Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Islam and "Calvinist values" in the Netherlands

Today’s NYT had this interesting op-ed, on "the end of the Holland of Erasmus and Spinoza," marked, the author, the Dutch Jewish novelist Leon de Winter, says, by the assassinations of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, two odd, and in the latter case unlikeable, public figures.

De Winter argues that the upheavals of 1968 hit the Netherlands harder than any other European country, with "the news media, politicians and artists gnaw[ing] away at the traditional values of Calvinistic civic society." At the same time a large population of "guest workers" from Morocco arrived to provide unskilled labor in a prosperous economy. When the demand for their labor declined, the Moroccans didn’t go home, but remained, in effect as wards of the generous Dutch welfare state. According to de Winter, "Many of these young men [the children of the first generation of immigrants] have found an expression for their growing sense of frustration, alienation and anger in orthodox Islam. They have no use for Holland’s tolerance of alternative lifestyles, or for its professional blasphemers."

Here, in a nutshell, is de Winter’s argument: the transgressions for which Dutch society is famous (or infamous) once rested on (and took advantage of) solid religio-cultural social capital ("Calvinist values"). Those have weakened (see, for example, de Winter’s commentary on the murder of Theo van Gogh), and, obviously, the Muslim immigrants never shared them. But the "salvation" of Dutch civil society can be sought only here: we must "somehow stimulate young Muslims to identify with the Calvinist values of the majority."

What I find most interesting here is that a self-consciously Jewish Dutch intellectual--whose debt to Lee Harris and Robert Kagan, among others, is made clear here--is calling for a revival and spread of Calvinism, or rather the "Calvinist values" that traditionally buttressed Dutch toleration. Here’s a taste of a long article ("Wake up, we’re at war!") published in August, 2004 my quick and dirty translation from the German):

On the one hand there are Europeans and Americans who are convinced that we have earned Islamic hatred because of our deeds....

Others, among them American conservatives, "born again" Protestants, "neocons," and Jews of varying intellectual tendencies, observe that the current problems of the Arab world are only in small part the consequence of western misdeeds, but rather have to do above all with specific Arab-Islamic conditions. This group recognizes in the hostility of Islamism the contemporary form of something for which there is no other word than "evil."

Religious as well as non-religious people can begin something with this terminology. The religious understand it as a firm theological given; to the non-religious, it seems to be the only thing that can encompass the mass murders of the past century and the drive to annihilation that is unique to Islam.

The European Jews with whom I have spoken about these themes since September 11th belong for the most part among "those, for whom the category ’enemy’ is suggestive for the way they organize human experience.

For de Winter, the cultural of toleration in which Jews can live and prosper has a religious source. The question is whether it can be effectively transmitted as secularized "values," or whether the ground on which disaffected Muslims can be met can be anything other than genuine religion itself. For more, go here (Kurds in the Bible Belt), here, and here (on the different challenge on Christianity in Africa).

Being feared and not hated: How the US got control of a town in the Sunni triangle

The study of great books is not an academic exercise: it’s supposed to help us to understand how the world works. In one of those famous books, a great Florentine student of politics and war says that to maintain your state and security, "it is better to be feared than loved". At the very least, a person should not be hated, which can be avoided if you do not take the "property and women" of those under your authority.

This enduring lesson is brought home in an unusually interesting and balanced article from The New York Times on how the US military got control of a Sunni insurgent hotbed in northern Iraq. By being incredibly patient, flexible, and willing to work with what they had in front of them, Captain Kevin Burke and his men struck a delicate balance between cultivating former regime elements who would cooperate and rounding up those who would not (and figuring out which was which). According to the piece, the Sunni villagers began to provide Company C with some very good intelligence that led to the capture of "Mohammed Shakara, Al Qaeda’s leader for northern Iraq and its biggest city, Mosul." The intelligence flowed once the Americans showed that they were serious about keeping order but did not want to rule the place by themselves. The Americans are not loved in that town, but neither are they hated -- except by the irreconciliable jihadists. They still have to watch their backs, but now they are feared and even respected in a certain way. As Capt. Burke says, that’s as good as the "reality" of the situation permits.

No doubt, the Florentine thinker would be proud.

Quiz for NTLers

Hugh Hewitt links to this online quiz, which tests to see what sci-fi or fantasy character you are most like. I am Elrond. The
Powerline guys are Yoda. I suspect Schramm will turn out to be Aragorn or James T. Kirk (two other high scoring options).

The top-scoring character is Galadriel. Perhaps Bush can name her to the Supreme Court.

She Turned Me Into a Newt!!

Don’t miss John Tierney in the New York Times today, writing on the non-scandal of the whole Plame Game.

Tierney gets bonus points for making reference to the best movie ever, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Take Back the Memorial

I encourage interested readers to sign on to this internet petition, against the attempts to diminish the importance of 9/11 by turning the World Trade Center site into a generalized monument to all of history’s victims. The following is the text of the petition:

We, the undersigned, believe that the World Trade Center Memorial should stand as a solemn remembrance of those who died on September 11th, 2001, and not as a journey of history’s "failures" or as a debate about domestic and foreign policy in the post-9/11 world. Political discussions have no place at the World Trade Center September 11th memorial, and the International Freedom Center honors no one by making excuses for the perpetrators of this heinous crime. The memorial should be about what happened that day, about the brave heroes who risked their lives so selflessly, and about the innocent lives that were lost... nothing more.

Corzine’s Future

From the looks of this long article, Jon Corzine’s run for New Jersey governor this year is just a prelude to running for president.   

After midnight

Where will you be? I may be at a local bookstore, picking up the family copy of the new Harry Potter book. If not then, then first thing Saturday morning. My wife gets first crack; then I get to read it when she’s not reading it to our son. Jonathan V. Last offers one excuse to read it for those in need of an excuse.

Update: If you need more incentive, see this and this, which excerpt this book and describe the argument of this one.

Update #2: Didn’t go last night, since I was distracted by a crowd of adults and children at our house, but went first thing this morning and picked up our reserved copy without standing in line. Now my wife will not speak to me until she’s finished reading the book.

Wilson, Plame, Rove

For more on this "Washington blood sport", which has descended into farce, go here, here, and here.

Note the headline on the NYT story ("Rove Reportedly Held Phone Talk on C.I.A. Officer"), and compare it to those of the Washington Post ("Rove Confirmed Plame Indirectly, Lawyer Says") and Washington Times ("Rove Learned CIA Agent’s Name From Novak").

Bad craziness at Baylor

Hunter Baker calls our attention to this latest bit of weirdness in Waco--a private detective, purporting to work for unnamed "rich and powerful" people, investigating the interim president, Bill Underwood, by approaching his friends and supporters. Say what?

Francis Beckwith has more, with especially bitter commentary on the shenanigans at an on-line bulletin board. Here, also, is a brief CT article that summarizes developments over the last couple of months.

A teachable moment

Following Cal Thomas, Richard Reeb argues that the President should act as a "republican schoolmaster," using this opportunity to remind us of the first principles of the Constitution, i.e., the role the constitution plays in fulfilling the principles of republican self-government. This requires that he nominate a smart person (or smart people), who is (or are) faithful to these principles and that he and his Senate allies be intransigent in their own adherence to and articulation of these principles.

There is no way, I am convinced (most recently by this), that the nomination fight can avoid being nasty, so there is no reason to conciliate on matters of principle (by choosing a so-called "moderate"). Let’s hope that there are men and women of intelligence and high principle who have the stomach for it.

Harmful Aid to Africa

Kenyan economist, James Shikwati, made an unusual argument about the West’s well-intentioned efforts to end poverty in Africa (in this interview in Der Spiegel): “For God’s sake, please just stop!”

What’s wrong with our aid? A lot: “Huge bureaucracies are financed, corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. ... If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid... Unfortunately, the Europeans’ devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason.”

Read the whole thing (Hat tip to David Warren).

And We Needed this Law Why?

Bernie Ebbers gets 25 years in the slammer for his role in the Worldcom fraud, merely the latest in a string of mostly successful convictions of corporate wrongdoers. (So far only Scruggs has been acquitted.) Watch for all the Enron guys to go down.

All of which suggests that the panic to pass Sarbanes-Oxley was unnecessary, doesn’t it? We’re convicting corporate wrongdoing just fine without it, and I suspect the sentences Ebbers, Koslowski and others are getting is plenty deterrent.

Now, the defense of Sarbanes-Oxley is that it should help prevent corporate fraud, so that we don’t have to prosecute people like Ebbers ever again. But the cost is way too high. The Wall Street Journal reports this morning (available online to subscribers only, alas), that public companies are spending nearly $6 billion a year to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, but this number is surely the tip of the visible iceberg that is sinking lots of productive capital. The real cost is surely much higher. And for what?

The Journal adds one other significant tidbit that should be of interest to Ohio and elsewhere: Sarbanes-Oxley is leading to more outsourcing. Money graph:

"An increasing number of companies are looking to India’s information-technology outsourcing firms to cut the cost and time needed to comply with the [Sarbanes-Oxley] law, say analysts, consultants, and Indian entrepreneurs."

Democrats on SCOTUS

Powerline offers some commentary on this op-ed lamenting the disarray of the Democratic leadership. I think that there might be a method to the madness: the more semi-plausible names the Democrats mention, the more pressure on the President (at least from the the punditacracy) to meet them "halfway." Anything other than a smart, principled jurisprudential conservative will be a victory for the Democrats.

Your Government at Work

From skepticseye:

Apparently the US Patent office has rejected an application from that Bay Area institution “Dykes on Bikes” to register their name. Yet “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” had no trouble registering its name, according to sources quoted in the article.

Germany pointed out that the case for “Queer Eye” was supported by a deep- pocketed television network. “And we’re a nonprofit group full of working- class women,” she said. The patent office’s Roberts said she was unfamiliar with the “Queer” case but that apparently “queer” was deemed not to have been as vulgar as “dyke.”

You get stuff like this when the government directs, case-by-case, who gets something and who doesn’t.

GOP and African-Americans

President Bush and Ken Mehlman are on the stump.

Brooks on McConnell

David Brooks urges the President to nominate Michael McConnell because "[i]deas drive history, so you want to pick the person with the biggest brain."

My biggest beef with his case for McConnell is that he mislabels him as a "neutralist" in religion matters, when I think he’s better characterized as a pluralist or accommodationist. A couple of passages for McConnell’s scholarship will help put some flesh on the bones on this technical seeming distinction:

Liberal political theory thus favored religion, but it did not favor any one religion. It guaranteed religious freedom in the hope and expectation that religious observance would flourish, and with it morality and self-restraint among the people.

"Accommodation of Religion" (1986)

The ideal of free exercise of that people are different and that those differences are precious and must not be disturbed.... The ideal of free exercise is counter-assimilationist: it strives to allow individuals of different religious faiths to maintain their differences in the face of powerful pressures to conform.

"Free Exercise Revisionism and the Smith Decision" (1990)

Obviously there can be disagreement regarding the degree of pluralism we can accommodate and the extent of civic education the state can undertake, not to mention regarding the degree to which liberal theory is "merely" procedural or substantive, dependent upon or hostile to revealed religion. But there is no doubt that McConnell is one of the most (if not the most) thoughtful, learned, and theoretically sophisticated defenders of and advocates for religious liberty working and writing in our time.

Cultivating liberal student activists

This article describes this conference. The conference organizer’s rationale is here. Of course he has to make the case for organizing students, but the real political problems for liberals are discussed here, here, here, and here. If you haven’t yet had your morning does of caffeine (and need it), dwell on this little gem:

Now clearly, liberals do predominate in college and university faculties. That shouldn’t surprise anyone: Academic inquiry, and modest faculty salaries, tend to attract liberal minds, just as, say, tobacco industry lobbyist positions tend to attract conservatives.

But ask students whether most of their liberal professors spend their time working with them to organize for political change on electoral reform or clean energy. Most professors focus on their scholarship, or perhaps their classroom skills. Sometimes it takes a determined, organizing effort from outside to connect like-minded students and professors on a campus for extracurricular efforts to discuss real-world issues and work for change. Conservatives have done this effectively; progressives haven’t.

The relative effectiveness of conservatives in maintaining a presence on campus and cultivating some young people has more to do with factors noted here and here.

If you haven’t yet had your fill, you can scroll through the conference blog here.

Update: I should have noted Charles Kesler’s worries about conservatism. My favorite line:

It is one thing (a blessing, I can tell you) to grow up reading and watching Bill Buckley; another to grow up reading and watching Bill O’Reilly.

Wilson, Plame, Rove and Miller

Win Myers calls our attention to this op-ed, which says all that we need to know about Karl Rove’s possible involvement in this affair, and this rather interesting speculation by John Podhoretz.

More on stem cells

Here’s an account of a hearing held yesterday on a stem cell research alternative I mentioned here. Ramesh Ponnuru has some good questions for those who oppose this but are still willing to destroy human embryos. QD tries to explain what they might be up to.

For other accounts of the politics of the competing proposals, go here and here. Here’s the Council on Bioethics White Paper that details the science of it all. Robert P. George, joined by Mary Ann Glendon and Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, offers the following observations:

Of the four possible methods explored in our White Paper, the one that has attracted the most intense interest outside the Council is altered nuclear transfer. There are two major concerns: (1) the question whether the entity produced would be truly non-embryonic, and not a disabled embryo or an embryo genetically programmed for a premature death; and (2) the question whether ova could be supplied without subjecting women to the painful and possibly dangerous process of superovulation. Neither of these questions is, strictly speaking, ethical, though both have what I consider to be decisive ethical implications. Like Dr. Hurlbut, who has taken the lead in formulating this proposal, I will not support altered nuclear transfer as a method of obtaining human pluripotent stem cells unless it can be shown that (1) the procedure truly and reliably produces nonembryonic entities, rather than damaged embryos, and (2) it is possible to carry out altered nuclear transfer on the scale required without subjecting women to harmful and exploitative practices.

I recognize that some people have objections to altered nuclear transfer even if these conditions are met. Dr. Krauthammer, for example, objects even if the sources of stem cells created can be shown truly to be nonembryonic. Because Dr. Krauthammer also objects (as I do) to the creation for destruction of true embryos (by cloning or any other method), I take his concerns very seriously and welcome his criticisms of my own more permissive view. I would not finally endorse altered nuclear transfer using human cells prior to engaging the argument with him more fully and considering with the utmost care the considerations he adduces against it.

It is more difficult to credit the ethical objections to altered nuclear transfer of those who support the creation of true embryos to be destroyed in biomedical research. How can it be right deliberately to create and destroy true human embryos—beings that no one can deny are human individuals in the embryonic stage of development—yet somehow wrong to produce disorganized growths that are the moral equivalent of gamete tumors rather than embryos?

One final point: the effort in which I am happy to join to find morally legitimate means of obtaining embryonic or embryonic-type stem cells should not be interpreted as indicating any acceptance of the hyping of the therapeutic promise of embryonic stem cell research that has marred the debate over the past four years. This promotion of exaggerated expectations dishonors science and shames those responsible for it by cruelly elevating the hopes of suffering people and members of their families. It should be condemned.

SCOTUS yet again

Ken Masugi notes that this article reports that "the two sides have consulted the Constitution and reread the pertinent Federalist Papers, and both are looking at the record of other presidents for evidence to support their interpretation of what the consultation requires." Good, though as Ken also notes, no one seems to be doing any really deep thinking.

A number of observers have also remembered that President Clinton, who in 1992 won a significantly smaller percentage of the popular vote than did President Bush (certainly a constitutionally irrelevant consideation), did not feel compelled to maintain the balance on the Court when he appointed the "extremist" Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace Byron White. This despite the fact that, at the time (another constitutionally irrelevant consideration) Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress, which, some are now saying, means that we should hesitate before letting yet another branch fall to this partisan hegemony. Indeed, I think that the Democrats ought to follow the Republican practice during the Clinton Administration and essentially let the President appoint any distinguished legal thinker (an appelation I’ll concede to Ginsburg) he wishes.

My final observation is that the willingness of the Democrats to put forward the names of Hispanic judges seems to be an attempt to weaken the President politically, should he not now choose to go in this direction. One wishes in vain that everyone, especially on the Republican side, would simply stop discussing the "politics" (especially the constituency-based politics) of the nomination. For good political advice regarding how the Republicans should approach this process, go here. Hat tip: Michael DeBow at Southern Appeal.

NY Times Op-ed Black Hole

Long-suffering New York Times readers might have hoped for a slight respite from the frivolity of Maureen Dowd when she went on leave to write a book (can’t wait for that major tome), but today the Times fills her spot with this piece of drivel. It praises Jimmy Carter’s "malaise" speech--yeah, that’s the ticket! Sarah Vowell, the author, is a contributor to "public radio." Figures. Almost makes you pine for Dowd to hurry up and finish her book and get back to her column.

Among other complaints, Vowell deplores Bush administration changes that supposedly make it easier to log forests. Since the New York Times requires several dozen acres of trees per day for its press run, this is an especially rich comin irony.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for June

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

Bradley Akin

Mindy McLaughlin

Tammi Worrell

David Smith

Gerard Delaney

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 July’s drawing.

A Cross of Green?

Several weeks (or maybe it was months) ago, Joe Knippenberg posted several interesting items about the nascent evangelical-environmental dialogue. I was intrigued, and have written my own commentary on the matter for AEI’s Environmental Policy Outlook series, which you can find here.

On the road

I’ll be on the road for the next five days (Pennsylvania and Washington). The bad news is that it is a business trip, the good news is I’m riding my bike! I’ll check in on Monday.

Gonzales as originalist proponent of judicial restraint

Christianity Today’s weblog makes the case. You be the judge.

I should note that I find the defense heartening, though CT’s Ted Olsen notes that a more important reason not to nominate Gonzales may be the requirement, noted by Edward Whalen, that Gonzales "would have to recuse himself from virtually every case of importance to the administration." I also can’t imagine a hearing on Gonzales that didn’t prominently feature pontifications about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, surely not the most illuminating and productive use of Senatorial time.

Tax Cuts Vindicated--Again

Don’t miss today’s Wall Street Journal editorial paqe (unfortunately available online for subscribers only), where there are two editorials on the salutary effects of the 2003 Bush tax cuts. First, revenues are soaring beyond projections, and the deficit is falling fast. (If the GOP could show some spending restraint, we’d reach a balanced budget quickly). Second, business investment--the bedrock of future economic gains--is up sharply, and began its uptrend immediately after the tax cuts took effect in 2003.

As the editorial reminded us, Reagan quipped that "No one calls it ’Reaganomics’ anymore now that it is working."

Buy Exxon Gas

In other news, the usual lefties have announced a boycott of Exxon-Mobil because the company doesn’t tow the line on environmental correctness. So go ahead and top of your tank at the nearest Exxon station.

Did He Blink, or Is This Rope-a-Dope?

Harry Reid says in today’s New York Times that he does not anticipate a filibuster against Bush’s Supreme Court nominee. Reid might be wanting to restraint the hot-heads like Schumer in his caucus, or he might be trying to lull Bush into nominating someone who he can claim constitutes an "extreme circumstance."

If Nan Aron had her way...

Any Bush nominee would constitute an "extreme circumstance."

No more textbooks

This might be a move in the right direction, especially regarding history and social studies classes. An Arizona high school has stopped using textbooks and will instead rely on the internet. "Calvin Baker, superintendent of Vail Unified School District, said the move to electronic materials gets teachers away from the habit of simply marching through a textbook each year.

He noted that the AIMS test now makes the state standards the curriculum, not textbooks. Arizona students will soon need to pass Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards to graduate from high school." In history, social studies, government, and civics courses, they ought to make use of original documents.

The Case for Nukes

For those worried about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, here’s a quiz: Which nation has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of economic output?


Yes, that’s right France. By a large margin. How? Simple: they generate 70 percent of their electricity with--gasp!!--nuclear power, which has no greenhouse gas emissions.

Suggests a rather obvious strategy if the industrialized world is serious about greenhouse gas emissions. The Economist has more to say about this very idea here.

Straussians for an independent Alberta?

I’m sure Karl Rove and other evil neo-conservatives have their fingers in this somewhere. Here’s Leon Craig’s site at the University of Alberta.

Hat tip: The Politic.

Big counterintelligence meeting in London

This New York Times story is interesting. It reveals that there was a two hour meeting in London--a kind of international counterintelligence summit meeting--hosted by Scotland Yard and MI5. Almost every European country sent representatives. It is said that this was necessary because the Brits have no leads. It seems clear that everyone thinks the next attack could be in their country. The attacks in London is not seen as the end. London is also working especially closely with Spanish authorities.

Rove and Plame

Here is the much tauted Newsweek article on the fact that Karl Rove talked with the Time reporter, Matt Cooper. Note that what Rove said is not what any lawyer would take to be illegal. Is this all there is? Powerline has more detail, and, since John is a lawyer, his views on all this are more to be trusted than mine. Also note this, kind-of-amusing thing from Craig Crawford:

If Karl Rove planned this -- which I doubt -- he really is a genius:

1.) He leaks to Time’s Matt Cooper in such a way that he avoids the law’s intent requirement for criminal liability (Newsweek notes that Cooper’s email shows nothing indicating Rove knew or revealed that Valerie Plame was an undercover agent, only that she worked at the CIA).

2.) The ensuing grand jury investigation dramatically weakens the news media and future leakers, as reporters must decide whether to testify or go to jail, and even turns Rove’s foes in the public against the reporters involved because they are seen as protecting him.

In other words, by making himself a protected source who loses that protection, Rove makes it easier for the government to use federal courts to target all leakers. This would give Machiavelli a migraine.

Fourth SEAL found

CNN reports that the body of the last missing Navy SEAL has been recovered in Afghanistan. He died fighting. He was never captured. He died the same way the two other SEALS did who were found a few days earlier. RIP. One SEAL escaped, wounded. Wretchard explains what this means, and celebrates the American fighting man.

Bin Laden understood and accepted that American logistics, technology and science would be superior to his own. What he was less prepared to believe was the possibility that their fighting spirit would be equal or greater than his. Sixty two years ago the Imperial Japanese Navy fought the USN for three straight days and nights in the waters surrounding Guadalcanal, from November 12-15, 1942. Both sides fought at point-blank range in some cases. Two USN Admirals, Scott and Callahan, died in a single night. Still the IJN and USN came on. Only after the USS Washington sank the battlecruiser Kirishima on November 15th did the Japanese break off. But it was not the material loss that shocked the Japanese: losses were about even on both sides; it was the realization that USN would not give up.

It is the canonical assumption of those who set out to conquer the world that all men are not created equal: that there are ubermensch and untermensch, men of divine descent and mongrel races, jihadis and infidels; that somehow these differences in quality will allow the chosen few to dominate the many. Yet in each case these beliefs have proven wrong, whether in the snows of Russia, the waters of Ironbottom Sound, or in the mountains of Afghanistan.

The right to be wrong

William Raspberry hands the mike to Kevin "Seamus" Hasson to promote his forthcoming bookThe Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America.

It goes without saying that the right is not unlimited, but that’s not on Raspberry’s or Hasson’s agenda this morning.

Liberal last stand?

This WaPo article argues that the stakes are extremely high for liberal interest groups in the Supreme Court nomination battle:

After failing repeatedly in recent years to stop the advance of a conservative agenda by the Republican-controlled White House and Congress, a once-powerful liberal coalition is making what amounts to a last stand over control of the Supreme Court.

If the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary the lobbyists head is unsuccessful, it will risk not only seeing the courts tilt decidedly more conservative but also seeing the liberal movement lose further credibility as an organizing and advocacy force in Washington. "The stakes are enormous -- they could not be any higher for us," Aron said. "Progressive organizations throughout the country understand how much is at stake with a change on the Supreme Court."

This is, of course, a little overblown, but the Bush Administration can’t afford to hand them even a proverbial moral victory.

Oh yeah, and
the meet-ups have begun.

"Will Britain go back to sleep?"

So asks Mark Steyn. Read the whole thing.   

Politics and population shifts

Donald Lambro reports on a census projection regarding long-erm population shifts to the south and west. By 2011, Florida will supplant New York as the third most populous state. According to Merle Black,

"The net beneficiary of this will continue to be the Republican Party because the population shift is moving into an environment that is heavily dominated by the Republicans," says Merle Black, a professor of politics and government at Emory University and author of books on political shifts in the South.

"In the 2002 and 2004 exit polls, we saw for the first time a majority of Southern white voters identifying themselves as Republicans and Democratic identification falling to a low 20 [percent] to 25 percent," Mr. Black says.

This doesn’t mean that Democrats cannot win, but population shifts give the GOP "a long-term structural advantage," he says, "and assuming they nominate credible candidates, they start with a strong base."

He adds: "The Republicans will continue to be the dominant party in the South for the foreseeable future."

Read the whole thing.

Blood feud, not war

Lee Harris thinks that "the war on terror," is misnamed. It is not a war at all, as we in the West have come to understand that term: War is a for a reason (instrument of policy, for land, etc.), and it has an end. He thinks that our current "war" against terror is really something like a blood feud, and his thought is not entirely crazy:

In the blood feud, the orientation is not to the future, as in war, but to the past. In the feud you are avenging yourself on your enemy for something that he did in the past. Al Qaeda justified the attack on New York and Washington as revenge against the USA for having defiled the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia by its military presence during the First Gulf War. In the attack on London, the English were being punished for their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the blood feud, unlike war, you have no interest in bringing your enemy to his knees. You are not looking for your enemy to surrender to you; you are simply interested in killing some of his people in revenge for past injuries, real or imaginary -- nor does it matter in the least whether the people you kill today were the ones guilty of the past injuries that you claim to be avenging. In a blood feud, every member of the enemy tribe is a perfectly valid target for revenge. What is important is that some of their guys must be killed -- not necessarily anyone of any standing in their community. Just kill someone on the other side, and you have done what the logic of the blood feud commands you to do.

In the blood feud there is no concept of decisive victory because there is no desire to end the blood feud. Rather the blood feud functions as a permanent "ethical" institution -- it is the way of life for those who participate in it; it is how they keep score and how they maintain their own rights and privileges. You don’t feud to win, you feud to keep your enemy from winning -- and that is why the anthropologist of the Bedouin feud, Emrys Peters, has written the disturbing words: The feud is eternal.

London as home for Islamic extremists

A front page story in the New York Times reviews something that really isn’t news at all (except maybe for The Times): There are plenty of extremist Muslims in England recruting for terrorists and instigating hate. Steve Coll, writing in the Washington Post, has more detail. A sample:

As bin Laden’s ideology of making war on the West spread in the years before Sept. 11, 2001, London became "the Star Wars bar scene" for Islamic radicals, as former White House counterterrorism official Steven Simon called it, attracting a polyglot group of intellectuals, preachers, financiers, arms traders, technology specialists, forgers, travel organizers and foot soldiers.

Today, al Qaeda and its offshoots retain broader connections to London than to any other city in Europe, according to evidence from terrorist prosecutions. Evidence shows at least a supporting connection to London groups or individuals in many of the al Qaeda-related attacks of the past seven years. Among them are the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; the assassination of Afghan militia leader Ahmed Shah Massoud on Sept. 9, 2001; outer rings of the Sept. 11 conspiracy, involving Moussaoui and the surveillance of financial targets in Washington and New York; Reid’s attempted shoe bomb attack in December 2001; and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The evidence in these and other cases describes al Qaeda connections here as remarkably diverse, ranging from the core organization’s early formation through its phase of elaborately planned global strikes between 1999 and 2001, to its more recent period of diffuse franchises and younger volunteers to an attack this week that authorities here said bears al Qaeda’s stamp. In the 1980s and 1990s, between 300 and 600 British citizens passed through Afghan training camps, officials here have acknowledged. Today, several recent cases suggest the seeding of a new generation of British residents who traveled as volunteers to fight with the insurgency in Iraq.

Also see this and this, both from the London Times, for more on home grown terrorism and the way terrorists recruit students with technical expertise. The London Times also reports that the mastermind of the Madrid bombing "is emerging as a figure in the hunt for the London bombers."

Squandered victory?

Reuel Marc Gerecht reviews two books on Iraq, one by Larry Diamond and one by David L. Phillips. Both accuse the administration of incompetent post-war occupation. Diamond is a "deeply conflicted" liberal, who is worth reading. There are nuggets of interesting information in the review. 

Wretchard is public

It turns out that Wretchard of the Belmont Club is Richard Fernandez, a Philipino-born Australian. Wretchard is the name of his cat. He says he was compelled to make his identity public because of this article. You should continue to pay attention to his analysis of the war, and, now on the situation in the Philipines.

Supreme matters

George Will makes the case for J. Harvie Wilkinson III to be nominated for the Supreme Court. The Democrats want someone with a "big heart." Meanwhile, Ann Coulter thinks that appointing O’Connor was Reagan’s biggest mistake (I think it was supporting no fault divorce while he was governor of California). And Reuters considers what role bloggers will have in the upcoming fight(s) for the Court. This Washington Times editorial is pessimistic about the upcoming Bush choices, if history is any guide. It recounts the Republican appointment since Ike and concludes that of the 7 (out 9) justices appinted by Republican presidents, only 3 can be called conservatives (Rhenquist, Scalia, and Thomas). And Fred Barnes reminds us that Bush will get his way in the end, no matter how much Demos gripe and shout, and he has promises to keep.

Must-Read Cohen

Eliot Cohen’s ruminations on the Iraq war in today’s Washington Post are not to be missed. His son, an Army Ranger, is about to ship out.