieces started out in a shed in the Middletons’ garden. There, mail orders were taken for boxes with preselected party favors to fit a certain theme.

Party Pieces really took off with the advent of the Internet. Today one can go on the website and order plates, cups and napkins with themes ranging from Barbie to the Transformers. If one of the royal duties is to ensure the happiness of subjects, Kate’s family has given her a head start by bringing joy to so many British parents and children.

Happiness through individual initiative is something Kate could encourage once she joins the royal family, by pointing to her family’s entrepreneurial background and championing Britain’s innovative firms, many of which have origins similar to that of Party Pieces. Margaret Thatcher has written that “however pervasive an enterprise culture is, most people are not born entrepreneurs.” But the Middletons, through the story of their success, will serve as a constant reminder of what enterprising men and women can achieve.

Over the three decades that span the lifetimes of Kate and Prince William, the commercial classes have attained newfound respect in British culture. The idea of ordinary people building successful businesses–a concept often called the “American Dream”–is now idealized in British programs such as BBC’s “Dragons’ Den.”

If the royal family were to utilize Kate’s background to help encourage and spread this culture of entrepreneurship, the effects in Britain–and possibly much of the world–could be great. The people of the United Kingdom would be much richer, and not just in material terms. “Earned success gives people a sense of meaning about their lives,” writes American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks.

Indeed, studies show that in both the U.S. and U.K., many blue-and white-collar workers prefer to have the opportunity to advance, even if this means a less equal income distribution. A study of thousands of British employees by Andrew Clark, associate chair of the Paris School of Economics, found that measures of these workers’ happiness actually rose as their demographic group’s average income increased relative to their own.

These findings suggest that as people see members of their peer group gain wealth–even surpassing them–it gives them hope that they can improve their own lot as well. As Mr. Clark put it in his study of British workers, “income inequality…need not be harmful for economic growth” if it also “contains an aspect of opportunity.”

The Middletons symbolize the opportunity that exists in a free-market system for those who take advantage of it. It is worth noting that they founded Party Pieces during the Thatcher era, when the Conservative government focused on lifting barriers to entrepreneurs through lower taxation, less regulation, and privatization. Coincidentally or not, the year Kate’s parents started their business, 1987, was also the year that their longtime employer British Airways was sold off, with shares of stock going to its workers.

Even though Kate’s family has long been in the spotlight due to her relationship with Prince William, recent comments by Carole Middleton show that she still sympathizes with the small business owner. In an interview on the Party Pieces website, she says: “I still work through to the early hours to hit a deadline and never take our success for granted.”

The union of Prince William and Kate has been called a modern royal marriage, and in many ways it is. It will fulfill the traditional function of merging families, but in a new way. When this couple says their “I dos,” the royal family will officially be wed to the dreams and aspitations of millions of entrepreneurs in the U.K. and throughout the world.

Mr. Berlau is director of the Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. 

(Wall Street Journal, 4/28/11)

william and his kate…my wish for

Royal Wedding Will and Kates Story

Image by Pesky Library via Flickr

We are being inundated with coverage of the upcoming royal wedding between the future king of England and his queen, William and Kate. Ever since they announced their engagement to the world, they seem always to be smiling. They seem to wear their happiness well. Perhaps they have already learned what so many married couples take decades to figure out. If they have, then they may not need the advice of relationship expert, Leo Buscaglia. But it never hurts to heap on the well wishes for longevity in what already appears to be a solid friendship, and a grand love affair. Buscaglia writes in his book, Loving Each Other…

We cannot look for joy as we do a lost article of clothing. We make our own happiness. we define it for ourselves and experience it in our unique way. No one can be happy for us nor tell us what should make us happy, though people will always try. The sad fact is that we fall into Madison Avenue traps which convince us that happiness is the right drink, the flashy automobile, the scented deodorant, bursting-with-health cereal or the special snack food. Even the wisest among us are seduced by the exuberant TV ad or the seductive graphic into believing that we, too, can change our lives if we switch to a new mouthwash. We never stop to think that there is nothing in the world which can be given or denied us that will bring us happiness unless we decide it. In fact, the happiest people in the world would probably still be happy if stripped of everything except life.

Kate and Wills

Image by JeanM1 via Flickr

…Perhaps much happiness is lost in the pursuit of it. Hawthorne in his American Notebooks said that happiness always comes incidentally. “Make it the object of pursuit,” he added, “and it leads us on a wild goose chase and is never attained.” He suggests that we should lose our way and follow something totally unrelated. In that way we often happen on happiness without ever dreaming it would be there.

We are far too rational in our relationships, far too ordered, organized and predictable. We need to find a place, just this side of madness and irrationality, where we can, from time to time, leave the mundane and move into spontaneity and serendipity, a level that includes a greater sense of freedom and risk–an active environment full of surprises, which encourages a sense of wonder. Here, ideas and feelings which would otherwise be difficult to state can be expressed freely. A bond of love is easy to find in an environment of joy. When we laugh together we bypass reason and logic, as the clown does. We speak a universal language. We feel closer to one another.

Royal Wedding Flags Go Up On Regents Street, L...

Image by DG Jones via Flickr

…Joy and happiness are simply states of mind. As such they can help us to find creative solutions. When we feel joyful, euphoric, happy, we are more open to life, more capable of seeing things clearly and handling daily tensions.

…”Joy comes into our lives,” Joseph Addison says, “when we have something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

Live fully and with abandon. Love totally and without fear. Hope splendidly and never relinquish the dream. These will help us but joy will only be ours when we choose it. As Abraham Lincoln reminded us, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

William and Kate Royal Wedding plates

Image by Ben Sutherland via Flickr

and may I add…

long life and…everlasting happiness…to sylvia’s king and queen…william and…his kate…hugmamma.