Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Happy New Year

Here is Yeats’ A Prayer for my Daughter and here is Yeats reading The Lake Isle of Innisfree. I wish you all the best for the New Year!

Keith Ellison on religion and politics

We wait with bated breath for something more than these airy generalities from Keith Ellison, who, as you surely know, is our first Muslim Congressman.

Surely if hard questions can be posed to Mitt Romney and if deep suspicions about theocracy can be raised every time a conservative Christian speaks, we’re entitled to know exactly how Ellison’s faith informs his politics.

What, for example, does he mean by this:

"You can’t back down. You can’t chicken out. You can’t be afraid. You got to have faith in Allah, and you’ve got to stand up and be a real Muslim."

Or how about this:

Ellison, speaking at the annual convention of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America, said that Muslims can help teach America about justice and equal protection.


"Muslims, you’re up to bat right now," he said. "How do you know that you were not brought right here to this place to learn how to make this world better?"

And then there’s this, from a speech to an interfaith group:

Ellison added that religion should be something that unites, rather than divides.


"Many people see their religion as an identity thing, much in the same way Crips or Bloods might say, ’I’m this, this is the set I’m rolling with,’ " Ellison said, referring to the infamous street gangs.


"They’ve never actually tried to explore how religion should connect us, they’re into how religion divides us. ... They haven’t really explored ... how my faith connects me to you."

Many of the practical positions he has taken seem to be those of a garden-variety liberal Democrat, but he should be pressed to show how those positions flow from what he says is his faith.

If he can make a plausible argument, perhaps we should applaud him and encourage to speak out, not just to his fellow Americans, but to Muslims all over the world, demonstrating to them how they can make their peace with liberal pluralism.

In other words, he, no more than anyone else, should simply be given a free pass, claiming, as he does, that his faith informs his politics. And he should be pressed on the passages from the Koran that are hard for non-Muslims and liberals to swallow. And he should be pressed to take a stand anytime any Muslim anywhere makes any sort of bloodcurdling statement. Let Ellison condemn them, quite publicly.

This is an opportunity for someone who calls on others to "stand up and be a real Muslim," which presumably means he’ll do so himself.

Ford’s "Realism"

Here Christopher Hitchens goes after President Ford’s record on foreign policy. It’s not true that this evidence is sufficent to label Ford’s administration a mercifully short national nightmare, but it does show that his rather glaring weakness was deferring too readily and coldly to established power. Hitchens’ point is that the man who first abandoned the Kurds and East Timor and snubbed Solzhenitsyn may not be the most reliable guide for our policy in the Middle East today. He was a Ford, not a Lincoln or a Reagan.

More Mormonism

At the risk of further inflaming at least on NLT commenter, let me call attention to Richard John Neuhaus’ response to Jacob Weisberg’s piece of anti-religious bigotry, which is directed at Romney and at anyone who isn’t essentially a religious modernist, agnostic, or atheist.

For fear of misleading someone into thinking that I agree with everything I quote, I won’t give you anything from Weisberg’s piece, but I will offer this bit from Neuhaus (reminding everyone that Neuhaus is not Knippenberg, nor Knippenberg, Neuhaus):

First, what would people think of someone who abandoned the religion of his forebears in order to advance his political career? (Mr. Romney is apparently having difficulties enough in explaining some of his political changes.) Second, do we really want to exclude from high office millions of citizens born into a religion whose tenets strike most Americans as bizarre, especially when there is no evidence that those peculiar tenets would have a bearing on their public actions? Third, candidates should be judged on the basis of their character, competence, and public positions. That one was born a Mormon is not evidence of a character flaw. That one remains a Mormon may be evidence of theological naiveté or indifference. But we are not electing the nation’s theologian. And, it should be noted, there are very intelligent Mormons who are doing serious intellectual work to move their tradition toward a closer approximation of Christian orthodoxy, which is a welcome development.

I will also note that Weisberg reminds us that other Mormons have sought the presidency, including Orrin Hatch, Morris Udall, and Romney pere. I can’t recall there being much discussion of the candidate’s Mormonism in any of those cases, though I have to confess that in 1968 I wasn’t old enough to pay close attention to politics. It’s worth noting that there’s a fairly wide range of political opinion--all of it comfortably part of the mainstream--in that modern list.

Lieberman on Iraq

The conclusion:

In Iraq today we have a responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term -- not what appears easier in the short term. The daily scenes of death and destruction are heartbreaking and infuriating. But there is no better strategic and moral alternative for America than standing with the moderate Iraqis until the country is stable and they can take over their security. Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. That will greatly advance the cause of moderation and freedom throughout the Middle East and protect our security at home.

Read the whole thing.

   

Goldberg on certainty

This Jonah Goldberg column reminds me that there’s nothing new under the sun. I remember the 1970s when the French nouvelle philosophes discovered the Gulag. Turned out that absolutism led to totalitarianism led to the Gulag; ergo absolute certainty was bad. Now it’s absolutism leads to jihad which leads to theocracy, as imagined by Margaret Atwood. Next thing you know, Andrew Sullivan will be wearing a leisure suit.

Jeffrey Hart revisited

About a year ago, I wrote a bunch of stuff in response to a piece Jeffrey Hart published in the WSJ. Power Line’s Scott Johnson calls our attention to James Panero’s profile of Hart, written for the Dartmouth alumni magazine. Hart is still hard at work waging intellectual war against the Bush Administration.

But this chunk says something about Hart’s conservatism:

“Like the Whig gentry who were the Founders, I loathe populism,” Hart explains. “Most especially in the form of populist religion, i.e., the current pestiferous bible-banging evangelicals, whom I regard as organized ignorance, a menace to public health, to science, to medicine, to serious Western religion, to intellect and indeed to sanity. Evangelicalism, driven by emotion, and not creedal, is thoroughly erratic and by its nature cannot be conservative. My conservatism is aristocratic in spirit, anti-populist and rooted in the Northeast. It is Burke brought up to date. A ‘social conservative’ in my view is not a moral authoritarian Evangelical who wants to push people around, but an American gentleman, conservative in a social sense. He has gone to a good school, maybe shops at J. Press, maybe plays tennis or golf, and drinks either Bombay or Beefeater martinis, or maybe Dewar’s on the rocks, or both."

Other things in the article suggest to me that Hart is closer to Andrew Sullivan in spirit than to anyone else.

In any event, Hart’s recitation of the ways in which his judgments about issues like abortion and stem cell research are supported by public opinion point to a kind of conservatism that evolves, not one that stands athwart history shouting "stop!" (a bad paraphrase, I know). It’s also not at all clear to me how this "aristocratic" conservatism is anything other than a matter of style, or how it relates to any form of religion. (He clearly doesn’t like evangelicalism because of what he calls its lack of creed, but that obviously paints with too broad a brush. Indeed, the non-creedal character of some evangelicals would surely help them "evolve" in a way of which Hart would likely approve. And a genuinely "conservative" religion is creedal, but, as such, wouldn’t simply give in to public opinion in the way that Hart seems to.

Surge or no surge in Iraq?

Another commander-in-chief speaks.

Prisons, penitentiaries, and reformatories

Acton’s Jordan J. Ballor takes up the question of the role of religion in the restorative or rehabilitative side of criminal justice, suggesting that the view that rehabilitation is purely a state responsibility owes something (too much, I think) to Jeremy Bentham.

My most recent post touching on this subject--a flashpoint in the current debate over the faith-based initiative--is here. In that post, you can find a link to the page at the Becket Fund’s site with all the briefs written in support of PFM’s appeal. If you want to see the opposing briefs, go here. This case has attracted a lot of attention, and I’m slowly working my way through the briefs on both sides.

Update: Here, courtesy of MOJ’s Rob Vischer, is one account of a conference call on the PFM/InnerChange case.

Romney’s Mormonism

Damon Linker, who spent a couple of years teaching at BYU in one of his past lives, tells us what he thinks we need to know about Mormonism and suggests some questions we should pose to Mitt Romney:

Does he believe, for example, that we are living through the "latter days" of human history, just prior to the second coming of Christ? And does he think that, when the Lord returns, he will rule over the world from the territory of the United States? Does Romney believe that the president of the Mormon Church is a genuine prophet of God? If so, how would he respond to a command from this prophet on matters of public policy? And, if his faith would require him to follow this hypothetical command, would it not be accurate to say that, under a President Romney, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would truly be in charge of the country--with its leadership having final say on matters of right and wrong?

Would he have us pose the same questions to, say, Harry Reid? I don’t know, but I do know that we should learn a good good deal about Mormonism in the next few months, beginning with the speech Romney promised to make after the holidays.

Hat tip:
The Friar.

Update: For more, go here, here, and here. One way of stating Linker’s issue is this: while Mormons take positions that are currently part of what might be called the mainstream, we can’t on the basis of that record predict that they’ll continue to do so. It all depends upon future revelations, which can’t be extrapolated from their situation-specific predecessors. Faithful Mormons, in other words, are less predictable than others. Even if Romney sounds attractive today (and I doubt that Linker shares that view), who knows what tomorrow holds in store, if he’s faithful?

As I said, I expect to learn a lot from this, and will likely turn to Russell Arben Fox, a Mormon political theorist who seems rather to like Linker, for some stimulation. If NLT readers have other interesting and authoritative resources to suggest, please either send me an email or put them in the comments.

Dark Matter

Nothing new under the sun? Well, the Hot Stove League always has something for baseball fans to warm themselves upon. I don’t know what new Japanese video games might have shown up for Christmas, but supposedly the Land of the Rising Sun has given us the first new baseball pitch in three decades, since the advent of the split-fingered fastball (and even that arguably was just a forkball thrown harder). The Boston Red Sox’s recently-signed import, Daisuke Matsuzaka, is said to possess something called the “gyroball,” described in this Washington Post article. The pitch supposedly was invented on a supercomputer by a Japanese physicist named Ryutaro Himeno, with the help of a baseball trainer named Kazushi Tezuka. The gyroball was designed to behave unlike any other pitch – with either an exaggerated drop or an exaggerated side-to-side motion – owing to its peculiar spin, which is more like the spiral of a football than the backspin of a fastball or the topspin of a curve.

Bunk, says Bobby Valentine, the former Major League manager now with the Chiba Lotte Mariners, whose team has faced Matsuzaka. "No such pitch." Robert Kemp Adair, professor emeritus at Yale and the dean of baseball physicists – yes, there are such creatures – agrees. Another former manager, Buck Martinez, believes it is a screwball. Others say it is really a change-up or a variation on the cut fastball.

Ah, only 50 days until pitchers and catchers report.

Can the Supreme Court Say That Our Law Must Be Colorblind?

It’s impossible to agree with all the details of this constitutionally confused article. But it’s true enough that the Court has never said that the Constitution is colorblind and that all racial distinctions in our law are unconstitutional, and in BROWN it passed up a perfect opportunity to do so. The author’s case, in a way, would be even stronger if he realized that the Court didn’t really reverse PLESSY in BROWN. For one thing: PLESSY concerned transportation, and the psychological argument of BROWN applies only to the function of primary and secondary education. (The effect of segregation on the heart and mind of the train passenger has no effect on whether or not the train gets into the station on time.) But the author’s distinction between remedial and stigmatizing racial classifications doesn’t appear in BROWN either. There’s no reason not to read BROWN to say that all educational classifications based solely on race are equally stigmatizing or psychologically damaging.
BROWN aside, I’m undecided on whether or not a Court decision declaring all racial distinctions in the law unconstitutional would be unreasonable judicial activism.

Strange New Respect for Candidate Duncan Hunter?

THE WASHINGTON POST speculates that he’s in a position to be 2008’s Dennis Kucinich.

William & Mary’s cross to bury

I posted something about the issue of the presence or the absence of the cross in the Wren Chapel, discussed somewhat tendentiously in this Inside Higher Ed piece, over at the underutilized Knippenblog. If college presidents respond to pressure in this way, is it any wonder that students are hard to educate about religion? (To be clear for those who don’t know me: when university authorities "sensitively" respond to pressure from one group, they shouldn’t be surprised if others join the party. This isn’t inclusive, but ultimately insulating. What’s more, to the extent that liberal education involves inducting students into a tradition of conversation, university authorities simply encourage everyone to find his or her own conversation stopper.)

Iraq strategy

Here’s an argument for a long (18 months) and large (30,000 troops) surge in Iraq. Makes sense to me.

Noted military expert (and soon to be presidential candidate) Joe Biden doesn’t like the idea:

Biden contended that such a move "will not have any positive effect, except extremely temporarily."

This is especially true, if, as Harry Reid argues, 18 to 24 months is too long. Democrats, in other words, might be willing to support an ineffective military response to violence in Baghdad, but not a potentially effective one.

Update:
This WaTi article notes how many commanders-in-chief there are on Biden’s panel.

President Gerald Ford

I was seized by insomnia, turned on the TV, and found out that Gerald Ford had died. He was the only president never to have won a nationwide election, and the only one to have been stuck with the unpopular and singularly questionable task of pardoning his predecessor. He didn’t move the country with his rhetorical gifts or striking personal principles. Although his vetoes were often overriden by an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, he still showed us how to govern well or well enough without being able to draw upon the popular dimensions of the modern presidency. He was a decent, dignified, and undemagogic leader, and he was blessed with a very long and happy life.

Deceptive frogs and honest women

Carl Zimmer summarizes a recently published study in The American Naturalist. It seems that some frogs are dishonest croakers: Some small males lower their voices to make themselves sound bigger and so (sometimes) intimidate frogs that would beat them in a fair fight. Although honesty generally rules, there is plenty of room for the Machiavellians (even among shrikes and crustaceans). And I note in passing (and without comment) the emphasis on the males of the species doing the lying. Honest, the article is worth reading. Also note that it ends with one of the scientists exploring human deception with his mathematical model. This includes an examination of how terrorist organizations communicate to their sleeper cells. In the same issue of The New York Times, Elaine Sciolino considers the political scene in France, with focus on the candidacy of Socialist Segolene Royal for the presidency. Some think that this mother of fours thinks she is perfect, some say she is seducing the country, some even say she is a siren. And the NYT says that she is more "gamine" than Margaret Thatcher and this has added to her allure, and there is "potency" in her approach. And then there are those who say she should be more modest, and shouldn’t use her sex as both a weapon and a shield. And note how she characterizes her expected opponent, Nicolas Sarkozy (the current interior minister): "a survival-of-the-fittest Darwinian male who admires the American model of competition and social mobility." The article does mention that not all mothers like her. And Sarkozy is not quoted in the story.

It’s a wonderful movie

Here, courtesy of Get Religion, is a nice piece revisiting It’s a Wonderful Life. Is George Bailey, among other things, the developer who builds over cemetaries (first noted for me by Patrick Deneen), the quintessential American Christian?

The Methane! The Methane! (With Apologies to Joseph Conrad)

The Democrats haven’t even picked up their committee chair gavels yet, but already they are providing high class entertainment, as this interview with John Dingell, aka, The Congressman from General Motors, makes clear.

My favorite bit is this about global warming:

New Zealand, which has relatively little industry, is an enormous emitter of CO2. They’ve got a bunch of sheep over there that do it. The methane. The methane."

UPDATE: Apparently this was an editing or transcription error, since it has been changed from the original version I saw. It seems as though his interviewer said "The methane" as a corrective question (since sheep don’t emit CO2), which he repeated. Weird.

But there are other gems in this piece, such as this: "You know, before you start making a bunch of wise-ass comments, you better know what you’re talking about. And right now I don’t."

Democrats getting religion...or not?

Howard Friedman calls our attention to this NYT article on Democratic consultant Mara Vanderslice, whose recent campaign work I’ve discussed here. The article notes that her candidates did about 10% better than other Democrats with traditionally religious voters, but also notes that many of those clients didn’t exactly have tough rows to hoe, either in proving their religious bona fides or in dealing with tough challenges. Let’s see how her approach works in a year that isn’t toxic for Republicans.

Nonetheless, this is worth remembering:

“People want to know are you on your knees?” Ms. Vanderslice said. “Are you responsible to something that is bigger than yourself?”

Shouldn’t she be saying someone, or is she just describing "what works" with voters?

The politics of crime and punishment

Chris Suellentrop has a very nice piece on the politics of crime and punishment in last Sunday’s NYT Magazine. Ranging from a discussion of largely secular scholarship on what works in preventing or deterring crime (unsurprisingly, swift and certain seems more important than harsh when it comes to punishment) to a consideration of moves on the religious right, largely prompted by Chuck Colson, to reconsider prison reform, Suellentrop paints an interesting picture in which faith-based efforts at rehbilitation play a large part. This has been one of the President’s signature issues, and also marks the career of Sam Brownback (unfortunately for him, the most Bush-like of the current crop of Republican con[or is it pre?]tenders).

Suellentrop spends some time discussing the Second Chance Act, which almost passed in the last Congress and may well go forward in the next. The question: will the prominent role of faith-based groups in prisoner rehabilitation and reentry be explicitly acknowledged in the legislation? Barack Obama, one of the Act’s co-sponsors, could show himself to be more than a garden-variety liberal with some leadership here.

I wish I could be more hopeful, but this litigation, about which I wrote here (and about which I’m likely to write again, once I make my way through all the appellate briefs on both sides), has the usual suspects, as usual, lining up on different sides. I wish that folks on the Left would spend as much effort on providing secular alternatives to religious programs as they do challenging them in court.

Merry Christmas to All!

And to all, a good night.

More Christmas Music Musings

1. The Chieftains’ BELLS OF DUBLIN, mentioned below by Ohio Brass, is great, really great. 2. For those who have asked, my favorite real Christmas carol is I WONDER AS I WANDER--haunting Christmas melody plus lyrics and especially a title that express "the true meaning of Christmas" and Christianity. 3. I’ve also been asked, what do I think of THE MESSIAH?--I like the choruses 4. Am I moved by THE NUTCRACKER?--no. 5. Do I like HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS by Mel Torme?--yes, Mel is in a different league from Bing. 6. What is the worst Christmas CD you’ve heard today? The one by THE THREE TENORS or Opera men... 7. Did I know I screwed up the name of the Brenda Lee song, ROCKING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE? I’m terrible with titles and happy for the correction.

I’m now soliciting relatively serious comments about real Christmas carols and other seriously religious Christmas music...

Obama watch, part 7

If Barack Obama’s book is as vapid as this review, then no one has anything to worry about. I’m planning on reading it over the break so that others don’t have to subject themselves to it.

Kerry invokes Churchill

For the sake of changing direction in Iraq, though what JFK would have us do other than talk to the Syrians isn’t at all clear.

A Crunchy Thumbs Up for APOCALYPTO

Dreher manfully admits that he was wrong to advise his crunchy crowd to abstain from Mel Gibson’s new film. I was also inclined not to see it. It just seemed too strange and not that interesting, even with the blood and guts and all. But apparently it’s another stunning masterpiece. (And if you go to Rotten Tomatoes, you will see that the mainstream critics are growing increasingly appreciative; the fashionable tendency to write Mel off is fading.) So I will see it right after the 25th; it’s probably not the best source of Christmas cheer. Feel free to give your opinion...especially if you want to warn me not to waste my time.

My frosty age

I am sixty today. As much goodwill as misunderstanding of the time and its meaning has been sent me. I say that save for creaking bones and shorter breath nothing has changed in many years. Excluding chance and fate I will go on, perhaps as

Dylan Thomas says about his father; and I to mine, who died two years ago on Christmas Day. Listen to it and thanks. I am not too old to learn.

Weigel’s book recommendations

George Weigel recommends the five best books for understanding Christianity. This chunk, from his description of Jaroslav Pelikan’s Jesus Through the Centuries, got my attention:

Pelikan discusses how Christianity’s theological wrestling with, and final acceptance of, representational art helped make possible accomplishments of the magnitude of Chartres’ stained glass and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes. It’s something to consider when pondering what a triumph by jihadist Islam might mean for the greatest artifacts of Western civilization.

Southern Appeal closes up shop

Southern Catholic Federalist Steve Dillard has shut down Southern Appeal, a lively and stimulating group blog over which he presided. I’ll miss it. Here’s hoping that (he? and) his co-bloggers find other homes on the web.

Christmas Tunes

Somebody should say omething about Christmas around here! NRO had, truth to tell, a rather disappointing symposium on Christmas music. As I’ve reported before, I have very vulgar tastes in all music, and so I’m only competent to comment on popular Christmas music. And for the sake of time, I’m going to limit myself pretty much to gut-level reactions to the tunes covered by the NRO experts. Feel free to express yourself.

Here’s some Christmas music that doesn’t move me at all: MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER, LITTLE DRUMMER BOY, SIMPLY HAVING A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS (McCartney--and I love McCartney generally), anything by Bing Crosby or Crosby-like--such as WHITE CHRISTMAS or HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS.

Here’s some stuff I like to hear: Raveonettes’ version of WINTER WONDERLAND,
Brenda Lee’s JINGLEBELL ROCK (and not any other version), MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY (maybe not the title--the song David Letterman features each year), Sandler’s CHANAKAH SONG, DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR (except a Crosbyesque version), the Barednaked Ladies’ version of GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN (and other pop versions of that too--not suitable for Crosby), the Celtic version of IL EST NE, LE DIVIN ENFANT (although I’m ambivalent about the song, having had to sing it about 300 times in my 6th-grade French class), the crassly commercial yet oddly affecting James Taylor Christmas CD, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (which for no deep reason I think is really great). The Elvis album of the secular or seasonal Christmas standards mostly stinks, and I basically like Elvis. I’m ok with the Chipmunks.

Notice that I’ve stayed away from standard versions of genuinely religious Christmas carols, which I love at the appropriate time.

Bush library update

The winner seems to be SMU, which, as I have noted, won’t bring out the best in some people.

For more on the anticipatory reaction, go here. For the Dallas newspaper story, go here.

Good blogs

Here’s E. J. Dionne, Jr.:

For all of its shortcomings, the success of opinionated journalism on the radio, cable television and the blogs reflects a public thirst for debate and argument that goes beyond the confines usually imposed by conventional definitions of news. The lesson is not that all should copy their style of argument, but that argument and engagement are very much in demand. For the established media, this will mean going back to the original debate between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey. The objective should be to salvage Lippmann’s devotion to accuracy and fairness by putting these virtues to the service of the democratic debate that Dewey so valued.

***

I believe that if the old media do their jobs properly, and the new media do theirs right, we will be able to draw on the best aspects of both Lippman and Dewey - to find the right balance between the thirst for accurate information and the hunger for engagement, between a journalism that tells hard truths even if partisans don’t like them and a partisan media that sometimes tells hard truths about the mainstream media (yes, we can get things wrong) and that assimilates real information into their passionate forms of advocacy.

And here’s more:

Let those of us in traditional journalism not shrink from the challenges of the new technologies, of the blogs and of the new opinionated journalism. Let us welcome those challenges and their potential contributions. If a dry or detached or apolitical press threatened to demobilize citizens, the world of opinionated journalism might offer new opportunities to encourage citizens to engagement, to action -- yes, to good citizenship. The blogs in particular have developed an audience because there is a demand, as John Dewey would understand, for a medium that prizes commitment and engagement. That there is such a thirst for this may bother those who worry about excessive partisanship, but engagement is indispensable to democratic politics. And the proliferation of new outlets -- the rebirth of what my friend Tom Rosensteil has called the "pamphleteering" tradition -- could democratize both politics and the media.

In Dionne’s world, the "old media" stand for "fact, independent inquiry, courageous and expensive news coverage in war zones and in places such as Darfur where the oppressed need witnesses and solidarity," while the new media "encourage a passion for enagement and a commitment to the continuing work of democracy." I think that this sells short the thoughtfulness and reasonableness, not to mention the expertise, that some of us in the so-called new media bring to the table, while of course also understating (the nice way of putting it) the partisanship and passion not always hidden behind the veil of Dionne’s progressive vision of ’objective" journalism.

In any event, more grist for everyone’s mill...especially those of us beginning to think about our prospective APSA roundtable.

To check out what others have been saying, go here, here, here, and here.

Look Who I Found Under the Tree

I was curious to see which NBA coach found Allen Iverson under his Christmas tree. George Karl is the lucky owner of the 7-time All-Star, rapper, and general pain in the neck. Denver sent Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round picks to Philadelphia for Iverson. And then God sent 30-inches of snow to Denver. I’m not sure of the cosmic significance of this meteorological coincidence – it’s not exactly 40 days and nights of rain – but it does give one pause.

Michael Wilbon makes the best case for the trade. Karl emphasizes an up-tempo, guard oriented offense that increases the number of shots available. Denver has decent inside players. Iverson’s arrival will ease the pain of the 15-game suspension of Carmelo Anthony and help keep Denver in the playoff race. Iverson will be motivated by the trade to prove he can fit into the team concept and coexist, even prosper, with another superstar.

Maybe. At the very least the Nuggets will be entertaining. They were a middling team with some interesting parts to go along with Anthony, but no threat to the big three of San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix. Utah and the Lakers were (are) a much better bet to enter the mix. So what the heck? Perhaps lightning will strike in Denver. But it’s still hard to see the new Nuggets reaching the NBA Finals. Karl strikes me as being the wrong sort of coach for Iverson. He’s had problems with his star players in the past, such as Gary Payton. He’s a needler, exactly the sort of coach who would get under Iverson’s skin. Iverson coexisted for a time with another needler, Karl’s good friend, Larry Brown. But that was earlier in Iverson’s career.

So, who was the right sort of coach? In this circumstance, Pat Riley – especially with Shaq’s presence on and off the court and a deferential superstar (Dwayne Wade). Riley isn’t known for his good humor as a coach, either – he is known for unbearably long practices and creative motivational techniques – but his players always respected him as a man.

It will be an interesting experiment. Two superstars who lead the league in scoring, one just suspended for fighting, the other known for getting into trouble off the court. A volatile coach. A difficult conference. I would predict – if I were given to prediction – some improvement and excitement, perhaps a first-round playoff win, but the honeymoon won’t last into next year. AI is like TO. Something will happen. George Karl will wish Santa had given him Tim Duncan instead.

Barone on Iraq

Here’s Michael Barone’s astute analysis of the Iraq options facing the president, including Bush’s present inclination to raise troop levels as Kagan and Keane(but not the Joint Chiefs) advise. The article doesn’t include Barone’s clear and persuasive advice on what the president should do. He does endorse a stirring quote from Charles Krauthammer to the effect that there remains no alternative but "to change the culture" of the region. But how, exactly, at this point?

Hunter for President?!

It turns out that California Congressman Duncan Hunter is seeking the Republican nomination. Although he is the outgoing chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the article rightly places him among the least known of the candidates. He’s touting his strong stands on national defense and immigration control in Iowa, He (perhaps) sensibly is not for increasingly our number of troops in Iraq but for putting the ones we already have there to better use. He’s also pro-life. I have no opinion on his candidacy, except that it has no future unless he manages to win in Iowa.

If you scroll down further, you can be a bit disappointed that Huckabee’s autobiographical, 12-point program book will not quite be available for Christmas giving. It turns out that he’s also a man from Hope.

At this point I might be for any candidate who could really speak persuasively about what we should do in Iraq now. I hesitate to say it, but the president seems increasingly at a loss. And David Tucker’s incisive post below pushed me toward the temptation of despair.

Religious correctness

This is a thoughtful and interesting piece on the importance of teaching religion in the context of a liberal education, which ought to be read with care by the folks at Harvard (and, of course, elsewhere). You don’t have to agree with everything he says to be stimulated by it.

Update: Here’s the text of a letter I sent to the Times:


Professor Mark C. Taylor’s op-ed (“The Devoted Student”) rightly stands intransigently for free inquiry against “religious correctness” in the context of liberal education.


But he implies that this latest version of political correctness is largely or entirely the product of increasing devoutness on the part of students.


Having taught for more than twenty years at a secular liberal arts college in a “devout” part of the country, I disagree. What seems to me to have changed at least as much, if not more, is the larger climate of opinion in which students operate.


When we insist upon sensitivity to the concerns of some groups—giving them what in some cases amounts to a veto power over what’s said or studied in class—is it any wonder that others might be inclined to demand a similar respect for their “feelings”? Some religious students apparently can’t resist claiming for themselves the protected status colleges and universities have accorded to others.


A university genuinely and consistently devoted to free inquiry in all areas of human endeavor and study would at the very least be in a better position to resist religiously correct demands for censorship. We’d all be better off if there were space for a free exchange of ideas and opinions regarding all areas of our national life.

Professor Taylor studiously avoids identifying the affiliations of the students who are making the demands of religious correctness. Is everyone doing it, or are we talking about particular religions or denominations?

Iraq strategy

Stanley Kurtz recommends this piece by Reuel Marc Gerecht.

Iraq

The problem in Iraq is sectarian/ethnic conflict. The latest edition of the Defense Department report "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" (covering August through November, 2006) states that "at the present time, sustained ethno-sectarian violence is the greatest threat to security and stability in Iraq." (p. 23) The report also states that "the group that is currently having the greatest negative affect[sic] on the security situation in Iraq is Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM) . . . [M]ost, but not all, elements of the organization take direction from Muqtada al-Sadr," (p. 19) who controls 30 seats in the Parliament and 6 ministries and is a supporter of the current Prime Minister.

Senator McCain wants to send more troops. So does Frederick Kagan. A lot more troops and heavy repressive measures might stop or decrease the violence (it has increased 22% in the past 3 months (p. 3)) but it will not stop the conflict. Kagan says that once we repress the violence, "reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will strengthen Iraqi local government." But if we allow Iraqi officials to get involved in reconstruction, sectarian disputes will recur over who controls the money and projects. Unless we keep the repression in place indefinitely, sectarian violence will return to what it was.

More training of Iraqis will not work because the Iraqi Army and the police are sectarian organizations. Improving their capabilities will only increase the conflict, as it gives the Shia more tools to kill Sunnis and each other and the Sunnis more incentive to arm and fight back in order to protect themselves. There is little evidence that military training, especially in the short term, can instill in trainees the restraints that militaries in democratic countries practice. In the long term, if the Iraqi government is sectarian and ineffective, it will not be able to provide the logistical and administrative support that troops require to be effective.

Everything depends on ending the sectarian violence. The reality appears to be that a sufficient number in each sectarian/ethnic group wants to dominate. This requires continued fighting. Thus, peace and democracy have been more important to us than to Iraqis. This may now be changing. News reports indicate that an alliance among Shia, Sunni and Kurds may form to exclude the extremists, among them al-Sadr. Ayatollah Sistani, the leader of the Shia, has given his blessing apparently.

This new coalition is unlikely to put an end to the fighting, especially in the short term. Al-Sadr fought to get into the ruling coalition and is likely to fight on when he is out of it. Also, the Badr organization, which is part of the government of Iraq, and the JAM attack one another (competing for leadership of the Shia) and both attack Sunni. Both JAM and Badr receive support from external sources. Finally, "high levels of sectarian violence are driving some Sunni neighborhood watch organizations in Baghdad to transform themselves into militias with limited offensive capabilities." (p. 20)

However, in the long run, if the new coalition forms and if it manages to stay together, if the Iraqi government begins to function and in a non-sectarian way, if this reassures Sunni neighborhood watch/militias, if foreign support for Iraqi extremists declines, if the government can get control of corruption and criminal activity, which supports, profits from and adds to the violence . . ., then the presence of additional US troops might help.

But it is important to keep two things in mind. First, based on the study of historical cases of "stabilization and reconstruction," an analysis by RAND found that

International troop levels should be at least 1,000 soldiers per 100,000 inhabitants and international police levels should be at least 150 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants, especially when there is the potential for severe instability. These numbers are important for policing streets, defeating and deterring insurgents, patrolling borders, securing roads, and combating organized crime.
(http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG374.pdf)

For Baghdad’s population of 5 million or so, that implies 50,000 troops, a higher number than the upper estimate of the total that would be there following an increase. This would not take care of Anbar province, next to Baghdad that insurgents control, let alone other areas of the country.

Second, General Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East "argues that foreign troops are a toxin bound to be rejected by Iraqis, and that expanding the number of American troops merely puts off the day when Iraqis are forced to take responsibility for their own security."

One point General Abizaid is making is that the more unlimited our commitment to stability in Iraq appears to be, the less reason Iraqis have to commit to or remain committed to stability.

Ross Douthat on Frank Keating

Frank, it turns out, has become a prominent lobbyist, and so probably is not nominee material. But surely, Ross muses, the Republicans should nominate someone like him: A socially conservative Catholic non-convert not from the South. Any ideas?

Traditional morality = bigotry?

Renowned WaPo theologian Harold Meyerson likes Episcopalians just fine, so long as they don’t pose any inconveniently Biblical challenges to liberal orthodoxy. Of course, the real problem with those pesky conservative Episcopalians is the even peskier (though now deceased) Pope John Paul II:

John Paul also sought to build his church in nations of the developing world where traditional morality and bigotry, most especially on matters sexual, were in greater supply than in secular Europe and the increasingly egalitarian United States, and more in sync with the Catholic Church’s inimitable backwardness. Now America’s schismatic Episcopalians are following in his footsteps -- traditionalists of the two great Western hierarchical Christian churches searching the globe for sufficiently benighted bishops.

Sigh....

Obama watch, part 6

Dan Philips, a sometime NLT commenter and one-time pleasant dinner companion in Macon, offers his view of Obama’s World AIDS Day speech, which I discussed here. Obama, in DP’s view, is a pure purveyor of the old-time Social Gospel. It’s not surprising, he says, that "a liberal is embracing liberal Christianity." I think I found much the same thing in my examination of another Obama speech.

Christmas wars revisited

After the Mayor received an "Ebby", at least so the Becket Fund folks claim, a Nativity Story trailer may be shown in Chicago’s Daley Plaza after all.

Howard Friedman notes another front where a menorah was removed in order to avoid having to permit the erection of a creche. This article, linked by Professor Friedman, offers a good rundown of the unfortunate dispute.

Update: This is a nice article, and not just because it gives me the last word.

Blogging as talking

This is a small point in reference to Joe’s "Bad Blogs" just below. While the WSJ comment is perfectly sensible, it ignores a couple of points regarding blogs (never mind the fact that without blogs Dan Rather would still have a job, and Bush may not have been re-elected in 04). The only one I want to mention is this: The real reason for having a blog is to find out what your friends and trusted colleagues are reading and thinking about and then to speak plainly, or right on. And much of that has nothing to do with what is called "news." I have found a point, a thought, an intellectual disposition, to be very helpful in to me in thinking something through (and not only as an "instant response" or a "coagulant for orthodoxies"), or amusing me, or simply sharing a good piece of writing, even if it is only a good sentence or a phrase. A blog is a form of conversation, and at its best is a kind of dialogue. But this seems odd to people who keep their eye only on something called "instantaneity" vs "rigor" (never mind the crap about "mob behavior"). Let me repeat myself (just like in a conversation): A good blog is like a conversation. Of course, it kind of looks like writing, but in this case (hence its appeal to me?) the writing means to encourage talk (even not only in writing, but as orality) and therefore that kind of thinking; that is, thinking that is not simply full of "rigor" (no one ever talked in the form of a methodical exposition of a subject, as in a treatise) but is also witty and amusing and poetic and allusive and sometimes says more in a story than does a "rigorous" phrase or a march of logic that could only be followed in print, but not in conversation. The stuff about the news and instantaneity is just sharing some information of mutual interest, but mostly is just an excuse for a conversation. You know, like calling your friend on the phone with a specific point ("calling because I just finished grading my finals and wanted to talk to a human being") and then for an hour you bethump him with words (and he you) from and about Shakespeare, the manliness of Rummy, the passing beauty of a student, a musical note, what is currently worth reading, what isn’t, and why the world is golden. And a blog--like a conversation in a tavern--is with more than one person, as the world as pageant moves on right next to you. You note it as you keep talking with your friends.

Bad blogs

This WSJ editorial makes the case against blogs. In a nutshell:

The right now is partially a function of technology, which makes instantaneity possible, and also a function of a culture that valorizes the up-to-the-minute above all else. But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting--the news--already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet all this is accelerated.


The blogs must be timely if they are to influence politics. This element--here’s my opinion--is necessarily modified and partly determined by the right now. Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought--instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.

In other words, blogs are worse, even, than the network news, which at least has editors. While I’d love to return to a time when the only people writing on "current events" were Thucydides and Xenophon, I’ll take blogs for what they are--in some cases, a more or less thoughtful reaction to the day’s news, keeping those who report it a little more on their toes. Some bloggers are like editors themselves, calling our attention to and commenting on an array of stories and opinion pieces. There is, of course, a lot of junk out there, but anyone can ignore it, as most ignore this.

Obama watch, part 5

This WaTi editorial argues that Obama’s Senate voting record is, predictably, that of a liberal, and an undistinguished one at that. Nothing surprising here. Hat tip: Power Line.

Saletan’s 2006 Top Ten Human Nature Stories

If nothing else, this list is more entertaining than most of the others you’re going to be suckered into reading over the next few weeks. The number one story, in my opinion: IVF-PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) clinics have already made it possible for couples to select genetically defective embryos. We can no longer take comfort in the thought that those who longed for the tyrannical power to design their babies would at least want the best for them.

Some of the other studies seem more questionable: Whiny kids allegedly grow up to be conservatives, for example. (We can show that study not to be true by not whining about it.) And I’ll leave to others to sing the praises of spray-on condoms.

Is Giuliani More Likeable and Loyal than McCain?

Here’s a plausible account of why conservatives are less irked by Rudy than by John. Their socially liberal deviations from mainstream party principles are similar, but Giuliani doesn’t turn his disagreements into moments of self-righteous, media-pandering disloyalty (my obvious exaggeration is to get your attention). The claim is also made that Giuliani is just more likeable. (In my opinion, they’re both pretty likeable, despite their relatively thin skins.)

New Use for the Little Blue Pill?

My mom reported this to me the other day as I was complaining about the fact that our first live Christmas tree was going limp. I didn’t believe her, so I looked it up and, sure enough, Mother knows best. Unfortunately, our tree is already past the point of no return and, besides, I don’t know any old guys with a prescription. Who knew?!

In any event, I’m going back to the fake tree next year!

A lib-lib romance?

I noted some time ago Brink Lindsey’s proposal of a lib-lib alliance and Jonah Goldberg’s promise to write about it. Well, Jonah G. has made good on his promise, but only for NR subscribers. Here’s the most interesting snippet from behind the firewall:

Nonetheless, the tension between conservatives and libertarians is not as one-sided as he and others would have us believe. Libertarianism was once primarily concerned with negative liberty — i.e. delineating a zone free of government intrusion. Meyer’s libertarianism was primarily concerned with the ability of the individual to find the virtuous path within “an objective moral order based on ontological foundations” best expressed in Western civilization. As such, fusionism was less a coalitional doctrine than a metaphysical imperative. But these days, phrases like “objective moral order” will get you knocked off Cato’s Kwanzaa-card list. Liberty’s virtue is no longer that it supports the virtuous. Rather, according to today’s leading libertarians, economic freedom’s virtue lies in its ability to provide everybody the custom-made lifestyle of his choice.

***

This emphasis on the liberating power of technology and wealth — i.e., materialism and positive liberty — represents an enormous philosophical transformation within libertarianism that echoes, albeit faintly, elements of the economic liberalism of John Dewey and FDR. It also shows that today’s libertarians have a different view of the 1960s than their forefathers, such as Meyer. Evaluating the ideas within this burgeoning enterprise would require another essay, and a very long one. But three preliminary points are worth mentioning. First, a new left-leaning fusionism is a long way off. The flaws in Lindsey’s dream are Aesopian: The scorpion had to sting the frog because that is what scorpions do; liberals have to engage in economic social engineering because that is what they do. Second, sure, lib-lib tactical alliances are possible, but conservatives would be idiotic to whine excessively about them. After all, the true sign of your movement’s success is when your opponents start copying you.


Lastly, if the conservative-libertarian union is in trouble, it’s not solely because conservatives have strayed from their vows. Marriages tend to dissolve when both parties “grow apart,” and libertarians have been doing quite a bit of growing themselves. “You’ve changed” is a fair accusation from both sides, though “I don’t even know you anymore” is surely an exaggeration. Perhaps the real lesson here is that conservatives and libertarians need to recommit themselves to the fusionist project. In other words: Let’s seek counseling.

Jonah G. seems to me correct about the current general libertarian indifference to the connection between virtue and responsibility, between "private" taste and character, on the one side, and the capacity for self-government, on the other. He’s also right that the Sixties may have ruined the old-fashioned libertarianism that could readily fuse with conservatives.

Get your hands on the whole piece, either in print or on-line. (By the way, one of the easiest ways for faculty folks to gain access to NR’s protected content is by becoming an ISI Faculty Associate.)

Is McCain the Establishment Candidate Now?

According to Bob Novak, it’s because of his electability. But, to his credit, McCain refuses to be "Ms. Congeniality" or confused with Bob Dole. Novak speculates that the vacuum to his right, especially if Romney falters, might be filled by Oklahoma’s Frank Keating, whom I remember sort of vaguely as a very good governor and as Bush’s likely running mate in 2000 until Cheney took the reins. So there’s another very long shot for ya’.

The Perfect Christmas Gift!

From the Levenger Catalogue ("tool for serious readers") comes the perfect Christmas gift: The Claremont Unifier! As you can see from the photo, it has no hidden comparments, no esoteric markings or invisible ink wells. (Or so it would seem.)

I wonder if someone at Levenger really has that refined a sense of humor?

Stern Justice

David Stern has spoken. Carmelo Anthony will serve a 15 game suspension for his role in the on-court riot Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The other players deemed culpable received lesser but still stiff penalties. The teams were hit with $500,000 fines.

A few quick thoughts. I approve of ‘Melo’s punishment, which is considerably above that meted out for previous incidents and thus is likely to be reduced on appeal. (The fact that Isaiah Thomas skated, as usual, is appalling.) Stern knows that the league took an enormous public relations hit from the Ron Artest brawl a few years back and he thought he’d gotten his message across to the players. Evidently not. He had to pick out the highest profile offender and raise the ante.

Fighting is hardly new to basketball. Kermit Washington punch’s nearly killed Rudy T. The sainted Larry Bird and Dr. J even got into it, although it was a typical pro sports fight, no harm no foul. But over the past decade pro basketball had seemed on the verge of spilling out of control and into the stands, culminating in the Artest fiasco. Thus Stern’s intervention.

There once did seem to a self-enforcing mechanism that limited the mayhem when the league was much smaller and the big men much bigger (in the sense that you really, really didn’t want to fight them). Wilt Chamberlain – a gentle giant, really, but a giant nonetheless – once decided he’d break up a shoving match involving one of the league’s tough guys, Wayne Embry (6-8, 280 or so), if I recall correctly. Wilt picked him up by his jersey and sort of slid him out of bounds, from the free throw line. Everyone stopped and stared. Wilt had gotten angry. You wouldn’t like Wilt when he was angry. That was that. No one stepped in to challenge Wilt. I don’t think even a technical foul was assessed. On with the game.

Perhaps my rosy-eyed revisionism is unjustified. But I wonder how much of these gang-like brawls in basketball are related to the gang-like culture with which many of the young players identify. They are clever – they fund showy charitable activities, as Carmelo Anthony has done, but then they are off to their favorite head-banging nightclub, where they wind up in a parking lot fight at 3 in the morning. ESPN has been running an interesting feature on pro athletes and guns. One estimate of pro basketball players puts gun ownership at 90%. Many athletes carry guns. They point out that they feel they need the protection when their public visibility makes them likely targets. Boston’s Paul Pierce was knifed and seriously injured a few years ago. One of course supports their Second Amendment right to protect themselves and their family. But in this case Karl Malone, former NBA great, outdoorsman and hunter, scoffs. He says it’s not about protection of home and person. You take a young athlete, drunk, with his posse, at a club at 3 in the morning, with a gun. Good luck.

I wonder how far we are away from a similar outbreak in professional football, which has been remarkably disciplined given the fact that it’s a violent collision sport, to use Vince Lombardi’s term. The Miami-FIU brawl earlier this season reminds us this can happen. Especially as the police blotter for pro football players continues to grow. At least 35 NFL players have been arrested this year on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to felony burglary. To be sure, football players have never been saints (or Saints) but once again, one wonders if the old inside-the-game enforcement mechanism will break down.

Study Shows the Value of Intact Families and Religious Observance

The Heritage Foundation has released a study that details ten leading indicators of teenage well-being and what is most likely to yield this desirable result: intact families and religious observance. Shocking, I know. But apparently this kind of hard "data" is necessary to the argument these days.

Goldberg vs. Gerson

Jonah G. doesn’t agree with Michael G.. For what it’s worth, I think that Gerson is right about the stakes and probably right that "civil society" can’t simply resurrect itself where it’s broken.

My concern is that opening the door to government programming usually lets in a lot more than someone like Gerson (or Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney or Sam Brownback [who goes unmentioned in MG’s piece]) presumably wants.

Update: For more quibbles and quarrels over at The Corner, go here, here, and here. As I re-read the essay, I can see why folks are objecting so vehemently: there’s an eminently contestable interpretation of the Reagan legacy and an (unfortunately) unnuanced (or insufficiently nuanced) implication that the default solutions to our problems are governmental. I would nonetheless like to hear what, if anything, Jonah’s correspondents (or Jonah himself) liked about the essay. Or are they going to read Gerson out of the conservative movement?

Iraq’s economy

I was surprised to read that the Iraqi economy is thriving, and this is reported in Newsweek, of all places. Judging by the extravagant reporting on the mischief there, I thought the place had already disintegrated. Not yet, I guess, not yet. Yet, this is very bad news for Iraqis.

Bush library controversy

This article reports on controversy over plans for the G. W. Bush library at SMU. There have been articles written and letters of protest circulated. Francis Beckwith says he’d be happy to see the library at Baylor, his institution (and one of the competitors, along with the University of Dallas).

The rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, the opposition to the library is transparently political.

Obama watch, part 4

John Fund makes the case against an Obama candidacy, and in favor of a spot on the ticket with HRC. He says everything I would have said.

How Nice for You . . . How About the Kid?

This emotionally wrenching and extraordinarily well-written piece by an 18 year-old girl who is the product of sperm donor, ought to give pause to anyone who thinks these matters are all just a matter of personal choice . . . for the parents.

Hat tip: Priscilla Tacujan.

More Human Misery Unveiled

A personal testimony of a doctoral student on fellowship: He can’t tell whether he’s always working or always not working. But he does know it’s hell never to have to be at work. I’ve heard rumors that professors on sabbatical experience similar cruel suffering.

George Will on Republican Tightrope Walkers

Will has a very interesting column on McCain’s and Romney’s immediate problems. McCain, to avoid contradicting himself, may be soon be stuck with repudiating the president’s Iraq strategy as immoral. And Romney, in light of new evidence, now has a harder time showing that he’s not contradicting his earlier, more socially liberal positions just to gain conservative support. (It does appear that Romney did attempt to position himself to the left of Ted Kennedy on some issues when he ran against him.)

Meanwhile, John Edwards is entering the race on the Democratic side. It would be easy to misunderestimate him, given his lame vice-presidential run. But he’s done well in making himself look and sound more seasoned yet still mighty telegenic. Edwards is clearly a very smart guy with considerable personal discipline. And he’s been concentrating on winning in Iowa, where he apparently now leads Senators Clinton and Obama. That Iowa strategy has worked before.
And the southern white male strategy has been the only winning ticket for the Democrats since 1960. (Gore, for reasons I’ll explain later, doesn’t seem southern enough--or at least most of the Gores don’t.)

Europe dying

This short Josef Joffe review of Mark Steyn’s America Alone is worth reading if no other reason because Joffe might be the last continental thinking (with a sense of humor). His verdict on Steyn: "Pedagogy could not be more pleasurable."

War and technology

Josiah Bunting reviews Max Boot’s War Made New. Pretty Good. Bunting will be speaking at the Ashbrook Center in March.

Musical Recommendation

Finally, if you are a jazz piano fan, don’t miss this splendid video of Les McCann from 1960. It’s 2:44 of pure bliss.

Up For Air

I’m finally digging out from under the rubble, with a little more time to blog, so herewith some random Sunday morning observations:

Time magazine’s Person of the Year: "You." Lame.

Is there anything more to be said about the Iraq Study Group? Maybe just this revisionist musing about James A. Baker III. The cliche for years is that if Baker had remained Reagan’s chief of staff in Reagan’s second term, he never would have let the Iran-Contra scheme go forward. But given his suggestion that we now negotiate with Ahmanijewhackjob, can we really be so sure of this?

We’re well into the season of what Michael Kinsley called "The Great Mentioner," when every conceivable person who might run for president gets his (or her) moment of media attention. There is of course lots of speculation about the possible candidacy of a former Vice President whose name rhymes with "bore." But how come another recent former Vice President--Dan Quayle--never gets a mention? He tried briefly to run in 2000, but found quickly that G.W. Bush had all the money cornered. And given that the return of the old Bush crowd in the form of the ISG represents the supposed return of the so-called "adults," why not Quayle?

Caught a little squib on TV late last night about how Hollywood studios save ooodles of money by outsourcing production. . . oops, I mean, "filming on location"--overseas. A producer explained that on a major film, shooting overseas can save $15 million or more, in lower set materials and labor costs. That helps play for the $20 million or so to hire Tom Cruise to star. (But remember: Corporate CEOs are overpaid.) How come no outcry about "outsourcing" the work of our entertainment industry? Will Hollywood productions be included in any kind of anti-outsourcing bill that the new Democratic Congress may produce? Don’t hold your breath.

Finally, more evidence this morning in The New York Times that the Episcopal Church is about to crack up and is on its way to becoming as forlorn as the World Esperanto Association. I bailed a long time ago.

Backing Brownback

Is Tom Monaghan.

Peter Lawler’s former Congressman

Has become a Libertarian.

A Man Retires

No doubt in some circles Donald Rumsfeld will only be remembered for making some needed changes in the Pentagon, or for making some mistakes in the war. Such remembrance will not be worthy of the man.

I will always remember him as the manly presence and voice of our just response in deep crisis. By his obvious integrity, swift action, and then rugged endurance, he fulfilled all the obligations of heroism. His swashbuckling charisma helped. Both young men and women watched in awe this former fighter jock, with crooked legs and all, amble his old body first to pick up human pieces outside the hit building and then to respond lyrically to the prosaic media who represented another form of attack. During one of those press conferences
I heard a father lean over to his son and say, "Look you, this is a man at work. Mark it. You may not see it again."

This old man, this old prize fighter, this old jock, this minister of war, this archetypal American, dispatched great menace upon the enemy. He threw our best at them. And he kept throwing. And he called it by the right name of war as he reminded us why civilization is better than barbarism, and why it is worth defending. Not bad from a craftsman of war.

His graceful disdain for the base factions who habitually called for head was a poetic response of a man who knew his duty. His statesmanship was deeply appreciated by his fellow citizens. His conduct has been splendid. He has inspired all us ordinary men to extend ourselves beyong the petty and the routine. This old body and heart and mind walking away from the arena has reminded us of human greatness and excellence. And I thank him.

No Longer "You Americans" for This New American

Sally Pipes, president and CEO of my former and still some-time employer, the Pacific Research Institute, was sworn in as an American citizen today, the greatest loss to Canada since William Shatner came south to star in the only movie ever filmed entirely in Esperanto. (I’m not making that up.)

Congratulations Sally! Move over Peter.

Interesting spring conference

There’s still time to submit a proposal for this conference, which I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve attended. This year, I’m planning to present a short little something on "family values" in Livy, focusing on the Lucretia and Verginia stories.

An Interview with Mitt

Here’s an NRO interview with Romney.
Kathryn Lopez was not particularly hard on the governor. But his answers still seem quite thoughtful, especially on Iraq and the whole ROE mentality. And he’s very clear (more clear than most of our politicians) that marriage and abortion are issues for the people--not activist judges--to decide, and that defending "traditional marriage" need not imply animosity toward gays or a violation of rights. He waffled a bit on the "evolution of his views" issue, but not that much.

Can We Think Outside the Capitalism-Statism Box?

Here’s a very thoughtful and exceedingly respectful criticism of me for my biostatism. The alternative? Biocapitalism! My tentative response: Isn’t there a third alternative? That would be political deliberation.

Another blogster comments on my NEW ATLANTIS article with the intention of showing that liberals will unite with the libertarians on organ markets. Liberals, on such issues, can’t explain why they aren’t libertarians.

Obama watch, part 3

Peggy Noonan:

Sen. Obama spent his short lifetime breathing in the common liberal/leftist wisdom, which he exhales at length. This is not something new--it’s something old in a new package. And it is something that wins you what he has, a series of 100% ratings from left-liberal interest groups.


He is, clearly, a warm-blooded political animal, an eager connector, a man of intelligence and a writer whose observations suggest the possibility of an independence of spirit. Also a certain unknowability. Which may account for some of his popularity.

But again, what does he believe? From reading his book, I would say he believes in his destiny. He believes in his charisma. He has the confidence of the anointed. He has faith in the magic of the man who meets his moment.


He also believes in the power of good nature, the need for compromise, and the possibility of comprehensive, multitiered, sensible solutions achieved through good-faith negotiations.


But mostly it seems to be about him, his sense of destiny, and his appreciation of his own particular gifts. Which leaves me thinking Oh dear, we have been here before. It’s not as if we haven’t already had a few of the destiny boys. It’s not as if we don’t have a few more in the wings.


The Washington Times

Mr. Obama’s record as an Illinois state senator was down-the-line liberal. For someone representing a liberal district in Chicago, that’s not very surprising. What is surprising is how Mr. Obama’s liberal label has been effectively wiped clean since he entered the U.S. Senate.

Of course, some people grow in office....

Berkowitz on liberal education

The prolific Peter Berkowitz writes on liberal education, taking as his point of departure J.S. Mill’s Inaugural Address at St. Andrews. A snippet:

M ill’s nineteenth-century analysis of liberal education is relevant to the twenty-first-century university not for the specific curriculum he proposes but because of the larger principles he outlines and the greater goods he clarifies. His analysis suggests several lessons. First, a liberal education aims to liberate the mind by furnishing it with literary, historical, scientific, and philosophical knowledge and by cultivating its capacity to question and answer on its own. Second, a liberal education must, in significant measure, provide not a smorgasbord of offerings but a shared content, because knowledge is cumulative and ideas have a history. Third, a liberal education must adapt to local realities, providing the elementary instruction, the stepping stones to higher stages of understanding, where grade school and high school education fail to perform their jobs. Fourth, the aim of a liberal education is not to achieve mastery in any one subject but an understanding of what mastery entails in the several main fields of human learning and an appreciation of the interconnections among the fields. Fifth, liberal education is not an alternative to specialization, but rather a sound preparation for it. Sixth, a liberal education culminates in the study of ethics, politics, and religion, studies which naturally begin with the near and familiar, extend to include the faraway and foreign, and reach their peak in the exploration, simultaneously sympathetic and critical, of the history of great debates about justice, faith, and reason. Seventh, all of this will be for naught if teaching is guided by the partisan or dogmatic spirit, so professors must be cultivated who will bring to the classroom the spirit of free and informed inquiry.

The principal obstacle, says Berkowitz, is the professoriate. You don’t have to agree with everything he says to find engagement with the essay fruitful.

Novak and Meacham on public religious expression

A Pew transcript.

Meacham:

Most of our ideas about law and liberty have religious roots. They are not wholly religious, but they are crucially so. It’s ahistorical to argue differently. But the most important thing as we go forward, in a country that is 80 percent Christian and where only 10 percent of people are willing to acknowledge they are atheists, is for the religious to actually pay attention to what the religion teaches. This is a radical concept in some circles. I think as a believer who is very much part of a majority – I’m a white Southern male, Episcopalian – except for the Episcopalian part, I’m not often a minority. My job is to be deferential, to acknowledge the centrality of liberty – not of toleration. Tolerance presupposes the idea that a majority is granting a minority a right to do something. Implicit in that is the ability to yank it back. Liberty comes from God or from the social contract, if you view it from a secular perspective. It is therefore universal and inviolate. Tolerance is conditional, and that’s something else; it’s a dangerous thing, I think.


The job of this 80 percent is to concede the point whenever it needs to be conceded. You can put a crèche in a churchyard. You can put a crèche in your front yard. You can put a crèche in your house. Put the reindeer on the cross, whatever it is you want to do. One has to be confident enough in one’s faith to figure it’s a pretty poor God who needs shopping malls and courthouse lawns to support his cause. If he’s God, he’s got it taken care of. I don’t think he needs Santa, the menorah, and the crèche.


Novak:

God may not need crèches in malls and in courthouses, but human beings do.

More entertaining than illuminating, but still good reading.

Bettor Days

You have read my carping about the obvious and subtle impact that big business, advertising and network television have on sports. But at least this influence, or most of it, is reasonably above board. The fight between the NFL and the big cable companies is splashed over the sports and financial pages. If you don’t like it, you can always write your Congressman.

Readers have pointed out to me that gambling is probably the black hole that most warps the space-time continuum of athletics. As with Rick’s Café in Casablanca, we should not be shocked to learn that gambling occurs on the premises -- or that it involves huge sums of money, often in less than savory hands. The professional and college sports establishments are well aware of the risks. To give one obvious example: the NFL feels compelled to issue injury reports every week, with players rated from “probable” to “out” – not for the benefit of ordinary Joe Fan but to dissuade gamblers from looking to beg, borrow or steal inside information about a team’s health. Pete Rose is banned for life for baseball’s equivalent of the sin against the Spirit, which cannot be forgiven. Paul Horning and Alex Karras, then arguably the best offensive and defensive players in the NFL, were banned for one season in 1963 for betting on football. (Horning played for Vince Lombardi, for God’s sake.) Point shaving scandals, involving a few individuals, surface once every decade or so in college basketball.

One strongly suspects that another Black Sox scandal, probably worse – the corruption of entire teams or officiating crews or even league offices – is lurking not far below the surface. There is too much money to be made in too many ways. Too many shady figures surround today’s athletes. Michael Konik, who has written several books on gambling, describes one tip of the iceberg.

The Brain Trust [is] a shadowy cabal of gamblers who wager enormous amounts of money on sports events, using a supercomputer and a SWAT team of injury and weather experts to take advantage of minor discrepancies in the point spreads set up by the Vegas linemakers. It’s a multimillion-dollar business — and legal — but there’s a wrinkle: they like to bet hundreds of thousands of dollars per game, and whenever the casinos sniff out betting syndicates like the Brain Trust, they show them the door in a heartbeat. That’s because in addition to risking huge losses each week, the bookmakers are forced to adjust their betting lines — sometimes by two or three points for a football game — whenever the “smart money” wades in, since they desperately need other customers to bet the other side to balance their action and stand a chance of making money.

The Brain Trust and its like manipulate the point spread the way hedge funds and currency speculators jigger the stock market – or the famous MIT blackjack team card- counted its way to fame and fortune in the casinos. Such creativity with such high stakes won’t be limited to the front parlor of Rick’s Café.

Reason and little faith at Harvard

A few months ago, Harvard attracted a lot of attention by including a "reason and faith" category in its propsed gen ed revisions. Looks like that requirement has been dropped. Perhaps this essay, by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, had something to do with it. Of course, his sweeping dismissal of religion and of faith--"universities are about reason, pure and simple." Would that be about faith in reason? And then there’s this:

For us to magnify the significance of religion as a topic equivalent in scope to all of science, all of culture, or all of world history and current affairs, is to give it far too much prominence. It is an American anachronism, I think, in an era in which the rest of the West is moving beyond it.

I guess that just about settles it. Professor Pinker’s university is about dogmatic rationalism.

Update: More
here.

S. D. Senator Tim Johnson

Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Johnson and his family. Drop by our friends at South Dakota Politics for local color.

John Ford the Poet

I continued my conversation with John Marini on Westerns, still focusing on John Ford, with some good analysis of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," maybe Ford’s best; pride, equality, tyranny, the beginning, the end, it’s all there. Did you know that John Wayne never eats in the movie? "I’m not in the habit of eating steaks off the floor." Marini explains the importance of this, as well as the schoolhouse scene: "Education is the basis of law and order." You are going to like Marini and then you will have to see the movie again. You won’t be able to help yourself. Great stuff. Early next year I will talk with Marini again, perhaps move on to Sam Peckinpah’s movies. My thanks to John Marini.

Robert Browning

I recently suggested to a mother some poems and books for children and among them was The Pied Piper of Hamelin which I haven’t read in a couple of years (although when my kids were young I read it so often that I had almost memorized; they loved it); it’s still a great read for any age. Here is a nice children’s edition.

The Christmas menorah

Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly points to this article, from last year, about the role of menorahs in the public square. Some Jewish organizations oppose them, others, like Chabad, relentlessly promote them.

Many Christian groups support Chabad’s efforts to reclothe the naked public square, embracing the Jewish symbol because pluralism calls for a multiplicity of symbols. As Marc Stern of the American Jewish Congress, who opposes Chabad’s campaign, wrote back in 1987, "the menorah on public lands clears the path for the creche and the Cross."

Why not? Is religious freedom best promoted by a robust public pluralism or by a crabbed secularism intent on policing public expressions of religiosity? There will surely be a little conflict in the former case, but it could well produce understanding. In the latter case, mutual understanding and accommodation are foreclosed by a paternalistic effort to avoid conflict altogether.

Update: Here’s some evidence of the connection between the menorah and "the creche and the Cross."

Upate #2: You can read the Chabad case for robust pluralism here.

Practice

Show up on time. Pay attention. Play like hell.

Those were the only three rules that John Madden, the long-time NFL TV analyst, had while coaching the Oakland Raiders.

Allen Iverson, the star-crossed point/shooting guard late of the Philadelphia 76ers, apparently got only part of that memo. Play like hell. No one, especially no one 6-0, 165 pounds (officially) has ever left more of himself on the basketball floor. As Bob Ryan writes in today’s Boston Globe: “He maxes out on sheer athleticism, for openers, and he outmaxes the maxing out in both competitiveness and toughness. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he has played more games that no one else could possibly have played than any player in the history of the game. Allen Iverson is Brett Favre’s alter ego.” In terms of statistics, Iverson is arguably the biggest small man of all time. He has won 4 NBA scoring titles. This season he is averaging 31.2 points and 7.3 assists per game.

For the rest of it, ESPN will never let us forget one of the all-time rants – “we talkin’ ‘bout practice” – when Iverson heard that one of his coaches, Larry Brown, had criticized his practice habits. The transcript cannot do justice to Iverson’s tone.

It’s easy to talk about, it’s easy to sum it up when you just talk about practice. We sittin’ in here, I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talkin’ about practice. I mean listen, we talkin bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talkin bout practice. Not a game, not a, not a, not the game that I go out there and die for, and play every game like its my last. Not the game. We talkin’ bout practice, man. I mean how silly is that? We talkin’ bout practice. I know I’m supposed to be there, I know I’m supposed to lead by example. I know that, and I’m not shovin’ it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know its important, I do. I honestly do. But we talkin’ bout practice, man. What are we talkin’ bout? Practice? We talkin’ bout practice man. We talk... We talkin’ bout practice. We talkin’ bout practice. We ain’t talkin’ bout the game, we talkin’ bout practice, man. When you come into the arena, and you see me play, you see me play, don’t you? You see me give everything I got, right? But we talkin’ bout practice right now. We talkin’ bout practice. (crowd laughs) Man look, I hear you, its funny to me too. I mean, its strange, its strange to me too. But we talkin’ bout practice man. We not even talkin’ bout the game, the actual game, when it matters. We talkin’ bout practice.

Iverson showed up to practices and team functions when he felt like it. He listened to coaches when he felt like it. And, as Ryan delicately puts it, “there is also the matter of wondering about what Allen is doing in his free time (hint: he’s not attending ‘The Nutcracker’).”

Ryan takes a particular interest in Iverson today because the moody superstar has demanded a trade. After 11 years of his act, with a 5-15 record and going nowhere fast, Philadelphia is only too happy to accommodate him. Golden State, Minnesota and Boston are thought to be the leading contenders. Ryan clearly thinks Boston would be, how shall we say, insane to take him on. Iverson is an old 31, having lived life hard on and off the basketball floor. More to the point, Iverson never learned the lesson that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird knew from the cradle and Michael Jordan eventually learned:

When one can get off a shot anytime one wishes and when one can (or thinks he can) dribble through entire teams, and one can pretty much pull off any athletic feat one wishes during the course of a basketball game, one all too often arrives at the conclusion that one should, in fact, act on one’s impulses at any given point in time. Team dynamics be damned. What is the recurrent story of Allen Iverson’s NBA career? Simple. It’s the ongoing attempt of general managers and coaches to find players who might be compatible with him. . . . Ten-plus years into his career, there is little evidence to suggest that Iverson is coachable. Ah yes, coaches. I’d pay serious cash money to attend a meeting of the Allen Iverson Alumni Coaches Association. I’d like to hear them talk about how difficult it is to create a team atmosphere when the most gifted player is openly disdainful of practice.

Ryan gives full credit to Iverson for bringing the modestly-talented 76er team of 2000-2001 through to the NBA Finals. But that was six years ago, when Larry Brown (barely) was able to get through to Iverson for a brief shining moment, at a time when his game was at its peak. Iverson differs from many modern athletic superstars: when he does show up, he plays hard. But that was not good enough then. And it certainly isn’t good enough now. He is, as Jim Mora Sr. spoke the truth about Michael Vick, a coach killer. And some coach is about to get the bad news.

Islamic Imperialism

While I don’t get all this manliness stuff below, I would like to mention a book I have been reading and one that continues to be readable, even late into the night. I started it months ago, then life pushed, but now I have been able to push back and so I read. Might be a good thing to read during Christmas: Efraim Karsh’s Islamic Imperialism: A History. A great read and maybe--now that I think about it--the subject might be related to manliness.

Judge Jones’s intelligent design

Last year, Judge John E. Jones, III handed down a decision in the Dover (PA) intelligent design case that got him lots of good press (albeit not from me). Turns out that he was basically channelling the ACLU line in the portion of his opinion dealing with ID.

Let’s just say that his opinion gives the lie to what he said in his Dickinson College commencement address:

I am daily exposed to many disciplines, I must learn and relearn things constantly, and I am at risk of deciding a case incorrectly if I accept that which is presented to me at face value.

Well, this critical thinker took what the ACLU handed him at face value, and then took the accolades for "his" definitive opinion.

Update: Judge Jones’s critics at
the Discovery Institute have been all over his opinion, and have also found a striking similarity between his Dickinson commencement address and a book published a few years earlier. Hmm.

War for Talent?

There are changes planned to the Foreign Service Exam for next year, a dumbing down, according to some. There is more competition for talent than in the past, so goes the story. This is interesting:

"The revamp is slated for next year, if the department secures the money needed to pursue it. The decision comes as official Washington grapples with its biggest hiring challenge in decades: finding fresh faces to replace a tsunami of retiring baby boomers. Over the next decade, 60 percent of federal workers will reach retirement age, according to the Washington-based Partnership for Public Service. Yet most people between the ages of 18 and 29 think the private sector offers more creativity and attracts the best minds, according to a new Gallup survey."

McCurry on Clinton

I talked to a student today about Clinton. He was smitten with his general demeanor, ability to talk, etc. I tried to point out his flaws (never mind not agreeing with him on this or that) but without success. Then I caught this from Mike McCurry, Clinton’s press guy:

"Despite Clinton’s many domestic and international advances during his two terms as president, McCurry said, above all, ’the record and legacy of the Clinton presidency is, dare I use the word, "stain."

’In some ways, he had enormous potential and political gifts. But, they didn’t arise because of his lack of discipline,’ McCurry added."

Christmas Movies

I’ve got a sick kid at home from school today and so she’s been camped out on our couch watching a marathon of Christmas movies between cat-naps and sniffles.

Our favorites (for kids):

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer;
How the Grinch Stole Christmas the cartoon, not the recent bad movie;
Santa Claus is Coming to Town;
A Charlie Brown Christmas;
and my all time favorite kids Christmas movie, The Year Without a Santa Claus (and NOT that disaster made for TV last night, but the original Rankin/Bass one from the 70s.)

For one and all:


Any decent version of A Christmas Carol;
Miracle on 34th Street the original Natalie Wood version; A Christmas Story; Holiday Inn (much better than White Christmas);
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation because you can’t take anything--even Christmas--too seriously; and my all time favorite movie, period It’s a Wonderful Life


Attack or add at will!

Manliness Studies

In the spirit of Christmas book lists, let me say that your gift package of recent books on manliness should include the following: Mansfield, MANLINESS; Tom Wolfe, I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS; Carson Holloway, THE RIGHT DARWIN; Ericson and Mahoney, eds, THE SOLZHENITSYN READER; Pierre Manent, A WORLD BEYOND POLITICS?;
Ralph Rossum, ANTONIN SCALIA’S JURISPRUDENCE, and Joseph Epstein, ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE.

For those of you who (with good reason) are convinced that Christmmas is not the season of manliness, I’ll try to put together some other packages later.

Thirty (or more) years’ war in the Middle East

Tom Cerber calls our attention to this analysis of the broader Sunni/Shia conflict in the Middle East. Do those who know more than I do about Iran agree with Spengler’s account of its predicament?

Claremont Christmas books

Their recommendations are here. Now I feel obliged to offer mine, and encourage other NLT contributors to offer suggestions as well.

First, I’ll relieve Steve Hayward of having to be shameless, recommending Greatness.

Then, I’ll relieve Peter Lawler of the same need, recommending Stuck with Virtue.

We should all read about Manliness, and, while we’re at it, add Randy Newell’s What Is a Man?.

I think that Jim Ceaser’s Nature and History in American Poltiical Development solidifies his standing as one of our smartest and most thoughtful commentators on the deeper cultural and philosophical roots of the American regime.

I rather liked Elizabeth Edwards Spalding’s book on Harry Truman, which I reviewed for the forthcoming Claremont Review of Books.

Richard Brookhiser is auditioning in a compelling way to be America’s contemporary Plutarch; I especially liked his book on Washington.

Finally, if you’re still at a loss, consult this list, from which any purchase benefits the Ashbrook Center.

My Kind of Bishop, and other Tuesday Notes

News is weird today. First, a drunk Bishop over in Britain makes the papers, confirming what we already suspected about confusion over the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Church, and then former CIA director James Woolsey sings "Dixie Chicken" in public!!! What next? I suppose some comic genius will suggest direct negotiations with Iran and Syria about Iraq. . . What?

Vast left-wing conspiracy?

Those interested in the burgeoning intellectual and policy infrastructure on the Left will likely be interested in this Hudson Institute transcript, featuring NR’s Byron York and a couple of prominent players in the VLWC, as well as in a couple of Open Society Institute events they mention, one featuring former Olin Foundation head James Piereson and the other addressing the question of "how do progressives connect ideas to action". There’s a transcript for the former, but the latter consists at the moment of two MP3 files totaling over three hours. Perhaps Peter S. can listen to them while walking his dog; my son won’t let me anywhere near his iPod, unless it’s to download Weird Al for him.

In the meantime, content yourself with this, from the Hudson transcript, characterizing the OSI meeting:

I had a forum at the Open Society Institute yesterday, actually, with fifteen or twenty progressive leaders – Bill Moyers moderated.... One of the discussions
we got into among ourselves was the tensions on the progressive side between critique and celebration, as it were. And I think a problem for the left has been that very often we’re both caricatured as being only about critique, and also there’s some truth in that just as there is in almost any critique. And so our relationship with the Founders and the history of the country is somewhat different and more complex because it’s about the perfectibility of the American experiment. There is an understandable emphasis on our side with the shortcomings of the United States, and that’s a tough thing.


I don’t know that I would say that the progressives aren’t grounded enough in Founders. I think it is that they’re not, in recent years, grounded in any big ideas. I don’t know that that’s the dividing line I would choose. I think that there has been, for a variety of reasons, a kind of smallbore quality to a lot of thinking, and very few progressives – some are in this room, colleagues of mine – if you asked them about their historical or hilosophical influences or books that they are
reading or have read that had some influence on them, would have as much interesting to say as people on the right. Is that going to be an impediment to becoming the party of government again? I don’t know. But it’s something that bothers me a bit – and it’s a little bit of what I say with the audacity thing. I guess I should correct myself slightly to say that we have plenty of audacity. You can – and Horowitz has done this – find a million crazy ideas that left wing professors are touting. There isn’t a lack of audacious, crazy ideas. There has been quite a
disconnection, however, between the academy and the actual world of policy and politics on the progressive side, despite the fact that right thinks that the left controls the academy.

Why is there an apparent or alleged disconnect between the political left and the academic left? This joke doesn’t fully explain it:

But if you just take as a kind of device the Horowitz list of the
hundred most dangerous professors – or whatever it is, these people are supposed to be undermining America – if you look through that, if there is one of them in there who has ever had a contact with a Democratic officeholder other than standing outside in their driveway with a no-blood-for-oil sign, I’d be very surprised.

After all, there’s evidence that most professorial campaign contributions go to Democrats. Why don’t the ideas follow the money? Is the academic left too far out, too adversarial? Or is there a portion of the academic left (law professors, for example) whose ideas are so "mainstream" that they’re no longer regarded as "academic"?

Good colleges

Hillsdale College Larry P. Arnn, last featured here on this website, dissed both Ashland and Oglethorpe in an otherwise excellent appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show this evening. Arnn offered an eloquent account of the Hillsdale education, indeed of liberal education altogether, at one point citing this line from Bishop Berkeley:

"Whatever the world thinks, he who hath not much meditated upon God, the human mind, and the Summon Bonum, may possibly make a thriving earthworm, but will certainly make a sorry patriot and a sorry statesman."

Good stuff, but somehow Peter has to get him to plug our institutions when he’s on national radio.

Studies Show That Men Have a Better Sense of Humor Than Women

Christopher Hitchens tries to explain why. Are men more likely than women really to think that life itself is a cruel joke? Or is the pain and risk of having babies no laughing matter?
Is there anything more boring than a woman talking about her newborn? Or about her dreams? I’m not sure about these studies. Mr. Mansfield’s study of manliness shows that women secretly think that manly exaggeration is the biggest joke in the cosmos, but they (in their self-interest and out of love) don’t laugh about it while we men are around. And Mr. Hitchens’ own (intentional) wittiness I’ve always found to be pretty uneven.

Here Hitchens laughably wastes many, many words in a futile attempt to show that Ann Coulter has no sense of humor. She’s obviously laughing all the way to the bank.

Can We Change Our Natures?

There’s a lot of loose talk about human nature and all that on this blog. But aren’t we in the process of changing our natures?
Isn’t the conquest of death or at least indefinite longevity just around the corner? Isn’t transhumanism an allegedly dangerous idea precisely because it so accurately captures the inevitable post-natural future of our species? And through memory control we might be able to live without guilt or fear, while remembering everything we really need to know to live well. On the downside, am I stuck with being part of the last generation to die? The way to last as long as possible for now, studies show, is barely eating. Burning calories doesn’t work that well; the key is to have nothing worth burning. Maybe NYC should strictly ration the number of calories per resident.

John Marini Podcast on Westerns

I talked with Professor John Marini (University of Nevada, Reno) about western films and heroes and honor and courage and the establihsment of civilization and how hard it is to keep it. Because of his importance for the genre, much of the half hour was spent on John Ford and his films. John knows more about westerns than anyone I know and I will talk to him a couple of more times. Do listen to it and those following; kind of like a Christmas present. My thanks to John Marini.

Faith-based initiative in the courts

This NYT article is problematical, as Rick Garnett points out, but it does contain links to a veritable trove of documents in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative case, about which I wrote here. With all the amicus attention it’s attracting, it looks like it’s going to be one of the big cases next year.

In addition, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case, where the immediate issue is the standing of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to mount a sweeping legal challenge to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiative’s general activities promoting the Initiative.

This ought to keep commentators (like me) off the streets.

Update: Mollie at Get Religion likes the IFI story better than the others in the NYT series, though I think she’d change her mind if she began reading the appellate briefs.

The post-secular university

This is short, but at this time of year we all have short attention spans. A snippet, for those with advanced cases of ADD:

My date book contains cartoons first published in the New Yorker. One shows a young boy in front of his class, doing arithmetic at the blackboard. He has just written "7 x 5 = 75" and says to his astonished teacher, "It may be wrong, but it’s how I feel." There, in a nutshell, is the problem with the post-secular university. Faith is dead, reason is dying, but "how I feel" is going strong.

Of Thugs and Sluts

Stanley Crouch writes a brief but thoughtful op-ed that makes a firm and unflinching point to young people caught up in the thug/slut fashions of the day: you are slaves and you don’t even know it. He further suggests--a la George Gilder--that women have much greater power than they imagine to turn these things around by refusing to acknowledge the advances of such men and refusing to take part in the accompanying "slut" culture of the hip-hop scene. Crouch posits that most young men who are taken with this hip-hop rap culture are just playing a part in order to attract the attention of females. Well . . . perhaps.

On some basic level I suppose there is a bit of truth in what Crouch says. There is, at any rate, probably enough truth in it to make his prescription pretty effective in treating the symptoms of this disease eating away at our culture. But how do you get these women to swallow that bitter pill? That question Crouch leaves unanswered. Beyond that, however, I do not think the pleas of women for manly men will be enough, in the end, to ratchet up production. There are many reasons to be less than optimistic but one especially big one is that a true manly man (as well as a true thug) will not act out of concern for what causes a woman to fawn over him. And here’s the rub: women will still fawn over them--indeed they will fawn all the more. As a result less manly and less thuggish men will attempt to emulate their examples. So no, what thuggish men truly need is the example of real men defeating thugs and putting them in their place and receiving the sweet rewards of real women for their efforts. Similarly, what slutty women need is the example of real women who know the difference between a man and a thug.

Still, on the whole, there is nothing unsound about Crouch’s advice. I just don’t think it is a prescription that can ever kill the virus--only manage its more manageable symptoms (i.e., lesser thugs).

This should be a Hayward post

But he’s very busy, so I’ll link to this rewritten "Night Before Christmas", featuring Al Gore. A sample:

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,


Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

That’s because AlGore had been through the place,

Taking out every light bulb, and heater of space.

This year’s "war" on Christmas

As far as legal disputes over holiday displays are concerned, this season has been relatively quiet. Well, there was the kerfuffle over Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, that’s been almost it. Until this past weekend, when Seattle-Tacoma airport officials took down Christmas trees rather than try to figure out how to include everyone in a holiday display.

Can I say that this is a thoughtless overreaction, or was it a thoughtful overreaction? They knew pretty well what they would have to do, and had plenty of time to do it.

I wouldn’t call this part of a "war" on Christmas, but abandonment of everything vaguely religious is the knee-jerk response of the ever-so-sensitive public official.

Update: Little Christmas trees are sprouting at ticket counters, and the big trees are back as well. The initial decision unfortunately spawned a good bit of animosity directed, not at the authorities, but at the rabbi who requested that the airport also put up a menorah. He didn’t want the trees taken down, as he has stressed over and over again. This is a misdirected overreaction to the overreaction.

I also wonder why the airport can’t just put up the menorah, as requested, or permit Chabad (which I’m sure would be happy to do so) to erect one. Absent that enlightened decision, I hope that a private landowner close to one of the major approaches to the airport will permit Chabad to erect a menorah on his or her property.

Israel and Iran

This is a very sobering article. I’m not saying everything in it is true, and I don’t want to direct your opinion. But are we on the verge of conceding that Iran may become a nuclear power? And is Israel now stuck with taking out that country’s nuclear capability on its own? As well as openly developing a credible second-strike strategy? Suddenly everyone is admitting that Israel has its own nuclear weapons.

This is Cool

Turns out someone at The Economist blog reads NoLeftTurns. I say "someone" because the blog’s authors are anonymous, just like Economist print stories. (I think I have a pretty good idea of who it is, though.)

Sorry for the blog silence the last few days. A touch of bronchitis combines with having to prepare a final exam for my Georgetown class, a major global warming presentation for later this week, the first meeting of new task force I’m chairing at AEI on energy security, and the rest of the usual stuff that keeps me busy. It’s killing me: Jimmy Carter is melting down at last, the ISG disgraces all viewers of "Matlock," and other stories deserve comment. And I’m way behind on my food and wine diary.

Accounting for the South

Peter Lawler noted one view of Southern politics, which suggested, implausibly (in his view and mine) that it’s all about race. The NYT Mag points to another view--that it’s all about class. I’ll see your reductionism and raise you a different one. And no one has mentioned religion yet.

Obama watch, part 2

In N.H., it looks like Obama wants to outflank HRC on the Left. The WaPo’s Dan Balz doesn’t let that cat out of the bag, but he does give us this:

Asked what he believes is different about his politics than those of other candidates, he said, "I think what’s worked for me has been the capacity to stay true to a set of progressive values but to be eclectic in terms of the tools to achieve those progressive values. To not be orthodox. To be willing to get good ideas from all quarters."

If I were uncharitable (though it’s not yet the season for that), I’d say that everything is instrumentally subordinated to "progressive values."

The WaTi’s Donald Lambro finds people who think that left is the way for Obama to go, though Donna Brazile thinks this:

"Barack has something that is awfully missing today in American politics: the gift of charisma. Most people find him not just attractive, but politically viable. He has cross-over appeal and the ability to attract moderates and independents."

Can he outflank HRC on the left to do well in the primaries and then credibly move back to the center? Will a Republican nominee let him get away with that?

It’s Probably Too Much to Ask, But . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice if stories like these reminded American feminists of what real dangers to women’s rights look like?

The New Perot? The Trans-Fat Tyrant Is Exploring a Third-Party Run

Mayor Bloomberg isn’t really much like Ross Perot. He has successful political experience and is not nuts. And to tell the truth, he’s continued much of Giuliani’s good work in a less confrontational way. NYC’s increasingly favorable stats are a reflection of Bloomberg’s undeniable competence. It’s also true he’s basically a moderate Democrat in Republican’s clothing with some rather extreme socially liberal or libertarian inclinations (with the exception of his puritanical/prohibitionist/paranoid views on health and safety). In a race that featured, say, Brownback vs. Ms. Clinton or Obama, would he have a chance? Would Bloomberg mobilize that new liberal/libertarian voting bloc that we read about on so many blogs.

Brits living abroad

Almost one in ten Brits live abroad, according to the latest government study. "Figures suggest the rate of departure has been so great that population falls are only masked by immigration."

While Australia is the top location (circa 1.3 million, the same as USA and Canada combined) increasing numbers are heading to major Asian economies. There are three British pensioners living in Tahiti, and six pensioners living Cuba, but none in North Korea.

Nalanda University

This op-ed in yesterday’s NY Times on Nalanda University in India (and the political uses to which something like a new version of it might be put) was interesting mainly because I didn’t know there was a university (rather than a monastery) there. It was founded in 427 by Buddhists it lasted until 1197. There is some talk of "reviving" it, hence the op-ed.

Victorian Beer

Beer from 1869 (250 perfectly stored bottles) has been found and tasted and described as "absolutely amazing", with "the most astonishing, complex flavours." God help the wicked.

McClay on Ponnuru

Mere Commentator Russell D. Moore calls our attention to Wilfred M. McClay’s excellent review of Ramesh Ponnuru’s The Party of Death. The thrust of McClays’ review is that Ponnuru’s rights-based absolutism is in many respects insufficiently attentive to the emotional basis of our relationships, not to mention to the prudential judgments and figurative appeals required by successful politics. In McClay’s view, Ponnuru’s book has some real strengths, but also some significant weaknesses.

Above all else, he contends, it’s not clear that Ponnuru correctly describes and confronts the real challenge we face:

It is this commitment to radical individualism, this aspiration to human mastery, the godlike mastery of the sovereign will of those living here and now over all they survey and encounter, the ability to control and dictate the terms of existence, that distinguishes the so-called “party of death.” Such an aspiration is perhaps most ominously figured, not in the abortion industry, but in a different prospect, about which Ponnuru has surprisingly little to say: the very real possibility that our biogenetic mastery will give us the power to replace human procreation with the willful arts of manufacture, remaking our condition by engineering human life and “hybrid” forms of transhuman life.


Ponnuru is downright enthusiastic about the prospect of deriving pluripotent stem cells, for medical purposes, from certain nonviable, manufactured, human-like “biological entities” that carry the human genetic code but are not human embryos. What is more, he is surprisingly disdainful of critics who find such a prospect morally troubling. What, one wonders, if his concern were less exclusively focused on the narrow question of what constitutes embryo-killing, and more broadly on the ways that our readiness to destroy embryos is but one symptom of a larger problem, the way in which our ever-expanding exercise of our scientific powers of manipulation may be causing us to lose all sense of nature as a source of normative values? Such thoughts might have led to a more guarded conclusion. This is not to render a judgment about the specific procedures in question, except to say that they may themselves not be entirely morally unproblematic, even if they seem clearly preferable to embryo destruction. But it is to indicate a way in which Ponnuru’s overriding concern with the politics of abortion, and with an argument based on the natural rights of the individual human being, tilts his argument out of balance, and makes his book far less illuminating than it might have been. Natural rights, after all, have no authority apart from the larger authority of nature.

If this last statement is true (as I think it is), then a return to nature would take seriously some of the considerations I summarized above.

But I can’t adequately summarize the whole of McClay’s rich argument, which you’ll have to read for yourselves.

   

Value Added

Residents of the Washington, DC area received a bit of sad news today. Venerable classical music radio station WGMS, a small island of civility, will likely meet its demise within the next few weeks. This in and of itself is not surprising. Classical music stations, especially those commercially owned, are a dying breed. It was only a matter of time before somebody with deep pockets snapped up this precious FM slot. WGMS already had been pushed out of its familiar place (103.5) into a weaker frequency band by a Washington Post media venture.

What is noteworthy is WGMS’s executioner: Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder bought the station in order to further his growing sports-talk-Redskins radio empire. His current outlets have poor signal coverage in the Washington area and he had been looking to upgrade. In typical Snyder fashion, he overbid to be sure he closed the deal. “They made an offer that can’t be refused,” the Washington Post quotes an executive involved in the negotiations. “If someone wanted to buy your house and was willing to pay 50 percent more than it was worth, you’d do it.”

Do the names Deon Sanders, Bruce Smith, Steve Spurrier and Jeff George come to mind? To say nothing of Adam Archuleta, Andre Carter, Brandon Lloyd and Al Saunders.

Madison once wrote that he hoped never to have to choose between liberty and republican government; but if he did, he knew which one he would choose. I hope never to be forced to decide between classical music and football. I know how I would come down – I don’t blog on Bach – but Snyder makes the choice difficult.

When I first heard that Snyder, a wealthy young entrepreneur and lifelong Redskins fan, was going to buy the team in 1999 from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, I thought it might be a good thing. That is, until I found out the source of Snyder wealth. I had assumed it came from something real, or at least quasi-real: technology, the dot.com boom, or maybe real estate. Uh, no.

Advertising.

OK, perfectly fine people work in advertising. But as I understand the story, after two or three business failures, Snyder, through hustle and chutzpah, assembled a paper advertising empire based on outsourcing and corporate acquisitions during the go-go 1990s. Then he actualized his virtual assets by selling out while the economy was still booming. Most of those assets (heavily leveraged) went into the purchase of the Redskins and their Stadium, for about $750 million.

Since then, Snyder has gone through five coaches. The team’s overall record is mediocre, even after he persuaded Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs to return. The Redskins have made the playoffs exactly once since Snyder’s first year. High-priced free agents, brought in well above market value, routinely prove to be busts. The draft has been disappointing. Ticket prices and amenities at FedEx field are out of sight.

So Snyder’s tenure has been disastrous, right? Not if you are his accountant. In 2005 the Redskins were valued at $1.3 billion, the highest in all American professional sports. More than the Yankees or the Cowboys and just below Manchester United. Snyder now looks to make a further killing through his Red Zebra Broadcasting Corporation, which is buying up radio stations in the mid-Atlantic as outlets for sports programming and live broadcasts of Redskins game. Sayonara WGMS.

A critical point – Snyder really is a die-hard Washington fan. He desperately wants to win. He is no Bill Bidwell – he spends money on the team and he’d spend more if the league allowed it. But Washington’s lack of success is surely no accident, even allowing for the vagaries of human fortune. The team’s direct and ancillary value skyrocketed because of Snyder’s promotional genius in a market with near-perfect brand loyalty (Redskins mania) – not because of the intrinsic, on-the-field value of the product. Snyder’s ethos seems to permeate the organization. And he refuses to hire and provide full authority to an experienced and knowledgeable front office type like the Colts’ Bill Polian. Every year there is a new plan, new faces, a new story, and virtually the same sorry results. To be sure, there are no guarantees in life or football. The highly-regarded Charlie Casserly, who Snyder pushed out as GM when he bought the team, was a complete bust in Houston’s front office.

Maybe Gibbs, a fine man and once a great coach, will turn it around next season. Maybe Snyder will decide to let professionals make the big decisions. Maybe the luck will turn.

Then I think about poor WGMS, a bug on the windshield of Snyder’s empire.

The party of responsibility

This not particularly penetrating CT piece on the 2006 elections reminded me of Elizabeth Powers’s FT post that calls our attention to William Saletan’s plea to the Democrats to become the party of responsibility by embracing an expansion of federally-funded birth control. If this isn’t a double evasion of responsibility, then I don’t know what is.

More on Jeane

I have time, before I run out the door, to reprint here an excerpt from The Age of Reagan on how she came to the attention of the Gipper:

“The failure of the Carter administration’s foreign policy is now clear to everyone except its architects,” Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote bitterly in the fall of 1979 in her famous Commentary article “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” “The foreign policy of the Carter administration failed not for lack of good intentions,” Kirkpatrick continued, “but for lack of realism about the nature of traditional versus revolutionary autocracies and the relation of each to the American national interest.”

Kirkpatrick’s article was a sensation among political intellectuals—and also with Ronald Reagan. Several people passed the article along to Reagan. According to Kirkpatrick’s own account, Reagan’s principal adviser on national security issues, Richard Allen, handed Reagan a copy of the article shortly before Reagan boarded a plane in Washington to return to California. Reagan called Allen two hours later when he was changing planes in Chicago, asking Allen, “Who is he?” “Who is who?”, Allen replied. “Who is this Jeane Kirkpatrick?” “Well, first, he’s a she.” Reagan wrote to Kirkpatrick in December to praise the article. Your article, Reagan wrote, “had a great impact on me. . . Your approach is so different from ordinary analyses of policy matters that I found myself reexamining a number of the premises and views which have governed my own thinking in recent years.” If possible, Reagan closed, “I should very much like to have the opportunity to meet with you and to discuss some of the points you have raised.” Reagan’s critics assumed his interest in Kirkpatrick was another example of the derivative nature of his ideas. In this case, as in many others, Reagan was there first. Kirkpatrick’s argument, in one sentence, is that there is a qualitative and relevant distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Kirkpatrick’s article was the first time many people had thought about the matter this way. Yet in 1977, two years before Kirkpatrick’s article, Reagan wrote in Orbis quarterly: "President Carter has also failed to take into consideration the difference between totalitarian and authoritarian governments. . . As a result, it has needlessly jeopardized good relations with several states which have been friendly to us and to their neighbors but whose governments have not behaved as we might wish in their internal policies."

In other words, Reagan saw a kindred spirit in Kirkpatrick. She, however, was less enamored. At that moment Kirkpatrick, a lifelong loyal Democrat, hoped for her own party’s revival, dismissing “this conservative Republican governor whom I have no interest in.” This attitude would soon change.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, RIP

Last night at AEI’s annual trustees dinner, we toasted Jeane Kirkpatrick in absentia, not knowing that she had passed away just a few hours before. For most of the last five years I was lucky to be housed two doors down from her on the 11th floor, where we would have numerous brief wide-ranging conversations in the adjacent hallway connecting our suites. I’ll have more to say about her later--unfortunately I have to head off to Annapolis directly to give an afternoon speech at an environmental conference--but I am sure the blogosphere will take ample and proper note of her passing in the next few hours.

Jeane’s corner office on 11 now seems reserved for distinguished former UN ambassadors. I was informed yesterday that my new neighbor in the office starting January 1 will be none other than the worthy John Bolton.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, RIP

One of the first people who made me aware of a neo-conservative approach to foreign policy was Jeane Kirkpatrick, who died yesterday. Her "Dictatorships and Double Standards" is a classic.

And her service at the U.N. reminds us of the importance of having a forceful advocate of American principles and interests in that position.

Update: In addition to the article linked above Commentary has posted a number of other Kirkpatrick pieces from its archives on the front page of its website.

Take THIS, Trans-Fat Fascists!

While New York City and other trendy enclaves attempt to ban frying in trans-fat, Jonah Goldberg helpfully directs our attention to a Texas eatery that serves--are your ready?--chicken-fried bacon!

Peter: I think we’ve found a reason for an Ashbrook road trip to Texas. (The steaks look pretty good, too.)

Murder most foul?

Charles Krauthammer writes on this Litvinenko mischief and this reminds me to suggest to you that--if you like murder mysteries, spy novels, biographies of tyrants--you should really pay attention to all this. Very interesting and perfectly weird, with layers upon layers of meaning and possibilities. Since there are entirely too many article and news stories to link to (see Drudge on a daily basis), I will only do so if something exceptional is revealed (or seems to be revealed). For example, it seems that he converted to Islam just days before his death. How do you say amazing in Russian, I mean Arabic.

Scalia and Breyer debate

You can watch the video here and read Dahia Litwick’s account here. Here’s a taste of what Litwick can write when she’s not trying out for a place in the WaPo’s Style section:

Breyer says that if the only thing that matters is historical truths from the time of the Constitution, "we should have nine historians on the court." Scalia says, "It’s not my burden to prove originalism is perfect. It’s just my burden to prove it’s better than anything else." He adds that a court of nine historians sounds better than a court of nine ethicists.

Hat tip: SDP’s Ken Blanchard.

God on the (high school) quad

The WSJ’s Naomi Schaefer Riley writes sympathetically about Christian secondary schools.

Speaking of Manliness . . .

This sad story about a man who tragically sacrificed himself in order to try and save his family has been the subject of some interesting and, I think, good fascination out here in California. Dennis Prager talked about it this morning on his radio program, which happened to be on as I was driving my son to a field trip (to the Nixon Library). Prager mentioned that he thought this story was a good illustration for young men about what it means to be a man. I was quite proud of my little guy (now 5) because he perked up at hearing that and started questioning me about the details of the story--and usually he just tunes out the radio as we’re driving.

HREF="http://www.nixonfoundation.org/">The Nixon Library is, by the way, a great place to visit if you are out this way. It is beautifully decorated for Christmas with trees and ornaments from all over the world. But none of this interested my son as much as the tour of the Presidential helicopter and, of course, the massive model train exhibit. But my favorite is always the replica of the White House’s East Room. You can have all the castles and cathedrals of Europe--they’re nice--but there is just something about the White House that makes a person stand a little taller. And you could see that the room had that effect on the kids too as their boisterousness left them (at least for a few seconds) and they took in the majesty of the place.

Mansfield on Greatness and Democracies

Prof. Harvey Mansfield writes a thoughtful essay on the question of greatness in democracies. It ends on the following note: "We democrats need to know that democracy has both a towering need and a limited appetite for greatness." But it also reminds us--somewhere around the middle--that "[i]n displaying Socrates in speech and in action, Plato conveys to us that greatness does not necessarily consist of heroic exploits full of stress and drama. A philosopher can be great; a woman can be great." This is an essay very much worth reading, and pondering, and reading again. It is also an interesting read in light of his recent work on Manliness and, I think, connected to it.    

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck was the speaker for our Annual Dinner last Friday. You can hear his comments on MP3 format or on Real Audio. A lively and energetic character, one who means to show folks that we had better pay attention to the bad guys. And he did.

Hail

Today is of course Pearl Harbor Day--except it’s not, really, an official "Day" in the same sense as Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, etc; Franklin Roosevelt vetoed a bill passed during World War II on the grounds that we should not memorialize in that fashion the "Day of Infamy"—and the Los Angeles Times brings us the story of what is being described as the "final reunion" of Pearl Harbor survivors. I suspect it won’t literally be the last one; some of these fellows are quite vigorous souls (I know one slightly, the founder of this academic center), but the Times is right to brong our attention to their dwindling numbers.

Birthday

Yes, there was a birthday party thrown for me by my former friends and staff. It was deeply embarrassing, but touching for a boy eternal. Many gifts, including a couple of large ones to the Center (thank you!!). Nice and silly and untrue things were said of me (and read from those who couldn’t be here), and for hours it seemed photos from my salad days were shown. The Ashbrooks seemed to enjoy the recollecting when my blood flowed and once my appetite was more to bread than stone. Wife and mother and half my brats were here, and I am only grateful that no one asked my mother to speak the truth for she would have, no doubt, told them all what a grieveous burden my birth was to her, and how wayward my infancy. I did come into this breathing world, more or less made up, on the 23rd of December, but the party was yesterday. Thank you all, and let’s end it. Oh, and one more thing: There is nothing wrong with either Jackie Gleason or Aristotle. Glad to be alive.
Thank you.

Give Me Oreos or (and?) Give Me Death

Thanks to our friends at Reason and Revelation, I have been alerted to "another new prohibitionism." New York City has banned foods made with trans fats, although they’re fine by the FDA. Do we have an inalienable right to eat dangerously? Or is it time for enlightened municipalities to take the lead in enhancing our health and safety--guided, of course, by the latest studies? Which do you fear more--Big Brother or the Big Sleep? Now I stopped eating Twinkies, Moon Pies, and such sometime ago, but it didn’t occur to me to make them illegal. When it came to banning smoking in public places, there was always the moderately, but far from completely, lame argument that others would be bothered or conceivably made sick by second-hand smoke. And I have to admit that I’m a bit more comfortable myself when nobody’s smoking. But I can’t imagine how it would hurt me to watch you scarf down a bag of cookies or chips, both of which are less disgusting than, say, sushi or tofu.

Happy Birthday Peter

It’s Peter Schramm’s birthday. I won’t say which one, in respect of his tender feelings on the subject, but I will allow as how it’s one of those significant ones that ends in a Zero.

My contribution to the birthday fest was some schtick, along the lines of: If "Peter Schramm" were a Jeopardy answer, what would the question be? Answer: "What is a cross between Jackie Gleason and Aristotle?" (500 points!.) Or, alternatively, you might say that Peter Schramm is what happens when you send Fred Flintstone to graduate school in political philosophy.

Peter may think that it is cruel, unkind, and inaccurate to call him fat, but let’s put it this way: when Peter steps on a cigarette, that sucker’s out.

Happy birthday Peter.

Another religion on campus case

This is getting tiresome. Phi Beta Conspirator David French calls our attention to this lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Georgia Pi chapter of Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), also known as Brothers Under Christ, a Christian fraternity. Seems that the folks at UGA don’t want to extend official recognition to a student group that makes faith requirements of its members. I’ve written on this general issue here.

Let’s hope that our local Athenians come to their senses and recognize that religious freedom for students requires a little accommodation on their part.

Update: This article suggests that the University won’t voluntarily accommodate: "We will comply with the law whatever the courts may determine that to be," said UGA spokesman Tom Jackson.

Update #2: UGA has
done the right thing. I’d like to say that it was the threat of the op-ed (now revised) that the Atlanta paper was to run tomorrow, but I suspect it had a whole lot more to do with the ADF/CLS legal team and a faith-friendly Governor who appoints the Board of Regents and happens also to be an alumnus. I’ll link to my op-ed when it appears on-line.

Last Update: Not the title I would have given it, but here’s my AJC piece, as well as the paper’s story.

The Truth: Hillary Clinton is the Single Most Likely Person to Become Our Next President

Our cagey friend Dick Morris actually does a nice job explaining why Senator Clinton might well win AND why she shouldn’t. She will mobilize the single-female vote, bringing its turnout "to its proper ratio of the adult population." More generally, she will inspire a new kind of enthusiasm in the electorate. Besides, Bill will campaign for her.

But Ms. Clinton shouldn’t win, Dick goes on, precisely because she’s so different from her husband. Bill is comparatively moderate, flexible, and un-ideological; the truth is he was "a very good domestic-policy president." She "specializes in advocacy," is "obtuse" and "ham-handed," and "deeply believes in European-style socialism." Not only that: Bill is "most like Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Bush Sr.--feeling his way, acting with caution, and skeptical of all advice. She is more like LBJ, Nixon or Bush Jr.--determined to charge ahead and do what she thinks needs to be done, the torpedoes be damned."


My own view is that Dick is exaggerating these differences. But they do have considerable truth and make for good talking points for any Republican campaigning against her. And we can almost wish that the Constitution be changed so that Bill could run against her.


For the reasons Dick gives, Jonah Goldberg is just wrong to think liberal voters would regard Hillary as just a stale figure from the "holiday from history" that was the 1990s. Kerry and Gore are, in fact, yesterday’s boring news and have no chance; Obama’s prospects are uncertain. A big question: Is Senator Obama preferable to Senator Clinton from a good-government perspective?

Maryland gay marriage case

The oral arguments in an appeal of a decision overturning Maryland’s traditional marriage law, about which I wrote here, took place yesterday. You can listen to the oral arguments by clicking on Docket #44 here and read the main briefs here. Be forewarned, both briefs are extremely long; I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet.

“Prediction is very difficult ... especially about the future

A friend close to the Ashbrook Center writes to encourage me to elaborate on my preliminary prediction of a Florida win in the BCS Championship game: “I don’t mind that you say Florida might win (?!!?), but some readers do! . . . do what you have to do, let the logos lead you! Although I personally hope that the Buckeyes whip those Florida wimps like dogs!"

All right, then. I offered my unelaborated assessment on behalf of Florida after considerable hesitation -- and not only because I knew that many NLT readers would differ strongly. We are still more than a month away from the game itself. Ohio State will have been off for fifty-some days. Any firm prediction must wait until we see how the interregnum plays out. Predictions are stupid things anyway. As my Maine correspondent constantly tells me, anyone who predicts or bets on games for a living – especially with a point spread involved – is like a lawyer who has himself for a client. Did anyone seriously forecast a UCLA victory over USC? Peter Gammons is as good a baseball analyst as there is and yet I believe he missed on all but one of the major league baseball playoff series, including the World Series. Buckeye fans should take particular solace in my own near unblemished record of predictive failure – although the logic behind my erroneous picks is always impeccable.

The quote about predictions and the future, by the way is attributed variously to Niels Bohr . . . and Dan Quayle.

But I digress. My prediction, really a first impression, is this. When there is no glaring disparity in the level of talent – and I believe this is the case here – one looks to a first order to intangible factors, rather than to Xs and Os or match-ups. These factors weigh particularly heavy in the long layoff between the end of the regular season and a championship bowl game.

I believe Florida will come into the game with a serious chip on its shoulder. For the next five weeks its players will be asked constantly to justify their existence, to apologize for crashing the party. They will be told that at least half of the country thinks they are pretenders. Their scratchy performances and close wins will be hauled out on Sports Center and College Game Day as Exhibit A for the prosecution. Florida teams from the Spurrier era had to fight overconfidence and arrogance, internally (beginning with their coach) and from fans and alums. A different dynamic, that of righteous indignation against disrespect, may be at work this year. This anger manifests itself not only on game day but in the team’s focus during the weeks of preparation and especially the time after the teams arrive in Arizona. It’s more than the usual underdog factor. Mistake it not, Florida has talent. They players can call on their demonstrated resilience and ability to win close games, a sense that they command fortune having dodged so many potential disasters.

But this is only a first impression. Let me tell you why it may be wrong and must be kept open to revision. Ohio State is a well-balanced team without any major weakness that is easily exploited, except perhaps its run defense. It has explosive players on offense and special teams, a veteran QB, and an opportunistic defense. (Fred and the Unbiased Observer, in the Comments section, offer good succinct analyses.) Most important, the record says that Jim Tressel is a great, not just a good, big game coach. The too-tight Tresselball is usually not in evidence. This isn’t his first rodeo. He knows how to prepare as the favorite as well as the upstart.

On the other side of the equation, the early returns on Urban Meyer are not so clear. I liked Meyer a lot when he was at Utah. But this season, particularly in the last few weeks, he seemed wound too tight, too defensive, too whiny, too negative. That may be completely unfair. One doesn’t know how he relates to his players away from the cameras. But based on his public persona, one wonders how well Meyer will play the disrespect card with this team. And Xs and Os do enter the equation. After two years there still seems to be a serious mismatch between Meyer’s unusual (quirky?) hybrid offensive scheme and the skill set of his players, especially Chris Leak. As a result Florida suffers from too many turnovers and negative plays. I tend to think that the layoff will benefit Florida because Meyer will have time to work out a game plan that squares the circle. But that’s pure speculation. Ohio State’s defensive coaches will have time to think about schemes to blow up that offense and force turnovers when it gets too tricky for its own good.

Of course, all this will go on behind the scenes and will be perfectly obvious – to me – only after the fact.

So. If you don’t have a particular rooting interest, wait and watch. See how Urban Meyer and his team act as the game approaches. See how well the other Big 10 bowl teams fare relative to expectations. Use a pencil, not a pen. And don’t bet the rent on Ohio State if the spread is anything like 14 points.

Obama watch

Barack Obama spoke in New York yesterday, taking the opportunity also to meet with big potential donors. Assuming that he runs, there’s really little or no room for anyone other than HRC in the Democratic field. I suppose that someone could pick up the pieces after a "Mutually Assured Destruction" nuclear exchange between Obama and Clinton, but thus far they’ve been careful not to confront one another directly.

In any event, both can’t occupy the "center" of the Democratic Party; it will be interesting to see who will be first in attacking the other’s left flank.

Update: Here’s Obama’s disarming World AIDS Day speech, delivered at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. A representative passage:

Like no other illness, AIDS tests our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes - to empathize with the plight of our fellow man. While most would agree that the AIDS orphan or the transfusion victim or the wronged wife contracted the disease through no fault of their own, it has too often been easy for some to point to the unfaithful husband or the promiscuous youth or the gay man and say "This is your fault. You have sinned."


I don’t think that’s a satisfactory response. My faith reminds me that we all are sinners.


My faith also tells me that - as Pastor Rick has said - it is not a sin to be sick. My Bible tells me that when God sent his only Son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness.


Living His example is the hardest kind of faith - but it is surely the most rewarding. It is a way of life that can not only light our way as people of faith, but guide us to a new and better politics as Americans.


For in the end, we must realize that the AIDS orphan in Africa presents us with the same challenge as the gang member in South Central, or the Katrina victim in New Orleans, or the uninsured mother in North Dakota.


We can turn away from these Americans, and blame their problems on themselves, and embrace a politics that’s punitive and petty, divisive and small.


Or we can embrace another tradition of politics - a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another - and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.

Note the way he blends the spiritual and the pragmatic, the philanthropic and the governmental. Someone is going to have to make an extraordinary effort to pin him down.

Update #2: E.J. Dionne, Jr., predictably,
gushes all over the AIDS speech, but doesn’t seem to see how it’s possible to work with a politician on one issue, but not vote for him. Evangelicals, even conservative ones, don’t have to be single-issue voters, but being pro-choice and voting down distinguished Supreme Court nominees, most likely largely for abortion-related reasons (are there any others in judicial nominations these days?), are rather substantial barriers to support.

Don’t pack those bags for Alberta just yet

Ted Morton didn’t win the Conservative Party leadership and provincial premiership in Alberta, perhaps because he was "too scary for Alberta".

Not the Ted I know, and not the Alberta I know. But as one article noted, there were lots of "instant Tories" mobilized to vote against him.

I await von Heyking’s take, and note that Ed Stelmach (the first Ukrainian premier of a Canadian province) apparently owes his election to Morton voters, and that some expect him to be offered a fairly significant cabinet post.

Liberaltarians?

The WaPo’s Sebastian Mallaby describes Brink Lindsey’s TNR proposal (unfortunately behind a subscription firewall) that libertarians migrate to the Democratic Party. Here’s a part of SM’s summary:

Would libertarians be more comfortable in the company of Democrats? On moral questions -- abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research -- clearly they would. But on economic issues, the answer is less obvious. For just as Republicans want government to restore traditional values, so Democrats want government to bring back the economic order that existed before globalization. As Lindsey puts it in his New Republic essay, Republicans want to go home to the United States of the 1950s while Democrats want to work there.


If Democrats can get over this nostalgia, there’s a chance that liberaltarianism could work. For the time has passed when libertarians could seriously hope to cut government: Much of what could be deregulated has been, and the combination of demographics, defense costs and medical inflation leaves no scope for tax cuts. As Lindsey himself says, the ambition of realistic libertarians is not to shrink government but to contain it: to cut senseless spending such as the farm program and oil subsidies to make room for the inevitable expansion in areas such as health.

If this is right, then the libertarians have two problems with the Republicans--social conservatism and corporate welfarism. Mallaby (and I guess Lindsey) want to claim that they’re both characteristic of the South (everyone’s favorite whipping region, even if they’re a little less nasty than, say, Jane Smiley was after the 2004 election). But let me note a few things. First, to the extent that the South has an "appetite" for government programs, that taste was developed when Democrats ruled the region. Second, many of the current clients for government subsidies that head southward are poor folk, who, unfortunately, still exist in relatively large numbers south of the Mason-Dixon line. I’d wager that many of those poor folk vote Democratic, just like their northern cousins. Third, many southern Republicans were once northern Republicans (Newt Gingrich was from Pennsylvania, John Linder from Minnesota, and Tom Price from Michigan, to name three current and former members of Congress from the Atlanta area). Again, I don’t see any of them as great supporters of needless government spending.

While I might correct myself when I actually have the opportunity to read the article, I suspect that the real reason Lindsey and his fellow libertarians are making eyes at the Democrats is that they care more about the social issues with which Republicans are identified than they actually do about small government. The Democratic liberationist agenda (which includes liberating science, for example) will mandate bigger government to free us from all social and natural constraints, and then to deal with the inevitable fall-out of that freedom from constraint.

Where will the libertarians go then?

For what it’s worth, I’ve discussed other things Lindsey has said here and here.

Update: Here’s Lindsey’s piece, in toto (thanks to Jonah Goldberg for the pointer). It is, as I thought, a version of big government libertarianism: the promotion of individual autonomy will require some big-time expenses, and the cost of doing business with Democrats will be quite substantial:

We can have true social insurance while maintaining fiscal soundness and economic vibrancy: We can fund the Earned Income Tax Credit and other programs for the poor; we can fund unemployment insurance and other programs for people dislocated by capitalism’s creative destruction; we can fund public pensions for the indigent elderly; we can fund public health care for the poor and those faced with catastrophic expenses.

The remainder of the paragraph departs from realism inasmuch as it seems to forget that he’d addressing the party that can’t resist demagoguing on social security and Medicare:

What we cannot do is continue to fund universal entitlement programs that slosh money from one section of the middle class (people of working age) to another (the elderly)--not when most Americans are fully capable of saving for their own retirement needs. Instead, we need to move from the current pay-as-you-go approach to a system in which private savings would provide primary funding for the costs of old age.

Where were the libertarians like Lindsey when GWB was spending his 2004 "mandate" on social security reform...resisted tooth and nail, of course, by the Democrats?

One last point: Lindsey seems to have forgotten, as have most of his libertarian colleagues, that self-reliance requires character, and that character has to be cultivated. It isn’t the product of the "autonomous individual," as if, somehow, we produce our own character. It comes from a community that recognizes and upholds limits and responsibilities. Autonomous individuals who think of nothing but autonomy (modern libertarians, apparently, unlike their predecessors who may well have respected the need for certain socially-enforced limits, and hence could make common cause in a conservative fusion) are as likely to be (nay, more likely to be) subjects of a gentle despotism as they are to be genuinely "rugged" individuals.

By the way, Jonah G. is
promising to write about this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Complaints

As you might assume from reading my previous posts, I approve the selection of Florida to meet Ohio State in the BCS title game. I won’t review all the complaints about the BCS or the very reasonable arguments on behalf of Michigan. My logic: in the absence of a post-season playoff, the conference races constitute the playoffs and filter out the contenders. Michigan had its chance in conference and lost to Ohio State. Florida won the SEC and among the other major conference champions (USC, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, and Louisville), the Gators have the best resume. Even that is debatable, of course, as Louisville had just one loss and Oklahoma was robbed at Oregon. But we are where we are. If not quite the infamous old Polish Constitution, not far away.

For those who think that this game will be a blowout given Florida’s uneven performance during much of the season – perhaps. Ohio State is indeed very good. But Buckeye fans remember that many experts gave little chance to the underdog in the 2003 title game (2002 season), in the face of the multi-talented juggernaut from “the U.” My early pick is Florida.

Perhaps lost in all the shouting is the accomplishment of Wake Forest, which will play Louisville in the Orange Bowl. The Demon Deacons had not won an ACC championship in 35 years. Even perennial doormat Duke (under Steve Spurrier) had managed a title during that time. Wake Forest has one of the smallest undergraduate enrollments among the Division I-A football schools (4,000) – which fact, unless you are Notre Dame (8,000), means a significant limit on the alumni and fan base that underwrite the big-time programs. Everything fell into place this year for Coach Jim Grobe, despite a number of key injuries. The ACC had a down year. The ball bounced the right way at the right time. The close games – and most of them were close, including a one-point win at home against Duke – fell into place. One suspects that this will be a blip on the radar rather than a trend, as the big time programs (Florida State, Miami) reload and as Butch Davis takes hold at North Carolina. But the story holds out hope for the little guys of the world.

The Pope Didn’t Back Down in Turkey: Rat Choice Theory--Part 14

RJN explains that his primary purpose was to show his solidarity with the beseiged Patriarch Bartholomew I. The two Christian leaders made it clear together what Europe should require of Turkey as a condition of its admission to the EU: Genuine genuine devotion to and protection of religious liberty and the other inalienable rights of human persons. Otherwise Europe IS nothing at all.

Dick Morris (Sort of) Hearts Huckabee

Here’s the judgment of the man who’s been trying to reinvent himself as a master of conservative strategy. If conservative Republicans are forced to go to the bottom of the barrel in 2008, Morris claims, they’ll find Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
(He ended up at the bottom after losing so much fat that he can no longer float at the top.) "Huck," his friends say, is more articulate and passionate than Brownback on "life" and related issues. After all, he’s a former Baptist minister and president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention (Dick mistakenly says Southern Baptist Convention). He also turned his massive victory over his own massiveness into advocacy for fitness and preventive health care policies, which evangelicals (and Catholics like Gary Seaton) sort of like. All I can say for sure now is that Dick is strangely attracted to Governors of Arkansas. I really do like Huckabee, I think, but I don’t heart him yet.

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.

Heh

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