Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Sniping At the President’s Thanksgiving Trip

FDR misled reporters by first heading north on a train out of D.C., then transferring mid-track to a southbound train to Miami, from where he flew a multi-leg trip to get him to a now-famous meeting with Stalin in Casablanca. Presidents do that sort of thing, for security. But Reuters now is trying to claim that Bush’s stealth visit to Iraq was illegal because Air Force One filed a false flight plan. And that "lying to protect a photo op" will undermine the government’s credibility. Hmm. Perhaps it would be better if the White House never used deception in the conduct of the war. Publish troop movements in advance? Perhaps Reuters would be well to remember that, as Hamilton pointed out in Federalist 70, we set up the Executive the way we did so that it could operate with the "secrecy and dispatch" necessary to defend ourselves.

American History, our site

Let me bring to your attention our new site (new appearance and much new substance) called Teaching American History. It is, we think, not only a lot more attractive than the old one, but more useful, with many new features added. Are you looking for an important document in American history? Here is George Washington’s Last Will and Testament, as an example. Are you interested in hearing a talk by some worthy? Here is Richard Ruderman on Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Are you interested in learning everything about the Constitutional Convention? Well, here is the site for the Constitutional Convention. And this is Gordon Lloyd’s introduction to the Convention. Maybe you want a very detailed day by day summary of the Convention. Or, how about James Madison’s Notes, divided by date. Remarkable stuff. And there is plenty more, don’t forget to click on the interactive Christy painting, or on the inteactive map of Philadelphia as it was during the Convention. I am especially interested in the City Tavern and the Indian Queen Tavern, where many good conversations and compromises took place. Wine and cider helps loosen tongues and make friends. If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the Framers! And, of course, you will also see all the upcoming seminars and summer institutes. Take a look and take your time.

The Demos and soft-money

Dick Morris explains how the Democrats have built a soft-money lifeboat. And George Soros gives us some details of how and why he has thrown over $12 million at the Democrats, indirectly. Here is some more on Soros’
purchase of the Democratic Party.

Phillis Wheatley

Lucas Morel reminds us of the 219th anniversary of the death of one of America’s most famous poets, Phillis Wheatley. He reflects on Henry Louis Gates’ "sparkling" book on her, and concludes that she is very much worth studying. I agree. I have also read Gates’ slim volume, and it is a good introduction to this fine mind. Be sure to read her poem, penned at age fourteen (she was brought here at age eight), "On Being Brought from Africa to America," which Morel quotes. It is about Providence and salvation.

California Senate race

Bill Jones, former California Secretary of State, a prominent backer of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign for governor, will file today to run in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and the chance to challenge incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. He is the fourth Republican running.

Dean’s progress

Howard Dean is leading in Florida (16% to Liebermann’s and Clrak’s 15%) and is also leading in South Carolina (11% to Clark’s and Libermann’s 9%; Edwards has 7%). And Dean has taken a commanding lead (by 30 points over Kerry) in New Hampshire. Bruce Babitt, Clinton’s interior secretary will endorse Dean. James Lileks has a few good comments on Dean’s inability to get his facts straight. Charles Krauthammer thinks that Dean is dillusional.

The case of Lt. Col. Allen West

The results of the hearing on Lt. Col. Allen B. West--the fellow who disccharged a pistol next to an Iraqi prisoner’s head to get him to give up information--are due any day now. Jedd Babbin writes good article on how this is being perceived by the warriors on the ground. "What Allen West did was wrong. But there is nothing he did that warrants a court martial or a felony conviction: It’s clear that the lawyers and the careerists in the Army have decided to make an example of him. But an example of what? After tossing out a soldier who killed a prisoner, how does it help to court martial another who intimidated a prisoner without injuring him, and actually got information that may have saved American lives?"

Rummy’s Anglo-Saxon words

It is true that in this golden world there are many reputed to be wise for saying nothing (listen to almost any professor!). And then there are the happy few who mince not the general tongue; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is one of those rare fellows. It is his occupation to be plain, he doesn’t want to neutralize or suppress the adversary, but kill the foe. Oh that good old Anglo-Saxon tongue!

Surprisingly, therefore, something called Plain English has given a "Foot-in-Mouth Award to Rumsfeld for this spoken paragraph below.

"Reports that say something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because, as we know, there are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don’t know we don’t know."

London’s Guardian in a brief paragraph says this, with which I agree: "This is indeed a complex, almost Kantian, thought. It needs a little concentration to follow it. Yet it is anything but foolish. It is also perfectly clear. It is expressed in admirably plain English, with not a word of jargon or gobbledygook in it. A Cambridge literary theorist, US Air Force war gamer or Treasury tax law draftsman would be sacked for producing such a useful thought so simply expressed in good Anglo-Saxon words. So let Rummy be. The Plain English Campaign should find itself a more deserving target for its misplaced mockery."

The Louisiana Purchase

Two hundred years ago the United States didn’t seem to need more land, or did it? Peter Onuf, the historian at the University of Virginia, writes a nice essay on the Louisiana Purchase, and what it meant--among other things--geopolitically, (read, survival) for the nation Jefferson had in mind. It appears in the Wilson Quarterly. Not bad. 

Army-Navy game

I guess it’s reasonable to assume that the fellow who sent me this newsflash on the upcoming Army-Navy game is a Navy supporter:

West Point (NY) -- Army football practice was delayed nearly two hours
yesterday after a player reported finding an unknown white powdery
on the practice field. New head coach, John Mumford, immediately
practice while police and federal investigators were called to
After a complete analysis by both the FBI and Army Intelligence,
experts determined the white substance unknown to players was the goal
Practice was resumed after special agents decided the team was unlikely
encounter the substance again.

Democratic politics

I am tempted to title these missives on the Demos, "Suicide Watch." This Boston Globe reports that the Demos are going to try to ignore all the issues surrounding gays and same sex marriage, during their convention and during the election. I love this guy Terry McAuliffe, as far as I’m concerned, the GOP might as well be paying his salary. He has no ear for politics; he is a dull broken record, read some of his comments in the article. I hope they don’t boot him before the election; he must be worth at least 5 points for Bush. Can they actually ignore all this, especially if Dean becomes the candidate? Note that Dean now leads in New Hampshire by around thirty points: Dean has 45%, Kerry has 13% (and dropping), with Clark at 11%. Kerry has just called Bush’s foreign policy "arrogant, inept, reckless," The New York Times reports. And, according to Zogby, Dean has regained the lead in Iowa.

Michael Ramirez

Michael Ramirez is the terrific cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times. He is very good, and surprise(!), he is a conservative. This is from today’s paper, and you can go here to see some more (free registration required).

Boxer’s Senate seat

Rosario Marin, the former Treasurer of the U.S. has announced that she will enter the Republican primary for the U.S.Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer. She came to the U.S. from Mexico at age fourteen, and seems to me to be a serious candidate. She came out swinging against Boxer. Here is her official site.

Hanson on Midge Decter’s Rumsfeld

Victor Davis Hanson praises Midge Decter’s little book on a big subject, Donald Rumsfeld. Unsurprisingly, he places the volume in the larger context of what a biography should be at its best: "The Greeks invented the art of biography as an exercise in moral philosophy. The lives of ’preeminent’ statesmen and generals were to serve as ethical exemplars—both good and bad—for the rest of us, subject as we are to the same all-too-human appetites and temptations. Thus, the early years of an Alcibiades, an Alexander, or a Cicero were mined by Plutarch for anecdotes that might reveal an unchanging and essential character, its elements becoming more manifest during the crucible of adulthood and thereby accounting for the subject’s ultimate achievement. It is this biographical tradition—not the current American bathos of fact-filled, gossip-ridden megabooks about celebrities—that Midge Decter has returned to in her succinct essay on our current Secretary of Defense."

Re-writing American Communist history

A reader brought to my attention this Arnold Beichman review of Haynes and Klehr’s book that I referenced yesterday.

Religious freedom

Phillip Munoz has a worthy article in First Things on religious freedom and freedom of speech. His first paragraph (thanks to The Remedy):

"If conservative and liberal church-state scholars agree on one thing, it is that the Supreme Court’s religious liberty jurisprudence is a disaster. No single rule exists to guide decision making. The various doctrines employed are, at best, inconsistent and, at worst, blatantly contradictory. Divisions on the Court run so deep that actions demanded by “free exercise” according to some Justices violate “no-establishment” according to others. The result is an ever shifting, case-by-case jurisprudence based on narrow factual questions that encourages neither the rule of law nor a robust protection of religious freedom."

You might also take a look at Ken Blackwell’s (Ohio’s Secretary of State) piece called "Religious LIberty: The Most Precious of Our Liberties," in the current issue of On Principle.

Islamist speaking

This is an article on , and an interview with, Syed Munawar Hasan, the leader of the largest Islamist political party in Pakistan. It is, unfortunately, very revealing. Is this it? Is there no moderate--more rational--Islamic cleric out there who is willing to go public to dispute stuff like this? Sample paragraph (thanks to Andrew Sullivan):

"Western civilization is based on falsehoods and denials of the basic truth. In the past, Jews were victimized by Western nations, not Muslims, and when they were victimized in the West they only received protection in Muslim societies. Jews were never allowed to visit their holy places under Christian rule, while Muslims always allowed them to visit their holy places in Palestine. These are the basic truths of history. On the contrary, the West raises the slogans of civil society and human rights and then attacks nations without United Nations resolutions because under the UN mandate it would have to adhere to many principles and would not be able to unleash such brutalities."

The decline of Europe, rise of Asia

A fellow named Martin Jacques, although clearly a man of the left, writes on interesting op-ed in the London Guardian on the decline of Europe and the rise of Asia. If you can overlook his off-handed way of talking about American imperialism and such, it is worth a read. Sample:
"In reality, though, the cold war served to exaggerate Europe’s true position in the world and mask its underlying decline; 1989 was the last time that Europe was the centre of global affairs. Ever since, its star has been on the wane. That fact alone is a portent of the world that is now slowly taking shape."

Historians and Communism (and spies)

This is a very interesting interview with John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, authors of "In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage" (2003). Worth reading the whole, but here is a tidbit: "At Solovki, one of earliest Gulag camps, Soviet administrators put up a sign that expressed the Communist program: ’With an Iron Fist, We Will Lead Humanity to Happiness.’ That slogan captures the murderous nature of the utopian vision of the hard left.

Jamie, you look at Soviet history and see the Gulag, the executions of the Terror, the pervasive oppression, and the economic failure. Psychologically, the leftists you speak of see little of that. They see a Communist state that articulated their vision of the future and which sought to destroy the societies and institutions they hated. They cannot see the horror that communism actually created. They look on that horror and see something else because they cannot admit to themselves that their vision is beyond human grasp. The German Communist playwright Bertolt Brecht, when challenged that thousands of innocents had been sent to the Gulag by Stalin, replied, ’the more innocent they are, the more they deserve to die.’ To you or I this remark is disgusting, but to the hard left it reflects their eager willingness to kill any number of persons without concern for innocence or guilt if it might assist in bringing about the socialist future."

What’s in a name?

Man changes name. "The 39-year-old Springfield native legally changed his name last month to reflect his childhood nickname. His new first name? Bubba. His new middle name? Bubba. One guess what his new last name is." (Thanks to The Fat Guy.)

Stocks and productivity, up

The Nasdaq composite index crossed 2,000 for the first time in nearly two years Wednesday and the Dow Jones industrials approached the 10,000 level as investors eagerly picked up stocks following a strong productivity report. And productivity of U.S. companies rocketed at a 9.4 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the best showing in 20 years, offering an encouraging sign that the economic resurgence will be lasting.

Bush and the funerals

Andrew Sullivan reflects on the attacks on Bush for not having attended any funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. He explains that this is a non-issue, never mind that FDR, for example, never attended a funeral. Neither did Clinton, although he attended some memorials services (as has Bush). There are some good links in the article, including this one to Charles Krauthammer and the History News Network, which has a list of a number of the presidential traditions in this regard.

The emptying Great Plains

New York Times has run a series of articles on the effects of rural depopulation in and around the Great Plains. They are good and well written pieces, although a bit depressing. Thomas Krannawitter, who hails from a small town in Kansas, has a few thoughtful paragraphs on the issue that is worth reading. A sample: "The economic consequences of this loss in population have been grave: of the poorest counties in the nation, more than half are found in the rural belt running from Nebraska down through parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, where there are few people, little commerce, and virtually no economic growth. For those who have never lived in a smaller midwestern town, they may view the shrinking population simply as a function of economic and demographic trends. But for those like me who know first-hand what it means to live in a place where your neighbors are your friends, there is something sad about it. As an observer explained in one of the articles, life in the Midwest is ’built on reciprocity and trust. You do favors without expecting you will be repaid, but you know you will be repaid by someone.’ That kind of character-building experience is hard to find in a city."

Bush’s character, his common touch

Richard Bookhiser writes a nice piece on the President. The President’s trip to Iraq for Thanksgiving forces him to reflect: "The trip also played to a particular strength of Mr. Bush’s, which can only be called his common touch. However wayward Mr. Bush’s relationship with the English language, his command of body language and gesture does not desert him when he is with people in the trenches. The first notable example was his visit to Ground Zero two days after 9/11; when he stood on the ash heap and told the rescue workers that the world would soon hear them, he suddenly seemed ready for the long road ahead. They had inspired him, which allowed him to inspire them. He enacted the same rite of communion in Iraq." It is partly because the people understand this about Bush’s common touch that right after the Baghdad trip the overall approval of the president’s handling of his job went from 56 to 61 percent, while disapproval went from 41 to 36 percent.

Michael Novak takes a broader view and considers Bush’s wonderful speeches and the fact that he continues to be underestimated, and what that means. "Before any key event, press commentary on the upcoming performance of George W. Bush is nearly always dismissive. The president’s supposed faults are caricatured. Gloom about how poorly he will do is widespread. Then, virtually always, if the event is important enough, the president steps to the plate, gets a solid extra-base hit, and drives in a few more runs." This happened again in London.

I add my own reflections on Bush’s character by comparing him with Clinton’s personality. I was reminded of the difference by having seen Clinton strut his personality on stage at the Kennedy Center. "Watching him reminded me of the difference between personality and character. He was a giant on that large Kennedy Center stage. He filled all the space there was and then extended himself to fill the very air of the place, as the air seemed to move to give his reach more room. He spoke and his words were fluent, his large hands proving useful as physical expressions emphasizing the mood his words were meant to convey. The theatrical effect was perfect. I noticed these things. I also noticed—some minutes into his sanctimony—that I had no idea what he was talking about because I was so overtaken by his persona. I listened harder and discovered that he was talking about America’s role in the world. I listened even more and discovered that he wasn’t saying much of anything interesting or thoughtful, that he was talking without content. He was talking about his own role in the world."

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

More proof that David Brooks is giving George Will a run for his conservative editorial money. In

"Boots on the Ground, Hearts on Their Sleeves"
, Brooks observes that American soldiers are fulfilling a dual charge that reflects the civil-military order that gave rise to the early American republic. In short, soldiers are answering the call to civility in the most demanding of situations. A few excerpts:

Can anybody think of another time in history when a comparable group of young people was asked to be at once so brave, fierce and relentless, while also being so sympathetic, creative and forbearing?

At spontaneous moments, when order threatens to break down, the soldiers, aviators and marines jump in and coach the Iraqis on the customs and habits of democracy. They try to weave that fabric of civic trust that can’t be written into law, but without which freedom becomes anarchy.

When you read their writings you see what thorough democrats they are. They are appalled at the thought of dominating Iraq. They want to see the Iraqis independent and governing themselves. If some president did want to create an empire, he couldn’t do it with these people. Their faith in freedom governs their actions.

Because our heritage includes a commitment to and practice of a "just war" theory steeped in the thought of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, perhaps another way of explaining the modern American soldier is to say that regardless of his religious beliefs, he at least acts like a Christian when he goes to war. To be sure, there is also a pacifist tradition that flows from Christian thought about public life and duty. That said, one cannot take too lightly or appreciate too greatly what I consider the heavier task that American soldiers carry out in today’s Iraq. In the words of the prophet Micah (6:8), "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." May God continue to bless our efforts over there.

Colorado court decision

A reader brought this blogger, View from a Height, in Colorado to my attention. His opinions regarding the Colorado Supreme Court’s redistricting decision seems reasonable

Ibrahim not captured

Contrary to earlier reports based on Iraqi sources, the U.S. reports that "Izzat Ibrahim, the most-wanted man in Iraq after Saddam Hussein, had not been captured in a raid near Kirkuk on Tuesday — despite reports to the contrary from Iraq’s Governing Council. Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb explosion in the tense town of Samarra."

Ivory Coast turmoil

The BBC reports that the 3,800 French peacekeepers, and all French interests, in the Ivory Coast have been threatened by the rebels. They said they would start shooting today. Here is the ABC News story on the same. In the meantime, French diplomats are on strike world-wide.

Reading Homer

Christopher B. Nelson, the president of St. John’s College, Annapolis, writes a lovely essay on Homer for The New Criterion. I should say that it is a re-print of his convocation address at St. John’s College. It is wonderful, read the whole thing. Just a taste: "Surely there is not a more powerful book anywhere than the Iliad with which to examine the virtues and vices, the beauty and terrible power for good or ill, of men with chests. So the Iliad, and, later, the Odyssey form a good beginning to philosophy; they ask you to confront powerful aspects of your nature on your first day at the college—aspects that often function independently of your rational capacity. You are asked to face the spirited element within you and to wonder whether it can or should be shaped and tempered by your reason."  

Colorado Supreme Court

The Colorado Supreme Court threw out a GOP redistricting plan rushed through this year. A reader points me toward this editorial in The Rocky Mountain News that is very sensible on the subject. Everyone’s hands seem to be dirty in this matter, but the Court above all. Surprise, they are now a law-making body!

Stick A Fork in It

It’s official. The Kyoto Protocol is formally dead, with the announcement today from Moscow that Russia will not ratify the treaty. This means it cannot now go into force, according to its own terms. Look for European and American environmentalists to say that it is Bush’s fault.

Two things are notable about this. First, the announcement was made today in Moscow, and not in Milan, where a 12-day UN conference is desperately trying to revive the Kyoto treaty. By announcing their decision in Moscow, the Russians have thumbed their nose at the UN conference.

Second, that sound you hear behind the curtain is European nations breathing a sigh of relief. They cannot meet even their near-term Kyoto targets (even with flat economies) and have been looking for ways to cheat on the treaty in recent weeks. They always wanted to be able to blame someone else, however, while playing to their green constituencies.

Best conservative weblogs

Nominations for best conservative weblogs are now open. Go there and nominate your favorite.

Electoral map as destiny?

The NY Times reports that demographic changes favor Bush and the GOP in 2004. "The shift in the electoral map means that the Republicans have a crucial cushion going into the 2004 presidential campaign. Mr. Bush could hold all the states he won in 2000 except for, say, West Virginia and its five electoral votes, and still win in 2004. The Democrats have no such room for error. They must hold all the states Mr. Gore won and add to them to make up the difference." This is because seven states that Bush won in 2000 have gained a total of eleven electoral votes, and lost four in others he won, for a net gain of seven electoral votes. Worth filing for later use. 

George Soros attacked

Jackie Mason (the comedian) attacks George Soros!

Izzaz Ibrahim caught?

Reuters reports the following: "Izzat Ibrahim, right-hand man to Saddam Hussein and the next most wanted Iraqi leader, has been killed or captured in a U.S. raid near the city of Kirkuk, Iraqi Governing Council sources said on Tuesday.

’There was a major action against a highly suspicious objective last night in Kirkuk and it is very possible that Izzat Ibrahim has been captured or killed,’ said one member of the Council, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, adding he had been in contact with U.S. forces." Although I hope this is true, I don’t fully trust the report because the sole source seems to be the Governing Council.

Abizaid of Arabia

This portrait of General John Abizaid is fromThe Atlantic. The author says he is one of Rumsfeld’s favorite generals: "And not only Rumsfeld’s. To a remarkable degree Abizaid is admired by his fellow officers, many of whom have said outright that he is uniquely suited to oversee the increasingly complex and bloody occupation of Iraq. Indeed, Abizaid’s entire life seems to have prepared him to be the military proconsul of an Arab country in chaos. But now the question is whether he can step up from a career of triumphs in smaller arenas to take on the nation-building challenge of the decade."

Gun control

This study by the Fraser Institute in Canada examines crime trends in Commonwealth countries that have recently introduced firearm regulations: i.e., Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. It concludes that
violent crime rates, and homicide rates in particular, have been increasing in these countries, while dropping in the U.S.

Europe’s anti-Americanism

Jean Francois Revel considers Europe’s anti-American obsession. "Today’s anti-American disinformation is not the result of pardonable, correctable mistakes, but of a profound psychological need to make the U.S. the villain responsible for others’ failures." I have given my opinion on these matters in something called "The Ugly European," in case you want to go to the heart of the matter.

Same sex marriage, footnote

The AP reports that a Utah polygamist claims that his bigamy convictions should be thrown out following a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex. Calling Justice Scalia!

Principles and Tactics: The Case of Bush

My own guess-- and I’m generally terrible at these things-- I did think back in 2000 that there was a good chance Bush could lose the popular vote and win the electoral college vote (though by a considerably wider margin than he did). Doubtless the closeness of the final result weighs on their political calculations.

I guess again that at least one principle at the core of what the Bush-men wish to accomplish is one that much of the sophisticated left agrees with: It’s all about the judges, stupid. The more Bush appears centrist the better positioned he is to appoint (and have approved) Supreme Court justices who can resist charges of extremism and restore constitutionalism. (So far, no positive results on some wonderful candidates for the circuit courts of appeal. But Bush has not yet begun to fight here.) I gather this feeling of mine goes against the grain of beltway conservative legal beltway thinking that has Bush favoring a Hispanic nominee for the Supreme Court, one that would likely disappoint conservatives. I would not sell this President short on court appoinments, which I see as a key and necessarily unstated goal of his.

The decline of France

Christopher Caldwell’s extended essay in The Weekly Standard on France is both amusing and depressing, but worth reading. The country seems to be in quite a mess! He says that its foreign policy is stuck in the 1960’s, and France’s secular, consumerist society is "whimpering for mercy." The Left is shallow but powerful, and the current rulers can’t do much about the shifting domestic politics, much of which has to do with immigration and the assimiliation (or not) of Islam. De Villepin can keep talking about "destiny," but this smells more like decline.  They still don’t know how to make citizens.  

Same sex marriage

William Safire has some thoughtful things to say on the question of same sex marriage. Above all, I agree that this shouldn’t be left up to the courts; citizens need to talk about it. Robert Novak thinks that both Bush and the GOP are divided on this issue, one in which a middle course is not possible. He sees a minefield for both the party and Bush.

Republican audacity

George Will’s Newsweek column beats up on the Republicans for doing things (including the 26% increase in federal discretionary spending in the last two years) that they will probably regret later.  

Teach them geography!

Terrence Moore suggests that you buy your children globes, maps, any thing having to do with geography this Christmas. It is something that mosut be learned, and it’s fun, kind of like space travel.

Rise of the evangelicals on college campuses

The Boston Globe reports that evangelical Christians are increasing in numbers at the elite ivy league colleges. "There are 15 evangelical Christian fellowship groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alone. This is a pretty stunning development for a university where science has always been god, where efficiency and rationality are embedded in the DNA of the cold granite campus. Hundreds of MIT students are involved in these fellowships -- blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, especially Asians. Some of the groups are associated with powerhouse national evangelical organizations, like Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Others are more home-grown. Either way, the ranks are multiplying."

"At Harvard University, ’there are probably more evangelicals than at any time since the 17th century,’ says the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, religious historian and minister of the university’s Memorial Church, who arrived on campus in 1970. ’And I don’t think I have ever seen a wider range of Christian fellowship activity.’"


Tacitus is a blogger I don’t remember having read before. He is currently in Africa and makes for some interesting, albeit depressing, reading. You might want to have a look.

Iraqi matters

Good morning: We killed 54 Iraqis when they tried to ambush us in two different places in the same town. No Americans died. Read the AP story above and note how Al Jazeera reports the same news. This NY Times article by John Burns is very interesting and a good read. Through a series of interviews with Iraqi’s the reader gets a better feel than normal about the difficulties of finding out the truth about how Iraqis feel about Saddam, the U.S., and what is currently going on there. Good reporting. Another NY Times article worth noting: Was Saddam trying to get nuclear missiles from North Korea? Yes. You might want to glance at Joe Katzman’s Iraqi roundup as well.

Indian progress

This Business Week article considers India’s extraordinary effort to run into the modern world, and what it has to do with us. Very informative. This is what happens to a country once the socialist barriers (or much of it, anyway) are lifted. "Quietly but with breathtaking speed, India and its millions of world-class engineering, business, and medical graduates are becoming enmeshed in America’s New Economy in ways most of us barely imagine. ’India has always had brilliant, educated people,’ says tech-trend forecaster Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. ’Now Indians are taking the lead in colonizing cyberspace.’"


Housing prices in Baghdad

The price of housing in Bagdad has doubled doubled since the invasion. "’For years people have been scared to build anything new for fear that Saddam or the Americans would destroy their property. But now that fear is gone,’ said Majid al-Settah, director of the al-Jazeera estate agency in Baghdad."

Gay marriage

George Will argues that a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman is not the way to go. Let the political discussion begin within states and hopes that the courts do not remove our right to talk and decide such matters, as they did regarding abortion. Robert P. George of Princeton opines in favor of a constitutional amendment and works carefully through the Massachusetts Supreme ourt decision.

GOP sell out?

David Brooks on the op-ed page of the New York Times examines the meaning--both electoral and philosophic--of the passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill. The good news is that the GOP is learning how to govern; it is in the habit of winning and is on a permanent offense. That bad news is that "We have plenty of Republicans in Congress, but few who actually belive in smaller government." The Club for Growth folks, among others, agree with this and are not amused. They are saying that the GOP is betraying its principles.

Ken Masugi has a few good thoughts on this, and I generally agree with them. All of this, of course, also has to do with "realignment" issues. The short of it is this: Do we trust the GOP to be in principle in favor of smaller government? And if we do--and keep in mind that in exchange for massive new spending, the law demands competitive reforms (hence the anger of Sen. Kennedy)--than all we have to do is to decide whether or not the passage of this law (and perhaps increased spending in other realms, for example, education) is a prudent decision made out of necessity, or whether it is made because the principle is given up. I think it is necessity. While the GOP’s (and the think tanks, and writers, et al) philosophical attack on the expansion of the welfare state has been very impressive for over a generation, the political effects of that attack have not yet been as effective as many of us think it should be; in short we have not yet shaped public opinion to question the expansion of the centralized welfare state root and branch. FDR and the others understood that it would be very difficult to end a program that everyone finds in his interest, unjust (and/or unconstitutional) though it may be. Yet, keep in mind Masugi’s point that the progressive referendum and the recall(who would have thought?) have been used for conservative ends. That’s why liberals can say with anger (as Sen. Kennedy did) that there is too much democracy in California. And I agree. Yet, the use of that direct democracy for conservative ends is a good thing and should--over time--force a movement back toward legislative responsibility and more limited constitutional government. A similar form of reasoning applies at the federal level. We need not betray our principles by doing what has been done on the prescription drug bill. We do have to make sure that we know the difference between necessity and principle, though. And let us come back to fight that on another day, as the competitive reforms in the bill should allow us to do. As Masugi says, let’s recognize the difference between a tactic and a long term strategy. Now let’s get to work on some other critical issues like abortion, gay marriage, etc.