Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

They got me

I saw and enjoyed the James Bond movie last night. Pretty fantastic and weird and hard to believe stuff. Well, maybe not. Look at this Litvinenko affair in London. That the former Soviet spy was murdered is the only thing that doesn’t seem to be in dispute, although exactly how wasn’t clear yesterday; and by who is still not perfectly clear; but now it seems that radiation is involved; someone said it was like a tiny nuclear weapon going off inside him. Vladimir Putin (formerly of the KGB) says the guy’s death is a "provocation." Cold war ghosts are being seen. Michael Barone has just read Robert Gates’ (formerly of the CIA) memoirs and thinks that Gates understands that there are bad guys in the world. Artemy Troitsky is not an optimist about the way of Russia.

Post-Thanksgiving (election) leftovers

John Podhoretz offers this interesting take:

Conservatives will be arguing over the meaning of the defeat and how to change things for the better. But we need to understand a key aspect of the defeat - a cultural aspect.

For decades, Americans whose lives did not revolve around politics believed that Democrats were trying to use politics to revise the rules of society - to force America to "evolve" in a Left-liberal direction.

They didn’t like the bossiness implied by this attitude and they were appalled by the unintended consequences of the changes instituted by left-liberals, mainly when it came to confiscatory tax policy and the refusal to maintain social order and safe streets. These consequences were marks of profound incompetence in the management of the country, and the Democrats were punished for it.

But over in the past few years, Americans began to get the sense that Republicans had become the party of social revision - that it had allowed its own ideological predilections to run riot and that a new form of political correctness had overtaken the party that had seemed more sensible and more in line with their way of thinking.

For JPod to make this argument, he has to buy into the potency of the "theocracy" snake oil being peddled on the Left, or at least to assume that that snake oil had been purchased by a significant portion of the electorate. This doesn’t square with the concerns about corruption that emerged in the exit polls, nor with the economic populism that seems to have marked some of the victorious, relatively socially conservative Democrats. Are we seeing a reemergence of what was once called the "Perotista" vote, a bloc whose anti-corporate feelings dominate any social concerns it might have?

The Case Against Romney

Our thread friend Clint makes the key points. He’s suspiciously "evolved" in a socially conservative direction; he’s governed the suspiciously liberal state of Massachusetts, and the evangelicals will never vote for a Mormon--suspicious or not. (Make sure you read the first response to Clint’s post for the complete picture.) As I said, all the active candidates have obvious and significant weaknesses.

Newt: Candidate as Movement

Here’s a sympathetic account of Gingrich’s unusual approach to pursuing the nomination. One good thing: He’s been studying his Lincoln. I have to admit I’ve never been impressed with his character. He’s too much about inventing and reinventing, and we in Georgia may just know too much to think of Newt as Oval Office material. But the pool is shallow enough that we have to accord his effort serious consideration.

More Thanksgiving

Here’s the text of the President’s remarks yesterday. He’s very catholic in his approach to giving thanks, and not at all theocratic.

The Power Line guys are worth a gander.

And while we’re being thankful, let’s be grateful for Bush 41, who knows how to speak to ingrates.

Seconding Peter’s sentiments

Gratitude is indeed our virtue, and it’s neither simply classical nor simply liberal. Hobbes does indeed endorse it, out of calculation, but that’s not the kind of thanks we have in mind.

So have a happy, humble, and grateful Thanksgiving!

Update: No, I’m not changing my mind about my wishes to you, but I am calling your attention to George Will’s piece on the Thanksgiving tradition and Jon Meacham’s, which tries to make the Thanksgiving tradition a little more anodyne than I’d like it. You might also be interested in this report, noting this poll.

Romney in 2008?

Let’s face it: There’s a real dearth of Republican presidential candidates, and the ones now active have pretty obvious and significant flaws. Now’s the time to begin giving Romney a serious look. Consider his claim, for example, that he’s the most conservative candidate and more honest than McCain on the social issues.

Have a Thankful Thanksgiving!

Today’s virtue is gratitude. It isn’t described by Aristotle, who claims the magnanimous man prefers to forget his debts. It isn’t described by Locke, who claims that God and nature gave us virtually worthless materials. But it is THE conservative virtue.

More Thanksgiving thoughts

Here. We have a lot for which to be thankful, as long as we remember what giving thanks means.

Science or scientism?

You be the judge.

Turkey Day Trappings

Joe asks what’s up on the menu at Schloss Hayward (not casa or chez Hayward, as will become clear momentarily), and indeed I am deep into preparations for a mondo-Turkey Day bash. Turns out I am hosting casts of thousands, as I decided to bring over the orhpaned foreign students from the TFAS Capital Semester Program that I teach through Georgetown University who wouldn’t otherwise have anywhere to to on Thanksgiving. I’m having four Germans (hence Schloss Hayward his holiday), a Lebanese, an Albanian, an Azerbaijani, and an Uzbeki over for turkey, along with a few other friends.

So I’m going to grill--as in barbecue grill, not oven-roast--two brined turkeys. One is being brined as I speak, er, blog in Victoria Taylor’s spicy brining blend, and I’m brining the second in traditional brining blend.

The white wine selection will be Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2005 "Karia" chardonnay, since proprietor Warren Winiarski was once a Strauss student (and Machiavelli scholar) who turned from scholarship to winemaking many years ago, and whose stunning upset victory at the 1976 Paris tasting put Napa Valley reds on the world map (and, as a special bonus, infuriated the French. If only they’d known Warren is a Straussian, they’d have arrested him, no doubt).

The red wine will beEtude 2004 Carneros pinot noir. I’m a big fan of Etude winemaker Tony Soter, but more importantly, I dated his very pretty sister a few times back in college. Nowadays she works for The New Yorker, so we have fine arguments while quaffing her brother’s even finer wines.

If I have time I’ll try to snap some photos of the action grilling and get them posted here on Friday.

Internet in a village in Bangladesh

Nice story in the WaPo on a village in Bangladesh and how it is now connected to the internet via cell phones. And this, in a place where no land lines exist, often no electricity or even running water. I am amazed by such reports. I encountered massive use of cell phones (if not for the first time, close) in Estonia, sixty miles from Finland, but still within USSR/Russia, a few months after the collapse of the evil empire and found people talking on the Finnish network. Even the bad guys couldn’t stop it. Very useful.

Life, Liberty, and Thanksgiving Day Football

Family, food and football. The great American Thanksgiving Day triumvirate. Not necessarily in that order of importance, of course.

The games themselves are often dogs (or turkeys, as my Maine correspondent points out). We watch, nevertheless, because that’s what we do, and hope for the best. The first game is traditionally in Detroit, where the Lions are traditionally, how shall we say, competitively challenged. This year we get Detroit versus disappointing Miami, definitely a turkey. The second game is always in Dallas. Cowboy lovers may rejoice but the vast majority of the NFL nation hates Dallas with a passion. Forget this America’s team business. (Full disclosure: Yes, I am a Redskins fan.) It’s hard to eat your stuffing when suffering from indigestion caused by the preening of T.O. or some other Dallas diva. Of course Dallas might actually lose, which would make the pumpkin pie taste just fine. But the NFL generally conspires to see that Dallas doesn’t, unless Leon Lett is involved or Jake Plummer has a career day. This year, with hapless Tampa Bay coming to Texas Stadium, indigestion looms.

The third game might save Thanksgiving. Yes, there is a third game this year, for the first time, a night game pitting two playoff-worthy teams and long-time AFC West rivals, Denver and Kansas City. You may not know this because a majority of the country will not be able to see the game. New York City, for instance, will be in the dark. Indigestion on a massive scale. The game will be shown only on the fledgling NFL Network (and on satellite TV), which is not carried by the nation’s three largest cable companies.

The biggest game as it turns out is not on the field but in the corporate suites. The NFL owns and operates the NFL Network and wants to build upon it as the centerpiece of a media entertainment empire that will generate untold billions of dollars in addition to the current rights and licensing fees. The NFL covets its independent control of that revenue stream so that it can continue to maintain its stranglehold on the American sporting public (and, not incidentally, maintain peace among the owners and with the players). The cable companies – monopolies in their own right – are not happy with the hefty additional fees that the NFL wants to charge. They see where
this story is going. At the very least the cable giants would like to put the network on their premium tiers, allowing them easily to pass on the costs, and then some, to their subscribers – something much tougher to do on the basic tier.

The NFL is betting that it will win this showdown; that fans will be so outraged at being denied their natural right to see all the football on Thanksgiving Day that Time Warner, et al., will come crawling back to the bargaining table. Ah, corporate monopoly capitalism, isn’t it wonderful?

In the meantime millions of Americans, full of turkey but still hungry for football, will have no choice but to see if perhaps "It’s a Wonderful Life" is being re-run on some channel or other. This recalls the Congressional hearings a few years back, when the NFL was warned solemnly that it dare not think about moving the Super Bowl off broadcast TV.

Fortunately, Charlottesville, VA is one of the fortunate few NFL Network subscribers, on premium service to be sure. I’d send you updates but I’m going to be too busy eating leftovers and watching the game. Happy Thanksgiving.

Multiculturalism or the law?

In Colorado, a Saudi man (a PhD student at CU) gets 27 years for sexually assaulting a woman and holding her as a virtual holding a woman as a slave for four years.
Unsurprisingly, the Saudi government is upset, and man claims anti-Muslim bias. The AP dispatch reads, in part:

Blaming anti-Muslim sentiment and denying wrongdoing, a Saudi Arabian citizen was sentenced Thursday to 28 years to life in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an Indonesian housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave for four years.

"Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit," Homaidan Al-Turki told the judge in a voice choked with emotion. "Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution."

Later in the story, we find this:

Al-Turki said he treated the woman the same way any observant Muslim family would treat a daughter.

"The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors," he said.

Atheist Wars are the Real Killers

Dinesh D’Souza writes a nice piece taking apart the oft repeated myth that religion is the culprit in all the most destructive wars of history.

This reminds me of a time sitting in one of the required (but not so interesting or rigorous) courses I took in graduate school. The professor, who was a nice man but not the most engaging teacher, made the point in passing that more people had died in the name of religion than anything else in the history of the world. It sort of woke up the room for one brief shining moment. The lefties in the class became engaged as they finally heard a claim being staked--something that was not milquetoast from their point of view. I looked around the room at some of my like-minded friends and we prepared to go to battle. But we overlooked one of our more quiet friends who usually sat in the back of the room and rarely made comments in class. To our amazement, he slowly raised his hand. When called upon he asked the following question, "What religion, exactly, were Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot working to advance?" And then he put his hand down, put his head down, and went back to reading whatever it was that he brought with him to pass the time. There was stunned silence in the room. Class was hurriedly dismissed.


Jeepers, Knippenberg must have had an extra bowl of Wheaties today.

New mag and website

Here’s the site of The American, the successor to The American Enterprise, edited by James Glassman, once of TechCentralStation. It looks like it’s worth bookmarking.

If you haven’t had enough about the election yet

Read this Pew analysis, which works through the exit polls in some interesting ways. A couple of highlights: the "God gap" didn’t really narrow all that much (indeed, in one way of looking at it, it widened); and young (18-29) voters went very strongly for Democratic candidates. Note also that Catholics were the swingers, though those who attend weekly still narrowly supported Republican candidates.

A question about this to which I don’t have the answer: were Democrats more effective than Republicans at revving up young supporters, or has the character of youthful political allegiance really changed that much?

If this doesn’t satisfy your political jones, Jay Cost offers one of his wonderfully wonkish analyses at RCP.

GWB’s human rights activism

In Vietnam. Sorry it took me so long to get to this.

Galston on Dworkin

This review, by Bill Galston, gives me some hope for the sensibility of the Democratic center, and even of the Left, on the most vital issue of the day. If we can get this one right, we’ll likely be around to argue about the other stuff.

Thanksgiving as a public holiday

Here’s President Bush’s 2006 Thanksgiving Proclamation, which contains two explicit references to God and one mention of "our Lord." There are four variations on the words blessed and blessing and two references to prayer.

If you don’t feel like calling the ACLU, you might read these two essays, which I wrote last year, having read all the Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations I could find.

GWB’s, by the way, are far from the most explicitly religious--that honor might actually go to FDR’s, though they’d have a few competitors. On the other hand, nothing surpasses the sheer banality of Richard Nixon’s 1971 proclamation:

One of the splendid events which shape man’s destiny occurred when a small band of people, believing in the essential sanctity of their own being, went in search of a land in which their individuality might be the highest national value, before any arbitrary limitation or duty placed upon some men by the whim or design of others.

They went in search of a land where they might live out their own commitment to their own ideal of human freedom. In the purpose of their search, the human spirit found its ultimate definition, and in the product of their search, its ultimate expression. They found the land they sought, and it was a difficult land, but it was rich. With their sacrifices they brought forth its riches, and laid the foundation for a new nation.

We now know the inspiration for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s ruminations on the mystery of human life.

Update: The new and improved version of my meditation on the significance of giving thanks can be found here.

Hanson on the Will to Fight

Another brilliant, if not cheerful, piece by Victor Davis Hanson on our current struggle.   

And to think I didn’t believe them....

Well, I can’t say they didn’t warn me. They told me that if Bush was elected to a second term it wouldn’t be long before someone proposed bringing back the draft.

First Mel Gibson. . .

and now Michael ("Kramer") Richards. Check out this video of his racist tirade. I don’t know what he thought he was trying to do, but he’d better ring up Mel’s handlers real fast. Is there something in the water in Hollywood? (Yes, it’s called alcohol, and other substances—Ed.)

Giving thanks to...?

Conservatives, especially the religious variety, who, according to Arthur C. Brooks, are more generous than secular liberals with their time and money. Here’s his website, where you can take a glance at the book and its arguments.

Hat tip: Mirror of Justice.

What are the odds?

Minutes after Ohio State’s 42-39 win over Michigan, the Ohio Lottery’s Pick Four game came up with 4-2-3-9 as the winner. The odds are 10,000 to 1. I believe the German word for luck is the same as happiness. It’s possible.

I had a very pleasant time with Hayward in the "insidious California sunshine", flew back to Cleveland, got my car in light snow and drove to Michigan. Gluck.

No Rematch

As the Buckeye and Wolverine fans recover from their post-game euphoria or depression, the drum-beat has begun for a rematch in the BCS national championship game. Actually the campaign began weeks before the game ("Let’s say it’s a close, exciting game and Michigan, the road team, loses . . .") The fact that Michigan remains #2 in the latest BCS rankings adds to the speculation.

I am opposed to a rematch, assuming there is another team available with strong credentials. USC clearly qualifies as such if the Trojans win out. I think they will, despite a scratchy game against Cal (the Bears had two TDs called back on replay reversals). I haven’t been impressed with Notre Dame all season. In fact UCLA might be the tougher opponent for USC given the unpredictability of rivalry games. The stat geeks seem to think that USC will move ahead of Michigan in the BCS rankings if that’s that case. The more difficult case is for the winner of Florida-Arkansas in the SEC Championship game, if that team finishes with one loss. Florida has won with smoke and mirrors all season and Arkansas was crushed by USC in its opener. I would still vote for that team. If Notre Dame wins out . . . that’s the toughest case to make, as Michigan beat the Irish like a drum in South Bend.

Yes, Michigan is arguably the second best team in the country – maybe even co-number one, if you use the typical (gamblers’) standard that home field is worth three points. A personal foul penalty on a helmet-to-helmet hit against Troy Smith late in the fourth quarter perhaps saved the game for Ohio State. But. The BCS is based on the premise that water rises to its own level, that games naturally occur late in the season that eliminate contenders. Louisville beat West Virginia, then Rutgers beat Louisville, then Rutgers lost its claim by losing to Cincinnati. Texas was in good position – for a rematch with Ohio State by the way – but lost to Kansas State. Florida will play Arkansas. USC will play Notre Dame.

For better or worse the second half of the regular season is the playoff. Michigan had its chance. It was in the Horseshoe, yes. The death of Bo Schembechler must be taken into account, yes. But life isn’t fair. I think a good standard for a national championship contender under the current system is that it must win its own conference (Notre Dame being the outlier – maybe use its record against other Top 10 teams.)

Do I like the BCS? No. But it is what it is. If you want a rematch and don’t get it, then revolt. Boycott the national championship game and all who sponsor it, and demand a real playoff.

A comment on the game itself – Ohio State won because Jim Tressel came out aggressively on offense and stayed that way throughout the entire game. The great fault of coaches in all sports is to tighten up in big games, especially when they have the lead and most especially when they’ve suffered a setback (in OSU’s case, three turnovers). This is true on offense, defense and special teams. One can’t be Jerry Granville/Mouse Davis crazy but close games between two good teams are typically decided by the team that is on the balls of its feet, not on its heels.

A Study That Shows That Some Human Beings Are Less Well Protected Than Endangered Species

Here are what should be some disturbing reflections on the near disappearance of Americans with Down Syndrome. This is, from one view, an example of eugenics that really works. From another, it’s early evidence of the misanthropy that animates our biotechnological quest for perfect babies.