Jeremy Lott shows how "uncharitable" Germanys premiere newsmagazine is about "the first German Pope since 1048."
Confirm Them (a site you should bookmark, by the way) has more on efforts to smear Brown.
Update #2: Cynthia Tucker says that Brown is outside the mainstream. Then how did she manage to win "reelection to her state supreme court seat with a stunning 76 percent of the vote in one of the bluest of the blue states, California?" asks Steven G. Calabresi. Tuckers mainstream is, of course, that of the Democratic Left.
The principal argument is that Sandra Day OConnors concurring opinion in Mitchell v. Helms is controlling in these cases: government cant directly aid religion or even "endorse" religion, and permitting government contractors to take religious considerations into account in hiring allegedly does both.
My first response is that predicting how Sandra Day OConnor will vote from one case to the next is an exercise in futility. She is above all dependent upon the context, which varies from one case to the next. The authors of the piece, at least one of whom is a long-time opponent of the "charitable choice" (the Clinton-era forerunner to the faith-based initiative), imply that faith-based organizations will always engage in invidious religious discrimination as opposed to merely mission-sensitive hiring, while "the facts on the ground," as they say, suggest otherwise. Most groups want simply to hire people who support their mission, which is a far cry from hiring, say, only Baptists or Catholics. While I dont happen to think that the this distinction is material, it could well matter in securing OConnors vote.
The authors also write as if the only religious freedom at stake here is that of potential employees. I would argue that, at the very least, we have to balance the freedom of potential employees and the freedom of those who comprise the organization. This sort of balancing is for the most part better left to legislators than to courts, though Im aware that mine (unfortunately) is a minority opinion.
In short, I dont find the arugments in the column all that persuasive.
Inside Higher Ed has more today about the plight of Jonathan Bean at SIU-Carbondale. On a hopeful note, the article calls attention to the strong support that the professor is receiving from students. The student newspaper, The Daily Eqyptian, has published a powerful editorial denouncing the attempts to silence Bean:
“Professors must be free to choose controversial material if doing so will further intellectual inquiry. The manner in which the material is presented, the discussion it generates and the conclusions drawn from it — in other words, the intellectual context — must provide the standards by which such material is judged.”
“Another troubling aspect is the insistence by some that the students who were presented with the article were not yet capable of critical thinking and were therefore susceptible to corruption,” the editorial said. “This paternalistic attitude flies in the face of all freedom. It is not the university’s mission to shield soft young minds from offensive ideas, and the ability to think critically cannot be developed when people are denied the opportunity to think in the first place.”
Here is the short speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Frist says let all judicial nominess have an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. He doesnt say allow an up or down vote or else, but thats obviously whats implied. Surely, that means he has the votes to break the filibuster and hes giving the Dems one last chance to back off.
A good and clever speech.
"I would say for lack of a better description its a big, wet kiss to the far right, ladies and gentlemen. Its just not appropriate," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (search), who called it a "slow-motion nuclear option."
This is a classless response to a reasonable proposal. Lets hope Frist and the Republicans succeed in capturing the high ground here.
I note two things. First, while the folks at the FRC are, by and large, evangelical Protestants, Robert P. George is a Roman Catholic. Most theocrats I know arent that ecumenical. Second, Professor Georges arguments rely not at all on faith or revelation, but are accessible to any reasonable and rational human being. This is not an injection of faith into the public arena, but rather an all-too-rare injection of reason.
Jonathan Bean, a self-described "libertarian-conservative" who teaches in the history department at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has gotten into hot water with some members of the administration, as well as some of his departmental colleagues. In a course that he teaches on the civil rights movement, Bean thought he’d generate discussion by having his graduate student assistants hand out an optional reading assignment--excerpts from "Remembering the Zebra Killings", an article that appeared at FrontPageMag.com, about a series of 71 murders of whites by black men that took place in San Francisco in the early 1970s. Things haven’t gone well for Professor Bean since:
"It sparked what I called "handout hysteria," he said. "I handed it out on Tuesday. On Friday afternoon I’m called into the department chair’s office, with a hysterical department chair waving the handout at me."
Bean quickly backed off, issuing an apology and withdrawing the assignment (although it had always been optional). Alas, it wasn’t enough. Bean’s teaching assistants were told that they no longer had to work for him (although, presumably, they will continue to be paid), and eight of his colleagues signed a public letter accusing the professor of distributing "racist propaganda" in his class. Another of his liberal colleagues, Jane Shaw, has come to his defense:
"I think this is a really serious breach of collegiality," Adams said. "One of the things I am appalled by is his (Bean’s) reputation has been publicly smeared. That is all we have as professors."
More on this as it develops. Full disclosure: Jon Bean is a longtime acquaintance of mine, and an outstanding scholar and teacher. He does not deserve this.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been busy lately. Theres a suit against the U.S. Department of Education over funding Alaska Christian College, about which you can read here, here, here, here, and here.
At issue is about $1 million in federal funds earmarked by the Alaska congressional delegation for the college, which itself offers almost exclusively religious courses. But in addition to the coursework, along with secular coursework at a neighboring public community college, the college serves as a "bridge" to higher education, providing counseling and career advice to a largely Alaska native student body. Douglas Laycock thinks the FFRF might prevail on the merits; Richard W. Garnett thinks that its plausible that the "bridge" serves a secular purpose. The judge hearing the case is John Shabaz, a Reagan appointee who presided over a split decision in another FFRF suit about which I wrote here.
But, as they say, theres more. The FFRF has also written to warn municipalities in Wisconsin that they cant shut down on Good Friday, pursuant to a decision handed down by Judge Shabaz in another FFRF suit some nine years ago.
has announced that it will publish President Reagans diaries, "the most detailed presidential diaries in Americas history".
HarperCollins said it had signed a deal with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation for world rights to publish the diaries.
They will be displayed at the presidential library in Simi Valley, California.
"Each day during his eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan recorded his innermost thoughts and observations in his personal diary," said Frederick Ryan Jr, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.
"Although they were not initially intended for publication, we feel that these volumes offer an unprecedented insight into the Reagan presidency."
Ron Brownstein, of the Los Angeles Times argues that there is an opening for a third party in this internet era. He builds on Joe Trippi’s (of Howard Dean’s candidacy fame) use of the internet as a starting point (and maybe the stopping point) for the idea. The short of it this: There is now easy and cheap entry because of the internet. Independent candidates can raise a lot of money very quickly with almost invested, and the two parties are persuing startegies that leave openings, that is both parties are ceding the middle ground. And that middle ground would be the basis of any new party or parties. Utterly unpersuasive, in my opinion. This is still thinking in old parameters, and the Bush presidency has (or at least is trying) created a new one: Stand for something, widen your base, and keep attuned to your core. Besides, Brownstein is just hoping that a GOP-Demo ticket of McCain and former Dem Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska team-up and confuse things. No chance, unless it is over an issue like illegal immigration wherin neither party is satisfying anyone (at the moment).
Andrew Sullivan has a BIG ARTICLE in TNR purporting to explain the fissures within the "conservative coalition." Time was, I might have expected to learn something from reading Sullivan. He was, and is, smart and learned. Time was, his energy, intelligence, and learning were not simply devoted to grinding his axes. Time was....
Here’s what we, ahem, "learn" from Sullivan. There are conservatives of faith (bad) and conservatives of doubt (good). The latter include "devout Christians who embrace a strong separation of church and state," as well as "Oakeshottian skeptics, or Randian individualists, or Burkean pragmatists, or libertarian idealists." I’m pretty sure that Sullivan studied with Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., so I’m going to interpret Sullivan’s silence. Notice who’s not included in his list of conservatives of doubt: no Jews, no Straussians, and no neo-conservatives. Of course, in contemporary demonology, all three categories overlap, so to name (or not to name) one is to name (or not to name) them all.
Interestingly enough, Sullivan doesn’t use any of these categories in discussing conservatives of faith either. The demons in that group all belong to the religious right, whose members, according to Sullivan, are sure they know the answers to all the questions and, consequently, are unwilling to "allow error to flourish--and immorality to become government policy."
These dichotomies are so oversimplied and misleading--features that might be excusable in a 600-word op-ed, but not in a 3,000+ word feature article--that I’m not sure where to begin. For the moment, I’ll pick on two aspects of Sullivan’s argument that I’m unwilling to attribute either to confusion or ignorance (I’ll leave it to my readers to decide what the cause of these problems is). First, there’s the oversimplification with respect to the opposition of faith and doubt. Everyone I know argues that faith and human fallibility are connected. In other words, a conservatism of faith leaves a good bit of room for fallibilism and for the disagreement of reasonable (and fallible) people. Yes, there are things that are certain (given by Scripture or natural law), but they are few. Of course, it may be the case that in our times, those few certainties are at the center of some people’s agendas; hence our "culture war." So to the uninformed and thoughtless (neither adjective easily applicable to Sullivan, though he may think of his audience in that way), it may APPEAR that conservatives of faith are "dogmatic" about everything. Nope. And of course anyone as well-informed as Sullivan is would also know that one can "faithfully" or "rationally" regard something as morally wrong without devoting all the resources of the state to stamp it out. There is some (fallible) prudence involved here, as then-Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in his advice to Catholic voters. So conservatives of faith are also conservatives of doubt, but not about absolutely everything.
The conservatism Sullivan prefers is problematical in other ways. Consider this pasage:
The defense of human freedom offered by conservatives of doubt, on the other hand, is founded on more accessible and less contentious arguments. Such conservatives can point to the Constitution itself as the basis of U.S. political life, and its Enlightenment concept of freedom as sturdy enough without extra-Constitutional theology. (The purpose of the Constitution was to preserve the Declaration of Independence’s right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The word "virtue" is not included in that phrase. Its omission is the single greatest innovation of the U.S. founding.) They can point to the astonishing success and durability of the U.S. experiment to buttress the notion that the Constitution is a much more stable defense of human equality than that inherent in any religion. The Constitution itself has far wider support among citizens than any theological argument. To put it another way: You don’t need an actual religion when you already have a workable civil version in place.
This line of argument comes from a man, who, a few pages earlier, was willing to deploy this contention against conservatives of faith:
[Conservatives of doubt] understand that significant critiques of human reason--Nietzsche, anyone?--have rendered the philosophical quest for self-evident truth even more precarious in the modern world.
If Nietzsche and his progeny render self-evident truths precarious and problematical, what becomes of the civil religion on which Sullivan would have us rely? If it becomes a self-conscious "article of faith" in the face of corrosive post-modern ironism, it will either wither away or become an object of weillful and passionate devotion. It will become, in other words, either an inoperative dead letter or an article of faith unchecked by any sense of human finitude and fallibility, an example of "fanatical obscurantism."
In his own terms, then, Sullivan’s sober conservatism of doubt either withers away or becomes a conservatism of faith in no way checked by any sense of a divinity who puts human beings in their place.
Exploding toads puzzle German scientists. New Jersey casino
camera operators at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel Casino have been accused of using the equipment to ogle women. CNN is accused of "using your blog for an experimental guerrilla marketing campaign." Thief
steals dead mans motorcycle afer he crashed. Twinkies
turn 75 years old. CBS evening news "saw its lowest viewer tally on record last week."
Roland R. Mesnier spent 25 years in the White House as the pastry chef and has written a cookbook. In an interview he says that Nancy Reagan was very demanding, first lady Laura Bush is meticulous, and Hillary "was very political - it was like having a second president in the White House."
Rep. Bernard Sanders has raised over $100,000 in one swoop, with the help of MoveOn.org. He hasnt yet declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. James Jeffords, VT.
Ken Masugi reflects on Ward Chruchills talk at the Claremont Colleges last night. Very good.
Abbie Finfrock is an intern in Washington, and she writes about it, focusing on what it means to be in a young woman in a power-town filled with older men. Not surprising, and it turns out her fathers warnings were true.
William Voegelis essay on Social Security in todays Wall Street Journal is a must read. It is a long piece (albeit shorter than the original published in The Claremont Review of Books) but it is, I repeat myself, a must read. It explains very clearly what Social Security was meant to be and to do, and what that has to do with the heart of the Democratic Party, and why, therefore, Democrats are doing everything to try to stop any attempt to change it. Indeed, they are trying--and I am not yet persuaded that they are being successful, despite MSM reports--to make sure that a real conversation about Social Security cannot take place.
My take? As long as the Republicans stand for something and the Democrats for nothing, some of those in the middle will side with the obstructionists. But when the Democrats are forced to adopt a positive agenda, they lose, unless they themselves move to the center.
Will Democratic candidates make centrist noises? No doubt. Will the base and the donors actually put up with a concrete centrist campaign platform? Doubt. Will Republicans let the Democrats get away with only paying lip service to centrist positions? Let’s hope not.
While there is a bit of a dispute about Shakespeares birthday (was it the 23rd or 26th), Rafael Major thinks its important to note it, whatever the day. The point is that The Poet came into this breathing world, this great stage of fools, and, being wise, knew himself to be a fool. And so we see and hear him, and when we cant, we read him, from here to Timbuktu. Happy Birthday!
It seems that Syria has left Lebanon. This includes their intel agents. And the pro-Syrian head of Lebanon’s security service
has resigned. Parliamentary
elections are due in May, and Harriri’s son has said that he will take up his father’s mantle. The U.N.
has said that it will send in a team to verify the Syrian pullout. No doubt the MSM will report all this as a sign of another defeat for American foreign policy!
This is the ABC News report on the near capture of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. The near miss happened in February. Although he got away, we got his computer, with a "very big hard drive."
An interesting story.
A Washington Post-ABC News Poll finds that eight out of ten American Catholics support the selection of Ratzinger as Pope, and about 73% are enthusiastic in their support. There is more. But the point is how could this be, given the extraordinarily unfavorable coverage of this man by the MSM and considering their analysis, and emphasis, on how American Catholics (that is, liberal Catholics, I guess) are not happy with a conservative as Pope given that there are disagreements over abortion, gay marriage, contrception, etc.? No wonder no one pays attention to these guys.
Consider this a down payment on a longer commentary to appear later. Ive spent part of the day gathering ammunition, er, I mean, information.
You know that the question of illegal immigration--and not just in states bordering on Mexico--as a political issue begins to have some resonance when the Los Angeles Times runs a front-page story that seems to admit (despite the misleading title of the article) that either there is a problem, or at least there is a growing gap between the public and the policy makers. Also note that the article mentions that illegal immigration has dropped by 50% in areas patrolled by the Minutemen.
All this to the surprise of the L.A. Times, I guess. The piece is worth reading.
Some of you wrote to me asking whether Karl Rove was asked a question about immigration while at the Ashbrook Center. I can tell you that this question was asked more often than any other (but since I controlled the questions that were written on cards, I only asked it once). This is the way the question was formulated: "Would you please comment on the Bush administrationâ€™s positions on the border immigration problem?"
We just transcribed his response to the question and you can read it here.
Also note that you can listen to his speech, and to about fifteen minutes of Q & A, by going here.
In this turbulent time (for Liberals, I mean),
it may be worth noting that one of the many things that makes them angry (that, e.g., some of us are actually questioning fundamental Liberal tenets like Social Security, the progressive income tax, etc.) is that our society is not simply a secular one. They had worked for making it that, and are a bit put out that their plans and hopes seem not to have materialized. Hence they argue that we must be nearing a theocracy.
Michael Barone thinks that we are not doing that at all. Typically good stuff from Barone, and should be read. The word on the blogs is that Andrew Sullivan has a cover story in the current The New Republic explaining the crisis within conservatism by whipping the evangelicals, or, the Christian right, as he no doubt prefers to call them. I havent seen it yet, but will.
The Progressive Policy Institute has discovered a "parent gap" (7 page pdf): in the last two presidential elections, Democrats have lost married parents by 15 and 19 points. Even though Kerry won the youth vote by 9 points, here’s what author Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has to say about the future:
At the same time, however, it is also worth
thinking about where many of these voters will
be standing come 2008. Some are already
married. More will be married four years from
now. And many of the married couples will have
children. At that point, will the Democrats still look as good to them, let alone to those who
are already married with children?
How to reach these parents, a majority of whom identify themselves as moderate (45%) or liberal (16%)? Dafoe urges "progressive cultural populism",
taking the side of parents against the cultural
forces that make it more difficult to “teach kids
right from wrong.” This does not mean
censorship, of course. And it does not mean
legislation or even regulation in every case. But
it does mean that the party should use the bully
pulpit regularly and aggressively to identify with
parents’ concerns and to attack the irresponsible
marketers of violence and sleaze to young kids.
But, as Donald Lambro notes, it’s not clear that the party’s liberal base, let alone its financial supporters in Hollywood will support anything much beyond Bill Clinton’s virtually empty school uniform initiative.
Update: Great minds think alike.
is impressive: "A fierce species of Amazonian ant has been seen building elaborate traps on which hapless prey are stretched like medieval torture victims, before being slowly hacked to pieces."
Professor Brainbridge uses a nice graph from the Economist (which can only be read on line with a subscription) showing "Democrat obstructionism has meant that GWBs circuit court judges have been confirmed at a lower rate than those of any other modern President."
He is still not convinced that ending the filibuster is a good idea, but does agree with the Economist, which he quotes extensively, that the Republicans have to get tougher. David Broder suggests a compromise, thus proving that the GOP could have its way and the Demos would end up on the short end of the stick.
Tom Cerber, who blogs at The Politic has called our attention to this piece of propaganda, er, I mean incisive analysis, to be broadcast on CBC. Aside from implying a moral equivalence between Sayyed Qutb, a founding theorist of radical Islam, and Leo Strauss (a linkage we also find in an execrable book), the film claims that "the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organized terrorist network is an illusion."
Here’s an interview with Adam Curtis, the producer, writer, and narrator, after the documentary first aired on BBC last year. His central contention:
The attacks on 11 September were not the expression of a confident and growing movement, they were acts of desperation by a small group frustrated by their failure which they blamed on the power of America. It is also important to realise that many within the Islamist movement were against this strategy.
So, yes, Islamists are a threat, but not anything we have encountered before and certainly not sufficient to justify the extreme measures we’re taking against them. Of course, without this threat the evil neo-cons wouldn’t have the justification for building their American empire.
And while I’m at it, here’s a typical distortion from an unofficial transcript:
VO: But Qutb was not alone. At the same time, in Chicago, there was another man who shared the same fears about the destructive force of individualism in America. He was an obscure political philosopher at the University of Chicago. But his ideas would also have far-reaching consequences, because they would become the shaping force behind the neoconservative movement, which now dominates the American administration. He was called Leo Strauss. Strauss is a mysterious figure. He refused to be filmed or interviewed. He devoted his time to creating a loyal band of students. And what he taught them was that the prosperous liberal society they were living in contained the seeds of its own destruction.
Professor HARVEY MANSFIELD, Straussian Philosopher, Harvard University: He didn’t give interviews, or write political essays, or appear on the radio—there wasn’t TV yet—or things like that. But he did want to get a school of students to see what he had seen: that Western liberalism led to nihilism, and had undergone a development at the end of which it could no longer define itself or defend itself. A development which took everything praiseworthy and admirable out of human beings, and made us into dwarf animals. Made us into herd animals—sick little dwarves, satisfied with a dangerous life in which nothing is true and everything is permitted.
VO: Strauss believed that the liberal idea of individual freedom led people to question everything—all values, all moral truths. Instead, people were led by their own selfish desires. And this threatened to tear apart the shared values which held society together. But there was a way to stop this, Strauss believed. It was for politicians to assert powerful and inspiring myths that everyone could believe in. They might not be true, but they were necessary illusions. One of these was religion; the other was the myth of the nation. And in America, that was the idea that the country had a unique destiny to battle the forces of evil throughout the world. This myth was epitomized, Strauss told his students, in his favorite television program: Gunsmoke.
So the fact that Strauss wasn’t a media figure, and was uninterested in being a media figure, makes him mysterious at least, perhaps secretive and conspiratorial. But the difference between a man who inspires terrorists and one whose goal is to get people to read and think carefully about the permanent questions seems to elude this filmmaker.
Update: Tom Cerber actually watched the first hour-long installment last night.
has what seems to be a good and detrailed account of how Cardinal Ratzinger got elected. This is the first account I have seen. It is very much worth reading (even though some of the details might not be just so). It shows that Ratzinger should not have been ruled out (as he seemed to be in 2003), and also that his great mind (and, shall we say, political skills) revealed itself at every opportunity to both Rome and the world, when John Paul II became ill. His campaign, and that of his supporters (including half the Italians, and almost all of the Latin Americans) worked so well that the so-called liberals had no chance.
I mention, in passing, that we have had about six inches of snow here, and it is still coming down strong. No riding today, just reading.
George Will considers this new age when journalism is at odds with (and losing to) media. The fragmentation of the media market, in part due to technology, and in part due to mistrust of the MSM, is now in place, and it is not clear what will replace it, if any one thing ever will. This is one reason the Liberal bias of, say, CBS and CNN, doesnt especially bother me anymore: Fewer people are listening.
Here is the homily delivered earlier today at the Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.
Im going to abuse my NLT blogging privileges massively to send a personal hello to Fritz M. in San Francisco, who scolded me on Friday for not blogging more. So I shall resolve to do better. Good to see you, Fritz, by the way, and keep up the good work withyour good (adult beverage) spirits!