Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Trump Card or Joker?

In this week's edition of the Weekly Standard, out this morning, I contemplate the EPA's "endangerment" finding on greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and why this desperation move may be the biggest blunder yet by the greens.

Noe back to watching the snow fall, and hoping I hid the snow shovel some place no one will find it.
Categories > Environment

NYT: "the reigning brain of the Christian right"

That would be the mild-mannered, sweet-tempered legal and moral theorist Robert George of Princeton.  (See his books here.)  He is the subject of a lengthy profile by David Kirkpatrick, formerly the NY Times resident anthropologist of conservatives.  The key to being "this country's most influential conservative Christian thinker" lies in his advocacy of natural law, though a natural law rooted in analytic philosophy, not Thomism or Aristotle.  Thus, Kantian practical reason (not Scriptural interpretation) becomes the basis for the defense of life against abortion, for decency against pornography, and for chastity against promiscuity.  Kirkpatrick's focus on sexuality distorts George's approach--one of the most touching of George's essays concerns the gratitude immigrants owe this country. 

In this regard, George's Kantianism resembles that of Hadley Arkes, who is however an overt follower of Leo Strauss.  It might be contrasted with the Thomism of James V. Schall, of Advent Conversations fame.  But all of these conservatives wind up politically in the same place.

It is unavoidable to note a certain a-political quality of the George approach, one that makes it alluring to Princeton undergraduates and acceptable to his colleagues.  (He co-teaches a class with Cornel West.)  Contrast George with Harry V. Jaffa, doubtless the profoundest thinker of American conservatism and also one tough brawler--still writing, now on Leo Strauss, at age 91:  William F. Buckley, Jr., once remarked that as hard as it is to disagree with Harry Jaffa, it's even harder to agree with him.

H/T WheatandWeeds "Pass the Biscuits."

Shameless Self-Promotion

Hit Tip to the WSJ

I was wondering why my Amazon numbers were soaring today (up to #981 Friday night--I know it's Christmas and all, but still. . .) and lo and behold I had missed the Wall Street Journal picking it out as one of the ten best books of the year.  Very kind of them.


How Did Bush Do It?

Some weeks ago I said on Kudlow and Company on CNBC that Obama wouldn't want to come back from Copenhagen in December 0 for 2, and that he'd probably sign on to anything to be able to say a "breakthrough" had been accomplished.  Turns out the exceedingly weak non-binding "agreement" that the White House is trumpeting won't even by signed by the principals.  Some agreement.  All those carbon emissions in Copenhagen for this?  

The whole exercise looks more and more like the Woody Allen joke about trying to find a framework to turn a concept into an idea.  Now we're told there won't even be a real agreement next year as hoped; maybe 2016 instead.  Stick a fork in this business; it's done.  It is worse even than Churchill's line about disarmament--a "prolonged and solemn farce."  I'd put it below the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1921 1928 that promised to outlaw war forever.  How'd that work out for everybody?

I expect a theme to emerge from the greens in the coming days: It's really George W. Bush's fault.  We lost so much time during his eight years that we couldn't possibly rescue the issue in just one year of Obama.  This is desperation time.  (Or it shows what a true evil genius Bush really was?--Ed.)  Meanwhile, kudos to India and China, which wouldn't go along with this charade, though they'll happily take our money (which we'll borrow from them) if we indeed try to go through with this charade.  They took the line from Apu on The Simpsons, telling us and the Eurocrats: "You are not the boss of me!"

UPDATE:  I'll add updates as noteworthy things come in, but no matter how much US greens will try to spin the result, just refer them to this statement from John Sauven of Greenpeace UK: "The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.  There are no targets for carbon cuts and no agreement on a legally binding treaty.  It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different mode of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen."  Yeah, John, we're all waiting with baited breath for that radical new mode of politics to arrive.  How many times has it come and gone now?  Oh, and what was that bit the last few years about "the reality-based community"?

UPDATE 2: Stephen Spruiell over at Planet Gore has a complete rundown of the gnashing green teeth over the Copenhagen result, but the headline in the Guardian says it all: "Copenhagen Ends in Failure."

Categories > Environment


Teaching Job at Ashland

I think I better bring this Tenure Track job to your attention.  It is in our department (History and Political Science) and is a newly created job based upon our tremendous growth over the last few years.  The job description speaks for itself, the only thing I will add to it is that you should apply only if you like working with excellent students, and congenial colleagues (I'm excluding myself from that characterization, of course).  Please pass the word, and ask those interested to follow the procedure in the ad.  Thanks.

Categories > Education


Prepare . . . but Don't Expect (for Now)

Ken Masugi and Father James V. Schall, S.J., engaged in a fascinating "Advent" dialogue (transcribed for your edification and available over at The Claremont Institute's website).  In it, Father Schall addresses a number of points, from the President's recent remarks in Oslo to the Pope's recent (and somewhat controversial) encyclical "Charity In Truth." 

Some highlights:

"Christianity wants to say that we can know how men ought to live, but that we also knows the limits of this world and the limits of human virtue and the extent of human vice. One of the great political tasks of Christianity is constantly to remind us that we have not here a lasting city. All modern ideology, usually cast in terms of rights, duties, and values, claims that we can and that religion is the principal impediment to its being attained soon, in this world."

and this formulation is spectacular:

"[W]e are intended for more than we are by nature. That we are is, in fact, our experience and why we can never be satisfied with anything less than the eternal life to which we are destined and for which we are created in the first place."

Read the whole thing . . . (a few times).
Categories > Religion

Foreign Affairs

The Queen in Seat A2

In lighter news, the Queen of England has embarked upon an everyday commuter train in order to reach her northern Christmas destination.

While I appreciate the nod to thrift, I wonder if I am alone in mourning the degradation of regality and ... well, nobility which ought to accompany a royal head-of-state. "Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order," observed Edmund Burke. "It is the Corinthian capital of polished society." I believe Tocqueville noted that democracy, while unlikely to fall into such depths of depravity as might be detected in a decadent aristocracy, likewise was not hopeful of attaining such heights of beauty as exemplified in a virtuous aristocracy. 

Surely the royals have at times failed to provide a dignified and elite model for the masses to adore - but has even the queen abrogated the duty to provide an earthly example of the extraordinary and exquisite? If it would be nearly unthinkable - even absent security considerations - for an American president to travel on public transport, is it not a clear denigration of the honor due to royal station to be accorded less decorum and circumstance than a mere tenured president?

At least Her Majesty sat in first class.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Climategate 2.0

The Climategate scandal is (if you'll forgive the pun) snowballing. Following revelations of climate data manipulation in hacked e-mails from the UK's Climatic Research Unit, the British Meteorological Office has now also been exposed as having corrupted data

Apparently, the British office's study of Russian meteorological data cherry-picked data from a mere 25% of all stations - and that 25% predominantly included stations which 1) were located or re-located in urban centers which had experienced population growth (causing artificial warming) and 2) provided incomplete data which could be easily manipulated. Unsurprisingly, the 75% of stations in static locations with complete data, which were not included in the study, record no significant warming trend.

Having been forced to disclose portions of it's highly concealed raw data (rather than the "adjusted" conclusions which are disseminated for popular consumption), the Meteorological Office has been exposed for egregious exaggerations and manipulation in a wide array of data. See, for example:


The blue line is raw data. The black line is adjustments applied to that data. The red line is the result following the adjustments.

Charlie Martin concludes: "We now have substantial evidence, from several independent sources, that the data used as the basis for the IPCC report [the UN study on global warming] has been adjusted in undocumented ways, and those adjustments account for nearly all the warming we are told has been caused by humans."

The linked stories include several other instances of newly exposed deceptions by the global warming / climate change community, in case there are any fence-straddlers out there. However, it is important to remember that there are three essential questions involved in the global warming debate.

1) Is the Earth getting significantly warmer?

2) If so, are humans causing it?

3) Would a bit of warming be bad?

It seems more likely by the day that the answers to all three questions is "no."

In the beginning, it appeared that the global warming community was simply stubbornly resistant to embracing evidence that their doomsday predictions were incorrect. At worst, they were zealous ideologues, clinging fanatically to their opinions.

Now, it may be necessary to conclude that many alarmists were, in fact, intentionally fabricating the entire crisis of global warming for completely unrelated, socio-economic ulterior-motives. At best, this would constitute an attempted global coup - built upon scientific deception, apocalyptic fear-mongering and the domination of international agencies - which would prove unprecedented, in scale and scope, in the entire course of human history.

Categories > Environment


Let's Stop Tolerating "Zero Tolerance"

Ben Boychuk, over at Infinite Monkeysis on a roll posting on the ridiculous case of the eight-year-old forced into a psychiatric evaluation apparently (though the exact nature of the facts involved remains in dispute) because he drew a picture of the crucifixion and that disturbed school officials who considered the drawing to be "violent."   (See, too, the posts linked in the appendix section of these posts which detail a number of similar cases of outrage).  Like Ben, however, I think this case has very little to do with the supposed "War on Christmas" or even with the First Amendment protection of religious liberty.  What it really is--no matter which version of the facts ends up being correct--is a massive over-reaction by school teachers and administrators bent on adding yet another chapter to the long and savage saga of trying too hard to prevent the unpreventable.  Zero tolerance policies regarding school violence seem to have the effect either of turning otherwise decent school officials into babbling idiots devoid of common sense and judgment or, they empower the zealots on staff who savor the opportunity of acting the part of enforcer of leftist virtue.   But even this assessment misses the point.  The real problem with zero tolerance policies is in what they do to the kids--both the kids ensnared by their idiocy and the kids who, by observing these examples, must be learning that the adults around them and the rules governing them are not worthy of respect. 

And one other thing:  have you ever noticed that the most vociferous endorsers of "zero tolerance" when it comes to things perceived as "violent" are often the first to defend (or, at least, look the other way) when students speak to adults and peers with cheek and disrespect, when they engage in sexually explicit talk or activities, and when they otherwise act like the little jerks that the nuns of old would have rapped on the knuckles with a ruler.  Of course, discipline (unless, of course, it involves therapy) is also considered "violent" . . . and we can't have that.  It's much better to make little Johnny--when he departs from the leftist template--think he's a nut-job or "abnormal" and, while you're at it, make sure all his little friends are made to understand that he is dangerous and "not right."  The empty suited administrators give in to the tin-horn dictators with teaching degrees, and all is right in the world of "education."

Meanwhile, don't plan on getting a teaching degree at the University of Minnesota if you don't plan to jump down the rabbit hole and really risk losing your mind.  Read about what's going on in today's "Schools of Education" to discover what's driving the souls of  today's "educators" and you may begin to see how insane things like the case above get elevated to the status of significant issue.  H/T: National Review

UPDATE:  It's hard to know who to believe in this story as the sketchy facts remain sketchy and the even more sketchy personages involved in the case continue to dispute the story.  Ben Boychuk updates, yet again, but sticks by his essential claim that "zero tolerance" works against the interests of those it ought, most importantly, to defend: kids seeking an education.    
Categories > Education


RIP: Economist Paul Samuelson

Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, died at the age of 94 a few day ago. Samuelson was a disciple of the liberal principles of Keynesian economics, a foil to Milton Friedman's conservative, monetarist perspective. He was instrumental to both neo-Keynesian and neoclassical economic development. My lovely lady, an economist of European persuasion, informs me that his 1948 textbook, Economics, is essential reading for any serious student in the field (it is apparently the most widely read economics textbook in the world).

As President Obama and PM Gordon Brown are charged with adhering to Keynesian economics, Samuelson's influence as a Keynesian apostle continues to be profound. Keynes continues to dominate European thinking on economics, though his sympathies for communist-styled big-government and failure to recognize its inherent de-humanizing elements (of which free-market thinkers such as Friedman were keenly aware) have moderated his influence in the U.S. 

Perhaps the greatest contribution of Obama's tenure will be to further disillusion Americans with the social-control, deficit-spending policies of Samuelson's idol. It would be ironic, indeed, if following a conservative Republican who advocated Friedman's economics but often acted in opposition to its principles (No Child Left Behind, Sarbane's-Oxley), a liberal Democrat forced a resurgence of support for Friedman through the extreme (and detrimental) application of Keynesian policies.

Categories > Economy


China Sending Copenhagen to Mexico

Rarely do I find myself in a position to be thankful toward China. And yet, it seems that the communist state may be responsible for realizing my hopes that the Copenhagen climate talks will fail to produce any significant policies (read: significant damage to our economy). Among other obstacles at the summit, China [which the article cites as a "superpower," alluding to a conventional knowledge of which I was unaware] has refused to allow independent international verification of its compliance with carbon-emission cuts. In response, the U.S. has refused to cut emissions until China repudiates.

Note the honesty which accompanies Senator Kerry's defense of U.S. hesitancy:

"To pass a bill, we must be able to assure a senator from Ohio that steel workers in his state won't lose their jobs to India and China because those countries are not participating in a way that is measurable, reportable and verifiable."

Nations adopting the measures proposed in Copenhagen would so hinder their domestic economies as to become non-competitive in a global market populated by countries refusing to inflict such harm upon themselves. The hope, then, of these environmentalists is to reduce all economies equally - a sort of self-imposed recession, in case the one from which we're just now pulling free wasn't sufficient for everyone.

It seems Copenhagen may be scrapped and a planned Mexico City summit will be held next summer (several months ahead of schedule). World leaders are about to arrive in Copenhagen without the benefit of an agreement of any sort. The likelihood of assembling a deal at the eleventh hour is looking ever-more elusive. Climate change alarmists seem to have been defeated.

Of course, the summit has provided great insights into the nature of the climate change community (beyond those offered by the climate-gate e-mails). Al Gore admitted to lying about the science of global warming, Hugo Chaves received "deafening applause" for denouncing free-market capitalism and favoring global socialism, and massive police forces, originally assembled to repel skeptics of climate change (with their long history of violence), were instead forced to repel rioting supporters of climat change policies (professional demonstrators, no doubt - it's all process for these folks, not substance).

Further, criticism of Copenhagen is becoming more pronounced. Like the health-care bill currently languishing in the U.S. Senate, it seems that the more people are informed about climate change policies, the less supportive they become. Anne Applebaum, sympathetic to the climate change cause, calls the current climate of environmentalist's rhetoric to be "anti-human," Ed Miliband, Britain's climate secretary, warned that the summit was in danger of becoming a "farce," and Britain's Daily Express has published "100 reasons why climate change is natural and not man-made." Also see this clip on ice core studies in Greenland and Antarctica.

Like many conservatives, my hope on the great initiatives of the moment (from climate change to health care to spending) is that they simply stall, without inflicting too great a harm upon private enterprise or public institutions, until more sober minds are again at the helm.

UPDATE: Let's hope that Secretary Clinton's pledge of $100 billion to help poor contries adapt to climate change will be swallowed up by the condition of "transparency" in China. 

Categories > Environment


Niebuhr or Nihilist?

To Peter's post below, see James V. Schall, SJ, who was so shocked by the President's "remarkably sane address" in Oslo that he even speculated whether he would change his abortion stance.  David Brooks heard it as a reflection of Obama's roots in the Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr, who is a kind of intellectual great-uncle to today's neo-conservatives.  "The Oslo speech was the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life."  Brooks explains:  "Other Democrats talk tough in a secular way, but Obama's speeches [at West Point and Oslo] were thoroughly theological. He talked about the 'core struggle of human nature' between love and evil." 

As I argued in numerous posts during the 2008 campaign, Obama's autobiographies reveal no deep-seated love for this country.  This nihilism has encouraged him to use American principles (as expressed in Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence) to castigate America and even to undermine our own self-interest. 

UPDATE: In similar fashion, Damon Linker uses Niebuhr against the neo-cons:  Niebuhr abhorred American exceptionalism, he argues. 

But I agree with Professor Schall that the speech raises a question (though not on abortion; did Reinhold Niebuhr ever write anything about the subject?):  One great American theme concerns the education of the arrogant rookie, the brash youth who learns to respect the veterans' wisdom and uses their virtues to enhance his own talent.  It is not too late for Obama to follow that path.  That would be a more noble ending than the one he appears careening toward.  In the meantime, conservatives need to continue his education.  

Categories > Presidency


American Thoughts

This Bill Kristol praise of President Obama's Oslo speech reminds me to recount briefly  conversations I had with a half-dozen folks who don't like Obama, and what they thought of the speech.  First, they were surprised by it.  Second, their view is that Obama acted and spoke as the American President, rather than as an ideologue or a party leader, and they all thought that this was the first time he did this; although one guy claimed he also did it at West Point.  Third, they thought that his references to being "head of state" with the obligations and duties attached, was significant.  (I note that while I consider the "head of state" formulation to be true--as was his mentioning that he is the "American commander-in-chief"--I thought that overly European in it's mode).  Fourth, these folks thought that he said what he said in part because of the long deliberation he was involved in over sending troops to Afghanistan; he learned much about geopolitical necessities (my words).  And last, there was a general feeling that giving the kind of speech he gave justified his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize; a good use of opportunity.  There were, I should add, a minority of people who don't trust him, and will never trust him, regardless of what he says or does; but, that is another matter, beyond discussion.  A few days ago I finally heard the whole of the speech on C-Span and tried to listen to it as a European might (never mind others for a minute) and realized how important the American President is in his person and in his speech: Because he has a massive amount of authority not only because of the country he represents with its principles and its power, but also in this case because he is post-Bush (who lost his authority) president, a black American man, a Democrat, even a man of the left, who also happens to seem especially smart.  Because of this (and the international media attention and praise he has so far received) the things he said were only surprising at first; on second thought, the speech by the American President was not surprising because they were essentially American thoughts, and therefore not only interesting but also, as always, consequential.  And even Europeans can't help noting that you do show respect to the opinions of mankind; you actually speak to them and with them; sentiment for them isn't enough.  Yes, you Americans remain an interesting people.  Note the Teddy Roosevelt quote from Kristol.  Those words also might be imperfect, as might Obama's, but they could only be said by Americans.
Categories > Presidency


Another White House Cock-Up

Another uninvited guest got to shake Obama's hand in the White House.  Can just anybody get in these days?
Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

A Nuclear Iran

Another domino has fallen in the cascade of evidence demonstrating the absurdity of Iran's denial that it is seeking nuclear weaponry. Leaked Iranian technical documents reveal that the country was attempting to test a triggering devise for nuclear weapons in 2007.

There are several take-aways from this discovery.

1.  The international community continues to be alarmingly inept at policing nuclear research. The consensus among intelligence agencies was that Iran had abandoned nuclear weapon ambitions in 2003. The revelation of progress in 2007 exposes global inspections as impotent and suggests that Iran's current proximity to nuclear status is a matter of extreme uncertainty.

2.  Obama's efforts to dialogue with Ahmadinejad - employing the power-of-persuasion charisma which differentiates him from his predecessor - have been proved a farce. Bush was comfortable branding Iran as an "evil" state actor and found the most useful dialogue to be toppling a neighboring regime for alleged weapons' research. Not subtle, perhaps, but at least cognizant of the nature of our enemy. Obama's judgement has been severely wanting in foreign affairs, time and again confusing the treatment due to allies and adversaries.

3. Iran is unfazed by Western accusations - or even discoveries - of continued nuclear progress. In fact, by responding to the discovery of a hidden nuclear plant with an announcement that they intend to build an additional 10-15 reactors, Iran has shown itself to be liberated and emboldened when caught in violation of international standards. Certainly, it's far easier to conduct research when one no longer needs hide it from the world.

4. Israel continues to emerge as the only country in the world prepared to take serious action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Obama's reaction to the surging evidence and escalating urgency of a looming confrontation with Iran has been to intensify behind-the-scenes calls for further sanctions. Today's WaPO carries Danielle Pletka's counsel that such a strategy is fool-hardy. In the absence of a reformulated approach to Iran, U.S. policy will continue to be "subcontracting American national security to Israel."

While Obama continues to focus on the domestic economy (a worthwhile endeavor), he must be aware that to ignore Iran is simply not an option. Should Iran successfully test a nuclear weapon or claim a functional stockpile, all other priorities will be relegated to second-tier as the world refocuses all of its attention on a triumphant and unleashed New Persia.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Political Parties

Lessons From the Big-Tent Democrats

The New Republic's John Judis calls our attention to a Washington Post article on California Assemblyman Anthony Adams, who won election in 2006 on a promise to vote against any tax increase, voted for a package of tax increases in 2009, and susequently faced the wrath of conservatives and an attempt to recall him from office.  Adams "had the gall to vote for Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's state budget, which, in the face of a projected $42 billion deficit and unpaid state worker salaries, included modest tax increases," Judis writes archly.

What California Republicans need, of course, is to learn to tolerate diversity within their ranks on issues they consider important.  They should begin by cutting Anthony Adams the same slack on tax increases that The New Republic has extended to Sen. Joe Lieberman on health care.  Judis's colleague Jonathan Chait assessed Lieberman's opposition to the proposed Medicare buy-in this morning in an even-tempered way.  The problem, he explains, is that Lieberman is angry at the liberal Democrats who supported Ned Lamont's primary challenge against him in 2006, so he is happy to sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of Americans who would be rescued by Reid/Pelois/Obamacare.  Lieberman has engaged in "obvious bad-faith negotiation" on health care.  The fundamental problem, Chait contends, is that "Lieberman isn't actually all that smart."  After all, "The guy was taken apart by Dick Cheney in the 2000 veep debate."  Enough said!

TNR is light-hearted about Lieberman compared to other Democratic precincts in the blogosphere.  Open Left calls him an "arrogant, insurance flack" who "needs to be stripped of his committee chairmanship and targeted for defeat by Democrats in 2012."  The Huffington Post reports that 81% of Democrats in a survey favor making Lieberman the former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmantal Affairs Committee.  According to Matthew Yglesias, "The leverage that Lieberman and other "centrists" have obtained on [health care] (and on climate change) stems from a demonstrated willingness to embrace sociopathic indifference to the human cost of their actions."

The California Republicans' problem, according to the Post, is that their bitter reaction to Assemblyman Adams reveals their "chaos and destructive divisions."  If only they could get along as well as the national Democratic party.
Categories > Political Parties

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Straight and Jive

H.W. Fowler has been reissued by Oxford: A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: The Classic First Edition (with an intro by David Crystal).  This is a much better edition than the third edition of 1996, which was heavily re-worked by R.W. Burchfield, as Jim Holt notes ina short essay in today's New York Times. 

I note in passing that Louis Armstrong wrote a lot.  He loved words.  He would carry his portable typewriter everywhere, and write at every opportunity (two fingers).  He also carried with him a dictionary and a book of synonyms and antonyms. He wrote two autobiographies, published  essays and book reviews, and also wrote tons of letters. When asked if he wrote Swing That Music, he said..."it might not have been a literary masterpiece, but every word of it was my own, so I can read it and understand it."  He once wrote to his manager Joe Glaser: "I personally think that it is imperative that you do it.....Damn....That's a big ass woid."