Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

How Lame Is This?

The Washington Post reports this morning that the National Cathedral is in fiscal trouble. The Cathedral has had to lay off 33 people, including some clergy (male or female???), and close the greenhouse. Now this is the Episcopal National Cathedral. You know, the denomination once referred to as "the Republican Party at prayer." Rich folk. The National Cathedral being on hard times is like Goldman Sachs not being able to make money on Wall Street, the NY Yankees not being able to win with the biggest payroll in baseball, like Michael Jordan not being able to dunk over Freddie Patek, like Democrats not being able to win an election in Massachusetts. Imagine how much money the National Cathedral would raise in the hands of a fundamentalist or evangelical (or Catholic) denomination.

Just shows that fiscal incompetence follows theological incompetence (says this ex-Episcopalian).

Gee, What a Surprise

Obama Resigns Church Membership.

What took him so long?

Traditionalist Wisdom

The American Conservative EUNOMIA">site offers some quite astute and relatively nonpartisan commentary on the election. Here’s the best case for optimism about McCain’s November victory: 1. Obama should be much further ahead in the polls than he is now; this is time for the canidate of the non-incumbent party to run amok, like Kerry did in 2004. It’s likely that CHANGE come fall is not going to be Barack’s friend. 2. The Republicans are in denial about how bad the Senate races look. Even Mitch McConnell is running behind! By October, it will probably be clear that the Republicans will be reduced to 40 or fewer seats--leaving them in no position to offer any resistance at all to President Obama. 3. McCain will be able to appeal quite effectively to fears about an UTTERLY UNCHECKED, very inexperienced, and very liberal president. What’s bad news for the party is good new for Mac, and that shouldn’t be all that surprising.

EUNOMIA also offers very good arguments against McCain choosing Romney for VP and against Obama choosing Webb. The key point in both cases is that the candidate won’t be helped by an obviously inauthentic choice.

What Happened. . .

. . . to Scott McClellan? I’m not going to waste a single minute reading his book looking for insight, but it does prompt reference to a great one-sentence summary: "This is the book of a smart-aleck, seemingly devoid of any sense of honor."

While that sentence fits McClellan, it was actually written in 1986 by James Q. Wilson to describe David Stockman’s anti-Reagan book The Triumph of Politics. Therein lies a lesson in the insubstantiality of McClellan’s book and the wider controversy surrounding it. At least Stockman’s dishonorable book dealt with serious questions of policy. Stockman’s problem was his "intellectual promiscuity" (Wilson again); no one doubted his intelligence and ability, though some of his weaknesses have apparently persisted in his business career and landed him in serious legal trouble today. McClellan has merely confirmed his lightweight status. Stockman merely showed that for all his brilliance he didn’t really understand politics very well, as the thesis of his book was that he was "shocked, shocked" that politics would intrude on his admirable budget-cutting designs. That said, there is much to be learned from Stockman’s disreputable book. McClellan is now "shocked, shocked" that a president would resort to persuading the American people through political rhetoric (a less pejorative term than "propaganda") to support his foreign policy. The difference here is that, unlike Stockman, McClellan doesn’t even rise to the level of "smart-aleck."

Fukuyama Supports Obama

...according to this Austrialian article. It’s much more clear why he’s against the current administration than why he’s for Barack. (But lots of sophisticated Obama supporters are like that.) Frank admits that the surge worked, but he adds that no president, even McCain, will be able to maintain the troop levels required to turn today’s stability into enduring political success. He can see how McCain could win, but how could he govern with huge Democratic majorities in Congress? Frank also contends we’ve shown a kind of lack of courage by overplaying and overreacting to the threat of terrorism and radical Islam. On a more theoretical level, he’s sticking with his revisionist view that "the end of history" really means that modernization and democratization tend to go together. But that’s a lot less than saying that human lives have become so happy and dignified that they can’t imagine doing any better (which is something like what the end of history would really have to be). We also have to hope, with ambiguous evidence so far, that China is not a big exception to the general historical rule. Let me make clear that I don’t agree with most of this (I got in trouble by saying Frank was way overrated when he was more fashionable among conservatives). But he knows a lot and gives a lot to talk about.

Dinner with Jeb

Some coverage of last night’s dinner with Jeb Bush.

Here is the talk, and Q & A, on Real Audio and in MP3 format.

Is McCain the New Goldwater?

Here’s some evidence that he is. I agree that they share the characteristic of being senators from Arizona. Being Goldwater is certainly admirable but not so promising for November. Barry’s campaign was one of the worst ever, and he had to rally at the end just to lose by an unprecedented margin. But of course Obama is no LBJ; he infinitely prettier and more personally popular. This article does do well in laying out the conservative virtues of our honorable candidate: his resolute opposition to earmarks, new entitlements, new taxes, and all that--not to mention his unquestioned patriotism. The trouble with that list is that it’s all about self-sacrifice, all pain and no gain. Mac has a hard time making it clear that his job will be to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. (A big exception here is his fine market-based health care reform, which maximizes both coverage and choice.) And Mac does share Barry’s libertarian aversion to the vulgarity of social conservatism. Lots to talk about in this thoughtful article...

Boomers Get a (well-deserved) Spanking . . .

. . . from Victor Davis Hanson. But this is no ordinary spanking; he takes it all the way back to Demosthenes (classicist, after all).

Of course, it’s easy for me (a non-boomer) to cheer this explanation--this shirking of responsibility and seeking of blame--and put it on the doorstep of my parents’ generation. But then, that would be very boomerfied of me, wouldn’t it? So I try to remember that it will fall to those of my generation to turn course . . . maybe, just maybe, that’s why we won’t have a boomer candidate in this presidential election. Are we trying to decide between the only two available alternatives: our grandparents and ourselves?

Trouble is, it seems every generation is now beholden to the navel gazing boomer mantra. Obama’s showing that he can "out-boomer" the boomers (ever the child of 1968, he even hangs out with some of their icons). McCain--though not a boomer--too often looks to be doing the pathetic "me too!" dance one associates with old guys who want to look cool. He has the look sometimes of a beleaguered college administrator giving in (in some lame half way) to the radical demands of a student sit-in.

Prof. Hanson owes us another article now. This time tracing back to the generations following the bad ones he describes in history. What becomes of them? What lessons can we draw from them?

McClellan’s Memoir Reviewed by a Memoirist

Peggy Noonan (yes, that’s twice in one day that I’ve linked to her) reviews Scott McClellan’s book and discovers that though she probably does not like Scott McClellan, she might believe him. She wonders, at any rate, if there isn’t something worthy of consideration in what he says--at least in terms of his larger arguments about and against the administration. Noonan does not defend McClellan from charge that he is a lightweight . . . indeed, she offers irrefutable evidence from his book to support that contention. But I think she is suggesting that some of the themes McClellan takes up are worthy of deeper consideration than McClellan is capable of giving them. Perhaps they should not be dismissed just because they have been embraced by Scott McClellan. And maybe he’s added a bit (even if only a tiny bit) to our ability someday to understand them.

Angry White Chicks

This essay in Newsweek argues that the battle between Clinton and Obama will have lasting negative implications for relations between black and white women. A taste:

Détente now seems out of the question. The relationship between black and white women was never that strong to begin with. Sure, we’ve had a few good moments here and there, and we have meaningful relationships with individual black or white girlfriends, but there has always been a stubborn divide. That divide is now a chasm of resentment.
Oh, yes . . . the meltdown of identity politics continues apace.

How to Enjoy Being a Girl in Politics

Peggy Noonan nails it. Hillary should have listened . . .

Another Bitter Irony for Feminism

Colleen Carroll Campbell writes a disturbing column today documenting the shift in the ratio of male to female births in countries like India, China and . . . the United States? The clear culprit in this unsettling trend is not (for a refreshing change) "global warming" but, rather, sex-selective abortion. I realize that this may come as a shock to some people, but it turns out that in many cultures people prefer to raise sons. The technology and the ideology of choice have empowered that preference for a generation and we are now witness to the result.

Campbell rightly points to other likely outcomes of this genius empowerment: a shortage of some 30 million females in China alone by the year 2020. This shortage is sure to lead to more exploitation of women in the form of early and forced marriage, kidnapping, rape, forced prostitution or sex slavery, and other forms of violence. And I’m not even going to speculate about the world political consequences of all that extra (and frustrated) testosterone walking around . . .

Campbell calls this development a "bitter irony" and she is dead right. The irony is that access to abortion and other forms of neo-natal technology were supposed to liberate women from some of the more burdensome and difficult aspects of their nature. We took away the power that nature held over our fates and gave ourselves the "right" to make independent decisions (ha!, wink, wink--nod, nod) about what is best for our own bodies. No longer would a woman be forced into multiple and unwanted pregnancies only to remain in a condition of thankless servitude to a man . . . This empowerment was supposed to create a new dawn of equality and to end misogyny, wasn’t it? Perhaps it turns out that the best way to end misogyny (or at least keep it in check) is to work with nature--creating a good and decent civilization where life is respected--rather than working against nature as if She were the enemy.

Kudos to the Big Mac (Owens, that is)

Hey Mac!--aren’t you infringing on my beat? That’s okay: I’ll fire from the same foxhole as Mac any time.

As for Julie’s query about coal-to-liquid below, I’m not sure what to make of this. I’ve had the coal-to-liquid people in my office saying they can do it profitably at an equivalent price of $50 a barrel for oil. But then they want Congress to give them massive loan guarantees because Wall Street won’t finance the development of coal-to-liquid plants. If the production costs are what they say they are, they shouldn’t need help from Washington, given current energy prices. So I’m agnostic about this.

Congress and High Gasoline Prices

I have a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal on the topic of high gasoline prices. My conclusion is that Congress, not "Big Oil," bears most of the responsibility, because the former has made it impossible for U.S. producers of crude oil to tap significant domestic reserves of oil and gas, and it has foreclosed economically viable alternative sources of energy in favor of unfeasible alternatives such as wind and solar.

The fact is that world oil supply has been curtailed by the cartel-like behavior of foreign national oil companies, which control nearly 80% of world petroleum reserves. Faced with little competition in the production of crude oil, the members of this cartel benefit from keeping the commodity in the ground, confident that increasing demand will make it more valuable in the future. Despite its pious denunciations of the behavior of U.S. investor-owned oil companies (IOCs), Congress by its actions over the years has ensured the economic viability of the national oil company cartel.

It has done so by preventing the exploitation by IOCs of reserves available in nonpark federal lands in the West, Alaska and under the waters off our coasts. These areas hold an estimated 635 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas – enough to meet the needs of the 60 million American homes fueled by natural gas for over a century. They also hold an estimated 112 billion barrels of recoverable oil – enough to produce gasoline for 60 million cars and fuel oil for 25 million homes for 60 years.

I argue that announcing that these areas will be exploited will have the same effect as Ronald Reagan’s deregulation of domestic crude oil prices at the beginning of his first term. At the time, thanks to the decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to curtail output, the price of oil was at a level that in real terms is only now being matched. Domestic price controls ensured that the OPEC cartel would face little or no competition in the production of oil.

Reagan’s deregulation of crude oil prices created incentives for domestic producers to invest in exploration and to increase production. The threat of increased output by non-OPEC producers destroyed the discipline among OPEC members necessary to restrict production to maintain high prices. Facing the likelihood that an increase in supply would lead to lower future prices, OPEC producers increased output in the hopes of maximizing profits before prices fell. The cascading effect caused oil prices to tumble.

The piece has gotten me an invitation to appear on CNBC this afternoon, some time around 2:50.

Kudlow’s Coal Strategy

Lawrence Kudlow, in the context of making a very clear argument for getting government out of the business of picking winners and losers in the energy markets, makes a very astute observation about the location of the majority of the country’s coal deposits . . . an observation that Sen. McCain would do very well to take in, absorb, and contemplate as he moves forward in his bid for the Presidency. Of course, if everything Kudlow implies about the workability of this coal-to-liquid technology is true, it probably tears to bits my argument for considering Lieberman for the VP position, since he’s sponsoring legislation that effectively would eliminate it . . . but I think it’s possible that this coal strategy is better in both the narrow electoral sense and in the larger national interest sense. It would certainly be wonderful for Ohio. Curious about what our Mr. Hayward knows and thinks about this coal technology . . .

Power to the Mommybloggers

Laura McKenna writes about the lack of respect offered to "Mommybloggers" by the MSM courtesy of a simply awful sounding "interview" conducted by Kathie Lee Gifford (uh, duh!?) for The Today Show. Mommybloggers run the gambit from personal diarists reflecting upon the exploits of themselves and their children to those, like McKenna, who blur the lines of distinction between personal and political blogging. McKenna offers links to a good number of these blogs, so read her write-up to get a good feel for the culture of the "Mommyblog."

I’m not sure I qualify for the title of "Mommyblogger" though I’m certainly a "Mommy" and it’s been alleged, on occasion, that I’m a blogger. Still, after reading McKenna’s discussion of Mommybloggers, I think there are additional requirements. I don’t--for example--feel particularly compelled to discuss potty training in a detailed and graphic manner; though I have noted my inability to be shocked by such things.

McKenna notes that while Mommyblogs and Mommybloggers tend to be subjected to disrespectful treatment in the media and in the culture, there are reasons for Mommybloggers to be of good cheer in the face of what she considers a temporary condition. First, much of the dismissal comes from those who (still!) want to dismiss the whole phenomenon of blogging as the ramblings of madmen and madwomen in their underwear. This is no longer a serious or a defensible opinion about the whole of the blogosphere, but honesty compels those who want to defend blogging to admit that it is not unfair to characterize a good chunk of it that way. Yet for Mommybloggers, McKenna argues, there is the additional burden that much of what they cover is dismissed as "girlie talk" and somehow unworthy of serious reflection or attention. To that, I say re-read what I said above about what honesty compels. But insofar as there are serious (and seriously compelling, intelligent and witty) Mommybloggers, at least marketers are sitting up and taking notice. Johnson and Johnson, for instance, tried to sponsor a Mommyblogger conference--though they seem to have suffered from some old school hang-ups about the propriety of including infant children--as if this was an ordinary "business" conference. McKenna seems to think that despite this blunder from JnJ, corporate America is only a few steps behind figuring out how to adapt to and make use of this new cultural phenomenon. As it grows--and I think it must--I wonder if the response from the political world will be as quick or as adept in "getting it" as the private sector has been. I wonder, further, whether conservatives will be able to make use of their natural edge in this market or if they, like JnJ (whose product line ought to give it a natural edge), will fumble. McKenna ends her post by pointing to this poignant post from Surrender Dorothy in which SD notes, "Here we are, world. Here we are." Not quite, "I am woman, hear me roar . . ." but then, it’s that much more believable.

Mark Baerlein’s musings about the Dumbest Generation and the stupefying power of technology aside, I think this is just one example of the ways in which the world will change--for good or ill (though I think mostly, for good)--in the coming generation. Moms of all stripes and varieties will enter the blogosphere (with varying degrees of success and value, to be sure) but at least they have the potential to be refreshingly less monolithic and pathetic than are the offerings of so-called women’s television and morning talk shows.

Negative Industrial Policy

I see that the CEO of Dow Chemical is blaming the government for the rising cost of energy. A good CEO in the MBA/ bureaucratic mold, he complains about our lack of industrial policy: "The government’s failure to develop a comprehensive energy policy is causing U.S. industry to lose ground when it comes to global competitiveness, and our own domestic markets are now starting to see demand destruction throughout the U.S."

Is that a fair characterization? It is true that we don’t have a "comprehensive" energy policy. We do, however, have a variety of policies that shape and direct the market for energy in the U.S. We have rules regulating the kinds of plants that may be built in the U.S., and where they may be built. We have policies regulating what we may import, how, and at what cost.

In short, the vast array of EPA, zoning, trade, and other such regulations keep us from having a free market in energy, which would allow us to liberty to figure out how to get more energy more inexpensively. Perhaps the best energy policy we can have is to open up these markets. We don’t need the government to guess which types of plants should be build where. But we could use some help allowing us to find our own way without a maze of regulations complicating the process.

Jeb Bush replaces Tony Snow

Tony Snow cancelled on us for our Annual Dinner. We are told that his doctors are telling him he cannot travel. I wish Tony the best. We were able to get Jeb Bush to replace him, I am happy to say. I thought he did a fine job as governor of Florida. His talk is entitled "America’s Promise."

Bush’s McClellan . . .

. . . as a dog who once barked and now bites. The New York Times reports on a memoir by the former press secretary for the Bush Administration entitled "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception," which comes out next Tuesday. The theme is self-deception, and you can guess who feels bad about it, now. Not a pretty picture for all involved.

Stuart Taylor vs. The California Court

Taylor is all for same-sex marriage, and he’s happy that our laws seem to be progressing in that direction. But he’s still outraged by judicial imperialism or shameless judicial legislation. McCain needs to read this article and learn why he, too, should be outraged at this assault on self-government.

Brooks’ VP Choices

David is waffling a bit on Nunn for Obama. His new idea is Tom Daschle, and that would make for an authentic ticket. Why shouldn’t Barack pick a very competent nice-guy liberal? But for McCain the best Brooks can come up with is Pawlenty and Portman--two yawners. Brooks does give us the news that Mac himself is thinking seriously about Meg Whitman (the billionaire who just stepped down as CEO of eBaby). I don’t know enough about her to comment much, but the jokes will start flying about McCain loving to surround himself with really, really rich women. And she may not be the ticket for holding the Reagan Democrats in place. On the other hand, given the Republican talent dearth, I’d be vetting her too. She may be great; she’s certainly hyper-competent and one of the most influential people in American business life today.

Saving the Democrats from Themselves and Us from Them?

All kidding aside, and even if I can’t swallow all of it, there is something serious supporting Jonah Goldberg’s argument about McCain choosing a Dem for his VP nominee. It is this: Perhaps we have to save the Democrats from themselves before we can a.) save the country from the consequences of the direction of today’s Dem. party and b.) save the Republicans from self-imposed oblivion.

Let’s look at some of the facts before we move on. As you look at the field of possible contenders, Jonah is right to argue that none of them really brings a solid plus without also bringing aboard some complicating baggage. Jindal, though an excellent choice for many of the reasons we’ve articulated here before, does run the risk of looking like a gimmick and also of ruining his own career. And it’s very likely that Jindal will not want to do it and I cannot blame him for it. Romney will only please a very select group of conservatives and turn off a very large segment of the undecided voting public. I promise you, if he is selected, it’s over. We lose. He makes it almost impossible (fairly or not) to beat Obama with the elitist stick that will win this election for McCain if properly employed. It’s also true that if we get a Republican squish for the Veep nominee, we lose. This will send the conservatives into a howling fit from which McCain is not likely to recover (though I do suspect that McCain does not really believe this and, for that reason I fret over him . . . he should, under no circumstances, tempt the fates with any more deliberate insults levied at conservatives).

McCain’s objective if he means to achieve victory is to maintain the conservative base and attract sensible voters from the middle. There’s more to doing that than choosing a Vice Presidential candidate--to be sure--but this choice will be one of the yardsticks by which the tone of his campaign will be set and measured. So how can I entertain the possibility of a Democrat as VP?

Instinctively, I’m inclined to dismiss Jonah’s idea and say, of course, he should choose a REPUBLICAN above all else. I may still hold that opinion even after I seriously entertain the idea of choosing a Dem. But perhaps there is some utility in thinking through the possible reasons for McCain choosing a Dem, even if we reject it in the end. I’m going to dismiss Sam Nunn for my purposes and consider, instead, Lieberman. I choose him only because he is more well-known today (esp. among younger voters), well-liked by all sorts, and he carries with him the irresistible aura of a wronged man. Choosing him would first be an admission from McCain that he is not going to (and cannot) re-christen the Republican party in his image. After the initial anger Lieberman’s nomination would cause, McCain could use it to reassure conservatives that he isn’t trying to re-invent the conservative movement or re-shape the Republican party. Rather, he’s trying to be practical and do a specific job: win the war. This could give conservatives the hope of living to fight another day on the turf of their choosing rather than that of John McCain. I, for one, prefer this to having to carry water for McCain. If this alliance between McCain and Lieberman could be painted as something like a war-time coalition government or a task force of the parties. Apart from the good it would do for the parties--as it is sometimes good to break up a fight even if you know it will later resume--it would be good for the country to unite around this issue of ending the war in Iraq with honor. It allows John McCain to fight on the warrior ground upon which he is most comfortable and most capable. It forces Obama to enter into an area in which he’s quite uncomfortable and, we’ve seen, incompetent. It highlights McCain’s strengths and Obama’s weaknesses. It is courageous to take on this fight and people will respect that. I have always liked the idea of attacking the question of the war head-on. He might as well. If he tries to skirt it, he will lose as people notice he’s not defending his position and his claim of courage loses credibility. He can only win as a war president. I think he knows this.

I don’t know if it would be wise to state up-front that McCain will only seek one term. Jonah’s right that this would cheer conservatives . . . but then McCain would be a lame duck from the get-go. Further, it is asking too much of his pride to suggest it. On the other hand, if he is clever, he may get the same benefit Jonah speculates about if he just lets that idea float and keeps people guessing. Besides, things could change. Something terrible could happen to the country and we may not want to change horses in mid-stream. I almost always think it’s a terrible idea not to leave open the possibility of re-election in a republic.

More good things that could come from this choice: It would be good for the Democrats to see the more extreme wing of their party suffer a serious defeat. If Lieberman is the choice and wins along with McCain, Lieberman would be vindicated. He may not be (exactly) a Scoop Jackson Democrat. But he’s a damn sight better than anything else they’ve got going right now. He’s a person of some integrity and backbone and he’s got a common-sensical love for the country that appeals to everyone. He connects with the people we need in order to prevail in the struggle we’re in with the radical elements of Islam. It is better to have those people planted firmly on our side (even if temporarily) and to give them a stake in the fight than to have them loosely tied and trailing behind the radical elements among the Democrats where they can’t do anything but wring their hands and get used, occasionally, to attack the wisdom of Republicans. With the Dems they can do no good and affect nothing. With us, they can help their country and rise to a position of prominence--perhaps one day strong enough to regain control of their own party and defeat us. But such a defeat would be honorable and I am willing to risk it. I would rather suffer that than defeat at the hands of the likes of Obama & Co. and watch my country do great damage to herself and others.

Some may object that there is also a danger that admitting these folks in among our ranks may work against us and allow them to take over our party. I concede that. But I am not afraid of that challenge. I do not think they could transform the Republican party as easily as those who fear this imagine. I think it’s more likely that the Democrats would find themselves in need of copying us in an attempt to bring these folks home to them. Then we’d have a genuine and worthy fight for the center. I would be happier to do combat on these friendly terms with a loyal opposition than to have to continue in these pointless squabbles with an opponent who does not even come to the table with the same understanding of the terms. We could make real inroads with some of these voters, I think, and the GOP could build itself a strong center.

Do we have to save the Democrat party from itself before we can work on saving the Republicans? I’m still very tentative about this but I begin to suspect that we do.

A Country for Old Men?

Jonah G suggests that McCain pick Sam Nunn for his VP nominee. David Brooks, among others, made that suggestion to Obama. They could both pick him, I guess, adding needed stability to our political system. Jonah’s full suggestion is that the old guys’ ticket pledge to serve one term, and that pledge would be quite credible given actuarial statistics and such. Mac’s choice of Nunn, of course, would make for great TV. If that wouldn’t trigger a convention rebellion against the presidential nominee, I don’t know what would. I still say McCain should play a bit against type and actually pick a REPUBLICAN.

Theology and Biotechnology

I’m very recently back from a very high-level conference at BYU on a bold, deep, timely, and original forthcoming book in MY ISI Religion and Culture Series--Richard Sherlock’s NATURE’S END: THE THEOLOGICAL MEANING OF THE NEW GENETICS. I’m too lazy to link the amazon page, but you will notice that you can buy the paperback for $10.20 there. That’s probably the best word per buck (and certainly thought per buck) deal among serious books on the web. I spoke on "Stuck with Virtue and Stuck with Technology" and Susan Shell from Boston College spoke on Kant and biotethics. Susan made Kant sound so insightfully EMPIRICAL that I had to work hard not to convert to Kantianism. Meanwhile, various brilliant and articulate Mormon scholars showed me what friendly and spirited discussions about faith seeking understanding should always be like. Thanks to Ralph Hancock for putting this wonderful event together.

Addendum: Here’s the link to Nature’s End.

Don’t Be a Weasel

Instapundit points out that .Yahoo, Ask, and other search engines take notice of Memorial Day on their main pages. Google, however, does not. I guess Google thinks that Memorial Day is less worthy of note than Earth Day, the first day of Spring, Persian New Year, and other such days.

How the culture changes

Well, that was quick.

A friend of mine who teaches pre-school and the early grades in California informs me that she has already heard young boys and girls turning to each other and saying things like "I could marry you or you or you" and pointing to boys and girls randomly.

Needless to say the curriculum bureaucracy will support the new ideology, and it won’t be long before such things are no longer noteworthy.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Here’s a new review of a book by ME.

Garbage In Garbage Out

Question: If global warming leads sea levels to rise, and if population growth over-taxes our water supply, would building more and better desalinization plants solve both problems at once?

Did Tocqueville Exaggerate the Danger of Soft Despotism?

Mr. Postmodern Conservative reminds people that that’s what I think for now.

Uncommon Sense on Global Warming

As I’ve said before, I disdain from cluttering this august political site with the latest dreariness about global warming (if you’re a glutton for this subject, bookmark NR’s Planet Gore instead.) But sometimes an extraordinarily good article will appear in the most unlikely place. Such is the case with physicist Freeman Dyson’s splendid article in the New York Review of Books. The editors and regular readers of the NYRB must he having a case of the vapors (hopefully not greenhouse gas vapors. . .)

Here’s Dyson’s important conclusion:

All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.

Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the be-lief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.

Today’s Issues

Here’s an incisive look at the McCain’s VP three. The key argument against Romney: He won’t help Mac connect with the working-class Reagan Democrats. That’s pretty key. The key arguments against Jindal: 1. Taking the nomination might be bad for his career. BUT that would only be the case if he performed poorly as a candidate or is otherwise blamed for the ticket’s defeat. 2. He might show McCain up, as Bentsen showed Dukakis up. BUT it might be more reasonable to say that Mac’s and Bobby’s strengths and weaknesses complement each other.

ISSUE NUMBER TWO... The California court decision, combined with Obama’s semi-embrace of it, point to both a likely crisis in self-government and an unprecedented opportunity for Republicans in this otherwise most unpromising year. As many pundits (including our Carl) have written, the real issue is that those who oppose same-sex marriage will end up facing the same legal regime and social ostracism as those who oppose, say, interracial marriage. But the truth is that the latter opinion really is both groundless and contrary to our basic principles and the former one is based on real natural and religious concerns. There are plenty of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, but there are others, such as our Darwinian Larry, who can see that it’s probably a huge error (one which has, admittedly, been unfolding in our country for many decades) to completely detach marriage from biology and make it simply a matter of individual autonomy or rights. It’s at least the case that Americans should be free to disagree on this issue, and that decisions should be made by legislatures, not courts. And legislatures, of course, are particularly good on compromising conflicting moral principles.

It might be that McCain is particularly well situated to make the constitutional case against the judicial activism that’s emerged in MA and CA and might easily spread to the SCOTUS. If Romney or Huckabee were to take the lead, people would say that’s because of their conservative religious views. But Mac conceivably could be particularly credible in separating the constitutional from the religious case. He might make it clear that the issue has nothing, necessarily, to do with believing in a particular faith-based dogma and even less with "gay bashing." Of course, it might also be the case that the issue doesn’t and won’t move Mac at all.

Memorial Day

This is Mac Owens’ offering for Memorial Day. Thank you, Mac.

Negotiating from a Position of Strength

Scott Johnson shows us how Barack Obama’s approach to negotiating with onerous foreign leaders differs both with reason and with Democrat luminary, JFK.

Obama’s Real Clinton Problem

Peter Wehner weighs in on the many ways in which Barack Obama no longer looks as fresh as the image he has painted for the young folks. Old style politics, thy name is Barack?

John Updike and American art

John Updike gave the 37th Jefferson Lecture last night, to read it click on "lecture," and to listen to the very good interview with NEH Chairman Bruce Cole click on "Interview." Note that the whole thing is wrapped up around the question of what is American about American art, and the new NEH project "Picturing America," also found on the site.

Friday Musings on the "Family Friendly" Toilet

A first grade field trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific yesterday occasioned me to stand in line with a couple of six year-olds to allow them to make use of the "family friendly" toilet facilities on premises. These "gender-neutral" (meaning they’re open to both men and women) public restrooms rate very high on my short list of things for which the term "gender neutral" adds to the benefit of mankind. Mothers of sons and fathers of daughters know exactly what I mean. There comes a point at which the dragging of the offspring into the restroom of the opposite gender is no longer, well . . . shall we say, prudent? And yet you can’t just send them off into the "God-knows-what" oblivion that one who watches too much local media is bound to believe represents every public restroom in Los Angeles. Sanity tells me that I fret too much. But one never knows, however, and there’s no reasoning with a mother’s fears. So I say God Bless the "gender-neutral, family friendly" toilet!

After this long segue, let me make a short point. In line I am behind a father and his young daughter. As we are waiting our turn, the door to the restroom opens up and out comes another father with his young (3 year-old, I would guess) daughter held aloft with her pants and her undies down all the way around her ankles. Because I’m a mom, however, and never shocked by much of what happens vis a vis children and toilets, it did not occur to me to be surprised or to ask the fellow why he did not pull up her pants. I simply assumed that there had been an "accident" and he was setting about remedying the situation as best a poor father might be expected to do it. So I politely looked away. However, my son, his friend, and the other father in line immediately began shouting to the unsuspecting man about what he was doing. "Hey, buddy!" the other father said to the man with the unwittingly exposed little girl, "I think you forgot a step!" Sure enough, that’s exactly what had happened. The grateful father then assisted the even more grateful little girl and all was right with their world. But it strikes me . . . perhaps this little vignette offers some insights into the natural limits of "gender-neutrality."

The Dumbest Generation reviewed

Our friend Jon Schaff does the honors.

Neuhaus on An Evangelical Manifesto

Richard John Neuhaus offers a foretaste of a longer treatment of this manifesto, promised for FT. His abbreviated bottom line is this:

I have no doubt that some who signed the statement simply wanted to affirm the important truth that evangelical Christianity is defined by the lordship of Christ and not by political partisanship. Issuing what is inevitably perceived as a politically partisan manifesto is an ill-chosen means for achieving that purpose. Only the naive or disingenuous among the signers will express surprise that the media depicted the manifesto as an election-year effort to drive a wedge between conservatives and what is portrayed as a more authentic evangelicalism. Whatever the good intentions of some signers, the reporters got the story right.

The fact that Jim Wallis is among the signatories is a dead giveaway.

Update: Stanley Carlson-Thies reminds us that there are some distinctive elements of the evangelical witness that shouldn’t be let behind, so to speak.

Anger and Chicago Politics

I’ve been meaning to get to this for several days but life got in the way, so pardon the delay . . . It seems Barack Obama’s defense of his wife on Good Morning America is not the first notable expression of Obama’s anger. To be clear, I am not necessarily critical of Obama for his anger or for his expression of it in either situation. In the case of defending his wife, I think it was probably both genuine and tactical. So, therefore, it was brilliant. I do not doubt that he loves his wife and that it is painful for him to see her roughly handled. Critics of the Obamas rightly charge that bowing to Obama’s anger by giving Michelle a pass is letting her "have it both ways." It is, of course. And I see no reason to lay off of her when she so readily opens herself up to attack. There is some evidence that the critique of Michelle works and that people do not like her. Fine. But Barack Obama, however protective he may be of his wife, does not really expect that his anger will cause conservatives to lay off of her. What he means to achieve with this expression of anger is to diffuse the effect such criticism of his wife will have. His romantic chivalry (however ironic it is given the nature of the women it is meant to impress) is sure to have the desired effect in the quarters of those ladies-in-waiting who pretend to be above such displays.

But this altercation with fellow state senator, Rickey Hendon, is much more interesting. Again, it is not Obama’s anger that fascinates me. It’s likely, from the description of events Jim Geraghty provides, that Hendon brought the fight on himself. But it’s just as likely that Obama was displaying himself to be duplicitous and, possibly, even weasely in the duplicity. In other words, it’s likely that Hendon was the more manly of the two and the more righteous in his indignation. Obama said he’d vote with Hendon but his "proxy" hit the wrong button? Did that proxy cast the wrong vote on purpose or was it really an accident? Experts will disagree. And what are we to make of this from Hendon, "I have been advised to leave Barack alone and that is what I am going to do. . . .I am going to let things stay in the past. It happened. That’s all I can say. It happened."

Anger is always more impressive (and dangerous) when there is muscle behind it. Apparently, Hendon has discovered that there is some behind Obama’s . . . even if it’s not exactly Obama’s muscle.

Fred speaks, er, writes

Fred Thompson argues that rumors of the death of conservatism are greatly exaggerated.

I’m not sure that I would agree with him in characterizing all the accomplishments he points to as "conservative" accomplishments, but the most problematical part of his piece is this:

[A] lot of the issues that litter the political battlefield today put conservatives on the defensive. What are we going to do to fix the economy, the housing market, health-care costs and education? Some conservatives try to avoid philosophical confrontation with liberals, often urging solutions that would expand the government while rationalizing that the expansion would be at a slightly slower rate.

This strategy simply has not worked. Conservatives should stay true to their principles and remember:

- Congress cannot repeal the laws of economics. There are no short-term fixes without longer term consequences.

- In a free and dynamic country with social mobility, there will be great opportunity but also economic disparity, especially if the country has liberal immigration policies and a high divorce rate.

- An education system cannot overcome the breakdown of the family, and the social fabric that surrounds children daily.

- Free markets, not an expanding and more powerful government, are the solution to today’s problems. Many of these problems, such as health-care costs, energy dependency and the subprime mortgage crisis, were caused in large part by government policies.

"Conservative" policies work particularly well when there’s a healthy civil society, when, in other words, there isn’t a high divorce rate and there aren’t lots of families on the road to worldly perdition (not to speak of the hereafter). Certain things that pass in America for conservative contribute to these problems.

I’m not arguing that the answer is big government, surely not big government of the sort promoted by Senators Obama and Clinton. But if we take our current social conditions for granted, a simple emphasis on the market will surely make them worse.

Update: Our friend RC2 offers a gloss on Thompson that’s better than what he wrote.


The McCain-Obama race aside, we tend to think that the older are wiser, even if this understanding of wisdom is a bit more prosaic then, say, that of Aristotle or Hegel.

Deneen on Supreme irony

Patrick Deneen nails the Lockian (or rather even more abstract) liberalism inherent in the California Supreme Court decision. There’s lots to criticize in it, and he makes a very good start.

Sen. Jim Webb

If you thought that Sen. James Webb (D, VA) had a chance to be Obama’s running mate, this short interview on affirmative action (while he’s pushing his new book) will prove you wrong. Unless, of course, he’s really calling for an affirmative action program for poor whites. You can also click on the video and see it.

The decline and fall of conservatism

I remember working on Capitol Hill in the 1970s (not for long: I was just an intern)and coming to the conclusion that liberals were really out of gas intellectually. This author suggests that conservatives are now the ones running on empty. And he even quotes an NLT fave:

Yuval Levin, a former Bush White House official, who is now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, agrees with Gingrich’s diagnosis. “There’s an intellectual fatigue, even if it hasn’t yet been made clear by defeat at the polls,” he said. “The conservative idea factory is not producing as it did. You hear it from everybody, but nobody agrees what to do about it.”

I have to confess that, if this is the best conservatives have, we’re in trouble, deep, deep trouble.

The Game

The upcoming Stanley Cup Finals is perfectly timed to Pat Garrity’s review of Ken Dryden’s The Game. Dryden recounts "a week during the 1978-1979 hockey season. Dryden used that otherwise unremarkable week as a means to reflect memorably on the life and times of a professional athlete, in what is perhaps the best first-hand account ever written." No ghost writer, by the way, he wrote it himself. Pat writes a very fine review of one of the great books on sports, not merely on hockey, but The Game. Dryden was a great goalie, perhaps the best ever, a genuine star. Like Jim Brown, or Sandy Koufax, Garrity writes,

"Dryden likewise left hockey at the peak of his career, after only eight seasons (including his first abbreviated season, when he won the Most Valuable Player award for Stanley Cup playoffs). The season described in The Game would be his last. He did not write the book until four years later, after rummaging through notes he had jotted down on the back of envelopes and hotel stationary over the years. Dryden focused his narrative on this particular week because it involved a critical regular season game against Montreal’s emerging rival, the New York Islanders, but also because it was about this time that he made his decision to retire. He explained that he wrote the book not in order to understand why he retired at the peak of his career, but quite the opposite: to understand why he played professional hockey as long as he did. Dryden said he originally signed a pro contract with the idea of earning enough money to put himself through law school. He had no idea that he would become as good as he did but that was not why he played. In the end, he decided, he stayed because he loved ’the game,’ not the sport, the money, or the fame."

Read the rest of the review. It is good, really good.

Today’s Big Issues

1. McCain’s decision to meet with Crist, Romney, and Jindal as potential running makes is encouraging. There are reasons why Crist would be a disaster from the point of view of social conservatives, but, considering the role he played in Mac’s key Florida victory, he doubtless deserves the meeting. The real and tough choice, I think, is between Mitt and Bobby.

2. I, for one, am thrilled with Big David’s victory over Little David on American Idol. That’s not because the American people overruled the snotty expert Simon. Simon is in many ways a wise musical man. Anyone whose signature song is IMAGINE doesn’t deserved to be idolized by our people. And, as Carl has explained, America needs a rocker with a really great voice. I’m writing to you from Provo Utah, and so I’m surrounded by people who disagree with me on this. And I must add that both Davids seem like very admirable, hard working, talented, and highly imaginative guys.

Get Wired!

Wired magazine offers a list of environmental heresies. (Hint: One of them is nuclear power.) Get used to this; I believe there is going to be a lot of rethinking going on as the current green bubble fades like the housing bubble and the internet bubble.

HRC’s religious outreach

Jacques Berlinerblau performs an autopsy on the corpse of HRC’s campaign, finding a healthy faith and values outreach effort.

He thinks that Obama’s success among frequent churchgoers bodes well for him and ill for McCain in the fall. I suspect that the frequent churchgoers Berlinerblau sees are African-American. I further suspect that Obama will continue to do poorly among Catholics and relatively poorly among Jews in the fall. Somehow I don’t think that his approach to foreign policy will win him many friends among the friends of Israel.

Beauty and Policy

Two beautiful policy wonks are getting married, one a former Ashbrook Scholar. Amusing to reflect on the wooing in the settings described, never mind long runs together in preparation for the Marine Corps marathon. I wish them one feast, one house, one mutual happiness. Oh yes, and one policy.

If you can’t stand the heat . . .

. . . get back in the kitchen.

I find Barack Obama’s anger at criticism of his wife to be charming, and entirely appropriate. But that’s the rub. I also tend to support traditional roles for men and women.

Had any other close supporter, associate, doner, or friend of Obama’s said the very same things that Mrs. Obama said, would those comments not be entirely appropriate grounds for criticism?

In short, we finds ourselves in an interesting situation, culturally speaking. If a wife is an equal partner with her husband in all respects, and if there are no pre-set roles for men and women, then she is simply a free, adult individual. Hence criticism of her opinions, is entirely appropriate. Only when women are home-makers, and not professionals with a stong interest in politics does the older model make sense. In fact, the two ideas go together. But it still, somehow, rubs us the wrong way when people criticize the candidate’s wife.

That reaction, of course, is probably due to our instinctive respect for a more traditional understanding of marriage--the very thing that liberals tend to oppose as passe and anachronistic.

In principle, what is wrong with criticizing the ideas (as opposed to the person) of someone who is now a public figure, and who is very close to the person who will probably be the next President? Is the wife of the candidate to be the one person who can hit the campaign trail, but not be criticized for what she says?

In practice, at least for now, that may very well be the case. After all, even if Mr. Obama is, in fact, a supporter of sexual equality (and it might be that here his instincts trump his ideology), it is useful to him to portray his opponants as mean-spirited people who attacked his poor, defenseless, wife. And why does the reaction resonate? Might it have something to do with the nature of men and women and their relationships?

Real Reform

David Brooks talks up Yuval’s Burkean McCain, the one who doesn’t denigrate government but wants to make it less decrepit and less driven by entrenched interests. His first challenge to Obama should be: Why did you vote for that shameful Farm Bill?

Orbis’ new editor

I had a brief conversation with Mac Owens about becoming editor of Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs. This is a new, and added, responsibility to an otherwise already very busy (and worthy) man. Good luck, Mac.

Will HDTV Defeat McCain? making him look even older than he really is. Meanwhile, high-definition Obama looks even more marvelous. Well, here are two facts: Our society is rapidly aging, and we’re seemingly more repulsed than ever by the way old people actually look. Maybe Mac can (implicitly) campaign against our vain, uncourageous, superficial youth culture by proudly distinguishing himself from those who attempt various extreme make-overs not to look their age or hide the inevitable ravages of time. This might not work: I’ve been noticing that old ladies really like the way Barack looks, and there is, unfortunately, nothing wrong with that. Or it might work: Is he too pretty (or unrugged--even JFK looked rugged by comparison) to be president? (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Heroes! We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Heroes!

Okay now, here’s a quiz. Identify the following individuals: 1) Lt. William Calley; 2) Lt. John Bobo; 3) Lynndie England; and 4) Paul Ray Smith. I am guessing that individuals 1 and 3 are better known than 2 and 4. To learn the answers to the quiz and why 1 and 3 are better known than 2 and 4, look here.

In this piece, I argue that Americans have forgotten how to honor its heroes. I trace the problem to Vietnam. Although Americans fought bravely there, the press, if not the American people, began to treat those who fought in Vietnam as either moral monsters, victims, or both. The dysfunctional Vietnam vet became a staple of popular culture.

The conventional wisdom concerning Vietnam has been absorbed by today’s press, even by those too young to remember our Southeast Asia misadventure. The result is that, despite the mantra of "support the troops," there is a troubling predisposition to believe the worst about those who are willing to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

My piece, republished here from the current issue of The Weekly Standard is a review essay of three books about the soldiers and Marines who are fighting the war. As Bing West wrote in his riveting book about Falluja, No True Glory, stories of soldierly courage deserve "to be recorded and read by the next generation. Unsung, the noblest deed will die."

It’s Time to Re-Engineer America’s Credentials-Industrial Complex

These days of May and June will find the 2,427 institutions in America that confer bachelor’s degrees holding their commencement exercises. We call the sheepskins handed out “credentials” because employers, graduate schools, parents and the graduates themselves are supposed to give them credence, to believe and trust that they correctly vouch for the recipient’s educational attainments.

Is this belief well-founded? Inside Higher Ed reports that Steven Aird, a biology professor at Norfolk State University, is now unemployed because he didn’t give out enough passing grades. The administration has a “clear expectation” that 70% of students should pass every course – even though other faculty members tell IHE that they could easily flunk a majority of the students in many courses just by adhering to the explicit rule that a student absent for more than one-fifth of class sessions may receive a failing grade on that basis alone. How much faith should we place in the credentials awarded by an institution that extends the social-promotion principle from grades 13 through 16?

“Professor X,” who remains anonymous to avoid joining Dr. Aird in the unemployment line, writes in the current Atlantic Monthly that his own teaching experience argues that our post-secondary institutions are enrolling many people who are simply “unfit for college,” because they “lack the most basic skills” and are “in some cases barely literate.”

Some might say that it is unfair to generalize from the stories of Aird and X. Aird taught at a historically black university. “We are a university of opportunity,” according to the official spokeswoman for Norfolk State, “so we take students who are underprepared, but we have a history of whipping them into shape.” X, meanwhile, teaches part-time at “colleges of last resort” – a small private college and a community college, each a place many of its students just “landed in.”

It’s hardly reassuring, however, to look at a much more representative institution, the University of Arizona. It was portrayed in the New York Times three years ago by John Merrow of the Carnegie Endowment for the Advancement of Teaching. Arizona is representative in the sense that more than 5 million American undergraduates go to universities with at least 15,000 students; with 37,000, U of A is one of the biggest.

Unless it’s also one of the worst, however, there must be lots of colleges that people respect, but where it is possible to get a bachelor’s degree without learning anything in particular. Merrow interviewed several Arizona undergraduates, including a 22-year-old majoring in Inebriation. He “stopped going to most of his classes after sophomore year and drank excessively four nights a week.” Despite rarely spending more than one hour per night on all his studies, the young man made the dean’s list. Such students, one educator tells Merrow, are “maze smart.” That is, “they have figured out what they have to do to get through: buy the book, find out what’s going to be on the exam and stay invisible.”

The dean of students admitted to Merrow that it is indeed possible to get through Arizona with such utter disdain for scholarship. “We have a lot of students whose motivation for coming here is to get a good job,” she said. “They think, ‘How do I get the grades?’ instead of trying to learn.” While the student in question may have been contemptuous of the educational opportunities he was squandering, he did appreciate the social ones: “These are the years that I’m not going to have back. And I don’t want to be 30, 50, looking back and wishing I’d partied then because I can’t do it now.” Three years out of college, he appears to have gotten a good job, his sole motivation for letting academic distractions interrupt his extended Mardi Gras. The young man is a senior associate in the southern California office of a commercial real estate services firm. He brightly assures visitors to his page on the corporate website that he “firmly believes that it’s not what you know, but who [sic] you know.”

What national purpose is furthered by encouraging such young people to waste four years of their lives in college? Colleges are glad to have more paying customers, of course, but the social and economic premise of the increased demand for credit hours and college degrees is dubious. “There is a sense that the American workforce needs to be more professional at every level,” according to Prof. X. “Many jobs that never before required college now call for at least some post-secondary course work. . . . There is a sense that our bank tellers should be college educated, and so should our medical-billing techs, and our child-welfare officers, and our sheriffs and federal marshals. We want the police officer who stops the car with the broken taillight to have a nodding acquaintance with great literature.”

The contempt for learning that results from forcing “Hamlet” on a captive audience leads to wider and more pervasive cynicism. One college president spoke to Merrow of the “mutual nonaggression pact,” in which “the professor goes into class and doesn’t ask much of students, who in return don’t ask much of the professor. The professor gives out reasonably high grades as a way of camouflaging that this bargain has been struck, his evaluations will be satisfactory, and students don’t complain about grades or about whether they’ve learned much.”

Even at very high levels of the credentials-industrial complex there’s good reason to regard the central activity as sorting rather than educating. In a Wall Street Journal article from 1995 the dean of USC’s business school laments, “We’re not exactly an employment agency, but it comes pretty close.” The recruiters from the big corporations that seek to hire MBA’s from the most prestigious business schools agree that the schools “sift through potential recruits more efficiently” than the companies can. The general manager of executive development at Microsoft says, in effect, we don’t hire people from Wharton and Stanford to avail ourselves of the wonderful, profitable things they learned in the classroom. “In fact, we usually have to unlearn them of some of the things they pick up in those programs.” The rationale, instead, is that anyone bright and motivated enough to get into and through a highly selective school is bright and motivated enough to be a good hire. The crucial service the business schools render to the corporations – and the students – is in the admissions office, not the classroom.

We might borrow some B-school jargon to recommend Wick Sloane’s idea that it is time to make post-secondary education in America “scalable.” In the same way that the iPod made it possible to unbundle the music business, so that customers can buy just the one song they want without having to pay for 11 more they don’t on an LP or CD, it’s time, he says, to disaggregate “the four-year, 36-course structure” that defines the bachelor’s degree. We should, in other words, stop forcing future police officers, commercial real estate brokers and investment bankers to pay for and sit through courses they correctly regard as nothing more than items in the artificial and indefensible obstacle course America has built between them and their career goals.

The problem is ultimately political, not educational. There is an inherent tension in the idea of universal higher education. As we approach universality, the reality of the higher gets lower and lower. We can imagine, as a thought experiment, an America where everybody over 26 has a post-graduate degree, and everybody younger is on the road to one. But some of those MBA’s and JD’s will still wind up working the cash register at Starbucks. “America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track,” according to Professor X. “We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options.” But we do our country and individual citizens no good if the American Dream becomes the American Fantasy. “Everyone wants to triumph. But not everyone can — in fact, most can’t. If they could, it wouldn’t be any kind of a triumph at all.”

The McCainiacs Guide to GOP Exceptionalism

Bill Kristol writes a provocative column today suggesting that McCain may be the last best hope of the GOP in the fall. In particular, he cites three events from the last week--Obama’s huge loss in WVa, the gay-marriage ruling from the California Supreme Court, and the speech from Bush in Jerusalem that Obama took way too personally--that should do much to improve McCain’s chances in the fall. Yet for all this sound evidence and analysis, his column does not appear to offer much by way of hope (if I may be forgiven for using that most overused word from this election cycle) for the down-ticket.

In this, he may be right from the point of view of mere observation and reporting. But then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the damage done to the Republican brand is too far gone to expect "McCain exceptionalism." Let’s suppose for a moment that this is true and despite Obama’s clear weaknesses, McCain--by virtue of the fact that he’s got an (R) after his name--is already paddling upstream against a swift current. Then what? Will it be enough to show that he is "a different kind of Republican?"

I don’t think so. I begin to think that McCain is going to have to begin to make a case not only for himself but also for the GOP in general--certainly if he means to have a successful presidency but perhaps, also, if he means to have any presidency at all. What would this look like? For one thing, it will mean explaining, rather than simply asserting, some of the fundamental principles of the GOP. It means an implicit criticism of those Republicans in our immediate past who could not or who would not do the same. It would also mean anticipating, understanding and answering the prejudices of those who think they do not like the GOP.

But there’s something more. It is also going to mean that McCain will need to highlight the general problems with Democrats. After all, Democrats only poll higher in terms of their favorable ratings by way of comparison with the Republicans. And Republicans, at least in part, poll poorly because of the ways they have disaffected their base. Congress as a whole, however, polls very, very low. I am not sure if it’s still the case, but it was true at one point that Congress had poorer numbers even than President Bush. Some have suggested that this may be because people forget that Democrats are in charge there (of course, they should be reminded) . . . but whatever the explanation, there’s an opening for McCain. By attacking the "do-nothing" pathetic and Democrat Congress of this session he can acknowledge the political frustrations of the electorate, delight his conservative base, and point the way forward to a better, chastened, and invigorated Republican majority. He may not get it--at least not right away. But he has the potential to set something into motion. He should not forget that he’s running for "President" not "Emperor." He’s going to need friends once he gets there.

Kids Today and the Market

Michael Malone has an interesting op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. Malone describes cybespace as our next frontier and argues that it is making the rising generation more individualistic than their parents. This statistic stood out, in particular:

Half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job. Today, 80% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer courses on entrepreneurship; 60% of Gen Y business owners consider themselves to be serial entrepreneurs, according to Inc. magazine. Tellingly, 18 to 24-year-olds are starting companies at a faster rate than 35 to 44-year-olds. And 70% of today’s high schoolers intend to start their own companies, according to a Gallup poll.

Here we find hope for liberty in America’s future. Now if only we could get our political class and universities to support entrepreneurship rather than collectivism. . . .

So When Does Larry Summers Get His Job Back?

My AEI colleague Charles Murray has been predicting for a while now that within a decade, fundamental gender differences will become so obvious that it will look foolish to deny them. Today in the Boston Globe comes a bit of evidence that he’s going to be proved right--a survey of studies showing women, in general, are less interested in science than men. So much for discrimination as the reason for so few women in science.

Perhaps the most significant sentence in the story is this: "In her controversial new book, The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women, and the Real Gender Gap, Susan Pinker gathers data from the journal Science and a variety of sources that show that in countries where women have the most freedom to choose their careers, the gender divide is the most pronounced." This isn’t going to go down well in Harvard yard.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

Reason and Love

Here’s Father Schall on the latest contribution to Rat Choice.

Yuval on McCain’s Need for Vision

Mac managed to get nominated without a vision. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need one to win in November. "Duty, honor, ability" is a slogan for losers--like Bob Dole or even John Kerry. Mac needs to show he’s guided by more than a nonpartisan honor code. He needs a vision for conservative reform that’s all about leaner, smarter regulation, including a consumer-oriented, unbureaucratic fix for our obviously messed up health care system. We’re getting back to prudence here; an alliance of Mac and, say, Yuval (and Bobby Jindal!) might convince Americans to vote for the man who is too honorable to speak in airy abstractions but will get down to work to get government working again. Yuval’s not the first to notice that Mac at his best is a Burkean conservative--that is, a results- oriented reformer.

While We Still Have Her to Kick Around

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is more than $20 million in debt, and Slate’s “Hillary Deathwatch” rates her chance to win the Democratic nomination at 1.7%. According to David Letterman, her campaign has become America’s most expensive fantasy camp.

The what-went-wrong stories are already appearing. The most noted, and best reported, is Michelle Cottle’s in The New Republic. She got “more than a dozen” Clinton campaign staffers to offer, anonymously, their post-mortems. None of them will startle anyone who reads the papers. My favorite, because it betrays the disorienting effects of working 90-hour weeks in a campaign’s echo chamber, is, “I don’t think anybody in America doesn’t think she can do the job. What they’re dying for is to know a little bit more about her.” It turned out that lots of Americans, including millions of Democrats and independents, had grave doubts as to whether Hillary can do the job, and were hoping desperately to avoid learning even one more thing about her.

Some Democrats, eager for the loser of their contest to go away quickly and quietly and not complicate the winner’s task in the general election, are partial to the most forgiving explanation of the final result. It holds that the only thing that really “went wrong” was that Hillary happened to run in a year when she faced a political phenomenon. According to Michael Tomasky, the only way a “relative unknown” like Barack Obama wrests a presidential nomination from the most famous woman in America is that he “wows people. He strikes an emotional chord that the better-known quantity, with all her formidable advantages and skills, just couldn’t strike with as many folks.” Had Hillary run the same campaign against the field from four years earlier, according to this theory, she would have steamrolled John Kerry and Howard Dean, and everyone would be writing stories about the strategic brilliance of Mark Penn, the managerial talents of Patti Solis Doyle, and the devastating cable TV charm of Terry McAuliffe and Lanny Davis.

The problem with this theory is that it’s too soon to tell whether Hillary Clinton was a good candidate who lost to an excellent one, or a lousy candidate who lost to a decent one. Barack Obama will have to win in November, to give the generous assessment traction. And even then . . . Jimmy Carter was a relative unknown who (barely) won a general election when the Republican opposition was battered. He then spent the next four years as president, and the subsequent 28 as an ex-president, diminishing the political reputation he established in 1976. No one would think to offer a kind word today for Morris Udall or Scoop Jackson by saying, “After all, he did lose to Jimmy Carter.”

Knowing only what we can know today, the fact that Hillary Clinton, with all her advantages, couldn’t beat an opponent who was a state senator as recently as 2004, then won a U.S. Senate seat only when his Democratic and Republican opponents’ campaigns self-destructed – a guy who, as the GOP consultant Alex Castellanos says, “just paid off his college loans a couple of years ago” – argues just as easily that she lost the 2008 nomination as that he won it. The eventual story may be, not that it was her bad luck to run against Obama, but his good luck to run against Hillary.

Sign Up at We Get It

For evangelically inclined NLT readers, wander over to We-Get-It.Org and consider signing their online petition that attempts to balance sense against nonsense/hysteria on climate change.

There’s No Appeasing Some People

So let’s see: President Bush quotes a clueless Republican senator (isolationist William Borah) in 1939 saying if he’d only been able to talk with Hitler all this unpleasantness could have been avoided, and somehow this is interpreted as an attack on Obama and Democrats. My, what a hair trigger we’re on.

Now I can understand that Democrats think they responded too weakly to previous Republican criticisms they didn’t understand (Dukakis and the Pledge, Kerry and the Swift boats, Gore and his lack of truthiness, etc) and so are on DefCon 1 against the slightest slight. But this seems like an unforced error on Obama’s part (not his first, of course). How much more clever it would have been for Obama to say, "Of course the President is right, so why does he go on appeasing the Saudi’s?, etc."

And I can understand some of the parsing of "appeasement." It is one thing to talk with some odious person; appeasement, strictly speaking, is giving them something under threat. Sure enough, Churchill himself defended appeasement at other times.

So in contemplating whether Obama lacks prudence in saying he’d meet with Ahmadinawhackjob without preconditions, it is worth recalling Churchill’s meditation about how the Munich crisis should be understood from The Gathering Storm:

It may be well here to set down some principles of morals and action which may be a guide in the future. No case of this kind can be judged apart from its circumstances. [Me: This is more or less what McCain said about contact with Iran in the now-controversial Rubin interview.] The facts may be unknown at the time, and estimates of them must be largely guesswork, colored by the general feelings and aims of whomever is trying to pronounce. . .

There is, however, one helpful guide, namely, for a nation to keep its word and to act in accordance with its treaty obligations to allies. This guide is called honor. . . Here, however, the moment came when Honor pointed the path of Duty, and when also the right judgment of the facts at that time could have reinforced its dictates.

Things will really get interesting and hot if McCain suggests that the problem with Obama is not that he is an appeaser, but that he might be dishonorable in his statecraft..

UPDATE: Turns out Jay Leno saw the matter as I did. From the Tonight Show, as reported in the NY Times today:

Huge political fireworks today after President Bush went to Israel and he talked about American politicians who might want to talk to Hamas or other leaders. Politicians who would sit down and appease terrorists. He said he would not do it. He would not put up with it. He would never talk to terrorists. And then he flew to Saudi Arabia to spend a couple of days with the Saudi royal family.

Obama could have swatted the ball out of the park if he’d said something like this instead of whining about having been attacked.

Idle Question of the Day

Writing today in the Washington Post, Dick Morris suggests that McCain attack Obama for Obama’s "slavish devotion to the teacher’s unions."

Uh-oh. Do you really think anyone can get away with using "slavish" and "Obama" in the same sentence without provoking the indignation that, you know, you’re tacitly appealling to something. . . beginning with, I don’t know,. . . maybe. . . the "R"-word?


Seeming is believing

Several commentators and bloggers, such as Scott Johnson and Mark Steyn and others, have noted the angry reaction, on the part of Democrats, to President Bush’s recent speech in celebration of the State of Israel’s 60th Anniversary.

But might close analysis of the President’s speech and the response to it really miss much of the point. From a political standpoint, it does not matter whether President was thinking of anyone in particular when he criticized appeasement. What matters is that President Bush can be portrayed as a mean-spirited ideologue.

In 1992, the U.S. economy was in fairly good shape, but that didn’t stop the Clinton campaign from running with the slogan "it’s the economy stupid." In 1995, President Clinton shut down the government by vetoing a perfectly reasonable budget, but that did not stop him from successfully blaming Congress for the shut-down. The same thing, I suspect, is going on here. Obama and the others are out to score political points. What Pressident Bush actually meant is barely relevant.

Party Like it’s 1992

Was in which Barack Obama’s campaign imitates or echoes that of Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992:

1. “The Man from Hope” and “The Audacity of Hope.”

2. A “New Democrat” and “A different kind of politician.”

3. “The worst economy in fifty years” and “our economy is in recession” (If we’re lucky the economy will be growing at 4% annually by the last quarter of this year, as it did in 1992, but I’m not holding my breath.)

4. In 1988 Clinton put himself on the map with his speech at the Democratic Convention in 1988 (even if he was not praised for it, it did get his name out there). Obama’s star began to rise with his speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004.

5. Sister Souljah and Rev. Wright?

There are many others. Discuss.

The Right to Wife

Having begun to read the decision of the California State Supreme Court denying the right of the people of California to define marriage as it has traditionally been defined, and holding that homosexuals have the "right to marry," I am finding a few interesting things.

The first is the question of what to call the ruling. Most commentaries I have seen, describe it as “guaranteeing the right of homosexuals to marry,” or something like that. But why is that more correct than to cast it as a denial of the right of the people to make certain kinds of laws? Similarly, one news radio station said that those who disagree with the decision want to (I paraphrase from memory), "put a law in the constitution that denies gays the right to marry." Could they not have said that they supporters of the amendment "want to overturn the ruiling, by puttin language in the constitution saying that the Court had misinterpreted the relevant part of the state constitution"?

Moreover, some of the exact wording of the ruling raises further questions. Consider the following:

The constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process. These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish — with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life — an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage.

That language is suggestive. Taken literally, it means that the people of California may not do away with marriage altogether. After all, what does a “right to marry” imply, if not that there must be marriage. I suspect that the Court would, in fact, allow the people of California to do away with marriage altogether if they choose. If that is the case, however, in what sense is marriage a right? Why did not Court not say what it meant?

If, on the other hand, we believe that the Court said exactly what it meant, it raises interesting questions. If there is a right to marry, it means that there are limits to what “marriage” might be. After all, it would be absurd to say that the government must do something, and then declare that the definition of that “right” means whatever people wanted it to mean. Using the sound “horse” to describe a pig does not change the reality of the thing. So too must it be with rights if they are not to become arbitrary.

But how does the Court define marriage? And why does it do so? The Court’s definition (or at least the opinion of the majority) seems to be “most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish — with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life — an officially recognized and protected family.” What is the basis for that definition? Why does the Court hold that there must be official recognition and protection of families at all? Can one answer such questions without believing that certain institutions are natural among men?

In the eighteenth century, many Enlightened thinkers, men like Franklin, Jefferson, Voltaire, and others, believed that it was wise to accept whatever all religions accepted as true, or at least necessary in human life, and to doubt the rest. If one applies a similar principle to marriage, one would find that it has been, always and everywhere, an institution or perhaps status, that varies a great deal, but always has featured both men and women. A more classic, teleological understanding of nature would yield a similar conclusion, though by a somewhat different path.

A supporter of the Court’s position might reply that if people are inclined to members of their own sex, it is unfair to exclude them from marriages with people they want to be with. To make that argument, however, is to make an argument based upon a different understanding of nature–it is nature reduced to biological urges. Upon that basis, however, there cannot be a right to marry. There can only be a right to marry if an institution like marriage is, in fact, natural among men. But can gay marriage be natural in that sense of the term?

California same-sex marriage

Here are the NYT story and the NYT political analysis.

Here’s the opinion. I’ll have more to say when I read the whole opinion, but will note a couple of things at the outset. First, it seems that the California Supreme Court has accepted the analogy between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage. Does this mean that any moral opinion opposed to same-sex marriage (or to homosexuality in general) is equivalent to a racial prejudice?

Second, the Court frames the issue in terms of whether the name "marriage" can be reserved to the union of a male and a female in a state where there are already substantial protections for domestic partnerships. It would be a different question, the majority says, if the domestic partnership legislation didn’t already exist. If other courts follow this logic, then there is a slippery legal slope from domestic partnership to same-sex marriage. The "moderate" position--accepting domestic partnerships but opposing same-sex marriage--would be untenable. For some, it might be serviceable as a political fig leaf, covering up a far-reaching agenda. For others, it would be an illusion, based upon the (mistaken) assumption that providing legal protection without the "Good Housekeeping" seal of (public moral) approval is possible. Folks who respond to appeals to their compassion even as they wish to hold onto their moral judgments would find that they can’t have it both ways. A possible consequence is less public willingness to accept the middle ground shown in this case to be untenable. There’s no ground on which a middle position can be based: for those who favor traditional marriage, the options are either victory or surrender.

This is ironic

The University of Chicago plans to house a new Milton Friedman Institute in a building currently occupied by the Chicago Theological Seminary. Here’s what’s happening to CTS, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

My snark: the old facility will in some ways continue to be devoted to matters of faith and social justice.

The GOP’s future

Just in case there is room out there for Republican optimism, along comes David Forte to remind us that there probably is no room for it. This reminds me of Hungarian pessimism. Two Hungarian comrades meet on a street corner in the mid-eighties: Well comrade, how are things with you? Humph, says the other, the situation is hopeless, but not yet bad.

Why Hillary stays in

A reader e-mailed this to me, thought it worth passing along:
"I think all this speculation about why Hillary stays in misses what she is ultimately about--making it more difficult for Obama to pick anyone but a woman for his VP--Sibelius of Kansas, maybe Napolitano of AZ, or MO’s senator; surely not herself, that would be impossible for Obama, and she knows it. Thus, it would be a sign of the feminization of the party.

Of course this is not a disinterested act of feminist statesmanship. Such a black-female ticket would prove too exotic for America and surely be defeated. But the female VP would pave the way for a female nominee in four years. It would increase that longing.

So such a move is wonderful Machiavellian statesmanship; fortune is no longer a woman; necessity is."

Essay question

The writer of this Newsweek piece on Carly Fiorina notes, as many have, "the continuing realignment of the educated and wealthy toward the Democrats."

Why is that? Are cultural issues more important to them than their pocketbooks? (What, in other words, is the matter with the Hamptons?) Are Republican policies bad for their pocketbooks? Are allegedly pro-business policies bad for their pocketbooks, either because they’re not really pro-business or because the business in which those who are realigning doesn’t require a "pro-business" environment in which to prosper? Have I left any possibilities out?



Barack Obama’s Kentucky radio ads somewhat misleadingly feature his faith, implying, for example, that his Christianity initially led him to his community work in Chicago. Not quite: the social activism that he shared with Trinity UCC led him into that sanctuary.

There’s a risk here, of course, since I’m betting that the ads aren’t running on "urban" stations. Will the ads remind people of the values preached from the pulpit at his church? Anyone out there going to help folks connect the dots?

The Rest of the Tories

A few days ago, Mark Levin had an interesting post on The Corner about Davod Brooks’ recent column on conservatism in America. Brooks writes:

For years, American and British politics were in sync. Reagan came in roughly the same time as Thatcher, and Clinton’s Third Way approach mirrored Blair’s. But the British conservatives never had a Gingrich revolution in the 1990s or the Bush victories thereafter. They got their losing in early, and, in the wilderness, they rethought modern conservatism while their American counterparts were clinging to power.

Today, British conservatives are on the way up, while American conservatives are on the way down. British conservatives have moved beyond Thatcherism, while American conservatives pine for another Reagan. The British Conservative Party enjoyed a series of stunning victories in local elections last week, while polls show American voters thoroughly rejecting the Republican brand.

The flow of ideas has changed direction. It used to be that American conservatives shaped British political thinking. Now the influence is going the other way.

And he continues:
The British conservative renovation begins with this insight: The central political debate of the 20th century was over the role of government. The right stood for individual freedom while the left stood for extending the role of the state. But the central debate of the 21st century is over quality of life. In this new debate, it is necessary but insufficient to talk about individual freedom. Political leaders have to also talk about, as one Tory politician put it, “the whole way we live our lives.”

Levin does not have much taste for the idea that America’s conservatives should follow a somewhat squishy Tory Conservatism.

Conservatives are a much more sophisticated lot than Brooks gives them credit for. Conservatism isn’t only about individualism, although it is rightly a critical element of ordered liberty. But it isn’t about "creating 4,200 more health visitors," either. Brooks wants conservatives to mimic the ways of the Tory, the latter having made significant recent gains in British local elections. In other words, he looks to Europe much the same way the American Left does, although he may no doubt argue he looks there for a different direction than socialism.

Two comments. What, exactly, does Brooks think is original with the Tories? How exactly does it differ from President Bush’s "Compassionate Conservatism"? Perhaps, with its occasional efforts to put individual choice into big government (health savings accounts, etc.), Compassionate conservatism adds a bit of Gingrich’s idea of moving "from a welfare state to an opportunity society" into the mix, but barely. (It is also important to note that, given the difference between political systems, Mrs. Thatcher had the legislature on her side in a way that President Reagan never did.)

Levin asks, "Does David Brooks understand conservatism? Has he read anything written by Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and scores of others whose thinking and writings have made the case for the civilized society?"

I find that comment amusing, given that Levin complains that Brooks "looks to Europe." Perhaps he would be on more solid ground if he had pointed to Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Adams, and the other founders to make his point.

P.S. Might one say that President Bush has invented John D. Rockefeller Republicanism: Evangelical Christianity, plus Big Government.

Yuval on Pinker’s Slanderous Bigotry

After reading Levin only one question remains: Is Steven clueless or evil? It’s not a very dignified choice. It’s easy to understand Yuval’s anger: The work of the Kass/Pellegrino Bioethics Council has been much more scientific and dignified than that of almost all of its allegedly scientific critics. (And I must add: I wish McCain could show he knew that.)

The Nuance of Barack Obama

Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Barack Obama this week for the Atlantic has generated a significant (if predictable) level of controversy. Some of the criticism of Obama has been fair and effective and some of it, probably, not so much. I will leave it to others to discuss the import of his statements as they apply to our relationship with Israel and why or why not Obama is an attractive candidate to Hamas. I will also leave aside the question of whether this is an indication that Obama is, in all essentials, more or less like Jimmy Carter. Others can and have addressed these questions with more authority.

What I want to address is the very revealing slip that Jennifer Rubin at the Commentary blog (linked above) notes, but does not elaborate. Barack Obama, in answering the question of whether he was "flummoxed" by the support of Hamas replied:

I wasn’t flummoxed. I think what is going on there is the same reason why there are some suspicions of me in the Jewish community. Look, we don’t do nuance well in politics and especially don’t do it well on Middle East policy. We look at things as black and white, and not gray. [emphasis mine]It’s conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, “This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he’s not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,” and that’s something they’re hopeful about. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate perception as long as they’re not confused about my unyielding support for Israel’s security.
Rubin scoffs (and I share in her scoffing) at the notion that the leader of Hamas was only expressing his admiration for Barack Obama’s "oh so subtle and nuanced" reading of the politics of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But I’d add that the more Obama talks, the more he reveals of his contempt for the American people. "We don’t do nuance well," he tells us. Of course, we don’t. That’s why we need a clever and sophisticated and impossibly brilliant man like Barack Obama to do it for us. We’re probably all too bitter and too stupid . . . clinging to our guns and to our God and all. Indeed, it’s interesting that Barack Obama did not even feel compelled to visit the state of West Virginia yesterday, isn’t it? They probably don’t "do nuance" very well down in those parts either. But they sure know how to send a clear message, I’d say.

Arnhart on Shallow Steven (Pinker)

Larry shows that he’s the best of the Darwinians--because he knows a lot about political philosophy and the Bible--and adds some subtle comments on the evolution of Leon Kass’s thought. He also reveals that he eats his ice cream at home.

Random Observations

1. I’ve gotten a couple of tough private emails complaining that I wasn’t tougher on Pinker below. The sociobiologist was obviously ignorantly rude to Leon Kass, and there’s considerable evidence that he didn’t read most of the book he was reviewing. Pinker, despite his best-sellerhood as a popularizing scientist, obviously isn’t really in Kass’s or even Darwinian Larry’s league. Well, I agree with all that and more. But perhaps I’m too used to the sociobiologists being ignorantly rude to me (remember Larry calling me a gnostic existentialist Heideggerian just like Hitler or something like that), and I’ve stated my firm opinion about the invincible limits (or obtuseness) of sociobiology many times before. Because I’m a lover, not a fighter (not to mention a uniter, not a divider), I was reaching out to highlight a point of (very qualified and even ironic) agreement with Pinker. Although I think evolution happened (although I also agree with Tom Wolfe on its declining significance in explaining human behavior), I find Pinker (and even Darwin) of very limited (although real) use in understanding human nature.

2. The significance of Hillary’s huge win in WV: It might mean that Obama will have a hard time carrying WV in November. Or it might not, as Joe points out below. McCain didn’t fare any better among the Republicans of the "almost heaven" state.

3. The significance of the special House election in Mississippi yesterday, when considered with the other recent ones in IL and LA: HUGE!

Natural resources and the culture wars

Patrick Deneen raises some interesting questions. Here’s his conclusion:

What may be most productive in coming years is to stop calling this cadre of economic libertarians - what we now call "the Right" or even conservatism - conservatives. There is nothing they want to conserve - nothing in the natural or moral ecology. They are rapacious exploiters who want to use every last natural and cultural reservoir for their own immediate profit - even at the price of leaving nothing for their children. Recall, it was Dick Cheney who said "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis all by itself for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

Soon, if not soon enough, I predict, there will be a party of conservatives and a party of "live now’ers." Live now’ers have original sin on their side, and are likely to win a lot of votes until it’s clear that the grasshopper was wrong and the ant was right. Then they will tell us it’s time to get the guns. Are you sure that’s the side you want to be on?

Read the whole thing.

Neural Buddhism?

David Brooks reflects on the evolution (if I can be permitted to use that word) of neuroscience. A snippet:

If you survey the literature (and I’d recommend books by Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion.

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.


In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day.

I’m in the middle of reading C.S. Lewis with my son--we’ve gone from Screwtape to The Abolition of Man and are now in That Hideous Strength. It strikes me that Lewis provides some resources not only for responding to the more aggressively materialist atheists but also to Brooks’s "neural Buddhists."

Save the Secret Ballot

And other reasons why this election might be significant. Mickey Kaus point us to a good bit of reporting in Reason magazine which discusses Union efforts to
end the secret ballot for Unionization votes, and other issues that might be on the table in 2009:

What’s the Employee Free Choice Act? If you aren’t a lobbyist in Washington, a union worker, or an employer nervously trying to prevent your staff from organizing, you might not have followed the twisty history of the latest attempt to increase private-sector unionization. “Card check,” as it is usually known, would allow employees at a company to bypass secret-ballot elections and declare their intent to unionize by simply signing cards. If adopted, it could portend the most revolutionary change to labor law since the 1940s.

The battle over card check is part of a much larger story of Campaign ’08: the coming-out party of Democratic interest groups. For the first time since 1992, Democrats are eyeing complete control of the executive and legislative branches, with all of the spoils of appointment and legislative scheduling that would entail. Unions want to grow their numbers. Green industries want tax incentives. Trial lawyers want a ceasefire in the war on torts. . . .

Will happy days be here again in 2009?

Clinton, Huckabee win W. Va.

You read that right. Of course, the Republican caucuses were three months ago. John McCain got 12 votes; Huckabee beat him by a 47-1 margin, somewhat more pronounced than Clinton’s 2-1 drubbing of Obama. Just goes to show you that states resembling Arkansas--which Huckabee and Clinton both can win--vote for folks with Arkansas connections.

Superdelegates and representation

Joe Knippenberg thinks that this extended primary season gives us the "opportunity to think through and learn about our peculiar form (or forms) of democratic republicanism." In this op-ed he considers the purpose of "superdelegates", and what the federalist and the the anti-federalist notion of representation has to do with encouraging deliberation, and how the current Democratic Party might not understand it all.    

Evangelical and Catholics together

John Hagee--compared by some to Jeremiah Wright--has apparently apologized for his anti-Catholic remarks. Catholic League President Bill Donohue has accepted the apology. You can read more here, here, here, here, and here.

When Compassion is Too Easy

Roger Kimball writes with pith and wit about the all-too-earnest and all-too-easy compassion that (sadly) characterizes much of the talk surrounding disaster relief for Myanmar. A taste: The numbers, of course, are pure fabrications, so let me speculate that 10,000,000 will die unless you wring your hands and loudly tell the world how much you care–before, of course, you sit down for dinner tonight with the wife and kids and talk about your plans for the weekend.

Kimball argues that it is neither genuine nor morally superior to have real concern for people so far removed from your real sphere of influence. It’s not wrong, of course, to feel moved to action in the wake of such horrific events. But Kimball is probably right that guilt-inducing pleas for help to folks who are doing their level-best to be good and charitable in their daily lives (very often from folks who, well . . . are not) is more than a little off-putting.

Some Potential Cracks

. . . in the glacier-like movement of the debate over school choice can be found here from former D.C. mayor, Marion Barry (H/T: K-Lo at the Corner) and perhaps also here from Bill Bennett. Unusual bed-fellows? Yes. But sometimes this indicates potential for real movement on an issue.

Of course, Barry’s support for school-choice comes with a price tag: $74 million from the federal government for the 2009 school year. He says he would oppose the vouchers and scholarships if they "took money away" from public schools. So, it’s not perfect support for the principle, but it is--at least--a stronger admission of the problem and the potential for vouchers to address it.

Bennett’s point is less about school choice than it is about the decline in Catholic schools--stemming mainly from rising costs. As a result, they’re becoming something other than religious in their focus. This is a fair point, in my experience. These schools are getting so expensive (roughly $5K a year in my area) that they are becoming more like ordinary private or prep-schools--an accoutrement of the rich. And, because there are fewer religious on hand to man such operations (and this contributes to the cost), there is also little in place to counter the negative effects of such a change.

As costs rise in these schools, it’s not only those on the poorer end of the spectrum who begin to wonder if the sacrifice is worth it. As Bennett notes, parents begin to weigh questions such as value. One expects to get something more than the ordinary for $5K. And if it’s not religion and morals, then what is it? A higher quality education? Perhaps. But now that’s going to cost you. I think we may discover that religious education and high quality education are, in most instances, inexorably linked. In other words, as religion exits the religious schools there may be little there left to recommend them.

Immigrant Assimilation

This new study from the Manhattan Institute, "Measuring Immigrant Assimilation in the United States," looks to be serious. I have printed the PDF version, and will look at it (next week). There will be much to think through and argue over, no doubt. This is the Washington Post story on it.

Read this book

If you can. Here’s the Amazon page and here’s the author’s webpage (appropriately without bells and whistles).

Update: Our friend Jon Schaff discovers that Bauerlein’s book has a website. Apparently he’s not a Luddite or even a neo-Luddite.

Get yourself reeducated

Become a Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy. Any takers?

Update: But don’t expect an honorary degree.

Sociobiology vs. Dignity

Pinker writes a very lively and smart criticism of the Bioethics Council’s book on dignity. There’s even a lot I agree with, especially his last paragraph. I do think there’s a tendency among some conservative bioethicists to worry too much about the real coming of the Brave New World. But I don’t think that tendency comes from any specifically Cathoic influence, but from the untrue thought that Nietzsche’s "last man" (which like the Brave New World only exists in a book) could become real. Sociobiologists (including even our buddy Darwinian Larry) sometimes have the merit of reminding us of how modest our techno-victories over nature have been and are likely to be. Pinker does seem blind to the fact that the authors in the book with religious influences and even from religious colleges really disagree with each other. His most charmingly naive thought is that the reduction in cruelty and increase in freedom that we find in recent centuries has some evolutionary cause. I even doubt that, when you closely, that you will really see that the amount of cruelty in the world has diminished. AND: Can a sociobiologist really explain the behavior of hyper-liberated individuals in Western Europe and even in our country as good for the future of our species?

No Left Turns Mug Drawing for April

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Beth Ashbrook

Kara Biltz

Steven Elrod

Hal Borowiak

Deborah Lawing

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 May’s drawing.

Will Questions McCain’s Prudence

George may not be being entirely fair here, but he’s right that these questions all do address the issue of Mac’s likely executive competence. Very reasonable people are raising them, and they need to be addressed before the campaign really starts.

Is Mac too ready to go to war with Iran? (And, at this point, with what army?) Will he be too ready, more generally, to pursue a "rogue-state rollback"? Does he have a realistic view of what success in Iraq could reasonably mean at this point? Does he really know what judicial review is? Is he too ready to spend billions of dollars in questionable or even counter-productive ways to fight global warming? Does he really want to criminalize Wall Street greed? And how, exactly, is that greed distinguished from "the socially useful pursuit of personal gain?" Doesn’t he realize yet that taxpayer funding of campaigns is a terrible idea? All in all, is the honorable man too moralistic or self-righteous to be consistently and authentically prudent? I don’t have all the answers. Divide up into small groups and discuss.


Anti-Green Britain

This is good news: More than seven in ten British voters "insist that they would not be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund projects to combat climate change, according to a new poll. The survey also reveals that most Britons believe 'green' taxes on 4x4s, plastic bags and other consumer goods have been imposed to raise cash rather than change our behaviour, while two-thirds of Britons think the entire green agenda has been hijacked as a ploy to increase taxes."
Categories > Environment

The Actual Cost of a 23-cent Pizza

Last Thursday Papa John’s stores in Ohio offered pizzas for 23 cents, the chain’s way of apologizing for the actions of one franchisee who had the temerity to distribute a t-shirt that contained an unflattering statement about a certain local sports hero.

As you’d expect for a deal like this, people flocked to Papa John’s stores, forming long lines so that people waited on average between two and three hours to get their apparently cheap pizza. Of course, that means that the pizza didn’t really cost 23 cents--it cost 23 cents plus whatever the people who bought it thought that two to three hours of their time was worth. It would appear that those who went running to Papa John’s stores last Thursday estimated the value of their time at something less than four dollars per hour. Will someone please explain to me, then, why the minimum wage in Ohio is $7.00?

The Obama puzzle

Our friend Jon Schaff assembles some of the pieces, including this invaluable John Kass piece on the disconect between the Obama-as-reformer narrative and the reality of Obama’s silence in the face of the tawdriness of the Chicago politics with which he is intimately connected. Where, one might ask, are the investigations of David Axelrod’s career in Chicago politics?

Jon also calls attention to Stanley Kurtz’s account of the collected trumpetings of Jeremiah Wright, a public record of the views Obama can’t claim to have missed or slept through in the pews of Trinity United Church of Christ. Perhaps he didn’t read the Trumpet or hear the sermons, but then what was he doing affiliated with that church?

Zakaria’s book

Josef Joffe reviews Farred Zakaria’s The Post-American World and explains that in fact it is not another exercise in declinism. His point is not the demise of Gulliver, but the "rise of the rest." Joffe calls it intelligent. I have started reading it and, so far, I agree. Happy Mother’s Day, by the way.

Obama liberalism problem

This Los Angeles Times story, partly based on a Pew Study, claims that Democratic strategists look at Obama’s challenges, they conclude that his liberalism and elitism are the issue, rather than race. I would only add to this that although Obama has not yet been stained by Chicago’s grime, it doesn’t mean that it has gone away.

Obama’s problem with white working-class voters

It’s their racism, says Alan Abramowitz.

He doesn’t consider the possibility that it’s their social conservatism, which is to say their religion. Or perhaps their anti-elitism.

He does note that John Kerry had a similar problem with white working-class voters (that was what was the matter with Kansas, after all). You can’t explain that by means of race. So why bring it up now?

Churchill’s first day as PM

Winston was asked to form a government on May 10, 1940. He later wrote: "I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial."
John Lukacs, who is often thoughtful, has a new book out: Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning: Churchills First Speech as Prime Minister. Winston’s first speech to the House was on May 13 and I salute him for all the he said and did to save civilization. His life should remind us to never flinch, never weary, never despair.

These Are The Golden Days for Clintonphobics

I’m glad it ended this way. It could have ended differently. Hillary could have lost the New Hampshire primary five days after finishing third in the Iowa caucuses. Within one week of actual voters getting their say, her candidacy would have gone from inevitable to untenable.

Instead, she pulled off a surprise victory and lived to fight the next battle. She went on to interrupt her downward trajectory with other victories – Super Tuesday, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. After each one I despaired. Perhaps there really was no escape from a second Clinton presidency.

Now that I can exhale, I’m happy her repudiation was protracted rather than swift. Think of everything we would have missed if Hillary’s campaign had ended in January. We couldn’t have watched her go from being entitled to embattled to embittered to unhinged. We never would have learned the breathless details of the daring commando raid carried out by the Lioness of Tuzla. We would have been deprived of the spectacle of this graduate of Wellesley and Yale, whose family raked in $100 million over the past seven years, channeling George Wallace. Nor would we have seen the woman praised by her husband for having a “responsibility gene” boast that not a single economist endorsed her gas tax holiday, or claim that she had a plan to litigate OPEC out of existence.

Her defeat, of course, is their defeat. Finally, conservatives get two for the price of one. We’ve watched the trickle of liberal commentators who sign off on every mean and derogatory thing conservatives said about Bill and Hillary in the 1990s become an avalanche. His reputation is permanently, thoroughly diminished among the academics and journalists who will determine his legacy. And he did it for nothing. She lost.

Now that the Clintonian epoch is behind us, we need no longer be forced to ponder their grotesque and incomprehensible marriage. Emily Yoffe of Slate watched Bill as he stood behind Hillary in Indiana after Tuesday’s debacle, and imagined him thinking, “Hill, you haven’t got it. I’ve got it, and you haven’t, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Hill, guess what, all those years you sacrificed for my career – well, it turns out I wasn’t holding you back. You’re only on this stage because of me, and even so, now that it’s your turn and you had everything in your favor – Hill, you just haven’t got it. And let’s face it, Obama, he’s got it.”

Better still, the Clinton tenacity is a gift that keeps on giving. We’re now in the Wylie Coyote phase of the campaign, where she insists that if she keeps pumping her legs and doesn’t look down, she can run past the edge of the cliff as far as she likes. Coming soon to YouTube, Hillary’s press conference outside Obama’s inaugural ball, demanding to know why he can’t close the deal. It’s an amazing journey – from Eleanor Roosevelt to Harold Stassen in five excruciating, wonderful months.

Bunker Hillary

Mrs. Clinton’s latest comments, suggesting that Mr. Obama is the candidate of blacks, not whites:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she told USA Today in an interview published yesterday.

She referred to an Associated Press story on Indiana and North Carolina exit polls "that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

Have angered and upset many. To me they suggest that Mrs. Clinton is battening down to be in for the long haul. On the other hand, her desperation might be the very thing that leads her to go too far, and forces her from the race. A few more such outbursts and she’ll not only be out of the race, but her reputation will be in tatters as well.

Update: I suppose one could say, don’t fire Mrs. Clinton until you can see the whites of her lies.

Affirmative Action Bureaucracy at Work

Hate and intimidation seem to be tools of the trade. I fear that the story of Keith John Sampson, a student and Janitor at IUPUI, reflects an attitude that is lamentably typical:

May 9, 2008 -- IN November, I was found guilty of "racial harassment" for reading a public-li brary book on a university campus.

The book was Todd Tucker’s "Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan I was reading it on break from my campus job as a janitor. The same book is in the university library.

Tucker recounts events of 1924, when the loathsome Klan was a dominant force in Indiana - until it went to South Bend to taunt the Irish Catholic students at the University of Notre Dame. . . .

But that didn’t stop the Affirmative Action Office of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis from branding me as a detestable Klansman.

They didn’t want to hear the truth. The office ruled that my "repeatedly reading the book . . . constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers." . . .

the $106,000-a-year affirmative-action officer who declared me guilty of "racial harassment" never spoke to me or examined the book. My own union - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - sent an obtuse shop steward to stifle my freedom to read. He told me, "You could be fired," that reading the book was "like bringing pornography to work."

Ultimately, after being pressured by the ACLU and FIRE, the school backed down.

Combine the self-righteousness of the racial grievance lobby with the cluelessness of a bureaucrat at work, and you have a nasty mix.

Some More Ideas

Larry Sabato, in a shameless attempt to boost his ratings, has hired a couple of distinguished guest columnists to plug VP possibilities for each party. Our friend Kathryn Lopez talks up Romney for McCain. Advantages, in my view: Romney brings class, executive competence, and needed policy wonkiness to the ticket. Disadvantage: Mac and Mitt really can’t stand each other; this wouldn’t be an AUTHENTIC ticket. Possible disadvantage: It would be a ticket with no Christians. This shouldn’t be an issue, and I’ve said time and again that being a Mormon makes Mitt more trustworthy in my eyes. Still, as a social scientist I have to say that this ticket might contribute to an already significant mobilization of the base problem. The problem might even be worse than that if some evangelicals continued to suckered by Obama’s pseudo-Christian preaching. I do agree with Kathryn that Mitt seems a lot more than 10 years younger than John, and I’ll add that he didn’t really get a fair hearing as a possible presidential nominee.

The political scientist Pomper suggests Senator Jim Webb for Obama. Advantages: The bobo Barack needs to be affirmed by a genuine warrior, and Webb might well be effectively savage in attacking the "Bush/McCain" handling of the war in Iraq. Disadvantage: Webb, to put it gently, might be thought not have the emotional stability required to be commander-in-chief. He also just got to the senate and all that. Still, interesting choice. Sam Nunn obviously would be better, though.

McCain’s judiciary revisited

Our friend RC2 has some worthwhile second thoughts on McCain’s speech. She’s right that appointing good judges is only a part of the solution. McCain may or may not be aware of the other part, but I don’t think he should necessarily telegraph his punch there. If he were campaigning to educate rather than to win, perhaps he should have said something, but why pick a fight before the fight can actually be consequential, when all it can do is give you bad press and hand your opponent a stick with which he’ll beat you from now until November?

I’m happy in my role as private citizen to say that the Court doesn’t have the final word on the constitutionality of a law, that Presidents and members of Congress are also entitled to their views about constitutionality, that a court’s declaration that a law is or isn’t constitutional shouldn’t necessarily prevent Congress from legislating or require the President to enforce, and so on. I make such arguments in the classroom all the time. But I’d rather make them in public on behalf of a President who is rightly resisting a wrong-heaed Supreme Court decision or a Congress that’s seeking to act despite a "respectable" (but not conclusive) body of opinion that the measure is, or that the Supreme Court would find that the measure is, unconstitutional.

Patience, patience.

The non-introspective left

Andy Busch explains that the Democratic nomination contest has become a "team sport" (voting blocs), hence the lack of concern about Wright and Ayers and argues that this explains a great deal about the left in America: no enemies on the left! A fine article, and I happen to agree with even the last paragraph that advises Republicans. Do read it.     

Obama on McCain on judges

Here’s Barack Obama’s response to John McCain’s constitutionalism. Now, it’s too much to ask a campaign war room to be thoughtful and nuanced, but notice the revealing emphases--"social and economic justice" and the role of judges to "fend for" "ordinary Americans." I don’t dispute the latter, when constitutional rights are involved, but the Obama campaign--unsurprisingly, of course--is curiously indifferent to that document.

And I can’t but note that the first thing mentioned is "a woman’s right to choose."

MOJ’s Rob Vischer offers a half-hearted defense of Obama, pointing to this account of this speech. I find his choice unfortunate, not because of the passage upon which he seizes (yes, judges are individuals, and some small percentage of cases will call for an equitable, rather than constitutional judgment), but because of these lines:

We know that five men don’t know better than women and their doctors what’s best for a woman’s health. We know that it’s about whether or not women have equal rights under the law. We know that a woman’s right to make a decision about how many children she wants to have and when—without government interference—is one of the most fundamental freedoms we have in this country.

The first line alludes to the absolutism of the health exception, an exception big enough to permit any abortionist to perform any abortion he or she wants. The third line endorses abortion as a form of birth control. No wonder this speech isn’t available on the campaign website; it’s too revealing.

Actually I can’t resist citing more chunks of this speech. Consider this one:

I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law. Not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality. Steve and Pam will tell you that we fought together in the Illinois State Senate against restrictive choice legislation—laws just like the federal abortion laws, the federal abortion bans that are cropping up.

Obama’s constitution is about maximizing freedom and equality, regardless of any qualifications or specifications its words might contain, and regardless of the responsibilities given the particular branches.

He elaborates this view here, in the passage quoted in the article on which Vischer relies:

I think the Constitution can be interpreted in so many ways. And one way is a cramped and narrow way in which the Constitution and the courts essentially become the rubber stamps of the powerful in society. And then there’s another vision of the court [sic] that says that the courts are the refuge of the powerless. Because oftentimes they can lose in the democratic back and forth. They may be locked out and prevented from fully participating in the democratic process. That’s one of the reasons I opposed Alito, you know, as well as Justice Roberts. When Roberts came up and everybody was saying, “You know, he’s very smart and he’s seems a very decent man and he loves his wife. [Laughter] You know, he’s good to his dog. [laughter] He’s so well qualified.”

I said, well look, that’s absolutely true and in most Supreme Court decis--, in the overwhelming number of Supreme Court decisions, that’s enough. Good intellect, you read the statute, you look at the case law and most of the time, the law’s pretty clear. Ninety-five percent of the time. Justice Ginsberg, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia they’re all gonna agree on the outcome.

But it’s those five percent of the cases that really count. And in those five percent of the cases, what you’ve got to look at is—what is in the justice’s heart. What’s their broader vision of what America should be. Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire but the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart—the empathy—to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old—and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges. Alright?

Shouldn’t the "broader vision of what America should be" be argued on the campaign trail and enacted in the legislative process, rather than argued on the campaign trail and imposed by judges?

For what it’s worth, Rick Garnett responds to Vischer’s argument in ways similar to what I just proposed. I’d say great minds think alike, but I’d be only half right.

Limbaugh getting in Obama’s head?

The Obama campaign is basically blaming Rush Limbaugh for their defeat in Indiana. Malicious crossover voters--a term used by former Georgia Congresswoman and light heavyweight boxing champion Cynthia McKinney to explain one of her primary defeats--handed Indiana to Clinton. Henceforth only those pure of heart may vote in Democratic primaries. There will be psychological screening at the door.

Linker on evangelical idolatry and purism

Damon Linker indulges himself in a long book review, in which he joins the author in criticizing conservative evangelicals for their overfond embrace of George W. Bush’s America but parts company with him on the apparently all-too-Augustinian (I’d almost say Hauerwasian) standpoint from which he makes the criticism. There’s a certain sobriety in Linker’s argument, but it’s available to Augustinian evangelicals (and, I hasten to argue, Catholics) as well as to the theological liberals and secularists with whom he now keeps company.

Regulatory Bureaucracy At Work

From yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:


Dave Eck, a Half Moon Bay mechanic, had attracted a media spotlight with his fleet of vehicles fueled by used fryer grease from a local chowder house. So when Sacramento called, he figured officials wanted advice on promoting alternative fuels.

Not at all. The government rang to notify Eck that he was a tax cheat. He was scolded for failing to get a "diesel fuel supplier’s license," reporting quarterly how many gallons of grease he burns, and paying a tax on each gallon.

All of a sudden they nailed me for a road tax," said Eck, who drives a Hummer converted to run on vegetable oil. "I said, ’Not a problem. I’ll do my part. But what do I get? At least let me into the carpool lane.’ "

No such luck. The state offered Eck only a potentially large fine -- and not just for failing to pay taxes. He can also get in trouble for carting kitchen grease away from eateries without a license from the state Meat and Poultry Inspection Branch.

Or for not having at least $1 million in liability insurance, in case he spills some of the stuff. Or for not getting permission from the state Air Resources Board to burn fat in the first place.

The regulations are so burdensome that even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, trying to set an example for Californians by driving a Hummer that burns cooking oil he buys at Costco, had not complied. Schwarzenegger . . . was unaware that he was required to send Sacramento an 18-cent road tax for every gallon of kitchen oil he burned, according to spokesman Aaron McLear. After The Times raised the issue, McLear said the governor would pay the taxes he owed.

Liberal Education in The New Criterion

The May issue of The New Criterion is devoted to liberal education, with articles by Roger Kimball, Victor Davis Hanson, and James Piereson, among others.

The New Democratic Coalition

According to Paul Begala it is "eggheads and African-Americans." Moreover, it is a coalition with which--he asserts--they cannot win. (H/T: Hugh Hewitt) Read the whole transcript from Begala’s exchange with Donna Brazile. Geez . . . talk about bitter!

Huffing and Puffing

John Stossel deconstructs Ariana Huffington’s assertion that she converted to Liberalism because after working with conservatives for so long, she was finally confronted with "the facts." The problem is that Huffington doesn’t really fare so well when she’s confronted with real facts. Her response to them is to confront her interlocutor (Stossel) with a pile of incoherent feelings. In the end, not even Huffington can dance around her inconsistencies, admitting,

"There is no question that the fact that I’m living in a big house, I occasionally travel on private planes -- all those things are contradictions. I’m not setting myself up as some paragon who only goes around on a bicycle."

Yet Huffington has set herself atop a burgeoning Liberal empire as Queen of The Huffington Post. As Stossel points out, in just three years the site has become one of the most discussed and viewed in Liberal circles. And we are surprised because . . .?

You Call it Rationalization, We call it Nature

A friend sent me this story about why conservatives are more happy than liberals.

Individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners, and new research pinpoints the reason: Conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities.

Regardless of marital status, income or church attendance, right-wing individuals reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than left-wingers, the new study found. Conservatives also scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person’s tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities.

The rationalization measure included statements such as: "It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others," and "This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are."

To justify economic inequalities, a person could support the idea of meritocracy, in which people supposedly move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one’s social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be perceived as totally fair and justified.

A conservative perspective on this phenomenon might be that it is not healthy to hope that the world can be other than it is. The hope for change, understood as change in the strong sense--the desire to purge the world of tragedy--causes unhappiness. Oh the irony!

Evangelical Manifesto revisited and revealed

Here’s the website. Will all heaven break loose?

What happened yesterday

Jay Cost explains. I’d add that parts of northern Indiana are in the Chicago media market, which ought to have helped Obama.

Of course, the bottom line is that Clinton underperformed in the expectations game, and the bottomest line is that even an overperformance on her part probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the final outcome.

Class warfare in the friendly skies

Our frequent flying friend Jerry Weinberger muses about class consciousness on airplanes. He strikes me as almost a Marxist, albeit of the Groucho variety.

Walkin’ from New Orleans?

NLT readers who are members of the American Political Science Association may be aware that our professional association is entertaining a couple of proposals regarding the siting of meetings. In a nutshell, there are some--many?--in the profession who say they’re worried that "states with Constitutional restrictions on rights afforded recognized same-sex unions and partnerships may create an unwelcoming environment for our members in cities where we might meet."

If you’re interested in the proposals, you can go to this page, which provides a plethora of information. There’s even a comment box, in which I wrote the following:

Both proposals indicate a certain level of hostility to states in which there is exclusive public support for traditional marriage. I don’t think that the APSA should be in the business of taking sides in a political dispute, using its prestige and business clout to punish states and localities whose citizens don’t share the views held-rather intensely-by some portion of the APSA membership. If the Association goes down this path, I can foresee other efforts to take political stands. Will we refuse to convene in states whose citizens passed referenda prohibiting affirmative action? Will there be a move to stay out of states that use lotteries to prey on the gullibility of lower income citizens? Or should the Supreme Court at some point overrule ROE, will some of my colleagues press the APSA to refuse to convene in states that choose to restrict access to abortion?

At some point we cease being a professional association that welcomes and includes the variety of points of view that members hold and become a mere interest group. Both proposals represent an ill-advised step in that direction.

I fully expect the APSA to adopt one of the two proposals, which would make it difficult (albeit perhaps not impossible) to hold a meeting in the vast majority of states. But, unlike at least some of my colleagues, I won’t thereby be deterred from entering precincts that would constitute an "unwelcoming environment" for someone who holds my views.

For the moment, I’ll just enjoy considering what would happen if regional and state associations followed the lead of the national association. Imagine a Southern or Georgia Political Science Association Annual Meeting held in New York or Boston!

Yuval Likes Bobby for VP (Maybe)

Levin dissents from the chorus of conservatives who say Jindal isn’t ready. He, Yuval observes, is "moderately experienced," and that’s better than Obama. His lack of foreign policy experience is no big deal, given Mac’s expertise. And his impressive HHS experience makes him strong where McCain is weak. The real argument against Bobby seems to be something like this: McCain has very little chance of winning; Jindal’s great talents will be wasted in a futile campaign, and gone will the the opportunity for him to display his magnificient, incorrptible excellence by transforming LA. The Republicans have so little young talent that Bobby should be saved for a more promising appearance on the national stage later. We also can’t be sure he’s really ready for prime time; it’s asking too much to put him on the national ticket so soon. To which somone might respond: This is a very important election! Very ideological Democrats are bound to get an iron grip on both the presidency and Congress! Even if the ticket loses, Bobby will be in a position to be the prez nominee next time. Anyway, who else we got?! Desperate or semi-desperate times require the audacity of hope!

Fred Likes the Long Campaign

Barnes does well in explaining why the slow road to picking the Democratic nominee has taught us much we wouldn’t know otherwise about the two candidates. It has also may have provided the party leaders with a genuine role in selecting the nominee, if they chose to exercise it. This race has similarities to the last couple under the "mixed" nominating system (some delegates selected by primaries, others selected by party leaders in the states)--the Republican contest of 1964 and the Democrat one in 1968. In both of those cases, the June California primary was crucial. CA made the Goldwater nomination inevitable and, in my opinion, would have made Robert Kennedy’s nomination very likely [We’ll never know, of course]. I also remember CA in those days was decisive because it was winner-take-all. Under the Democrats’ current scheme of hyper-proportional representation, the close CA result in the Goldwater and Kennedy cases would have been utterly inconclusive.

2. Having said that, I really believe that the primaries/cacuses have ended up being conclusive this year for the Demos.
My bold prediction: The polls are more or less right. Clinton wins by 5 in IN and Obama by 8 in NC. Race over, for all practical purposes.

Two Cheers for McCain

From what at first glance--but only at first glance--would seem to be an unlikely source.

Here’s one of my favorite passages:

I don’t doubt that Hillary and Obama are patriots. I don’t even doubt that the upscale secularists who have taken over the Democratic Party are patriots; but theirs is a “soft” patriotism, a patriotism twice diluted, once with the waters of cosmopolitanism, and again with the waters of something tasting of pacifism. McCain, by contrast, is a “hard” patriot, not in the least a pacifist. But isn’t there a danger that a patriot of this stripe will prove to be a warmonger? Yes, some danger. But George Washington wasn’t a warmonger, and neither was Dwight Eisenhower, and neither, I think, is McCain. Retired warriors are willing to fight, but rarely do they yearn for another battle (think of Colin Powell).

Read the whole thing.

McCain’s judicial philosophy

John McCain is set to speak about his approach to the Constitution. The journalists will focus on the hot button issues that appeal to what the AP reporter is happy to call the "far right." (Is the expression "far left" in her lexicon, and does it apply to groups like the ACLU and PFAW?) McCain will surely say (more than) a few words about these subjects, but will probably give voice also to this position (with which I’m quite happy when it comes to judging):

"It’s not social issues I care about. It’s the Constitution of the United States I care about."

We’ll see.

Update: Here’s the speech, with red meat for judicial conservatives but little for those who want Sen. McCain to embrace an activist social conservatism. To be sure, there’s criticism of the ethereal language of Griswold v. Connecticut and of the steel wool secularism of Michael Newdow, but amidst all the talk about upholding a limited Constitution, there’s nothing about amending it. I didn’t expect it and I’m not really disappointed, as I share Sen, McCain’s view that most of our debates ought to be conducted in the political arena.

If there’s anything "unusual" about the speech, it’s that the Justice whose views are closest to the spirit of Sen. McCain’s remarks is Antonin Scalia, about whom he is conspicuously silent. That’s probably the price to be paid for trying to continue to appeal to "independents," not because Scalia should be persona non grata to them, but because his quite reasonable views have for too long been caricatured by those who disagree with him.

For more on the speech, read Gerard V. Bradley and this NRO editorial.

An Evangelical Manifesto

Word is out that ome prominent evangelicals will engage in some prophetic witness about the prophetic witness in which some of their brethren have engaged.

Among the prominent signatories are (apparently) Rick Warren, Os Guinness, and Richard Mouw. Prominent non-signatories include a number of the usual suspects, like James C. Dobson, Richard Land, and Tony Perkins.

The manifesto has been embargoed until this Wednesday. I’m sure I’ll have something to say then.

The Wisdom of Franklin

From The Way to Wealth: "He that lives on hope will die fasting."

Two Observations

1. I’m glad to see Bill Kristol and our Julie getting on board with Bobby Jindal for VP. (And for a pithy and precise summary of his virtues for the ticket, see Ivan the K’s comment on Julie’s post.) My only reservation: I do remember that Bill (I flatter myself without any evidence) followed my lead in talking up Huck, but that didn’t work out so well. A member of my department--a moderate Democrat and no reader of NLT--came in this morning all excited about the McCain-Jindal ticket as a genuinely competent alternative to all-talk Barack. Bobby is young and, in a way, relatively inexperienced, but his young life is already full of stunning examples of his mastery of public policy and its implementation. I agree with Bill K. that choosing Bobby would quiet a variety of fears about the McCain administration. Besides (to repeat) the Republicans really have no one else--Pawlenty is solid but boring. It seems to me likely that Obama will generate some excitement and counter his obvious weaknesses by picking the ultra-competent Sam Nunn. McCain is toast if he doesn’t counter with a similar (and really better) move.

2. I suspect--again with no real facts--that tomorrow might be a good day for Obama. The reason: The expectations for Hillary have become too high. I don’t think she’ll win double-digit in IN or that NC will be particularly close. I also agree that she can become a viable candidate again only by winning both primaries.

Some of us don’t care

Here’s evidence that some faculty members don’t care about their students...or is it that they care too much?

The Caution that is Audacity

When is audacity the better part of caution? I think Bill Kristol knows. In his New York Times column today, he argues that McCain needs to demonstrate the kind of caution that requires audacity--not only in his veep choice, but also in the full on operation of his campaign. Kristol’s reflection comes from his talks with McCain staffers and, if his representations are--in fact--representative, it sounds like they know what they’re about. It’s well and good to watch your opponent set himself afire, but you’d better not assume he’s an ordinary bird when he might be a phoenix. The Arizonan McCain, who somewhat miraculously pulled his own feathers out of the fire, must know this. But it’s not just the general rule of thumb that one should never underestimate one’s opponent that should drive McCain’s campaign. As Kristol argues, at at time when there’s a 30% approval rating for a GOP President and when 80% of the voters think the country’s on the wrong track, overconfidence is not going to serve McCain well. And yet, perhaps the only thing more deadly in this situation is excessive caution. So what to do?

VP choices, in and of themselves, rarely mean anything substantive or representative for a campaign. That is unless, of course, it is a bad choice and it causes voters to question the judgment of the man at the top of the ticket. (As we’ve seen in the last few weeks; one has to be careful about the people with whom one associates in politics!) But even putting the Reverand Wright aside, this has been a campaign season in which almost every rule of thumb has been tossed out the window.

Kristol’s article has me thinking that in this year and for this election, perhaps especially in the case of McCain, it’s going to be very important to see who he selects to be his VP running mate. There are a whole host of reasons for this that are obvious: his age, his need to shore up the conservative base, his need to appeal to Reagan Dems, his need to bring energy to the campaign, etc. But more than all of this, it is going to be McCain’s next (and, if it’s not done well, maybe last) really big opportunity to set the tone for his campaign and define himself to voters. He will have a chance to make a case to voters about what kind of a Republican he is and what kind of energy he will bring to the campaign. Is he a clone of Bush, representing ties to an unpopular and troubled administration? Is he an establishment Republican, with an assortment of old stalwarts (or their clones) in his entourage? Is he an associate of overly zealous religious conservatives who (fairly or not) will invariably invite comparisons suggesting equivalence between themselves and Wright . . . or is there really something to his "maverick" reputation?

What does it mean for McCain to be a "maverick," anyway? Are his conservative critics right that he’s only a maverick when he’s going up against conservatives--or could they be missing something? Could it be that McCain sees himself more as a patriot trying to forge new and workable directions--a guy open to new ideas and to making things work in the best sense of the American tradition? We don’t have to agree with McCain’s self-perception to concede that it may, in fact, be his understanding of himself. Perhaps this caused him to butt heads with conservatives in the past . . . and perhaps (dare he say it?) in some of those instances, he turned out to be wrong. But could this be a different time? Could this be a time when a maverick is exactly what we need? Could this be a time when the "maverick" in him, instead of sizing up the next conservative opponent is now drawn to a fresh, young, reforming but conservative maverick in his own right? Could the caution that is audacity move McCain to be a real maverick and choose Bobby Jindal for his running mate? Could this pre-boomer and post-boomer ticket work the generational angle in such a way as to explain away much of the poor perception of the GOP that is the immediate (though I still say, not the lasting) legacy of last 8 years? I don’t know but I think . . . maybe. Anyway, it is the audacity of my hope.

Horse Race Blog

Before the Kentucky Derby, Hillary Clinton urged supporters to "go to the derby on Saturday and place just a little money on the filly for me."

For the record, Eight Belles finished second and was then euthanized.

The winner was Big Brown.

Heightening the Contradictions

What happens when Unions and Governments go Capitalist? We may soon find out. Today’s New York Post has a story about the various Presidential candidates’ plans for, on one hand, a gas tax holiday, and, on the other, a windfall profits tax on those very firms. There are, however, complications:

Democratic proposals to tax oil companies would wind up hurting the very blue-collar voters that Obama and Clinton are courting, Wall Street watchdogs say.

A new tax would drive down share prices - and take a nice chunk out of public-employee pension funds and mutual funds whose portfolios are flush with energy stocks, experts say. . . .

Obama opposes the gas-tax holiday but wants to sock oil companies with a windfall tax, to provide $1,000 tax credits for low-income families.

But those profits often keep the retirement plans of American families afloat.

About 54 percent of outstanding shares in ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil company, are held by institutional investors like TIAA-CREF, which provides retirement planning for more than 3 million people.

Other big Exxon investors include pension funds for California’s and New York’s state employees, each of which owns more than 20 million shares, and the New York State Teachers Retirement Fund, which owns 18 million shares.

Institutional investors hold even larger portions of other oil companies, including 84 percent of Conoco Phillips, 88 percent of Hess and 89 percent of Marathon.

Personally, I have long worried that the rise of giant public pension funds would be bad for the free market. It can’t be good for quasi-public entities like CALPERS to own large chunks of private corporations. In this instance, however, perhaps it might have a fringe benefit.

From the Alpha to the Omega

That many of us favor a liberal arts education should be clear to any browser of these pages. It therefore should not surprise that we would favor the study of Ancient Greek, even if we got to the study of it late, in my case in graduate school. I took an intensive Greek class one summer, worked like a dog on it--between reading Churchill, Lincoln, Shakespeare, and some basketball--but managed to flunk the final exam anyway (a translation of a page from Plato’s the trees right but failed to note the forest). The point is this: I knew the study of the thing is not useful (I also studied French, German, and other modern versions of logos), but thought it a good and beautiful thing anyway. I was right.

There has, for some four years now, been a push by the students at Ashland University to get the University to offer it again (as it did until thirty years ago). Yes, I said the students. These noble fellows, through their representative institution called the Student Senate, voted unanimously for at least three years running to request the faculty to re-institute the offering of Ancient Greek (and Latin). While the noble President and the Provost have argued in favor of the thing, the Spanish Department (I must say for reasons not so noble) has urged--and so far succeeded--and argued against it. The students have even conducted a 24 hour sit-in (the first here in decades), thinking that those faculty not being open to logos might be shamed into it. So far they are losing, but the polemos has not yet ended, so some are just learning the alphabet
on their own.

I’m now thinking that a more practical argument should have been used in favor of Ancient Greek. Just fifteen minutes ago I happened to see on CBS evening news--it was an accident that I watched it, never normally do--that the father (Stanley Johnson) of the recently elected Mayor of London (Boris Johnson) said that his son’s election was due entirely to his son’s classical education. After all, he said, "If you can master Ancient Greek, you can master anything." Thank you, Mr. Johnson. Kalos.

Rawls vs. Nozick

... is the choice that many professors of philosophy would stick us with. Shallow, abstract egalitarianism vs. shallow (well not as shallow), abstract libertarianism--some choice! Here’s the right choice, according to David Schaefer: Don’t bother with either of them! Neither talks about "human nature," by which David means real people and real human problems. When Berry students go to graduate school, they sometimes write me complaining: "Why didn’t you tell us about Rawls?" My only response: "I didn’t have the heart." My only question to David: If Rawls is shallow, boring, and not a very good writer, why have you written so many pages on him?

Intra-Democratic Partisanship and the Press

One fringe benefit of the long, drawn-out fight for the Democratic nomination is that it is forcing the press corps to describe the connection between the Democratic party and the media establishment, as the partisans of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama each try to undermine the credibility of other’s friends in the press.

Hence we have stories appearing like the one on the first page of today’s New York Times about the feud between the anchors of Sunday talkshows on NBC and ABC, Tim Russert and George Stephanopolous. When was the last time that the Times reminded its readers that both men were Democratic party operatives before moving to TV?

The Russert-Stephanopoulos duel presents an intriguing rivalry, with parallel paths to the top of Sunday television. Both went from politics, where they were aides to Democratic luminaries, to the pinnacle of broadcast news, as hosts of venerated public affairs programs.

. . .There is a lot of disagreement in the land about who’s been fair to whom,” said Dee Dee Myers, White House press secretary early in the Clinton administration. “So you’ll have Clinton people watching to see if she’s being treated fairly and Obama people watching to see if he’s being treated fairly. And neither side will feel like they’ve been treated fairly, no matter how fair those interviews turn out to be.”

Ms. Myers is one of many Washington insiders who straddle the media and government worlds. She worked with Mr. Stephanopoulos at the White House and has been a regular guest of Mr. Russert on “Meet the Press.”

. . .Schooled in politics by former bosses like Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, both New York Democrats, Mr. Russert took a Rose Garden approach to this article and declined to comment.

When the Liberal-Democratic press opposes Republicans and Conservatives, it is in their interest to deny the Liberalism of the press corps. But when two Liberals are fighting, each side wants to expose the other’s partisans. May the chaos continue.

Noonan’s embrace of bitterness

Peggy Noonan thinks that the bitterness conjured by Rev. Wright is unserious, a kind of entertainment, sort of like contemporary Irish music that rails against the British. Perhaps. But not too long ago some Irish-Americans were giving money to the IRA, which wasn’t using it to start book clubs.

Of course it’s true that our particular identities are bound up with our old grievances. If I have to choose between a particularity that conjures up anger based upon painful memories and a universality that takes nothing other than current enjoyment "seriously," I’ll choose the former. But among the other things we shouldn’t forget are the costs and consequences associated with those grievances, not to mention the reason we’d like to see accompanying them.

New Mayor of London

An odd and colorful character named Boris Johnson has been elected the mayor of London, the first Conservative ever elected to the post. More: "In the local elections, Labour lost more than 300 councillors and slumped to a humiliating third place behind the Liberal Democrats in the share of the vote – a full 20 points behind Mr Cameron’s Conservatives."

Oh Give me a Cave!

Ben Boychuk is on a roll this week. Over at RedBlueAmerica he brings our attention to this "new" idea for men: man caves or "Mantuaries." Never mind that "mantuary" sounds more like mortuary than sactuary . . . Ben’s laughing at the notion that people today seem to find something new in it. As he says, back in his day (Ben’s under 40 btw) men used to call these rooms . . . hold on now, what was it . . . oh, yes . . . "dens" or "basements." At my house, we call it a "garage" and it’s possible probable that I like its existence even better than my better half likes it. Of course, there’s a clinical psychologist weighing in for good measure. It really is likely that, in the last generation or so, we have made ourselves so willfully stupid about the nature of the differences between men and women and the relationships between them that we actually will have to reinvent the wheel. Funny thing . . . it turns out still to be round.

Religion and homosexuality on campus

A couple of years ago, some Georgia Tech students filed suit against the trade school--er, I mean great institution of higher learning--on North Avenue on a number of grounds. Well, a federal judge has issued what looks like his final ruling in this case. The two big findings deal with Tech’s "Safe Space" program (regarding GBLT students) and its administration of its student activities fee. The manual for the former contains a number of passages that appear to criticize religious groups that regard homosexuality as a sin. Turns out that that violates the First Amendment. Good for the judge, bad for Tech.

The administration of the student activities fee poses more complicated problems, partly because whoever the legally responsible parties are, the plaintiffs didn’t, in this case, sue them. The judge does give lots of free legal advice (yes, it’s all dicta, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong) to the folks at Tech (some of whom appear rather clueless when it comes to First Amendment speech and religion issues).

The bottom line: to the degree that this particular skirmish in the culture war implicates religious questions, the university as a public institution can’t take sides. Some people seem to think that this decision squelches debate, but there remain plenty of opportunities for GLBT students and supporters to promote their point of view. The only thing they can’t do is call in Big Brother to criticize their opponents on religious grounds.


...researchers have produced an ongoing study that shows they like a lot. "White," apparently, means completely unethnic. Despite my obvious pastiness, I’m not as white as I thought. Nonetheless, I’m as white as they come when it comes to #1 (coffee) and #57 (JUNO). The deconstruction of JUNO give by the analyst has caused me to reflect more deeply on the issue of whether the filmmakers successfully pandered to my inner whiteness.

Labour loses in England and Wales

The Labour Party has suffered its worst losses in local elections in 40 years. PM Brown is not happy.

Edwards should have stayed in race

Joe Trippi, John Edwards’ campaign manager, now says he regrets not telling Edwards to stay in the race:

"I didn’t tell him what I should have told him: That I had this feeling that if he stayed in the race he would win 300 or so delegates by Super Tuesday and have maybe a one-in-five chance of forcing a brokered convention. That there was a path ahead that would be extremely painful, but could very well put him and his causes at the top of the Democratic agenda. And that in politics anything can happen -- even the possibility that in an open convention with multiple ballots an embattled and exhausted party would turn to him as their nominee. I should have closed my eyes to the pain I saw around me on the campaign bus, including my own. I should have told him emphatically that he should stay in. My regret that I did not do so -- that I let John Edwards down -- grows with every day that the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continues."

Bill Moyers, Visionary and Martyr

Time magazine’s Joe Klein doesn’t devote much time to admiring conservatives, so it’s especially significant when he nails someone on the Left. His latest column is ostensibly about Jeremiah Wright, but its most interesting passages fillet Bill Moyers, “who seems to be spending the rest of his life over-atoning for his service as Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam spokesman . . .”

Klein sees the Jeremiah Wright controversy as “this year’s edition of a problem that has hurt the Democratic Party since the Vietnam era” – the Left’s fluency when talking about America’s deficiencies combined with its aphasia about America’s virtues. Moyers, for example, found Wright too complacently patriotic in their PBS interview. When the preacher noted that Americans have the freedom to make the kind of controversial political statements he favors, Moyers corrected him: “Well, you can be almost crucified for saying what you’ve said . . . in this country.” This, Klein says, is the “sort of thinking that helped make the Republicans the dominant party of the past 40 years.”

Moyers has spent four decades since leaving the Johnson administration fearlessly speaking truth to power. He single-handedly saved the nation from a junta, for example, when he warned America from the PBS studios on Election Night 2004 that “if Kerry were to win this in a — in a tight race, I think there’d be an effort to mount a coup, quite frankly. . . . I mean that the right wing is not going to accept it.”

For confronting the powerful and insidious right-wing conspiracy, Moyers has found himself all but crucified. His enemies have hounded him relentlessly, preventing him from exposing the ugly truth about their sinister plans by making him publisher of Newsday, and then a commentator on CBS and NBC television. His internal exile has also included a taxpayer supported platform on public television, and the presidency of a foundation, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. In the latter capacity he helped steer – from a family fortune built on the depredations of General Motors and IBM – nearly $11 million in 2006 to truth-telling allies. These included The American Prospect and Texas Observer magazines, and “Democracy Now,” which is the radio equivalent of “Bill Moyers Journal,” except that Amy Goodman doesn’t have Moyers’ madcap sense of humor. While he was at it, he helped steer $232,993 to himself that year to cover salary, benefits and expenses.

Perhaps one of the investigative journalists subsidized by the Schumann Center will untangle how the right-wing conspiracy can be powerful enough to stage a coup but too ineffectual to pull the plug on Moyers’ pontifications. The appalling truth could turn out to be that the better-acquainted Americans become with Moyerism, the more favorably disposed they become to the conservative alternative.

McCain and health care

Andy Busch writes a terrific piece both on McCain’s health care proposal and how the country ought to deliberate about this subject that is so prone to mischief to our ourselves, our values, and our institutions. Please read it.


Courtesy of Breitbart, an assertion from a union leader that Hillary is the gal because she’s got . . . um . . . well, "testicular fortitude." But don’t worry, according to this report, she’s got a softer set of assets as well.

Yes, this is funny. But can our politics really get any more decrepit? Wait . . . don’t answer that . . . I haven’t forgotten about Bill and his boxers (much as I wish I could).

McCain’s Campaign going pretty well, actually. He’s getting his health care plan out there with enough effectiveness that NPR is caricaturing it. The point is being made that his reform is actually more fundamental that Obama’s in a decisive respect: He wants to maximize consumer choice by detaching insurance from employment. Not only that, the honorable man is showing himself to be too classy to exploit Barack’s recent troubles. Why not let the Clintons do the heavy lifting here? And there’s no reason he should treat Obama as the presumptive nominee at this point. All in all, Mac’s hope for victory rests on being a plausible alternative to a highly ideological and too inexperienced candidate. He’s doing well in being that so far.

More Wright and Obama

This NYT story surely doesn’t make either man look good. Obama comes across as much too calculating in all his moves, which ends up giving some credence to Rev. Wright’s claim that he’s "just" a politician doing what a politician has to do.

There’s also some polling evidence of a bleeding Kansan.

Nice guys don’t get into Princeton?

So argues this Princeton alumna and current Yale 1L. Is it nice to describe your classmates as not nice? (For the record, there’s a nice young woman from my church who’ll be entering Yale this Fall. I hope she can stay that way.)

Stated a bit more modestly, her larger point is that there’s a tension between achievement (as we define it) and what Hobbes would call complaisance. Our meritocratic college admissions and career advancement processes reward the former but don’t really take the latter into account. And there’s apparently nothing in high-flying college life to encourage the latter.

By contrast, I’ve encountered lots of nice college students, some at places I’ve visited in recent weeks, some at places where friends teach, and some at my own institution. In some cases (I know I’m using "some" too much), these nice kids are pretty doggone smart and might even be described as high achievers. But, so far as I can tell, they’re not ambitious self-promoters. Might it be because they recognize their "giftedness" as actually a gift from someone? That gives me a bit of hope for the young woman (Yale College, Class of 2012) from my church.


This seems important. U.S. war planes killed an Islamist rebel said to be al Qaeda’s leader in