Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


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


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


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):


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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. 


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


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


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