FT’s "on the Square" has a nicely nuanced reflection on the impossibility of being all things to all people, which is allegedly W&M President Gene Nichol’s aim. Author Meredith Henne notes, among other things, that reverence and inclusivity are often in tension with one another.
Update: A big donor has rescinded a pledge over this controversy, but the President says, "The core values of the college cannot be for sale." Apparently those who disagree with President Nichol are at odds with the core values of William & Mary.
So why the hell are we so worried about their self-esteem? They’re not! They think theyre SO special! But it might be worse if they followed the advice of the neo-Darwinians and neuroscientists and didn’t think of themselves as special at all.
You may regard it as too early to pay attention to polls (though the way things are going, well know who the 2012 nominees are sometime early in 2009), but heres a story on this WaPo/ABC News poll. And while were at it, heres another WaPo story on the same poll, and heres the ABC story, with more analysis here.
The two big pieces of information from the poll are the shift of African-American voters from HRC to Obama (cutting into her lead) and Giulianis growing support among white evangelicals (not otherwise explored or documented in the articles), which helps him against McCain. While concerns about Romneys Mormonism seem to be easing somewhat, thats a much bigger barrier than race or gender. Id love to see which groups are expressing their discomfort with Mormonism (more particularly, what the mix of evangelicals and seculars is), but I cant tell anything from the raw data.
Richard Rorty once called religion a conversation-stopper. Reflecting on Allan Blooms The Closing of the American Mind, R. R. Reno argues that the real conversation stopper is the relativism cultivated in all to many educational institutions, secondary and higher. He focuses on Roman Catholic universities, but theyre clearly not the only culprits, though, as he notes, they have the resources, as do other religious institutions of higher learning, to challenge students to think, speak, and argue.
I wonder whether any of the current crop of candidates has the courage to take up Mario Cuomos and Newt Gingrichs invitation (or is it a challenge?) and the intelligence and judgment to answer it well.
Hat tip: Power Line.
Here, in my vain way, I call attention to the small effect Im having on the people who actually care about people in prison.
one conservative’s response to Giuliani’s speech at Hoover about focusing his campaign and his party on freedom when it comes to taxes, education, and health care. Does he mean to make his party into a more insistently and consistently libertarian one? And does judicial activism contribute to or limit our freedom? And what about, someone might ask, national security, terrorism, and all that stuff? I tend to agree that the reform experiment this speech suggests, pushed too far at least, would probably prove fatal for Rudy in the primaries.
John Podhoretz here argues Guilianis merits as a conservative and offers an explanation for his lead in the polls.
In an update and expansion of a WSJ piece he wrote more than a year ago (which I discussed here), Francis Fukuyama recommends that Europeans take a look at the traditional American example of civic education:
America may have something to teach Europeans here as they attempt to construct post-ethnic forms of national citizenship and belonging. American life is full of quasi-religious ceremonies and rituals meant to celebrate the countrys democratic political institutions: flag-raising ceremonies, the naturalisation oath, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. Europeans, by contrast, have largely deritualised their political lives. Europeans tend to be cynical or dismissive of American displays of patriotism. But such ceremonies are important in the assimilation of new immigrants.
He suggests that European corporatism--which recognizes different publiccly-supported and semi-autonomous religious communities (or, in the Dutch case, "pillars")--makes it difficult to resist Muslim demands for similar treatment.
While the traditional groups may have arrived over time at a peaceful and mutually respectful modus vivendi, its not clear that recent Muslim arrivals have come to the same place. And its perhaps not insignificant that in most cases, the different communities have something significant in common (e.g., language and, broadly understood, religion [though Fukuyama does note that the French treat the Jewish community through the Consistoire Israelite, which has provided Nicolas Sarkozy a template for dealing with Muslims]).
Id raise a further issue as well. To the extent that the U.S. has what some have called an "Anglo-Protestant monoculture," can American means readily be adapted to circumstances where that doesnt obtain? And while I can see how American Catholics and Jews have in many cases adapted a kind of "protestantism" for themselves, does that mean that others will as well?
Im also at least somewhat conflicted about this whole approach, since I think that a watered down "Anglo-Protestantism," without more, tends to subjectivize and individualize us in ways that are ultimately antithetical to moral, political, and religious (not to mention philosophical) seriousness. Is this the price we have to pay for getting along peacefully, or is it possible to insist upon some more robust and serious moral, political, and religious identities can coexist peacefully without giving up what matters. I think in this respect of the late proud orange-wearing Scottish-American Calvinist Wilson Carey McWilliams, some of whose best friends were similarly proud and serious Catholics.
Mickey Kaus at Slate speculates interestingly on Hillary’s possible motivations last week in the David Geffen/Obama flare up. It’s a bit of an "on the one hand/on the other hand" analysis but it offers grist for the mill of one’s mind on the subject of Hillary. His first impulse is to see her as foolish for demonstrating herself to be the finger-wagging, speech-silencing prig that she is reputed by foes to be. His second impulse is that she must be some kind of Machiavellian genius. For in this demonstration she is forcing into the open (at an early date that is of her choosing and advantageous to her chances) all questions about the lies in her long-suffering marriage and political ties to Bill. If this is her strategy, Kaus seems to think it could be a good one--given the example of recent politicians, particularly Bill Clinton.
For my part I confess to (as Peter Lawler has in earlier posts commented about) a weariness of and hostility to re-living the paltry scandal-laden history of the 1990s. My judgments about the Clintons and their characters have long been settled and I need no reminding of them. But perhaps a new generation of voters may need that reminding. My hope is, if that is true, we might save the discussion for that time and thus rob Mrs. Clinton of the chance to choose the time of the engagement.
We are at a critical moment in Iraq--at the beginning of a key battle, in the midst of a war that is irretrievably bound up in an even bigger, global struggle against the totalitarian ideology of radical Islamism. However tired, however frustrated, however angry we may feel, we must remember that our forces in Iraq carry Americas cause--the cause of freedom--which we abandon at our peril.
Read the whole thing.
Researchers have discovered what my mother has always known: repressed memory (dissociative amnesia) is a "culture-bound syndrome" -- a creation of Western culture sometime in the 19th century. "A wide search of literary texts in European languages, Arabic, Sanskrit and Chinese has produced no convincing example of a character created before the year 1800 who suffered a traumatic event, repressed the memory and later recovered it."
Aside from the convenient oversimplifications that enable them to turn GWB into a straw man (too often enabled by his inability compellingly and consistently to articulate his domestic vision), Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam offer an interesting way of packaging the "real" Rudy Giuliani as the champion of the proud and self-reliant working and middle class. If Im not mistaken, this doesnt sound much like the Sams Club Republicanism they proposed less than a year and a half ago. Or, more precisely, the rhetoric and target audiences are similar, but the substance of the proposals sounds quite different. Either Douthat and Salan cant figure out what these holy grail voters want, or these holy grail voters cant.
Read to the end of this NYT article and youll understand its political significance.
First off, Michael shows us that both Hillary and Newt suffer from very high negatives. The reason: There’s not that much nostalgia for the contentious 1990s. I’m in the American mainstream on that opinion! Michael also shows us that Giuliani would be much more of a NATIONAL candidate than Bush was, with many more states in play. His urbanity and his ethnicity would make him competitive in many Eastern states, even Rhode Island! The more NATIONAL election would also mean that the Senator Clinton would be more competitive in the South than her immediate predecessors. And right now, it looks like Rudy would win! (Thanks to Ivan K. for sending me this very enjoyable and discussable article.)
Of course, not everyone is happy with the movie. While the CT reviewer liked it quite a bit, Charlotte Allen thought it underplayed Wilberforces faith. The WaPo reviewer found it boring; the NYT reviewer, sort of liked it, despite himself, though he couldnt help insisting upon the politically incorrect complications of Wilberforces career (his big sin was opposing trade unionism). The LAT review is surprisingly good, concluding in this way:
Despite all its good work, "Amazing Grace" has those risk factors, including how unfashionable academically the notion of great men influencing events currently is. But while historians such as Adam Hochschild feel that too much emphasis on Wilberforce obscures the importance of other anti-slavery forces and individuals, Hugh Thomas, author of "The Slave Trade," insists that Wilberforces achievement is "one more reminder that individuals can make history." It is this point of view that "Amazing Grace" embraces and makes its own.
Perhaps the reviewer had read
this column, by the EPPCs Michael Cromartie, who reminds us that Mme de Stael had this to say about Wilberforce: "I have always heard that he was the most religious, but I now find that he is the wittiest man in England." Unfortunately, I dont think you can say that about Sam Brownback.
If so, I’m a bit disappointed, because I haven’t made up MY mind about him yet. KJL of NRO says not, but only because it’s too early to give up on any candidate. She also acknowledges that Mitt had a bad enough week on the sincerity, authenticity, and consistency fronts that the question is worth asking. Kathryn quotes the opinion of our friend Larry that Mitt might be saved by his "puppy-dog quality" that makes whatever he’s saying at the time seem sincere. Perhaps she concedes too readily that Rudy’s manly, open deviations from Republican orthodoxy on the choice or life issues are more "authentic." She also calls attention to the view that thoughtful conservatives may end up surveying the existing candidates--good men all--and conclude that we really need someone else, if it’s not (and it almost surely is) too late.
Move over, Rudy. Fred Thompson is the real "Law and Order" candidate.
Here are some very eloquent and controversial explanations and observations from Francis Collins. A number are directed against dogmatic atheists and dogmatic GENESIS literalists alike. He shows that you can be an orthodox Christian and know that evolution happened; "theistic evolution" in the loose (non-Hegelian, no implication of "intelligent design") sense he uses the phrase is not an oxymoron. He also shows that you can’t use what we really know about evolution to prove that God is dead. Unfortunately, he’s not quite a Thomist (his book shows his main theological influence to be C.S. Lewis), and few (on either side) are going to agree with his nuanced if finally incorrect view on embryos and research. He only hints at his scientific reason for opposing abortion. Collins is pretty much the most impressive scientist ever to testify bfore the Bioethics Council. He’s amazingly lucid, confident, and appropriately modest about what we can know and likely accomplish (a lot, but far from everything) through scientific research.
I will offer no comment here--having exhausted this issue in previous posts--but offer this op-ed from Maggie Gallagher as evidence that Guiliani does have some potential to appeal to social conservatives--even on the life issue.
A man in Tennessee purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence for $2.48 at a local thrift store. Not knowing much about American history prior to his great find, hes spent the last year devouring information about the Declaration. Although its worth about $250,000, he now has mixed feelings about selling it. Nice story.
In all this, a few nuggets stand out. First, there are David Geffen’s comments, which ought to be used over and over again by any Republican nominee, should HRC get the nomination:
What ignited the battle of words was an interview with Geffen in Wednesday’s New York Times by columnist Maureen Dowd, in which Geffen portrayed himself as disenchanted with both Clintons, their failure to always stand firm on principle and their style of political battle. "Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling," he said.
He called Bill Clinton "a reckless guy" who "gave his enemies a lot of ammunition to hurt him and to distract the country."
Asked if Obama would be able to stand up to the Clinton machine, Geffen said, "I hope so, because that machine is going to be very unpleasant and unattractive and effective."
Then, there’s this account of the Clinton team’s motives in responding as they did:
By pulling Obama into the controversy, Clinton aides hoped to take the shine off a candidacy that has sparked surprising excitement, not only in Hollywood but among many Democratic activists across the country.
(I’ll add a chunk from the NYT article on this same point when the site comes back up; as I write this, it seems to be down.)
Also interesting is HRC campaign chair Terry McAuliffe’s bare-knuckle threat:
Her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, recently warned donors that Clinton would remember those who did not back her. "You are either with us, or you’re against us," McAuliffe told potential donors during a dinner at [Clinton supporter Haim] Saban’s house.
No nights in the Lincoln Bedroom for Obama supporters. And I guess in a Clinton Administration, they might expect to be audited by the IRS.
All of this damages HRC much more than Obama, though I think we’re seeing a glimpse of what’s to come should he begin to close the gap. Sit back and enjoy the show, if you can.
Update: Here’s the NYT chunk I couldn’t get off the web earlier this morning:
Other advisers said the Clinton camp was simply frustrated that Mr. Obama had received glowing media coverage, and was eager to call out his campaign for hypocrisy by contrasting the Geffen remarks with Mr. Obama’s pledge to be positive.
“Obama has gotten under the campaign’s skin for weeks now — especially his free ride in the media —and Hillary’s people were just waiting for their first chance to attack his image as Mr. Positive,” said one Clinton adviser who is not part of the day-to-day political operation.
Update #2: Slates John Dickerson thinks HRC is the winner here:
For the Clinton team, the Geffen remarks offered a chance to bait a trap. If they could goad Obamas campaign into firing back, they could show that his soaring talk is just talk.
So, who won this round? Sen. Clinton. The Clinton team got exactly what they hoped for.
I had lunch today with a friend, an old friend in both meanings. He is almost one hundred years old. His eyes that have seen so much are but of little use now, although his hearing is pretty good. His own self otherwise is in good shape. He walks with more care than most, a cane helps. But I especially note that if it is the mind that makes the body rich, then he is in all a wealthy man. His life has been good and long and happy. He is a delight to be with and it is his insights I want to mention (without doing them justice, I fear), rather than focus on his body’s coming end, mentioned only from time to time by his own self.
The conversation never flags, it is always interesting, logical, as well as insightful. I like talking with men who have lived long and been everywhere. They have seen much and they remember. The casual reference to things past appear as friendly reminders of something good and worthy and needing to be told only, it seems, for the sake of the hearer, rather than for the sake of self. The public world is discussed, as always, with intelligence and the broadest view possible. The petty rhetoric, the regret at the lack of depth of the candidates, their self-serving stances, and the silliness or mischief of the media’s coverage are touched on. Foreign affairs and the real briars of this earthly world are investigated. He reminds me (I’m only sixty, but already forget everything!) of a very good senior thesis he read a few years back on the Thought of Sayyid Qutb and how that explained as clearly as anything the problem with radical Islam. I listen well as he talks about religious freedom and the separation of church and state and why Islam may not get it and how it eventually might. There is always hope.
He always comes back to excellence and to the students and the education of Ashbrook Scholars and how there are two things he hopes they learn--he knows they do, he just reminds me. First, that words are thoughts and are the means to thoughts. The words we use are important and lasting and they matter. See things and understand them and by naming, explain them. Words are not wild and whirling. We have our good words and students should be introduced to them as originals and as thoughts in themselves and with consequence. Liberty means something, as does consent and limit. It is good that the word regime has been brought back from its misuse. Iraq seems to be in a civil war because it is in an extreme moment, a gap between regimes, as it were. Prudence should rule, if anything can. And Hillary says she would end it all immediately. Silly words those, he says, showing utter ignorance or dishonesty.
The second thing they should learn is the difference between excecutive power and legislative. And he means not only in the constitutional sense. He explains why governors are more likely to become presidents than are legislators. The power attaches to the character, the character is formed by the power, and the executive disposition is to do things. An executive is a doer, he follows things to the end. Doer is a good word. And when you do things you get things done and you also make mistakes. And then you undo those by doing again. This is hard, for each action has a consequence and it is you who are held accountable. So courage is involved, and that means confidence and that is important in a world at arms. This is serious stuff, having to do with cojones and purpose. The Americans are an executive people, by the way, he says. Look at us, look where we have been and how far we have come. We are doers.
So he likes us and our students because we have an understanding of words and deeds. Not bad for an old man, not bad at all. We just need a hundred more like him and then we can say more eloquently to a broader world: some talkers are good doers, they know what they do and even as we may even be eloquent in our actions, we know our purpose. I should have lunch with this proper man more often.
Having known no travel in her youth, Angie Cook, a Sophmore Ashbrook, is making up for it by roaming around Europe (although she will eventually, I hope, settle in Erfurt, Germany, for the semester) and she is blogging. She delivers unvarnished tales, full of charm and insight. And those of us who have been there and done that with similar dispositions and pleasures will remember our old selves and our glimpse of newness. Have a look and wish her well. Bon voyage, Angie!
"I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," said Sen. McCain. Even though this is not the first sign of criticism from McCain, it is too absolute and will not serve him well with circa 30-40% of GOP primary voters. Bad move, in my opinion.
This article on the swearing in of Mike McConnell, the new national director of intellience is nothing special, I just thought the title of it, ""Bush urges diversity in spy recruitment was odd. It turns out what diversity has to do with is "a dearth of operatives who speak critical languages, such as Arabic or Farsi."
A friend sent me this piece about future Academy Award and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, the Democratic nominee in waiting. Now if only Newt Gingrich would get the Republican nomination....
This long and interesting WsPo article offers an account of the tense relationship between the netroots and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who passes for a moderate in her party. Theyre gunning for her because she hasnt expressed support for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. If she doesnt move closer to their line, she can expect a primary challenge in 2008. None of this makes Democrats who actually want to win more elections and govern very happy.
Heres a long, interesting, and informative article by a Catholic writer critical of the ease with which President Kennedy separated his faith from his political life. He was, in truth, a poor Catholic and maybe a true believer in generic American Deism. Kennedy readily reassured many Americans that rigorous separationism was no big deal at all for him, and that didnt bother Catholics much because the "faith-based" issues of his time were pretty boring--such as federal aid to parochial schools and recognizing the Vatican as a country. But todays issues--many of which center around judicial activism--are far more fundamental, complex and insistent, and Cuomos and Kerrys poor or indifferent Catholicism alienated them, with good reason, from orthodox adherents to their faith.
Romney cant and wont lie by saying hes a bad Mormon or that his faith can be reduced to generic American Deism. He cant and shouldnt follow Kennedys less-than-exemplary lead by taking refuge in personal strict separationism. He will have to say that his public-policy positions that have a basis in belief are also defensible through reason, and so hell have to move in the direction of a sort of Mormon Thomism.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the 2006 Military Commissions Act denied Guantanamo detainees the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. I haven’t had time to read the 59 page (25 pages, with 34 of dissent) decision yet.
Update: Heres an interesting passage from the courts opinion, quoting from Johnson v. Eisentrager, a 1950 case dealing with German nationals ("nonresident enemy aliens"), captured, tried, and convicted in China and held in occupied Germany after WWII:
If the Fifth Amendment confers its rights on all the world except Americans engaged in defending it, the same must be true of the companion civil-rights Amendments, for none of them is limited by its express terms, territorially or as to persons. Such a construction would mean that during military occupation irreconcilable enemy elements, guerrilla fighters, and "werewolves" could require the American Judiciary to assure them freedoms of speech, press, and assembly as in the First Amendment, right to bear arms as in the Second, security against "unreasonable" searches and seizures as in the Fourth, as well as rights to jury trial as in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
It is almost forty this morning, the air smells warm.
I do like this one, Flammonde, by E.A. Robinson. Listen to it.
The LATs David Savage worries that in the current session, Scalia could be more influential.
Update: Rich Lowry has the best line in a very sober assessment of where we’re headed: "The subconscious logic of [the Democrats] position on the war has thus taken a subtle turn. It used to be that the war had to end because it was a failure; now it must fail so that it can end."
The LAT did a little digging into a story from Barack Obama’s first memoir, and found a few people whose memories are different from his own. The Politico’s Ben Smith notes that the Obama campaign has released a detailed response (the link in Smith’s article is wrong):
Typically, reporters take a thin-skinned reaction like this as blood in the water, a sign to dig deeper into, in this case, his memoir. Though perhaps in the new we-shall-not-be-Swiftboated conventional wisdom, this is the appropriate response.
If nothing else, it is confirmation of how fast the relationship between the media darling and the media is going downhill.
Hmmm. Stay tuned.
Update: This piece suggests the rapid response is part of a strategy. Obama, however, may be regretting the way he wrote that first book, since his claims are going to generate a lot of backward-looking energy.
Amazing Grace, the movie, opens this Friday. I blogged about a pre-release showing I saw last month. My wife has actually seen it already for a second time, at another pre-release showing hosted by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and his wife. Well likely see it in theaters at least once more apiece, and then purchase the DVD.
This NYT piece offers a little background on production, and suggests something of the film worlds resistance to a more straightforwardly religious movie, though Im more satisfied with it than is Get Religions Mollie Ziegler Hemingway.
First of all, those of you who dislike posts that dont have to do with politics are advised to stop reading immediately.
Like many football fans, my wife and I are in the post-season dumps. A friend recommended something called Pizza Box Football, a board game in which any NFL matchup can be simulated with the use of dice and charts. Now, Im a sucker for this sort of thing, having been a gaming dweeb since junior high. My wife needed more convincing, but since shes even more into football than I am, I got her to sit down for a game yesterday. We chose two teams at random--she got the Seahawks, I the Buccaneers. It was slow going at first while we both grappled with the rules, but the learning curve wasnt terribly steep, and we had a lot of fun. The game manages to simulate quite a bit with rules that arent terribly complex. Things arent based purely on chance; you need to select plays based on what you think your opponent is likely to do, and the clock is constantly a factor. Our matchup saw numerous field goal attempts (some successful), several sacks, a couple of fumbles (one recovered by the owning team, the other by the opponent), and an interception.
Oh, and the result: Tampa Bay 24, Seattle 14. Seattle has certain built-in advantages--a very strong running and short-passing game. Thats where the strategy comes in--if you know the opponents strengths, you can plan your defense accordingly. Im already looking forward to our next game....
All honor to George Washington! From todays WaPo: "It was a a speech so moving the crowd wept. It was a speech so personally important George Washingtons hand shook as he read it until he had to hold the paper still with both hands. After the ceremony, he handed the thing to a friend and sped out the door of the State House in Annapolis, riding off by horse." The speech has been kept by a family for all these years, and now the state of Maryland has bought it.
Read the speech on line on our site, and say Thank You to the general.
I can’t believe that anyone is supporting the proposal described here. And I can’t believe that it would survive a lawsuit, which it shouldn’t.
Update: Stanley Kurtz calls it "one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever heard of." John J. Miller calls it "an extraordinarily bad idea." David Horowitz doesnt like it either. David French thinks that that the constitutional issues are more complicated:
[T]he university itself has the academic freedom to order its professors to stick to their subjects (i.e. the university can prevent professors from taking time out from English Literature for a discussion of the Iraq War), but it cannot interfere with the “instructor’s freedom to express her views on the assigned course.” In other contexts, the ability of the state to limit the explicit, on-the-job political activity of its employees is unquestioned.
For many years, university professors have enjoyed a measure of academic freedom that is actually greater in scope than the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Persistent and arrogant abuse of that freedom is going to invariably lead legislatures and universities themselves to begin to roll back professors’ expressive autonomy. Sadly, the university establishment seems oblivious to the fact that their own abuses are leading them down the road of regulation, and they seem blissfully unaware that their employers have far more power over their expression than they dare to think.
Here’s a fairly muddled article by our friend Gary Rosen that predicts and hopes that the Democratic candidate may actually be more religiously attuned that the Republican one in 2008. Giuliani and McCain, the thinking goes, seem and probably are less pious than Obama and Senator Clinton. I don’t think Hillary has the capability really to "sell" her faith. But Obama, we have to admit, seems (in the way he talks) and probably is more religious than Giuliani and McCain, and that fact or appearance may move religiously observant voters, especially if they think that there’s no reliable social conservative in the race anyway. It surely isn’t in the electoral interest of the Republicans that the faith gap be closed, especially when they aren’t faring so well on other fronts.
Let me add my own quite questionable social science research. I interviewed a small number of Presidential Scholar candidates at Berry College last week. They were, with one exception, obviously devout and very smart middle-class white southern Christian kids. I asked them who should be elected president in 2008. The name most mentioned was Hillary Clinton, and always in a negative way. The only other name mentioned at all--several times--was Obama, each time in a positive way for his hopeful and inspirational message. I mentioned Giuliani and McCain on occasion to fill the silence and got no response.
So all in all, there are reasons for thinking that Giuliani (competence, toughness, eloquence, likeability, experience) would be the strongest Republican candidate. But others point more and more to Romney as the strongest and smartest faith-based or inspirational candidate. The spectre of Obama, among oother things, calls into question the extent to which social or religious conservatives can be taken for granted.
More snow today. I felt sorry for my car, washed her twice. Otherwise, a lazy reading day with some cigars, and some driving. Plenty of poetry, most clean and tight, yet heavy words, some scald like molten lead; some mad compositions. Here is two by A.E. Housman:
To an Athlete Dying Young and When I was one-and-twenty. Then try speaking these by Edwin Arlington Robinson: Leonora , The Unforgiven, and Richard Corey. If thats not enough, try Der Tod, das Ist by heinrich Heine. And then this by Endre Ady, Ver es Arany (Blood and Gold). Sorry, no translation from the Hungarian to be found. The first few lines, roughly put: "Its the same to my ears whether passion pants or gold clatters/ I assert and know that this is all, and else in vain/ blood and gold, blood and gold." One more from E.A. Robinson: Be still, my soul, be still. It should stop snowing tomorrow.
To gratify Steve Thomas, heres the busy Lincoln thread. And heres a two-year old post raising the question of whether the abomination were celebrating (or is it just noticing?) tomorrow is Presidents Day, Presidents Day, or Presidents Day. This site says that its officially still Washingtons Birthday (at least at the federal level), though some states officially call it P Day. More here and here.
True enough, in a way. It has often been remarked that America doesn’t have a European-style conservative tradition, devoted to defending the prerogatives of an established church or aristocracy. American conservatives like Reagan have always sought instead to conserve the habits and institutions of classical liberalism. And yet, in the contemporary context, Reagan’s anti-statism — no matter how hopeful and optimistic its packaging — made him unmistakably a conservative.
Diggins seems blinded by Reagan’s sunniness, which, in this interpretation, was not just a matter of temperament, but reflective of a deep philosophical and religious conviction. Reagan, Diggins maintains, sought to rid “America of a God of judgment and punishment.” This is absurd. Reagan had a charitable view of human nature and a relaxed, nonjudgmental air, but there is no denying his deeply felt social conservatism. He wrote — as a sitting president, no less — the anti-abortion tract “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.”
Does Lowry understand how fraught with tension a conservativism that takes its orientation from the (ultimately "progressive") "habits and institutions of classical liberalism" is? And how "anti-statism" is hardly a proxy for conservatism, unless you think that that classical liberalism suffices as a definition of conservatism? I cant tell if Lowry wants to explain (away) Reagans optimism as a matter of "temperament," in which case "a charitable view of human nature and a relaxed nonjudgmental air" amount to personality traits, rather than important bases of a well-thought out (or at least semi-coherent) position. They may be no more than characterological reflexes, which at least frees us from having to puzzle out their systematic connection with the rest of RWRs thought. Or they may be more intimately connected with Reagans particular "fusion," in which case we may have to take seriously the ways in which his conservatism isnt (and cant be) thoroughgoing.
In either case, Reagan may not be a workable model for contemporary conservatives, either because his disposition is hard, if not impossible, to duplicate, or because his position isnt altogether coherent. Does Reagan demonstrate the impossibility of a genuinely American "genuine conservatism"?
A penny for everyones thoughts.
Leon Kass and Ronald Bailey have, of course, very divergent views on the challenge transhumanism poses to human dignity. Here’s Bailey’s side of the story, with a link to Kass’s side. Permit me to say I think they’re both wrong. Bailey is naive about what the biotechnological project to turn human beings into something better could conceivably accomplish, either on the happiness or the dignity front. Kass worries too much about the very future of our dignity; all that Brave New World stuff contradicts what we’ve seen so far about human nature’s capacity to be screwed up but not obliterated by techno-manipulation. See, for example, Ronald W. Dworkin (no, not THE famous D), ARTIFICIAL HAPPINESS (Carol and Graf, 2006), which chronicles the effort by M.D.’s, led by family practitioners, to turn human happiness into an engineering problem, by detaching it from the real events of one’s life.
According to Dworkin: "Yet the inexplicable human spirit has eluded them; doctors have utterly misjudged human beings. And nothing is more tellng than the fact that doctors, despite all their accomplishments, remain unable to answer the most basic question of life, the question that gives life its coherence and when answered makes happiness and contentment possible. That question is: How should one live?"
Actually, I think that edifying statement is a bit corny and simple. So let me also give you Dworkin’s account of "the Happy Senior," the American-to-come who has spent his life sort of artifically happy on Prozac:
"...the Happy Senior’s heart is wholly unacquainted with life’s tribulations, leaving him unprepared for the crisis now upon him. With nothing in his inner experience to comfort him, he falls back on
more medication....This works for a time, but eventually the Happy Senior’s health worsens and the ends looms. The Happy Senior struggles psychologically in a way that he never has before. Panicking, he thinks to himself: I will cease to be; I will die; all that I value in life will die; my happiness will die; I should not die; yet I am dying. He tries to hide’s death approach with more medication, but no amount of Artificial Happiness works; he knows his annihilation is imminent. He seeks consolation in religion’s idea of a happy life, but medical science has governed his whole outlook on life and the lie is too hard to him to swallow. In the end, unable to uphold any delusion and now quite afraid, the Happy Senior reaches for death the way some people, fearing for their lives, commit suicide to escape torture."
I’m at the airport in Miami yesterday drinking a latte, thinking cigar, but sitting next to a lovely woman; we talked a bit. Eventually, I start glancing at the New York Times. I look at the front page headlines and, as always, don’t begin reading the articles that are unsurprising: "A Divided House Denounces Plan for More Troops," "Italy Indicts 26, Many from CIA, in ’03 Abduction," "Furor Over Push for a Cervical Cancer Vaccine," and one on McCain, on Iran, and so on. My eye lands on
In Twist for High School Wrestlers: Girl Beats Boy. Still on the front page, below the fold, I begin reading. It has to do with a 103 pound wrestler named Jessica Bennett who is very good at the craft. She racks up points (against a boy), as the boys’ teamates "look down at their feet." I note their shame. The piece seems to describe a bawdy sport, hinging on the pornographic, describing who is mounting who, which leg is being held and where, how the boy is riding the girl’s back, and then almost a kind of lust stirring up a desperate courage, seeming to beat low nature back. She wins the point.
Into the article more, I notice that the woman next to me marks that I am growling and huffing and puffing. I had to explain. Talked about boys and girls, men and women, and the possible differences. She admitted some, and also said she understood the boys’ shame. Physical strength is all they have left now, she said. And maybe not even that. No longer the weaker vessels, these young women, but ladies no more. What will they do? What will the boys do when they cannot be called Andrews? Maybe Jessica has a way out for us, I read aloud to my neighbor what "soft-spoken Jessica" says near the end of the article: "Boys have a lot of testosterone and they’re stronger, so when I win it’s on technique. Hopefully, I can outwit them." This might be high nature reasserting itself, so I end the article being less pessimistic and I note to my new lady friend that it is Jessica herself--a fifteen year old--who understands. Hope reasserted itself.
But I do note this morning, in re-reading the very same article on-line that that comment from Jessica, as it appeared in the paper version of the New York Times, has been removed from the on-line version. I wonder why, and I wonder if Jessica would approve.
This piece presents it as almost entirely defensive, which doesnt account for Irans activities elsewhere in the Middle East. And it says nothing about Irans nuclear ambitions. In those respects, it reminds me of the efforts to explain post World War II Soviet moves in terms of its "legitimate" defensive concerns.
NLT readers living in regions with insulation requirements above R-19 are probably, like me, still chipped out from under six inches of ice covering everything. In the midst of this, todays Washington Post offers this profoundly insightful bit of news analysis: "The storms effects were compounded by high winds that ripped off tree branches and brought down ice-coated power lines. Authorities are unable to stop this. . ." What? "Authorities are unable to stop this"?? What do we pay our taxes for?
Did you know that Eric Clapton owns a rehab center? In Antigua? Supply your own punch lines.
Finally, MKM Partners, a Greenwich investment firm, notes in a recent newsletter that federal tax receipts are currently growing much faster than federal spending, so much so that if the current rate keeps up, the federal budget will come into balance by May 2008. Just in time for a tax increase.
Here’s the WaPo story on the 56-34 vote in the Senate, which failed to invoke cloture in order to proceed to a vote on the House measure. Seven Republicans voted to invoke cloture, despite the refusal of Senate Democrats to permit a vote on another measure pledging not to cut off funding for the troops:
The seven Republican senators who broke ranks with their colleagues and voted in favor of the cloture motion were John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Norm Coleman (Minn.), Gordon Smith (Ore.), Olympia Snowe (Me.), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Susan M. Collins (Me.).
No surprises there. I couldn’t find out how Lieberman voted.
Update: The NYT story contains this nugget:
Republicans continued to try to make the case that it was Democrats who were shutting down a full-fledged Senate review of Mr. Bush’s Iraq strategy by refusing the Republicans a chance to offer an alternative that would place the Senate on record against cutting off money for armed forces in the field.
“This is the United States Senate,” said Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, defending his party’s stance as senators squared off at noon. “The majority cannot tell the minority what we are going to have one vote on, take it or leave it.”
Democrats were leery of the Republican plan, written by Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, because of its potential to attract the most Senate votes and to overshadow Senate action criticizing the troop increase. Some lawmakers also believed that Congress might be asked to restrict military spending, and they did not want their hands tied by an earlier vote on a more symbolic resolution.
Update #2: Power Line informs us the Lieberman voted against cloture.
Heres a list of Congressmen who, for better or worse (mostly for worse) broke ranks with their parties on the non-binding resolution. Id like to single out Gene Taylor (D-MS) and Jim Marshall (D-GA) for applause, and to note that Ron Paul (R?-TX) has the courage of his profoundly misguided convictions.
NROs Kathryn Jean Lopez calls our attention to and comments on this self-indulgent and self-pitying Salon piece by Amanda Marcotte. Heres a bit:
Whether or not it was the intention of the right-wing noise machine to throw more obstacles in the way of Democrats who want to play to their pro-choice, pro-gay rights feminist constituents -- its also plausible that the right-wing noise machine was working on pure misogynist emotion -- the episode has had a chilling effect on the future of Democratic outreach to feminist communities, particularly the younger ones that flock to computers for political information as earlier generations flocked to television sets and newspapers.
Equally alarming is the possibility that this episode was something of a test case for the right-wing noise machine. The right blogosphere is mostly a sideshow act for the Republican Party, providing a cheap source of noise and noncontroversies to help professional shills like the Catholic League and the Heritage Foundation degrade the political discourse in this country, throwing culture war bombs to cover up unpopular Republican policies like starting a war in Iraq.
I think the left blogosphere has a lot more substance to it. First of all, the liberal blogs are slowly but surely building a fundraising structure that is already beginning to have substantial influence on elections. They helped Jim Webb become a senator and Joe Lieberman become an Independent. Blogs also provide a method of disseminating progressive ideas to people, while the mainstream cable news channels carry on for weeks at a time on topics such as Anna Nicole Smiths untimely demise. Liberal blogs are issue-oriented and good at parsing out complex ideas that dont fit well into the sound-bite-driven mainstream discourse. They are a good fit for wonky Democrats. Its therefore unsurprising that conservatives might want to dissuade Democrats from hiring them.
There are smart and thoughtful folks in the left blogosphere, but Marcotte doesnt seem to me to belong in their ranks. And I dont see why partisan Republicans would want to do Democrats the favor of dissuading them from hiring folks like her. Better the Democrats should go with their inclinations, so that everyone can see what all too often passes for "normal" or "acceptable" discourse in their precincts.
In the end, Marcotte is unrepentant, insisting that hers is the authentic democratic face of the left blogosphere:
As a general rule, blogs are raucous and common, as would be expected in any political environment that is truly democratic, where you dont have to brandish a pedigree to get in the door. What this means is that even the more even-keeled bloggers are likely to have something in their archives that could be taken out of context and bandied about on the cable news networks. And even if the blogger herself never says a word that could be misconstrued, members of the right-wing noise machine are perfectly willing to dig through comment threads to find quotes that fit their purposes, as the bloggers at Feministing found out when Wendy McElroy was on Fox News quoting comments left by readers and implying that those statements had been made by the bloggers.
In response to what happened to Melissa and me, Garance Franke-Ruta has written a post on the American Prospects Tapped blog wagging her finger at liberal bloggers and warning us that unless we are willing to ape the language and habits of the D.C. insider crowd, we can expect never to be allowed through the gates. She probably has a point that bloggers can expect this sort of pushback from the establishment. Blogs are popular because they provide space for everyday citizens to engage in politics, in the language and manner that is comfortable for us, if not for the establishment. To my mind, however, it would be a terrible thing if bloggers did heed the advice to mind our manners and ape our betters if we want in, since this is supposed to be a democratic system that respects the right of everyday, common people to participate in politics. While theres a chance that the crusade to separate McEwan and me from the Edwards campaign was just a singular happening, the possibility lingers that this was just the first sign that the established media and political circles will not be letting the blog-writing rabble into the circle without a fight.
Here, by the way, is the Garance Franke-Ruta post to which McEwan refers. McEwan cant even tell who her friends are, preferring to regard anyone who doesnt actually applaud her vulgarity and defend to the death her right not to be held accountable in any way, shape, or form for it as one of the enemy.
Newsweeks Howard Fineman writes about what he takes to be the dynamics of the Republican nomination race going into next weeks meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. Focusing--much too narrowly, to my mind--on the usual suspects (Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson), he tries to handicap (perhaps in both senses of the word?) the race. Falwell, he says, favors McCain (kiss of death!); Robertson likes Romney (another kiss of death); Dobson seems to be leaning toward Huckabee (say what?).
Im dubious of a lot of this analysis, especially of his presentation of the relationship between Falwell and the Bushes pere et fils. Having read three "spiritual" biographies of GWB (the results are here), I dont recall much about Falwells role in them. And I certainly would like to see a textured analysis that looks beyond the usual (and now tired) suspects.
This months First Things freebie is a debate between Joseph Bottum and Michael Novak on the Bush presidency. Here are a couple of snippets, first from Bottum:
Again and again, he has done the right thing in the wrong way, until, at last, his wrongness has overwhelmed his rightness. How can conservatives continue to support this man in much of anything he tries to do? Iraq is not America’s failure, and it is not conservatism’s failure. We are where we are because of George W. Bush’s failure.
All the 2008 Republican presidential candidates should understand the task they face over the next two years. George Bush’s ideals have gotten him elected president twice, and his incompetence has finally delivered the Congress to his domestic opponents and empowered his nation’s enemies abroad. Iraq needs an American president who embraces Bush’s principles-and rejects his policies. The United States needs much the same thing.
And now Novak:
Joseph Bottum’s criticisms are to be taken seriously, even if they set criteria for angels, not flawed humans, and seem to overlook some stirring initiatives by this much-attacked president-such as his work on AIDS, for the poor in Africa, and against human trafficking. However deficient you think his judgment may have been about what was possible, no president has ever been more openly pro-life.
At the very least, in the face of passionate hostility at home and abroad, George Bush has proved himself a brave and determined man who has staked his presidency on getting democratic momentum underway in the Middle East. Even if in the short run he fails-which many of us are not yet ready to concede-some Muslims in the future will be able to remember that in a difficult time an American president, at heavy cost, cared about their sufferings, their natural rights, and the better angels beckoning in their dreams. He held before them a democratic standard by which they will forever measure other political movements and other leaders.
These are not inconsiderable accomplishments.
Bottums is one of the more forceful and less hysterical conservative criticisms of GWB that I have seen, but I share Novaks view that in some cases JB has held the President to an impossibly high standard. Take, for example, social security. Bottum puts it this way:
President Bush was absolutely right that social security is a looming disaster, and as a result of his efforts, social-security reform is now dead for a generation.
As I recall, the Congressional Republicans didnt exactly leap to the support of a President who had just won reelection by means of an unprecedented expansion of the Republican electorate (the first popular majority since 1988). I suppose that one could blame Bush for not anticipating that, well, betrayal, especially since one clearly couldnt have gone wrong overestimating the short-sightedness and fecklessness of Congressional Republicans.
Of course, Iraq overshadows everything, and it doesnt look good, though, as Novak points out, things could well change (as we must hope they do). Bottum emphasizes the importance of perceptions and the Presidents responsibility for shaping them:
And the fact we must face is this: We have already been defeated in Iraq. Perhaps not in literal truth; a better policy, better implemented, might yet bring about a stable, democratic country. And certainly not in historical terms; Iraq is only an early chapter in what must be a long struggle against global Jihadism. But, at the very least, the battle for perception of the Iraq War has gone entirely against the United States. In the eyes of both the American public and the Islamic world, we have lost-and lost badly.
The reason is President Bush. His administration has mishandled the logistics of the war and the politics of its perception in nearly equal measure, from Abu Ghraib to the execution of Saddam Hussein. Conservatives voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because they expected him to be the opposite of Bill Clinton-and so, unfortunately, he has proved. Where Clinton seemed a man of enormous political competence and no principle, Bush has been a man of principle and very little political competence.
Bottum chooses to compare Bush to Clinton, but we might also consider a Reagan comparison: would RWR have fared any better had he had to commit the American military to a long-term conflict in Iraq? Or would he have eschewed the risk and tried "containment"? Would Reagan have been able to navigate these treacherous waters, both on the ground in the Middle East and in the court of domestic and world public opinion, any better than Bush?
This study makes what seems to be a sensible claim: keeping the mind engaged in learning promotes a long life and one that more readily keeps dementia at bay. I cant speak at all to the science of it, but because it makes sense Ill buy it. But I do wonder how they adjust for the counter-claim that a sedentary life is unhealthy. Im just guessing, but Id venture to say that the more a person engages the mind the less they tend to engage the body.
This post, from a voucher critic, at least has the virtue of airing a number of the issues, canvassed on the pro-voucher side by this article and on the anti- side by this one. I can understand why teachers unions oppose school choice, and why secularists do. Are there other reasons that folks find compelling?
One-third of new businesses fail within two years; 50 to 70 percent of new products that make it to market fail. Hunter, a burly, rumpled political product seeking a market niche, probably will fail. But as Goldwater said when he entered politics in Phoenix in 1949, "It aint for life, and it may be fun."
One of my first ever journalistic ventures involved inveighing against the lottery proposed by Georgias then-governor Zell Miller. I havent ridden that hobby horse much since then, but I remain of the opinion that lotteries are craven and counterproductive means of funding allegedly worthy public purposes. Theyre craven because they enable politicians to evade having to make the case for raising taxes to pay for some government program. And theyre counterproductive in at least this sense: a lottery that, for example, funds public education or scholarships implicitly teaches the lesson that financial success depends upon chance, rather than upon hard work and education. Whats more, of course, because the folks who are likeliest to play a lottery tend to be less likely to take full advantage of the educational programs the lottery funds, the lottery tends to redistribute from the less wealthy to the wealthy.
All of this is a long-winded way of recommending Jordan Ballors
blog post and op-ed on the latest lottery craze--privatization, which basically involves trying to sell the things off before they cease being profitable. I feel curiously vindicated.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland "had a message for President Bush: any plan to relocate thousands of refugees uprooted by the Iraq war to the United States shouldnt include Ohio."
The Hill reports: "Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) believes it is his right as a Muslim to be sworn into Congress with the Quran. But apparently, the freshman lawmaker doesn’t believe it’s Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-Colo.) right to smoke a cigar in his congressional office.
Ellison’s office called the Capitol Hill Police on Tancredo last Wednesday night as Tancredo was in his office smoking a cigar. The lawmakers have neighboring offices on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building."
We had a couple days of heavy snow. I ended up at the local Starbucks again this morning, perhaps not as early as normal, since classes were cancelled; the whole town seemed shut down. I park, get my grande latte (no additional squirts of taste, whadda ya think I’m a wimp?), go back to my car, light up a stick and read. Lately, it’s been a Carlos Torano--Casa Torano, a fine morning cigar; its a soft, almost sweet, creamy smoke, with a nutty touch at the end. I was reading Mansfield’s "Manliness" (I am offering a seminar on it twice a week)--the book nicely balanced on the steering wheel--when a neighbor noticed me. I invited him in, as long as he didn’t mind me smoking. I didn’t think he would since the Torano smells good, even in a tight space. Mind you, the engine is running, roof slightly open--notepad and Yeats and Hemingway on the dashboard (I told you I’m teaching a class on manliness!)--and it’s all kind of cozy, almost like my study, which it is, but this is my car. Cowboys have their horse, smoking professors their car. The guest noticed the, let’s say, informal character of it all and asked me what the hell I was doing. Was I homeless? I told him I’m reading. The short of it is that this is the only place I can smoke now that the people of Ohio in their wisdom have spoken. They have chosen both a Democratic governor and a smoke free state. I shame the devil by speaking the truth, and he allows the foolishness of both choices. I confess to him quietly--in case the engine hum and the snow swirling aren’t enough to drown out my bitching--that he’s right, especially about the latter, a more signficant and lasting act, I assert. We talk a while, I read a few lines from Yeats about how things fall apart and Plato’s ghost and end up with Ann Gregory and why we should love her yellow hair. As he leaves, I turn back to consider why male atheletes spit and women don’t and--as I chew into the sweet end of the stogie--I think about the sea and the old man and what beat him and why sometimes the people nod.
The Friar notes, but doesn’t really discuss, Alan Wolfe’s update of the article I cited just below. I have some factual quibbles--he gets Michael Farris’s name wrong, refers to the Christian Reform Church instead of the Christian Reformed Church, and I don’t think Patrick Henry College could be rightly described as "emphasiz[ing] a Great Books education." They give me some cause for pause about the extent to which he actually has control of the material with which he’s dealing. For example, he makes much of the brouhaha at Calvin College when George W. Bush gave his commencement address there (something about which I blogged, perhaps too often. Wolfe’s summary description is that "the event made clear that not all faith-based colleges in the United States are filled with loyal Republicans pleased by America’s recent turn to the political right." No one who has paid any attention to evangelicalism in higher education and politics could have thought anything else: across the country, somewhere between 25% and 35% of evangelicals didn’t vote Republican in the last couple of elections. And, as I noted in one of my Calvin posts, that "only" 1/3 of the faculty signed a letter protesting the visit suggests a massive difference between Calvin and any equally "good" secular liberal arts college. So Wolfe’s lead-in is a little misleading.
And then we get to the thrust of his argument, which is that academic excellence and religious fidelity are inconsistent with one another. He particularly objects to statements of faith:
Faculty and administrators at these schools defend faith statements on the grounds that they protect and nurture community; because we have a shared mission, they like to point out, one will not find among us the groundless anomie and lack of direction associated with more secular institutions. That may be true, but community and diversity represent different values, and frequently one must choose between them. All too often, evangelical colleges prize the former over the latter. By their very nature, statements of faith are designed to defend against religious diversity. That is one reason I object to them; they smack of religious bigotry and suggest a lack of appreciation for academic freedom. But there is something else wrong with statements of faith: they manifest a defensiveness that is one of conservative Christianity’s less attractive features.
What this amounts to saying is that adherence in an academic setting to anything remotely resembling the confessions and creeds of traditional Christianity is "bigotry." Belonging to a creedal or confessional church is "bigotry." A college sponsored by a creedal or confessional church would have to engage in "bigotry" if it wanted to be faithful to its denomination. If this is what Wolfe thinks is necessary for the "evangelical mind" to be "opened," then I hope that my colleagues in such institutions don’t take his advice. It’s possible to have a serious intellectual life taking as one’s point of departure certain "presuppositions." Most "scientific" disciplines do this all the time (consider this particularly colorful recent example). And, as Bruce Kimball has shown, there’s a perfectly distinguished conception of liberal education that has at its roots a notion of religious formation.
But that’s enough for now.
Update: Another quibble: my friends at the University of Tulsa would be shocked to learn that they’re teaching at a public institution. But (once again) seriously: Wolfe is on the strongest ground when he raises questions about the pursuit of a political agenda allegedly following from a religious mission. One of the things upon which I would insist (both to folks on the left and on the right) is that there is a role to be played by prudence whenever we engage in politics or other "practical" enterprises. Prudence can be cultivated in an educational setting, but not if we don’t leave room for its (varied) formation, hence not if we’re committed to a particular practical agenda. In other words, it’s not just intellectual life that suffers if "everything" is dictated by politics, but even moral formation (and hence ultimately citizenship and politics).
Update #2: Touchstones David Mills has some characteristically thoughtful Mere Comments.
Almost seven years ago, Alan Wolfe published "The Opening of the Evangelical Mind", which described for the readers of the Atlantic Monthly the resurgence or renaissance (more precisely, the "surgence" or "naissance") of evangelical intellectual life. Here’s a characteristic passage:
In its own way, campus life at Wheaton College resembles that of the 1960s, when students and a few professors, convinced that they had embarked on a mission of eternal importance, debated ideas as if life really depended on the answers they came up with. Students at Wheaton, moreover, are as outstanding as any students in America. Wheaton’s rejection rate last year was higher than the University of Chicago’s. Its class of 2003 includes sixty-one National Merit Scholars. The average SAT score of last year’s entering class was 1,310, putting Wheaton in the same range as Oberlin College and the University of Virginia. One political-science major I met had just been accepted for the doctoral program at Yale, another for the one at the University of California at San Diego. Wheaton does even better in the hard sciences than in the social sciences, ranking among the nation’s leading colleges in the percentage of its graduates who go on to earn doctorates. Surprisingly, for a college deriving from a religious tradition that was hostile to Darwinism, Wheaton managed to recruit the chairman of its biology department--the first place where conservative alumni are likely to look for insistence on the Bible’s inerrancy--from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
But despite some bright spots, there’s plenty to make one blanch. I haven’t seen Alexandra Pelosi’s new documentary, but Michael Linton’s commentary rings too true of at least a portion of evangelicalism:
Yes, we can see ourselves in Pelosi’s film, but a lot of what we see should make us wince. We’ve forgotten the Scriptures and allowed ignorance to characterize our preaching, and delirium our worship. In our confidence in God’s grace, we have become presumptuous in our salvation. And we’ve too often confused salvation in heaven with right voting on earth. We need to change. We need to repent.
I don’t know that evangelicals have to follow this all the way to David Kuo, but I think there has to be more to it than we get from Rick Warren (whose book I couldn’t bear even to skim), Joel Osteen, or (shudder) Ted Haggard, who comes off pretty badly in the film, even without the retrospective glasses.
Stated another way, I worry that the basically decent folks who populate the evangelical megachurches are much closer to the market-driven life than even to the purpose-driven life, and not, in any event, "nearer, my God, to Thee."
Hat tip: Wheat and Weeds.
On a different note, I should let the folks at MOJ speak for themselves, but any blog that includes Stephen Bainbridge and Rick Garnett among its posters probably shouldn’t be described as "leftish."
Update: Here, via Get Religion, is a post by someone on the religious left who seems to think that any response to the vitriol of the religious right is fair game, and essentially without a political cost:
I am also suspicious of the lasting effect of this drama. In August, will anyone still be talking about bloggergate" outside of the far-right blogosphere and the Catholic Al Sharpton, Bill Donohue? I doubt it. And are voters REALLY going to abandon Edwards over this? My sense is the ones voicing the most outrage were people who were never that committed to Edwards (or Democrats) to begin with.
As far as reaching out to religious voters, I am also unconvinced about the lasting impact. Democrats are not reaching out to attract National Review readers, the folks at Amy Welborns website, or the likes of Rod Dreher. Those are people who cant be reached by Democrats because they are so dogmatic or ideological, they cant really be swayed.
Well, I think Dreher might be gettable, but not so long as people think they can indulge in extravagantly anti-religious language. But more seriously, Catholics have been the swing voters in the last few electoral cycles. While its true that conservative Catholics--or conservative folks of any religious (well, "Judaeo-Christian") flavor--are unlikely to vote for any potential Democratic nominee in 2008, there are moderates who could well be put off by the behavior that this blogger countenances. Lets hope the short-sightedness continues.
Im off the bioethics council meeting in a couple of hours. So I thought Id leave you with Saletans latest laundry list. It turns out, for example, that hybrid cars, by not making enough noise, may endanger the blind. And stem cells are being used for customized breast implants. The trouble with heart-healthy naps is that they wont work for those who most need them: The health-paranoid type-A personalities, even or especially after reading the latest studies, wont be able to relax enough to sleep anyway.
The issues before the bioethics council remain organ markets, newborn screening, and dignity. Is there such a thing as human dignity? Does it have anything to do with the formulation of public policy? etc.
For a long time Niger has been regarded by Western governments and aid groups as a basket case, one of the absolute poorest countries in the world and the epitome of Third World problems of disease, poverty, and environmental decay. But according to The New York Times, something surprising is happening in one very poor region of the country: the population is growing but the economic and environmental situation is improving (contrary to the conventional wisdom). In one previously hard-hit village, not a single child has died from malnutrition since 2005.
How is this happening? Trees are returning in great numbers. Why? Rainfall has increased, and farmers are no longer ploughing trees under when they plant crops but are keeping and cultivating them, which has a tremendous effect on soil conservation. What has caused this change in behavior? Surprise, surprise:
Another change was the way trees were regarded by law. From colonial times, all trees in Niger had been regarded as the property of the state, which gave farmers little incentive to protect them. Trees were chopped for firewood or construction without regard to the environmental costs. Government foresters were supposed to make sure the trees were properly managed, but there were not enough of them to police a country nearly twice the size of Texas.But over time, farmers began to regard the trees in their fields as their property, and in recent years the government has recognized the benefits of that outlook by allowing individuals to own trees. Farmers make money from the trees by selling branches, pods, fruit and bark. Because those sales are more lucrative over time than simply chopping down the tree for firewood, the farmers preserve them.
It bears repeating: economic growth is the best weapon against problems of poverty and the environment in poor countries, and property rights are the key to economic growth. How long will it take for securing property rights to be high on the agenda for international aid groups?
At Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union Conference this weekend in Virginia, Lerone Bennett (of Ebony magazine) denounced Barack Obama for announcing his presidential run in Springfield, IL--the home of that known racist, Abraham Lincoln. Smiley asked for clarification on that charge since Lincoln is best known for the Emancipation Proclamation and Bennett gave a pathetic but predictable response that was met with loud cheers and nodding approval by his host. You can hear Laura Ingraham discuss it here with appropriate excerpts from the actual conference. And here is some reaction from across the pond, where Obama is greeted with an equal disdain. This, of course, is all very sad and even disturbing. But it is interesting to note that the tone and substance of this argument against Lincoln--now advanced by a radical sub-section of black liberals--is eerily similiar to that of a certain sub-section of would-be "conservatives" who lately have found it amusing to entertain us in the comment section here. Politics and history certainly do make some strange bed-fellows. But when you agree that the real principle at work in politics is nothing more than will or power, it sometimes turns out that your enemies have more in common with you even than your friends.
C’mon guys, can we at least invade Austria?
Update: Wenn sie Deutsch lesen koennen, hier gibt es mehr. Uebersetzung: what this article adds is that the Austrian manufacturer wants to know what the serial numbers are, since the rifles could be knock-offs. But there’s a good bit of back-and-forth going on in Vienna.
Rudolf Gollia, Interior Ministry spokesman, wouldn’t concede that the government was careless in approving the deal with Iran. "Before the deal, we got an end use certificate, and our embassy in Tehran checked with the Iranian foreign and internal affairs ministries that the weapons really were intended to be used in the war on drug [dealers]." In addition, we clarified whether there were conflicts or violations of human rights in which the weapons could be used.
I guess they hadn’t heard that we were involved in a conflict in Iraq and couldn’t imagine that Iran would have any interest in what was going on next door, apart perhaps from the general humanitarianism of the mullahs, who only wanted armor-piercing sniper rifles to help us control the opium trade, concededly a problem, but not one that’s solved by firing at American officers sitting in humvees.
Hat tip (for the first German article): my dad, who makes a nuisance of himself in several languages on European press sites that permit comments.
. . . can be found here. Brendan Miniter makes a strong case supporting the idea that social conservatives will find it easy to come around to Guiliani in the end. He is especially impressed with Rudys ability to make the issue of school choice work for him in wooing this block of voters. According to Miniter, its been working for him in South Carolina where Christian Conservatives make up the core of the school choice movement. After attending a meeting of one of these groups where Guiliani spoke, Miniter reports: "One woman who attended told me she wonders whether electing a president who successfully took on the mob in New York is what it will take to finally break through the entrenched education political culture." Maybe thats exactly what is needed. In any event I think it is a fair argument to value action on the school choice front over inaction and platitudes on the abortion front . . . particularly if Guiliani is inclined to select judges in the mold of Roberts and Alito as he claims.
This WaPo article describes this report on the constitutionality of giving voting representation to the District of Columbia in the House. Apparently, Kenneth Starr and Viet Dinh think the proposal passes constitutional muster. Im dubious. My proposal (not altogether tongue-in-cheek): give the District back to Maryland, and handle the representation of its residents that way. I dont favor the constitutional novelty of a city thats not quite a state, and would rather return to the status quo ante, if were no longer going to have special federal district.
In this months issue of the Atlantic, Clive Crook finds evidence in India for one of Milton Friedmans most controversial claims--that a privately-funded system of education would especially benefit the least well-off. In spite of official government discrimination against private schools, small for-profit schools have been popping up in many of the poorest parts of India. Crook writes:
On the whole, dime-a-day for-profit schools are doing a better job of teaching the poorest children than the far more expensive state schools. In many localities, private schools operate alongside a free, government-run alternative. Many parents, poor as they may be, have chosen to reject it and to pay perhaps a tenth of their meager incomes to educate their children privately. They would hardly do that unless they expected better results.
Based on test scores, these expectations have so far been met. However, this is not a success story were likely to hear from Indias education officials, or from those who work for international aid agencies--these remain wedded to the old model of public education, and continue to claim (in spite of all evidence to the contrary) that all that is needed is more money.
...for many (well, not that many) Americans, today is Darwin Day. Here you can read about some of the traditional festivities, including the singing of the haunting "Randomness is Good Enough for Me." Anyone who has been to my office knows that randomness is, in fact, good enough for me.
The latest studies show that we should be asking candidates some tough questions about whether or not they are regularly napping.
Courtesy of NLT commenter Andrew, a European leader wanders off the plantation on global warming. Lets check his bank records!
David Margolick writes an op-ed on the Lincoln Penny in yesterdays NY Times. I dont have an opinion about the future of the penny, but the piece is useful background on its origin, reception, and value.
About a month ago, this front-page NYT article, trumpeting that in 2005 51% of women were living without a husband caused quite a stir. It’s a remarkable celebration of how liberating it is for women not to have to deal with husbands. (Tell that to the elderly widows in my church.)
Now we learn a little something about the editorial process that led to the article. Did you notice the age range under consideration? It’s 51% of women 15 and older. Roughly 90% of high-school age girls live at home with their parents. Subtracting them from the figures gets us back under 50%, and as the NYT’s public editor concedes, probably off the front page.
This was not news analysis, but advocacy, with almost no attempt at balancein either the presentation or the assessment of the evidence. Michael Medved cites census data about the normality of marriage.
Here’s the data from which the NYT reporter was working. Here’s some data that provide a somewhat different picture, suggesting (for example) that marriage is still the overwhelming statistical norm for most people.
Hat tip: MOJ’s Rob Vischer.
Update: As Kate comments below, I missed Peters original post here. Bad blogger!
If your stomach is feeling strong, you can actually hear and see me say a few words...
Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Happy day. Here is the Fragment on the Constitution and the Union showing his understanding of the whole in a few tight sentences. Also remind yourself of the great Gettysburg Address and note the wonderful Anglo-Saxon simplicity of it. And the rhythm, don’t forget the rhythm. Then read this Fragment on Slavery, and then this
Fragment on Slavery, then Meditation on the Divine Will. And now go to the Second Inaugural. All this should be enough not only remind you of his fine mind and his great heart and his character, it should also lift your heart in gratitude that you are living in a country that bred him and one that he defined. Let the other nations have their magnanimous men and their poets and their statesmen and their warriors. I wish them all well. But we are the land of Lincoln and this is our day.
Power Line tells us of Barack Obama’s response to Australian PM John Howard’s criticism, about which you can find more here. Since Democrats constantly tell us how much the world disdains us because of our Iraq policy, you’d think Howard would be entitled to praise it and blame its critics. But as the piece in The Australian notes, there’s a double standard: only Bush and his policies [and, I would add, allies who support it] are eligible for criticism.
Obama probably should have just shrugged it off, defending his policy rather than attacking a loyal American ally. This is evidence that he’s not quite ready for prime-time, as is his telling remark, quickly retracted, about the American lives "wasted" in Iraq.
Update: More Howard:
He said the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq early next year would be seen as a U.S. defeat that would “encourage and give succor” to terrorists in the Middle East and Asia and be “catastrophic for the West.”
“I hold the strongest possible view that it is contrary to the security interests of this country for America to be defeated in Iraq,” Howard said.
“Let me make it perfectly clear, if I hear a policy being advocated that is contrary to Australia’s security interests, I will criticize it.”
Please note that the AP story says that Howard is "lagging badly" behind his rival in the electoral race. Last I checked, being down 48-43 isn’t "lagging badly."
Update #2: I missed this the first time, but Obama refers to Howard as "one of George W. Bush’s allies," not one of America’s. That’s a very political and very undiplomatic way of stating it. I can’t say that I’m impressed by his level-headed grace and savoir faire under fire. Power Lines Scott Johnson calls these slips Obamanations, which I wish Id thought of first.
But, according to this journalist, that’s not altogether a good thing. His hyper-manliness gives him exaggerated, unrealistic confidence in the rightness of his judgments; the record shows that his administration would be less about the preservation of limited government and more about the reckless abuse of executive authority. (Of course, I far from completely agree with this, but now that Rudy is so clearly ahead it’s time to consider his weaknesses.)
Heres a short article that makes the single point that if the contest for the Democratic nomination turns on the Iraq war, Obama wins. Thats becuase his opposition to the war was unambiguous from the beginning, and his comments concerning the weakness of Saddams regime and our inability to control post-invasion developments were prescient. And he even added the nice phrase about being only against dumb wars, not all wars. I wonder whether the same might also be true in November, 2008: If the situation in Iraq hasnt improved, what would the Republicans have to do to keep the campaign against Obama from being a referendum over the current administrations unpopular policy? Of course I say this not in praise of Obama or to indict current policy, but to make clear the challenge he poses, given the undeniable facts of the wars and the presidents very weak polling numbers.
Too late for anyone to sign up for this, but inquiring minds want to know what Haywards schedule in Atlanta is. Might he be persuaded to present another talk, or at least to have a drink?
For the record, someone I know from church is eagerly looking forward to the seminar.
Im still way behind on everything, and have just lost a whole week of work to this silly laffaire Guardian, but I want to pass along the news that the (London) Independent today printed the following retraction:
In Editorial and Opinion on Saturday (3 February) we wrote that ‘ExxonMobil is attempting to bribe scientists to pick holes in the IPPC’s assessment (on climate change).’ We now recognise that this statement is incorrect and we withdraw it.
Indeed the original story has been removed from their website. And on Saturday, New York Times business columnist Joseph Nocera called the charge "ridiculous." (Unfortunately his article is behind the annoying TimesSelect firewall.) You know things are out of hand when your help comes from the New York Times. Ill await Al Gores retraction now.
St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols recently joined the growing number of foreign-born Major Leaguers who have become American citizens. (Pujols grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to the Kansas City area when he was 16.) These players take the oath for different reasons, not all of them noble or patriotic – and not that different from our own ancestors, or ourselves. But this was clearly not a check-the-box exercise for Pujols. He aced the citizenship test. "He even answered a bunch of additional questions and gave us more answers than we asked," the local customs and immigration officer reported. "He clenched his fist and said, I got 100 percent! He just had a grin from ear to ear. He was thrilled to become a citizen."
From what I know of the test, it’s not exactly as tough as Peter Schramm’s U.S. government exam at Ashland, but that’s not the point. The attitude was typical of Pujols; it didnt matter to him if the test was a fastball or a curve. He probably thinks he can bat 1.000, too. He was a lightly-regarded player coming out of junior college who worked himself into becoming a right-handed Ted Williams – with power, average, few strikeouts, a great clutch hitter, league MVP. When he came to the major leagues he really didn’t have a position in the field and bounced around at third base and the outfield, perhaps marked for eventual DH duty in the American League. Instead he worked himself into a Gold Glove winning first baseman.
He isn’t the most gregarious person with the media. He comes across a bit surly at times; not Barry Bonds surly, just the character of a man who wants to focus on his business and his family. Don’t get caught up with that. During baseball season, if I’m watching another game, I try to anticipate when Pujols might come to bat so I can switch over in time to see him. The same way I would want to see Ted Williams, another perfectionist. If hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports – arguable, but it’s a serious argument – you should make it a point to see the man who eventually may walk down the street and have it said about him, “There goes the best who ever lived.” And an American, to boot.
Here’s the speech, more Clintonesque (post-baby boomer edition) than Lincolnesque, more about the future to be build by BO’s generation than about the burden of obligations to and from the past. Above all, Obama reminds me of the early Bill Clinton, whose rhetoric was always too good to be true. Like Clinton also, he’s posing as the voice of a new generation, in this case consigning the baby-boomers (including, presumably, HRC) to the bad old past.
There are many things with which to quibble. What, for example, happens in Iraq when our troops are brought home by March, 2008 (!!!)? And are we really going to have "universal health care in America by the end of the next president’s first term"? At what cost? And while we’re at it, let’s end poverty in America. No sense of Christian humility or of human limits here.
Finally, there’s this:
I was proud to help lead the fight in Congress that led to the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate.
For the moment, I note only the headline of this NYT story: "Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits." I assume, of course, that Obama has no intention of accepting either public funding or spending limits in his campaign.
If Diggins is right about Reagan (is he, Steve?), then, at the very least, RWR enabled GWB. And then also Reagans optimistic gloss on conservatism is ultimately unconservative, more Emersonian than anything else. On that subject, one should read Patrick Deneens magisterial Democratic Faith.
Deborah Howell, the WaPos ombudsman tries, in the context of William Arkins recent rant, to explain the difference between the print paper and WaPo.coms blogs. Arkin himself is presented largely as a blogger, though, as Hugh Hewitt has pointed out in a different context, his resume is more complicated than that and has a fairly substantial "journalistic" element.
What is clear is that WaPo.com is more lightly edited (and hence perhaps more revealing of the "feelings" of the writers) than is the print paper. Presumably, however, there is someone responsible for the thrust of the entire enterprise, so that we should in fact think that WaPo.com does reflect (badly or well) on the WaPo, whether Deborah Howell wants us to or not.
Peter Berkowitz reviews The Way to Win, by Mark Halperin and John F. Harris. According to Berkowitz, they contend that in large part the New Media (talk radio, the internet, and cable television) have transformed civilized campaigning into "the Freak Show," "a new carnival-style environment of shouting, mockery, character assassination, and extreme partisanship" (Berkowitzs summary).
Berkowitz doesnt agree, reminding us that partisanship (even the extreme variety) has a lusty heritage in America and that the role of the new media has often been to advance debates, consider issues, and examine questions that the old media wasnt willing to touch. He further argues that on their own terms Halperin and Harris dont succeed in demonstrating that the fundamentals of politics and campaigning have changed. Were left with the impression that their disquiet has more to do with the pre-2006 results and with the old medias loss of an information monopoly than with anything else.
While all of this might seem to suggest that Berkowitz wishes he hadnt read the book, but he does credit the authors with being good reporters when theyre not riding their hobby horse.
And reflecting on the 2006 results Berkowitz himself makes an observation worth chewing over:
In the aftermath of election 2006,...it’s worth underscoring that the system is working: The public remains closely but not deeply divided; a significant segment of the electorate is capable of voting for a Democrat or a Republican depending on the qualities of the candidate and the priorities of the moment; and any presidential candidate who neglects the center will put his or her election 2008 prospects very much at risk.
What say you, gentle readers?
Hat tip: Power Line.
I just finished a podcast with Steve Hayward regarding the recent allegations made in Londons Guardian that AEI is bribing scientists to "undermine" a report from the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since that article came out, things have gotten truly silly, with four U.S. Senators, Democrats all, writing a letter to AEI President Christopher DeMuth expressing "very serious concerns" about AEIs activities. DeMuths response, as well as related materials, can be found here.
As Hayward explains in the podcast, this is all much ado about nothing.
Robert Reilly opines in todays WaPo that that broadcasting substance is more important than broadcasting music; and Reilly knows something about both having been the former director of Voice of America as well as a music critic! He thinks we should focus on the war of ideas rather than promote MTV. I agree.
The WSJs Kimberley Strassel tells all. Bottom line: Members of Congress still want them, and agencies are apparently eager to please the folks who draw up the appropriations bills. No surprises here.
Has anyone noticed that the three leading Democratic candidates all have pretty solid ties to the religious Left, and that none of the Republican front-runners is a conservative evangelical Christian? Kinda makes it hard to sing from the 2004 hymnal, doesn’t it (though John Edwards is working hard to turn back the clock)?
...from one outpost, at least, although NPR seems incapable of giving a hopeful report without the compensating negative note. (Hat tip, as they say, to Ryan Rakness)
Our friend Larry explains why extreme front-loading might eradicate all deliberation and produce both "buyer’s remorse" in both parties and a seemingly endless general election campaign. The possibilities are actually fairly scary, if you think about them.
Last night on "Lost" we were introduced to another character taken straight out of the history of political theory. Joining the ranks of Locke, Rousseau, and Hume, we now have Edmund Burke. Unfortunately he was an insignificant character, the ex-husband and boss in the "pre-island" life of one of the more central characters. And he was a creep, and (stop reading if you dont want the ending of last nights episode spoiled) he was promptly killed off, being hit by a bus.
While Im on the subject, I must confess that one of my guilty pleasures over the past few years has been "American Idol." Hokey? Cheesy? Absolutely. But in among all the garbage there are some genuinely great performances by extremely talented vocalists--much better than highly-synthesized mediocrities like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.
Well, I dont think I can any longer in good conscience contine to be an Idol fan. It seems that now the audition shows--that is, the episodes based on the screening process by which the judges narrow the pool down to a relative handful of contestants--have become the be-all and end-all of the program. Moreover, these episodes had traditionally featured some of the best and some of the absolute worst of the bunch. This year the audition shows have been nothing more than a procession of talentless wannabees making idiots of themselves for our amusement.
And then theres the general sense of nastiness. In previous years everyone understood that Simon Cowell was there to make unkind comments. Now it seems that everyone--even goody-twoshoes Paula Abdul--has gotten into the act. Its one thing when some braggart is taken down a peg or two, but now were seeing perfectly ordinary people being insulted and, in some cases, brought to tears. Making matters worse, some genius at FremantleMedia came up with the brilliant idea of locking one of the double doors leading out of the audition room. Why? For no other apparent reason than to humiliate those trying to exit the room after having already faced the embarrassment of being told theyre not good enough to appear on the program. In fact, the producers put together a montage video of these unfortunates trying to push open the wrong door. Sorry, I consider myself an aficionado of trash television, but even I occasionally find some standards. "American Idol" is now officially off my viewing schedule.
Sorry for poaching on Steve’s turf, but this is hard to resist: Nancy Pelosi travels around D.C. in one of the worst gas guzzler/greenhouse gas emitters. Will someone build that woman a stretch Prius?
And while we’re at it, let’s not forget her request for access to a big USAF jet for trips to and from the Bay Area, a request that the Pentagon seems prepared to deny, at least as a matter of routine.
To be fair, the SUVs belong to the Capitol Police, which also uses them to ferry around Republicans. But as Richard Miniter notes, they’re not making pronouncements about global warming.
Update: Tony Snow thinks its a tempest in a teapot. I still want to see the stretch Prius.
The authors of this piece would have us believe that this (more here) is the future of higher ed assessment. I cant quote the latter longish document without permission, so youll have to read it for yourself, bearing in mind that the approach it describes and defends was favorably noted by the Spellings Commission.
My first impression is that widespread use of this instrument would share some of the problems I identified here. I would hope that well-educated students are capable of deploying the skills this test is designed to assess, but the availability of such an "objective" measure might tend to lead colleges and universities to make explicitly cultivating these skills (not to mention the "skill" of demonstrating them in a testing environment) the principal goal of their enteprise. Those behind the test might well be more modest in their aims, but the effect, I fear, would be to lead colleges and universities to be even more explicit in emphasizing the cultivation of generic, ultimately job-related intellectual skills at the expense of liberal learning.
I’ll have more when I get a chance to plow through the report.
Update: Get Religion provides links to these three articles, which take slightly different tacks on the report. The Boston Globe piece overemphasizes and oversimplifies (to my mind) the "real world" focus. I feel an op-ed coming on, but probably not tonight.
If you haven’t been following the story of John Edwards’ attempt to cultivate the leftist netroots by hiring prominent bloggers, this Get Religion post provides many of the relevant links. Suffice it to say that this was not a smart personnel move, however much the NYT wants to spin their venom as just "doing what bloggers do — expressing their opinions in provocative and often crude language." What the #@$^%&*** are they talking about?
They regret their past indiscretions--which weren’t intended to "offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs," but were only supposed to be "criticisms of public politics" [hah!]--but aren’t being let go. I guess this means that blasphemy is O.K. if the religious belief has political consequences. Only entirely private religion, with no political implications, shouldn’t be subjected to the most offensive remarks and characterizations. It certainly gives one a sense of what Melissa McEwen thinks is fair in political life. And, I suppose, by extension, what John Edwards thinks is appropriate....
Update #2: The religious Left feels marginalized in all this: they disapprove of Edwards’ hires, but don’t necessarily want to follow William Donohue’s lead.
I talked with Mac Owens this morning about Iraq. The conversation covered the surge, and counterinsurgency and Gen. Petreaus’ work. Mac maintains his guarded optimism. I’m with him.
Joe rightly thinks that true assessment is difficult enough, but a government enforced assessment and testing regime is an outrage and we should all oppose it. We have been fighting (and losing) this problem at Ashland for years. We have been forced to do some very silly things to keep the enforcers happy or at least placated. Imagine doing this sort of thing on a national level, overlooked and guarded by government officials. Joeâ€™s is right on all of it.
I’ve read several commentaries this morning on this crucial question that aren’t worth posting. Does smoking "humanize" the senator? Or does it indicate that he lacks willpower (and so will embolden terrorists or something)? Should he chew Nicorette or should he be a real man and just go "cold turkey"? I have to admit this is silly, finally. But not completely silly: I thought the one thing that recommended candidate Bill Richardson is that he looked like a regular guy, but he’s messed that up by abruptly losing 30 pounds. Now he looks like a walking cadaver. It turns out that he loses weight quickly for every campaign in order to create the (false) appearance of fitness. Not only that, I recently heard David Brooks proclaim that Gore and probably Gingrich are too hefty to president. Until I heard THAT, I had no sympathy at all for the the basically retread candidacies of Al and Newt. But as someone (like our friend Peter Schramm) who sometimes has the appearance (the only "sometimes" thanks to the wisdom of the late, great Dr. Atkins) and always the soul of a fat guy, I’m starting to rebel against this nouveau tyranny of the sophisticated majority.
It seems like spring this morning, about ten degrees warmer than the -4 of yesterday and the sun is beaming! So I’m amusing myself. 1. Rev. Ted Haggard is "completely heterosexual", a committe of preachers has announced. Yet he is asked to leave town. 2. China blames West for global warming. 2. Gay marriage supporters announce initiative that would limit marriage to those have children within three years. 3. Astronaut tries to kill rival for the affections of another astronaut, driving 900 miles in a diaper. 4. Iran demands proof of the Holocaust. 5. More women take bodyguard training in Russia. Olga Korolyova, a trainer: "People arrive at the idea that it’s not bad to have a woman in a team of men. A woman thinks differently, feels differently, acts differently. She’s softer. She smiles."
6. China bans pigs in ads. Not good for the year of the pig.
7. Study reveals that half the women
surveyed said their favorite article of clothing was more reliable than their man in giving them confidence and making them feel sexy. 8.
Gays are offended by Super Bowl Snickers ad. GLAAD demands apology. 9. Guiliani kisses wife. Front page news. She calls him "the Energizer Bunny with no rechargeable batteries." Honesty is an excellent thing in a woman. He’s running for president.
. . . or must not, because he’s quitting his smoking. This is either the end of his campaign or it’s new and more meaningful beginning. I suppose it could play either way if he knows what he’s doing. But I can’t help but comment that I find it pathetic and gag-inducing. The only thing worse than this sort of thing is the kind of people who will eat it up and canonize him for it. Now he can do a public service ad or a sanctimonious appearance on Oprah and/or Sesame Street. Sigh . . . I don’t smoke but this is the kind of thing that makes me want to.
The City Journal publishes this thoughtful reflection by Victor Davis Hanson on the 5th anniversary of his "Mexifornia" article which spurred his subsequent book on the theme. There is so much detail within it requiring thought and comment that I am at a loss to choose. I can only say, as a general thing, that the tone of his piece is one that seeks to address these issues in a way that avoids many bad things for all concerned, insult as well as injury. It tackles a though issue in a way that is admirable and judicious--but it does not pull necessary hard punches or abandon good principle. Worth a solitary and careful read.
Although its odd to hear talk of global warming on a day when the high temperature, for the third day in a row, is not expected to exceed single digits, George Will offers a few "inconvenient truths" regarding the matter:
1. "We do not know the extent to which human activity caused this [global warming]. The activity is economic growth, the wealth-creation that makes possible improved well-being—better nutrition, medicine, education, etc. How much reduction of such social goods are we willing to accept by slowing economic activity in order to (try to) regulate the planets climate?"
2. "Over the millennia, the planet has warmed and cooled for reasons that are unclear but clearly were unrelated to SUVs. Was life better when ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there? Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?"
3. "Nothing Americans can do to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions will make a significant impact on the global climate while every 10 days China fires up a coal-fueled generating plant big enough to power San Diego. China will construct 2,200 new coal plants by 2030."
4. "Ethanol produces just slightly more energy than it takes to manufacture it. But now that the government is rigging energy markets with mandates, tariffs and subsidies, ethanol production might consume half of next years corn crop. The price of corn already has doubled in a year. Hence the tortilla turbulence south of the border. Forests will be felled (will fewer trees mean more global warming?) to clear land for growing corn, which requires fertilizer, the manufacture of which requires energy."
I have been reading some Kipling this morning. Mansfield mentions The Female of the Species in Manliness when he discusses Darwin. You might also glance at If-- and then, inevitably--since I had a very early stogie (cheap cigar, same root as the town in PA named Conestoga, where they first made those covered wagons; I guess the cigar was quickly associated with the Conestoga wagons, and also, by the way, with rough, heavy shoes that were called stogas)--The Bethroded. Enjoy your morning. It was four below this morning; not much better now.
Is Obama black enough, asks an unsatisfying article in Time? While this particular article may not have nailed the problem down, it does raise some interesting issues, perhaps a bit deeper than Joe Bidens untutored mouth raised. And it is also true that all this Obama watching, testing, analyzing, may seem to be either silly or just brutal politics. Sometimes it is both, of course. He does not seem to be getting a great deal of support among blacks, and yet Hillarys people are deeply worried. Yet, there are some very interesting issues raised by people who are rather serious and even sensitive, (see this by Stanley Crouch, for example) having to do with his immigrant father and white mother. Why should the white mother be less of an issue than that his father is from Kenya? The point, according to Crouch, will revolve around this: "Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves." I mean to watch how this plays out, and not only because there is an outside chance that Obama can stop Hillary, or, because Obama may well be just preparing himself for a run in 2012.
By the way, I just started reading Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas.
According to Morris, Rudy’s lead is growing for good reasons, and McCain is clearly fading, even in fund raising. Romney probably has insurmountable problems, and Gingrich hasn’t capatured anyone’s imagination. That means Guiliani’s main rival for the nomination will probably be some "dark horse," although, in my view, nobody on his list of long-shots is credible. In the end, the Republican nominee’s clock will be cleaned by Hillary.
Thats the gist of this AP story about a procedural vote in the Senate. Whats really going on, of course, is that the Republicans would like to have a fuller debate, with more options on the table, than the Democrats would like. But you can only read about that here.
There are two interests disserved by the way AP presents the story. First, any public interest in fairly presenting an understandable account of Senate procedure is missing. This AFP story, linked over at Power Line, comes closer to getting it right:
That [procedural vote] blocked the body from moving quickly toward a final vote [ed note: moving quickly is inconsistent with debate, which involves moving more slowly and, er, deliberately] on a non-binding resolution drafted in a compromise by Republican Senator John Warner and Democrat Carl Levin, which voices disagreement with the deployment of new troops and urges Bush to find other ways to achieve success in Iraq.
The outcome, on a procedural move to fix a time limit on the debate so the Warner bill would head for a final vote, was a blow to Democratic majority.
So from this story you learn that the Democrats wanted less debate and the Republicans, presumably, more. But the Democrats think the people spoke back in November and there should be no more debate:
"We must heed the results of the November elections and the wishes of the American people," said Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Was he taking that line back in 2005, after GWB was reelected?
The second interest disserved, in case you still care, is obviously a public interest in receiving a balanced account of what went on. We get the Democrats side of the story from the AP, but not the Republicans. But thats not news, is it?
It turns out that one of the closest advisors of General Petraeus--part of his "larger ring"--is our friend Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, who taught the first Tocqueville seminar ever at West Point and has published on political philosophy in distinguished journals such as PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE. Doug’s prize-winning article, it appears, had a big and maybe decisive influence in the formation of the general’s innovative and promising strategy. No one can deny that we have men of the highest competence, courage, intelligence, education, and experience guiding our efforts in Iraq now.
This rather hopeful. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals ("rank is nothing: talent is everything") in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war. We all think we know that Petraeus is a smart guy (no PhD needed for that, of course) and this WaPo article makes something more public than ever: "Essentially, the Army is turning the war over to its dissidents, who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years, and is letting them try to wage the war their way." The key guy may well be the Australian Lt. Col David Kilcullen who likes to talk about the war as counterinsurgency rather than counterterrorism; and also likes to talk about maintaining the initiative. This paper by him may help. There is plenty on Kilcullen, et al, including this by George Packer and this from the Australian. Like I said, Iâ€™m hopeful. It may be time to smoke a Henry Clay because, as Kipling said, a Clay has a "calming effect."
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter February’s drawing.
...the Clint Eastwood movie. I saw it yesterday and now think its the best political movie of the year. Its brilliantly crafted and all that. But what distinguishes it most of all is its very, very nuanced portrayal of the genuinely aristocratic sense of honor, an amazingly cosmopolitan combination of utter realism, humane generosity to other particular, lesser human beings, and unflinching devotion to duty family, and country. (Aristocratic here, of course, has nothing to do with hereditary aristocracy.) The movies genuine aristocrats are two urbane (spent time in sophisticated America etc., know that the war against America is misguided and inevitably futile) Japanese officers, who separate themselves in all sorts of reasonable ways from the fanatical militarism that surrounds them, while being even more ready to die than the suicidal Japanese soldiers who also have a prominent place in the story. If you want to see honorable personal integrity that transcends all the ambivalence of manliness--a real point of view that makes authentic human liberty credible, watch this movie.
In his most recent column--headlined in the Atlanta paper "U.S. oil conservation could take down Iran" (hah!)--Thomas Friedman makes the following claim:
[I]f oil prices fall sharply again, Irans regime would have to take away many benefits from many Iranians, as the Soviets had to do. For a regime already unpopular with many of its people, that could cause all kinds of problems and give rise to an Ayatollah Gorbachev. We know how that ends. “Just look at the history of the Soviet Union,” [President of Russias Academy of National Economy Vladimir] Mau said.
In short, the best tool we have for curbing Irans influence is not containment or engagement, but getting the price of oil down in the long term with conservation and an alternative-energy strategy. Lets exploit Irans oil addiction by ending ours.
Now, dont get me wrong: Im all for conservation and developing alternative energy sources (including, if youre serious about it, ANWR, oil shale, nuclear power, and so on). But conservation in the U.S. (a panacea Friedman has been peddling for some time) is unlikely by itself significantly to drive down the price of oil worldwide.
A better strategy follows from a consideration that, in my view, Friedman got wrong. Heres Friedman:
I mentioned to [Vladimir Mau] that surely the Soviet Union died because oil fell to $10 a barrel shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev took office, not because of anything Ronald Reagan did. Actually, Mau said, it was “high oil prices” that killed the Soviet Union. The sharp rise in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad – and then the collapse in prices in the 80s helped bring down the overextended empire.
Why did oil prices collapse? According to Paul Kengor in
The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, Reagan had a hand in the oil price collapse. By persuading the Saudis to ramp up oil production (from 2 million to 9 million barrels a day), the Reagan Administration delivered a body blow to a Soviet economy heavily dependent upon oil exports for hard currency. (To be fair, Kengor cites Peter Schweitzers two books for uncovering this incident.) The Saudis are currently producing roughly 9.5 million barrels a day. They surely fear Iranian designs in the Persian Gulf and beyond. What would it take to get them to increase production yet again, moving, say, to a level of 15 million barrels a day, of which theyre apparently "easily capable?" (Just to be clear, Iran exports roughly 2.5 million barrels a day.) Youd think that a reduction of what we import (currently around 10 million barrels a day) and an increase in Saudi production and exports would place an incredible strain on the Iranian economy. But I doubt that U.S. conservation efforts alone will do it, especially with rising consumption in places like China.
Friedman just cant ride his hobby horse to our rescue in the Persian Gulf. Hes going to have to give more credit to policies championed by Ronald Reagan.
NRO’s Clark Patterson enthusiastically endorses the scheme of Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry to institute a broad and comrpehensive array of standardized exit exams for college seniors. Patterson’s slogan is "a return to standards," but when was it that we ever had such standardized standards for higher education? He cites the ISI study on the dearth of civic literacy--also based on a standardized test--as evidence that it wouldn’t be so bad if college professors had to "teach the test." (You have to scroll down a little to get to the Patterson comment.)
Here’s Saletan’s report on something else that may have been going on on Brokeback Mountain. If studies end up demonstrating conclusively (as is very likely) that homosexuality is partly natural or genetic (like almost everything else human it’s surely partly conventional too), should we genetically engineer it out of existence? Would that be an assault on human diversity and human culture? An attack on the opportunity to practice a special kind of virtue? Or an alleviation of cruel human misery? Or should we make everyone a homoesexual as the final stage of our project to separate sex from reproduction in the pursuit of health and safety?
I suppose one ought to say something about the Super Bowl and even venture a prediction, although one knows better. It is usually better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
I will take the Colts. They are the better team from the better conference. They have a superior quarterback in a QB-dominant league. Their defense has improved. The Colts have paid their dues and are due. They fit a certainly profile, like last year’s Steelers or the 1997 Broncos – a team that was the heavy favorite the previous year but lost unexpectedly in its first playoff game; then struggled making the playoffs (or achieving a high seed) the following year. I also pick the Colts because I respect Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning. It is good when one’s analysis and rooting interest coincide (something that is missing unfortunately with state of affairs in Iraq).
It is a very close call. The Bears have almost precisely the sort of team that can overcome the facts noted above. As NFL fans know, the most definitive and consistent statistical predictor of success or failure in football is the turnover differential. In the previous Super Bowls, the record of the teams that have gained the advantage in turnovers is 29-3. The 40 winning Super Bowl teams have lost fumbles or thrown interceptions only 46 times (barely one per game).
This begs the question – is there an art or science to protecting the ball (the current euphemism is “ball security”) or forcing the other team to give it up?
Setting this aside, the 2006 Bears’ defense is certainly not dominant in the way that the 1985 Bears defense was. It gives up big plays. It is no longer confidently shuts down the run. But this Bears’ team has one important thing in common with Buddy Ryan’s old 46 defense – it forces turnovers and makes big plays, especially if one includes “defensive” special team play (punt and FG).
I mention Buddy Ryan for a reason. Ryan’s personal eccentricities, to put them mildly, overshadow the fact that he belongs with Bud Carson, Bill Belichick and a few others at the top of the list of great defensive coaches. The 1969 Super Bowl is remembered as Joe Namath’s Super Bowl. But people forget that Buddy Ryan was the Jets’ defensive coordinator in that game. Arguably it was his defense (and Walt Michaels’), not Namath and his offense, which was the deciding factor in the game. The Jets’ offense did play well – and it avoided TOs – but it scored only 16 points, not that much more than the two AFL teams had done in the first two Super Bowls (10 and 14 points). But the Jets held a supposedly high-powered Baltimore offense to 7 points, compared to the 35 and 33 points that Lombardi’s Packers put up on the AFL teams.
What did Buddy teach about defense? The three most important defensive statistics are turnovers forced, QB sacks, and third-down efficiency (denying the offense first downs). When you reflect upon these operational goals, defense becomes offense. Defense is about creating scoring opportunities, not just keeping the other team from scoring. Aggressive defenses can score directly by returning the ball for a touchdown. At the very least, effective defensive play flips field position and greatly improves the chances of one’s own offense to score.
There are important mitigating circumstances that favor Indianapolis. Chicago plays a variant of Tony Dungy’s defense (the so-called Cover-2 Buc, or the Tampa-2), against which the Colts practice against all the time. Indianapolis pass protection schemes seem to have difficulty primarily with a 3-4 defensive front (the Bears use a 4-3 alignment).
So, picking the Colts is reasonable but problematic. Watch the TOs. If the Colts take care of the ball, make some big offensive plays, and avoid catastrophic injuries and a cascade of bad and questionable officiating calls, they should be in a position to win, perhaps convincingly. But if the Bears’ defense gets on a roll --
There are important subtexts to this game, about which I will inflict comments on you at a later date. First, the fact that two coaches are black (I hate to use the term, “black coach,” as if it is a job description, like black quarterback). Second, the physical and psychological damage allegedly suffered by professional football players, perhaps to the point where health professionals and lawyers will try to shut the sport down. See
here, here, and here.
...not that anyone would care anyway. But Im getting a lot of pro-G emails. Heres the best of them:
Why Im tending to Giuliani:
For the obvious reasons, leadership and administrative ability, manliness, likability (generosity of spirit). But also because he is likely the most communitarian of the Republicans--the least Lockean. With regard to the social issues, any explicit renunciation of his previous statements on abortion and gay marriage would be deadly to his candidacy (Romneys problem in spades). The political wallpaper of New York City we all know about. In the context of that wallpaper he was actually quite socially conservative. A friend of ours here recounts all the time how Giuliani forcefully defended families aagainst the attempt to forcefeed children "Heather Has Two Mommies." He would have much more credibility as president on life and sex issues given this background. I assume also he retains the residue of his Catholic education. For the moment all he has to do is say he will appoint conservative judges. Many religious conservatives down here...are leaning to him. The religious conservatives will be split and he can definitely win the nomination without their full-throated support, which will be better anyway.
Good news from Fox News for both Giuliani and Senator Clinton. Giulianis lead over McCain has widened, and Hillary not only has a very high level of support but is thought to be as tough on terorism as John and Rudy.
About an 11-year-old who calls in to Bill Bennetts radio show with questions that apparently stump him, this AJC story profiles him.
Another exceptional home-schooler....
...over McCain among Republicans, according to the latest poll. Thats because hes perceived as more likable, more eloquent, more likely to unite the country, better in a crisis, and a more competent manager.
In an odd reenactment of last years vandalism at Northern Kentucky University, someone seems to have stolen the crosses set up by the Georgia Tech College Republicans to recognize the 34th anniversary of Roe. Heres the AJC account.
George F. Will gives us a rundown on the school choice movement, but neglects to mention what’s going on in Georgia, where a measure to provide vouchers for special needs students has been approved by the state Senate. As Republicans also control the state House, not to mention the Governorship, it will become law.
After that, there will inevitably be a lawsuit, for reasons I’ve discussed many times before, most recently (with relevant links) here. I think that the Georgia Constitution’s Blaine Amendment is a significant, if not necessarily insuperable, obstacle to even limited school choice. But those who file the suit run the risk of winning a (temporary) legal victory at the expense of a significant political defeat, for it would be hard to distinguish the vouchers they’re going to challenge from Georgia’s wildly popular HOPE Scholarship program.
For me, the bottom line is that offering parents more choices is a good thing; any political fall-out that weakens the hand held by the teachers’ unions is a bonus.
A Southern governor to balance someone at the top of the ticket whos strong on national security?
I missed the beginning, which is here, but our friend Matt Franck has inaugurated a "Perennial Publius" feature over at NRO’s Bench Memos, prompted by a class he’s teaching this semester. You can run down his postings (now up to nine) here. His brief meditations (thus far one per Federalist) are worth reading.
The new issue of PPS is out, and it’s devoted to the work of Wilson Carey McWilliams (1933-2005). Carey was the greatest entertainer, as well as one of the most manly, thoughtful, and erudite MEN, in American political science. He called himself a Straussian "fellow traveler" and an old-fashioned Democrat and democrat. He was also an elder in the Presbyterian church (and a genuinely Christian man), and an American patriot who reflected often on the good that was his military service. He was probably the only member of his party left who was both pro-life and thought that our struggle in Vietnam was just and noble. He was emphatically not a liberal. Carey was, as Pat Deneen writes, "modest to a fault," and so he needs his friends to help us remember just how important his quite original, illuminating, and edifying work--writing that is mostly scattered here and there in all sorts of journal and books--is for our self-understanding as friends and citizens.
The contributors to his symposium include Patrick J. Deneen, Paul Seaton, Amitai Etzioni, Michael T. Gibbons, Susan J. McWilliams (Carey’s political theoretical daughter), and me. Susan’s article is called "The Brotherhood of Man(liness)," and Paul’s is on Carey’s recovery of the wisdom of the Puritans--perhaps Carey’s most countercultural project. Let me thank Pat Deneen for editing one of our very best issues ever.