As he moves up the publication food chain, he deletes some of his most outrageous points. Here, now, is the essence of his contention:
I am not suggesting that fundamentalists are running the government, but they constitute a significant force in the coalition that now holds a monopoly of power in Washington under a Republican Party that for a generation has been moved steadily to the right by its more extreme variants even as it has become more and more beholden to the corporations that finance it. One is foolish to think that their bizarre ideas do not matter. I have no idea what President Bush thinks of the fundamentalists’ fantastical theology, but he would not be president without them. He suffuses his language with images and metaphors they appreciate, and they were bound to say amen when Bob Woodward reported that the President "was casting his vision, and that of the country, in the grand vision of God’s master plan."
That will mean one thing to Dick Cheney and another to Tim LaHaye, but it will confirm their fraternity in a regime whose chief characteristics are ideological disdain for evidence and theological distrust of science. Many of the constituencies who make up this alliance don’t see eye to eye on many things, but for President Bush’s master plan for rolling back environmental protections they are united. A powerful current connects the administration’s multinational corporate cronies who regard the environment as ripe for the picking and a hard-core constituency of fundamentalists who regard the environment as fuel for the fire that is coming. Once again, populist religion winds up serving the interests of economic elites.
The corporate, political, and religious right’s hammerlock on environmental policy extends to the US Congress. Nearly half of its members before the election—231 legislators in all (more since the election)—are backed by the religious right, which includes several powerful fundamentalist leaders like LaHaye. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the most influential Christian Right advocacy groups. Not one includes the environment as one of their celebrated "moral values."
He’s reduced to saying that those who are raptly awaiting the rapture generally vote Republican, though he can offer no evidence that any Republican office-holder actually believes this sort of "end times" thinking. I have never seen such incisive political analysis!
Here, btw, is another commentary on Moyers.
Here is the 400 plus page proposed Constitution of Europe, for those interested.
The Washington Post also reports this morning about mounting Democratic attacks on Alan Greenspan for supposedly being too partisan. Dems are grumpy that Greenspan endorsed Bush’s income tax cuts and also Social Security reform. They conveniently forget that Greenspan also endorsed Bill Clinton’s tax increase in 1993; no one attacked Greenspan for being partisan then.
Harry Reid started it by calling Greenspan a "hack," (which would make Reid exactly what?). Dem. Congressman Rahm Emmanuel says that Greenspan has "taken the moat down" around the Fed, while long-time Fed-basher Sen. Paul Sarbanes says, no--it’s not a moat: it’s a punchbowl! Greenspan has "taken the lid off the punchbowl" with his comments. Looks to me like the wheels have come off the Democrats metaphor bus.
The Washington Post reports this morning about an 88-year-old man charged with sexual abuse of a teenager. Supply your own punchline, or add it on to reasons we need to reform Social Security. Or something.
Here is the latest report on the Republican attempt to have the Governor’s race in Washington state overturned in court.
Republicans releseasd a list of 1,100 felons and dead people who voted in the race.
Gabriel Schoenfeld is very critical of the CIA. He pulverizes Imperial Hubris, by ex-CIA guy Michael Scheuer. Glad to see this. Also considers Melissa Boyle Mahles Denial and Deception, but in a much better light. Thoughtful stuff on the problems at the CIA; some of it is just pathetic.
John Gross touches on two books on Shakespeare by those who partake of new historicism (filling the void left by Marxism), psychocriticism, or new criticism, and finds, to his surprise, that they are not as bad as they should have been, considering that the authors are Greenblatt and Garber. I have read into the Greenblatt volume, and Gross is right, it is better than I thought it would be. Whats going on here? Gross doesnt think its a new trend. It may be an accident.
Daniel Schorr is awaking from his decades long slumber. He says this: "Something remarkable is happening in the Middle East - a grass-roots movement against autocracy without any significant ’Great Satan’ anti-American component." Good things are happening in the whole region, he notes. "During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush said that ’a liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region.’" He concludes: "He may have had it right." I have been listening to him (before satellite radio) say nothing for decades. He finally got one right, and darn it, I missed it. Oh well, taxpayers money well spent. Give enough monkeys typewriters, etc.....
Everyone and every TV and radio station is Martha talk today. Boring. This is my first and last blog on her. David Letterman on Martha Stewart: "Martha Stewart is getting out of prison so today the terror alert was raised from Orange to Pesto."
This is a bit much. Senator Harry Reid, you know who he is, the elder democratric statesman, Harry of the West (apology to Henry Clay). He said this about Alan Greenspan the other day on Judy Woodruff (about two-thirds of the way down):
Judy, you understand, I hope, that I’m not a big Greenspan fan -- Alan Greenspan fan. I voted against him the last two times. I think he’s one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington.
Thanks Harry. That’s what Greenspan is, a hack. Right, and Peter Schramm is a philosopher. You are a very thoughtful and articulate guy, Harry. You disagree with him on Social Security and therefore he’s a hack. Good luck in your new position, Harry. I think you will soon be tenured into the slot of minority leader.
This story in The New Republic explains the role of blogs in the South Dakota Senate race, and how they are already being set up for Senate races next year. There is no way the campaign finance reformers will not want to regulate this kind of activity (quaintly known as "free speech") eventually.
The next blogstorm is gathering over the prospect that the Federal Election Commission might seek to extend speech regulation to the internet and to bloggers. Michelle Malkin has a terrific roundup of links (scroll down a ways) to get you up to speed.
The so-called "reform community" has reacted sharply, but is this prospect far-fetched? Bloggers played a crucial role in bringing down Tom Daschle in South Dakota, so the bitter immediate reaction of the "reform community" suggests that the blogosphere is on to something and thwarted their plans for a stealth offensive against the internet. Moreover, as our late friend John Wettergreen agued back in the 1980s, the logic of the FEC and several other agencies is toward "total regulation." Although the blogosphere would appear impossible for government to regulate or contain, the logic of their trying to do so is entirely consistent with how they already regulate political speech.
Peter: Can we somehow add a pitchfork symbol to go along with the NLT coffee cups?
Count me among those who doubt that Hillarys religious overtures will fool very many people. If you go back and re-read her famous "Politics of Meaning" speech, which Rabbi Lerner ("Slow Lerner on the Left," I have heard him called) wrote for her, you will see that it is thoroughly suffused with postmodern, Heideggerian thinking. She included phrases such as "redefining who we are as human beings in this post-modern age," as though human nature were entirely plastic. This will require, she added, "remaking the American way of politics, government, indeed life." I cant see many Bible-believing red staters warming up to this. Perhaps shell get better at it, but even her talents have limits.
And then theres her Wellesley senior thesis about Saul Alinsky, which I have read. But thats a story for another day.
Here’s a very interesting article on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent religious gestures. The argument in a nutshell?
Here’s a little-understood truism about Senator Clinton: She feels right at home with the churchgoing crowd. A lifelong and devout Methodist, she spent her teen years active in the church’s youth movement. In 1993, as the newly crowned first lady, she became the symbol of an emerging religious liberalism when she gave a speech in Austin, Texas, that called for "a new politics of meaning."
"She used those words," recalls Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun. Lerner used to meet with Hillary at the Clinton White House until, in his words, "the liberal media and the religious right demolished her for it."
Now the senator is reclaiming her moral roots. She hasn’t found religion in order to make a presidential run—it’s more like she’s finally coming clean. Says Lerner, "There’s a new openness among Democrats to speak religion, and Hillary has gone back to being who she really is."
Clinton’s aides put it another way. "The times may have changed, but Hillary Clinton’s views have not," says Philippe Reines, her spokesperson. Everything she’s voiced recently, he points out, she’s voiced before.
I find the portrait of her religiosity entirely plausible: she could well be a (very) liberal mainline Protestant. Whether being true to herself will get her any national political traction is another issue altogether. She would have to move decisively to the right on abortion and gay marriage, which I don’t think principal constituencies in the Democratic Party will permit her to do, unless she signalled to them that she didn’t really mean it. So let’s watch for the winks.
There he goes again, this time in a sanitized version on the op-ed page of today’s WaPo. Here’s a sample paragraph:
It starts with shutting off debate on judges, but it won’t end there. This nuclear option could rob a senator of the right to speak out against an overreaching executive branch or a wrongheaded policy. It could destroy the Senate’s very essence -- the constitutional privilege of free speech and debate.
Here’s the text of the letter I sent to the Post:
Senator Robert Byrd misuses the constitutional language of rights in a characteristically hyperbolic defense of Democratic obstruction of President Bush’s judicial nominees. He implies that First Amendment values are implicated in resisting Republican efforts to limit debate. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Freedom of speech has historically been concerned with censorship, i.e., the regulation of the content of speech, or viewpoint discrimination. Senator Byrd is not being deprived of his right to make any intemperate, silly, or ill-advised remarks he wishes.
But there is no constitutional right to speak, in effect, forever. If there were, then cloture itself would be unconstitutional, an argument that the Senator himself has not yet been brazen enough to make.
By hiding behind the constitutional language of rights in what is clearly a political dispute, Senator Byrd contributes to the cheapening of constitutional discourse, which would be a sad legacy for the self-proclaimed Senatorial guardian of the Constitution.
Ohio Republicans are not yet adopting a pro-Bush stance on Social Security. Ralph Regula says: "We don’t have a plan, we have a concept. You’ve got to think about how it would work in a practical way, so I’m not at this point ready to sign on to anything." The reports from the MSM are entirely negative on the Bush attempt to do something about Social Security, as are the polls. This makes the intnsigent Demos very happy. There is no movement toward him, we are told. But I expect something to break soon, some sort of concrete compromise measure put forward by a few folks from the Senate and the House, or the thing will die and will have to be picked up next year. That would be a shame, and could be to the GOPs disadvantage in the 2006 elections. On the other hand, this will not be the first time Bush and his people will have been misunderestimated.
Politics is where the competing moral visions of a society meet and struggle. And since the overwhelming majority of American citizens are religious believers, it’s completely appropriate for people and communities of faith to bring their faith into the public square.
Real pluralism always involves a struggle of ideas. Democracy depends on people of conviction fighting for what they believe in the public square – non-violently, respectfully and ethically, but also vigorously and without embarrassment. People who try to separate their private convictions about human dignity and the common good from their involvement in public issues are not acting with integrity, or with loyalty to their own principles. In fact, they’re stealing from their country.
To be healthy, the political process demands that people conform their actions to their beliefs. For Catholics to be silent in an election year -- or any year -- about critical public issues because of some misguided sense of good manners, would actually be a form of theft from our national conversation.
For religious believers not to advance their convictions about public morality in public debate is not an example of tolerance. It’s a lack of courage.
If we believe that a particular issue is gravely wrong and damaging to society, then we have a duty, not just a religious duty but also a democratic duty, to hold accountable the candidates who want to allow it. Failing to do that is an abuse of responsibility on our part, because that’s where we exercise our power as citizens most directly – in the voting booth.
What the Founders intended was to prevent the establishment of an official state Church. They never intended, and never wrote into the Constitution, any prohibition against religious believers, religious leaders or religious communities taking an active role in public issues and the political process. The idea of exiling religion from public debate would have made no sense to them.
Jefferson and Franklin were Deists. But most of the Founders were practicing Christians. And all of them were deeply influenced by Christian thought. Our history as a nation is steeped in religious imagery and language.
The idea that we can pull those religious roots out of our political life without hurting our identity as a nation is both imprudent and dangerous. The United States is non-sectarian. That’s good. That’s important. But “non-sectarian” does not mean anti-religious, atheist, agnostic or even fully secular. Our public institutions flow – in large part -- from a religious understanding of human rights, human nature and human dignity.
When the “separation of Church and state” begins to mean separating religious faith from public life, we begin to separate government from morality and citizens from their consciences. And that leads to politics without character, which is now a national epidemic.
By the way, the state doesn’t seem to worry too much about “separation of Church and state” when it wants to force its point of view on Catholic hospitals, and it’s often the same people who clamor about "separation" and "choice" who take the lead in the coercion.
And here’s one final snippet:
Most people at most times in history have drawn their moral guidelines from their religious beliefs. And for most Americans, those beliefs are rooted in their churches and synagogues – communities of faith that exercise direct moral influence in society. Religion is about the meaning of our lives. It’s about purpose and last things and our final destination. If we begin with God’s love and the goal of heaven in mind, then we order our behavior in this life accordingly. We don’t steal, we don’t lie, we don’t commit adultery; we don’t deliberately kill the innocent; we help the poor, we comfort the sick, we shelter the homeless.
In contrast, the secular view of the world, by its nature, can’t deal with questions of larger meaning. And by refusing to engage the questions that really matter in life, secularism robs us of the foundation for our dignity and our moral vocabulary. It robs our politics of the ideals that make us a nation and a people, rather than just a mob of individuals.
Americans are a religious people. A church-going people. We deny that at our peril. The more we try to drive religion out of our public life, the poorer we become and the less we have to offer in our engagement with the world.
We are more than simply “one nation under God.” In the case of the United States -- in the light of our history and the founding ideas and documents that shaped us as a people -- we are one nation because of our belief in God.
What’s remarkable about this speech is that little of it derives from principles that are exclusive to Roman Catholic social teaching; most of it is "mere Christian" common sense. Also remarkable is the response it evoked from the audience, at least as reported in
this article, which refers to "verbal fisticuffs" between the Archbishop and his audience. Here’s a sample:
"Why do (religions) feel they have to impose their views on us?" asked one woman during a spirited question-and-answer session following Chaput’s speech to the City Club of Denver.
"If we don’t - you’ll impose your views on us," Chaput shot back to murmurs from the group of about 120 business and civic leaders.
We need more religious leaders like Archbishop Chaput who will challenge the simple-minded separationism that clearly informs the opinions of a significant portion of elite audiences like this one. And we need reporters who will cover these speeches fairly and honestly.
Update: Terry Mattingly discusses the press coverage of this speech over at Get Religion.
There are 33 Senate seats up for election in 2006, 18 are currently held by Democrats, and 15 are held by Republicans. Of the 18 Senate seats held by Democrats, Bush won 6 of those states in 2004 (Bush won Nebraska by 33%, North Dakota by 27%, West Virginia by 9%). Obviously, the Democrats have to try mightily to pick up a few senate seats in 2006; this is Bush’s second term, the GOP has majorities in both houses of Congress, etc. If the GOP gains even one seat in each house, the realignment is a certainty.
According to Polipundit
the Demos think they have two good prospects, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. But he points out that the Democrats are already running into problems; their top candidates (judging by polls against the GOP incumbents) in each state are pro-life. The Party will not have this, he thinks. There are already shenanigans against Casey in PA, and Langevin in RI. (Thanks to
I knew that they were meeting, but even I am surprised by the (public) outcome of the meeting between Crown Prince Abdullah and Syrian President Assad. The
told Assad to get out of Lebanon. "Assad said he would study the possibility of a partial withdrawal before an Arab summit scheduled March 23 in Algeria and said he is doing all he can to resolve the problem but that not everything is up to him, the official said."
The Federal Election Commission is in the process of extending the 2002 campaign finance law to the internet. There seems to be a "bizarre" regulatory process under way, due a Court decision that is not being appealed by the FEC (the Republican appointed members are outvoted by the majority of Demos). FEC member Bradley Smith is interviewed. There will be, inevitably, more on this.
The GOP’s attempt to woo black voters--RNC chairman Ken Mehlman is working closely with influential black ministers--is alarming Donna Brazile. "An aggressive Republican campaign to court black voters with the help of church leaders ’should be cause for alarm’ among Democrats, who risk losing a larger share of their most loyal political constituency, says Democratic strategist Donna Brazile."
This is the U.S. Department of Education (PDF file, 97 pp) study on Distance Education Course for public school students. And here is the AP story on it. "The popularity of distance education has spread from colleges to earlier grades, as students in more than one-third of U.S. school districts take courses over the Internet or through video conferences."
Ive always been proud of my Phi Beta Kappa membership and have long supported my institutions (thus far unsuccessful) quest for a campus chapter. Laurie Morrows post over at Democracy Project may lead me to revisit both positions. She calls attention to two things: a change in the tone of The American Scholar, described here, and the implication, impossible to prove, that George Mason University was denied a chapter because it revoked a speaking invitation of Michael Moore, described here.
I have to confess that I stopped reading The American Scholar when Joseph Epstein stopped editing it, but I think Ill take a look again. If it continues to be as "engaged" as it was in the issue discussed in the WSJ piece, Ill be compelled, sadly, to come to Lauries conclusion. Yet another support for the universitys aspiration to an independent standpoint, to a timelessly critical remove from contemporary concerns, will have bitten the dust.
To repeat, the issue, not treated helpfully in the article to which I linked, is the ability of religious organizations to hire in such a way as to support their missions. This is not acknowledging or supporting a "right to discriminate," but rather an attempt to respect the religious freedom of groups who find that there is some coincidence between their religious missions and the secular purposes of government. I am perfectly willing to argue that its a good thing for faith-based organizations to be able to care about the religious commitments of their employees, even if these groups take government money. Just because the shekels are coming from the public doesnt mean that we should maximize the shackles.
Lately I’ve been working on a set of lesson plans for the National Endowment for the Humanities. At the moment I’m designing an activity about American attitudes toward the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, and how these affected the way that the Pacific War was fought. Many of the quotes I’ve encountered (most of which are mentioned in John W. Dower’s influential book War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War) call to mind the briefly-controversial statement made by Lt. Gen. James Mattis about a month ago. Here are some examples:
Admiral William Halsey’s instructions to his men: "Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs."
From the popular 1944 film Purple Heart, in which a U.S. pilot confronts Japanese officials: "You can kill us--all of us, or part of us. But, if you think that’s going to put the fear of God into the United States of America and stop them from sending other fliers to bomb you, you’re wrong--dead wrong. They’ll blacken your skies and burn your cities to the ground and make you get down on your knees and beg for mercy. This is your war--you wanted it--you asked for it. And now you’re going to get it--and it won’t be finished until your dirty little empire is wiped off the face of the earth!"
From a briefing to U.S. Marines going off to fight: "Every Jap has been told that it is his duty to die for the emperor. It is your duty to see that he does."
My, can you imagine the kerfuffle that would result if General Mattis had said anything like that? Now, at the time, I made the comment that Mattis’s remarks were a red herring; that the only ones who professed outrage over what he said were the same ones who oppose Bush’s foreign policy in general, and that they were looking for yet another stick with which to beat the administration. I made the claim that, if liberals approved of the administration’s efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, there would be no outcry over what Mattis said.
Well, how much of an outcry do you think there was during World War II, when the statements I listed above were made?
I think we all know the answer to that question.
A good paragraph from the Strategy Place on Syria:
Syrian President Bashar Assad is afraid he will end up like Saddam Hussein. Both of these men have led their national Baath Parties. Saddam lost control, and Assad is losing it. Assad’s father was Saddam’s contemporary. The elder Assad’s untimely death put Bashar in command, but not in control, of Syria. His dad’s cronies control most of the bureaucracy, armed forces and security organizations. There is no agreement among all these chiefs about what to do to stay in power. Thus we have the bizarre contrast of Syrian police turning over Saddam’s half-brother and 30 of his henchmen, while Syrian agents facilitate the assassination of a prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese politician, and a suicide bombing inside Israel. All within two weeks. No senior Syrians will admit that no one is completely in control in Syria. It is feared that there may be a coup, as some of the senior generals and security officials push Bashar Assad aside and take over. Bashar is seen by his father’s old timers as too inexperienced. But the problem is that Syria is simply in a very bad situation. Like Iraq, Syria adopted the Baath Party to run the country decades ago. Like Iraq, the socialist dictatorship of the Baath Party led to corruption and economic decline. This has made enemies of Syria’s neighbors, and the Syrian people. The Syrian Baath Party has run out of credit, and credibility. The bill is now due, and no one wants to pay
Thousands of Syrian workers are leaving Lebanon. And Arab leaders
are scrambling to either help Assad, or not, depending, and to make sure that there continues to be serious movement toward peace between Palestine and Israel, or not, depending. But they are scrambling, and it is a fun to watch, even though it is confusing. But then revolutionary times are confusing, aren’t they? A man in Michigan
has admitted that he helped Hezbollah. Under a plea deal, he will only get five years.
George Will asserts that "public television is a preposterous relic" and should be abolished; its government subsidies should be cut, perhaps then we can find out if it can make it on its own, in a universe of some 500 channels. I agree with Will and would love to hear a serious argument in favor of keeping it.
Here is Dennis Ross five point plan on what the U.S. role should be in our attempt to get to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Clearly, Ross (Clintons envoy to the Middle East) is optimistic, but he is right to say that working on the details--from small to large (e.g., Hezbollah and Iran)--are very important.
Senator Bob Byrd recently compared Republicans to Hitler. His spokesman now denies that he said what he said. Several, including many Jewish groups, have asked Byrd to apologize. Here is a news report on the minor temptest.
Theres a very nice appreciation of the flexibility of the U.S. military here. Enjoy it and be proud of our troops.
Phillip Carter, writing in the Washington Monthly, is in favor of it. After claiming that we don’t have enough troops in Iraq, and considering our other obligations and future possibilities, Carter argues for the draft. Interesting and thoughtful, but not persuasive.
Kay R. Daly writes--regarding the Ten Commandment case in front of the Sureme Court today (see below--a clear explanation of how all this got to the Supremes, the shenanigans of the Sixth-Circuit, and especially the mischief caused by Judge Clay of that Court. So much for thinking that guys in robes are full of virtue and are Solomonic in their wisdom! (Thanks to HowAppealing).
While complainging that the MSM (main stream media), especially the ’New York Times,’ won’t report it, Lawrence Kudlow argues that the U.S. Economy is doing very well. Kudlow points out that GDP was up 3.8% in the last quarter of last year, business investment is up 18%, and other indicators point to sustained economic growth in the future. Why does the MSM hide these facts, because to report them would mean they would have to praise Bush’s tax cuts.
Irwin Stelzer argues that the U.S. economy is doing ok. He is troubled by the impact the oil markets and the foreign exchange market can have on the U.S. Economy. He writes: "HAPPENINGS IN THE TWO GLOBAL MARKETS that do not conform to Adam Smith’s model frequently roil free-market economies such as America’s. The foreign exchange market is dominated by central banks that manipulate the value of national currencies for reasons unrelated to what we think of as natural economic forces. And the oil market is heavily influenced by a producer cartel determined to keep prices well above those that would prevail in a competitive market" Stelzer argues that America’s real GDP is reduced by 0.4% by every $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil. If Foreign Exchange Markets decide to sell rather than buy U.S. Dollars this could drive the value of the dollar even lower. That scenario leads to the apocalyptic vision of Paul Craig Roberts.
The greatest pessimism about the future of the U.S. economy is expressed by Paul Craig Roberts in his article entitled,’America’s Superpower Status Coming to and End?’ Roberts argues that the U.S. economy is failing because of its inability to create jobs, especially productive middle class jobs, and because the dollar is losing its value and undermining its status as the world’s reserve currency. Roberts concludes:
"Oblivious to reality, the Bush administration has proposed a Social Security privatization that will cost $4.5 trillion in borrowing over the next 10 years alone! America has no domestic savings to absorb this debt, and foreigners will not lend such enormous sums to a country with a collapsing currency – especially a country mired in a Middle East war running up hundreds of billions of dollars in war debt.
A venal and self-important Washington establishment combined with a globalized corporate mentality have brought an end to America’s rising living standards. America’s days as a superpower are rapidly coming to an end. Isolated by the nationalistic unilateralism of the neoconservatives who control the Bush administration, the United States can expect no sympathy or help from former allies and rising new powers."
Let us hope that Roberts is wrong as he is about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.
As I continue to make my way through Terry Teachouts biography of H.L. Mencken, I was stuck by the following passage (by Teachout) regarding the writers views on Hitler:
He had no feeling for the darkness in the heart of man. He looked at evil and saw ignorance. To him Hitler was Babbitt run amok, and he thought it inconceivable that such a buffoon could long pull the wool over the eyes of the most civilized people on earth.
This is probably something thats already been said by someone smarter than I, but it strikes me that this is frequently a problem for liberals, both of the classical and the modern variety. They do not necessarily reject the notion of evil (although some of them do), but seem to lack the moral imagination to appreciate its true depth. One sees this in Howard Deans fatuous comments about "right-wing pastors," cited by Joe Knippenberg last weekend. One also sees it in John T. Flynn, my biography of whom is due out later this month. Flynn had nothing good to say about Hitler, but essentially characterized him as nothing more than a cheap demagogue--FDR (whom he also hated) with a little mustache. He simply could not envision the kind of evil that would deliberately murder millions of people. Likewise, when asked to imagine evil, the worst that Dean can come up with is the preacher at the local Baptist church.
Ultimately much of the opposition to the Iraq War might come from just this source--for the mind that cannot appreciate a qualitative difference between, say, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush, can there be any other option but to decry a war to topple Saddams regime?
The death penalty decision finally puts to rest once and for all the old saying that the Supreme Court follows the election returns.
What would be the opposite of FDRs court packing? Court de-packing?
I was going to post some links to the briefs and editorials, but it looks like Peter beat me to the punch. I do, however, have a few comments about the cases. First of all, as I have stated elsewhere, the McCreary County case really should not be close. Whatever ones view is of the First Amendment and the scope of its prohibitions, it is obvious to any reasonable observer that the displays at issue here do not constitute "establishment" of any sort. They were historical displays that included numerous secular documents and symbols, united by a common theme about their impact on American law and government. The defendants in this case even took the unnecessary step of posting explanatory documents that informed viewers of the Commandments impact on American secular law. This does not offend the Constitution. The First Amendment does not forbid public officials from posting a historical display simply because some people may find the content of that display offensive.
Second, for anyone interested in reading the amicus brief filed by the Ashbrook Center and Senator Harris, I would like to point out that the brief addresses the plaintiffs "standing" problems at pages 4-8. I believe it is the only brief filed in this case that mentions the issue. Standing is central to any lawsuit because a plaintiff cannot sue if he or she has not been injured in some way by the defendant. The Supreme Court requires that a plaintiff show that he has actually suffered an injury, caused by the defendant, that will be remedied by the lawsuit. This is why the Supreme Court rejected Michael Newdows suit to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Newdow had not been injured in any way, so his suit was dismissed and the Court did not even need to address the merits of his claims.
As the amicus brief points out, the standing requirements were completely overlooked by the district court and the Sixth Circuit in McCreary County. None of the plaintiffs alleged an injury sufficient to confer standing. In fact, none of them ever even claimed to have seen the displays at issue. This case should have been dismissed by the district court a long time ago.
The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today on a case coming out of Kentucky in which
the ACLU is arguing that the placing of the Ten Commandments as part of a "Foundations of American Law and Government" display on public property (which inlcudes the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, etc.) violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against laws "respecting an establishment of religion." Larry J. Obhof thinks this will be an easy case for the Supreme Court to decide. And here is my take on the issue, which The Columbus Dispatch published this morning.
The Ashbrook Center, with Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, filed an Amicus Brief (PDF file, 38 pp.) on behalf of the petitioners in
McCreary County v. ACLU.
Wall Street Journal notes that "The blog as business tool has arrived." There are about 8 million blogs published, and about 32 million who read them, according to a Pew study. Michelle Malkin takes issue with these numbers. And also read Jonah Goldbergs very good piece on why the blogging phenomenon is a political act by conservatives (he gives some history), and the Lefts attempt to copy reveals an inherent contradiction in their position.
David Ignatius is happy with developments in the Middle East, but he notes that the road ahead is slippery. The Iranians and the Syrians thought they were going to squeeze Iraq, it turns out they are being squeezed by just about everybody. But also note his reference to the possible new role of Hezbollah in the new democratic Lebanon. Still, Syria is sweating bullets (so to speak), at least for now. Also note this Austin Bay op-ed on Syria and the "pragmatism of American idealism."
Jill Carroll’s report for The Christian Science Monitor is both realistic and hopeful about the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq. On the one hand many important bad guys have been captured (including Abu Qutaybah and Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan), on the other, the insurgency is so decentralized and doesn’t have a hierarchy of leaders and this makes our work very difficult. The thing, in the end, will hinge on the loyalty of the population and the intelligence we get from them. Also note Austin Bays comments on General Abizaids testimony.
Arnaud de Borchgrave warns that we may be seeing a widespread anti-U.S. entente--Europe, Russia, China--being created. Very much worth reading as an exercise in geopolitical thinking as long as you note there are many missing large items (never mind some details). While the rise of China is not to be denied, I will just note that the changes in Japan regarding their military ability (with our approval) and our very good relations with India have to be noted, neither of which de Borchgrave mentions. Japan can play to the Asian continent a role similar to that being played by Britain to Europe. And, in the end, the great economic (and political) rival to China will be India. Also not to be ignored is the role that Australia
will play in the region.
Joe Knippenberg brings our attention to the latest outrage by the U.S. Supreme Court and posts all the links you need. I just wanted to add this comment.
The Court seems to have violated its Constitutional obligations in three ways in this case:
1st)The Court has violated the separation of powers and once again acts as a Super Legislature substituting its will for the will of our elected law makers.
2nd)The Court has violated the principle of federalism by unjustly overturning the statutes of 19 states in this case.
3rd)And perhaps most disturbing of all, the members of the Court who have signed on to the majority opinion have violated their oath of office by, once again, deferring to International opinion and citing International Courts as a standard for their decisions. The members of the Court take an oath to support/uphold the U.S. Constitution.
Sad to see Reagan appointees join in this opinion.
We saw this coming:
So what is the "new natural law"? It is the "law of nations," selectively cobbled together by judges from the opinions of their fellows all around the world, for the sake of producing results those judges find congenial.
According to the distinguished Senator from West Virginia, the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to invoke cloture is the only barrier standing between us and tyranny of the majority:
For the temporary gain of a hand-full of “out of the mainstream” judges, some in the Senate are ready to callously incinerate each Senator’s right of extended debate. Note that I said each Senator. For the damage will devastate not just the minority party. It will cripple the ability of each member to do what each was sent here to do – – represent the people of his or her state. Without the filibuster or the threat of extended debate, there exists no leverage with which to bargain for the offering of an amendment. All force to effect compromise between the two political parties is lost. Demands for hearings can languish. The President can simply rule, almost by Executive Order if his party controls both houses of Congress, and Majority Rule reins supreme. In such a world, the Minority is crushed; the power of dissenting views diminished; and freedom of speech attenuated. The uniquely American concept of the independent individual, asserting his or her own views, proclaiming personal dignity through the courage of free speech will, forever, have been blighted. And the American spirit, that stubborn, feisty, contrarian, and glorious urge to loudly disagree, and proclaim, despite all opposition, what is honest and true, will be sorely manacled.
But, of course, thats not the most over-the-top portion of his
speech; this is:
But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.
Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.
And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.
This is so outrageous in so many ways that it’s hard to know where to begin. Well, here’s a place, borrowing from the spirit of Byrd’s remarks: one step away from moderate, constitutional government is demonizing your opponents, which makes it difficult to engage in regular legislative give-and-take, and makes every election a potential regime crisis. Since the election of 2000, Democrats seem to have hurled themselves headlong down this path.
And then there’s this: the American system of government is intended to make it difficult for oppressive majorities to form (see Federalist #10), which is not the same thing as to make it easy for intense minorities to obstruct. Yes, there are parchment barriers behind which minorities may shelter, barriers that are of sufficient importance to be "constitutionalized," but the "right" of Senators to speak without ceasing is not one of them. The distinguished Senator from West Virginia needs a sense of proportion.
Democrats go wrong not because they have forgotten the lessons of FDR and the New Deal, but because they have not sufficiently put those lessons behind them. Ours is the least class-ridden society in the Western world. The political economy of the 1930s is not America’s historical paradigm; it is its great exception. Democrats, of course, are not entirely ignorant of that. They now address themselves to middle-class interests, but their middle class is still a working class that simply has a few more dollars in its pocket. They have not fully learned the lesson of exceptionalism: that America is the quintessential bourgeois society. We are, for better and worse, middle class and middlebrow right down to our bones. And their failure to see that is what’s the matter with the Democrats.
First Read runs an interview (a couple of clicks down) with Al Fromm, the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council (remember them, the organization founded by Clinton, Gore, and Liberman?). Fromm is pretty clear. How should the Democratic Party be rebuilt? "You’ve got to reject Michael Moore and the MoveOn crowd." Fromm called MoveOn "elites, people who sit in their basements all the time and play on their computers."
The Cato Institute’s fiscal policy report card on the governors was issued at a Press Conference later today. Here is Catos Report Card. There is also an article on the report in today’s Wall. ST. Journal, subscribers only.
Ohio’s Governor Taft received one of two Fs. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania received the other. Cato gave only two A’s: Governor Bill Owens of Colorado and that movie star in California.
Thanks to The Corner.
I’ve sent the following letter to the NY Times book review in response to their Sunday essay, Winston Churchill, Neocon?
New York Times Book Review
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959
To the editor:
Jacob Heilbrunn’s essay “Winston Churchill, Neocon?” (Book Review, February 27, 2005) casts a jaundiced eye on whether Reagan and Bush deserve to be regarded as Churchill’s heirs, and whether Churchill’s imperialism, which Heilbrunn badly caricatures, makes him worthy of admiration in the first place. Since Heilbrunn rightly implicates me in the pro-Churchill chorus (though neither he nor the Times’ copy desk can seem to spell my name correctly), perhaps I might be allowed a few words to respond.
The case for Reagan’s continuity with Churchill is straightforward. Reagan’s affinity with Churchill went beyond borrowing the memorable quotation. Churchill said in his famous “Iron Curtain” speech that World War II could have been prevented “without the firing of a single shot.” Reagan, heeding Churchill’s vivid lesson of “peace through strength” (for which liberals ridiculed him relentlessly) prevented World War III “without firing a single shot,” as Margaret Thatcher observed. (Indeed, Reagan’s partnership with Thatcher in the 1980s could be seen as the very fulfillment of the Anglo-American unity that Churchill had envisioned in the “Iron Curtain” speech and elsewhere.) And this is just the most obvious of the deep parallels between Churchill and Reagan.
As to whether Bush has some claim to the same tradition, merely consult the recent thoughts of Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert: “Although it can easily be argued that George W. Bush and Tony Blair face a far lesser challenge than Roosevelt and Churchill did—that the war on terror is not a third world war—they may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill. Their societies are too divided today to deliver a calm judgment, and many of their achievements may be in the future: when Iraq has a stable democracy, with al-Qaeda neutralized, and when Israel and the Palestinian Authority are independent democracies, living side by side in constructive economic cooperation . . . Any accurate assessment of Bush and Blair must wait, perhaps a decade or longer, until the record can be scrutinized.” (The Observer, December 26, 2004.) I’m happy to await the judgment of history, while Heilbrunn continues his heckling just as his ideological soul mates did to Reagan in the 1980s.
One final thought: When it came to American politics, Churchill always preferred the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Would he today?
Steven F. Hayward
American Enterprise Institute
(Note: My book comparing Reagan and Churchill will be published in October by Crown/Forum: Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders).
P.S. I mailed the hard copy to the Times in an envelope with a Ronald Reagan stamp. Heh.
Syrian backed government is resigning.
"Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead," Prime MInister Karami told parliament in Beirut. The resignation was preceded huge illegal demonstrations demanding the resignation as well Syrian pullout. In the meantime, Israel
says it has proof that Syria was behind the Tel Aviv bombing this weekend. And Iraq
claims that they got Saddams half-brother from the Syrians.
Ive recently been enjoying Terry Teachouts excellent biography, The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken. Ive just read his account of the Scopes Trial, and was struck by a couple of passages that seem relevant to recent discussions of Ward Churchill and Larry Summers. The first comes from William Jennings Bryan, who assisted the State of Tennessee in prosecuting the case against Scopes:
A scientific soviet is attempting to dictate what is taught in our schools. It is the smallest, the most impudent, and the most tyrannical oligarchy that ever attempted to exercise arbitrary power.... If it is contended that an instructor has a right to teach anything he likes, I reply that the parents who pay the salary have a right to decide what shall be taught.
Mencken despised Bryan and just about everything he stood for, but heres what he said about the Scopes case:
No principle is at stake in Dayton[Tennessee, where the episode occurred]save the principle that school teachers, like plumbers, should stick to the job that is set for them.... The issue of free speech is quite irrelevant. When a pedagogue takes his oath of office he renounces the right to free speech as certainly as a bishop does, or a colonel in the army, or an editorial writer on a newspaper. He becomes a paid propagandist of certain definite doctrines and attitudes, mainly determined specifically and in advance, and every time he departs from them deliberately he deliberately swindles his employers.
For all of you political junkies who obsessively checked the latest poll numbers during last falls campaign, here are some numbers you might want to look at, courtesy of Scott Rasmussen:
A solid majority of Americans (57 percent) have an unfavorable view of France, while fewer than a third hold a favorable opinion of that country. Indeed, more Americans see France as an enemy in the War on Terror than an ally (31 percent to 22 percent).
Rasmussen has also begun polling voters on their preferences for the 2008 presidential race. He has found that in a hypothetical matchup between Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice, Clinton leads by a margin of 47 percent to 40 percent. On the other hand, if Rice were running today against John Kerry, she would enjoy an advantage of 45 percent to 43 percent.
Is it possible that Bush is right now, as Reagan was in 1987 when he asked Gorbi to "tear down this wall"? The Europeans were sceptical (to say the least) then, and they are sceptical now. But an article in the German Der Spiegel maintains that it is possible that Bush will prove to be correct. Also note a few good lines, example:
Maybe we dont want the world to change, because change can, of course, be dangerous. But in a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. In Mainz today, the stagnant Europeans came face to face with the dynamic Americans. We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.
(Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily).
For what its worth, the AP runs this story on the on going scientific research that seems to support some difference between the brains of men and women; they use their brains differently in some situations, but there is no difference in IQs.
In recent years, scientists have found that male and female brains are wired differently from one another, due to the role of testosterone and other male hormones during gestation. Brains growing under the influence of male hormones are slightly larger and have denser concentrations of neurons in some regions.
Male brains also contain a greater proportion of gray matter, the part of the brain responsible for computation, while women have relatively more white matter, which specializes in making connections between brain cells.
Brain-imaging studies suggest that both sexes exploit these differences to their benefit. UCLA researchers have done brain scans of men and women who scored in the top 1 percent on the math section of the SAT. As they worked on math problems, the men relied heavily on the grey matter in the brains parietal and cerebral cortices. Women showed greater activity in areas dominated by the well-connected white matter.
These two web-sites provide a lot of very useful information.
If you want to know the results county by county of recent Presidential elections or know why James Polk beat Henry Clay in 1844, Dave Leips Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections has the numbers. Every Presidential election from George Washingtons 1st victory to George W. Bushs re-election is documented here. A note, Leips very useful Electoral College maps are color coded in this way: Republicans in blue, Democrats in Red, as they should be.
If you want to watch every (well, almost every) televion ad in every Presidential Election since 1952, then go to the Online Exhibitions of the Museum of the Moving Image here.
What a country.
Fred Barnes explains why Dick Cheney is, in Barnes’ opinion, the best GOP man to succeed Geroge W. Bush in 2008 here.
According to Barnes, the other potential candidates simply don’t measure up next to Cheney. Barnes believes that Cheney makes up in gravitas and wry humor what he lacks in charisma.
My own opinion is that short, frumpy, balding, grey-haired guys with glasses should be eligible for public office. Let’s just say Cheney has esoteric charisma. For beginners, esoteric charisma means that Cheneys charisma is made conspicuous by its absence.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. After excoriating President Bush for his excessive moral line-drawing--making a distinction between good (innocent victims of terrorism) and evil (terrorists)--the Democrats (some of them, at least) have taken their own dive into the moral deep end. Here, via Hugh Hewitt is DNC Chairman Howard Dean: "This is a struggle of good and evil. And were the good." The evil? Well, that would be "right-wing" pastors and politicians who dont believe that a woman has a right to choose to have an abortion and who "dont think tolerance is a virtue." All this didnt go far enough to satisfy at least one member of Deans Lawrence, Kansas audience:
"I feel like he could have gone even stronger with his language," said Katherine Dessert, a student and preschool teacher. "I feel like he was a little bit too conservative. It didnt move me.
So there you have it: there is evil in the world, and its coming to a neighborhood near you. Actually, its already there--in culturally and theologically traditional churches, synagogues, and temples, which are really little different from the Wahhabi madrassas from which the Islamicist terrorists were recruited.
Of course, this hyperbolic rhetoric is nothing new: Bill Clinton made much the same point from the pulpit at Riverside Church in New York City right before the DNC convention and accusations of religious fanaticism were regularly hurled at President Bush during the campaign. But I dont recall anyone in a position of leadership ever using the word "evil."
I suppose Dean could be defended by saying that his job is to keep the base stoked so that money keeps flowing into party coffers, and we all know how much money Bush-hatred generated during the last campaign season. Keep it up, Howard: give us enough of this kind of invective to make it impossible for any Democratic nominee in 2008 to reach out beyond her base. Were listening. And were remembering.
I remember reading Ramparts magazine when I was a teenage wannabe leftist in the early 70s. And after I had migrated rightward (my first Republican presidential vote was in 1980), I noticed that David Horowitz, the erstwhile editor of Ramparts had done so as well. To be sure, his migration was much more consequential and courageous than mine, which required little in the way of repudiating publicly-taken stands, cost me only one or two high school friends, and demanded only that I let my dad tell me "I told you so."
One thing that hasn’t changed about Horowitz is the take-no-prisoners style he honed in the 60s, now deployed over at Front Page Magazine and on behalf of the Academic Bill of Rights. It was on display over at MSNBC’s Scarborough Country this past week, where he claimed that there were "thousands" of Ward Churchills on college campuses across the country. Now, I’d be the last person to say that political discourse on college campuses isn’t skewed to the left and that there are not more Wards than Winstons to be found behind the lecterns in the ivy-covered halls. But Horowitzian hyperbole invites this sort of response from a prominent liberal political theorist:
SCARBOROUGH: He says there‘s not. But let me say this, though. I mean, last year, two professors did a large-scale survey of American professors and how they vote. Politically, this is what they found.
Anthropology professors vote Democratic by 30-1, sociology professors 28-1, political science professors 6-1. And on average, professors vote Democratic 15-1.
I suppose Scarborough’s "let me say this, though" acknowledges that he’s changing the subject. It would be hard to say with a straight face that the evidence of lopsided party membership — and I’ve already insisted that universities should be more diverse — supports the claim that there are thousands of Ward Churchills. Or even 1,000. Before Scarborough produced that data, Horowitz had suggested a link:
HOROWITZ: ... It‘s a well-known principle of group psychology that, if you fill a room with like-minded people, the center of the room is going to move to the extreme. Our faculties are 90 percent to 95 percent people of the left, so, of course, you are going to get a lot of Ward Churchills as a result.
His "a lot" quickly followed his "thousands." I doubt the "well-known principle" generates thousands of Churchills. I doubt it partly for empirical reasons: I don’t know any, and I’ve been in universities for decades. No, don’t try suggesting that I wouldn’t even notice. And I doubt it partly because it’s very hard to imagine the effect could be so extreme. Does your church generate martyrs and saints?
(I’ll let the last sentence go, for the moment, though there are plenty of
contemporary martyrs and "sainthood" may not have to be conferred by the Roman Catholic Church.)
The point is that Horowitz’s extreme claims are easy for academics to dismiss. As Don Herzog (the theorist I quoted above) points out, Horowitz is really not talking to those of us inside the academy, but uses his inflammatory rhetoric to mobilize external constituencies, like state legislators. Now, Horowitz insists that if universities regulate themselves, he’ll back off:
Look, the bill is necessary. The legislatures are necessary because the other side, as represented by Mr. Bowen [Roger Bowen, of the AAUP] and by these university presidents, will not even acknowledge that there‘s a problem until they have a hammer over them. The minute they recognize that and take steps to reform their institutions, we will withdraw the legislation.
What troubles me about the entire undertaking is what remains of Horowitz’s 60s-era political sensibilities, that politics is everything and that it essentially determines the way faculty approach their classrooms and their students. If that’s true, then the only way to achieve "balance" on campus is to engage in "affirmative action" for conservatives or conservative viewpoints. But what if what we’re trying to accomplish is not so much equal ideological representation as a return to fair-mindedness? Horowitz’s willingness to turn up the heat doesn’t get us there, because it essentially concedes that ideology is everything, which means that there’s no possibility of genuine intellectual community, no possibility (ultimately) of genuine rational discourse, and hence, in the end, no real univers[al]ity. If Horowitz is right, we will have met the enemy and found that they are us.
Victor Davis Hanson writes another good piece for the City Journal, "Postmodern War." This is abroad-ranging essay on how war has been conducted and what is the relevance of the past to today. And, what does the will to win have to do with it?
The irresistable Mark Steyn on (Old) Europe: "Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, theres no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere." He thinks that Bush did exactly the right thing on his visit. Diplomacy is the art of the other fellow letting have your way.
Egypts Mubarak, as has been mentioned before, is now saying that the constitution will be changed to allow for multi party popular elections; more than one man will be allowed to run for president. Not bad. Mubarak said that the decision was rooted in his "full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy." Note these two paragraphs in the
Washington Post story:
Mubaraks speech followed a decision this week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cancel a visit to Egypt, a move attributed to the lack of reform initiatives there. Egypt had also jailed Ayman Nour, leader of a newly authorized political party and proponent of multi-candidate elections. The State Department criticized Nours Jan. 29 arrest and suggested that Mubarak had no intention of loosening his hold on power.
The United States provides Egypt with about $2 billion in annual foreign aid. Bush has singled out Egypt along with Saudi Arabia as ripe for reform. In his State of the Union address, Bush said that "Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."
This is the New York Times story on the subject, and it notes that it is a "sea change." The region is "bubbling with expectations for political reform."
Note this good essay on the good news coming out of the Middle East by David Warren. Warren gives Bush a lot of credit. But do not miss his mentioning of the "boredom" factor among the young of the region: "Boredom is seriously underestimated as a motive cause in history. And among the more intelligent young, it is always potentially lethal."