Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Where are the Grown Ups?

When my kids fight or call each other names, I confess that I rarely ask them to sit down and discuss their feelings. I may try to get down to the bottom of the problem by going on a "fact-finding mission" to discover who the guilty party is but usually, they are both just told to go to their rooms and not come out until they are capable of acting like human beings. Sometimes they need more encouragement--in the form of a firm hand on the posterior region of their anatomy.

Apparently, I’ve been encouraging bullying. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame) has put together a program that is now implemented in over 12,000 schools called Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh at Me. Michelle Malkin has described it brilliantly here.

Just a question: What happened to all the adults in our schools? When I was a youngster in school there was nothing so vulnerable as a teacher or administrator who took our childish behavior seriously. We could not express it, but we sensed the problem with that. We knew we could not trust an adult who trusted children. Children should only be taken as seriously as they deserve to be taken. They have to earn respect. Children have to be taught how to act like adults. They have to be made to do it. They will resist. If they are naughty, they must be punished. If they are mean, they must be punished more vigorously. They must be taught to act nobly and defend the weak. They have to be taught about justice. How odd to have to say these things that should be clear to all parents. But we’ve tried to re-invent the wheel. Kids will not respond to hand-holding and coddling. Sure, you need to kiss their boo-boos when they fall down, but you can over-do that. You have to make them get up again. These lessons are hard. Folk-songs cannot supplant the school of hard knocks.

If teachers and administrators (not to mention parents) were empowered with the powers that teachers of old enjoyed, (e.g., paddling, prayer, discussion of morality in absolute terms) we probably would not have as many of these problems as we seem to have today. Doesn’t anyone see that these kind of programs spawn precisely the behavior they seek to prevent?

Supreme Contradiction

This is my attempt to say something sensible about the Ten Commandments cases. Combine these two incoherent decisions, with the Kelo decision (also see this and this and this), and no one should be surprised at the political anger directed at the Court that has risen among ordinary citizens. This will have large consequences, from people questioning their elected local officials ("will you take away my house and give it over for development just to get more revenue for the city?"), to calls for a constitutional amendment overthrowing the decision. Remember what happened to the Dred Scott case?

Iran’s president one of the hostage takers of 1979?

Five ex-Iranian hostages believe that the president-elect of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had been one of their Iranian captors. The hostage crisis of 1979 lasted 444 days. The hostages were released when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in 1981.

Economy remains strong

The economic growth during the first quarter was 3.8%, matching that of the last quarter in 2004. "The final figure outpaced Wall Street economists’ forecasts for a 3.7 percent rate of first-quarter growth and implied the economy had more strength going into the spring than previously thought. Most forecasters say GDP will continue expanding at rates around 3.5 percent in coming quarters, despite some strain from costlier energy prices."

Bush is steadfast

Here is the full text of President Bush’s speech at Fort Bragg yesterday. I only heard parts of the speech, and read the Washington Post’s story on it. It seemed to me a good, sober speech in which he reminded us that the thing is worth doing and worth doing well. One of the things least appreciated in politics is constancy. Bush is constant. His dominating purpose--despite the criticism from some quarters--is victory. His unflinching mode is admirable and the people appreciate it. The MSM will, of course, continue to make stories our of poll numbers that have been slipping, but I don’t, especially not in the middle of the first summer of a second term. The speech was well received and served its purpose. The CNN poll immediately following the speech showed that 46% said they had a "very positive" reaction to what they heard, and 28% had a "somewhat positive" reaction. By the way, despite MSM drumbeat to the contrary, the Washington Post/ABC News poll, released just before the speech, showed that "a clear majority is willing to keep U.S. forces there for an extended time to stabilize the country."

Shelby Foote dies

Shelby Foote, the author of The Civil War: A Narrative, has died. He was 88. I loved his raspy, whiskey drended voice, and his moist eyes, and the Southern lilt of his voice. When he talked (or wrote) about the war, you thought that he had lived through it. I believe he had. RIP

This is an NPR interview with Foote about his friendship with Walker Percy. You can listen to it by clicking here.

Another Silver Lining: ’Kelo’ing David Souter’s House

Logan Darrow Clements, a real estate developer, has filed a request with the code enforcement officer in Weare, New Hampshire to build a new hotel on the site of Justice David Souter’s home.

From the article: "On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter’s home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon’s Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand’s novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development.""

Almost funny.

More on Kelo silver linings

I just read these posts by Eric Claeys, and find myself completely in agreement.

Having spent last week teaching about the Constitution (thanks again to these kind folks in Boise), I’m reminded of my teacher Walter Berns’s injunction to teach and study the document rather than what judges say about it. James Madison reminds us over and over again (here and here, for example) that our rights are protected more by the structure of government and of society than by any mere "parchment barriers," even if they’re, ahem, "enforced" by the judiciary.

I was talking to some friends at the pool last night (celebrating the end of swim team season--our team was sixth overall in the North Atlanta Swim Association championships, but I’ll refrain from further bragging), and the Kelo decision came up (without any prompting on my part). These middle class suburbanites--not especially political--are steamed. This morning, I was listening to our local entertainingly obnoxious radio talker on the way back from dropping my son off at camp. His guest was our county CEO, who, having apparently heard from constituents, was promising up and down not to engage in obnoxious takings (though he did make an exception for "blight," all the while denying that there is any such thing in our fair county).

The talker, who claims to be a libertarian but is apparently addicted to government by remote control, was fulminating about Senator Johnny Isakson’s press release, which didn’t go far enough for his taste, since it didn’t call for a constitutional amendment to rein the Court in. He should have preferred the "constant vigilance" recommended by a Harry Potter character whose name escapes me at the moment (my wife, the family HP expert [less than three weeks now], would know).

To wrap this up in a moderately neat package, there are, I think two good results that flow from the Kelo decision. Most immediately, it is going to be a little easier for President Bush to build support for his Supreme Court nominee. My neighbors may or may not have passionately held positions on abortion (we don’t talk about it), but they care deeply about their property rights, with regard to which the Court majority seems to them to have joined Dark Side. In the longer run, this is a proverbial teachable moment, reminding us that the real bulwark of our rights is not to be found in a courthouse anywhere, but in the willingness of citizens to stand up, not only for themselves, but for those currently most vulnerable to governmental predations. This requires the kind of sympathetic imagination urged upon us here, albeit not in the name of the same causes.

The Supreme’s folly

George Will gets to the point on the Supreme’s latest "two more hairsplitting, migraine-inducing decisions yesterday about when religious displays on public property do and do not violate the First Amendment protection against ’establishment’ of religion." He says this is what the Court should have said: "Because the display on public grounds does not do what the establishment clause was written to prevent -- does not impose a state-sponsored creed or significantly advantage or disadvantage one sect or sects -- the display is constitutional."

PBS and Professor Hefner

As the fight over PBS-funding continues, the Republican Study Committee has released this reminder on the "educational" agenda... er... programming over at PBS. From the press release:

The Public Broadcasting Service, PBS, is currently advertising for their movie, the Education of Shelby Knox, to premier on Tuesday, June 21, 2005. According to the PBS website, the movie is about 15-yearold Shelby Knox, who had personally pledged abstinence until marriage, but becomes an advocate for teaching teens about contraception and condom use through sex education. As part of her advocacy, Shelby allies herself with a group of gay students who have been denied the right to form a gay-straight alliance in school.

Oh yeah, and Playboy’s the corporate sponsor.

silver linings after Kelo

Also, as awful as I think the Kelo decision is, I think there are some good things for interested readers to focus on.

First, I think the case will galvanize public-use litigation even though New London won. Kelo was expected to lose 7-2 or 8-1, but the decision was 5-4, and with really strong dissents by Justices Thomas and O’Connor, and a concurring opinion by Kennedy that gives litigants some useful pointers how to win the next case. I think most land-use lawyers and most state courts will see the closeness of the case as a sign to reconsider public-use law seriously.

Second, in his dissent, Justice Thomas made it respectable to go back to the original meaning of "public use" -- government property like courthouses and roads, or property owned by utilities with a duty of access to the public. Thomas also said that the Founders regarded property as a "fundamental, natural right."

Third, and most important, Kelo made it crystal-clear that it’s a risky business to expect federal-court judges to defend property rights. It’s not enough to armchair-criticize a court opinion; citizens who want to protect their rights need to organize locally. Ironically, by losing, Kelo may end up doing property rights more of a favor -- by galvanizing ordinary citizens to support efforts to redraft state state "blight," "economic development," and "TIF" laws. These are the laws that give local governments to condemn land and assign it to businesses or local developers. These laws usually are quite open-ended, and they usually signal to state courts that the courts ought to defer to local findings that condemnations are necessary. Practically, I don’t think public-use law will ever be able to fix the abuse; what is needed is state legislation that (a) sets clear and agreed-on criteria saying when it is appropriate to use eminent domain, (b) requires courts to review local determinations independently, and (c) requires local governments to consider what impact proposed condemnations will have on property rights.

Anyone who’s interested should consult the Claremont Institute’s Center for Local Government, which is active in these things.

why Kelo wasn’t such a surprise

I know more than a little about public use law, because John Eastman & I co-authored an amicus curiae brief in Kelo for the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. I have a few reactions to the outrage against the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo, which people can consider for what they’re worth.

First, anyone who’s outraged by the result needs to understand that the law went south more than 50 years ago. In a 1954 case called Berman v. Parker, the Supreme Court gave local governments broad power to use "blight" as a rationale to redistribute private property, and suggested in the process that the Public Use Clause was a dead letter. My sense is that, by the 1970s and 1980s, local governments had gotten so accustomed to deference that they stopped using blight and started citing economic development by itself. Kelo just ratified that development.

To be sure, it’s a little more egregious when the city kicks an owner out purely to generate more revenue than when it does so on the pretext that the owner’s land is blighted because it doesn’t have a 2-car garage. But anyone who’s mad about Kelo should have been mad about Berman. I guess Kelo’s different because it’s a new decision, because condemnation is more prevalent now than it was in 1954, because pro-property groups are better organized now than then, and -- most of all -- because in Kelo the Supreme Court issued a holding that everyone can understand without complicating issues like "blight."

A Religion-Clause Background

For those following and hoping to understand today’s Ten Commandment’s decisions, NLT’s own Robert Alt co-authored this paper for the Federalist Society. An excellent primer for today’s opinions and, as always, a must read.   

Religious Division

Here is Eugene Volokh’s take on the Supreme Court’s Ten Commandments cases. The Court, of course, has split the baby so to speak, ruling, as Peter noted below, that the Kentucky display is unconstitutional while the Texas display is not. Thanks to SCOTUSBLOG.

The opinions joined by Justices Stevens, O’Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer routinely stress that Ten Commandments displays and the like often threaten to produce "religious divisiveness," and that the Establishment Clause should be read as making such divisiveness into a reason for invalidating (at least some) government actions.

But I wonder: What has caused more religious divisiveness in the last 35 years -- (1) government displays or presentations of the Ten Commandments, creches, graduation prayers, and the like, or (2) the Supreme Court’s decisions striking down such actions? My sense is that it’s the latter, and by a lot: All these decisions have caused a tremendous amount of resentment among many (though of course not all) members of the more intensely religious denominations. And the resentment has been aimed not just at the Justices but at what many people see as secular elites defined by their attitudes on religious matter. The resentment is thus a form of religious division, and I’ve seen more evidence of that than I have of religious division caused simply (i.e., setting aside the litigation-caused division) by the presence of Ten Commandments displays, creches, or even graduation prayers.

Isn’t there something strange about a jurisprudence that in seeking to avoid a problem (religious divisveness) causes more of the same problem, repeatedly, foreseeably, and, as best I can tell, with no end in sight?

Barack Obama on Abraham Lincoln

Barack Obama, the freshmen Democrat from Illinois, occupies the seat in the U.S. Senate which Lincoln sought in 1858. Obama offers his reflections on Lincoln. While he doesn’t quite get the Emancipation Proclamation or Lincoln’s alleged racism right, it is an interesting reflection on Lincoln. Obama understands that Lincoln believe in liberty for all.

Ten Commandments case

ABC News reports: "In a narrowly drawn ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in courthouses Monday, holding that two exhibits in Kentucky crossed the line between separation of church and state because they promoted a religious message." Scalia wasn’t amused, nor am I. Stay tuned for details at How Appealing.

GOP politics (in the MSM)

Baltimore Sun praises Ken Mehlman’s leadership at the RNC. "After five months in the chairman’s post, it’s become increasingly clear that Mehlman is the anti-Dean - to the delight of Republicans and the discomfort of more than a few Democrats." Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are inspired by the theme that the MSM has dwelt on recently asserting that the Bush team is not able to govern during the second term. Jeffrey Bell considers something similar, but focuses on the economy. How is it that the economy be doing well and yet the President not get the credit?

Durbin continues his "apology"

I guess Sen. Dick Durbin is on an apology tour. "I picked exactly the wrong words. My words hurt some people. I sincerely apologize for that," he said in Peoria.

Lincoln’s intimate life?

Allen Guelzo, Lucas Morel, Michael Burlingame, and others, comment on C.A. Tripp’s The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. This is the book
claimed to offer a "full examination of Lincoln’s inner life and relationships," concluding that Lincoln was "predominantly homosexual" and that his homosexuality informed his beliefs on slavery, morality, and religion.
In the meantime, Sen. Barack Obama tries to see Lincoln in higher terms, in terms that make him agreeable to this Democratic Senator from Lincoln’s state, but yet can’t simply endorse his virtues, his justice. But he sees something in his eyes. And, of course, he can endorse Lincoln’s attempt to remake himself, and remake his surroundings. Lincoln’s imperfections make him compelling, as Obama puts it. There will be more of this. Piscem natare doces.

Reactions to the Kelo decision

I do not think I have ever seen as much immediate outrage by ordinary citizens as I have since the Kelo decision. People are going to be quite active--I am betting--on the local and state level to try to find ways of overcoming this outrageous decision. Calling for a constitutional amendment is also being talked about. The Castle Coalition thinks that the fight is by no means over and that individual citizens can make a difference. Also see this, and this.

Barone on Rove

Michael Barone thinks that the reason Democrats reacted so loudly to Karl Rove remarks is because he revealed a rift in their party between Democratic politicians and Democratic voters.

One reason that the Democrats are squawking so much about Rove’s attack on "liberals" is that he has put the focus on a fundamental split in the Democratic Party -- a split among its politicians and its voters.

On the one hand, there are those who believe that this is a fundamentally good country and want to see success in Iraq. On the other hand, there are those who believe this is a fundamentally bad country and want more than anything else to see George W. Bush fail.

Kelo and Thomas

R.J. Pestritto (and here) and Ken Masugi have some more to say on the Kelo decision, and Justice Thomas’s dissent.

High minded politics of the EU

This was brought to my attention by The Corner. As is said there, no comment necessary. It is from


We’re told to always read the label, but if the EU gets its way, the label might not be all that useful in the future. Most clothes sold in Sweden contain labels with washing instructions, and eight out of ten Swedes say they find them useful. But the labels are now being viewed at the EU level as a hindrance to free trade.The source of the EU’s displeasure is the agreement between the Swedish clothing industry body Teko and the Swedish Consumer Agency, under which most clothes made in Sweden or for the Swedish market contain washing instructions. When the organisations tried to renew the agreement, they were informed that it broke EU rules, as it was prejudicial to foreign clothes sold in Sweden that don’t have the labels.

China’s energy woes

Philip Andrews-Speed, writing for the Far Eastern Economic Review, considers China’s energy woes. China’s bid on Unocal Corp. is a related issue. And, China repeats that it is not interested in revaluing its currency.

Maryland Democratic politics

Demos in Maryland are thinking of moving up their primaries. They see the primaries as bruising, dividing the party along racial, ideological and even geographic lines, and hope that by having them earlier, they will have more time to re-unite for the the general elections.

Blair’s son to intern with GOP Member

Tony Blair’s son, Euan Blair, will have an unpaid internship with the U.S. House Ruler Committee this summer. The London Telegraph said Euan would be mentored by David Dreier, a Californian representative to the Republican leadership in the House, during his internship. Democrats, thinking themselves natural allies of the Labour Party, are not amused.

Flag burning

Mark Steyn opposes a law against burning the flag, as do I, but his op-ed on the point is much more effective than anything I could have written. Read it.

My grandfather got 10 years at hard labor for having a small American flag in his house. The first thing he wanted to see when they let hime out was that flag. He thought the imprisonment was worth it. When I was monitoring the first free elections in Bulgaria soon after the fall of Communism in a dusty village near the Black Sea I noticed that there were many small American flags here and there, especially on cars. I walked up to an old woman and asked her why there were all these American flags about. She looked at me as if I were an idiot and said, "Freedom. It represents freedom." Enough said. Those who burn Old Glory make a political statement. I like to know where people stand.

Horatio Nelson

This review in the The Economist of new books on Admiral Horatio Nelson is very good. It tells us much about Nelson, who, according to the reviewer, did more than anyone (save Churchill) to shape the British character. Note this paragraph:

The Nelsonian essence of battle, Mr Nicolson explains, was the "liberation of individual energies to ensure victory". There is, he suggests, a parallel between the way Adam Smith thought of economics and Nelson thought of war: the individual’s uncompromising pursuit of individual ends also best serves the general good. While the Spanish fleet was marked by a peasant/aristocratic mentality, and the French fleet by an uncomfortable mix of ancient and revolutionary, "Nelson’s fleet carried a capitalist charge."

U.S. "renditions" and Italian law

The Italian judge’s order to arrest 13 men linked to the CIA is not an especially good sign. It reveals that we are indeed pressing against bad guys in unconventional ways (renditions--abducting terror suspects and transporting them to third countries--for example), and also that the Italians (and Europeans generally) prefer a different method of counterterrorism, one that works through the criminal justice system.

Likely Effects of Kelo

Over at Division of Labour, economist Larry White makes some predictions about the likely economic effects of the disastrous Kelo v. New London decision:

The result to be expected, contrary to well-meaning officials’ intentions, is misuse and waste of land (not to mention the hardships of involuntarily uprooted families). When private developers buy up land through voluntary transactions, they face a market test. If a shopping center or office complex flops, the developer loses his own money and will have trouble getting bank loans the next time. Wishful thinking is thereby constrained. The market ruthlessly weeds out incompetence. When town officials grab land through eminent domain, to assemble a parcel to sell to a developer (more cheaply than he could have managed without eminent domain, otherwise he wouldn’t have waited) whose shopping center flops, where is the personal penalty for the town officials? At most, if voters are informed enough to hold them accountable, they face a slightly higher chance of being voted out (if still in office), or a slightly reduced budget to play with (unless tax revenues can be enhanced somewhere else). Wishful thinking has almost free rein.

So my prediction: expect to see a few more half-empty shopping centers ten years from now.


Kathleen Parker has some thoughts about Hillary, and what she is really up to. Note this new Zogby Poll: McCain would beat Hillary, 54-35%.

A note on the Durbin apology

Robert Novak asserts that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley instrumental in forcing Senator Durbin to apologize:

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin may never have apologized for his remarks about the Guantanamo detention camp had his fellow Democrat, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, not described his comments as a ’’disgrace.’’

Durbin did not personally call Daley, but his frantic staffers were on the phone to the mayor’s office Tuesday asking that Daley tone down or even retract what he said. Daley made clear he would do no such thing. Durbin’s staffers claimed that the senator’s expression of regret the previous Friday should suffice, but the mayor insisted on a full-fledged apology.

Poll on Supreme Court nominees

This National Journal Poll shows that 71% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats would like Bush to pick a conservative nominee for the Supreme Court who’d spark a fight in the Senate.

Kelo decision

Here is the full Kelo vs. New London decision.

The Big Sleaze

The Belmont Club uses Philip Marlowe the gum-shoe’s ability to connect dots with the Washington Post’s article on the U.N.’s Oil for Food program.

Sarkozy moves right

According to the International Herald Tribune French "Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a leading contender to succeed President Jacques Chirac in 2007, is pitching his rhetoric to the right in the aim of capturing the votes of 50 percent of the backers of the far-right National Front, a key Sarkozy campaign strategist said Thursday." Sarkozy is the law and order candidate. His party’s chief polster, Manuel Aeschlimann, said this: "The idea is to try to win voters who are not naturally inclined to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy, but who will do so if he addresses their demands." Aeschlimann made clear that he ought to go after those voters who vote for the
National Front (Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party):
"We think 50 percent of them could be persuaded to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy if we make law and order a priority." There are already indications that this is happening, as Sarkozy’s party picks up support, so the National Front declines.

Kelo decision, cont.

Here is R.J. Pestritto’s blog on the Kelo decision at The Remedy.

Kelo vs. New London

This is George Will on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision
that expands the meaning of eminent domain. The Court has opened wide a gate that should remain shut, or nearly shut. This is an awful decision, as John Moser immediately pointed out (also see the Comments section). No doubt NLT will have more to say about this as time goes on. The only thing I want to note here is only the possible good political effect this case might have, especially given that Bush will the chance to place new people on the Court. Two folks (not academics) stopped me this morning in the market to say how angry they were about this decision. Private property has a very meaningful and concrete meaning for citizens, and they are not amused that one private party can now take the property of another. There are many ways the GOP will be able to use this decision, and placing better people on the Court is only one of them. And they had better take advantage of it. This will have consequences.

Brandishing Steel

Dan Balz reports on the latest Democratic demands for resignation: Karl Rove said some things that they didn’t like, so of course, he should resign. If that weren’t enough Ted Kennedy, the quagmire driver (as in deep water), called for Rumsfeld to resign. I especially note here that the attack on Rumsfeld came one day before the
Prime Minister of Iraq arrives to talk with President Bush. Tacky.

As for the Rove comments, I think he could have been a bit gentler. I think I would have. Yet, it amazes me how liberals are taking this up. This is a mistake. Here is the critical paragraph from Rove: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."
I agree with
Jonah Goldberg: "And a dumb thing for the Democrats. Pounding the table about how Democrats aren’t insecure therapy-seeking wimps doesn’t seem like a very helpful argument for the Democrats to be having in the national media."

A serious blow to private property

The Supreme Court has ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut is perfectly within its rights under the eminent domain laws to seize property from its homeowners and turn them over to a corporate conglomerate for private purposes. In a 5-4 split decision, the Court decided that the language "for public use" in the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment is flexible enough to include use by private firms, as long as this can be justified on the grounds of "new jobs and increased tax revenue."

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the decision, which had the support of Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. In her dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote:

Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public -- in the process.

For any liberals who may be reading this, take careful note of which justices chose to defend the rights of the individual homeowner (the little guy), and which ones took the side of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Welcome, Foolish Mortals....

Okay, time for a little break from politics. My heart skipped a beat when I found this little gem. I now have a project to work on with my 11-year-old nephew when he comes to visit next month. And best of all, the download is free!

Thank you, Ray Keim, for reminding me why I lo-o-ove the internet!

Explaining my relative silence

I’m in Boise, helping lead a seminar for schoolteachers on the American Founding. They’re good people who are taking their responsibilities seriously. And we seminar leaders are pedalling pretty hard to give them intellectual red meat.

My partners in crime include Will Jordan, Peter McNamara, Jim Read (who will be swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco in a few weeks), and Jon Schaff, a fellow blogger who contributes to the South Dakoa Politics blog. Our host is Scott Yenor, though he is present by his absence, working under this institutional umbrella.

Our dinner partner this evening was Rob Dayley, a former Oglethorpian, who led us to the absolutely funkiest (in a good way) section of Boise--Hyde Park.

Back in Atlanta, my wife reports that, when questioned about my absence at a swim meet (we won; kids swam well), she replied that I was in Boise, which elicited an incredulous response: Why would anyone go to Boise? I know the answer.

Supreme Court Speculation

The comventional wisdom has been that Chief Justice Rehnquist would announce his retirement from the court in the next week or ten days.

’The Weekly Standard’s’ Bill Kristol offers what he calls informed speculation that Sandra Day O’Connor will announce her retirement in the next week and that Alberto Gonzales will be nominated to replace her. Kristol speculates that Gonzales will be slightly more conservative than O’Connor and that Rehnquist will announce his retirement when O’Connor’s replacement is confirmed. He expects Gonzalez to be named Chief Justice at that point and a hard core conservative to replace Rehnquist as an Associate Justice.

Here’s a MainStreamMedia report on the top candidates for a Supreme Court replacement.

Taft hires lawyer

Ohio’s Governor Robert Taft "has hired one of Columbus’ leading criminal lawyers, his spokesman said Tuesday - the same day Taft disclosed that he had failed to report golf outings in which he had participated.

Spokesman Mark Rickel said Taft has hired William Meeks, a high-profile lawyer in Columbus who often handles government ethics cases, and who deals only in criminal-defense cases."

Democratic Senate prospects

Here is an optimistic view of the Democrats’ propects to pick up the U.S. Senate in 2006.

With at least six legitimate targets for the Democrats, the Senate is officially in play for the first time this cycle. We’re not naïve. Minnesota and Maryland won’t be easy for the party to defend. Add North Dakota and Democrats have their work cut out for them. But on the plus side, Republicans haven’t found A-list recruits in places like Nebraska, Washington and Florida. While those three seats won’t be easy for the Democrats to defend, things could be much worse.

There is a list of all the seats up, with some justification for what the writer calls the most vulnerable or interesting.

Arnold the Great?

Pete DuPont on Arnold’s great courage and vision. He thinks Arnold’s "19-month career is easily the most visionary and strongest gubernatorial leadership performance in modern American history." His last paragraph:

Democratic state treasurer (and a likely Schwarzenegger 2006 opponent) Phil Angelides says, "This special election will be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Iraq." Most likely that means the Democratic Party will end up in the Saddam Hussein role, for when a man of strength and vision goes to war for propositions that will increase individual opportunity, he usually wins big.

On leopards and lions

This is impressive. A 73 year old Kenyan grandfather
reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it. And this is from Ethiopia (via Kipling?): An
abducted 12 year old girl who had been beaten by seven men trying to force her into a marriage was found being guarded by three lions who apparently chased off her captors. "They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," a policeman said.

Durbin’s non-apology

There are a lot of stories about Dick Durbin and his so-called apology (Was this an apology Trent Lott could have given?). Although he will not be
censured by the Senate, not everyone is happy about his so-called apology. One calls it icky, and another says that’s not enough and his fellow Democrats should remove him from his leadership position. Hugh Hewitt has more.

Conservatives are Still Winning

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist can’t understand why American conservatives seem depressed lately. Sure, the Bush administration has suffered a few minor setbacks, but these are not at all atypical of second-term presidents. But, the two journalists remind us, "There are two
questions that really matter in assessing the current state of
conservatism: What direction is America moving in? And how does the
United States compare with the rest of the world? The answer to both
questions should encourage the right."

Their article (sorry, for subscribers only) reminds us that George W. Bush won with an out-and-out conservative message, and that a full one-third of voters self-identified as "conservative," as opposed to only one-fifth who called themselves "liberal." As a result, "Mr. Bush could afford to lose "moderates" to
Mr. Kerry by nine points -- and still end up with 51% of the vote, more
than any Democrat has got since 1964."

Mickelthwait and Wooldridge also encourage conservatives to look at divisions within the GOP in a more favorable light:

The Democrats would give a lot to have a big-tent party as capacious as the Republicans’. One of the reasons the GOP manages to contain Southern theocrats as well as Western libertarians is that it encourages arguments rather than suppressing them. Go to a meeting of young conservatives in Washington and the atmosphere crackles with ideas, much as it did in London in the heyday of the Thatcher revolution. The Democrats barely know what a debate is.

Indeed, the two point out, "the left has reached the same level of fury that the right
reached in the 1960s -- but with none of the intellectual inventiveness." They have no sort of agenda aside from knee-jerk opposition to every administration policy.

Mickelthwait and Wooldridge, by the way, are the authors of the recently-published book The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, a history of the revival of the American Right since the 1960s, which ranks high on my summer reading list.

Religion and politics in Canada

My friend John von Heyking had an editorial in today’s Calgary Herald. Responding to a recent call by Canadian gay activists to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that oppose gay marriage (also discussed here), John offers the following arguments:

[Gay activist Kevin] Bourassa’s argument implies that any kind of political statement is partisan. His argument inflates what counts as “political” to the point that any statement about culture is necessarily political. This leads to a radically secularist and statist view restricting churches to tend to their own communities, like marrying their own members and perhaps running a soup-kitchen. But they are prohibited from engaging and criticizing the overall culture, which common sense tells us affects the way people think of marriage and contributes to the need for soup-kitchens.

His argument is radically secularist because it seeks to restrict religious voices, except his own, from participating in public debate.

Mr. Bourassa’s argument is also statist, though it comes on the wings of a libertarianism that seeks to liberate individuals, and on the wings of equality because it views tax exemptions as special pleading. It’s statist because, by collapsing all of culture into politics, it gives the state a license to dominate culture, instead of letting culture develop from autonomous sources and communities. Society needs robust autonomous communities because individuals acting alone are too weak to secure their rights.

His argument is also statist because it removes the ability of organizations to express pre-political rights that enable all citizens to express our consent to government. It also removes their right to manage for themselves the often conflicting moral claims that their religious affiliations make on their political affiliations.

While John makes his argument for a Canadian audience, it certainly applies in spades south of the border as well. If liberty is connected with pluralism, and if churches are among the principal sources of pluralism, then they must be protected above all when they resist and criticize (bear witness against) the dominant culture. While their tax-exempt status may be a matter of legislative grace, it is an exemption that recognizes and respects their claims to transcend the "merely political." To punish or burden churches that conscientiously speak out is precisely to place limits on religious liberty. Such a measure would not be neutral as between religion and irreligion (at least a plausible, if not necessarily the most plausible reading of the First Amendment), but positively hostile to religion (which the First Amendment surely does not require). Not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Bourassa’s proposal is totalitarian in intent. Let’s hope he doesn’t succeed and hope that his U.S. counterparts aren’t inspired (so to speak) to imitate him.

Intolerant Tolerants

Fred Bills is a recent graduate (and future lawyer). He remembers a party he attended--
shall we say in his youth--at Ohio University, the political question raised, and how a conversation did not follow. He brings Harvard President Summers into his thought on toleration of diverse opinions on our colleges. Not bad. 

The Bolton vote

John Podhoretz at The Corner nails down the meaning and the effect of the Bolton vote yesterday.

Politics is about perception, and the perception among Democrats is that President Bush is on a downward slide. If the opposition to John Bolton’s nomination began as a foreign-policy critique, it has now become a simple matter of power politics. The Democrats have decided that blocking Bolton is the test case of their continuing relevance. The president will almost certainly have to make a recess appointment for Bolton, and he might as well declare publicly that the Democrats are acting in bad faith and that he is acting to fill a critical job because the opposition party is playing politics with a critical foreign-policy job. No more negotiating over the Syria documents or the names of the intelligence officers. That’s a Democratic dodge and a dangerous one where the separation of powers is concerned.

I would only add that for me this is where hard-ball politics gets interesting. The liberal perception is that Bush’s is weak and weaker, as time goes by. They think they smell blood. There are continual references in the MSM about his lame-duck status, low poll numbers, and so on. If I am right about Bush and his people, this is where they will begin to take advantage of the lack of esteem in which they are held. Now begin to use (as they have many times in the past) their underestimation of him to his advantage. This counterattack will reveal itself in other ways, not just on Bolton. We should be prepared to be surprised. And the Demos will be unprepared, I’ll wager.

Spanish protest against same-sex marriage

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Spain to protest the bill in front of the parliament supporting gay marriage. The march had the full support of the Catholic Church. The bill, which will become law in July, will become the most liberal in Europe (including that in the Netherlands). This is the BBC’s report on the march.

This reminds me of story I heard from a lawyer. The tiresome jury selection process continued, each side hotly contesting and dismissing potential jurors. Bob Smith was called for his question session.
"Property holder?"
"Yes, I am, Your Honor."
"Married or single?"
"Married for twenty years, Your Honor."
"Formed or expressed an opinion?"
"Not in twenty years, Your Honor."

Hollywood slump

Apparently, Hollywood is in its worst slump in 20 years. Overall movie revenues skidded for the 17th-straight weekend, tying a slide in 1985 that had been the longest box-office decline since analysts began keeping detailed records on movie grosses.

On Rehnquist’s replacement

Elizabeth Bumiller writes for the NY Times on the upcoming search for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s replacement. More names are mentioned than in yesterday’s Post’s account.

AFL-CIO collapse?

Howard Fineman’s take on the divisions in the AFL-CIO.

The House of Labor is divided against itself, and it’s not clear it can stand. For reasons of philosophy, money and ego—the Potomac power mix—the slice of America that used to be called "Big Labor" may soon collapse. A breakup would have broad implications in the workplace, pitting one set of unions, and one vision of unionism, against another. In politics, it would create competing spheres with one of them—the renegades—more willing to work with Republicans and more focused on organizing drives than on electoral politics. "In terms of Democratic politics, it’s a disaster," says Rick Sloan, the Machinists communications director. "It would eviscerate our ground capabilities in ways Karl Rove and Tom DeLay will try to exploit."


Jackson, TN celebrates June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth), the day the slaves in Galveston, TX, learned they were free. A hundred and forty years ago today Union General Gordon Granger brought the news. He stepped off the boat, unto the beach and read this:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free labor.

These reports from Houston,
Ft. Wayne, IN, and other places, indicate that the once well observed day is being revivified. Also see

Real torture

Powerline and Democracy Project remind us of what real torture looks like.

Sunday reading

Just returned from a quick trip up to Maryland (to help celebrate my dad’s 75th). Gave money to the Washington Post to pass the time at Reagan. There were at least a few things worth reading, among them Robert Kagan’s latest, asking us to consider what might have happened had we not invaded Iraq, this piece on Iranian intellectual life (are large audiences for Richard Rorty and Juergen Habermas, as well as best-seller status for Nietzsche, signs of hope? you be the judge), and this long front-page article on Robert Byrd’s Klannish past. Dick Durbin’s oafish present merited only an unsigned little piece buried in the front section.

When I finished with the paper (a less all-consuming chore than it once was), I polished off the last bit of this book on Christian education, by Nicholas Wolterstorff, which could profitably be read by all the Southern Baptists considering whether to leave the public schools.

It was great to celebrate my dad’s day, but also great to be back home, thanks to one airline, two public transit systems, a nephew, and my parents. Now on to course prep, blue books, and girding my loins for another trip (this one to gaze on the famous blue turf of Boise State).

Porter Goss interview

Porter Goss is interviewed by Time. The first two questions and answers:

WHEN WILL WE GET OSAMA BIN LADEN? That is a question that goes far deeper than you know. In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we’re probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice. We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you’re dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE HE IS. WHERE? I have an excellent idea of where he is. What’s the next question?

Durbin’s grotesque words

Mark Steyn doesn’t (at first) question Senator Durbin’s patriotism, he starts off with his sanity!

One measure of a civilized society is that words mean something: "Soviet" and "Nazi" and "Pol Pot" cannot equate to Guantanamo unless you’ve become utterly unmoored from reality. Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume. One of these is not the same as the others, and Durbin doesn’t have the excuse that he’s some airhead celeb or an Ivy League professor. He’s the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Don’t they have an insanity clause?

Of course, you have to read the whole thing. Let Steyn’s words remind us that words are not idle things, and Durbin’s grotesque words have meaning. Durbin and others like him should learn this, and failing that, should at least quiet their wild and whirling words and know that words without thoughts never to heaven go. Steyn concludes:

This isn’t a Republican vs Democrat thing; it’s about senior Democrats who are so over-invested in their hatred of a passing administration that they’ve signed on to the nuttiest slurs of the lunatic fringe. It would be heartening to think that Durbin will himself now be subjected to some serious torture. Not real torture, of course; I don’t mean using Pol Pot techniques and playing the Celine Dion Christmas album really loud to him. But he should at least be made a little uncomfortable over what he’s done -- in a time of war, make an inflammatory libel against his country’s military that has no value whatsoever except to America’s enemies. Shame on him, and shame on those fellow senators and Democrats who by their refusal to condemn him endorse his slander.

On Rhenquist’s replacement

The Washington Post assumes that on Rhenquist’s retirement no one currently on the Court would be elevated to Chief and thinks that the three top candidates are Gonzales, Luttig, and Roberts, although other possibilities are mentioned.

Europe collapse in anger and shame

The New York Times, the BBC, and the Washington Post all agree that the European summit has collapsed and that the future is bleak. A compromise over the budget couldn’t be reached.
Chirac objected to "the British check", and blames Britain for the "serious crisis," while Blair wanted reform. "Most embarrassing for the European Union was an attempt by its 10 newest members to salvage the budget agreement late last night. They offered to give up some of their own aid from the union so that the older and richer members could keep theirs." (NY Times) Behind all this is the deeper ideological dispute, with the New Europe (and Denmark) wanting freer trade, and free movement of labor, while the Old wants to avoid the "Anglo-Saxon economic model" by preserving socialism and the welfare state. The Old Europeans don’t understand that if they want to become a superpower they have to work for it. Look for a better relationship between the New European countries, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., with some from the Old bloc jumping aboard, including Denmark and Italy. Alliances are forming. Das ist alles, baby. Thirty years from now, the rest of Europe will be backwater.


From beauty to horror. In Zimbabwe the Mugabe horror continues; it’s called Operation "Drive Out Trash," or, murambatsvina.
See before and after pictures of demolished homes here.

Raphael’s true love

How to read a painting, is the question. Raphael’s
portrait called "Fornarina" is said to reveal his true love, a baker’s daughter. I have no idea if it’s true, but it is a good story. You can see her here.
The painting is travelling, and is now at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This Raphael isn’t bad, either.

NYT and the separation of powers

Here’s the predictably simple-minded way in which the NYT editorial board understands the role of the judiciary under our Constitution:

Since the Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison in 1803, it has been clearly established that the courts have the ultimate power to interpret the Constitution. But right-wing ideologues, unhappy with some of the courts’ rulings, have begun to question this principle as part of a broader war on the federal judiciary.

The genius of the American system is that the founders carefully balanced power among three coequal branches. Mr. Hostettler’s amendment would throw out this brilliant structure, and 200 years of constitutional history, and make Congress the final interpreter of the Constitution.

I guess that in 1860 this editorial board would have defended the constitutional interpretation of the Taney court against that ideologue Abraham Lincoln, who was so presumptuous as to entertain a different interpretation of the Constitution. Or perhaps not. What matters, after all, is the result. When the courts support the correct result, the NYT supports them. When they don’t, who knows?

For a less simple-minded and results-oriented view of this issue, go here

Tha brains of men and women

Had a...shall we say, full I took my son’s bike out for a spin around the local farms. His bike resembles some short people I have known: tough and loud and mean, needing to prove himself at every turn in the road. Great fun with that V-twin throbbing under you, but it’s tough to keep it up more than fifty miles a ride. But those fifty miles are enlivening (and loud). My ears are ringing still (ear plugs mean nothing to this bike, as it growls its strength). So, the sun is setting, and I come across this is the Los Angeles Times. A scientist named Sandra Witelson, "a raven haired Canadian psychologist with a taste for black leather and red show girl nails," has made a discovery: A

women’s brain and a man’s brain are different. It’s a long story, so grab your NLT mug and enjoy. John at Powerline wonders if it’s not too late for Harvard to get its $50 million back!

And then there is this.

Teaching and learning our history

David Gelernter explains why programs like this and this, funded in part through this program, are so important. 

Paul Johnson on Europe

Here’s a snippet:

:The last Continental statesman who grasped the historical and cultural context of European unity was Charles de Gaulle. He wanted "the Europe of the Fatherlands (L’Europe des patries)" and at one of his press conferences I recall him referring to "L’Europe de Dante, de Goethe et de Chateaubriand." I interrupted: "Et de Shakespeare, mon General?" He agreed: "Oui! Shakespeare aussi!"

No leading member of the EU elite would use such language today. The EU has no intellectual content. Great writers have no role to play in it, even indirectly, nor have great thinkers or scientists. It is not the Europe of Aquinas, Luther or Calvin--or the Europe of Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Half a century ago, Robert Schumann, first of the founding fathers, often referred in his speeches to Kant and St. Thomas More, Dante and the poet Paul Valery. To him--he said explicitly--building Europe was a "great moral issue." He spoke of "the Soul of Europe." Such thoughts and expressions strike no chord in Brussels today.

Read the whole thing.

Update: Tom Cerber has more thoughts here, linking Johnson’s piece with this one by David Brooks. Here’s Brooks’s concluding paragraph:

Today more people go to college. They may be assigned Rimbaud or Faulkner or even Hemingway. But somehow in adulthood, they tend to have less interest in that stuff than readers 40 years ago.

Why, gentle readers, do you think this is the case? I have my thoughts. What are your’s?

Senator Durbin’s want of wit

Senator Durbin "Sen. Dick Durbin refused to apologize Wednesday for comments he made on the Senate floor comparing the actions of American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis, Soviet gulags and a "mad regime" like Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s in Cambodia." There are times when I restrain myself. This is one of those times. I think a United States Senator has a perfect right to make all kinds of arguments about Gitmo, and how to handle prisoners of war. He can even become a bit polemical and loose in his reasoning while doing so, pretending, for example, that closing down Gitmo will solve those issues he thinks the administration is ignoring. Fine, but to say that the behavior (and by indirection even the policy) of Americans to that of Nazis and Soviet gulags and such, is beyond the pale. Anger and thinking don’t go well together so I have nothing to say. But Scott at Powerline has a few words on this subject.

Schiavo’s Autopsy

Would any of the contributors here care to comment on the revelations that came from Terry Schiavo’s autopsy--i.e., that there was no reasonable chance that she would have recovered? It has certainly been played up in the media as complete vindication for her husband.

I’m honestly not looking for a fight here. I have no particular competence when it comes to bioethical questions, which is why I avoided weighing in on the controversy when it was actually going on. But I would be interested in hearing from some of those who argued against removing Schiavo’s feeding tube. Do the results of her autopsy change anything, or would you still have held the same position that you did, even if you knew at the time what we apparently know now about her condition?

Money matters

Deep Throat sells his story to Universal pictures for $1 million (both book and movie). Bob Woodward’s The Secret Man will be out in two weeks. The runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks, made a deal with a company that is pitching a movie about her life to networks. Powerball winner of $220 million (gets 85 million after taxes), intends to invest the money and become a billionaire within 15 years. The 405 tribal casinos in the U.S. generated about $19 billion in gross revenues last year. Bill Lerach, the well-known California attorney whose firm Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins represents the downtrodden shareholders of dozens of corporations has notched settlements of more than $4 billion from the two biggest U.S. banks, all in less than one week. "Right now, he stands to rake in at least $258 million in fees for the Enron litigation."

Bernie Sanders, Mainstream Democrat?

I remember when Bernie Sanders was first elected to Congress in 1990 explicitly as a socialist, Tom Bethell wondered in The American Spectator how we would tell the difference between Sanders and the Democrats, with whom he decided to caucus.

Now that Sanders is planning to run for the Senate as a Democrat, today’s Wall Street Journal editorial page points us to a remark of Howard Dean in his recent interview with Tim Russert, who asked Dean if there was room in the Democratic party for a socialist.

Dean: "He’s not a socialist really. . . He is basically a liberal Democrat."

Game, set, and match to Bethell.

Florida vouchers again

Clint Bolick shares my worries about what the Florida Supreme Court has in mind. In addition, he offers a powerful argument, replete with statistics, about how the voucher program is actually improving student performance in and out of Florida’s public schools. Read the whole thing.  

For more on voucher programs elsewhere, go here and here, as well as to this site.

Update: Katie Newmark has more.

God’s Politics

Here’s a very critical review of God’s Politics posted on a generally liberal (but quirkily unpredictable) website. A taste:

In the age of Ann Coulter and Michael Moore, most mass-market political books are compiled, rather than composed, and are unlikely to win any literary prizes. However, God’s Politics is sloppy beyond all reason; it reads like an unedited Dictaphone transcription. While this book’s political thought is stale and its religious expression lacking in intellectual rigor and occasionally gooey, what pushes this work beyond the mediocre and less than fun to read and into the territory of the terrible and the unreadable is the apparent absence of an editor.

Read the whole thing.

Rove on Reagan

Karl Rove, speaking at the Reagan Library, on Ronald Reagan.  

Harmful books again

Tom Cerber notes that Andrew Sullivan has (predictably) jumped on the bandwagon carrying those who would bash the list of ten most harmful books, already discussed here and here on this site.

I wish that I had said some of what Tom says, especially this:

One could reasonably argue that books by Nietzsche, Kinsey, Dewey, etc. are harmful because they seduce people into thinking thoughts that harm their souls. But Sullivan the libertarian doesn’t seem to recognize this. For him, harm is reduced to bodily harm. This strikes me as overly crude.

Moreover, judging whether or not a book is harmful says nothing of whether one should read it. There’s good reason to read a book that might harm your soul, if you have the maturity to understand what’s going on.

Further, a book that’s good for your soul might prove to be harmful. Didn’t Athens execute Socrates because his philosophizing threatened its political rule? Sullivan needs to be more sensitive to the fundamental challenge that philosophy itself makes on politics.

Game, set, match to Cerber, over Sullivan, who can only jump to the conclusion, unworthy of someone as intelligent as he is, that regarding a book as harmful is tantamount to wishing to ban it.

This, by the way, is an example of a move I often encounter in people who object to the mere possibility of "moral absolutes." If I believe that something is "absolutely wrong," I’m told, I must want to suppress it and ban it legislatively. Freedom, it seems to these folks, demands that we be non-judgmental and indeed relativistic. But I can regard something as morally wrong without thinking that it is the role of government to prevent or prohibit it. Consider, in this connection, this passage from that noted latitudinarian St. Thomas Aquinas:

Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.

For other passages along the same lines, go here (Third Article) and here (Fourth Article).

Update: Win Myers has more provocative thoughts on book lists and Andrew Sullivan, who, he says, comes closer to describing the Left than the Right in his comments. For still more commentary, go here and here.

Annan and the Oil Probe

Kofi Annan is back in the spotlight. Two interesting memos have appeared that seems to indicate a much closer involvement than heretofore thought. From CBS News: "One of the e-mails describes an alleged encounter between Annan and officials from Cotecna Inspection S.A. in late 1998 during which the Swiss company’s bid for the contract was raised.

The second, from the same Cotecna executive, expresses confidence that the company would get the bid because of "effective but quiet lobbying" in New York diplomatic circles." Worth paying attention to.

Going after the ratlines

Mac Owens explains our "River Campaign" (one of the main "ratlines") in Iraq, and why it is successful. "But while military operations have weakened the insurgency, military means alone cannot defeat an insurgency. That is why it is necessary to bring the Sunnis into the government. Recent evidence suggests that the steps so far have already begun to drive a wedge between the Sunni and the foreign jihadis who have come to fight for Zarqawi." We are getting much better intelligence, especially from the Sunnis.

Ramirez Cartoon


Mark D. Roberts comments at length on this nasty piece of work by Doug Ireland. Here’s Ireland’s response to Roberts, whose blog is often promoted by Hugh Hewitt.

Ireland’s original article quotes at length Chip Berlet, whom I quoted, somewhat favorably, here. Clearly Berlet’s opposition to demonization is context-specific. When he’s speaking for consumption in the mainstream press, he comes across as one who wishes to pour oil on troubled waters. When he’s speaking to a more "select" audience, he’s somewhat less restrained. If calling people names is counterproductive, then clearly Ireland and his readers (check out the comments) haven’t gotten the memo.

Havel on Burma

Vaclav Havel says increase the pressure on Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi is going to be 60 on Sunday and he would also like to give her a rose. He thinks that Castro made fools of the EU, and hopes (a hope needs no foundation in reality) that the same will not happen again with Burma.

The Corner has moved

NORO’s The Corner has moved its site. Be sure to bookmark it.

Primary for Portman’s House seat

The GOP primary for Portman’s House seat was won by Jean Schmidt. Note that Senator DeWine’s son (a county commissioner) came in fourth. About a month ago, he was thought to be in the lead, and had the most money.

Tired Europe

Roger Cohen asks, "Has Europe become a sideshow?"
What could French Prime Minister Villepin mean when he says, "globalization cannot be our destiny"? Tired, unambitious, relaxed, post-modern, Europe is in trouble. If you don’t get it, he notes, compare it to India, which is dynamic, young, fluid, and willing.

He writes from Venice, and concludes with a description of once all-conquering Venice as it surrendered to Napoleon: "The fact of the matter was that Venice was utterly demoralized. It was so long since she had been obliged to make a serious military effort that she had lost the will that makes such efforts possible. Peace, the pursuit of pleasure, the love of luxury, the whole spirit of dolce far niente has sapped her strength. She was old and tired; she was also spoilt."

also reports on the upcoming Brussells meeting Thursday and Friday. It is a pessimistic report: "it may be hard to prevent an impression that the EU is unravelling," and "European leaders with a chance to show that the EU still works - but all the signs are that they will fail."

Update: Robert Samuelson also thinks that Europe is finished. Europe is "going out of business" because of a larger reality than the question about the EU constitution: "Unless Europe reverses two trends -- low birthrates and meager economic growth -- it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived."

Church & state in Colorado Springs

Ken Masugi brings us up to date on the "scandal" of evangelical proselytizing at the Air Force Academy, noting, among other things, his letter in today’s NYT.

Over at Get Religion, Terry Mattingly calls our attention to a shockingly even-handed article on the Academy, one that "covers this story as if people on both sides of the debate have constitutional rights that need to be protected."

Next generation of conservatives

Win Myers calls our attention to and comments on this article describing the Heritage Foundation’s internship program. Here’s Win:

Most of the young people interviewed by the Times know that they have much to learn; that is, they know there are things they don’t know. That’s a crucial step towards wisdom, and it’s a virtue that young people in every generation should cultivate. Because conservatives respect the broad sweep of Western culture, their youth are encouraged to read from among thousands of writings dating to antiquity, as well as more modern works by self-consciously conservative authors. That’s quite a task -- more than anyone can accomplish in a lifetime.

A left-wing equivalent of Heritage’s internship program, if it existed, would certainly be more activist-oriented, and its graduates would emerge with a wider network of contacts, but little connection to their intellectual ancestors. That’s a heavy price to pay for "relevance," but it’s the inevitable cost of holding the intellectual tradition of one’s civilization in contempt.

Heritage, by the way, doesn’t offer the only game in town. Among other noteworthy efforts at educating the next generation are those of
the Claremont Institute, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Institute for Humane Studies, and the Witherspoon Fellowship. I heartily recommend them all.

Update: Mike DeBow tells me that there are still more noteworthy programs out there, including the Alliance Defense Fund’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship internship, the Institute for Justice’s conference and internship programs, GMU’s Center for Study of Public Choice Outreach Conference, the Foundation for Economic Education’s seminar programs, and Mises University. He also notes that Hugh Hewitt has picked up the story, as, by the way, has Terry Mattingly.

The political war in California

Gov. Schwarzenegger "ordered a Nov. 8 special election that could trim the power of California’s Legislature and dampen the influence of the public employee unions that help finance its Democratic majority," according to ther L.A. Times. This is the San Francisco Chronicle story on the same: "The election will be the most critical test of Schwarzenegger’s administration, a test in which he faces well-funded opponents and some reluctance even from powerful figures in his own party.

It sets the stage for a political war for control of Sacramento pitting the governor’s big-business allies against Democrats and labor unions, two of his principal detractors. And it’s a confrontation that political experts say could have national ramifications." The outcome will have national repercussions, especially if Arnold wins.

China down, India up

Mark Steyn says that China is not a psychologically healthy state; don’t let the facade fool you. "If the People’s Republic is now the workshop of the world, the Communist Party is the bull in its own China shop...But Maoists with stock options are still Maoists - especially when they owe their robust portfolios to a privileged position within the state apparatus." He warns--rightly, I think--that "Commie-capitalism" is not exatcly what they would have us believe it is. And this will not turn out to be the Chinese century. He then passes to India as a related question:

India, by contrast, with much less ballyhoo, is advancing faster than China toward a fully-developed economy - one that creates its own ideas. Small example: there are low-fare airlines that sell £40 one-way cross-country air tickets from computer screens at Indian petrol stations. No one would develop such a system for China, where internal travel is still tightly controlled by the state. But, because they respect their own people as a market, Indian businesses are already proving nimbler at serving other markets. The return on investment capital is already much better in India than in China.

Read the whole well-crafted piece.  

Birthday of the U.S. Army

Two months after the battles of Lexington and Concord, on June 14, 1775, 230 years ago, the U.S. Army was born. The Second Continental Congress met as a Committee of the Whole and adopted "the American continental Army" and undertook to "raise ten companies of rifelemen." John Adams recommended that that fellow from Virginia, George Washington, age 43, be given command of the army. Washington attended the Congress in uniform (of his own making, from the French and Indian wars) looking, as one delegate said, "no harum-scarum, ranting, swearing fellow, but sober, steady, and calm." When Washington accepted the command, he told Congress that if "some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentlemen in the room, that I this day declare...that I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with." Less than a month later George Washington would ride from Philadelphia to Boston to take command of the militias ringing the city. The tactical situation was still not good by July 1776, but the principle for which the Army fought was perfectly clear. Although battles for lost, by 1778 it became clear that the British could not win. Strategic victory was ours. The U.S. Army had some glory in its birth, much in its valor, and even more in its skill, both then and now. May it always be so. Happy birthday.

The McCain Mutiny, Continued

Today John McCain wins the E.J. Dionne primary in the Washington Post. A sure sign, if onemore were needed, that McCain’s prospects as the Republican nominee in ’08 are doomed. (Since when has E.J. Dionne ever had the best interests of Republicans in mind?)

Summer Reading

When I was book tagged
I neglected, according to a couple of readers, to mention any fiction. What fiction do I like? What would I recommend for good summer reading?
Well, the first I ever read (and re-read many times) are Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Before age ten I also read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Last of the Mohicans. I like almost everything Mark Helprin writes, A Soldier of the Great War is the favorite. I like Willa Cather, especially Death Comes to the Archbishop, and am currently reading A Lonely Lady. I like Jerry Pournelle’s science fiction, especially, Higher Education and The Mote in God’s Eye. Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses is excellent (although made into a bad movie).
Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels is worth reading. So is Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth. Maybe something amusing? If you have never read any P.G. Wodehouse you should immediately shoot yourself, or, if a coward, then just go out and get any of his. Also glance at Peter De Vries, say, The Blood of the Lamb. It’s about a onetime Calvinist and his search, a kind of tragicomic Pilgrim’s Progress. I remember laughing a lot when I first read it. In a different vein, any Flannery O’Connor story, maybe "A Good Man is Hard to Find." I recently read Sandor Marai’s Embers and thought it a very good book, balanced like a good wine; nice slow pace to it. Take your time with it. Almost any Elmore Leonard novel for a good, well crafted story that will never bore and always makes you smile. Leonard is at home with words. Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage is a good read. So is almost anything by Alan Furst, kind of spy novels, taking place in the dark and subtle Europe of the 30’s and 40’s. I also liked Marilynn Robinson’s Gilead; a preacher about to die, writes to his son about himself, his father, and his father’s father, back to before the Civil War. Man and God, and war and mercy. Thought inducing and graceful. If you want to do a good turn for your ear (you know I favor reading aloud), and be mesmerized by a great story, listen to Derek Jacoby read The Iliad, while you look at the words in front of you. Wonderful.

Dems and middle class yet again

Mike DeBow of Southern Appeal told me today that this report is finally available on-line. I’ve posted about it before here, here, and here.

The report notes that white middle class voters (once again, earning $30,000 - 75,000) behaved in 2004 much the same way as did their wealthier brethren, and that as their income increases, Hispanic voters are much less likely to vote for Democrats.

The only middle class voters that Democrats can count on are blacks, unmarried
women, and those with a graduate education – roughly one-third of the middle class
electorate. This group of middle class voters kept Democrats within shouting distance
of Republicans in the last election.

The behavior of graduate educated voters--the only middle class constituency that doesn’t obviously vote for Democrats for reasons of history or (perhaps) economic insecurity reminds us of the importance of encouraging intellectual pluralism on America’s campuses. (I know it’s more complicated than that, but at moment, I’m out of blogging time.)

Update: Mike also called my attention to this article at NRO.

Mansfield on Brann on modernity

Tom Cerber calls our attention to Harvey C. Mansfield’s excellent review of this excellent book. Tom gives you the ultimate paragraph. I’ll leave you with the the two that immediately precede it:

Our principle has become Just-Now. Nobody can live by that principle consistently, and so nobody should try to do so. It’s crazy to live all the time in your own time, regarding the past as a junkyard. You can instead choose to live with discrimination in the modern age, rejecting the idea of any historical necessity to stay within your zeitgeist. While the modern hurtles ahead toward the postmodern--and that very name shows that both modern and postmodern are clueless about what lies in the future--you can watch TV and rejoice in the good fortune of being an American. At the same time you can send your children to St. John’s College.

Well, that is a friendly gibe. It means only that Tutor Brann wants you to recognize that there is no alternative principle to Just-Now. At least for the present. A good education, if you manage to get one, will teach you to distrust modernity but not to reject it. Our modern Constitution allows you to be critical even of modernity. It gives you the opportunity to learn about the soul, where modernity is to be distrusted. But it would be a good idea to hold fast to the Constitution, which is modern and based on the self.

Read the whole review, which will likely persuade you to read the book.


Philip Anschutz and Hollywood

As we know, there aren’t many good guys in Hollywood. Ross Douthat writes a very interesting piece (not available on line) in the May issue of The Atlantic on Philip Anschutz. While Anschutz is not well known (not yet anyway), he is a very impressive character (and very wealthy). He was the founder of Qwest Communications, a devout Presbyterian and Republican, head of Walden Media and Anschutz Film Group (Ray, Because of Winn-Dixie, Holes, and now working on Charlotte’s Web, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). He is going into Hollywood in a big way, and, apparently entirely in the interest of fine and decent movies. Worth paying attention to.

Harbinger of Reform?

The lead story in today’s Washington Post, "For Chinese, Peasant Revolt Is Rare Victory," tells the story of rural peasants holding off a massive police raid to shut down their protest. And what were they protesting?

Pollution. (The New York Times reported on this a few months ago as well.) Seems the peasant farmers were tired of being the dumping ground for soaring air pollution, which is reached the point of severe and obvious crop damage, anong other effects.

Recalling that the Chernobyl nuclear accident was among the many factors contributing to the demise of the Soviet Union, perhaps a backlash to China’s environmental degradation will contribute willy-nilly to political reform.

Religion, enlightenment, and toleration

A little over two weeks ago, I posted a comment about Timothy Shortell, then the likely chairman of the Brooklyn College Department of Sociology. He has, you may have heard, withdrawn from consideration, though not without making some noise.

Here’s a portion of the insubstantial rant that caught people’s attention in the first place:

Faith, like superstition, prevents moral action. Those who fail to understand how the world works—who, in place of an understanding of the interaction between self and milieu, see only the saved and the damned, demons and angels, miracles and curses—will be incapable of informed choice. They will be unable to take responsibility for their actions because they lack intellectual and emotional maturity.

On a personal level, religiosity is merely annoying—like bad taste. This immaturity represents a significant social problem, however, because religious adherents fail to recognize their limitations. So, in the name of their faith, these moral retards are running around pointing fingers and doing real harm to others. One only has to read the newspaper to see the results of their handiwork. They discriminate, exclude and belittle. They make a virtue of closed-mindedness and virulent ignorance. They are an ugly, violent lot.

What is striking about Shortell is his own "faith" in what he calls "scientific rationality," best exemplified

I have been attacked recently in the New York newspapers because of an essay I wrote criticizing religion. I suggested humanity would be better off without it. (This puts me in the company of such esteemed social theorists as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Guy Debord -- company I will gladly keep.) It is true, I used some unkind language. Such is the nature of political rhetoric. Many people took offense. It is terribly sad to realize that so many people believe that others don’t have the right to say anything that they find offensive.

We aesthetes -- we who have taken the time to think carefully and with an independent mind about such things -- believe just the opposite. Let the public sphere be a cacophony of voices from every conceivable point of view. And let there be debate; may the strongest argument win the day. It is worth noting that none of the angry letters I received from believers contained any kind of persuasive argument. There were only expressions of outrage and fundamentalist pronouncements. None of the faithful even tried to dispute my main assertion, that religion is harmful to humanity.

This is, I think, what makes the faithful nervous. Faith, after all, is by definition not rational -- that is, it is belief in the absence of verification. (Since some believers who might be reading this have trouble with vocabulary, I provide a dictionary definition of faith.) So, if every assertion is subject to question, the faithful will have to admit that they hold their beliefs without rational basis. If the public sphere were to promote the free contest of ideas, religious belief would wither under the scrutiny of scientific rationality. As with nationalism, faith is secured by appeals to emotion, not critical thinking.

This is not profound stuff, not penetrating as social analysis and quite unsophisticated and quaintly old-fashioned (in a kind of 19th century British way) in its naive faith in the efficacy of the marketplace of ideas (if only, of course, if it were permitted to function as it ought). It’s no accident that the tag-line on his personal website is a quotation from Bertrand Russell. Shortell is a latter-day Tom Paine, an apostle of the "age of reason," who says he is "proud to be among a group of intellectuals who have argued for a free, secular society, including Voltaire, Marx, Freud, Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Richard Dawkins, and many others," and who remains "convinced that humanity would be better off without religion."

Katha Pollitt takes the occasion of Shortell’s withdrawal to worry about academic freedom:

Besides, so what if Shortell’s essay is offensive? Brooklyn College is a public, secular institution, not a Bible college. The Sun claimed Shortell’s disdain for religion would cloud his judgment of job candidates, but there was never any evidence that this would be the case. No student ever complained about his teaching; his colleagues trusted him enough to elect him to the post; the student work posted on his website is apolitical and bland. Predictions of bias, absent any evidence, are just a backhanded way of attacking his beliefs. You might as well say no Southern Baptist should be chair, since someone who believes that women should be subject to their husbands, homosexuality is evil and Jews are doomed to hell won’t be fair to female, gay or Jewish job candidates. Or no Orthodox Jew or Muslim should be chair because religious restrictions on contact with the opposite sex would privilege some job candidates over others.

I find this line of argument particularly interesting, for it echoes a claim Shortell makes about himself and contradicts one liberal opponents of President Bush’s judicial nominees have frequently made. Here’s Shortell’s argument:

In my professional scholarship, I study political rhetoric. I understand the kinds of speech forms that can be used when one is making a political argument. Indeed, I enjoy the variety of speech forms that are used in political debate. So when I write, not as a scholar but as a political actor, I understand the norms that govern such expressions. I know that the manifesto is a recognized and acceptable form of political speech.

I also understand that the manifesto is not an appropriate form of speech in other contexts, such as the classroom. Just like any competent adult, I can switch roles when necessary. I know when I am playing the role of political actor and when I am playing the role of teacher. Just as I know when I am playing the role of baseball fan and when I am playing the role of mourner.

It is funny how easily people forget about context when criticizing others’ speech, even though they know all about playing multiple roles and role switching.

Shortell says he knows that different sorts of speech (and presumably behavior) are appropriate in different arenas. Advocacy is not appropriate in the classroom, just as dispassionate academic analysis is not effective in a political manifesto. "Any competent adult" can recognize what’s appropriate and what’s not in any given setting. (I wonder, parenthetically, about "moral retards." Are they "competent adults"?)

Shortell has his finger here on something important, something advocates of the appointment of judges like William Pryor have claimed on his behalf. I put it this way in my
commentary on "Justice Sunday":

It is possible for grown-ups to have theological differences and still find common moral ground, which is at the heart of what is sometimes called the pan-orthodox alliance (between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Jews) on the traditionalist side of the culture war. And it is possible for a grown-up to hold some such theological position and recognize that it does not affect the legal or civil rights of fellow citizens or of the parties to a case which he or she is to adjudicate. That Thomas Pickering as President of the Mississippi Baptist Convention said that "Christians ought to base their decision-making on the Bible" does not mean that Thomas Pickering as a federal Appeals Court Judge will substitute the Bible for the Constitution. While this is not the time or place to enter into the complicated history of the Christian attitude toward civic obligation, this separation—rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s—certainly has a long-standing and distinguished heritage.

At the heart of life in pluralistic "liberal" society is recognizing that different kinds of speeches and arguments carry different kinds of authority and make different kinds of claims on us in different settings. I can believe that something is morally wrong, and indeed even bear witness to my belief (using any sort of argument or rhetoric I please, though obviously some sorts may be more effective than others, depending upon the setting), without necessarily believing that legal sanctions ought in every instance to support my moral judgments, no matter how strongly I hold them or how authoritative I think they are. I can be a judge, like Thomas Pickering or William Pryor, or a governor, like Mitt Romney, or a president, like George W. Bush, and differentiate between my responsibility as a public official and my responsibility as a bearer of moral and religious witness.

This ability to recognize different roles and act accordingly is something Shortell claims for himself (and I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, trusting but verifying, as a great man once said), but something it seems to me he polemically denies to people of faith (except, apparently, when they are members of the religious Left and agree with him). If this capacity to distinguish between different roles and arenas (I won’t say between "public" and "private," because that strikes me as too simple) lies at the foundation of a certain sort of toleration (not just John Locke’s), then it seems to me that there are people of faith (and not just on the Left) who may be better exemplars of it than are anti-religious self-proclaimed rationalists, like Timothy Shortell.


Dylan Evans says that Beethoven harmed classical music, and "managed to put an end to this noble tradition [the connection between mathematics and sound, and, hence an objective goal] by inaugurating a barbaric U-turn away from an other-directed music to an inward-directed, narcissistic focus on the composer himself and his own tortured soul." But Algis Valiunas argues this:

The defiant pugnacity with which Beethoven faced his physical and emotional afflictions translated into music of ardent excellence—music that explored what it meant to be noble. From pain he wrested sublime beauty, beauty that acknowledges it could never have come to be without that pain. To become the most splendid of democratic artists, the most inspired celebrant of the new human type emerging from millennia of injustice and subjugation, he had not only to overcome his personal torments but also to lift from his own breast the millstone of an artistic tradition laden with uncongenial aristocratic presuppositions. His is the grandest triumph of the newborn democratic soul. He knew what men were and what they could become, and, with Verdi, he was the subtlest and most heartening political thinker in music there ever was.

Liberty over democracy

Peter Berkovitz (again) has a thoughtful piece on the difference between promoting democracy and liberty. Promoting the idea of liberty is better, he urges, because it is incremential, doesn’t demand regime change (note Jordan), and always takes steps toward democracy, rightly understood.

On our fading universities

Peter Berkowitz uses the format of a review of Donald A. Downs’ book, to remind us what is ailing with our universities, and what may be done about them. I like this paragraph:

And universities must cultivate courageous and eloquent leadership. In part this means governing boards and trustees willing to select leaders with guts who would rather lose their jobs than kowtow to campus thought police. In part it means leaders with the confidence and clout to shift resources and implement changes: Institutional frameworks must be revised; new courses must be developed; a new generation of scholars and teachers must be trained. And not least it means leaders who will use their positions as bully pulpits to speak on campus and to the wider public on behalf of the worth of a liberal arts education. Not since A. Bartlett Giamatti stepped down from the presidency of Yale in the mid-1980s has the leader of a major American college or university seen it as part of his or her responsibility to educate students, faculty, and the nation about the true mission of the university.

Cox for SEC chairman

George Will savages the NY Times for how it reorts on Bush’s nominee Rep. Chris Cox to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Note, among the other matters Will discusses, that the Times called Cox "a devoted student of Ayn Rand" whereas, according to Will: "Cox, however, has never read a Rand novel. He sampled her work only when preparing, for the Times, a less-than-reverent review of a collection of her correspondence. Still, the "devoted student" tag swiftly reverberated in the echo chamber of Washington journalism, where much of the reporting about Cox’s nomination has had a cartoon-like quality."

Cornell pres resigns

The president of Cornell University has resigned, after two years in office, due to fundamental differences with the board of trustees, especially its chairman.

Battlefield camera

There are personal vidcams for ther battlefield. "As video cameras, and digital storage devices (like the iPod), grow smaller and cheaper, they have become useful as a military intelligence tool. The latest example of this is a lightweight video camera that can be attacked to a helmet, and the video stored on a 30 gigabyte hard drive the size of an iPod. That provides enough storage for 2-46 hours of video (depending on the resolution.)" I bought a video cameria for Becky’s 21st birthday (it was yesterday) and could not believe all that they can do and how small they are. Very impressive, stuff you can just buy off the shelf. This is even more impressive. (via Instapundit)

Milwaukee voucher program

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a report on the school voucher program there. John J. Miller at The Corner calls it fair.

Kinsley on the Downing Street memo

Michael Kinsley points out that the Downing Street memo, allegedly a smoking gun demonstrating the Bush Administration’s plans to cook intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq, is little more than a summary of the major headlines around the time it was written (July, 2002), not some privileged and new inside information.

Nevertheless, he’s enjoying the brouhaha "as an encouraging sign of the revival of the left."

Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence. It takes a critical mass of citizens with extreme views and the time and energy to obsess about them. It takes a promotional infrastructure and the widely shared self-discipline to settle on a story line, disseminate it and stick to it.

It takes, in short, what Hillary Clinton once called a vast conspiracy.

By his standards, it seems to me, the left has never been gone.

Tagged Up

Okay, here’s my Tagged drill:

1. How many books? Rough guess: Over 5,000. I have two homes, both of which need well-stocked libraries. I’ve had carpenters build LARGE bookcases in five rooms total; then there’s overflow in the garage, and then there’s still more in my AEI office.

Some people might think I have a problem. But no; as Henry Ward Beecher put it, "A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life."

2. Last book bought? Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays. (Just trying to keep up with political science trends.)

3. Last book read? Joseph Stanik, El Dorado Canyon: Reagan’s Undeclared War with Qaddafi. (Most of my reading these days is connected with my ongoing Reagan book project.)

4. What five books mean the most? Only five? This is tough, though I’m tempted to repair to Chesterton’s answer about what one book he’d take to a desert island (his answer: Hawkins’ Complete Guide to Shipbuilding.) I guess I’d settle on these:

-C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. (A prologue, in many ways, to Natural Right and History.)

-Nicomachean Ethics.

-Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, for showing the style I’m trying to emulate with The Age of Reagan.

-Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. (More complete than Road to Serfdom or Capitalism and Freedom.)

-Odyssey of a Friend: Whittaker Chambers’ Letters to William F. Buckley Jr. An odd choice, I know, but more interesting that Witness in my judgment.

Now, having resisted the blandishments of chain letters my whole life, I’m not going to tag anyone, lest this thing spin out of control by geometric proportions.

Dems cry foul on Dean

Turns out that it’s the media, serving the interests of the right wing, that’s to blame for the all the attention given to Howard Dean’s outrageous statements. So says Senator Dick Durbin here. According to some of Durbin’s colleagues, other (Democratic) chairmen have made harshly partisan remarks, but they’ve gone unnoticed and, even in this case, the people don’t really care. It’s a tempest in a teapot.

I guess the lesson is that we shouldn’t pay much attention to what Democrats say among themselves about Republicans. It’s no clue to what they really think, which we should glean from what they say to the press when, unlike "Dr. Dean" (as the NYT decorously calls him), they’re on message. Heh.

Update: For an argument that the media for the most part haven’t been paying attention to Dean’s gaffes, go here.

Raiche and the New Federalism?

The folks over at Scotusblog have had a fascinating discussion of the Supreme Court’s recent Gonzalez v. Raiche decision (released Monday). Scrolling down through the site reveals a broad commentary covering lots of angles on the Court’s ruling--including Justice Kennedy’s vote, Scalia’s abandoning Thomas and Rehnquist, and the meaning of federalism as articulated in the Court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence.

From Lyle Denniston by way of summary:

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Monday that Congress had the authority to make it a crime to grow and use marijuana purely for personal medical purposes when recommended by a doctor. In an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court overturned a Ninth Circuit ruling that the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 exceeded Congress’ Commerce Clause power when applied to medical marijuana used under California law.

In practical terms, the Court’s decision will force the Justice Department to decide how aggressively it wants to prosecute individuals who grow and use marijuana for medical purposes, in the face of a spreading movement in the states to allow such uses. There are at least ten states, and perhaps 11 (if Arizona is counted) that allow such uses of marijuana. The same notion is being promoted in other states, too, and public opinion polls show that three-fourths of Americans asked support doctor-prescribed marijuana to ease pain and suffering.

For those interested in the legal implications of this medical marijuana case (no, this wasn’t just about smoking pot) Scotusblog has some great stuff up right now.


Paul Clement was confirmed yesterday on a voice vote and became our nation’s new Solicitor General. Thanks to How Appealing for pointing it out. The Senate has also confirmed Janice Rogers Brown and Bill Pryor for their respective Circuit Court posts. And two more Bush nominees, David W. McKeague and Richard A. Griffin, were just confirmed for their places on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. All good news.

The Koran at Gitmo

Max Boot notes that most of the Koran descrations were done by inmates at Gitmo.

At Gitmo, personnel receive instructions: "Do not disrespect the Koran (let it touch the floor, kick it, step on it)." They must "handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art." This means ensuring "that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet area." Only Muslim chaplains and interpreters are actually supposed to touch a Koran, and then only if wearing clean latex gloves. Moreover: "Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in a manner signaling respect and reverence."

John Hinderaker beats up on the MSM for not talking about this.

It seems that the Army--or maybe it’s the United States--just can’t win. It is almost inconceivable that the Hood report could have been more favorable to the Guantanamo guards and interrogators, yet the international and American press treated it as a confession of wrongdoing, at times with a hint that the Newsweek allegation had proven true after all. Little (frequently, nothing) was made of the fact that it was the Muslim detainees, not American guards or interrogators, who had perpetrated precisely the acts that were the excuse for anti-American riots in the Muslim world.

No matter how virtuous American conduct may be, the many members of the press raise the bar higher, with no regard for the realities of warfare, the inevitable sordidness of prison life, or the frailties of human nature. It is hard to see any purpose in this hypercriticism--no other country, except perhaps Israel, is held to such an extraordinary standard--other than to make it impossible for the United States to detain and interrogate prisoners. Or to fight a war.

Bolivia in chaos?

Is Bolivia distingrating? The sitaution looks ominous. Everything seems to be shutting down, hospitals are running out of medicine, La Paz is in turmoil, Sucre is blockaded. Spain is readying for an evacuation. Worth watching.

Ramirez Cartoon

Disposable video cameras

The CVS drug store chain is selling disposable video cameras! "The $29.99 pocket-sized digital video cameras are able to capture up to 20 minutes of video and sound.

CVS Corp. stores, which has exclusive rights to sell them, will process the camera for $12.99 and return a DVD; users also can e-mail video and video greeting cards." Also see this.

Deficit disorder

Andy Busch thinks that unless the Bush administration takes his advice, there is a good chance the Democrats will outflank the GOP on the deficit. He thinks President Bush should: 1) veto the transportation bill, 2) push hard for the re-establishment of spending caps and pay-as-you-go rules for new spending, and 3) revisit the Medicare prescription drug benefit which has already turned into a boondogle. Pretty good advice.   

Will the French sort themselves out?

This John Zvesper piece from and on France is very clear about what the French vote means for French politics. The short of it is that we should be rooting for Sarkozy over Villepin.   

College grades of Bush and Kerry

This story has been out there for a few days, and this is CNN’s
version: "Sen. John F. Kerry’s grade average at Yale University was virtually identical to President Bush’s record there, despite repeated portrayals of Kerry as the more intellectual candidate during the 2004 presidential campaign." Bush received one "D" in four years (in astronomy), while Kerry had four. Kerry’s records (part of the Navy file) were just released last month. Bush had a cumulative average of 77%, while Kerry’s was 76%. I have decided to release my records from Cal State, Northridge: My cumulative undergraduate record was about 78 (and I flunked both a physics and a Russian class), but Yale’s tougher. I understand that.

Update: A reader points out that Kerry had five D’s, not 4 (he had four as a freshman). I miscounted. I also flunked math once.

Dean and Hillary, shooting from the lip

Howard Dean defended himself and his comments about the GOP ("It’s pretty much a white, Christian party." "A lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives." etc.), as his comments continue to rankle some Democrats. Senator Joseph Lieberman said this: "I thought the comment that he made about the Republican Party being a white, Christian party was just way over the top. It was divisive and wrong, and I hope he apologizes for it." On the other hand, the Boston Globe reports that some Demos are standing up for him and they will do so at a public event today. Susan Estrich thinks that Dean is not "ready for primetime." Peggy Noonan also doesn’t think that Democratic rage is a winning approach. He drops Hillary in the rage camp. Noonan asks what this could mean, and she gives a poetic rendition of the possibilities. Imagine Bush or Mehlman or McCain talking like this. Can you? There is an "American arrangement" of civility in these matters, a kind of "political generosity" toward your opponents that is a good thing and the Demos (or anyone else) who don’t practice are the same people who start fights at litt league games. She’s right. No one likes such people. Such talk from Dean and Hillary will not serve them well, or the country, and citizens know it. I do not think this is a passing matter. I think such invective will have massive consequences, none of them to the advantage of the Democrats. Noonan: "The comportment of Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean is actually not worthy of America. Their statements suggest they are in no way equal to the country they seek to lead. And something tells me that sooner or later America is going to tell them. But in a generous, mature and fair-minded way." That is, at the ballot-box.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for May

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

Douglas Shupe

Scott Simmons

Lee Arten

Ann Carlson

Opal Baker

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 June’s drawing.

Grade inflation

This post links to an article in the Washington Post about grade inflation. The American University students it describes are much more aggressive than mine, who only occasionally and generally very politely ask about their grades. More frequently, they want to know how they can do better the next time. (I have a reputation as a hard grader, though having recently seen the overall g.p.a. for my institution, it looks like I’m not too far out of line.)

My question to colleagues: can I do anythng other than explain in letters of recommendation that we don’t hand out A’s like candy to make certain my students are appropriately assessed by graduate and professional school admissions officers?

Syria sustaining the insurgency

A revealing Washington Post story on how deeply Syria is involved in the fighting in Iraq. Also see this John Burns piece in the New York Times. And then this by Austin Bay. (Thanks to Instapundit).

Florida vouchers again

Katie Newmark brings us up to date with an account of the oral arguments in the Florida voucher case, about which I’ve posted before here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (Some of the earlier posts are about Georgia, but the issues in the two states--dealing with "Blaine Amendments"--are similar.)

What’s surprising about the oral arguments, also noted in this article, to which Katie links, is that the judges spent less time on Florida’s religious funding restrictions than on another clause of Florida’s constitution that requires the state to make "adequate provision...for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require." Taken together with another constitutional reference to a "state school fund," whose principal and interest may only be used to fund free public schools, this provision may serve as the basis of an argument that the state cannot support any form of private education, religious or secular. This is a very clever argument, which if successful would likely make support of public schools the only constitutional option in Florida. And since it doesn’t in any way discriminate against religious schools in particular, it wouldn’t be subject to any 14th Amendment equal protection or 1st Amendment viewpoint discrimination challenge. Saving Florida’s voucher program under these circumstances would probably require a constitutional amendment, which would be portrayed by its opponents as an assault on public education. Whew!

There is one possible loophole identified by one of the program’s legal defenders, Barry Richard. He suggests that the Florida legislature could appropriate money for its voucher program separate from the so-called "school fund," and that, even if the money for the voucher program reduces dollar for dollar funds available to public schools, the legislature would have met its obligation to provide for a free public school system. Here’s his argument:


Of course, someone could take up the challenge and argue that the legislature isn’t in fact making adequate provision for public schools, which seems to be what happened last week in Kansas and also elsewhere. This could end up driving the costs of education through the roof, with or without vouchers, as judges predictably succumbed to the temptation to legislate from the bench.

Hat tip (for the oral argument transcript): Religion Clause.

Update: Howard Friedman thinks that my worries might be misplaced. Here’s his quick and helpful response:

Many state constitutions require the state to furnish a "thorough and efficient system of common schools". Florida’s provision just seems to be a more elaborate version of these. These clauses have been used to reform the financing system for public schools, but I do not know of any cases that have said they mean that states cannot support private schools. See Ohio’s DeRolph case for an example of a school funding case.

Of course, that it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that the Florida court won’t try it.

Tagged, Dag-Nab It!

Okay, now Schramm has tagged me. Here goes:

1. How many books do I own? Just a ballpark figure, but I suppose about 500 at home and twice that many packed into my office, so let’s say 1500. Not as many as some, but I’m still in my thirties.

2. What’s the last book I bought? Chuck Thompson, The 25 Best World War II Sites, European Theater, for strictly utilitarian reasons--I’m planning a WWII-themed student junket to Europe for next May.

3. What’s the last book I read? Equality, Decadence, and Modernity, a collection of essays by Stephen Tonsor, edited by Gregory Schneider. I was asked to review it.

4. What are the five books that mean the most to me? Well, I guess in a literal sense they’d be the ones I’ve written, but that’s probably not in line with the spirit of the question. So let’s try this:

Goethe’s Faust

Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

Orwell’s 1984

Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man

F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

My five tag-ees are Bob Lawson at Division of Labour, David Beito at Liberty & Power, Lynne Kiesling of Knowledge Problem, Stephen Tootle of Rebunk, and Tyler Cowen of The Volokh Conspiracy.

Book blogger tag

Knippenberg has tagged me.

1. How many books do I own. I own over 4,000 books. Stopped counting long ago. I used to hide them, first from my father, then from my wife. Had to stop living a lie, so I owned up to it like a real man. Mischief ensued. I stood firm, retreated to my library to look, touch, and smell my books. It was worth it. I could buy a new motorcycle if I stopped buying books (or stopped smoking). Life means chosing. I live.

2. What’s the last book I bought? Just got David Rothkopf’s Running the World, Paul Johnson’s George Washington, Richard Holmes’ In the Footsteps of Churchill, and Robert Service’s Stalin: A Biography.

3. What’s the last book I read? Johnson’s Washington; I liked it. Into Service’s Stalin; impressive study of cool tyranny, but doesn’t read as well as Montefiore’s bio.

4. What are the five books that mean most to me? From age to youth:
Plato, Phaedrus;
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics;
Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided;
Strauss, Natural Right and History;
F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.

The five bloggers I tag are Steve Hayward, Jeff Sikkenga, Robert Alt, John Moser, and David Tucker.

Hillary, Revealing

The New York Times reports on a Hillary fund raiser. She dropped her "moderate" stance, and even the reporter seems surprised by how "starkly partisan" she was. Samples:

There has never been an administration, I don’t believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda.

I know it’s frustrating for many of you, it’s frustrating for me. Why can’t the Democrats do more to stop them? I can tell you this: It’s very hard to stop people who have no shame about what they’re doing. It is very hard to tell people that they are making decisions that will undermine our checks and balances and constitutional system of government who don’t care. It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth.

So, let’s see. Howard Dean doesn’t speak for the party, neither does Hillary. I get it.

Downing Street Memo

For all of you posting comments demanding to know "WHAT ABOUT THE DOWNING STREET MEMO?!?!" on the NLT comments pages, take a valium and read Jim Robbins takedown of the non-news behind this story.  

Bill Clinton, Sinking

Ever since Clinton left office I have been waiting for liberal revisionists to begin recognizing him for the disaster he has been for Democrats. After all, it was during the Clinton years that Democrats began their slide into the wilderness, and for what? If Clinton had got universal health care, gay marriage, or peace in the Middle East, it might have been worth it. Instead they got welfare reform, a balanced budget, the first capital gains tax cut in 20 years, and a Republican Congress.

Today, Richard Cohen unloads on Clinton in the Washington Post-Democrat, calling Clinton a "third-tier" preisdent. Moneyt quote:

Reading John Harris’s new book about Clinton "I could hear the air going out of the balloon and a soft, weary voice of Peggy Lee singing, ’Is that all there is?’ In Clinton’s case the answer apparently is yes."

Get used to this. Much more of this is on the way. 

John Kerry’s Grades

Big news this morning from the Boston Globe. During the campaign John Kerry had consistently refused to release his records from Yale University, along with his records of...well, just about everything. Today, however, we understand why: his grades were on par with--if not actually somewhat lower than--those earned by George W. Bush.

The transcript shows that Kerry’s freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class.

Imagine that.

The living wage: my speculations

Yesterday, I wrote about the progressive agenda for local politics, and made some comments about the "living wage" campaign. Here’s what I said:

The consequences of such a policy seem to me obvious: fewer companies will bid for municipal contracts, resulting in less competition and higher overall costs, which will result in greater expenses for the municipal governments and higher taxes for city residents. Faced with higher taxes in exchange for essentially the same services, some city residents will flee to the suburbs. Those who stay will likely be those who, in effect, can’t afford to leave (because they lack transportation or live in subsidized housing) and those who are willing to pay any price, bear any burden, to live "where the action is" (affluent urban sophisticates of every sexual orientation). Because it is, in effect, hostile to the middle class, the living wage program actually contributes to the sprawl "progressives" deprecate.

Shep Barbash, who blogs at
Mistaken Optimist, challenged me in an email: "That’s quite a causal chain. Are there any empirical studies documenting
that any of these effects actually occur (fewer bids, higher costs, higher
taxes, middle-class-flight-to-suburbs, increase sprawl)?"

I wish I had a pat answer in my hip pocket, but I don’t. The best site for academic studies seems to be
this one. Here’s a study that suggests that job losses will follow from Miami’s "living wage" ordinance:

This study reaches three broad conclusions.
First, such minimum wages would result in
approximately 131,000 to 222,000 workers losing
their jobs. Second, Florida employers would
see their wage costs skyrocket in the range of
$4.9 to $8.8 billion. Third, many of the projected
wage gains would go to low-wage workers
in higher income families rather than to those
most in need.

It follows, it seems to me, that higher wage costs will mean lower profits, which will mean that fewer companies will likely bid on contracts. Less competition need not mean higher bids and higher costs, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. To the extent also, that the living wage requirements applied not only to contractors but to local government, the cost of government would go up regardless of whether contractors raised their prices.

Since local governments can’t run deficits, they have to get the money from somewhere (either sales taxes or property taxes). Here’s a paper that suggests that higher property tax rates generally encourage sprawl. Here’s an argument that people with the wherewithal to do so are influenced by and migrate following lower proerty tax structures.

So no one has put it all together the way I have, which gives me some cause for pause. But each step in my argument is at least plausible. And while there are ways, perhaps, of mitigating the flight occasioned by the higher levels of taxation caused by the higher costs imposed by the living wage requirement, the fact remains that any increase in labor costs (without a concomitant increase in labor productivity) has to be borne by someone, and at some point (don’t ask me what it is), companies that can’t pass those costs on to consumers (that is, taxpayers) will get out of the business. And, of course, governments that voluntarily pay a "living wage" immediately pass the cost of that wage on to taxpayers. If the result is a lower demand for government services (since folks with more income presumably have less need for public assistance), perhaps it’s a wash, with costs going up in one area and down in another. But most of the studies at which I glanced suggested that the living wage is not the most narrowly targeted means of assisting the working poor. Costs are likely to go up more than any conceivable savings will go down.

For more accessible articles on these issues, go here and here.

Book blogger tag

I don’t know if this exercise originated in Canada, but one of our Canadian friends, Tom Cerber, passed along a request to answer five questions about my reading habits.

Here goes.

How many books do I own?

I dunno. My wife says too many. I say not enough. If I had to guess, somewhat north of a thousand.

What’s the last book I bought?

I just opened a lovely package today, containing a bunch of religion and higher ed books recommended in this essay. The two near the top of my reading pile are Nick Wolterstorff’s Educating for Life and his Educating for Shalom. He’s one of the smartest Calvinists I know and while I don’t always agree with him, I learn from arguing with him. And David Mills has graciously permitted me to work our some of my disagreements in a future issue of Touchstone (where my review of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s God on the Quad will appear next month).

What’s the last book I read?

The answer to that question comes in several categories. I just now read a couple of chapters of Brian Jacques’s Mossflower to my son. Then there’s my summer school-related reading: if it’s Tuesday, it must be St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. I’m also currently sitting in on a faculty seminar on human rights rhetoric. Today we discussed Mary Ann Glendon’s A World Made New; tomorrow, it’s on to Carol Anderson’s Eyes Off the Prize. If I had any spare time at the moment, I’d be working my way through Daniel Dombrowski’s Rawls and Religion, which attempts to show how JR isn’t hostile to revealed religion. On the agenda for later in the summer are some books on religion and liberalism, like Marci Hamilton’s God vs. the Gavel, Greg Forster’s John Locke’s Politics of Moral Consensus, and George di Giovanni’s Freedom and Religion in Kant and His Immediate Successors.

What are the five books that mean the most to me?

Plato, The Republic

Leo Strauss, The City and Man

St. Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans

Rousseau, Emile

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

I am very indebted to my Auseinandersetzung with Kant for my current outlook on the world, but I’ve basically been led away from him as a result. While I wouldn’t recommend that anyone retrace my path, I do think that the three Critiques-- especially the "transcendental dialectic" in C1, the discussion of the highest good in C2, and the critique of teleological reason in C3--are worth pondering, as are Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, The Conflict of the Faculties and all the little essays on history and politics.

The five bloggers I tagged are Peter Schramm, David Mills, Ken Masugi, Win Myers, and Mike DeBow. Others I might have tagged are Gideon Strauss, any of the other Ashbrook folks, especially the redoubtable but all too reticent Dave Foster, and any of the contributors to Get Religion.

Kansas Supreme Court adopts the Nevada Gambit

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Kansas legislature to increase funding for education by $285 million, holding that the $142 million increase actually adopted by the Legislature was not enough to meet the mandate in the Kansas Constitution that the Legislature shall "make suitable provision for finance" of schools. The case is Montoy v. State, and the good folks over at Powerline have compared the case to one in Nevada in 2003 in which the Nevada Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to adopt taxes for increased education funding by a simple majority vote rather than the 2/3 vote required by the Nevada Constitution. The Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence obtained a restraining order against implementation of the Nevada ruling long enough to let political opposition to build, so that the Legislature ultimately chose to negotiate to a bill that obtained a 2/3 vote rather than ignore the constitutional requirement. Full description of the Nevada case is available here. Kansas Legislators, who are you ’gonna call? Or are you willing to sit by and let this violation of basic constitutional principle of separation of powers go unanswered?

Deep Throat Still Tough to Swallow

I shouldn’t be amazed that with all the media chest-thumping about their heroism in the Watergate story, made possible by the brave Mark Felt, that no one has mentioned the irony that Charles Colson went to prison on the charge of leaking a single FBI file. Felt was leaking confidential information, and raw files, not once, but repeatedly over a period of months. No wonder Felt wanted to keep his secret all these years; indeed, one wonders whether he would have done so now if he still had his full mental faculties available to him (or if there were no statute of limitations.)

The other aspect that has only been touched obliquely in the last week is that there have long been theories of CIA or intelligence community involvement in creating the Watergate scandal as a means of bringing down Nixon (Jim Hougan first theorized this in 1984 in a book whose title I forget, and then Colodny and Gettlin advanced it further in Silent Coup), because Nixon hated the CIA and the CIA feared Nixon’s intentions to get control of them. (A variation holds that people opposed to arms control and detente conspired to remove Nixon through a scandal; this was the view the Soviet Union took, by the way.) Well, now we learn that this theory is partly right, just with the wrong agency. Part of Felt’s motivation was bureaucratic: he didn’t like Nixon appointing an outsider to run the FBI after Hoover. This should cause everyone, even Nixon-haters, to pause and reflect on the nature of the power held by our permanent government.

"Urban Archipelago"

The current issue of The Nation has two articles devoted to urban politics and policy. This one, by Joel Rogers, is available only to subscribers, though I wonder if this gives a pretty good picture of what he’s thinking. Here I note only the irony of a national movement to take over state and local government in the name of (allegedly) local prerogatives.

The other article, by Nation Washington correspondent John Nichols, is available in full on-line, even to interlopers like me. It makes for interesting reading, showing something about the bankruptcy of "progressive" policy on the only level at which it currently claims to have much influence.

One of the policies Nichols touts is the so-called "living wage," which requires corporations that contract with a city government to pay wages of up to $12/hour. The consequences of such a policy seem to me obvious: fewer companies will bid for municipal contracts, resulting in less competition and higher overall costs, which will result in greater expenses for the municipal governments and higher taxes for city residents. Faced with higher taxes in exchange for essentially the same services, some city residents will flee to the suburbs. Those who stay will likely be those who, in effect, can’t afford to leave (because they lack transportation or live in subsidized housing) and those who are willing to pay any price, bear any burden, to live "where the action is" (affluent urban sophisticates of every sexual orientation). Because it is, in effect, hostile to the middle class, the living wage program actually contributes to the sprawl "progressives" deprecate.

This blindness to the middle class--indeed to families of all classes--is evident as well from the article’s stunning silence regarding education (save for a single mention of "decaying schools"). Any realistic urban policy--"progressive," conservative, or moderate--has to have at its center an approach to education. As I noted, Nichols says nothing, though what he and the people he describes want is clear enough: more money, which presumably will come from the federal government.

Indeed, the article makes it very clear that what interests Nichols about local government is the capacity of locally-organized populations to influence state and national policy:

"It’s more clear than ever that decisions made in Washington affect my ability to do my job," says Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, who has worked with the Institute for Policy Studies to develop the Cities for Progress network. "I can’t fix things in the neighborhoods of Chicago unless I do my part to make sure Washington does the right thing."

Here’s more of the same:

Leaders of the Cities for Progress movement want to institutionalize that pressure by getting cities to pass resolutions calling for an end to the war and development of a universal healthcare program. By providing organizing assistance to progressive local officials and then linking these projects to one another, Cities for Progress hopes to create a resurgence of urban activism. "We want people to get rid of this idea that working on the local level and working on the national level are somehow different," says Malia Lazu, its national field director.

Rather than really addressing issues, like education, that mean something to parents of all classes and races, "progressives" are engaging in symbolic politics in an arena where a small number of well-organized activists can carry the day. The article, of course, speaks in terms of the Davids of community activists facing the Goliaths of big corporate (conservative) money. But in urban politics, well-educated and affluent "progressive" activists are the Goliaths, at least when compared with poor minority and immigrant communities. When I see "progressives" support something like school choice, which continues to have a great deal of support in minority communities, I’ll begin to be convinced that they’re actually listening to, and not merely using, urban voters.

Update: Katie Newmark, Win Myers, and Ken Masugi pile on.

Florida’s Blaine Amendment litigation again

The ever vigilant Katie Newmark calls our attention to this op-ed, which suggests that other state courts may (but of course need not) follow whatever leadership the Florida judiciary provides.

India’s energy

This New York Times on India’s hunger for energy is useful in reminding us that India, now that it is not run by socialists, is a very dynamic place. It is the world’s fifth-largest consumer of energy; it’s need for energy will double by 2030. India importans about 70% of its oil, and that will rise to 85% in twenty years. It is, therefore, interested in buildings some pipelines from (and through) some interesting places, and wants to use nuclear power as well. Some in the government think that all this means greater cooperation with China. All this has geo-political implications, to say the least. Indian PM Singh will visit Bush in July. This report of a few months back thinks that Indian economic policy is turning to the left.
India and Pakistan
have begun talks on a natural gas pipeline that would through Pakistan from Iran.

Europe in Crisis?

Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, doesn’t think so. Der Spiegel runs a lengthy excerpts from an interview.

This is the first time in German history that we are embedded in a peaceful Europe without any threat from outside and without threats from us to our neighbors. It’s the first time that we are in a sustainable and structurally peaceful situation and this offers new opportunities. 60 years of peace also means 60 years of wealth accumulation and we are in a situation where we can, and must, reduce the role of the state. But on the other hand, we have a tradition where the state guarantees much more than it does in the Anglo-Saxon tradition.... It’s about very deeply rooted traditions. And to break up these traditions in a peaceful way is the new challenge we are facing.

The Telegraph reports that Tony Blair "has given up on Europe as an issue worth fighting for, senior allies of the Prime Minister have told The Sunday Telegraph.

A leading Blairite cabinet minister made the admission last night as the European Union descended into deeper turmoil, with doubts surfacing over the future of the single currency." Christopher Caldwell tries to explain what the French and Dutch "no" votes mean. He explains that both the far Right and Left benefit from this, and may end up prospering. Good paragraph:

The problem at present is that mainstream politicians, national and European, have no credible lines of communication to their publics. The E.U. has taken on so many responsibilities, especially regulatory and economic ones, that the capacity of individual nation-states for full self-government has atrophied. This has spread the E.U.’s so-called "democratic deficit" (the thing that this constitutional plebiscite was meant to fix) to national governments. Consider the Netherlands. There, nearly two-thirds of the voters repudiated the E.U.--but 85 percent of national legislators were firm (often sanctimonious) supporters of the treaty just a few short weeks ago. This gap is the hot political topic in Europe right now. It will be redressed through national elections across the continent over the next couple of years.

In the meantime, The Guardian publishes an extract from Dominque de Villepin’s book, The Cry of the Gargoyle. Can this be of possible help to M de Villepin? Note this lucid paragraph (thanks to The Atlantic Blog):

Some people have been tempted to look back on these old shortcomings and stir the fantastical cauldron of nation against the outside world, poor against rich, French against immigrants, liberty against solidarity, local organisations against the state. They want to ignore the fact that the world today is no longer a binary world, that the implacable workings of dialectics have ceded their place to something more complex and chaotic, to progress made in leaps and bounds, and thus to something more questioning and humble. The challenges with which we are confronted today can therefore only be addressed if we accept the diversity, the unexpected and the change at the heart of our society, inherited from a time when we thought that politics, like science, was governed by eternal laws that conformed to human reason.

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.