The most famous resident of a market town in England is a young ne’er-do-well. He wins the lottery, and, surprise, his character doesn’t change, he stays coarse and obnoxious--the Brits call them chavs--but is now a millionaire. An interesting read, especially if you are bored by the Indians-White Sox game.
John C. Goodman thinks that he has a tax reform proposal that will satisfy both the left and the right in Congress. It is a flat tax of 14% (rather than Steve Forbes’ proposed 17%, which Goodman thinks is really a consumption tax) and is more friendly to low income folks.
Ive been working on a lesson plan for the NEH on the subject of the Korean War, and I was interested to find at the Eisenhower Presidential Library site this poll data summarizing the publics views on the Korean war in early 1953. I think that most today would deem this a worthwhile war, inasmuch as it blocked the outright aggression of North Korea, and sent a message that such aggression would not be tolerated in the future. However, as these poll number shows, this was not the attitude held by most Americans at the time. When asked on four different occasions, between October 1952 and April 1953, whether the war had been worth fighting, a clear majority said no in every case.
Christopher Levenick hunts for clues regarding Robertss approach to leading the court, finds a few, and likes what he sees. So do I.
Some of you might know that Ive been directing a three-year project for the National Endowment for the Humanities, designing lesson plans on U.S. history as part of EDSITEment, the NEHs site for teachers. Im happy to report that the first set of lessons designed under this project have been posted. The title is "The Proper Application of Overwhelming Force", and it deals with the military history of U.S. involvement in World War II.
If there are any high school teachers reading this, Id like to hear what you think. I hope youll also consider using these lessons in your classrooms.
Judge John G. Roberts, Jr., has been confirmed by the Senate to be next Chief Justice of the U.S. The vote was 78-22.
Ken Masugi and Richard Walden want to start a national debate about how best to respond charitably to national disasters. Should we be giving as much as we are to big bureaucratic first responders, like the American Red Cross, or more to local groups focused on long-term recovery, not just immediate short-term relief? Good question.
James Q. Wilson meditates on marriage and
loyalty. A bit complex, maybe a bit too dependent on sociological studies, yet it is thoughtful and full of insights.
Investors Business Daily has a few thoughts on dysfunctional Lousiana, and why former FEMA director Brown was right to call it that.
Howard Fineman muses about the demoralized Democrats and why they dont have much faith in their partys prospects.
But, of course, with DeLays indictment, some, like Dan Balz of the WaPo, can talk about how the GOP is in trouble. Not especially persuasive.
A much more persuasive argument can be found in the paper issue of National Review (Oct 10). There, John J. Miller explains how and why the GOP is in trouble in Ohio, and why Ken Blackwell (for governor in 2006) is their only hope. If Ohio falls to the Dems, so might the country. If Blackwell wins, it will fire up the conservative base, and cut into the black vote. This piece should be read. Keep your eye on Ohio.
Victor Davis Hanson yields a mighty sword. He takes on four universities and their presidents and diversity. The sort of stuff we hear from Hanson on a regular basis, yet it remains powerful still and never dry.
Fouad Ajami condemns the "moral emptiness" of "official" Arab life, and its "great silence" regarding Zarqawis terror is Iraq. He praises the Shiites for their "attachment to sobriety" and he thinks that will continue. The op-ed is both a plea to the U.S. to continue its work, and a reasonable optimism about the outcome. He is persuaded that a new order for the region is being drafted.
Townhall.com has a new look to it, much better than the old, and also easier to navigate. An altogether useful site, from news to opinion. Take a look.
James Piereson has a long piece called "The Left University" in the current Weekly Standard. It is very good. I may have a comment or two on it after the mandatory re-reading of a serious piece.
The Republicans will have to look for a new leader in the House: Rep. Tom DeLay has been indicted by a grand jury in Texas.
Peter Lawler writes more than is humanly possible. The introduction to his forthcoming Stuck With Virtue: The American Individual and Our Biotechnological Future is available online here.
To give [Mark] Lilla his due, evangelical Christians do not tend to give reality-based arguments to defend their relatively reality-based lives. They tend to think in terms of opposing “worldviews,” biblical and secular. And they often claim that if it were not for the absolute truth of biblical revelation, relativistic individualism would be the truth we would all share in common. Our evangelicals lack the confidence to say that what we can see with our own eyes about nature and human nature supports their dissent from the individualistic excesses of our time. They concede too much to the individualism they criticize, and the result is that they do not really engage in dialogue with their fellow citizens, such as Lilla, about the human goods we all—believers and nonbelievers alike—share in common. Lilla is right to criticize them for their faith-based secession from the intellectual life of our country. But that does not mean that our evangelicals have nothing real and valuable to offer that life. According to the astute British observers Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait, America, largely because of the influence of religion, is the only reality-based nation in the enlightened world. They write in The Right Nation (2003) that Europeans tend to live in a postreligious, postfamilial, and postpolitical fantasy, and that they do not think clearly with their futures in mind. By contrast, we relatively conservative Americans think of ourselves as parents, creatures, and citizens, as well as free and productive individuals. So we refuse to reduce all moral questions to merely technical ones, and we take responsibility for our futures as real human beings. The evangelicals’ dissent from the dominant libertarian sociobiology of the intellectuals is actually connected to the truth about the way people really are.
Katie Newmark brings us up to date. Some folks would apparently prefer direct aid to vouchers. This isn’t as paradoxical as it sounds, since the aid would follow students in a manner analogous to vouchers, thereby also avoiding the ostensible First Amendment problems with direct aid. The reasoning supporting this program can be found in Mitchell v. Helms, which upheld limited per capita aid to parochial schools in--guess where?--Louisiana. The limits, predictably, came from Sandra Day O’Connor helped by Breyer), while Thomas, Scalia, Rehnquist, and Kennedy would have supported a much further-ranging program of non-discriminatory aid.
For the record, I think Katie is right about the politics of this proposal. It is a risk, but because it’s less likely to empower parents in an "addictive" way, it may have less long-term influence than a straight voucher program.
This Washington Post editorial gets it exactly right: It calls Louisiana’s congressional delegation
"looters" for trying to get another $250 billion for the state (circa $50,000 per person) from Congress.
I saw last night that CNN was reporting on how bad the initial "hyperbolic" reporting of all the media was the first few days of Katrina, especially around the dome and the convention center: Unverified rapes, inflated body counts, etc. Now the Los Angeles Times picks up the story, as does the AP.
I note without comment that Michael Brown, the former director of FEMA and the one held responsible for everything that went wrong, said this to a House panel: "My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional."
Christopher Hitchens doesnt pull any punches on the so-called anti-war march in Washington. ANSWER and the others are in fact pro-war, just on the other side. It is wrong (vide New York Times) to call such organizations and rallies "anti-war."
At a time when were going to court over intelligent design, its worth remembering that there are other potential points of contact and conflict between science and religion.
It is nonetheless true that those who criticized the federal government’s Katrina response--and largely overlooked or exempted their political allies in Louisiana--to some degree brought this on themselves. It’s hard to blame a leader who wants direct control over the response mechanisms when his adversaries exploit every shortcoming for their own political purposes. A more forgiving political environment (too much to ask, I know) or a more nuanced accounting of who was responsible for what (also too much to ask) would likely not have prompted this response.
Still, that the President’s proposal is understandable in light of his circumstances doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Yes, the DoD has a role to play. But let’s fix FEMA, DHS, and, if it’s possible, Louisiana before we give DoD yet another responsibility.
Wheaton Colleges Mark Noll brings his vast learning to bear on the role of Scripture in American public life. While he begins with the usual suspects (Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln), he soon takes us far afield to French Jesuits, Quebecois Catholics, American Jews in the early 20th century, and African-Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Read the whole thing.
The latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education features an article entitled "The Loneliness of a Conservative Librarian" [sorry, subscription required]. Last year David Brooks investigated the ratio of Kerry campaign donors to Bush donors within academia, and it was in the neighborhood of 11:1--but among librarians it was 223:1.
The author of this piece, David Durant, knew back in 1997 that the profession he was getting into was made up predominantly of liberals and leftists. That didnt matter to him--he prized himself on his ability to get along with everyone. The problem arose after September 11, and particularly after the Iraq War. At that point, he writes, the profession became "overtly politicized":
One of the most disturbing aspects of the situation is the way in which the supposedly nonpolitical American Library Association has become a platform for left-wing partisanship. The ALAs Council, its elected governing body, is dominated by left-wing activists who recently passed a resolution calling for the United States to leave Iraq.
It is, of course, the right of the vast majority of my colleagues to hold positions I disagree with. But its a very different matter when the major professional association in librarianship takes openly political stands on issues that have no direct bearing on the field.
Proponents of the resolution on Iraq argue that abandoning the country to Al Qaeda would allow us to spend lots more money on libraries here at home. I believe that allowing radical Islam to run rampant in the Middle East would be utterly disastrous for libraries and intellectual freedom, both here and abroad. It is for individuals to choose between those positions; a professional organization like the ALA has no business adopting such a blatantly partisan resolution.
This WaPo article detailing a FEMA proposal to compensate churches for their hurricane relief work (only when it was undertaken at the request of state or local goernment) canvasses the usual issues, but also contains a couple of interesting nuggets.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, religious charities rushed in to provide emergency services, often acting more quickly and efficiently than the government. Relief workers in the stricken states estimate that 500,000 people have taken refuge in facilities run by religious groups.
While we can argue about whether the governments (notice the plural) set an adequate standard of speed and efficiency, this is nonetheless a remarkable statement that provides evidence to support the Presidents claims about the faith-based initiative.
Then theres this from Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:
"The good news is that this work is being done now, but I dont think a lot of people realize that a lot of these organizations are actively working to obtain federal funds. Thats a strange definition of charity," he said.
Does the man not realize that many charities--like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army--are also big-time government contractors? Federal, state, and local money helps expand the scope of their works, with contract and reimbursement dollars supplementing private contributions and enhancing volunteer efforts. Lynns statement--about which he cant be serious (or if he is, hes living in some alternate universe)--envisions a world in which the government does not contract out any of its social services or does so only with for-profit contractors. That would revolutionize--and cripple--the delivery of social services in this country.
It is impossible in a brief blog post to do justice to this characteristically Mansfieldian rumination on free speech and the university. His review of Donald Alexander Downss Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus is, as usual, chock-full of pithy paradoxes.
Heres a taste:
Downs notes that the difference between free speech and academic freedom is that the latter, unlike the former, relates to truth. A society can have free speech, pace the ACLU, if it does not challenge its own basic presuppositions, like those in the Declaration of Independence. But a university must, in pursuit of truth, hold those presuppositions open to inquiry. To carry out such inquiry, a university would seem to have greater need of diversity than a society. A university would not want to foreclose questions that a society might consider settled.
Conservatism is therefore closer to the mission of the university than liberalism is. Liberals, insofar as they are progressives, believe that it is possible to eliminate prejudice from society. When prejudice is gone, truth prevails, and there is no need to reconsider the errors of the past. Progress is irrevocable, and inquiry shrinks to whatever questions remain unsettled. Conservatives, believing that it is not possible to eliminate prejudice, are more tolerant than liberals; they expect society to be, and remain, a mixture of truth and untruth.
Its great to see Tom Cerber back in the blogging saddle, providing intelligent commentary about matters north (and south) of the border. Heres a paragraph that religious conservatives on both sides of the border need to ponder:
One of the reasons why religious conservatives don’t obtain wider support is that they fail to connect their socially and morally conservative message with the principle of liberty. While it’s true that they’re like preachers in the whorehouse, trying to preach moderation to an immoderate and hedonistic society. At the same time, they also need to do a much better job demonstrating that the immoderate and hedonistic policies that the other side supports undermines liberty. Too often they allow themselves to be portrayed as the enemies of liberty, when in fact the best arguments for social and moral conservatism sustain liberty understood as the “ordered liberty” of the responsible individual.
Read both posts.
James Piereson--about whom more here--offers a nice and concise summary account of higher education in America, from the first colleges through the "liberal university" and the "left university." What he’d like to see is this:
These developments represent just the leading edge of a growing movement to challenge the practices of the left university. The purpose of such efforts is not to give representation to conservatives on an equal footing with other campus interest groups. Intellectual pluralism, the search for truth, and respect for the heritage of free institutions are neither conservative nor left-liberal ideals. Jefferson, indeed, understood these ideals to be at the heart of the university, and central to his vision of a "republic of letters"; Humboldt, too, saw his liberal university as the means of carrying forward the principles of liberty, free inquiry, and the unimpeded search for truth. The effort to restore these ideals on campus is thus something that both conservatives and liberals should applaud. The left university should not be replaced by the right university. It should be replaced by the real university, dedicated to liberal education and higher learning.
As usual, Piereson encourages us not to focus exclusively on politics and policy, and not to respond to ideology with more ideology. The strength of traditional approaches to higher education is the manner in which people of varying political orientations can find a common ground in the mutual exploration of our humanity. To that end, I would commend
this organization to his attention.
According to CNN, Diversity on High Court Desirable, President Bush said this of his imminent nomination to replace the retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day OConnor: "I will pick a person who can do the job. But I am mindful that diversity is one of the strengths of the country." If only this country had a decent definition of diversity. Would that we could get back, all the way back, to the diversity of the individual spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. This diversity derives, interestingly enough, from the equality we share in the possession of rights as human beings. I know at least one sitting justice who understands this. The president would do well to stick to his campaign commitment to nominate justices like Thomas and Scalia.
Kudos to John Fund for making public the endemic problem of corruption in Louisiana. Not a small issue now, considering the big bucks that will flow into the state over the next few years.
"Put bluntly, the local political cultures don’t engender confidence that aid won’t be diverted from the people who truly need and deserve it. While the feds can try to ride herd on the money, here’s hoping folks in the region take the opportunity to finally demand their own political housecleaning. Change is past due. Last year, Lou Riegel, the agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans office, described Louisiana’s public corruption as epidemic, endemic, and entrenched. No branch of government is exempt."
A few months ago I posted about the grassroots fight against the construction of an International Freedom Center on the former site of the World Trade Center. According to the group Take Back the Memorial, the IFC will become a center for "anti-Americanism" and will distract attention from 9/11 by focusing not specifically on the attacks, but on oppression worldwide, including presumably Abu Ghraib.
Take Back the Memorial had already attracted the support of the Uniformed Firefighters Associations, the Patrolmens Benevolent Association, and several prominent New York Republican politicians. Now, apparently, it has won the favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton. "I am troubled by the serious concerns that family members and first responders have expressed to me," Sen. Clinton told The Post exclusively yesterday. "The [Lower Manhattan Development Corp.] has authority over the site, and I do not believe we can move forward until it heeds and addresses their concerns. Therefore, I cannot support the IFC."
The organization is still hoping for support from Sen. Chuck Schumer, Gov. George Pataki, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Asks the New York Post,
Whats it going to take to convince them? An endorsement of the IFC from Osama bin Laden?
Paul Gigot writes on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and his "idealism." Wolfowitz actually thinks he can do something about the misery in Africa.
Im traveling out in the Pacific northwest this week, where people will be happy to know that the city of Portland, Oregon, has this week banned cigarette smoking at outdoor bus stops. They want to protect people from the hazard of second-hand smoke, naturally. Another reason for getting your smoke first-hand.
Warren Beatty attacks Gov. Arnold. You know, the standard stuff: Arnold is governing by spin, photo ops, is trying to impose Bushs policies in California, hates unions, and is a fascist. It is rumored that he may run against Arnold.
After this morning, Ill likely not be blogging for the remainder of the weekend. Ill be in Charleston, South Carolina on a camping trip with my sons paramilitary organization. Well be staying here (notice I didnt say "sleeping," though some of us might actually be able to accomplish that in the crew quarters) and doing this.
The House yesterday passed a bill updating the Head Start program. The biggest bone of contention was the bills extension of the co-religionist hiring exemption (first written into the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, and unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in Corporation of Presiding Bishop v. Amos).
I’ve written about the issues here.
Nancy Pelosi says she has found $70 million in highway bill earmarks (aka pork) in her district that shes willing to give back to the treasury in order to defray the cost of Katrina recovery. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis has proposed a moratorium on all non-defense related earmarks in FY 2006. Im guessing that close to 10% of the $27.3 billion in FY 2005 pork (as identified by the Citizens Against Government Waste comes from Congressional earmarks for colleges and universities. Here are a few examples. Are we in higher ed willing to do our share in helping to offset the cost of Gulf Coast recovery?
Edward Whalen is not impressed by Ruth Bader Ginsburgs intervention in the judicial nomination process. Neither am I. The only good to come of this is her refreshingly frank admission that gender matters less than substantive commitments that, according to "her" rules, judicial nominees arent supposed to make before theyre appointed. We all knew that, for her, substance mattered more than process. Now we know it even better.
Tibor Rubin, Holocaust survivor, immigrant, Korean War hero, will receive the Medal of Honor tomorrow, a half a century late. Good story.
Former National Organization for Women President, Molly Yard, has died at the age of 93. The link provided relates an interesting irony. Yard always claimed that she was "born a feminist" because her birth (as the third of four daughters in Shanghai, China to missionary parents), was greeted by the familys Chinese friends with a gift of a beautiful brass bowl to ease the pain of having yet another daughter. Yard, rightly, took offense at that. But she went on to devote much of her life to working for abortion rights (leading the fight against Robert Borks nomination to the Supreme Court). One cant help but wonder what strange Orwellian logic leads a person who very easily might have been the victim of abortion because of her sex support radical abortion rights and then claim to be a champion of women.
C-SPAN will run Judge Alice Batchelders Constitution Day speech this Saturday at 7 p.m. You should watch it. She may well be the person replacing Justice OConnor.
LeBlanc and his commenters nail one of the points that I would have made against Lilla: when he complains about the intellectual shallowness or anti-intellectualism of contemporary evangelicals, he compares their current literary, theological, and philosophical output to the likes of Reinhold Niebuhr and John Courtney Murray in the 1950s. But, rather unfairly, he looks only at relatively shallow contemporary popular writers, rather than the serious academics to whom LeBlanc and his commenters point. I’d add some more names to the list, but will rest content with their suggestions.
Lilla’s complaints about popular evangelicalism center on what to him seems to be its shallow dogmatism (which seem to me equally characteristic of contemporary popular secularism). In many cases, he may be close to the mark, but he clearly isn’t familiar with the best that has been thought and written. His own preference seems to be for the world of skepticism, but his conclusion offers an interesting opening back into the world of thoughtful (and self-critical) faith:
It took years to acquire the education I missed as a young man, an education not only in books but in a certain comportment toward myself and the world around me. Doubt, like faith, has to be learned. It is a skill. But the curious thing about skepticism is that its adherents, ancient and modern, have so often been proselytizers. In reading them, I’ve often wanted to ask, "Why do you care?" Their skepticism offers no good answer to that question. And I don’t have one for myself. When my daughter and I discuss her budding thoughts about the cosmos and morality, or when my students come to my office inspired or baffled by a book, something quickens within me. The Greeks spoke of eros, the Christians of agape and caritas. I don’t know what to call it, I just know it is there. It is a kind of care. It is directed toward others, but also, perhaps, toward that young man lying on his bed, opening the Bible for the very first time [a reference to his own first religious experience].
Here is an issue or question on which he and his religious contemporaries could seriously engage, a "datum" about human nature that deserves further consideration, and about which generalized skepticism often has little or nothing penetrating to say.
Larry Sabato takes an early look at the 2006 Senate and Governor contests. Note his paragraphs on what it might take to produce Democratic gains or even a take over in the Senate. Also note that you can click on the states for more information. Useful.
Has anyone else noticed this from Arlen Specter? Bloomberg reports that Sen. Specter has urged Bush to delay the nomination for OConnors seat on the Court because OConnor is prepared to stay on for a while longer. The senator knows this because he has talked to OConnor. Isnt this an outrage, for a number of reasons? On the most human level, I thought that OConnor needed to resign so she could take care of her ailing husband. This means nothing to Specter. Also, what right does Specter have to negotiate with a sitting justice about these matters? Also note this: "Specter said the delay would give Congress and the rest of America more time to know John Roberts as chief justice. When we know a little more about Judge Roberts its going to be easier with the next nomination, Specter said." Am I wrong to think that all this is outrageous?
Now this is interesting. According to the latest information coming back from the Mars Global Surveyor, the red planet has been getting warmer over the past three years. Which obviously means one of three things:
1. Earths evil corporate polluters have found a way to beam their greenhouse gas emissions to other planets, or
2. Dick Cheney and his Halliburton buddies are intercepting the signals from the orbiter and are putting their own spin on it, or
3. Global warming is taking place on a solar-system-wide level, and has something to do with the strength of the sun, and not the presence or absence of something in the earths atmosphere.
I can’t help but see this as the opening move in the battle over the next nomination, something that becomes even clearer when you consider Leahy’s speech, which lays down a number of markers regarding this and future nominations.
Interestingly, the Times headline writers can’t bring themselves to announce the news, nor can the editors bring themselves to run the whole AP story.
Update #2 This NYT piece examines the political maneuvering in the Democratic Party. This WaPo article brings us up to date on what the Bush Administration seems to be thinking, which makes it hard to imagine Leahy supporting the next nominee.
I’ve mentioned before that President Bush’s recovery plan includes education vouchers, but, as this article makes clear, the scope of his proposal is larger than first indicated: if the President has his way, vouchers will go, not just to families whose kids were in private and religious schools before Katrina, but to any displaced family that wants to take that option now.
In fact, the president does not even have to try to imitate how liberals behave to come up with good ideas to help poor Americans improve their lives. Some of the market-friendly conservative ideas on his agenda show a lot of promise in helping poor folks in New Orleans and elsewhere rebuild their lives.
For example, nothing helps you build a better life more than a good education . Where there is space in good schools, public or private, the government should give the parents of New Orleans’ 77,000 displaced public school students full tuition vouchers so they can enroll their children in better schools.
The education vouchers, meanwhile, make private school available to kids who had suffered in the atrocious New Orleans public system and help preserve the choice many families had already made. Out of 248,000 students in the broader New Orleans area, 61,000 went to private schools. Opponents of the voucher proposals want to say to bereft families of those private-school students, "Congratulations, you lost everything, and we hope your children now get trapped in public schools on top of it."
I support it for the reasons they offer, and for one other as well: by leveraging private resources (those of the schools and families involved), it actually saves states and localities money. The voucher proposal offers up to $7,500 (90% of the state’s average per pupil expenditure), exactly the same as the impact aid. In the case of students attending public schools, the states and localities have to make up the difference. In the case of private and religious schools, either the families or the schools will cover the balance. In other words, as they always have, education vouchers empower recipients and save taxpayers money. And because the money follows the students, the per capita public school budget is in no way affected. Who could oppose this? (A rhetorical question: we know who can and will oppose it.)
Update: Katie Newmark (one of my best sources on voucher issues) has more.
Update #2: This WaPo editorial offers a limited endorsement of voucher plans, but suggests that maybe they shouldn’t be called vouchers. The reasoning behind the support is that individual cases require individual responses, which is, of course, true of every student everywhere all the time. The camels nose is peeking in.
A pretty good story on the elections in Afghanistan. Here is another, the more banal AP version. It seems to me that this should be more broadly reported. It is a significant event for the Afghans, and much good will come of it.
Former president Clinton , like a shark smelling Bush’s low poll numbers, is slamming many of Bush’s policies. This is a new development in American politics, as Powerline makes clear. I’m guessing that Bill is trying to clear the way for Hillary, and this, he thinks, is a good time to hit Bush. Maybe, but note this Rasmussen Poll: In a hypothetical 2008 matchup surveyed by Rasmussen, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) by 8 percentage points, 47% to 39%. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) holds a 4-point edge over Clinton, 47% to 43%. Not yet a walk in the park for Hillary.
Thomas "T-Bone" Quinn has witnessed more than his fair share of bureaucratic nightmares this month. After surviving the ravages of hurricane Katrina, "T-Bone" was evacuated to the Los Angeles area and has been housed at the LA Dream Center. Grateful for the outpouring of generosity, "T-Bone" graciously offered to capture an illegally dumped alligator from Machado Lake free of charge. The 7-foot gator known as "Reggie" has eluded authorities ever since it was discovered more than a month ago. Los Angeles Councilwoman, Janice Hahn (sister of ousted mayor, Jim Hahn) enthusiastically agreed to "T-Bones" proposal. But poor "T-Bone" had hardly begun his efforts before the lawyers got to him. Since "T-Bone" had no proof of insurance or identity, he was called off the job. You can read more here.
While I understand the motivation of city attorneys worried about potential lawsuits in the event of possible harm to Mr. "T-Bone" it is hard not to long for a simpler time when such matters were handled in the common-sense, business-like manner of regular Americans.
Jim Stoner is the best and most sophisticated apologist for New Orleans that I have read. But what, we may ask him, is the relationship between the spirit of America that leads to the rebuilding of New Orleans, and the somewhat anti-capitalist spirit of New Orleans, which he also seems to cherish?
Update: Heres Jim Stoners quite justified response to my post. I was too hasty and intoxicated by his Walker Percy intro to take adequate account of the "hard-headedness" that marked much of his essay.
I was a little taken aback by having my apology called anti-capitalist,
since the thrust of the essay was about what would be needed to rebuild New
Orleans, not as a big federal welfare project or a tourist trap, but as a
great commercial port, as it once was. To be sure, Im from the old two
cheers for capitalism school, since I think there are things like family,
faith, culture, and learning that are poorly understood if analyzed only in
terms of self-interest and free exchange -- and I havent figured out how
to add the principles of free gift and sacrifical love to an indifference
curve. Still, New Orleans was from its foundation a commercial city --
okay, maybe more mercantilist than capitalist -- and my apology was to
suggest a return to its first principles (leaving out, of course, those
forms of commerce now properly suppressed). As for the third cheer, I
would reserve it and remind my conservative friends that our state is
consistently one of the mostly staunchly pro-life in America.
But having reread his essay, I have more questions. Of course, as others have pointed out, restoring the "mercantile" elements of New Orleans economic infrastructure, and providing for the population employed by them, may well leave us with a different and smaller city than before. Would its charms be those that have figuratively and--Ill admit it--literally intoxicated me in the past? And would those charms be those of a living city or of a museum or amusement park? The risk accompanying too much money, arriving too quickly, even if (or especially if) its expenditure is more or less centrally controlled is that what comes back bears too many obvious marks of artifice to command our affection or allegiance. Can the re-animated New Orleans capture something of the distinctive spirit of the one that grew "organically"? Will Jim Stoner still find something in his adopted city to love?
The New York Sun [subscription required] quotes a source close to the White House as saying that the President will be meeting with Judge Alice Batchelder this week. Of course, the White House continues its closed-lip policy, and there was a lot of misreporting last time around about who actually got interviews, so take a "source close to the White House" for what its worth. For those who didnt get to hear Judge Batchelders excellent Constitution Day speech on Friday, it is available for listening here.
Im home. Three weeks in a hospital bed have made me weak. During the last two weeks I have had to learn to walk, shave, and so on. A new world. But, Im doing fine, still weak, moving slow, with that determined half speed you have seen aged men shuffle through long hallways. Im told it will be another month before I am strong.
There isnt much more to be said about this war my pancreas started. Most of you know more about the medical issues than I do. It was rough, although some of the roughest parts are better known by my fine doctor Dr. Robert Israel, and my loving family and noble friends who stood with me in the battle. Apparently, I came close to buying the farm, to use one of Dr. Israels technical medical terms. At some point, the good doctor and chief general decided that defense could not win the war, so he attacked. The offensive was enirely dependent on my lungs, which had been dormant because a machine had been doing my breathing. The lungs responded better than anyone thought possible; the counterattack was successful. In an attempt to pay back the debt I owe them, I have stopped smoking (maybe a good Cuban once or twice a year will be allowed!). My debt to Dr. Israel, of course, cannot be repaid, so I kindly and honestly thank him for his goodness and excellence, for his art.
I still find it amazing that my family and friends stood by me during this long period of horror. They did everything. They held my hand, whispered hope in my ear, told me that they loved me, took care of everything, prayed for me, cut into their own lives to help. Hundreds sent me their good wishes and prayers, and I thank them all. It is overwhelming when the affection is so open, so forthright. I am deeply grateful, and, you should know, very happy to be in this breathing world.
It sounds like science fiction or a plot from a spy novel at first, but this fascinating article details many of the medical and ethical questions involved in a potential face transplant operation to be performed at the Cleveland Clinic.
Robert P. George intelligently and succinctly goes over the old ground, explaining what he hopes John Roberts meant.
David Brooks has measured the ambition of President Bush’s Katrina recovery plan, further elaborated here, here, and here. I think that Brooks has hit the nail on the head: this is GWB’s true experiment in compassionate conservatism. Traditional Republicans and Democrats have different reasons to be concerned, but I think Bush will seize the moment and push this plan very hard.
Update: Stephen Moore has many serious reservations about the plan, some more convincing than others. He can’t, for example, be serious in comparing the costs of rebuilding Chicago, San Francisco, and Galveston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the costs of cleaning up toxic muck and restoring transportation and communications infrastructure today. But waste, fraud, and mismanagement are a sufficiently serious risk that the President ought to appoint someone--please let’s not call him a czar and give him another layer of bureaucracy--to spearhead the reconstruction effort. I nominate J.C. Watts, whose support was central to the Bush Administration’s domestic policy initiatives in 2001, who has demonstrated the capacity to work well with non-profit and faith-based groups, and against whom it would be next to impossible to play the race card.
Ken Masugi has an excellent post, with good links. Most importantly, he calls our attention to a colloquy during the Roberts hearings between Tom Coburn--not a lawyer--and John Roberts, with the former pushing toward, and actually mentioning, natural law and the latter apparently resting content with the common law tradition. One can quarrel with Coburn’s characterization of the theological character of the tradition--natural law, after all, is a deliverance of reason, not revelation--but it is striking that Roberts, who by all accounts is a good Catholic, did not seize the teachable moment. One can only hope that it was his (flawed) political judgment that led him to remain silent.
Heres a story on what some colleges and universities are doing to celebrate Constitution Day--some of it involves very little that could honestly be described as education. Whats striking is how an unfunded mandate--a string attached to federal funding for other purposes--is often described (in a way unquestioned by the author) as a violation of the Constitution. Thats a position of which Im far from convinced.
Had Christopher Hayes demonstrated any awareness of God on the Quad, I might have been inclined to say this was a decent bit of follow-up reporting, accompanied by ideologically flawed analysis. He quite often lets his subjects speak for themselves, admits some variety and nuance in the position he examines, and does not snark too much in his own commentary.
Heres an example of his analysis, taken from his discussion of the role of "Christian worldview" in evangelical higher education:
[T]he insistence on the quantity and even the rigor of the debate obscures the real issue: just what is subject to debate. What a worldview does is cleave the world into two, identifying in one column those ﬁrst principles that are taken as given (there is a God, Jesus Christ is His only son) and, in the other column, the many beliefs, values, and positions that one might hold that are less certain (like under what conditions preemptive war is justiﬁed). Exactly which beliefs get put in which column is going to have profound political consequences, even if the worldview isn’t taught with an explicitly or predominantly political end in mind. If you suggest to students that an opposition to abortion and a defense of “traditional marriage” are foundational aspects of a Christian worldview, you will very likely produce reliable Republican voters.
As he comes back to it time and again, this appears to be pretty close to his real sticking point. His preferred position is what he calls the "fact-value split," which, he says, "embodies a kind of forced humility that, frankly, keeps the entire liberal democratic enterprise running." But he never explains why abortion and marriage are (or ought to be) "private matters of conscience," like "dietary choices" (note the word) or "which day to worship," and not "public matters of law." It sounds to me like he has a "worldview" that isnt subject to debate.
Finally, his complaint that colleges and universities that teach a "Christian worldview" end up producing Republicans may say as much about the Democratic Party as it says about the colleges and universities. If the Democratic Party were genuinely a "big tent" on these issues, if it had not effectively become (as the Roberts hearings revealed all too clearly) essentially the "Party of Roe," then other issues--poverty, the AIDS crisis in Africa, and so on--might loom larger for students and faculty at these schools, with a somewhat different partisan split emerging as a result.
Dont get me wrong, dear readers. Im not arguing that Republicans are wrong and Democrats are right on these other issues. Far from it. But to the extent that how to deal with the sad fact of poverty, for example, is a matter of prudential judgment, "reasonable people" (evangelical Christians, for example) are going to disagree.
I am going to commit conservative heresy:
The rebuilding spending for New Orleans should be paid for with a tax increase. I would propose a one-year, 1% surtax on all income tax brackets (not just "the rich" as the liberals always fantasize). The fiscal purpose is obvious; we cant let the deficit get totally out of hand. The political purpose is more important: all taxpayers should feel more directly the cost of the huge run up in government spending. Then maybe theyll start to demand a bit less of it. And maybe it will provide some discipline to some of the slop that is no doubt going to be spent on the Gulf coast.
Fire away, NLT readers.
But why not take advantage of Constitution Day to learn a bit more about the document itself, as well? The National Endowment for the Humanities web site is featuring an interactive version of the famous Howard Chandler Christy painting of the signing of the Constitution, which version was designed by Professor Gordon Lloyd for our Teaching American History web site. Go ahead, click on the picture and see how many of the signers you actually can name.
The stories in my dailies (WaPo, NYT, WT) make it tolerably clear that Roberts is unlikely to win any Democratic support in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Well, some Democrats are saying they’re conflicted, but I’m not convinced.
There’s only one scenario that might produce a couple of Democratic votes for Roberts on the committee, and that’s if someone wishes to gain credibility as an "honest broker" in order to be able to oppose the next conservative nominee more effectively. But I don’t expect that. Having spent so much time and effort portraying Roberts as an arch-conservative, the liberal interest groups can’t afford to permit an influential Democrat to contradict them, for fear that such credibility as they have will be weakened in the next round.
The case for opposing Roberts is, as many have noted, that he "lacks a heart," which I guess means that he decides on behalf of the little guy only when the Constitution requires it, not all the time.
Still, if Democrats need some cover in supporting Roberts despite the best efforts of Americans United, PFAW, and the others, there’s these quotes:
He is not in the mold of Scalia and Thomas," said Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern and a chairman of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group. "They have more of a theory of how to decide cases, and they look to text and original meaning. Roberts will look at text and original meaning, but he will also look to precedent and the consequences of his decisions."
Professor [Cass] Sunstein said that Judge Roberts’s testimony was in an entirely different vein than his early writings.
"He doesn’t talk like someone who believed at any level in changing the current understanding of the Constitution," Professor Sunstein said. "He’s not the same person he was in his 20’s."
On the other hand, I find this comforting:
Prof. Charles Fried of Harvard, a former Republican solicitor general, applauded Judge Roberts for adhering to his views of the law, even when doing so led to outcomes his opponents have attacked. "I wonder whether the critics are not really complaining that Judge Roberts didn’t start with a result - their result - and then wrestle the law around until it fitted," Professor Fried said.
"He knows the difference between law and politics," Professor Fried said. "Judge Roberts seems to understand this down to his shoes."
With many analyses and responses trying to put a negative spin on the Presidents speech, it was hard to find a positive take, though I did succeed, in perhaps the unlikeliest place--the New York Times. Whats more the NYTs analysis struck me as more even-handed than the WaPos, which, by the way, is to some degree undercut by its own front page story.
I did learn a couple of things from reading all this. First, although he didnt mention it in the speech, the President is calling for education vouchers for displaced families. Id love to see them, and I wonder if the Democrats think they can afford the risk of opposing this proposal and obstructing the package of which its likely to be a part.
Second, I learned that Michael Gerson had a hand in the speech, which may explain why I liked it as much as I did.
In the end, Im not convinced that the Democrats can effectively defeat the President on this. He has seized the initiative and can, I think, successfully look forward, while the Democrats are left looking back in anger (which I dont think will play well with anyone but the Kossacks) while simultaneously trying to outbid him. He can, of course, still botch this winning hand, but I think, I hope, he wont. And for those who say that hes playing an unfamiliar role (as domestic president), its only because they havent paid sufficient attention to his 2000 campaign or his pre-9/11 presidency, which had a substantial domestic focus and some success. He cant, of course, emote to a crowd the way Bill Clinton can, but GWB sincerely and sympathetically connects one-on-one and with small groups. Hes got the right proposals and the correct orientation. If the Republicans follow him--as they should, if they know whats good for them--the country will.
The Atlanta paper published my Constitution Day op-ed, where I took a page from John Zvesper’s book and focused on Benjamin Franklin’s (Jerry Weinberger wants you to click on the link) speech on September 17, 1787.
No mugs, because it is far from profound. But make my mama happy and read it anyway.
Oh yes, and vanity demands that I say that the accompanying picture does not flatter me.
This was a great speech, acknowledging pain, sacrifice, and heroism; looking forward to a better, brighter tomorrow; offering an account of and proffering a solution to the special vulnerability of the neediest; and "presidentially" rising above partisanship to take responsibility for any governmental shortcomings and leading the way toward a better response in the future (followed by the folks in the states and localities).
There are some, of course, who will object to Bushs "big government conservatism," but the emphases on self-help, home-ownership, and strategic government intervention to promote individual self-sufficiency represent the best of Bushs "compassionate conservatism." This is an agenda I get support and one that it will be hard for his adversaries effectively to criticize.
Richard Reeb call our attention to this deconstruction of Dianne Feinstein’s inane comparison of Nazis and religious conservatives.
You can get a much better sense of the congruence of the "religious conservative" and "Jewish" agendas by reading these remarks by President Bush, delivered yesterday evening. The spirit of persecution and the love of liberty are diametrically opposed to one another. But one can love liberty without being a secularist and while thinking that there is no simple-minded wall of separation.
Ted Rall makes an even nastier version of the argument I critiqued here: Because charities cant foot the bill for Katrina recovery, and because some allegedly use charitable giving as a substitute for, and argument against, government action, we should stop giving to charities. Its time, he says, to "starve the beast," by which he means "private charities used by the government to justify the abdication of its duties to its citizens."
I dont know of anyone in the Bush Administration who thinks that charitable giving can completely substitute for government spending in dealing either with disasters or ordinary neediness, so this is a straw man. Charitable supplements to or (limited)replacements for government action (in this and other, more routine cases) offer some of the following advantages: efficiency (leveraging voluntary gifts of time, money, and expertise, and responding flexibly and less bureaucratically); reaching hard-to-reach populations, especially where there is a special cultural, religious, or ethnic connection or the organization is already present "on the ground" or "in the neighborhood"; promoting self-reliance, responsibility, and life-transformation by engaging swith "clients" over the long term; and, finally, avoiding "Leviathan" government, where isolated individuals depend upon and are subject a monolithic government. Clearly Rall doesnt care about diversity, self-reliance, or independence, either in this case or in any other.
For more along these lines, go here.
An environmentalist from the Earth Policy Institute wandered through Iran recently and offers this report on her surprise at Americas popularity there. It was no doubt disorienting to realize that Iranians are more fond of America than many American environmentalists are.
“Where are you from?” a young man outside one of the many carpet stalls asked me.
Sigh. “The U.S.,” I replied.
“U.S.?” His face screwed up in puzzlement. “U.S., U.S.,” he repeated, brow furrowed, the wheels turning. “Aaah!” the light bulb turned on. “U.S. Aaaahh! United States of America!” his dark eyes now gleaming, looking like he would hug me, were it permitted. “Welcome to Iran!”
Such interactions were repeated many a time throughout my stay in Iran. Curious people, perhaps tipped off by my blue eyes or the awkward positioning of my headscarf, would approach me and ask, in English, where I was from. After learning that I was from America, their responses varied from the inquisitive to the exuberant: “America! We love America!”
After the election last fall, I noted in a several places that liberals still couldnt get used to the idea of being in the minority, as though the election of 1994 never happened. For evidence I pointed to a New York Times article on the new Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in which Sen. Joe Biden, said this: "The idea that people are looking at Harry to sort of be the spokesperson of the Democratic Party, that’s not a role all majority leaders have filled before."
Wait a minute: What did he say? Let’s roll the tape again: “That’s not a role all majority leaders have filled before.” "Majority leader"?? Majority leader? News flash, Joe: Your team hasn’t had a majority for ten years now (excepting those few months brought to you courtesy of Jim Jeffords), and you’re not likely to be in the majority again for a while. Deal with it. And learn to start saying the word "minority," as in "minority party."
Ditto for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who told the Times in the same article: "If we keep going on this way, we’ll be a minority party." Hello? News flash Dianne: You’re there already. This is rather like Captain Smith, looking at the Titanic’s propellers pointing up at the sky remarking, “if the water keeps coming in at this rate, the ship might be in danger of sinking.”
Comes now the following correction to an item published yesterday in slate.com:
"This article originally and incorrectly identified Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as Majority Leader of the Senate. He is the Minority Leader. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is the Senate Majority Leader."
It turns out that the real cause of the government’s alleged or possible shortcomings in hurricane and flood relief (about which more here and here, the latter containing the whole of the President’s carefully worded statement) is the faith-based initiative. Say what?
In a meandering and insidious column, Boston Globe columnist James Carroll can’t actually offer evidence or even much or an argument, just a few factoids and insinuations. To wit:
The church-state divide, undercutting norms of supervision and accountability, means religious groups, even while entrusted with public functions, can embody antipublic values. To take last week’s most glaring example, Operation Blessing, one of the FEMA-recommended relief agencies, is affiliated with Pat Robertson, an advocate of assassination as a tool of foreign policy. Why were American citizens being encouraged by the United States government to support Pat Robertson’s enterprise?
I defy you to find the "antipublic values" on
Operation Blessing’s website. Here’s Charity Navigator’s evaluation of Operation Blessing: it receives the highest marks for organizational efficiency and capacity, with 99.4% of its expenses being devoted to its programs. Of course, guilt by association is enough for The Nation and Americans United, whose talking points Carroll repeats. Don’t get me wrong: I hold no brief for Pat Robertson politically or theologically. His statements about Hugo Chavez were far beyond the pale. But there’s no evidence that money that goes to Operation Blessing for Katrina relief does anything other than help the victims.
Of course, Carroll doesn’t stop there. Apparently, it’s impossible for those who are moved by religion to help their neighbors in need not to impose on them:
The missionary impulse is implicit in the good works of religion. Mother Teresa required nothing of those she helped, but she still hoped that the compassionate face of Christ shined through her eyes. To some of us, it surely did -- but that hope itself can become an imposition on those who are in need.
If I love my neighbor as myself because he or she is created in God’s image, my action--the work, without which faith is dead, as John Kerry regularly insisted on the stump--is suspect. Carroll would seem to require that I launder my compassion through a secular agency. After all, secular compassion, however patronizing, is apparently not an imposition.
In the final analysis, all we have is the stock criticism of the faith-based initiative--that it’s simply an excuse the dismantle the social safety net, which having been dismantled, failed in hurricane relief. There is of course not a shred of evidence that FEMA’s failings, such as they are, had anything to do with vouchers going to faith-based alcohol and drug rehab programs, or to welfare-to-work programs sponsored by churches or FBOs, to take a couple of prominent faith-based initiative programs.
And yes, the poor people of New Orleans, many of them mired in a culture of dependency, were not well-served, to say the least, by any level of government, certainly not before or during the crisis. But the levees didn’t fail because the government had subcontracted with FBOs to shore them up. And the buses weren’t submerged because the government had hired pastors to drive them. And the poor people in New Orleans were in rough shape long before George Bush came into office, through many Democratic administrations in Washington, D.C. and Baton Rouge, after decades of Democratic dominance on Capitol Hill. I’m far from arguing that a welfare-to-work program run by an FBO is necessarily better for everyone than a government, secular, or for-profit program. But the state of the argument and evidence regarding the faith-based initiative has nothing to do with the quality of federal, state, and local disaster response.
In the end, Carroll’s poor substitute for an argument is just another example of someone attempting to hitch his wagon to the rising star of Katrina-inspired Bush-bashing. I guess I don’t blame him too much. Everyone else is doing it. Which of course tells me more about the quality of their arguments than it does about anything else.
Thomas C. Berg reviews Noah Feldman’s Divided by God and admiringly turns the argument on its head. If we’re concerned as much with religious liberty as with religious conflict, then carefully designed voucher programs might be less objectionable than symbolic speech. I’m not totally happy with either position, but you already knew that.
As anyone in the higher ed business (actually in any part of the ed business) probably knows, we are facing an "unfunded mandate" to commemorate Constitution Day, the anniversary of the final meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Bless Robert Byrd’s heart. (Yup, you read that right. Sometimes his constitutional vanity produces good results, though I would be interested in seeing what my higher ed colleagues do to commemorate the day.)
Well, at Oglethorpe we organized a panel discussion on approaches to interpreting the Constitution. Our panelists were two smart attorneys, one a committed "textualist," the other a representative of the ACLU. Both were able advocates for the positions they represented, given the constraints under which I placed them (keep the opening remarks to about 15 minutes each; heck, it takes me that long to clear my throat). Hunter Baker notes the biggest surprise of the afternoon, when Gerald Weber (the Legal Director of Georgia’s ACLU) remembered that there’s an amendment process that those of us who object to the Court’s interpretations of the 14th Amendment could use. Of course, if we took his advice, I’m sure some would argue that we shouldn’t burden the Constitution with particular language, for then it would "partake of the prolixity of a legal code". Ah well, there are some courts in which we can’t win.
Nevertheless, both advocates acquitted themselves well, as did the students in the audience, who asked some pretty darn good questions, if I do say so myself.
Update: Demon textualist Michael DeBow--clearly a scrupulous and excellent teacher--offers his commentary on the afternoons event.
Apparently, the surprise smash hit documentary film March of the Penguins is a conservative movie. So says todays New York Times. I recall the old saying "the personal is political," but this is getting ridiculous.
For the record, I found the film, while spectacular in its production values and camera work, a tad slow and slightly boring.
The Toronto Star reports that Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario, Canada (not to be confused with Ontario, the suburb of Mansfield, Ohio) is moving to ban all religious arbitration in his province.
The announcement prompted tears of joy and cartwheels among opponents of sharia who say they suffered constant harassment, including verbal taunts, physical attacks and even death threats by fundamentalist Muslims because of their stance.
Business Week magazine acquired the reputation back in the 1980s of being "the nations only anti-business business magazine." Thats one reason I quit reading it. It seems it has not improved much. Our Powerline comrade John Hinderaker catches Business Week with its pants down in this post.
These two analyses suggest--Im going to regret writing this--that the confirmation will be a cakewalk. According to the NYTs Linda Greenhouse, Roberts hit the days rhetorical high point. And the WaPos Dan Balz offers evidence from Notre Dames Richard Garnett (for more, go here) that Roberts, at least, has his eye on the prize--not just being confirmed, but making the case for a self-consciously limited judicial role in a regime characterized by the rule of law. (For more on this, see Lucas Morels most excellent post.)
For other analysis and interesting back story, go here (Specters confused unreliability), here ("elections matter"), here (Lee Otis vs. Nan Aron), and here (what it means to be the "political" deputy SG). Obviously, also, Bench Memos and Power Line should be among your bookmarks.
Gary Schmitt predictably offers sensible advice and analysis: the proposed Iraqi constitution is a pretty good deal for all parties concerned, including the Sunnis, but they will not acquiesce until theyre convinced that the insurgency has absolutely no prospect of restoring something resembling the status quo ante bellum. Heres my favorite paragraph:
Contrary to most commentary, then, the key to succeeding in Iraq is no longer putting in place a grand political bargain in which Iraqis of all sectarian stripes live happily ever after. In fact, by suggesting that this is the goal, we probably have fueled the Sunnis own misperception of their future status in Iraq and hardened their own position.
I caught the last few senators’ statements on the radio today, as well as Judge Roberts’s short but principled
opening statement. My favorite passage follows here:
Mr. Chairman, when I worked in the Department of Justice in the office of the solicitor general, it was my job to argue cases for the United States before the Supreme Court. I always found it very moving to stand before the justices and say, "I speak for my country."
But it was after I left the department and began arguing cases against the United States that I fully appreciated the importance of the Supreme Court and our constitutional system. Here was the United States, the most powerful entity in the world, aligned against my client. And yet all I had to do was convince the court that I was right on the law and the government was wrong and all of that power and might would recede in deference to the rule of law.
That is a remarkable thing. It is what we mean when we say that we are a government of laws and not of men. It is that rule of law that protects the rights and liberties of all Americans. It is the envy of the world, because without the rule of law any rights are meaningless.
This, in a nutshell (which you can be sure a few Democratic Senators will try to crack starting Tuesday morning), is Roberts’s answer to those critics who are trying to characterize him as someone who will "turn back the clock" on civil rights. In short, Roberts argues that the best defense of the rights of the individual is a regime that operates according to the rule of law, rather than specific justices who make individual rights their raison d’etre.P>
Compare Roberts’s point with the following claim made by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL):
Twelve years ago, at the nomination hearing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my friend Illinois Senator Paul Simon said something worth repeating. He said to the nominee, and I quote, You face a much harsher judge than this committee. That’s the judgment of history. And that judgment is likely to revolve around one question: Did you restrict freedom or did you expand it?
I think Senator Simon put his finger on how the United States Senate should evaluate a nominee for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
Judge Roberts, if you’re confirmed, you will be the first Supreme Court justice in the 21st century. The basic question is this: Will you restrict the personal freedoms we enjoy as Americans or will you expand them?
Judge Roberts also stood up to those who tried to make his service under President Reagan a badge of unremitting partisanship, and did so with a short citation of Reagan that reflects Roberts’s respect for how constitutional self-government works as well as his recognition of it in Reagan’s political thinking:
President Ronald Reagan used to speak of the Soviet constitution, and he noted that it purported to grant wonderful rights of all sorts to people. But those rights were empty promises, because that system did not have an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law and enforce those rights. We do, because of the wisdom of our founders and the sacrifices of our heroes over the generations to make their vision a reality.
Dennis Praeger pointed out this story on his radio program today about a Michigan school finally getting the gumption to ban the wearing of pajamas to school! Having endured 12 years of Catholic education where there were no uniforms (but a dress code so strict you wished there were uniforms!) I cannot imagine this! Upon graduation from high school, I was grateful for the discipline this dress code had unwittingly etched on my brain. Despite the plethora of sweat pants and loungewear that surrounded me in college, it took me two and a half years before I could even show up to class in a pair of jeans! I soon discovered that my distaste for jeans in class was correct. Wearing them inevitably became an excuse not to take myself or the class seriously. It was an outward expression of bad attitude. This is not to say that jeans are bad--obviously there is a time and a place for them just as there is for pajamas.
Praeger made the reasonable point, however, that pajamas may actually be preferable to some of the "clothing" (such that it is) that young girls are wearing today because "at least it would have the virtue of not being sexually provacative." One has to admit that that is a serious point! But, seriously, why not just go back to uniforms for school? My daughter was perfectly delighted with hers this year (I hope the novelty does not wear off). It makes everyones life so much easier and the canard about individuality being suppressed is such an obvious joke that it deserves no comment.
Last October, American born and raised Jihadist, Adam Gadahn made the news with a videotaped threat to America. Yesterday he made another threat directed specifically to Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia. Adam Gadahn, like his predecessor John Walker Lindh ("Johnny Jihad"), boasts an interesting upbringing and family life. His father, an old hippy and founder of an underground 60s psychedelic band, changed the family name to Gadahn from Pearlman because he didnt want a name that "meant anything." Gadahn was raised on a goat farm in Riverside County where the "humane slaughter" of goats was practiced in accordance with Islamic law and where there was no electricity, running water or schools (he was home-schooled). See more here from FreeRepublic and here from Michelle Malkin.
Edward Whelan tells us what to expect during the Roberts hearings, as does the NYTs Linda Greenhouse, who provides a kind of primer of possible challenging questions. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter offers a glimpse of his opening statement.
Democrats are likely to use the televised hearings that begin Monday to accomplish two more modest goals: to retool their partys message and to set the stage for the struggle over OConnors successor.
"More than anything else, they want to lay down markers for what would be acceptable or unacceptable in the next vacancy," [Progressive Policy Institute Senior Fellow Marshall] Wittmann said. "That means there will be an intensification of the questions they will ask Roberts because they know they will be sending signals to the administration about the next nomination."
Our two major dailies offer different larger contexts for the hearings. The Washington Post gives us a
long article about Robertss Supreme Court appellate practice, which suggests that he has accepted a certain discipline that might have taken him some distance from his fire-breathing conservative days in the Reagan Administration. The New York Times decides that its appropriate, in effect, to speak ill of the dead by dredging up items used to attack William Rehnquist in his confirmation hearings. Given what the Post tells us about Robertss preparation habits and a previous article about "sherpas," its highly unlikely that Roberts will be blindsided the way Rehnquist was. So why retell that story? Perhaps the Times wants to remind its readers that Republicans were on the "wrong" side of some civil rights issues.
The link to the Kinsley piece in the previous post is incorrect: this is the correct link.
The thoughtful Michael Kinsley of the 1980s, rather than the snide, opportunistic heckler he is most of the time these days, returned to print today with a column appearing in the LA Times, WaPo, and probaly elsewhere on the subject of New Orleans and "the fetid aroma of hindsight."
Landrieus I-told-you-sos would be more impressive if the press release archive on her website didnt contain equally urgent calls to spend billions of dollars to build boats the Navy hasnt asked for in Louisiana shipyards, self-congratulations for having planted a billion dollars of "coastal impact assistance" for Louisiana in the energy bill (this is before the flood), and so on. Did she want flood control or did she want $10 million to have " Americas largest river swamp" declared a "National Heritage Area"?
In fact, the one president who is pretty much in the clear on this is our current Bush — not because he did anything about the levees but because even if he had started something, it probably wouldnt have been finished yet.
As the saying goes, read the whole thing.
New Orleanss economy is vividly illustrated by its supply of white-collar jobs. Its Central Business District has not added a new office building since 1989, according to Southeast Real Estate Business. It has 13.5 million square feet of leasable office space -- not much bigger than Bethesda/Chevy Chase, where rents are twice as high. The office vacancy rate in New Orleans is an unhealthy 16 percent and the only reason it isnt worse is that 3 million square feet have been remade as hotels, apartments and condominiums.
There are no national corporations with their headquarters in New Orleans. There are regional headquarters of oil companies such as Chevron and ConocoPhillips, but their primary needs are an airport, a heliport and air conditioning. Not much tying them down. In the Central Business District you will also find the offices of the utilities youd expect, such as the electricity company Entergy. But if you look for major employers in New Orleans, you quickly get down to the local operations of the casino Harrahs, and Popeyes Fried Chicken.
Hardly a crying demand for a commercial entrepot.
Robert Putnam and a colleague (they neither bowl nor write alone) write that from 9/11 "has come a renewed commitment to civic engagement among a crucial segment of the population: young people who were near college age on Sept. 11, 2001." The evidence to which they point is not unimpressive, though Im extremely disappointed in the suggestions they make as to how to perpetuate this involvement, which reveals all too much about their own not very well hidden agenda.
For them, civic education is less about learning the principles of our government (the Declaration and the Constitution) than about action, and action is about getting the government to do more. This is a telling recommendation:
[To] beef up and revive civics education[,] make it less about memorizing the number of U.S. senators and more about experiential learning (petitioning government to build a local park or playground).
A genuinely Tocquevillian method of civic education would be for the young people to get together with community members and do something for themselves. To paraphrase the namesake of the Harvard program in which Putnam teaches, ask not what your government can do for you, but rather what you can do for your community.
If Putnams vision of civic education is simply intended to cultivate engaged clients of government programs, if its purpose is to make us more effective in demanding more stuff from the public purse, as if were only responsible for our neighbors and ourselves through the medium of a government program, then it is dead on arrival. At least I hope so.
This article details efforts by both parties to provide programmatic assistance to hurricane victims, the Republicans by relaxing federal contracting rules and the Democrats by expanding government aid programs like Medicaid and Section 8 rent subsidies. While the measures are temporary, each side hopes to create a constituency that will clamor for their perpetuation. Political scientists call this the camels nose: if you let the camels nose inside the tent, its hard to keep the whole camel out.
Watch carefully, else our compassion may in the long run overwhelm our prudence and our policy.
Until now, I have intentionally stayed away from the discussion of "what went wrong" with the response to Katrina. It seems to me that there are too many unanswered questions and I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the MSM who are sure that something is wrong and that it is the Bush Administrations fault. I have also been hesitant to point fingers at local officials until all the details are known. It has always seemed to me to be unproductive in the extreme to blame people when there is still so much work to be done. While things remain in flux, it is unclear not only who did wrong but if wrong was done. Finally, we dont even know how bad the disaster was--early searches today seem to indicate that the death toll may be far less than people have predicted.
But certain things--in a broad and general sense--are clear. The first lesson is that it is not smart to depend upon Big Government to protect you or loved ones unable to protect themselves from disasters. Living in Southern California, I have been made keenly aware of this fact. If a serious earthquake hits us I know my family will have enough water and food to get by for several weeks. We have even discussed escape routes that dont involve conventional roads (that would, of course, be overwhelmed with people and probable failures). The second, and politically more important lesson is this: Americans, in general, need to start thinking about things in a more local sense. Who is responsible for disaster response in your city? When something hits, it will be these people who can and should respond first. What is the evacuation plan? Is it a good one? Can it be reasonably implemented? What can citizens do to make themselves more aware of these things and prepared? These kinds of questions would be far more usefully answered by a responsible media and citizenry. I dont think we want, as Joe Knippenberg suggests, to militarize disaster relief. But, given their expertise, it would probably be a good idea to get ex-military folks to organize these efforts on the local level.
According to Daniel Henninger, the Department of Defense had hurricane-relief assets in place and ready to roll as soon as, if not sooner than, they were requested. But, as he notes, federalism requires that state sovereignty be respected. And Katherine Blanco, among others (including some at the federal level), choked. If the only semi-articulate (notice I didn’t say "thoughtful") message the media can deliver is "Do Something! Now!", or rather "Why aren’t you relieving the suffering I see before me now?", and if the DoD can deliver (despite its investment in Iraq), then there seems to be a temptingly powerful case for not only federalizing but also militarizing our disaster response efforts.
I’m an Army Brat. I’m a great believer in the capacity of the U.S. military to mobilize people and resources to deal with every mission it’s given. I respect and admire the men and women of the armed services. (I teared up when they were applauded at the departure gate this past weekend at Hartsfield-Jackson.) But I hesitate before the media storm that’s driving us in the direction of handing this massive responsibility to the bureaucracy with the capacity and willingness (perhaps) to handle it. There’s a reason, I think, why "homeland security" and "defense" are different things, though the proverbial man from Mars might have a hard time making a definitional distinction.
That said, just as it behooves us not to play politics (or rather since it’s inevitable, to play as little politics as possible) with the national defense, so it also behooves us not to play politics with homeland security. The only plausible alternative is putting the generals in charge. I don’t want that, and I don’t think they want that.
Update: Paul Mirengoff reminds us that Democrats wanted the DHS and generated the poltiical pressure necessary to create it. This may be an opportunity to "streamline" that agency.
Update #2: John Tierney shows how politics will inevitably affect any investigation of what went wrong and what to do about it.
Update #3: For more on FEMA and the military, go here.
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
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 September’s drawing.
A good, smart, and generous friend of mine, Lenore Ealy (originally from Alabama) has taken up a relief effort for families with young children in the disaster-stricken area. Her group, Project K.I.D., has already opened up two sites (with plans for as many as ten) to offer a safe, clean, and supervised environment for these kids to go for care and (above all) play--something completely forgotten for most of these kids in the wake of this tragedy. The group offers free child care (what they are calling "play care") for parents as they work their way through the long cues and red-tape of obtaining disaster relief and the hard work of re-building their lives. I encourage NLT readers who are so inclined to take a look at their efforts and both support and publicize them in any way you can.
A few commentors were somehow offended by this post, in which I speculated that the long-term political fallout from Katrina would work against Democrats rather than Republicans.
Heres the Wall Street Journal today:
"Sen, Landrieu, in the spotlight now, could find margins squeezed if thousands of Democratic-leaning African-Americans dont return by her 2008 re-election. Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis says state could even lose one of seven House seats in the next redistricting."
According to this report, he will step down as Chair but remain a member of the President’s Commission on Bioethics. He has done a remarkable job orchestrating the Commission’s morally and intellectually serious deliberations, especially in the face of the constant criticism from liberal and libertarian devotees of unlimited technological progress. Ken Masugi has more, as does Wesley J. Smith.
In two Tech Central Station columns, Lee Harris displays a certain ham-handedness in his use of political philosophy, setting up Thomas Hobbes as a straw man when he should have been referring to Hegel, Kojeve, and Fukuyama, or at least reading Hobbes with much greater care than he did. Whats more, his version of Aristotle owes a lot more to a Kojevian Hegel than he knows or cares to admit.
Nevertheless, the question he ends up asking is, within limits, a good one:
9/11 made most Americans believe that a strong central government was necessary to protect and defend them from catastrophic terror attacks, but Katrina has left them wondering what is the point of so much discretionary power if the men who possess it lack the wisdom to use it.
In short, in the post-9/11 world, the federal government was looked upon as a bulwark that stands strong; in the post-Katrina world, it is seen as a levee that failed.
Too many Americans may expect too much of government, especially of the federal government. Rightly or wrongly (Id argue, more wrongly than rightly), we
hold the federal government responsible whenever something big goes wrong, all too willingly giving lower levels of government a pass.
I wish I could say that President Bush hadnt contributed to this expectation, but in any number of his speeches he has overpromised what government could deliver. Heres my modest effort at chastisement:
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush was even bolder, speaking of "our responsibility to history," namely, "to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil" (emphasis added). Even if, as sinners go, we are relatively good, to assert that we can actually rid the world of evil is superhuman—the very antithesis of humility. Perhaps we could forgive President Bush and his speechwriters for misspeaking in the heat of the moment, but he made a similar point in his 2002 West Point commencement address, where he promised to "lift this dark threat from our country and from the world." Why not simply identify and resist evil wherever it appears, recognizing that it is part and parcel of our fallen human condition? After all, in his prayer service remarks at the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001, he declared that in "every generation, the world has produced enemies of human freedom," which suggests that the struggle against evil is unending.
Heres another smart(er) commentary on the same subject.
It is perhaps impolitic or un-American for anyone to admit that there are limits to what government can do. It sounds to us like an evasion of responsibility, an un-Trumanesque passing of the buck. Of course, both genuinely religious folks and traditional conservatives affirm human finitude. Are they un-American or impolitic?
Here I feel the need for a dose of Steve Haywards wisdom and learning. (Steve, are you listening?) Modern American conservatism came of age with the election of Ronald Reagan as a reaction against the dour and humorless Jimmy Carters claims about our limits. Reagan is often said to offer the sunny and optimistic side of conservatism, just as GWB displays the confident "can-do" American spirit. There is, it seems to me, a fine line here, one that is difficult to tread. Doesnt an optimistic, confident conservatism, one that can be and has been electorally successful in America, run the risk of shading into the very "big government" it seeks to avoid, not just operationally (as one would certainly have to concede about the Bush Administration), but in its very bones? How do we stay humble and cognizant of our limits...and win elections? Or must we choose?
I missed these pieces when they first came out, but they’re worth taking together. First, there’s Michael Barone’s reflection on what’s (economically) worth rebuilding in New Orleans. Then there’s Barone’s comparison of population growth in New Orleans, Houston, and Dallas. The short of it is that while the metro areas were once roughly comparable, for the past 25 years NOLA’s population has stagnated, while Houston and Dallas have each added northward of 2 million people. Barone points us to two pieces by Joel Kotkin. Here’s the conclusion of the first piece:
Instead of serving as a major commercial and entrepreneurial center, New Orleans’ dominant industry lies not in creating its future but selling its past, much of which now sits underwater. Tourism defines contemporary New Orleans’ economy more than its still-large port, or its remaining industry, or its energy production. Although there is nothing wrong, per se, in being a tourist town, it is not an industry that attracts high-wage jobs; and tends to create a highly bifurcated social structure. This can be seen in New Orleans’ perennially high rates of underemployment, crime and poverty. The murder rate is 10 times the national average.
Perhaps worse, there seems to be some basic hostility in New Orleans to the very idea of an economic renaissance and growth. When I published rankings of the best cities for business for Inc. Magazine last year, New Orleans’ middling performance created consternation at one local daily newspaper -- for not being bad enough. Such negative attitudes may pose the biggest problem as the city begins to rebuild. Rather than imagine anything better, the temptation among some may well be to take the path of least resistance, restoring or reconstructing past icons in order to salvage the tourism-based economy.
A different, and more promising, approach might be to consider an "attitude adjustment." Instead of settling into its old role as a destination for conventioneers, masqueraders and weekend revelers, perhaps the city’s leaders can think about reviving the entrepreneurial spirit that made New Orleans a lure to the ambitious in its most glorious past.
Here are the central paragraphs of the second:
the tourism/entertainment industry is constantly under pressure from competitors. Once, being the Big Easy in the Bible Belt gave New Orleans a trademark advantage. But the spread of gambling along the Gulf has eroded that semi-sinful allure. Mississippi’s flattened casinos, with their massive private investment, will almost certainly rise years ahead of New Orleans’ touristic icons.
For all these reasons, New Orleans should take its destruction as an opportunity to change course. There is no law that says a Southern city must be forever undereducated, impoverished, corrupt and regressive. Instead of trying to refashion what wasn’t working, New Orleans should craft a future for itself as a better, more progressive metropolis.
Look a few hundred miles to the west, at Houston ¯ a well-run city with a widely diversified economy. Without much in the way of old culture, charm or tradition, it has far outshone New Orleans as a beacon for enterprising migrants from other countries as well as other parts of the United States ¯ including New Orleans.
Houston has succeeded by sticking to the basics, by focusing on the practical aspects of urbanism rather than the glamorous. Under the inspired leadership of former Mayor Bob Lanier and the current chief executive, Bill White, the city has invested heavily in port facilities, drainage, sanitation, freeways and other infrastructure.
Obviously, economic and population growth aren’t everything; Kotkin and Barone are as aware of that as the next guys. And no one says you have to trade Bourbon Street for what Joel Garreau once called the "blade runner landscape" of Houston. But much of New Orleans’ misery didn’t begin with the flood, and is intimately connected with a lack of attention to economic dynamism, as
this piece by Michael Novak suggests.
I don’t want to incur Quin Hillyer’s ire, but a reborn New Orleans ought to look forward while making every effort to preserve those elements of its past that can be preserved. Otherwise, its downward (I almost wrote "death") spiral will continue, with vulnerable people in a vulnerable city simply hoping that the next big hurricane never comes.
Update: Michael DeBow, wholl be at Oglethorpe on Monday, has more links on which to chew.
Over at the main site, Mackubin Owens eloquently weaves a tapestry of words in honor of the war dead.
When you see the Katrina reaction stories from Europe, with the usual European tut-tutting about our alleged indifference to the poor and the downtrodden, etc., keep this in mind: In the summer of 2003, at least 15,000 mostly elderly people died of heatstroke and other heat-related causes in France.
Here are relevant portions of an AP story that moved at the time:
"The worst-hit country was France, which on Thursday reported a staggering heat-wave death toll of 14,802."
"In France, authorities placed part of the blame on inadequate care for the elderly and absence of medical personnel in August, a traditional vacation period when residents leave cities and doctors are hard to find. As temperatures soared in the first two weeks of August, elderly victims -alone at home without air conditioning or at overwhelmed nursing homes and hospitals - began to die of heat stroke, dehydration and other heat-related maladies at alarming rates."
They didn’t even have a hurricane or flood to blame. The elderly victims died because everybody else went on vacation and left them to fend for themselves.
Grandma est mort? Quel dommage! But regardez, mon ami, the great tan I got at the beach!
Testing will continue over the next several months to determine whether surgery on his pancreas will be needed. So far, his recovery has been faster than anyone expected, and we hope this will continue to be the case. Peter asked me to pass along his sincere thanks to everyone for their concern and prayers.
G. William Benz
President, Ashland University
John Hinderaker reviews the prospects and predicts that the battle will be ugly, very ugly:
If President Bush nominates another strong conservative to replace OConnor, the result will be the political equivalent of World War III. Liberal interest groups will face an existential crisis if they do not fight bitterly to keep the Courts current ideological makeup. Win or lose, they have no choice but to make the effort to oppose Bushs second nominee. And, unfortunately for Republicans, it appears likely that any conservative jurist whom Bush may appoint will give the Democrats more ammunition than John Roberts did. So be prepared for the ugliest, most bitter confirmation battle in a generation.
Read the whole thing.
John Zvesper draws lessons for Iraqis from the history of American constitutional and democratic government. Of course, he writes not just for Iraqis, but for us, reminding us that "[e]very democracy is an emerging democracy, given this danger of neglecting or denying essential principles."
The latest reports over the wire indicate that the Governor will veto the bill.
At issue is the extent to which liberal or conservative approaches to government and to life in general are better capable of responding to and making sense of challenges like that posed by Katrina. Douthat expresses a good sense of the limits of government and a healthy respect for the power of nature. Voegeli does a good job teasing out what is implicit in Scheiber’s comments:
Scheiber would agree with Douthat’s proposition that “nature isn’t our friend,” but goes on to take the thoroughly modern position that humans have a vast capacity and, hence, duty to render nature friendlier to prevent “unnecessary pain and suffering.” Storms can be forecast, floodwaters diverted, illnesses cured – problems, in short, can be solved. Archibald MacLeish voiced this optimism in 1943: “We have the tools and the skill and the intelligence to take our cities apart and put them together, to lead our roads and rivers where we please to lead them, to build our houses where we want our houses, to brighten the air, clean the wind, to live as men in this Republic, free men, should be living.” In The Right Nation we learn that after LBJ’s election in 1964, “One group of scientists, their expenses paid by the National Science Foundation, even began a research project aimed at controlling the weather.”
It’s not clear whether Scheiber believes there is such a thing as necessary pain and suffering, as opposed to suffering to be ameliorated as we make the government ever more robust and efficient. He hedges on whether government’s obligations and capabilities are finite or infinite. If it “can mitigate, if not completely eliminate, much of the chaos and nastiness in the world,” how much chaos and nastiness would remain? Furthermore, would past governmental successes lead to demands to tackle still more problems, until the mitigation of much chaos and nastiness becomes asymptotically indistinguishable from the elimination of all of it?
Everyone ultimately agrees that some, and perhaps every, level of government could have done better. Mistakes, as they say, were made, some of them quite striking and perhaps culpable. But there’s no such thing as human perfection, and, as Voegeli points out, a substantial number of people have sense enough to accept that. I’m not about to argue that we should simply "move on," but I do think that we should ask those whose virtually first move is to blame government what warrant they have for their position. This is potentially a teachable moment for those who have the stomach to teach that human failure and human suffering are not ineradicable, and that nature cannot decisively be conquered.
Update: Bill McClay, smart as always, comes at these matters from a less political, more philosophical angle. Here’s the nub of his argument:
[M]any people will not care about the specifics; the important thing will be that SOMEONE IS TO BLAME. This points to an increasingly familiar pattern of expectation, which only grows as our scientific knowledge and technological wizardry grow. It parallels our society’s growing rage at a medical system, including the pharmaceutical industry, that has been remarkably skillful, and more skillful in each passing year, in successfully addressing a range of diseases and conditions that were formerly thought to be untreatable. But modern medicine cannot banish the existence of risk. Which is why the system is all too often a casualty of the very expectations it raises. There is a sense in which, the more things become mastered, the more intolerable are those remaining areas in which our mastery is not yet complete. This parallels very neatly the observation made by Tocqueville that times of revolutionary upheaval occur when social expectations are rising, and that the growth of social equality in America would exacerbate, rather than relieve, Americans’ sense of class injury and class resentment. This is less of a paradox than it seems at first glance.
Read the whole thing.
Thanks to Senator Robert Byrd, educational institutions that receive federal funds are required to celebrate Constitution Day by engaging in appropriate programming.
At my institution, I’ve organized a panel discussion on approaches to interpreting the Constitution, featuring Professor Michael DeBow, who blogs at Southern Appeal, and Mr. Gerald Weber, Legal Director of the Georgia ACLU. Festivities begin at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, September 12th in the lobby of the Conant Performing Arts Center on the campus of Oglethorpe University. A reception with modest refreshments will follow. Hunter Baker, another SA blogger, will also be there, albeit as a civilian.
You may not have heard this piece of news coming from California, given the other more pressing news from the Gulf Coast, but our legislature passed a bill yesterday to legalize gay marriage. This is not domestic partnerships or some other arrangement . . . it is marriage on par with heterosexual marriages. Of course, the bill has to be signed by the governor, but the word out of Arnold’s office is not encouraging. His spokesman today is quoted as leaning toward letting the Courts decide. Great. More abdication of responsibility.
Bill Galston, about whom I have said nice things here and here, asserts that "Bush is the most partisan president in modern American history." His argument is that Bush always moves to consolidate his base rather than conciliate the opposition:
In Galstons view, Bush bears principal responsibility for that condition, saying that on three occasions he passed up opportunities to govern from the center and work more constructively with the Democrats and instead chose a path designed to mobilize conservatives. The first came after the disputed election of 2000, in the early days of Bushs new administration. The second came after the Sept. 11 attacks, when Bushs approval rating rose to 90 percent. The third came after the hard-fought and polarizing election last year.
"While White House aides can provide familiar talking points on gestures of cooperation across party lines, the fact of the matter is on all three occasions, the principal thrust of Bushs policies was toward polarization rather than conciliation," Galston said. "We are now living in the shadow of nearly five years in which that has been the dominant political message coming out of the White House."
Considering the vitiol and venom coming from many in the Democratic Party--which began almost the moment Bush took office, if not before--its hard to fault Bush for attending to his base, rather than risking alienating it in the vain hope of winning over the Kossacks. If moderates like Galston could reassert control over their party, which I think is nearly impossible, there would be something to be gained by reaching out more frequently across party lines.
In any event, to heap all the blame on the President for the current state of partisan bickering borders on the ridiculous. Galston is more measured and makes more sense here:
"Unlike other political scientists," Galston noted, "my recent work has led me to conclude that political polarization has increased sharply over the past forty years. This phenomenon represents, not so much a shifting pattern of convictions in the population as a whole, but rather a changing distribution of those convictions between the political parties and among states and regions."
This line of argument suggests that our situation is part of a longer-term trend, not a product of the actions of one administration, which strikes me as more correct.
One of my favorite pop culture books is Paul Cantors wonderful Gilligan Unbound, which makes sense of four major TV shows: Gilligans Island, Star Trek, The Simpsons, and the X-Files. (The first two, Cantor argues, are windows into "Americanization," the latter two, windows into "globalization.")
Comes now the sad news that Bob Denver, aka Gilligan, has died. The critics always hated Gilligans Island, but it racked up pehnomenal ratings when it debuted the same fall that JFK was killed. Some critics said Americans wanted to watch some lighter fare in that dark hour.
Bob Denver, RIP.
I had a number of conversations this past weekend at the APSA about blogging (and web-based publishing altogether). Among my interlocutors were NLTs own Steve Hayward and Lucas Morel (who is currently very busy on an old-fashioned book for the University Press of Kentucky, if Im not mistaken), Claremonts Ken Masugi, ISIs Jeremy Beer and Mark Henrie (who needs a new picture for his webpage; hes much more handsome than that!), and Charmaine and Jack Yoest. We all agreed that blog and electronic readership is more active and engaged (that is, more likely to give evidence of reading and then to respond), which is quite gratifying for us authors. Of course, since you, dear readers, have been around the block a few times, this isnt news. What I cant understand is why anyone with a website promoting ideas doesnt have a blog to engage readers and encourage them to read and think about the more extensive and discursive content elsewhere on the site.
E.J. Dionne, Jr. thinks it raises the stakes:
By proposing that Roberts lead the court, Bush has given the liberal groups that oppose the nomination (and Democratic senators inclined to join them) a chance to regroup and argue that this battle is no longer a practice session for the next round. This is the next round.
"Now that hes been nominated for chief justice, hes not a test case anymore," said a Senate Democratic staffer close to his partys discussions. "Theres a difference between being one of nine and Number One of nine. And if hes confirmed, hes likely to hold the job for the next generation."
I have two thoughts. First, the underlying political calculations havent changed for most Senators (with the possible exception of Mary Landrieu, who may have an interest in being difficult after having made pro-Roberts noises in the past). Few, if any, will move from support (in the face of the full-court press by the legal Left) to opposition just because Robertss title will change. To say that the new title requires a heightened standard of scrutiny, as Dionne and legal Left do, is a sign of desperation on their part.
Second, this new line confirms the notion that no one takes the "maintaining the balance" argument seriously. After all, replacing Rehnquist with his former clerk simply, for the moment, maintains the status quo, which folks like Senators Reid and Schumer had insisted was so important.
I think that
this article has it right:
[W]ith conservatives and liberals alike saying that Roberts is on track to be confirmed, the focus was already shifting to what both sides believe will be the real battle: Bushs yet-to-be-named pick to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day OConnor.
But of course this "real battle" has been waged ever since the President nominated John Roberts. And the Democrats and their interest group allies have lost.
Yes, that category exists, as this article by the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews (my favorite education writer) attests. I agree with virtually everything he says about freshman "great books" requirements, objecting only to his characterization of my institution as "small and little-known." Harumph!
Update: Paul Sterns comments on the effect of Ursinus"Common Intellectual Experience" bear quoting in full:
Opinions are like our homes, familiar and comfortable. More specifically, theyre like that picture on the wall in your kitchen -- youve seen it so often, its so familiar, you no longer even recognize that its there. Its only by leaving the comfort and familiarity of your intellectual homes, by subjecting your opinions to the challenges of others, that you begin to recognize your own starting point because then you can no longer take it for granted. . . .
But thinking about them by yourself is not enough. . . . Make the arguments that support your view -- make them to your classmates, to your teachers, to your friends. And then, listen carefully to their arguments, and be willing to change your mind if you find their arguments sufficiently compelling. Because of the common character of this course, you can engage in this conversation night and day, in and out of the classroom.
Paul has, I think, captured very nicely the intention and spirit underlying and animating the "Great Books" approach to liberal education. The purpose is not simply to wrench people from their cultural or intellectual moorings--liberating them to be endlessly critical--but to enable them actually to own their opinions by understanding them fully. Of course, in some cases we may find that our opinions cant be defended. In others, we may discover that our allegiance to them becomes much more solid.
Niall Ferguson asks this age-old question in relation to Katrina. Voltaire would have used it as evidence of Gods non-existence; Leibniz would have claimed it was all part of some larger plan, incomprehensible to the limited vision of human beings; John Wesley would have cited it as proof of Gods judgment of sinners. Few Christians today will echo Wesleys line, but some Muslims are already doing it, talking about "Private Katrina" as a recruit in the "global jihad":
It would be hard to get more tasteless. Yet the same underlying impulse — to interpret the disaster as confirmation of ones own ideological position — was at work among many American liberals too. Opponents of the war in Iraq were not slow to point out that National Guardsmen who should have been on hand to rescue hurricane victims were instead failing to prevent lethal stampedes in faraway Baghdad.
Ferguson concludes that it is pointless to try to find moral significance in natural disasters:
Natural disasters — please, lets not call them "acts of God" — killed many more people than international terrorism that year (according to the State Department, total casualties because of terrorism in 2003 were 4,271, of whom precisely none were in North America).
On the other hand, disasters kill many fewer people each year than heart disease (around 7 million), HIV/AIDS (around 3 million) and road traffic accidents (around 1 million). No doubt if all the heart attacks or car crashes happened in a single day in a single city, we would pay them more attention than we do.
As Voltaire understood, hurricanes, like earthquakes, should serve to remind us of our common vulnerability as human beings in the face of a pitiless nature.
I almost don’t know where to begin with this article, which suggests that religion could be a focus of the Roberts confirmation hearings.
Here’s as good a place as any:
Conservatives distrusted O’Connor for the same reason that liberals are sorry to see her go: She supported abortion rights and took moderate stances on other social causes, including voting to strike down Texas’s sodomy law, a 2003 case that was a turning point for gay rights.
Needless to say, voting with the majority on
Lawrence is not moderate, at least not where I come from.
Then there’s this, which requires much more parsing than she gives it:
The issue for both sides is not so much what Roberts believes is right or wrong. Rather, it is the degree to which he believes religious morality may be permitted to influence public policy. Liberals believe in a firewall between church and state, but as Christian conservatives see it, the Supreme Court should allow elected officials to restrict abortions or permit a Ten Commandments monument to be displayed on public property, if those actions have voter support.
The good news is that we seem to have moved out of Pryor-like "deeply held beliefs" territory, but moved into questioning whether and to what extent the motives of elected officials are fair game, if they’re religious. That way lies madness, it seems to me.
Finally, there’s this:
One way senators could broach the issue would be through a section of the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct that states judges should not preside over cases in which they have a financial "or other" interest. Democrats are debating whether to ask Roberts to interpret the section in the context of a decision by some Catholic bishops last year to refuse Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. If such a ban were extended to Supreme Court justices, would Roberts consider that a sufficient "other" interest?
To introduce this talking point without an even cursory exploration and explanation of Catholic doctrine--my feeble attempt is
here (with the links)--obviously only helps the opposition.
Of course, none of this surprises me.
It is thought crass to talk openly of the political implications of the New Orleans disaster--unless you are bashing Bush--but sooner or later someone is going to notice that it is the Democrats who face the greatest peril in the aftermath: they may very well lose a Senate seat next year.
Both Mary Landreau in 2000, and Gov. Blanco in 2002, owed their small margin of victory to large turnout from New Orleans. Now probably 200,000 or more of those Democratic voters have been relocated out of state. It is doubtful many of them will be back in New Orleans by election day next year. Some may never return. An absentee voting effort might work, but it will be hard to reach and mobilize that large a diaspora. If the Bush administration can do a decent job of throwing money at the reconstruction (how hard is that?), they may be able to cover up the black eye they got for the chaotic and ineffective response of last week.
I cant want to read the MoveOn and DU posts about how this was part of a Karl Rove plot to disperse Democratic voters so that the GOP can steal another Senate seat.
I had wondered about this, which effectively preserves the status quo (with O’Connor on the Court until yet another successor for her is found).
Roberts will of course be confirmed, a foregone conclusion even before this additional pressure was placed upon the Senate. We’ve seen the playbook of the "living constitution Left," and we’ve seen how little effect they can have, either on public opinion or on the Senate. As a result, the President can confidently nominate another judicial conservative. And he should, as soon as decency permits. (You know my preference.)
Update: More here and here. Its clear that Sandra Day OConnor could complicate matters, if she wanted to. But its not clear that someone who holds the substantive opinions attributed to Roberts will suffer any more from the assaults of the opposition than he has, so long as the new nominee and the Bush Administration have the stomachs for it.
Mark Steyns column nails it. Theres plenty of blame to go around, but the people supervising the first responders clearly let them down, not to mention the people they were supposed to protect and serve. Heres the conclusion:
Those levees broke; they failed. And you think about Chicago and San Francisco and Boston and you wonder whats waiting to fail there. The assumption was that after 9/11, big towns and small took stock and identified their weak points. Thats what they told us they were doing, and thats what they were getting big bucks to do. But in New Orleans no one had a plan that addressed levee failure, and no one had a plan for the large percentage of vehicleless citizens whod be unable to evacuate, and no one had a plan to deal with widespread looting. Given that all these local factors are widely known -- New Orleans is a below-sea-level city with high crime and a low rate of automobile ownership -- it makes you wonder how the city would cope with something truly surprising -- like, say, a biological attack.
Oh, well, maybe the 9/11 commission can rename themselves the Katrina Kommission. Back in the real world, Americas enemies will draw many useful lessons from the events of this last week. Will America?
I guess Mary Landrieu will now have to punch Steyn (and, I guess, me).
After a long (nearly 3 weeks!) and arduous camping and fishing trip throughout the Sierra Nevada (Mammoth, Tioga Pass, and Yosemite), I am happy to report that the Ponzi family can brag (despite mosquitos, a possible bout with West Nile Virus, and the many inherent hardships of travelling with a 4 and a 6 year-old) about the budding fishing skills in our young daughter who caught a trout that was nearly 3 1/2 lbs. Of course, in the spirit of a true fisherman, she tells everyone that it was nearly 4 lbs.
Beyond that let me say that there is something deeply good for the soul in being so completely away from things--no T.V., very little radio, no computers, spotty cell phone service etc. Just hiking, fishing, campfires, smores, stars and bad food. But it is always bracing when we head home. We did not even know, for example, about the tragedy in the Gulf Coast until Thursday as we finally got some talk radio during our drive home. The odd thing is that we dont think anyone else we were meeting around that area had heard about it either. No one, including park rangers at Yosemite, said a word about it! Getting away can be good, but that was a little too far away.
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.
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 wifes 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 Id best gird my loins for the unrestrained commerce in ideas. Bye for now!
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.
Im off to the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, where Im 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. Ill spend some time haunting the book room, but youll also find me here (scroll to the end).
Im taking my laptop along, but Im not sure how much time or energy Ill have to blog.
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.
Im not sure that Richard Reeb has left much to say about Francis Fukuyamas 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 Bushs attempt to plant a viable seed of reform in the Middle East is bold, and may fail. But its 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).