Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bowling for Dollars

As we wait for the start of the USC-UCLA game, let me recommend to you Sally Jenkins’ column on the BCS. Many of her criticisms are familiar, particularly the injustice of holding a self-declared national champion game, without a playoff structure, six weeks or more after the end of the regular season.

The trenchant part of her argument deals with the real, potential and perceived corruption of the BCS system. While watching the Nevada-Boise State game, it certainly occurred to me that the WAC commissioner and the other teams in the conference must be rooting for Boise State, given the additional money at stake if the Broncos qualified for a BCS bowl game. Might this attitude filter down in subtle or less subtle ways to referees, timers and replay booth officials? On the other hand, TV and corporate sponsors might have a vested interest in keeping little Boise State out of a BCS bowl game if the Broncos crowded out, say Notre Dame. The networks can certainly affect the context of games in various ways. Ask Brian Billick (in a different context) how thrilled he was to play a late-season, Thursday night game on the road against a division rival.

As I’ve said before, unless one is willing to uproot big-time college athletics entirely, as George Will seems to want to do, one is always going to face such problems. They are certainly nothing new. Jenkins argues that “there is nothing wrong with wealth in college sports -- TV and corporate largesse pays for countless athletes to compete in less visible, nonprofitable sports. It’s naive to say money should be removed from the game, and anyway, cash and college football have always gone hand in hand. . . . The problem is not the ever-swelling profits, but that they are flowing into a crooked, jimmy-rigged BCS system that stresses the bottom line over the lines on the field.”

Wealth is perhaps is more of a problem that Jenkins’ thinks. Money corrupts and the bigger the payday, the greater the temptation to corruption. The BCS is the worst but not the only example. I’m not sure where that threshold – the tipping point, as Donald Rumsfeld would say – is, but the ever-increasing, in-your-face involvement of corporations as sponsors surely pushes us in this direction. I don’t mean to make an anti-corporate argument – the free market is a good thing, and deep-pocket boosters and alumni deep have their well-known drawbacks. And there was never a golden age where business didn’t matter.

But Jenkins rightly points out the risk that the public purpose of the game subtly changes, from sportsmanship and athletic excellence to profit and promotion. Fans used to throw roses or oranges on the field to signal their bowl game hopes. As the Nevada-Boise State game wound down, the Bronco players donned sombreros – and waved bags of TOSTITOs® Brand Chips. In case you didn’t notice, you’ll be reminded a thousand times between now and January that it is, after all, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Linker again

The Friar calls our attention to this interview with Damon Linker, who explains his sojourn at FT in the following way:

I was more conservative when I landed the job at First Things back in 2001. (At the time I was working as a speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and thought of myself as a Giuliani Republican.) I supported what I thought was the main goal of the magazine: to oppose restrictions on serious believers participating in politics. As a pluralist, such restrictions seemed arbitrary and unfair to me; there was no reason why pious citizens should be forbidden from having a seat at the table of public debate and discussion. But after a year or so at the journal, I began to see that the magazine didn’t so much want these citizens to be granted a seat at the table as it want them to take over the table. At the same time, the policies of President Bush, which the journal supported wholeheartedly, drove me to the left in protest. So the magazine and I were moving in opposite directions. Before long, it was obvious that I’d have to resign.

Stated most charitably, it sounds like both sides hadn’t quite done due diligence before DL joined FT.

It also seems to me that DL’s current "neo-Rawlsian" position is some distance from the pluralism he says he professed back in 2001.

Brownback’s Presidential Temptation?

The editors of the NATIONAL REVIEW ask the Kansas senator not to succumb to that temptation. But just as some want Tancredo in the race to highlight the immigration issues, others might look forward to Brownback’s smart and articulate emphasis on the "life" issues. Some might say that the senator lapses into moralistic McCain-ism when it comes to issues such as campaign finance and immigration and is not really conservative at all. Others might respond that, although a Catholic convert, Brownback is the candidate who best mirrors the conservatism of evangelicals. They, studies show, are often relatively indifferent to economic conservatism and getting tough on illegals. (Conservative Catholics, of course, tend to share those opinions.) I would say that the Brownback brand of compassionate conservatism could conceivably go a long way in the Republican primaries, although it would surely be a tough sell in November. I don’t agree with the NR editors that his candidacy, by itself, has the potential to fracture the party.

Left, right, and evangelical

This Get Religion post provides a nice tour of the horizon of the politics of contemporary evangelicalism. Among the articles it cites is this one from Newsweek. A couple of questions are worth chewing on. First, is there such a thing as an evangelical teaching on politics (let alone on theology)? Second, does the biblical teaching on social justice require the establishment of a massive public welfare bureaucracy and redistributionist tax policy? It seems to me, as I’ve said many a time before, that a concern for widows and orphans doesn’t by itself yield the platform of the Democratic Party. What works best in helping the neediest isn’t dictated by the Bible, but rather by some combination of experience and a social science aware of the limitations of any merely empirical study of the human things.

Tancredo for President?

Some of our thread friends have criticized NLT for ignoring long-shot candidates for the Republican nomination. One name mentioned is Rep. Ton Tancredo of Colorado. But he may be lacking in, say, prudence. He called Miami "a Third World country" and refused to apologize when Gov. Bush rose to his city’s defense. I promise to call attention to other neglected or at this point inactive candidates when time permits.

War and the university

Andrew Delbanco wonders whether it’s possible for folks on (elite) university campuses to think clearly about war, in the absence of much contact with those who have real experience with it. Is this an argument for the return of ROTC to the colleges and universities who have banished it? Or for elite institutions (especially) to set aside scholarship funds for veterans?

Religion and politics in ’08

Leaving aside the Romney question, which will (I’m sure) provoke all sorts of animated discussion and speculation before and after he delivers his big speech on faith and politics, there’s plenty to think about heading into ’08. Dan Gilgoff offers a bit of a preview, pointing to a brawl brewing on the Democrats’ side of the aisle and a challenge, on the Republicans’ side, to find room at the table for conservative evangelicals and everyone else they need to win elections. I’m betting that Gilgoff is right that the 78% share of the evangelical vote that GWB won in 2004 is unlikely to be repeated, and that even 70% would be hard to hold in the face of concerted Democratic courtship (led, for example, by a sweet-talking Barack Obama, who will surely eventually be subject to real scrutiny).

To be on the winning side, both conservative evangelicals and liberal secularists have to be willing to live with the proverbial half a loaf. In that regard, I think of the 2006 result as salutary and instructive. (But let me hasten to add that I continue to lie awake nights worrying about the fate of the Supreme Court and of our struggles against those dedicated to our destruction, by which I don’t mean Nancy Pelosi and company.)

David Brooks on domestic policy

My friend Will Hinton blogs about an event he attended keynoted by David Brooks. Brooks apparently doesn’t have anything nice to say about GWB’s domestic policy.

Update: The leader of NLT’s loyal opposition notes that Brooks’s current column, behind the execrable TimesSelect firewall, addresses this theme.

Who’s Out There Worth Reading?

Reading the morning’s local Sports Pages remains one of life’s simple pleasures, one still not matched by watching the various TV highlight shows or searching the internet. We make a quick scan for a favorite writer or columnist, to confirm or challenge our opinion or cast new light on a familiar subject. We remember gentleman Jim Murray fondly. Local sportswriters provide a distinctive flavor and context to their fans’ teams. Old standbys in Sports Illustrated or former beat writers like Peter Gammons serve the greater good. What does Peter think about Albert Pujols’ recent comments that legitimate MVP candidates must have put their teams into the playoffs?

I’d like to solicit suggestions from NLT readers about their favorite local/national sports writers or journalists, to be followed over time. Here are the first nominations from NLT’s outpost in Maine: Gordon Edes, Boston Globe, on baseball. Bob Ryan, the Globe, on whatever the hell strikes his fancy. Peter King and Paul Zimmerman, SI, on football. Wilbon & Kornheiser in the Washington Post, if Tony the K ever bothers to write anymore.


Don’t miss Michelle Malkin’s post about how Fox News got the best of Howard Dean. In French, no less.

Public policy for parents

Yuval Levin has a very important and interesting article in The Weekly Standard. Arguing that it’s time for conservatives to develop a post-Reagan domestic policy to appeals to the aspirations of middle-class parents, he offers a compelling analysis and some interesting first steps. A couple of snippets:

[T]he "present crisis" Reagan addressed is long past. Because of welfare reform and conservative pro-family policies, it is no longer fair to say that government is the greatest threat to American families. In the wake of Reagan’s and Bush’s tax cuts, the federal government is not the drain on Americans’ pocketbooks or the deadweight on economic dynamism that it was in 1981. The federal government remains too big and overbearing. But opposition to government can no longer do as the primary means of advancing
the interests of families and markets--which has been and should remain the twofold aim of American conservatives.


The left, for now at least, offers little to oppose, and does little but oppose the right. American conservatives, in turn, are no longer primarily an opposition movement but a governing movement. That does not mean conservatives will win every election; but it means they will set the tone. And they will have to think hard about what advancing the interests of families and free markets now entails.

This means thinking afresh about the tension at the heart of the conservative worldview: between the interests of the family and traditional values on the one hand and the interests of the market and economic freedom on the other. Government was never the source of that tension, it was merely a common foe. Limited government is inherent to any conservative governing vision, but if those who run the government no longer explicitly seek to undermine capitalism and traditionalism--if government is no longer the greatest danger to both--then what is that greatest danger? And what is the best way to serve the causes of family and freedom?


Unease is perhaps the best way to describe the mood of American voters today. The terrorist threat and the war are of course primary sources of worry. But in survey after survey, there emerges a clear sense of disquiet about all manner of issues besides national security. More than half of Americans with health insurance expressed concern about losing their coverage in a USA Today poll in September. Exit polling in this fall’s election found that less than a third of all voters believe children born today will grow up to be better off than their parents. Similar signs of underlying anxiety emerge from countless other surveys.


In fact, today’s disquiet seems less the panic of a drowning man than the angst of an overachiever. The worry of middle- and lower-middle-class families arises from a genuine tension between the two things they most eagerly strive to do: build families and build wealth. That tension, and the disquiet it causes, is especially acute for parents. Indeed, Americans in the middle class and what used to be called the working class would be better conceived of today as the parenting class. Their concerns and aspirations are no longer focused on their standing in the workplace, as they were when our political vocabulary was coming of age, but on balancing the pursuits of family and prosperity.

The members of the parenting class do not live on the edge of poverty. But they are anxious about their ability to meet their high aims, like affording a decent college for their children, getting the most from their health care dollar, and (in our increasingly older society) meeting the needs of their aging parents.

This is the anxiety of a successful capitalist economy filled with individuals who want to lead good lives. It is an anxiety produced by the kind of society conservatives seek to promote. It therefore calls for a response from the right, from those who share the aspiration to balance families and free markets, not those who think the system is about to collapse (and deserves to fall).

There’s much more here, all of it thought-provoking. Read it and have at it.

Kidney Markets?

Here’s an article I just published on that issue. Also read the excellent article by Ben Hippen in the same issue of THE NEW ATLANTIS.

A Study Shows Giuliani in the Lead

Here’s an upbeat appraisal of Giuliani’s chances and qualifications for the nomination. He certainly has that most deserved good will and name recognition. Conventional wisdom is that he’s not conservative enough to prevail in the primaries. But if the choice narrows to between him and McCain, that’s far from clear. His record, charm, eloquence, and competence might carry him through. To repeat: All the active candidates have obvious and significant flaws. But it’s not so obvious that Rudy’s are more significant than any of the others.

New citizenship exam

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services has announced a pilot test of a new nationalization exam. The USCIS will administer the pilot exam in early 2007 to about 5,000 citizenship applicants in ten cities. There are new questions, an emphasis on democratic concepts and principles, rather just rote memorization of facts. This change seems quite good to me, but I will study the matter (after tomorrow’s Annual Dinner). This is the Fact Sheet on the exam. This includes all the questions and answers for the pilot exam.

Unnerving news

Here is a bit of unnerving news from Sky News (UK), via Drudge: "Traces of radiation have been detected at 12 locations by experts probing the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Home Secretary John Reid revealed 24 unnamed locations have been or are currently being monitored, including two British Airways panes." Read on.

A talk

A few weeks ago I spoke at the Heritage Foundation on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was personal, informal, a conversational talk, and certainly not a lecture on the politics of the Revolution. It is longer than most podcast I have put out, but may suit you just in case you are taking a longer than normal walk with your iPod. (Of course you can listen to it at your computer too, just by clicking on the little mp3 logo). Next week I will get back to a regular schedule with my podcasts. Some of the things I will want to be talking with folks about include the following themes: westerns, especially John Ford movies; Shakespeare, and why he remains so popular around the world; Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln; Washington’s friendship with Jefferson; why Xenophon should be taken more seriously; why reading aloud shouldn’t be allowed to die a quiet death; is civic education making a comeback? There will be other topics, by and by.

Let Them Eat Cake

What price headbands?

The Chicago Bills signed center Ben Wallace in the off-season to a $60 million dollar contact, on the assumption that his dominant inside presence – he’s a 4-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year – would elevate the team into serious title contention in the Eastern Conference. Wallace to date has been something of a bust, averaging just 9.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He has appeared disinterested. The Bulls have struggled, with a record at 5-9. In a game against the Knicks over the weekend, Big Ben wore a red headband. No big deal, right? While making his reputation with the Detroit Pistons, Wallace commonly wore a headband, along with an Afro that would make Dr. J proud, and various other creative hairstyles.

It turned out, however, that wearing a headband is against team rules. Bulls Coach Scott Skiles pulled Wallace out of the game. Controversy erupted. Skiles apparently established the rule because some malcontent players had worn goofy headbands in past years. Skiles is a graduate of the Tom Coughlin – or Captain Queeg, take your pick – school of coaching discipline. Sweat the small stuff. Rules are rules. Everyone is treated the same. No special favors. Wallace may not have known about the rule before he signed his contract but he was made aware of it long ago. It turns out that Skiles and Wallace have had other run-ins over team rules, including the mandatory taping of ankles and a headphones-only policy for music in the locker room. Wallace, who played only 20 minutes the previous game (zero points, zero rebounds), seemed to be picking a fight with his coach and the organization. Wallace protested that if anyone was being picked on, he was the offended party.

Spoiled athlete or over-controlling coach? The debate is a constant in modern, big-money sports. Most of us would happily wear a clown suit, or no suit at all, for a guaranteed $60 million contract. On the other hand, diplomacy may be in order. Wallace seems to have more than a bit of Manny Ramirez in him, with the constant need for special treatment and reassurance. Manny may have finally worn out his welcome but the Red Sox got a World Series out of him. Phil Jackson dealt with Dennis Rodman’s eccentricities by quietly fining him, early and often, and letting it go at that. Skiles admits that in his own playing days, he wasn’t exactly the model citizen. The key is how Wallace is viewed by his teammates – how disruptive he is – and that’s not easy to assess from the outside.

But the debate often has an interesting and troubling subtext. Wallace is black; Skiles and Bulls General Manager John Paxson are white. On more than a few radio talk shows and chat rooms, this is being portrayed by some as a racial matter – “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand.” The same argument was made about Andy Reid and T.O. Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans. David Stern and his dress code and crackdown on on-court misbehavior. The connection isn’t obvious to most of us. McNair’s shabby treatment seems to have been determined by class, not race – the lack of class by Tennessee. But not a few ordinary and high-profile blacks, hardly just the lunatic fringe, think otherwise. See William C. Rhoden’s recent book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete. Just something to keep in mind the next time a player-coach blowup occurs.


Steve reminded us that it is the great man’s birthday, and Rich Policz notes it too. When thinking of Churchill it might be useful to remember one of his great pleasures, and let’s do it using Kipling.
Here is his first speech as Prime Minister.

It’s That Day Again

Today is Winston Churchill’s birthday. I intend to take note by reading a few chapters of My Early Life, as all Ashbrook scholars are required to do before arriving for freshman year.

Meanwhile, why isn’t Young Winston, the film version of My Early Life available on DVD? (After all, The Wilderness Years is available on DVD.) Young Winston held up very well over time, and you can at least get used copies of the VHS version.

Free Frank Warner Strikes Again

Frank patiently presents plenty of evidence that leading Democrats are shameless or insane when they deny that al Qaida has a major role in fomenting violence in Iraq today. Plus (scroll down), Frank breaks the news that Castro will be dead within 40 days. His lung cancer has invaded his vital organs. Frank takes heart in the reasonable hope that the tyrants Fidel and Saddam will die in the same year.

Romney’s Faith-Based Initiative?

SLATE’s Dickerson says it’s time for Romney to "talk Mormon," to discuss his faith with the American people. Mere joking about misconceptions--Take my wives, please--isn’t sufficient. The emphasis should be on the relationship between his devotion to his religious duties and his conservative stands on political issues. But he shouldn’t have to talk about distinctively Mormon doctrine--such as the exaltation--or about his distinctively Mormon undergarments. Generally good advice...although I’d be more inclined to say that Romney could only benefit from getting everything out in the open.

Advice to Democrats: Stigmatize the South

to this NEW REPUBLIC article, studies now show that the Republicans have been reduced to a regional party that is primarily and increasingly animated by white racism. Democrats should be less reluctant to trumpet this fact and label Republican southerners as obstructionists impeding our nation’s progress. A decent party can’t carry the South, and it shouldn’t want to try. Instead, the way to victory is to mobilize the rest of the country against the recalcitrant region. (It goes without saying that I don’t agree with this advice, but it’s worth discussing.)

Democratic gains in the suburbs

This article takes note of this paper, about which I’ll have more to say when I read the whole thing. At the moment, note this:

Democrats made large gains in suburbia in this month’s elections, pushing Republican turf to the outer edges of major population centers in a trend that could signal trouble for the GOP, an analysis shows.

Democrats carried nearly 60% of the U.S. House vote in inner suburbs in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, up from about 53% in 2002, according to the analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

They received nearly 55% of the vote in the next ring of “mature” 20- and 30-year-old suburbs, with 45% going to Republicans and third-party candidates. In 2002, the last midterm election, Democrats received 50% of the vote there.

“Republicans are getting pushed to the fringes of the metropolis,” said sociologist Robert Lang, director of the institute. “They simply have to be more competitive in more suburbs,” he said, to win statewide and presidential races.

RCP’s John MacIntyre had this to say:

I think it is wise to be careful not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from the mid-term results, because of Iraq’s dominating influence over the election. There is no doubt that Republicans lost Independent and moderate voters, and that they lost voters in the suburbs. The real question is whether this is a one-time event or the beginning of a trend. Was 2006 more of a vote of no-confidence on U.S. Iraq policy, or was it the early stages of a real and sustained move among swing voters to the Democrats?

Sounds right to me, on first thought.

Update: I took a closer look at the paper and glanced at
this one comparing the 2000 and 2004 elections as well. There’s less new here than meets the eye. In 2000, Gore won 53.7% of the "top 50 metros’" vote; in 2004, Kerry won 53% of that vote; in 2006, Democratic Congressional candidates won 55% of it, a net gain of 1.3% since 2000. The change for various classifications of counties from 2006 to 2006 is as follows:

Core urban counties: 72.9% D (2000) to 76.4 D (2006)

Inner suburban counties: 56.3% D (2000) to 59.6% (2006)

Mature suburban counties: 51.7% D (2000) to 54.8% D (2006)

Emerging suburban counties: 44.4% D (2000) to 44.6% D (2006)

Exurbs: 40% D (2000) to 42.1% D (2006)

I’m inclined to think that the 2002 election understates typical Democratic support because of the lingering 9/11 effect. I’m also inclined to think that many of the Democratic gains in 2006 over 2000 are the result of the current unpopularity of the Iraq War, which I hope (but am not confident) will not have a lingering effect on the electoral prospects of the two parties. Bottom line: the "inner" and "mature" suburbs were already essentially Democratic in 2000, with only the inner really having become more so since then, and the mature only marginally Democratic in a year when "all things are equal" (as they clearly weren’t this year). It’s also worth noting that the population growth is almost all in the emerging suburbs and exurbs, which remain Republican strongholds, even in this relatively bad Republican year.

Politics on the web

This article describes some of the efforts, mostly of Democrats, to reach voters through the internet.

Hat tip: South Dakota Politics.

James Webb

This WaPo article on James Webb is worth reading. It gives a pretty good account of his style, even character. It won’t be easy, either for Bush, or Webb’s fellow Democrats, but it will be fun to watch.

It’s that time of year again

Chicago encourages organizers to drop New Line Cinema’s The Nativity Story as a sponsor of the city’s Christkindlmarket

Consider this:

"Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza," Jim Law, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, said in a statement.

Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the office, said the city does not want to appear to endorse one religion over another. While acknowledging that there is a nativity scene on the plaza, Gatziolis said there also will be representations of other faiths, including a Jewish menorah, all put up by private groups.

"We’ve worked hard to make sure there is a fair representation of all those faiths celebrating something special," said Gatziolis, who stressed the city did not order organizers not to allow the studio to be a sponsor. "If you add more for one faith over the others, it does tip the scale to that faith."

I would love to say that the ridiculous sensitivity extends only to Chicago city officials, but, unfortunately the event’s organizers have gotten into the act. Here’s their explanation of the "Christkindlsmarket":

Since 1999 Christkindlmarket’s Grand Opening is a special highlight during the celebration of the City of Chicago Annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony which always takes place on the First Friday after Thanksgiving Day. The Christkindl, the Christmas Fairy, is a cherished highlight during the Holiday Tree Lighting. The Christmas Fairy proclaims the opening of Christkindlmarket Chicago. The Christkindl is a holiday icon of the Christkindlesmarkt Nuremberg, Germany, Chicago’s sister market.

The Christmas Fairy???? Das Christkindl, as any German speaker knows, is the Christchild. Unfortunately, even the folks in Nurnberg have succumbed to a kind of political correctness.
Here’s the English version of their description of the "Christmas Angel," which is at least an improvement over the "Fairy." By contrast, the folks in Kitchener, Ontario get it right. Here, for those who are still reading, is the Wikipedia entry.

In any event, to discourage any mention of the Nativity in a festival that commemorates that very event (as anyone in attendance, at least those who don’t get all their information from marketers, would know) is the height of ridiculousness.

My apologies for this rant, since this hits close to my old Austrian home. (My father still has the incriminating tapes of me, at age two, speaking in German about what "das Christkind" brought me.)

Update: Here’s the latest Chicago Tribune article, which reflects a change in the city’s story regarding its objection:

Stung by criticism that the film’s maker was dropped as a sponsor to ensure the event appealed to all faiths, city officials said Tuesday they objected to "The Nativity Story" because it was too commercial.

"This particular incident is about a movie studio aggressively marketing a movie and trying to sell tickets to that movie," said Veronica Resa, spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.

They’ve backtracked into aesthetics, in other words, regarding something about which I doubt there was a constitutional or church/state issue to begin with. Consider, in this connection, this fact: the Christkindlmarket is put on by a private organization. Consider another fact: I’d bet that Daley Plaza would be considered a "public forum." Consider yet another fact: the market already offers a mix of secular and (other) religious symbols (Jewish and Muslim).

The Corner’s Kathryn Jean Lopez
is right: this is an opportunity for a politician closely associated with Chicago to step up to the plate about the city’s ridiculousness. If it isn’t Obama, then perhaps HRC ought to beat him to the punch, since she grew up in the suburbs.

Citizenship in Crisis

Travis D. Smith, from up north, thinks that the ISI sponsored study "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship" should be taken seriously, and he does. And I am glad. His long (Sunday op-ed kind) essay is very much worth reading. Just his comments on Canada--useful for the whole on understanding American citizenship--are worthy of two cofees! Enjoy, and pass it around.    

Bill McClay (virtually) in the flesh

You can view our friend Bill McClay lecture on "Red Republicans and Evangelical Conservatives: The Changing Map of American Politics" here. Here’s a prepared text by McClay on more or less the same topic, and my bowdlerized version of McClay’s analysis here.

Andrew Sullivan thinks, by the way, that McClay agrees with him.

Ecobabes Update

I forgot to provide the direct link to the ecobabes calendar: click here and help save the planet!

And if ecobabes aren’t your style, you can always try the Men of Mortuaries calendar. (Think "Chippendales with Shovels.")

From Ecosexuals to Ecobabes?

Well, since we have ecosexuals, how long was it going to take before we got ecobabes?

The Climate Protection Campaign of Sonoma County produced its own fund-raising calendar featuring well-photographed women in various diaphanous poses. However, as you might predict, some earnest people Are Not Amused:

Titillating as it is, the calendar has turned off some environmentalists. The Northcoast Environmental Center, based in the Humboldt County town of Arcata, refused to display the calendars in its popular eco-boutique. "I felt it was objectifying women and using their bodies to make money," said Alisha Clompus, 26, an artist and anthropologist who is office manager for the Northcoast center. "It’s like making money off another form of oppression."

As Christopher Buckley said at dinner the other night, the trouble with trying to write satire these days is that you have to compete with the newspapers. And the newspapers are winning.

Hamilton Center goes bust?

Apparently governance issues have derailed Hamilton College’s Alexander Hamilton Center, mentioned here. The attempt to protect the Center from a hostile takeover (at some point in the future) was too much for the Administration to swallow.

I’m all for collegiality and the importance of unity in the university, and I’m generally leery of efforts to impose "outside agendas" (which is how this might have been characterized), but there are also times when the only way to fulfill the collegiate mission of free inquiry is to provide support for "difference" that otherwise doesn’t find favor on the faculty.

Stated another way, if the only way to achieve and maintain genuine intellectual balance on campus is to set up this sort of relatively independent governing mechanism, I can live with it and indeed embrace it. It’s kind of like giving an institute tenure.

Alberta politics

Those of you who pay attention to Canadian provincial politics might be interested in this: Ted Morton, University of Calgary Professor of Political Science (Toronto Ph.D., where he studied with Walter Berns), finished a surprisingly strong second in the first round of balloting for the leadership of Alberta’s Conservative Party.

The second round of balloting will take place this coming Saturday (the procedure is explained

If you want some sympathetic insider commentary, you would be well-served by visiting our friends at The Politic. If you want an explanation of why we should all move to Alberta if this election goes well and the 2008 race here goes badly, you can read this piece, which I wrote after Stephen Harper, with whom Morton is associated, was elected Canadian PM.

And perhaps we can talk our friend John von Heyking into explaining it all for us.

Evangelicals at Brown University

I’ve written about this general issue before, but just came across this report of difficulties the Brown University chapter of Reformed University Fellowship was having with the chaplain’s office. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has gotten involved (see the most recent release here, replete with links), and the University seems to have stepped back just a bit, inviting the chapter to resume official status next semester, though with a few "special conditions." I don’t know all the rights and wrongs here, and this article in the Brown student paper suggests that the student leadership of the RUF chapter shares some of the blame for its strained relations with the powers that be.

But there remains something troubling about the way the Brown chaplain’s office handled the situation--offering shifting and unclear (not to say untrue) explanations for why it was sanctioning the group in the first place. The Brown Office of Chaplains and Religious Life is staffed rather typically, with representatives of mainline and black Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, among others, but without a theologically conservative evangelical. Might that begin to explain why there are misunderstandings?

Competing Visions of Europe’s Future: Both are Bleak

Steve Hayward pointed us to Ralph Peters’ new article spelling out his disagreement with the view that Europe faces a future of Islamification. Peters argues that Europe’s own versions of facism will, in the end, out-do Islamofacism. That view differs sharply from the one offered by Mark Steyn. Today the debate rages on and the link to Steyn will take you to his rejoinder. You can read more here and, as Peter Lawler pointed out, here. James Taranto, in the link to Opinion Journal’s Best of the Web, wryly notes, "Peters is predicting a rebirth of European fascism, possibly including genocide--and he’s the optimist of this pair."

These are Not Dark Days

"These are not dark days: these are great days—the greatest days our country has ever lived."--Winston Churchill

So ended a stirring talk delivered by Victor Davis Hanson at The Claremont Institute’s annual Winston S. Churchill Dinner. That said, Hanson (as Churchill before him) does not turn a blind eye to the difficulties and the challenges our country is facing. His description of these challenges and the striking magnitude of them is (to say the least) quite sobering. He does not believe our triumph is inevitable--but he does believe that we will triumph. More important, he believes that working toward that triumph is a challenge worthy of us and we of it. I had the pleasure of hearing the speech delivered a couple weeks ago. It reads almost as well--though I do wish they had provided an MP3 file!

Thermometer reading

A Quinnipiac poll ("thermometer reading") finds Guiliani the most popular, Obama beats Hillary, with Kerry bringing up the rear, for what it’s worth.


Interesting detective work. Two Hyperides speeches have been discovered in a palimpsest believed to have been created by Byzantine monks in the 13th century. Hyperides lived from 390 or 389 B.C. until 322 B.C. and was an orator who made speeches at public meetings of the citizen assembly. A contemporary of Aristotle and Demosthenes, he wrote speeches for himself and for others and spoke at important political trials. In 322 B.C. Hyperides was executed by the Macedonians for participating in a failed rebellion.  

Fatness and frailty

The Thanksgiving holiday has been a boost to well-being, the world slowed a lot, fewer men appeared in public, and those that did seemed utterly content and fat. My mother loves this place, the scale is understandable and feels right; people are so pleasant and friendly and personal. She can’t get over it. And then there is the weather! It’s been perfect for days--fit for idleness only--and Isabella and I have taken advantage of it. We have been together two or three hours every day, today almost four. Just cavorting and romping through all and any backroads in the state.

I stopped for a stogie and cup of coffee in Wooster and my eyes hit upon this in the New York Times. Fat and scholarship--or, rather, Fat Studies--is the issue. I would not have continued reading it if it were just another scientific study proving why it is better to have that lean and hungry look rather than one that is fatter (and more trustworthy!). So the American academy is now going to have something called "Fat Studies"! This is right next to queer studies, disability studies, ethnic studies, etc., and will no doubt have its "Fat Studies Reader," which will be breathlessly reviewed in fat and unread journals. Fat people are victims of prejudice, and are oppressed by mainstream society. They should be destigmatized, and so forth. You get the large picture, do you not? This explains (according to a professor) why Queen Anne has gotten so little attention, don’t you see. There is plenty more about the social construction of obesity, and even a dissertation "on the intersection of queer and fat identities in the United States in the 20th century". I cannot begin to recount all of it. It all seems so serious, so important, that after these past few happy days, I would just prefer not talking about Falstaff with such severity. I prefer to think of him as sweating and larding the lean earth as he walks along. I was almost depressed by the idea of Fat Studies until I remembered that having more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty, may make you more interesting, perhaps even an object of study. So finally, I will become an object of study, thought I. That could fun. We could talk about size acceptance, for example. Or why the wicked should be helped if sack and sugar be a fault! And then I thought about spending time with a sociology professor who represents the best work put out by the Popular Culture Association. Just couldn’t do it, I decided. I’ll just stick to thinking about plump Jack being the cause that wit is in other men.

In any case, it is almost certainly the case--unless those who study fatness be thin--that for the fat professor of Fat Studies, "The grave doth gape/For thee thrice wider than for other men."

Episcopalians Following the Example of the Shakers by Deciding to Disappear

According to Bishop Kate, they’ve become too well educated and eco-sensitive to reproduce. They do plan to leave the earth in good shape for other species to enjoy. The flaw in their plan is that most of the world’s women haven’t sign on, and it’s not even clear who the eco-stewards will be when the Episcopalians and similar purist groups are gone. (This is one of Mark Steyn’s more entertaining demographics-is-destiny columns.)

Seniors Actually Satisfied with Bush’s Prescription Drug Program!

It turns out that the overwhelming majority of senior Americans are satisfied with Bush’s prescription drug program. That fact--which was news to me--actually presents a challenge to any Democratic effort to reform it. And the Republicans, to say the least, have done a poor job defending what turns out to have been easily defensible. I’m not endorsing the program or anything like that, but you really do wonder why this couldn’t have been a successful campaign issue. Are the Republicans really so inept that they don’t even know how to take credit for their own big spending?

Money for insurgents

John F. Burns (NYT) reports that the insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining. Not good news. Also note that France and Italy paid circa 30 million dollars in ransom last year.

Muslim Expulsion?

The sometimes erratic Ralph Peters muses aloud about a prospect that has crossed my mind—that Europe might some day simply expel its Muslim population. Despite the ferocious history Peters lays out, I doubt today’s Europeans have the stomach for it: nihilist multiculturalism—what Malcom Muggeridge called liberalism’s death wish—is simply too deeply ingrained in Europe today. But still. . .

Peters does make the important point that Muslims in America have the prospect of assimilation, of participating in the American Dream:

American Muslims have a higher income level than our national average. We hear about the handful of rabble-rousers, but more of our fellow Americans who happen to be Muslims are doctors, professors and entrepreneurs. And the American dream is still alive and well, thanks: Even the newest taxi driver stumbling over his English grammar knows he can truly become an American. But European Muslims can’t become French or Dutch or Italian or German. Even if they qualify for a passport, they remain second-class citizens. On a good day.

Then there is this deliciously ironic prospect: "I have no difficulty imagining a scenario in which U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe’s Muslims. After all, we were the only ones to do anything about the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkans."