Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Simpsons and Math

The Simpsons, as you know, has a huge following. This site (thanks to Pejman) has to do with Mathematics: "Several episodes of The Simpsons contain significant mathematics that relates to material we normally cover in our classes. For these reasons, this program is an ideal source of fun ways to introduce important concepts to students, and to reduce math anxiety and motivate students in courses for non-majors."

Blair in Iraq

Here is the AP report on Blair’s visit to Iraq. Blair visited a school:

Mohammad Ade Mohammad, a fan of disco and soccer star Ronaldo who wants to be a doctor, was overjoyed. ``He and Bush liberated us from that criminal Saddam, that son of a criminal,’’ he said. Any insult preceded by ``son of’’ is serious stuff in Iraq.

Bush’s Tax Cut

George Will explains what Bush’s tax cuts have to do with the economy and the next election. 

A New Iraqi Army

James Dunnigan offers some very interesting thoughts on what the new Iraqi Army--which arguably will be one of the best in the region (because we will build it)--will be like, and what the consequences for the region might be.  

Bob Hope at 100

Happy Birthday to Bob Hope! I don’t know what to say about the man, except that I liked him, grew up with him, became an American while he entertained me. I saw him live only once (in Jonesboro Arkansas) in the 1970’s. One of his first lines was something like this: "I decided to come to America from England when I realized that I could never be king." (He was three.) How can you not like a guy that says that! Well, he did become a king here. Just ask anyone who served in the military and was fortunate enough to catch one of his USO shows. They loved him, and they should. Here is the site on him from the Library of Congress. No wonder he has been made an honorary veteran.

Iran, front and center

Michael Ledeen captures the essence of the Iranian problem, and has some suggestions. Worth a read. 

Hitchens on Blumenthal

This is Christopher Hitchens’ very long review of The Clinton Wars in The Atlantic.

The Old German

The oldest man in Germany, Hermann Doernemann, "turned 110 on Tuesday saying the only exercise he ever believed in was walking to the corner shop to buy beer and cigars." He said that if he knew he was going to live this long he would have taken better care of himself. Sounds like a Bob Hope line to me. This reminds me of my grandfather, Paul Schramm. He was about 89 when he died (in early 1979) in Hungary. He went through the whole of that awful last century, finding himself in WW I on the Italian front, then the Communist Revolution of 1919 (he was a with them), then the quasi-fascist regime between the wars, then WW II, then the Commies took over--by then he was an ordinary Social Democrat, but his wing of the party refused to go into a coalition government with the Reds--they arrested him and gave him ten years of hard labor. He made it through all of it, including the 1956 revolution. Then he went to the doctor for a check-up at age 89 (he was healthy), slipped off the couch in the waiting room, boke his hip, and died from complications a few days later. I advise this old German not to go to a doctor.

Another reason to fight

In other wacky news today, a (legal) brothel in Nevada has announced it will give away freebees to the first 50 Iraq war veterans who show up, as a way of giving thanks to our fighting men. Somehow I think this could be worked into the "Army of one" recruitment ad campaign.

Well, Duh

Stupid headline of the month award goes to this AP story (as carried in today’s Washington Times):

Condoms in schools don’t cut sex

The subhed offers little help: "New study finds teens more apt to use them if available."

What, did some educrat really think the kids would just use them on bananas as they’re taught in class?

Memory Loss

Many of you know I claim to have a bad memory (especially for names). This study out of England may help explain my memory loss. It may have to do with smoking. I’m trying to remember--as I light up--whether or not alcohol, specifically that bourbon I like, ah, helps rekindle memory; there must have been a study on that. I can’t remember. But now I’m trying to remember the name of the bourbon I like, you know, the one that is called, ah, the name has something to do with Lincoln; was it Sinking Spring Farm where Lincoln was born, no, that’s not it....darn it, I can’t remember the name, maybe it’s, yup, here it is, Knob Creek, about ten miles to the northeast, the place that Lincoln’s father bought when Abe was two years old because Sinking Spring Farm’s soil proved to be a barren waste. Knob Creek was a smaller farm, but it proved more fertile. Yup, that’s the one, Knob Creek, that’s the bourbon I like. Maybe there is hope for my memory loss. Now if I could only remember what Abe’s father was called...Thomas. All this with a smoke, and no Knob Creek. I amaze myself. I love these studies.

Clinton’s Latest

Bill Clinton spoke at the Kennedy library. Here is the Boston Globe story and the Reuters dispatch. Among other things, Clinton said that he thinks the 22nd Amendment should be changed because "people are living much longer." Disregarding the issue of whether or not the 22nd amendment should be changed or not (or clarified regarding the two consecutice term issue), this comment by Clinton is another indication of his tyrannic soul. I remember him saying back in December of 2000, when he only had but a few weeks left in the White House, how he loved being president and that he was going to try to sleep less while he was in office so it would seem as if he were president longer! That tendency on his part, loving the power and trappings of office, was the clearest intellectual indication (never mind some of his actions) of his tyrannic soul. And this is the guy that will not go away, who will--at least vicariously through his wife--try to become president again. No wonder some in the Democratic Party are claiming that he is sucking all the air out of the room. See John Fund on this issue, on the harm he has done to the Democrats, and how it is inevitable that he will continue to be in the limelight. He is still a newsmaker, but standing for no principle, still their best fundraiser, still full of himself, still full of charisma, but still tyrannic in every movement and with every breath. As Shakespeare has Pericles say: "’Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss." Pity the Democratic Party.

New York Times Mess

I am not following the New York Times fiasco and cover-up in detail because others are doing such a good job with it. Andrew Sullivan, of course, is one of them. If you want to continue to follow the delicious details, read Sullivan.

Clinton Third Most Popular President

Pejman has a few good paragraphs on the latest poll showing Clinton to be the third most popular president (along with W.).  

Dick Morris on Blumenthal

Here is Dick Morris on Sidney Blumenthal. Not pretty.

Remembering Bill Clinton

Federalist #10 reminds us that ’Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.’ Lest we forget that in the age of ’W’, the Wall St. Journal’s Opinion runs two links today reminding us of the shenanigans of the Clinton years.

Robert Bartley’s review of Sydney Blumenthal’s ’The Clinton Wars’ is entitled ’No Wars, Only Scandals: A Look into the Parallel Universe of Clinton Spinmeister Sidney Blumenthal.’ To sum up the review as quickly as possible suffice it to say that Blumenthal is the Baghdad Bob of the Clinton Administration.

In addition, the Journal provides a lenghty chronology documenting the Clinton scandals from its six-volume collection on the Whitewater scandal.

It is as baffling to reflect on the differences between George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton as it is to reflect on the differences between Karl Rove (and Karen Hughes) and Sidney Blumenthal (and James Carville).

Head of Al-Jazeera Worked for Saddam?

The Al-Jazeera chief was fired. There are accusations that he worked for (or with) Saddam’s intelligence services. I’m shocked and surprised. Who would have thought!

Gilbert and Cheeks

Natalie Gilbert singing and Maurice Cheeks helping. Sweet story, albeit a week old. 

The Left’s Lack of El Rushbo

Christopher Flannery has a lovely piece in The Claremont Review of Books on why the Left lacks an El Rushbo sort of their own. I can’t resist giving you the start of it, as long as you read the whole:

"In the past months, as the world and I were concentrating on more serious matters, our thousand-eyed media couldn’t help noticing, in a desultory way, a certain small sideshow. Compared to the events sweeping across the center stage of history, it seemed a bit like a lost sea-bird fluttering on the fringe of an armada, but perhaps you noticed it, too. I refer to the liberals’ increasingly desperate effort to discover or create a Rush Limbaugh of the Left. Hapless candidates for the job were trotted out, wealthy partisans forked up millions for the cause, and so on—the details fade mercifully with time. But one theme kept bobbing to the surface of the reportage and commentary. It came from friends as well as critics and neutral observers, if I remember, and it was not a deep insight, in itself. But it was suggestive. It caught the mind’s eye and invited at least a little more desultory attention.

What kept bobbing up was the observation that it is not much fun listening to liberals. Compared with the real El Rushbo—ever buoyant, larger than life, overflowing with conservative joie de vivre—the lefty pretenders appeared, to friend and foe alike, anemic, wan, somehow depressing. In a word, grim; even the professional comedians. The Left is not a barrel of laughs.

My own listening experience confirms this general truth and suggests a corollary: the lefter you go, the grimmer it gets. If my political ear has not deceived me, this is bad news for the Democrats, who have to tune to the far left of the FM dial and crank up the volume in order to reach their party’s activist core."

And then this march of logic: "Here, then, is the root cause of the Left’s chronic depression and the irresolvable problem at the core of the Democratic Party: America’s success is their failure. And here is the corresponding cause of the good humor and vitality of conservatives: So long as America succeeds, they cannot fail."

Porter Goss on Iran

Rep. Porter Goss, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said it very clearly on Face the Nation: He said that Iran has shown some cooperation on terrorism, but not enough.

"The trick in Iran is this: The good guys are trying to bring some reform; the bad guys control the levers of power. Sorting the two apart and then isolating the bad guys and taking the levers of power away from them is what’s got to happen. It’s got to happen in a way that does not shut down the reformists or cause repercussions to the reformists. This is hard."

Russian Weapons get a Boost from Iraq

Russian weapons (and Soviet origin mostly) are getting some good publicity from the Iraq war. "Russian analysts and industry sources said the Iraqi war will be remembered for the downing of U.S. fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft by Soviet- and Russian-origin surface-to-air missiles. They also pointed to the success of Russian anti-tank missiles."

Teaching Positions, Charter School

Terrence Moore (here is his latest essay for us), the principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Ft. Collins, CO, has announced that there are three openings for good teachers (first grade, sixth grade, and music). If you are serious about wanting to really teach something because you love the subject, consider this. Notice that teaching credentials are not required. Follow on to this "Comment" for the details, including a link to Ridgeview. The curriculum is great, and so are the teachers.

Elliott Abrams

With the Road Map getting under way, The Washington Post runs an article on Elliott Abrams, the President’s senior advisor on the Middle East. Oh, oh, another so called "neoconservative!" Not only is he Jewish, but he gets a lot of support from evangelical Christians, besides those two strikes note that he is an "Iran-Contra figure." That must be a kind of action figure that was once popular, I guess.

Victor Davis Hanson, Notes

The Boston Globe ran a story on Hanson a few days ago. And here is a seminar you can listen to--almost four hours long--that he held at The Ashbrook Center for about seventy high school teachers on March 29th. The title of the session was "The American Way of War." It’s very good.

Operation TORCH

In the latest On Principle Pat Garrity writes a fine review of Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943. The Allies killed or captured some 250,000 men, we lost almost 3,000, with 9,000 wounded, and some 6,500 missing.  

Sorenstam, Golf, and Excellence

I am not a golfer, but I paid a little attention to this Annika Sorenstam issue. While not exactly certain how I should think about the matter, Andrew Sullivan has a good long paragraph on the matter:

"Yes, she’s sexy. But the way in which the public rallied behind Annika Sorenstam’s pioneering golf game was surely because of something else: she represented an old, pure form of feminism, a message that has been somewhat lost in the politically correct culture wars of the last decade or so. Sorenstam, after all, was not portraying herself as a victim of male oppression. She’s a fabulously successful sportswoman, a wealthy celebrity, and happily married. She wasn’t asking for special treatment in any way. She played exactly the same course, under exactly the same conditions as her male peers. Despite the fact that women’s courses are generally shorter and less troublesome than men’s, Sorenstam played with the big boys - and beat many of them. And she’s refreshingly free of political posturing. She’s not aiming to be a feminist icon. She’s trying to play golf as best she can against the best competition in the world. She is also not attempting to deny the obvious: that there are significant differences between men and women. The more we learn about the impact of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen and the deeper our understanding of evolutionary psychology, the clearer it is that some differences - in physical strength, subtle mental attributes, emotional temperament - can vary with gender. That’s why we don’t have co-ed sprinting races or expect women to compete with men in the shot-put. But what we have in common as human beings vastly overwhelms what differentiates us as members of one gender or another. Sorenstam is a pioneer in accepting this, and reveling in it. She’s not indistinguishable from the men; but she is competitive with them. She’s different but equal. Americans are far more comfortable with this kind of social message - and for a good reason. It’s about integration, not separatism. It’s about personal achievement, not group grievance. It’s about merit, not complaint. It’s about golf, not politics. Sorenstam cannot be accused of claiming any "special rights." She’s embracing the old American virtue of doing your best against the best, and not letting anything - gender, race, class, religion, sexual orientation - get in the way. That was once the core, simple, unifying message of the civil rights movement. Odd, isn’t it, that it took a Swedish female golfer to remind us."

Core Principles for a Free Iraq

In today’s’Wall Street Journal’, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld outlines the Core Principles for a Free Iraq.

Memorial Day

One American soldier killed in Iraq and eight were wounded in two separate incidents, making today "one of the most violent days for U.S. troops since the war ended last month." President Bush lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery. He said: "The moral force of democracy is mightier than the will and cunning of any tyrant." I painted a bathroom this morning, then visited a few cemeteries on my motorcycle--as is my habit on Memorial Day--to pay my respects. I took my son John to the cemetery in Loudonville. In the meantime, Britain is considering sending troops to the Congo where there are currently about 750 ineffectual (and unarmed) UN troops. The violence and death is extraordinary. I am not even sure if this is a civil war. "According to aid groups, between 3.1 million and 4.7 million people have died as a direct result of the war, making it the world’s deadliest conflict since 1945." The above short article from the Daily Telegraph is not for the faint of heart.

American Soldiers

This is a beautiful article by Jim Lacey who was embedded with the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne. The article illustrates the courage, compassion, and justice of American soldiers in Iraq. Justice includes no cookies for the Frenchman.

Let’s see, in Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues that good warriors must be able to harm enemies and benefit friends and know the difference between enemies and friends. It appears America’s armed forces approach the best regime.

Little League, WW II, & Gratitude

A couple of days ago, I took my eleven year old son to his first Little League game of the year. His team lost a double header. He made an amazing catch of a sinking line drive in center-field in the first inning of the first game, then threw to second base to complete a double play, thus snuffing out a big rally. I shouted, ’That’s my boy.’ The other parents in the crowd giggled. What more could one ask? How about a base hit? In the second inning, he hit the ball, a slow grounder to the second base side of the pitcher’s mound, the pitcher fielded the ball and made a wild throw over the 1st baseman’s head. My son scampered to second. He scored on another error two batters later. The bench erupted with glee, my son was excited and happy. Daddy was proud and happy. Ok, they lost both games.

Upon arrival at the game, a racquetball buddy of mine had introduced me to his father from Toledo, Ohio. We talked. The father told me he had coached youth baseball for over 20 years. He was critical of the Coaches; why does the pitcher throw from the stretch when there are no base runners, why does the coach let the first baseman (his grandson) stand on first base before the pitch, why does the little boy have a big bat, why did the right-fielder throw to first base instead of second base, etc. Good points, perhaps a bit too critical, but he wasn’t shouting or interfering.

Little league games are dominated by two frustrating facts, walks and errors. The games are extraordinarily boring, except for those episodic moments when one’s son is involved in the action. So this man and I turned to other topics. This elderly man and I turned to the war. We found we agreed that the War on Terror was necessary, that the Bush administration and our armed forces had performed brillinatly in Iraq, etc.

He talked about the various things, he and other veterans at the American Legion in Toledo had done recently. I asked him when he had served in the military. He was 18 in 1945, 76 in 2003. In 1945, he was stationed in California on his way to the Pacific War. He and his fellow soldiers had been told by the Army to expect a very high percentage of casualties in the impending battles. He expected to die.

He hated war, you could see. He knew WW II was necessary. He did his duty. He didn’t have to go to Japan to fight. He was grateful that Harry Truman had dropped the atomic bombs. It saved his life. He gestured toward first base and his grandson (he has five or six grandkids) and then gestured to his wife and son (he has three children). He and they wouldn’t be here but for Truman. He was persuaded that Truman had saved a million American lives with the decision to nuke Japan. He was sorry Japanese civilians had to die. He was certain that many more Japanese would have died if the war had continued via conventional means. I mentioned Paul Fussell’s writings, including ’Thank God for the Atom Bomb.’ He simply nodded. We watched the game.

I guess, especially on Memorial Day weekend, we ought to be grateful that we live in America, where we can watch our children and children’s children play ball in peace, surrounding by extraordinary prosperity, in freedom. We need not fear suicide bombers crossing over from Toledo. People from Michigan and Ohio need no ’Roadmap to Peace’. Remember 150 years ago or so, Michigan and Ohio almost went to war (wasn’t there a battle) over Toledo. Imagine. Let’s be grateful for the rule of law and the genius and prudence which established that rule of law.

Just as importantly, we must remember the hard decisions which have to be made to perpetuate that liberty. Shakespeare illustrates this in Henry V. Washington did it in the Revolutionary War. Lincoln did it in the Civil War. Churchill did it in Oran, Dresden, and elsewhere. Truman did it. ’W’ does it now. Just as important, we should be grateful that our political tradition, while seeing the necessity of war, sees war as means to a higher end. The higher end is peace with liberty. This gentlemen (and would have been warrior)understood all of this. Play ball!

Berkowitz on Strauss

Peter Berkowitz, a Professor at George Mason School of Law, makes some good sense and provides a nice introduction to the thought of Leo Strauss.

Worth a java or two (imagine two of Schramm’s coffee cups here).

Bush Regime Cards

Jonah Goldberg at NRO brought this to my attention. He is irritated that he didn’t make it. I agree, he should be one of the Jokers! The Bush Regime Cards are amusing. Humor from the Left is rare, so have fun looking at who else is not on there.

Don’t Judge a Nation by its Friends

Andy Busch’s fine Memorial Day piece now is also avaliable at National Review On-line.

Boys and Girls

Business Week runs a long article on how (and why) boys are falling behind in their schooling. Worth a serious read. Then look at this USA Today editorial (much longer than normal) on how some colleges are instituting an affirmative action program for boys, and how this preferential treatment will become a an issue if the Supreme Court overthrows affirmative action in the Michigan case.

I would say (and have said) that this is a serious issue. I am not sure what the female-male ratio on college campuses is, but it is almost certainly the exact reverse of what it was, say, thirty years ago. (It is probably 60-40% female now). I looked up the other day from a list of Ashbrook Scholars we have accepted into the program--the acceptance is done solely on their intellectual and moral virtues, and not only on paper, each is interviewed for over an hour--I believe there were twenty-two at the time and noticed that there were only seven boys. It has been like that for years. Not good. Why this is happening is a long story and merits some serious conversations which will have to be had another day. But I promise to get back to it. Look at these articles and file them.  

Edwards not Doing Well

ABC News reports that Senator Edwards is either not gaining traction, or is losing momentum, however you want to look at it. He remains in the middle of the pack.

Concealed Carry Testimony

This past Wednesday, Amanda Cassill, a 16-year-old home schooler who happens to be my second cousin, gave an eloquent speech before the Ohio State Senate arguing in favor of the individual right to concealed carry. As someone who has taught constitutional law to college students, I must say that I was amazed at how well she as a teenager understands and articulated the issues. She began with the text of the Second Amendment, then quoted at length from the founders--Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin. She then cited to the recent Fifth Circuit decision of United States v. Emerson for the proposition that the Second Amendment encompasses an individual right (which is quite a feat, considering she did so without the aid of lawyers in the family). And she concluded by citing extensive data showing the concealed carry laws cut crime. If the adults to whom Ms. Cassill was speaking understood the issue half as well as she does, we would all be better off.

Nerd Nirvana

John Fund has a nice little piece on my alma mater entitled "Nerd Nirvana." The strange thing is that at University of Chicago, that’s a compliment. The article does reveal new Dean Saul Levmore’s devotion to racial preferences, which is disturbing but unfortunately not surprising. (The University of Chicago as a whole signed on to a wretched little brief filed by Larry Tribe in favor of the University of Michigan.)

Tax Cut Victory

President Bush appears to have won a major victory on the tax cut front. The tax cut bill includes a dividend tax cut, a cut in the Capital Gains tax (from 20% to 15%), a cut in the top income tax rate (from 39% to 35%), and all effectively immediately. Most commentators report that Bush compromised big time to get less than half of what he wanted. More reliable commentators believe it is the best tax package since Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. Here are the observations of three reliable economic conservatives: Stephen Moore ,
Bruce Bartlett ,and
David Malpass .

Now let’s just hope they are correct.

Pygmies Appeal to UN

The London Times reports that pygmies in the Congo--caught up in the civil war--are appealing to the UN because they are being slaughtered and eaten, being hunted down as if they were "game animals." I anxiously await the UN’s response.

Speech Envy?

You might remember that in March I brought to your attention this great speech by Colonel Tim Collins of the Royal Irish Regiment. As fine a speech as any I have ever read. President Bush liked it as well: He hung it on his wall. Well, it turns out that Collins is accused of ill-treating Iraqi soldiers and civilians. It seems that Americans (not Iraqis) are making the accusations. This story from Australia may shed some light on the matter. I hope the accusation is not true. If false, shame on us.  

UN Resolution Lifting Iraq Sanctions

The BBC prints the whole text of the UN Security Council Resolution lifting economic sanctions against Iraq. And here is Martin Walker’s analysis.

Intelligence Matters

Kevin Whited has some good thoughts on the CIA and militant Islam in Central Asia. Links worth following.

Dishonest Sid

Michael Isikoff does a remarkably clear job of taking apart Sidney Bluementhal: "Sid Blumenthal rearranges facts and besmirches the character of his fellow journalists. And he wonders why people dislike him." 

Death of the Term Paper

The Los Angeles Times runs a story on the death of the term paper (plagiarism) in college and high school. True enough. Ken Masugi’s method of dealing with it is right and that is what I try to do. It works. Here is Ken at The Remedy, in full:

"What has been the case for at least 10 years (certainly in my own teaching experience) has become front-page news in the Los Angeles Times: The death of the term paper, partially through internet plagiarism but as much from lack of standards in the high schools. My own strategy in these paper wars, fought at the college level, was to assign take-home examinations that required unconventional responses incorporating close reading of primary texts. I suspect those serious about educational reform will have to fight on both primary and secondary levels of education, as well as on the college level."

On Geology and Politics

George Will’s op-ed in the WaPo is on the connection between geology and politics. He reflects on the dissappearance of the island of Krakatoa in 1883. Pretty good.  

NAS Blog

The National Association of Scholars has started a blog. Good for them and us. Take a look at it. The topics they cover will be of special interest to academics, of course, but, who knows, someday they may have something interesting to say about Abe Lincoln, for example.

The Ugly European

This is my contribution to the latest On Principle. It is called the "The Ugly European" and is related to the "American Walking" note below. I hope you enjoy it. French and Germans are not allowed to comment, tut mir leid.

The Myths of Neoconservatism

Here’s Jonah Goldberg’s 3rd installment on neoconservatism entitled ’The End of Neoconservatism: Debunking the Myths.’

General Logan’s "General Order no. 11", Memorial Day

Here is another great Memorial Day piece. This is by Mac Owens. Because it is excellent, I am glad it’s long.   

It’s enough to drive someone to smoke

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Nicole Kidman has sparked a controversy by lighting up a cigarette during her press conference at the Cannes Film Festival. Anti-smoking groups are up in arms, saying that Ms. Kidman should use her position to discourage smoking.

This seems eminently silly. Ms. Kidman is not legally or contractually prohibited from smoking if she so desires, and that ends the story. She does not have a peculiar obligation to be hypocritical and tell people not to do something that--while admittedly a risk factor--is a risk factor which she enjoys.

The story is more interesting for the zeal shown by anti-smoking groups, for whom this is clearly a public sin. The article concludes by noting that the groups are pushing for legislation (presumably in Australia) which would require all films depicting smoking to carry a warning! Peggy Noonan is right: liberals were much more interesting back when they smoked.

The whole episode reminds me of a friend who doesn’t smoke, except when confronted with those preachy "Truth" anti-smoking ads. He has vowed to smoke a cigarette for every ad to which he is subjected. Following his lead, after reading this story, I think I need a cigarette as well.

American Walking

A number of people have asked me (I continue to be surprised by both how many people read NLT, and even who the readers are) to explain what I meant yesterday when I said that I can tell an American at a hundred paces by the way he walks.

One reader--a scholar, and so speaks to it--writes that Aristotle links gait to character. He does indeed, and, if there is an American character it would be reflected in the American gait, would it not? I believe it is. But no scholarship here. I’ll tell you a story about when I first discovered that Americans walk, well, like Americans.

I lived in Munich in the academic year of 1968-69. I was studying German and attended some philosophy seminars at the university (which, being continental philosophy that was preached, soon made me mad). I was alone, lived in a cheap pension and then a studentenwonheim, worked (as a "black", i.e., off the books, laborer) at the main marketplace unpacking bananas from refrigerated cars for seventy-five cents an hour, and then got a great job working in a factory (Dr. Stiebel Werke). I spent a lot of time with Germans and East Europeans and didn’t talk to an American for the first four months or so. By early Spring I became terribly homesick.

Think about the word "homesickness." It is an illness brought about by being away from home. I repeat, an illness. I had never been this ill before (or, I emphasize, since!). The physical effects were something like seasickness; my head was sick and the whole heart faint. I wasn’t missing the pretty Southern California coastline, you understand, or big cars or hamburgers. I was missing Americans, a certain kind of people with certain qualities I liked, was at home with. I missed my people.

So I went searching for Americans. At the first sign of the illness, I just kept my eyes open for Americans. I didn’t see any. Then, as illness progressed, I started searching for Americans. I went to places where (I thought) they were likely to be. Alas, they were not. I kept at it. I pressed hard. But nothing. Things got so bad that I was unable to sleep. I would wake in the middle of the night and prowl the city with my eyes wide open. Nothing. I got into the habit of going to the main railroad station in the middle of the night (it was one of the few places open all night). I would sit and drink coffee and talk to whoever was there; mostly Germans of questionable character drinking much too much beer. Sometimes we would talk about America; but no Americans.

One night--very late, it must have been 3 A.M., I was heading home from the station, turned a corner and was thunderstruck. There was a man walking in front of me, going in my direction. There was no one else on the street. My eyes focused on him for a second and, within another second, I was running toward the man (approaching him from behind) because I realized (in a kind of Hegelian augenblick) that this was an American man walking. I came to an abrupt stop on his left side, panting, blurted out something like, "Please, I am an American, I need to talk with you. Please. Do you mind if I walked with you a bit?" Needless to say the man was surprised. But he recovered his composure quickly enough and was magnanimous enough to allow me to walk and talk with him. The conversation was not about the mysteries of things, or the latest political news, or gilded butterflies, or tales of American grandness. No, it was about his home town of St. Louis, and the virtues of the Cardinals of his town, and why the National League was superior to the American (being a Yankee fan I disputed this). It was about small things. But that was enough, and with each step and each sentence of the conversation I felt the contagion leave my soul and began to regain my health. Oh, how wonderful it was, to be healthy again! I wanted to hang my cap on the horns of the moon! An hour later we parted company; he had, in his own way, understood that he had given me a gift. I was whole again, I was happy.

The next day (in daylight) I was walking down the street and noticed three men walking a few yards in front of me (they were also black) so I saddled up to them and was prepared to say hello, expecting a howdy in return, when I heard them speaking in Hungarian! I was shocked, but decided to talk to them (at first in German, they spoke no English) and discovered they were from Ghana, studying law (amazingly enough!) in Budapest, and were in Munich playing the tourist. Their Hungarian, by the way, was flawless. So we parted company and as I let them walk on I looked at them walking from behind. I realized they couldn’t possibly have been Americans, and wondered why I hadn’t seen that before. They walked as if they were not at home in the city or in the world, as if the sky would fall in on them at any time, as if there was a thundercloud above them instead of a shining sun, as if they were afraid to displease the gods.

From then on, whenever I felt a touch of the illness grab my soul, I would venture into a crowd, keep my eyes open and look for men who stood tall, walked with purpose, were unafraid, and even had a kind of jocularity in their walk. Even if I didn’t talk with them, it was good enough just to know that they were around and, whenever necessary, I could talk with them and be at home.

The Dying New York Times and the Blair Saga

Jeremy Lott thinks that The New York Times is finished and that USA Today has a great chance (or, in effect, already is) to be the national paper. Short, and worthy of your consideration. In the meantime, Sridhar Pappu writes in the New York Observer about Jason Blair (he inteviewed him) and what he was and is thinking. Fascinating: drugs, no remorse, killing the journalist Blair so the person could live, race, etc. Some weird stuff here. Worth a read. Jason Blair is now preparing a proposal for a book and/or a movie; the emphasis, as far as I can tell, will be on race. No doubt, he will make himself into a victim. Quite remarkable.

Dumbest Lawsuit Ever

Judicial Watch filed what may well be the dumbest lawsuit ever last week, asking a district court in DC to overturn Senate Rule XXII (which permits filibusters) as unconstitutional. Let me say that this is not just imprudent, but boneheaded, stupid, several beers short of a six pack, an order of fries short of a happy meal, as dumb as a sack of hammers . . . you know, not too bright.

First the law. I can’t imagine how on earth they have standing to bring the case, which is to say that they will not be able to show a legally cognizable injury. If the court looks past this initial hurdle, the judge, whether far-left, far-right, or anywhere in between, will dismiss the case as a nonjusticiable political question. Under the political question doctrine, the courts have long stated that they will not hear cases where, for instance, an issue is specifically and constitutionally delegated to another branch. Senate operating procedures falls into just that category. This is a no brainer. The complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

Then it is politically dumb. Why file a case you are certain to lose? I’ve heard the old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but do you really want to be know as the group who brought such a frivolous suit?

Furthermore, I predict that this lawsuit will have the opposite effect of that intended. Democrats (e.g., Sen. Schumer) will cite to the dismissal of the case as evidence that their interpretation of the filibuster is correct, despite the fact that the court will never actually address the question. Thus, the lawsuit is certain to lose, and will embolden the opposition. Truly, unquestionably dumb.

You know you have not been blogging enough when . . .

. . . you get a phone call from someone suggesting that maybe your getting mugged was a good thing, because it actually got you to write again. Point taken. But it does make me realize that I didn’t even think to ask the man with the gun whether he was a disgruntled NLT reader.

Recall Gray Davis Update

This article by Hugh Hewitt (Southern California radio personality and former student of Harvey Harvard Mansfield, there goes the ’Neo-Con, Leo-Con Straussian Conspiracy again) in the Weekly Standard details the momentum of the Recall Gray Davis Referendum. Hewitt believes that the Recall effort will qualify for the ballot.


This is the second of several articles by Jonah Goldberg on Neo-Conservatism. Goldberg is trying to bring some sense to the recent spate of articles on the Neo-Con, Leo-Con, Straussian Conspiracy. Not too shabby.

Good News, Finally

A ninety four year old man escaped without serious injury after a train hit his car and dragged it along for about 130 feet. He was returning from visiting his 101 year old brother in the hospital.

Indentify People by the Way they Walk?

AP reports that he Pentagon is developing a radar-based device that can identify people by the way they walk, for use in a new antiterrorist surveillance system. It is claimed that a guy’s walk may be as much his own as his fingerprints. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I can spot an American at a hundred paces just based on his walk. If you press me, I’ll explain.

Justice Thomas’ Defends Views on Diversity

Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington, and defended his views on affirmative action, among other things. The story is worth reading, although I would have liked to see more on how the students (mostly black) took it. He told the students that they don’t have to base their beliefs on being black, although "we’ve reached a point where people are very comfortable telling blacks what they ought to believe." Nice line.

Batteries Needed for this War

Joshua Davis, Wired’s war correspondent, writes an engaging op-ed on the new technology, sample:

"The history of warfare is marked by periodic leaps in technology - the triumph of the longbow at Crécy, in 1346; the first decisive use of air power, in World War I; the terrifying destructiveness of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, in 1945. And now this: a dazzling array of technology that signals the arrival of digital warfare. What we saw in Gulf War II was a new age of fighting that combined precision weapons, unprecedented surveillance of the enemy, agile ground forces, and - above all - a real-time communications network that kept the far-flung operation connected minute by minute." 

"At least, that’s the triumphal view from the Pentagon briefing room. But what was it like on the ground? As Wired’s war correspondent, I tracked the network from the generals’ plasma screens at Central Command to the forward nodes on the battlefields in Iraq. What I discovered was something entirely different from the shiny picture of techno-supremacy touted by the proponents of the Rumsfeld doctrine. I found an unsung corps of geeks improvising as they went, cobbling together a remarkable system from a hodgepodge of military-built networking technology, off-the-shelf gear, miles of Ethernet cable, and commercial software. And during two weeks in the war zone, I never heard anyone mention the revolution in military affairs."

Advice to Democrats

David Frum advises the Democrats to follow Harry Truman’s hard-ball and gutsy campaign. It may be good advice, and the way the Demos are starting to go after President Bush during the last few days--he is not winning the war on terror, etc.--this advice may just well be heeded, if it’s not too late. (via Powerline)

Are Terrorists on the Run?

Amir Taheri and Brian Micklethwait both think that they are hitting targets that are easy and close to home, because they can’t do anything else. I hope they are right.

The K.C. Johnson Controversy

Months ago I reported here that Robert David "KC" Johnson faced the very real possibility of being denied tenure at Brooklyn College--in spite of having the best record of publication, and being the most popular teacher, in his department. At issue were concerns over his "collegiality," stemming from his participation on a search committee. Apparently he took issue with his chair’s demand that the department hire (in the chair’s own words) "some women we can live with, who are not whiners from the word go or who need therapy as much as they need a job."

This article from the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education recounts the whole story. Unfortunately it’s for subscribers only.

The good news is that Johnson won his battle, thanks in part to the enormous press and internet campaign that was waged in his behalf. This is good news for the historical profession. While Johnson is no conservative, he is an incredibly talented and serious historian; his victory is a triumph for all who believe that educators must be held to high standards of both teaching and scholarship.

A Memorial Day Thought

Andrew Busch rightly thinks that in preparing to pay our respects to those who have fallen in our foreign wars, it is well to remember who the enemies of the United States have been: This will tell you much about who we are as a people, and the things for which we stand.   

American Torture

Newsweek reports in this short note that Americans are playing heavy metal music (Vin Diesel and Metallica) and children’s songs to break their subjects’ resistance in Iraq. It works. They can’t take it. They talk.

Poland and Europe (and the U.S.)

The WSJ praises Poland and the trans-Atlantic alliance, rightly understood. The French and the Germans are passe.

Market-dominant Minorities

Amy Chua, a prof at Yale Law School, writes this long article in The Wilson Quarterly on "the relationship—increasingly, the explosive collision—among the three most powerful forces operating in the world today: markets, democracy, and ethnic hatred. There exists today a phenomenon—pervasive outside the West yet rarely acknowledged, indeed often viewed as taboo—that turns free-market democracy into an engine of ethnic conflagration. I’m speaking of the phenomenon of market-dominant minorities: ethnic minorities who, for widely varying reasons, tend under market conditions to dominate economically, often to a startling extent, the ’indigenous’ majorities around them."

The essay is adapted from her book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. I pass this long article along not because I agree with its thesis (I don’t know whether I do or not), but because I think it is worth thinking about. Certainly, the fact ethnic minorities control the private wealth of many third world countries (e.g., that in Indonesia only three percent of the population is Chinese and they control circa 70% of Indonesia’s private economy, etc.) seem to be in her favor. She also is smart enough to see that this is not so in the U.S. and sees something of why this is the case. Anyway, if you have some time to kill, have a look at it. Also note the comments at the end of the article; some are worth your attention.

Albert Wolhstetter

The Boston Globe runs this longish, but very readable, piece on the late strategic thinker Albert Wholstetter (of Rand and The University of Chicago). Lo and behold the article claims that although Wohlstetter was not a neo-con, even though Perle and Wolfowitz (among others) studied with him, he would agree with the current policy. Good informative read. 

The War on Iraq: Kant or Mill?

John B. Judis writes in the liberal The American Prospect that the administration’s Iraq policy may be seen to be either following the thought of Kant or J.S. Mill. He thinks that by Kantian standards the war was unjustified.

"Administration officials have tried to justify the war ex post facto entirely on utilitarian grounds -- that is, that the war will lead to the democratization or modernization of the Arab region. These arguments echo those of 19th- and early 20th-century imperialists, and indeed some neoconservatives, including Max Boot and Stanley Kurtz, have argued candidly for a return to imperialism. They have replaced the older promise of civilization with that of democracy or of modernization. The Bush administration, fearful of criticism from abroad, has steered clear of explicitly advocating imperialism, but it uses the same utilitarian logic in advancing its aims that European and American proponents of empire used a century ago."

California Dreamin’

I’ve been out in California for most of the last week (more about this anon), where over the weekend the following headline appeared in the Fresno Bee (sorry, no link--I got the dead tree edition):

"Valley Sounds Off on Poverty: New Deal-Era Ideas Are Proposed at Hearing. I knew California was sinking into the abyss, but I didn’t think it was getting this bad.

Democratic Presidential Primary

Althought somewhat dated, this article by Michael Barone is a nice analysis of the debate in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago between the 9 Democrats running for President.

Barone quickly dismisses Sharpton, Braun, and Kucinich and then focuses on three battles among the remaing six candidates: Dean versus Kerry on the Left, Gerphardt versus Edwards among the populists, and Lieberman versus Graham among the moderates.

Just Peace Theory

John Moser has an interesting thought about how just war theory might move to a "just peace" theory primarily because of the possibility that war might become virtually bloodless. If you can remove a tyrant from power who, in "peace" is killing untold thousands, without bloodshed, then American inaction will demand moral justification, not inaction. A good read.  

Criticism of post-war Iraq

This Washington Post goes over the criticism of the administration’s mistakes about the rebuilding (might as well call it nation building) of post-war Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor details the rise in homicides during the last ten days. Stuart Taylor has some thoughts on the subject, as does Senator Lieberman. Leaving political pot-shots aside, it does seem that the administration was caught flat-footed after the quick war. I am not sure why it was less prepared than it should have been, but we can be assured that this will be a topic of continued discussion and we may eventually find out, especially if the current Bremer led changes prove imperfect.

Clinton Library Billboards

The Clinton Presidential Library Foundation "has erected 10 billboards featuring an artist’s rendition of the future downtown library, hoping to make Little Rock and its library complex an international tourist destination." I don’t quite understand this kind of promotion for a presidential library. Maybe it’s just part of the eternal campaign.

The New York Times’s Meltdown

Christopher Caldwell offers a very thoughtful analysis on why the NYT is facing a meltdown. Worth reading in full. And Bill Kristol hopes for a new paper of record.

Civilian Deaths in Baghdad

The Los Angeles Times does its own estimates of civilian death in Baghdad during the war (and two weeks after) and it thinks that "at least 1,700 civilians died" and "more than 8,000 were injured." These death and injuries are based on records from 27 hospitals: "Those victims included in the toll died as a direct result of the conflict, but not necessarily at American hands."


The New York Times Magazine focuses on modern architecture, for those of you interested in strange, but unlivable, spaces.

Note on Blogging

Patrick Ruffini has a few good paragraphs on the popularity of blogging, the numbers of regular readers and who they may be. His links are worth following. 

The War Against Terror

Nawaf Obaid, in an op-ed in the Washington Post claims that the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have backfired. "Instead of undermining the government and rallying Saudis to al Qaeda’s cause, the bombings have outraged and galvanized the country against terrorism." I can only hope he is right. This lengthy Michael Elliott in Time is worth reading for some details on both the Saudi and Casablanca attacks, and why the terror war will continue for a long time.

Fukuyama on the Bush Doctrine

Michael Gove has interviewed Francis Fukuyama on his thesis of democratization and the Bush Doctrine. Fukuyama is skeptical on Iraq. There are some thoughtful comments on the Europeans to Blair to Bush to Wolfowitz. Worth a slow read; mid-length.   

Memphis P.D.

Good Lord! Alt’s experience sounds like something out of an Elmore Leonard crime fiction novel. The crooks therein are always just a touch stupid, or accident prone, or just plain unlucky. Glad it came out OK. But it does seem to me that if Alt spent more time blogging (and working in general) and less time prowling around strange towns with his misfit friends (lawyers, all, no doubt), then the chances of things like happening would be lessened!

Thanks to the Memphis P.D.

I’d like to offer my gratitude to the officers of the Memphis Police Department. Yesterday, two friends and I were robbed at gunpoint just outside of the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. (The irony of facing a gun within sight of the Lorraine Motel was not lost on me.) We called 911 on our cell phones, and the thief was apprehended within 3 minutes. Very impressive, especially considering the fact that the robber was stupid enough to pull the gun on both a plain clothes and uniformed officer in the course of the arrest. Due to the quick response time of the Memphis PD, we were able to recover all of the stolen items.

I have to think that ours was one of the unluckiest robbers on the planet. In addition to the lightening quick response of the Memphis PD, he chose to steal an easily identifiable family heirloom in the course of robbing two lawyers and a woman with a photographic memory.

Again, kudos to the Memphis PD.

New Web-Site

Here’s the web address for a new journal,’The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society,’ published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The premier issue features articles by Leon Kass, Victor Davis Hansen, Peter Lawler and others.

No doubt, it is part of the vast, Straussian, Neo-Con, Leo-Con conspiracy.

India-U.S. Relations

The Congressional Research Service published this "Issue Brief for Congress" in April, that may be a good primer for those of you wanting to follow the--seeming--sea change in India-U.S. relations. (It is in PDF format).

Democratic Alliance Against Terrorism?

The Asia Times runs an interesting story on the closer cooperation between the United States, Israel, and India, as outlined by India’s national security advisor, Brajesh Mishra.

"In an address to a meeting of the American Jewish Committee, Mishra argued that democratic countries that are the prime targets of international terrorism should form a ’viable alliance’ and develop multilateral mechanisms to counter the menace. He identified India, the US and Israel as countries fitting that description. ’Such an alliance would have the political will and moral authority to take bold decisions in extreme cases of terrorist provocation. It would not get bogged down in definitional and causal arguments about terrorism,’ he maintained."

The whole thing is worth reading; full of interesting tid-bits. But, also see this article for the effects that the Saudi terrorist attack may have had on India’s inclination to send peacekeeping troops to Iraq.

Discontent with Bush?

The Economist maintains that President Bush’s relationship with social conservatives is quite frayed. A story in The Washington Times claims that Bush is losing much of the "defense establishment" support because of the aggressive transformation project of DOD chief Rumsfeld.

History and Ingratitude

David McCullough is reported as saying some very good things about history and how it is taught (or not taught). 

Comment on Texas Demos Walk-out

A seventeen year old comments on the meaning of the Demo lawmakers walkout in the Houston Chronicle. OK, it’s overwritten (she is 17), but I like the sentiments. (via Common Sense and Wonder).

France as Victim

France is complaining about the bad treatment they are getting from both the press and the US government. At least parts of the government are denying it. Amusing.

No Growth in Europe

VOA is reporting that "There is more news of a slow economy in Europe. For the first time in almost two years, the European Union has reported a zero growth rate for a three-month period."

Recall Gray Davis Effort

In the history of California, there have been numerous attempts to recall the Governor. None of those recall attempts ever gathered even 10% of the signatures necessary to get the recall inititive on the ballot.

The current Governor of California faces serious problems and faces a serious recall effort. Over 100,000 signatures (of the 900,000 necessary to get the recall proposal on the ballot) were recently turned in to the Secretary of State’s office.

Here’s the official web-site of the
Recall Gray Davis effort. This link details the problems Davis faces and how internet technology and talk radio are contributing to the momentum behind the recall effort.

We could wake up in six months with Arnold Schwarzenegger or some relative unkonwn as Governor of California.

Bush’s Poll Numbers

Patrick Ruffini has some useful thoughts (see 5-15-03 under "Political Swingers") on Bush’s is amazing polling numbers in New Jersey and New York against the main potential Demo opponents. Follow his links, including "Swing Aanlysis Map," useful.

BBC’s story on Saving Private Lynch

This BBC story is interesting. It is really a non-story (in my opinion), give it a careful reading, look for sources, etc., yet it is already starting to make the rounds among the anti-war crowd. Special forces using blanks? Really! I don’t know what to make of this, unless it’s that the BBC has completely tanked. No wonder the Brits no longer show BBC news on their warships.

Bush’s Tax Victory

This Washington Post story on the Senate vote in favor of a tax cut and Bush’s victory, reminds me of something that may be played out in the next year and a half: I believe there is a distinct chance that the President’s opponents (not excluding the elite-liberal media) will go after him for being heavy handed, if not dictatorial in the way he deals with Congress. In fact, this President has been extraordinarily effective in getting what he wants. He sticks to his guns and uses every ounce of authority and power that he has to get his way. In all the ordinary way students of politics understand these matters, this President will go down as effective (compare that, for example, to Carter who had a large majority in Congress, and could do nothing). Yet, because of this, his opponents will go after him for being too powerful, too pushy. I believe this mode has started, I glimpsed some of this on TV news last night. Needless to say, I am glad that Senator Voinovich came aboard at the last minute (the tit-for-tat is explained in the article).

Diversity and the New York Times

Diana West has a nicely crafted piece on the diversity issue broadly understood, with some thoughts on journalism and Jayson Blair. And Hugh Hewitt skewers the New York Times. And Newsweek is now starting to make the case that there might be a bigger scandal at the Times than originally thought. This will continue to be interesting.

Diversity Rightly Understood

Lucas Morel writes a wonderful essay in the latest issue of On Principle (the rest of the issue on line within days) on affirmative action/diversity. He starts with the Michigan case, but his point is far broader; how affirmative action is defended now as a way to promote racial diversity, rather than as a remedy for the "lingering effects" of discrimination. Read the whole thing, by all means. I’ll just give you his last paragraph:

"’America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let is so remain.’ So spoke Ralph Ellison’s ’invisible man’ in his landmark 1952 novel of the same name. Ellison discovered the diversity of individualism many years before it was hijacked by the affirmative activists. He saw that diversity could be a strength or weakness depending on society’s recognition and treatment of each individual. As the invisible man put it, ’Diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you’ll have no tyrant states.’ Racial minorities have suffered much as a group throughout American history. But the protection of their rights as individuals can come only by identifying themselves as American citizens. For when it comes to securing the rights of all Americans, it’s the minority of one — the individual — that is the focus of the Constitution’s protection. Only the equal protection of individual liberty can produce a diversity worthy of free human beings and society."   

Saudi Terrorist Attacks

This article out of Australia makes a pretty good case that the attack on the residential compounds in Riyadh were thought through and well chosen. The target was the Vinnell Corporation, a susidiary of the defence contractor Northrop-Grumann. And also note, as this short London Times article says, the company has been accused of being a CIA front.

More on Strauss

Reductio Ad Absurdum, a new blog I just discovered, has a some interesting thoughts on this Straussian-Neocon silliness. If you scroll down, there are even longer comments on the same theme, including one on the Jeet Heer article from the Boston Globe. Worth your attention. Thoughtful.  

National Enquirer more accurate than NY Times

And a tabloid journalist explains why. Short.

Emotional Democracy

A Spanish Green mayoral candidate in Southern Spain has proposed a sex voucher. "A Spanish politician is offering half-price love to the youngsters of southern Spain, with an electoral pledge to subsidize hotel rooms for young couples." He also said: "Happiness, well-being and autonomy...are very important. It’s about emotional democracy." Read the whole thing, it’s short.

JFK Intern Revealed

The New York Daily News has tracked down the now famous "Mimi". Dalleck’s new bio of JFK revealed the trist with the intern and now Marion (Mimi) Fahnestock (nee Beardsley, at age 19; she is now 60 years old) admits that she is the woman. She says: "The gift for me is that this allowed me to tell my two married daughters a secret that I’ve been holding for 41 years. It’s a huge relief. It’s all true." I like her attitude, and her civility. Worth a read. (Thanks to

Tillman Brothers are OK

Pat Tillman and his brother are OK, still out in the field somewhere.

Neocons and Straussians, again

That great intellectual giant William Pfaff writes about so-called Straussian and Neocons in the International Herald Tribune. He has Strauss’ understanding of the world, of course, exactly wrong. I am amazed at how stupid these people are. Also see Mickey’s blog below.

Democrat Politics

Dick Morris maintain that because there will be no GOP primary battle, independents will have great influence on the Demo presidential primaries, and this should help Lieberman. Yet, he says, Lieberman is not doing well. This CBS Poll shows that over 60% cannot name any Democratic contender. But The Hartford Courant claims that the Liberman campaign is now "clicking."

Iraq’s National Library Not Looted

It turns out that Iraq’s National Library was not looted and the precious volumes were carted away before the war and kept safe.

Thatcher Speaks

Margaret Thatcher broke doctors orders and spoke in New York. Hardball. Here are the first few lines from this London Times story.

"Baroness Thatcher returned to politics last night with an attack on the French, whom she accused of collaborating with ’enemies of the West’ for short-term gain.
In a one-off comeback speech in New York, which broke a medical ban on speaking in public, the former Conservative Prime Minister attacked those who use environmentalism, feminism and human rights campaigns to fight capitalism and the nation state.

She praised Tony Blair, but above all President Bush, for overriding the ’rot’ that ’paralysed’ the United Nations."

Senate Rules and the Filibuster

There is precedent for changing the filibuster rules with a simple majority vote. This article from the Washington Times’ describes how the Senate under a Democratic majority in 1975 changed the filibuster rules by a simple majority vote and how today Senate Majority Leader Frist and other Republicans consider consider the ’nuclear option.’

Let’s hope the Republicans have the courage to force the vote.

The Saudis in Trouble

This Michael Isikoff piece in Newsweek recounts how the Saudis did not do enough to thwart the terrorist attack, ignoring our specific warnings, etc. This is quite a mess, and may well be the beginning of the end for the Saudi regime, or, the necessary start of a serious partner in the war against terrorism (although I doubt the latter is possible).

More on the Struassian Conspiracy

’The New Republic’ weighs in on the Neo-Con, Leo-Con, Straussian conspiracy, which allegedly dominates U.S. foreign policy, in this article, ’Et Tu Kristol,’ by Daniel W. Drezner.

If you want to read more about Strauss and Straussians and also have a handy dandy link to all the recent news articles on this Neo-Con cabal go to

One gets the feeling that the cultural elite begins to realize that Strauss’s teaching is the only thing in the way of the post-modern universal and homogenous state.

Paper of Record No More

This story in the NYTimes recounts the extraordinbary session Howell Raines had with his employeees. Andrew Sullivan continues to have some good thoughts on this outrage and what it means (including how the issue of race plays into it). I don’t have much to say on the matter (being in general agreement with Sullivan) except to say that the Times has lost whatever authority it had left and is unlikely to regain it (under the current leadership) anytime soon. Good riddance to an arrogant and not-so-subtle ideologically biased newspaper. It has been called the paper of record. No more.


For those of you interested in federalism generally, and specifically with regard to education and Medicaid--and an analysis of the state budget problems--this Michael Greve analysis is worth reading. He claims that there are too many federal incentives in place for states to spend; hence the huge problems they find themselves in. This is some real policy-wonk stuff for those of you interested, and I cannot say I agree with all of it, but if you’re one of those who likes such detailed analysis (I can’t say his solutions are worthy; I just don’t know), this one is worth reading. 

Karl Rove

David S. Broder writes on Karl Rove in today’s WaPo. While praising Rove (and Broder has known him for almost a decade) he is suggesting that Rove may be becoming a bit more well known to the public than such a "political" adviser should be. He bases his opinion in part a another lengthy article on Rove that appeared in the New Yorker by Nicholas Lemann (not on line). I recommend the Lemann article, too. It is in the May 12 issue.

Ray Bradbury

John J. Miller writes a lovely paean to Fahrenheit 451 and Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is one of the good guys. I met him (interviewed him for over an hour, actually) in the late 1960’s when I was a student and immediately liked him. Still do. Because Fahrenheit 451 is about education (reading) and the corruption of society--especially the education system--and if you like it, allow me to recommend Jarry Pournelle’s (he wrote it with Charles Sheffield) Higher Education: A Jupiter Novel . This is meant as a sort of boys "coming of age story" about the lack of education, and what happens to one young man who has some potential. The boy grows up. A very good read with a good point. Great for boys in their early teens (and adults, of course). Here is a short review of it.

Kipling Rediscovered

Andrew Roberts writes on op-ed in the London Telegraph praising a biography of Kipling published last year (The Long Recessional) by David Gilmour. He thinks this is one form of revisionist history that is good. Gilmour’s book, according to Roberts, "triumphantly succeeds in rescuing Kipling’s reputation as a significant political thinker." Kipling has long been abused as an imperialist, racist, and so on. Not true, argues Gilmour and Roberts.

I admit to having been a Kipling fan for a long while and I can open Kim to any page with wide-eyed delight. The great friendship between the saintly Tibetan pilgrim and the thirteen year old white boy who "had known all evil since he could speak," and "was hand in glove with men who had led lives stranger than anything Haroun al Raschid dreamed of," is always full of wonder for me. And in awe I have seen and touched the great bronze cannon Zam-Zammah, that "capturer of strongholds", in Lahore. While my mind is on books about Kipling, let me also recommend Peter Hopkirk’s Quest for Kim (1999), also a great read in which Hopkirk (who also wrote The Great Game) tries to rediscover Kim by travelling across India and Pakistan, to all the places mentioned by Kipling in Kim; it is a kind of travel book and literary detective story. Even though Kim has never been out of print since its publication in 1901, Hopkirk recommends that you read it "before the ideologues and zealots of political correctness consign it to the flames, or insist on it being rewritten." With the publication of Gilmour’s biography (and the honor it has received by being awarded the Longford Historical Biography prize) perhaps Hopkirk will have proven to be wrong. I hope so. In case you have the time, here is a favorite Kipling story I must have read a thousand times to my four children, The Elephant’s Child. And here is his poem, Recessional.

The Case Western Shootings

Over at The Corner, (under "Crime @Case Western) Dave Kopel quotes at length from the Director of Information and Technology at Case Western Law School, regarding the incident, and how it would have ended differently if someone would have had a concealed firearm on him. Just a couple of paragraphs, but very good. 


The San Francisco Examiner ran this story a few days ago about how vexed the Democrats are by Bush’s unflagging popularity. As you read along, you encounter increasing gloom and doom from the Demos, none of the candidates have caught fire, etc., until you get this from "Democratic stategist" Gary South: "It’s almost like we have an embarrassment of riches. . . . We have a very high-quality field, and all of the candidates have raised considerable money. One of the reasons people are sitting on their haunches, and others are giving (donations) to five or six candidates, is because they’re waiting to see who reaches critical mass with regard to breaking out from the rest of the pack." Now there is a real Democrat optimist, talking about a very high quality field when a recent Pew Poll shwed that only about 25% of the voters are even "fairly interested" in the Demo primary candidates. They have their work cut out for them.

Here is a report from the Raleigh News & Observer pointing out some of the problems Lieberman is having i.e., lack of support and lack of money. And just to make an even broader point, the article is entitled, "Liberman Dismisses Charisma Concerns." And Wesley Clark, while denying that he is in New Hampshire to test the waters, jumps into a YMCA pool for a swim, with reporters watching. And over 50 angry Texas Democrats were found--finally--in Oklahoma. They are thinking of applying for political assylum.

Saudi Death Toll Rises

The number of dead in the Saudi terrorist attack dead are now said to be over 90, at least 10 of them are Americans.

Ravitch on History Textbooks

Diane Ravitch bashes history textbooks in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times. She says, "the textbooks reflect the relativistic views that permeated higher education during the last decade: All cultures are equal; none is better than any other; we are not to judge other cultures’ ways of life." (Registration required)

Non-Lethal Warfare

This lengthy Popular Science article considers the new generation of non-lethal weapons that are being developed and even used. Fascinating, from the low-tech end of "sponge-tipped rounds" to a microwave "pain beam" designed to heat the skin to intolerable levels without burning it.  

Teacher Testing in Federal Court

This USA Today article reports this: "An obscure trial challenging New York state rules requiring teachers to pass competency tests wrapped up testimony in a federal court in New York City last month. More than 3,300 black and Latino teachers sued the state, saying their careers were derailed after they flunked certification exams."

"To the teachers, the issue is about fairness. They claim the tests for basic math and literacy skills have nothing to do with their performance in the classroom. And they say because minority teachers failed at far higher rates than whites, the tests were biased."

More on Dr. Germ

Some background on Dr. Germ. "Dubbed Dr. Germ by the press, Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons chief has made enough doses of enough lethal germs to kill every human on the planet. Her handiwork is a large part of the reason America is planning to go to war again.

Taha, widely described as shy and unassuming, has spent most of the last two decades spinning a web of horrors: bugs that make eyes bleed, bacteria that peels skin off the body, viruses that cause fever and pox and lingering, agonizing death." Read on, if you can take it.

Wolfowitz on Iraq

David Ignatius writes on Wolfowitz’s thinking about the future of Iraq, de-Baathification, and so on.  

Ben Franklin and Moral Perfection

Terrence Moore, the Principal of Ridgeway Classical Schools, has another fine op-ed on education. He uses Benjamin Franklin’s thirteen virtues to create an assigment for his students: to create their own list of virtues and monitor their own behavior based on that list. 

Hillsdale College’s Liberty Walk

This Toledo Blade article reports on the erection of a statute of George Washington at Hillsdale College, the first of many in what is called the Liberty Walk.

Saudi Bombing

Here is the Washington Post story on the bombing last night in Saudi Arabia. At least 13 were killed (including 10 Americans) and 160 wounded (including 40 Americans).

Joe Klein on the Democrats

Joe Klein has a long piece on what the problems are with the Democratic Party. He claims that "They face challenges on three different fronts: patriotism, optimism and confidence." He would like them to, among other things, have a better sense of humor. I can understand this. Good advice. Now, let’s reflect on how Gephardt, Kerry, Dean, or Moseley-Braun, can be funnier? See the problem.

Black Republicans

The Washington Times runs a story about how the GOP is making an unusual (and many of us would say, much belated) effort to woo black voters away from the Democratic Party. And the GOP is doing this well before an election; good sign.

bin Laden Dead

Claims a French expert. "Ghislaine Alleaume, a historian and Arabist at the French national research centre, the CNRS, reached her conclusion after studying television and internet messages circulated by Bin Laden’s supporters. She bases her theory mostly on a video of the al- Qa’ida leader broadcast by al-Jazeera television on 27 December 2001. Bin Laden looks weary and sick but Mme Alleaume also believes he has had his left arm amputated. ’He is wearing a military camouflage jacket and you can see that someone has placed a bag in the same colours just behind him to disguise the fact that he has lost his arm,’ she said. She believes he died of his injuries soon afterwards. ’Given the sanitary conditions, it would not have been easy to survive an amputation,’ she said."

JFK Affair with Intern

Robert Dallek’s new biography of Kennedy, An Unfinished Life, claims that JFK had an affair with an 19 year-old intern, ABC reports. Short.

NATO’s Sect General Remarks on the US

NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, is warning about anti-Americanism, especially in Britain. This is a short BBC report.

The Jayson Blair Story

Here is the Jayson Blair mea culpa from Sunday’s New York Times. It is a very long story, worth lightly reading for many reasons. But it does seem to me to be overstating the case to say, as the first paragraph does, that this the "low point" in the 152 year history of the newspaper. Unsurprisingly, Andrew Sullivan has a great deal to say on the matter. I would only dispute the emphasis he places on the editor; I think the problem is much more endemic and institutional.

Gelernter on Space, Time and Software

Dvaid Gelernter has some thoughts especially on the outmoded software we are all using. Worth a cup of java. 

Blumenthal’s Book

Even this puff piece in The New York Times on Blumenthal’s new book, The Clinton Wars, due out in a few days, can’t hide the fact that it is a "deeply partisan" book, one which tries to settle many scores. It will be worth seeing how it is received, and maybe even read.

Polish Special Forces

Polish Special Forces are a reality. Good article from The Weekly Standard

"Stolen" Artifacts?

This short London Times story notes that over 40,000 "stolen artefacts" and manuscripts have been found in vaults, kept in safety. The so-called looting issue continues to lose standing.

Not Yet a Victory in Iraq

David Tucker writes--not in support of Hersh--to remind us that if the administration was right in saying that there was a "massive stockpile" of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and if no such massive stockpile is found, then the victory in Iraq will be hollow because this will mean that those weapons will have been dispersed outside Iraq. The invasion, in other words, will have made things worse, if the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror. Furthermore, Tucker claims that Hersh missed the real story about how the Defense Department read the intelligence. He claims that, if no stockpile of WMD’s or direct terrorist connections are found, then it will appear more and more to the Arab world that the only reason we went to war in Iraq was to make Israel safe. And that could have the effect of increasing terrorism against us.


Priceless is the name for this slide show. All Marines will love it, all Americans should understand it. These nine slides (taking less than a minute) are worth a lengthy op-ed! Amusing.  

Changing Iraq Will Change the Middle East

This article makes a good case for the administration’s contention that changing Iraq could change the Middle East. It describes the traditional preeminence of Najaf, an Iraqi city, and its clerics in the world of Shiism. The Najaf clerics do not believe that they should be involved in politics. If Najaf returns to its customary authority in the Shiite world, as the article argues it is already doing, then this will undermine Iran’s Shiite theocracy. This is especially so, the article suggests, because an Iraq where the Najaf clerics are free to speak and associate will strengthen the position of dissident clerics in Iran.

Noam Chomsky’s Hypocrisy

Keith Windschuttle rips apart Noam Chomsky (to put it mildy!) in The New Criterion. Long. 

April’s Mug Drawing Winners

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

Tara Abramson

Craig E. Adams

Ben Boychuk

Tom Corrigan

Jonathan MacColl

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter May’s drawing.

Gambling on Virtue

That this Bennett gambling issue continues to be pressed by the media (and his political enemies) should not be surprising to us. That it opens a door to some serious conversations about virtue and vice also should’t surprise us. What I mean is that because Bennett is a good fellow, because he has taken it upon himself to speak publicly over many years about virtue and vice, because he has even exhorted us to be virtuous and chastized us (individually or as a people) when we haven’t been, this is a great occasion to have a first class national conversation about virtue, vice, liberty and what it means, in short, character. That Bennett’s situation is being taken advantage of by his political opponents (and those who prefer that there never be any public discussion of virtue and vice) is irrelevant. I believe I know enough about Bill Bennett to be able to say that he will not mind if we use this occasion to encourage that conversation and the hope that great good will come from it. One of the best pieces written on this issue is by our own David Foster. I recommend that you study it, and pass it around; indeed, comment on it. It is excellent.   

Bush on The USS Lincoln

I have been amazed at the Democrat attack on the President’s appearance (flight and speech) on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Their attempt to make this into something other than what it was proves very revealing: for them everything has to be considered from the low political campaign gimmick mode; they are completely misconstruing what Bush is, how he is perceived by the American people, and what these battles against terrorists are all about. They are trying to make something that is high and noble into something low and base. Because it is revealing of their lack of seriousness about the war, it will hurt them, and hurt them badly, in my opinion. The people will trust them even less after these outburts. Here is John Podhoretz’s amusing take on the issue.  

The SARS Hysteria

Michael Fumento thinks that folks--and the media in particular--are overstating the SARS problem. 

Amusing Enough to Mention

Man saves dog in Minneapolis lake. The dog was disoriented, couldn’t find the shore, while owner watched, a man walks up and jumps in, saves dog, puts his clothes on, and leaves. A professor in San Jose who has spent twenty years trying to figure out an important problem in mathematics (and has been given credit for doing so) now says he made a mistake. A soccer shirt and shoes are declared national monuments in Uruguay. A 102 year old woman claims she is an "e-mailaholic."
Villagers in southern Taiwan are strapping bras to their faces to guard against SARS due to shortage of facial masks. Woman creates computer virus as a statement against sexism; not enough worms have been created by women, we can do it too! Naked man stuck in an airvent for two days, by firefighters. Says he can explain. A woman in Glasgow, Scotland, insists on parking illegally nearly every day. She has accumulated fines worth $45,000, and has paid $19,300 of it. She keeps doing it, and is fined $80 each time. New cookbook shows how to cook and serve endangered species. Environmentalists are outraged, want book banned. They are not interested in snail darter kebabs, or raspberry glazed spotted owl. Man kills venomous snake in Michigan to protect children is convicted of "killing a protected reptile without a state permit." The maximum sentence is 90 days and a $500 fine. The criminal said, "I am stunned that the snake had more rights than a human being."


In other environmental news, a federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration’s plan to save endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest is insufficient, and that the government may need to reconsider removing the huge dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. To be sure, those dams do harm salmon, and probably should come down--if we are serious about saving salmon. I’d like to see it put to an advisory vote in Oregon and Washington: I have little doubt how those two "green" states would vote. They’d vote to keep their cheap hydro power, and the salmon be damned, so to speak.

This episode raises another interesting point. Environmentalists always like to attack "corporate polluters" for our environmental problems. But it wasn’t a corporation that built those huge dams on the Columbia and Snake--it was FDR’s New Deal. Likewise, the chief culprit in the ecological ruin of the Florida Everglades was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nobody can trash the environment like the government can. But you don’t hear this very often from the greens, who desire above all else more government power. It would be "off message."

Greens Take a Hit

Two years ago the Sacramento Bee did a five-part series that smacked the hell out of environmental organizations, especially the Sierra Club. (The series is still available online here.) Now the Washington Post has taken up the attack, with a devastating three-part series this week attacking the Nature Conservancy. "Big Green: Inside the Nature Conservancy" makes out the group to be the environmental equivalent of Enron, including self-dealing and potential tax fraud.

Now, I never mind seeing an environmental group get smacked around in the media, and while I think the Nature Conservancy richly deserves this hit, it is also the case that TNC has always been regarded as the "right wing" of the environmental movement, has been friendly to business, and believes in buying land for preservation rather than having it regulated away from people. This story, therefore, is going to strengthen the hand of the more radical environmental groups, which is of course most everyone else.

The Gambler? Not according to McManus

Here’s yet another look at Bill Bennett’s gambling problem from the perspective of James McManus, a writer who just published a best-selling book on the World Series of Poker. (How he came to write that story is intriguing in its own right: he took his $10,000 advance from the Atlantic Monthly and bought himself into the world-renowned game and did well enough to give a first-hand account of the lucrative event.) McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs and Binion’s World Series of Poker, writes in a May 6 NYT op-ed, "Virtues, Values and Vegas," that Bennett’s so-called gambling woes are none of the public’s business. He raises the ante, ha ha, by saying Bennett was not enough of a gambler, but I’ll let those interested read the article themselves.

I disagree on both counts, but found the op-ed thought-provoking enough--especially the political connection he makes near the end--to bring to your attention.

Helprin’s "What We Did Wrong" Considered

Mark Helprin wrote what I thought was a surprising piece for the May 5 issue of National Review (not on line). Although the article is worth reading (I always learn something from him), Mac Owens takes issue with him on two important points: Owens says, "I can only conclude that he [Helprin] doesn’t really believe that 1) wars should be subject to political judgments, a conclusion that would surprise Carl von Clausewitz; and 2) war has changed since 1945." I agree with Owens’ reading of Helprin.  

Morel in The Washington Times

The Culture Briefs section of the Washington Times quotes extensively from Lucas Morel’s article, "The Perils of saying ’Diversity’ in Public," from the Ashbrook site.

Hypocrisy and Bennett

Here is Julie Ann Ponzi’s take on the Bennett matter. Read the whole thing, but here is how she begins:

"It is a particularly disgusting habit of the human mind that propels it to dismiss virtue because of some perceived hypocrisy on the part of virtue’s defenders. What is worse is the childish delight some characters seem to take in the public unveiling of such hypocrisy. With his recent admission of a gambling problem, former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar, William Bennett, has provided every unthinking liberal wag the opportunity to indulge their greatest fantasy: the public whipping of virtue and her defenders (particularly conservative ones) as irrelevant, impossible and hypocritical.

Ignoring any sense of perspective, the spectacle has led some critics—still smarting from the conservative denunciation of Bill Clinton’s foibles—to proclaim that this is a case of six of one and a half dozen of another. On the other hand, conservative defenders of Bennett, in their rush to defend him, have argued that his vice is different not only in scale but in kind and that it is purely a matter ’between him, his wife, and his accountant.’ Both go too far in their respective directions." 

Cambone on Bioweapons Lab

In the meantime AP is reporting that Stephen Cambone, the Under Secretary for Intelligence (both Nous and information gathering!), has reported on the first evidence of WMD, the mobile bioweapons lab that has been found. Cambone said in part this:

"While some of the equipment on the trailer could have been used for purposes other than biological weapons agent production, U.S. and U.K. technical experts have concluded that the unit does not appear to perform any function beyond what the defector said it was for, which is the production of biological agents." Read the whole thing. Note also in the story that General Wallace is saying that there is plenty of documentary evidence suggesting that Iraq had an active program for WMD. I can feel Hersh’s heart sinking. Can a reporter by fired because he is always wrong? Or, does he have tenure?


Reporting on Iraq

Jonathan Foreman and Stephen F. Hayes take apart the media’s coverage of Iraq.

Seymour Hersh’s Lack of Intelligence

This is Seymour Hersh’s latest New Yorker piece. It is worth reading for a number of reasons, not the least of which, as Jack Shafer at Slate points out, is because Hersh has always been wrong (do follow Shafer’s links to other errors of Hersh):

"At almost every critical turn since the events of 9/11, Hersh has leapt to the front of the editorial pack with a bracing, well-researched, and controversial explication of the war on terror. And almost every time, Hersh’s predictive take on the course of events has been wrong. Boneheaded-dumb wrong."

What we are witnessing here is Hersh becoming a pro-establishment martinet who not only is wrong, but is finding Straussian conspiracies (read Neoconservatives in the daily left wing and/or establishment press) in everything and everyone from Wolfowitz to Kristol to Cambone. Those who have lost all the arguments are really bitter (and mean) and the name calling and the gall will continue. It is worth reading this latest attempt by Hersh, in large measure to see how quickly he will be proven wrong. As Shafer puts it, "If Hersh’s interpretive/predictive streak holds, we should expect to find proof of WMD and a direct link between Iraq and al-Qaida within the next two weeks." Also see some fine writing on Hersh’s vitriol and the media’s obsession in trying to make Strauss so influential in matters of intelligence (no, not Nous) from Nicholas Antongiavanni at The Remedy (and Masugi below that). There will be more on these matters, count on it.    

Unarmed Canadians in Afghanistan

InstaPundit"brought this to my attention. The source in :

Canadian soldiers are back in Afghanistan, but this time, they don’t have any weapons to help protect them. In Ottawa’s rush to put Canadian troops on the ground, 25 elite Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan only to find that they are not allowed to carry guns. What makes the situation particularly embarrassing is that the troops have been assigned German bodyguards to protect them. A Global National exclusive report."

Conference on Conservatism

The Ashbrook Center and Ashland University’s Department of History and Political Science are cosponsoring a conference entitled "The Evolution of Modern American Conservatism." The event will be held at the Ashbrook Center on Saturday, 11 October 2003. Some of the speakers that will be appearing include Alan Brinkley, Rick Perlstein, and veteran No-Left-Turner Steven Hayward.

Full details on the conference are available here.

Hypocrisy--The Deadliest Sin?

In the midst of all the chuckling over Bill Bennett’s gambling problem, I wonder if anyone has given any thought to what we should expect of a society in which hypocrisy (or, at least, perceived hypocrisy) is the deadliest, and least forgivable sin.

Those who seem to be deriving the most pleasure from the revelations about Bennett are the libertines, overjoyed to have found a moral flaw in someone who shamed them. If Bennett is laid low by this, who is capable of stepping forward to fill his shoes? Indeed, if we only permit the morally pure to speak out in favor of virtue, can it be long before the concept of virtue is itself forgotten?

American Civic Education

Eric Claeys points to the Barone article below (which I recommend you read). I agree with Eric that Barone’s point is true; we have all seen the soft 18 year olds turn into hard 30 year olds. How this happens is most certainly not understood by, for example, Europeans, where the softness continues until death.

But I wanted to say something about Eric’s point on how the educational system (below college) squanders a precious opportunity to really educate and to turn out citizens. I am certainly aware of this flaw. Most of my students are real native Americans (born in the US), and about age 18 when I get them, and almost none of them have much of a civic education when they get to me. (This is not to say that they are not patriotic in the ordinary sense of that term.) In other words, they don’t know much about the country, neither it’s principles nor its institutions, nor its great statesmen. They may have some strong views or passions, but it is not yet a civic or political perspective. They don’t know what their country is and why it is good.

So this is what I have to do to start their education in these matters. I tell them some simple truths about their country and themselves. I tell them they are the most fortunate of the earth, among the blessed of all times and places. I tell them this as an obvious and incontrovertible thing. And their great good fortune, their blessing, lies in the country into which they were born. I tell them the simple large truth, that their country, the United States of America, happens to be today the most powerful, most prosperous, most free, and most just country on earth. I tell them how and why this is so, that is, I teach them about the principles from which these blessings of liberty flow. I invite them to consider whether they can hope to have any greater honor than to pass on undiminished to their children and grandchildren this great inheritance of freedom. And then we talk for a few years about how they might best go about doing that.

Now, of course, this means that they get to know (and befriend, even) the Founders and Lincoln and the other worthies. They know the things for which they stood, their arguments with one another, the decisions that were made and why they were made, how the progressives changed the terms of the discussion, and what that means. In short they begin to get a fine civic (and liberal) education. Now this could all be done (and should be done) in high schools, of course. But it isn’t. So we start at age 18, and here at the Ashbrook Center we also try to have an effect on high school teachers by running them through some very intensive seminars on these matters (just the sort that they should have had in college, but, generally, did not). We try to make up for times and opportunities lost by trying to resurrect a college education that, if properly understood, is an old-fashioned high school education. And then, as Barone says, the competative nature of the society does the rest by demanding from them those virtues necessary to prosper in a free society. And, over time, they become hard, and tough, and smart, and optimistic. They work hard, play hard, and lough aloud. And the world is in awe of them, these Americans.

American Education

Michael Barone has posted an interesting piece on US News & World Report’s website about the state of American education. In his view, even though most American students don’t learn anything in grade school or high school, college and on-the-job training more than make up for it. So, even though American 18-year-olds are pretty deficient, American 30-year-olds are as productive as you can find anywhere in the world.

I have a few doubts about Barone’s thesis, but I’m posting the piece to provoke some discussion on one question. Barone makes a dubious assumption that a lot of other commentators make: Since when is the overriding purpose of grade and high school educations to train students to be good workers in our economy? Why shouldn’t the main goal be to produce thoughtful, loyal, and spirited citizens? Even assuming colleges and large companies can turn pampered 20-year-olds into useful workers, hasn’t the educational system still squandered a precious opportunity?

Sid Vicious Turns Mushy

Given the penchant for naming airport terminals, bridges, and other public works after political figures, I always thought it would be fitting, during the Clinton years, to name a sewage treatment plant after Sid Blumenthal, otherwise known as "Sid Vicious."

Now comes news that his book on Clinton, The Clinton Wars, is soon to arrive in bookstores. According to a little squib in today’s Washington Times, it includes gems such as:

"Clinton was a man who came from nowhere; overcame all obstacles by virtue of his own intelligence, skill, and attractiveness; and then, having achieved his goal, gave in to weakness. He did not give in to it for money, power, status, or fame. He did not do it out of meanspiritedness, resentment, or cruelty. What he did was not a crime. It was part of his personality that got him to the White House, with his need for affirmation, attention, and affection."

With treacle like this, Blumenthal might have a future in journalism, perhaps with the Washington Post Style page.

More Reason to Hate the French

The Washington Times has a bombshell banner headline this morning: "France gave passports to help Iraqis escape". The intrepid Bill Gertz is on the story, which says the French gave EU passports that allow Iraqis to escape to all parts of Europe.

Antongiavanni on Atlas

Nicholas Antongiavanni takes apart James Atlas’ NYT article on the Straussian foreign policy conspiracy, paragraph by paragraph. Excellent and amusing.  

Shotgun on Soyuz

This CNN story on the return of the Soyuz spacecraft is interesting. Note that for decades Russian cosmonauts have been carrying a sawed off shotgun in the capsule, just in case they land off-course and are stranded in an area with dangerous animals.

Hispanics Speaking Only English

The Arizona Republic reports that there is a growing number of first, second, and third generation Latinos who only speak English. This is causing problems for some professors of Hispanic Studies. Que lastima!

Male/Female Brain Differences and Autism

Simon Baron-Cohen is the director of the autism Research Centre, Cambridge University. In this long op-ed he explains (by way of trying to understand autism) the differences between the male and female brain. He argues that that people with autism may have an extreme of the male brain, "good at systematising, very bad at empathising." Very interesting article, and quite clear. 

The Big Issues at Smith College

It seems as though Smith College has some great big issues to deal with. It is a girls school, so you would think that the gender pronoun problem does not arise; wrong. Also, there is this: what if a young lady has a sex-change, can the new gent still stay at the school? These transgender issues are becoming tough. Ah, read and ponder some ridiculous things! Oh Lord, what fools these mortals be...

Bennett Thoughts

USA Today (Sunday, on line) says that Bill Bennett’s wife says that he hasn’t lost millions and he is "not addicted" to gambling. But, because she is so irritated by the stories, "she said her husband may have pulled his last slot-machine lever. ’He’s never going again,’ she said." I have never met Bill’s wife, but I am betting that she is right. He has probably pulled his last lever.

I agree with Hayward below ("The Bennett Affair"): He should address this and should do it quickly, for all the reasons that Hayward lays out. Maybe this brief story on what his wife had to say about it (the fact that she was willing to be quoted is interesting) is the start of him coming clean.

Yet, it must be said that most of this story is not new. Bennett has been known to like gambling, and stories (as I recollect) have been run on this passion of his. So we should not be surprised that the same people who didn’t think Clinton’s odd habits (addictions?) were worthy of the name of vice are now going after Bennett; so I can see why folks would be inclined to defend him. I don’t think a defense is necessary. He should explain himself, that’s all. He owes his many friends and supporters that. And even if he gambled away millions (assuming it wasn’t bread money), I for one am not sending him to I forget which Circle of Hell. I don’t gamble; except for an occasional poker game with friends in graduate school, but that really wasn’t gambling. They were such poor poker players that there wasn’t any chance involved: I never lost! By the way, I don’t like the word addiction, it always has a "physical" connotation to it; passion, or habit, is better in part because it is deeper, it is of the soul, not the body, hence harder to break; I always get the sense that if something is an addiction, people think there is a chemical imbalance involved and if you just give the person the right medicine (read another chemical) it will go away. Not so with a deep habit or a passion, when a vice, it is much harder to break.

Let me tell you a quick story about Bennett. It was 1986 and I had just been appointed to the Education Department (by Bennett) as Director of International Education. One of my first important meetings was with four presidents of four of the most prestigious universities in the country (from both coasts). I won’t name them. They spent an hour and a half over dinner talking about the Secretary of Education (who held both a PhD and a law degree) as if he were a hick with only a kindergarten education. They were explicit in saying that they took nothing he said about education (and higher education especially) seriously. Bennett was an idiot and a fool and they were going to break him. I was--in my naivete--shocked by this attitude. I couldn’t believe that four such distinguished and accomplished men could talk this way about my boss, the Secretary of Education; never mind the imprudence of speaking so boldly in front of me who, they well knew, had just been appointed by Bennett. From their point of view I was a no-body, might as well have been a spot on the table cloth. But what shocked me above all else is the last thing they said about Bennett before leaving the table: One of them said that he had seen Bennett at a gas station, putting gas in his old and tacky Toyota; he was putting the gas in himself, didn’t even have an attendant do it. How low, how tacky. And you should have seen that car, an old run-down, rusty thing. He should be ashamed of himself, one of them said. I had put up with a lot during the dinner, but this was the final straw. I barked at them that Bennett didn’t have money, he’d been a student and an academic his whole life, and that this was no crime or vice. Not everyone could have the income of the president of Stanford, I said. Well, since then Bill has made a lot of money. And if he has blown a lot of it through gambling--as long as it isn’t milk money--that’s his business and it isn’t a crime (moral or otherwise), although it is at best foolish. It would have been much worse if he were to have given gifts to one of these univesities, at least one of which was an alma mater. Still, he ought to respond to the stories; it could encourage a conversation on habits, vices and virtues.

More Signs of a Dem Crackup

As if the Republican rout on foreign and defense policy weren’t enough, there are fresh signs that liberals are cracking up on the domestic front as well. In recent days Washington DC Mayor Anthony Williams has come out in favor of school vouchers for DC public schools. (I have long predicted that the dam would start to break when some prominent Democrats broke with the teachers union.)

For this tergiversation, Courtland Milloy, one of the Washington Post’s race-baiting thugs it calls a columnist, has blasted Williams as a Republican in Democratic clothing. Worth reading as evidence that there aren’t any serious arguments to be made against vouchers any more.

Here We Go Again. . .

Today’s New York Times has fingered the key node of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC). The key node is . . . drum roll please. . . Leo Strauss. Surprise, surprise.

The author, James Atlas, does a less bad job than other writers (notably the Times’ Brent Staples back in 1995) in characterizing Strauss. (If memory serves, it was a positive Times review by Atlas that helped launch Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind toward the best-seller list back in 1987.) But there are the usual crudities and mis-identifications in the piece. It is worth reading for its unintentional hilarity.

There is a photo of Harry and Marjorie Jaffa in their tandem bike from 1970 on the jump page (not avilable online however); apparently a file photo from a 1973 Times story on Strauss.

In other Times news, there is a terrific recipe for braised pork shoulder in the magazine this week.

Bush Leaguers

One little tidbit stands out deep in the Washington Post story today about the Democrats debate in South Carolina last night. It seems Bush has a commanding lead in polls over every Democrat in the current field, but a much smaller lead over a generic Democrat. The large polling gap between a generic Democrat an the real candidates is a measure of how weak the Democratic field is right now.

Look for Hillary to take a serious look at jumping in the race late in the year if the economy and Bush look weak.

The Bennett Affair

I am very troubled by the Bill Bennett gambling story.

Bennett knows his Aristotle: virtue isn’t limited merely to public virtue (the Clinton problem), but is primarily about one’s private character. The pinnacle of virtue for Aristotle was moderation. Bennett’s gambling appears highly immoderate, even for a wealthy man. (I find it hard to believe that he is wealthy enough to blow $8 million--IF that figure is accurate--without it being meaningful. But even so--it represents a squandering of wealth that could go to better purposes. It’d be different if he lost that kind of money in church bingo.)

Recall that Bennett was very exacting that Hillsdale College come clean about every fact of the Roche affair. I think we conservatives who want to defend Bennett deserve the same from him just now.

Knowing a bit about Vegas (my wife grew up there, and had an aunt who owned a mid-sized casino on Fremont Street--the old Vegas before the strip), there are some aspects of his story I find troubling and difficult to believe. He says he avoids table games because people want to talk politics with him. Bennett, not wanting to talk politics? Well, okay, maybe so, but casinos cater to high rollers, and would surely have been willing to arrange private tables or regulate the company he had to keep if he asked for it. They do this all the time, and have VIP rooms for just such people. It doesn’t ring right to me. Gambling on slot machines late at night is not commensurate to Churchill working the tables at Monte Carlo in his tuxedo after dinner. (And even allowing for inflation, Churchill didn’t gamble the kind of sums Bennett does.) I think it possible--even likely--that Bennett may have a problem, and I think he should come clean if he wants us to defend him vigorously.

I find interesting Bill Kristol’s comments to the New York Times. He said that this was a private matter between Bennett, his wife, and his accounant. One needn’t be a Straussian to see that Kristol is not absolving Bennett of having a potential problem.

Yes, the left is going to jump all over this, but before we man the barricades in Bennett’s defense, he needs to share the full story.

McCain-Feingold Ravaged

As this article in the Washington Post points out, a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. has declared most of the soft-money prohibitions included in the McCain-Feingold Act to be unconstitutional. There will undoubtedly be an appeal, so that the Supreme Course is likely to hear the case before the year is out.

I’ll leave it to the legal experts of this forum to comment on the importance of this development, but the suspicious side of me has a nagging question. Given that these provisions seemed so obviously and manifestly unconstitutional, did members of both parties (but particularly the Democrats, who would suffer disproportionately from its effects) support the bill with the expectation that its most objectionable parts would be struck down?

Bush’s Speech on the USS Lincoln

President Bush has gotten rave reviews for his speech yesterday on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Here’s a link from NRO to the speech.

The Soul of W.E.B. Du Bois

In case you missed it, Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution penned a thoughtful and thought-provoking op-ed in the April 29 Wall St. Journal "The Souls of Black Folk". It links Du Bois’s 1903 book of essays to today’s protest politics.

Simply put, Du Bois’s old school approach of attacking "the color line" by emphasizing "white responsibility for racial reform" ensures that "blacks are always victims," at least in the public mindset and unfortunately among many blacks themselves. Witness the hue and cry on display at last month’s Supreme Court oral arguments on affirmative action: there, college protesters feared that a color-blind world would somehow prevent minorities from getting into college.

Steele argues that the "dilemma of protest" is "if it wins us freedom, it ill prepares us for it." Linking "black problems" to "white burdens" only reinforces the racist paradigm of white supremacy. The just claims of racial minorities must therefore be pursued in a manner consistent with their own individual freedom and character. This means they themselves must be what Steele calls the "transformative agent" in their own freedom and prosperity.

What Steele identifies as "the problem of emergence" for those taking their initial steps of freedom will not be solved by "the easy dignity of racial militancy." (Not a bad phrase; kind of like "the soft bigotry of low expectations" that Bush lamented was taking place in the schools of many depressed neighborhoods.) Freedom requires effort on every individual’s part to exercise responsibility. Instead of looking to Du Bois, we do better to study the words and emulate the deeds of other great Americans, like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington. Their lives give noble guidance on how to live as free men and women and ultimately bridge America’s racial divide.

Still More on the Gingrich Speech

Let me preface this by saying I’m not a fan of the left-wing conspiracist site Buzzflash, but this piece makes a fair point.

Leaving aside the inflammatory anti-administration rhetoric and the conspiratorial allgations, it asks a worthwhile question: why should we be particularly surprised by the Gingrich speech, given that it reflects views that have been expressed by certain members of the administration on many occasions? Fundamentally this is a group that does not trust diplomats (hardly a new sentiment in the United States, by the way).

Busch Compares Bush I and Bush II

Andrew Busch presents a useful comparison of 41 (GHW Bush) and 43 (GW Bush) in an editorial nearby, which shows why the 2004 presidential election will differ significantly from election year 1992. Focusing on the lasting impact of the 9/11 terrorist attack and success of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Busch argues that our current president has a keener sense of domestic issues (and the politics it takes to make gains with them) than our 41st president--a huge advantage going into election 2004.

Let me add that with national security a top priority for at least the next few years, a respectable, focused, and winning political program, and money to burn by the next election cycle, Pres. Bush should have little problem winning reelection. Quite the prediction, I know; you heard it here first. Anyway, my real point is that election year 2004 will soon become simply a Democratic dry run for election 2008--the way first-time candidates for political office build their Rolodexes, recruit advisors and staff, test how well they can raise money, and generate name recognition for the next go-around.

The question is, what issues will Democrats focus on in the next 17 months, what "important" speeches and soundbites will they enter into conventional wisdom’s fact file, in order to be the last Democrat standing come 2008? I’ll leave it to others to chime in on these points, but for starters let me note that one Democratic senator who has yet to declare interest this time around has been biding her--I mean his or her time by making speeches, raising money, and spreading the wealth around to other campaigns in preparation for a bid when Bush finishes his second term. Look for this senator to be quite measured and calculating in her support for the Democratic nominee in 2008.