Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Health Care

Do we have a constitution?

The Speaker of the House takes the living constitution idea to its logical limit: "Since virtually every aspect of the heath care system has an effect on interstate commerce, the power of Congress to regulate health care is essentially unlimited."

If we follow a long line of cases dating back to the New Deal era, I fear that she is not entirely wrong.  In effect, the Constitution now gives the U.S. government the right to regulate all commerce, and not merely interestate commerce, as the government has defined non-interstate commerce out of existence

On the other hand, just because our national government no longer is restrained by any limits with regard to what problems it may tackle, that does not mean there are no limits to the means it might use.  I am fairly certain the Speaker would object to racial discrimination in the provision of health care. In that sense the right of the U.S. government to regulate health care is limited.  That leaves the constitutionality of an individual mandate to buy health insurance an open question, at least in principle.  Is such a mandate a constitutional means to what is now, for all practical constitutional purposes, a legal end?

(H/T: Mary Katherine Ham)

Categories > Health Care

Politics

Hamstringing Missile Defense

Is an old problem, says Angelo Codevilla in a recent article on American foreign policy:

The East European system that Obama scrapped was not terribly valuable militarily because its components, high-tech ground-based radars, computers, and optically guided interceptors, had been crippled congenitally to provide strictly marginal protection against just a few medium-range Iranian missiles. Had the radar not had its field of view restricted, and had the system used the long-range interceptors now deployed in Alaska, in meaningful numbers instead of a token 10 newly developed shorter-range ones, it would have been able to defend America as well as Europe against missiles from anywhere in Eurasia, including Iran. But because using the technology to its proper effect would have defended against Russia as well, the Bush administration crippled it at conception and Obama aborted it.

For the same reason, the system that Obama proposed substituting, based on the Navy's excellent AEGIS computers and interceptors, is similarly crippled. It has always been clear that were the AEGIS interceptors programmed and launched on the basis of information from satellites, they could easily defend against warheads in late midcourse coming from anywhere. But, to make sure AEGIS cannot possibly defend America against Russia, administration after administration has restricted AEGIS interceptors to information (except for terminal homing) provided by the ship's radar. . . .

These are but the least examples of how the U.S. government, whose ideology is set by the left and whose practices are shaped by bureaucratic self-interest, has trumped technology by distorting its applications. Defending against ballistic missiles existing at any given time is not now and has not been a technical mystery since 1958, when the U.S. Army accompanied its first IRBM test with a mock intercept by the rudimentary Nike system . . . But while technology can overcome missiles and warheads, it cannot dent the "scientific technological elite's" (recall Eisenhower's warning) self-interest in current programs. Nor can it affect the left's proclivities. And so billions of dollars plus wonders in computers, miniaturization, infrared sensors, optics, and lasers have produced only devices such as our Alaska-based radars and interceptors that apply new technology to 1950s notions of missile defense and are deployed in token quantities, or in devices conceived for exemplary impotence.

For an example of technical crippling, look at something originally called THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) and later Skyguard, intended to defend northern Galilee against terrorist Katyusha rockets. Cobbled together starting in 1996 from parts of the U.S. space laser program, by 1998 the prototype was blowing up Katyushas, in flight at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico. Building the ground-based version involved far more technical complications than developing the space version in the first place: while the space version needed to move only a few degrees to track distant ICBMs, the ground version's pointer-tracker had to move fast and far to deal with nearby Katyushas, and while the space version used the negative pressures of space to turn chemical combustion into light, the ground version had to produce vacuum exhausts for each shot. It took a lot of work to turn a weapon capable of defending against ballistic missiles from anywhere to anywhere into one that serves very limited purposes.

Categories > Politics

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Ella Fitzgerald

Fred Kaplan praises the just released "Twelve Nights in Hollywood," a four-CD boxed set of Ella Fitzgerald singing 76 songs at the Crescendo, a small jazz club in Los Angeles, in 1961 and '62 -- and none of it has ever been released until now. "These aren't bootlegs; the CDs were mastered from the original tapes, which were produced by Norman Granz, Verve's founder and Fitzgerald's longtime manager. They capture the singer in her peak years, and at top form: more relaxed, swinging and adventurous, across a wider span of rhythms and moods, than on the dozens of other albums that hit the bins in her lifetime."  Run out and buy it.

Political Philosophy

A Multitude of Small Countries

The New York Times runs an article, France Debates its Identity that is well worth reading.  It turns out that France has a minister (Eric Besson) of immigration, integration, national identity, and he wants this conversation because there is a "pleasure in discussing," and, when asked how the results might be judged or used, he said: "I believe in the virtue of the debate itself."  There is also a commisioner for diversity and equal opportunity; he talks about the "organic sense of being French" and also: "Let's stop linking questions of identity to the management of migrant flows while invoking the notion of integration, especially for populations already settled here for generations. One wonders into exactly what the visible minorities -- French born in France to French parents -- ought to integrate."  And then there is much talk of "a shared set of values," some of which are universal, but it is not said how or why. Sarkozy, who initiated the whole thing, calls it a "noble debate," and praised the great diversity of France as "a multitude of small countries, of terroirs."  But also this: ""France is a country where there is no place for the burka."  Obviously, this is worth following for many reasons, not the least of which because it will directly reveal (again) both the meaning and the consequences of the French Revolution.

Politics

A Very Special Interest

Has anyone seen a good article about the relative safety of government and private sector jobs in the recent economic umpleasantness?  I found on for the United Kingdom indicating, "The number of people signing on for unemployment benefits rose by 138,000 last month - the fastest rate since 1971. Meanwhile, jobs and pay are still rising in the public sector." 

I assume that the situation is similar in the U.S., as this graph suggests, but don't recall any good stories.  A cynic would say that the stimulus package was designed primarily to save the jobs of unionized, government eployees.   But how sustainable can that model be?

P.S. Is this connected to the he-session, as some are starting to call it.  Men are more likely to have lost their jobs of late than have women.

Categories > Politics

Men and Women

They Hate Her So

The most politically influential American woman of the last 40 years, with the possible exception of Sarah Palin (who is just getting warmed up), is this one; look at this study of her.
Categories > Men and Women

Politics

Jimmy 2?

More and more Obama appears the second coming of Jimmy Carter (though as Glenn Reynolds likes to say, a rerun of Carter may be the best case scenario for this crowd), and the news that two social climbing party crashers somehow got into the state dinner for the Indian PM reminds me of the Carter state dinner for the Italian prime minister, where the White House extended an invitation to California Congressman Norm Minetta, thinking this Japanese-American was Italian.  D'oh!

Meanwhile, speaking of dinners, here's a video of my deep fried turkey from yesterday.  It was yummy.
Categories > Politics

Journalism

The View from Times Square?

About a year ago I was lunching with a friend who works for the New York Times, we were discussing blogs and newspapers.  I said that there's much good information avialable on the web if one knows where to look. He said that there are hundreds of thousands of blogs (or some such large number).  There's good information out there, but it's hard to find.  By contrast, he implied, the Times brings "all the news that's fit to print" into one place.  I didn't want to get into an argument, so I didn't bring up the question of whether his paper, in fact, does a fair job selecting and followig stories. 

What was interesting to me was his attitude toward blogs.  To him, they're all one, big, undifferentiated lump.  Given that bloggers run from highly regarded, even nobel-prize winning economists to hardly educated people, that did not seem like an informed vew to me.  After all, there are thousands of newspapers in the country.  And we all know some are better than others. Why blogs should be any different, I have no idea. 

I wonder the Times are feeling squeezed by the decline in circulation and the rise of a new medium.  Beyond that, there's the loss of power and influence, about which I have blogged before.

All that was brought to mind by the revelation that someone or several people at the Times has been trolling blogs such as instapundit (and others) and leaving nasty comments. A sample (which I edit for family viewing):

OBAMA HASN'T EVEN RAISED TAXES YET YOU DUMB MOTHERF---

suddenly all these people are feeling persecuted by taxes. 'cause the money is all being handed out to black people by the black president. can we have more of them drowning their kids and trying to make it look like murder, plz?

I suppose if I were working a business that was doing great until a few years ago, but now is in decline, particuarly if it were a business that demanded much education but, as a rule, paid less than other elite jobs, I'd be rather angry too.

Categories > Journalism

Presidency

Thanksgiving in Tough Times

Ken Thomas has already mentioned President Obama's Thanksgiving Proclamation below, but now Joe Knippenberg writes a longer essay that puts the current president's words in the broader historical context of other Thanksgiving proclamations.  Joe finds Obama's words wanting; he should have imitated FDR more than Carter, Joe thinks.  I agree.
Categories > Presidency

Political Philosophy

Quote of the Day

"If you give them scope with the people at large or their representatives, they will destroy all equality and liberty, with the consent andacclamations of the people themselves." John Adams, 1787.

Pop Culture

All I Need is the Girl

The trend in elite circles.  Parents who are disappointed when they have a son:

Gender disappointment is not an official psychiatric diagnosis. It's an Internet-era label, an appellation coined by women who are bitterly unhappy about their baby's gender and who can't get over it, even after their child is born. It's also a subculture, or, as Lewis says, a club. There are books on GD (Altered Dreams: Living With Gender Disappointment), herbal tonics and tablets intended to influence a child's sex, and a handful of fertility specialists who have no qualms about taking all the guesswork out of baby making. "Why not?" asks Jeffery Steinberg, MD, an Encino, California-based reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in the use of in vitro fertilization for sex selection. "We're not producing monsters; we're producing healthy babies."

Much of the talk on the GD message boards revolves around sex selection methods, ranging from various folk remedies to sperm-sorting and spinning methods (MicroSort, Ericsson) to the holy grail: in vitro fertilization with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a technique in which a doctor determines the gender of the embryos and transfers only those that fit the parents' request. The most popular at-home option is the Shettles method, named after the doctor who developed it and involving the exquisite timing of intercourse relative to ovulation. . . .

Some women go as far as to label their own boys as "failed sways" or "Shettles Opposites." The mother of little Caleb, writing on In-Gender, wants it known that her apple-cheeked son is "living as a MicroSort statistic": He is the unexpected result of a 92.9 percent girl sort probability that doctors gave her. The mom of three-year-old Isaac and two-year-old Isaiah, who's expecting another boy on December 15, has put a frowny-face icon next to her due date. "I hate my life," she writes. "My family is complete in reality but not in my heart." She is considering giving all three of her boys up for adoption: "I want to give them to someone who can actually love them."

P.S. I chose the label, "Pop Culture" for this one. It should be "mom and pop culture."

Categories > Pop Culture

Presidency

The Country's In the Very Best of Hands

Check out this chart comparing private sector experience of cabinet members going back to TR, and shudder.
Categories > Presidency

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Pops

I am reading Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout.  It is terrific.  Of course, I am  listening to him as I read (and smoke).  So will the whole weekend go

Environment

The Secret Life of Climate Researchers

I'll have much more to say about the unfolding climate gate (some of the dense documents in the dump are actually more significant, if less spectacular, than the e-mails) next week in the Weekly Standard, but for now, Iowahawk (clearly our answer to Jon Stewart) hits it out of the park (once again).

UPDATE:  Don't miss this hilarious video from Minnesotans for Global Warming.  Clearly this is the most fun the right-blogosphere has had since the Dan Rather documentgate fiasco in 2004.
Categories > Environment

Military

Counterinsurgency at Home

Is this the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house?  In Salinas, California "Frustrated city officials are now turning to the military for help, collaborating with combat vets and faculty at the Naval Postgraduate School in nearby Monterey to adapt counter-insurgency techniques that have worked overseas to address gang violence at home. Military software developed to track terrorists is also being used to map crimes and link suspects."
Categories > Military

Bioethics

Obama's Bioethics Commission

The new Chair is Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania and liberal political theorist.  I doubt she'll reappoint either past commission member and her former colleague Robert George of Princeton or our NLT contributor Peter Lawler.  I can't imagine any of the diversity past Chairman Leon Kass sought.
Categories > Bioethics

History

Give Thanks--Read The Federalist (Updated)

That is among George Washington's pleas in the first Thanksgiving proclamation (coincidentally, also for Thursday, Nov. 26).  We should thank Almighty God for, among several other carefully chosen blessings, "the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted...."   That would include the Federalist Papers.  Read President Lincoln's proclamation as well.   We should not forget that our now traditional Thanksgiving holiday as the last Thursday in November was finally set during the Civil War.  These proclamations constitute core elements of the American civil religion, which reflects and enhances our religious liberty. 

UPDATE:

Here's President Obama's proclamation.  It presents a misleading view of Lincoln's proclamation.  Obama claims that "President Abraham Lincoln ... established our annual Thanksgiving Day to help mend a fractured Nation in the midst of civil war."  Actually, the mending to be done was through a Union victory--the statesmanlike application of military force to suppress the unconstitutional rebellion.  For example, the proclamation recognized the temptations a divided nation offered to ambitious foreign powers.  I'm thankful he didn't change the tradition of Presidential Proclamations' echoing of the last words of the Constitution, specifying the date in Declaration of Independence years as well as in the Christian calendar.

Categories > History

Environment

The Tree Ring Circus

By now, I assume everyone has read about the leaked emails showing that some scientists pressing the cause of global warming have acted more like advocates than like scientists.

I thought it would be worth linking to this piece which brings into question the famous "hockey stick" graph showing warming increasing over time.  A sample:

Categories > Environment

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Jane Austen: Vicious Gossip?

Robert Fulford appears to enjoy Jane Austen's novels and to enjoy, especially, Austen's colorful descriptions of unsavory characters.  He even seems to have a bit of "pen envy" (with Austen, what writer doesn't?)  But even as he admires her wicked pen, he does not seem to especially admire the woman.  Austen's  wicked pen, in Fulford's view, exposes a particularly nasty and wicked soul.  Jane Austen, Fulford says, is a nasty and vicious gossip . . .  not that there's anything wrong with that.

This strange view of Austen in Fulford's mind seems to have been born in reaction to an opposite view of Austen as a "princess of the moral universe" and a "moralist" which Fulford characterizes as the primary opinion emerging from a collection of essays about Jane Austen called, A Truth Universally Acknowledged:  33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen.  Singled out for special contempt is the contribution of one James Collins.  Fulford finds Collins' argument to be as preposterous as it is ponderous and pompous.  Jane was no moralist, he seems to say . . . she was more on a par with a particularly skilled tabloid journalist. 

Fulford's main argument is that there is no "truth" in Jane Austen that is to be universally acknowledged.  She paints cartoon villains with great skill--"moral grotesques" whom one cannot expect to meet with any reasonable regularity in real life.  It makes her entertaining, to be sure . . . and a spirit that Mr. Fulford admits to be kindred with his own.  Fulford has a soft spot, I guess, for "vicious gossips."  But in Fulford's view, Austen the vicious gossip does not give one any insight into the higher truths about morality and the human condition.  Moreover, he argues that people who imagine that they find such within Austen's pages, are to be wondered at--not admired.  Such people, in Fulford's view, are likely morally stilted and "not nearly as nice as they imagine they are."

Though I have not yet read the collection of essays about which Mr. Fulford is so indignant, I suspect that I may have some small amount of sympathy for his argument against it.  I'm not sure that Jane Austen understood herself to be a "princess of the moral order" so much as she aspired to be an intelligent observer of it.  On the other hand, this does not mean that Jane Austen was little more than a vicious gossip with a wicked pen . . . though I might argue--in some sympathy with Fulford--that a bit of what he calls "vicious gossip" is sometimes necessary to a true understanding of the human condition. And exaggeration may be necessary, sometimes, to scratch new ideas onto the hard and thick walls of prejudice that line most of our imaginations. 

The real difference between Austen and Fulford, however, may be in the very idea that there can be any truth that is universally acknowledged.  Fulford does not seem to think that there is.  So, if there can't be any universally acknowledged truth, then all of us--in our own ways--are little more than vicious gossips pounding away at half-witted attempts to present our own prejudices.  We can admire Austen's presentation . . . bu we delude ourselves if we imagine that we can gain insights about truth from her literature or moral philosophy.  Indeed we delude ourselves if we imagine that we can gain these insights from any literature or moral philosophy.

This may be Fulford's point of departure--though I can't really say so definitively judging from this one article by itself.  But I can say that I think Fulford's reading of the characters he describes as "moral grotesques" in Austen is quite limited.  Austen does not refrain from passing judgment, but her judgment is not that of a stilted moralist without capacity to see beyond mere appearance (unlike, perhaps, Mr. Fulford).  Austen's characters are instructive precisely because they are multi-faceted.  Sir Walter Elliot, for example, is a bit of a bore and a snob . . . but he loves his daughter, Anne, even as he cannot understand her better nature and the things that are suited to it.  And the good Lady Russell--who above all others does understand the superior nature of Anne to that of Anne's closest relations--is perhaps more responsible than any other party in Anne's life for the long delay in her richly deserved happiness.  This is not the work of a simple-minded moralist.  It is a complex and richly treated examination of the complexity of human relationships and the delicate balance between personal and public felicity.  But maybe that complexity is precisely the problem for the Mr. Fulford's of this world who--while not having sense enough to admit it--at least see that the existence of the kind of moral truths Jane Austen examines in a world as complex and complicated as the one Austen reveals, might also impose a standard of judgment not especially favorable to the likes of "vicious gossips."

Men and Women

Two Mamas Do It Better? How "Progressives" Argue Themselves into Positions that make them Rigid, Backward Thinking, and Narrow-minded Cretins

Irony is a funny thing . . . and sometimes irony is unavoidable.  For Progressives who seek to deny the realities of low nature rather than taking them into account on the journey toward a more natural (in the higher sense) and just world, the irony often is that they end up embracing the low tyranny of nature's grip on man.  They think they are overcoming nature by denying it when, in fact, they only reaffirm their powerlessness in the face of it.  They decry the "cretin-like" and "backward" thinking of conservatives when, in fact, it is their way of thinking that points backward . . . way backward.

Jennifer Roback Morse helps to illustrate this phenomenon by taking to task a "story" that ripped through international headlines last week as it claimed to demonstrate that lesbian couples make better parents than heterosexual couples.  As Roback Morse argues, the "story" amounted to a single (and fuzzy) quote from a lone conference participant at a meeting of the British think tank Demos during which they were discussing this report (a report which, by the way, does not at any point address the question of the relative merits of lesbian parents).  That conference participant--one Stephen Scott, who holds the title of director of research at the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners (UK)--offered some remarks to the conference (presented as fact) that boil down to nothing more than Mr. Scott's own pet opinion.  The original reporter from the TimesOnline went on to present more anecdotal evidence and other opinions (including seeking out Mary Cheney's views, of course) in an attempt to bolster Mr. Scott's view and create a story where one did not exist. 

Further complicating this non-story are the actual findings in the report from Demos.  The report in question found that so-called "tough love" and "1950s-style" parenting methods proved superior in cultivating character traits (today antiseptically called "life skills") such as "empathy, self-control and application."  With that in mind, one begins to see why a man of the left might work to generate some smoke as cover for the report.  Indeed, when confronted with these findings in another venue,  Mr. Scott commented (without focus on the question of lesbian relationships and their alleged superiority as a model for parenting) by stating his view that poverty was a likely cause of parental disengagement.  He made these remarks in spite of the findings in the report which showed that "parenting style is the most important factor in determining child character development, cancelling any differences in development between children from richer and poorer families."  But, of course, there has to be a reason why (other than character and lack of personal responsibility) more lower income parents seemed to be disengaged.  It couldn't be that this "disengagement" from parental responsibility might be reflective of other types of disengagement which might lead to poverty?  How silly of me . . .

The Demos report also tells us that children with divorced or remarried parents are less likely to develop these character traits of "empathy, self-control, and application"--dubbed "soft skills" in the report--and that "soft" efforts (championed by liberals for the last generation) to inculcate these skills have had the counter-intuitive effect (counter-intuitive, that is, to people on the left) of tending to make people less what they call "soft" (or, I'd say, "civilized") and more . . . well, the word I would use is "tyrannical."  Grandma would call it "spoiled" and a lefty--in keeping to his interest in preserving ideology over truth--might call it "self-assertive."

Indeed, Mr. Scott does seem to adopt what he might consider to be a positive spin on what otherwise must be bad news for him.  If kids in more traditional homes tend to develop "empathy, self-control and application" perhaps he can say that kids from lesbian homes tend to be "more aspirational and more confident in championing social justice" . . . though maybe Grandma would have just called that "pushy."  Notice too that the key in Mr. Scott's formulation is not so much the character of the individual, but an external end result:  what he calls "social justice."  The character of the child is less important than the opinions and the social results that child champions.  His own goodness is determined less by his virtue and more by the "correctness" of the political camp to which he becomes attached.  The child is a cog in the evolutionary wheel of "progress." 

But there is another aspect of this attempt to make lemonade out of lemons on the left that is even more curious than the their abstruse reasoning regarding so-called "soft skills" and their refusal to confront the question of individual character.  Note how the old (and amazingly rigid) stereotypes regarding sex differences creep into this argument.  If conservatives are "cretins" and "sexist" for noticing sex differences and suggesting that society accept rather than combat them in building civilization, what are these Progressives who seem willing--for the sake of absolving individual human beings from judgment and culpability--to reduce humanity to the level of mere animal?  Two lesbians make better parents than a male/female couple?  Really?  Is that because females are better suited to dealing with offspring?  Are they more nurturing and "designed" for the job?  So the argument goes that if one mother is good, two mothers must be better?  Fathers are what? Roving sperm donors? 

It's really not much different from the argument made by these feminists some years ago in regard to polygamy--which they regarded as empowering to them and beneficial with respect to the proper nurturing of their children.  Of course, this required them to overlook the lessons in tyranny that polygamy, inevitably, teaches . . . but, then again, perhaps feminists are comfortable with lessons in tyranny.
 
Welcome to the state of nature, folks.   

Categories > Men and Women

Political Philosophy

Paul Rahe on Contemporary Tyranny

Paul Rahe, who teaches at Hillsdale College, is one of this nation's most distinguished political historians.  Don't miss his NRO interviews amidst your Thanksgiving preparations.  Rahe (pronounced "ray") applies Tocqueville's notion of "soft despotism" to our current sorry state of politics.  His recent Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift contains the best introduction to Tocqueville I have yet seen.

Health Care

The Popularity Contest

The latest poll saying that on 38% of Americans like the bill that the Democrats leadership is pushing through Congress has generated much discssion.

Question: How popular would tort reform be? How popular would it be to allow citizens of one state to purchase their health insurance in another state?

Some key provisions of the pending legislation are probably popular, too.  Why not pass a minimalist improvement instead of a comprehensive change that the people don't want?  It could even have the virtue of being truly bipartisan.

Categories > Health Care

Health Care

The American Way?

Mickey Kaus criticizes those who say health reform has to save money. Nonsense, Kaus, a rare, honest liberal on this question, says.  We should willingly pay more to provide a genuing public good:

An alternative argument for health reform would say: extending generous health coverage to all citizens is part of America's social equality. We don't deny people what they need to regain their health. We don't decide that some people are worth care and others aren't, British-style. We can pay for it--it's expensive, it certainly doesn't help the deficit picture, but it's not that expensive at the moment, maybe a hundred or two extra billion a year. It's worth raising some taxes and maybe denying the affluent government retirement checks (which is not such a necessary part of social equality). If we can do some reasonable curve-bending in the long-run to bring down the cost, even better. But we're not counting on it, since so far nobody's been able to do it.

Question: do most Americans see it that way? What percentage of us agree that " extending generous health coverage to all citizens is part of America's social equality."  I am fairly certain that the vast majority of Americans agree that people who really need medicine ought to get it.  Do they agree that the government ought to provide it?  Which level of government? And in what cases?  Do most Americans think government should provide "generous health coverage" or do they think it should provide only the necessities, and think that anything above that ought to be provide for by our own savings, by insurance, and by private charity?  I am not sure there is as much consensus on these issues as Kaus would like to think, especially when one puts it in a real-world framwork.  How much more should we pay in taxes to provide generous health coverage, as opposed to the emergecy service we now provide? Etc.  No one, and not country, can afford everything, however nice it sounds.

Categories > Health Care

Presidency

The Mockery of Obama

Congress rolls right along, while SNL subjects President Obama to the most degrading treatment any President has ever received in the public media.  (Tell me I'm wrong--and I acknowlege some anti-Lincoln cartoons are at least a close second.)  I laughed, and the criticism heaped on him is deserved, but this contempt has serious consequences, just as trying terrorists in the courts does.
Categories > Presidency

Pop Culture

But Did They Make Turducken in Paris?

The author retraces the steps of a gourmand who survived the French Revolution.  Bon appetit! 
Categories > Pop Culture

Foreign Affairs

The War on Memes: Self-Defense is Futile

Perhaps this use of Major Hasan, MD, is a satire on liberalism, but it likely is not.  A few thoughts from liberal pundit Robert Wright, who argues that Hasan's behavior shows why our wars abroad will lead to more violence on our soil:

"The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism."

"The American right and left reacted to 9/11 differently. Their respective responses were, to oversimplify a bit: 'kill the terrorists' and 'kill the terrorism meme.'"  [Wright plays off the notion of an Internet meme, while preserving the notion of a belief system.]

"It's true that Major Hasan was unbalanced and alienated -- and, by my lights, crazy. But what kind of people did conservatives think were susceptible to the terrorism meme?"

"That's a reminder that, contrary to right-wing stereotype, Islam isn't an intrinsically belligerent religion."

"The more Americans denigrate Islam and view Muslims in the workplace with suspicion, the more likely the virus is to spread...."

He's partly right on the last point, but the rest is beyond satire.  According to Wright, we're in a war against a "meme."  In such a struggle, it should please Wright no end that an Internet-savvy post-modern author is our Commander-in-Chief.  (Incidentally, that's pronounced "meem"--not "me-me.")  The liberal foreign policy chant (or meme) is to think the enemy may be crazy (and therefore unstoppable but not "intrinsically belligerent").  Does Wright stop to think that maybe 9/11 occurred because the terrorists thought we would be psychologically incapable of defending ourselves? 

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Environment

Fight! Fight! And Reflections on "Climategate"

For any NLT peeps in the New York area (that would be you, Charles), I'll be doing a throwdown with some greenies in a climate policy debate Monday evening at the Norwood Club--tickets still available, I'm told.  Meanwhile, lots of attention, even from Andy Revkin on the front page of the NY Times today, about the how the climate alarmists are having their ACORN moment.  As you may have heard, apparently hacked e-mails from a bunch of the top climate scientists makes them look pretty bad, perhaps even seriously corrupt.  They have been mostly authenticated, though there is legitimate question about whether some may have been doctored or rendered out of context.  Our Powerline pal John Hinderaker has a good read that tracks with mine, namely, that even if the "context" of most of these messages offers a different meaning, there is no getting around their paranoid "bunker mentality."  After all, their skeptical challengers are so few and so marginalized; I've always thought these clowns resemble nothing so much as tender Victorian ladies cowering before a mouse.

Meanwhile, a few days before Climategate broke, Der Speigel ran a good summary of the discomfort of the climate campaigners about how the earth has stopped getting warmer over the last few years, dammit!
Categories > Environment

Foreign Affairs

Deja Vu All Over Again

Well, this is certainly reassuring, in that impossible-to-parody kind of way: Russia and Ukraine have signed an agreement on natural gas supplies that is supposed to avoid the political blackmail Russia has been threatening for a while now.  The deal was signed at . . . Yalta.  Oh goody.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Journalism

Kicking Holder?

I understand, indeed share, conservative frustration about the reluctance of Attorney General Holder to investigate Acorn and other supporters of the Democratic Party, but Andrew Breibart goes too far when he says Holder must investiage them or else:

Not only are there more tapes, it's not just ACORN.  And this message is to Attorney General Holder: I want you to know that we have more tapes, it's not just ACORN, and we're going to hold out until the next election cycle, or else if you want to do a clean investigation, we will give you the rest of what we have, we will comply with you, we will give you the documentation we have from countless ACORN whistleblowers who want to come forward but are fearful of this organization and the retribution that they fear that this is a dangerous organization.  So if you get into an investigation, we will give you the tapes; if you don't give us the tapes, we will revisit these tapes come election time.

It's not the place of a private citizen, even a combative, guerilla journalist, to talk like that.

Categories > Journalism

Health Care

Wither the State?

Charles Krauthammer asks what's the big deal about the possibility that the new national health pannel will recommend not paying for mammograms for women under fifty. They might be right on the science, he notes:

And the problem here is a mammogram is extremely inaccurate. One in ten tests which are returned as cancer are not, so you have a 10 percent false positive, which causes not just anxiety and suffering, but new tests, more [diagnostic] radiation, even a [surgical] procedure, and perhaps other harms.

I won't debate science with Dr. Krauthammer.  More interesting to me is his belief that the creation of such a pannel is no big deal:

People are reacting as if we never had a panel or a recommendation before. Years before, we had a recommendation from a panel like this who said start at age 40. Every day the FDA is deciding this new drug is a good one or not -- and if it's not, you don't ever see it.

 So it is not as if these kinds of independent commissions don't exist and determine what we get and what we don't. So the issue here is not panels in general or recommendations in general, it's the recommendation in and of itself.

Perhaps.  I suspect, however, that Krauthammer is only half correct.  On one hand, such independent agencies have become relatively common in the U.S., at all levels of government.  Even so, Americans still find them frustrating and often chafe against them. (I would even suggest that part of the frustration we saw in the elections of 2006 and 2008 was due to frustration at such extra-democratic agencies).  I would also suggest that was still don't have a constitutional theory, other than the vague idea that the constitution "evolves" which justifies such agencies.  Americans still don't like the delegation of legislative power, even if it has, in fact, become part of our government.

Categories > Health Care

Health Care

Purchasing Louisiana

ABC News asks: "What does it take to get a wavering senator to vote for health care reform?"  About $100 million.

Categories > Health Care

Foreign Affairs

Henry K on the World Scene

Our pal Clark Judge of the White House Writer's Group offers an account of a recent survey of the world scene by Henry Kissinger last week in London.  Salient excerpt:

Regarding the major global security decision before the two countries today, Kissinger said that troop levels in Afghanistan needed to reflect the conditions on the ground and what is at stake.  We must act before we are confronted with far greater challenges.  We must not allow Pakistan to become a failed state.  If Pakistan should become a failed state, the crisis will quickly spread to India, with its large Muslim population and history of conflicts among groups.

There's more, including Dr. K's speculations about China, and Clark's reading of the prospects in British politics.  Hint:  The Tories are coming!  Soon!
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Health Care

Delegation Running Further Amok

Mickey Kaus, who seems to like the idea, alerts us to the extreme delegations of legislaive authority in the latest health care bills:

In general, there is an independent panel ("IMAB"), and if Congress does nothing, its cost-cutting rules take effect. Indeed, its rules take effect unless Congress acts to repudiate it and the President signs on to that repudiation. If that doesn't happen--if Congress doesn't pass what is in effect a new piece of legislation--the panel's rules are implemented, just like the Fed's rules

Kaus points us to a column by David Broder from last summer complaining about such a panel.

If President Obama has his way, another such unelected authority will be created -- a manager and monitor for the vast and expensive American health-care system. As part of his health-reform effort, he is seeking to launch the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, or IMAC, a bland title for a body that could become as much an arbiter of medicine as the Fed is of the economy or the Supreme Court of the law. . . .

But Congress will have to decide if it is willing to yield that degree of control to five unelected IMAC commissioners. And Americans will have to decide if they are comfortable having those commissioners determine how they will be treated when they are ill.

Such is the poverty of our constitutinal discourse that the "dean of the Washington press corps" does not even consider whether such a delegation is constituional.  Of course, as I have noted before, once one says that the constitution is a living document, anything might be constitutional.

Categories > Health Care

Politics

The "In Over His Head" Chronicles, Con't

Glenn Reynolds have been popularizing the slogan that a re-run of the Carter years is starting to look like the best case scenario for Obama.  Comes now Elizabeth Drew, surely a barometer of establishment conventional wisdom, who writes today in Politico:

While he was abroad, there was a palpable sense at home of something gone wrong. A critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man. Most significant, these doubters now find themselves with a new reluctance to defend Obama at a phase of his presidency when he needs defenders more urgently than ever.

Drew goes on to say many more harsh things related to what we can learn by the cashiering of White House counsel Greg Craig.  This comes on the heels of a similarly harsh judgment from another establishment oracle, David Gergen, a couple days ago.  Gergen compares Obama's trip to China to JFK's weak performance in the 1961 Vienna summit with Khrushchev, which had disastrous results:

Why bring up that story now, as President Obama comes home from Asia? Because it has considerable relevance to his meetings in China with President Hu.  Obama went into those sessions like Kennedy: with great hope that his charm and appeal to reason - qualities so admired in the United States - would work well with Hu. By numerous accounts, that is not at all what happened: reports from correspondents on the scene are replete with statements that Hu stiffed the President, that he rejected arguments about Chinese human rights and currency behavior while scolding the U.S. for its trade policies, and that he stage-managed the visit so that Obama - unlike Clinton and Bush before him - was unable to reach a large Chinese audience through television.

UPDATE:  Oops!  I see Peter is on to the same Gergen story below, with much the same point.  But wait!  My time-stamp is earlier than his.  Another internet mystery. 

DOUBLE-OOPS: I see Peter's date stamp is from yesterday.  My lame-o bad.
Categories > Politics

Presidency

Obama and China

If David Gergen makes this point, you know it has to resonate: He notes that the first Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting didn't go well for our side: The Premier of the USSR thought our new president was weak.  This had consequences.  Gergen says this is relevant to Obama's visit with China's Hu:

"Obama went into those sessions like Kennedy: with great hope that his charm and appeal to reason - qualities so admired in the United States - would work well with Hu. By numerous accounts, that is not at all what happened: reports from correspondents on the scene are replete with statements that Hu stiffed the President, that he rejected arguments about Chinese human rights and currency behavior while scolding the U.S. for its trade policies, and that he stage-managed the visit so that Obama - unlike Clinton and Bush before him - was unable to reach a large Chinese audience through television."

Much is being said along similar lines about his visit to China; even the MSM calls it short on accomplishments, no press conference with questions from the press in China (see WaPo for example), etc.  There is more than "weakness" being revealed here.  This is what happens when our president thinks that leadership is nothing more than being a world-historical individual or an interpretation of world opinion (we are what we have been waiting for, etc.) and therefore reveals himself--at each step, with each action, and even with words he uses in (rare) press conferences--not to be a statesman, but rather a progressive leader.  This is now obvious and it's meaning is being caught by even the mainstream media.  That is, does the president of the United States actually think that the movement of history has made China the new great (never mind good) force in the world and that we have to accommodate ourselves to them, because that is what declining powers are supposed to do?  Statesmanship is not possible?  Is this serious?  For example, he doesn't understand that China is not as stable as the US.  He doesn't understand that tyranny, even if wealthy, is a fragile thing, and that certain decisions (by the Chinese especially) can make it even more fragile. This is becoming clear.  Too bad.
Categories > Presidency

Politics

Palin's "Sexism" Charges

A left-leaning national news publication takes advantage of a sexy photo that you posed for, writes mean things about you, and makes you look like a twit. In response you charge "sexism!" (because, no, they would not have done this to Hillary Clinton).  Then, because you think you're nailing them on the turf they helped to create (the land where anything vaguely hinted to be "sexism" is the same thing as cutting eye-holes in white sheets), you imagine that you have your "touche" moment and, as an added benefit, the sympathy of thinking conservative women like me.  Well, sorry.  You don't.  You helped to make yourself look like an even bigger twit--and it's all the worse because you didn't have to do that.  If you had really been the anti-feminist conservative candidate, yours would have been the hill I chose to die on.  But you're not . . . you're playing it.  If you want to be the anti-feminist candidate, stop whining like a feminist. 

Maybe there is a female constituency out there in Oprah-land who finds this kind of victim thing to be a rallying cry?  I wouldn't know.  I heard a caller on one of the shows yesterday suggest that this could all be part of a clever strategy you have to win back female support lost in the Couric/Fey wars . . . like Hilary's "Pretty in Pink" moment of victimhood after Bill's misdeeds became public.  Maybe even some conservative women enjoy approaching life as if life's realities are all part of some cosmic plan to do them wrong.  But I'm sorry.  It's nails on the chalkboard time for me.  What did you think you were doing?  Signing up for a tiddlywinks tournament?  Whining about sexism from the press at this point in the game--a game you chose to play--is beneath you.  And, if its a self-conscious ploy, it's insulting to the women you wish to champion.

Was the cover telling?  Yes.  But it told me more than perhaps you wanted me to know.  It seems to me that you had to know that it was coming.  And, in knowing that, you had two choices before the picture was ever taken.  If the Newsweek result was something you had reason to fear (as clearly you did) you should not have done it.  So why was that picture ever taken?  Oh . . . because you're a runner and good health is important to you.  Fabulous.  Run.  Talk about running.  Promote running.  Do a cover of Runner's World . . . in a jogging suit.  But you enjoy being a girl, you protest.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Indeed.  There's not. You shouldn't have to look like Bella Azbug in order to be taken seriously in the political world.  But when you make a conscious effort to show off what your workout gave you this is always going to be the result.   Any non-feminist knows that.   And, frankly, I believe you know it too.  You in jogging shorts is never going to be the same thing as Bill Clinton or George W. Bush in jogging shorts.  Is that fair?  Maybe not.  But who is going to change it?  Whining sure as heck won't change it . . . though it does, perhaps, serve some imagined political purpose.

Your other choice was to do that cover and to be self-consciously ironic about it.  You could have cultivated the sexy-librarian schtick.  But, of course, that would be more useful to you if your real goal was merely to sell books or land a TV show . . . and maybe, in fact, it really is.  But even then . . . what's with the whining?   Being a woman requires that a woman know when and when NOT to take advantage of her erotic pull . . . just as a man has to be able to tame his physical superiority when around women (to say nothing of his sexual drive).  You appear to want to have it both ways . . . invite the attention (always), and then decry it as sexist.   

None of this is to say that women cannot or should not be concerned about or involved in politics (that would be something coming from me!).  And it is certainly NOT to say that attractive women should abandon the game or uglify themselves before joining in.  But it is to say that when women do get involved, we have to be able to play the game differently . . . or, like Ann Coulter, one should be prepared to make herself a cartoon and accept the consequences.

It's time to put on your big girl pants or be satisfied with the mess of your own making.

Categories > Politics

Politics

It's the Spending, Stupid

Bill O'Reilly thinks that John Stossel doesn't get it because Stossel isn't angry enough about high taxes.  In this article, John Stossel fires back, making the case that onerous as the taxes are, they are only part of the problem.  It's not just the taxes that are killing us, it's the spending and the nature of the spending . . . and the bloody arrogance of the spenders in spending it.  Stossel nails it when he remarks that tax revolts will only take us so far.  Unless and until we are able and willing to control the spending--and the political fortunes of those who do the spending--then all the indignation in the world over high taxes is going to amount to little more than a plaintive whine.
Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

Captain America

John Moser spoke at an Ashbrook Colloquium on Friday.  The topic, "Captain America and the Dilemma of Liberal Patriotism."  Very good talk (based on a chapter for a book), well received by the students.  You'll just have to imagine the good slides that went with it.  Thanks much, John.

Categories > Pop Culture

Journalism

Press Bias in Action?

From the first page of today's Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. lags far behind other nations in paid leave and other work benefits, a study at Harvard and McGill found."

Would it not be more objective to say: "The U.S. has different laws than other nations about paid leave and other work benefits," or even, "U.S. policymakers disagree with ther counterparts in other nations about what paid leave and other work benefits ought to be."

The Journal's version is only fair and balanced if one believes that "progress" is always in the direction of socialism.

Categories > Journalism

Elections

John Kasich

You all know that he is running for Governor, and that he is now even in polls with Strickland.  He gave a lunch talk yesterday at the Ashbrook Center to about 850 people.  To say that John Kasich's talk at the Center was well received is an understatement.  To say that it was one of the finest talks ever given by a politician is even more of an understatement.  Really.  First class.  Very impressive.  If you can spare an hour, you must listen.  He also spent about an hour in conversation  with the Scholars and it is fair to say he was equally impressive (even the Democrats said so).  If Kasich keeps this up, he will win by fifteen points.
Categories > Elections

Literature, Poetry, and Books

WWJD? What Would Jane (Austen) Do?

James Collins makes the case that "[T]o write brilliant novels was not Jane Austen's foremost goal: What was most important to her was to provide moral instruction."  He concludes, "Jane Austen's principles are of transcendent value, they are not 'priggish,' and her novels illustrate and advocate a way of being in the world that is ethical, sensitive and practical."

Education

The Opening of the Chinese Mind?

This article from the New York Times notes an interesting consequence of China's one child policy when combined with what has been a growing economy:  increasing numbers of Chinese parents have been able and motivated to save for that one child's education in ways and numbers not previously imagined.  And a shortage of adequate universities to meet this demand in China has resulted in a large influx of Chinese students coming here; and not just as graduate students in the hard sciences, either.  Increasing numbers are coming here for an undergraduate education and, what is even more interesting; they are coming here--often--for the opportunities available at small to mid-size liberal arts colleges.  This is significant, according to the article, because up till now, "the concept of liberal arts, [and liberal arts colleges were] both relatively unknown in China."

The awakening to this type of education has to do, in part, with the publication of a now popular book in China that was written jointly by three Chinese graduates from Bowdoin College, Franklin & Marshall College, and Bucknell University.  The book apparently explains the purposes and the virtues of a liberal education and describes the sort that is available here in the United States.

Colleges and universities in the U.S., of course, responding to the new demand are looking at this as a potential way to make up for declining funds resulting from the recession . . . but wouldn't it be something, too, if a market demand from Chinese students (and students from other eastern nations) were to drive American universities back to a kind of liberal arts equivalent of the Great Awakening?   
Categories > Education

Pop Culture

Shark-Jumping Timewaster

We've all heard the cliche "jumped the shark," and its pedigree from an old episode of "Happy Days."  I got curious: sure enough, the scene is on YouTube here.  It really is as dreadful as you've heard.  Here's an even longer version if you want to really waste time.  Now I know how the slogan caught on.
Categories > Pop Culture

Elections

Can the Clinton Coalition Survive

Sean Trende poses this question as he analyzes the Virginia vote.  Very good article sent to me by a friend with a special interest in Virginia politics.  He wrote this: "The big point of the article is that Obama is in danger of losing a big chunck of the Clinton coalition, which was made up of urbanites, minorities, and liberals AND suburbanites and blue collar guys (Jacksonians).  The article claims that the Virginia results show that the trend of Jacksonians leaving the democrats is almost complete and that Obama's spending policies (stimulus, health care, etc.) are driving suburbanites back to the GOP.  If Obama loses them for the Democrats, no amount of big turnout from college liberals and minorities will make up the difference in 2010, especially in districts where they don't exist."  Also note the good maps.



Categories > Elections

Health Care

The Nanny State, Indeed

Over in England, the government is taking children away from their parents and putting them in foster care because, the government says, allowing children to be obese is a form of child abuse.

Overweight children are being placed in foster care on the grounds that they are victims of child abuse.

Experts have warned that feeding youngsters an endless diet of junk food causes serious health problems ? and should be treated in the same way as physical or sexual assault.

Dr Russell Viner, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street and University College London hospitals, said he knew of 15 cases where children had been taken from their parents because of obesity.

Categories > Health Care

Environment

It's Official

There will be no climate agreement coming out of Copenhagen next month.  Maybe next year, they say.  But this year in Copenhagen was the "next year" that each annual meeting for the last ten years have been preparing for.  Each previous meeting has kicked down the road all of the major sticking points, which were supposed to be ironed out once and for all next month.  That this deadline is slipping reveals much about how the longstanding gap between rhetoric and reality can't actually be closed, and likely won't be.  Don't believe this nonsense about having to wait for our Congress to act first.
Categories > Environment

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Doctors at Play

Will Obamacare cover this?  (Note the "sidebar.")

Politics

William Voegeli on California's Woes

You may recall that I mentioned Bill Voegeli's interview with the LA area powerhouse radio station, KFI.  Here is a link to hear it in podcast form if you missed hearing it live yesterday. To hear Bill's segment, go to "Tax Revolt 5PM Hr (11/13)" under PODCASTS in the right-hand column.   
Categories > Politics

Education

Ajax and Philoctetes

In Thursday's New York Times (The Arts section, that's why I just got to it) Patrick Healy reports on an interesting program that uses stage readings from Sophocles; it is called a "public health project" to "help service members and relatives overcome stigmas about psychological injuries by showing that some of the bravest heroes suffered mentally from battle."

The founder of Theatre of War said: ""Sophocles was himself a general, and Athens during his time was at war for decades.  These two plays were seen by thousands of citizen-soldiers. By performing these scenes, we're hoping that our modern-day soldiers will see their difficulties in a larger historical context, and perhaps feel less alone."  A soldier is quoted after a reading: "I've been Ajax.  I've spoken to Ajax."

Categories > Education

Environment

Supermodels Take It Off for Climate Change--Huh??

I don't get this video where supermodels disrobe to protest global warming.  Seems to me the message is exactly backward: shouldn't we cheer global warming if it makes supermodels disrobe??

Then there's this: Miss Earth 2009 Contest.  Glenn Reynolds thinks their bikinis should be smaller.  Surely these efforts are both arguments for more global warming.  Say "No" to excessive packaging indeed! 
Categories > Environment

Politics

John Thune

David Brooks' homage to Senator John Thune ("the perfect boy from a Thornton Wilder play") is good and useful.  He reminds us that there are some thoughtful (perhaps too quiet, too modest)  conservative politicians out there who might make a splash at some point.   Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana, might be another such worth eyeballing.  I do think, in passing, that Brooks' is a bit too careful about criticizing Obama.  While it is true that he is talented, it has also become obvious that he is not as talented as his supporters thought he was (or for that matter, as he himself thought).  I am beginning to conclude that Obama lacks what Aristotle called "authority," but more on that at another time.

Categories > Politics

Health Care

Bad Poll Numbers

Michael Barone runs through some poll numbers for Senate races in Ohio and Connecticut, not good news for Democrats. He asks: "Is the health care issue hurting Democrats in key Senate races? Sure looks like it."  And the proof is the latest Gallup Poll: "More Americans now say it is not the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question, and a significant shift from as recently as three years ago, when two-thirds said ensuring healthcare coverage was the government's responsibility."
Categories > Health Care

Ashbrook Center

No Left Turns Mug Drawing for October

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

Robert Cunningham
Elizabeth Garvey
Dan Rosenburg
Corinne Sammartino
James Clark

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 November's drawing.

Categories > Ashbrook Center

Pop Culture

You've Got A Lot of Nerve, Bob Dylan

Prior to last evening I thought Andy Ferguson's recent characterization of Bob Dylan fans as "the battered wives of the music industry" might have been over the top.

His voice gets worse with every track. You wonder whether someone left the karaoke machine on in the emphysema ward at the old folks' home. He doesn't sing notes so much as make exhausted gestures in their general direction, until at a break he falls silent and is rescued by the backup singers, who reestablish the melody in the proper key. But then he starts singing again.

I had just read his Chronicles and thought his remarks on Thucydides and Machiavelli, and his praise of Barry Goldwater might reflect deeper strains in his many marvelous lyrics. And so they may. But the Dylan I heard last night at George Mason University was a caricature of himself at his best (nothing up yet on Youtube).

The evening's consolation was my Beatrice (an ex-rock music journalist who is now an aspiring theologian) who led me through the Night of Hell with her witty commentary. She thought he was imitating Maurice Chevalier.

I thought he sounded like John Belushi's Samurai grunting out barely recognizable lyrics from his past. In this apotheosis Dylan was the Unreal Presence--someone who looked like the 20-year old named Dylan plus about 50 years (grinning all the way) but sounded nothing like him.

We heard none of his new Christmas album. But Ferguson is likely right about it too:

It's not a misstep. It's not a gag. It's an affront, a taunt. He's giving us a choice. He's saying, Okay, this is what it's come to: You've got two options. You can cover your ears and go running from the room in horror, or you can call me an enigmatic genius who's daring to plumb heretofore unexplored archetypes of the American imagination. But you can't do both.

Addendum: Here's a clip from the November 11 concert. The WaPo's description of his concert is as reliable as Pravda's Cold-War reporting on the West: Reading between the lines brings the truth to light, for example:

Dylan tours endlessly, turning up at a half-full arena or a minor league ballpark near you again and again, as if to prove he's no sage, just an itinerant song-and-dance-man. Though late-period albums like "Time Out of Mind" and "Love and Theft" have evinced a creative renewal, he's often been erratic, even indifferent onstage. Still, there's something noble in his doggedness, singing on even though thousands of shows have curdled his voice into a viscous, gut-shot croak.

Categories > Pop Culture

Politics

Reaching into Your Shower . . .

Scott Johnson of Powerline recently reminded us that "Bill Buckley used to characterize a liberal as someone who wanted to reach into your shower and adjust the temperature of the water." 

Today's Wall Street Journal reminds us that they also want to adjust the water. Since the 1990s, the federal government, under what provision of the constitution I'm not sure, has claimed the right to regulate our showers. "Tthe 2.5-gallon-per-minute shower head remains the legal standard."  Having lived in Southern California, I can understand the need to manage the water supply.  The question is how. Should it be a one-size-fits-all regulation like this?  How about (in those communities where there's a shortage) charging a fixed price for the first x gallons, and then y for every gallon above that.  That way each of us can decide for himself.  Those who want large lawns can pay for watering them.  Those who wish to take longer, stronger showers may do so.  Those who wish to save money by doing one, but not the other, may do so.  Etc.

Some of us may recall that Dave Barry got angry when Congress reached not only into our showers, but into our toilets as well. (The follow up column is available here).

What happened was, in 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which declared that, to save water, all U.S. consumer toilets would henceforth use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That is WAY less water than was used by the older 3.5-gallon models -- the toilets that made this nation great; the toilets that our Founding Fathers fought and died for -- which are now prohibited for new installations.

As Mr. Barry notes, the result has not been pretty:

Unfortunately, the new toilets have a problem. They work fine for one type of bodily function, which, in the interest of decency, I will refer to here only by the euphemistic term "No. 1." But many of the new toilets do a very poor job of handling "acts of Congress," if you get my drift.

All kidding aside, there's a political cost to such regulations teach us to have contempt for the law. "I checked this out with my local plumber, who told me that people are always asking him for 3.5-gallon toilets, but he refuses to provide them, because of the law."  I know many people who quite willingly pay cleaning people cash and don't report social security.  I know others who have simply ignored building codes, or, worse, filed false renovation plans for their homes when they deemed the regulations to be unreasonable.   When regulations get out of hand, more and more of us become criminals because they start to force us to choose between cowing before petty authority and living comfortably.  The more regulations we have, the more citizens will ignore them.  (Part of the reason why President Clinton got sympathy during the impeachment trial, I suspect, is that many Americans thought he was being pursued under an unreasonable law. That he signed the very sexual harassment law that made the case possible into effect only compounds the irony).

Finally, as Philip Howard notes in his latest work, the excess of law keeps us from being free, responsible adults. 

P.S. Would it be fun to create a list of things the government won't let us do in our own homes?

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

The British Sense of Fair Play

Is alive and well, at least in some places, thank God.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Shameless Self-Promotion

Progressivie Bigotry and Natural Law

The Washington Post recently saw fit to censor Kenneth Cuccinelli, now the Attorney General elect of Virginia, for believing that there is such a thing as natural law.   Father forgive them, for they know not what they do, I suggest in a reply now posted on the Ashbrook website.

Elections

More Evidence of a Possible Right Turn in Ohio

Rob Portman now appears to be leading both Fisher and Brunner in the polls.  No . . . those elections last week didn't mean anything . . .
Categories > Elections

Elections

New York House-23

It may the case that the battle over NY-23 is not over yet: "Conservative Doug Hoffman conceded the race in the 23rd Congressional District last week after receiving two pieces of grim news for his campaign: He was down 5,335 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted on election night, and he had barely won his stronghold in Oswego County.  As it turns out, neither was true."

The whole article is worth reading in part to show the chaos of vote counting, in part to show the technical complications of absentee ballots and what happens when they can come in after the day of the election (some aren't in still, and some not counted), why it's unwise to concede before knowing all the facts, why Pelosi was in a rush to swear in Owens, and what all this had to do with the big vote in the House.  Amazing stuff, actually. It is possible that Hoffman could come out ahead.

Categories > Elections

Shameless Self-Promotion

Media Alert

This is not, exactly, self-promotion . . . but I am promoting the work of one of my friends and, since the quote from Cicero on my tea bag this morning reminded me that "a friend is, as it were, a second self" I guess the category works well enough. 

For those of you in the Los Angeles area, our own Bill Voegeli will be appearing today on the highly-rated (1 million plus listeners) KFI 640's John and Ken Show during the 5:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) hour to discuss his recent articles on California's troubles that appeared first here and then here.  For those of you NOT in the Los Angeles area (e.g., those of you wise enough to live in places with a lower tax rates and better public services) you needn't miss out on the fun.  You can listen here via the KFI's live feed over the internet. 

UPDATE:  KFI has moved Bill's interview to tomorrow (Friday) at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.  That's 8 p.m. for all you Ohioans. 

Politics

Rahm Smackdown

Wow.  This is good.  Bill Galston, a very thoughtful liberal who served in the Clinton White House, smacks down Rahm Emanuel's criticism of the Brookings Institution and other critics of Obama's absentee landlord approach to health care form in a very provoking way.
Categories > Politics

Politics

Is Ted Strickland the Jon Corzine of 2010?

According to Jim Geraghty's reading of this Quinnipiac poll, the answer may be yes. By the way, John Kasich is speaking at the Ashbrook Center next Monday.

Categories > Politics

Military

Veterans Day & Marines

Happy Veterans' Day.  I also note that today is the Marines' birthday.  I once read that General Krulak (I think it was he) was once asked why the Marines think they are better than everyone else?  How did this thinking start?  Krulak said, "We lied."   In the beginning we just asserted we were better and ever since we have tried to live up to it.  Not bad.  Happy Birthday Marines!
Categories > Military

Conservatism

"We Are Doomed!"

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis give us another thoughtful and entertaining podcast--this time with John Derbyshire, author of We Are Doomed:  Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism.  As always, Ben and Joel manage to probe a bit deeper into the subject and to engage the mind of the author in a way that draws him out better than have the majority of radio and television shows that I have seen attempt to interview him.  

Qualifying what I say with the strong caution that I have not yet read the book, I will suggest that I found the message Mr. Derbyshire wants to convey to be a worthy--if not entirely compelling--corrective to the flabby sort of "rah! rah!" and sunny conservatism that too often takes in the most eager (or youthful) among us.  No one wants to fight for a losing team . . . but it is good, always, to remember the limits of politics.  Taken in the right spirit, Mr. Derbyshire's message is less a pronouncement on the inevitable failure or hopelessness of conservatism (though he does seem, in my view, to lean too much toward the retreat unto your own blessed garden approach) as it is a cautionary message about the sweet tragedy of human imperfection and imperfectability. 
Categories > Conservatism

Environment

Climate, Again.

Another shoutout is due to George Will, who cites my research again in his latest Newsweek column.
Categories > Environment

Politics

New Poll Numbers

A new Gallup Poll of registered voters, for the first time this year, found more would vote for the Republican candidate than a Democrat if elections for Congress were held today, 48-44%.

A new Quinnipiac Poll finds John Kasich (R) and Gov. Strickland (D) in a dead heat, 40-40%. Strcikland had a 10% lead in September.
Categories > Politics

Politics

UPS Union Goons vs. FedEx

Our pals over at ReasonTV have posted this fabulous video parody of the UPS ad campaign to illustrate the union thuggishness directed at FedEx right now.  Nice work Nick!
Categories > Politics

Politics

The Shut-'em-up Coalition

What do the United Nations and the SEIU have in common?  Both shut up their critics.
Categories > Politics

Courts

Kelover

Professor Bainbridge alerts us to the latest development in the Kelo case. Pfizer is abandoning the property that the City of New London, CT took from Suzette Kelo and others and gave it to develop.  Bainbriadge provides excellent analysis, including a surprise appearance by Russell Kirk.  Liberal jurisprudence in action.

Categories > Courts

Politics

Dunn, Da-Dunn Done

White House spokesperson Anita Dunn leaves her job to return to consulting. During her brief, interim tenure she fought Fox News and praised Mao Tse-Tung before prep school students. WaPo passes on WH source who says that Dunn was a kind of suicide bomber against Fox; having made the point, her departure can restore a semblance of normalcy.
Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

Well . . . you knew this was coming

. . . or, at least, you should have known.  I'm assuming that the tape was meant strictly for heterosexual purposes . . .
Categories > Pop Culture

Conservatism

Hayward on Reagan, to teachers

Steve Hayward conducted a three hour or so seminar on Reagan with about ninety high school teachers a week ago.  You can lsiten to it all, it is divided into two sections, each about an hour and a half; the first section is Reagan's life and work up to the presidency.  I should say that many teachers told me after the event that they were struck by Steve's ability to get inside the subject (Reagan and his time) and to talk to us from the inside.  I agree.  It was a very fine talk, the kind that, unfortunately, most historians find very difficult to give.  They always sound like they are talking about something, rather than of and in the thing.  Not so with Steve, history at it's best.  Much thanks to Steve.

Categories > Conservatism

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Tocqueville's Letters Home

A scholar got the clever idea of collecting Alexis de Tocqueville's letters home from his nine-month stay in the U.S. Here's a sample that will make you want the whole volume.

I'd like to see someone turn Democracy in America into an opera. And evidently Tocqueville was quite a dancer, too. (No, I don't think the late Michael Jackson would have made the best Tocqueville.) But shouldn't this description of his shipboard amusement, from the new collection, be put into song?

One moonless night, for example, water began to sparkle like an electrifying machine. It was pitch black outside, and the ship's prow slicing through the sea spewed fiery foam twenty feet in either direction. To get a better view, I shimmied onto the bowsprit. From that vantage point, the prow looked as if it were leaping at me with a forward wall of glittering waves; it was sublime and admirable beyond my ability to evoke it. The solitude that reigns in the middle of the ocean is something formidable.

And like foreign visitors today, Tocqueville marveled at the huge amount of food Americans consume and complained about the lack of wine at meals. Toward the end of his journey he writes to his future wife: "If ever I become Christian, I believe that it will be through you. What I write here, Marie, is not an improvisation; these are thoughts long harbored…" Did this English woman read Jane Austen?

Concluding his love letter, the Frenchman presents himself as more a man of Mars and thus a better man of Venus:

I don't know why, Marie, men are fashioned after such different models. Some foresee only pleasures in life, others only pain. There are those who see the world as a ballroom. I, on the other hand, am always disposed to view it as a battlefield on which each of us in turn presents himself for combat—to receive wounds and die. This somber imagination of mine is home to violent passions that often knock me about. It has sowed unhappiness, in myself no less than in others. But I truly believe that it gives me more energy for love than other men possess.

Politics

Taxes, Texas and California

Last week I mentioned here that an article of mine contrasting the Californian and Texan approaches to public finances has been published in the current edition of City Journal.  Prof. Kenneth Anderson of American University's law school brought the piece to the attention of Volokh Conspiracy readers, then invited me to reply to some of the discussants' remarks about the article and insinuations that my mother and father were acquainted only briefly.  He posted that response earlier today.
Categories > Politics

Shameless Self-Promotion

American Politics Conference at Berry College

Next April 15, we're going to have a one day conference on the general topic of the teaching of American politics.  Here are some possible themes:  the relationship between civic education and liberal education, the use of literature and film, the heroic approach (Washington, Lincoln, MLK), the use of our friendly foreign critics (Tocqueville, Chesterton), the uses of teaching technologies, and the place of the Constitution and constitutional law.  We're open to any and all proposals, although we can't guarantee acceptance.  Due to the economic downturn and the instability of the climate, it's highly unlikely that we'll be able to fund travel. But the good news is that there will be no registration fee and we'll feed you while you're here.  It's highly likely that selected presentations will be published in the outstanding journal PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE.  Berry College is right next to Rome, GA and about an hour and a half from the Atlanta airport.  Contact me with ideas or if you need further details--plawler@berry.edu

History

It Was 20 Years Ago Today. . .

. . . that the Berlin Wall came down.  As you may have heard.  Lots of good commentary (and some really bad commentary) about the event today, though nothing from the White House (for which perhaps we should be thankful; in fact, I'm glad the next Nobel Peace Prize winner didn't go, as it would cheapen the presence of fellow Nobelists in Berlin today, Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa.)  Meanwhile, here's a fragment from the epilogue of The Age of Reagan:

            The abrupt fall of the Berlin Wall caught the West by surprise.  At the White House, President George H.W. Bush was wary of inflaming a potentially unstable situation and issued a statement so low-key it made people wonder if he was on valium.  "You don't seem elated," Leslie Stahl said to Bush.  "I'm not an emotional kind of guy," Bush replied.  With the time difference between Europe and the U.S., the American news media scrambled to catch up to the story.  Naturally the TV news shows began looping Reagan's call to "tear down this wall!"  ABC News reached Ronald Reagan at home in Los Angeles, and he agreed to go on ABC's PrimeTime Live, where he appeared to be as astonished as everyone else.  Sam Donaldson asked Reagan, "Did you think it would come this soon?"  Reagan, subdued throughout the interview, replied, "I didn't know when it would come, but I'm an eternal optimist, and I believed with all my heart that it was in the future."  Like Bush, Reagan didn't wish to embarrass or humiliate Gorbachev, so Reagan denied to Donaldson that he'd ever directly spoken to Gorbachev about the Wall, though we know from subsequent transcripts that he had. 

            Mostly Reagan repeated some of his better known public themes from his Cold War diplomacy ("trust, but verify"), but he did take a mild shot at his critics: "Contrary to what some critics have said, I never believed that we should just assume that everything was going to be all right."  Asked to revisit his "evil empire" comment, Reagan said," I have to tell you--I said that on purpose. . .  I believe the Soviet Union needed to see and hear what we felt about them.  They needed to be aware that we were realists."  A nice turn, suggesting that it was the anti-Communist "ideologues" who were the true realists all along.  Prompted to revisit his 1982 prediction that Communism was headed to the "ash heap of history," Reagan ended the interview with the short observation: "People have had time in some 70-odd years since the Communist revolution to see that Communism has had its chance, and it doesn't work."

            But it was the end of more than a 20th century story.  Some of the East German protestors in the streets of Leipzig in early November carried banners that read, "1789-1989."  The storming of the Bastille in 1789 could be said to have marked the beginning of utopian revolutionary politics; now the storming of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked its end.  As Timothy Garton Ash observed, "Nineteen eighty-nine also caused, throughout the world, a profound crisis of identity on what had been known since the French revolution of 1789 as 'the left.'"  The deep unpopularity of the Communist regimes revealed by the peoples of Eastern Europe in 1989 was an embarrassment to moderate liberals and value-free social scientists who regarded these nations as stable and legitimate forms of governance, and it was a source of faith-shaking crisis for the far left that openly sympathized with these regimes.  On the intellectual level the death of revolutionary socialism has found a successor in "post-modern" philosophy that preserves some aspects of decayed Marxism.  But its obscurity limits its power to convince, and as such is unlikely to advance beyond the barricades of academic English departments.  Those artificial intellectual walls will take longer to come down.

Categories > History

Education

To His Health

It's 8 a.m. here, am trying to write a short about Lincoln's idea that writing is the great invention of the world.  Then my cell phone rings.
 
I haven't talked with my son John in almost a month.  He called just now and said he didn't have time to talk but he needs to know how to say "to your health" in Hungarian.  This was very important because he is with his Marine buddies in a bar in Japan and they are all saying "salud" in Italian to his friend being toasted and this just wasn't good enough.  I told him it is "egeszseggedre" and he thanked me, told me he loved me, and said he would call again.
 
Back to writing.
Categories > Education

Health Care

How to Lose a Political Argument

Why did House Democrats approve an unpopular health care bill?  Rich Lowry reports that it is because they think it was the right thing to do: "it was clear that Democrats considered it a moral and ideological obligation to pass this bill -- consequences be damned."

The real question is why they think that way.  The main arguments against the bill seem to be that it expands government control over our lives, that we can't afford it, and that it quite probably will slow down medical innovation.  Some also note that it's probably unconstitutional (or would be if our governing class believed in the constitution and not a "living constitution"--i.e: whatever they want it to be).

The reason why this bill cleared the House, in other words, is the same reason why our national government has been creating new hand outs since the 1930s: there does not seem to be a moral argument on the other side.  Unless and until that changes, Washington will continue to grow, at ever-rising cost to our liberties.

What might such an argument look like?  It would probably emphasize liberty and responsibility.  When President Obama speaks about responsibility, he seems to mean the responsibility of the rich, the connected, and the well educated for the rest of us.  (Our friends in Washington no longer want to make laws that allow and encourage us to be free. On the contrary, they want to take care of us.  All the name of a redefined liberty--liberty from responsibility).  That's not the only way to think about it.  On the contrary, I would suggest that by taking away from citizens the obligation to care for their necessities, the government encourages us to be irresponsible.  That has been the tragedy of Washington hand outs since the New Deal.

Cass Sunstein, President Obama's regulatory czar, suggests that government ought to nudge people to do the right thing.  But what incentive do people have to be responsible when Washington takes away from the people the obligation to care for themselves?  Charity ought to be as local as possible--that way it can be specific, and, hopefully, reduce the "narcotic" effects of it (to use FDR's term for the dangers of hand outs by government).  When our national government (it is hardly a federal government any more) pays our medical bills, it almost inevitably will encourage us to exercise and eat right by law.  That's not something I'm looking forward to.

Categories > Health Care

Politics

The Divider Who's a Uniter

The best news about the health care bill is that only one Republican voted for it and most moderate Democrats voted against it.  Even the few moderate Democrats who were persuaded to push it over the top are saying apologetically that, of course, compromise with the Senate is bound to improve it.  It's also good, of course, to see Speaker Pelosi, someone most Americans deeply distrust, gushing about her personal triumph.

What we have here, as with the stimulus package, is a failure of presidential leadership.  Obama's deference to Congress has pushed his party too far to the left for its own good, united the Republicans, and pushed independents and moderates in the GOP direction.  As Yuval Levin pointed out in NEWSWEEK, the Republicans are now far more united against the president than are the Democrats united with him.  The moderates from the swing districts fear losing their jobs.  The unapologetic liberals from the safe districts are complaining loudly that our liberal president ain't boldly liberal enough when it comes to both social issues and additional stimulation.

Now the Republicans clearly don't need to moderate themselves to get with the tide of History.  They need to distinguish themselves clearly to give a real choice to voters anxious about a tide they don't really remember voting for (although in a way they did).  Even genuinely left-of-center moderates don't fear right-of-center, socially conservative candidates at this point.  The point now is to elect savvy antidotes to the president and especially Pelosi.  Let's hope that this great opportunity--partly the result of unforced errors by our president--brings forward Republican leaders worthy of it.   

Categories > Politics

Politics

Stop the Hate!

President Obama speaking to Congress yesterday: "Does anybody think that the teabag, anti-government people are going to support them if they bring down health care?"
Categories > Politics

Health Care

Delegation Run Amok

Betsy McCaughey points to some of the lowlights in the House health care bill.  I was particularly struck by this bit:

Sec. 224 (p. 118) provides that 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide what a "qualified plan" covers and how much you'll be legally required to pay for it.

In the days before the idea of a living constitution was taken to constitutionalize whatever liberals wanted (one can always say that in light of historical changes, x must now be constitutional), there was an understanding that Congress may not delegate so much legislative power. That's why the Court, quite rightly, ruled the NIRA unconstitutional. (Thanks to the supposedly reactionary Court, the New Deal known to history is less arbitrary than it would have been had they not stepped in). If one reads the transcript of the case, one finds that the rules the New Deal created were so idiotic that they were literally laughed out of court.  I hope our modern bureaucrats will be more reasonable, but doubt they will be.

Letting Congress delegate the authority to decide what is a "qualified plan" allows Congressmen to avoid responsibility. That's precisely why they're not supposed to be able to delegate such powers to quasi-executive, administrative agencies.

Categories > Health Care

Economy

Policy Puzzle

If we need to compete with China and India, why are we pursuing policies that will make us more like Europe?
Categories > Economy

Political Parties

They Might Change the Name to Libertine Party

Adventures in message mismanagement.
Categories > Political Parties

Health Care

20?

NRO's Doctor! Doctor! blog reports that scuttlebutt from the Capitol is that Pelosi is 20 votes short of the 218 needed to pass health care.  Keep your eye on this NRO site over the weekend.
Categories > Health Care

Technology

Weird Science

I've been following the progress--or lack thereof--of the CERN Large Hadron Collider (the largest particle accelerator ever built) in Switzerland for a while now, partly because I'm an old and out of practice science geek, and partly because it is another object of technophobia: some worrywarts think the collider, when finally operational, might create an artificial black hole that will annihilate the entire planet.  Supposedly it is theoretically possible, but once again this looks like life imitating art, since something of this scenario was depicted in an obscure 1980s-era sci-fi film out of New Zealand called The Quiet Earth.  

Anyway, seems things keep going wrong with the thing, spurring some professional paranoiacs to speculate that time traveling sub-atomic particles from the future are here to prevent us from destroying ourselves with the Hadron Collider.  (I'm not making this up.)  Now, it seems, a bird dropped a piece of a baguette on the top of the collider and scrambled the thing once again.  Don't believe me?  See this article.  (Love the artist's depiction.)
Categories > Technology

Health Care

Yes We Will!

Peter: I think Pelosi's move to push for a health care vote tomorrow is a bold move made either out of determination that she can win or stupid desperation that she has to try to win now or never--most likely the latter.  The conventional wisdom among Democrats is that they lost Congress in 1994 in part because they never even voted on a reform bill, and therefore that they face greater downside risk not passing something now rather than passing something unpopular.  This is a gross misreading: Hillarycare failed to win a vote because it became so unpopular the more voters learned about it, just as polls show declining support for this mess.  I continue to believe that the basic symmetry in American politics now is that Republicans by themselves can't change Social Security in any big way, and Democrats by themselves can't change health care in any big way.  

By the way, what happened to the criticism that Bush and the Republican Congress erred by governing on a narrow partisan basis, such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003?  Now Democrats are about to do the exact same thing, but all the media critics are largely silent about this.  Like the prescription drug bill--remember the House held the vote open for more than three hours while Bush and House GOP leaders broke arms for the final votes--I expect that if the vote is called, it might be held open for three hours or more while Pelosi and Obama break arms and trade off votes.  I wouldn't be surprised to see nervous Dems switching votes halfway through--if it looks like it is going to fail, a dozen or more might bolt.  It will be a thing to watch.

Finally, Pelosi may well reckon that even losing a vote is better than not having one at all, because then she thinks it can be turned into a campaign attack next year: those mean Republicans and their insurance company cronies blocked health care reform!  I doubt that will work, but it fits with the supposed lessons of the Clinton failure.

P.S.  Don't forget the other mistake of the Clinton experience: GOP Senate leader Bob Dole was always ready to reach a bipartisan compromise with Democrats.  The Clintons refused even to consider the idea.
Categories > Health Care

Health Care

"We will," asserts Pelosi

That's what Nancy Pelosi said when asked yesterday if she had enough votes to pass the health care bill on Saturday.  That means she doesn't yet have it.  She is scrambling, according to the San Francisco Chronicle: "Pelosi's party holds a 40-vote margin over Republicans in the House, but Democrats in swing districts are worried about the cost and reach of the health care bill amid widespread joblessness and enormous federal deficits. Leaders sought to resolve lingering disputes over abortion and immigration."

Every other news report on the subject notes that the votes are not yet there.  (Reuters, New York Times, Washington Post)  So why try pushing this vote through now, knowing that the Senate isn't going to consider it until next year?  Because, as predicted, given the sentiments revealed in the elections on Tuesday--the massive shift of independents to the GOP (in the case of Virginia, 66%-33%)--Pelosi will certainly not be able to push it through next year, for the self-preservation of circa 50-60 more modderate Democratic Congressmen will really kick in and they will then have to vote against it.  Pelosi knows this.  But they still might oppose it on Saturday.  And yet, Saturday is her best shot. 

But in fact, I expect the House NOT to vote on Saturday because I think there will be at least a couple dozen Dems who will either say they will oppose it or will claim that they haven't yet made up their minds; Pelosi will have to back off, else there is a chance that she will lose the vote and that would be worst thing that could happen to her.  She would lose all authority (and honor).  This scenario will depend on how each member reads the polls is their district.  If I read the polls right there will be no vote on Saturday, the moderate Dems self-preservation is already kicking in.

Addendum:  The fact that the unemployment rate has jumped to 10.2% and is likely to go higher is not going to help Pelosi.

Categories > Health Care

Presidency

Hayward on Reagan

Steve conducted a Colloquium last Friday on his latest Reagan volume You can listen to it all (circa an hour and a half) by clicking here.  I thought Steve was very good.  You can tell that he is quite inside the subject, is a master of all details relating to it, sees the implications of the larger questions raised, is perfectly comfortable on his feet, thinking in public.  A fine student (that is, teacher).  The room was over-packed, people on the floor, hanging from ceilings; I think more students purchased his book than any other book in such a setting.  Thanks, Steve.

Categories > Presidency

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Lucky Bastard

In the NRO symposium on Barack Obama's first year, Bill Voegeli observes, "The Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez often said, 'I'd rather be lucky than good.' One of the problems in trying to assess Barack Obama is that he has been such a lucky politician over the past six years that it's still hard to know how good he is."

This reflection calls to mind the extraordinary Charles McCarry novel, Lucky Bastard. McCarry was for many years a CIA agent, stationed abroad, and is justly hailed as the master of his genre. His hilarious 1998 spy novel recounts the career of the bastard son of John F. Kennedy, who blazes like a comet from obscurity to a serious presidential contender--aided every step along the way, from his days at Columbia University, by Soviet intelligence. David Skinner recently wrote an appreciation of McCarry's work in The Weekly Standard (subscriber only).

With his eye on John F. Adams' sexual adventures, McCarry of course had the then-incumbent president in mind. But his description of how Soviet intelligence paved the way for Jack Adams' rise reminds us how easily American media and other institutions can be swayed by shallow elite opinion. The 1998 novel is a highly instructive work for our time.

Elections

Maine Vote Also Confirms the Argument

. . . that very little has changed about the fundamental opinions of the American electorate in this year of "change."  A ballot measure that was, essentially, a "people's veto" of legislation passed last spring in Maine to permit homosexual marriage passed handily.  The 53 to 47% margin outstrips even California's 52 to 48% on Prop. 8 from last year.  Proponents of homosexual marriage expected and hoped for a different outcome because, unlike similar ballot measures in other states, this one was not in response to any perceived judicial fiat.  It was a response action on the part of that branch of government closest to the people:  the legislature.

This Time article on the vote in Maine is interesting for the way it draws upon and, I'd add, also draws out some of the thinking of leading homosexual marriage activists in the wake of their defeat. For example, Mary Bonauto (the lawyer who successfully argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 that it should strike down state prohibitions on gay marriage) told Time, "Ultimately, this is going to have to have a national resolution . . . It's about aligning promises found in the Constitution with America's laws." 

This is intelligent politics on Ms. Banauto's part.  The argument on behalf of homosexual marriage, if it means to be successful, has to be one suggesting that homosexual marriage is a fulfillment of rather than a turning away from America's promise in its Founding.  Every success of big "L" Liberalism (or Progressivism) in this country (up to and including Barack Obama's) can be traced back to public argument that embraced--or seemed to embrace--America's purpose and foundations.  Progressive have had to argue that there is something essentially American about adopting the course they advocate; that it is in keeping and of a piece with our familiar understanding of the universality of justice and equality.

But always within these attempted unions of an ever expanding "Liberalism" and the legacy of the American Founding is an inherent tension between them that threatens to bust up the match and, in the interim, serves to make Liberals very unhappy in the marriage.  The two things, it turns out, are not at equal purposes and--unless they have a very clever counselor  (perhaps like Obama--though certainly like FDR) it's fairly clear in their rhetoric to the electorate, that the partners would prefer to be divorced.  For advocates of homosexual marriage or--more generally--the broad agenda of "Liberalism," the trouble with our "abstract truth applicable to all men and all times" is that it does not expand any more than it contracts.  It simply is.  As Calvin Coolidge might have said, "it is final."  Universal human equality in our natural rights is a fact--whether it is recognized and put into force or not.  When it is simultaneously publicly pronounced and practically denied, we have the proverbial "House Divided Against Itself."  The denial of human equality in American chattel slavery was at odds with this central and animating principal of our republic in that it denied it by making slaves of men.  The homosexual lobby in America--like Progressivism more broadly considered--denies the principle by seeking to grow it.  But it wants to appear as if it is trying to protect it or live up to it.  It seeks to argue that we have a "House Divided" with respect to equality for homosexuals.  It sees no necessary limit to the good that can come of an expansion of the meaning of equality and it appeals to our generosity of spirit.  But in seeking to expand the meaning of equality, the truth is that we actually deny it.  We cannot make equality, however much we may wish it, to include things not encompassed within the natural meaning of equality.

I have to think that this, at least in part, helps to explain the natural revulsion to the idea of homosexual marriage on the part of black voters--who, of course, were a driving force in the passage of California's Prop. 8 last fall.  Left wing whispering, revealingly, would have you believe that black opposition to homosexual marriage is nothing more than a kind of retrograde or backward prejudice on the part of too many blacks. This is at once patronizing and reflective of some remarkably stupid thinking.  The majority of black voters who oppose homosexual marriage rightly sense--when they don't vividly understand--that the suggestion of a symbiotic relationship between the struggles of blacks and the struggles of the homosexual lobby in this country is an insult to their struggles and our shared American history and accomplishments on behalf of genuine equality.  It is a kind of righteous indignation--obviously felt more keenly by blacks--at the notion that the elimination of slavery and the struggle for equality before the law for black Americans is anything akin to an extension of a right to marry to homosexuals.  That was a struggle to make America live up to its stated principle, not a demand that we expand it.  Slavery was wrong from the start . . . not because we eventually grew into that opinion.  To suggest otherwise is to demean those efforts by implying that it, like this current struggle, was a mere power struggle or numbers game without any transcending universal principle of right.   

If homosexual marriage eventually passes into being and becomes an accepted part of American culture and law it will be something entirely new under our side of the sun.  It will not be an extension of America's promise to recognize the equality of all human beings.  It will be a bastardization of that promise and an attempt to undermine the true meaning of it.  To suggest otherwise is, let us be clear, to suggest that our rights are not natural or, even, necessarily permanent.  It is to suggest that they are but an outgrowth of popular sentiment or of an evolution of opinion.  It is logically (though perhaps not fully understood and certainly not clearly articulated by those who advocate on its behalf) to suggest that perhaps there was nothing inherently or fundamentally unjust about slavery.  After all, people probably just hadn't evolved enough back then.  For in a Progressive's world, persuasion is not a real possibility.  Everything is evolution--everything is subject first to hope, then to power, and then to change. 

This is why they think the problem for them today is that people just haven't "evolved" enough to recognize that homosexual marriages should be treated as equal to heterosexual marriages.  They think that if they keep at it long enough, they can "help that evolution along" (in the thuggish way they've helped other parts of "evolution" along) but they have no doubt as to the eventual outcome of their efforts.  Maine is to be commended for its unwillingness, yet, to so "evolve."

UPDATE:  Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute adds to what I say here
Categories > Elections

History

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Message

In honor of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, the House of Representatives just passed a Resolution recalling the 1946 designation of Nov. 19 as "Dedication Day," when the Gettysburg Address should be read in public places. Here's a good prelude to Thanksgiving. Recall Lincoln's message designating the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

Categories > History

Presidency

The First 365 Days

National Review Online has a symposium today, assessing Barack Obama exactly one year after he won the presidency.  There's a strong Claremont coloration to the roster of opinionated scribblers: Jack Pitney teaches there, R.J. Pestritto did his graduate work there, and I hang out there.
Categories > Presidency

Journalism

Nixon's Revenge?

I know things are bad in newspaper newsrooms these days, but a fistfight at the Washington Post?
Categories > Journalism

Politics

Rocco's Offensive NEA

In an interview for the Wall Street Journal, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman exclaims: "The days of the defensive NEA are over!" Indeed, the offensive NEA may steal some of the Obama Administration show, as Landesman's NEA would return to giving the individual grants that encouraged so much offensive and, more to the point, trashy art. Landesman defends graffiti and hip-hop as examples of art worthy of public subsidy. See my previous posts on Landesman here and here.

Categories > Politics

Elections

Change We Shouldn't Believe in That Much

1. It was a genuinely good night for the Republicans in Virginia.  The main reason was a solid, non-stupid, unalienating candidate for governor.  It's amazing how badly the GOP just screwed up in 2006 and 2008 in the Commonwealth.  McDonald doesn't quite reach the pay grade of presidential material, but it's reassuring to see a savvy social conservative in office. 

2. The NY 23rd was an unforced error for Republicans.  It was also NPR's favorite election this morning.  The seat wasn't lost because of some conservative-moderate split, but because nobody was watching the locals picked a woman who couldn't win.  And then too much hope was placed in Hoffman, who is a real conservative but also had real liabilities.

3. New Jersey was mainly tossing out a justly unpopular incumbent.

4. The electorate was much more white and old han in 2008.  That'll be less so in 2010 and much less so, of course, in 2012.

5. The independents switched big-time in the Republican direction.  The issue of BIG GOVERNMENT moved them more than it has lately.  But there's also no denying that they seem to be all about CHANGE, which of course helped the president last time and hurt the Democrats this time.  (The power of indiscriminate CHANGE can be seen in Bloomberg's narrow escape, despite spending his guts out and actually being a really good mayor.)

6.  All the studies show that the president remains personally popular, but there's increased suspicion about his policies.  That really mean that what people want changed, most of all, is the huge Democratic majorities in Congress.

7. The Republicans should be gearing up for a campaign for divided government to, among other things, make Obama a better president.  Democrats and other Obama-philiacs should be reassured that it was the Republican victory in 1994 that improved Clinton's performance enough to gain easy reelection in 1996.  Republicans should quote Democrats on the virtues of divided government when Bush and Reagan were president.  They should popularize the studies that show that divided government is best for controlling spending.

8. Huge Republican gains in Congress in 2010 are possible with the right kind of campaign.  But 2012 remains a more formidable challenge in the absence of national disaster. There still aren't any Republican national leaders.  Eric Cantor is just too short, for one thing.

9. It goes without saying that Republicans should use the shift in the voting behavior of independents to do what they can to scare moderate Democrats on health care.
Categories > Elections

Elections

The Meaning of the Elections

Let's leave the TV non-thinking heads aside, and our criticism of them.  Truth is, they aren't much worth noting, even though I'm still in the habit of watching them.  Party line stuff that doesn't even come up to the level of good propaganda, says nothing teaches nothing.  And I include my side in this.  No wonder young people don't watch any of this, and ever fewer older ones do, as the ratings reveal.

The two questions are: What does VA and NJ (and NY23) mean for Obama and/or the Democratic progressive agenda, and what does this mean for the GOP both substantively and electorally over the next few election cycles? The second question can't be answered without taking a shot at the first.  Michael Barone makes some assembled numbers meaningful.  And Jonah Goldberg opines that even though Obama remains personally popular, his agenda is not (Rush Limbaugh needs to understand this perfectly honest tension within the American electorate's soul; they like the chief but not his policies; this is not the first time this has happened).  So this is certainly the end of cap and trade and probably of health care reform.  Furthermore, if the Dems don't pass some kind of health care reform, they are likely to lose at least the House in 2010 because they will have revealed that they cannot govern, even with super-majorities in Congress. Because the Dems now know this, they are likely to try to push and shove health care reform (any kind of health care reform, public option, no public option, abortion, no abortion) through within the next few weeks.  So this could be very messy.  And ironically, the GOP will have very little to do with it.  In other words, the so-called moderate Dems (especially in the House) will either decide to stop it or not.  And their decision will be based either on principle or self-preservation in 2010 election, or both.  Sometimes justice is the same as self-interest.  This will be fun to watch.
Categories > Elections

Elections

Virginia Election Returns

This is the official Virginia site for election returns.  I know that McDonnell has already won, but note the size of the victory and the GOP sweep of all state-wide offices by equally large percentages; of course, this may close some before the end of the night; but it looks impressive.  You can also follow the General Assembly returns by clicking here.

What was I thinking?  I cooked some salmon, with onions, mushrooms, and lots of lemon, had a couple of glasses of King Estate Pinot Gris, and then followed it with a CAO Cameroon, and then settled in to watch TV returns.  I can't tell you how dissapointed I am....Nothing, no one (on either side) doing much thinking aloud; everybody is reading day-old scraps of notes handed to them by faction leaders.  Very boring and, actually, a bit embarrassing.  Darn it.  So I am going back to reading Michael Walsh's Hostile Intent.  A rip-roaring story...plenty of bad guys, great gadgets, some women--good and bad--and the whole good world at stake and, wouldn't you know it, one good guy--"his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful"--is trying to save us all.  I hope he does.  I think he will.
Categories > Elections

Elections

New Jersey Returns

As far as I can tell the best place to find the returns from the NJ vote is here.  At this moment, the Republican Christie is ahead of Corzine 55-38%, with only 5% of the votes counted.
Categories > Elections

Environment

Energy Revolution in Progress

This is the single most significant energy story going on right now.  And it's happening right here in the good ol' USA.  And it doesn't involve windmills, solar cells, pixie dust, duct tape, hampster-driven turbines, or other stupid green dreams.
Categories > Environment

Elections

Referendum on Obama, the GOP . . . or Just a Return to Healthy Political Reality?

In his USA Today column, Jonah Goldberg writes that the likely results of today's elections show that the GOP--as a party committed to ideas distinct from watered down versions of Democrat liberalism--is a concept that is not only alive and well but it is a concept that is also capable of thriving and flowering, even in today's allegedly "changed" political climate.   Moreover, it calls into question (or, rather, calls out) a good deal of the triumphalism that marked Obama's most devoted supporters in the wake of his victory a year ago.  It suggests that Obama's election was more of a "let's give these guys a chance" and less of a "let's change the entire way we do business!" kind of sentiment.  The "change" Americans believed in during the '08 election, appears to have been a lot less far reaching than Obama and his true believers might have hoped. 

In that same spirit, Paul Mirengoff today at Powerline reminds us that breathless suggestions about the meaning of today's elections--from either side--are best served with a paper bag.  Wrap around mouth and breathe.  These elections are not a referendum on Barack Obama.  Neither are they going to be an indication of a coming Republican resurgence.  What they will do is re-establish in the popular mind the political reality.  America remains a pretty evenly divided country with respect to political opinion.  Barack Obama won an election; he has not succeeded in his efforts at political conversion.  The GOP as a party distinct from Democrats and defined by a common-sense sort of center-right conservatism, is a thing that will not be rolled.  It lives to fight another day.  But it remains to be seen whether it will fight.

Mirengoff and Goldberg are both right, however, in taking appropriate good cheer from the likely GOP success of the day for the reason that it may chasten Democrats uneasy with Pelosi's and the President's proposed and sweeping reforms of the health care industry.  It is true, as Goldberg notes, that: "Democrats might like health care reform, but they like getting re-elected even more."  Human nature ain't always pretty.  But it is comforting, in a sense, to know that it can't be changed.
Categories > Elections

Elections

Today's Elections

Because I was on the road yesterday I was able to listen to a lot CNN (should I curse XM radio, or praise it?) and was amazed how they spun the upcoming elections, especially focusing on the New York-23.  Their main point--driven home the whole day and evening--was to try to  prove the White House line that the GOP candidate "forced off the ballot" was a sign of a civil war within the party and/or already a right-wing take-over.  (This L.A. Times article is as good as any of that view.)  The fact that the Republican cnadidate was actually to the left of the Dem, made no difference in their calculations, and hardly came up in conversation.  The drumbeat is that the GOP is being taken over by the far right.  I predict that this view will not settle into the American political psyche, especially after the defeat (by moderate Dems) of health-care as currently proposed by the Democrats.

This New York Times article on Iowa and the "sense of disappointment" that has settled in regarding Obama may be more revealing of the true problem.   The Dems will lose in Virginia and NY23, and if they can't get the vote out in NJ--where Corzine has attached himself to Obama rather explictly--then Corzine will lose and today's votes will have to be seen as a referendum on the Obama administration.  This is why we don't study physics.
Categories > Elections

Political Philosophy

Why Read Heidegger?

Folks have been buzzing for a while now about Carlin Romano's blistering attack on Heidegger in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Today in The New Republic online, Damon Linker fires back, with a half-hearted defense of why we should still study Heidegger even though he was a fascist. 

We report, you decide.

Presidency

Who is Obama?

Has Obama's mask slipped or is just getting started?

George Will provides a detail about liberal bullying, by requiring disclosure of who signed petitions to validate a referendum. It is all a part of the exposure of liberalism generally: Obama is no longer the student body president but rather the schoolyard bully. But that's what contemporary liberalism has stood for as well; the masquerade as champion of the little guy/gal fell flat long ago. This underscores that deception.

Obama would use his narrative skills to further that deception. In a column titled "More Poetry Please" NY Times columnist Tom Friedman (The World is Flat) argues that Obama's poetry--his speeches--are an essential part of his political strategy of nation-building.

But to deliver this agenda requires a motivated public and a spirit of shared sacrifice. That's where narrative becomes vital. People have to have a gut feel for why this nation-building project, with all its varied strands, is so important -- why it's worth the sacrifice. One of the reasons that independents and conservatives who voted for Mr. Obama have been so easily swayed against him by Fox News and people labeling him a "socialist" is because he has not given voice to the truly patriotic nation-building endeavor in which he is engaged....

Therefore, let there be more speeches, Friedman argues. He is spot-on, in that conservative (and especially libertarian) intellectuals often ignore the poetry that has helped make America--note for example the legal arguments offered by the Federalist Society. As sound as they may be, they do not offer the winning political argument. Even a defense of "liberty" must have a goal beyond liberty. This is the vacuum Obama would fill, but Obama's critics on the right correctly suspect what he is up to (as have those of us who have read Dreams from my Father). But Obama's failure does not add up to the triumph of the best of the American political tradition. That requires further efforts.

Categories > Presidency

Politics

More Gripes of Wrath

The Los Angeles Times has an article of mine on California's public finances in today's edition.  It's based on a longer essay that appears in City Journal, and which should also be available online in the near future.

P.S. And, indeed, here it is.
Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

And Now For Something Completely Different: The Bacon Explosion

Conversation during my splendid visit to the Ashbrook Center this week turned a couple times to high calorie fare, such as the bacon explosion, which burst on the scene a couple years ago.  It's about 5,000 calories, with 500 grams of fat!  Here's a quick video of my experiment with the bacon explosion a few months ago.

Categories > Pop Culture