Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ray Bradbury at 83

Andrew Stuttaford at NRO brought this short Ray Bradbury essay to my attention. Bill Allen and I interviewed Bradbury for a couple of hours back in 1967 (I think it was), he was most engaging then and he still is at age 83 (his birthday was yesterday). May he live long and prosper, and, please, continue to write! Here is a piece of the essay:

"Some five years back, the editors of yet another anthology for school readers put together a volume with some 400 (count ’em) short stories in it. How do you cram 400 short stories by Twain, Irving, Poe, Maupassant and Bierce into one book?

Simplicity itself. Skin, debone, demarrow, scarify, melt, render down and destroy. Every adjective that counted, every verb that moved, every metaphor that weighed more than a mosquito - out! Every simile that would have made a sub-moron’s mouth twitch - gone! Any aside that explained the two-bit philosophy of a first-rate writer - lost!

Every story, slenderized, starved, bluepenciled, leeched and bled white, resembled every other story. Twain read like Poe read like Shakespeare read like Dostoevsky read like - in the finale - Edgar Guest. Every word of more than three syllables had been razored. Every image that demanded so much as one instant’s attention - shot dead.

Do you begin to get the damned and incredible picture?"

And here is a short essay from last year where he wished himself a Happy Birthday.

And, if you’re up to it, you might want to read The Veldt.

City Journal

The City Journal (published by the Manhattan Institute) is full of some very fine articles. I have in the past brought to your attention an article or two from the City Journal, take a look at the whole of the new issue. 

The UN bombing in Iraq

Lowell Phillips writes this about the press’ reaction to the UN HQ bombing in Baghdad:

A cement truck laden with explosives plows into the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations and, presto-chango, there are "terrorists" in Iraq. That’s right, not "guerrillas," not "resistance fighters," but "terrorists." And the press is appalled at their wickedness. Suddenly journalists and pundits who could scarcely bring themselves to utter the T-word now find themselves compelled to use it. Strange how when a U.S. serviceman is killed while guarding a hospital or when Israeli women and children are obliterated on a city bus, the perpetrators are often referred to as "militants," "extremists," or simply "bombers" and "gunmen." But when U.N. officials are the victims... Pardon me. Considering who does the talking, it isn’t strange at all. (via Instapundit)

Robert Baer, the ex-CIA guy who has written some interesting books, opines that Iraq had better not turn into another Lebanon: "No matter how tough things get, we cannot leave Iraq until it is mended." Here is a short review of Baer’s latest book on Saudi Arabia. 

The High Stakes in 2004

William Kristol argues that the stakes in the 2004 Presdidential Election are the highest since Reagan v. Mondale in 1984 or perhaps even LBJ v. Goldwater in 1964. I expect he is right.

Here’s a sample: "Let’s start with foreign policy. The Bush administration’s response to September 11 was ambitious and unambiguous. It seemed to have bipartisan support for a while. No longer. Bush’s Democratic opponent in 2004 looks likely to oppose fundamentally the Bush Doctrine and its most prominent instantiation so far, the war in Iraq. So we will have a Reagan-Mondale degree of difference on foreign policy, made more consequential by the fact that we are at the genesis of a new foreign policy era. The implications of September 11 for American foreign policy, the basic choices as to America’s role in the world, will be on the table. They will not be resolved in November 2004 once and for all--things never are. But they may well be resolved for a generation.


But even more striking is the divide over social and cultural issues. Bush is no aggressive culture warrior. But he is pretty unambiguously on the pro-life, anti-gay-marriage, worried-about-Brave-New-World, pro-religion-in-the-public-sphere side of the culture divide. The Democratic candidate is likely to pretty unambiguously embody a secular, progressivist, liberationist worldview. The partisan divide between religious and secular voters has been growing, and in 2004 it might well be the widest in modern American history. The losing side won’t surrender, and the winner won’t have an entirely free hand to make policy. But who wins will matter a lot."

Amazing that a country can be so divided on fundamental principle so evenly.

Democratic strategy and Arnold

Allow me to bring to your attention a longish and excellent comment by Colin MacLeod on our "Comments" page on how to best defeat the Democratic strategy in California. Worth a slow read. Our thanks to Mr. MacLeod. 

"The Modern Prince"

Carnes Lord, among other things the translator of Aristotle, has apparently re-written The Prince for the contemporary political man. This Wall Street Journal review claims it is worth reading. I bet it’s true. Lord’s book is our Book of the Week Selection. And, by the way, he will be speaking at the Ashbrook Center in the Spring.

Zogby poll on Bush

According to Zogby Bush’s job performance continues to slip. Bush gets only 52% positive, and 48% negative. And, even more interesting, 48% "say it’s time for someone new in the White House, compared to 45 percent who said the President deserves to be re-elected."

Hanson on the third phase

Victor Davis Hanson thinks that we are now in the "third phase" of the war on terror: "A desperate last-ditch war of attrition in which our enemies feel that bombing, suicide murdering, assassination, and general terrorism against Westerners the world over might still achieve what conventional military operations did not. The idea is to make life so miserable for Iraqis, and so dangerous for foreigners, that the United States will withdraw, thus allowing either a fascist autocracy or terrorist theocracy — in the manner of the Taliban or an Afghan warlord — to emerge from the chaos." Those who think that the latest attacks indicate that our enemies are gaining the upper hand wrong. "We are indeed entering a third phase. But it is not quite what most people think, since it has brought a brutal clarity to the conflict that the terrorists may not have intended. For those who were still unsure of the affinities between the West Bank killers once subsidized by Saddam, Baathist fedeyeen, the Taliban, and al Qaedist terrorists, the similarity in method, the identical blood-curling rhetoric, and the eerie timing of slaughtering during peace negotiations and efforts at civil reconstruction should establish the existence of a common enemy. It has been fighting us all along — a general fascism, now theocratic, now autocratic, that seeks to divert the Middle East from the forces of modernization and liberalization." Read the whole thing.

Send more troops to Iraq?

David Tucker considers the cry for more troops in Iraq. He argues that that is not the answer. He claims that our strategy is flawed. Better intelligence is the heart of the matter, and he explains how that is to be achieved. And here is George Will’s take on the matter.

Comment on the recall and Republicans

A reader, Dave Sheridan of Los Angeles, has a comment on the recall issue. It’s very thoughtful, so I pass along the whole thing, in case you missed it in the NLT Comments section:
"You’ve put your finger on one of the unfortunate truths about Republicans in California. Holding Arnold aside for the moment, Simon, McClintock and even Ueberroth are excellent candidates. Unfortunately: a) That makes four candidates to split the (minority) Republican vote, and b) The party itself is poorly organized to mount a grassroots campaign. The Democrats are organized. The interests backing them can mobilize their core voters, can talk up the recall in their communities, and have the tacit support of all the big media in the state. In the next week or so, the major money interests will decide whether to commit their resources to trying to preserve Davis, or to backing Cruz Bustamante. My money is on the latter, as that is the way the winds are blowing now. The unfortunate other truth about the California electorate, at least the majority not identifying as strong Democrate, is that we are uninformed and apathetic. This is the real reason the state has come to its current sorry state of affairs. That brings me to Arnold. He is not the ideal candidate from a policy standpoint, although it remains to be seen which of his new inner circle he chooses to listen to. Warren Buffett was an unfortunate choice, to be sure, but Arnold has conferred with others who are solidly pro-growth. Ultimately, he has two advantages in our current situation: 1) He is the candidate most likely to increase turnout for the recall, which is vitally important. 2) Whoever is elected must contend with a liberal and (if a Republican is elected) a hostile majority in the state legislature. Arnold at least has the advantage of being able to attract media attention, and not just from those on the Sacramento beat. The real battle for the "soul" of California is the 2004 elections that could begin to weaken the control of the hard left. The key will be, again, to engage the segment of the electorate that has traditionally stayed away from the polls, or who has voted reflexively along party lines. Arnold may be the person who can spearhead the effort to sustain the outrage that has led to the recall."

Chemical Ali captured

Let’s end the day on some good news. Chemical Ali, number 5 on the most wanted list, has been captured. Bene!

Not betting the ranch

I have been in boring faculty meetings all day, between interviewing high school juniors who are applying for the Fall 2004 Ashbrook program. Tough day, hence no blogging. Running now to a talk to the board of directors of an agricultural cooperative. So here is a quick response to Mickey’s blog below. I do, of course, in the end admit uncertainty about this, despite my seemingly strongly held opinions. Can a good conservative like McClintock pull this off? Can Simon? Does answering these questions have anything to do with whether or not there is enough of a real Republican Party in California? Can Arnold (despite of his philosophical imperfections) help re-create a more conservative Republican Party, and maybe even a more conservative California? That the Democrats are suffering seems clear, and that is a good thing. Note that the California Dems are coming out for Bustamante. Can Bustamante end up winning it (because the GOP votes will be divided)? Yes, of course. Yet, the great unknown is whether Arnold will bring in enough new voters to beat Bustamante even as the GOP vote is split. If he does, then Arnold’s positioning of himself against the political class will mean something. That’s what I am betting on. But I’m not betting the ranch.

Maybe, Maybe Not

Schramm may be right that Arnold will win this election. I am not certain of that. I still think Gray Davis has a chance to survive. Jeremy Lott predicts in the ’American Spectator’ that Democrats easily win this election. Davis has all sorts of special interest ploys to win. Even if Davis loses the recall, a very likely outcome is that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante wins the Governor’s race. Afterall, there are over 1 million more registered Dems in CA than Republicans. Bustamante is the only big name Dem while you have Arnold, Simon, and McClintock carving up the GOP vote.

Is Schramm right to say that Arnold "merits our support"? I’m not sure. He’s wrong on all of the social issues. He’s going to raise taxes. He’s not going to save the GOP in CA. He can’t be President. Why vote for a Governor in California if he can’t be President?

I did watch almost all of Arnold’s press conference last night on C-Span. My initial reaction was this guy isn’t Ronald Reagan. I remember watching Reagan in the ’70s and saying this is the man to lead the country in the current crisis. Perhaps he sounded better on radio than he looked and sounded on TV. His most powerful statements are his expressions of gratitude to American for the opportunity he was provided when he came here from Austria and that he wants California to be that ’optimistic’ place once again. But when he started talking about his six year old, it reminded me of Amy Carter, and when he started talking about flushing toilets,it sounded rehearsed and a way to avoid talking substance. He seemed hesitant and uncertain in the question period to me.

The recall was a device designed to get politics out of politics, to let the people throw the rascals out if the special interests became too dominant. Well, to Hiram Johnson’s horror, this election will be decided by the biggest special interest/faction. There are over 130 candidates on the ballot. This is an ideal (never say only) opportunity for the Conservative wing of the Republican Party to grab the Governor’s office and then for McClintock to show that Conservatives can govern, deserve to govern, and begin the process of taking over the legislature. A small purality will win the election, this opportunity shouldn’t be missed.

Arnold’s press conference

I just heard Arnold’s speech and his answers to questions on my drive back from Akron (I now have XM radio, very cool!). To be brief about it, I thought he was terrific. If you get a chance to watch the whole thing tonight, please do so. He said all the right things (e.g., the problem is government spending not insufficient taxes) and did it in a rhetorically effective way ("you get up in the morning and flush the toilet, you pay a tax, you then have a cup of coffee, you pay a tax, you get into your car you pay a tax," etc., and he kept at it with another six to eight examples; quite effective). He went into other details, including the necessity of having an outside firm look at the books, because no one really knows how bad things are, workman’s comp, etc. He was authoritative and knowledgeable. There is no comparison between him and the other candidates. He is running against the political class, and he will win. He was very effective with the press, and crushed at least one questioner. I am impressed. I’ll try to spend some of tonight watching the talking head on the left panic. Now the fun begins. El Rushbo and National Review are wrong. This man merits our support.

Rush Disses Ahnold

Rush Limbaugh writes in today’s ’Wall St. Journal’ that California needs Conservatism not Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rush doesn’t endorse Simon or McClintock.

Why are wisdom,i.e, statesmanship, and consent, i.e., winning elections, so hard to put together?

Here’s the Arnold We Were Expecting

Via Alan K. Henderson’s Blog.

Latest on UN bombing

This long AP story has some more detail on the UN HQ bombing in Baghdad. The bomb, according to the FBI, was made from old munitions and was not sophisticated. The story includes Khofi Annan’s comments: "We will persevere. We will continue. It is essential work. We will not be intimidated." Also note Chalabi’s comments, I don’t know what to make of them.


Here is Arnold’s first TV ad, in case you missed it. Also note that Richard Bookhiser writes a nice piece on Arnold that comes out as a kind of qualified endorsement, for similar reasons I have been giving.

Gray Davis’ UCLA speech

Here are excerpts from Davis’ speech at UCLA on Tuesday. He surprised everyone by not giving a mea culpa speech, as advertised, but rather (Clinton influence here?) one that talks about a "right-wing power grab." Daniel Weintraub calls it a they-a culpa rather than a mea culpa; he was there. Here is the LA Times report on the speech. And Ken Whitted has a pretty good analysis of the speech which he says is "vintage Davis: slash and burn every opponent in sight, and spare no rhetorical excess." Yet, he thinks it might work. It might re-invigorate his liberal base.
USA Today notes that Davis and Bustamante are now officially in a duel.

The attack on the U.N.

I am the first to admit that I find the reporting on Iraq not only lacking seriousness, but pushy. The media seems always to push us toward admitting that going into Iraq was a mistake. This is true whether they are reporting on a blown-up pipeline, or another American killed. And if they are not insisting on that mistake, then the next line is that we are unprepared to establish (or re-establish, if you like) civil society, and unprepared to defend against the kind of terrorist attacks we have witnessed. The media demands that we arise each morning to re-evaluate both our purposes and our means. They keep pressing us with fundamental questions: see, if we wouldn’t have gone into Iraq none of these bad things would have happened. Perhaps this has also happened in exactly the same way in the past; but, if it did, it did not have the kind of immediacy to it that it has now because of television and instantenious communications. The contemporary world may have made decision making more difficult, and it may make courage and perseverance a lot more difficult. It is certainly the case that when the media (or the opponents of the Iraq war) keep crying wolf, one is less inclined to listen and then perhaps less able to see the wolf when it does arrive.

Given all this, it still must be said that the bombing of the UN headquarters is a significant act; and an act different in kind from what we have seen before. It may be the wolf. This is not simply an anti-American terrorist act. It is an anti-Western act, crushing a major building in the center of Baghdad. And this probably means that it wasn’t simply conducted by remnants of the Saddam regime. It is now almost certainly the case that the reports we have been hearing about foreigners coming into Iraq are true. Perhaps the magnet theory is right: all the bad guys are pouring into Iraq from Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and they are to do mischief in the same way that such folks have done mischief to Israel.

This was a "soft target." I know that could mean that the "hard targets" have become harder to kill, and therefore could be seen to be a good sign. The bad guys are forced to pick different targets. But there are a lot of soft targets, from Bali to Rijad, and within Iraq. It is not impossible that Iraq will attract jihad fighters the same way that Afghanistan or Kosovo did at one time. If this is the case--as has been implied by US authorities for weeks--than this will mean that a shift in tactics and strategy will have to be necessary. It will certainly mean that more of our troops will move into "defensive" positions, positions that will defend possible soft targets. Is this a good thing? Would this mean that we will be able to go after bad guys with fewer men and less vigor? Tough questions are now going to be raised, as they should. In the meantime, until those questions are raised and some answers offered, it is certainly the case that courage and preseverance are called for, now more than ever. I think the rubber has hit the road. "’Tis true that we are in great danger; The greater therefore should our courage be."

Mischief, thou art afoot

At least 20 UN workers were killed, and over 100 wounded, when a suicide bomber set off a truck bomb outside the UN headquarters in Baghdad. The dead included Sergio Vieira de Mello, a 55-year-old veteran Brazilian diplomat who was the head of the mission. President Bush condemned the attack. A Suicide bomber killed 20 people in Israel, wounding over 100. And the London Financial Times is reporting that "Increasing numbers of Saudi Arabian Islamists are crossing the border into Iraq in preparation for a jihad, or holy war, against US and UK forces, security and Islamist sources have warned.

A senior western counter-terrorism official on Monday said the presence of foreign fighters in Iraq was ’extremely worrying’."

But Former Iraqi Vice President Ramadan has been captured. And on the other side of the world, so to speak, these two WaPo stories on North Korea’s audacity are worth pondering, here is the first and the second. Steven Den Beste has some useful things to say about negotiations with the North Koreans.

Blonde jokes to be oulawed in Bosnia

Blonde jokes are set to be made illegal in Bosnia under new laws that will enable women to sue people who make jokes about their hair colour.

The gender equality law, due to come into effect within the next two months, will make it an offence to tell jokes about women based on their hair colour. This reminds me of one: Why won’t they hire Blondes as pharmacists?

They keep breaking the prescription bottles in the typewriters.

Pete Wilson on the Recall, Arnold, Prop. 187, & VDHanson

Pete Wilson is the last Republican to serve as Governor in California. He is Co-Chair of Arnold Scwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign. Here’s an interesting interview with National Review’s Rich Lowry.

California and Progressive stuff

John Fund argues that Arnold has to get the support of conservatives to win, and implies that he can do it, despite the recent flap over Buffett’s property tax statements. And Larry Sabato beats up on the Progressive movement’s anti-constitutionalism. He argues that what California has is a mob-ocracy, and that this is a destructive legacy of the Progressive movement. While I agree with him in principle, I disagree with his insinuation that the economic mess California finds itself in is directly related to the people’s direct involvement in the government: the political class, essentially corrupt and devoted to spending on everything, is responsible. Still, I am delighted that liberals are re-thinking the Progressive legacy now that they find the people more conservative--that is, less trustworthy from their point of view--than they once thought they were. Also see this Washington Post editorial that makes the same points Sabato does, and is even more clear on why they fear the conservative people in Montgomery and Howard counties where there are ballot initiatives that would cap tax rates. The WaPo fears that this would put local government in a straightjacket. See the problem?

University of Colorado, top party school

The University of Colorado is ranked the best party school by the Princeton Review. Bringham Young was the top "cold stone sober" school. There is more. Amusing.

Israel’s Fence Will Reduce Terror

Even John McCain latches onto the truth on occasion. This news article from the Israeli Insider makes the obvious point that the fence which Israel is building will reduce the number of terrorist attacks the citizens of Israel suffer.

Let me also recommended this book ’Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict’ by Mitchell G. Bard. Here is a review of the book from

No Riots This Time

In 2003, New York City was calm following the blackout. Following a blackout in 1977, New York City experienced riots which caused two billion dollars in damage. Why no riots in 2003?

Here are two articles one by Paul Beston and the other by John Podhoretz which give major credit to the leadership and policies of former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani for the relative calm in 2003. 9/11 played a role as well.

Good to see citizens behave well in emergencies.

Thanks to blog-site: Reductio Ad Absurdum.

The Voice of Reason on the Blackout

Unsurprisingly, last week’s blackout has led to new calls for regulation of the electricity industry; see, for example, Robert Kuttner’s cri de coeur in Saturday’s New York Times. For a much-needed corrective, check out The Knowledge Problem, a great blog by Lynne Kiesling. Lynne is Senior Lecturer in Economics at Northwestern University, as well as Director of Economic Policy at the Reason Foundation and an all-around person of quality. When it comes to energy policy in particular, she is the one to consult.

Enola Gay rebuilt

The rebuilt Enola Gay is unvelied in Washington. It will be placed in the Smithsonian’s new annex at Dulles airport.

Mugabe on the way out?

Robert Mugabe, the tyrant of Zimbabwe, "is secretly negotiating immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during his 23-year rule," according to the London Observer.

Kurdish women sold, 1989

Kurdish girls and women sold as sex slaves to Egypt, recently discovered documents reveal.

Brooke Adams for Governor?

The folks at The Corner are saying that Brooke Adams, a twenty-five year old, might be worth supporting for Governor of California.

Economic growth in Afghanistan, Africa

The Economist reports that the economies of Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda grew by 12%, 9.9%, and 6.2% respectivelly. Afghanistan’s economy grew by an amazing 30% in the first year after the Taliban’s ouster.

Hungary captures chess crown

Hungary captured the gold in the World Youth (Under-16) Chess Olympiad held in Turkey with 29.5 points from a highest possible 40. Good, but they still don’t do political philosophy!

American tourism drop in Europe

More on the decline of American tourists in Europe. "In Britain - the most popular destination for American tourists to Europe - figures for the first half of 2003 show an 11 percent decline in US visitors. In Italy, it’s more than 20 percent, while in France, it’s even worse: an estimated 26 percent drop this year."

Dog for sale, joke

A Reader sent me this, and I can’t resist passing it along on a lazy Sunday afternoon:

Dog for Sale In West Virginia....
A guy sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog for Sale."
He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard.
The guy goes into the backyard and sees a black mutt just sitting
"You talk?" he asks.
"Yep," the mutt replies.
"So, what’s your story?"
The mutt looks up and says, "Well, I discovered this gift pretty young
I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA about my gift, and
no time they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms
with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be
eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies eight years
The jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any
younger and wanted to settle down. So I signed up for a job at the
to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious
characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings there
and was awarded a batch of medals. Had a wife, a mess of puppies, and
now I’m just retired."
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for
the dog. The owner says, "Ten dollars."
The guy says, "This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him,
so cheap?"
The owner replies, "He’s such a liar. He didn’t do any of that stuff."

Media panic over California

Mark Steyn beats up on the establishment media’s attacks on not only Arnold, but the whole recall process. I was watching one of the morning talk shows and Joel Kline of Newsweek said a couple of stupid things that brings all this into focus. He beat up on the recall (and referendum process) by making the following arguments: One, a hundred years (via Hiram Johnson and the Progressive movement) ago the referendum was a good idea because it tried to stop the sinister relationship between big-business and the politicians by giving ordinary folks the chance to circumvent a process that had become corrupted. Today, this relationship no longer exists, so it is unnecessary. Two, he actually said that back then ordinary citizens were more thoughtful and better educated about public matters, but that is no longer true today. That is, ordinary citizens cannot be trusted.

This view is not only amazing, but quite revealing. This same opinion--in one form or another--is reflected by the rest of the establishment media. Hence, their anger that Arnold is not talking to them, but prefers Jay Lenno, etc. Well, those of us who claim to be constitutionalists and therefore in principle oppose such things as the referendum and recall, we have to make choices, as we did in 1978. Perhaps oddly, while being constitutionalists, we also have a better opinion on the people’s capacity to govern themselves, to have an enlightened view of their self-interest, as well as a reasonable opinion regarding justice. The political class is not responsive to the people’s opinions; indeed, their well considered opinions, whether on taxation or immigration or race-based discrimination is ignored or cast aside by idologically dogmatic courts. And the people get angry. And the chattering classes chatter. And the politicians, at least occasionally, lose sleep at night, for fear of the people’s righteous indignation. Well, it’s an imperfect system. The political elites wanted it, thinking that the people would always be on their side. Wrong. They are now trying to deal with it and--because humor in politics is both good and necessary--I am happy to see them squirm. It’s a pleasure watching all of this--as the chattering classes continue to de-authorize themselves--as long as Bustamante doesn’t become governor! Despite the recent Field poll showing him two points above Arnold, I still do not think he’ll make it.

John Fonte on Mexifornia

John Fonte writes a thoughtful review essay of Victor Davis Hanson’s Mexifornia. Among other things, he summarizes how many conservatives have gone from thinking that the large number of immigrants from the South can be assimilated to now thinking that they will not be. What should be done? And who will do it? He agrees with Hanson’s prescriptions and wonders if anyone will take up the cause. Worth pondering, especially during the California political turmoil, a turmoil from which some good things may just be born. I’m hoping. 

Germans attempt to sell nuclear material to North Korea

Three Germans are accused of selling nuclear material to North Korea.

Idi Amin dies

In case you missed it, Idi Amin died yesterday in Saudi Arabia. It is a knell that summons him to hell.