Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

I’m not fonda Jill

The only excuse for this is either Stockholm syndrome or a more ruthless calculation about getting herself released. If we’re generous, we can regard her as a victim, but we can no longer regard her as a journalist. Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg.

Update: When I read the transcript yesterday, I flew off the handle. Here’s a plausible explanation of her motives. I await an unconstrained statement from Carroll herself, but the fact remains that she was exploited for propaganda purposes.

Update #2: Here’s Jill Caroll’s statement, courtesy of Jonah Goldberg. I retract my criticism of her and am glad that she doesn’t believe what her captors forced her to say.

Update and Apology: I genuinely regret writing the original post, in which I hastily overreacted to the transcript of the statement Jill Carroll was compelled to make. It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong, and doubtless won’t be the last. I regret also giving ammunition to some persistent critics of NLT.

Why the Failure to Launch?

Speaking of manliness--or perhaps it absence--Leonard Sax (who has a book coming out soon on the subject) writes in the Washington Post about what appears to be a growing phenomenon: the unmotivated 20-something male living at home with his parents. While there has been no change in the number of young women doing this, the increase among males ages 22-34 has been more than 100% in the past 20 years! I find that statistic staggering. Really?! The Sax article is a teaser, though, in that it does not really offer an explanation or cure for the problem so much as a simple diagnosis. Perhaps the book will offer more. In the meantime, he offers a link to the website of something called The Boys Project that is attempting to come to a better understanding of this phenomenon and the declining numbers of young men at college and university.

Today’s Timewasters

Well, the blogospheric diversion of the day seems to be . . . juggling. Start with Chris Bliss, and then check out this parody.

Now I’ll get back to merely juggling my workload.

Hat tip: Powerline and Jonah Goldberg.

Religion and politics in the immigration issue

Get Religion has a nice summary, replete with links, of the state of the issue. I can see how one would feel obliged to help those in need, but condoning law-breaking? Stated another way, the duty to be a Good Samaritan certainly justifies groups that aid any who present themselves for assistance, but it doesn’t yield a stance on immigration law. Nor, for that matter, does an argument regarding "the dignity of the human person" deprive a country of the right to decide who may and may not become a citizen.

Those who profess concern about the plight of people entering the U.S. illegally are obligated both to provide assistance to those who need it and to obey the law. It’s entirely possible to assist someone with his or her immediate material needs while also informing the authorities, who can then make their own determinations regarding the person’s status. I realize that those who wish to remain in the country illegally will thus be less likely to seek assistance, but churches and religious organizations can’t be in the position of actually encouraging illegal behavior.

It’s also, I think, appropriate for those who say they care about illegal immigrants to devote a greater portion of their efforts to addressing the conditions that prompted their immigration in the first place. There are at least three things they can do. First, they can assist American citizens in finding and qualifying for jobs that would otherwise be filled by illegal immigrants. To the extent that the demand dries up, there’s less incentive to cross the border illegally. And to the extent that there are needy Americans who could work, they should have the first crack at the jobs. Second, religious groups could put pressure on businesses not to hire illegal aliens. While this would likely raise the cost of doing business, and raise the costs to consumers, so be it. Why not conduct a campaign promoting goods and services made in America by American citizens? Some folks at least are willing to pay more for things produced under conditions that promote social justice; this is just another one of those. Third, they can expand their humanitarian mission work in Latin America, helping to ameliorate the economic, social, and political conditions that prompt people to leave their homes.

Or is it easier just to bash the "hard-hearted" government or to impugn the religious motives of your opponents?

Emory Conference on religion and liberal society

A fine time was had by all. Peter Lawler, Patrick Deneen, and Bob Bartlett each did yeoman duty, providing coherent comments on six different papers. Peter commented on pieces by J. Budziszewski and Craig Gay; Patrick offered remarks on Michaels Zuckert and Perry; and Bob had smart things to say about Allan Arkush and Nick Wolterstorff.

While we of course didn’t resolve anything, we did air a number of interesting issues. One set of questions had to do with the continuing importance of religion as providing a moral education in a liberal society. There were no thoroughgoing enlightenment rationalists at the table, even among those who would describe themselves as liberals. To what degree, we wondered, did liberal pluralism require a Christian or Judaeo-Christian originating culture and continuing backdrop? To what extent could Christianity and Judaism survive and/or prosper in such a setting? To what degree could Islam fit into such a pluralistic liberal order? I found myself wishing that we had been joined by a thoughtful and well-informed scholar of Islam. Calling Hillel Fradkin!

After all was said and done, the book I wanted to read was Craig M. Gay’s The Way of the (Modern) World: Or, Why It’s Tempting to Live As If God Doesn’t Exist .

And the best one-liner was Peter Lawler’s: "Thank God, life is going to continue to suck!"


I’m thinking about getting a few of these to put up around the office. Some of my favorites:





and Teamwork.

RTWT, unless you’re Tim Kettering, who’s concerned that his brain might shrink if he reads too much.

Hat Tip: Big Tent.

American Heroes

Peggy Noonan’s article today (about which I blogged below) was so good that I had to re-read it--a couple of times. Doing that reminded me of something or, to be more accurate, of someone. Otis Earl Hawkins is about as manly a man you’ll ever want to meet. Better than that, he is a gentleman--an American gentleman. Several years ago, I helped him edit and publish this fascinating account of his exploits in war and in business. Hawkins won the silver star, the bronze star, and a purple heart for his acts of bravery during his service in the Pacific during WWII. When he recounted the story of how he earned the Silver Star, I (like Peggy Noonan in her experience) was struck by Hawkins’ refusal to consider himself a hero. He was only doing his duty, he said. He could not imagine doing less. He could not imagine that anyone else could do less. If you haven’t already got a copy, order one now. It is delightful, satisfying and instructive.

This Week’s Podcast

David Foster is on sabbatical this year, both from teaching and chairing the Department of History and Political Science here at Ashland. He is writing a book on Mark Twain, and therefore is to be envied. He has spent the whole year reading and thinking about our literary Lincoln. Can you imagine the fun he is having? I had a chance to talk to him for a podcast. Most of our time was spent on Tom Sawyer.

Don’t miss it.

Kasich on the Ohio GOP

Ohio Congressman, John Kasich offers a sobering look at the problems facing the Ohio GOP. In the end, he argues, it comes down to the fact that the Ohio GOP has not had to face an effective opposition for more than a decade. They have become fat, lazy, stupid and unprincipled. Is the party over? It could be. The makings of a Democratic sweep are there, he argues, but "[t]hey [i.e., Ohio Democrats] have a long tradition of turning sure things into might-have-beens." I wouldn’t be hanging my hat on that hope if I were still an Ohioan. Now is the time to re-energize with new blood and old, reliable, and good ideas.

America as a "Big Box Store"?

Peggy Noonan writes a stirring piece on American heroism and the reasons for it. America, is special, unique, admirable and awe-inspiring. It--as Reagan and Steve Hayward (below) has noted--is not a sick society. It produces men of a character not matched in the history of the world. It has produced a people who almost deserve the blessings of Providence. But do we continue in that vein? She posits that our reluctance about the issue of immigration illustrates more our doubts about ourselves than our doubts about illegal immigrants. We inspire people to come here, she argues, but in the way a big box store inspires people to shop. We don’t give them a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves anymore.

Read the whole thing. Think about what it says about America, about manliness, about what is required to keep a people free.    

Away from my desk

I’ll be in Philadelphia through the weekend. Am only taking books. I’ll be back Sunday night.

Another Reagan Anniversary

As many media outlets are noting, today is the 25th anniversary of Reagan’s shooting outside the Washington Hilton. In the account of it that I am writing for the second volume of The Age of Reagan, I decided not to mention the name of his shooter, not even once. The bad guys get too much publicity in this world. We should deliberately overlook them when we can.

There was the usual handwringing about guns and the "sick society" of America in the aftermath of the shooting, which set Reagan up to reprise one of his favorite themes from the 1960s when he spoke triumphantly to Congress a month later. Back in the 1960s few things angered Reagan more than the charge that America was a “sick society.” He had spoken often against this theme in the past, including a 1970 speech entitled “Ours Is Not a Sick Society.” Now, before Congress and the watching nation, Reagan closed the book on that theme once and for all:

You’ve provided an answer to those few voices that were raised saying that what happened was evidence that ours is a sick society. . . Well, sick societies don’t produce men like the two who recently returned from outer space. Sick societies don’t produce young men like Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, who placed his body between mine and the man with the gun simply because he felt that’s what his duty called for him to do. Sick societies don’t produce dedicated police officers like Tom Delahanty or able and devoted public servants like Jim Brady. Sick societies don’t make people like us so proud to be Americans and so very proud of our fellow citizens.

One unexpected exception from the handwringing came from The Nation, which wrote in the aftermath of the shooting: "[Reagan’s] resilience provided a brief celebration of the tenacity of life and a reassuring glimpse at an appealing aspect of Ronald Reagan’s character. . . One half-expected to read upon awakening from the anesthesia he had quipped, ‘Where’s the rest of me?’”


Both the blogosphere and the MSM are awash in commentary right now about McCain’s "repositioning," prompted especially by his upcoming commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. E.J. Dionne, the canary in the liberal gas swamp, has already gone off on McCain, heretofore every liberal’s favorite Republican. John McIntyre of the indispensible thinks this is just the beginning of a ferocious liberal assault on McCain as he drives for the GOP 2008 nomination.

We should hope so. It will drive McCain to the right if the libs overreact. And this won’t be a bad thing, since he is likely to get the nomination unless he stumbles along the way (always possible).

Which sets up a story of the kind I usually don’t tell. Back in October I got seated next to McCain at a dinner honoring Sir Martin Gilbert when he was visiting Washington. I was startled at how likeable and engaging he was in person, even when I thought he was talking perfect rot. I argued with him about several of his main themes, and he gamely argued back in a genuine give-and-take manner (which means neither of us made a dent in the other, though I think I got him to pause once or twice over arguments he had never heard before). Above all his presence was undeniable; I began to understand why the press bus went nuts for the guy in 2000. He is much more impressive and captivating in person than on TV. He struck me as someone ready to be president. Conservatives are right to be wary of him, but at the very least we should be ready to throw the yellow penalty flag when the Left starts slinging mud at him.

The Phillips Curve

I long ago gave up taking Kevin Phillips seriously enough to bother commenting on his books, so it is a delight to see a smart liberal smack him down as Jacob Weisberg does on

Money graph:

Any potential Marxist rigor swiftly dissipates into a haze of Syriana—paranoia about the Bush dynasty and the CIA, Skull and Bones, the House of Saud, and the discredited October Surprise conspiracy. Have I mentioned that Phillips is an appalling writer? His prose is cliché-ridden, self-referential, maddeningly repetitive, and dull enough to kill weeds.


HRC woos Catholics

According to this piece, she qualifies "as one of the most overtly Christian politicians in the country." You read that right; and there’s something to it. Now read the article.

Is Marriage for White People or No People?

Joy Jones’ compelling and disturbing article in this past Sunday’s Washington Post "Marriage is for White People," recounts her own experience--or lack thereof--with marriage in the black community. Her basic argument is that black men are not groomed or ready for marriage and family when their peers among black women are seeking it. As a result, black women learn to focus on their careers (or children, if they have them) and get along without men. Then, when the men finally come around and want to settle down she argues that they bring little to the table. They haven’t got much to offer and seem to demand quite a bit--they are like another child, Jones argues. One black woman is quoted in her article saying that she wouldn’t even accept an engagement ring from Jesus Christ: "I’d tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn’t marry." There is more on this here and here.

All of this is very sad, alarming and awful in and of itself. But beyond the problem that it presents for blacks--as if that were not enough--whites should not assume that it is simply "a black thing" and shrug their shoulders in gawking superiority. I see it more as an early indicator of what is going on in society at large--in other words, a sign of what is coming for our children and what, in many cases, is already here for ourselves. The bad social seeds we are sowing as a society are simply reaping rotten fruit in the black community FIRST. There is a whole host of reasons why this might be so and I won’t go into all of them here except to say that those who are the most vulnerable in a society to bad ideas are always going to be the first to experience their ill effects. But this phenomenon is, by no means, confined to blacks. This is an American problem and it requires serious re-thinking about the role of men and women in society and the importance of marriage to it. A good place to start is (as many here have noted) Harvey Mansfield’s book Manliness.

"The Last Helicopter"

Don’t miss Amir Taheri in today’s, where he meditates on the lasting imagery of the fleeing American helicopter (from Saigon, Beruit, Desert One, Mogadishu, etc), and how Middle Eastern radicals understand that while Bush will not be driven away, they can wait for his successor to fold up and leave.

According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation’s character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.

As the saying goes, RTWT.    

More faith-based initiative

The ubiquitous Amy Sullivan, voice of the religious left in the Democratic Party, writes on the faith-based initiative in TNR. While it’s intended to be a criticism of the program, the article doesn’t amount to much. Yes, the dollars going to non-entitlement social programs haven’t gone up much in the Bush Administration. Yes, the faith-based share hasn’t changed all that much, and only a small portion of it goes to groups that weren’t well-represented in the programs prior to 2001.

This doesn’t sound like theocracy to me. And if it were seriously meant to be a political slush fund, they’d be doing more with it.

What’s more, that there are few true believers in the Bush Administration doesn’t surprise me. Most specialized programs in an Administration have only a few devoted advocates.

Why hasn’t more been made of the initiative? There’s been Congressional resistance, which has made the enactment of new legislation almost impossible. There’s the post-9/11 focus on national security, with defense expenses and policy taking up a substantial portion of the budget and of the President’s time and attention. As for the money question, the answer Sullivan offers is damning only if you accept the premise that more government spending is always a good thing.

In sum, there’s less than meets the eye in Sullivan’s criticism. Am I disappointed that more hasn’t changed after more than five years? Yes, but I’m not going to quarrel with the Bush Administration’s focus on foreign policy and homeland security, nor with its unfortunately failed effort to start a national conversation on social security. GWB is spending what political capital he has on important matters. Given Democratic resistance on all fronts, there’s only so much he can accomplish in the faith-based initiative.

Business later this week

My blogging will be light for the next couple of days. Tomorrow I’m participating in a BBC radio program(me)-- "Have Your Say"--broadcast from Ebenezer Baptist Church and focusing on two issues, religion in American life and immigration. I’m not a panelist, but rather a member of a small audience intended to interact with the panelists.

On Thursday, I’m participating as a kibbitzer in a conference on religion and liberalism, organized by Judd Owen. The principal presenters include Allan Arkush, J. Budziszewski, Craig M. Gay, Michael Perry, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Michael Zuckert. The formal respondents include Peter Lawler, Patrick Deneen, and Bob Bartlett. And then there’s a few of us comprising a small peanut gallery. It should be fun, and I’ll file a report when it’s all over.

Update: You can listen to the first hour of the BBC program by clicking on a link on this page. It was devoted to immigration and featured (among others) Phil Kent, a long-time prominent conservative leader who has taken up the cause of immigration reform. The leftists in the Ebenezer sanctuary kept insisting that immigration was an issue only because it’s an election year and certain people (we know who they are) wanted a wedge issue. I asked Kent during a break how long he’d been carrying Karl Rove’s water; he just laughed.

The second hour (which doesn’t seem to be on-line) was highlighted by the mellifluous and reasonable telephonic presence of Richard John Neuhaus. The BBC folks kept asking us if intolerance had increased in America since 9-11. In my two brief stints with the mike, I made the points that the experience of genuine religious pluralism may provide a few unpleasant moments, but that groups learn to live with one another; and that "separation of church and state" doesn’t capture the constitutional language, which I don’t have to explain to you, dear readers. I pointed out that the Abdul Rahman case exemplifies real intolerance and got the Muslim woman on the panel to say, point blank, that the Quran forbids compulsion in religious matters. Now if she could only persuade her brethren in the Middle East.... Another Muslim in the audience spoke eloquently about how religious leaders in his community reached out after 9-11 and about how his daughter, asked when she was young whether she was an Egyptian, replied that she was an American. It’s a grand country, ain’t it, full of the beautiful as well as the bilious.

One last point: our BBC hostess kept marveling at the size of the Ebenezer sanctuary (it holds 2,500) and remarking, on air, that it was full every Sunday morning (not often the experience in the U.K.). I told her off air that, by Atlanta standards, this was only a medium-sized church and there were plenty of bigger sanctuaries in Atlanta, equally full every Sunday, as well as lots of Catholic churches that can’t hold enough masses to accommodate their parishioners.


This week’s TAE Online column is entitled "Fukuyama, the Neoconvert."

Removing Card from the Deck

One of the reasons George W. Bush exasperates the Beltway Establishment is that he refuses to conform to the conventional wisdom. When the Beltway Mediacrats bray endlessly that you need to shuffle your staff, it is code for "hire some DC insiders to straighten out your problem." No doubt David Gergen stands at the ready. Lloyd Cutler and Clark Clifford can be disinterred. This Bush has refused to do.

But as the old saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. James Baker has long said that the chief of staff job burns you out after about two years. Andy Card has been there for 5 1/2 years, working from 5 am to about 9 pm every day. This tenure has been much longer than average. He probably should have stepped down after the 2004 election. Card gets good marks in a number of areas, less so in others, which, in the grand scheme of things, means that he’s probably done a good job and deserves our gratitude. But it is long past time for him to move on.

But note that Bush is turning to an insider, Josh Bolton, as Card’s replacement. Look for the Mediacrats to say "it isn’t enough."

You Mean the Answer Really Is 42?

Now here’s a story that I’ll bet Knippenberg missed: A speculative article about prime numbers and physics that suggests the key number in a certain mathematical sequence is 42, the very number said to be the answer to everything in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Don’t worry: I don’t understand it either.)

Hat tip: Nick Danger at redstate.

Lynn Nofziger

Lynn Nofziger died yesterday. He was 81. Nofziger, I always thought, was an perfectly good fellow. I liked him. He was one of the early friends of the Ashbrook Center, spoke here in December, 1983 (soon after President Reagan opened the Center), and then again in 1992. He also wrote for us from time to time, see this and this . He was an agreeable, tough, and smart political consultant. He spoke his mind: "I am a Republican because, like Ronald Reagan, I believe that freedom is America’s most important product." He hated neckties, which he called an ornament of surfeit, and he never could pull his tight. If a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life, he was not a very serious fellow. Maybe that’s why I liked him.

I once told him that the fellow who invented the necktie was having a tough time in Dante’s ninth circle, and I wasn’t really feeling sorry for the SOB at all. He laughed and agreed but then he told me that it was probably Louis XIV (even better, said I). He liked some Croat (hence cravat) soldiers’ red neck cloths when they marched in front of him celebrating a victory over the Turks and then began using something like it on himself and some of his soldiers. Lynn was an altogether good fellow. May he Rest in Peace.

Krauthammer lays the hammer to FF

Here. A snippet:

My argument then, as now, was the necessity of this undertaking, never its ensured success. And it was necessary because, as I said, there is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the root causes of Sept. 11: "The cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world -- oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism."

Fukuyama’s book is proof of this proposition about the lack of the plausible alternative. The alternative he proposes for the challenges of Sept. 11 -- new international institutions, new forms of foreign aid and sundry other forms of "soft power" -- is a mush of bureaucratic make-work in the face of a raging fire. Even Berman, his sympathetic reviewer, concludes that "neither his old arguments nor his new ones offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all -- the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them."

As they say, read the whole thing.

Manliness and a woman

David Warren writes on Manliness (and Mansfield’s book). Charming and true. In this, he praises Oriana Fallaci’s new book. Read them both. 

Fukuyama’s latest

In today’s WSJ, Francis Fukuyama and Adam Garfinkle offer their prescription for pursuing the Bush Administration’s goals of fighting terrorism and promoting democracy in the Middle East. While acknowledging that the two might have some connection in the long run, they argue that the better policy now is to decouple them:

Democracy promotion should remain an integral part of American foreign policy, but it should not be seen as a principal means of fighting terrorism. We should stigmatize and fight radical Islamism as if the social and political dysfunction of the Arab world did not exist, and we should shrewdly, quietly, patiently and with as many allies as possible promote the amelioration of that dysfunction as if the terrorist problem did not exist. It is when we mix these two issues together that we muddle our understanding of both, with the result that we neither defeat terrorism nor promote democracy but rather the reverse.

They’re surely right that democracy doesn’t in the first instance yield results we find congenial; democracy isn’t in its nature liberal in the classical sense. And they’re surely right that political dysfunction in the Middle East isn’t the sole cause of terrorism, that the failure of Western European countries adequately to integrate immigrant populations has something to do with it as well.

But I wonder whether their policy prescription is realistic, given the climate of public opinion in the U.S. They treat the GWOT as largely a low profile police and intelligence action. And they treat democracy promotion as something that should also be low profile, with as much distance from official U.S. policy as possible. This would ultimately disengage the public from both ends, which would indeed leave them to the experts, but it would also, I think, substantially diminish public support for them. You want isolationism? Then go this route.

It seems to me that the only obvious differences--and they’re non-negligible--between Fukuyama and the Democrats are, first, that FF wouldn’t basically give up on our military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and, second, that FF wouldn’t put as many eggs in the UN basket. Would the Democrats welcome him as a defector? Perhaps. Would he be influential there? On the first, no. On the second, why not? I think that his position, especially on Iraq, would prevent someone like HRC from courting him before the nomination was in hand, but I can imagine Fukuyama as an integral part of any Democratic candidate’s post-nomination effort to move toward the center. Wave bye-bye.

Update: Jon Schaff has more. He reminds of a piece that Fukuyama would do well to re-read: Charles H. Fairbanks’s "The British Campaign Against the Slave Trade," published in Marc Plattner’s Human Rights in Our Time, unfortunately long out of print. If you can’t find it any other way, send me an email and I’ll do what I can about getting you a copy of the essay.

Raid on al Sadr’s men

Here are some reports on the U.S./Iraq raid on Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia, near a Mosque. The reaction to it--considering Sadr’s connection to Iran--may be worth watching. Here is the International Herald Tribune, Aljazeera, BBC, and ABC News.


Regarding my note yesterday on the Hispanic protests and citizenship, Powerline recommends a few chapters from Edward J. Erler, here and here. I thank them.

Ohio elections

George Will on the Ohio Senate race between incumbent "moderate-conservative" Republican Mike DeWine and liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown. He thinks it will be a late election night. Maybe, but DeWine will win for two reasons, and the second is more important: First, Brown will show himself to be more liberal than Dennis Kucinich and is very hostile to free trade; second, Ken Blackwell will win the GOP primary for governor, and that will help move all GOP candidates away from Taft. Blackwell has always distanced himself from Taft (partly by Taft’s choosing) and is also the most intelligent and principled Republican in the state. He will have long coat-tails. Today’s poll in the Columbus Dispatch shows that Blackwell is ahead by 11 points. I predict that Blackwell will take the primary by 20 points, if Petro doesn’t pull out.

Update: I fixed the link, sorry.

Fukuyama un-recognized

I have also read (see Joe’s post below) the two reviews of Fukuyama’s latest book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. I have also read the book. Here is the short of it: Both reviews are better than the book. The book is thin gruel, and so was The End of History. But, the latter book--the only thing Fukuyama will ever be remembered for, if anything; and he should know a lot about "recognition", if he knows anything--was interesting because it was fun and kind of silly and made you think. It was Hegel (with a splash of Nietzsche) made recognizable. So people played with it, knowing that the fellow couldn’t actually mean it. I guessed that he either did mean it; or, he was just playing, that is, he was being an intellectual, as Nietzsche might put it. If the first, he was a fool; if the second, he was a lightweight. So I never thought too much about it. I always knew that Fukuyama was not standing on solid ground, and people like that (see the conversation on Linker below?) always end up moving; not "growing" or learning or becoming deeper, just moving. You know, like the guy who was a Lutheran, then a Unitarian, then a Hindu, then a Catholic. We have all known guys like that, and then, well, we forget about them, save for those very few quite lucid moments when they had (probably by chance) an insight. Perhaps Fukuyama had such a moment. I don’t remember, and there is no reason to do an archeology of his soul.

Sunday reviews of Fukuyama

Gary Rosen in the WaPo is worth reading as a critique of Fukuyama that takes the Islamist threat more seriously than FF seems to.

Paul Berman writes in the NYT from the left, expressing dissatisfaction with the smallness and wonkishness of Fukuyama’s "realistic Wilsonianism":

In "America at the Crossroads," Fukuyama describes the Hegelianism of "The End of History" as a version of "modernization" theory, bringing his optimistic vision of progress into the world of modern social science. But the problem with modernization theory was always a tendency to concentrate most of its attention on the steadily progressing phases of history, as determined by the predictable workings of sociology or economics or psychology — and to relegate the free play of unpredictable ideas and ideologies to the margins of world events.

And yet, what dominated the 20th century, what drowned the century in oceans of blood, was precisely the free play of ideas and ideologies, which could never be relegated entirely to the workings of sociology, economics, psychology or any of the other categories of social science. In my view, we are seeing the continuing strength of 20th-century-style ideologies right now — the ideologies that have motivated Baathists and the more radical Islamists to slaughter millions of their fellow Muslims in the last 25 years, together with a few thousand people who were not Muslims.

Both reviews point to significant problems with Fukuyama’s thinking--Rosen emphasizing the continuing importance of military responses and Berman the battle of ideas, both of which get lost in FF’s somewhat odd decision to display his mastery of the social scientific literature of political development. Perhaps, he thinks, if he bores us, we’ll leave the world to experts like himself.

Somos illegales, or Americans?

Half a million people marched in Los Angeles, as the L.A. Times puts it, "The marchers included both longtime residents and the newly arrived, bound by a desire for a better life and a love for this county." I mused a bit about the possibility of a typo, but then thought that maybe one can love a county? Did I love L.A. county when I lived there? Not really. A protester said that "this is a country for everybody who wants to live a better life and this is a free world." That’s an interesting sentence, meriting an exegete’s eye. Some think that such statements (and the many Mexican flags!) will backfire on those "activists" who are in favor (apparently) of unrestricted immigration. Even liberal Mickey Kaus thinks this is likely. Even Jim Pinkerton has become, as he puts it, a "hawk" on immigration. There will be more on this, but we should take the opportunity to talk not only about illegal immigrants and walls, but also about what a citizen is in this republic. A good start on this conversation would be these three pieces: First, see this on the making of citizens Matthew Spalding, and then this Charles R. Kesler, and last, this by James Ceasar.

Buchanan and his wrath

I bring this Patrick Buchanan op-ed ("Are the Neocons Losing it?") to your attention because Mr. Buchanan is a smart man. My blood is up because he has made a living out of rancor, and the misnaming of things. This has served him well even when it hasn’t served the cause he claims to represent, with utter and ever more boring self-serving righteousness, I might add. The Left MSM has put him to good use for their own purposes and Buchanan--it turns out--has and will continue to do anything for the sake of a mike and a camera, or a column. Too bad, and quite sad. I say this as one who came into politics in 1964 with Barry Goldwater, and one whose interest peaked when Reagan ruled, but I guess that’s not really conservative enough for Pat, who in his rage tries to readjust the past as he thinks he sees the future. I remind him that it is the jesters who often prove prophets, not the caterpillars of the commonwealth.

Time mag generic poll

Yet another poll on the generic party preference, this oneTime mag. The Dems are up by nine percent. Note how (rightly) careful the article is in explaining that this really doesn’t mean anything (read, the Dems have no advantage--after Katrina, Harriet Myers, etc). What’s the most significant number in the poll?
This is the last sentence: "Still, the Republicans retain an 11-point edge over the Democrats on the question of dealing with terrorism, while voters are evenly split on the question of which party would better handle the war in Iraq — issues that were key to the Republicans’ success in the last two elections."

Update: Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen make more elaborate assertions about GOP vulnerability in 2006. The article starts tough against GOP prospects (e.g., "top strategists of both parties say privately, the Republicans would probably lose the 15 seats they need to keep control of the House"), but ends in a whimper (imagine GOP ads showing that Henry Waxman would become chairman of the House Government Reform Committee if the Dems took it back). The GOP will not lose the House (or the Senate), I predict.

The suit and the man

Charles Johnson reminded me of this from Mark Twain: "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." Now I remind you that there is a lot more to this clothes vs. naked stuff, and to learn more you should read The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men’s Style. It will appear in June.

Semper fidelis

Of the 992 Annapolis graduates, 209 are choosing the Marine Corps, the largest number in the school’s 161 year history. This is another reason why Iraq is not another Vietnam. Note the numbers for the year 1968.

More Linker

I’m not quite ready to take Peter Lawler’s advice. Contrast this, from November, 2002:

Conservatives face a daunting challenge today. On the most pressing moral issues confronting the country—many of them having to do with aspects of biotechnological research—the public is deeply divided, and the divisions are far from trivial. Take the issue of embryonic stem cells. Many conservatives contend that the union of complementary gametes (sperm and ovum) instantly produces a unique person who possesses the same rights as a mature human being; they thus conclude that embryonic stem cell research, which destroys this person, must be prohibited. But many others think differently. For them, the prospect of relieving the suffering of sentient human beings—especially when they are members of one’s own family or beloved celebrities such as Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox—should outweigh concern for the dignity of a microscopic clump of cells in a petri dish.

The former view is clearly based on the stronger argument. In the words of Robert P. George, blastocysts are indeed “capable of directing from within their own integral organic functioning and development into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages of life, and ultimately into adulthood as, in each case, determinate, enduring, whole human beings.” And yet, the latter position is not obviously absurd. It is neither nihilism nor reflexive sentimentality, but rather an intuition embedded in moral common sense, that leads so many to conclude that decency requires us to do what we can to relieve the suffering of those we love. The conflict, then, arises from a tension within morality itself.

With this, from April, 2005:

Yet there are reasons to be suspicious of all absolutisms--even the noblest kinds. While they inspire great certainty and conviction, they also distort our vision, obscuring the exceedingly complicated, even paradoxical, character of morality itself.

Take the Pope’s influence on the way stem-cell research is discussed in the United States. John Paul convinced many American conservatives that the union of sperm and ovum instantly produces a unique person who possesses the same dignity (and thus rights) as a mature human being; embryonic stem-cell research, which destroys this person within two weeks of conception, must therefore be prohibited. From this standpoint, those who support such research appear to be immoralists advocating a bloodthirsty "culture of death." But this is far from fair. It is neither nihilism nor a craving for "death" that leads many of us to conclude that we should support research that promises to relieve human suffering when doing so inflicts no suffering of its own. (A microscopic clump of cells in a petri dish is, of course, non-sentient.) On the contrary, this conclusion flows from an intuition embedded in moral common sense. This is not to deny a certain moral grandeur to the Pope’s absolutist stance, which holds that the defense of innate human dignity ought to trump suffering every time. But denying that both positions have moral weight does serious damage to the richness and complexity of moral experience.

What he once called the better argument is now just an "absolutist stance" to which he concedes a "certain moral grandeur." Yes, human moral life is complicated, but becoming "pro-choice" on stem cell research is not self-evidently the better way to proceed, politically or morally. Linker seems to have forgotten (if he ever knew) that the pro-choice position is itself a moral teaching, not a merely political or "meta-moral" position that ascribes equal status to several competing moral positions. It teaches us either to be indifferent to the moral considerations involved in stem cell research, or it elevates social peace or personal autonomy to the privileged position. There’s an argument for this stance, but it’s not a slam dunk.

Update: Rick Garnett has more.

Joseph Epstein on Plagiarism

Many NLT readers are no doubt following the sad and discouraging story of Ben Domenich’s fall over plagiarism. Turns out Joseph Epstein meditated on this subject in this Weekly Standard column earlier this month.

Money graph:

Every writer is a thief, though some of us are more clever than others at disguising our robberies. The reason writers are such slow readers is that we are ceaselessly searching for things we can steal and then pass off as our own: a natty bit of syntax, a seamless transition, a metaphor that jumps to its target like an arrow shot from an aluminum crossbow.

As the old saying goes, read the whole thing.   

What If We Hadn’t, Take 3

A week or so ago I set the comments section afire with a link to Gerard Baker’s counterfactual notions of what would have happened if we hadn’t invaded Iraq in 2003. Now Michael Barone offers his counterfactual analysis of the question.

Religion and progressive politics

I mentioned some time ago that Columbia University hosted a conference in which, among others, Bill McClay participated. Here’s some video, of E.J. Dionne, Jr., Alan Wolfe, and Mark Lilla. Lilla, by the way, anathematizes this FT symposium, already mentioned here.

Best Car Ad of the Year

A few posts back I offered up the best beer ad ever made. Comes now the best TV car ad ever made.

Linker on Neuhaus

One of the great traditions of American political life is for ideological pilgrims--having moved from right to left or left to right--to write in condemnatory terms about their former associates. There’s David Horowitz, David Brock, Richard John Neuhaus, and, now, Damon Linker, who has this (among other things) to say about Neuhaus:

In Neuhaus’s view, what was happening in the United States could only be described as "the displacement of a constitutional order by a regime that does not have, will not obtain, and cannot command the consent of the people." Hence the stark and radical options confronting the country, ranging "from noncompliance to resistance to civil disobedience to morally justified revolution."

That is the America toward which Richard John Neuhaus wishes to lead us--an America in which eschatological panic is deliberately channeled into public life, in which moral and theological absolutists demonize the country’s political institutions and make nonnegotiable public demands under the threat of sacralized revolutionary violence, in which citizens flee from the inner obligations of freedom and long to subordinate themselves to ecclesiastical authority, and in which traditionalist Christianity thoroughly dominates the nation’s public life. All of which should serve as a potent reminder--as if, in an age marked by the bloody rise of theologically inspired politics in the Islamic world, we needed a reminder--that the strict separation of politics and religion is a rare, precious, and fragile achievement, one of America’s most sublime achievements, and we should do everything in our power to preserve it. It is a large part of what makes America worth living in.

It’s a long article, richly detailed and theoretically sophisticated, but I’m not persuaded. It seems to me that Linker--who is a very smart guy--makes too much of some passionate rhetoric and too little of the appeal to natural law, which is exclusionary only if you reject reason.

What, I wonder, is Linker’s alternative to natural law as the source of America’s public reason? Or do we not need one? Are we not to be disciplined at all by authorities outside our most passionate desires or the resistance others can offer to them on the basis of their most passionate desires?

One last point: while Linker does darkly hint that Neuhaus is another Carl Schmitt--a favorite liberal bete noire--his most "frightening" example is the aforementioned First Things symposium, which also formed part of Jeffrey Hart’s polemic against Neuhaus, to which Neuhaus has already responded. If this is Neuhaus at his authoritarian worst, we don’t have much to be afraid of.

I expect that, in the coming days, we’ll hear more of this, both from Neuhaus (and friends) and from Linker.

Update: The comments below (and also here) are worth reading. My judgment of Linker’s abilities comes from APSA panels on German things, not from a close acquaintance with his punditry and religious writings, such as they are.

Linker’s evident hostility to religion in public life is not present in this review, nor here, where as Paul Seaton notes below, Linker appears to have been, for a time at least, influenced by Pierre Manent.

Richard John Neuhaus is surely regretting these words, at least (as would become a gentleman) in private:

[Linker] is resigning to write a book about the people involved with FT and their effort to advance a vibrant religious presence in the public square. Damon has been a conscientious, loyal, and exceedingly competent colleague, and I will miss him.

I wonder if Linker is following his first teacher Mark Lilla, whose thoughts along similar lines (albeit not with respect to Richard John Neuhaus) I criticized here and here.

More on Liberal Birthrates

In There is No Liberal Baby Bust, Froma Harrop dismisses Phillip Longman’s argument from last week that lower birthrates among liberals promise a brighter future for conservatives. Ms. Harrop argues (of course) that Longman’s scientific method was bad. Comparing Wyoming (pop. 509,000) with California (pop. 36 million) and saying that the birthrate is 12% higher in Wyoming does not prove much, she says. Also, she makes a big point of trying to prove that Longman and other conservative optimists make their case by ignoring the birthrates among minorities. "Thing is," Ms. Harrop argues, "minorities don’t really exist in the school of conservative optimism." (Yes, of course, we evil conservatives don’t even count the births of non-white people, do we?) Arrrrggghhhh!

But Ms. Harrop seems to be doing some of her own assuming and she is forgetting one big thing. First, the thing assumed: high birth rates among minorities mean bad things for conservatives because Democrats are always going to do better with minorities. I wouldn’t be so sure, if I were her. The problem for Harrop is that affiliation with the Democratic party does not always equal liberal--especially when it comes to social issues among religious minorities. Many people who vote Democrat are otherwise conservative (and, to be fair, the reverse is also sometimes true). The question may be how long can the Dems hold on to these voters with their empty promises?

But the big thing Harrop is forgetting is the electoral college. If conservatives continue to outproduce liberals at a 12% clip, the smallness of Red states in comparison to big California or big New York isn’t going to make that much of a difference. They can have those states, as far as I’m concerned. Their number of electoral votes may go up some if the population there explodes as she predicts--but not so much that they can expect to carry Presidential elections satisfying a liberal constituency only. This is all the more true when you consider that the predicted population boom in those states is NOT expected to come "from their white people" (to borrow Harrop’s phraseology) but from Hispanic and Asian immigrants. I, for one, am not so sure the political affiliations of these two groups are as settled as Ms. Harrop might hope.

Messy France

The protests in Paris are turning violent. It seems that anarchists are demanding job security (and where is Jean Paul Sartre?)! Dominique de Villepin will hold talks (with "no strings attached") with union leaders. It is a shame that de Villepin will not be around forever. Isn’t he fun to watch? Now, let’s see, what is the best way to retreat?

Taliban and Yale

Yale University continues to have a PR debacle on its hands. Que lastima!

Rahman update

This is not good news. Once again, Muslim clerics, both in Afghanistan and abroad, who oppose this understanding of Islamic law have to step up to the plate.

I’m torn, wondering what would have happened if the Bush Administration had been able to resolve this quietly and diplomatically, thereby postponing what I hope would be an inevitable showdown between Karzai and the conservatives.

A good day

Matt Spalding is here today for a Colloquium on his new book (Meese and Forte also had something to do with it), The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. You can listen to him when we put the talk out as a podcast early next week, or you can wait until C-SPAN runs it. It will be good fun. Welcome to Spring in Ohio, Matt, it’s been snowing for hours! No matter. Nature will rule in the end, the sun will shine, and I will ride. I bought this lovely machine, this comfort to my age, out of Kentucky, a state I am partial to. I will pick the growling beast up in about two weeks, snow or not. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Christian Unrealism

I’m on the Sojourners email list. Today I received this message in response to the raid that freed three Christian peace activists held by terrorist captors:

Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad.


Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.


Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?

They love and forgive their colleagues’ captors, but say nothing about the troops who liberated them. "The pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis" seems to refer in this case to current conditions in Iraq, but would seem to apply much more truly to Iraqi captivity under the murderous Saddam Hussein regime. Mere intellectual honesty would require them to condemn their captors and the vicious ideology they represent for their own suffering, not to mention those of the ordinary Iraqis who are daily subject to random attacks by al Qaeda and Baathist thugs.

Can We do to Al-Qaeda what Britain did to the IRA?

The cover story of this month’s Atlantic is well worth reading, as it tells the inside story of how the British government infiltrated and destroyed the Irish Republican Army. In the 1970s the preferred tactic for dealing with IRA terrorism was internment--something like what the Bush administration has been doing. It was a colossal failure. Only in the 1980s, when the British began recruiting insiders, did the IRA begin to crumble. Today, of course, it is insignificant.

But let no one think that this is a peaceful option:

British spies subverted the IRA from within, leaving it in military ruin, and Irish Republicans—who want to end British rule in Northern Ireland and reunite the island—have largely shifted their weight to Sinn Féin and its peaceable, political efforts. And so the Dirty War provides a model for how to dismantle a terrorist organization. The trick is to not mind killing, and to expect dying.

Well worth reading, and well worth thinking about. Of course, for all we know the administration might already be implementing this strategy. I hope so.

More on religious groups and government funding

The Acton Institute’s Jordan J. Ballor writes, partly in response to my TAE Online op-ed, that dependency on government funding is bad for religious groups, because it is inevitably secularizing to the extent that the groups become dependent on those funds and seek to preserve them through inevitable changes in administrations and policies. He also argues that "the premise of the Faith-Based Initiative itself is suspect, as it assumes a dichotomy between faith and works that is unnatural and poisonous to the Christian religion."

I have a few quick responses. First, it strikes me that any activity that depends upon money is potentially corrupting, whether the source is governmental or private. Any time you rely on donors or external funding, you run the risk of tailoring your programs to attract the available money, rather than looking for money that supports the program you have or wish to establish. Why governmental money is different from private in this regard isn’t clear to me. A group that is true to its mission won’t go after money that compromises it.

Second, it may be that government money can help faith-based groups grow big enough to develop the kind of record to attract private donors and to create the kind of fund-raising expertise required to sustain their missions without compromise. Perhaps they should regard public funding as seed money, not a constant source of support. One-time grants are better than contracts in this regard. And again, the integrity of the mission depends upon the self-discipline of the group in refusing to accept money that compromises their mission.

Third, a lot depends upon how we understand the First Amendment. One of the principal reasons that government money is perceived as secularizing is that supporting the religious elements of the mission is (wrongly, I would argue) understood as establishment. A proper understanding of the First Amendment (not altogether out of reach) would not require the separation of secular and religious missions in funding. That doesn’t mean that a particular administration wouldn’t attempt to impose its secular understanding through its grant-making and contracting practices, only that the First Amendment wouldn’t require it to do so. Thus, for example, the current understanding is that voucher programs don’t require that eligible organizations separate their religious and secular programs, which makes them better bets for those who worry about the secularizing effect of government money. As a practical matter, I think that this, currently, is the best way to go: vouchers don’t require a change in our Establishment Clause jurisprudence, don’t require groups to separate their religious and secular programs, and empower individuals to choose what’s best for themselves.

Update: Jordan has more here. He ultimately favors offering further incentives to private donors, omitting the governmental middle-man. Does he mean, then, that government should get out of the business of privatization, that faith-based organizations should get out of the business of contracting, and/or that a much smaller government should simply offer greater incentives for people to contribute to the charities of their choice? I think that the first and third alternatives are remote at best, and that if the second occurs in the absence of the first and the third, we leave much of the social service field to secular organizations, which I’m not sure I want to do.

Goldberg Podcast

My latest podcast is now available. Today I spoke with Jonah Goldberg from National Review Online about the nature of conservatism and the challenges it faces as a philosophy when put in a position to govern. It’s an excellent conversation that I hope to continue with him in future podcasts.

GWB on the Afghan Christian case

This is a start:

Afghanistan -- I went there with Laura. We had a good visit with President Karzai. I like him -- good man. You can imagine what it’s like to try to rebuild a country that had been occupied and then traumatized by the Taliban. They’re coming around. They got elections. They had assembly elections. He, himself, was elected. We expect them to honor the universal principle of freedom. I’m troubled when I hear -- deeply troubled when I hear the fact that a person who has converted away from Islam may be held to account. That’s not the universal application of the values that I talked about. Look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship.

There’s still a Taliban element trying to come and hurt people. But the good news is, not only do we have great U.S. troops there, but NATO is now involved. One of my jobs is to continue to make sure that people understand the benefits of a free society emerging in a neighborhood that needs freedom. And so I’m pleased with the progress, but I fully understand there’s a lot more work to be done.

I ask again: has any prominent American Muslim said anything?

Update: I answer: CAIR has spoken, calling for Rahman’s immediate release and arguing that "[r]eligious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention. Faith imposed by force is not true belief, but coercion." Good for CAIR! Will others follow suit?

Ramirez Cartoon

Military deaths

Red State points you to this chart on deaths in the military since 1980:

Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984); George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004). (via Instapundit)

Newspapers dying

Newspapers are in trouble, but Glenn Reynolds doesn’t think it’s too late for imaginative newspapers to save themselves.

Afghan Christian update

This article describes the U.S. response thus far and sheds some light on the relationship between the Afghan judiciary--described as "a bastion of conservative orthodoxy, largely unreformed despite the ouster of the Taliban more than four years ago"--and the Kabul regime.

Afghan Constitution, I should note, explicitly gives the President the power to reduce penalties and requires his approval for carrying out a death sentence.

There are, by the way, strong words in Der Spiegel (leider auf Deutsch; I’d translate, but that would deprive you of the incentive to learn a foreign language or practice one you already have).

Update: This guy has translated comments on the case from the Al Arabiya website.

Update #2: According to this story, the Afghan government is looking for a way out, perhaps by claiming that Mr. Rahman is mentally ill and hence not legally accountable for his apostasy. This smacks of the old Soviet move--unhappy with our communist utopia? you must be crazy!--and I’d prefer a bolder affirmation of religious freedom in a Muslim context. But it’s a start.

Last Update: Mollie Ziegler has more, including links to this London Times piece and this from the Chicago Tribune.

Really the Last Update: I should be so eloquent and so brief. I wonder if this issue was on the table at this meeting yesterday. Has any prominent American Muslim spoken out?

Bipartisanship and the faith-based initiative

This week’s TAE Online column deals with the politics of the faith-based initiative, with a special focus on Georgia. I conclude that Democrats have realized that it’s a threat to their political interests, since it disrupts the relationship between government and those who depend upon it.

For a less "high-minded" discussion of the issue, see this WaPo article.

Amy Sullivan overdoes/overdid it

Amy Sullivan’s article on evangelical disaffection with Republicans received lots of attention (even from me). Her first example had to do with Democratic efforts to court evangelicals by sponsoring legislation authorizing courses on the Bible in public high schools. Republicans, she said, opposed the effort because they didn’t want Democrats to get any credit.

Not true in Georgia, where the Republicans supported the bill and all the (token) opposition came from Democrats.

Note the appearance in the article linked above by Randy Brinson, who is one of Sullivan’s chief examples of a disaffected evangelical. He seems happy enough to me.

Lindberg on Fukuyama

Tod Lindberg elegantly nails the point about Fukuyama’s current line of argument that I made in a fumbling fashion here. A snippet:

He described democratic capitalism as the system that best satisfies people’s desire for mutual recognition as free and equal human beings, a desire Mr. Fukuyama described as fundamental.

As far as I am able to make out (without yet having read his new book), Mr. Fukuyama now regards the first element of his explanation as decisive and the second as problematic. In reviewing his previous work, he has characterized "The End of History" as essentially a thesis about globalization. The element of psychic satisfaction is much diminished.


The book, by the way, is much better than the NYT Magazine sample. I’m halfway through, and will offer some account of my thoughts somewhere after I finish. At the moment, I’ll only say that I don’t think that
Louis Menand has got it right. FF, according to Menand, is "sliding back toward sixties liberalism," emphasizing soft power. That strikes me as a triumphalistic and wishful simplification.

Religion in Europe

This is the transcript of a subtle and tremendously interesting (not to mention long) discussion of religion in Europe. Grace Davie is the principal speaker, with cameo appearances by Adrian Wooldridge, Naomi Schaefer Riley, John Tierney, E.J. Dionne, Jr., Carl Cannon, Kathleen Parker, and Edward Larson. 


This may be the best beer ad ever made. Bottoms up!

Bush, brawling

Sorry that I am so pressed here that I haven’t had a chance to assert myself on the blog today! I have my Lincoln seminar tonight, so I am still at it, limping along, staying just one step ahead of my smart students. Yet, I couldn’t resist noting that Bush’s press conference today (transcript and the AP story) was an example of the problem Ruth Marcus thinks Bush has: manliness. Note these few lines from the AP story, and note how they are to Bush’s advantage, and note how it can be called manliness and then note the threat about the upcoming elections, and then note that the Dems will not take him up on his offer, and then note what will happen in the November elections, and then we will explain to Ms. Marcus the connection between politics and manliness:

More than 2,300 Americans have died in three years of war in Iraq. Polls show the public’s support of the war and Bush himself have dramatically declined in recent months, jeopardizing the political goodwill he carried out of the 2004 re-election victory.
"I’d say I’m spending that capital on the war," Bush quipped.

When asked about his failed Social Security plan, he simply said: "It didn’t get done." But the president defiantly defended his warrantless eavesdropping program, and baited Democrats who suggest that he broke the law.

Calling a censure resolution "needless partisanship," Bush challenged Democrats to go into the November midterm elections in opposition to eavesdropping on suspected terrorists. "They ought to stand up and say, ’The tools we’re using to protect the American people should not be used,’" Bush said.

A useless son, a dead man

Joseph Knippenberg reflects on religious freedom in general, and religious freedom in Afghanistan in particular. This is in light of Mr. Abdul Rahman (of Afghanistan) revealing to one too many that he is a Christian. He is now about to die. This is not only a major test of the new Afghan court system, it is a test for Islam, for the statesmanship of both Karzai and Bush. Knippenberg elegantly lays out the issue. A must read!

Bush and his overemployed manliness

The first line of Ruth Marcus’ piece in the Washington Post: "I have a new theory about what’s behind everything that’s wrong with the Bush administration: manliness." I’ll get on this right after my class (Human Being and Citizen, we are finishing Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta speech). Read Marcus’ trifle. You’ll love it.

Mans-field in Oprah

Peter men-tioned that Harvey Mans-field will be in the April issue of Oprah (still not on-line). Someone at The Weekly Standard has seen it.

Confidence, risk, and thymos

Walter Kirn reviews Mansfield’s Manliness in Sunday’s NYT Book Review. It is the perfect example of a review that is almost without value. A friend called it puerile. That will do. Mark Kingwell, a philosophy prof at Toronto, does it better. He is critical, but not childish. Then there was the David Brooks op-ed in Sunday’s NY Times (it is no longer up). The title gives away the meat in an article on politics (in the NYTimes, no less!) wherein the three parts of the soul are the core: "All Politics Is Thymotic." Inclined to like it, I give Brooks room, yet he leaves me with "recognition" to go on only, smelling much too much like Hegel and soft dignity, and not enough like noble courage to protect the weak, or anger against our enemies and their oppressors, for example. But, he is partly right in saying that Cheney and Rumsfeld are "extremely thymotic men" while "President Bush is a thymotic man partially chastened by Christianity." Bush certainly is a man who likes risk, and is confident in his risk taking. This makes his enemies angry. Yet, as the Poet says, to be in anger is impiety, "But who is man that is not angry?" I heard from a former student today who has not been able to put Mansfield down the whole weekend; they have been together, talking to one another, eating together, doing everything together, day and night, non-stop. No sign of fatigue, just eros for reason, as David Brooks might say. Good for both. Let Mansfield get the recognition, and the student the pleasure.

Self-Promo Media Alert

I’m scheduled to be on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal tomorrow (Tuesday March 21) from 7:45 to 8:30 eastern time, discussing recent developments in the politics and policy of global warming.

C-SPAN’s schedules have a way of changing depending on events, so this should be regarded as tentative, of course.

Suicide of the West

This old passage from James Burnham’s classic Suicide of the West reminds us that the deep polarization of the present moment is not new, but has deep roots:

Liberals, unless they are professional politicians seeking votes in the hinterland, are not subject to strong feelings of national patriotism and are likely to feel uneasy at patriotic ceremonies. These, like the organizations in whose conduct they are still manifest, are dismissed by liberals rather scornfully as ‘flag-waving’ and ‘100 percent Americanism.’ The national anthem is not customarily sung or the flag shown, unless prescribed by law, at meetings of liberal associations. When a liberal journalist uses the phrase ‘patriotic organization,’ the adjective is equivalent in meaning to ‘stupid, reactionary and rather ludicrous.’ The rise of liberalism to predominance in the controlling sectors of American opinion is in almost exact correlation with the decline in the ceremonial celebration of the Fourth of July, traditionally regarded as the nation’s major holiday. To the liberal mind, the patriotic oratory is not only banal but subversive of rational ideals; and judged by liberalism’s humanitarian morality, the enthusiasm and pleasures that simple souls might have got from the fireworks could not compensate the occasional damage to the eye or finger of an unwary youngster. The purer liberals of the Norman Cousins strain, in the tradition of Eleanor Roosevelt, are more likely to celebrate UN day than the Fourth of July.

Afghan test

I know that "democracy" in Afghanistan and Iraq won’t look like what we have here, but this shouldn’t fly. The President needs to place a phone call to his good friend Hamid Karzai, reminding him of what he said while visiting Kabul earlier this month:

In our country, you can worship freely. You’re equally American if you’re a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jew. You’re equally American if you don’t believe in an Almighty. Under the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, there is no religious freedom. You have no chance to express yourself in the public square without being punished. There is no capacity to realize your full potential.

Is it any different under Hamid Karzai?

For more, go here and here.

These would seem to be the relevant provisions of the Afghan Constitution:


We the people of Afghanistan:

1. With firm faith in God Almighty and relying on His lawful mercy, and Believing in the Sacred religion of Islam,

5. Observing the United Nations Charter and respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

8. For creation of a civil society free of oppression, atrocity, discrimination, and violence and based on the rule of law, social justice, protection of human rights, and dignity, and ensuring the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people,

Chapter I The State

Article 1 [Islamic Republic]

Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.

Article 2 [Religions]

(1) The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.

(2) Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.

Chapter II Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens

Article 3 [Law and Religion]

In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.

Article 24 [Liberty, Human Dignity]

(1) Liberty is the natural right of human beings. This right has no limits unless affecting the rights of others or public interests, which are regulated by law.

(2) Liberty and dignity of human beings are inviolable.

(3) The state has the duty to respect and protect the liberty and dignity of human beings.

Article 54 [Family]

(1) Family is a fundamental unit of society and is supported by the state.

(2) The state adopts necessary measures to ensure physical and psychological well being of family, especially of child and mother, upbringing of children and the elimination of traditions contrary to the principles of sacred religion of Islam.

Article 119 [Oath of Office for the Supreme Court]

Members of the Supreme Court take the following oath in the presence of the President before occupying the post:

"In the name Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate

I swear in the name of God Almighty to support justice and righteousness in accord with the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam and the provisions of this Constitution and other laws of Afghanistan, and to execute the duty of being a judge with utmost honesty, righteousness and nonpartisanship."

On apostasy in Islam, see this.

Update: Richard Garnett offers a spirited response to a colleague who worries about coercing the consciences of the Afghans who seek to execute the Christian.

Alabama church pyromania again

Michael DeBow called my attention to this op-ed, by Birmingham-Southern’s President, David Pollick. Turns out that the impersonality of the internet is somehow at least partly to blame for the students who set fire to the churches:

Isn’t it ironic that at the very time when young people are most in need of healthy social relations, when our societies are more in need of mutual understanding gained through education and communication, that a world of cyberspace seductively counters with isolation, privacy, and a false and naive illusion of invulnerability.

In such a world, a person’s worst nature can emerge, unfettered by social rules that govern and regulate day-to-day human relations. This brave new world is characterized more by bravado than it is by bravery. But as we’ve seen, this bravado is anything but insulated from ever present reality.

Thoughts make actions.

Our two students, like literally tens of thousands across our country, found their way into this cyberworld of artificial relationships. They experimented with its distance and felt the addiction and rush of the exotic play it offers. An explanation for behavior gone out of control? Not likely. A significant contributing element? Probably. A warning to others, young and old? Most assuredly. The line between fantasy and reality can become very thin within the human mind. And there is no such thing as a safe and secure environment in this new age of technology.

I’m not quite sure where that came from in this context, but I’m willing to second a much stronger version of his relatively weak response:

First and foremost, we as parents, schools, teachers and friends need to pay close attention. Our collective willingness to tolerate more and more in each generation can so easily slide to the acceptance of behaviors that ought to be seen as simply over the line.

Yes, many times yes! By all means, we should all pay close attention. And by all means, we should all hold our young people to moral standards. But Dr. Pollick, whose training is in philosophy, studiously avoids saying what they are. Might it not make sense to hearken back to the religious tradition with which his institution is affiliated? But that might seem too narrow; our problems, he avers, come from "an inability to effectively understand one another and appreciate the differing values that peoples of the world hold." We need to be more tolerant, not less, even as we realize that we shouldn’t tolerate more and more.

If someone apparently this unable to render judgments and say anything decisive tried to pay attention to me, I’m not sure I’d notice. And if this same person tried to hold me to a standard of some sort, I’d likely challenge his authority to do so. I suspect that he’d either back off or ultimately recur to some raw assertion of power. I’d be pleasantly surprised if he could conjur up a more edifying, enlightening, and compelling response.

Well, Then Try This One

Since my last foray into counterfactual history sparked so much learned discussion, try this one from Niall Ferguson, on the Great War of 2007.

Polygamy and Government

Peter noted this Krauthammer piece on polygamy. Whether we want it or not, we are likely to hear a lot more about this subject. Krauthammer concludes that it is critical “that any such fundamental changes in the very definition of marriage (as is implied by gay marriage and polygamy) be enacted democratically and not (as in the disastrous case of abortion) by judicial fiat.” Let’s start with that reference to democracy. It is worth remembering that whenever polygamy has predominated in a society it has always been linked with patriarchal or monarchical politics, never with republican forms of government. I’m sure the “Big Love” folks aren’t thinking of giving up their democratic rights and freedoms, but will the logic of their choice not point down that road? Or is modern or post-modern polygamy somehow so different that it will escape the normal tendency of polygamy?

Council on Foreign Relations

Oxblog notes that the Council on Foreign Relations just announced that they have RSS feeds and that pretty soon they are going to get into podcasting too. Impressive how quickly the behemoths turn, isn’t it? Also impressive that the Council on Foreign relations--the Platonic idea of the Establishment--is trying to distance itself from the MSM. Amusing.


The closet is now empty. Newsweek runs a story on polygamy, "Polymagists Unite!"
In the wake of the gay-marriage movement, polygamy is making its move. "’Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle,’ says Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy." Charles Krauthammer has a few unsatisfying thoughts on this, once called, polygamy diversion, by so-called gay rights advocates. Things fall apart, the center cannot know the rest. This is all pretty serious, isn’t it? I wonder what will happen when someone starts making an argument that that other pillar of barbarism should be allowed. But, isn’t it OK if we all vote for it? And what if someone can make a pretty good argument that the essence of slavery is love. What then? What will be the argument against slavery?

What If We Hadn’t?

Counterfactual historical speculations are all the rage these days, but it is ultimately a fatuous exercise. For a long while I have speculated on what would have happened if Churchill had been prime minister in 1936 or 1938, and had launched a "pre-emptive" war against Hitler. No doubt it would have been ferociously controversial and might have stained his reputation forever for having started an "unncessary war." After all, the appeasers would have said, we could deal with Hitler diplomatically. The wisdom of a different, tougher course in 1936 or 1938 is only clear in hindsight, but the obvious paradox is that we’d never have known about the greater disaster that was avoided. As Churchill himself put it, what is is singular; what might have been, infinite.

And so I have wondered what might have happened if the US had backed down on Iraq in the spring of 2003 and we had not done the deed. Wouldn’t Hussein’s prestige have soared in the region, perhaps promising a whole new world of trouble down the road? How would the Iranians have reacted? Gerard Baker of the London Times offers his own counter-factual speculations in this fine piece.

Democratic netroots and religion

Jonah Goldberg is able to muster more sympathy than I can for Amy Sullivan, who made an "offhand comment" about the "knee-jerk left" in relation to religion and provoked a firestorm of acrimony. The comments on both posts make for illuminating reading: when Sullivan questions whether its helpful to accuse GWB of being a theocrat, she’s accused (and this is about as nice as it gets) of repeating RNC talking points.

My relative lack of sympathy for Sullivan stems from two observations she makes--her effusive praise of Jeff Sharlet’s Rolling Stone hit-piece on Sam Brownback, which I discussed here, and her unworthy insinuations about Lindsay Graham. I find it interesting how often liberals make observations about the sexual preferences of Republicans: remember all the murmurs about John Roberts?

Michael Gerson

This New Yorker profile of Michael Gerson is worth reading, since it offers some clues to the role of compassion in Bush’s and Gerson’s thinking. I don’t know whether it’s the writer or Gerson, but, while Gerson is characterized as not believing that compassion always requires government programs, most of the examples of compassion cited are government programs with price tags. I think that the latter equation, in its simplest from, is an easy one into which to fall, but there’s more to it than that.

For more on Gerson and this subject, go here (GWB’s Second Inaugural), here (Gerson and the Second Inaugural), here (Gerson), and here (Bush’s conservatism).

Update: Peggy Noonan asks, in her characteristically elegant way, whether compassionate conservatism is an oxymoron. For me, the question is, as I stated earlier, whether the spending is transitional. If the goal is independence and personal responsibility, and the goal is achieved, then the spending is defensible. If we’re on our way to a new and different culture of dependency, then the increasingly popular equation GWB=LBJ makes sense.

Justice Ginsburg speaks

Power Line’s John Hinderaker criticizes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s extended defense of considering foreign judicial decisions, as do Mark Levin and Ed Whelan, who notes that he criticized much the same speech more than a year ago.

My own analysis of Justice Breyer’s similar line of argument is here. Stated simply, the Breyer-Ginsburg line of argument is judge-made "living constitutional law" hiding behind a selective appropriation of what one might call the law of nations. Ginsburg clearly doesn’t understand--or at least doesn’t want to understand--why the Founders and political leaders in the early republic cared about international public opinion. We were to be a light unto nations, inspiring others to adopt our example. This was not submission to international public opinion, but an attempt to lead it. And while I’d have less trouble with the Ginsburg-Breyer position if it adhered in a disciplined manner to a traditional understanding of natural law, it of course doesn’t, following rather an evolving elite transnational consensus unmoored in anything other than the intuitions of those who participate in it. If I wanted to be ruled by the intellectual descendants of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, I’d vote them into office.

More on Midterm Elections

Andy Busch has written another article in his series on midterm elections. This time, he focuses on the election of 1910 in which the progressive Republicans formed a coalition with the Democrats that effectively stripped President Taft of power and was a precursor to Wilson’s victory in 1912.

This Week’s Podcast Now Available

My latest "You Americans" podcast is now available. My guest this week, once again, is Tom Suddes from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. If you heard the last podcast I did with Tom, you already know that his knowledge of Ohio politics is unsurpassed.

In our last discussion, Tom briefly mentioned that he believes Ohio politics is very Jacksonian and, further, that the Ohio GOP is better at utilizing this Jacksonian system than their Democratic counterparts. We were not able to fully discuss the issue last time, but this time Tom explains this in greater detail.

We also discussed the upcoming gubernatorial election in greater detail, particularly as it relates to Tom’s most recent article.

Hungary, 1956

President Bush marked National Hungary Day yesterday in a ceremony at the Capitol, by way of noting the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, as the AP dispatch says, "the first significant move against Soviet dominance in central Europe." Bush: "The Hungarian example is an example of patience, and an example of the fact that freedom exists in everybody’s soul. It’s an example that tyranny can never stamp out the desire to be free. It’s an example that -- of a country that, once becomes free, joins with other freedom-loving countries to keep the peace." About 20,000 Hungarian freedom fighters died in a few weeks; as did 1,500 Soviet troops. Over 200,000 people left the country with a population of 9 million.

Catholic Charities and religious freedom

Richard John Neuhaus regards the Archdiocese of Boston’s response on the gay adoption issue to be quite weak, which has implications for religious freedom, not just for Roman Catholics, but for all culturally conservative (or orthodox or traditional; take your pick) religious groups. (See also this smart post.)

For more on the religious liberty dimension of this dispute, see these three posts at Mirror of Justice. One thng I find interesting in Rob Vischer’s post is his allusion to the possibility that the state might be interested in the quality of the pool of potential adoptive parents. If it’s parental quality, not the "equal right to adopt," that matters, then we have the possibility of an interesting argument, though not on the ground that gay adoption advocates would choose.

MOJ also calls our attention to and comments on this story, which shows how much pressure gay advocates are willing to bring to bear. It seems that, on this issue at least, the vision of everyone profiting from access to excellent legal counsel has been forgotten. This is shameful behavior by the Harvard Law School students and suggests that for them, law is merely an instrument of power (which of course is the Machiavellian lesson their Critical Legal Studies profs have been teaching them). What they haven’t been taught, apparently, is that, under this vision of law, there is no such thing as justice.

Yale Taliban

I’ve been reading John Fund’s pieces--here’s the latest--on the former Taliban official Yale was so eager to admit, as well as the NYT Magazine piece that started the furor.

I think that it’s possible for people to change and to repent and for education to play a role in that process. Has he repented? The evidence is unclear. Can or will Yale change him or help him change? Perhaps, though many of the 9-11 hijackers had spent lots of time and been educated in the West. And of course, given the picture of America and the West painted by many on elite campuses, it’s not clear that the result of a Yale education would be to help him to appreciate or understand the things we hold dear.

In sum, it’s not clear to me that the national interest is served by his sojourn at Yale. Bringing him to Ashland, now that’s another story.

Progressivism’s Consequences

The good folks over at The Remedy have taken up a pretty serious discussion of Priscilla Tacujan’s article on "self-determination" and Iraq’s transition to democracy. Richard Samuelson wonders if the progressive’s are responsible for some of the structural/constitutional problems that are becoming evident in the weakening of the upper house democratic legislatures. Thoughtful stuff.

Shelby Steele

The American Enterprise has a good interview with Shelby Steele. Just one example:

"TAE: What is the glue that holds the black vote to the Democratic Party?

STEELE: Politically, black America is almost socialistic. There’s a feeling that the government is the vehicle that’s going to lift us to equality, and without the government, we’ll never make it. Black America has suffered from this delusion since the 1960s. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve now made affiliation with the Democratic Party an aspect of the black American identity. No matter who the Democratic nominee is, they get 90 percent of the black vote in every single election. If you are black and not a Democrat, it’s said you’re not authentically black—the civil rights leadership vigorously enforces that. So you have this disjuncture in black life: we’re culturally conservative, but politically, we are far, far left."

A moment of silence

We discussed Wallace v. Jaffree in con law class today. I let slip my impatience with the majority opinion, which could be said to mistake the promotion of religious freedom for the promotion of religion. But at least John Paul Stevens didn’t go as far as these folks are prepared to go. Hat tip: Religion Clause.

Jeffrey Hart’s latest IED

Today’s LAT offers this Ineffectually Explosive Diatribe by Jeffrey Hart, who uses vast oversimplifications to accuse George W. Bush of being a right-wing ideologue.

Hart’s own position doesn’t seem to be that of a straightforwardly traditionalist conservative, crunchy or otherwise. In some respects (abortion and stem cell research), he sounds libertarian. In others (Iraq), he stands at the intersection of Buchananite isolationism and the Daily Kos. He favors conservation, as does Rod Dreher and as did Teddy Roosevelt (who probably would have invaded Iran by now).

I’ll agree that Hart is no ideologue, but I’m not convinced that he’s anything other than confused.

Jonah Goldberg’s takedown is quite effective. For further background on Hart’s current dyspepsia, there’s this, this, this, this, and, finally, this.

More of my Vendetta against "V for Vendetta"

Newsweek’s movie reviewer, Jeff Giles, has little good to say about "V for Vendetta":

V for Vendetta" will get its share of dismissive reviews—probably more than enough to convince hard-core fans that the movie was simply too smart and dangerous to be given safe passage. In point of fact, though, "Vendetta" is not good. The film may spark interesting debates—about the nature of terrorism and governments, about the inalienable right of artists to shock and provoke—but what we’re dealing with is a lackluster comic-book movie that thinks terrorist is a synonym for revolutionary.

Nothing I see in this review leads me to believe that it’s a dramatization of Locke’s Two Treatises, as some commenters here have suggested. For instance, the hated symbol of the oppressive government, it turns out, is a modified crucifix (so much for encouraging pious Muslims to overthrow the mullahs in Iran). The "graphic novel" (euphemism for "big comic book") on which it’s based was written in protest against the Thatcher government in Britain (we all know what a totalitarian Maggie was). And:

as adapted by the Wachowski brothers and directed by their protégé James McTeigue, the movie plays like a clumsy assault on post-9/11 paranoia. It references "America’s war," uses imagery direct from Abu Ghraib and contains dialogue likely to offend anyone who’s not, say, a suicide bomber.

My only consolation is that, because the main characters are neither black nor gay, the film is unlikely to receive any Academy Awards.

China’s Book of Virtues?

China is worried about the"greed" I mean wave of common sense that has hit their people in the wake of their economic boom. Apparently they don’t all like being good little socialists living like dogs in the countryside anymore. So their propaganda machine is out in full force to extoll the virtues of modest living. This could be interesting to watch.

Out-producing them!

Yet another article on the low birthrates among the secular left in America as well as Europe. Along with Mark Steyn it suggests an interesting and (perhaps?) more fun way to defeat the left.

Teach it John!

Teacher’s Unions, in response to John Stossel’s series of articles and the television special about their death grip on the schools, have a new demand. They want Stossel to seek a new career. They want him to try his hand at teaching. Their objections to his arguments are pretty standard and he quite easily destroys them. But I hope he takes them up on their challenge nonetheless. That would make for fantastic T.V.!

Bloomberg for Emperor??

I’m not a fan of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but this is very funny.

From censure to impeachment?

Let’s assume for the moment that Bush’s approval ratings are really around 36%
with about 60% disapproval. If you were a member of the opposition party wouldn’t you go after this guy is a very serious way. After all, the guy is really vulnerable. Yet, if his numbers are really so low, then why is Senator Feingold’s attempt to censure the president--which the MSM has spent as much time on as the supposed exhaustion of the White House staff--being met with silence by other Dems in the Senate, including Chuck Schumer, who is not capable of silence? The answer is this: Feingold is doing this just to get noticed, he is trying to run for president and therefore doesn’t care about anything else (including what may be useful for his party); but the other Dems understand that talking about a censure motion now means that they will have to talk about impeachment before the 2006 elections, and they don’t want to do that. That is not in their interest. If they talk about this before the elections, they have no chance to win back either house. This WSJ editorial explains.

David Brooks as undergraduate advisor

Katie Newmark calls our attention to David Brooks’s column of college advice (scroll down a bit to find it), which I didn’t see since it’s behind the TimesSelect firewall.

I’d add Tocqueville, The Federalist, and Lincoln to the list of must-reads, but endorse, with varying degrees of enthusiasm all his advice. What think you, gentle readers?

Adoption and the culture war

This week’s TAE Online column deals with the close nexus between the arguments over gay adoption and same-sex marriage, developing points I began to make here.

I’m increasingly convinced that adoption is in some ways the pivotal issue, with political ramifications for our conflicts over abortion and marriage, as I argued here.

Update: While I’m at it, this Get Religion post is crucial for making sense of the numbers often cited by advocates of gay adoptions and gay marriage. By Mollie Ziegler’s reckoning, every gay household with children must "care for an average of 36 to 84 kids."

Update #2:
Jennifer Roback Morse writes knowledgeably about the foster care system, arguing that it "has not yet recovered from the sexual revolution." Another choice nugget:

In other words, the child welfare law has institutionalized the least defensible features of the sexual revolution. Sex is an entitlement. The consequences of sex are all negotiable. Kids are an afterthought.

This is why the question of what gays do or don’t do is beside the point. The most enthusiastic advocate of gay parenting has to admit that it is an untried social experiment whose full ramifications are unknown.

Jeff Jacoby is characteristically eloquent on the Catholic Charities of Boston case, which I discussed here. A snippet:

The church’s request for a conscience clause should have been unobjectionable, at least to anyone whose priority is rescuing kids from foster care. Those who spurned that request out of hand must believe that adoption is designed primarily for the benefit of adults, not children. The end of Catholic Charities’ involvement in adoption may suit the Human Rights Campaign. But it can only hurt the interests of the damaged and vulnerable children for whom Catholic Charities has long been a source of hope.

Is this a sign of things to come? In the name of nondiscrimination, will more states force religious organizations to swallow their principles or go out of business? Same-sex adoption is becoming increasingly common, but it is still highly controversial. Millions of Americans would readily agree that gay and lesbian couples can make loving parents, yet insist nevertheless that kids are better off with loving parents of both sexes. That is neither a radical view nor an intolerant one, but if the kneecapping of Catholic Charities is any indication, it may soon be forbidden.

Read the whole thing.


Politics as usual in Georgia

For the third year in a row, Governor Sonny Perdue’s effort to bring the Georgia Constitution’s religion provisions into accord with the First Amendment has failed, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority necessary in the state House. It was basically a straight party-line vote, with one Republican voting against, and two Democrats in favor of, the proposal. Oddly enough, Ron Sailor, Jr., the lone African-American and Democratic co-sponsor didn’t vote, perhaps because the Legislative Black Caucus had mobilized against it.

I draw two lessons from the defeat, which was orchestrated by the teachers’ unions. First, on the whole, at least so far as its legislative officeholders are concerned, lines up quite closely with its national counterpart. Almost all the conservative southern Democrats are now conservative southern Republicans. What’s left of the Democratic Party is either dominated by or aligned with the public sector unions, as is the national party.

Second, African-American Democrats are particularly concerned that a closer relationship between faith-based organizations and government may cost them votes. Randal Mangham, the only black Democrat to vote for the measure, has an M.Div. and community development experience, both of which might make him predisposed to favor the state analogue of President Bush’s faith-based initiative.

My advice to Governor Perdue is not to try again unless Republicans have the requisite 2/3 majority in both houses of the State Legislature, which I don’t foresee. We’ll just have to live with a number of long-standing and popular practices that are simply at odds with the state constitution, at least until the Freedom From Religion Foundation comes calling.

My most recent previous post on this subject (chock full of links) is here.

Tacujan and Democracy

If you haven’t already checked it out, Priscilla Tacujan has a very smart article on the main page of this site examining the question of democracy in Iraq and comparing their transition to that our experiment in the Philippines during the early part of the 20th century. The similarities are amazing and that does not bode well, she argues. If we are unclear about the nature of democracy, our success in spreading it will be limited as a result. She argues for eliminating all talk of so-called "self-determination" and group rights. Check it out.   

Adoption wars

You’ve probably heard by now that Catholic Charities of Boston is getting out of the adoption business, a real shame given that agency’s extaordinary work with difficult-to-adopt kids. The problem, as Boston College Law School Dean John Garvey patiently explains, is that Massachusetts insists upon applying its anti-discrimination laws to faith-based organizations that supply social services. Mitt Romney’s proposal to exempt fbo’s is, I fear, a non-starter in Massachusetts, where the legislature clearly seems to think that its vision of equality is more important than religious freedom. As Garvey also points out, the issue here is not simply that shekels bring shackles, but that the licensing legislation that permits agencies to provide adoption services prohibits discrimination.

The consequences of this dispute are far-reaching, not just in the provision of adoption services across the country, but also in the battles over abortion and gay marriage. I’ll have more to say about the latter in tomorrow’s TAE Online piece, and so will for the moment restrict myself to abortion.

Although there are disputes about this (see, for example, here, here, and here), there is a movement afoot among some defenders of abortion to concede that abortion is bad, even evil, and to search for other means of reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies (chiefly sex education and contraception). This move is often associated with the assertion that pro-life groups don’t do enough on their end to help women avoid or manage pregnancies they can’t handle on their own. Obviously, making provision for adoptions is one way that pro-life groups can undertake to help reduce the number of abortions, regardless of the state of abortion law.

But folks on the other side of the debate can compel religious conservatives to pay a high moral price for these efforts, making them acquiesce in and effectively endorse gay parenthood and, by extension, gay marriage. This could drive some of them, as it seems to have driven the Roman Catholic Church, out of the adoption business. It goes without saying that this isn’t good for the children. And it weakens the political position of those who are fighting to limit abortions, because they can be accused of not doing all they can to assist women who feel obligated to carry their babies to term, but can’t care for them. To keep up on one front of the culture war, they may be compelled to surrender on another.

Bush and entitlement growth

Following up on the conversation I initiated here, let me offer this article and this chart. While it would seem that proponents of smaller government would have reason to be unhappy with the Bush Administration’s record, the most rapid growth in entitlements seems to follow from the 1996 welfare reform applauded by conservatives of all stripes. Our solicitude for the working poor--who we hope will move toward ever greater self-sufficiency--has led to the expansion of Medicaid, food stamps (omitted from the on-line chart, but in the print edition, which I had lots of time to read this morning while waiting for our van to be serviced), child nutrition programs, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Pell Grants have also grown quite rapidly over the past five years.

All of this strikes me as consistent with the agenda of "compassionate conservatism," whose original purpose was eventually to build a culture of personal responsibility in place of the culture of government dependency. Transition costs will be high, as they would be if we moved from the current social security system to one more dependent upon individual retirement accounts. But the long-term future looks better, assuming that those newly independent and personally responsible folks act the way we expect them to.

Update: Jon Schaff has some interesting thoughts. For the most part, that portion of the conservative blogosphere that I patrol simply deplores the growth of government without considering whether there’s a method to the seeming madness. I’d love to see an argument that there’s no difference between spending that promotes self-sufficiency and responsibility, on the one hand, and spending that perpetuates dependency, on the other, or an argument that those who think that any government spending can promote the former are delusional. But most of what I’m seeing is some variation on the theme "big government is bad, and look how out of control it’s been during the Bush years." Have I missed something? I need links!

Beer from faucet

A woman in Norway gets beer from her kitchen faucet. A plumber made a mistake. Sure.

Anti-Semitism in France

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in France, according to this Boston Globe article.  

1994 and 2006

Michael Barone, one of those rare Solomon-like guys analyzing politics today, has a long blog on the 1994 elections (he was one of the first in 1994 to note that the Dems may be having a problem with incumbent House members). Inevitably, he compares 1994 with 2006:

"Some comments in conclusion. Examination of the above factors leads me to conclude that 2006 is not another 1994-at least not yet. But Democrats need only 15/40ths of a 1994 to win control. As I mentioned in my column, there has been an eerie, historically unusual continuity in the House vote in the last five elections, from 1996 to 2004: Republicans have won between 49 and 51 percent of the popular vote, Democrats between 46 and 48.5 percent. That’s also where you’ll find the percentages in the 2004 presidential race. And the regional and demographic political contours underneath them have been remarkably steady too. If those continue to prevail, a House majority is almost surely out of reach for the Democrats.

Some Democrats point to their party’s big lead in the polls’ generic vote questions-which party’s candidate will you vote for in the House? But over the last 10 years the Democrats have been ahead in the generic vote for almost all the time, and in that same time they have been behind in popular votes and in seats won in five straight House elections. Many Democratic pollsters acknowledge that the generic vote question doesn’t seem to be a good predictor of election outcomes.

One reason that it hasn’t been is that polls don’t reflect turnout. Current polls tend to show Democrats with a lead in party identification-37-28 percent in the CBS poll that showed Bush with 34 percent job approval. But the 2004 electorate as shown in the adjusted NEP exit poll was 37-37 percent–the most Republican electorate since the advent of random sample polling in 1935. The reason: the Republicans’ brilliant and mostly unheralded, volunteer-driven and networking turnout drive in 2004. John Kerry got 16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore; George W. Bush 2004 got 23 percent more popular votes than George W. Bush 2000. That means that Republicans have a larger reservoir of potential voters to draw on in this off-year election, when turnout will inevitably be lower than in the presidential year. They also have, more or less in place, the organization that produced that turnout. That’s a silent advantage for Republicans this year. It’s one reason that there seems to be optimism in the vicinity of Karl Rove’s office in the West Wing and Ken Mehlman’s at the Republican National Committee."

Oprah and Mansfield

I am told by a reliable source that the April issue of Oprah’s magazine (not on line yet) has an interview with Mansfield on manliness and Manliness. If this is true then the book will really outsell Bloom’s, as I’ve been predicting. Good.

Feingold’s maneuver

Russ Feingold says that he’s going to introduce a resolution censuring President Bush for the warrantless wiretapping. The first sentence of this story explains why, I think.

Fukuyama redux

Among other things, Bret Stephens wonders when precisely Francis Fukuyama changed his mind about Iraq--before or after he publicly applauded the downfall of Saddam Hussein. To be fair, Fukuyama’s April, 2003 WSJ piece is studiedly ambiguous and surely prescient regarding the challenges we have faced.

But if Fukuyama has evolved into a relatively weak multilateralist--as Stephens seems to suggest and as the NYT article I discussed also hints, as opposed to someone who favors making use of all the instruments necessary to promote our interests and regimes whose principles are consonant with our own, then I can’t follow him down that path. I will, however, have to find the time to read his new book.

Bush Republicans?

Daniel Casse attempts to explain how Reaganism can’t be the future of the Republican Party and how GWB might be onto something. Here’s the beginning of his explanation:

Rather than trying to unite his party behind less contentious issues, Bush has been steadily steering the Republican Party into policy areas where it never has never been very confident but that can no longer be ignored: healthcare, immigration, retirement. Coupled with national security, they have become some of the most contentious, pressing and divisive issues the country faces.

If he’s right (and I think that he has identified the big underlying domestic issues for the next generation), then it’s not clear that we can turn the clock back to 1980, however appealing that might seem.

Manliness, a short review

Others are now reading Mansfield’s Manliness. Some underemployed Hotspur sent this in: "No manly man would write a book explaining manliness, even if he could. He would be ashamed. This is the kind of thing women and womanish philosophers do. A manly man would be even more ashamed or less capable by nature, if possible, to write a review of a book explaining manliness. It was no surprise to me, then, that the first reviews I noticed of Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness were all written by women. But what was I doing reading reviews (by women no less!) of a book on manliness? It was as if I were not merely putting on mascara, but looking for new application techniques in Cosmo. I suppose I have sufficiently unmanned myself to write a review of my own. Desperately clinging to a shattered illusion of manhood, I will keep it short: Socrates will always need Achilles, but the women can get along without Socrates."

Sidewalk art

Amazing sidewalk art! (via The Corner).

No more "chinatown" and "projects"

Well, dog my cats! Sanity is returning to the University of Massachussets at Amherst: It is ending segregated housing.

Islam notes

Defend the Treaty of Westphalia, and what it wrought, or not? David Warren defends it, and thus hopes something like democracy is compatible with Islam? Yet, there is always doubt. Thoughtful and elegant. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian born woman American is becoming famous (via Al Jazeera) because she is attacking the Muslim clerics who have distorted (in her view) Islam for about 14 centuries. Is she still a Muslim? Is the King of Morocco a Muslim? Maybe treating Jihadists as if they had a mental disorder is the best way to go. Eugene Volokh is shocked just how tame those Danish cartoons (you can see them) are, "and therefore just how much the cartoons’ critics are demanding by arguing that the cartoons ought not be published, or even ought to be outlawed."

Covert CIA names found on net

This is not good. "The identities of 2,600 CIA employees and the locations of two dozen of the agency’s covert workplaces in the United States can be found easily through Internet searches, according to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune." Some were covert.

Laugh ’til you cry

The NYT interviews HCM on manliness. A sample:

I am beginning to wonder if you have ever spoken to a woman. Your ideas are so Victorian.

I have a young wife who grew up in the feminist revolution, and even though she is not a feminist, she wants to benefit from it. I wash the dishes, and I make the bed.

How young is she, exactly?

She’s 60. I’m 73.

Irony alert.

Gay adoption as wedge

Dahlia Litwick has to know that legal permission for gay adoption knocks the pins out from under the legal argument against gay marriage. If courts find that it’s O.K. for gay couples to adopt, then how can they not accept the argument that parents need the legal privileges of parenthood, i.e., marriage?

I’m perfectly willing to put the interests of children first here. If Litwick were willing to concede (as she is not) that boys and girls are better off with both fathers and mothers, I would be willing to concede that gay adoption is superior to languishing forever in foster care. If she wants to argue that a minimum of support and stability is all that we can ask for when we’re talking about what’s best for the child, I can’t agree.

Let me state it another way. Asking what’s best for the child returns us to the natural standard of human flourishing that proponents of gay marriage and adoption want us to abandon. Within an orientation toward the naturally best, there’s room for considerations of second-, third-, and fourth-best. But advocates of gay adoption and marriage don’t really want to accept that. Their agenda is ultimately about themselves, and only secondarily about what’s best for the children.

Church, state, and the original intent of evangelicalism

Steven Waldman reminds us that evangelicals sided with Jefferson, Madison, and other opponents of established religion in the Founding Era and in the early Republic. I can’t quarrel with him as far as he goes. There is a strong separationist strain, especially in the Baptist tradition, which is where much (but not quite all) of his evidence comes from. What’s more, some of the old arguments still have some significant resonance, especially when one speaks of shekels and shackles.

But I wonder if the old arguments didn’t take place against the backdrop of a confidence in a broadly Protestant culture, which would be embodied in public schools, for example. Thus the Northwest Ordinance takes for granted that religion would be taught in public schools. And public schools, where they existed throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, were, in effect, non-denominational Protestant schools. I would be interested to see if Waldman has any evidence that evangelicals explicitly disapproved of such schools, and dissociated themselves from them. I’d be surprised if there is any.

Given the secularized state of public schools today, not to mention the overall change in the public culture, then (if my surmise is correct) it’s not at all surprising that many contemporary evangelicals have opinions that differ from those of their forebears. What might have been an appropriate prudential calculation in 1789 or 1804 might not be an appropriate prudential calculation in 2006.

Pious the First

My review of Jimmy Carter’s book Our Endangered Values is up over at The Weekly Standard.

Sending a message?

President Bush spoke last night to the National Newspaper Association, noting at the end the ways in which the Congressional reaction to the ports deal could complicate our relationships with strategic allies. Here’s what he said:

My administration was satisfied that port security would not have been undermined by the agreement. Nevertheless, Congress was still very much opposed to it. My administration will continue to work with the Congress to provide a greater understanding of how these transactions are approved, in other words the process, and how we can improve that process in the future.

I’m concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East. In order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East. UAE is a committed ally in the war on terror. They are a key partner for our military in a critical region.

And outside of our own country, Dubai services more of our military -- military ships -- than any country in the world. They’re sharing intelligence so we can hunt down the terrorists. They’ve helped us shutdown a worldwide nuclear proliferation network run by A.Q. Khan. UAE is a valued and strategic partner. I’m committed to strengthening our relationship with the UAE and explaining why it’s important to Congress and the American people.

You can read stories about the speech and related issues
here, here, here, and here. What I find most striking is the demand on the part of some Congressional backbenchers that they still be permitted a vote so that they can go on the record with their disapproval of the deal. Is it really necessary to poke an ally in the eye after you’ve already kicked him in the groin? While a few members of Congress have displayed some significant leadership on this matter, all too many have simply exploited it for short-term political gain.

Now go re-read Jonah Goldberg’s piece.

Bishops respond to Catholic representatives

Here’s their statement and a story on it. The gist:

While it is always necessary to work to reduce the number of abortions by providing alternatives and help to vulnerable parents and children, Catholic teaching calls all Catholics to work actively to restrain, restrict and bring to an end the destruction of unborn human life.

As the Church carries out its central responsibility to teach clearly and help form consciences, and as Catholic legislators seek to act in accord with their own consciences, it is essential to remember that conscience must be consistent with fundamental moral principles. As members of the Church, all Catholics are obliged to shape our consciences in accord with the moral teaching of the Church.

This is a predictably stinging rebuke of the representatives’ statement, which I discussed here.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for February

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

Caleb Verbois

Erik S. Root

Jeff Rank

Brian Goins

Lynn Ford

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 March’s drawing.

Ramirez Cartoon

Alabama arsonists again

Thanks to Peter for saying such nice things about my Alabama arson piece. Had I waited longer to write it, I would have had even more to say about its "liberal education" aspect. Today’s Birmingham News has this story about the fall-out on the Birmingham-Southern College campus (current home of two of the alleged perpetrators and past home of the other). BSC has a very strong regional and national reputation and a solid affiliation with the United Methodist Church. The religious mission pervades at least one aspect of the campus life, as this paragraph from the story makes clear:

Birmingham-Southern College has long prided itself on the actions of students who have gone all over the world to perform good deeds as part of the college’s social service emphasis.

BSC students clearly get the social service emphasis of this mainline Protestant denomination, and the college goes to great lengths to promote it on, and presumably off, campus. This is not an unusual emphasis at a lot of "elite" liberal arts colleges, regardless of how strong their religious affiliation is. (We do it at my place, which hasn’t had a denominational affiliation since it was refounded early in the last century.)

But here’s the part of the article--a statement by BSC President David Pollick--that sticks in my craw:

Pollick said Thursday that the college has pledged to help burned churches rebuild, but not because the college feels responsible for the actions of its students.

"In this particular case, I don’t think we feel responsible at all. ... I don’t think there’s a sense of guilt or a sense of repentance. There’s nothing to repent," Pollick said. "We’re clearly in the limelight because they are our students."

If he meant to say that the students are ultimately responsible for their own actions, he’s right. If, however, he meant to absolve his institution of any responsibility for the souls of its students, then I don’t know how it can call itself a religiously-affiliated institution. Does the United Methodist Church not think that church members should care about what goes on in the heads and hearts of the young people for whom they, er, care?

Update: David Mills takes the argument in a slightly different direction, contending that subversion of conventional morality is part of a pervasive design at some places. He’s right, of course, though many of the institutions with which I’m familiar would not and could not avow that intention in public.

The new nationalism and socialism

Much can be said on this (unfortunate) perfect political storm having to do with the Dubai ports deal, and

Jonah Goldberg moves a long way toward saying the right things. Call it economic nationalism, economic patriotism, populist anger, it doesn’t matter, it is a combination of nationalism and socialism; the wrong right and the left coming together. It is most certainly not patriotism rightly understood. Goldberg is very clear on this. Read it and weep and then do something. Support freedom, be truly patriotic.

On the souls of our students

Joe has already commented briefly on the Alabama church fires and those three accused students, but in this article, the good professor nails it. These three young men--who seem to be from nice families, and attend good liberal arts collge--remind us what colleges should do, and no longer seem to do well. This truth isn’t pretty: we are not paying enough attention to the souls of our students. Nihilism stands at the door and we have opened it. Read it all.   

It’s Going to Be One of Those Days

Not even 9 am here in the east yet, and already two ridiculous news stories have cast a pall on an otherwise unseasonably warm (and much welcome) Friday.

First, the Washington Post offers this lame story from Eric Pianin (surely one of the most mediocre environmental reporters at any major paper) about novelist Eugene Linden, who has written a novel about climate change in the form of a "who-dunnit" murder mystery set over a span of 4,000 years. Can’t wait.

Then over at the New York Times, Sen. Jeffords (who??) and another author raise an alarm about the EPA’s proposed changes to their annual measure called the "Toxics Release Inventory" (TRI). The TRI is one of the most burdensome reporting programs of the government, and even the EPA notes its serious limitations as an indicator of chemical risk or environmental quality. Now, I actually review all 500 pages of the TRI every year, and every year the EPA prominently says this:

This information does not indicate whether (or to what degree) the public has been exposed to toxic chemicals. Therefore, no conclusions on the potential risks can be made based solely on this information (including any ranking information).

So everyone can relax. The EPA is probably doing something sensible for a change. Jeffords will soon be gone from the Senate, probably to be replaced by an open socialist (Bernie Sanders), which will at least mean truth in advertising for a change. And much deserved for Vermont.

Principle and history

James W. Ceaser has written some very good books, including this and this., and I think I’ve read them all and profited from them all. This one may be his best. It is called Nature and History in American Political Development. It was the inaugural Alexis de Tocqueville Lecture at Harvard in 2004 and has comments (chapters, really) from Jack Rakove, Nancy Rosenblum, and Rogers Smith. Ceasar’s lecture (about 100 pages, or half the book) is simply terrific. He traces what he calls foundational concepts throughout American history, from Nature as a permanent, unchanging, or standard of right, to the idea of the Historical School (tradition), and then to the Philosophy of History (progress). To be short about it: Jefferson says we did not need to search musty records to "investigate the laws and institutions of a semi-barbarous ancestry. We appealed to those of nature, and found them engraved in our hearts." Then compare Woodrow Wilson, who said this (at a Jefferson day celebration, no less!): "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface."

Ceasar understands that the two make claims of right. He artfully explains and interprets our history in light of this battle, explains how and why customary history is often sufficient to be used on behalf of natural right (see the Whigs elevation of tradition pre-1850’s), and then why Republicans (and then Lincoln’s statesmanship) came to see the necessity of an emphasis on nature again. And then Ceasar traces the
dark ages during the Reconstruction period when the Darwinian (Hegelian) ideas were allowed deep entry into American political life: "The original idea of natural right lost ground, and with it any plan for securing for the rights of all citizens."
Then came the Progressives--and Ceasar says that the name does not deceive--and their
full-throated attack on the idea of natural right, "making Progressivism the first major national movement to offer the concept of History as the nation’s primary foundational idea." He then talks about the present and how Progressivism has collapsed and how the new element has been introduced into American politics: "a restoration of the foundational concept of nature." And this has been done not on the basis of myth or convenient fiction (or something merely salutary), but "as something intelligible based on an account of the nature of human beings and of the political order."

You get the drift. Ceasar has it right, the essay is elegant and will lead you to all manner of good ideas. Get the book and chew on it.

Cindy Sheehan in Ohio

This news account from the Akron Beacon Journal announces an upcoming meeting of the Summit County Progressive Democrats--a meeting at which Cindy Sheehan is expected to speak. Akron is a short drive from Ashland, the meeting is free (so even starving college students can afford it) and it could be highly amusing. I’d love to hear what they think they’re going to do with Blackwell.

Our Manly Chief Justice

Chief Justice John Roberts gave a very well-received speech yesterday (his first since his swearing in) at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The event was sold out and even had the local television reporters gushing with enthusiasm about him. I can’t resist passing on this great line from his speech: You remember his precocious little son, Jack? Apparently when the little guy was told that his father had been named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and that this was a very important job, his face lit up and he asked, "Daddy . . . do you get a sword?"!

The Books of Virtue

Everyone recalls Bill Bennett’s best-selling compilation that became The Book of Virtues. Now, with the publication of Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness, we can now contemplate a whole bookshelf of virtues. Start with my Greatness, and then put in your onlne shopping cart James Bowman’s forthcoming book Honor, and add to it Joseph Epstein’s forthcoming book Friendship.

Manliness, Greatness, Honor, and Friendship. Soon to be an Ashbrook Center symposium?

Islam losing PR battle

The WaPo reports that a recent poll shows "a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence." The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001. This shouldn’t surprise us, of course. You Americans are still looking for the moderates. Keep looking.

And you thought Syriana was bad...

Next Friday V for Vendetta opens in theaters nationwide. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, the hero is a terrorist who blows up buildings and assassinates political leaders in an alternate reality world where the British government is vaguely fascist. Okay, nobody expects Hollywood to get behind our president, or the war in Iraq, but is it too much to ask that occasionally a studio make a movie in which the terrorists are the bad guys? This isn’t moral relativism; it’s moral inversion.

In the late 1930s, to help gin up support for rearmament and a more internationalist foreign policy, the Roosevelt administration pressured the big Hollywood studios into making anti-Nazi and pro-military films. If they didn’t, the administration vaguely hinted, there might be a need to nationalize the motion picture industry in the name of national security. Would that be too much to ask for today?

Faith-based initiative

I’ve written about this umpteen times before, but President Bush’s faith-based initiative is in the news again.

After the impressive faith-based response to Hurricane Katrina, who could doubt the effectiveness of fbo’s?

Here’s the report causing most of the current round of reporting, especially when taken together with the President’s order creating a faith-based office in DHS.

Update: For more news coverage, go here. For more of the same old, same old fulmination, go here and here.

Update #2: President Bush delivered a very Tocquevillian speech on his faith-based initiative today, calling attention as well to these achievements. This article highlights one aspect of the speech and indicates why presidential leadership is necessary--too many philanthropies seem unwilling or unable to support fbo’s.

More manliness

By all means, listen to Peter’s podcast interview with Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.; he described it aptly. If you want to see, as well as hear, HCM on this subject, ISI has video of a Cicero’s Podium debate on the subject here.

For those who’d prefer to read, here’s James Bowman’s review and here’s an interview conducted around the time of the videotaped debate.

An argument for the return of in loco parentis

Liberal arts college students setting church fires in Alabama. Here’s an account of the student response:

On the Birmingham-Southern campus, peers of the two students, who are active in the campus theater scene, expressed shock. Moseley “is a goofy guy who loves making people laugh,” said Ashley Pope, editor of the campus paper, The Hilltop News, which published an article yesterday (written before the revelations) about the two students’ promising acting careers. “I’ve never seen or heard of him committing evil or violent acts before and I never imagined that he would be capable of something like this.”

She added: “If I had to guess, he considered it to be a joke and it went way too far. He doesn’t always think about consequences of what he does, he acts spur of the moment. Nine churches, of course, suggest premeditation, so it is very out of character.”

The law requires that we treat them as adults, but they’re not, at least on more occasions than we’d like to imagine.

Update: It occurred to me that I might be misunderstood, so let me be clear. These college students should be charged as adults and, if found guilty, punished to the full extent of the law. The law to which I was referring above is the one that requires me to secure a student’s permission before I can communicate any sort of information to his or her parents. That’s the law that assumes, in effect, that college students no longer need "parenting." As this example indicates, some clearly do. Unfortunately for them, the "tough love" that holds them responsible is going to come from the judicial system. Unfortunately for the churches, the tough love didn’t come sooner.

AAUP on Rumsfeld

I’ve never thought of joining the AAUP; this vindicates my indifference. Whether or not there’s a military recruiter on campus has nothing to do with academic freedom, which I thought had to do with the freedom of teaching and inquiry (within the limits of the law of libel, say). I’m still in control of my syllabus. My research and writing agendas are unaffected. The university remains a big tent, in aspiration, if not necessarily always in fact.

A more grown-up view can be found here.

Socrates as Achilles at Harvard

As I said here the other day, I love Mansfield’s book Manliness. It is a tough and just assertion of manliness in a world that is quite confused. We had a brief conversation today, or, maybe better put, two real-men asserted things to one another (oh, but I flatter myself!). It’s out as a podcast on You Americans. Enjoy it and go buy the book. By the way, somebody with a lot of money should send a copy of the book not only to Larry Summers, but one to each member of the Harvard Corporation.

Abortion politics, after South Dakota

Get Religion calls our attention to this carefully-done LAT article on the way in which South Dakota’s virtually total abortion ban (covered very well by our friends at South Dakota Politics) is roiling both sides of the abortion debate. Folks who are pro-life worry that the prospect of hearing the inevitable court case will make the next Supreme Court nomination battle even more toxic. Some think that a more prudent strategy is to continue chipping away at the precedents and to continue to move public opinion in a pro-life direction.

On the other side, the pro-choice folks are divided between those who think it’s important strategically to give some ground on the moral question in order to protect the choice:

The liberal think tank Third Way is circulating a memo on Capitol Hill advising politicians who support abortion rights to recalibrate their message. Instead of stressing a woman’s right to choose, they should tell voters that they support "personal liberty," but accept that it’s a "moral responsibility" to reduce the number of abortions.

This strikes me as nothing new--it’s just a version of the old "safe, legal, and rare" formula, which I discussed (most recently) here. But for some, this apparently (and astoundingly) concedes too much:

Such tactical positioning infuriates Dr. Warren Hern, who runs an abortion clinic in Boulder, Colo. He, too, would like to see fewer women with unwanted pregnancies; he counsels all his patients on contraception. But in his view, the availability of safe, legal abortions should be a cause for national pride — not shame.

He urges politicians to respond to the South Dakota ban with statements like this: "Before 1973, women were dying like flies from illegal abortions. That has stopped, and it’s one of the great public health success stories of the 20th century."

Susan Hill agrees. She’s president of the National Women’s Health Organization, which runs abortion clinics in five states, and she has been flooded with calls and e-mails from supporters outraged at South Dakota’s ban.

Hill sees only one way to capitalize on that anger: a campaign to remind Americans that abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in this country. One out of every three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

"We need to make people realize that this is about them: Their family. Their daughter," Hill said.

Above all, she said: "We have to stop apologizing" for the nation’s abortion rate — and start mobilizing the millions of women "who believe it was the best choice for them."

While the new salience of the "safe, legal, and rare" strategy explains something of the recent letter from Catholic Democrats in the House, the latter indicates a problem the Democratic Party is going to have holding its coalition together.

In closing, I’ll note that my friend John Seery is afforded the last word in the LAT article: "There is no conventional wisdom at this point," he said. "The traditional camps aren’t pursuing the traditional strategies … All bets are off. We’re in a period of transition."

No More "Yuck Factor" for Polygamy?

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a piece for the now defunct Women’s Quarterly (still available on-line through The Claremont Institute) about the attempt of the National Organization for Women to embrace polygamy as an attractive alternative for feminists. I tried to show then that this was but the logical conclusion of many feminist arguments regarding sex and marriage. It was of a piece with the larger cultural war in which we were asked to reconsider all sexual taboos and open up our minds and hearts to things formerly considered perversion or oppression. Still, at the time it was so shocking to most people that NOW quickly tried to disassociate itself from the position it clearly had staked out at a Utah meeting. Emissaries of the group denounced my reporting in the Washington Times but ultimately could not deny that my sources said what they said; namely: "We fight for lesbian families and single parent families. I don’t know why we wouldn’t support this."

What a difference a decade makes! As Peter has noted before, HBO will be airing a new series called Big Love in which the characters involved are part of a polygamous relationship. Maggie Gallagher has written a punchy article about the dawning of this brave new world in entertainment. Most disturbing, she quotes the series’ co-creator Mark Olsen speaking in Newsweek: "Big Love is everything that every family faces, just times three. The yuck factor disappears and you just see human faces." Uh, sorry, but YUCK!

Ramirez Cartoon

The tart new Chief

I like this George Will column on the Supreme Court’s decision on military recruiters on campus. The Court came to the right conclusion and did it in an appealing way. Will likes the new Chief Justice: "Roberts’s shredding of the law schools’ arguments included a tartness that betrayed impatience with law professors who cannot understand pertinent distinctions."

Will the House Swing?

Jay Cost considers the number of open seats in Congressional races this year. The Dems may gain two from open seats, but cannot take back the House, he concludes. Good article. 

Warrantless surveillance

The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved a bill, sponsored by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, outlining procedures for warrantless wiretapping of communications in which one party is overseas and at least one party is suspected of belonging to or collaborating with a known terrorist group: the government can do so for 45 days, after which it must either seek a warrant from the FISA Court or certify that national security requires its continuation to a newly-created subcommittee. The Administration says that it welcomes this effort to "codify the President’s authority."

I find this reminiscent of the War Powers Resolution, which purports to establish procedures for introducing U.S. troops into combat situations. Presidents have always claimed inherent authority to do so and have regarded following the WPR as a kind of courtesy, rather than as a legal requirement. Similarly, no one should make the assumption here that the Bush Administration is conceding that it needs Congressional authorization to conduct this surveillance.

Democrats, Catholics, and evangelicals

This week’s TAE Online column discusses Democratic efforts to win over evangelicals and Catholics, building upon themes I began to develop here and here.

Parental notification and teen abortion

This NYT article, contending that parental notification laws have little effect on teen abortion rates, has gotten lots of attention. The University of Alabama’s Michael J. New has a different view. Using what he regards as more reliable numbers, he concludes:

[I]n three of the five other states analyzed by the Times reporters, I found significant reductions in the teen abortion rate after the passage of a parental-involvement law. In Texas, the teen abortion rate has fallen by 25 percent since the passage of the parental-notification law in 2000. Furthermore, both Virginia and South Dakota passed parental-notification laws in 1997. Since that time, the teen abortion rate in each state declined by over 33 percent.

It is true that in the remaining two states, Idaho and Tennessee, the passage of parental-involvement laws seems to have had little immediate short-term effect on each state’s teen abortion rate. However, additional information about each state provides some important context. Idaho already had one of the lowest teen abortion rates in the country prior to the passage of a parental-consent law. Similarly, Tennessee’s teen abortion rate fluctuated little in the years following the passage of its parental consent law in 2000. However, the Tennessee’s teen abortion rate fell sharply in the year before the passage of the law. It seems possible that Tennessee’s law might have played a role in preserving this decline.

You can find a more extensive version of the study on which this article is based here.

No war of ideas in Europe

Dutch Jewish novelist and commentator Leon de Winter (about whom more here) argues, in effect, that there is no war of ideas in Europe since the Europeans have surrendered. A taste:

But what does Western civilization mean in and to Europe? In the European welfare state, the system ensures that each individual can rely on maximum social security. Without doubt, the welfare state is the ultimate achievement of European civilization. But it did not come without a philosophy: the welfare state gave birth to a postmodern cultural relativism that underpins the tolerant, liberal, pacifistic and secular European societies of today.

Only the Earth is still a planet on which opposing forces collide. The welfare state, based on its provision of social services and the participation of reasonably acting civilians, is unable to respond to globalization or mass immigration. Its structures work as long as the system is closed. But because of vast changes in demographics and economics, the welfare state has become too expensive. All over Europe its fundaments are cracking.

This crisis is serious enough. The European political establishment is too preoccupied with its internal problems to even contemplate problems beyond its shores. Its philosophy holds that "soft power" alone can be brought to bear in any conflict between power blocs or ideologies or civilizations. That explains Europe’s inability or unwillingness to defend the freedom of speech in one of the smallest EU member states, Denmark, during the Cartoon War. That’s why there is near silence in Europe about the daily anti-Semitic provocations from Iran, which says that it’ll hit Jews worldwide if Israel tries to destroy the Iranian nuclear program.

The EU does not know why it should ever sacrifice its sons in military conflict. What sacred values are worth defending at such a high cost? The EU isn’t prepared to enter a conflict with Iran, with all its potentially devastating human casualties and economic hardships.

Read the whole thing.  


On the morning of May 6, 1945, Lou Dunst was literally at death’s door. A 19-year-old Ukrainian Jew in a Nazi concentration camp in Austria, he had crawled onto a pile of corpses outside the crematorium to perish. But that afternoon, Staff Sgt. Bob Persinger drove his tank "Lucky Lady" through the camp’s gates, liberating Dunst and the rest of Ebensee’s 18,000 prisoners. Dunst and Persinger met for the first time yesterday. Read the story and know why you are not a pacifist.

Desertion decline since 9/11

A short note on military desertion in the USA Today deserves notice: "At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001."

The decline of the West, part 467,321

Reese Witherspoon is related to John Witherspoon.

More Democrats and religion

Amy Sullivan writes about Democratic efforts to court moderate evangelicals. Her argument about their discomfort with the Republicans gives the lie to the "Republicans are theocrats" line, since she claims, pace Rod Dreher, that Republicans are much more serious about business interests than about religious interests. I can’t dispute the fact that there are "soulless capitalists" in the Republican Party, but I can’t help wondering whether evangelicals will ultimately fare any better with the Democrats. There will surely be a courtship, and there will be some sops thrown, but I’m dubious as to whether the Democrats can overcome their attachment to an essentially secular understanding of personal autonomy.

Of course, the concessions may be enough to detach some more evangelicals from the Republican coalition, at least for long enough to make an election cycle or two more interesting.

What’s more instructive, I think, is the suggestion that serious religious concerns, commitments, and affiliations don’t readily or directly track their political counterparts. Genuinely religious people are not solidly members of any political coalition since their concerns aren’t primarily political. Those who treat them in a merely political way are bound sooner or later to be unpleasantly (at least from their worldly point of view) surprised.

Update: Joseph Bottum offers a more explicitly political reading--focusing, of course, on abortion--of the Democrats’ religious dilemma than I do. I think that, as I said in an earlier post, the problem extends beyond abortion to a thoroughgoing attachment to human power of all sorts. While there may not be much humility and sense of limits in the Republican Party, there’s even less among the Democrats.

The war of ideas in Europe

Mike DeBow calls our attention to this speech on Europe and Islam. A snippet:

Put it another way: if you were Osama bin Laden at this moment, why would you leave the comfort of your own cave? Why risk turning on your mobile phone, dialling friends and family in order to plan the next mission, when the West is doing a nice job of self-destructing without you? Why bother beating on the infidels when the infidels are busy beating on themselves. Half a dozen low-ranking troops abuse Iraqi detainees and before you know it the Western elites claim (like Robert Fisk did in Britain’s Independent) that the West now has no moral authority and no right to act. And more and more Europeans nod sagely and agree how awful we are. Angela Merkel gets three hours with the President and uses her time to stand up for those poor little mujahideen holed up in Guantanamo who didn’t fight by the Geneva conventions and so I believe shouldn’t be treated as if they did.

For more along these lines, go here and here.

Supreme Court Rebuffs F.A.I.R.

As noted below, the Supreme Court today unanimously rebuffed many of the nation’s top law schools, upholding the federal Solomon Amendment, which requires schools receiving federal funding to permit military recruiters on campus.

In the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court first rejected a novel argument that had been put forward by the Harvard Law Faculty. It then turned to each of the many other arguments made by the F.A.I.R. organization, which brought the case, rejecting each of them in turn. The law schools are not forced to speak merely by permitting the military on campus for recruiting purposes, nor are they being forced to associate with the military in the way that James Dale had sought to associate with the Boy Scouts.

The Claremont Institute filed a brief in the case, and it seems to have had some influence, particulary on the Court’s holding that the Solomon Amendment was not an unconstitutional condition on federal spending because Congress could actually impose the military recruitment requirement even apart from the federal spending. Left unaddressed--though now getting a bit of a spotlight--is the fact, learned by many during the course of the litigation, that Harvard (with its $30BILLION endowment) receives more than $300 MILLION annually from the federal government. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Harvard faculty to start protesting that corporate welfare any time soon.

The most troubling aspect of the case was how easily many of our nation’s top legal scholars were tempted to ignore clear constitutional law in order to reach their preferred outcome. The Court’s unanimous slapdown of their ill-conceived claims would, in a more perfect world, convince the dons of the legal academy that the Court is not the place to play out political disputes. Unfortunately, that is not likely.

Military recruiters on campus

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Solomon Amendment, rejecting a First Amendment challenge to the requirement that institutions that take federal money have to permit military recruiters on campus. I’ll have more later, when I have the time to read the opinion. Power Line, which was all over this issue earlier (no time to provide links), is sure to have commentary later in the day. The Volokh Conspiracy already has a brief snippet from the opinion, while How Appealing has all the relevant links.

Jon Stewart, Conservative Sleeper Agent?

I gather there was some kind of movie awards show on last night--I never pay attention to these things--where the host, Jon Stewart, is said to have bombed badly. I confess to being a fan of Stewart on "The Daily Show," and that, since so many college kids get their only news and commentary from The Daily Show, I often use Daily Show clips in the political science course I teach at Georgetown, notwithstanding Stewart’s professed liberalism. I find it is a good way to loosen up students and get them talking in class.

But according to this article, Stewart is doing great damage to the "progressive" cause. Who knew? Maybe I should show even more Stewart clips in class.

November, 2006

According to this article, Democrats have yet to settle on a way of nationalizing the upcoming election, which could make it difficult for them to wrest Congress from the Republicans. The electoral math is against them (only 32 competitive House seats, 11 currently held by Democrats, 21 by Republicans): they can’t run the table without something like the 1994 Contract with America. I suspect that, whatever they say, they’re going to rely on something like Bush fatigue, to which the response probably will be a reliance on Bush fatigue fatigue. In other words, I don’t think that an essentially negative campaign (likely, because negativism has dominated the Democrats since November, 2000) will succeed, but I also don’t think the Democrats will be able to find anything else to unite them and energize their base. Just as the Republicans in 1998 looked like the party of Clinton hatred, so the Democrats in 2006 look like the party of Bush hatred. Right now, I’d bet the big changes, if they come at all, will come in 2008.

NYT Finally Dishes on "Brokeback Mountain"

Well sort of. In Sunday’s New York Times travel section, there is a long article on spring skiing at Jackson, Wyoming. Along the way, this paragraph appears:

With lactic acid searing our muscles, there was only one thing to do, especially since Jackson’s boutiques had all closed. . . That one thing Saturday night was: "Brokeback Mountain," playing at the Jackson Hole cinema. For $7.50 each, we learned just how popular the gay cowboy movie is here in the state in which it is set: we were two of the four people in the audience.

The NYT "public editor" can now point to this as proof of the Times balanced coverage of the movie.

More Democrats and religion

I’ve written about this before (see also here and here), but this article brings us up to date. From my own point of view, moralism without humility isn’t compelling, yet that seems to be what the Democrats are offering. The point of emphasizing (or at least including) personal morality is that it reminds us how far from godliness--how weak and dependent--we are.

Mansfieldian manliness

A review and an article, both written by women. Hat tip: The Politic

"Hippie Chimps" a dying breed?

Yes. You read that right. Hippie Chimps. The bonobo breed common to the Congo and known for resolving their conflicts and differences with sex rather than violence (Make Love Not War!) is having a rather hard time of it. This article outlines the details of the story (and is worth a quick read on many amusing levels). Apparently the strategy of these chimps is not working. For one thing--despite all their sex--the chimps only seem to produce one offspring per female every five years. Mark Steyn ought to have a word with them. And now, their peaceful ways are being disrupted by a violent enemy--man. It seems that the "sensual body rubs" and other forms of kneading these chimps engage in makes for a pretty tender and delicious meat. Poachers are getting big prices for these chimps. You gotta love the response from one policeman who admitted to illegally eating the chimps: "What can we do if bonobo meat is tasty?" he asked.

Ave Maria Town again

I’m not a Catholic, but I don’t regard Catholics as boring. Indeed, I would argue that the more backtracking in which the developers engage, the less distinctive and hence less interesting Ave Maria Town will be.

More here.

Hat tip: Mike DeBow.

Cap’n Crunchy

I’d sworn that I wouldn’t say another word about Crunchy Cons until I’d finished the book, but Jonah Goldberg seems to say almost everything that would seem to need to be said. I will still finish the book, and I probably won’t be able to resist saying a few things, but you’ll have to wait.

Muslims in Europe: integration or separatism?

This article by David Pryce-Jones (sorry, registration required) is a brief and useful history of how Muslims came to regard their presence as immigrants in the West as an opportunity to conquer it for Islam. He suggests that the crucial moment was “Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in 1979,” which shattered the previous live and let live atmosphere:

In his manner, he was confirming that there are a billion Muslims in the world, they have only to make themselves felt as such, and power will then accrue to them, concluding in rightful God-given conquest. More than a challenge, here was an updating of the ancient division of the world into the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-Harb. What he preached and exemplified has spread rapidly through one Muslim country after another, activating those who agreed with his dogmatic vision, as well as challenging those with alternative political, secular, or nationalist definitions of their societies. In response to Khomeini, the struggle for self-definition within the Dar al-Islam has left behind it a huge trail of sectarian and communal horrors in Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, Palestine, and elsewhere.

Including, we can add, Europe and America. If Pryce-Jones is right about the inspirational (to Muslims) character of the Iranian revolution, one is prompted to think that if Khomeini’s heirs succeed in their quest to acquire nuclear weapons, the West will be faced with a much bigger disaster than most people realize. On the other hand, by crushing that quest, the West might go far to reduce the problem of terrorism.

The essay lists some of the signs of the spread of Islam in Europe, as well as many examples of the amazing surrender and abasement of the multicultural European elite to this spread. The reaction of the elites is summed up by the President of the Italian Senate, who sarcastically described the West today as “a land of penitents beating their breast whenever someone strikes them.” (Incidentally, you hardly ever hear about an elite/mass distinction in Europe, one that would parallel our red state/blue state difference: does that exist in Europe?)

Pryce-Jones also makes the useful observation that the decades of Muslim immigration into Europe coincided with the project of the European political elite to centralize and unify Europe. This required citizens of historic nation-states to “acquire a new collective identity replacing their ancient individual nationalities, calling into question all the moral, legal, and cultural features of their heritage.” But, while the old attachments and beliefs have withered, nothing solid has replaced them. In other words, just as the Muslims arrived in large numbers, radicalized by Iran, Europe was profoundly weakened internally. For the author’s pessimistic view of where this will probably end, see his last paragraph.

My weekend

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and I am attending this conference on it over the weekend at Indiana University. I’m looking forward to it. The Hungarians stood alone in 1956 and they failed. After the revolution was crushed a Soviet general was quoted as saying something to this effect: "We will not leave Hungary until crayfish learn to whistle." Well, it turned out that crayfish could be taught and free Hungary is no longer alone. And the Soviet general--and the thing that gave him his title--is dead. And I’m reading Mansfield’s Manliness.

Hollywood and Osama

"Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor." The rest is Charles Krauthammer at his best. 

Catholic Democrats

Earlier this week, 55 Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives issued a brief "Statement of Principles." Here’s its core:

We are committed to making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the poor and disadvantaged, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and ensuring that all Americans of every faith are given meaningful opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country. That commitment is fulfilled in different ways by legislators but includes: reducing the rising rates of poverty; increasing access to education for all; pressing for increased access to health care; and taking seriously the decision to go to war. Each of these issues challenges our obligations as Catholics to community and helping those in need.

We envision a world in which every child belongs to a loving family and agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life and the undesirability of abortion—we do not celebrate its practice. Each of us is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term. We believe this includes promoting alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, and improving access to children’s healthcare and child care, as well as policies that encourage paternal and maternal responsibility.

In all these issues, we seek the Church’s guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience. In recognizing the Church’s role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas. Yet we believe we can speak to the fundamental issues that unite us as Catholics and lend our voices to changing the political debate -- a debate that often fails to reflect and encompass the depth and complexity of these issues.

I assume that the statement was drafted so as to gain the largest possible number of signatures; hence the reference in the first of the above paragaphs to the different ways in which the commitment to the basic Catholic social teaching could be embodied in laws and policies. Reasonable Catholics can disagree about how best to promote these ends. We may not be sure about which measures work best, about which levers in human nature we should be pressing now. (See, for example,
this conference.)

But it strikes me that there’s a difference between accommodating prudential disagreements about how to achieve a prospective good and silence regarding legislative efforts to limit access to abortions. There’s no reason why one cannot both undertake efforts to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and move toward taking abortion off the table as a last-resort means of birth control. The statement’s silence regarding the latter is telling. Taken together with its almost-Protestant emphasis on "the primacy of conscience," the statement amounts to an evasion of the Church’s clearly-stated position on abortion.

Steve Dillard and Robert Araujo get it. I’m not sure that E.J. Dionne, Jr. does.

I wonder as well whether there are any Catholic members of the House who didn’t sign this statement.

Update: See this article and this article, as well as the first comment below. I pretended to be a social scientist for a few minutes and found the following: there are probably only 71 Catholics in the House at present (Robert Menendez having moved to the Senate and not having been replaced yet); and one, Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, is not a voting member. That leaves 15 Catholic Democrats in the House who didn’t sign the statement. Of the fifteen, six (Costello and Lipinski of Illinois, Cuellar of Texas, Kanjorski and Murtha of Pennsylvanis, and McNulty of New York) are pronouncedly anti-abortion (having earned a score of 25 or less from NARAL in 2005); one (Hinojosa of Texas) is a "moderate," earning a 45 from NARAL; the other eight have scores ranging from 85 (Kaptur of Ohio) to 100 (Bishop, Higgins, and Rangell of New York, Dingell of Michigan, Kucinich of Ohio, Tauscher of California, and Visclosky of Indiana). Of the signatories, 39 are on the high end of NARAL’s range, five are in the middle, and 11 look like pro-lifers (Langevin of Rhode Island, Kildee and Stupak of Michigan, Ryan of Ohio, Doyle and Holden of Pennsylvania, Taylor of Mississippi, Marshall of Georgia, Salazar of Colorado, Oberstar of Minnesota, and Lynch of Massachusetts).

While NARAL scores are a bit problematical as measures of a representative’s real position on abortion (I bow to anyone who has local knowledge that would correct or refine my classifications), they’re the best I can do on the fly. Given the political cover that the statement gives to Catholic representatives who score high on NARAL’s scale, I’m most interested in why eight of them didn’t sign. Are they the most "radically" pro-abortion Catholics in the House? Or the least willing to concede anything to those who believe that it’s possible for reasonable people to disagree about social welfare policy? I’m curious. Anyone know anything about the particulars?

Update #2: See Wheat and Weeds for another interesting point: there’s nothing in the statement about the principle of subsidiarity (see the quotes from the W&W post here), as well as this longer exploration of the tensions between subsidiarity and the welfare state.

Update #3: Democrats for Life supports the "Statement of Principles."

Conference wrap-up

I survived hosting our conference, thanks to the able and efficient assistance of our PR Office, housekeeping crew, and food service (great lunch!). I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends, including one I hadn’t seen since 1979. The Oglethorpe and Berry students and alumni acquitted themselves well as presenters, commentators, and questioners.

From my rather idiosyncratic point of view, the two most interesting issues broached during the course of the day were these. First, while many argue that liberal education is in substantial tension with civic education (raising and examining questions that the latter has to regard on some level as settled or closed), is it not the case that the former depends upon the latter, not only materially but intellectually? We always begin within an horizon constituted by moral and civic education, even if we engage with it critically. And our critical engagement itself can’t be sustained unless its material conditions are protected. We professors and students can’t do what we do without those who are protecting our freedom. I’m always grateful for the risks they take and the sacrifices they make.

The second issue, which hovered around the whole conference was crystallized by a question Peter Lawler posed to our Cicero’s Podium debaters (video will be posted soon at this site). Jim Stoner and Jerry Weinberger agreed that a free society requires something, Jim arguing for the traditional virtues (courage, moderation, justice, and prudence) and Jerry for self-interest properly understood, which is to say somewhat as Benjamin Franklin would have understood it. Both conceptions of "virtue" seem to operate within an horizon that recognizes human finitude, but Franklin and modern biotechnology both look forward to the infinite expansion of human life and power. Would the freedom from human limitations promised by biotechnology liberate us as well from the demand to be virtuous, certainly in Stoner’s but also in Weinberger’s sense? If we become creators, not creatures, above all, why must we be courageous, moderate, just, and prudent? If we explode all our limitations, what would it mean to understand our self-interest properly? Good questions.

Update: Mike DeBow has posted the text of his conference contribution here and some general commentary on the conference here. Thanks, Mike!

Black flight to charter schools

Katherine Kersten says that something interesting is happening in Minneapolis: "African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods are rapidly abandoning the district public schools, going to charter schools, and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools. Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools."  

Hooray for Capitalism

In the latest issue of the Atlantic, Clive Crook wonders why, even though capitalism has brought the United States to a level of prosperity unprecedented in world history, Americans still regard it with distrust. Traditionally conservatives have blamed liberals in Hollywood for consistently producing films in which businessmen are the villains, but Crook has his doubts:

In this...the culture is not really driving attitudes. It is expressing widely held (though not very closely examined) beliefs; it is itself responding to demand.

The problem, he claims, lies not with popular culture but rather with many of capitalism’s defenders. Economists, for instance, have become so concerned with "math, quantitative methods, and narrow specialization" that they have all but given up demonstrating that markets work (and, given their use of jargon, it’s questionable whether anyone would understand them if they took it up again). But the worst of all are the corporate leaders and conservative politicians who emerge as defenders of the free market:

They speak of capitalism’s virtues, then get down to the real business of subsidies, import protection, tax relief, and other favors. People see through it, and find their prejudices confirmed. The conflation of the interests of business with the interests of the nation is virtually an organizing principle of the Right. Yet in reality those interests are usually opposed--as Adam Smith again pointed out. What best serves a nation’s economic interests is competition--it’s why markets work, when they do. But competition hurts individual businesses, and most CEOs hate it. Don’t look there for intellectual enlightenment.

Latin bumper sticker

How is this for a bumper sticker? "Si hoc adfixum in obice legere potes, et liberaliter educatus et nimis propinquus ades." (If you can read this bumper sticker, you are both very well educated, and much too close.) (via Oxblog).

Those fragile Russian men

Sergei Kapitsa asserts that Russia’s population has dropped by 9.5 million, caused by the high rate of early death among males.

The End of Fukuyama

According to Christopher Hitchens, Francis Fukluyama’s latest book--and F.F.’s latest "thinking"--is a mess, a boring one at that. Hitchens is sad, but not surprised.

USSR as assassins

This is shocking news, just shocking. An Italian parliamentary investigative commission said in a report that the leaders of the former

Soviet Union were behind the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981. I can’t believe it. I’m utterly surprised and shocked.

A word to the wise

If you’re a high-profile Hispanic academic, it’s hard to have friends in high places.

Ralph Ellison

Today is Ralph Ellison’s birthday. Invisible Man is one of the great American novels. Also see Lucas Morel’s book on Ellison, the best on him, in my opinion. This is the PBS, American Master’s spot on Ellison. If you have read nothing of Ellison’s, read the very short story "In a Strange Country," in the volume Flying Home and Other Stories. Also see former Ashbrook Scholar Carolyn Garris’s thesis, Improvisation and Self-Emancipation in the Novels of Ralph Ellison. She got the Charles E. Parton Award for it in 2005. Happy Birthday Mr. Ellison!

"Whitman viewed the spoken idiom of Negro Americans as a source for a native grand opera. Its
flexibility, its musicality, its rhythms, freewheeling diction and metaphors, as projected in Negro
American folklore, were absorbed by the creators of our great nineteenth-century literature even
when the majority of blacks were still enslaved. Mark Twain celebrated it in the prose of
Huckleberry Finn; without the presence of blacks, the book could not have been written. No
Huck and Jim, no American novel as we know it. For not only is the black man a co-creator of
the language that Mark Twain raised to the level of literary eloquence, but Jim’s condition as
American and Huck’s commitment to freedom are the moral center of the novel." R.W.E.

Y’all come

The annual Oglethorpe-Berry conference will take place tomorrow on the lovely Oglethorpe campus. (I don’t mean thereby to diminish Berry’s charms. Its 10,000 26,000 acres are breathtaking.)

The overall theme of the conference is "politics, culture, and constitutional republicanism." We have a panel of undergraduate papers, showcasing some of the best work done by Oglethorpe and Berry students (9 a.m.), a faculty roundtable on liberal education and civic education (10:45 a.m.), a panel of graduate students (mostly Oglethorpe and Berry alums) on the general topic of "Politics, Law and Culture" (1:45 p.m.) and a "Cicero’s Podium" debate (3:30 p.m.), featuring our old friends Jim Stoner and Jerry Weinberger. All the events (with the exception of lunch) will take place in Lupton Auditorium.

Other program participants include Peter Lawler, Michael Bailey, Michael Papazian, and Sam Crowe of Berry, Brad Smith, Misha Smith, and Michelle Harrington of Oglethorpe, Mike DeBow of Samford and Southern Appeal, Mark Kremer of Kennesaw State, Matt Oberrieder of Mercer, and Hunter Baker of Southern Appeal. The graduate programs represented on our graduate panel are Baylor Political Science, Baylor’s J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at UVA. ISI’s Chad Kifer will also be with us.

I’m looking forward to a lot of interesting conversations throughout the course of the day. Come join us. If you identify yourself as a reader of NLT, I’ll invite you to lunch.

Midterm elections

As we know, the election season is heating up and much ink is going to be spilled on it all, never mind the sleep that will be lost by those deeply involved. And, of course, the Dems are salivating because this is a midterm election in the second term of a president whose party controls both houses. They are very hopeful. Andrew Busch writes the first of many articles on the midterm elections. In this one he recounts the various ways that midterm elections have affected the course of American politics over the years. Enjoy.  

Jaffa in the Journal

Peter mentions his podcast with the good professor below. You might want to augment your daily dose of Jaffa with this article on "the Central Idea" in today’s Opinion Journal.  

Where’s McCarthy when you need him?

The latest issue of the Weekly Standard features a story about the latest outrage from academia, only this time it doesn’t involve the faculty. Apparently the student senate at the University of Washington voted down a resolution to construct a monument on campus in honor of Col. Greg "Pappy" Boyington, one of the university’s better-known alumni. Boyington, for the history-deficient, was a U.S. marine fighter ace during World War II. He shot down 28 Japanese aircraft before becoming a prisoner of war, and was tortured and nearly starved to death by his captors.

During debate on the resolution, student senator Jill Edwards "questioned whether it was appropriate to honor a person who killed other people," according to the minutes of the meeting. Karl Smith said Boyington should be honored for his service, but Smith was also bothered by the killing thing. Senator Ashley Miller was against the resolution because "many monuments at UW commemorate rich white men." The debate went downhill from there.

Interestingly, back in 1998 the university constructed a monument to some war veterans, but not ones who served in the U.S. armed forces. The monument was built in honor of the eleven University of Washington alumni who fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Again for the history-deficient, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was created, financed, and commanded by the Communist International, which was in turn controlled by Josef Stalin.

As for Pappy Boyington, the article concludes:

Pappy Boyington would’ve laughed at Student Senator Ashley Miller’s "rich white man" crack. A beer salesman is hardly rich, and Boyington had money problems most of his life. As for being white: he was part Sioux. But he was fully a man. At least she got that right.

Jaffa podcast

I had a chance to talk with Harry V. Jaffa the other day. I wanted to talk about Lincoln or Macbeth, but he chose the clash of civilizations. I’ll talk with him about other matters in the weeks and months following. As with the other "You Americans" podcasts, they are meant to be informal and conversational, rather than interviews. The good professor was recovering from a cold; his voice is weaker and less clear than is normal, so be attentive. It’s worth it.

Leadership, politics, and the ports

That’s the subject of this week’s TAE Online column. Bottom line: everyone’s to blame, beginning with the White House, which failed to anticipate how badly (almost) everyone else would behave.