Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

William H. Rehnquist, RIP

The Associated Press is reporting that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died this evening at his home in Virginia. Rehnquist was a great jurist and statesman. He will be sorely missed.

William Rehnquist


Hurricane Katrina Relief

Glenn Reynolds and N.Z. Bear have links to hundreds of charities that are participating in hurricane relief. There are many great organizations to choose from. I urge readers to do whatever they can to help.

APSA update

Ken Masugi, who was kind enough to buy me a drink yesterday, beat me to the punch, as did Scott Johnson (with links, no less).

My panel yesterday went well (I commented on two papers, one on Nietzsche, the other on Machiavelli, and was fortunate that both richly repaid my modest efforts), and I had nice chats with old friends, including Paul Stern, Carol McNamara, John Seery, the recently reunited Busch family (his wife’s presence in Newport News is real, but not yet virtual), Jerry Weinberger, Leon Craig, and John Eastby (who, if anyone in South Dakota is reading, would be happy to deliver a lecture in his home state).

Today promises to be yet another busy one, so I’d best gird my loins for the unrestrained commerce in ideas. Bye for now!

Allan Bloom and conservatives

Jim Sleeper, whom I last discussed many moons ago here has a longish essay on Allan Bloom in Sunday’s NYT Book Review. He argues, correctly, I think, that Bloom is not a movement conservative, but rather someone who would be a burr under the saddle of ideologues all across the spectrum.

Of course, Sleeper is not without his own agenda, which is in part to use Bloom against conservatives who would approvingly cite him, from Roger Kimball to David Horowitz. Sleeper’s portrait of Bloom (and his ideal university) is drawn largely to discomfit his (Sleeper’s) current bugbear--what he takes to be the alliance of corporate capitalism and conservative religion, which threatens his vision of American civic republicanism.

I suppose that having someone in the NYT present Bloom as, in effect, an anti-neocon is better than the more common alternative, which is to make him the villainous presence behind the neocon throne, as Anne Norton did. I suppose that it’s a measure of his greatness to be used for and against any number of positions.

I will not pretend to speak for him and only lament the fact that he’s not around to speak for himself.

Update: Roger Kimball has more, much of it very critical of Sleeper, whose moralistic version of leftish civic republicanism would be no more congenial to Bloom than the religious conservative alternatives against which he poses it. Hat tip: Power Line.


I’m off to the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, where I’m commenting on a couple of papers, looking in on a panel here and there, and finding time to break bread with old and new friends from various parts of the Anglosphere. I’ll spend some time haunting the book room, but you’ll also find me here (scroll to the end).

I’m taking my laptop along, but I’m not sure how much time or energy I’ll have to blog.

See ya!

Religion in the Ivy League

Betcha didn’t know that the influx of Asian-American students into the Ivy league has reinvigorated student religious groups. So I learned from this article, which offers an account of evangelicalism at Dartmouth, Harvard, and elsewhere. But don’t call it evangelicalism, if you please!

According to Ivy League campus ministers, politics has become a stumbling block in evangelism. Craig Parker, staff leader for Navigators at Dartmouth, says his ministry does not use the term evangelical, due to its "political and moralistic connotations." Jimmy Quach says Harvard students loathe the Religious Right. He said, "One student told me, ’I love everything I’ve learned about Christianity. I love the community. I love what I’ve learned about Jesus. But if I were to become a Christian, I’d have to consider those in the Religious Right in my family. And I can’t stand that idea.’"

Seems some of those folks have a long way to go to achieve the generosity of spirit of a
Stephen L. Carter.

Reeb on Fukuyama on Iraq

I’m not sure that Richard Reeb has left much to say about Francis Fukuyama’s rather conventional NYT op-ed on Iraq. What Fukuyama offers is a measured version of Democratic talking points, liberally sprinkled with wishful thinking about the sustainability of a sanctions-and-inspection regime that was riddled with corruption and bound ultimately to fail.

Yes, President Bush’s attempt to plant a viable seed of reform in the Middle East is bold, and may fail. But it’s not clear to me that there was, or is, an adequate alternative promising any sort of hope that we would not face a growing threat of terrorism (with or without WMD).

Recovery in New Orleans, etc.

Today’s Washington Post has a good series of articles on the economic impact of Katrina and on the extraordinary challenges of recovery. The page that links to all the articles in the package is here.

I’m walking on sunshine

I remember a song with that title by Katrina and the Waves. Yes, you read that right: a mid-80s pop band that had a big hit in Toronto and, I’m sure, elsewhere.

Well, after Katrina’s hit, I may well be walking. I was at a reception at the President’s house when my wife called to tell me to tank up on the way home, as gas prices were approaching $5/gallon and lines were quite long. It seems that much of Atlanta’s gas comes through two pipelines from Texas and Louisiana; service was obviously interrupted.

Well, I paid $4.30 a gallon (mid-grade, which was all that was available) at a station that closed soon thereafter.

It will be interesting to see how long this price bump lasts. As a short-term phenomenon, it won’t affect people’s behavior. If it persists, those who have an axe to grind or who are less well-informed will blame the President, who needs to respond much more effectively than did his predecessors in the 1970s.

But let me hasten to add that our quite trivial problems in Atlanta pale before those in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Our thoughts and prayers are with the folks down there.

Update: If you must read more about crass political attempts to exploit the misery spawned by Katrina, go here (hat tip: The Politic).

Latest Pew poll

Here’s the 46 page pdf. Here’s the web summary, which contains everything but the raw data and the precise questions asked.

The news stories emphasize either evidence of substantial public support for "teaching the conflict" between evolution and creationism or evidence that people regard the Democrats as less religion-friendly than the Republicans, not to mention less religion-friendly than they were a year ago, during the 2004 campaign.

My explanation for this last finding, not substantiated by anything in the poll, is that the anti-religious vitriol spewed by the Bush-hating Left in the aftermath of the election has come to be identified with the Democrats, Jim Wallis’s best efforts to the contrary notwithstanding. Howard Dean’s ill-advised wiscrack about the "white Christian party" surely hasn’t helped either.

Other interesting, but thus far unnoticed poll findings include these: Support for the faith-based initiative remains high (66-30 favor it), unless the question is posed in terms of "taking some of the federal funds spent on government anti-poverty programs and
giving them to religious groups to provide
social services," in which case the numbers roughly reverse (33-58). The latter formulation is of course oversimplified and misleading.

Regardless of whether they approve of the job he’s doing (he’s still down 45-47), people’s overall opinion of GWB is still favorable by a 51-46 margin. By contrast, the favorable-unfavorable ratings of other groups are as follows: Christian conservatives (42-34), corporations (49-40), the ACLU (38-35), Congress (49-40), Republicans (48-43), and Democrats (50-41).

Finally, by a 67-28 margin, respondents thought that liberals have gone too far in keeping religion out of schools and government. This sentiment is held by whites and blacks, in all regions, across all levels of education (though only by a 54-42 margin for college-educated folks [I should note that the poll in many ways suggests that college education seems to be the great secularizing influence in the U.S.]), in both parties and among independents, and among all groups of Protestants and Catholics. The only outliers are liberal Democrats (33-64) and secularists (42-50).

There are other nuggets in the report, but it’s late, and I’m tired.

Update: John Hinderaker has more.

Arkes on Specter on Roberts

Hadley Arkes wonders whether Arlen Specter knew what he was doing when he sent this letter to John Roberts.

Jude Wanniski, RIP

Jude Wanniski has passed away. Jude was one of the pioneers of supply-side economics (although the story linked here is wrong--he didn’t come up with the name; Herb Stein--Ben Stein’s father--came up with the term first), and though I thought he was a bit nutty and often irresponsible (meeting and praising Farrakhan once, for example), his vivacity and creativity cannot be denied.

Military chaplains and religious expression

On the occasion of the issuance of these guidelines, the Washington Post offers these three stories.

While reporter Alan Cooperman (whose pieces on religion I generally find fair) catches almost everything, he doesn’t note this important proviso in the guidelines:

[T]here may be extraordinary circumstances where the potential benefits [of prayer] for the welfare of the
command outweigh the potential of causing discomfort. These circumstances might include mass
casualties, preparation for imminent combat, and natural disasters.

He also doesn’t note that the guidelines permit a moment of silence on routine occasions.

In general, the guidelines, which apply now only to the Air Force but may be extended to all the services, strike me as a commonsensical response to religious pluralism, urging accommodation of the religious needs of servicemen and women, placing national service and solidarity at the forefront of everyone’s concerns, and reminding officers that the hierarchical (I use this word self-consciously) nature of military service gives officers a special responsibility to avoid confusing their subordinates. These, by the way, are not the guidelines issued by a "theocracy."

UC (as in California) admissions policy

Hunter Baker is apoplectic about a University of California admissions policy that does not permit certain courses taught to satisfy admissions requirements. Here, via Religion Clause, are some articles that cover the lawsuit filed by the Calvary Chapel Christian School and the Association of Christian Schools International.

The plaintiffs’ attorney is Wendell Bird, who represented the losing side in Edwards v. Aguillard, a case involving Louisiana’s effort in the 1980s to mandate the teaching of "creation science," along with evolution. He was also apparently once on the staff of the Institute for Creation Research.

I haven’t seen the complaint, but apparently the UC system has refused to allow certain courses taught from a Christian point of view (including biology, history, and American government) to satisfy admission requirements.

It will be interesting to see how this is litigated. The biology courses at issue apparently are biblically-based. The university system and the scientific community will of course say that the course is not science and can’t satisfy a science entrance requirement. Given the absence of scholarly consensus as to what constitutes "orthodox" history and political science, the university system will be somewhat harder pressed to defend its exclusion of those courses, especially if it has accepted other "perspectival" history and government courses in the past.

The strongest claims that the plaintiffs can make are that the system’s refusal to accept these courses burdens students’ free exercise of religion and denies them the equal protection of the laws. While no one is telling them that they can’t study what they want to study, their free exercise is arguably "burdened" by the admissions requirements. As I suggested above, it will likely be relatively easy to defend the science requirement, certainly if all that has to be satisfied is a "rational basis" test, and perhaps even if the pre-Smith "compelling state interest" test were invoked. I don’t think the courts will touch the more "philosophical" issue of whether science, as it is conventionally understood, also rests upon a kind of faith.

My own heart and mind are somewhat divided here. On the one hand, I think universities should be able to use admissions standards to demand a certain level of performance on the part of students and the schools that educate them. On the other hand, I don’t think that admissions standards should be used to promote "ideology," especially masquerading as neutral knowledge. I’m reluctant to let a judge sort these matters out, because the most interesting and difficult issues are not easily amenable to adjudication. I’m tempted to argue that the university system should find some way of accommodating these students, perhaps requiring science remediation, if in fact all they have learned is some version of young earth creationism. If the Calvary Chapel course already treats both creation and evolution, then I have much less sympathy for the university system, which would then seem to be enforcing a kind of orthodoxy unwilling to permit itself to be challenged. The system probably ought to let the history and government classes count. In other words, the best solution here is for the filing of the complaint to be a prelude to negotiation and conciliation, with the university system finding a way to accommodate this form of "diversity."

Update: This article suggests that the schools teach both evolution and young earth creationism (which is different from intelligent design inasmuch as it’s explicitly biblical), albeit in such a manner as to privilege the latter. Also interesting is this comment:

“If you don’t understand evolution, you don’t understand biology. If you don’t understand biology, you don’t understand modern science,” said Albert F. Bennett, chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at the university’s Irvine campus. “A student ill-versed in science is poorly prepared for university-level work.”

Such students, Bennett said, “will be incapable of understanding or helping to achieve the many benefits of modern biology, such as crop improvement, cancer therapies, and avoidance of antibiotic resistance, that critically depend on evolutionary theory.” As a result, he added, “the university has an obligation to ensure that entering students are properly prepared for a university-level education.”

Taken seriously, and applied to all aspects of university education, it would have the effect, not only of raising standards in such a way as to make it difficult for many incoming students to meet them (a good thing if they could rise to the challenge), but also of posing in a serious way the question of what a generally or liberally educated person needs to know. I wonder how many UC faculty really want to open that can of worms, especially in a very public manner, since it would seem to play into the hands of the
E.D. Hirsches and William Bennetts of the world.

Update #2: Here, via Religion Clause, is the complaint (107 page [!!] pdf).

Shameless self-promotion

My latest collection of blatherings, about Reading Lolita in Tehran, is up over at the Ashbrook main site. Delivered as part of a panel discussion on our summer reading assignment for freshmen, the talk focuses on what we can learn from the book about liberal education.

There are, of course, things that I couldn’t say, given the setting and the time constraints. Nafisi’s book is, among other things, a cautionary tale about politicizing the university as well as about having reasonable expectations regarding political change. When she was a graduate student in the U.S., Nafisi clearly had some affinity for the leftist opposition to the Shah. What she comes to realize in Tehran is that, for intellectual freedom and for the university, there’s little difference between Iranian Marxist-Leninists and the mullahs. For her (rightly or wrongly), totalitarianism is totalitarianism is totalitarianism.

And for those of you who are still dubious about the intellectual and political merits of this best-seller, take note of her acknowledgements, where she thanks "Paul" for introducing her to Persecution and the Art of Writing, as well as Hillel Fradkin and Bernard Lewis.

Roberts is anti-woman?

Cathy Young takes up, and demolishes, the charge that Roberts is anti-woman. Since she’s a libertarian, she can’t resist a dig about Roberts’s views on abortion, but nevertheless concludes this way:

Roberts’s views on abortion and other issues may be a legitimate cause for concern for women’s rights groups. Yet so far his critics have resorted to so many bad arguments that one must wonder if they have any good ones.

Eastland on Reagan’s judicial legacy

This is a nice piece. The conclusion:

Judge Roberts represents precisely the kind of nominee you’d expect from the president of the party shaped by Mr. Reagan.

Notably, Mr. Reagan appointed to the High Court lawyers (Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy) less conservative than the young lawyers who worked for him at Justice and in the White House. But if Mr. Reagan did not have available to him a John Roberts to put on the court, a Reagan legacy is surely the pool of distinguished lawyers of conservative views who served him and in some cases as well his immediate predecessor and who are now of sufficient age to be considered for the Supreme Court.

Which is to say: There are more lawyers like John Roberts. That prospect is not exactly a happy one for Senate Democrats – all 44 of them.

John Zvesper has been busy

You can download or purchase this book, about the election of 1800 and the lessons it might hold for newly emerging democracies. And, while you’re at it, you could read this review essay, which offers a taste of his line of argument.

That America’s growing pains were not restricted to the 1790’s is clear from this conversation between Hugh Hewitt and John Eastman.

Diversity in higher ed, yet again

This time, via Power Line, it’s the law schools that turn out to be largely Democratic by at least one measure of political behavior (campaign contributions). All the reasonable caveats apply, as it’s not clear that the professors who write the checks use their classrooms to indoctrinate or that this form of political behavior is necessarily and ineluctably connected with a tilt in one’s scholarship. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to wonder if there might not be something of an echo chamber, especially in elite law schools:

The most serious problem pointed to by the study, Professor [John O.] McGinnis [the author] said, is that the ideas generated by the law schools are both uniform and untested.

"It may be," he added, "that the rise of conservative think tanks counterbalances this effect to a degree. As one who believes in markets, I think that alternative institutions in the long run will arise to supply ideas." Even so, he said, "liberal ideas might well be strengthened and made more effective if liberals had to run a more conservative gantlet among their own colleagues when developing them."

I’m looking forward to the article, which will appear in the
Georgetown Law Journal this fall.

Update: Professor Bainbridge has more, with links.

Public diplomacy and popular culture

Martha Bayles has a very interesting piece on public diplomacy and American cultural exports. Is it any wonder that more than a few Muslims abroad think of Americans as immoral if what they’re exposed to is reruns of Sex in the City and videos of Britney Spears? Bayles whether government outlets like Radio Sawa and Radio Farda need to be counterbalancing the overwhelming presence of Hollywood and the recording industry, rather than serving as yet another vehicle for it:

American popular culture is no longer a beacon of freedom to huddled masses in closed societies. Instead, it’s a glut on the market and, absent any countervailing cultural diplomacy, our de facto ambassador to the world. The solution to this problem is far from clear. Censorship is not the answer, because even if it were technologically possible to censor our cultural exports, it would not be politic. The United States must affirm the crucial importance of free speech in a world that has serious doubts about it, and the best way to do this is to show that freedom is self-correcting -- that Americans have not only liberty but also a civilization worthy of liberty.

From Franklin’s days, U.S. cultural diplomacy has had both an elite and a popular dimension. Needless to say, it has rarely been easy to achieve a perfect balance between the two. What we could do is try harder to convey what the USIA mandate used to call "a full and fair picture of the United States." But to succeed even a little, our new efforts must counter the negative self-portrait we are now exporting. Along with worrying about what popular culture is teaching our children about life, we need also to worry about what it is teaching the world about America.

Read the whole thing.

Churches and the environment

It will be interesting to watch what happens in Montgomery County, Maryland as churches seek to take advantage of their entitlement to build in the suburban county’s "agricultural reserve," virtually its last affordable real estate. For the most part, Montomery County (which sits on the northwest border of Washington, D.C.) si densely developed, though roughly one-third has intentionally been left in agriculture (with the aforementioned exemption for churches).

Now, a number of growing and rather large churches are seeking to build sanctuaries and campuses there. These same churches likely couldn’t afford to build elsewhere in the county and, given their size and the traffic they would generate, wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed with open arms in or near residential neighborhoods. (This, by the way was one of the issues that led to the passage of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.) In this case, however, the churches are’t facing NIMBYs but rather NIMARs (Not In My Agricultural Reserve)--environmentalists and lovers of green spaces. That some of the congregations that are seeking to build are African-American adds yet another complicating dimension to the issue.

As I said, it will be interesting to see how the county’s elected officials (mostly Democrats, I would imagine) deal with this hot potato.