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?
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, isnt 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 TruthBearer.org, 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 hold...you know the rest. This is all pretty serious, isnt it? I wonder what will happen when someone starts making an argument that that other pillar of barbarism should be allowed. But, isnt 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?
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 wed 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. Wouldnt Husseins 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.
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, shes 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 Sharlets 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?
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.
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 were on our way to a new and different culture of dependency, then the increasingly popular equation GWB=LBJ makes sense.
Power Lines John Hinderaker criticizes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburgs 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 Breyers 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 doesnt understand--or at least doesnt 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 Id 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 doesnt, 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, Id vote them into office.
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 Wilsons victory in 1912.
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.
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 everybodys soul. Its an example that tyranny can never stamp out the desire to be free. Its 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.
Richard John Neuhaus regards the Archdiocese of Bostons 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 Vischers post is his allusion to the possibility that the state might be interested in the quality of the pool of potential adoptive parents. If its 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 havent been taught, apparently, is that, under this vision of law, there is no such thing as justice.
Ive been reading John Funds pieces--heres 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 its 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, its 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, its not clear to me that the national interest is served by his sojourn at Yale. Bringing him to Ashland, now thats another story.
The good folks over at The Remedy have taken up a pretty serious discussion of Priscilla Tacujans article on "self-determination" and Iraqs transition to democracy. Richard Samuelson wonders if the progressives are responsible for some of the structural/constitutional problems that are becoming evident in the weakening of the upper house democratic legislatures. Thoughtful stuff.
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."
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 didnt go as far as these folks are prepared to go. Hat tip: Religion Clause.
Todays LAT offers this Ineffectually Explosive Diatribe by Jeffrey Hart, who uses vast oversimplifications to accuse George W. Bush of being a right-wing ideologue.
Harts own position doesnt 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).
Ill agree that Hart is no ideologue, but Im not convinced that hes anything other than confused.
Newsweeks 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 were 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 its a dramatization of Lockes 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 its 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 "Americas war," uses imagery direct from Abu Ghraib and contains dialogue likely to offend anyone whos 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 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 dont 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.
Teachers Unions, in response to John Stossels 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.!
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.
Id 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?
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."
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.
The churchs 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.
For the third year in a row, Governor Sonny Perdues effort to bring the Georgia Constitutions 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 didnt 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. Whats 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 Bushs 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 dont foresee. Well 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.
If you havent 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.
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.
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 theres a method to the seeming madness. Id love to see an argument that theres 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 Im seeing is some variation on the theme "big government is bad, and look how out of control its been during the Bush years." Have I missed something? I need links!
A woman in Norway gets beer from her kitchen faucet. A plumber made a mistake. Sure.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise in France, according to this Boston Globe article.
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. Thats also where youll 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 partys big lead in the polls generic vote questions-which partys 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 doesnt seem to be a good predictor of election outcomes.
One reason that it hasnt been is that polls dont 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. Thats a silent advantage for Republicans this year. Its one reason that there seems to be optimism in the vicinity of Karl Roves office in the West Wing and Ken Mehlmans at the Republican National Committee."
I am told by a reliable source that the April issue of Oprahs magazine (not on line yet) has an interview with Mansfield on manliness and Manliness. If this is true then the book will really outsell Blooms, as Ive been predicting. Good.
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, Fukuyamas 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 cant follow him down that path. I will, however, have to find the time to read his new book.
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.
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."
Well, dog my cats! Sanity is returning to the University of Massachussets at Amherst: It is ending segregated housing.
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."
This is not good. "The identities of 2,600 CIA employees and the locations of two dozen of the agencys covert workplaces in the United States can be found easily through Internet searches, according to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune." Some were covert.