Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

French planes and ships

OK, I admit this is unfair, and without nuance, but I can’t help myself. I’m irascible because I committed to attend a wedding today and hence can’t ride my bike.

French fighter planes ran into foul weather, couldn’t return to their aircraft carrier off the Virginia Coast, so landed at Atlantic City Airport, because they couldn’t recollect the codes they needed to land at a U.S. military airport. Then they had trouble getting fuel, etc. I am guessing that the carrier was The Charles De Gaulle, since they only have one. Remember her? She was the ship that lost a propeller on her long-distance trials, and then had to have her deck lengthened because certain planes, necessary for the defense of the ship, had a problem taking off. She is also slower
than the steam powered carrier she replaced. The De Gaulle is nuclear powered, and is the largest ship ever built by a European shipyard--but they used nuclear reactors designed for French submarines, instead of building new ones. It took the French eleven years to build it. It was originally intended to be named the Richelieu, by the way. I tried to go the the French Navy’s web site to find out more, but it loads too slow, so I moved on. In the meantime, this January, the British announced that they will build two aircraft carriers (both larger than the De Gaulle), and while the builder will be BAE Systems, Britain’s largest defence firm, the project will be managed by Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a unit of Halliburton, a U.S. company.
I bet these babies will work just fine!

Harvard’s folly

Heather McDonald skewers Harvard’s pledge of $50 million for faculty "diversity" efforts, penance for President Lawrence Summers’s public mention of sex differences in cognition. She writes: "The university would have been better off hiring a top-notch conjuror, since only magic could produce a trove of previously undiscovered female and minority academic stars suitable for tenuring." And her last paragraph: "The aristocratic ease with which Harvard has just dumped $50 million down a bureaucratic sinkhole tells you all you need to know about why attending Harvard for eight months costs more than most families earn in a year. Eventually, students and parents may start asking why anyone would want to."

Chaitred again

Commenting on my original post, Win Myers, who has worked with Brad Birzer and currently works with Herb London, offers these reflections. As he notes, "Brad’s eloquent reply not only shows more grace and class than Chait could muster; it puts to shame the latter’s hollow claim that conservative intellectuals are ignorant wretches capable only of writing text that, as Chait puts it, ’read[s] like 10th-grade book reports from some right-wing, bizarro world high school.’"

Senator Byrd’s seat

A new poll in West Virginia shows Sen. Robert Byrd and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito would run neck and neck--he is down to a 3 point lead--in a possible campaign for the Senate seat now held by Byrd. Capito has not yet announced. Don Surber in WV has more: "Capito is Byrd’s worst nightmare: young, pretty and influential. She has deep roots in West Virginia. She saves the 130th Airlift Wing while adding C-5s to the Martinsburg air base and Byrd will be sweating bullets. She is smart enough not to wave the tattered bedsheet at Byrd, who is beloved by many in West Virginia, in much the same way Strom Thurmond was a historic figure in South Carolina.

What makes Capito formidable is not who her daddy is (Arch Moore is right up there with Byrd in popularity) but who she is."

Full of Nuance

By the way, can we start a movement to retire the word "nuance"? Really, now; Kerry has so debased the term that I flinch whenever I hear it.

Heart-Felt Hypocrisy

John Tierney has a not-to-be-missed takedown of media preening and hypocrisy over the Deep Throat business in today’s New York Times, pointing out that Bob Woodward and others have made millions off of Deep Throat, but turned up their "ethical journalism" noses when Felt’s family wanted a small piece of the action.

Dems and middle class again

People are still discussing the mystery report (as yet not available on this site, about which I’ve already posted here and here. The latest commentator is Claremont’s William Voegeli, who notes, more pungently than I did, "If Democrats could solve this political problem with rhetoric, John Kerry would be president today and Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker of the House." He also calls our attention to this post by Garance Franke-Ruta, to which I’d also add this one:

Voters between, say, 30 and 55 -- years when careers hit their stride, when people marry and divorce, when they have kids and homes and run things -- are a central part of the electorate and yet also a mysteriously neglected one.

I’ve long thought that there is only one question that really matters when it comes to reviving Democratic politics, and it is this: What does the Democratic Party offer people between the ages of 30 and 55 who are not poor, not rich, and not in unions? Normally the answer one gets in response to this question -- and I’ve asked it of a number of politicians -- is something like "culture", "values," or "choice." But articulated values are stances toward the world, not policies or ideas or promises for how to create a society you want to live in. Stances are not the means to make things happen; they are what precedes the means. And the real answer to the question, Democratic political operatives will usually admit when asked on background, is that the party does not offer such voters very much, or at least does not do so very directly.

Folks, this could get interesting.

"Ten Most Harmful Books"

Jonathan Chait uses the publication of this list to characterize the conservative movement as "a gaggle of thick-skulled fanatics." The list, he continues, "offers a fair window into the dementia of contemporary conservative thinking."

Conservatives, he says, can’t distinguish between "totalitarian manifestos" and "seminal works of social science." Max, Mao, Hitler, and Lenin presumably belong on the list, but John Dewey, John Maynard Keynes, and Betty Friedan do not.

I don’t presume to know what folks like Robert George, Brad Birzer, Arnold Beichman, and Herb London were thinking, but it seems to me that the following explanation is at least plausible. Some of the works--the "totalitarian manifestos"--were included because they animated the forces of evil in the world. Others were included because they were sufficiently plausible to mislead well-meaning people down an ultimately harmful path. Yes, we’re talking about a variety of different kinds of harm (to family, culture, character, and soul, as well as to life and limb), which may be difficult to compare to one another, so that any actual ranking may provide only an extremely unsubtle presentation of a thoughtful person’s nuanced judgment. And, of course, any collective judgment constructed from the observations of a relatively disparate group (not all conservatives think alike, despite Mr. Chait’s efforts to paint with a broad brush) is going to seem less coherent than those made by the individuals themselves. So, Mr. Chait, go ahead and take your cheap shots and engage in name-calling. It’s a lot easier than engaging with the individuals themselves.

Update: You can read Ken Masugi’s characteristically thoughtful response here. And it turns out that Chait is just channeling Matthew Yglesias, who is similarly either incapable of parsing, or unwilling to parse, the list.

Update #2: I queried Brad Birzer, the one list contributor with whom I’m acquainted (he spoke at a Veritas Forum at Oglethorpe a few years ago), and received this response:

Though I certainly can’t speak or write for any of the other participants in the HE poll, I agreed wholeheartedly with what you wrote in your blog. As I voted (my wife and I brainstormed the list the night before heading to the hospital and having our fourth child [a boy, by the way]), I first asked myself what was truly evil in the past two hundred years-that is, those ideas which resulted in radical revolutions, the overthrowing of religious institutions, and the wholesale slaughter of innocent lives. Once I’d exhausted the truly nasty ones (Hitler, Marx, Mao, etc.), I went to the misguided and misleading ones. In each of the books I selected, I tried to identify those most anti-God, anti-human person, and anti-family. Ultimately, I wanted to find out what had helped shape what John Paul the Great during his pontificate identified as "the culture of death."

Frankly, I’ve been amazed at what’s been written regarding the poll. One person asked-and I’m paraphrasing-"what’s next: banning or burning"? Interesting to see that when a conservative actually exercises his right to free speech, he suddenly becomes a threat to free speech. Are such rights now particular rather than universal?

Of course there’s the LA Times and the "gaggle of thick-skulled fanatics." It’s certainly not the first time conservatives have been accused of being anti-intellectual. But, and admittedly I don’t have my OED handy, can "gaggle" ever apply to anything but geese?

The intent of the poll, as I understood it, was to discover which books and ideas led to things such as the decline of the family and the lack of respect for the dignity of the human person at home (does one need to look any farther than our abortion clinics, our nursing homes, or our Indian Reservations?) as well as to things such the vast state-sponsored murders over the previous 100 years a little farther away from home.

After all, the past century witnessed numerous ideologues-the Lenins, the Stalins, the Hitlers, the Idi Amins, and the Pol Pots-leading hordes of the confused, the empty, the vain, and the avaricious across over half the globe. Estimates are that ideological regimes slaughtered nearly 200 millions civilians in the gulags, Holocaust camps, and Killing Fields; another 40 or so million soldiers died in warfare. We have neither fully understood why they did so nor have we come to understand what happened in 1989 when Eastern Europeans simply said "enough." Neither death nor victory have made much sense to us in America.

Indeed, we have much to learn about the intellectual and ideological currents of the past 100 years, here and abroad, and this poll was one small but important attempt to discover a bit of what’s happened and what’s happening. It certainly wasn’t ignorant, fanatic, or about "banning or burning books."

It wasn’t about geese either.

Mickey, you have an eloquent and impassioned colleague. Brad may be thick-skinned (in this business, he has to be), but he’s not thick-skulled.

Amnesty International’s descent

Read this, this, this, this, and, finally, this. It seems virtually impossible not to agree that AI "is veering dangerously close to Noam Chomsky/Ramsey Clark-land," as one astute observer puts it. And I haven’t even mentioned William Schultz’s contributions to the Kerry campaign.

Breaking rocks and building cathedrals

This is Terrence Moore’s graduation address for the 2005 class of the Ridgeview Classical Scools in Fort Collins, Colorado. Moore is principal of the school. I visited the school last week, and was very impressed with the curriculum, the faculty, and the students (and with Jennifer and Terrence’s two-month old son, Samuel). I wish all commencements addresses read so! This is a sample, but do read the whole thing:

There is an old story, probably apocryphal, about three men working in a quarry who were asked what they were doing. The first man said that he was breaking big rocks into little ones. The second man said he was making a living. The third man said that he was building a cathedral. Now notice that all these statements are true but all quite different. The first man did not look beyond the task and the sweat of the moment. We can imagine what went through his mind: "I’ve broken up fifty rocks today; I have fifty more to go," or something to that effect, from one hour to the next, day in and day out, for his whole life. The second man extended his thoughts somewhat. For him, working in the quarry meant supporting himself and probably his wife and children. And of course, supporting oneself and one’s family is a worthy business, enlisting the virtues of responsibility and perseverance in some measure. But in this man’s mind we see an entirely personal objective, perhaps a grudging admission that man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, without any indication of aims beyond one’s immediate concerns. The third man’s answer is different. He is building a cathedral. Make no mistake: he is breaking big rocks into little ones, too, and no doubt making a living. But the ultimate end of his endeavor, however backbreaking and tedious in its daily routine, is to offer an encounter with the divine. Ultimately, his life is not about sweat or necessity; it’s about rapture. Thus, not only are these men’s answers different, but their lives are different. While none of these lives is lived in vain, they vary in the extent of their devotion to the good and the beautiful and the true. Their words measure the distance between the thoughtless and the thoughtful, between the pedestrian and the sublime.

Bobby Seale

To cure nostalgia for the 60s and 70s, let’s consider what former Black Panther Bobby Seale is up to these days. Win Myers knows.

The Sadris in the Iraqi government

Bartle Bull spent five weeks embedded with the Mahdi army in Sadr City before and after the election, observing what happens when a rebel movement decides to negotiate its way into formal democratic politics. An interesting case study of a rebel movement embracing democracy. The Sadris, as they are called, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, now now hold two of the most important ministries in Iraq—health and transport, as well as the ministry of state for civil society.

The horror in Zimbabwe

You have been, I presume, at least hearing about, if not following, the terror going on in Zimbabwe.
Over 22,000 people have been arrested, many murdered and their homes--such as they were--destroyed. Why? Because a tyrant felt moved to do it. Do not use his name--he is a counterfeit of a man--it is a disgrace to remember it. The Strategy Page calls it "democide." The black market--in food!--is at issue; that’s the only thing (aside from aid) that keeps the people barely alive. The professed tyrant--this most wicked fiend, this heartless hind, this little hangman, this cut-throat dog, this roastmeat for worms--is starving his perceived enemies to death. Horror.

Bad news

This is not a good way to die:
In South Carolina, Stephen Gable, 52, was riding his motorcycle Saturday afternoon on Priceville Road when a boat became detached from its trailer and hit him. Young riders are always instructed to stay away from trailers, especially those carrying boats. I had a nice ride late yesterday afternoon, just before the light rain hit. I took my son’s hot and loud bike, just for a change of pace. It was good.

North Atlantic Free Trade Association?

Austin Bay suggests offering Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands membership in a renamed NAFTA. I think he’s at least half-serious.

A bracing blast of Krauthammer

"In Defense of Certainty" is very, very good. Read the whole thing.   

Deep Throat, for the last time

This is Bob Woodward’s lengthy article on how Mark Felt became Deep Throat. Woodward and Bernstein are already saying that they have the book on all this in the works--which means it was mostly written before the Felt story broke, as was the Post article. So, we’ll be hearing a lot more about this for many months to come, Woodward and the Felt family will be making a lot more money, and all the journalists and reporters brought up on the Sixties and Watergate will keep talking about themselves and the good old days. They were all over the TV talkies this morning. And it got boring very quickly. One of them, full of inuendo and pride, actually asked where are the investigative reporters now, when they’re really needed, given that we have this all-too-secretive administration, etc. You get the point. So I’m going to pay attention to any of this only to the extent that I pay attention to archeology: Sometimes dead things merit some study only because they are dead; that is, not much. Peggy Noonan is on a semilar point, and she says it better than I can:

Is the Deep Throat story over? Yes, in the sense that it will no longer be treated as a mystery. In spite of the million questions we’ll be hearing--and there are and will be many serious questions--the MSM will stick with the heroic narrative. Mr. Felt was Deep Throat. Deep Throat was a great man who helped a great newspaper put the stop to the lies and abuses of an out-of-control White House. End of story. Why? Because in celebrating this story in a certain way journalists of a certain age celebrate themselves. Because to bring unwelcome and unwanted skepticism to the narrative would be to deny 20th-century journalism--and 21st-century journalists--their great claim to glory. Because the MSM is still liberal, and the great Satan of all liberals, still, is Richard Nixon. And because, as Ben Bradlee might say, It’s a goddamn good story.

Or as they put it in yet another John Ford masterpiece, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "When the legend becomes the fact, print the legend."

Jim Wallis vivisected

In a devastatingly brilliant review, Chuck Chalberg ever so gently commends G. K. Chesterton to the attention of the immodest and self-righteous Jim Wallis.  

We knew this all along

If you connect the dots in this article, it turns out that virtually any disagreement with the Democrats and their liberal interest group allies might trigger a filibuster. Thus Michael McConnell, whose nomination to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals won widespread support, might face a filibuster now:

But that doesn’t mean McConnell would have an easy time if he is nominated to the high court. A former assistant solicitor general in the Reagan Justice Department, he was highly critical of the high court ruling in Bob Jones University v. United States, the 1983 case that determined that the Internal Revenue Service could revoke the charitable tax-exempt status of a private university for discrimination in banning interracial dating among its students.

"The striking thing is that McConnell has criticized by our count about a dozen significant Supreme Court decisions on civil rights and civil liberties," says [Eliot] Mincberg [of PFAW], whose group has been critical of McConnell, Roberts, and Luttig.

While Steve Dillard finds some comfort in this article supporting McConnell’s 10th Circuit nomination, it seems to me to be written carefully so as not to commit its authors, prominent liberal law professors, to supporting McConnell’s elevation to the Supreme Court.

Hat tips: Southern Appeal and Bench Memos.


Here’s a WaPo story about a class taught by my friend Eduardo Velasquez, in whose reflected glory I bask. Knowing Eduardo, I’m confident that the class is more provocative and profound than the reporter was able to capture. Here’s the syllabus. Jeremy Lott has some questions for Eduardo. I encourage him to answer them.

Update: Eduardo offers more reflections here. I should note that I’ve read and been impressed by his scholarly work on popular culture. You can get some sense of his range by taking a look at his c.v.. Another source is the program he put together for the Politics, Literature, and Film division (#41) of the APSA. He doesn’t pander and he doesn’t produce fluff.

The demise of an abortion canard

This story gives the lie to the pro-choice claim that abortions have increased during the Bush Administration.

Here, here, and here are articles in which the claim is made. Here’s the analysis of the claim. And here’s author Glen Stassen’s response.

Update: More here, via Mere Comments.

More Baylor

This article indicates that the firing of David Lyle Jeffrey took some members of Baylor’s Board of Regents by surprise.

I think there were regents who were very supportive for Dr. Jeffrey and the job he did as president," [Board of Regents Chairman Will] Davis said. "It’s hard to see this as a healing event."

Davis said the university charter gives Underwood the power to hire and fire, though he said it should be done with consultation of regents.


Update: Via Russell Moore, here’s former Baylor prof Bill Dembski on "housecleaning at Baylor." For more on this, go here and here.

House and Senate elections in 2006

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times looks at the Senate, and thinks that there is no real chance that the Democrats will take it back in 2006. Ken Masugi has something thoughtful to say about this. Also note that Chrystal Ball notes this: "Between 1934 and 1994, the party in charge of the presidency lost House seats in midterm congressional elections without fail." And yet, "remarkably, the 1998 and 2002 congressional midterms consecutively turned conventional wisdom on its head." David Wasserman goes on to explain why any large scale shift in the immediate future is less likely: The truly marginal seats have shrunk. Therefore, virtually no chance for the Demos to take back the House in 2006.


Trust is now reduced to a chemical, oxytocin, by science. "Scientists have found the chemical equivalent of the perfect sales pitch: a hormone that makes us more trusting than we normally are.

Volunteers in a study were told they were participating in a decision-making experiment. Those who inhaled the hormone, which occurs naturally in the brain, were more likely to entrust others with large sums of money than were volunteers who inhaled no hormone."

Note to those who comment

By and large, the comments at NLT are thoughtful and interesting, but sometimes we get comments from readers that are crude, base, vulgar, or in some way personal. I respectfully request that such comments not be posted. When they are, I will remove them. Thank you.

The Dutch vote and Euro gloom

With a turnout above 60% (only 39% voted for members of the European Parliament last year), about 63% of Dutch voters reject the European constutution. Daniel Drezner has more. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw says this "raises profound questions over the future of the European Union." And the Conservatives say that the constitution is dead and are calling for a referendum. The Euro dropped to an 8 month low.

House Demos divided

"Despite the partisan saber-rattling on Capitol Hill, a significant number of votes in the GOP-controlled House are passing with broad Democratic support. It’s a trend that surprises analysts who have noticed the numbers, and it hints at a structural advantage for the GOP as it presses its agenda heading into 2006 elections, according to the Christian Science Monitor. About 20% of House Democrats come from districts that Bush carried in 2004 (only 8% of GOP Reps come from distrcits carried by John Kerry). The article lists a number of measures (bancruptcy bill, class action reform, permanent repeal of the estate tax, abortion notification, etc.) that at least 40 Demos have supported. When I spoke to staffers on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago, I pointed to this fact by way of explaining that the MSM’s emphasis on vicious partisanship and division doesn’t quite hold up; I also pointed out that Nancy Pelosi is not quite telling the truth when she claims that her party in the House is united. Note the reference to the Black Caucus, by the way.

Middle class crisis for Demos

The Washington Times reports that a new study, by a Democratic group, finds that the party faces "a crisis with the middle class." A report released by Third Way says support for Republicans begins at much lower income levels than researchers had expected: Among white voters, President Bush got a majority of support beginning at an income threshold of $23,300 -- about $5,000 above the poverty level for a family of four. The report defines middle class voters as making between 30,000 and 70,000 dollars. Kerry lost the middle class in 2004 by 6 points, but lost the white middle class voters by 22 percentage points.

Sceptic’s Eye

You may want to check out this new blog: Sceptic’s Eye. It is run by Allison Hayward, the smarter (and prettier) side of the Hayward family, and no stranger to these pages. She is an attorney writing on campaign finance and (un)related matters. Some of her other publications can be found here. Good Luck, Allison! We wish you well, but hope that from time to time you will still write for us.

The counterrevolution will not be televised

I just read over at Mere Comments that Baylor has fired David Lyle Jeffrey as Provost. This is, I think, very bad news for those who favored the Baylor attempt to create a first-rate "merely Christian" research university.

A little more here

For more on Jeffrey’s positions, which seem now to be in eclipse at Baylor, go here and here.

These stories suggest the beginnings of a wholesale administrative transition (especially striking is no mention thus far of Jeffrey’s demise), which is unusual for a "mere" interim president.

I’ll see if I can dig up more.

Update: Here’s the press release why indicates that Jeffrey is being replaced. The interim Provost is J. Randall O’Brien, who once called for "amending, not ending" Baylor 2012. He also authored a positive review of Imperial Hubris, which indicates that he’s a political liberal.

For all sorts of baseless rumors and snide commentary (from both sides), you can’t beat this message board..

Update # 2: In the light of recent events, this conference (invited speakers include Jeffrey, Sloan, and Schmeltekopf) will bear watching.

Strike Two: The Dutch Reject the EU Constitution

The Dutch have rejected the Eu Constitution by an overwhelming vote of 63% to 37%.

Here’s  an early news report.

Given a chance, it appears that the citizens of Europe are out of step with the elite of Europe.

Love and longing

This report, based on an article in The Journal of Neurophysiology, claims that scientists have discovered that romantic love "is a biological urge distinct from sexual arousal."

It is closer in its neural profile to drives like hunger, thirst or drug craving, the researchers assert, than to emotional states like excitement or affection. As a relationship deepens, the brain scans suggest, the neural activity associated with romantic love alters slightly, and in some cases primes areas deep in the primitive brain that are involved in long-term attachment.

The research helps explain why love produces such disparate emotions, from euphoria to anger to anxiety, and why it seems to become even more intense when it is withdrawn. In a separate, continuing experiment, the researchers are analyzing brain images from people who have been rejected by their lovers.

One scientists put it this way: "The findings fit nicely with a large, growing body of literature describing a generalized reward and aversion system in the brain, and put this intellectual construct of love directly onto the same axis as homeostatic rewards such as food, warmth, craving for drugs." Oh, how to make something grand into something lifeless and sterile! Let us talk of the areas of the brain--the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental areas and the chemical dopamine, or, refer to romantic love as "frustration-attraction"--when we are trying to understand love! Let us dare not say, as the Poet does, that "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."

Read this report to learn why the poets are right, and the scientists--in their quest to "know", but only a certain way--are dull and low and base and cold and full of bread and sloth. We all know something about romantic love (or even infatuation, but note that I leave out sex, at least for now), and yet no one in his right mind, that is, in his loving mind, would put it in this material and clinical way. Better the Poet who says, "love is a familiar; Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love." A bit more on love as sweet and musical: "and when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods, make heaven drowsy with the harmony." A more visual and contemporary slant on this might be the movie Spanglish, which I happened to see the other day with my twenty year daughter; we both "learned to read what silent love had writ." There is no real contradiction between the evil angel and the harmony, of course. And lovers (and madmen?) have such seething brains "Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends." Take the poetry out of this, you mortal fools, and you will banish your soul from your self for ever! Banish the scientists, and listen to the Poet:

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."

Chirac cabinet changes

In an attempt to get some legitimacy back into his government after the "no" vote, France’s president Chirac has announced that Dominique de Villepin has been appointed prime minister and Nicolas Sarkozy (his political foe and the likely next president) to a "crucial cabinet post" (so the NY Times calls it) with the honorary title of minister of state. It is expected that he will also be appointed interior minister. You may remember de Villepin as France’s great poet and historian, an admirer of Napoleon, and the great critic of the Iraq war. No Passaran! is also not fond of M. de Villepin, and has more.

Watergate and the press

Powerline brings to our attention this 1974 essay by Edward Jay Epstein, Did the Press Uncover Watergate?. Very much worth reading or re-reading since this issue will be covered unto the death by the MSM. Last two paragraphs:

Perhaps the most perplexing mystery in Bernstein and Woodward’s book is why they fail to understand the role of the institutions and investigators who were supplying them and other reporters with leaks. This blind spot, endemic to journalists, proceeds from an unwillingness to see the complexity of bureaucratic in-fighting and of politics within the government itself. If the government is considered monolithic, journalists can report its activities, in simply comprehended and coherent terms, as an adversary out of touch with popular sentiments. On the other hand, if governmental activity is viewed as the product of diverse and competing agencies, all with different bases of power and interests, journalism becomes a much more difficult affair.

In am event. the fact remains that it was not the press, which exposed Watergate; it was agencies of government itself. So long as journalists maintain their blind spot toward the inner conflicts and workings of the institution, of -government, they will no doubt continue to peak of Watergate in terms of the David and Goliath myth, with Bernstein and Woodward as David and the government as Goliath.

Sith Happens

I made it out to see "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith" yesterday. I went in with conflicting emotions--one the one hand, I’ve been a dedicated Star Wars geek since the I saw the original film, at age 10, in 1977. On the other hand, I remembered only too well the bad taste that "Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" left. So you might describe my going the way that Samuel Johnson described second marriage--a triumph of hope over experience.

Something I’ve noticed in all of the recent Star Wars films--all of the last three, plus, I think, "Return of the Jedi" has been George Lucas’s seeming inability to direct actors (as opposed to special effects). It’s amazing how he can take very good actors like Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Samuel L. Jackson (okay, admittedly he didn’t have much to work with in Hayden Christensen, whose on-screen emotions run the gamet from sulking to full-fledged brooding), and get lackluster performances out of all of them. One can almost imagine him, sitting just out of camera range, asking his actors if they can deliver their lines just a little more woodenly.

I guess a lot of it has to do with the stilted dialogue. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I liked the franchise more before all the Force and Jedi mumbo-jumbo got out of hand (here again, this started with "Return of the Jedi"). Consider the original film: a farm boy, a sassy princess, a wisecracking smuggler, some droids and a furry guy for comic relief. Sure, there was Obi-Wan going on about the force, but he was just one character. Plus, he was played by Alec Guinness, and because he was old and British he could pull it off. Nowadays we have Amidala and Anakin sharing tender moments that sound like they come out of 18th century political philosophy. And just once I would’ve liked to see Samuel L. Jackson (who plays Jedi master Mace Windu) drop the hocus-pocus and call Anakin Palpatine’s bitch.

Then there was this little gem. Right in the midst of a lightsaber battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet of Mustafarr, the following exchange takes place:

ANAKIN: You are either with me, or you are my enemy.

OBI-WAN: Only a Sith talks in terms of absolutes.

Huh? What was this whole franchise about, if not absolutes? The light side of the force versus the dark side? Darth Vader versus Luke Skywalker? The Rebel Alliance versus the Galactic Empire? Indeed, just five minutes after this exchange Obi-Wan tells Anakin that Chancellor (by this time emperor) Palpatine is evil. My wife had to restrain me from standing up in the theater and shouting, "I thought only the Sith spoke in terms of absolutes!"

Okay, but I have to admit it--it was cool seeing Darth Vader in his helmet and armor for the first time. But that may have been because I knew it meant we wouldn’t see any more of Hayden Christensen’s acting.

More on Democrats and the middle class

This article adds more to our knowledge of the report I first noted here.

Here’s the issue of Blueprint magazine, to which the article refers. There are at least four articles worth a closer look (perhaps this afternoon).

Update: I’ve had a chance to read over and chew on a few of the articles. This one is a revised version of this piece, which I discussed here. There are a few differences between the two; the newer one contains a positive reference to Hillary Rodham Clinton and deletes a negative reference to the ACLU. While there’s a lot of discussion in both of the use of the "bully pulpit" to indicate symbolic support for embattled parents, there’s no discussion of the role of real pulpits in addressing the cultural anxieties of parents. And I still wonder if the corporations that the "progressive cultural populists" would have us bash don’t include substantial numbers of Democratic donors who wouldn’t be particularly happy with this agenda.

Then there’s this article, by Marshall Wittmann, featured today at Real Clear Politics. Here’s his thesis:

As Democrats analyze their recent losses in presidential elections and plan the party’s future, they should focus on one word: order.

Americans long for it -- social order, law and order, world order. But ever since the chaos of the 1960s, voters have felt one aspect of order or another slipping away. And, fairly or not, Americans have perceived a Democratic tolerance for disorder and a Republican commitment to restoring order. That has been the subtext of every presidential election since 1968, although it has usually been called by other names -- like abortion, gay rights, flag burning, or "values." It explains why, in most national contests, Republicans have won.

But, like the previous article, the emphasis is heavily on the "symbolic," as opposed to the substantive. Order is an issue to raise, a concern to which to appeal, not a real thing out there about which we should be worried. So words are sufficient to address it. Democrats have to find a way of talking about order. If President Bush can "exploit" the issue, well, so can Democrats. It seems to me that until the Democrats recognize that there are real concerns here, communicate that recognition, and (above all) act on it, sensible voters will recognize lip service when they see it.

Not surprisingly, the most sensible
article was written by Bill Galston, who urges his Democratic brethren to abstain from judicial legislation.

The judiciary is supposed to be a check on the legislature, not an alternative source of legislation. In recent decades, however, Democrats have failed to preserve this distinction carefully enough, and they’ve paid for their carelessness. We should not assume that because the people reject Republican attacks on an independent judiciary, they support Democrats’ understanding of the judiciary’s role in our republic. The politically resonant attack on Democrats as elitists reflects, in part, an unwise reliance on the courts to do what Democrats could not accomplish -- not readily, perhaps not at all -- through the legislative branch.

This is good stuff, worth reading in full, especially for his attempts to continue to defend by exception Brown v. Board and for the following piece of advice, which his readers are highly unlikely to follow:

[W]e should refrain from imposing litmus tests on judicial appointments. The fact that a nominee may have worked against environmental regulations or voiced objections to New Deal-era jurisprudence is not by itself disqualifying. Nor are doubts about the wisdom or constitutional basis of Roe v. Wade.

Galston is one of the best expositors and apologists for the moderate Democratic position I’ve seen, heard, or read, as I’ve noted
before, but I remain unconvinced that he can persuade his fellow Democrats.

Marriage, family, and "natural law"

If you haven’t yet bookmarked Mere Comments, the place where the Touchstone editors blog, you need to. These are smart people who unfailingly have interesting things to say.

Today, David Mills was nice enough to post and expand upon my email response to this post on gay marriage. I think he’s right about cousins, by the way (I’ll leave it to you to pursue the links to see what cousins have to do with gay marriage. My kids are blessed with eleven cousins, six within easy driving distance, and two of those just the right ages for close friendships.

But back to gay marriage. When I teach Locke’s Second Treatise (as I did last week in summer school), I spend a good bit of time discussing his re-envisioning of the family into a series of contractual or pseudo-contractual relationships, undertaken for the sake of child-rearing. I ask students whether new reproductive technologies and new means of social provision, all of which are conceivable in Lockian terms (since nature is in a way the enemy) make it possible to widen our "Lockian" definition of what constitutes a family. If we’re facing a situation where men are dispensable even for the sake of reproduction and where anyone can be a wage-earner, why, according to Locke, must a family consist of a male husband and a female wife? And it of course goes without saying that if the family doesn’t necessarily exist for the sake of reproduction, there’s no obvious Lockian reason to discountenance gay marriage, polygamy, and polyandry. At this point, my conservative students are scandalized and my liberal students are embracing this suddenly very attractive dead white male. I then ask if there’s a non-Biblical, non-religious argument for the position Locke actually takes, favoring the two-parent household with male and female partners. If the biological and economic arguments are not determinative, having apparently been overtaken by events, what’s left? That’s when I ask about learning how to be a man in relation to other men and to women and to be a woman in relation to other women and to men. The family is our first, best, and indeed irreplaceable school in these matters, and male and female children both need male and female parents, regardless of what they might discover about their own orientations later in life. This inevitably leads to all sorts of other interesting conversations.

But enough for now, I have two summer school classes for which I must prepare, having spent the better part of the evening in the rain watching children and teenagers swim. For the record, the Vermack Vikings beat a much larger Garden Hills Cool Sharks team. My nine year old son, Liam, swam a credible breast stroke leg of a medley relay and a respectable 25 free race, nearly overtaking an arch-rival on the team; he was awaiting his 25 breast heat when the meet was called. My seven year old daughter, Charlotte, looked good swimming her first ever competitive butterfly leg in a medley relay and took second place to an eight year old Amazon in the 25 free. Let’s hope next week’s meet takes place without rain and with temperatures above about 68 degrees.

Update: The always interesting Tom Cerber has more here.


Mark Felt has long been a leading candidate to be Deep Throat, and I recall once reading somewhere that one of his kids, I think, told another kid at summer camp about 15 years back that his dad was Deep Throat. I’ll have to go back and see if I can track this down.

Meanwhile, what if, as popular theory has it, there was more than one W & B source that they called "Deep Throat"? That would complicates matters, because somewhere out there, one of the other persons who think he’s Deep Throat (John Sears? Fred Fielding???) will be really pissed off if W & B confirm Felt.

Deep Throat

MSNBC claims this: "W. Mark Felt, who retired from the FBI after rising to its second most senior position, has identified himself as the ’Deep Throat’ source quoted by The Washington Post to break the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation, Vanity Fair magazine said Tuesday." The article states that Bernstein and Woodward would neither affirm or deny the fact. But should’t they do so, if he is indeed the man? Here is the whole
July 2005 Vanity Fair story.

Steyn’s Memorial Day

Here is Mark Steyn’s note on Memorial Day. Very good.  

New Masters program

I don’t think I have had a chance to mention our new Masters in American History and Government program at Ashland. This unique program is an intensive Summer program, intended primarily for teachers. Take a look at it, I think you’ll like it. This is the course of study, and these are the classes offered this Summer. This is the faculty.

A long walk to freedom

As a young liberal from northwest Ohio in the 1960s, Keith Thompson was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words to become active in what was then called "progresssive" politics. But now, he says in a striking essay in the San Francisco Chronicle, "I walk away from... the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos."

An estrangement had been growing for Thompson since "a dinner party on the day Ronald Reagan famously described the Soviet Union as the pre-eminent source of evil in the modern world. The general tenor of the evening was that Reagan’s use of the word "evil" had moved the world closer to annihilation. There was a palpable sense that we might not make it to dessert.

When I casually offered that the surviving relatives of the more than 20 million people murdered on orders of Joseph Stalin might not find "evil’" too strong a word, the room took on a collective bemused smile of the sort you might expect if someone had casually mentioned taking up child molestation for sport."

Another decisive moment, he says, happened after Sept. 11, when "I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their premise was straightforward, almost giddily so: When the number of civilian Afghani deaths surpassed the carnage of Sept. 11, the war would be unjust, irrespective of other considerations.

Stated simply: The force wielded by democracies in self-defense was declared morally equivalent to the nihilistic aggression perpetuated by Muslim fanatics."

The final break occured on the day of Iraq’s first free elections: "I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq’s democratic experiment might yet implode." As a liberal, he had to leave the cultural Left because of its fundamental hostility to freedom, which is summed up in its terrible response to the courage of American soldiers in defeating tyranny and of ordinary Iraqis in defying terror.

There is still a long road ahead in places like Iraq, but Thompson’s piece brings to mind a passage from another essay, this one written in 1787. The Federalist says everything Thompson has learned and we must not forget, especially on this Memorial Day:

"From the disorders that disfigure the annals of those republics, the advocates of despotism have drawn arguments, not only against the forms of republican government, but against the very principles of civil liberty... They have indulged themselves in malicious exultation over its friends and partizans. Happily for mankind, stupendous fabrics reared on the basis of liberty, which have flourished for ages, have in a few glorious instances refuted their gloomy sophisms. And, I trust, America will be the broad and solid foundation of other edifices not less magnificent, which will be equally permanent monuments of their errors."


The license plates on one of the two new Mercedes carrying Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones’ banner here in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Memorial Day parade.

The Congresswoman didn’t make an appearance, allowing the cars, banners, and well-chosen vanity plates to speak for her.

Memorial Day ride

Because today is Memorial Day, I will ride to a cemetery in honor of those who have sacrificed their all. I have always gone by myself, but today I will ask my youngest--Johnny is now 17--to go with me on this one. It may be good for the "small man," as I call him, to see his father shed tears of gratitude. This is a piece I wrote after such a ride on Memorial Day in 1997. God bless the soldiers ad patres.


This article on Der Spiegel’s English site is rambling and not altogether coherent, but, then again, so was the whole EU debate. What lies behind the French rejection is backward-looking wishful thinking, a fear of changing the unproductive "French way of life."

Here’s a summary, in English, of German opinion and analysis. For more English-language reaction from the continent, drop by Davids Medienkritik (German blogger), Zacht Ei (Dutch blogger), and No-pasaran (French blogger). They’re all happy with the result, as, I might add, am I.

Update: Davids Medienkritik calls our attention to this post:

Given the prominence of the anti-American and anti-market French "left" in the "no" campaign, even many a "euro-sceptical" pundit will be inclined to say that the French voted "right for the wrong reasons". But there is much post-referendum evidence to suggest that in fact a very large portion of the French electorate, cutting across ideological boundaries, recognized in time the threat to their liberties that Dr. Joseph Fischer’s monster represented.

Ceausescu’s revenge

Anthony Daniels writes in the paper version of National Review (only the first few paragraphs are available on line) about the Casa Poporului (people’s house), the colossal edifice built by Ceausescu, then the Commie tyrant of Romania. The thing is monstrous both in size and appearance, and very badly built. It contains 1,000 rooms and halls and 20,000 people worked on it (with about 400 architects). The Romanians employ 200 people for its upkeep, and the Parliament meets there now. I bring this to your attention because I have seen the thing itself in all its horror, it is indeed a monstrosity. I was in Romania for a few weeks about three months after the revolution (the tyrant was killed on Christmas Day, 1989, as I recall), and while I spent most of my time in Transylvania, I did spend a few days in Bucharest (where I dined on black bear, by the way; I don’t recommend it). The proportions are gargantuan.
The Guiness Book of World Records lists the building in second place according to its 330,000 sq.m. surface, that is after the Pentagon. Here is a photo
of the thing, and another.
And this photo
is of the ballroom; it is 200 feet high, with a plaster niche at each end that was supposed to bear colossal portraits of the tyrant, but they were never painted. I couldn’t find a photo of the spiral staircase, which must have been twenty feet wide and--so I was told--had to be rebuilt once Ceausescu saw it because he wanted it shifted over by two meters. That took another year. This is another shot of the inside.
Daniels calls the building, "Ceausescu’s revenge."

Chaos in Europe?

This is the New York Times account of the "no" vote in France, and here is the WaPo’s account. Tim Hames of The London Times calls the EU Constitution a mystery: "It is a cross between the Berlin telephone directory and the prophecies of Nostradamus." Katrin Bennhold thinks that the French political landscape is scarred forever. The Left is fractured, and Chirac is dead. And the far right may prosper. It will be interesting to see what Sarkozi ends up doing about this. Bronwen Maddox, also writing in the The London Times thinks that "for France, this is turmoil," and he notes that in large part Tony Blair is responsible: Chirac agreed to a referendum after Blair said he would go to one. The Dutch vote on Wednesday, then later the Danes, then the Brits will all vote "no." It will be the end of it, and the increasing distance between the European elites and the ordinary folks will become an unbridgeable chasm. Ironically, Woodrow Wilson’s democracy of experts (i.e., non-democracy) will have come to a completion in Europe (unless the New Europeans can, somehow, save it all because they may yet understand the connection between sovereignty and democracy). George Will thinks that "Europe’s elites -- political, commercial and media -- may learn the limits of their ability to impose their political fetishes on restive and rarely consulted publics." Or, they may not. The people have many concerns, not the least of which is Turkey, which, when it becomes a member, will become the most populous country in the EU; there are implications to this. The oddest thing is that despite the rejection by France--exactly how isn’t clear to anyone--the EU system will continue to muddle through with most members (vide France and German’s ignoring of certain financial provisions already) and the movement away from real democracy in Europe will continue apace. Tony Blair, who is to become the president of the EU this fall, may have the opportunity to be statesmanlike. Let’s see if he takes it. Do note that the Euro
slipped to its lowest level this year against the Dollar. And Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, reassures a waiting world that "the EU will continue to be an actor" on the world stage. : "We’ll continue to work 24 hours (a day) with the same energy that we’ve done before." That must be reassuring to the still-born Europeans of the twenty-first century, these last Europeans, as they keep looking for their virtues because they believe they still have some.

Judicial filibusters

If you read this and this, you’ll understand why the agreement to forgo them, except in "extraordinary circumstances," can’t last.

Mark Steyn on Europe and America

In a typically funny column, Mark Steyn why Eurocrats misunderstand the United States and why, by implication, we should be heartened by yesterday’s E.U. vote in France.

Here’s a taste:

It would be more accurate to say almost all European nations subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are statist. Or, as Mr. Hutton has it, "the European tradition is much more mindful that men and women are social animals and that individual liberty is only one of a spectrum of values that generate a good society."

Precisely. And it’s the willingness to subordinate individual liberty to what Mr. Hutton calls "the primacy of society" that blighted the Continent for more than a century: Statism -- or "the primacy of society" -- is what fascism, Nazism, communism and now European Union all have in common.

In fairness, after the first three, European Union seems a comparatively benign strain of the disease -- not a Blitzkrieg, just a Bitzkrieg, an accumulation of fluffy trivial pan-European laws that nevertheless takes for granted that the natural order is a world in which every itsy-bitsy activity is licensed and regulated and constitutionally defined by government.

Read the whole thing.

Memorial Day

Enough said.

The Bush Administration, African-American pastors, and Africa

Hugh Hewitt calls our attention to this article about the Bush Administration’s attempts to coordinate African aid policy with African-American pastors. Two choice quotes:

"We did not want these ministers to be in a position where they come to Washington, meet with the White House and just pass the black caucus," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)

"We’re losing ministers every week," [Rev. Timothy] McDonald [who is heading a group opposed to Bush Administration policies] said.

Read the whole thing.

Student self-esteem

I missed this when it first appeared, but caught it in today’s Atlanta paper. My favorite passage in this biology professor’s despairing account of her students’ unfounded confidence in their mastery of the material:

In the face of all evidence to the contrary, my students exhibit an unswerving confidence in their own abilities. They earnestly assure me that despite test scores in the single digits and an inability to answer questions posed by their teaching assistant, they really know the material: "It just doesn’t show in my grades."

Read the whole thing.

French Reject the EU Constitution

Here’s an early report from the ’Washington Post’ on France’s rejection of the EU Constitution.

The vote was 56% to 43%. This is said to be a major defeat for Jacque Chirac.

I don’t know much about this but it seems a good thing. The EU Constitution is about 300 pages which means the rule of bureaucrats not self-government. And, a major factor seems to be that many Frenchmen believe they are losing control of their country to immigrants and that approving the EU Constitution would further that loss.

The decisive factor was that Schramm has been out of town for a week.

Ashbrook Center

Philanthropy note

I am back home. The family is fine, and the kids didn't burn it down or eat the dogs, although one of the dogs bit the leg of a young man, a friend of Becky's who happens to be a professional dancer. He can still dance, so it will be OK. Just a quick note on Joe's note below on conservative philanthropy. I agree that Piereson and Olin did great work. More on that later. Joe's right, I knew Henry Salvatori. He was a very fine man, one of Reagan's original "kitchen cabinet" guys. He was a very smart patriot who loved his country not only because it was his, but because it was good. He gave much money to CMC, Heritage, even the University of Pennsylvania. He was essentially responsible for getting The Claremont Institute started: We asked him for a million dollars, and he gave us $50,000 back in the late 70's. After all, we were just students. The organization now has a budget of about 3 million, and does great work, including the publishing of The Claremont Review of Books, the best journal in the country. I agree that the Olin Foundation did great work. My only criticism of the Olin (and some other foundations) is that they are too drawn to name brand institutions. They should pay more attention to those organizations who produce serious students, and have a very sound effect on the body politic even though they may not be located in Cambridge or Chicago. Of course, I count the Ashbrook Center among those (although there are other worthies). Note that we have established (with the Department of History and Political Science at Ashland) an extraordinary Summer Masters program in American History and Government. Take a look at the curriculum and the professors teaching it and tell me if you know of any better. And no foundation has given us big bucks to do it with. It starts in a few weeks. More on these matters later. I have to go home to mow the lawn and take out the trash and feed the dogs....I never said my children were perfect!
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