Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ohio State vs. Michigan

OK, I am going to make a munchie-run and then sit on my couch and holler for the Buckeyes. But before I go I wanted to ask you a question. Did you know where O.J. Simpson was hiding before the Bronco chase? On the University of Michigan campus. That’s the last place you would find a football player. Now, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!

Daschle vs. Rush

This is a nice short piece by Christopher Caldwel on the Daschle outburst against Rush means: the Demos anti-democratic arrogance that now seems to have become the bedrock of their party.

Louisiana Senate Race

Although this is a typical, ordinary NY Times story on the Louisiana Senate race if you read it carefully, and even read between the lines, you will note that the jig is up. Landrieu will lose for essentially the same reason that the Demos lost the Senate: Bush is very popular and Terrell has tied herself to him both politically and personally (and Bush will visit the state a few days before the election) and Landrieu’s base, or what’s left of it, will not turn out in sufficient numbers to help. I predict that it will not even be close, double digits.

The Left’s view of the New Gore

Here is William Greider on The Nation explaining what a good thing Gore’s move to the left is and how the liberals ought to take advantage the publicity he is getting on nationalizing health care by starting to work now to include it in the Democratic Party Platform. In the meantime Dan Balz reports in the Washington Post reports that Gore is less popular with the Demo elites than he is with ordinary Demo folks. And here is an op ed on Gore from the London Times on how Gore is positioning himself.

Saudi Money to Terrorists

This is the Michael Isikoff story in Newsweek about large sums of money, through the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., going to Saudis in the U.S. who were helping the hijackers. Although the evidence is only circumstantial at the moment, it is strong. This is the AP story on the same. And this is the NY Times version.

Proposed Bumper Strip

Recalling the elan of the early anti-Castro days, how about a new bumper sticker that reads: "Al-farabi, Si!, Wahhabi, No!"

Big Game Hunting

You want a real Big Game. USC v. UCLA is nice, Army/Navy sentimental. No, no. It is The Game between Stanford and Cal. Alert readers will know that this is the 20th anniversary of The Play. I write about my own Play role here.

Oh, Ken and Robert, the national security panels were interesting. I don’t recall anyone mentioning the Civil War. So some war powers argument seemed a little, shall we say, incomplete.


This is an interview with Stephen Schwartz (author of The Two Faces of Islam) on Wahhabism, the extremist form of Islam we are dealing with. Good read, makes clear something complex. Has good insights on Islam in the Balkans as well.

Anti-Miss World Deaths Rise

ABC reports that the death toll is now over 100 in Nigeria, and rising.

I am not a Traitor

I just came out of an Arts and Sciences College meeting. You know, the typical stuff: the less important the subject is, the more discussion. I am usually loud and outspoken at these things, and everyone humors me. But I did something really imprudent. Under my breath--during an especially boring part of the meeting--I made a favorable reference to Michigan in the upcoming game. I was joking, of course, being the patriot that I am, yet, even I sensed that it was no laughing matter when a female faculty member (a perfectly nice and intelligent woman) scowled at me, pulled aside her overcoat to reveal a scarlet sweater over a grey turtleneck. She frowned and said "That is not funny. I am going to report you." I reassured her that I was only kidding. She said that was good, because she wasn’t. I think I’ll just stay at home until the game Saturday (12:15 our time).

Lieberman Running?

Senator Lieberman has started interviewing campaign staff in case Gore decides not to run, it is being reported. Who said Gore is not running, I mean aside from Gore?

Demos’ view of the Election

Here is a statement (in Adobe format) from Carville, Shrum, and Greenberg on why the Demos lost and what it means. This isn’t impressive to me. We have to speak out and address the country’s problems and this is still the Democrats’ moment. Yup, that’s about it. They get paid for this stuff?

Gary Hart, again

Now Jules Witcover gets in on promoting Gary Hart for President; Gary as the restorer of the Jeffersonian republic of virtue.

Trees Causing Pollution?

The EPA is spending $715,000 to determine whether or not oak trees in the Ozarks area are causing pollution in St. Louis. This has to do with the trees giving off isoprene, which when combined with sunlight and water turns into formaldehyde. When this is confirmed I guess the environmentalists will want the trees cut down. Somebody send a memo to Reagan.

The Gridiron Warriors of the West

While USC was not my team even when I was on the left coast, I must defend them as being the true warriors in college football. After all, when was the last time that an Ohio State player took a bullet during practice? That actually happened to former USC quarterback Rodney Peete. Sure, they wear pantyhose when the temperature drops below 65 degrees to keep their legs warm--but it is kevlar panty hose.

Segway is Fun!

Peter is worried that in his far-off old age he may have to trade in his motorcycle for a Segway Human Transporter. I guarantee him this is nothing to lament. Last spring, the Segway people brought one of their Transporters here to the Columbus Dispatch and let us each try it out. It was amazing! You can’t fall off this thing. It’s the closest thing to riding a magic carpet I’ve ever experienced. The machine stays underneath you no matter how clumsy (or drunk?) you are. And man does it go if you want it to!
Anyone who tries one becomes a believer. In fact, they end up giggling and whooping like a 10-year-old.
The machine also a marvelous example of this country’s inexhaustible ingenuity. Each time you think technology has been pushed to its limits, some American comes up with something like this to remind you that it just isn’t so.


This is an interesting report on some new discoveries about dogs based on some new DNA research and some more understandable studies. Dogs seem to have a better sense of humans and what they want than chimps, for example. And--I hesitate--it just may well be the case that dogs have not evolved from wolves, although the study only implies this. The point is my dogs like me, even that willful SOB Irish Wolfhound I once had, but then, he was Irish. That island breeds some valiant creatures! I wonder what it would be like to have a Hungarian Komondor? Oh, well, never mind. Jonah Goldberg at NRO brought this article to my attention.

Cowboy at NATO

I was struck by Bush wearing his cowboy boots to some of the NATO meetings. I think that says a lot. It is worth noting is that this expanded NATO has value to counterbalance the European Union; it forces some of the Europeans to be less local in their thinking. Krauthammer alludes to this. And John O’Sullivan notes that Bush is being entirely successful in reshaping NATO as an alliance against terrorism. Interesting stuff going on, and so far, the Cowboy is doing just fine. And this despite the fact that one of Chretien’s underlings called Bush a moron.

JFK’s Ailments Revealed

Historians of American politics are abuzz this week about revelations by Robert Dallek in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly regarding John F. Kennedy’s health. For years there had been allegations that Kennedy, after running in 1960 as the candidate of youth and "vig-ah"--implying that Eisenhower’s heart condition disqualified him from serving in the country’s highest office--was in poor health himself. Dallek’s research shows that JFK actually suffered from a wide range of ailments, including colitis, Addison’s disease, recurrent urinary-tract infections, and what would be diagnosed today as osteoporosis--the last brought on by the cocktail of medications he took daily to treat his other problems.

Dallek, writing in the tradition of court historians such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., portrays this as "a story of iron-willed fortitude in mastering the difficulties of chronic illness." I see it differently--while Kennedy was undoubtedly courageous, he was clearly in no condition to serve as president. That his health was successfully kept from the American people has to count as one of the greatest electoral swindles of the 20th century. When will the Camelot myth finally die? Perhaps not until the baby boomers pass from the scene....

Ted Kennedy: Selflessness without Bounds

After entering bankruptcy, USAirways laid-off 16,000 people--23% of its workforce. Who will be the champion of the little people? Who will fight for their jobs? Who else, Ted Kennedy. O.K., so maybe he didn’t fight for all the workers. But he did fight for some. O.K. for two. O.K., for two particular women. The women worked in what is called "Executive Services," which cater to the airlines VIPs--including Ted Kennedy. The day after the women were laid off, Kennedy called the President of the USAir personally "not to save his perks, but to rescue the jobs of the two women employed there, according to Kennedy spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter." He intervened "because of their distinguished service to him and others." Not since Eddie Murphy gave a transvestite prosititute a ride home have I seen such a pure act of charity. I guess it just shows that there is no river too wide, and no bridge too far for Ted to traverse in defense of a woman in distress.

The Game’s Afoot!

I admit it. When I lived on the left coast I used to watch USC play UCLA football and think that this was really a great game, a great rivalry. How embarrassing! I didn’t know that their quarterbacks were social work majors and their running backs wore panty hose to keep their legs warm. I didn’t know that football could be played in weather so foul that your toes froze. I was sheltered.

I have been trying to talk politics with people in Ohio for the last week, and they will not have it. They just want to talk about the war and all of Ohio is on fire! They mean a tumultuous war, a war with kith and kin and kind with kind confound, a war of quartering steel and climbing fire. The talk is only of the war with Michigan. After all, it has been going on since 1890’s. The story is filled with great captains (Woody Hayes) and the ministers and instruments of war, hearty and valiant troops (too many great ones to name), and even has a Benedict Arnold (except his name is Bo Schembechler in Ohio). It is a tale full of noble victories and unjust losses, of soothsayers in Columbus predicting a fourth quarter win in Michigan, of the hard knowledge that Ohio State has only won two out of the last fourteen games. This is no idle tale, it is close to the heart and mind of my fellow citizens. Identity and happiness is at stake. Tickets are being traded for first born sons, men are known to have given up their Helens to get to the game. Honor and the nobility of life are at stake. The Trojan War was nothing compared to this contest between giants. There is nothing else. The optimists argue that virtue is bold and that none by virtue fall. The pious pray that the God of battles steel our soldiers’ heart. And the pessimists hope that God will sort things out. Yet, we think we know that God is just.

These Buckeyes are people who know the disciplines of war. These bloody, bold, and resolute men are ready to try their fortunes, to the last. The state will effectively shut down on Saturday. Newborns on that day will be named Buck and Tressel, gender being irrelevant. Everything is at stake. We’ll talk about the war on terror another day, after Ohio State defeats Michigan by three points.

What IS It With Beauty Contests in the Third World?

The ruckus over the beauty pageant in Nigeria reminds me of when the Miss World pageant was held in Bangalore (I’m not making this up) India in 1996. A protest group named Mahila Jagran Samiti, which apparently translates to “Forum for the Awakening of Women,” threatened to commit mass suicide by immolation to protest the pageant. “Wearing miniskirts is not part of our traditional culture,” their spokesperson told reporters. (They don’t like Kentucky Fried Chicken either, it turns out. No word on what they think of turducken, but I can guess.) The spokesperson also said that the group had abandoned plans to have one member per day set herself on fire. Instead, they wanted to preserve their entire 15-person suicide squad for a mass immolation during the crowning ceremony, which was held in an outdoor stadium. The local constabulary talked them out of it, thus depriving Miss World of unprecedented ratings.

And Peter, all you really need to know about ERISA is that it really stands for: "Every Ridiculous Idea Since Adam." Just like most statutes from Washington.

Homeland Security and Turducken (briefly)

I missed the Homeland Security panel, as I was popping between meetings and the conference. I did hear that Lino Graglia suggested that honest Americans should not have anything to hide, and that therefore they should welcome the added surveillance and potential intrusions into privacy because it will aid in apprehending the terrorists. While this was related to me second hand and therefore may fall short of adequately capturing Graglia’s thoughts, the suggestion is nonetheless disturbing. While the government should not be unduly hobbled in its efforts to collect intelligence, this interest in security should not necessarily mean casting aside ordinary protections for individuals "persons, houses, papers and effects."

It would have been good to have seen the panels, and I would be interested in your thoughts on them. So far, I have heard a lot of anxieties on both sides of the issues, but fewer substantiated facts.

On the subject of turducken, it is cooked with different stuffing in each layer (including, for example, Oyster dressing in one layer, and a spicy dressing with sausage in another) and is roasted, not deep fried. You can see a picture of a finished turducken on the right side of this web page. There is also an interactive link on the right side of the same page which has audio and pictures describing the process of making a turducken.

Deaths in Nigeria over Beauty

The AP reports that over 50 people have been killed and hundreds injured in Lagos, Nigeria over a newspaper article that suggested that the prophet Muhammed may have chosen a wife from among the Miss World contestants. Official U.S. government publications describe Nigeria as a "republic transitioning from military to civilian rule." As the Poet said: "Beauty is a witch."

Turducken, continued (briefly)

Robert, you really got me thinking in a way the Washington Post and LA Times have failed to do so today. (I haven’t had my daily Aristotle yet, but then again I’ve missed it for some time now.) I’m sorry we couldn’t have had such, or a similar conversation at the Federalist Society meeting? What did you think of the homeland security panels?

Now this unnatural turducken is stuffed with dressing as well? One could stuff the chicken with, say, an apricot and cornmeal dressing, the duck with wild rice and cranberries, and the turkey with sausage, in addition to the creatures themselves? Is this concoction roasted? It’s not deep-fried, is it?

To return this site to its political message: Try thinking about Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation and of turducken at the same time.

The Turducken Controversy

There’s no reason for Masugi to recoil from the Turducken. Layers of poultry and stuffing--what could be better? No, such fear and loathing is appropriately reserved for the Tofurkey, which as best as I can tell does violence to the Thanksgiving holiday. Did the pilgrims feast on soy beans? Does anyone else think that the phrase "turkey-like texture and flavor" is not exactly appetizing? No, the Thanksgiving feast should celebrate God’s bounty bestowed to the carnivore, or at least to the omnivore. In this spirit, what could be better than a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken?

Daschle Meltdown

I thought the Daschle statement Peter referred was going to be his "what minorities in this country can expect from hard-right editorial politics" letter in yesterday’s (Wed., Nov. 20) Wall Street Journal, which concerned the Indian tribes and possible voting irregularities in South Dakota. "Firewater" indeed! Drink from the firehose of popular opinion!

Knowing a little more about food than politics, I still recoil at the thought of, if not the word, "turducken."

Terrell Leads in Louisiana

The latest poll shows Terrell leading Landrieu, 48% to 40%. Notice who is getting her base to support her.

Churchill as War Criminal

As this story from the London Telegraph makes clear, the Germans have started attacking Churchill as a war criminal because he approved of the bombing of civilian populations. An article in the largest newspaper in Germany is arguing that Churchill wanted to exterminate the German civilian population; it claims that civilian deaths were not only collatoral damage, but were the purpose of the bombing.

Well, this reveals more about current German sensibilities (not that some kook wrote a kooky book, but that a major newspaper decides to serialize it) than about Churchill’s policy. Winston had a pretty good knowledge of the laws of war and the difference between civilization and barbarism. And he also knew something about modern technology and its effects (the submarine and the airplane are ones he worried about most) on modern all-out wars that were guided by ideologues and had no respect for limited (and relatively civilized) wars of the past. The area bombing was always controversial (even during the war) and even Churchill could--after viewing of an Air Ministry film of German cities burning--ask the question: "Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?" He was conscious of the problem. See his March 28, 1945 memo to the Chiefs of Staff, for further reflection on the issue. Much can be said on this subject, and reasonable people can disagree, of course, yet it cannot be stated that the Brits or Churchill tried to exterminate the Germans. Is it possible, is it likely, that the Germans are, once again, becoming the idealists/ideologues that they have been in the past? Let us see some measured reason come from this people.

By the way, I saw on the news this morning Bush sitting with Blair at the NATO meeting holding a news conference, and the camera took in the whole man. Bush was wearing his cowboy boots! Cowboy boots in the heart of Europe! What a good man Bush is!

Daschle Over the Top

This is really too much. Tiring, boring, predictable. If Daschle doesn’t watch himself, and continues whining, he’ll turn into a Democrat.

NYT Pulls a Blackmun

The New York Times today suggests that Illinois Governor George Ryan should commute all the prisoners on death row to life in prison. Ryan had suggested that this was an option, but recoiled when a hearing demonstrated the horrific nature of the crimes committed by these inmates. The Times suggests that he should not be moved by that, but rather by the fact that there have been mistakes--DNA has proved that some of the men on death row were innocent. What the Times does not do is say that the DNA evidence also likely proved that many of the men sitting on death row are guilty. What about these inmates? Should their sentences be commuted, even when we are certain that they committed the crimes? The New York Times seems willing to treat DNA evidence as a one way ratchet--we will point to it to get people off death row, but ignore it otherwise. Like Justice Blackmun, who voted to grant habeas in every death penalty case toward the end of his term, the New York Times is less concerned with process and more concerned with their own opposition to the death penalty. That’s fine, but the Times should not dress up its opinion in the clothing of process, when it is clear that they do not want the death penalty even when process is sufficient and guilt is undisputed.

And Gore’s Myopia

Do we have to continue to be subjected to this guy? Gore is now criticizing Bush’s war on terror as feckless. Here are his thoughts from the New York Times:

Al Gore said today that the United States had failed to destroy Osama bin Laden and dismantle the network of Al Qaeda because President Bush spent the fall campaign "beating the drums of war against Saddam Hussein" instead of prosecuting the war on terror. . . .

As a result, Mr. Gore said, Americans are as much at risk of a terrorist attack now as they were before Sept. 11. . . .

"I think they lost focus," Mr. Gore said in remarks that served to build on a speech he delivered in September when he asserted that Mr. Bush would not be able to plan at one time for a war against Iraq while still dealing with Al Qaeda. "And I think the country is paying a price for it."

Memo to Al: it is possible to deal with both Saddam and the war on terror. In fact, the two could--I know this is a tough one--could just be interrelated. You know Al, things can be different, but the same. Saddam could be both a ruthless dictator, and a potential terrorist threat. Or to put it in terms Al can understand: a man can be both a Buddhist monk, and a campaign contributor.

Gore’s Revisionism

George Will has a nice article today dissecting Gore’s historical revisionism regarding the 2000 election. He does a particular service in taking the wind out of the "selected, not elected" chant of the Democrats by noting that under Gore’s theory, he would have been selected by the Florida Supreme Court, who unlike the U.S. Supreme Court had ignored the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

I wrote about this ad nauseum at the time, and have attempted to move on. But Gore can’t move on, and thus we have to continue revisiting the same facts--facts which Gore and his devotees continue to reject. This cognitive disconnect and resentment seems to be the driving force in his run in 2004--and will likely be his political undoing once again.

Meet Dr. Frankenstein

Scientists in Maryland are attempting to create a partially man-made new form of life: a single-celled organism with the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain life. While the scientists claim that they have removed the genes that would enable it to infect humans or to live in the hostile environment of the real world, the phrase that kept coming to mind while reading the article was "dangerous tinkering."

A chilling report

A woman, believed (by someone) to be dead was placed in a body bag at the DC morgue. On closer inspection, she was found to have a pulse.

Officials, in marked understatement, say that regular procedures were not followed. Gosh, I’d hope . . .

See the story here.

Art and ERISA

I’m glad you asked. ERISA is the "Employee Retirement Income Security Act." It is a complex federal statute that in many places supercedes state law with regard to employee benefits programs (and not just pension plans as the title suggests). You know the questions about whether a patient can sue their HMOs? That’s an ERISA question. In other words, it’s an area of law that makes a conversation with Al Gore seem somehow scintillating.

One Man, One Art

Look Alt, I do food, you do politics. It’s that simple. Soon, we’ll have an Alexandrian feast. What in the world is an ERISA case?

Like Al Gore?

Schramm expands his blogging horizons by writing about space and he is a theorist--nay a philosopher. I just once step beyond blogging on law and politics and I’m fooling myself like Al Gore! That’s cold. From now on I guess I will have to limit myself to blogging about ERISA cases.

Thomas Memoir

The NY Post reports that publishers are considering a proposal to publish Justice Clarence Thomas’s memoir. Despite the fact that Sandra Day O’Connor published a memoir, and Chief Justice Rehnquist has published several books while on the court, look for liberals to start talking about how inappropriate it is for the Justice to profit while in office.

Chinese Test New Missile

China recently tested a new anti-ship cruise missile with a range twice as far as U.S. estimates. The Washington Times reports that "[t]his weapon is believed by Pentagon officials to be part of Beijing’s efforts to develop a long-range strike capability against U.S. aircraft carriers and ships."

The Shedd Vote and the Coming Filibuster?

Byron York comments on the Shedd vote, and notes that the Democrats ability to muster 44 votes in opposition was intended to send an ominous message to Republicans--they have enough votes to filibuster a nominee any time they want.

True enough, but theory and practice are very different things on the Senate floor. You still take political heat for filibustering (i.e., you are do nothing obstructionists), which means that the Democrats are not likely to do so unless they have a candidate dead-to-rights. This returns the Senate to something more like the pre-Leahy/Schumer standard. Accordingly, if they are able to completely demonize a candidate as they did (or, more appropriately, attempted to do) with Bork, they will have the votes to filibuster, but otherwise, I think they will do what they did here: express their displeasure with a high "no" vote count. Thus, for example, Justice Owens gets through, and if they even think of filibustering Estrada, they are likley to get flogged by fellow Democrats with Hispanic constituencies.

Perhaps most interesting is the fact that Landrieu voted against the Shedd nomination. There has been a lot of back and forth on this, and her final vote suggests that she is attempting to shore up support with minority groups, which have been lukewarm to her candidacy and which opposed the Shedd confirmation.

Food and Politics

I had a Gulf Lobster Thermidor last night, with a full bottle of Cuvee Dom Perignon, preceded by a couple of shots of cheap Jack Daniels (which I kept spilling on my rattlesnake boots). I felt I owed this to myself because I had lost the better part of the evening listening to Al Gore trying to pronounce boring and banal correctly. I was adrift in existential angst and really would have spent my time better reading Jean Paul Sartre (who I haven’t read since my undergraduate days and then only because of the threat of force). Now, Alt, if you think that celebrating Thanksgiving in the South (and eating Turducken) is the very essence of haut cuisine, then you and Gore should continue fooling yourselves. And that may be the connection between food and politics. Besides, I will remind you, I am married to a Southerner who considers herself a great cook. I am a graduate of a hard school and know exactly the connection between food and politics. By the way, I lied, I ate hospital food last night.

Judge Shedd

Although largely buried in the papers today, Dennis Shedd was confirmed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last night. When Strom Thurmond stood to offer his words of support for his former staffer Dennis Shedd, the Senate gave him a standing ovation--a more fitting response for the elderly Senator than the broken promises he received from Leahy. Shedd’s confirmation follows that of Judge Michael McConnell, who was confirmed to the Tenth Circuit by voice vote last Friday night. What a difference an election makes.

Heading South for the Holidays: Turducken

I’m spending this Thanksgiving in the warm Southern confines of Jackson, Mississippi visiting friends, which means that I will be greeted with a true southern Thanksgiving table. Yes, that means Turducken. A turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed again with a chicken. The New York Times explains the joys of turducken:

A well-prepared turducken is a marvelous treat, a free-form poultry terrine layered with flavorful stuffing and moistened with duck fat. When it’s assembled, it looks like a turkey and it roasts like a turkey, but when you go to carve it, you can slice through it like a loaf of bread. In each slice you get a little bit of everything: white meat from the breast, dark meat from the legs, duck, carrots, bits of sausage, bread, herbs, juices and chicken, too.

You see, Schramm, it’s not just about politics--there’s food, too.

The New Model Gore

I have been trying not to watch Gore on "everything and always AlGore TV", but he is an ominpresent fact, like a head cold that will just not go away. And the timing of this latest Go AlGore campaign is timed so that those who enjoyed the GOP victory in the last election only had less than a week bathing in the warmth of victory. From now on it’s Gore and nothing but Gore. And this is a Gore (and his Tipper, attached lovingly to his hip) that is vivacious and funny and far left and has made his peace with reality (and he is being praised for this?). Michael Kelly reflects on all this in a lovely piece in today’s WaPo. As far as I can tell, he nails Gore’s essence, or, at least it’s latest manifestation. Note especially Kelly’s emphasis on Gore’s newly re-defined family values, and what this foreshadows. His first line is perfect: "A terrible banality is born. Again."

Democratic Angst II: Landrieu

Building on the previous entry about Kerry, the opposition angst that he demonstrates in that column is in full view with Senator Landrieu. On Meet the Press this weekend, she tried to paint Terrell as being in lock-step with the policies of the President, while she was an independent who would stand up for Louisiana when the President is wrong. But unless I missed it, she never offered such an example. Best as I can tell, the strategy is to suggest that she’s an opposition candidate to appease Democrats, but demonstrate that you she’s with the President to appease Republicans and moderates. We’ll see if you can fool all of the people all of the time.

Microwave Bomb

This is a story from The Times of India on the microwave bomb. There is also a note about the thermobaric bomb. Short and clear.

Kerry Emerges: Bush v. Dukakis, II

Howard Kurtz suggests that Senator Kerry of Massachusetts may well emerge as the Democratic frontrunner in the media’s review of the Democratic candidates which he likens to the forthcoming ABC reality show "Are You Hot?" Gotta give Kurtz points for honesty. Kurtz notes that Kerry’s has a number of assets: he’s a Vietnam hero, he’s got experience as a Senator and in the foreign policy arena, he’s got a wealthy wife, and he’s got "good hair." But these may not help him with what even Kurtz recognizes to be his big drawbacks: he’s a liberal from Massachusetts. Bush v. Dukakis, part II. The article is worth a read because it shows the angst in the Democratic party: Kerry talks about opposing the President, but then doesn’t do it on the war vote (despite the fact that he voted against the Gulf War in 1991).

Woodward’s Book

Tony Blankley offers a nice short course on how to read Woodward’s new book on the war (parts have been excerpted in the WaPo). He explains Woodward’s method and why the book, in the end, is not woth reading, regardless of the hype it has been given; the most interesting parts have already been serialized, and it is clear that George Tenet and Sect of State Powell are the heroes (Rummy and Cheney wouldn’t talk to him).

The Election According to Streisand

Singer/Actress/Director/Activist/Spelling-Bee-Champ/Geographer/Oil Magnate/Shakespearean-Scholar/Face-of-the-New-Pelosi-Led-Democractic-Party Barbra Streisand offers her thoughts on the November 5 election in a blog entitled ". . . A Sad Time." Babs--or more likely her conventional-wisdom spouting ghost writer, muses that

The Democrats who stood up to the president and showed strong opposition leadership were the ones that won on Tuesday. Hopefully, by 2004, the party - and the people - will get the message.

Ah yes, and which Democrats are these of which you speak, Babs? Was it Carnahan, who voted against the confirmation of AG Ashcroft? Oh no, she lost. Or was it Cleland, who voted against the President on Homeland Security issues? Oh, but he lost too, and it was this "opposition" leadership that cost him the race. Well, then it must have been Mondale, who picked up the Wellstone torch of opposition to the President’s policies. Oh, but he lost as well (making him one of the only men alive to have lost elections in every state in the union). O.K., then it was Mayor Kirk, part of the Texas Democratic dream ticket, who came out against Justice Owen and against the war on Iraq. Oh wait, he dropped like a rock in the polls as soon as he made those statements and never recovered. Well then it must be that savior of the party, Pryor from Arkansas. Ah yes Pryor--such an opposition candidate that he ran to the right of Sen. Hutchinson on gun-rights. Can’t be Jeanne Shaheen or Strickland either. Oh well, looks like Babs better stick to Shakespeare --I mean, spelling; no, no I mean investing; no geography. What is it that she does again?

The French Contribution to the War Effort

Many thanks to The Volokh Conspiracy, which brought this little gem to my attention. It seems there is actually a use for the French and existential philosophy after all:

Efforts to root out the remaining Taliban and Al Qaida forces in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Muslim zealots by proving the nonexistence of God.

Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or ’Black Berets’ will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy.

Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris’s Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement Cafés at strategic points near the front lines.

The whole article, which is very funny, is here.

Gettysburg Address

Today is the 139th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, not only the shortest speech ever given, but arguably the best. Do yourself a favor: read it aloud and let the Anglo-Saxon rhythms reveal themselves to your ears.

Here is a good speech on Lincoln that Ken Masugi gave several years back. You also can listen to Mac Owens discuss the Gettysburg Address during one of our summer teacher institutes.

Ancient Law Unconstitutional II

The Sixth Circuit refused to grant a stay pending appeal for four schools in Ohio which display the Ten Commandments as part of a "Foundations of American Law and Government" display. The decision can be found here.

Also, Howard Bashman’s How Appealing blog links to pictures of the religious and secular displays (which includes a depiction of Moses receiving the decalogue) in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court courtroom, which was mentioned in the Alabama Ten Commandments decision.

Kennedy and Leahy Get Taken to the Wood Shedd

What happens when you throw a filibuster and nobody shows? Just ask Senator Leahy, who had intended to to filibuster Judge Shedd’s appointment to the Fourth Circuit on Friday. The only problem is that none of his obstructionist pals showed. No Dick Durbin, who was the only Senator to vote against Judge McConnell’s confirmation to the Tenth Circuit. No Chuck Schumer. No Dianne Feinstein. Byron York offers some insight as to why the filibuster didn’t happen, including fears that it would hurt Landrieu’s campaign. But for the real answer we need look no further than the leader of the charge--Ted Kennedy. Even he realized that successfully filibustering Shedd was a bridge too far, and this is coming from a man who knows a thing or two about bridges--political and otherwise.

Ancient Law Unconstitutional

A Federal District court in Alabama ruled that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s 5,300 pound granite display of the Ten Commandments violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. Justice Moore has pledged to appeal, but he may run into trouble for failing what has variously been called either the Frosty the Snowman or the Rudolph test.

Under a series of constitutionally bizarre Supreme Court rulings, religious displays including nativity scenes are generally permissible so long there are other non-religious articles--like Frosty, or Rudolph, or a robot present. Justice Moore has seemingly argued his way out of the rudolph exception by denying the requests of Civil Rights groups to put up a copy of MLK’s "I Have A Dream" speech, and atheists’ requests to display a tribute to the atom--an idea the atheists no doubt stole from the Simpson’s tribute to the inanimate carbon rod. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously struck down the display of the Ten Commandments at public schools, but has not ruled on them in courthouses. Should the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately take the case, they would hear it sitting beneath Moses and the Ten Commandments (you can see the carving on a virtual tour here [ Free Quicktime viewer required), and in front of the public doors to the courtroom, which likewise have the tablets carved in them. The New York Times story (which includes a picture of the display) is here, and the court’s decision is here.

Don’t Underestimate Pelosi II

Following up on the Busch hypothesis, E.J. Dionne argues in today’s WaPo that just as Democrats were dumb to underestimate Bush, the Republicans would be dumb to underestimate Pelosi. In particular, Dionne argues that Pelosi experience as a mother of 5 will appeal to white suburban couples with children, a group which has increasingly distanced itself from the Dem Party. Given her liberalism, she will also motivate the base. Dionne’s comments when viewed with Busch’s suggest a trend in the conventional wisdom--one which should not be ignored.

Ashcroft Wins on Wiretaps Appeal

The New York Times reports that a special federal appeals court overturned a previous decision which limited the ability of prosecutors to utilize wiretaps obtained for intelligence purposes to actually prosecute the terrorist. The decision is described as sweeping, in so far as it dismisses the widely held legal belief that this division between intelligence wiretaps and criminal prosecutions was somehow legislatively sanctioned. The lead editorial in the Times calls for the Supreme Court to overturn the decision and for Congress to re-write the statute, in order to prevent this broader intelligence gathering power from being used to infringe upon civil liberties.

Bush Should Listen to Busch

Andy Busch is right to warn not to underestimate Nancy Pelosi. (We should expect this from the author of such a fine book on Reagan--plug, plug.) She is likely to get a pass much of the time from the media (especially the Judy Woodruff’s of the world), and Republicans will make a mistake just to call her a San Francisco liberal without making more serious arguments about the issues. If nothing else, now that she is the leader she will probably boost her already prodigious fundraising to a new level, making it easier for the party to dump the egregious McAuliffe.

Can We Take This Much Gore?

Among the gems in the Washington Post magazine feature on Al Gore last weekend was this little detail:

"There’s an aromatherapy candle on a coffee table near him, its flicker lonely and small in the still-chilly, mostly uncarpeted house. . ."

But wait! There’s more!

"As Gore talks, he periodically lets out the controlled exhale that yoga practicioners and women in labor know as the ’cleansing breath,’ a means of slowing down and staying calm"

Maybe he’s just practicing his heavy-sigh act for a debate rematch with Bush.

Other punch lines welcome.

Garrison Keillor Slammed

Bruce Sanborn reflects on anger in politics, no, not the Illiad, but rather on Garrison Keillor’s wrath. A funny and thoughtful piece on a comic’s anger.

Pelosi, like Gingrich?

Andy Busch writes a warning to those (of us) who are excited by the fact that Pelosi is heading the Demos in the House: she is a liberal and will move the party to left (and it looks like Gore is going to help her) and that will be good for the GOP. Not so fast, says Busch. He thinks that it is possible that she will begin to set up the kind of majority that Gingrich established and for similar reasons: she will practice the politics of conviction and will go for the GOP’s jugular. This could not only help her re-organize the base of the party but could have the strategic effect of building a Democratic majority that is more than fleeting. He explains what the GOP will need to do if she proceeds with this plan: they will have to start making serious arguments, they will have to be more coherent and "it will require the consistent public articulation of an argument that is better." The implication is that the GOP will have to become better than they have been. Very thoughtful, very good read.

Louisiana Senate Race

I saw the encounter between Mary Landrieu and Suzanne Haik Terrell on Meet the Press yesterday. I was not impressed by Landrieu. She is overly aggressive, too talkative. Her only message was that she will be an independent voice. And she made a big point of saying (many times) now that the GOP has control of the Senate she should be elected so she can be an independent voice. The GOP doesn’t really need the LA seat to have the majority in the Senate, so therefore she should be elected. Besides, she just loves everything George Bush does, etc. You get the picture; a lot of empty rhetoric and a lot of skating around on the issues. Landrieu spoke an infinite deal of nothing. Terrell was refreshing by comparison. Intelligent and articulate, honest, but not a talk hog. I liked her. I bet I know something about what kind of women Lousiana voters like. Terrell will win. The governor decided to endorse her after he saw the debate. Here is the story on the debate from The Times-Picayune and Governor Foster’s endorsement.

Segway Human Transporter

Amazon is offering (the first?) the Segway Human Transporter for $4,950. You can be the first (as they say) on your block to own one. Delivery will be in March of 2003. Is this what we have to look forward to in our old age? Instead of cruising around on a motorcycle am I going to buzzing around town on one of these things? God, I hope not.

Know Your Customer . . . And Then Some

The New York Times has an editorial raising questions about the "Total Information Awareness" project. While this is often mentioned in the same breath as the Homeland Security Bill (it should be noted that the Times does not do this), as best as I can tell the TIA is already in existence, and is not dependent on the passage of the Homeland Security Bill. Even so, the TIA’s proposal to create dossiers on average Americans without reasonable suspicion, let alone probable cause, is enough to raise concerns.

This sort of data collection is just an extension of the "know your customer" provisions, which commandeer banks to reveal information about "suspicious activity" by customers. The controversial know your customer provision was expanded in the U.S.A. Patriot Act to include broker-dealers, presumably based upon information that the terrorists appear to have purchased a large number of "puts" (that is, they went short) on United and American Airlines before the September 11 bombing, in an attempt to profit from the predictable crash in the stock after the terrorism.

Americans have an admirable skepticism toward the collection of information about their activities by government agencies, or by anyone else for that matter. My sense is that an unrestricted ability on the part of the government to collect data will incense the population--even in these extraordinary times.

Environmental Terrorism and Homeland Security

The New York Times reports that authorities are investigating whether a string of recent acts of vandalism--including slashing SUV tires and damaging windows on cars and fast food restaurants--may be the result of Earth Liberation Front, a group recognized by the FBI as a domestic terrorism organization. The group claims to lack a centralized command, but confirmed for the Times via email that it has cells active throughout the United States, and that this activity may be caused by an active cell. Charming.

Homeland Security is likely to pass this week, and while they have a lot of other, more dangerous priorities, ELF may deserve some attention in the near future. The group has done more than $50 million in damage in the U.S., often resorting to arson. Of course, they are not always that bright. The Times reports that they have freed minks only to have them run over by cars, or sprayed them with paint (to make their fur useless), only to kill them from exposure.

London Tube Terrorism

This is an article from the London Times that considers the latest arrests there of terrorists said to be interested in gassing the underground. It is well written and even instructive on how the likes of MI5 is handling things. But it is also amusing, in that dry-English-kind-of-way.

Redactio Ad Absurdum

The Washington Post today continues its lament about how the plaintiffs in the McCain-Feingold litigation are thwarting the public’s right-to-know by redacting information which they deem confidential under a joint protection order. How unconscionable! Yet somehow the Post fails to recognize who started the game of hide the information: the reformers. Yes, it was McCain’s office that first exercised privilege to prevent the release of potentially sensitive information--information which would have shown the kind of access that lobbyists, including so-called reform lobbyists had to the Senator.

It is an odd position the Post takes: compel speech they favor; prohibit speech they disfavor. So much for free speech.

Is Iran Teetering?

As you know (although the media doesn’t publicize it much) there have been huge student demonstrations in Iran for over a week. The supreme leader has said that he will review the death sentence of a dissident academic. Joining those demonstrations has been a grandson of the Ayatollah Khomeni, by the way. (We may lose a man, but we always end up getting their children or grandchildren; remember Stalin’s daughter?). It is the opinion of many serious people that these demonstrations are just another example of the crisis situation the regime finds itself in. Indeed, Micahel Ledeen thinks it is time to liberate Iran, now.

Come Administer the Dark Side, Luke

This program summary is from the Brookings Institute (I’m on an email list for them). The tone of self importance is, well, obnoxious. The "cadre of master executives" business sounds like a weird amalgam of biz school and a George Lucas film. I wonder who funds this stuff?

Mastering the Art of Public Leadership
March 2003; Washington, DC
A new ten-month leadership development program that will build a cadre
of master executives who will have the knowledge, wisdom and skill to
transform public policy into compelling results for the American people.

Gender Gap and Media Bias

Mark Steyn explains why there is no longer a gender gap, or, even better, why whether or not Pelosi is a woman doesn’t matter. Or, yet best of all, he admits to media bias in all matters political, and thinks it’s in the interest of the good guys and hopes that the likes of Judy Woodruff and Jonathan Karl keep up their bias. Besides, it turns out that old women (OK, elderly ladies) vote Democratic, while the young are for the GOP. He finds all this worthy of ridicule, and he is right, as usual. An amusing read.

Venezuelan Crisis Continues

The BBC reports that President Hugo Chavez has taken control of the Caracas police from the Mayor (who is anti-Chavez), by military force. This is just going to get worse.

Is Saddam Searching for Asylum?

The London Guardian reports that a senior Iraqi (known as "Chemical Ali" to the Kurds) has visited a number of countries (including Algeria, Tunisia, and Lybia) trying to find out whether any one of them would be willing to take in the Iraqi leadership. None of this can be confirmed, of course, yet it is interesting. It could also be an attempt on the US’s part to undermine morale within the Iraqi regime.

North Korea now admits to having Nukes

Until now North Korea has only acknowledged to having a program to produce highly enriched Uranium, but now it has admitted to having nuclear weapons, according to the BBC.

France, Germany in Decline

This is from the current issue of The Economist and although I am not sure what brought it on it claims that the French are not only having political and economic problems, but are in the middle of a self-esteem crisis. Given the little I know about the French, this does not surprise me. But note the military cooperation the US is getting from the French on the Island of Djibouti, France’s largest overseas base. And note this equally pessimistic article about Germany. Schroeder’s government is off to a terrible start, and his support has taken a nosedive since his re-election. Robert Samuelson thinks that the German economy is in such bad shape that he calls Germany "the sick man of Europe;" that appelation used to be reserved for Turkey. Maybe such matters are worth considering when Dubya finds himself in the middle of Europe next week. It is being reported that he will not have a private meeting with Schroeder .

El Al Hijacking Attempt

A terrorist attempted to take over an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul He had a knife. He was subdued by two security guards on board. The bad news is that a man (an Israeli Arab) was able to get on an El Al flight with a knife. El Al is supposed to be the safest airline on the planet.

Demos Seeking New Message and New Messenger

Even the New York Times can’t hide the fact that the Democratic Party is in dissaray. Notice the comment of one Demo operative: "We don’t have the farm team that we had 10 or 20 years ago." And that will mean a long term problem, not just 2004.

The 49 competitive House races

This Roll Call article considers the 49 new members of Congress who won their seats by less than 55% of the vote . These are the only competitive House districts and this is likely to be true in the 2004 elections as well. Another reason why the Demos are not going to take the House back in 2004.

Hell’s Angels, Mongols, Pagans

I guess the Mongols are the good guys in this one. Tumultuous biker wars shall kin with kin, and kind with kind, confound.

Technology and the Iraq War

This is a very clear piece by a physics professor at Berkeley on some of the new technological devices that will come into play if there is a war in Iraq. It appears in an MIT publication.

Sullivan on Eminem and Politics

This is an Andrew Sullivan piece in Salon on how the left is using/abusing the popularity of the movie "8 Mile" for political purposes. Thoughtful.

Homeland Defense bill

The Washington Times carries a newstory today about the privacy provisions in the Homeland Security Act. And here is the William Safire column of a few days ago that has caused such a ruckus. He thinks tyranny is at the door. Yet, I don’t understand what this Poindexter project ("Information Awareness Project") has to do with the Homeland Security bill. Here is the text from the White House . I may be missing something but I don’t see anything to be overly concerned about. Correct me if I am wrong.

Gore’s Bold Calculation

Here is Karen Tumulty’s piece in Time magazine on what Gore is up to. This is one of the many pieces in print and on TV that you will be seeing about Gore. He has made a strategic decision to be the topic of conversation for the next many months before he declares his candidacy. It is clear to me that he is campaigning already, and that he is acting and talking according to a pre-conceived plan established before the election debacle. And it is also clear that he is going to be on the attack from now on. He means to make clear where he stands, and he will not want any ambiguity about it. He wants to present a clear alternative to Bush and the GOP. He wants to give direction to the Democratic Party, and will not want Pelosi to get in his way. Indeed, he is forcing her to jump on his bandwagon as early as possible. He wants to make sure there will not be any other Demo candidate to his left. The fact that his poll numbers are so low is entirely to his advantage; they can only go up. (See this LA Times poll from today which claims that only about a third of the Democratic insiders want Gore to run again). This strategy may assure him the nomination of the Democratic Party, yet it will also surely assure him a defeat in the general election. Among other things, Gore calls Bush’s foreign policy "horrible," his environmental stance "immoral," and his economic policy "catastrophic." At one point in the interview he makes the amazing claim that our foreign policy is now "based on an openly proclaimed intention to dominate the world." I believe that this bold calculation to move to the left and to craft a new unabashedly liberal Democratic Party will serve him well. If he keeps it up--which I believe he will--he will act like a magnet to the various left/liberal parts of the Demo Party and will end up shaping the party for years to come. He is right, this maneuvre will be clarifying. So much for the possibility of moderating the Democratic Party. Maybe Pelosi should become his running mate. The Democratic Leadership Council is now dead. Unless, of couse, Hillary revivifies it after 2004, at which time--after the massive Gore defeat--she will pretend to move the party back toward the center and become the moderate Democratic candidate in 2008. Isn’t politics fun?

Ann Coulter on what Demos should do

This is Ann Coulter’s amusing (?) piece of advice to the Democratic Party and what directions they may profitably take.

Should non-native born citizens be allowed to become President?

George Will considers the governor-elect of Michigan (D) and the chatter she has caused (because she is an unabashed liberal and very attractive) because she should be (because of the above two points) a natural candidate to be on the Demo ticket for 2004. Trouble is, she was born in Canada. Folks are now beginning to talk about changing this provision of the Constitution (Art II, Sect 1) and Will, although concluding that it shouldn’t, seems a bit ambivalent about it. Well, I am not ambivalent: the foreign born (of non-US parents) should not be allowed to become president. I am betting that this will become an issue during the next year. I’ll pay attention.

Iraqis Infiltrated UK Germ Labs

This BBC story claims that Iraqi scientists infiltrated UK germ labs just before the Gulf War (thanks to Miss Lopez at The Corner).

Is November 5 a Prelude to Political Dominance?

David Broder writes an interesting article in today’s Washington Post, in which he suggests that the November 5 victories track the Bush-Rove political strategy in Texas. That strategy led to Republican political dominance in the state through get-out-the-vote efforts and a return to straight-ticket Republican voting. Broder suggests that the November election may prove to be this strategy on a larger scale. Worth a read.