This short essay by Charles Kesler in the latest Claremont Review of Books (you should subscribe!) is entirely appropriate since the American Political Science Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary in Philadelphia this weekend, which, of course, is not unrelated to the decline of constitutionalism, as well as the California recall.
Steve Hayward writes the best review of the books that Hillary and Sid Bluementhal have offered the unwashed and ill-read public (I tried reading both, and couldnt; I just cant afford the booze it would take). Hayward explains his method in the first two paragraphs: "Years ago I developed a standardized measurement for the agony involved in reading and reviewing tendentious books. I call it the Donaldson Scale, after Sam Donaldson of ABC News, whose book I once had to suffer. One Donaldson means that a full bottle of scotch or its equivalent is necessary to grind out a review.
Hitherto few books have rated more than a Half-Donaldson, though the occasional effort of a French literary critic, or any John Irving novel, comes close to rating a Full-Donaldson. The memoirs of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal have shattered the Donaldson Scale. To paraphrase one of Hillarys previous offerings, these books take a whole distillery."
Bill Dawson, an American, writes this blog from Vienna. He has a few comments on a speech the Austrian foreign minister gave to a meeting of "Conference of Chairmen of Islamic Centres and Imams in Europe", hosted by Graz, Austria. He is surprised that the speech is pretty good. Obviously related to the post below. (Thanks to The Corner)
Michael Vlahos writes a thoughtful essay on what may happen to "Roman Europe" (France, Spain, Italy) in the future, say, by 2050, given that the Arab minority in Roman Europe will more than double by that year. Most thinkers seem to think that either Muslims will integrate, or they will end up living in ghettoes. He thinks there is a third possibility: a melange civilization. While this seems wholly new, it is not. He uses the earlier years of the Ottoman Empire to make his point, relying on a new book by Heath Lowry, called The Nature of the Early Ottoman State. Lowry argues that a "religio-social hybrid Islamochristian entity" emerged. For a century and more the Ottoman Empire was a new and unexampled mélange civilization. This mid-size essay is worth a look.
The Atlantic Monthly currently perched on a newstand near you features "Founders Chic," an article by H.W. Brand warning against what he considers our current infatuation with the Founders. I confess to having not yet plunked down $4.95 for the privilege of reading the piece (and it’s not available at Atlantic Online); but the online edition does provide an interview with Brand from August 7th that’s worth a look.
I’m no history scholar, but I think some of what Brand offers is misguided. For example, his answer to the question "What do you think should be the mechanism for rewriting the Constitution?" includes:
If we were really in the spirit of the Founders, people would just get together and call an utterly extra-legal convention, because that’s what the convention of 1787 was. . . . For people to say, for example, that we can’t do anything about gun control because the Second Amendment prevents it--well, let’s just rewrite the Second Amendment. If the First Amendment says we can’t control political spending, let’s rewrite the First Amendment.
Earlier, Brand argued that "if we want to be in the spirit of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin and all, we ought to have a constitutional convention about every twenty or thirty years. Times change." To my knowledge, and others like Dr. Craig can correct me, but thats not Madison’s spirit, thats his poltergeist.
As if unaware of what such frequent conventions would mean, Brand concludes the interview with an appreciation of the
validity of the argument that says don’t tamper lightly with the Constitution. And in fact the arithmetic of amending the Constitution strongly favors the status quo. I think that if constitutions could be rewritten willy-nilly then there would be an important and critical loss of stability. . . . So I wouldn’t be in favor of allowing a sixty percent majority, for example, to amend the Constitution. Let’s keep it the way it is. Let’s make it hard.
Have a convention every twenty years, rewrite the first two amendments and keep the Constitution largely the same for stabilitys sake. Ahh, I see. Oh, wait, no I dont.
Id be interested in other impressions of Brands points though.
In a McDonald’s near Cleveland a man calls 9-l-l because the restaurant wouldn’t give him free barbecue sauce for his $10 order. He wouldn’t pay because the claimed store policy wasn’t in writing. The police came. Have a good weekend.
The KCCI News Channel 8 poll, conducted by Research 2000, finds Dean leading in Iowa. The poll, conducted Aug. 25 through Aug. 27, shows that if the Iowa caucuses were held today, 25 percent of those polled would support Dean. Gephardt is second with 21 percent, Kerry is third with 16 percent and Lieberman is fourth with 12 percent. The other candidates are all in single digits.
This newest poll is a huge leap forward for Dean. In the last KCCI poll conducted June, 2003, Dean was in third place with 11 percent. Gephardt was in first place in June with 27 percent.
Daniel Henninger reflects on the latest census reports, and some interesting facts. For example, 2.2 million people left California between 1995 and 2000. "The states net migration figure for the period is minus-755,536, and would be worse if Latin American immigrants didnt still drop in for a look. This is the first time the net migration number for California has ever gone negative." As for New York, he says, "the state took first place in net migration loss: minus-874,248. The bureau says New Yorkers fled to every state in the Union except Nebraska and the District of Columbia." In short, a comparison of the the Democratic blue states and the Republican red states makes for some interesting ruminations.
Take a look at this statue of Lenin in Dallas. It sits in front of Goffs, a hamburger joint. The base of the statue, which faces West, says "America Won." This is through Rod Dreher at The Corner. And I thank him. Terrific stuff! I hope this makes up to those readers who thought I shouldnt have been so favorably disposed to Trotskys great-granddaughter yesterday!
Professor Clifford Orwin, who teaches at The University Of Toronto, notes the start of the school year, and uses it to reflect on the students inability to both read and write. Nothing that he says should shock and surprise those of us who are in the game of teaching and learning. Yet we must push on, take those students who happen to be in front of us--while never denying the vices they are prone to--point out to them what they must do in order to get into the game of thinking, reading and writing, and reveal to them how they must do it. Some of us our lucky. The vast majority of my students are better, a lot better, than the ones he describes. I dont find it all that hard to show them how to fall in love with a book, how to, as it were, make love to a book.
This story on Bustamante’s unwilligness to distance himself (never mind denounce) the radical racial group MEChA (Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan) is getting some notice. Bustamante says he still supports the group--considered racist by many--he was once a member of. MEChA’s motto is "for the race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing." Mickey Kause at Slate has a lot of good links you might want to follow, and his opinions are pretty sound on all this. Worth following...Kaus also notes, correctly, in my view, that the only semi-reliable polls on the California election have to do with the recall itself, which promises to be close. He says that people aren’t paying enough attention to the possibility that Davis might not be recalled. Good point. Note this paragraph from RealClearPolitics: "Of course all of the above is irrelevant if over 50% of the voters do not vote to recall Governor Davis. All of the polls except one (the LA Times) have shown 54%-69% majorities willing to vote for the ouster of Gray Davis. Our current RCP average which includes the very pro-Democratic LA Times poll still shows support for recall running 57.3%-38.7%. While the evidence continues to remain strong that Davis will indeed be recalled, we think the Democrats have a better shot at getting that pro-Davis recall number below 50.0% than they do of having Cruz out duel Arnold. So expect the Clintonesque strategy of trying to turn this into a partisan food fight to continue, especially as we get closer to October 7 and the Democrats realize Davis, and not Bustamante, might be their only shot to hold on to power."
Bruce Bartlett writes that companies (especially in the service industries) that think that it is worth outsourcing (especially to India, as an example) their work, may well be wrong according to the latest studies. Why? Productivity in the U.S. continues to rise.
John Blundell, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, writes that the Scots can learn much from the Slovaks who have turned their economy around by going to a flat tax.
The world is interesting, isn’t it? A reader brought to my attention this WaPo story of a week or so ago on the Great-grandaughter of Leon Trotsky, Nora Volkow, who also happens to be the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md. Born in Mexico, she is, apparently, an impressive scientist. Good read.
Richard Reeves claims that Hillary and her advisors will meet on September 6th talk the whole thing through and make a decision regarding 2004. Retired General Wesley Clark will make a decision within two weeks, but this report says that, according to some friends, he has already decided. Amy Sullivan, a Democrat, has a longish essay explaining how Clark can still win the Democratic primary. The latest Zogby Poll of likely New Hampshire voters reveals that Howard Dean is now leading John Kerry 38% to 17%. Dean is also raising a lot more money than most people thought he would; so much that he is considering not accepting federal matching funds. David Lambro reflects on why Kerry is getting that sinking feeling. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerry ended up not running; this is not a guy who could re-group after a defeat; there is a lot of self-esteem at stake for him. In the meantime, The Weekly Standard brushes off General Clark as another slick guy from Arkansas. But, in case you have forgotten about him, the word two weeks ago was that John Edwards is also on the edge; if it’s do or die time for him as well, he will die. The Birmingham Post-Herald reports (three clicks down) that support for Bush’s Iraq policy is slipping even in the South. Here is President Bush’s speech to the American Legion Convention in St. Louis.
John Hughes explains why Vietnam and Iraq are not comparable. And he has three suggestions on how to make certain that Iraq doesnt turn into Vietnam.
Today is the 40th anniversary of MLKs I Have a Dream speech. I noted with amusement last night that a news report said, in passing, that in one semester in college the lowest grade MLK received was in a Speech Class. He received a "C." Its always worth mentioning such facts (and that, e.g., Winston wasnt a fine student in most subjects) to our students. It gives them hope.
This was sent to me by a reader.
"I sat in my seat of the Boeing 767 waiting for everyone to hurry and
stow their carry-ons and grab a seat so we could start what I was sure to
be a long, uneventful flight home. With the huge capacity and slow moving
people taking their time to stuff luggage far too big for the overhead and
never paying much attention to holding up the growing line behind them, I
simply shook my head knowing that this flight was not starting out very
I was anxious to get home to see my loved ones so I was focused on ’my’
issues and just felt like standing up and yelling for some of these clowns
to get their act together. I knew I couldn’t say a word so I just thumbed
the ’Sky Mall’ magazine from the seat pocket in front of me. You know it’s
really getting rough when you resort to the over priced, useless sky
mall crap to break the monotony. With everyone finally seated, we just
sat there with the cabin door open and no one in any hurry to get us going
although we were well past the scheduled take off time. No wonder the
airline industry is in trouble I told myself. Just then, the attendant
came on the intercom to inform us all that we were being delayed. The
entire plane let out a collective groan. She resumed speaking to say ’We
holding the aircraft for some very special people who are on their way
to the plane and the delay shouldn’t be more than 5 minutes.’ The word
came after waiting six times as long as we were promised that ’I’ was
finally going to be on my way home. Why the hoopla over ’these’ folks? I
was expecting some celebrity or sport figure to be the reason for the hold
up...Just get their butts in a seat and lets hit the gas I thought.
The attendant came back on the speaker to announce in a loud and
excited voice that we were being joined by several U. S. Marines returning
home from Iraq!!!"
Just as they walked on board, the entire plane erupted into
applause. The men were a bit taken by surprise by the 340 people
cheering for them as they searched for their seats. They were having their
hands shook and touched by almost everyone who was within an arm’s
of them as they passed down the aisle. One elderly woman kissed the hand
of one of the Marines as he passed by her. The applause, whistles and
cheering didn’t stop for a long time. When we were finally airborne, ’I’
not the only civilian checking his conscience as to the delays in ’me’
getting home, finding my easy chair, a cold beverage and the remote in my
These men had done for all of us and I had been complaining silently
about ’me’ and ’my’ issues. I took for granted the everyday freedoms I
enjoy and the conveniences of the American way of life I took for granted
paid the price for my ability to moan and complain about a few minutes
delay to ’me’ those Heroes going home to their loved ones. I attempted
my selfish outlook back in order and minutes before we landed I suggested
to the attendant that she announce over the speaker a request for everyone
to remain in their seats until our hero’s were allowed to gather their
things and be first off the plane. The cheers and applause continued until
the last Marine stepped off and we all rose to go about our too often
granted everyday freedoms... I felt proud of them. I felt it an
honor and a privilege to be among the first to welcome them home and
say Thank You for a job well done. I vowed that I will never forget that
flight nor the lesson learned. I can’t say it enough, THANK YOU to
those Veterans and active servicemen and women who may read this and
prayer for those who cannot because they are no longer with us. God Bless America! Welcome Home! And thanks for a job well done.!"
The Space Shuttle Columbia accident report is out, and is quite lengthy. Instapundit points out that buried in Chapter 3 of the report is a reference to the fact that the foam (which apparently struck the shuttle and caused burn through on re-entry) was reformulated for environmental reasons. Brian Carnell’s blog reprinted a NASA press release from 1999 which states that the foam was known to flake off the inter-tank section of the external fuel tank on a previous shuttle mission. It also confirmed that the "new lightweight insulation material was developed to comploy with an EPA mandate to reduce ozone-depleting chemicals released into the atmosphere."
If it is true that NASA used what it knew to be an inferior product in order to comply with EPA regulations, then it is scandalous. I’m no expert in this area, and will leave it to folks like Hayward to fill in the gaps, but I am interested to see if anything comes of this.
This Newsday article reports that Howard Dean has surged to a 21 point lead over John Kerry among likely New Hampshire voters. This is a Zogby poll which is about as reliable as polls get.
Couple that with this ’New York Times’ article and it is an amazing surge. Dean will raise $10.3 million this quarter, more than any Democratic except for Presdident Clinton in 1995. Amazing crowds are showing up everywhere Dean goes, 10,000 in Seattle the other night and Dean is going everywhere. The internet has become a global village for the hard-left. What’s going on here?
It seems spooky to think that Dean could win the nomination when the country seems to be so closely divided.
Sebastian Cresswell writes a devastating criticism of Italy for the Arts page of the London Telegraph. As you must know, I have many pro-Italian biases, yet, this must be considered.
Mac Owens and The Rev. Jonathan Ostman write with perfect clarity about the schism in the Episcopal Church of the United States. They explain how the bedrock principles of Anglican doctrine are being replaced with a new gospel, one heavily influenced by secular categories such as "inclusion" and "affirmation." They write: "The elevation of the Rev. V. Eugene Robinson to the episcopate indicates that the schismatics who now hold power in the Episcopal Church have embraced the sin of idolatry." Read the whole thing.
Robert Fulford notes the publication of The Diaries of Georgi Dimitrov (Yale). The first Communist prime minister of Bulgaria, oddly, kept a diary. The diary is not known for its literary qualities, but it has a few interesting items about Stalin. I had a chance to see Dimitrov’s mausoleum when I was in Bulgaria soon after the communist regime fell (Fulford points out that the walls were so thick they had trouble trying to destroy it); someone asked me to go in to see him displayed, and I declined. Seeing Lenin in Moscow was enough. Too many tyrants, no reason to see them all; I felt my presence would honor them some way. I was interested in studying the unnatural deeds they did, and seeing the misery and horror they caused, and helping end them. And I did. The evil that men do lives after them.
Although the figures are not precise (yet everyone seems to agree that the number is at least 5,000) there is much talk about the death of 10,000 French citizens during this heat wave. Clifford Orwin reflects on what this could mean. Does it tell us anything about France, the French government, or, more interestingly, the French people and their anonymous lives? He ends with this: "Is this the new France: Liberté, égalité, Chacun pour soi-même?"
Bill Whelan reports on California State Senator Tom McClintock in the latest Weekly Standard. Whelan argues that McClintock is now the key man in the race. He can cost Arnold the Governors house. McClintock is the only true conservative in the race and it seems he has a stubborn streak.
Adam Gopnik writes an essay with this title in the New Yorker. He ruminates on the heat, on intermittents du spectacle, on Bernard-Henry Levy, and Andre Glucksmann. Full of many worthy observations, I cite only a few. Example: "Though he [Glucksmann] is staunchly pro-war (and comes as close to being pro-Bush as any Frenchman can, announcing that underneath the carapace of the Baptist bigot there is someone who is a nearly Shakespearean figure, a man who has met tragedy and recognized it as such), he is not really of the right. He is simply pessimistic."
Another: "The real threat to France is not anti-Americanism, which might at least have the dignity of an argument, an idea, and could at least provoke a grownup response, but what the writer Philippe Sollers has called the creeping moldiness of French life—the will to defiantly turn the country back into an enclosed provincial culture. For the first time, French people care about their houses, a leading French journalist complains in shock. That was always a little England thing—and now you find intelligent Parisians talking all the time about home improvements. This narrowing of expectations and horizons is evident already in the French enthusiasm for cartoon versions of French life, as in Amélie, of a kind the French would once have thought fit only for tourists. It has a name, the Venetian alternative—meaning a readiness to turn one’s back on history and retreat into a perfect simulacrum of the past, not to reject modernity but to pretend it isn’t happening."
I like this comment from Peter Lawler on the fat issue, so I bring it to your attention: "Although I have been largely convinced by the wisdom of the late Dr. Atkins, I don’t know why we conservatives need to take a position on the fat lobby or fatness generally. I do know that we shouldn’t be so obsessed with personal longevity that we lose the laidback objectivity about the inevitability and goodness of our mortality that is characteristic of men with chests (in addition to guts) and souls."
I just re-read David Warren’s long review (in Commentary) of Berman’s Terror and Liberalism and Lewis’ The Crisis of Islam in Commentary. Very good. And David Forte explains that enemy is not Islam, but Fascism, whether they call themselves Baathists, Hezbollah, Hamas, they just wear the mask of Islam. Muslims (and Christians, for that matter) must decide whether their religion is a faith or an ideology. Worth a read.
This AP story on Gray Davis advisors is pretty useful. The best lines come from Jack Pitney, who said this about the fact that Gary South no longer works for Davis (he is on the Liberman team): "When I think of Garry South, I think of Luca Brasi from `The Godfather, said Jack Pitney, a political scientist from Claremont McKenna College. When Luca Brasi left the scene, the Godfather was in trouble -- he had to rely on Fredo as his bodyguard.
With South as his hitman, Pitney said, Davis could rely on someone to take on his critics. Without him, Davis has had to do more of that himself, making his candidacy somewhat more negative than it might otherwise be."
Neal Ascherson writes a good essay on Nikita Khrushchev in The London Review of Books, by way of reviewing Taubmans biography. Just one passage: "He was not paranoid, as Stalin was, but somehow drew energy from the idea that everything and everyone in the cosmos treated him as an upstart, a stubby-fingered boor who must not be allowed to succeed. He would show them. He did show them. The chip on his shoulder was the biggest carried by any leader in history, Napoleon and Hitler not excepted. It was heavy enough to crush the world, and in the Cuba crisis of 1962, it very nearly did so."
How many boots should we have on the ground in Iraq? James Quinlivan of RAND has a short and clear article entitled, "Burden of Victory: The Pianful Arithmetic of Stability Operations," which claims that it should be about 500,000. Never mind whether or not this is true for the moment, just note how the calculations are made. This is the sort of stuff that many people in government (not excluding Department of Defense) love.
To stay on France for another minute, note this piece out of London which claims that France "is about to break another of the cardinal rules of the euro stability pact - allowing its accumulated national debt to exceed the limit of 60 per cent of GNP imposed on euroland members.
Since France and Germany are already breaching the ceiling on annual deficits (3 per cent of GNP), the euro stability pact risks looking like a fiscal dead letter by the end of this year."
While noting the bias (against tax cuts, French and otherwise) in the article, you cant help notice the passing mention that the French have not cut spending. The article concludes: "France and Germany, the Continents economic heavyweights, are now - in terms of the Euroland budgetary rules - driving the wrong way down the motorway. While most euroland countries made wrenching efforts to reduce debt in line with single currency guidelines in the past decade, France and Germany (the two countries most responsible for creating the euro) have increased their national debt rapidly. Germanys accumulated debt has also risen well beyond the 60 per cent of GDP ceiling in the last year."
I confess that I havent followed in detail the death of 10,000 people in France. When I first heard of the problem, it was said that 3,000 had died in the heat wave and I thought it an exagerration. And for the last week or so the press has been talking about 10,000 people having died. I find it almost unimaginable. This USA Today article from a few days ago mentions some possibilities, including one big one: everyone was on vacation! Now, this may all be too serious for anti-French jokes. What could this mean? What is going on? Is it simply not enough air-conditioners? Is it possible that this is the result of a certain understanding of labor and value, of work and vacation, of socialist medicine even? The Le Parisian headline "Everyone is guilty," as reported in the Kansas City Star is not especially helpful. It may be useful to note that in articles about this problem the phrase "Frances widely respected health system" appears over and over, including in todays Guardian.
A reader brings this lovely essay to my attention, and I thank him. James Panero (a well educated young man) writes a levelheaded essay on Africa and claims that because he cant talk about an African problem, hell say that Africa has a Jimmy Carter problem. Evelyn Waugh is not irrelevant to the purpose of this thoughtful piece.
Theres a fat chance that Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction have been located. This report from the World Tribune claims that U.S. intelligence reports believe that Iraqi WMD have been relocated to the Bekka Valley in Lebanon. Im not sure how reliable this report is but it makes sense as Syria controls much of Lebanon.
I actually read the Fumento piece Mickey cites below. Fumento attacks the pro-fat lobby. I haven’t even heard of the pro-fat lobby until now. But I have an opinion on this: I don’t care what science has to say on this matter (and many others), that you will live longer if you are not fat, etc. I prefer men about me who are fat for the same reason I prefer myself. "Let me have men about me that are fat, Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights." You know the rest. And let me be perfectly clear on one point: This blog will have nothing to do with those who are interested in attacking the fat; let the body-socialists find other places to vent their spleen. I will not have it. It’s an outrage. One more thing, Mickey ought to find better uses for his time than listening to college presidents; they always speak an infinite deal of nothing, especially ones who ought to be fat. Go and listen to a student Mickey, at least some of those show some sparks that are like wit!
Michael Fumento gives the lie to the Pro-Fat Lobby. Fat Men get busy, eat less, work out more.
Sorry, it’s registration time, classes start Wednesday, and a College President has been speechifying.
Mickey Kause at Slate has some useful comments questioning the recent LA Times poll on Bustamante and the recall I referenced below. Two main points he notes: The poll was conducted during the Prop 13 flap (that seems like a long time ago) and before Arnold rolled out his ads and before his press conference. And, the Poll hides (or misleads the reader) regarding the potentially large turnout of voters in favor of Arnold. Look at the whole thing, its brief. Also read Daniel Weintraubs comments on the poll. Veryb thoughtful and much longer. The crux of the matter is this, in my opinion: Davis will lose, Arnold is ahead, and will win it because he will be the only candidate who will move voters to come out and vote; especially younger voters who normally dont. If the Democrats (including Davis) want to take heart from such polls, fine. Let them misunderstand by thinking that this poll is the father of good news.
Classes start on Monday. The students arrived on campus on Saturday morning and the Freshmen Ashbrook Scholars and their parents came up for lunch on Saturday, and we had our seminar on Churchill’s My Early Life, which they read over the Summer, on Saturday night. And on Sunday afternoon, Professors Foster and Sikkenga led a seminar on the essays they wrote on the book. We had a picnic, and then an organizational meeting of all the Ashbrook Scholars. There are twenty-seven Freshmen Ashbrooks, the largest Freshman class we have ever had. There are now a total of seventy-four Ashbrook Scholars. The program has doubled in size in the last five years. We have had more excellent applicants to choose from; they are strong in their virtues. I look forward to working with all of them and have reason to think "That honor which shall...make us heirs of all eternity...Our court shall be a little academe, Still and contemplative in living art." (Love’s Labor’s Lost, I,i,6)
The Freshman class will read the following with me this semester: Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus; Aristotle, The Politics (selected sections); Machiavelli, The Prince; John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government(selected sections); Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory; Paul Johnson, Napoleon; and Shakespeare, Henry V. Virtus probata florescit.
Bill Simon has dropped out of the race. According to a poll of likely voters conducted by the Los Angeles Times, Bustamante has 35%, Arnold has 22%, and McClintock has 12%. This poll was taken before Simon dropped out (he got 6%, just below Ueberroth with 7%). To say that polling in this new environment is fluid, as the Times does, is an understatement. As you know, previous polls have not agreed with one another, or this one. They all agree that things are fluid, and voter turnout will be the determining factor. Certainly, Arnold is mathematically helped by the Simon withdrawal. Yet, note that this poll offers some good news for Davis, 50% are in favor of his recall, but 45% are opposed.