Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Faculty (or is it faulty?) religious attitudes

SDP’s Jason Heppler calls our attention to this WaPo story, which reports the findings of and reactions to this survey of faculty religious attitudes.

The survey results aren’t terribly surprising, unless you were predisposed to think that all college and university faculty ere atheistic liberals. It turns out that faculty aren’t as religious as mainstream America, but they’re still pretty gosh-darn religious. There’s also a relatively close connection between religiosity and conservatism among faculty; the more conservative you are, the more likely you are to be serious about religion, but since conservatives are a minority among faculty, there remain plenty of self-identified religious faculty who aren’t politically conservative. In all of this, it’s worth noting that the most religious faculty tend to be at the most religious colleges and universities, so that they’re quite "underrepresented" at public and high-prestige private institutions. It’s also the case that the mouthiest faculty (in the humanities and social sciences) tend to be the least religious (except for scientists and mathematicians).

As the WaPo article notes, faculty attitudes are coolest toward evangelicals. Consider these conclusions:

First, while
faculty are religiously diverse, Evangelical Christians are found in
far fewer numbers than in the general public—even less in nondenominational
public and private schools throughout the United States. What accounts for this disparity? Are Evangelical Christians
not attracted to teaching and research in most colleges and universities? Is the academic environment somehow in conflict with the religious beliefs of Evangelical Christians? Are Evangelical Christians
discriminated against when it comes to hiring and promotions? Because political ideology is so highly associated with religious beliefs and behavior on campus, are Evangelical Christians misfits because
they tend to be conservative and Republican, while the campus is
overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic?


Faculty do not feel positively about Evangelicals at all. In fact, they feel less positively about Evangelicals than about any other religious group. The
combination of responses—showing so few faculty Evangelicals on campus, showing imbalance in the support of Muslims versus
Christians advocating their religious beliefs in American politics, showing strong negative views of Evangelicals compared to tolerance for other religious groups—raises serious concerns about how
Evangelical Christian faculty and students are treated or feel they are treated on campus. The levels of faculty disapproval are high enough to raise questions about the overall climate on campus. How does this disapproval affect the intellectual, emotional, and social experiences of those who identify as Evangelicals? As it was
for Jews on campus two generations ago, maybe Evangelical Christians do not want to talk openly about their identities and beliefs. The prejudice against them stands out prominently in institutions
dedicated to liberalism, tolerance, and academic freedom.

Faculty may deny that their feelings about Evangelical Christians
affect research and teaching, or that they interact differently with colleagues and students who are Evangelical Christians. But
faculty cannot deny, at least according to these data, that they feel very negatively about Evangelicals, especially compared to the tolerance expressed for other religious groups.

There’s lots of interesting stuff in the survey, which makes the whole thing worth chewing over.

Darwinian Conservatism

I have to say I can’t believe that anyone is taking seriously Arnhart’s "Dariwnian conservatism" and "intelligent design" as the two fundamental conservative alternatives. (What are they thinking at AEI and the Philadelphia Society?) I also can’t figure out how any libertarian could be a Darwinian conservative. THE libertarian or at least classical liberal philosopher is John Locke. And didn’t Locke say something like the human being is the animal with the singular liberty to conquer nature? The human individual alone refuses to be species fodder, and so the human individual alone can wage war with great success against the nature indifferent or hostile to his particular existence, the nature out to kill him--that is, to kill ME. Can sociobiology really account for the individual’s insistent demand for personal significance? Can sociobiology really account for either the heights of human greatness or the depths of human misery? As Joe points out below, if nature really is as sociobiology describes it, why shouldn’t we knock ourselves out trying to create or invent something better for ME? The main reason Darwinian conservatism ain’t conservative is that it gives us in the biotechnological age little incentive to conserve the nature we have been given. The effectual truth of the perception of its truth is to heighten the frenzied activity to replace impersonal natural evolution with conscious and volition evolution, techno-evolution with ME in mind. Now I really do think evolution in some sense happened, but evolutionary theory has yet to even take seriously what is distinctive about members of our species alone.

Lessons from Canada for American conservatives

Our friend John von Heyking sends along this piece by Travis D. Smith, whose work was last seen here.

Smith reflects on the conflicts between conservatives and progressives in the predominantly progressive Canadian political culture, notes the role of education in creating that political culture, and offers some advice for conservatives that strikes me as equally pertinent across the border.

Here’s a snippet:

The political left enjoys a natural advantage when it comes to appealing to youth. Youth is impatient, rebellious and indignant. It enjoys fewer responsibilities and incurs lesser expenses. It loves novelty, suffers from extremes of credulity and incredulity, and likes oversimplified explanations and even simpler solutions. Conservatives cannot reckon on their ideas being favored by young Canadians so long as Canadians live so youthfully for so long. They might hope for less hostility. To that end they must continue to defy the persistent caricatures plaguing them (as angry relics, radical ideologues, loony doomsayers, merciless money-grubbers, etc.). In part, this requires cultivating a broader, historically-informed, culturally-attuned and philosophically-rich public discourse in addition to hardnosed economic analyses. This means adopting a longer view of things than an exclusive focus on immediate policy concerns allows.

It also means finding ways to encourage young Canadians to recognize, create and take better advantage of opportunities to obtain experiences in their communities or the marketplace that cultivate the qualities of character this country needs in order to remain energetic and prosperous. There are some natural conservatives among the youth in a democracy, such as those who resist the reigning prejudices of their regime and find themselves attuned to the injustices peculiar to excessive equality, admiring excellence more than fairness. Democracies need both fairness and excellence, but they invariably educate their citizens to attend primarily to the injustices derivative of inequalities. Democratic passions lead us to forget that human lives actually lived and shared are of greater significance than the comparative status between persons. For their own sake, and for the benefit of the nation, these natural conservatives need encouragement and guidance to become outstanding citizens and not simply selfish, ambitious or exploitative.


There is no reason why cultural diversity should work exclusively to the disadvantage of conservatives. In teaching the history of political thought, in contrast with home-grown open-minded Canadians whose relaxed confidence in their worldview is nearly unshakeable, I find that students who retain closer ties to various “traditional” backgrounds typically exhibit greater interest in thinking critically about the big questions, show greater concern for ethics, read texts more carefully and in a generous rather than a condescending spirit, and remain open to the possibility of learning from others. It seems to me that conservatives should in principle be more genuinely respectful of cultural diversity than secular progressives. Conservatives are practically defined by their respect for the repositories of wisdom that traditions embody. They will not, however, regard the differences among peoples as a matter of indifference. While they might not celebrate every element of every culture equally – nobody does – they show more appreciation for what makes different cultures different by taking the grounds and consequences of those differences seriously.

Read the whole thing.

Darwinism and conservatism

This NYT article, to which Steve Thomas refers in the comments below, makes reference to this event, chaired by Steve Hayward. (You can watch a video of it at the site.) I’m not in a position to adjudicate the dispute between John West and Larry Arnhart (whose website is here). (Arnhart, by the way, tells us the NYT article gets the debate pretty much right.)

It strikes me that Arnhart’s Darwinian "realism," which he proposes as a basis for a new fusion between (an apparently non-religious) traditionalism and libertarianism, isn’t the only possible conclusion one can draw from the "facts" at hand. Why should a modest or humble respect for natural limits follow necessarily from an understanding of evolution? Why couldn’t there also be a Promethean impulse toward overcoming all limits that follows from it? While I recognize that there are some modest and humble libertarians, the dominant note in that movement isn’t modesty and humility. And while I recognize that there are equally immodest and arrogant so-called "compassionate conservatives" (from whom Arnhart proposes to save us), it seems to me that on the practical grounds of modesty and humility, he has as many potential allies among religious traditionalists as among secular traditionalists and libertarians. Why he eschews that "fusion" isn’t yet clear to me, though I expect to learn more once I watch the whole webcast.

Needless to say, others should feel free to chime in.

A preachy action movie

My son and I saw Spiderman 3 this afternoon, and I think that this review gets it about right. The preaching is a little heavy-handed, but the target audience (boys around my son’s age) aren’t for the most part going to get subtlety.

Americanizing Shelley

I heard the woman who wrote and starred in this terrific sounding film, Namrata Singh Gujral, interviewed today on Michael Medved and I was quite intrigued by her understanding of herself and of her work. She works with this studio which sets out to make movies that are unabashedly "pro-American"--though they claim no affinity to either right or left. First and foremost, however, Gujral insists that a film must be entertaining--particularly if she expects people to spend the $10 it takes to see it. In this film, she wants to convey her love for America but not in a heavy-handed preachy way. It is just a love comedy, after all! But it may be a very good one. I thought her way of discussing her work was a refreshing bit of honesty and humility--particularly coming from Hollywood (or Bollywood).

The film is only in limited release, so unless that changes, you’ll probably have to wait for the DVD. But it may be worth the wait.

Overrated/Underrated Films

The Evangelical Outpost guy has given us another provocative and entertaining list. Each overrated film in a particular category is paired with another that is so underrated that it is actually objectively better than its overrated counterpart. The underrated fratnernity film PCU, for example, is judged actually to be better than the overrated ANIMAL HOUSE. Well, he’s wrong on that. But the underrated METROPOLITAN (is an Oscar nominee really so underrated?) is surely much better than the overrated RAGING BULL (category--best movies of the the 80s). Well, you decide for yourself whetehr MILLER’S CROSSING is really better than SCARFACE (it is) or ROMAN HOLIDAY is really better than BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (close call), and so forth.

Here’s the Pro-Fred WEEKLY STANDARD article

...that Carl linked in the thread below. Well, I didn’t see the debate either (because I was listening to Bernard Lewis instead at ISI), but it didn’t seem to help Romney or Giuliani or anyone else. And so eyes are increasingly turning to the smart and eloquent Thompson, who may, in truth, actually be underpolling at this point.

More Shameless Self-Promotion

I will be speaking at Seattle Pacific University next Monday on human dignity in America. Earlier in the day I’ll talk about literature and politics for the legendary Andrew Tadie at Seattle University.

Great Conference at Princeton (May 14-15) by the Madison Center and the new Association for the Study of Free Institutions. The first panel will include my reflections on teaching THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND last fall. For more the ASFI, go here.

More change (?) in the evangelical ranks

This article treats Rod Dreher (last I checked, not an evangelical) as a principal analyst and spokesman for evangelicals. It also holds the what I suppose for the writer is the hope that evangelicals will be "evolving" politically, presumably away from the social agenda of the older generation and the Republican Party. As I recently noted, this narrative suffers from some severe blind spots. And the evidence from 2006, with evangelicals still voting overwhelmingly for Republican candidates in a perfectly awful year, doesn’t really support the argument for evolution. (Stay tuned to this site for an article by Mark Silk and John C. Green that goes over the 2006 polling data, finding little movement among evangelicals, but lots among infrequent church attenders, as well as others; the article is available in print, but not yet on the web.)

In other words, the article is for the most part wishful thinking, driven by an agenda.

Dangerous Nation

Is the United States dangerous? Foreign policy, interest and justice, as called by Mac Owens in a review of Robert Kagan’s Dangerous Nation.

American character

Bill McClay reflects, rather "optimistically" (see also today’s NRO’s The Corner thread begun by Mona Charen here), on the unpredictable response of American character (or Americans’ characters) to the challenges we face today. Here’s his conclusion:

The lesson for Americans is clear. There may be today, just as George Kennan famously observed 60 years ago of the Cold War, a certain providential quality to the challenges that have been placed before us at this time. Certainly the challenges presented by Islamist terrorism are ones that confront us (and even more profoundly confront Europe) in the very places where we are confused and irresolute, and force us to see that we have fallen into ways of thinking and living that we cannot and should not sustain. They represent a mortal threat—but they are also an opportunity. By forcing us to defend ourselves, they force us to take to heart the question of what kind of civilization we are willing, and able, to defend. Not merely as an academic question, but a question of life and death.

Read the whole, very rich essay, which was commissioned for
the 2007 Hudson Institute Bradley Symposium.

Richard John Neuhaus’ contribution is also interesting, offering, for example, this:

Both contract and covenant are integral to American identity. We are a nation under law by constitutional contract—a contract presupposing covenantal accountability. To say that we are a nation “under God” is to speak of promise, but it is, at least as importantly, to speak of a nation under judgment. Thus is contract tied to covenantal aspiration and covenantal aspiration restrained by contractual agreement.

This dialectic, if you will, between contract and covenant is the distinctly American way of joining the particular and the universal. Contemporary multiculturalisms that would embrace every culture but our own dissolve the dialectic, reaching for an inclusiveness that, were they to have their way, would result in the exclusion of American identity. Like Esperanto, the supposedly universal language spoken only by a small band of sectaries, multiculturalism as conventionally promoted rejects the particular for the sake of the universal and ends up betraying both. Multiculturalism, like Esperanto, ends up as the monoculturalism of a very small culture.

John McWhorter is much more downbeat.

The transcript of the ensuing discussion should be available on the Hudson site within about a week.

Missed Opportunity

I didn’t watch the debat either, but I understand Chris Matthews stumped Romney (or someone) with the question, "What do you like least about America?"

I’d like to think I would have responded: "Preening journalists like you, Chris." Next question?

The debate

I didn’t watch it (bad blogger!), but I’ve read a good bit about it, including Peggy Noonan, Byron York, the Power Line guys, James Robbins, the NRO symposiasts, and will get to others later.

Of course, "the people" aren’t really paying attention yet, so their view of the field will be filtered by what they read, which means, I suppose, that Romney will be marginally helped by his performance and Giuliani marginally hurt. None of the second-tier candidates is likely to profit greatly by accounts of his performance, though I expect that cherry-picked clips will find their way to their websites, just as other cherry-picked clips will show up on YouTube.

Giuliani has gotten a lot of grief for his abortion answer. Here’s Byron York’s account:

It started when host Matthews asked a simple question. “Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for America?” The other candidates made quick work of the answer.

“Absolutely,” said Romney.

“A glorious day of human liberty and freedom,” said Sen. Sam Brownback.

“Yes, it was wrongly decided,” said former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

“Most certainly,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

“Yes,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter.

Then the question came to Giuliani. “It would be O.K.,” he said.

“O.K. to repeal?” asked Matthews.

“It would be O.K. to repeal,” Giuliani said. “It would be also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent and I think a judge has to make that decision.”

“Would it be O.K. if they didn’t repeal it?” Matthews pressed.

“I think the court has to make that decision and then the country can deal with it. We’re a federalist system of government and states can make their own decisions.”

That exchange boiled down to Giuliani saying, It’s O.K. if Roe is overturned, and it’s O.K. if it’s not. Later, in the Spin Room, Giuliani adviser Bill Simon was asked if that constituted a solid position on the issue.

“I think what he was saying was that the fact that Roe v. Wade was overruled or not overruled, it could happen either way,” Simon answered. “What he’s in favor of is appointing strict constructionist judges.” Such judges, Simon explained, might overturn Roe, or they might not.

But is that a position on the issue?

“I don’t think he was wishy-washy at all,” Simon continued. “In fact, he has a very well thought-through position. It’s very nuanced. It’s not something that you can say in one sound bite in 15 seconds.”

I’m sure it looked pretty bad on television, but, properly explained and framed, it’s not a bad answer. It is, rather, an inarticulate version of the "no litmus test" position that Republicans always offer when Democrats accuse them of vetting judicial candidates solely on the grounds of whether they’d overturn Roe (which is a case of the pot calling the kettle black). What Giuliani should have said is that he would love to see Roe overturned and the issue returned to the states, but that he can’t impose any sort of single-case litmus test in the judicial selection process. If it’s improper for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask about overturning Roe, it’s equally improper for the President to do more than get a good understanding of how potential nominees would approach cases. Instead of communicating this appreciation of the judicial nomination process, Giuliani seems to have communicated a kind of indifference, which is what I fear he feels. He deserves to have been hurt by his performance, though there’s still time for him to recover.

How complicated the narrative

Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly comments on this NYT article describing a number of new books on Southern history that in some ways (quite unevenly, to my mind) complicate our picture of the post-Civil Rights era south. I reviewed one of the books discussed in the article here.

I’d add, just for the sake of a clarifying anecdote, that the "classical and Christian school" attached to my theologically conservative church has a student body that is very diverse (50/50 or 60/40, but which way, I’m not sure) and that our South Carolina born and bred pastor welcomed to the pulpit this past Sunday a Haitian--Jean Paul Baptiste--who’s building a conservative Presbyterian church in his home country. And did I mention that we have an ESL outreach ministry to local Hispanics? Yeah, it’s a complicated narrative. From where I sit, it looks like the religion is squashing the racism.

Update: Lest you think that my story is too metropolitan, consider this: a former student, who pastors a Methodist church in a small southeast Georgia town (known largely for this sweet delight), popped his head in my office about a month ago. He had lots of interesting stories to tell as we caught up. Some of the most interesting were about his many trips to east Africa, where his congregation sponsors a school.

Oh, and I should mention that when I said that Jean Paul Baptiste is building a church, I meant it. Right now, his congregation of 600 meets outdoors. If you want to help, drop me a line and I’ll tell you where to send the check.

Campus Psychiatry

Julie Ponzi reviews Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student written by an Anonymous M.D. I don’t know if the books is worth reading (she says it is), but her review is certainly worth it. Last paragraph:

"The problem is that college campus health and counseling centers assiduously avoid giving out that kind of information. Students are counseled to eat right, exercise, make time for themselves, and to use condoms. As one of Anonymous’s patients said to her, "Why, Doctor, why do they tell you how to protect your body—from herpes and pregnancy—but they don’t tell you how to protect your heart." Of course, to do this would run counter to the notion taught in most academic departments that women are just like men. And that...well, that just wouldn’t be politically correct."

Post-Partisanship Arnie Style?

The San Diego Union Tribune argues in this unsigned editorial that it is an idea whose time has come. Of course, the party that is the focus of this call for "post-partisanship" is not the Democrats, but the GOP with good ’ole Arnie leading the charge to the middle. As the guest of Nancy Reagan at tonight’s GOP 2008 Presidential candidate debate, he plans to inspire the crowd with his mushy middling message.

There is much to criticize in this article and about Arnie’s politics in general--and it would not be hard to do it. The harder thing to do is to consider whether there is anything worthy of serious consideration in this message. I don’t like to admit it, but I think there is.

I think it is certainly true that a great number of people are fed up with the partisan bickering of Republicans and Democrats--both between them and amongst themselves. And, because this is absolutely nothing new, I have a theory about why people seem to think that it is something different. I think it appears to be something different because of the way it is presented in the media. The discord of back-room politics is now front and center on blogs, in the 24 hr. news cycle on TV. Every gaffe a politician makes is subjected to public dissection on talk radio and on the internet and, when he is left for dead, we get to view the autopsy too.

Politics is, and always has been, something of a grueling and dirty business. It may be that a weariness with politics itself is to blame. In the piece by Victor Davis Hanson that I cited below, he makes the case that we absorb ourselves in trivialities like Anna Nicole because they are easier to understand than the difficulties of world affairs. I think that is probably true in domestic politics as well. We have immersed ourselves in the bickering between and amongst Republicans and Democrats because actually understanding and dealing with issues of constitutional import is too difficult. It is much easier to get into the fight between Harry Reid and the President--until, at last, like Anna Nicole--it makes us want to throw up.

Thinking is Hard

Victor Davis Hanson asks why our Spring news cycle has been assaulted with an onslaught of trivial and titillating stories. His answer: it beats hearing and dealing with the truth. I am sure that is true but it doesn’t make the ugly truth about world events any less true or ugly. As he notes: The ghost of Anna Nicole, foul-mouthed Rosie and trash-talking Imus turn out to be the best friends Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Vladimir Putin have.

Head Start update

On a basically party-line vote (the ayes included Democrats Heath Shuler, Jim Marshall, Lincoln Davis, and Mike McIntyre; the nays, Republicans Chris Shays and Mark Kirk), the House turned back Republican efforts to protect the hiring rights of faith-based groups that participate in the federal Head Start program. The measure then passed overwhelmingly, including only an anodyne amendment offered by Heath Shuler that would affirm that faith-based organizations continue to be eligible for participation in the Head Start program. For more background, see this portion of the committee report on the bill.

Barry Lynn and his allies are happy.

Update: There’s more here and here. If you read the debates roughly transcribed here, you’ll note how easy it is to slip from opposing federally-funded "discrimination" to "discrimination" tout court, as if churches and faith-based organizations that hire only co-religionists are doing something wrong rather than exercising the right to be true to their missions. Note also the rewriting of history, as if the Clinton Administration never acquiesced in such co-religionist hiring exemptions. Bobby Scott (D-VA), a long-time enemy of the faith-based initiative, is perhaps the most unpleasant of the speakers whose comments are transcribed (and I’m being restrained in my characterization). (I never thought I’d long for the good old days of Bill Clinton as President, but he was in some respects friendlier to genuine religious diversity than are the Democrats in Congress. Don’t forget that he signed both RFRA and RLUIPA.)

A note on Obama

John C. Chalberg thinks about the Virginia Tech horror, and the "Obama boom."


The president of Hillsdale College has an opinion relating to colleges and the feds! 

Obama the Cosby candidate?

This WaPo article points to facets of the Obama campaign that at the very least represent an effort on Obama’s part ot appeal to an older generation of African-American voters. It sounds a bit more like what Bill Cosby once said than like pandering. (Indeed, it might get Obama in trouble with some of the same people who went after Cosby.)

By contrast, as the article points out, HRC offers nothing of substance that isn’t at the same time statist.

Of course, there remains plenty of statism in Obama’s approach, as this LAT article shows. Contrast this:

"All of us know little shorties, and we see them when they are young. Something is happening to them around age 4 or 5. A darkness comes over them, and you can see the loss of hope in them," Obama said [in response to a 2006 shooting]. He added: "There is a reason they shoot each other, because they don’t love themselves, and the reason they don’t love themselves is we are not loving them, we’re not paying attention to them, we’re not guiding them, we’re not disciplining them. We’ve got work to do."

With this:

"We have now spent half a trillion dollars on a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged," Obama said. "We could have invested that money in SouthCentral Los Angeles, or the South Side of Chicago, in jobs and infrastructure and hospitals and schools. Why is it we can find the money in a second for a war that doesn’t make any sense?"


"There’s a little bit of money that folks piece together to send it into the community to make sure that folks are quiet and go back to the status quo, but we never take the bullet out of the arm," Obama said. "We don’t need panels and reports and commissions. We need some surgery on the indifference to poverty in this country."

The question that Obama needs to address is whether he thinks government can be an instrument of love. As someone once said,
"Government is law and justice; government isn’t love". Does he agree or disagree?

Evangelical orphan care?

Because adoption has become politicized and because the abortion debate is so polarized, this is news. Of course, the article doesn’t mention Bethany Christian Services, an evangelical adoption agency that has been at it since 1944, or Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and his wife, who provided foster care without any fanfare long before he sought statewide office. In other words, the article makes it seem as if this initiative is almost purely the result of the culture war politics of abortion, marriage, and adoption. It isn’t.

Is Cheney Betting on Bad Economic News?

According to Pat Deneen Dick is putting his money on the prediction that the global assets bubble is about to burst. I’ll be the first to say that Pat’s "limits to growth" analysis here is probably too dismal and dramatic to really be science, but there’s a huge difference between exaggerating and being completely wrong. Is there something to Pat’s warning?

Deep Thoughts on Romney’s Favorite Novel

...are found on Slate. Actually, they’re pretty good. Hubbard’s novel isn’t evil; it’s just really long and really bad. And, of course, liking it doesn’t necessarily imply an enorsement of Scientology or Tom Cruise. Mitt’s genuinely quirky and clearly unscripted preference reveals his geeky "inner goofball." Maybe it makes him more charming by making him less smooth and boring. Maybe it actually frees him from one Mormon stereotype. In some ways, the problem with Mormons is that they (despite their admittedly strange beliefs and rituals) seem overly wholesome.

Let’s Play "Guess the News Source"

Pop quiz time:

Q. Where would you find a headline reading "Venezuela Pulls Control from Big Oil"?

a) An organ of the Venezuelan Propaganda Ministry.

b) An organ of the Cuban Propaganda Ministry.

c) CNN.

To find the answer, go HERE.

Am I Really Providing a Link to THE NATION?

And Alexander Cockburn? It may be the first, last and only time this happens--but I guess it had to happen once. Here he compares the selling of "carbon credits" with the selling of indulgences in the medieval Catholic Church. A taste:

The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely on unverified, crudely oversimplified models to finger mankind’s sinful contribution--and carbon trafficking, just like the old indulgences, is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed.

Bourgeois Porn Moguls Mark the End of Illicit Sex?

Maggie Gallagher has an interesting lament at the end of this article detailing the rise of the so-called "perfectly respectable" bourgeois porn industry: Doesn’t anybody want illicit sex anymore?

NLT in D.C.?

I’ll be in northern Virginia for roughly the first week of June, attending a seminar at the George Mason University School of Law. I’m assured there will be a little free time, and have already begun to schedule the wasting of it with old friends. Anyone who wants in on the fun should send me an email.

More good news from Anbar

I saw this USA Today piece at the gym today. Seems like Gen. Petraeus isn’t the only smart guy in the Army, and that there are a few other folks to whom the strategists are paying attention. Too bad the Democrats know better....

McCain Surging and/or Rudy Fading the key states with the early primaries. (By the way, I too am stunned by Romney’s shamelss appeal to the Scientology vote, although I don’t agree with Steve that the gaffe was anytning near fatal.)

The Secret to Fred’s Timing

It turns out that Thompson would cause HBO insurmountable "equal time" problems if he were to announce his candidacy before the movie/miniseries in which he plays President Grant airs. Another issue: Lost residual payments for his fellow Law-and-Order actors.

Romney Lost the Nomination Today

Political junkies all recall how Mitt Romney’s father, Michigan Governor George Romney, self-destructed in a single instance in his quest for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. Here’s my account of it in The Age of Reagan:

Had [Romney] changed his mind about that trip [to Vietnam]?, he was asked on a Detroit television show. Romney replied: “I just had the greatest brainwashing that anyone can get when you go over to Vietnam, not only by the generals but also by the diplomatic corps over there, and they do a very thorough job.”

Romney’s plausibility as a presidential candidate imploded instantaneously. “In a matter of hours,” James Jackson Kilpatrick wrote, “commentators across the country were remarking acidulously that it certainly took a long time for George to get his brain back from the laundry.” Goldwater, whom Romney had pointedly refused to endorse even after Goldwater had captured the nomination in 1964, now got his revenge: “When you admit that you can be brainwashed, you’re in trouble.” Democrats piled on, too. Eugene McCarthy displayed the wit that was shortly to become more widely known to Americans: “There was no need to brainwash the Governor. All he required was a light rinse.” Romney lamely tried to reverse the damage: “I wasn’t talking about Russian-type brainwashing; I was talking about LBJ brainwashing.” But it didn’t wash. He dropped ten points in the polls, and never recovered. The Detroit News, which had long supported Romney, urged him to get out of the presidential race with a brutal editorial. Taking note of Romney’s “inexplicable blurt-and-retreat habit,” the Detroit News said the brainwashing comment illustrated Romney’s “unfortunate incapacity to achieve stability and constancy in Presidential politics.”

It seemed inconcevable that MItt Romney was capable of a commensurate gaffe. Surely he had learned from his father’s classic blunder. Apparently not.

Today, when asked by Fox News to name his favorite novel, Romney replied: L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. OMG! OMG! Did the candidate whose Mormonmism is dogging him really pick the ur-text novel of the founder of the whacko cult of Scientology? Romney added that he doesn’t endorse scientology, but likes the novel. Serious sci-fi readers will be appalled. Evangelical Christians will be appalled. It is doubtful he’ll even get the Scientology vote (which probably ranks next to the Zoroastrian vote as a significant American voting bloc). The faact that it is such a wacky pick means that it is surely true.

Prediction. Romney will not recover from this. He is finished. I don’t care how much money he raises. Or spends. Picking Battlefield Earth will rank as one of the top ten political blunders of all time.

Geriatric rent-seeker? Moi?

Received the dreaded (and unsolicited) AARP membership card in the mail today. Plan to mail the ashes back to that socialist organization after a solemn immolation of said card next week. My daughter says she’s eager to help.

This week’s faith-based flashpoint

This week, the House will take up a bill reauthorizing the Head Start program. Some religious conservatives will propose an amendment that permits the organizations that offer the Head Start programs to engage in what some (I) would call mission-sensitive hiring or what others call religious discrimination.

I’ve got a brief post about it over at Knippenblog, but that site seems to be down as I’m writing this. When it’s up, you’ll find links to the legislation and to some of the pro-amendment statements, which I don’t want to reproduce here. I will, however, call attention to this post, which contains the text of a letter written by the usual suspects opposing the amendment, and to a piece I wrote for the Ashbrook site a couple of years ago.

The big disagreement boils down to this. Must everyone who receives government money be a standardized extension of the state or can the government exercise a bit of restraint, using its resources to invigorate rather than simply to homogenize civil society? Some of course might argue that we should dismantle the welfare state altogether. This week, that’s not the point. The Head Start reauthorization is going to pass. Will it pass in a way that augments the secularizing force of government or in one that qualifies it? I confess that I’m not sanguine about the prospects of the amendment.

Update: Here’s the Knippenblog post.

Obama’s church and its pastor

We’re seeing articles like this NYT piece about Barack Obama and his church every so often. For previous posts on this subject, go here, here, and here. I’ve also written on his most extensive statement on the relationship between religion and politics here.

Herewith a few newish thoughts about Obama, his church, and his pastor. First, let’s do Obama the courtesy of letting him speak for himself on the relationship between religion and politics. We shouldn’t identify him with his pastor, unless his own words or deeds compel the identification. Conservatives who don’t want Mitt Romney’s Mormonism (and caricatures about it) to be the first and last words about him and who don’t want the justices in the majority in Gonzales v. Carhart to be drawn with mitres on their heads should practice what they preach when it comes to the relationship between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright.

Second, this doesn’t mean we can’t probe Obama’s biography for clues about his attitude toward religion and his religious views. Our paleo friend Dan Phillips thinks Obama is a more or less straight social gospel type. I think there’s a lot of social gospel worldliness to him, but he occasionally gestures in deeper and more interesting directions, as when he complicates his narrative about poverty by pointing to brokenness and personal responsibility.

Some of this comes from the "self-help" tradition in black churches. You occasionally even see it in Jesse Jackson’s rhetoric (though it’s been a long time since I’ve paid much attention to him and probably an equally long time since he took his own words at all seriously). Such words are worth applauding, but the all-too-statist social and political recommendations that usually accompany them (both from Jackson and from Obama) still need to be answered and criticized, not as theological or religious statements, but as analyses of what works in dealing with poverty and other social pathologies.

Fred Ahead in the "Blog Primary"

Thompson’s numbers are impressive, but he may have, the blogger astutely notes, the popularity of a second-string quarterback on a losing term. People can’t help but imagine that things would be different if he were in the game, and he hasn’t fumbled yet because he hasn’t played yet.

Happy Birthday Willie Nelson!

You have to love his distinctive voice and tireless devotion to performing and recording.

Leave It to Deaver

One of Reagan’s main men sees Law-and-Order Fred as another actor who’s also a man of substance. We’re reminded of the Gipper’s memorable comment that he just couldn’t see how "any fellow who wasn’t an actor" could get the presidential job done. And Hollywood has known for a while that Fred "personnifies government power." Because each of the other candidates’ flaws are inching toward fatal, now it really is Thompson’s moment to take the Oval Office screen test by actually getting into the race. A movie in which he actually plays a president--the Grant being rehabilitated on all fronts--opens next month.
(Thanks to Ivan the K.)

The Rebels

This review of Sandor Marai’s novel, The Rebels, is worth mentioning because (just maybe) this guy is the best Hungarian novelist ever. The Rebels was first published in 1930, just now translated. Marai was born in 1900 and died in San Diego in 1989, by his own hand. He is a rare writer for that part of the world, not affected by the insanities of Fascism or Communism. Bad guys always hated him. I listened to my mother (once) and read him in Hungarian (she met him once in Southern California, in one of her literary circles) and thought it pretty good. It’s easier in English. He’s thoughtful, fluid, and a bit lean in his prose, with good characters, universally recognizable, but Hungarian. I will read this as I have his Embers, which I mentioned here.

Anbar province

Good news from Anbar prvince, according to a front page New York Times article: "Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat."

Mitt’s Foreign Policy Vision

Well, it may be short on eloquence. But it’s full of good sense, on why we can’t let a possibly suicidal nation have nuclear weapons, on the demographic challenge of Islam, and on why we still have all the decisive advantages unless we do nothing. Some of Law-and-Order Fred’s writers should volunteer to make Romney’s prose more punchy and genuinely memorable.