Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Kristol at Earlham College

Bill Kristol spoke at Earlham College. "Neoconservative journalist and commentator William Kristol was about 30 minutes into his speech on international affairs when a slender young man crossed the stage of Goddard Auditorium and slung the ersatz pastry into his face.

Kristol appeared momentarily stunned, then wiped the brown and white goo from his eyes with a paper towel, stepped back to the podium and said, ’Let me just finish this point.’"

Laughing rats

This one has possibilities, but I am restrained. Scientists have discovered that rats
enjoy being tickled. "The rats likely keep their chuckles to supersonic levels to avoid detection by potential predators," but researchers heard their laughter via an ultrasonic detector. But, you tickle, they laugh, and come back for more. Inevitably, more of made of this than the humor of it; evolution, chimps, then human males and females (is one really just flirting?), the need for anti-depressants, etc. "What seems to be special about humans is the variety of laughter sounds we produce and how we seem to alter that sound, depending on the social situation," said a scientist. For us humans, laughter is a social tool, not just an expression of joy, they say. They’ve never heard me laugh...

Patriotic duty

Australia has had a baby boom. Last May the government announced a new program: $2,319 for each baby born after July 1 last year. A government official said in May: "You go home and do your patriotic duty tonight." Well, it worked.
"The 133,400 babies born in the six months ending in September were the most in a half-year period in 14 years, according to recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics."

More on DeGaulle and France

My colleague, Dr. Will Morrisey, comments on the ’Washington Post’ piece by Jim Hoagland on DeGaulle, France and the EU which Dr. Schramm posted below.

Morrisey writes: This is a pretty good piece, although Hoagland doesn’t really `get’ de Gaulle.

The real "big idea" of Gaullism was neither meritocracy nor European integration. It was to save French republicanism from the inability of parliamentarism to defend the country. In order to do that, de Gaulle argued, France needed a much stronger executive branch than it had in any of the previous four republics--without, however, moving into Bonapartism or monarchism. Hence the constitutional amendment referendum to establish national elections for the presidency of the republic.

The `meritocracy’ was intended to strengthen that more basic principle of strengthening the executive branch.

As for Europe, de Gaulle want "the Europe of the fatherlands" and not a bureaucratic entity centered in Brussels. He did want France and Germany to dominate the confederation--with the Brits joining only if they severed their special relationship with the Americans and with their commonwealth nations, a move de Gaulle did not expect them to undertake anytime soon! At any rate, he wanted a `political’ Europe, not a bureaucratized Europe.

The other big idea, which Hoagland doesn’t mention, was "participation"--an attempt to settle several problems, including the labor-capital tensions of modern industrialism and the socio-political tendency of the French to oscillate between civic passivity/indifference and rebellion (the "France is bored" syndrome). He was looking for ways to devolve some of the political responsibilities that he had centralized. One step was the 1969 referendum on Senate reform, which he lost--retiring, as promised, immediately thereafter. He said of Pompidou’s administration, "This is not what I wanted," meaning, this is not a regime moving toward greater "participation" of the French in civic life.

Modest proposals for tax reform

Andrew Busch admits that those who are sympathetic to the principles of limited government have many reasons to prefer a flat tax or a national sales tax in theory, but he warns us that in practice they should be feared. He thinks we should reorient our thinking by focusing an different sets of issues: lock in Bush’s tax cuts; make them permament. Second, make taxation transparent (witholding is not). Third, change the date of tax day (because of witholding, people actually look forward, to tax day because they seem to be getting something from the government). Fourth, everyone should pay something because "unless everyone pays something at least some of the time, some will begin to lose touch with the real cost of government." Read the whole thing.

George Will likes Rep. John Linder’s (R-GA) 133-page bill to replace 55,000 pages of tax rules. It would abolish the IRS and the federal income tax system and replace all that with a 23% national sales tax on personal consumption. This would also, notes Will with glee, destroy K Street.

Blair’s religion, and politics

Joe Knippenberg considers Tony Blair’s major address on religion and public life. He notes the similarities and differences between Blair--a man of deep religious faith--and Bush on matters of faith and politics:

While Bush, for example, speaks frequently about love as the emotion that takes us outside ourselves—we are enjoined to love one another as we love ourselves—Blair does not so much enter into the moral psychology of the individual. I am tempted to argue that Bush’s approach to community is "theological," while Blair’s is "sociological." And where Bush speaks of the "ownership society," whose goal is to help individuals become self-reliant (but nonetheless loving), that sort of language seems to be absent from Blair’s lexicon.

Joe notes that Blair is silent on the issue of abortion, and thinks that the way the Brits (both Labor and Tory) handle the issue of abortion, may be something the Democratic Party should look at here, and even emulate.

Abortion [in Britain] is regulated by law, not a product of judicial interpretation, and abortion law is a matter of conscience, not of party. All three major parties are "big tents" on abortion and leave their members free to vote their consciences on abortion legislation. (Indeed, one of Blair’s cabinet ministers responded that he would support an even more restrictive abortion law than the one proposed by Michael Howard.) No governing party ties its fate to a stance on abortion, and hence none would regard a parliamentary vote on abortion as a vote of confidence or no confidence in the government.

Joe’s piece is serious and well crafted. Do read it.  

Terri Shiavo, dead

Terri Shiavo has died. There is no more to say. RIP.

The Anarchist’s Bookfair Stars Ward Churchill

San Francisco recently hosted the Anarachist Bookfair. Ward Churchill was the star attraction, though freeing the Unabomber seems a priority among the Anarchists in attendance. Ward Churchill blasted the country in which he lives, comparing it to Nazi Germany and those who support Bush to big and little Eichmanns. Tip of the hat to ’Little Green Footballs.’

As Congressman Traficant used to say: ’Beam me up, Scotty.’

France, growing confusion

Jim Hoagland has a pretty good summary of the political problems in France (especially the coming corruption trials of the central nervous system of the country) and the upcoming May vote on the EU constitution (polls show the majority will vote non). All this will lead to an existential (tempted to try it in French) crisis for Europe. Look for France to do some innovative things on the foreign policy front, there is no other gambit left for Chirac. In the meantime, Wolfowitz
has seduced the Europeans, says Le Figaro.

Peggy Noonan on Hilary’s Heft

In today’s OpinionJournal.com, Peggy Noonan writes about what I fear: Hilary Clinton will be very difficult to beat in 2008. Hilary has become a sophisticated campaigner and a lot of people, especially women, simply think that is time for a woman President.

As always, Noonan writes beautifully, but she does seem to get sappier and sappier as time goes by.

Bias in the academy: evidence of the problem

Here, via Inside Higher Ed is evidence of the problem, not in yet another survey but rather in what the author thinks is a sophisticated response to the survey. Here’s a not-unrepresentative snippet:

If you have a PhD not only are you learned, you are curious by nature. You are not cut from the common mold; you embrace your uniqueness and revel in your intellect. And as a scholar you naturally want to be an agent for change. Liberalism is simply a philosophy of embracing change in ways that advance the quality of life of mankind. It’s really a wonder that only 72 percent of college professors describe themselves as liberal.

Enough said.

Higher ed bias: another take

This isn’t yet available on-line for non-subscribers, but in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Stanley Fish has a typically interesting and slippery argument against attempting to impose political balance on the university. (Here, while I’m at it, is an older column on the same subject that is available on-line.) There is "no correlation," Fish argues, between electoral politics and "the politics of academic disciplines." The liberal/conservative or Democratic/Republican divides do not, for example, track the hotly-contested divide between quantitative and qualitative political scientists. There are conservatives and liberals in both quant and "qual" camps (I’ve never heard anyone say "qual" before, perhaps because we "quals" are beneath quant contempt).

I don’t disagree with this. My allies on curricular or disciplinary disputes are not always those who vote the same way in elections. Of course, if I could only look for academic allies among those who voted the way I did, I’d be a lonely and isolated middle-aged man, mumbling to himself in his office, instead of the powerful and respected institutional pillar that I am. (Uh, I am sitting in my office blogging, so perhaps I’m further gone than I thought.)

Of course, it may be that academic politics matter more than "real" politics to us academics. I remember the dilemma faced by employees of Boston University who couldn’t decide whether it was more important to get John Silber out of BU by electing him Governor of Massachusetts or to spare the citizens of the Commonwealth the fate that they were suffering on Commonwealth Ave. And there’s the old adage about passions running high when the stakes are low.

But it strikes me that what’s most interesting in Fish’s argument is the claim that nothing of intellectual significance can be predicted by looking at a person’s partisan affiliation. If the same argument holds for every other aspect of a person’s background (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation), then Fish is making a very strong argument against affirmative action, not just for conservatives, but for any other ostensible source of diversity. If poltiical affirmative action politicizes the university, wouldn’t race- or gender-based affirmative action racialize or "engender" the university?

David Horowitz may be more clever than I thought. Could he be using the red herring of academic diversity to maneuver academics into abandoning the diversity argument at the core of the contemporary case for affirmative action?

What think you, gentle (and not so gentle) readers?

Danforth speaks

Here is John Danforth’s broadside against a Republican Party, as he puts it, "It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement." Former Sewnator Danforth is an Episcopal minister.

Ohio politics

Politics in Ohio, "the center of it all," will become more and more interesting over this coming year, and I remind you (as Mickey already has below) to keep an eye on Right Angle Blog for excellent coverage. In the Governor’s race note that the Republican National Coalition for Life has endorsed Blackwell, while the Hamilton County Sherrif has endorsed Montgomery.

The Contract With America: 10 Years Later

John Fund briefly discusses four new books on the legacy of the Contract With American and the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 election in this OpinionJournal.com article.

Fund discusses Newt Gingrich’s ’Winning the Future,’ Mark Levin’s ’Men In Black,’ Major Garrett’s ’The Enduring Legacy,’ and ’The Republican Revolution’ edited by Chris Edwards and John Samples.

The verdict: Overall the legacy is good but mixed.

Ohio Governor’s Race

It looks like the trains are leaving the station in the 2006 Ohio Governor’s race.

Ken Blackwell has been endorsed by the Republican National Coalition for Life. Here’s the Press Release.

Tip of the hat to a new blog on Cleveland and Ohio politics: RightAngleBlog.Blogspot.com/

More on higher ed bias

This story contains more information on and reactions to the report Mickey discussed here and that Ken Masugi discussed here.

Amidst the usual talking head affirmations and denials, this one stands out:

[Rosemary G.]Feal, the MLA executive director, said that when humanities professors say that they are liberals, “the majority of us understand it to be not a narrow political ideology, but a conception of the world.”

“We profess the liberal arts,” she said. “That comes from freedom that we hold as a high value, from the pursuit of the truth, the pursuit of academic freedom, the belief that the learning and teaching of values will make us better citizens.”

On the one hand, it’s entirely consistent with the principles of Enlightenment liberalism. On the other hand, there’s the invocation of values, a term that has a Nietzschean/Weberian provenance, i.e., one at odds with Enlightenment liberalism. Of course, despite (or perhaps because of) its subjectivism, the language of values has become so ubiquitous as to have been drained of any real substance. The "take-away" is this: we pursue truth and we teach civic values. Which civic values? Those that make us better American citizens or better "citizens of the world"? Are those two forms of "citizenship" ever at odds with one another? Might the pursuit of the truth ever be at odds with one or both of them? O.K., it’s unfair to demand profundity of someone giving a blurb to a reporter, but let’s at least be honest and admit that "civic values" as "taught" in the academy aren’t quite the same as those celebrated in Fourth of July orations.

Arnold and his risk

I gues that Governor Arnold is up to something in California since everyone is writing about him, trying to figure him out, and giving him advice. I figure that he is way ahead of everyone, including the states’ Democrats, and that a bit of a panic is starting to set in. This guy really could hurt the Democratic Party in California. Yup, this is rocket science. Joe Klein, writing for Time, notes his power and energy and he is going after the public employees unions, and suggests that if he would only compromise and raise taxes (and not only cut spending), the guy could be governor-for-life. Arnold says the state doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Klein is not persuaded, and is a bit miffed that Arnold isn’t listening to him.

Kevin Starr does a bit of pop-pscychology on Arnold, that quickly moves into how is is really nothing but an old-fashioned Progressive (or European Social Democrat), but then Starr has a harder time computing Arnold’s love of Milton Friedman and other free-market worthies. On odd piece, but worth reading.

Dan Balz is very clear that Arnold is relishing the opportunity to fight the entrenched interests of the state, and he is hoping that they don’t come up with a last minute compromise. He wants an all-out battle, and he is likely to get it, and likely to win it. It’s a perfect role for him, and the MSM reporters just can’t understand why. Arnold has nothing to lose and everything to gain, as does California.

What is unfolding here has all the earmarks of a classic struggle, with clear national implications. The outcome will affect the future of the state, the legacy of the actor-turned-politician, the balance of power in Sacramento and possibly the politics of other states.

No Surpise Here: Liberals Dominate Higher Education in America

In today’s ’Washington Post,’ Howard Kurtz reports that liberals outnumber conservatives on America’s College campuses. Here is the article.

Kurtz’s article is based on a survey of 1,643 faculty at 183 four-year Colleges. The survey was conducted by Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Neil Nevitte.

The survey found that liberals outnumber conservative by 72% to 15% in all colleges, 87% to 13% in elite colleges, and, that 81% of Humanities faculty are liberal, 75% of social science faculty are liberal, and even that liberals outnumber conservatives among business faculty by 49% to 39%.

What is Charlotte Simmons to do?

D’Souza Defends Lincoln

Dinesh D’Souza defends Abraham Lincoln from attacks by the contemporary left and right in this article entitled Lincoln: Tyrant, Hypocrite or Consummate Statesman. Thanks to HistoryNet.

Anne Norton’s book on Leo Strauss

My review of that bad book is posted here. Regime change at TER was good for me.

Update: Having looked at the review more closely, I saw that the formatting doesn’t allow for footnotes, which meant that I couldn’t acknowledge my indebtedness to Mary P. Nichols, who generously read many drafts, and other friends (who probably don’t want their names associated with this) who saved me from some stupidities.

Update #2: Win Myers, ever the industrious and accommodating editor, has worked the footnotes back in. New levels of meaning will be revealed to the careful and discerning readers. Be sure to count backwards.

Rice at State

Jonathan Karl (ABC News) praises Secretary of State Condi Rice’s tenure, and claims that she has had a positive effect on the State Department. It is more active than it has been in a decade. Read it all, but here is a paragraph:

Rice’s proximity to the president, combined with the sense of urgency she brings to her new job, has turned the State Department into a political power center again, the kind of place where Karen Hughes, one of President Bush’s two or three closest advisers, would take a third-tier job. Even Dina Powell, who as director of White House personnel had no shortage of opportunities in the administration, chose to go to work for Rice as an assistant secretary of state. The State Department has been something of a political backwater for more than a decade. In the Clinton years, Warren Christopher was so inactive that a running joke among Foreign Service officers during his tenure was to complain about something and add, "None of this would be happening if Warren Christopher were alive." Madeleine Albright traveled more, but that only contributed to the perception that she was out of the loop and AWOL when the major national security decisions were being made by the National Security Council. And in George W. Bush’s first term, Powell made his biggest headlines when he was at odds with the White House.

Conservative social security crack-up?

I haven’t heard of these guys and don’t know what to make of this, but E. J. Dionne, Jr. sure thinks that it’s important.

Liberal education in crisis

"I fear that undergraduate education in the research university is becoming a project in ruins." So says
Stanley Katz in this Important Article.

There are, he says, lots of problems. The world of knowledge has burgeoned. Faculty are too narrowly specialized and disinclined in any event to teach undergraduates. Students are distracted and/or careerist (for good or bad reasons).

His solution? The dreaded "v-word"--Values:

If we believe that values do have a role in education, then the challenge may be to rehistoricize and rehumanize the underclass curriculum. That does not mean going back to Contemporary Civilization courses [at Columbia] or the Red Book [Harvard’s 1945 report]. It does mean rethinking the content of knowledge appropriate for our contemporary society, and summoning the intellectual courage to embolden students to make qualitative judgments about the materials they are required to engage with in their underclass years.

There’s supposed to be a
"live, on-line discussion" of this Important Article at 1 p.m. this Thursday (3/31). Go add your two cents or eavesdrop on the well- or ill-meaning souls who join the fray. I’ll be here, talking to people who can do more than speak in ringing generalities about undergraduate education. Soon thereafter, I’ll read the transcript of the forum and offer what commentary I can.

The Democracy Project and the Texas Education Review

Our friends at the Democracy Project have assumed responsibility for the Texas Education Review. There’s no word as to whether it was a bloodless coup, friendly takeover, or what. The good news is that anyone who wants to read or write sensibly about education has another venue in which to pursue these interests.

Maryland Senate race

Matthew Mosk runs through the possible candidates for the Senate seat of the retiring Sarbanes. Kweisi Mfume, the one of the vaulting ambition, has already announced, but he will have some opposition in the Democratic primary. And Lt. Gov. Steele (R) is considering it. Apparently many people (where is Rove when we need him?) are trying to talk Steele into it.
I think he should do it. A Mfume-Steele campaign would be excellent!

All roads lead to Karl

The New York Times runs another front page story on Karl Rove. While other presidents have had powerful advisors who have had a hand in both policy and politics, the NYT insists that Rove is different because his involvement is more "intense," and "that in this administration, as in all others, politics and policy are inextricably intertwined." This is newsworthy stuff? There is a not so subtle implication, by the end of the article, that Rove may have misplayed the Social Security issue, to the NYT’s pleasure! But of course, the NYT ought to know better; they continue to misunderestimate both Rove and Bush. I guess it will take at least one more election cycle for the MSM (at least what’s left of the honest ones) to admit that Bush, Rove, and company have made the GOP into the majority party. Bush told his people before the last election, "Don’t give me a lonely


victory.
I don’t want what Nixon had. I don’t want what Reagan had." The GOP victories in the 2004 congressional elections marked the 6th consecutive election in which the Republicans won control of both the House and the Senate. The Republicans have more House members than they have had since 1946. We should also note that there was a surge in voter turnout between 2000 and 2004 ((54.3% to 60.7), and this ids also significant for the non-lonely victory because the last time there was such a surge (in the 1930’s), it marked the appearance of a new majority party. The MSM still doesn’t get it, so they keep writing these weird hit pieces--which turn out to be to Bush’s advantage--on Rove and company. So, again, the NYT argues that there is no difference between policy and politics, except for the intensity. I wonder how FDR and James Farley and the Brains Trust (Tugwell, Berle, Moley) involvement in policy and politics would fare under NYT’s "more intense" scutiny? Never mind JFK and Bobby.

Higher ed: Mercedes vs. Geo?

Here’s a challenge to every higher education "stakeholder" (that includes parents and students):

Universities and colleges have no magical power. The value of the education acquired at most middle to upper ranked schools (by any criteria) is mostly dependent on the commitment and focus of the student rather than on the miraculous power or luxury characteristics of the institutional process. Moreover, most colleges and universities sell a commodity product, an education that at its core is fundamentally similar between institutions. The amenities may differ — luxury dorms, elaborate student centers, complex and fully equipped recreational facilities — but the chemistry and English classes are pretty much the same.

Luxury is a good thing if you want it and can afford it. If someone will deliver a Mercedes for the price of a Geo, why not ride for the four years in style? Nonetheless, if you find yourself in a Geo, you will get to the supermarket at almost exactly the same time as your friends in the Mercedes. What you do when you get out of the car, however, depends almost entirely on you, not on the luxury of your ride.

Viewed in terms of economically quantifiable outcomes, this may be right. Within relatively capacious limits, a credential is a credential. But I’d raise two questions, one that Lombardi doesn’t address at all and the other challenging an assumption he makes.

The first has to do with the "quality of life" education helps students cultivate (and I’m not talking about quality as produced by income). Could not one curriculum be better than another in encouraging and preparing students to lead more thoughtful or "spiritually richer" lives?

Connected with this is my second question: are courses commodities, with Shakespeare taught at one place essentially the same as Shakespeare taught at another? The books may be the same, and they may be sufficiently powerful to overcome differences in teaching. But you can’t tell me that there’s not better and worse, less or more serious, teaching of Shakespeare that goes on in classrooms all over the country. For some students, then, reading Shakespeare under the tutelage of an exceptional teacher could be a life-changing experience; for others, it will be a yawner, fodder only for shouting correct answers at "Jeopardy" on the TV. For most, it will likely be something in between.

But let’s try to understand higher education in the light of exceptional possibilities, rather than in the light of the average (and quantifiable) outcomes to which Lombardi calls our attention.

Update:I had an interesting email exchange with John Lombardi. Here’s the question I posed to him, elaborating on what I said above:

As someone who had "transformative" experiences as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, I can’t simply think of higher education as a commodity, as a more or less nicely appointed vehicle to get me to the supermarket. In both instances, my experiences changed my destination, and I’m acutely aware of the fact that if I had blundered into different institutions, my "career" would have taken a different direction. (Imagine, for example, if I had studied political theory with Sheldon Wolin at Princeton, rather than with Allan Bloom at Toronto; as an undergrad, I was certain enough of "theory," but not of the brand. And had I not encountered compelling teachers as an undergraduate, I probably would have ended up in law school.)

I of course recognize that my experience, while not totally unique, is not the norm. But at the same time, I wonder whether regarding higher education as largely a credentialing mechanism is the most helpful and enlightening way of looking at it. I’m thinking in part of the rapid growth of the religiously-affiliated colleges and universities described by Naomi Schaefer Riley in God on the Quad. Clearly the parents and students attracted to these institutions don’t regard education simply as a credentialling mechanism. And just as clearly, this is the kind of "measurable" phenomenon of which economic analysts (and "marketers") of higher education can and should take account. Or would you just say that religious identification is just a color scheme or bundle of options chosen by a subset in this particular automobile market, so that nothing about this phenomenon alters the general outlines of your analysis?

Here’s his response:

The issue of the commodification of higher education is indeed something to worry about, but it’s also important to recognize that this process is well along. There is indeed a difference between the generically titled course taught by one or another instructor within different institutional contexts, but the rapid rise of amenity driven higher education recruiting tells us that the importance of content has declined, perhaps because the content is pretty good at most places and other contextual variables take on a great role in differentiating various alternative academic experiences. The great difficulty, of course, is predicting what effect these different contexts may have on an individual student and how much the parents and student ought to pay for the anticipation of these different effects.

Are those of us who care about curriculum simply at the mercy of the marketers and the consumers, who apparently or allegedly don’t (at least within very broad limits)? Is there anything that we can do to focus or refocus parents and students on the actual substance of higher education?

Comparing Democrat Executive Action to Republican Executive Inaction

John Fund compares the case of Terri Schiavo to Elian Gonzalez in today’s OpinionJournal.com.

The Clinton Adminsitration were celebrated by the MainStreamMedia when Janet Reno, defying a court order, used the Federal Government to take custody of Elian Gonzalez and return him to Castro’s tyranny. The Bush Administration(s) are kow-towed by the MSM into taking no action to save the life of Terri Schiavo, even when there seems to be Constitutional and statutory grounds for them to do so.

Progress in Iraq

Arthur Chrenkoff reports on the extraordinarily steady progress in Iraq in this piece from OpinionJournal.com .

The magic of words

Clive James reviews Camile Paglia’s new new book which anthologizes 43 short works in verse. The review is long, but worth a read because it is about poetry (and Paglia). James: "This book is the latest shot in her campaign to save culture from theory." This is her attempt to get people (and students) to like poetry. James: "My own prescription for making poetry popular in the schools would be to ban it -- with possession treated as a serious misdemeanor, and dealing as a felony -- but failing that, a book like this is probably the next best thing." James reminds us of something Paglia said a few years back in reflecting how students know nothing except images and are thus cut off from the "mothership of culture." Paglia: "The only antidote to the magic of images is the magic of words." Although, Longfellow’s "Endymion" is not mentioned, read it here.

UPDATE: John Derbyshire thinks the Paglia volume is simply awful, a glimpse of Hell, maybe even a spoof.

From paper to blogs?

This AP story tells the of the News-Record, a newspaper in Greensboro, NC, and how it got into blogging. It is trying to make it self more relevant, more interesting, and just plain noticed (especially by younger people). What must the paper do in order to survive? Other papers around the country are watching this experiment with care. Although the AP article is a bit longer than may be necessary, it recounts in more detail than usual what the stakes are in the newspaper survival game; excellence is more important than a brand name, they have discovered; on line competition has something to do with it, of course. This is the site for the newspaper (its blogs to the left).

Recovering and free Albania

Albania--not so long ago as backward and tyrannic as North Korea or Cuba is today--is recovering quickly. Ballroom dancing
is even making a comeback! (Do note the mayor of Tirana’s love affair with jazz and the saxophone!) And the Albanian government, along with its people, have a clear understanding of freedom.

All roads lead to Rome

Well, if you’re talking about Rome, Georgia, not quite, but there is reason to find your way there this Thursday, March 31st. This is why: John Seery, with commentary from Gayle McKeen (Sewanee), Will Jordan (Mercer), Carl Scott (Fordham) and Michael Papazian (Berry), at 2 p.m. Next up will be Naomi Schaefer Riley at 4 p.m., with comments from Marc Guerra (Ave Maria University), Dale McConkey (Berry), and Paul Seaton (Fordham University). Then there’s "da Main Event," Galston vs. Mansfield at 7 p.m.

I’ll give a full report upon my return.

Ohio GOP and Religious Conservatives

The New York Times has an article on the movement among religious conservatives to influence the Ohio Republican Party, called the Ohio Restoration Project. As the piece makes clear, the immediate purpose is to elect Ken Blackwell to the governor’s office in 2006; but the long-term goal is the return of the party to conservative principles.

What’s amazing politically is the continuing voter registration, education, and organization efforts, especially among clergy. Ohio could be a bellweather in the swing-state Midwest.

NYT imitates President’s Council on Bioethics

Now, this is interesting, with references to Aristotle and Descartes, among others. This could have been a story on the self-destruction of the Enlightenment, on how the self-owned right to life has turned into the right to determine the terms of one’s own existence, on how the pursuit of power to be like God(s) has left us at the mercy of those who actually wield the power. But it is instead an alleged account of the self-destruction of evangelical reformism:

The evangelical revival of the 18th and 19th centuries produced the abolition movement, which gave rise to the women’s suffrage movement, which inspired the civil rights movement, which led to the patient’s rights movement. But now the patient’s rights movement faces off with many 21st-century evangelical Christians in the Schiavo case.

There’s something to this narrative, but it misses one of the big points in dispute here. If Terri Schiavo had actually had a living will, it’s unlikely that many people would be worked up about this. Her wishes would have been known and, presumably, honored.

Under those circumstances, I can imagine a conversation about who’s improperly "playing God," the person who refuses "heroic measures" or doesn’t want to be kept alive in a "persistent vegetative state," or those who wish to use the full scope of human power to keep everyone alive as long as possible.

To put it another way, the preciousness of human life has always been understood to be consistent with human finitude. Our current dilemma stems from the fact that we increasingly regard finitude as "optional." Are we precious because we’re created in God’s image or because we ourselves are value-giving gods?

Update: Ken Masugi brings more to the seminar table.

World Christianity

Ken Masugi has some interesting reflections on this column about the flourishing of Christianity outside the developed West.

Read the whole thing. 

Jared Diamond, Fabulist?

Our friends at Powerline wrote several weeks back about how the unctuous Bill Moyers had slandered Reagan’s Interior Secretary James Watt by recycling the canard that "Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.’"

Watt never said any such thing, and though this urban legend has been knocked down for more than 20 years, as the Moyers article shows it lives on. Moyers had to issue a public apology to Watt, as did the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where Moyers article appeared. (He also made the same charge in a speech at Harvard.) So, too, the environmental website Grist.org issued an apology and retraction (it had been Moyers’ source for the quote): "Grist has been unable to substantiate that Watt made this statement. We would like to extend our sincere apologies to Watt and to our readers for this error."

All of this is prologue for considering what is likely an equally spurious quotation, if not in fact a fabrication, that appears in the pages of Jared Diamond’s new best-seller Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. In a particularly frothy passage on page 462 attacking mining companies, Diamond writes:

“Civilization as we know it would be impossible without oil, farm food, wood, or books, but oil executives, farmers, loggers, and book publishers nevertheless don’t cling to that quasi-religious fundamentalism of mine executives: ‘God put those metals there for the benefit of mankind, to be mined.’”

The “mine executive” who supposedly said this is not identified, nor the name of her company. (There are no footnotes or source notes for this quote, or any other in the book.) It is not clear from Diamond’s prose whether this is meant to be a verbatim quotation, or a stylized characterization, The doubt about the authenticity of this quote is deepened by the immediate sequel:

"

The CEO and most officers of one of the major American mining companies are members of a church that teaches that God will soon arrive on Earth, hence if we can just postpone land reclamation for another 5 or 10 years it will then be irrelevant anyway."

Again, Diamond identifies neither the mining company nor the denomination in question here. These things matter. Precisely because Diamond is a bestselling author of considerable reputation, his distortion or invention of ridiculous quotations threatens to inject them into wider circulation. In fact, it has already started.

Reviewing Collapse in Science magazine, Tim Flannery writes of “the CEO of an American mining company who believes that ‘God will soon arrive on Earth, hence if we can just postpone land reclamation for another 5 or 10 years it will then be irrelevant anyway.’” Suddenly we’ve gone from executives who attend an unidentified congregation that believes this to an unnamed CEO who “believes” this. The next short step will be directly attributing this non-quotation to the unnamed CEO.

It is beyond doubtful that any denomination believes as a matter of doctrine the ridiculous views Diamond describes. To paraphrase Orwell, only a university professor could believe such nonsense. Diamond owes it to his readers, and the mining company executives in question, to come clean with specifics about who supposedly said this and what denomination holds these views, so other journalists can verify the story. Either Diamond was had by some woolly faculty room chatter, or he fabricated another shameful slander reminiscent of the Watt remark.

Why better schools are immoral

This report in the London Guardian
about the possibility of having something like charter schools (they call them academies) in Britain is revealing. Note this paragraph:

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the academies’ programme would be a priority at the union’s conference. He described the initiative as "immoral" and said the union planned to set up local campaign groups to oppose each new school. "This is an experiment in children’s education," he said. "It is creating a situation in which the academies become schools that are more attractive to parents who have higher aspirations and more skills to find their way round the education system."

I am left speechless by such honesty. It is revealing, is it not? This is another story from a few months ago that helps explain PM Blair’s intention to revive inner city education with these private academies. (Thanks to Atlantic Blog).

Steyn on life and everything else

Mark Steyn reflects on the important things, and ends up with "it’s the demography, stupid."

Since 1945, a multiplicity of government interventions - state pensions, subsidised higher education, higher taxes to pay for everything - has so ruptured traditional patterns of inter-generational solidarity that in Europe a child is now an optional lifestyle accessory. By 2050, Estonia’s population will have fallen by 52 per cent, Bulgaria’s by 36 per cent, Italy’s by 22 per cent. The hyper-rationalism of post-Christian Europe turns out to be wholly irrational: what’s the point of creating a secular utopia if it’s only for one generation?

The world economy and us

Peter F. Drucker is almost the only economist I like to read, and that is because, of course, he isn’t an economist. In this essay for The National Interest, Drucker maintains that the U.S. is no longer the world’s single dominant economy.

The emerging world economy is a pluralist one, with a substantial number of economic "blocs." Eventually there may be six or seven blocs, of which the U.S.-dominated NAFTA is likely to be only one, coexisting and competing with the European Union (EU), MERCOSUR in Latin America, ASEAN in the Far East, and nation-states that are blocs by themselves, China and India. These blocs are neither "free trade" nor "protectionist", but both at the same time.

Even more novel is that what is emerging is not one but four world economies: a world economy of information; of money; of multinationals (one no longer dominated by American enterprises); and a mercantilist world economy of goods, services and trade. These world economies overlap and interact with one another. But each is distinct with different members, a different scope, different values and different institutions.

While almost everything he says can be argued with I bet, it is an interesting and thoughtful piece. His understanding of the EU and its policies, and his warning about how they are exporting their regulations, I found especially interesting. Also note his emphasis on the U.S. deficit.

I’m glad the old guy is still alive and thinking!

Paying for analysts up front

This is a report, not necessarily unbiased, but quite useful, about the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program. This is a pilot project (four million dollars, max of about 150 students; the program lasts through Spetember of 2006) that encourages students to study certain languages and areas of the world, their tuition is paid for two years, and then they are required to spend eighteen months working for a federal agency as analysts. The pilot program is meant to bring analysts into intelligence agencies as quickly as possible. Also see the NSA site
and this on line discussion of the article with Professor Felix Moos, the founder of the program.

Irangeles and counterterrorism

This Los Angeles Times article considers what the CIA and FBI are doing with the largest expatriate Iranian community in the world (LA area). Intrigue enough for a couple of great movies! 

Military transformation

This WaPo story by Bradley Graham considers the Pentagon’s "Terms of Reference" which will set the framework for the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which Congress has mandated to compel a comprehensive look at U.S. military strategy at the start of each presidential term. Although the process and the TOR is supposed to be secret, the WaPo appears to know much. For a variety of reasons, Rumsfeld seems to be in a position to initiate a much more fundamental transformation than has happened in the recent past. The transformation, in large measure, will move away from building forces only to deal with major combat operations. 

Newspapers are retrograde and dying

Michael S. Malone, and old newspaperman, bids farewell to newspapers. They are dying. He tells the story of how and why he stopped reading them.

The last redoubt for the survival of newspaper was, in my mind, accessibility. Hopping from section to section, story lead to story jump, just seemed so much easier than crawling through a long story on a computer screen. Then I saw the first links embedded in blogs. There was simply nothing in the physical world that could ever hope to match the ability to leap through cyberspace from story to story, file to file, with almost infinite extension.

Looking back, it was then that I stopped reading print newspapers.

Needless to say, I still read the news, much of it coming from the newspapers I used to religiously read. But I am not reading the "paper," either literally or figuratively, that the publishers want me to read. Throughout the day, I construct my own newspaper in cyberspace, a real-time assemblage of wire service stories, newspaper features, blogs, bulletin boards, columns, etc. I suspect most of you do, too.

Stories about the U.S.

Vodapundit
brought to my attention a site called Watching America. It translates news stories from foreign media about the U.S., something like what MEMRI does for Arab news about everything (not merely articles about the U.S.). Worth a look.

Executive Action to Save Schiavo

Bill Bennett and Brian Kennedy of ’The Claremont Institute’ argue that Governor Jeb Bush should take action to secure the life of Terri Schiavo in this article.

Bennett and Kennedy argue that Governor Bush ought not defer to the judicial branch on this Constitutional question. The Governor ought to uphold his Constitutional oath as he understands it. As a co-equal branch of government, the Executive should risk impeachment in order to prevent the starvation of Terri Schiavo.

According to this article in today’s, USA Today, Governor Bush is scouring Florida statutes to find a legal way to do just that.

Brazil’s theft

Desmond Lachman has some advice for Rob Portman, the President’s nominee for U.S. trade representative: pay attention to Brazil’s failure to crack down on intellectual property piracy. And then do something about China’s currency manipulation. Good advice.

Tyrannosaurus rex’s soft tissue

Paleontologists
have recovered what appear to be soft tissues from the thighbone of a 70 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex, potentially enabling dinosaur research to make a leap into studying the animals’ physiology and perhaps even their cell biology. The scientists found the soft tissue when they were forced to break the thighbone into pieces to fit it aboard a helicopter. They normally don’t like to break bones, prefer them to be intact for museums. Although scientists immediately claimed that "there’s no ’Jurassic Park’ scenario" (i.e., cloning), I wouldn’t bet on it.

FEC and weblogs...again

As usual, Win Myers has the goods (or, in this case, "the bads"). He links to this post as well. Read them both, weep, and then do something.

The Problem with Relying on the Courts

Andrew McCarthy at NRO argues today that the Schindlers should file one more motion in federal court, this time based on the theory that the "due process in the United States requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt before a court may issue an order that results in the taking of life . . . ." Of course, there is only one way for him to get there: transform due process into substantive due process. He concedes that

[t]hose of us who believe government action — whether by U.S. or Florida authorities — must be taken to save Terri’s life should not shrink from the forthright admission that we are asking for her federal due-process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to be given substantive content.

His defense is less than stirring: "Is this substantive due process? Of course it is. But it already exists, it is irreversible, and it is so much a part of our legal tradition now that we don’t even think about it any longer." But, of course, that’s not quite true. Substantive due process, once the bastion of Earl Warren, is not exactly enjoying a heyday. Indeed, in at least one prominent case, DeShaney v. Winnebago Co. Soc. Svcs. Dept., the Supreme Court, to put it charitably, curbed the progress of the theory.

McCarthy’s argument is somewhat understandable--after all, there is this sense that conservatives must play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules, disavowing the use of any legal theory which we find erroneous despite the fact that the issue may be sufficiently well settled that there is no conceivable practical benefit in keeping to principle. But the breadth of substantive due process is not so well settled (indeed, as I note below in the update, there is no right to a beyond the reasonable doubt standard of review in civil cases) that I should feel comfortable with advancing its cause. The problem is that McCarthy appears to be reaching, as is evidenced by his clinging to one of the Lefts favorite phrases: "death is different." The notion is undisputable insofar as it suggests that the imposition of death has a greater finality than any other sentence, and therefore requires circumspection and review. That said, the Left generally uses that as the rallying cry to ignore the law or to simply reshape it to fit an outcome, and I fear that McCarthy may be using the phrase for essentially the same end.

UPDATE: Jonathan Adler seems to agree with my sentiment over at The Corner, and raises the issue that I slid past: proof beyond a reasonable doubt simply has not been required in civil cases, even where death may be a result.

Frank Rich’s anti-religious screed

This column by Frank Rich is absolutely dripping with hostility to religion. We live, he says, in
"a time when government, culture, science, medicine and the rule of law are all under threat from an emboldened religious minority out to remake America according to its dogma." "Our culture," he continues, "has been screaming its theocratic inclinations for months now."

Yeah, I always knew that those rap artists and Academy Award winners were theocrats.

And did you know that efforts over the weekend to have Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted were a "full-scale jihad," and that values voters are the equivalent of the judges at the Salem witch trials or the Taliban?

I can’t help thinking that if Rich had unburdened himself in this way against other minorities, he would be hooted by all right-thinking people from the pages of the New York Times. But sincere religious believers are fair game. We know they’re all bigots and zealots, after all, out to establish a theocracy.

Except for the politicians, who are just Cecil B. DeMilles out for votes.

Hat tip: The Revealer, which calls this bigoted screed "a decent beginner’s survey of this month’s God wars."

"Aca-Deaniacs"?

Here, via Inside Higher Ed, is an interesting analysis of what may about to a death embrace between the postmodern academic left and the Democratic Party. Here’s the concluding paragraph:

If the Democratic Party comes to be dominated by angry ill-informed activists who believe that George Bush is more evil than Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, it will have a bleak future. It’s time for Democrats, if only out of their own self-interest, to start paying attention to the tragic decline of our college and universities. If they don’t, the party’s future will be in the hands of the acadeaniacs.

Read the whole thing.

More on the Schiavo "talking points memo"

Just read this and draw your own conclusions. The guys at Powerline are reeling in another big catch. And I don’t think it’s a boot or a tire.

Update: Read this too, as well as this and this.

Living and living well

Not surprisingly, Ken Masugi has some very smart thoughts about this characteristically impoverished libertarian reflection on "living well." (There, that should provoke a few people.)

Here, in a nutshell, is Nick Gillespie:

It’s useful to think of any given area as making a deal with people who might live there: We’ll throw off this much employment opportunity, this many diversions, this much action, at a given price —a figure that includes not only money but all the sorts of petty tyrannies that zoning and planning boards routinely generate.

In other words, for Gillespie, "living well" amounts to some combination of employment opportunities ("mere life"), "diversions," and "action." (To a friend who lived in Lebanon, New Hampshire in the late 80s, Boston meant sushi, delis, bars, bookstores, and Bradley Lectures at BC, not necessarily in that order.)

Here’s Masugi’s riposte:

Living well has required institutions long associated with urban culture. But there are ways to achieve human happiness that emphasize family, rootedness, local culture, and faith. I have friends in Washington, DC that would dearly love to return to Kansas for precisely those reasons. Unlike for Gillespie, the exotic big city doesn’t offer the best of life, even as it offers many enticements.

As a single guy (aren’t almost all single guys practically libertarian?), I probably would have sided with Gillespie. As a married guy, I’m with Masugi all the way.

Making Sense of Schiavo

Much has been written even today about the Schiavo case. I have chosen to limit my postings on the subject essentially to updates, because the issues are too large to be addressed in traditional blog length posts. However, because I have received several emails with questions, I will address it here. Accordingly, please pardon the length of the post.

The Schiavo case has created a conundrum perhaps best captured by Charles Krauthammer’s column today:

For Congress and the president to then step in and try to override that by shifting the venue to a federal court was a legal travesty, a flagrant violation of federalism and the separation of powers. The federal judge who refused to reverse the Florida court was certainly true to the law. But the law, while scrupulous, has been merciless, and its conclusion very troubling morally. We ended up having to choose between a legal travesty on the one hand and human tragedy on the other.

Why a Human Tragedy

While I am not as intimately familiar with all the details of the state court proceedings or Terri’s medical condition as I’m sure a number of NLT’s readers are, several features raise serious questions about withdrawing food and hydration.

First, there are credibility and motive issues with her husband, who has been made the surrogate decisionmaker by the Florida courts. He has started a new life with a woman, with whom he lives and has two children. I think that few people blame him for this, but one thing is a bit peculiar: why has he not terminated his marriage with Terri? Given her state, he could do so easily, and no one would blame him or call him a cad. He would essentially be formalizing the fact that he has started a new life with his new common-law wife. I don’t see how this would disrespect Terri any more than starting a new life, which is to say, the social mores against divorcing her seem fairly weak. Furthermore, divorcing Terri would permit him to formally remarry, rather than continue his status as—you’ll pardon the phrase—a common-law polygamist. One possible answer as to why he has continued his marriage is that Terri received a large jury settlement (exceeding $1 million) after her accident. This fund must be used for her care while she is alive, and Michael would presumably lose his claim to these funds if he divorced her. Suddenly, Michael has an incentive both to remain married, and to pull the plug. There are, admittedly, varying accounts as to how much money remains, but I am unaware to what extent the courts took this into account.

There are also claims from several doctors, including a leading neurologist who examined Terri before speaking with Maj. Leader Frist, and a leading speech therapist at the University of Chicago, that Terri could actually progress with the aid of therapy—even to the point of speaking and, key to this inquiry not requiring a feeding tube. Yet Michael has refused to authorize any of these therapies in the 15 years of hospitalization. The question of this inaction is only complicated by the fact that he is so adamant in refusing the requests of her parents to attempt any of these therapies, which to my understanding they have offered to do at their own expense. Even if we assume that he is sincere and genuine in his proffer that Terri would not want to live like this, why would he not want to at least try therapies that could improve her standard of living? Why the rush to die?

Finally, there is a hint of a pro-euthanasia agenda on the part of the local Florida judge who has presided over the case for these many years. Bill Kristol has noted that the neurologist that the judge relied upon is a major proponent of euthanasia, and the has given short shrift to conflicting evidence by other experts who have examined Terri.

In short, there are serious doubts as to whether all reasonable steps have been taken, and there are questions of the motives of those making the decisions. While I think that many in society believe that in tough calls, the presumption should be in favor of life, this case looks like one in which the presumptions may have run the other way.

Why a Legal Travesty

Despite these questions, issues of family law are traditionally the province of the state. For this reason, there have been howls about federalism as a result of Congress creating federal jurisdiction for this case.

I have seen a number of good and bad arguments in the federalism context. The most prominent “bad” argument—indeed one which is put forward today by Charles Fried, is the comparison to habeas reform. The argument is essentially that Congress limited federal habeas review for state offenders, and yet here they go hypocritically creating special jurisdiction for Terri. Aside from the fact that a life may be at issue, the analogy is actually rather weak. First, contrary to what Fried argues, it is not inconsequential that you are comparing apples and oranges. A habeas petitioner has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of his peers (following which, I might add, he has a right to appeal through the state system, generally has a state post-conviction habeas proceeding which again can go all the way to the state supreme court, and then he gets a hearing in federal court), whereas in Terri’s case, her fate was decided not based upon her guilt, but rather based upon who was her guardian. Because the case was civil, no issue had to reach the high level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the nature of the proceedings leading up to federal review are sufficiently different as to raise some doubt as to the utility of their comparison.

But even if we treat them as the same, the habeas reform initiated by Congress simply prevented state prisoners from bringing endless appeals in federal court. Instead, Congress reaffirmed that prisoners would have one bite at the apple, during which they could raise any federal or constitutional claims arising from their state criminal conviction and preserved during their state proceedings. Congress thereby reaffirmed that in our federal system, despite the fact that we believe that state courts are competent to adjudicate federal and constitutional claims, there is still a place for limited federal review where criminal convictions result in limitations on core liberties. In Schiavo’s case, Congress created a similar, one-bite review exclusively to review federal and constitutional issues. Contrary to those who suggest that this is different than the habeas reform bill, it actually is quite similar in its effect in this case. The only way to call them different is to make the thin debaters point that Congress made one law more strict (preventing endless petitions in federal court) and the other created new access. O.K., but the motion in opposite directions led to the same functional result: one review of exhausted federal claims in federal court.

That does not answer the tougher federalism question, however, which is whether Congress rightfully got involved in the first place. First, Congress was careful to act within its constitutionally limited power. Unlike other pet conservative projects, such as the partial birth abortion ban (which I talked about here), Congress did not illegitimately appeal to a bloated version of the Commerce Clause. Rather, they legitimately appealed to their authority to create and modify the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Even so, there are several features of the bill which, even if permissible, seem imprudent. For example, the fact that they created jurisdiction just for this case, and stated that any findings of the court would not have precedential value (the latter of which may well be beyond congressional power) are both questionable judgments. I would have much preferred that Congress pass the version of the bill which passed the House—one which provided for removal to hear exclusively federal claims in any such case where cessaton of life-sustaining procedures was imminent following the exhaustion of state court proceedings.

Yet the fact that Congress acted within the constitutional limits on federalism does not speak to whether Congress acted within the philosophical limits of federalism. This is, I think, the strongest objection. The general rule that family law is the province of the state is a very strong one in American law, and one which should not be ignored lightly. The best reply is that Congress sought simply to assure that Terri had a venue for exploring her federal rights. This may be true, but that is also the reason why Terri has lost who appeals to date, and why she will most likely lose her appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. While she does have a right to life, unless we indulge in reading the Constitution broadly, she has been afforded Due Process by the state court proceedings. Congress was able to give her a venue to assure that her federal claims were heard, but the federal claims end up being narrow, and therefore we should not fault the courts for applying the law correctly.

Where Should We Go From Here?

I have seen a number of news broadcasters and commentators suggest that the moral of the story is that everyone should have an advance directive. But this is only part of the story. The real moral of the story is that courts—both federal and state—are not particularly good venues for deciding these kind of contentious moral issues. Contrary to all the screaming about the influence of politics on this matter, it is precisely the political branches that should be weighing in, and passing laws to prevent future Schiavos. (Indeed, Krauthammer has suggested that they weigh in to specifically save Schiavo.) Anyone who doubts the respective capacity of the branches to resolve disputed moral questions need only recall that the representational function of government which gave us the Declaration of Independence (" . . . all men are created equal . . .), and the judicial branch which has given us such glowing statements as Dred Scott and Plessy. Update:The examples are admittedly a bit glib, and counter examples can be (and indeed have been) raised. That said, it goes to the proper function of the branch of government. Courts are designed to handle specific cases and controversies, not to create policy. The liberals have turned to the courts specifically because they cannot get their agendas passed by the legislatures. But the courts do not have the capacity to do the kind of hearings, townhalls, and general factfinding that the legislative branch does. Judges are not chosen to represent the people. And, importantly in the case of the federal judiciary, they cannot be corrected when they create rules which are contrary to the desires and moral sentiments of the people. Even when the legislatures have endorsed laws such as Jim Crow which were contrary to the principles of constitutional law and notions of right, these interpretations were checkable through the political process. Dred Scott offered no such easy check.


People should have advance directives, but they should do a good many things that people don’t do. We need to have general norms in place for when people become afflicted with these kinds of conditions without directives, and if those norms do not comply with public sentiments of right (which seems to be the issue with Schiavo), it should be the political branches, not the courts, which alter those norms.

Salazar for governor?

I find this interesting. Why would a newly elected Democratic Senator from Colorado, Ken Salazar, be interested in running for Governor in 2006. Is he not amused with working with the national Democratic Party? Perhaps he doesn’t like being in the minority? Colorado is all a buzz.

EU warming, China cooling

I note with interest that even the New York Times understands that the Bush administration deserves credit for the European Union’s turnabout on its plans to lift its arms embargo on China. Today’s NYTimes article
notes that "European diplomats cited China’s newly adopted antisecession law and intense American opposition to easing restraints on weapons sales to explain the shift. The Chinese law adopted this month threatens military action if Taiwan pursues formal independence from the mainland."

And then this:


But sentiment shifted after President Bush visited Europe in February, where he lobbied against the lifting of the embargo while also backing a highly restrictive code of conduct on arms sales to replace it. Congress has appeared ready to increase the stakes, threatening to punish any European companies that sell arms to China and seek defense business in the United States.

Though European officials cited the antisecession law as the reason for maintaining the embargo for the immediate future, some Chinese analysts say it was the United States that played the decisive hand.

Intelligent Design and intelligent science education

Jay Mathews has a smart column in today’s WaPo. He quotes, among others, John West, with whom he disagrees. Which is what makes the column smart.

Let me explain. Mathews’ big point is that by actually addressing the controversy between proponents of I.D. and evolution in biology classes, students would become better, more self-conscious scientists. The material would be more engaging, and students would be compelled to think both about the big issues underlying all of science (and all of life) and about the ways in which scientific theories are developed and disproven. This is what would make a science class something other than indoctrination, i.e., the propounding of a doctrine simply asserted to be true.

Since I think that people become more self-conscious and better informed adherents of their positions when they are "compelled" to think through the challenges to them, I find Mathews’ position quite congenial. Most of my students come into my classes as vaguely Lockeian liberals (that is, they know they have rights). We read Locke, but we also read the thinkers against whom Locke as reacting (like Aristotle and Aquinas, to name just two), and we read those who criticize Locke (like Rousseau). They leave the class having a much better sense of what’s at stake in thinking they have rights, as well as a better sense of what might be missing from a "purely Lockeian" vision of the world. Even if they remain Lockeian (most of them do), they’re more thoughtful and self-critical Lockeians. I’d rather have folks who can intelligently defend Locke’s views (even if their convictions are less passionate and more "nuanced"--a word I use with some trepidation since John Kerry so debased its currency) than folks who can simply and passionately repeat slogans.

Just so we’re clear: this is a post about education, not about I.D.

Hogzilla lived

A team of National Geographic experts has confirmed south Georgia’s monster hog, known to locals as

Hogzilla
was indeed real — and really, really big. O.K. the thing wasn’t 1,000 pounds as claimed by the myths, but he was 800 lbs heavy, which ain’t bad. I bet the locals are already saying that the monster had many sons and daughters. This ain’t the end of it!

Dukakis speaks

This interview with Michael Dukakis (remember him?) might be worth a glance. Note his comments on grassroots campaigning. At first sight it seems, well Karl Rove-like and sensible, and then he confuses real mano-a-mano politics with internet fundraising. He is asked what he thought of Kerry’s campaign:

I think the one great missing piece in this campaign, and it’s something that we Democrats have got to get serious about at every level, was that we still aren’t doing the grassroots job the way it has to be done. I happen to be a product of grassroots campaigning, grassroots organization. I wouldn’t have been elected dogcatcher in my state had it not been for that.

When I’m talking about grassroots organization, I’m not talking about parachuting kids in with two weeks to go from seven states over. I’m talking about a precinct organization with a precinct captain in every precinct and block captains – maybe a half a dozen per precinct – who systematically make contact with every single voting household in that precinct, beginning early. This is not something you do in the last couple of weeks. You have to start months in advance. And you do it on a 50-state basis. I don’t care if the state is red, blue or polka dot.


Then he goes on to explain how this can be accomplished at no cost (and no work) by using the internet. I guess he didn’t learn from Karl Rove.

Kofi Annan’s report

In Larger Freedom has been published. This is Kofi Annan’s proposal to reform the United Nations. The Belmont Club outlines the fat thing, and says this:

In my own opinion Kofi Annan’s proposals are a recipe for disaster for two reasons. His entire security model is philosophically founded on a kind of blackmail which recognizes that the only thing dysfunctional states have to export is trouble. He then sets up the United Nations as a gendarmarie with ’a human face’ delivering payoffs to quell disturbances. This is the "bargain whereby rich countries help the poor to develop, by promoting the Millennium Development Goals, while poor countries help alleviate rich countries’ security concerns." Second, his model flies in the face of the recent experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and the entire democratizing upheaval in the Middle East. It is by making countries functional that terrorism is quelled and not by any regime of international aid, inspections, nonproliferation treaties, declarations, protocols, conferences; nor by appointing special rapptorteurs, plenipotentiary envoys; nor constituting councils, consultative bodies or anything else in Annan’s threadbare cupboard.

I like Wretchard’s concluding paragraph:

It was a dictum in Field Marshal Zhukov’s Army that a good commander never reinforced failure only success. It is a maxim of the United Nations that progress is achieved by doing everything that never worked all over again. Probably nowhere is the bankruptcy of Annan’s vision (and I use that word consciously) more evident than in Paragraph 29, where he lays out the UN vision for a better world. It is a laundry list of all the special interest ’development’ goals the UN has acquired over the years where problems of different orders of magnitude and positions in the chain of causality are jumbled together; a bureaucrat’s dream and a human being’s nightmare.

Holbrook on Kennan

Richard Holbrooke writes a pretty fair assesment of George F. Kennan and explains why he almost always disagreed with him. And that is quite revealing. He sees Kennan as "not the brilliant architect of containment but an eloquent skeptic, forcing people in power to make sure their easy justifications stood up before his polite but ferocious criticism." Kennan was always bemused that his doctrine of containment inspired the heardheaded power politics that shaped the cold war. Holbrook shows us Kennan’s great flaw. He writes that Acheson had Kennan right: Achison said that Kennan reminded him of his father’s old horse who, when crossing wooden bridges, would make a lot of noise, then stop, alarmed by the racket he had caused. Kennan will be remembered as a footnote--not as a cause--to the policy of containment.

Public reason and prophetic witness

Michael C. Dorf’s column contains much that is sensible, but then he invokes the ghost of John Rawls and conjures up fears of religious warfare and persecution.

Having argued persuasively that we can’t really impeach a person’s (religious) motive for supporting a particular piece of legislation, he nonethless insists that "in a pluralistic society like ours, it is fair to demand that our laws be justifiable by reference to secular ends and means." I won’t quarrel with the argument that government may pursue only secular ends, but why must the argument in defense of the secular end be a secular argument? And why must the means be secular? Why not a level playing field, offering support for both religious and secular means of addressing secular problems?

Dorf’s response to this line of argument is to point to the good old slippery slope:

what the objection overlooks is the reason we as a society have for trying to prevent public policy debates from becoming competitions between different religious sects. As the framers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights well knew, history teaches that societies in which political divisions track religious ones frequently descend into bloodletting. And sadly, our own era provides no shortage of further examples.

Of course, I do not suggest that the injection of religious arguments into American politics by evangelicals or others will plunge us immediately into a religious civil war. But the abundant lessons of the past and present do provide reasons to be wary of even the first step down that path.

I have a different thought. In the first place, there are significant religious freedom concerns at stake here. If the only way I can bear prophetic witness in the public square is by means of "public reason," then I can’t genuinely practice my faith.
Those who "conscientiously object" to the requirement of public reason have a point. Second, the experience of participating faithfully in a pluralistic public square need not simply teach us to persecute those with whom we disagree; it might teach us how to deal respectfully with them. On the other hand, the secular "silencing" of the religious teaches them about the appropriate use of political power to marginalize those with whom you disagree. Achieving and maintaining respectful "non-toxic" pluralism (I’m borrowing the language, not endorsing the author’s use of it) may require some bumpy experience; I don’t think it can be achieved by the simple exercise of state power, or even by a kind of secular censorship.

Carter-Reagan Continuities

Joe asks me to weigh in, so I shall. Yes, there are some striking parallels between Reagan and Carter’s idealism, especially on wanting to abolish nuclear weapons. The fundamental difference in their statecraft, though, is that Carter approached the world through a Kantian moral framework, while Reagan was more Aristotelian; that is to say, Reagan had great practical judgment where Carter had none. And look whose approach succeeded, and whose didn’t.

I am reviewing the Gil Troy book on Reagan and the 1980s shortly in The Weekly Standard, and I won’t give away much here, except to say: I really don’t like it. Stay tuned for the review.

One final footnote: Reagan quickly came to regret signing the abortion bill that Jenkins mentions. Also, his environmental record as president was just as good as his record as governor, as you can see if you review the actual results here.

Democrats (can’t) Move On

This is required reading, since it tells us so much about the Democratic Party’s center of gravity (but not gravitas). Note also the presence of HRC at this rally; her moderate noises to the contrary notwithstanding, this is a constituency to which she must pay obeisance.

Carter-Reagan continuities?

Philip Jenkins is a bold man, arguing in his review of this book that we exaggerate the differences between Ronald Reagan and his predecessor:

just how different was Reagan from his predecessor? In terms of popular memory, the contrast seems absurd: the Gipper versus the Wimp. But Carter and Reagan had much in common. Carter was more conservative than is often recalled, and Reagan more liberal. On issues of gender and morality, Reagan had a distinctly moderate record, having endorsed the ERA and opposed California’s anti-gay Briggs initiative. His two terms as governor included liberal measures on abortion rights and no-fault divorce, not to mention a fairly progressive tax policy and a respectable environmental record. At times, he looked like the kind of politician the Reaganites were warning about. The two men also shared much in their idealistic moral vision and their religious sense of national purpose. Both saw national problems in moral terms, as issues of the human heart. Neither was reluctant to invoke moral justifications for policy or to see a divine hand in political destiny, and both were attacked for religious sentiments that the secular-minded regarded as naïve or hypocritical.

Having read
this book and having lived through both presidencies (not to mention much of the Carter post-presidency at first-hand here in Atlanta), I couldn’t disagree more. Carter’s moralism was much less friendly to American patriotism than was Reagan’s and his character ultimately much less generous and patient.

Steven Hayward, what do you think?

2004 election discussion

This will be interesting. If you’re in D.C. on April Fool’s Day, you should drop in; if not, you can watch it live on the Heritage Foundation site.

Postgate?

Powerline is suggesting the possibility that the memo described in this article may be a fake. Here’s the text of the memo; Powerline is awaiting a facsimile. And here’s an update from Powerline casting a little more doubt on the authenticity of the memo.

Are these guys gunning for the 2005 "Blog of the Year" award, hard on the heels of their orchestration of the information necessary to discredit Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes story? Note: I’m not suggesting untoward motives on the part of the Powerline guys; their skepticism is healthy and well-informed, and plays the role the press is supposed to play in a democratic republic.

Update: More here. The story gets curioser and curioser. And it is a pretty stupid memo, whoever produced it.

New Politics and Technology Blog

For those who are interested in how blogs and other internet technology are impacting politics, Chip Griffin has launched the InterAdvocacy Blog. It is worth a checking out.  

More on Ending the Filibuster

For those who missed it, George Will wrote an article over the weekend stating his objection to a ruling from the chair declaring filibusters of judicial nominees impermissible, and on Monday Mark Levin responded on NRO.

Dionne goes (anti-) nuclear

I’m not surprised by E.J. Dionne’s overall argument. But this chunk is quite revealing:

Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, called an urgent meeting last week with leaders of civil rights, civil liberties, environmental and women’s groups. His message: The Senate faces a nuclear winter that could engulf them.

What emerged at that meeting was an order of battle that could mark American politics for years. Reid told the participants that he had learned from friendly Republican senators that Bill Frist, the majority leader, intended to push forward with what has come to be known as the "nuclear option," a fiddling with Senate rules that would block filibusters of judicial nominees.

And Reid warned the groups that the Republican effort to curb the rights of the Senate minority would not stop with judges. If Frist won on judges, Reid predicted, Republicans would be emboldened to roll other legislation through on narrow majority votes.

Dionne says that minority "rights" are threatened; I’d call them "interests." And the best--indeed, the truly constitutional--defense of those interests comes through the ballot box. If the Republicans overreach, if the interests they threaten are genuinely popular, then they’ll pay at the polls in 2006 and thereafter. The Democratic "constitutionalists" are so accustomed to working around inconvenient, recalcitrant, backward-looking voting majorities that they’ve forgotten the true basis of all constitutional government, the will of the people, expressed (to be sure) through the constitution (albeit not through the judges’ "policy preferences") but also through voting.

If the Democrats were so confident that the Republicans are playing a losing electoral hand, they wouldn’t be hiding behind the judiciary and the "constitution" as much as they do.

Schiavo Update

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore declined to enter an injunction this morning which would have required the reinsertion of the feeding tube in Terri Schiavo. The Fox News/AP report is here. The parents have vowed an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Calling the Democratic Bluff

There has been much talk in Washington about using the so-called "nuclear option"--a grossly misnamed procedure designed to stop the unprecedented Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees. I must admit that I have my doubts as to whether the Republicans have the intestinal fortitude to actually force a vote. After all, they never forced a "real" filibuster for any significant length of time; and they have allowed a simple rule clarification to be dubbed an apocalyptic weapon.

But Senator George Allen’s article in the Washington Times today provides some hope. He argues that the Republicans to "go for it" without timidity. Here is a taste:

As senators, we have a constitutional responsibility to give our "advice and consent" regarding the president’s judicial nominations and that responsibility is being thwarted by a minority of Democrats who don’t agree with these nominees’ ideological positions. No senator has an obligation to vote in favor of a nominee, but every senator should have the backbone to get off their haunches and vote yes or vote no on these nominees and explain their vote to their constituents.

He also asks the right question about the Democratic threat of becoming uncooperative, essentially asking what is this becoming nonsense. I think he is right. The Democrats have established themselves as the party of "no." The only way that they can become less cooperative is to force a government shutdown, and that is a risk that I don’t think they actually want to take. I think it is past time to call their bluff.

Beinart on Bolton

Peter Beinart argues that times have changed in the world and at the U.N.; hence the confrontational style that worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, when U.N. majorities deserved a spanking, would be counterproductive now, when the U.S. actually stands a chance to build coalitions at the U.N.

I think Beinart fundamentally misunderstands the appointment. Bolton isn’t there to criticize the member states so much as he is to criticize the demonstrably corrupt U.N. bureaucracy. The problem this time lies not with the emerging democratic states (save, perhaps, insofar as they insist on condemning Israel), but with the bureaucracy (I could do more of this, but just go here for all the links you could possibly want) and the few contrarian "allies" who are complicit with it.

Germany’s stagnant economy

Germany’s unemployment is at 12.6%, when Schroder took office in 1998 it was at 10.2%. Good summary of Germany’s problems from the Christian Science Monitor.

Diana Schaub, Star Trek , and bioethics

Diana Schaub was due for some good press. Lord knows, she was lambasted by libertarians and the science lobby when President Bush appointed her (and my good friend Peter Lawler) to his Council on Bioethics.

While not quite as puffy and fluffy as this piece or as perfervid as this one, the Baltimore Sun treats her views respectfully. She’s a conservative, yes, but not particularly religious; and she’s catholic (small "c") in her sources of inspiration--looking to Abraham Lincoln and Star Trek for grist for her mill.

You can find her two most famous or infamous bioethics articles here and here.

Schaub’s most provocative statement on cloning comes from the first of those pieces:

Cloning is an evil, and cloning for the purpose of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion.

Her view, it should be emphasized, doesn’t depend upon religion, though it is certainly compatible with a religious view. In that respect, she harkens back to the early rather heterodox Lincoln, who abhorred slavery as an evil long before he began to utter vaguely orthodox religious sentiments.

The second piece, on aging, is one that I read just last week, in preparation for a paper I’m writing (on Tolkien and bioethics) for
this conference. She uses two Star Trek episodes to elucidate some of the issues connected with the natural (but problematical) desire to prolong our lives. Here’s a brief snippet:

Apparently, in the research conducted thus far, the most common (though not universal) side effect of age retardation is sterility or reduced fertility. It seems as if, in pursuing an ageless body, the balance between the individual and the species is altered. When we choose vastly longer life for the individual, the propagation of the species is sacrificed. The society in the Star Trek episode is a drastic rendition of the trade-off. In pursuing immortality for themselves, the residents of the planet made clear their hostility to the succession of the generations. They sought to make themselves irreplaceable.

If I may be permitted an editorial comment based upon my reading of Schaub, the Council on Bioethics materials, and Tolkien: the desire "unreasonably" to prolong life is a selfish and distorted response to our finitude, while reproduction and child-rearing are natural and ultimately "pious" responses. The former response leads us to dwell ever more intensely on ourselves; the latter to think of our responsibilities to others.

When the Tolkien paper is finished (gee, I still have almost three weeks!), I’ll have more to say and will share my half-baked thoughts with anyone who wants a copy.

Legislative Whims

The NYT editorializes about Justice Scalia today. Recoiling from a recent speech in which Scalia questioned whether the nine unelected judges should act as moral arbiters for the nations, the NYT opines:

The implications of Justice Scalia’s remarks are sweeping. Many of the most central principles of American constitutional law - from the right to a court-appointed lawyer to the right to buy contraception - have emerged from the court’s evolving sense of the meaning of constitutional clauses. Justice Scalia seems to be suggesting that many, or perhaps all, of these rights should exist only at the whim of legislatures.

Oh dear lord, not the legislatures! You mean that the elites might be subjected to the will of the representatives of the filthy, unwashed masses! There’s a lot of Red State folks in that group. Why, I bet most of them have never even been to Martha’s Vineyard! How can they determine my "rights!" Far better for to promote the NYT agenda through the whims of the unelected judges!

Of course, the NYT at base suffers from the modern delusion that the question of whether something is constitutional really asks whether it is "good" or whether we as a society (or as elites) like it. But of course, the Constitution actually only covers a few baseline issues. Everything good is not in the Constitution. To protect the NYT’s expansive panoply of rights, the Founders and the Constitution requires you to turn to the filthy masses represented in the legislatures.

Rehnquist on Freedom of Speech

Geoff Stone writes about CJ Rehnquist’s Freedom of Speech and Press jurisprudence over at the ACS blog. Geoff compares Rehnquists votes on these issues to those of other justices, and finds him wanting. This particularly seems to be so for Stone because, while Rehnquist was less likely to vote for First Amendment plaintiffs in cases involving, for instance, the press and porn, he was more likely to find a First Amendment right when speech that the Left is less likely to value was at issue (e.g., religious speech, commercial speech, and campaign speech). Stone offers this truly ridiculous conclusion:

His inclination to sustain First Amendment claims only when they involved commercial advertising, campaign expenditures, or religious expression belies any plausible theory of originalism, judicial restraint, or principled constitutional interpretation.

First, Rehnquist did not sustain only those claims. By Stone’s own account, those just happened to be areas where he was more likely than his colleagues to vote in favor of a First Amendment interest. Second, the originalist view of the First Amendment holds that political speech is the core of what the Freedom of Speech clause meant to protect, so it is perfectly keeping with that theory to specially protect that speech. Similarly, because religion is given special consideration by the Free Exercise Clause elsewhere in the First Amendment, and because most originalists believe that religion is included in the same Amendment as Free Speech for a reason--that is, because the framers(even in prior drafts) expressed the view that speech and religion were both freedoms of conscience, it would likewise make sense from an originalist perspective to be especially protective of that speech. Commercial speech is the least likely of these three to find support in originalism, but Stone goes further and suggests that Rehnquist’s position is outside any principled constitutional interpretation. O.K., protection of commercial speech certainly finds some support in textualism, as well as in a simple case-based jurisprudence that takes seriously the prior expansive rulings of the Supreme Court. Indeed, it "belies any plausible theory of . . . principled constitutional jurisprudence" to say that there is a grand right to display porn at drive-ins, but that the same First Amendment does not protect the right of a business to truthfully advertise prices.

I think that Stone got a bit ahead of himself. It is fine if he disagrees with the originalist view of the First Amendment, but it is sloppy and erroneous to say that a justice who grants heightened protection to religious and political speech is acting outside the confines of that jurisprudential view.

March madness

No, not that kind, this kind!

Hat tip: NRO’s The Corner. My Elite Eight, btw, are: Santorum, Ridge, Coleman, Barbour, Frist, Jeb Bush, Condi Rice, and J.C. Watts.

Russell Jacoby on conservative PC

Inside Higher Ed pointed me to this article by Russell Jacoby.

He "magisterially" dismisses evidence of left-wing bias on college campuses (the studies are flawed; faculty Democrats aren’t really leftists; what about disciplines like business and engineering; the return rate on questionnaires wasn’t very high; and so on). He also repeats the tired arguments that conservatives are anti-intellectual and would rather make money than teach English, despite the fact that there are no even flawed studies that demonstrate this. Perhaps common sense tells him so. Well, common sense (backed up by numerous studies of varied quality) tells me that there isn’t much intellectual diversity on many high-prestige campuses and that even smart conservatives are sometimes either denied tenure or not offered jobs there.

His best line (a pretty good one) is this:

If life were a big game of Monopoly, one might suggest a trade to these conservatives: You give us one Pentagon, one Department of State, Justice and Education, plus throw in the Supreme Court, and we will give you every damned English department you want.

He thinks professors should be subversive, challenging their students. And he thinks that the various movements inspired by David Horowitz, about which I’ve posted before, most recently
here, will make college campuses blander places.

I don’t want bland; I want lively. But I don’t equate liveliness exclusively with leftism or liberalism. Peter Schramm is lively; Allan Bloom was lively; I’m (kinda) lively, even though I was once described by a president of my university (not the current occupant of that office) as "to the right of Attilla the Hun" (a bad line that Jacoby also uses), if not necessarily of Schramm the Hungarian (a bad line that only I use).

Jacoby assimilates the activities of liberal and leftist professors to a tradition that goes back to Socrates. Well, Socrates was eager to have all sorts of interlocutors. And while he questioned authority, he also cared about the truths that could be found in old books. Socrates is no conventional conservative, but he would also be a questioner of liberal pieties. And he famously didn’t spawn or support any political party, though he did leave his unphilosophical sons to be educated by Athens. And I’ll leave you, dear readers, to chew over the import o that final observation.

More on Good News in Iraq in the NYT

Let me add to Joe’s post below, and suggest that John Burns’s article about the transformation of Haifa Street is much worth reading. Burns is an interesting fellow. Among the reporters in Iraq, he was something of a local celebrity. When I was there, he had spent more time reporting from Iraq than anyone else I met. Because of this, he actually understands the Iraqis and their situation more than most of the reporters. Having seen the atrocities committed by Hussein, he was a strong and vocal opponent of Saddam’s regime--which put him in something of a minority position among the press. (Few were vocal about Saddam, and if they were, they were quick to add a "but," followed by a string of blame the Americans.) While I find that Burns is a little too quick to editorialize in his columns, and often times offers opinions with which I disagree, he is interesting, and worth reading.

Burns’s article is about Haifa Street, a road in Baghdad known as the wild west, which runs directly into the Assassin’s gate of the Green Zone. I know this gate well. I went through it less than an hour after bombs exploded outside the gate. I have heard gunfire down Haifa Street as I exited or drove past the gate. This is the gate I would have to take if business (or a poker game) kept me in the Green Zone late into the evening, when the gate at the Convention Center would on occasion be closed. Beyond the gate, which was manned with crows-nest gunners peering through their scopes at all hours of the day and night, stood Haifa street, populated by Saddam with many of his loyalists. Not surprisingly, then, Haifa Street was the locus of many a fire fight. For example, my recollection is that the Bradley fighting vehicle that was overrun and had to be destroyed (killing one journalist who foolishly stood next to the vehicle broadcasting while looters attacked the vehicle) was on Haifa Street. But Burns offers us good news about this street:

On Haifa Street, at least, insurgents are attacking in smaller numbers, and with less intensity; mortar attacks into the Green Zone have diminished sharply; major raids have uncovered large weapons caches; and some rebel leaders have been arrested or killed. . . .

But the change American commanders see as more promising than any other here is the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi troops. American commanders are eager to shift the fighting in Iraq to the country’s own troops, allowing American units to pull back from the cities and, eventually, to begin drawing down their 150,000 troops. Haifa Street has become an early test of that strategy.

Last month, an Iraqi brigade with two battalions garrisoned along Haifa Street became the first homegrown unit to take operational responsibility for any combat zone in Iraq. The two battalions can muster more than 2,000 soldiers, twice the size of the American cavalry battalion that has led most fighting along the street. So far, American officers say, the Iraqis have done well, withstanding insurgent attacks and conducting aggressive patrols and raids, without deserting in large numbers or hunkering down in their garrisons.


This is good and welcome news. Worth a read.

Campaign reform and astroturf

John Fund writes today on a story that was all over the blogosphere last week. Catch up, if you missed it the first time. And while you’re at it, read this from the estimable Win Myers.

Update: Glenn Reynolds weighs in, and there’s yet more at Democracy Project

A note on Kennan

Barton Gellman writes an op-ed for the WaPo on George F. Kennan that reminded me how much I disliked the guy. Although I think Gellman is meaning to praise Kennan (note the title of his piece), his piece has the opposite effect as far as I’m concerned. Kennan was not the sort of man who should play a central role in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. The good news is that hard-heads like Acheson and Truman knew this and got rid of him. His influence on foreign policy by the late ’40’s was non-existent. Kennan turned out to be the mouthpiece for the Left.


Note this:

Kennan’s containment was not a military endeavor. In lectures at the National War College, he spoke not of "counterforce" but "counterpressure." Containment’s primary instruments, as Kennan saw them, were political and economic. As early as 1948, he took vehement exception to the creation of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, predicting that it would cement the division of Europe into opposing military blocs. He bitterly opposed development of the hydrogen bomb, which multiplied the destructive power of atomic weaponry. And he despised the Truman Doctrine, which called for military support to governments threatened by communist insurrection, liberally defined, anywhere in the world. Later he became an early critic of the Vietnam War, called for abolition of nuclear weapons and disparaged President Bush’s war in Iraq.

Read the whole thing and take special note of the last paragraph, wherein Kennan is quoted at length.

Japanese sub discovered

An I 401 class sub was discovered off Hawaii. The submarine is from the I-400 Sensuikan Toku class of subs, the largest built before the nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the 1960s. They were 400 feet long and nearly 40 feet high and could carry a crew of 144. The submarines were designed to carry three "fold-up" bombers that could be assembled for flight within minutes. "An I-400 and I-401 were captured at sea a week after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. Their mission — which was never completed — reportedly was to use the aircraft to drop rats and insects infected with bubonic plague, cholera, typhus and other diseases on U.S. cities.

When the bacteriological bombs could not be prepared in time, the mission was reportedly changed to bomb the Panama Canal."

Good news from Iraq

In the New York Times.

A note on Sullivan

Joe notes Andrew Sullivan’s prediction about a civil war within the GOP (or among conservatives, if you like). On the one hand, almost any prediction in politics is worth making because there is always some chance that a prediction may come true. On the other, there is only a very slim chance that Sullivan’s prediction (or wish) will come to be. His assumptions are wrong. No ordinary citizen (that is, one without a Ph.D., or a non-pundit) is really concerned with these weird distinctions between paleo- and neo-conservatives, or even much between libertarians and social conservatives. Besides, a civil war among Democrats is much more likely than one between Republicans, but even the Democratic civil war will be put off until after their 2008 loss.

Since 9/11 especially, the main issue that citizens have been concerned with and moved by has to do with trust. And that trust is especially (albeit, not solely) given to Bush and the GOP because of the war on terror. And I don’t mean by this that the people trust Bush in how he carries out the war on terror. The basis of the trust is something much more fundamental. This is not a small point, and Sullivan above all should understand it. The people know (or sense, if you like) that there is a dividing issue between the parties on something like a fundamental principle, and that principle has to do with what it is the country stands for, and why it is worth fighting for (it is not on how the war is being fought, that is a technical issue). In the voters mind (rightly, I think) this question of what we are as a country and a people is connected to what are loosely called social issues. Not unimportant questions (like the size of government, fiscal policy, etc.) take a back seat to this massive fact having to do with fundamental principles. The so called policy questions, from Social Security to the deficit, are deeply affected by the fundamentals. Sullivan, oddly perhaps, given that everyone used to think he was a smart guy, has forgotten this. As one commentator
says, Sullivan has become deeply confused ideologically. I should add that it is because Bush is not confused--and that is why he acts and talks in such an authoritative and confident manner--that is a special irritant to his opponents. Hence they call him arrogant and keep asking him to admit to mistakes he has made. This works entirely to Bush’s advantage because his manner and mode show citizens that he is firm in his stand on principle. This is no small accomplishment for a president; it is the basis of his political capital.

Bush and the GOP talk and act as if they are representing the ground of a political consensus; they are acting as if they represent the majority, and indeed even a long term majority (as in a realignment). This is extremely frustrating to their opponents and since they themselves cannot come to some sound representation of a principle, they are acting out the negative in politics. And this will go on through the 2006 elections, and will last until after they lose the presidency yet again in 2008. Then they will have their civil war, and it will last about twenty years. They are now bent on putting that off because they do not yet believe any of this. They still think that Bush’s victories (and the GOP’s victories) are mistakes. They think that the majority is still with them. This explains some of their outrageous statements, the most recent example is

Howard Dean calling the Republicans "brain dead."

This also explains Sullivan’s hope that there will be a civil war within the GOP. That there will be disagreements (indeed, there are disagreements already) within the party goes without saying. But none of those disagreements will come to the level of a principled division, at least not this soon after they have formed the new ground of consensus. Besides, if such a major division will come, it will likely come on an issue that might surprise Sullivan and his ideological soul-mates. It will not come on the war on terror, or even foreign policy broadly understood. It is likely to come on questions having to do with immigration, especially illegal immigration. While it is true that illegal immigration, or control of our borders, if you prefer, is related to the war on terror, it is in fact closer to the fundamental question of who we are as a people, and how citizens should be made in this human rights republic. This will be the hardest nut to crack. But it is not likely to lead to a civil war. But Sullivan doesn’t see this, being so preoccupied with his own interests and with "policy" issues narrowly understood. Sullivan is wrong: The Republicans already had their civil war, Barry Goldwater won the first battle, the victories continued with Reagan, and culminated with the two elections of George W. Bush. The GOP will only be inclined to re-think itself, and go to war with itself, if it takes many poundings in many elections over a long period of time. And that is unlikely for a generation; first the Democrats have to go through their civil war, and they haven’t started yet.

Republican crackup?

Andrew Sullivan predicts a civil war (or an uncivil war) in the Republican Party, but for some reason (can someone explain this to me?) can’t make consistent distinctions. He talks about realists and neocons in foreign policy, but characterizes paleocons as realists. I thought that the paleocons were isolationists. Have I missed something?

And there are obvious disagreements in domestic policy as well, but the fault lines aren’t altogether clear here either. Do paleocons, for example, prefer small government or government promotion of morality? What do neocons think about domestic policy? Are ambitious attempts at nation-building only for Iraq and Afghanistan, or for the U.S. as well?

One could say that these are the growing pains of the new majority party, or one could predict blood and gore (small g) and guts. Sullivan for obvious reasons chooses the latter.

I wish this smart guy could shed more light than he’s willing to do.

Fat Germans and and others

No Passaran says that another stereotype about Americans is ready to be challenged. The AP
reports:

At least seven European countries now challenge the United States in size — at least around the waistline. In a group of nations from Greece to Germany, the proportion of overweight or obese men is higher than in the U.S., experts said Tuesday in a major analysis of expanding girth on the European continent.

Evangelicals and politics for the umpteenth time

There were two articles in this morning’s Atlanta paper about this report and this book.

Not surprisingly, much of the emphasis in both articles was on how the evangelical engagement in politics isn’t or shouldn’t be just about abortion and gay marriage. Fair enough; but the implication for the most part is that concern with the poor would lead evangelicals away from the Republicans, which is, to me, far from self-evident.

To be fair, neither article says simply that concern with poverty is an exclusively Democratic issue; indeed, one quotes Ron Sider to the effect that the Republican emphasis on personal responsibility and the Democratic emphasis on structure are complementary. But there remains little serious discussion of how market-oriented economic policies can promote the welfare of the poor.

Harvard faculty meeting

Here, courtesy of my new penpal Katie Newmark is an extended account of the infamous Harvard faculty meeting. Of the members of the Government Department who spoke, Stanley Hoffmann went down in my estimation and Nancy Rosenblum went up.

Presidential reading habits

This puts GWB’s reading habits, impressive in themselves, in a nice perspective. Here’s my favorite line, from an early critic of the MSM: "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers."

Read the whole thing if you want to know who uttered it. 

Reagan’s imagination and prudence

Rich Lowry reviews Paul Lettow’s Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and finds it good. Lettow tells the good story of Reagan’s seriousness and--contra all his advisors--pushed on with his views and, in the end Reagan

wanted to do away with nuclear weapons entirely, perhaps because he thought the biblical story of Armageddon foretold a nuclear war. He believed that the Soviet economy would buckle under the pressure of stiff competition in the arms race. And he supported missile defense as a technological and moral alternative to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.

The 1986 Reykjavik summit is a key to both Reagan’s thinking, and his ultimate success. 

Lawrence Summers bad for Harvard?

Brendan Conway’s review of a bad book on Lawrence Summers raises some interesting questions. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Should he continue on his current path, Mr. Summers will continue to steamroll calcified Harvard lefties and give conservatives reason for glee. But he’ll also continue to change the university rapidly, and he won’t solve longstanding problems like declining standards in undergraduate education.


And that, in the end, is a mixed bag. It means more wealth, more technological advances and presumably more resources for everyone. But it could also mean stripping intellectual pursuits of their primacy of place.

Read the whole thing.
 

Boys and girls

This LAT piece caught my eye. Turns out that a study by Duke University shows that boys do worse--in some cases, substantially worse--than girls on a variety of social indicators. The press, Glenn Sacks argues, has gotten this wrong, not just now, but for a long time. All hail, Christina Hoff Sommers!

LAT praises Bush, Republicans

Read this analysis of Republican legislative successes. My favorite paragraph:

"The plate tectonics are being shaped for some really big fights — really big fights on Social Security, judges, the budget," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). "I don’t think it’s at all obvious how these things are going to work their way out."

Interesting stuff, eh?

Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee

If you remember the song with that refrain, you’re OLD. Now instead of "Mohammed, Mohammed Ali, floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee," sing "Michael, Michael Kinsley, floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee."

Read the whole thing, which manages gracefully to cover both the Lawrence Summers controversy at Harvard and his exchanges with Susan Estrich (without actually naming her), while also smothering Maureen Dowd with kisses (yech!).

Evangelical environmentalism yet again

Here, thanks to Richard Reeb is an account of evangelical environmentalism that is both theologically and scientifically competent. Lest I be misunderstood, this doesn’t mean that Dr. John Christy has the final word, just that he’s a worthy interlocutor.

Powerline under fire, again

Fortunately, they’re using popguns, which is about all the intellectual firepower the Minneapolis paper can muster.

Here’s Powerline’s first response. Here’s that of Little Green Footballs.

I googled the author, Tamara Baker, otherwise unidentified by the Star-Tribune. In her piece, she poses as a defender of an independent and free press, against the attacks of the vicious right-wing blogosphere. In her other life, which you can glimpse here, here, here, here, here, and here, she constantly insists upon the right-wing corporate bias of the MSM. Indeed, she even accuses Maureen Dowd (!!) of being anti-Clinton and asks:

"The real question is "Why has the US corporate media, ever since 1999, treated Bush far more gently than ANY Democratic candidate of the last thirty years?"

Whew! Outside of her and her friends, there apparently is no genuinely free press.

Did the folks at the Minneapolis paper know what they were getting when they accepted this op-ed, which tells us one thing, or did they not dig at all into her background, which tells us something else? Are they malign or negligent? Or both?

Born an adult

Unfortunately, a fourteen year old killed himself. This is an especially tragic story since the boy was a prodigy. He started reading as a toddler, played piano at age 3 and delivered a high school commencement speech in cap and gown when he was just 10. He was said to be extremely bright, yet a normal child and boy. No one knows why he killed himself.

Rehnquist May Return to Court

Charles Lane speculates in WaPo that Chief Justice Rehnquist may return to the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on Monday. He offers this prospect based upon the Court’s spokeswoman’s statement that the Chief had not yet decided whether he was going to attend arguments this next week--a statement which stands in contrast to earlier releases which conclusively asserted that he would not attend. This is rather weak speculation at this point, but Lane does offer promising news as to Rehnquist’s health:

Earlier this week, Rehnquist, 80, presided over a two-hour private meeting of the Judicial Conference, a federal judges’ body that gathers twice a year at the Supreme Court. Witnesses described him to reporters as seeming in good spirits and moving without assistance.

This is good to hear, and I wish Rehnquist the best in his recovery.

ACLU Acting Outside of Its Mission

Anil Adyanthaya argues in today’s Boston Globe that the ACLU is acting outside of its mission by suing on behalf of non-American detainees who allege abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. While this is an interesting argument, I think there is an equally salient example from our own soil. The ACLU has intervened in Terri Schiavo’s case. The case shows the problem of the slippery slope in right-to-die jurisprudence. Beginning with the premise that an individual has the right to refrain from receiving lifesaving medical care, the ACLU then must make the leap that where a party has not made such intent known, and where there is colorable doubt as to 1) the individual’s true intent, and 2) the individual’s medical status, then the default should be in favor of the right to die, or in this case, in favor of the party who has economic incentives to assure that the individual dies quickly.

This case does nothing to reaffirm the right to have medical treatment withheld insofar as that right is held by the individual to whom the medical treatment is at issue--a qualification that used to be important to the ACLU. Rather, it simply reinforces what can go wrong when this "right" is applied by the court: those who are zealous to expand these "last rights" (pun intended) may be prone based on their predispositions to ignore issues such as the self-interest of the guardian that no jurist or officer would ignore if they were forced to examine a suspect death after the fact. Only then, we would call it motive . . . .

The Schiavo Barbarism

Watching the spectacle of a judge ordering the removal of Terry Schiavo’s feeding tube while calling it a "step in her death process" (or whatever the exact evasive locution was) brought back to mind Churchill’s closing peroration in his Munich speech, which went (I am quoting from memory) something like this:

"We have passed an awful milestone, when the whole equilibrium of Europe [or the morality of taking life in Schiavo’s case] has been deranged. . . And the fateful words will be pronounced of the western democracies, ’Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting. . .’"

HRC on abortion

I missed this earlier in the week.

Sen. Santorum’s "faith-based initiative"

This is interesting.

Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

What Republicans can learn from their failure in Georgia

This was supposed to be a good year for Republicans in my home state. It may still be, in some respects. But Republicans have learned that controlling the Governor’s office and both branches of the state legislature (by healthy margins) for the first time since Reconstruction doesn’t guarantee passage of their agenda.

The issue with which I’m concerned is the revision of Georgia’s Blaine Amendment, about which I’ve posted here (with links to other relevant posts). Today’s Atlanta paper has this article, which says that the Georgia Council for Moral and Civic Concerns has thrown its entire support to this alternative, which is (thankfully) a long shot to pass, given the legislative calendar.

The failed measure, which simply would have aligned the Georgia constitution’s religion provisions with the First Amendment, fell a few votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority in the state senate. So far as I can tell, no one ever made the case that opponents were voting against the First Amendment (albeit as interpreted by an essentially incoherent Supreme Court).

The substitute measure has three principal defects. First, it prohibits mission-sensitive hiring (aka religious discrimination in hiring), which I defended here. Second, it prohibits the use of vouchers at any faith-drenched program, such as Teen Challenge. And third, it explicitly rules out vouchers for elementary and secondary education, but not for the pre-k and college scholarships funded by Georgia’s lottery. Nevertheless, it does nothing to remedy the obvious constitutional problems that these programs face, which I outlined here.

As I noted before, it was the teachers’ unions’ fear of educational vouchers that derailed the measure, even though all the Governor’s proposal would have done is eliminate a constitutional barrier, which is not the same thing as enacting a law providing for them. The fact that the Governor’s proposal commanded a majority (but not a supermajority) suggests that on a straight up or down vote, a voucher proposal might have passed. But the unions didn’t have to assemble a majority to defeat a legislative proposal; they just had to hold together a minority to defeat a constitutional amendment. In other words, they’re hiding behind Georgia’s constitutional status quo because they can’t win the public policy argument in the legislature.

For the reasons outlined above, I don’t think Governor Perdue and his allies should support the alternative measure. The status quo, with all of its problems, is better than establishing still more barriers to Georgia’s version of the faith-based initiative.

On the national level, Republicans should take heed to avoid situations which put determined minorities in the driver’s seat. D’oh! They clearly shouldn’t stand for anything like this. It’s time to use that majority in the Senate to change the rules on judicial nominations and call the Democrats’ bluff on shutting down the government. Or else we (they) can permit the Democrats to decide who the judicial nominees should be.

Good blogger is back

Red State has announced that Jay Cost, who used to run "Horse Race Blogger," and quit after the election to get back to writing some silly little thesis at The University of Chicago, will be one of their writers. They are thrilled, and so are we. Jay says he will write on some of the following items:

I’ll see you next week. I’m putting the finishing touches on an in-depth article about why the South is solidly red. Some of my conclusions will surprise you. After that, I’m thinking about writing on a few topics: why Republicans should be wary of the political resurrection of Howard Dean, why Hillary is definitely not a “sure thing” in 2008, why 2006 will probably be a ho-hum election year, how the media screwed up campaign 2004, and what Bush is up to with Social Security (and whether he has a snowball’s chance at getting his way). We’ll see how things go -- if you have a suggestion, send it my way.

His first blog on Monday will be "On Dixie and the Democrats." Good.

Democratic politics

Ann Lewis (she is director of communications for Hillary’s campaign committee) takes a shot at Kerry: "ran what was basically an inconsistent campaign" last year, and had "a different message every two or three weeks."
John Kerry continues to intensify his attacks on Bush, according to the Los Angeles Times, and he has "signaled he’s considering a second presidential bid in 2008."
But Joe Biden is quite critical of Kerry’s policy (or non) on terrorism.

And John Edwards stays mum on what he is going to do in 2008, for now he just wants to fight poverty. Yet, he hasn’t ruled out running. Wesley Clark spoke at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and said this amusing thing: "We lost our adversary and we lost our purpose in the world. All Republicans and Democrats could agree on was that the armed forces were too large. We never really got an agreed strategy." Oh, well, the general is re-fighting a previous war. He has also re-launched his political web site. Russ Feingold, who hasn’t denied he may be interested in running in 2008, has registered a domain name: www.russfeingold08.com. And, one of the most trenchant political analysts among us peasants, Eleanor Clift, thinks that Hillary Clinton is laying the groundwork for a run in ’08, and is frustrating the right by proving different from the caricature they made of her. Yet, even Eleanor sees that Condi Rice poses a real problem for any Democrat if she runs: Condi should get at least 20% of the black vote, thereby preventing any Democrat from winning. Thoughtful Eleanor, very thoughtful.

Civility in a Democracy

NEH Chairman Bruce Cole has a conversation with Miss Manners (Judith Martin) "about how standards of behavior were adapted for an American democracy." There are a few interresting passages. Here’s one on Southern hospitality:

The plantation owners thought they were being English country gentlemen, but who was teaching etiquette to their children? The house slaves. The house slaves often came from a more elevated background than the masters. They were chosen among the slaves as the people who were more refined. They had been captured and brought over from Africa, whereas, of course, voluntary immigrants came because things weren’t so great at home. The house slave, usually the mammy, taught manners to the children. So she taught them the manners she knew. The "y’all come see me" kind of hospitality is an African tradition that they brought over. Using honorary family titles, aunt so-and-so and uncle so-and-so, where there’s no relationship, but to convey something between strict formality and informality--these kinds of things crept in to become what are now known as Southern manners.

Federalism and Schiavo

Andrew McCarthy pens an interesting piece over at NRO about proposals to grant federal review in cases like that of Terri Schiavo. I commend the article to lawyers and non-lawyers alike for its clear description of how the often misunderstood federal habeas process works, and how that process changed in 1996 due to a new law enacted by the Clinton Administration. However, McCarthy was less clear about what the proposed legislation pending in Congress would do. Rather than grant habeas review--a position endorsed by some early bills (and a position which was legally erroneous given that Ms. Schiavo is not in state custody)--the version of the bill which was passed by the House permitted removal of an action to federal court where there were issues of constitutional or federal law at stake following the exhaustion of state court proceedings. Essentially, it permits a federal court to review federal questions after the state court system has completed its review. This is not the kind of serious infringement on federalism that the WaPo editorial suggests (even if the state courts are fully constitutionally capable of adjudicating federal and constitutional issues). There are interesting federalism questions to be asked of any such legislation, but the overblown comparisons made by WaPo are not among them.

George Kennan, 1904 - 2005

George Kennan, who is generally considered the godfather of realism and containment, died yesterday at 101. Powerline has some thoughts here and here, and the New York Times has an obituary here. For those wondering why he is considered the father of these schools of thought, see his famous 1947 Foreign Affairs article: The Sources of Soviet Conduct, which he authored under the pseudonym "X".

An unteachable moment

Here, via Stanley Kurtz over at NRO’s The Corner, is an account of the Harvard faculty’s reaction to its "no confidence" vote. My favorite quote:

’’I have been at two meetings so far today where all faculty are talking about is how it will be possible to get the business of the university done in this climate," Mary Waters, who chairs the sociology department, wrote in an e-mail yesterday. ’’We are all perceiving a slowdown in response time from the university, and we assume that this controversy is taking up a lot of energy that otherwise would go to moving forward things at the university."

Read the whole thing.

Arab Spring

Charles Krauthammer offers a stinging reproach of the left’s interpretation of the Arab world in his column today. While conceding that we do not yet know whether the seeds of democracy springing up in the Middle East will grow to fruition, he suggests that the early opposition to democracy in the region by the liberal elites has put them in a bad place:

Those who claimed, with great certainty, that Arabs are an exception to the human tendency toward freedom, that they live in a stunted and distorted culture that makes them love their chains -- and that the notion the United States could help trigger a democratic revolution by militarily deposing their oppressors was a fantasy -- have been proved wrong.

In case anyone missed the point, he is even more blunt (and honest) later:

It is not just that the ramparts of Euro-snobbery have been breached. Iraq and, more broadly, the Bush doctrine were always more than a purely intellectual matter. The left’s patronizing, quasi-colonialist view of the benighted Arabs was not just analytically incorrect. It was morally bankrupt, too.

Well worth a read.

Musharraf as Coriolanus

General Musharraf of Pakistan is being compared to

Coriolanus.
This is not to the advantage of either Musharraf or Coriolanus.

General Musharraf’s epic journey reminds one of that of Coriolanus, a military and political leader of ancient Rome whose career is described by the Greek historian Plutarch in his Lives. Born Caius Marcius into a rich and famous family, he earned the title Coriolanus after a major victory at Corioli in 493 BC against the Volscians, a neighbouring tribe of Rome.

Around the year 1600, William Shakespeare drew upon Plutarch’s history to dramatise the life of Coriolanus. TS Eliot considered this play to be Shakespeare’s finest tragedy yet other critics rank it below Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. Coriolanus, as a proud general, is the least sympathetic protagonist among Shakespeare’s tragic figures. This may be the reason for the mixed appraisal of the play.


Much more can be said about both Pakistan and the writer’s understanding of Coriolanus than he says in the op ed for The Daily Times, yet it is still worth reading.

Gitlin on Horowitz: Two former SDSers face off

Here, via Political Theory Daily Review (a sort of "Arts & Letters Daily" for political theorists; check it out if you haven’t before), is Todd Gitlin’s reaction to David Horowitz’s drive for an "Academic Bill of Rights," which I’ve discussed here and here.

Here’s Gitlin:

Is there a left-liberal-multicultural atmosphere at elite institutions? Undoubtedly, though the surveys on which conservatives rely probably misconstrue its pervasiveness. Academics do flock together and sometimes abuse their power. The even more intractable problem is that conformity, both the faculty’s and the students’, is self-fulfilling, lending itself to the enshrinement of the smug, the snug, and the narrow. Much of the muffling, as always, is the product of peer pressure, which is as real at liberal arts colleges as at military academies. When fundamentals go unquestioned and dissenters are intimidated, those who prevail get lazier and dumber.

How deep is the silence? Hard to know. Much cited in conservative columns is a 2002 survey by the student newspaper at Wesleyan University, according to which a full 32 percent of the students felt “uncomfortable speaking their opinion” on the famously liberal campus.

Whatever that means exactly, the pop-psych language is telling. Since when is higher education supposed to make you feel comfortable, anyway? In a largely unexamined triumph of marketplace values, college has come to be seen as a consumable product. Parents invest through the nose hoping for practical payoff. What follows is grade inflation, epidemic cheating, scorn for a common curriculum, and an all-around supermarket attitude. Consumer choice—embrace whatever turns you on, avoid what- ever turns you off—is elevated to a matter of high principle. But weren’t conservatives supposed to be fixing our minds on higher values?

Here’s the contradiction inherent in this right-wing crusade. In their sudden sensitivity to the comfort of minorities—ideological ones, in this case—the advocates of legislative intervention on campus speech discard one of the virtues that conservatives have long embraced: the insistence on standing strong. They tend to cast students as frail, helpless victims of “abuse” who need institutional muscle to defend them against forces of evil they dare not confront on their own.

Yes, encountering and dealing with arguments with which you disagree makes you stronger. This shouldn’t be just a conservative virtue, and leftists who value it should go out of their way to encourage genuine intellectual diversity on campus.

TV watching

O.K. What’s the difference between college students and everyone else? It turns out that college students watch almost four hours of TV a day, whereas everyone else averages five hours. Great.

Suggestive cheerleaders

A Texas lawmaker is filing a bill that would put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances at athletic events by cheerleaders. Everyone there seems to be in favor of it.

A woman race car driver in Iran

Laleh Seddigh, 28, (see photo) "is fast emerging as one of Iran’s foremost race car drivers, leaving the best of the men racers behind in her saloon car." Good story. 

The Euro-left and victims of oppression

As usual, Charles Krauthammer hits the nail on the head:

The international left’s concern for human rights turns out to be nothing more than a useful weapon for its anti-Americanism. Jeane Kirkpatrick pointed out this selective concern for the victims of U.S. allies (such as Chile) 25 years ago. After the Cold War, the hypocrisy continues. For which Arab people do European hearts burn? The Palestinians. Why? Because that permits the vilification of Israel -- an outpost of Western democracy and, even worse, a staunch U.S. ally. Championing suffering Iraqis, Syrians and Lebanese offers no such satisfaction. Hence, silence.

Until now. Now that the real Arab street has risen to claim rights that the West takes for granted, the left takes note. It is forced to acknowledge that those brutish Americans led by their simpleton cowboy might have been right. It has no choice. It is shamed. A Lebanese, amid a sea of a million other Lebanese, raises a placard reading "Thank you, George W. Bush," and all that Euro-pretense, moral and intellectual, collapses.

Read the whole thing.

Weigel on the European crisis

Here, via Real Clear Politics, is a brief synopsis (a 5 page pdf) of George Weigel’s forthcoming The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics without God. Here’s a taste:

Europe’s contemporary crisis
of civilizational morale thus comes into sharper focus:
Europe’s statesmen—or, at the least, too many of
them—are denying the very roots from which today’s
“Europe” was born. Is there any example in history of a
successful political project that is so contemptuous of its
own cultural and spiritual foundations? If so, I am
unaware of it.

Read the whole thing.  

Ramirez Cartoon

Support for EU constitution slips in France

Two and a half months before a national referendum, support for the European constitution in France
has slipped further and now stands at 56 percent, according to an opinion poll Tuesday, AFP reports. The opposition to the constitution is strongest on the Left.

Drilling for oil in ANWR

Christian Science Monitor is pretty clear on both the vote and the details of its meaning, the drilling site, etc. Worth a read, if you are unfamiliar with some of the details and background. Even though it will take many years to get the oil out (never mind the House vote, which almost certainly will be in favor), this is a major victory for the GOP. Note that because it was attached to a budget resolution, it couldn’t be filibustered. Maybe federal judges should be attached to budget resolutions!

Will GOP pick up North Dakota senate seat?

PoliPundit reports that (according to Rollcall, for paid subsribers only) "Republican strategists in Washington, DC are increasingly confident that Governor John Hoeven will decide to run against Senator Kent Conrad in 2006. This would be a major coup for the Republican Party. Hoeven won re-election in 2006 with 71% of the vote." Also remember that Bush won ND 62-35% in 2004.

(via Powerline.)

Did Hitler have the bomb?

This Der Spiegel article considers a new book, Hitler’s Bomb, by a German historian named Rainer Karlsch.

The author writes that German physicists and members of the military conducted three nuclear weapons tests shortly before the end of World War II, one on the German island of Ruegen in the fall of 1944 and two in the eastern German state of Thuringia in March 1945. The tests, writes Karlsch, claimed up to 700 lives.

The trouble is that the author, according to Der Spiegel, hasn’t proven this. At least the article is worth reading, even if the book may not be.

Conservatives and Libertarians

Pejman Yousefzadeh argues that although there is a difference between libertarians and conservatives, they should stick together. I generally don’t like these insider-like discussions having to do with definitions, but this one is worth noting in part because he links to this 1975 interview with Ronald Reagan, who said this:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are travelling the same pat

New York Times on restricting Senate filibusters

The Weekly Standard Scrapbook
juxtaposes these two

New York Times opionions on the the same issue. A January 1, 1995, Times editorial on proposals to restrict the use of Senate filibusters:

In the last session of Congress, the Republican minority invoked an endless string of filibusters to frustrate the will of the majority. This relentless abuse of a time-honored Senate tradition so disgusted Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, that he is now willing to forgo easy retribution and drastically limit the filibuster. Hooray for him. . . . Once a rarely used tactic reserved for issues on which senators held passionate views, the filibuster has become the tool of the sore loser, . . . an archaic rule that frustrates democracy and serves no useful purpose.

On the same issue, March 6, 2005:

The Republicans are claiming that 51 votes should be enough to win confirmation of the White House’s judicial nominees. This flies in the face of Senate history. . . . To block the nominees, the Democrats’ weapon of choice has been the filibuster, a time-honored Senate procedure that prevents a bare majority of senators from running roughshod. . . . The Bush administration likes to call itself "conservative," but there is nothing conservative about endangering one of the great institutions of American democracy, the United States Senate, for the sake of an ideological crusade.

Oberlin

Is retrenching, ever so modestly. The student body and faculty will shrink a little, but the college doesn’t want to let go of any students who are actually paying the sticker price. This has folks worried about "diversity":

And when people at Oberlin talk about a fear that students may end up being more “vanilla,” they aren’t just talking about race, but about style and values. While it’s easy to overstate college stereotypes, Oberlin students say there is plenty of truth to the idea that their college attracts many students who are artsy, liberal, idealistic and individualistic.

“Now it seems like the school may be looking for more students who are mainstream and from conservative or wealthy families,” said Marshall Duer-Balkind, a junior who is a member of the Student Senate. He said there is a “major, major concern” among students about how this would play out, even as they acknowledge that they can’t be sure how admissions will change. “The worry is that the college will lose the students with individuality and quirkiness.”

Why, I ask, should students from wealthy families be more "mainstream," i.e., conservative and hence boring, than others? I would think that kids who had grown up with "all the advantages," like trips abroad and after-school and summer enrichment programs, could be just as "artsy, liberal, idealistic, and individualistic" as the next guy, if not more so. Or does all the enrichment just end up homogenizing them, cranking out the cookie cutter elitists about whom
Ross Douthat complains? Or is it that many of the really interesting products of all this enrichment end up going elsewhere?

Joan Casey, a private admissions counselor in Brookline, Mass., said that while students she works with think of Oberlin as a very good college, many students “don’t want to go to school in what they would call the middle of nowhere.” (While Oberlin boasts a remarkable cultural scene, in large part courtesy of the conservatory, it is in rural Ohio, 40 miles from Cleveland.)

[How far is Ashland from Cleveland?]

Michael London, the founder of College Coach, a nationwide private admissions service, said that he too thinks of Oberlin as a very strong college. But as he looks at where counselors encourage students to enroll, he’s seen Oberlin “down a notch” from the places it aspires to compete with.

“A Vassar is an A- [high school average], 1400 SAT school, and a Wesleyan is a little higher than that, and Oberlin is more of a B+ 1300 school,” he said. “They may be guilty of thinking that they are stronger than they are.”

I’m tempted to chalk these comments up to Eastern blue state geographic snobbishness, but Oberlin apparently loses head-to-head competitions for students with Grinnell and Carleton,which are in small towns in Iowa and Minnesota, for gosh sakes! (I’m betting that the dirty little secret is that Grinnell and Carleton are offering more generous discounts, er, I mean, scholarships than is Oberlin, though this table suggests a modest reputational difference.)

Oberlin’s strategic plan

calls for increasing faculty salaries, reducing the teaching load to allow faculty members to have more time for research and professional activities, renovating student dormitories, expanding athletic opportunities at both the intramural and varsity level, and creating new programs to recruit minority students and faculty members.

This, of course, takes money, which is precisely what they seem to need. You need to have money, it would seem, in order to get money. I have a different suggestion: rather than trying to be like schools that are wealthier, Oberlin should seek to be distinctive. Not distinctive as in distinctive just like everyone else (the usual game in the top tiers of higher education), but really distinctive. Why not, say, invite the Ashbrook Center to relocate from Ashland?

Rob Portman nominated to be Trade Representative

Rep. Rob Portman has been nominated by President Bush to be the next U.S. Trade Representative. He has been in Congress for twelve years, representing Ohio’s 2nd district (southern Ohio). Portman is a good guy, smart, hard working, gets along well with everyone, but is tough. He also knows a lot about trade policy. An excellent selection! This is Portman’s statement after the President announced his nomination. Rep. Portman is the last speaker in the Ashbrook Center’s Major Issues Lecture Series for the year. He is speaking on Wednesday, March 30th.

Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols

After murdering four people, Brian Nichols is talked into a ’purpose driven life’ by Ashley Smith.

Peggy Noonan wraps up this remarkable story in her article, ’Flannery O’Connor Country’.

St. Patrick’s Day

Therefore, some Yeats.
And also this one.

Religious genes?

It seems as if religious genes have been identified. You make of this what you will; I’m just passing it along. I must say, though, that I love seeing scientists confused.

Genes may help determine how religious a person is, suggests a new study of US twins. And the effects of a religious upbringing may fade with time.

Until about 25 years ago, scientists assumed that religious behaviour was simply the product of a person’s socialisation - or "nurture". But more recent studies, including those on adult twins who were raised apart, suggest genes contribute about 40% of the variability in a person’s religiousness.

Now, researchers led by Laura Koenig, a psychology graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, US, have tried to tease apart how the effects of nature and nurture vary with time. Their study suggests that as adolescents grow into adults, genetic factors become more important in determining how religious a person is, while environmental factors wane.

Elmer Fudd and Harvard

This might be a good way to start the morning. Roger Kimball has a few thoughts on the faculty vote of no confidence in Harvard’s president:

The Larry Summers tragicomedy continues. In today’s episode, we watch as Harvard’s hapless president is once again humiliated by the faculty of Arts and Sciences, which met yesterday and returned a vote of no confidence by a margin of 218 to 185, with 18 abstentions.

It’s a bit like one of those Warner Brothers cartoons in which some pathetic character--Elmer Fudd comes to mind--goes after the waskily wabbit only to be outtwitted or at least outmaneuvered by the time the commercial break rolls around. Same thing happens in every episode, but the very predictability of the scenario adds to the comedy of the consummation. Why aren’t the girls more widely represented at the highest levels of science and mathematics? Why?

Is Bush being defeated on Social Security?

John Henke notes the intentional confusion brought about by the Demos and the MSM about Bush’s attempt to do soemthing about Social Security. He reflects on this Washington Post poll stating this: "public support for his program remains weak, with only 35 percent of Americans now saying they approve of his handling of the issue." But, Henke points out, "the public also overwhelmingly supports — by a margin of 56% - 41% — ’a plan in which people who chose to could invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market’."
He considers this question: "why does the Washington Post bury the fact that the public dislikes every part of Social Security reform except what has actually been proposed by President Bush? That seems important." He poses a few questions worth considering. Useful links. (Via
Instapundit).

"How Serious Are Democrats?"

Asks this Christianity Today editorial.. Answer: on abortion, there’s not much beyond some pro-life lip-service:

But beware. An ad from NARAL Pro-Choice America addressed to "the right-to-life movement" would be almost humorous if it weren’t for those 1.3 million killings annually in this country. "Please Help Us Prevent Abortions," says the ad, which appeared in The Weekly Standard and other publications. Actually, the headline is misleading: The text of the ad explains better its call for support of a bill "which would reduce unwanted pregnancies." The legislation, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s Prevention First Act (co-sponsored by Democrats with 100 percent ratings from abortion-rights groups and 0 percent ratings from pro-life groups), is a pro-life nightmare. It would double federal funds to "family planning" groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL while barring funds for programs that emphasize sexual abstinence. Hospitals that get any federal funds would have to provide the morning-after pill (which prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus) on demand, and companies that oppose contraception or abortifacients would be forced to provide insurance coverage for them.

Read the whole thing.

James Madison’s birthday

Richard Reeb reminds us that today is the 254th anniversary of the birth of James Madison. It might be a good time to check out our Constitutional Convention site. Note the Notes of Debates, as well as Gordon Lloyd’s "The Constitutional Convention as a Four Act Drama" and other commentary. Also note the very accessible version of The Federalist, and his Memorial and Remonstrance.

Wolfowitz to World Bank

President Bush has nominated Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank. This is the WaPo story on the same.

Caesar beware

This from Germany:

"Let’s put it this way, I’m always particularly alert on March 15 and have always come through it fine so far," said Cajus Julius Caesar, a parliamentarian with Germany’s opposition Christian Democrats (CDU). "It’s not a real worry."

Naomi Schaefer Riley is everywhere

Win Myers called my attention to a piece by Naomi Schaefer Riley in the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, to which I don’t subscribe. (Take that, establishment media!) But I found the article here, on Riley’s GOTQ website (click on the articles button).

In the Chronicle piece, she takes issue with this list of "top ten conservative colleges" and praises ISI’s Choosing the Right College. The former, she argues, is too political, simply offering the conservative counterpoint to leftist efforts to politicize education, which echoes a concern that I expressed here. By contrast, the ISI guide:

focuses more on which institutions provide a strong core curriculum in the traditional liberal arts. Rather than looking just at conservative colleges, the institute’s guide advises students on finding strong professors and useful courses at the top 100 or so colleges in the country. Though the institute supports conservative student newspapers and helps bring conservative speakers to campuses, its guide does not seem to be searching for colleges that create young Republicans.

Good for ISI; I expected no less. But I find it perhaps a little ironic that Riley, whose book looks to the "missionary generation" educated by traditionalist religious colleges for assistance on the conservative side of the culture wars, now takes a stance that seems to be above politics. That isn’t to say that I don’t endorse her current sentiments. Anyone who tries to keep politics out of the classroom is welcome in my club. But she might have written a somewhat different book if she had taken then the stance she seems to take now.

Update:There’s also a not terribly hard-hitting interview with Riley in the same issue of the (I borrowed a communal copy to read while at the gym; you’ll find it on A28.)

Anne Applebaum on Susan Estrich’s campaign

By now, you’ve probably heard about Susan Estrich’s efforts to force the Los Angeles Times to publish more op-eds written by women (chiefly herself). I’ve posted on this subject here and there’s more here. Anne Applebaum has reluctantly added her voice to the debate. The concluding paragraph:

In the paragraph I have remaining (this, girls, is truly the hardest thing about newspaper columns: making the idea fit the space) I’m not going to discuss the thorny question of whether some affirmative action policies do some good, of whether newspapers matter anymore anyway, or even return to the subject of Sinn Fein. Those are complex, gender-neutral issues, and I’ve now used up my allotted weekly slot on a "women’s issue" instead. Happy, Susan Estrich?

Enough said. Applebaum is rapidly becoming my favorite WaPo columnist.

WaPo vs. People’s Daily

Hugh Hewitt demonstrates that the People’s Daily interview transcript--discussed here--misrepresents what WaPo managing editor Phillip Bennett actually said, at least in one instance and likely in others. I’m persuadable. Mr. Bennett ought to release his own transcript of the interview to set the record straight.

Update: Others aren’t as satisfied as Hugh Hewitt is. I emailed Bennett last night, asking him to release the entire transcript. No response as yet.

God on the Quad

Here’s a story on Naomi Schaefer Riley, whose book I’ve almost finished reviewing. Short version: interesting, occasionally provocative, but also flawed. Read Touchstone in a couple of months for the final version.

John O’Neill

This interview with John O’Neill, of Swift Boat Veterans for Bush fame, is very much worth reading. I remember O’Neill from the early seventies when, as a young man, he already went toe to toe with John Kerry. The character of neither man has changed, and O’Neill won. Honor is the subject of his story.  

Bush and Tocqueville

Yes, I’m channelling Ken Masugi, who calls our attention to this NYT article, about GWB’s references to Tocqueville. Here’s a nice bit from Robert P. George:

"Tocqueville latched right on to the idea that you can have a limited government that really works as long as you’ve got healthy institutions of civil society which perform character-shaping functions," said Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at the university, and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

"This is the idea behind the faith-based initiative," Mr. George said. "Bush wants to be an exponent of limited government but at the same time a compassionate conservative, because he’s interested in escaping the dilemma that links limited government with radical individualism. So Bush says that government just can’t retreat from the social sphere altogether; government must cooperate with the institutions of civil society in a kind of partnership that brings compassion to people in need."

Bumiller can’t resist giving a Bush critic the last word, quoting Bernard-Henri Levy in such a way as to indicate that both she and the stylish nouvelle philosophe don’t understand or don’t want to understand the transparent Texan.

Condi for president?

I saw Tim Russert press Secretary of State Rice last Sunday. He insisted that she give an airtight "no" to the question of whether she intends to run for president in 2008. I thought the thing was an embarrasment (for Russert). What’s the sense of doing this to a sitting Secretary of State who--quite naturally--will be in the position of being a candidate, even if she really is not interested? This is especially true if the Demos end up nominating Hillary, which I predict they must. What’s the point of forcing Condi to say no? Even is she were deeply interested, she couldn’t say so. After all, it may affect her current work, wouldn’t it. Yet, Russert pressed on. Foolish stuff, I thought.

Well, Wes Pruden notes that it doesn’t matter what she said, she left herself a way out. He’s right.

Scalia and natural law?

Michael McGough argues that Antonin Scalia may be morphing into Clarence Thomas, moving from a "hard positivist" position into one friendlier to natural law. This reverses the direction the influence is usually said to run. On the basis of his argument, I’m not sure that McGough has the natural law argument quite right. After all, natural law isn’t supposed to depend upon revelation, but rather upon the reason that God gave everyone. Or am I missing something?

The nanny state

run amok.

Listen to Ken Masugi

Ken will be interviewed by Laurie Morrow on True North Radio today. Ach, but it’s almost over, though you’ll be able to hear him online next week by going to this site next week, once the show has been archived.

Update: Here are Ken’s post-interview comments.

Social security reform "obituary"

Criticism all around from David Brooks.

Walmartyrdom

Ken Masugi called my attention to this WaPo article, describing Walmart’s interesting circumvention of local zoning regulations in Dunkirk, Maryland, which happens to be where my parents live. Ken’s argument, which makes some sense, is that the more regulation, the more room there is for legal cleverness, such as that displayed by the lawyers representing those simple down-home capitalists from small-town Arkansas.

Here’s another example of lawyerly cleverness, relayed in an email from my father, who has been very active in resisting Walmart’s blandishments:

What happened at the latest meeting was an eye-opener! The people representing Wal Mart were elitist, overbearing, abusive, and dictatorial. At one time the Faison representative accused us, the folks with the signs, of being"anti-everything, and (were) probably anti-gay and anti-black". After the meeting I had a heated discussion with this individual, calling his remarks way out of order.

There you have it: if you’re anti-Walmart, you’re also anti-black and anti-gay, not to mention anti-everything else (anti-American?). I should tell my local anti-Walmart insurgents (actually, they must be terrorists) that they’re racist and homophobic, which in
Cynthia McKinney territory (note to FEC: I don’t support her, so please don’t count this as a campaign contribution) ought to be sufficient to drive virtually everyone straight into Walmart’s arms.

Update: Lest you think that my father is some sort of liberal anti-capitalist (well, he was born in the Netherlands!), I can’t recall a time when he didn’t vote for a Republican (a record that extends back to the 1950s, and includes a few significant votes in California gubernatorial elections in the 1960s).

Are you surprised?

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled today that "it appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners." What say our Claremont friends?

Update: For now, just this, but I am, as they say, morally certain that there’s more to come.

Demonstrations in Lebanon

Another huge anti-Syrian demonstration in Lebanon.
It will be interesting if this largest ever anti-Syria demonstration will be played up in both the MSM and the Arab press. The stimates are 200,000 and way above.

WaPo editor speaks to People’s Daily

Via award-winning Powerline, here’s an interview that WaPo managing editor Philip Bennett gave to Beijing’s People’s Daily. I won’t repeat Big Trunk’s quotations, but will call your attention to a telling juxtaposition. Here’s what Bennett says about WaPo coverage of the U.S. in Iraq:

Yong Tang: How do you think of the roles American mainstream media play in American foreign policy?

Bennett: We have a little bit different roles in newspapers compared with our counterparts in Europe and other countries. We don’t have any political point of view that we are trying to advance. We don’t represent any political parties. We are not tied to any political movement. On the news side of the paper we try not to give opinions. So I think the role the Washington Post should play is to hold the government accountable for decisions made by it.

This goes to foreign policy as well. For example, the Washington Post has a correspondent bureau in Baghdad. One of the jobs of our correspondents in Baghdad is to tell our readers what the Bush administration is trying to hide. Bush says democracy is advancing in Iraq, but our correspondents say the situation there is much more complex than that. Our job is to put that in the public domain and challenge the government and hold them accountable. We do that by having independent reporting about events, by telling our readers what the actual situation is, with as much independence, fairness and accuracy as we can.

Often that is in conflict with the government. That is why we are having a lot of pressure from the government, though not in the materials ways. We receive a lot of criticism from the government for presenting views of events which are in odds with what they are trying to present. This is very important in our system and it is one of the fundemental roles of the press.

We have seen that similar roles of the press are developing in China as media expose corruption. In any system corrupt officials are trying to cover bad things up. We may look at the press coverage of issues like SARS epidemic. At the very beginning there were efforts to cover things up. But then the news came out everywhere through the press and even the textmessaging. Then the government was forced to admit what happened. This role is quite similar with the role we are trying to play here in the United States.

Of course, we have a lot of limitations on our ability to do that. The government of the US is becoming much more secretive, much more hostile to the press in terms of giving us access to the information. So a lot of what we do here is to fight for access to the information that we think the public should have. That takes a lot of our energy and resources.

And more:

Yong Tang: But my sense is that the Washington Post is not as aggressive as it was. One example is also about the coverage of the Iraq war. Before the war started, the Post published a lot of stories saying that Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destructions(WMD). Of course this claim was found to be wrong. Late last year Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. even apologized that the Post should have published more stories from the opposite side.

Bennett: Again I think it is very important to go back to the division between the editorial side and news side of our newspaper. Our editorial page expressed opinions in favor of the war in Iraq. That has no influence on the news gathering part of the newspaper.

Where the news gathering part of the Post failed was to be sufficiently skeptical about the administration’s claims that there are weapons of mass destructions in Iraq. We never reported that there were weapons of mass destructions in Iraq. We just repeated what the government said and we did not dig hard enough to challenge those statements. That was what Downie apologized for.

As you said, we are not aggressive enough in challenging and testing the statements the government is making. For me, this episode is a good example of how difficult it is to independently verify the government’s claims when the government is lying to you. The newspaper is incapable of going to Iraq and find out for itself whether it has WMD or not. The closest that we may come is to report very closely on the UN’s effort to determine if the regime has WMD in Iraq. But in the run-up to the war in Iraq, the UN is very close to US administration’s view that there was a high probability that Iraq has WMD. We have reported that too.

This is an example of how difficult it is to get the truth on these types of subjects. If George W Bush came out tomorrow and say Iran has nuclear weapons, we would have to report that too. We have no independent means to verify the accuracy of the statement TODAY. As the time goes on, we are able to do some reporting to show how accurate that statement is. In gengeral we are in a difficult period to report on national security issues.

In other ways the Post is still very aggressive. You may read about a story of the insurgents in Iraq last week. It is very prominently placed on our newspaper and we did it very aggressively, trying to tell the inside of Iraq as much as we can. In some areas we have done better and in some other areas we have not done as well as we could. Everyone learns some lessons from the prewar coverage of Iraq. We learned that we are not as aggressive as we should be.

Here’s what Bennett says about the Post’s coverage of China:

Yong Tang: The Washington Post often describes China as a dictator communist regime without democracy and freedom. Why is the newspaper so fond of playing with such negative words?

Bennett: I disagree with that. First of all, Neither The Washington Post, nor the New York Times, nor any other big newspapers, refer to China today as a dictatorship regime. We don’t use these words on the paper any more. Now we say China is a communist country only because it is a fact. China is ruled by the Communist party.

On the contrary, we are trying to understand the complexity of China. We stayed last year in China writing many long stories about the civil society in China, about Internet, about workers, about disputes between the state and individuals over certain things. Those stories showed how complex China is.

There are many things happening now in China. Sometimes it is extraordinarily contradictory because it is a big country and it is a country which includes many many things happening at the same time. You have economic development which has put more people out of poverty over a short period of time than any other country in the world in human history. At the same time you have a single party state which dominates almost most aspects of civil society. I was in China last year to interview Primer Wen Jiabao and other Chinese officials. The top leaders of your country have spoken very often about these contradictions. How Chinese leaders will resolve them is something the whole world is waiting to see.

And more:

Yong Tang: But it seems to me that the Washington Post stories about China are still focused on such things like political dissidents?

Bennett: No, it is not true. If You look at all the stories published on the major newspapers about China last year, you would find the widest variety of stories of any time since US journalists were allowed back in China. We used never to have correspondents in China who can speak Mandarin very well. Now every major correspondent in China speak Mandarin. Our correspondents used to be in Beijing all the time. But now they travel much more. In the past the party congress is the center of journalism, but today it is no longer the center for our reporters. We are more interested in the environment, the students, the business, the corruption and all sorts of different issues. The coverage of China is becoming more and more complex.

When I became the Assistant Managing Editor for foreign news, which was the job I had before, the Post has one correspondent in China while we have three in Russia. Today we have one correspondent in Russia while we have three in China. So the importance of China is very much present. I think it is even more present to American media than to the American government, which is so dominated by Iraq and terrorism.

After all, the presence of Washington Post in China is still small. We have only three correspondents in China, a country with a population of 1.3 billion. We are trying to do our best.

Yong Tang: So you think the Post’s coverage of China is objective and balanced?

Bennett: In general, yes. Does the coverage see everything from the perspective of Chinese government? No. I think there are periods in which US government or political figures go through the moments of China bashing or very negative talking about China. But the media is more balanced than that. I don’t think we are running after those negative issues. We are trying to see the big picture, not the little points of disputes.


In other words, "complexity" requires a nuanced view of China but an almost wholly anti-government view of events in Iraq. The WaPo will cover "good news" about developments in China, but mostly "bad news" about developments in Iraq. If I had to defend Bennett here, I might say that he was trying to teach his interviewer about the adversarial role of journalists (something his question about WaPo coverage of China suggests he has a long way to go before learning). I might also argue on Bennett’s behalf that we can expect the government to broadcast the good news, so there’s less need for journalists to ferret that out and report it.

But given the generalized mistrust of government that journalists seem to cultivate and to communicate to their readers, they actually seem to work to obstruct the possibility of achieving a balanced view. We’re supposed to be highly skeptical of government claims (after all, they’re self-serving), but not so much of journalistic claims (after all, there is a rigorous editorial vetting that goes on). If it weren’t for
Arthur Chrenkoff we wouldn’t have a "fair and balanced" view of what’s going on in Iraq. By the way, is anyone sure that Chrenkoff isn’t being paid handsomely by the Bush Administration (a joke, by the way, in case you’re a humor-impaired reader)?

Democrats, out of gas

Michael Barone, in amere two pages, distills the Democrats’ problems. He says they have run out of gas, not only on issues of policy ("stuck in concrete" on Social Security), but they are, as TNR’s Martin Peretz says, "bookless." Read it all.  

Condi: "I won’t run in 2008"

On various news programs this weekend, Condi Rice says: "I won’t run in 2008".

No Condi, no Jeb, no Cheney.

"Foreign" Cars

According to this article from the Detroit News, Marine reservists may no longer park in the United Auto Workers’ lot if they "are driving foreign cars or displaying pro-President Bush bumper stickers." (In fairness to the UAW, however, the article also notes that the union is building a residential home for children of veterans who have lost their parents.)

This raises an interesting question: what constitutes a "foreign car"? I assume they are referring to vehicles that are not made by an American corporation. That does not really qualify as "foreign," does it? Honda is a foreign-owned corporation, and employs roughly 16,000 workers just in the state of Ohio. General Motors is Mexico’s single largest private employer. Doesn’t the "foreign" vs. "domestic" distinction seem somewhat arbitrary under these circumstances? In fact, given the facts noted above, it is likely that the policy actually penalizes some Marines for driving cars that were produced in other Midwestern states.

Update: The UAW has changed its policy and is once again allowing Marines to use its lot regardless of the car’s origin or bumper stickers.   

Michael Steele with Brian Lamb

A kind reader has sent me the Brian Lamb interview with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele that I referred to the other day.
Thanks very much!

A different understanding of the Arab street

Thomas Friedman uses the recently established Qualified Industrial Zones in Egypt (established in an accord signed by the U.S., Egypt, and Israel) to make the case that creating economic opportunities--especially export-oriented opportunities from the private sector--is critical to advance democracy in the region.  

Bush thinks black

Stanley Crouch thinks about the GOP’s attempt to woo conservative and Christian blacks, and what that has to do with the civil rights establishment (which, he reminds us is not the same as the civil rights movement) and its attachment to the Democratic Party.

High tech looting in Iraq

A front page New York Times states that Iraqi authorities now think that, a few weeks after the war’s conclusion, "looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein’s most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms." I don’t know what to make of this long article, why the information was released now, or even whether it’s true. But, it should be filed because this is not the end of this issue.

Ghaddafi’s surrender

Los Angeles Times runs an article on why and how Libya’s Omar Ghaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program. There is some interesting stuff here, but (and no surprise) virtually no credit is given to the Bush administration.

Linsdsey Graham’s good idea on Social Security

Over the last few weeks I have been amused by the Democrats’ mantra that Bush’s attempt to reform Social Security is dead and that polls show that folks (especially over 55) are against any reform. Of course, the MSM has come to the aid of the Demos (no surprise here). I have always thought that this mode could not possibly last, that once the President got rolling, that once some serious folks in Congress started laying out their own proposals, the thing would tip and tip in favor of some reform which would, in the end, favor Bush’s push toward private accounts. Well,


George Will thinks that Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) idea to raise the current $90,000 limit on income subject to Social Security taxes is the thing that should tip it. While I suspect that this will only be one element in the push toward reform, it is a serious one and Will lays out very clearly why it is a good idea. Good writing.

More Fukuyama

Ken Masugi in the very same fecund post I just noted also calls our attention to Fukuyama’s NYT article on Max Weber. Here’s a taste:

It is worth looking more closely at how Weber’s vision of the modern world has panned out in the century since the publication of ’’The Protestant Ethic.’’ In many ways, of course, it has proved fatally accurate: rational, science-based capitalism has spread across the globe, bringing material advancement to large parts of the world and welding it together into the iron cage we now call globalization.

But it goes without saying that religion and religious passion are not dead, and not only because of Islamic militancy but also because of the global Protestant-evangelical upsurge that, in terms of sheer numbers, rivals fundamentalist Islam as a source of authentic religiosity. The revival of Hinduism among middle-class Indians, or the emergence of the Falun Gong movement in China, or the resurgence of Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia and other former Communist lands, or the continuing vibrancy of religion in America, suggests that secularization and rationalism are hardly the inevitable handmaidens of modernization.

Here’s his conclusion:

Weber’s ’’Protestant Ethic’’ was thus terrifically successful as a stimulus to serious thought about the relationship of cultural values to modernity. But as a historical account of the rise of modern capitalism, or as an exercise in social prediction, it has turned out to be less correct. The violent century that followed publication of his book did not lack for charismatic authority, and the century to come threatens yet more of the same. One must wonder whether it was not Weber’s nostalgia for spiritual authenticity -- what one might term his Nietzscheanism -- that was misplaced, and whether living in the iron cage of modern rationalism is such a terrible thing after all.

Ken takes him to task for not giving enough attention to contemporary Roman Catholicism. I’ll ask whether "the iron cage of modern rationalism" is the only possible political alternative to "charismatic authority" of the sort exercised by Lenin, Hitler, and Osama bin Laden.

Update: Let me add two more thoughts: Fukuyama argues that Western Europe is closest to being locked in the "iron cage" of rationalism, but doesn’t acknowledge that it’s also the most vulnerable to an Islamist takeover, not just because of its geographic proximity to the Middle East and North Africa. And the current U.S. commitment to the spread of "democracy," something on which Fukuyama happens at the moment to smile, is not simply born of our rationalism.

Shake-up/dust-up at the National Interest

Ken Masugi alerts us to this neo-con/realist conflict, which likely will give birth to a new foreign policy journal. Here’s Bill Kristol:

"My father said many times, the more journals, the better," he said. "Soon there are going to be more neoconservative magazines than there are neoconservatives."

I’m sure many readers of the NYT will be enjoying the spectacle. I’ll just be enjoying the new journal.

Powerblog on C-Span now

I just came home from the play, "Drop Dead," which was terrific, turned on C-Span and, lo and behold, John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson of Powerline are on talking about blogging. Have a look.

Zell Miller

Has a book coming out next month. The title? A Deficit of Decency. This is some of what’s on his mind.

Election 2004 again

This article argues that gay marriage referenda actually hurt the Bush campaign. Interesting, but hardly conclusive.

FEC and all that

As usual, Win Myers of the aptly named Democracy Project (just keep scrolling...and bookmark the site already!) has a number of interesting posts on the Politics Online conference (lots of links) and on campaign finance reform (also lots of links). Bottom line: John McCain and George Soros seem to want the same thing: "Free Speech for Me But Not for Thee".

Environmentalism is Dead?

The greens are going to feel pretty blue today then they read Nicholas Kristof dumping all over them in the New York Times. Some samples:

"The fundamental problem, as I see it, is that environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they’ve lost credibility with the public. . ."

" I was once an environmental groupie, and I still share the movement’s broad aims, but I’m now skeptical of the movement’s "I Have a Nightmare" speeches. . ."

"This record [of badly mistaken predictions] should teach environmentalists some humility. . . Jared Diamond argues that if we accept false alarms for fires, then why not for the health of our planet? But environmental alarms have been screeching for so long that, like car alarms, they are now just an irritating background noise. . ."

"There are many sensible environmentalists, of course, but overzealous ones have tarred the entire field. . . So it’s critical to have a credible, nuanced, highly respected environmental movement. And right now, I’m afraid we don’t have one.

Read the whole thing.

Mid-East notes

Victor Davis Hanson thinks we have travelled far since 9/11, and the trip is good. The Iraqi factions, about to establish a government, are making it perfectly clear that an Islamic republic will not be establisehd. The U.N. envoy, having met with Assad, says that the Syrian will pull out of Lebanon. He will give a full report on his meeting next week. Egyptian opposition leader has been released on bail. The Iraq Survey Group found that Egypt helped Iraq with its chemical weapons programs in the 1980’s. Hamas says that it will run candidates in the Palestinians elections in July. There was a pro Syria
rally in Gaza. The Europeans take a harder line against Iran, thereby getting American support.

"Hitler was great"

London Times interviewed Udo Voigt, leader of the German far-right National Party of Germany. He addresses rallies using the slogan: “We are everywhere.” They won 9% of the vote in Saxony. Polls suggest that 14% of Germans share his views.

Church and state in Georgia again

Teachers’ unions flexed their political muscle in Georgia again, defeating a measure that would ultimately have aligned the Georgia constitution’s religion provisions with those of the First Amendment. For more background, go here, here, here, and here. The provision isn’t totally dead, but Governor Sonny Perdue and the Republican leadership in the Senate haven’t succeeded in shifting any votes in the month since it first came up, and indeed seem to have lost a few votes.

The Giuliana Sgrena saga continues

Italian Justice Minister "urged former hostage Giuliana Sgrena on Friday to stop making ’careless’ accusations after being shot by US forces in Baghdad, saying she had already caused enough grief." Much of her story has been questioned from the start, and more and more questions continue to be raised. Charles Johnson has been following the developments from the beginning. Captain’s Quarters has also been following it.

Sarbanes to retire

Sen Paul Sarbanes, (D-MD), who has served 29 years in the Senate, has announced that he will not run for re-election. The Maryland Republicans should consider the current Lt. Governor, Michael Steele, as the most serious candidate. He is an impressive guy. Here is his official bio.
This is a speech he gave to the delegates at the GOP convention in August. I also saw an interview he did a few weeks ago on C-Span that was very good, but I can’t find it. If someone could find it, I would appreciate it (I’ll send you a NLT cup in return). Thanks.

Baseball and the weather

William Voegeli has a modest proposal for Bud Selig about where the opening games of the season (now three weeks and two days away, Thank God!) should take place and why. I like it.   

Another Canadian opinion on America

Not all Canadians are weird and petty, I know that (see a couple of posts below). A Canadian friend send along this David Warren (a Canadian) piece which explains why he likes Americans so much. Even if you are an American--maybe especially if you are an America--you should read this lovely essay. Thank you David.   

Ward Churchill’s plagiarism

There have been rumors about Ward Churchill’s plagiarism, but now Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia has sent to the University of Colorado an internal report back in 1997 in which they accuse Ward Churchill of plagiarism. (Thanks to NRO).

U.S. strategic thinking

Belmont Club has some thoughtful comments on U.S. strategic thinking. Follow the few links, especially to this one.
But also see this by John Lewis Gaddis

Sartre and his Gauloise

I was spoon fed existentialism (meaning only Sartre and Camus) when I was in college (thought Camus better by far even then). It became deadly boring very quickly. But I was always struck by the great photo of Jean-Paul Sartre with his cigarette. Very cool, very chic, very fier. One of the only interesting things he ever said was this: "Smoking is the symbolic equivalent of destructively appropriating the entire world." Well, in anniversary of his 100th birthday the Bibliothèque Nationale de France has airbrushed the cigarette from the famous photo. Perfect historical revisionism of the Soviet or post-modern form, take your pick. By the way, he smoked Gauloise, which is what I smoked for most of the time I lived in Europe. It was by far the cheapest smike, until I discovered the Bulgarian Plovdiv cigarrete on a trip to the East. They only cost about three cents a pack in those days; came back to Munich with two full suitcases of the stuff; lasted almost a year. Wretchard has a few more thoughts on this.

Canadian MP on America

This
is interesting: "A Canadian member of Parliament charged with improving ties with the United States apologized on Thursday for saying "let’s embarrass the hell out of the Americans in front of other countries". The MP who said this is parliamentray secretary for Canada-U.S. Relations.

Richest in the world

The Forbes list of the richest men in the world is out for this year. Bill Gates still heads the list. Here is a story on Forbes’ list of the richest Americans.
And here
is the whole list. The thing that has always impressed me about such lists (especially the richest Americans) is how much movement there is off the list and new people on the list. Very impressive. As my father used to say when he spotted a very rich person: "This is a great country, and that man is proof of it." Only once did I need to ask what he meant. "Because he could become so wealthy without hurting or killing anyone. In other places and older days that was not the case. I love this country."

The environment: left behind?

Some of you might have noticed the rather long-winded exchange in my most recent post on evangelical environmentalism. Perhaps some of the matters can be clarified by taking a look at what Tim LaHaye, author of the best-selling "Left Behind" series, has to say about environmentalism. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read a single "Left Behind" book.) Here’s LaHaye on "Larry King Live":

KING: Why, Reverend LaHaye, haven’t evangelicals been more outspoken about the environment?

T. LAHAYE: Because we believe that the environment was made for us. And not us for the environment. There’s a big cultural chasm in our country today. For example we have people who get out of shape if a whale is beached and they want to blame the U.S. Navy and sonar investigation and so on and yet they don’t mind 45 billion babies being murdered in the name of abortion in the last few years. I can’t understand why animals...

KING: But if we’ve got dirty air we might all not be here. Shouldn’t that be a prime concern?

T. LAHAYE: But we don’t have the dirty air that we did 20 years ago, right here in Los Angeles. You don’t have near as much dirty...

KING: You think we’re doing a good job with... T. LAHAYE: I think we’re improving. We could probably do better. And we Christians are not against clean air and clean water and preserving proper life. But we ought to have our values in priority. And we believe that human beings are more important than animals.

Now, he doesn’t seem to be advocating permitting big oil to drill in ANWR so that credulous red-staters can drive their SUV’s to sensitive wetlands, where they unload their ATV’s so that they can shoot all the deer and drink all the beer before the Apocalypse.

And just so that there’s no misunderstanding: I am not advocating driving or hunting under the influence. In fact, I personally do not own a gun, an SUV, or an ATV. (Indeed, my son, then seven, once had a conversation with a little boy at the Gulf Coast condo at which we were staying that ended, dismissively: "He don’t know what a four-wheeler is.") Soon, I suppose, they’ll deport me from the red state in which I live.

New blog on Ohio politics

Right Angle is a new blog focusing on Ohio politics. It looks like it will be worth paying attention to, especially considering that there will be a real GOP primary (rare for Ohio) for the governor’s race in the Fall of 2006. Ken Blackwell, Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery are running. 

Presidential Poll

For what it is worth, here is the latest 2008 Presidential Poll from the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The top five Democrats in the Poll are: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden and Wesley Clark. The top five Republicans are Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Condi Rice, Jeb Bush, and, drumroll, Newt Gingrich.

McCain beats Hillary by 12 points in a head-to-head match up.

If Jeb is included in the poll, they should have included Dick Cheney.

What’s left of the religious left?

Amy Sullivan wants liberal Protestants to imitate their conservative brethren and find an authentically religious voice:

While their conservative counterparts were setting aside differences to focus on a single mission, members of the religious left -- no longer following the guiding cause of civil rights -- lost their way, dispersing their attention over what seemed like 87 different policy issues and busying themselves with internal denominational battles over female ordination and other debates. Many well-intentioned members of the religious left, not wanting to be associated with the nascent Christian right, filtered religion out of their rhetoric and secularized some of their appeals. The more vocal groups like the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority became, the more religious liberals withdrew from public view.

The parting gift the religious left gave Christian conservatives was an uncontested public square. Years before the religious right had the membership numbers to match its boasts of political influence, it was winning debates simply by controlling the agenda and cornering the market on religious authority. Richard Parker, who teaches religion and politics at the Kennedy School of Government, believes that the religious left simply forgot about a crucial part of its mission. "The Catholic Church believed it needed to learn how to articulate for its members faith-based reasons for action, and to frame arguments for the public square in ways that did not directly derive from church teaching," he says. "Mainline Protestants [who form the bulk of the religious left] lost the first habit, and only carried out the second." Those members of the religious left that did remain politically active often seemed like caricatures of left-wing activists, agitating to save baby seals, Arctic wildlife, third-world orphans with only the faintest of biblical appeals marshaled on their behalf. While religious groups were some of the most vocal opponents of the recent war in Iraq, their unique voices got lost within a sea of peace slogans. More damningly, to the extent that the religious left continued to exist, it became tied in the public’s mind with secularists. "The positions of the religious left and secularists on crucial questions seem indistinguishable," says Joseph Loconte of the Heritage Foundation. "And that hurts them politically."

And here’s the kicker:

The religious left, on the other hand, hasn’t seen any need to build separate institutions because its members already have outlets for political involvement. The average religious liberal doesn’t need to go to church to get involved with political issues; she goes down the street to her local ACLU’s meeting or to a MeetUp or joins a letter-writing campaign through her teacher’s union. Her commitment to politics may be driven by her religious beliefs, but the connection is never made explicit. A religious conservative, on the other hand, spends more of his time at his local church and is more naturally drawn to activism through that community of congregants.

In other words, it’s much easier to see what’s left of the religious left than to see what’s religious. If a conservative odor is enough to drive you away from a position, then your liberalism or leftism would seem to be more salient than your religiosity. There are noteworthy exceptions, like
Stephen L. Carter, who recognizes that shared faith is a bond more important than any merely political position. The test I would pose to Ms. Sullivan is whether she can imagine a Biblically-based position that conservatives have gotten right. I’ve read lots of her stuff (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), but I can’t remember her ever offering any sort of warm fuzzies regarding conservative religious positions. So, Amy, will you ante up?

Hat tip: Get Religion.

Update: Here’s a helpful and pointed summary of Sullivan’s argument.

Evangelical environmentalism again

Here’s the latest, via The Revealer. We’ve discussed this before here, here, and here. Lest you think that the National Association of Evangelicals is about to get into bed with the Sierra Club, here’s Ted Haggard, President of the NAE: "We want to be pro-business environmentalists."

And lest we forget the zany Bill Moyers angle in all this, about which more
here, as well as in the posts linked above, this NYT article pretty much undercuts--if they really needed it--the silliest and most sinister elements of Moyers’s "new and improved" NYRB argument. Now, if only the folks at
The Revealer would put two and two together, or rather take two and two apart:

more important is Moyers’ implied argument about why there’s no need for such a neat connection between the anti-environmentalism of the fundamentalists and that of run-of-the-mill big business. Whether or not the White House is talking Revelation, many of those who helped elect Bush are. But in either case, this conflation of ideology with theology leads down the very same path. Talk of Bush following "God’s master plan," writes Moyers, "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."

According to The Revealer’s people in New York, the good people of Kansas are still victims of false consciousness.

Why the Democratic Party no longer needs the Democratic Leadership Council

The Nation--representing the hard-left of the Democratic Party--beats up on the moderates in the party, especially the Democratic Leadership Council. Yet, they think that even the DLC is now being forced to move Left. They explain why this is so. Very revealing article. Although it is not the intention of the authors, by reading this piece you will learn why the Demos will remain the minority party.   

The Party of "No"

Andrew Busch explains that the Democrats are in trouble over their intransigence on Bush’s Social Security proposals (it is not yet a plan). Andy is right, the Demos attitude is exactly what the Republicans should want; it’s as if Karl Rove had set the whole thing up...Oh, never mind. We don’t have to go that far. A sample, but read the whole thing.  

The more ferocious and undifferentiated—and the more unfair—Democratic criticisms become, the more likely it is that they will have the effect of healing Republican divisions and unifying the GOP behind the President. Media accounts have almost uniformly stressed how important it is for Republicans to attract some Democratic votes—that is to say, how much Republicans need Democratic disunity on this issue. What those accounts have almost uniformly ignored is that, since the Republicans are in the majority, Democrats need Republican disunity even more than Republicans need Democratic disunity. The Democratic attack strategy is virtually guaranteed to drive Republicans closer together, rather than farther apart.

Liberal education: telling the story

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had university presidential candidates on campus. They’ve told us that one of the things we need to do is tell our story compellingly, making the contemporary case for liberal education in a traditional residential liberal arts college setting. I’ve been on something of a tear about this myself, co-leading an honors seminar on liberal education, offering a senior seminar on liberal education and political philosophy, and writing a couple of articles prompted by John Seery’s fine and fun America Goes to College. Seery, by the way, will be speaking at Berry College on March 31st and here at Oglethorpe on April 1st (no jokes please). I’m also gearing up to lead a faculty development seminar on liberal education this summer. So I’ve been thinking about how to tell our story.

In that connection, yesterday’s senior seminar was interesting. Our text was Alan Ryan’s Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education, which I find frustratingly diffuse in its argumentation. Ryan makes a distinction between liberal education as education for life in a liberal society and "liberal-education," understood as the classical education of gentlemen for leisure and leadership (what Bruce Kimball would call liberal education in the "oratorical" tradition). Ryan argues that while the latter has no necessary connection to the former (that is, traditional liberal education is just as consistent with life in a religiously-tinged aristocracy), it nevertheless is the case that some form of it--producing Benjamin Barber’s "aristocracy of everyone"--is appropriate for a pluralistic liberal society.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell. Liberal education (in Ryan’s sense) is supposed to teach "toleration, open-mindedness, and an ability to argue for [students’] own views without resorting to coercive measures," all of which are (arguably) attributes we’d like to see in our fellow citizens. This can be accomplished, it would seem, more by the manner of presenting a curriculum than by any particular curricular content. You need seminars, rather than lectures, and a relatively small collegiate community, so that students encounter one another on multiple occasions and in multiple settings, rather than being able to hide behind the anonymity of large classes and a large campus population. Seery, by the way, would probably assent to a large portion of this, adding an emphasis on the importance of understanding this community in a non-instrumental fashion and a recognition that there are also extracurricular settings in which these virtues are developed (his favorites seem to be intramural basketball teams and jazz bands).

But Ryan does offer this concession to the advocates of "liberal-education":

There is perhaps...a case for insisting that everyone should take a program of general studies focused on history, literature, philosophy, and science.... I have some doubt whether colleges and universities can do very much to instill virtues that parents have failed to instill, but it is possible that they can do something to get students to perceive the implications of the moral ideals they have acquired. It would at the very least do something to reduce the number of young people who appear to live wholly solipsistically, utterly unanchored in their own time and place.

What he seems to have in mind here is the feature of democratic life that Tocqueville called "individualism," the withdrawal of individuals into small domestic circles largely unconnected and unconcerned with the wider world around them. Our students display great cleverness, technical facility, and native intelligence. They can address or solve any task or problem we put before them, as Ross Douthat suggests was true of his fellow Harvard undergraduates. But there is no sense that they have a history, a tradition, a larger time and place to which they belong (and of which they are the unacknowledged and unself-conscious products). If they are not inducted into a tradition of compelling questions and compelling answers, if they are not helped to see the larger whole of which they are but a small part, they are only accidentally members of any particular community. Without this sort of education, they are not capable of giving what we call "informed consent" to their membership and hence they’re not really free.

So Ryan is right: "liberal-education" is particularly appropriate as a preparation for life in what he understands to be a liberal society, but there’s more. Genuine liberation, which is the intellectual result of this sort of education (when it "takes"), is possible at any time and in any place. (Consider, in this connection, Reading Lolita in Tehran.)

Update: Welcome, Conservative Philosopher and Insider Higher Ed readers! Take a look at some of the other posts on this lively (and, in my case only, long-winded) site.

Ramirez Cartoon

Henry Clay and his horses

We, of course, know Henry Clay as either the "Great Compromiser," or, as Lincoln described the man as "him whom, during my whole political life, I have loved and revered as a teacher and a leader." (1861) Or, as Mr. Lincoln put it, in a debate with Douglas: "Henry Clay, my beau ideal of a statesman, the man for whom I fought all my humble life." (1858) Anyway, it turns out that
Henry Clay had some good horses at Ashland. The blood of his two foundation mares and his foundation stallion pulsed through the veins of not less than 12 Kentucky Derby winners. I didn’t know that. Thanks to Jay.

UPDATE: A number of people have written me about my reference to Ashland. They thought I was being clever. I was, but not the way they think. Ashland, in Lexington, Kentucky, is the name of Henry Clay’s estate. Also my city in Ohio is called Ashland. My Ashland was originally named Uniontown, and was renamed Ashland in 1822 because Henry Clay was their hero. So Ashland in Ohio is named after Clay’s estate in Kentucky. I have explained all this here.

Cuban insanity continues

Fidel Castro has announced--in a speech lasting over five hours!--that he will make available to all Cubans pressure cookers and rice steamers, in an attempt to control the economy even more so than he now does. This is an attempt to overcome (Castro) "the errors, deviations and confusions" in economic planning of the recent past.

You see, home made pressure cookers are five times less expensive than the ones folks can buy in stores, so that’s what they buy. Ergo, Castro will make avaliable 100,000 imported pressure cookers each month at the price of the home made ones. There is no reason for any initiative or private production to go on now, is there? Read the whole of this AP dispatch, and note that what little private enterprize there has been allowed in recent years, will end. Why? Note this:

Cuba was forced to allow some private business beginning in the mid-1990s amid an economic crisis in the years after the withdrawal of Soviet aid and trade. Those modest reforms were seen as temporary, but necessary, evils. But after a slow recovery, recent discoveries of oil deposits off Cuba’s coast and economic alliances with Venezuela and China, Castro clearly believes the island is strong enough to return to a more centralized economy.

Did you note that Venezuela has something to do with this. You should. See this and this.

Hezbollah and Syria

The Belmont Club has some interesting observations on what is likely to happen in Lebanon. Read the whole thing, good links. This is his last paragraph:

Yet the fear of a civil war must extend to Hezbollah and Syria themselves because they are objectively far weaker in 2005 than they were in 1975. There is no guarantee that Syria and Hezbollah would emerge victorious from a full-scale civil war and every probability they would lose it, so why start something in which you are bound to be beaten? To use a cinematic metaphor, although Nasrallah [Hezbollah’s leader] has strolled all the way down Main Street and struck a pose, he hasn’t made a move for his gun. Time was he would have cleared leather; what’s different is this time is he’s not so sure he’s the fastest draw in town. My own instinct is that unless a series of unfortunate incidents throws things out of control, no one will be particularly anxious to start fighting. Syria may have made a fundamental miscalculation in playing the Hezbollah card because it puts Damascus’ future in Lebanon in Nasrallah’s hands. One wonders if the older Assad would have done this. If -- and I have no idea how -- Hezbollah can be convinced to double-cross Syria by showing them that direction has no future, Boy Assad will be up the creek without a paddle. What do you mean we kemo sabe?

The John Bolton nomination

Senate minority leader Harry Reid is hopping mad about the John Bolton nomination to be our ambassador to the U.N.
I also note without comment that Al Jazeerah is not pleased.
Interestingly, even Jacob Heilbrunn thinks it may be a good idea to put someone in that position: "In fact, there is a rich GOP tradition of appointing critics of the U.N. as ambassadors to that body, a tradition that has proved remarkably effective." He cites Daniel Patrick Moynihan as an exmaple of someone who was critical of the UN. "Moynihan did not just display contempt for the U.N., he flaunted it."
And he got much accomplished. The New York Sun applauds the nomination. In fact they thought of it a few months ago.

Judicial Nominations

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has an excellent article today discussing judicial nominations and the use of the filibuster. In my view, the Plain Dealer hits the nail right on the head:


The privilege of talking an issue literally to death is not granted to senators in the Constitution. It’s a rule of the Senate, which the Senate may change at will . . . . Restoring some self-discipline in the judiciary - starting right at the top - is far more important to the country’s future than preserving the filibuster rule in the Senate.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for February

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Colin Benbow

Gary Mauer

Paulette Layton

Bill Bayne

Ken Limmer

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter March’s drawing.

Golf and character

I had made a comment on the Woods-Mickelson event a few days ago. A thoughtful reader sent this:

On your posting on Tiger Woods vs. Phil M. Yes, good stuff. Someone once said that golf doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Very much like boxing. Boxers, of course, undergo direct physical risk, but if you’ve heard them talk, that’s not what scares them. It’s the fear of being exposed, of having one’s manhood stripped away in front of the world -- not because one might be beaten, but because of disgrace in how one was beaten. You can’t hide in a ring surrounded by 20,000 people. Or on a golf course surrounded by as many people, with millions watching on TV.

Golf ain’t quite up to that, but you must admire it when two gentlemen dignify themselves by how well they play and how well they behave, as at Doral. If you’ve played much golf, you’ll understand the amazing pressures, even in a meaningless game among friends, to play poorly and act even worse. It’s not completely stupid for businessmen to want to play golf with potential partners. You discover also that some players like Tiger just have "it" -- virtu, fortuna, whatever. The gods seem to be with them, or rather they seem to command the gods when it really matters.

President Bush Endangers Women

According to Hillary Clinton, President Bush endangers the lives of women.

Read about that here.

Interesting Statistics

From the pages of the latest Atlantic, here are some fascinating numbers to ponder:

For every 15-point increase in IQ score above the average, a woman’s likelihood of marrying declines by nearly 60 percent. It isn’t clear, however, whether this is the result of men being intimidated by bright women, or of smart women being less willing to put up with us.

"Every 10 percent increase in the excise tax on beer reduces the gonorrhea rate by 4.7 percent among males aged fifteen to nineteen, and by 4.1 percent among those aged twenty to twenty-four." Yes, folks, those beer goggles have now been statistically proven to work.

Within traditional (i.e, pre-industrial) societies, those that tend to be more violent (as measured by homicide rates) also have a higher percentage of people who are left-handed. "Among the Dioula people of Burkina Faso, for instance, the homicide rate is just 0.013 murders per thousand inhabitants per year, and left-handers make up only 3.4 percent of the population. In contrast, the more warlike Yanomamo of the Venezuelan rain forest have a homicide rate of four per thousand per year, and southpaws compose roughly 23 percent of their population."

The inimitable Krauthammer

Is at it again. Read the whole thing. Here’s a taste to whet your appetite:

Why now? Because until now the forces of decency in the region were alone and naked, cynically ignored by an outside world content to deal with their oppressors. Then comes America, not just proclaiming democratic liberation as its overriding foreign policy principle but sacrificing blood and treasure in the service of precisely that principle.

It was not people power that set this in motion. It was American power. People power followed. Which is why the critics of the Bush doctrine take refuge in a second Bush-free explanation. They locate the reason for this astonishing Arab spring, if not in people power from below, then in rot from above. These superannuated dictatorships, we are now told, were fossilized and frail, already wobbly and ready to fall, just waiting to be undone by the slightest challenge.

Interesting. If the rot was always there, why is it that these critics never said so before? They never suggested that we challenge these wobbly despots? In fact, they bitterly denounced the Bush doctrine for presuming to destabilize the region in pursuit of some democratic chimera?


  

Mansfield on manliness

Via Powerline, winner of yet another award (deservedly so), here’s a foretaste of Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.’s long-awaited book on manliness.

Teddy Roosevelt and manliness

The March issue of The New Criterion has a very fine article by

Harvey Mansfield on the manliness of Theodore Roosevelt. It is part of his forthcoming book,
"A Modest Defense of Manliness", which will be published next year. I have been teaching TR recently and this essay is very useful and rather convincing, and of course, reveals my imperfections in thinking it through. TR’s virtues--and flaws if you like--are well revealed in this piece. This is a must read.

Nothing was more obvious than Roosevelt’s manliness because he made such a point of it not only in his own case but also as necessary for human progress. It was being a progressive that made him so eager to be manly. Here is gristle to chew for liberals and conservatives, both of whom—except for the feminists—have abandoned manliness mostly out of policy rather than abhorrence.

UPDATE: Only after posting did I notice that Joe also brought this article to your attention, but because I think it very important, I’ll leave mine up as well. The Mansfield piece is a must read. Students should pay special attention. We will spend some time on this.

The FEC and the blogosphere

If you haven’t been following the brouhaha over the Federal Election Commission’s mumblings and rumblings about regulating political speech on the internet, go to Democracy Project and just keep scrolling. Win Myers has been all over this issue.

Anne Applebaum on John Bolton

Here’s a very nice defense of the nominee. A taste:

Bolton -- whom I’ve met but don’t know well -- is blunt, which is an advantage in an institution where words are more often used to disguise meanings than to elucidate. He is unafraid of being disliked, which will be an advantage in a place where everyone will dislike him. In the past he has been unafraid of arguing his points, even in Europe, where they are deeply unpopular. Most of all, though, Bolton, who has been writing about the United Nations for decades, is one of the few people in public life willing to draw the distinction between what the United Nations actually is and what everybody would like it to be.

Another:

The trouble with many U.N. defenders is that they refuse to see this fundamental problem, and demand a constantly expanding role for the United Nations without explaining how its lack of democratic accountability is to be addressed. The trouble with many U.N. detractors, in Congress and elsewhere, is that they see the corruption and nothing else. But there is a role for U.N. institutions -- in Afghanistan, or in international health -- as long as that role is limited in time and cost. And there is a desperate need for U.N. reform. In defense of John Bolton: He may, if he can get confirmed, be one of the few U.N. ambassadors who has thought a good deal about how to set such limits and make such reforms. And if he isn’t invited to a few cocktail parties along the way, at least he won’t mind.

Read the whole thing.

Religion

Religion and the Founding

Joseph Knippenberg blogged recently in praise of an article by Michael Novak and Christopher Levenick on "Religion and the Founders." At the beginning of the article Novak and Levenick criticize someone for having said that "[o]ur nation was founded not on Christian principles, but on Enlightenment ones." In response they write:

"What a strange distinction! It certainly would have been foreign to the Founders, who thought the moral precepts of Christian faith indispensable to the survival of the infant republic. And it's a distinction that remains foreign to the vast majority of Americans today."

This claim is insupportable. Most of the founders believed that a reasonable or civil religion was necessary for good government but this was not revealed religion and certainly not "the moral precepts of Christian Faith." The civil religion most Founders thought important for politics did without the first four of the ten commandments.

Toward the end of their article, Novak and Levenick return to this point:

"Every single one of the Founders believed that, at the level of both individual morality and public policy, the demands of reason and of revelation powerfully reinforce one another. They understood that with respect to the ultimate questions -- the creation of the universe, the purpose of human existence, and the hope of life after death -- faith and philosophy might differ. In the practical world they inhabited, however, the Founders believed that both Socrates and Jesus enjoined their followers to accord all persons truth, justice, and charity."

It is true that on the surface some of the dictates of reason and some of the dictates of revealed religion overlap but this does not mean that the United States was founded on the dictates of revealed religion or Christianity. On the contrary, Washington appears to have been indifferent to revealed religion and Jefferson and Franklin were hostile to it. But we can look beyond the Founders to judge the religious character of the founding. At the time of the Founding perhaps no more than 20% of Americans belonged to a Church. America became a Christian nation and religious after the Founding. Church membership increased throughout the nineteenth-century. The figure for Church membership today is several times higher than it was at the Founding.

This last point is worth pondering. It leads one to suspect that, precisely because America is now more Christian and religious than it was at its founding, some people feel the need to make the Founding appear more Christian and religious than it was.

Finally, I would like to note that on the profound difference between reason and revelation with regard to questions of morality and the foundations of politics, a wonderful guide is Thomism and Aristotelianism: A Study of the Commentary by Thomas Aquinas on the Nicomachean Ethics by Harry Jaffa. The epigraph of the book is a quote from Winston Churchill: "It is baffling to reflect that what men call honour does not correspond always to Christian ethics."

Categories > Religion

Lebanon poll

Zogby has done some polling in Lebanon, for what its worth. Because Zogby is explicitly sceptical about the Bush Doctrine, you have to read more carefully into the poll than just the first few paragraphs. He released the poll yesterday before the large Hizbollah pro-Syria demonstrations, which explains his scepticism about demonstrations, i.e., the anti-Syria demonstrations that preceded yesterday’s. The poll is divided into religious/ethnic groups. Lebanon is about 60% Muslim (both Shiite and Sunni, and others), almost 40% Christian. See the CIA Factbook.

Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima

For those of us who miss the Duke, there is always Eastwood. John Vincour (International Herald Tribune) talks to Clint Eastwood about his next movie, to be released in 2006, based on "The Flags of Our Fathers." Vincour gets all sophisticated, but Eastwood clarifies:

"This is about the spirit of those guys who fought and a whole country behind them and what happened. No delayed-stress syndrome classes. It’s something people should know about now. But it’s part of an America that people doubt is still there."

It’s perfectly clear that Eastwood is smarter than the person doing the interview, that he didn’t vote for Kerry, and....well, just read it. Revealing. No Pasaran! has a few comments.  

John Bolton to the U.N.

You’ve got to hand it to Bush, he continues to surprise everyone. He goes to Europe, does more or less what had to be done and then lined up everyone on Lebanon. He surprised. Now he proposes that John Bolton, a stand up sort of character who has always been very hard on the UN, as our ambassador to the UN. This will give the Dems an opportunity to obstruct and to clarify their lack of thought on foreign policy issues. Foreigners are also, somewhat diplomatically, being critical. Perhaps this guy from Syria, identified as a political analyst in Damascus, is a bit less diplomatic: "This is an extremely bad message that Bush has submitted to the neo-conservatives. They should have a more moderate figure representing them at the United Nations, but instead they have one of the most radical."

No Lincoln Day dinners in So. Carolina

I just heard this on CNN. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said this: "We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina. It’s nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things." Usually this stuff isn’t charming, but this one is.

More anti-religious hysteria

Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg offers some commentary on this op-ed, which equates Wahhabi Muslim extremists with Christian conservatives. If you wish to submit yourself to a longer and even more tiresome version of the same argument, you can go here.

Rather than belabor the whole piece, I’ll restrict myself to a couple of observations. First, there’s the now-hackneyed observation that there are multiple versions of the Ten Commandments, which is supposed to be an argument against their public display. If governments all over the country acquiesce in the display of different versions of the Ten Commandments, in some cases noting their variety and variability, then how could this be establishment? Not only, of course, is there no coercion involved, but the very plurality of displays militates against any exclusivity.

Of course, the most offensive portion of the op-ed has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments. Here it is:

The Ten Commandments are used as a wedge to put across what is essentially a cultural protest against social change, but in the bitter disputes that have followed these seemingly ridiculous arguments the message of the commandments is usually lost. The Christian Right pretends to be concerned about the life of an unborn fetus, but expresses little interest for the fate of the living child who emerges from an unwanted pregnancy, and is even ready to kill or at least destroy the careers of those who do not agree with them. Although the commandments prohibit killing, and Christ advised his followers to leave vengeance to God, the fundamentalists seem to delight in the death penalty, and in reducing welfare support to unwed mothers who are struggling to deal with the results of pregnancies that they could not control and never wanted to have.

You read that right: "The Christian Right...is even ready to kill or at least destroy the careers of those who do not agree with them." Say what? Aside from the ridiculous distance between "killing" and "destroying a career," I see no evidence of the first and little of the second, unless you count working hard to see that someone is not elected or re-elected (which I thought was permissible within the ordinary confines of our system) as career-destroying.

Tom Englehardt, the proprietor of the site, adds his two cents’ worth in introducing the op-ed:

We also have a President who is in the process of casting off the constraints of any presidency, while placing religion with powerful emphasis at the very center of Washington’s new political culture. He is now adored, if not essentially worshipped, by his followers as he travels the country dropping in at carefully vetted "town meetings"; and the adoration is often not just of him as a political leader but as a religious one, as a manifestation of God’s design for us. It’s in this context that the modest Ten Commandments cases are being heard; in the context, that is, of the destruction of what’s left of an authentic American republican (rather than Republican) culture.

This is, of course, also silly, flying in the face of almost everything President Bush says about religious freedom and his own humble humanity.

I suppose we should wish these members of the un-reality-based community bon voyage on their flights of fancy, were it not for the fact that not having a responsible opposition is unhealthy. So I say instead: come home, blue America; actually pay attention to what folks in the churches and Rotary Clubs are saying; don’t demonize them and they may actually be willing not only to converse with you but to consider voting for (or with) you when you offer a responsible and reasonable alternative to the Republicans.

The Bush Doctrine explained

Here is the transcript of President Bush’s speech at the National Defense University a few hours ago. This is the Washington Post story on it. Although I have yet to hear the speech, it reads well, and seems to be a continuation of the Second Inaugural, being somewhat more explicit, understandable, now that things are breaking in the the mid-East.

Even the Left wing London Independent is asking, "Was Bush right after all?" And Jefferson Morley recounts the current European persepective on the same question. Useful links. And this is Faud Ajami’s take on the "mighty storm" enveloping the Arab world.

Faith-based discrimination

Ken Masugi provides some very helpful context for my op-ed, as does this LAT piece. If all this inexplicably leaves you slavering for more, there are plenty of links in this post.

In support of religious discrimination

Joe Knippenberg, as you know, supports President Bush’s faith based initiative. In this excellent piece he explains what it means and why it is a good thing, and why "religious discrimination" is in fact central to the faith based initiative. Just a sample, but read the whole thing:

The premise underlying this particular form of "privatization," employing non-governmental organizations in order to accomplish public ends, is that our social problems are best addressed by the employment of genuinely diverse means. It�s not just a question of efficiency, based upon the generic argument that the private sector can accomplish public ends less expensively and hence more efficiently, but rather that certain organizations can in fact behave differently and hence achieve different effects than can public bureaucracies

In this connection, religious diversity clearly matters. An organization moved above all by love (rather than, say, profit) might treat its clients differently, demanding more of them but also engaging with them more intimately and intensively. Social service workers who feel a religious call to love their neighbors might form bonds of community and relationship with those they serve that are different from those developed in a secular or public social service setting.
And later:

At the core of the faith-based initiative is the recognition that a diverse nation is best served by a diverse array of organizations. And a diverse array of organizations is best preserved by permitting them to make mission-driven hiring decisions. If diversity is good, then religious discrimination in hiring is good.   

Brooks Praises Wolfowitz

’New York Times’ columnist, David Brooks, praises Paul Wolfowitz’s longstanding faith that all men in all places desire freedom and his global efforts, from the Philippines and Indonesia to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, over the last three decades.

Here is Brooks’ op-ed.

Ramirez Cartoon

Religion

Levenick and Novak on religion and the founding

Here, via Carol Platt Liebau, is Christopher Levenick's and Michael Novak's response to Brooke Allen's Nation article, on which I animadverted here.

Hat tip: The Conservative Philosopher, who also call our attention to this post on secular universities and the secular Left. It is a sad state of affairs when anyone actually has to say things like this:

University dialogue and debate on ethical and political issues in and out of classrooms should include faculty members who proceed from theistic and non-theistic perspectives. For example, theologians have thought deeply about issues of war and peace. Some are pacifists; other believe in the just war doctrine (with varying views about the conditions for a just war). In the Christian tradition, such theologians would point to scripture, but scripture is only the beginning of the inquiry for most of them. Moreover, to the extent, the debate is confined to scripture, it would be helpful for the secular left (or any informed citizen) to understand the nature of the debate. Obviously, the war and peace example could be multiplied across a broad range of issues. It is hard to imagine why university dialogue would not be enhanced by discussion from theistic and non-theistic perspectives.

But clearly, as the example of Brooke Allen indicates, even simple truths need to be reiterated from time to time.

Update: For a "balanced" view of religion and the founding, see this NYT article.

Categories > Religion

Western Civ at UNC

North Carolina’s Pope family, who have already endowed this center, are proposing a long-term series of grants, culminating, perhaps, in a major endowment to support the study of western civilization at UNC-Chapel Hill. The story is here. Seventy-one UNC faculty have signed this letter protesting the "secret" negotiations between the university and the Pope family’s foundation.

You’re not going to tell me that faculty members have never confidentially sought foundation support for their own curricular programs. So we can assume that the faculty concerns are political, driven in large part by their fear of some hidden Pope family agenda. My fear would be different--that once the endowment was in place, donor intent would be dishonored by a university, many of whose influential faculty are likely hostile to the traditional study of western civilization. My advice to the Pope family: look before you leap and make certain there are safeguards in place that prevent the perversion of your attempt to energize the study of western civilization in Chapel Hill.

Condi Rice and (her boots)

This AP story puts Condi Rice front and center and makes the small point that she is off and running as our new Secretary of State considering the massive changes taking place in the Mid-East. But Rebeccah Ramey better captures her power and authority, and her charm, by reflecting on those who have reflected on her boots and dress. Very good. Enjoy.  

Florida’s Blaine Amendment

Katie Newmark has been following the battle over Florida’s school voucher program more closely than I have. Read her post and be glad if you live in Ohio.

Liberalism, federalism, and all that

Ken Masugi does a wonderful job of dissecting recent liberal efforts at navel-gazing, principally here and here. Read the liberal pieces, and then go read Ken’s commentary, along with the links he provides. 

Bill Richardson on Mid-East developments

I saw the Katie Kuric interview with Gov. Bill Richardson this morning and was impressed with his opinions on the developments in the region. Good show, governor.

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

I am not a golfer and, as some of my students know (who are both fair golfers and excellent students), I mock golfers without mercy. C’mon, this isn’t a sport is it, walking around on a pretty day, having someone carry your bags for you, etc.? And yet I saw a golf
match (is that what it’s called?) yesterday, or at least the last hour of the Doral Open, and I must say it was almost as good as an Ali-Frazier fight. Great drama, great fun, excellence nothing but excellence, and a little luck. Just like life at its best. And Tiger pulled it out. Maybe I’m wrong. Even if it’s not a sport, it is great.

Syria and Lebanon, the beginning of the end

The Presidents of Syria and Lebanon "announced Monday that Syrian troops will pull back to Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley by March 31, but a complete troop withdrawal will be deferred until after later negotiations." Of course, this is not the end of it, it’s just the beginning of the end. There are anti-Syrian demontrations in Lebanon, and Hizbollah has said it will hold pro-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon tomorrow. In the meantime, France
has moved some commandoes to the eastern Mediterranean. As

Walid Jumblatt (the head of the Druse community who is now directly in contact with Paul Wolfowitz) has said:

"I think the Middle East is changing. The Arab people want to join the rest of the civilized world. They want freedom. I have denounced the American invasion of Iraq, but I also admit that the Iraqi people are now free."

Religion and the Supremes

Jeffrey Rosen in TNR suggests that Michael McConnell shares a "moderate" approach to the First Amendment religion clauses with Sandra Day O’Connor. If true, it might be enough to shut me up.

Here’s the offending passage:

In the Ten Commandments case, social-conservative organizations are urging the Court to abandon O’Connor’s focus on neutrality and instead ask whether a particular display coerces religious belief. They cite the opinions of Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, who have argued that government should be free to promote religion in general, as long as it doesn’t discriminate among religions. And they agree with those three that a focus on coercion would allow the government to resurrect voluntary school prayer and to post the Ten Commandments in courtrooms or schools.

But Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas’s view is historically questionable. It has been explicitly challenged by Judge Michael McConnell of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the leading conservative scholar of religious liberty, whose potential Supreme Court candidacy is being enthusiastically championed by social conservatives. In 1992, McConnell argued that the best historical evidence refuted Rehnquist’s claim that the framers of the Constitution believed that the federal government could aid religion as long as it did so ecumenically. Moreover, it was McConnell who, in 1986, proposed an emphasis on coercion as the touchstone of religious freedom--a proposal that Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas later embraced. But, as Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas puts it, "McConnell’s vision of coercion is vastly more nuanced than Rehnquist and Scalia’s." McConnell, for example, disagrees with Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas that the First Amendment allows school prayer. "It is vital to understand the concept of coercion broadly and realistically," he wrote in 1992. "I would have thought that gathering a captive audience is a classic example of coercion; participation is hardly voluntary if the cost of avoiding the prayer is to miss one’s graduation." How McConnell would rule on the display of the Ten Commandments by Kentucky and Texas is hard to guess. But McConnell’s willingness to struggle with hard questions involving public acknowledgment of religion shows that his commitment to neutrality is genuine. It’s not a strategic compromise on the path toward a larger goal of an openly religious state.

The moderate position sketched by O’Connor and McConnell [huh?] is especially important in a post-September 11 world.

But even a "nuanced" position on coercion doesn’t amount to O’Connor’s endorsement test. If establishment means coercion, then neither Ten Commandments display amounts to coercion. No one is compelled to look, nor is anyone compelled to try to divine what "the state" has in mind in arranging or permitting the display.

What Rosen succeeds in doing is showing that any effort to follow a line of thinking ascribable to O’Connor will yield any combination of possible results in the two cases before the Court. She has no principle; McConnell does have a principle. They’re not the same, though if liberals like Rosen regard McConnell as a moderate, I suppose that this is good for his confirmation chances.

The Democratic Party’s dilemma

This New York Times article is not especially good, but it cannot hide the fact that there is a growing rift among Black church leaders: More and more have become Bush and GOP supporters. Democrats are realizing this and are, in my humble opinion, in a near panic over it. Clarence Page (not a Republican) reflects on all this and says he is happy to be wooed by both parties. Both articles, interestingly enough, make reference to Bush’s faith based initiative as a "new form of patronage," (for Blacks, I presume). There is much political significance to all this, and I prophesize that the GOP will pick up more and more black voters in the next many election cycles. I don’t think that moving from 8% support to 11% among Blacks for the GOP is what scared the Dems. What shook them is that Bush got about 16% of the Black vote in Ohio (and 13% in Florida), and the fact that Blacks are ever more publicly questioning their past absolute support for the Dems by noting the appeal of the GOP based on some principle.

Blacks are not the only group within the Democratic Party that is being picked off by the GOP, of course, but this group has a greater moral and symbolic value than any other. The Demos can’t find a way to keep their factionalized Party together at a time--even more so now than in Van Buren’s time--when there has been a GOP call for a national and principled view of the Republican Party for many decades. In short, the Democratic Party, born of a need to give formal voice for the people in a way that is disciplined in a party (rather than upholding a constitutional and principled view) that acted as an intermediary between government and society, can no longer be held together as it once was. For example, FDR’s emphasis of programmatic rights and entitlements and the federal government acting as the guarantor of social and economic welfare meant that he used the Democratic Party to support the centralized welfare state, and each part of the Party would benefit. That arrangment was thought to be permanent by the Demos (and most Republicans during the last century).

The Democratic Party was useful to 20th century Progressives and Liberals as long as it supported the progress of Progressive democracy (Croly’s term); the older form of patronage was petty compared to what the new Democratic Party wrought. But this could only last as long as the older constitutional view of a political party did not reassert itself. Well, it has reasserted itself both in theory and in practice, and now the Democrats can’t figure out what holds them together as a party. The loss of those vital links is especially painful for them because they had thought--from FDR on--that those links were permanent. It should not surprise us that the debate over Social Security reform, moral issues, and the needed principled clarification of what America stands for in a post 9/11 universe, is causing havoc within the Democrtic Party. And the slow but certain movement of Blacks away from the Demos, reveals the heart of the problem.

Assad’s speech

Note in this New York Times report on Assad’s speech, and what the demonstrators in Beirut were saying as they watched his speech on a big screen:

In Martyrs’ Square here, the scene of many demonstrations in recent weeks, thousands of protesters came Saturday morning to watch a broadcast of Mr. Assad’s speech on projection screens, at times booing and jeering, or calling "Liar!" and "Bush sends his greetings!"

The protesters, many dressed in white, waved Lebanese flags and called for "freedom, sovereignty and independence."

The death of Liberalism and of neo-Conservatism

David Brooks summarizes the value and work of The Public Interest, which is about to stop publication after 40 years. The short of it is that a bunch of FDR style Liberal "social scientists" (the most important were Moynihan, Kristol, Glazer, Bell) started testing what programs worked and what didn’t and in the process began to turn against the same programs they had been advocating. Although their work was of value, they were wrong on a number of fundamental points. For example, in the Liberal euphoria of the Great Society (they started publishing in 1965) they thought that the ideological battles had all been won by the New Deal-Great Society crowd because they scoffed (or were unaware of) at the great intellectual (not only public policy) work of the Conservatives. Conservatives (of every stripe) were already hard at work on fundamental issues and made frontal attacks on New Deal Liberalism by going back to the sources and showing how the historicism of the Progressives and New Dealers were ill founded and led to more than bad public policy. The Conservatives moved toward a re-articulation of self government based on natural rights, and the necessary limits that imposed on government: They questioned the very foundations of the Progressive-Liberal mind, not only its policies.

These old-fashioned Liberals were wrong in thinking that politics had concluded with the New Deal. And then something else happened, along came "the Sixties" (the New Left) to further confuse their moral-political sensibilities. The nihilism of the New Left--the frontal attack on America (Amerikkka, as they said) and the things for which it had stood from the start--offended the sensibilities of the New Deal-Great Society Liberals, but they couldn’t defend themselves. The Conservatives came to the defense of America’s principles and virtues--based on natural rights and natural right--and, therefore, perhaps oddly, to the defense of the Old Liberals, agains the New Left.

And the Old Liberals were compelled to reconsider their own, limited, ability to defend the things for which the country had always stood. So they began to give up on their historiscism and turned toward the electric cord that binds us. And the alliance began, and the Public Interest crowd no longer voted for Democratic candidates en masse.

So, oddly these guys at The Public Interest both represented and caused the death of Liberalism as we had known it for over a generation. And, the way politics works, these old fashioned Liberals, called "neo-conservatives" by the early 1970’s, became allies of Conservatives, and then friends. And they prospered together. And the rest, as they say, is what is happening now. And the New Left, as represented in what’s left of the once-great Democratic Party, not only lost, but still don’t understand why they lost. They lost the intellectual wars, and then, eventually, the political battles. That’s why there is a realignment and that’s why the Democratic Party is now the minority party in the country.

It might be rightly said that with the end of the The Public Interest two things will have died at once, both New Deal Liberalism and neo-Conservatism. That the current post-Sixties Liberals like to call themselves Progressives is an indication of this, and so is their vitriolic attacks on neo-Conservatism. The new Progressives
think they are fighting something that doesn’t exists. No wonder they are losing.

Indirect action with Iran

Douglas Hanson writes something interesting about our work (with Germans, and others) against Iran in the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf. He explains why there will be no direct action against Iran. Interesting stuff, with many good links to follow. The Adventures of Chester has more. (Thanks to Chrenkoff.)

Bill Maher and the base Churchill

From the sublime Winston Churchill (who claimed to be also an American) to the absurd Ward Churchill (who claims many untrue things).

Jeff Jarvis saw Ward on with Bill Maher last night and has a few comments. It turns out that both Ward and Bill are both caterpillars of the commonwealth! Democracy guy also has a few choice words on the subject.

I’m glad I didn’t see it.
If you have the stomach, read Jarvis.

The Iron Curtain speech

Richard Reeb notes that yesterday was the 59th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s "iron curtain" speech in Fulton, Missouri. Here is the speech in full, it was called the Sinews of Peace.

The snowball in Lebanon begins to roll

Syrian troops will begin pulling back to the Baaka Valley on Monday, following Assad’s speech to parliament yesterday. The U.S., France, and other allies, are sceptical and say that this isn’t enough. The pro-Syrian factions in Lebanon are closing ranks in support of Syria, as Hezbollah calls for "an urgent meeting" to plan their strategy. This
identifies a few of the key leaders in Lebanon. But Assad is rattled, and that may be good enough for now. He is learning that he lacks authority; if he is unwilling to kill people to stay in power, than it is only a question of time before he is gone.
In the meantime, Egypt’s upper house voted to allow multi-party elections. Also note this blogger from Egypt.

There are elections in Moldova today, and even before the election pro-Western sentiment (anti-Russian and anti-communist) is ruling.

Fareed Zakaria reflects on all this and the whole region, and concludes that perhaps it is the Arab rulers who are strange rather than those being ruled. Remember the Arab street concern of Chritiane Ammanpour, et al? It looks as though the Arab streets are anti-bad rulers more than they are anti-American. And he also says that the "noted political scientist who has been vindicated in recent weeks is George W. Bush." The Left’s chattering classes are now forced by events to ask the question, could Bush possibly have been right? The short answer is, yes, according to Zakaria. Bush is pushing for reform in the region, and it is working. While Zakaria is not without criticism of the Bush administration, his opinion reflects
more or less the establishment standard of the day, and is therefore important. Read it all.

Slaves not freed in Niger

Here is an interesting report from the BBC:

The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom.

Acting under pressure, Niger’s parliament banned the keeping or trading in slaves in May 2003.In a ceremony in December 2003, dozens of slaves were liberated, many of them shedding tears of joy as they were given certificates showing they were free.

There are thought to be 43,000 slaves in Niger. (Thanks to Powerline).

Bill Moyers and the Energizer Bunny

Here, via The Conservative Philosopher, is yet another version of Bill Moyers’s slander of conservative Christians on the environment, which I discussed here, here, and here.

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.

Constitution of Europe

Here is the 400 plus page proposed Constitution of Europe, for those interested.

Peter Malkin

Peter Malkin, the Israeli spy who was best known for capturing Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, died last week in New York. He was buried on Friday. This is a

BBC story on him, and the obituaries from the London Times and the Telegraph.

The Gang That Can’t Shoot Its Metaphors Straight

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.

Viagra Nation

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.

The Governor’s Race in Washington State

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.

What became of the CIA?

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 Mahle’s Denial and Deception, but in a much better light. Thoughtful stuff on the problems at the CIA; some of it is just pathetic.  

Two on Shakespeare

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. What’s going on here? Gross doesn’t think it’s a new trend. It may be an accident. 

Bush had it right?

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.....

Martha Stewart

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."

Harry Reid on Greenspan

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.

Another Blog Story

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

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?

Hillary’s Religion, Continued

Count me among those who doubt that Hillary’s 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 can’t see many Bible-believing red staters warming up to this. Perhaps she’ll get better at it, but even her talents have limits.

And then there’s her Wellesley senior thesis about Saul Alinsky, which I have read. But that’s a story for another day.

HRC’s religion

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.

Hat tip:
Get Religion.

Byrd’s dubious constitutionalism

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.

Update:
Here, via The Corner, is a devastating response to Byrd.

Ohio GOP lukewarm on Bush Social Security reforms

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 GOP’s disadvantage in the 2006 elections. On the other hand, this will not be the first time Bush and his people will have been misunderestimated.

Archbishop Chaput on religion and politics

Here is the text of a very impressive speech, given by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. There are several powerful passages. Here’s one:

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.

Here’s another:

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.

Hat tip: Touchstone magazine’s "Mere Comments" weblog.

Update: Terry Mattingly discusses the press coverage of this speech over at Get Religion.

Fossett lands in Kansas

Steve Fossett just landed in Kansas, making him the first man to fly around the world without stopping! This is the official Virgin Atlantic site for the project. Congratulations.

2006 Senate elections

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
Powerline).

Saudis tell Syria to leave Lebanon

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

Saudis
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."

Crackdown on blogging?

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.

GOP wooing black voters, cause for alarm

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."

Distance education

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."

Phi Beta Kappa

I’ve always been proud of my Phi Beta Kappa membership and have long supported my institution’s (thus far unsuccessful) quest for a campus chapter. Laurie Morrow’s 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 I’ll take a look again. If it continues to be as "engaged" as it was in the issue discussed in the WSJ piece, I’ll be compelled, sadly, to come to Laurie’s conclusion. Yet another support for the university’s aspiration to an independent standpoint, to a timelessly critical remove from contemporary concerns, will have bitten the dust.

Ramirez Cartoon

House action on the faith-based initiative

The House yesterday approved the Workforce Investment Act that I discussed here.

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 it’s 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 doesn’t mean that we should maximize the shackles.

Hating the Enemy, Then and Now

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.

Syria’s troubles

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

For more on Syria, go to Syria Comment and here is an interview with Assad
of Syria. Now both Russia & Germany are demanding that Syria quit Lebanon, as has President Bush.

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.

Abolish PBS

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.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority

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 (Clinton’s 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 Byrd, Hitler and the Republicans

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.

"A force for good"

There’s a very nice appreciation of the flexibility of the U.S. military here. Enjoy it and be proud of our troops.  

Reinstitute the military draft?

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.

Sixth-Circuit shenanigans

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).

Good Economy, Troublesome Economy, Horrible Economy?

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.

Liberals and the Problem of Evil

As I continue to make my way through Terry Teachout’s biography of H.L. Mencken, I was stuck by the following passage (by Teachout) regarding the writer’s 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 that’s 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 Dean’s 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 Saddam’s regime?

Politicians in Robes

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 FDR’s court packing? Court de-packing?

Ten Commandments cases

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 one’s 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 Newdow’s 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.

Defending the Ten Commandments

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.

Notes on blogging

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 Goldberg’s very good piece on why the blogging phenomenon is a political act by conservatives (he gives some history), and the Left’s attempt to copy reveals an inherent contradiction in their position.

"Catastrophe theory" in the Middle East

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