Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Presidential debates

Real Clear Politics points to a number of very good links on presidential debates (sponsored by The Museum of Broadcast Communications) starting with the first, in 1960, including video, commentary, spin at the time, etc. Very interesting. Recommend you have a look, especially useful, I would think, for teachers.  

Women and men

An AP story: "Beyond the tired cliches and sperm-and-egg basics taught in grade school science class, researchers are discovering that men and women are even more different than anyone realized.

It turns out that major illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer are influenced by gender and that perhaps treatments for women ought to be slightly different from the approach used for men.

These discoveries are part of a quiet but revolutionary change infiltrating U.S. medicine as a growing number of scientists realize there’s more to women’s health than just the anatomy that makes them female, and that the same diseases often affect men and women in different ways.

’Women are different than men, not only psychologically (but) physiologically, and I think we need to understand those differences,’ says Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association."

This is a brief review of Desmond Morris’s book, "The Naked Woman" Morris writes: "Every woman has a beautiful body, beautiful because it is the brilliant end-point of a million years of evolution." The reviewer writes: "Where The Naked Woman falls down, as it were, is on the theory that binds these facts together. It’s the same old argument that Richard Dawkins propagated in The Selfish Gene, secular Britain’s creed: human traits can be explained with reference to how they helped primitive man survive in the wild. Men fancy curvy women because big hips mean easy childbirth. We laugh because apes emit a laugh-like panting sound during group bonding games. That sort of thing.

And while it may well be true that the character and appearance of men and women can be explained by imagining how each trait helped our ancestors survive, the various hypotheses sometimes read like a sophisticated after-dinner game for pop anthropologists. In his chapter on hair, Morris speculates that women have long head hair because when they were aquatic apes, it gave their babies something to hang on to as they swam around. Well OK, but prove it. Find me a remnant of aquatic mummy-ape flippers."

Multilateralism at work

David Brooks has a few thoughts about Darfur and multilateralism. Here is how he starts:

"And so we went the multilateral route.

Confronted with the murder of 50,000 in Sudan, we eschewed all that nasty old unilateralism, all that hegemonic, imperialist, go-it-alone, neocon, empire, coalition-of-the-coerced stuff. Our response to this crisis would be so exquisitely multilateral, meticulously consultative, collegially cooperative and ally-friendly that it would make John Kerry swoon and a million editorialists nod in sage approval.

And so we Americans mustered our outrage at the massacres in Darfur and went to the United Nations. And calls were issued and exhortations were made and platitudes spread like béarnaise. The great hum of diplomacy signaled that the global community was whirring into action.

Meanwhile helicopter gunships were strafing children in Darfur."

Opportunity Costs

The Knight Ridder Washington Bureau has a story reporting that according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, US and coalition action has killed or injured 66% of the Iraqis killed or injured in the insurgency. It quotes an American military spokesman as saying that “damage will happen.” The spokesman also says that “the insurgents were living in residential areas, sometimes in homes filled with munitions. ‘As long as they continue to do that, they are putting the residents at risk," he said. "We will go after them.’"

James Fallows has an interesting article in the October Atlantic (not available online) presenting all the things we could not or cannot do (the opportunity costs we have incurred) as a result of invading Iraq. The last paragraph reads in part:

The administration’s focus on Iraq “hampered the campaign in Afghanistan before fighting began and wound it down prematurely, along the way losing the chance to capture Osama bin laden. [Because of its focus on Iraq, the administration] turned a blind eye . . . to WMD threats from North Korea and Iran far more serious than any posed by Saddam Hussein . . . It overused and wore out its army in invading Iraq—without committing enough troops for a successful occupation. It saddled the United States with ongoing costs that dwarf its spending for domestic security. . . .”

The small, graceless man and Allawi

Mark Steyn, I must say, is a wonderful writer. He reflects on Kerry’s comments on Prime Minister Allawi. A sample:

"What a small, graceless man Kerry is. The nature of adversarial politics in a democratic society makes George W. Bush his opponent. But it was entirely Kerry’s choice to expand the field, to put himself on the other side of Allawi and the Iraqi people. Given his frequent boasts that he knows how to reach out to America’s allies, it’s remarkable how often he feels the need to insult them: Britain, Australia, and now free Iraq. But, because this pampered cipher has floundered for 18 months to find any rationale for his candidacy other than his indestructible belief in his own indispensability, Kerry finds himself a month before the election with no platform to run on other than American defeat. He has decided to co-opt the jihadist death-cult, the Baathist dead-enders, the suicide bombers and other misfits and run as the candidate of American failure. This would be shameful if he weren’t so laughably inept at it."

Kerry’s disgraceful week

Bill Kristol begins his thoughts on Kerry’s disgraceful behavior last week with the following:

"We really don’t know what a President John Kerry would do about Iraq. His flip-flops about the war, his inconsistencies, the ambiguity of his current position (win or withdraw?)--all of these mean we can only guess about a Kerry presidency. He would probably be inclined to get out of Iraq as soon as possible; it might be the case, however, that as president he would nonetheless find himself staying and fighting. Who knows?

What we do know is this: Kerry and his advisers have behaved disgracefully this past week. That behavior is sufficient grounds for concern about his fitness to be president."

John Kerry’s diplomacy

I have been busy all day with unimportant meetings (it’s days like this I regret becoming a prof), so I am playing some catch-up. I was struck by both the substance and the rhetoric of Prime Minister Allawi’s speech to Congress, as well as his press conference with President Bush. This is a serious fellow. I was also dumbfounded by John Kerry immediate response. It was shocking! Here is this man--an ally--who is now the head of a country trying to rebuild the Hitlerian/Satlinist mess his suffering country was left, and the Democratic candidate for president attacks him! This may be stupidest thing, the most irresponsible, the most disgraceful thing John Kerry has done in this campaign. I had to find other places on TV where it was played, just to confirm it. Each time I saw it I became angrier, and more fully convinced that this man will never become president. The American people--if they have had any doubt until now--will take this as the last straw. I am sure of it.

Joseph Knippenberg seems to agree with me, and he calmed down enough to write a few coherent paragraphs about the Kerry campaign’s undiplomatic activity, ending with Kerry’s remarks on Allawi. Also note what Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry advisor, said about Allawi: "The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips." I am amazed.

Kerry and Vietnam

This New York Times piece considers (in fits) how the Vietnam crossfire has hurt Kerry. There is a comparison throughout to Bush’s National Guard service, and or issues (made up or not) surrounding it, but, try as they might, the Times has to admit that the comparison isn’t valid. Especially notice this comment from the historian and Kerry biographer (is it hagiographer?) Douglas Brinkley: "Every American now knows that there’s something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was." I think this is true, but do we not know this because Doug Brinkley helped us find out. The guy ought to lose his tenure, as Dan Rather ought to lose his job.

Fishing for a Great Communicator . . . Sort of

In "The Candidates, Seen From the Classroom", Stanley Fish reports that by a vote of 13-2 his freshman writing class believes President Bush communicates his ideas better than Senator Kerry. Fish told his students, "Put aside whatever preferences you might have for either candidate’s positions . . . just tell me who does a better job of articulating his positions, and why." One student said of Kerry, "He’s kind of ’skippy,’ all over the place." Kind of reminds you of his policy positions.

To the objection, "Doesn’t Mr. Bush’s directness and simplicity of presentation reflect a simplicity of mind and an incapacity for nuance, while Mr. Kerry’s ideas are just too complicated for the rhythms of publicly accessible prose?" Fish replies,

Sorry, but that’s dead wrong. If you can’t explain an idea or a policy plainly in one or two sentences, it’s not yours; and if it’s not yours, no one you speak to will be persuaded of it, or even know what it is, or (and this is the real point) know what you are.

Fish still intends to vote for the Great Obfuscator, but he for one is not hopeful that the coming presidential debates will help Kerry rebound from his plummeting poll numbers.

PM Ayad Allawi’s Address to Congress

Here is a transcript of Allawi’s address to Congress. And here is Kerry’s patronizing response as reported by Al-Jazeera. I’ll be writing more about this soon.

Polling mysteries explained

We all know that polling is an art, not a science, etc. Even those of us who know the political climate, who know the political sense of the people, who feel the pulse of the voters, who are able to read the public sentiment, sometimes refer to polls, if for no other reason than make sure that those who do it for a living don’t get too far afield. This site, named Mystery Pollster may be worth looking at from time to time, if you want to take polling seriously. Although a Democrat, his relatively short explanations of the intricacies of polls (e.g., the issue of "weighting") are quite clear and useful. He claims that he is going to be a straight shooter, and not spin any of the polls (that’s our job). According to his humble self, he has much experience in both applied polling (for Demo candidates) and in the academic reserach side. He is worth a look, maybe he can teach us something. So far so good.

Both Instapundit and Mickey Kaus make favorable references to him. (Of course, I trust Reynolds more than Kaus, fyi.)

Electoral College, good or bad?

Glenn C. Altschuler writes a quick review of George Edwards’ Why the Electoral College is Bad for America (Yale). It is a pretty good characterization of the arguments against the Electoral College (but also see the links here) and I especially like his last paragraph:

"One final objection, and it is a big enchilada, bedevils abolitionists. Direct election of Presidents does promote political equality. But to avoid the possibility of electing a President who has only a plurality in a crowded field, advocates of direct election provide for a runoff if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote. The runoff, Mr. Edwards acknowledges, ’has some potential to fragment the party system.’ He argues, strenuously, that runoffs would be rare and would not destabilize the political system. The provision, however, is fraught with danger. Third-, fourth- and fifth-party candidates—let’s call them Ralph, Ross and Lyndon LaRouche—could enter the first round. Without a winner-take-all in each state, voters might be less likely to think they were wasting their votes on them. These reforms might weaken the already fragile two-party system—which, for all its flaws, has served this country well—and put fringe parties in the driver’s seat, à la Israel. It doesn’t seem worth the risk. Maybe, after all, the Founders were right."

Kerry veering left

This is a very fine editorial from the Chicago Tribune on Kerry’s latest turn on Iraq, on how Kerry is channeling Howard Dean. It is right on the money.  

Jayson Blair on Rather

Jayson Blair speaks out on CBS’s credibility issues at Rathergate; Rathergate was the first "media" to contact him on this, he says. And then this: "It’s really sad to see what’s happening to Dan Rather and CBS, and no one knows like me what its like to lose their credibility. I would give anything to have it back. If I could turn back time, I would." (Thanks to Instapundit) Keep up with the CBS story at Powerline and Ratherbiased.

Memogate and the election

Andrew Busch considers what effect the Dan Rather/CBS corruption will have on the election. It has helped Bush in three ways: One, this hurricane has prevented Kerry from getting his latest message through. Two, it has torn the non-partisan mask off the elite media, not just CBS. Three, becaused this represents the biggest dirty trick ever exposed during an election since Watergate, and because the Kerry campaign is perceived to be involved, Kerry’s attack on Bush regarding trust is dead in the water.  

The state of the parties

William Galston considers how the Democratic Party of Kennedy and Johnson differs from today’s party. And James W. Ceaser and Daniel DiSalvol consider the GOP at "the high point of its political strength in the modern era."

"Will Republicans be able to maintain and consolidate their current position, or has the party now reached a peak from which its support will begin to ebb? Electoral analysts generally approach this question by studying voter groups and demographic trends. This method may be effective up to a point, but it ignores the impact of major events—those famous ’tides in the affairs of men’ — that can determine a party’s fortunes. A moment of this kind is now at hand. President Bush has identified the Republican party with a distinct foreign policy, which he has justified by recourse to certain fixed and universal principles — namely that, in his words, ’liberty is the design of nature’ and that ’freedom is the right and the capacity of all mankind.’ Not since Lincoln has the putative head of the Republican party so actively sought to ground the party in a politics of natural right. This has led his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, to brand the Bush administration the most ’ideological’ of recent times. Victory for President Bush in November will surely vindicate his policies and principles. Defeat will mean, at a minimum, a curtailment of the Bush foreign policy, and will also likely bring an end to his understanding of the Republican party." Both are in The Public Interest and are very much worth reading.   

Recite poetry, be healthy

Never mind that I like some poems, or why I like which. Take a few, but aloud, please:

"There is sobbing of the strong,/And a pall upon the land;/But the people in their weeping/Bare the iron hand:/Beware the People weeping/When they bare the iron hand." (Melville)

"And great Odysseus told his wife of all the pains/he had dealt out to other men and all the hardships/he’d endured himself--his story first to last--/and she listened on, enchanted.../Sleep never sealed her eyes till all was told." (Homer)

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree;/Where Alph, the sacred river, ran/Through caverns measureless to man/Down to a sunless sea." (Coleridge)

Well, it now turns out that some researchers (what we call scientists, no doubt; such are not born under a rhyming planet) have shown that reciting epic poetry(may have to do with hexameter, they say) is good for the heart. No, no, not the way you think. But, rather, "It all has to do with breathing patterns and their relationship to cardiac rhythms." That is, reciting poetry makes an excellent breathing exercise. It has to do with the synchronization of certain cardiorespiratory patterns.

Read it, it’s

short, but not enough.

Hadley Arkes

You can now listen to Hadley Arkes’ Constitution Day talk at the Ashbrook Center.

Bring in the prosecutor

Bill Safire has a very good column on the meaning of the CBS forgery and what should be done first: Because no ethic requires a journalist to protect a source who lied, the guy should be found and prosecuted.

"Appointing independent reviewers should not be a device to duck all others’ questions; that’s Kofi Annan’s trick to stonewall his oil-for-food scandal. But lacking the power of a grand jury’s subpoena or testimony under oath, victimized CBS cannot put real heat on the perpetrator or conspirators. We have hard evidence of crimes by low-level operatives here - from wire fraud to forgery - as well as the potential of high-level political involvement. Is no prosecutor prepared to enforce the law?"

Kerry and Hanoi Jane

Here is the latest Swifties ad focusing on Kerry and Jane Fonda. This is the Washington Post story on it. Apparently even Chris Matthews admits that Kerry has a Hanoi Jane [problem.


David Frumm thinks Bush should have mentioned Iran in his UN speech. Good point. Iran announced yesterday that it had started converting tons of raw uranium as part of a process that could be used to make nuclear arms.

Students reading

John Moser’s post below, "What’s up with Universities and Ehrenreich?" leads me to this: For years the incoming Ashbrook Scholars have been sent a book to read over the Summer. They receive Winston Churchill’s My Early Life in June (as they are graduating high school), read it by early August, write an essay on education (the real subject of the book) and have two separate two-hour seminars (one on Saturday on the book, and one on Sunday on the writing); classes start Monday. I have always thought--and the students think--that this is a very good way to get into the college mode. It is a serious book that allows itself to be questioned; we end up having very good conversations as a result. The substance is just fine, and the conversational tone (so unlike high school) sets the stage nicely for their future learning. It is all high minded, slightly removed from the present, slightly foreign, but entirely interesting. They wonder at the man and his world and the good writing. They are struck by his vivacity and courage, note his sweet love for his nanny, marvel at his ambition, watch the man educate himself as he envies the young pups at universities who have teachers to help them navigate uncharted waters. And they note his exhortations to go out into the world and make a mark. These students don’t even know who Barbara Ehrenreich is. They have missed nothing.

Kerry’s latest principles

Here is the transcript of Kerry’s press conference (the first in over a month). I saw panting reporters explaining how Kerry has found his footing, finally. Their excitement that there may be a real campaign in the offing, after all, was palpable. In fact, Kerry has changed his mind yet again, and now he is determined and settled into full anti-war candidacy. He is taking advantage of what he sees as an ill-wind from Iraq, and he means to ride that wind to election day. This disposition, this mode--this formless political self--is the main reason why Kerry should not be elected president. Whatever happened to Bill Clinton’s advice that he stick to domestic policy? Well, remember that Groucho Marx once said, "These are my principles, if you don’t like them I have others." This applies to Kerry perfectly. He is on the edge of the cliff and any good wind, or a good word breathed by Bush, will blow him over into the void. The fall will be spectacular and my grandchildren will studying his campaign as an exercise in idiocy and futility, a formless man at the helm of a party without a cause.

What’s up with Universities and Ehrenreich?

Last year Ashland University’s "Introduction to University Life" program solicited suggestions from the faculty regarding books that might be profitably assigned to all first-year students and used as a basis for class discussions. I think I suggested Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, hardly a conservative book. In any case, does anyone think there’s a shortage of important, substantive books out there with which to challenge students?

Well, it turns out that IUL decided to go with Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been using it as "expected" (meaning required) reading for a few years now, much to the consternation of North Carolina’s conservative state legislature. Now I’ve learned that my alma mater, Ohio University, has adopted the book as part of its Common Reading Project. Perhaps there are other schools doing this as well; if so, I’d like to hear about it.

So what’s going on here? Are faculty members making these decisions unaware of the huge menu of important and challenging works available on a variety of subjects? Why are these schools so set on using a third-rate book as a means of introducing 18-year-olds to the rigors of university life? Is "Nickel and Dimed" now to be considered one of the Great Books?


I watched some of Chris Matthews last night and he said something stupid about bloggers, once again: "Even a broken clock is right twice a day." Thanks, Chris, that is revealing. Foolish, thoughtless, the insight of a true lightweight. Keep yelling at people, you are making a great contribution to our way of life. Bloggers in their pajamas have broken a huge story, have brought down a major source of power in the establishment media, have helped clarify the relationship between CBS and the Kerry campaign, and you scoff. Keep fiddling while your unfounded edifice is burning.

More articles on bloggers and CBS. This is from the USA Today, and this from Andrew Sullivan writing for Time. A sample:

"Well, last week, the insurrectionary pajama people—dubbed ’pajamahadeen’ by some Web nuts—successfully scaled one more citadel of the mainstream media, CBS News. One of the biggest, baddest media stars, Dan Rather, is now clinging, white-knuckled, to his job. Not bad for a bunch of slackers in their nightclothes.

You have to ask: Is this a media revolution? In some respects, sure. The Web has done one revolutionary thing to journalism: it has made the price of entry into the media market minimal. In days gone by, you needed a small fortune to start up a simple magazine or newspaper. Now you need a laptop and a modem."

Widening the Circle

Here is the President’s speech to the United Nations. It is a good speech, entirely within the highest traditions of American presidental rhetoric. A few passages I like:

"The United Nations and my country share the deepest commitments. Both the American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaim the equal value and dignity of every human life. That dignity is honored by the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, protection of private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance. That dignity is dishonored by oppression, corruption, tyranny, bigotry, terrorism and all violence against the innocent. And both of our founding documents affirm that this bright line between justice and injustice -- between right and wrong -- is the same in every age, and every culture, and every nation."

"In this young century, our world needs a new definition of security. Our security is not merely found in spheres of influence, or some balance of power. The security of our world is found in the advancing rights of mankind."

"Because we believe in human dignity, peaceful nations must stand for the advance of democracy. No other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women, or to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace. We’ve witnessed the rise of democratic governments in predominantly Hindu and Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian cultures. Democratic institutions have taken root in modern societies, and in traditional societies. When it comes to the desire for liberty and justice, there is no clash of civilizations. People everywhere are capable of freedom, and worthy of freedom."

"Finding the full promise of representative government takes time, as America has found in two centuries of debate and struggle. Nor is there any -- only one form of representative government -- because democracies, by definition, take on the unique character of the peoples that create them. Yet this much we know with certainty: The desire for freedom resides in every human heart. And that desire cannot be contained forever by prison walls, or martial laws, or secret police. Over time, and across the Earth, freedom will find a way."

Bloggers and CBS

Scott Johnson (of Powerline) finds himself on the cover of Time magazine. And the Christian Science Monitor
considers the value of bloggers; Johnson also appears. Bloggers and the internet will continue to be the topics of conversation for a while, of course. Understandable. They’re giant killers. Also see this for some pajama talk.

New Jersey and Ohio polls

Quinnipiac University Poll reports that in New Jersey it is a 48-48 tie among registered voters, and Kerry is ahead 47-43 among registered voters. The Ohio Poll (University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research) shows Bush-Kerry at 54-43 among likely voters; last month it was too close to call.

Kerry on Iraq

This is John Kerry’s speech on Iraq at NYU yesterday. James S. Robbins analyzes it and concludes that what he recommends is what Bush is doing. Brain Terminal considers Kerry’s many and contradictory positions on Iraq. And here is what Rich Lowry thinks:

"I think he has to keep hammering away at Iraq like this because it’s his best chance at eroding Bush’s advantage on national security. The critique portion of it (almost all of it) had some power. But as Jim Robbins points out today on the homepage, when he gets to his solutions the speech trails off into irrelevance or vague agreement with Bush: the international help he talks about is not going to be forthcoming; training Iraqi forces is crucial, but we’re already trying to do it; spending money faster on construction projects is also something we are trying to do. In my column today I offer some Iraq advice to Kerry that I realize is mostly fanciful. But I believe Bush’s conduct of the war is open to a fairly scathing Jacksonian Zell Miller-style “win this thing or not” critique. If Kerry ever were to stumble onto it--and flip-flop into making it--he might get somewhere on Iraq."

This is Lowry’s NRO article.

Rathergate notes

Here is the USA Today article I referenced below, "CBS had source talk to Kerry aide." And the other front page USA Today story. See also this Washington Post story, "Questions Surround Man Who Provided Documents."

CBS’s fall

Powerline continues the best coverage for those of you who want to spend more time than you should on the details. Note the many questions Powerline poses to CBS, so far unanswered. Also note that there is a serious connection being revealed between CBS and the Kerry campaign, which connection is not being denied by the parties (Lockhart, Burkett, and CBS Betsy West, senior CBS News vice president. (See USA Today’s front page story, bottom, "CBS had source talk to Kerry aide." (I can’t get to it on line, for some reason.) Details aside for the moment, it is perfectly clear that this story is far from being played out. Rather and CBS are not forthcoming, they still seem to believe that the papers and the story have merit and--perhaps most important--the apparent collusion between CBS and the Kerry campaign is being looked into by about ten thousand reporters. Things will happen, more things will be revealed. It may well put the last nail in the dying Kerry campaign’s coffin. And just when they thought things couldn’t get worse.

CBS/Rather announcement

Here is Dan Rather’s apology. This is CBS’s statement on the memos. And this is the CBS story on its own story. "Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report," said the statement by CBS News President Andrew Heyward. "We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret."

The citizen-journalist army, or the pajama brigade

Howard Kurtz of the WaPo recounts how the blogs ran with the specious CBS story based on the forged memos. There is nothing that you don’t already know in this, but I think it is significant because it is the start of a new regime in reporting and journalism, and this new regime is now being recognized by the ancien regime, which is acting as historians of their own death. All honor to Powerline and the other worthies. May the ancient regime Rest in Peace.

The new order will depend on the ability of the people to recognize the difference between the false and the true. Dan Rather and the other self-appointed guardians of the ancien regime are not amused and are afraid because a massive fact--formerly thought to be a self-evident--has been revealed to one and all: The people will not click their heals and salute just because Dan Rather and his guardians tell us to. The rational wrath of citizens against their media elites and tormentors is now seen to be consequential. It is the citizens who have courage, it is the citizens who can govern themselves without Dan Rather’s biases or his approval. We govern ourselves and we think this is good. We just proved it and we will wait and see if the CBS announcement scheduled for later today recognizes this massive fact. Even if it doesn’t, the candid world does.

Back to Dukakis, forward to Hillary

Clearly, John Fund is not the only one who thinks that the Kerry campaign is Dukakis II, but he gives a nice overview of this now settled opinion. But what I find most interesting in the piece is the opinion--by no means held only by Fund--that the Democratic Party will have a lot of soul-searching to do after their defeat in November. Yet, I don’t think it will happen because of the Hillary (read Bill and Hillary) factor: She is poised to take over the party, and she will attempt to be a moderate (like Bill), but without the ability of affecting the soul of the party (if it still has one). She will, in short, make the party her personal property and will neither reflect a deep moderate position within the party (because there isn’t one), nor be able to shape the party toward a principled position that will outlast her tenure as leader of the once-great Democratic Party.

Alexander the Great, the movie

The Oxford historian Robin Lane Fox conducts an interview with Archeology on the movie Alexander (an Oliver Stone preduction) to which he served as an advisor. A sample from the interview:

"For people in antiquity and today the life of Alexander has a legendary, heroic quality to it. But Alexander was autocratic and at times cruel, and his armies killed thousands upon thousands. When does glorification of Alexander, without reference to the less admirable aspects of his career (like the death of his cousin, and potential rival, Amyntas), become mythmaking? Does the movie avoid that?
Military conquest of thousands of ’barbarian’ peoples and lands was widely considered glorious--nobody at the time is known to have attacked Alexander for killing ’enemy’ Indians whom he invaded! ’Imperial conquest’ of the barbarian world was certainly incorporated in Aristotle’s political and ethical theories. And by Romans later, Pompey or Caesar, hundreds of tribes and cities, if captured, were proudly recorded and paraded. If people surrendered to Alexander, they were spared and their leaders were often reinstated. Often, he himself was received as a ’liberator,’ replacing a Persian Empire which was not exactly loved by one and all.

When he sacked whole cities who opposed him--Thebes or Tyre--his ferocity shocks us, but it was not outside the conduct of war by other contemporaries: his father Philip did the same, and Greek cities in the past had urged the total destruction, even, of Athens. In India, it was he who invaded an ’innocent’ land, and then killed women, children, and fugitives of peoples who refused to surrender. But here, too, he was being guided, or used, by other Indian leaders who wanted to do down their enemies--and in his vast army, no more than a fifth would have been Macedonians, while more than half were Orientals, including many Indian recruits, fighting with him. When he arrived, Indian chiefs were fighting one another, or were bitter enemies. When he left, these internal wars were ended--at least until his unforeseen early death.

Historians with our distaste for unprovoked war and killing now cast Alexander as increasingly murderous and exceptionally savage. Their older contemporaries remember Hitler or Stalin. My generation, and later, have also grown up in a post-colonial world: explicitly, at least, Americans never had an empire, anyway. In antiquity, Alexander came to be credited with taming or civilizing barbarian peoples, not least by his many Alexandrias. He was believed to have had plans for an inclusive, "harmonious" kingdom where Macedonians and Iranians would share as a ruling class. He even made the two nobilities [Macedonian and Persian] inter-marry.

There are modern historians, deploring ’imperialism,’ who try to brush these moves away as ’pragmatic’ or very limited. I think their modern prejudices mislead them, as do many others. Alexander was born a king--he did not overthrow a constitution, like a Hitler. He had no idea of ethnic or racial cleansing. He wanted to include conquered peoples in his new kingdom, Alexander’s own, while their fellows, of course, paid tribute and could not rebel. Oliver’s film credits Alexander himself with these aims, in my view rightly. But through his friends, fellow-officers, and Ptolemy himself, it also gives us the viewpoints of those who disbelieved him. In real life, Alexander drank long and hard: he killed without much scruple; he must have had a taste for war. Oliver’s film shows all these sides, including aspects which even historians in antiquity tried to omit or explain away. Alexander made, and cultivated, his own myth in his lifetime. Oliver shows it, but he himself sees the doom which it brought."

(Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily)

Kerry campaigning in Australia?

The younger Kerry sister was in Australia: "John Kerry’s campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government’s support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists." I don’t get this. She is in Australia to campaign for her father (she heads something called Americans Overseas for Kerry) and against the current PM, who is supportive of our policies? Doesn’t anyone think this is odd or improper? Isn’t there an election coming up in Australia? Weird.

U.N. Oil for Food Program

Claudia Rosett and George Russell think that the UN Oil for Food Program has many connections to al Qaeda. The Belmont Club thinks the circusmtantial evidence is pretty damning.   


Arthur Chrenkoff considers the good news from Afghanistan, and there is plenty of it. This is long with many useful links.

Louisiana votes to ban same sex marriage


"voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment Saturday banning same-sex marriages and civil unions, one of up to 12 such measures on the ballot around the country this year.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the amendment was winning approval with 79 percent of the vote and support for it was evident statewide. Only in New Orleans, home to a politically strong gay community, did the race appear to be close, and even there the amendment was passing by a small margin."