Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Powerblog on C-Span now

I just came home from the play, "Drop Dead," which was terrific, turned on C-Span and, lo and behold, John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson of Powerline are on talking about blogging. Have a look.

Zell Miller

Has a book coming out next month. The title? A Deficit of Decency. This is some of what’s on his mind.

Election 2004 again

This article argues that gay marriage referenda actually hurt the Bush campaign. Interesting, but hardly conclusive.

FEC and all that

As usual, Win Myers of the aptly named Democracy Project (just keep scrolling...and bookmark the site already!) has a number of interesting posts on the Politics Online conference (lots of links) and on campaign finance reform (also lots of links). Bottom line: John McCain and George Soros seem to want the same thing: "Free Speech for Me But Not for Thee".

Environmentalism is Dead?

The greens are going to feel pretty blue today then they read Nicholas Kristof dumping all over them in the New York Times. Some samples:

"The fundamental problem, as I see it, is that environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they’ve lost credibility with the public. . ."

" I was once an environmental groupie, and I still share the movement’s broad aims, but I’m now skeptical of the movement’s "I Have a Nightmare" speeches. . ."

"This record [of badly mistaken predictions] should teach environmentalists some humility. . . Jared Diamond argues that if we accept false alarms for fires, then why not for the health of our planet? But environmental alarms have been screeching for so long that, like car alarms, they are now just an irritating background noise. . ."

"There are many sensible environmentalists, of course, but overzealous ones have tarred the entire field. . . So it’s critical to have a credible, nuanced, highly respected environmental movement. And right now, I’m afraid we don’t have one.

Read the whole thing.

Mid-East notes

Victor Davis Hanson thinks we have travelled far since 9/11, and the trip is good. The Iraqi factions, about to establish a government, are making it perfectly clear that an Islamic republic will not be establisehd. The U.N. envoy, having met with Assad, says that the Syrian will pull out of Lebanon. He will give a full report on his meeting next week. Egyptian opposition leader has been released on bail. The Iraq Survey Group found that Egypt helped Iraq with its chemical weapons programs in the 1980’s. Hamas says that it will run candidates in the Palestinians elections in July. There was a pro Syria
rally in Gaza. The Europeans take a harder line against Iran, thereby getting American support.

"Hitler was great"

London Times interviewed Udo Voigt, leader of the German far-right National Party of Germany. He addresses rallies using the slogan: “We are everywhere.” They won 9% of the vote in Saxony. Polls suggest that 14% of Germans share his views.

Church and state in Georgia again

Teachers’ unions flexed their political muscle in Georgia again, defeating a measure that would ultimately have aligned the Georgia constitution’s religion provisions with those of the First Amendment. For more background, go here, here, here, and here. The provision isn’t totally dead, but Governor Sonny Perdue and the Republican leadership in the Senate haven’t succeeded in shifting any votes in the month since it first came up, and indeed seem to have lost a few votes.

The Giuliana Sgrena saga continues

Italian Justice Minister "urged former hostage Giuliana Sgrena on Friday to stop making ’careless’ accusations after being shot by US forces in Baghdad, saying she had already caused enough grief." Much of her story has been questioned from the start, and more and more questions continue to be raised. Charles Johnson has been following the developments from the beginning. Captain’s Quarters has also been following it.

Sarbanes to retire

Sen Paul Sarbanes, (D-MD), who has served 29 years in the Senate, has announced that he will not run for re-election. The Maryland Republicans should consider the current Lt. Governor, Michael Steele, as the most serious candidate. He is an impressive guy. Here is his official bio.
This is a speech he gave to the delegates at the GOP convention in August. I also saw an interview he did a few weeks ago on C-Span that was very good, but I can’t find it. If someone could find it, I would appreciate it (I’ll send you a NLT cup in return). Thanks.

Baseball and the weather

William Voegeli has a modest proposal for Bud Selig about where the opening games of the season (now three weeks and two days away, Thank God!) should take place and why. I like it.   

Another Canadian opinion on America

Not all Canadians are weird and petty, I know that (see a couple of posts below). A Canadian friend send along this David Warren (a Canadian) piece which explains why he likes Americans so much. Even if you are an American--maybe especially if you are an America--you should read this lovely essay. Thank you David.   

Ward Churchill’s plagiarism

There have been rumors about Ward Churchill’s plagiarism, but now Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia has sent to the University of Colorado an internal report back in 1997 in which they accuse Ward Churchill of plagiarism. (Thanks to NRO).

U.S. strategic thinking

Belmont Club has some thoughtful comments on U.S. strategic thinking. Follow the few links, especially to this one.
But also see this by John Lewis Gaddis

Sartre and his Gauloise

I was spoon fed existentialism (meaning only Sartre and Camus) when I was in college (thought Camus better by far even then). It became deadly boring very quickly. But I was always struck by the great photo of Jean-Paul Sartre with his cigarette. Very cool, very chic, very fier. One of the only interesting things he ever said was this: "Smoking is the symbolic equivalent of destructively appropriating the entire world." Well, in anniversary of his 100th birthday the Bibliothèque Nationale de France has airbrushed the cigarette from the famous photo. Perfect historical revisionism of the Soviet or post-modern form, take your pick. By the way, he smoked Gauloise, which is what I smoked for most of the time I lived in Europe. It was by far the cheapest smike, until I discovered the Bulgarian Plovdiv cigarrete on a trip to the East. They only cost about three cents a pack in those days; came back to Munich with two full suitcases of the stuff; lasted almost a year. Wretchard has a few more thoughts on this.

Canadian MP on America

is interesting: "A Canadian member of Parliament charged with improving ties with the United States apologized on Thursday for saying "let’s embarrass the hell out of the Americans in front of other countries". The MP who said this is parliamentray secretary for Canada-U.S. Relations.

Richest in the world

The Forbes list of the richest men in the world is out for this year. Bill Gates still heads the list. Here is a story on Forbes’ list of the richest Americans.
And here
is the whole list. The thing that has always impressed me about such lists (especially the richest Americans) is how much movement there is off the list and new people on the list. Very impressive. As my father used to say when he spotted a very rich person: "This is a great country, and that man is proof of it." Only once did I need to ask what he meant. "Because he could become so wealthy without hurting or killing anyone. In other places and older days that was not the case. I love this country."

The environment: left behind?

Some of you might have noticed the rather long-winded exchange in my most recent post on evangelical environmentalism. Perhaps some of the matters can be clarified by taking a look at what Tim LaHaye, author of the best-selling "Left Behind" series, has to say about environmentalism. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read a single "Left Behind" book.) Here’s LaHaye on "Larry King Live":

KING: Why, Reverend LaHaye, haven’t evangelicals been more outspoken about the environment?

T. LAHAYE: Because we believe that the environment was made for us. And not us for the environment. There’s a big cultural chasm in our country today. For example we have people who get out of shape if a whale is beached and they want to blame the U.S. Navy and sonar investigation and so on and yet they don’t mind 45 billion babies being murdered in the name of abortion in the last few years. I can’t understand why animals...

KING: But if we’ve got dirty air we might all not be here. Shouldn’t that be a prime concern?

T. LAHAYE: But we don’t have the dirty air that we did 20 years ago, right here in Los Angeles. You don’t have near as much dirty...

KING: You think we’re doing a good job with... T. LAHAYE: I think we’re improving. We could probably do better. And we Christians are not against clean air and clean water and preserving proper life. But we ought to have our values in priority. And we believe that human beings are more important than animals.

Now, he doesn’t seem to be advocating permitting big oil to drill in ANWR so that credulous red-staters can drive their SUV’s to sensitive wetlands, where they unload their ATV’s so that they can shoot all the deer and drink all the beer before the Apocalypse.

And just so that there’s no misunderstanding: I am not advocating driving or hunting under the influence. In fact, I personally do not own a gun, an SUV, or an ATV. (Indeed, my son, then seven, once had a conversation with a little boy at the Gulf Coast condo at which we were staying that ended, dismissively: "He don’t know what a four-wheeler is.") Soon, I suppose, they’ll deport me from the red state in which I live.

New blog on Ohio politics

Right Angle is a new blog focusing on Ohio politics. It looks like it will be worth paying attention to, especially considering that there will be a real GOP primary (rare for Ohio) for the governor’s race in the Fall of 2006. Ken Blackwell, Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery are running. 

Presidential Poll

For what it is worth, here is the latest 2008 Presidential Poll from the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The top five Democrats in the Poll are: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden and Wesley Clark. The top five Republicans are Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Condi Rice, Jeb Bush, and, drumroll, Newt Gingrich.

McCain beats Hillary by 12 points in a head-to-head match up.

If Jeb is included in the poll, they should have included Dick Cheney.

What’s left of the religious left?

Amy Sullivan wants liberal Protestants to imitate their conservative brethren and find an authentically religious voice:

While their conservative counterparts were setting aside differences to focus on a single mission, members of the religious left -- no longer following the guiding cause of civil rights -- lost their way, dispersing their attention over what seemed like 87 different policy issues and busying themselves with internal denominational battles over female ordination and other debates. Many well-intentioned members of the religious left, not wanting to be associated with the nascent Christian right, filtered religion out of their rhetoric and secularized some of their appeals. The more vocal groups like the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority became, the more religious liberals withdrew from public view.

The parting gift the religious left gave Christian conservatives was an uncontested public square. Years before the religious right had the membership numbers to match its boasts of political influence, it was winning debates simply by controlling the agenda and cornering the market on religious authority. Richard Parker, who teaches religion and politics at the Kennedy School of Government, believes that the religious left simply forgot about a crucial part of its mission. "The Catholic Church believed it needed to learn how to articulate for its members faith-based reasons for action, and to frame arguments for the public square in ways that did not directly derive from church teaching," he says. "Mainline Protestants [who form the bulk of the religious left] lost the first habit, and only carried out the second." Those members of the religious left that did remain politically active often seemed like caricatures of left-wing activists, agitating to save baby seals, Arctic wildlife, third-world orphans with only the faintest of biblical appeals marshaled on their behalf. While religious groups were some of the most vocal opponents of the recent war in Iraq, their unique voices got lost within a sea of peace slogans. More damningly, to the extent that the religious left continued to exist, it became tied in the public’s mind with secularists. "The positions of the religious left and secularists on crucial questions seem indistinguishable," says Joseph Loconte of the Heritage Foundation. "And that hurts them politically."

And here’s the kicker:

The religious left, on the other hand, hasn’t seen any need to build separate institutions because its members already have outlets for political involvement. The average religious liberal doesn’t need to go to church to get involved with political issues; she goes down the street to her local ACLU’s meeting or to a MeetUp or joins a letter-writing campaign through her teacher’s union. Her commitment to politics may be driven by her religious beliefs, but the connection is never made explicit. A religious conservative, on the other hand, spends more of his time at his local church and is more naturally drawn to activism through that community of congregants.

In other words, it’s much easier to see what’s left of the religious left than to see what’s religious. If a conservative odor is enough to drive you away from a position, then your liberalism or leftism would seem to be more salient than your religiosity. There are noteworthy exceptions, like
Stephen L. Carter, who recognizes that shared faith is a bond more important than any merely political position. The test I would pose to Ms. Sullivan is whether she can imagine a Biblically-based position that conservatives have gotten right. I’ve read lots of her stuff (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), but I can’t remember her ever offering any sort of warm fuzzies regarding conservative religious positions. So, Amy, will you ante up?

Hat tip: Get Religion.

Update: Here’s a helpful and pointed summary of Sullivan’s argument.

Evangelical environmentalism again

Here’s the latest, via The Revealer. We’ve discussed this before here, here, and here. Lest you think that the National Association of Evangelicals is about to get into bed with the Sierra Club, here’s Ted Haggard, President of the NAE: "We want to be pro-business environmentalists."

And lest we forget the zany Bill Moyers angle in all this, about which more
here, as well as in the posts linked above, this NYT article pretty much undercuts--if they really needed it--the silliest and most sinister elements of Moyers’s "new and improved" NYRB argument. Now, if only the folks at
The Revealer would put two and two together, or rather take two and two apart:

more important is Moyers’ implied argument about why there’s no need for such a neat connection between the anti-environmentalism of the fundamentalists and that of run-of-the-mill big business. Whether or not the White House is talking Revelation, many of those who helped elect Bush are. But in either case, this conflation of ideology with theology leads down the very same path. Talk of Bush following "God’s master plan," writes Moyers, "will mean one thing to Dick Cheney and another to Tim LaHaye, but it will confirm their fraternity in a regime whose chief characteristics are ideological disdain for evidence and theological distrust of science. Many of the constituencies who make up this alliance don’t see eye to eye on many things, but for President Bush’s master plan for rolling back environmental protections they are united. A powerful current connects the administration’s multinational corporate cronies who regard the environment as ripe for the picking and a hard-core constituency of fundamentalists who regard the environment as fuel for the fire that is coming. Once again, populist religion winds up serving the interests of economic elites."

According to The Revealer’s people in New York, the good people of Kansas are still victims of false consciousness.

Why the Democratic Party no longer needs the Democratic Leadership Council

The Nation--representing the hard-left of the Democratic Party--beats up on the moderates in the party, especially the Democratic Leadership Council. Yet, they think that even the DLC is now being forced to move Left. They explain why this is so. Very revealing article. Although it is not the intention of the authors, by reading this piece you will learn why the Demos will remain the minority party.   

The Party of "No"

Andrew Busch explains that the Democrats are in trouble over their intransigence on Bush’s Social Security proposals (it is not yet a plan). Andy is right, the Demos attitude is exactly what the Republicans should want; it’s as if Karl Rove had set the whole thing up...Oh, never mind. We don’t have to go that far. A sample, but read the whole thing.  

The more ferocious and undifferentiated—and the more unfair—Democratic criticisms become, the more likely it is that they will have the effect of healing Republican divisions and unifying the GOP behind the President. Media accounts have almost uniformly stressed how important it is for Republicans to attract some Democratic votes—that is to say, how much Republicans need Democratic disunity on this issue. What those accounts have almost uniformly ignored is that, since the Republicans are in the majority, Democrats need Republican disunity even more than Republicans need Democratic disunity. The Democratic attack strategy is virtually guaranteed to drive Republicans closer together, rather than farther apart.

Liberal education: telling the story

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had university presidential candidates on campus. They’ve told us that one of the things we need to do is tell our story compellingly, making the contemporary case for liberal education in a traditional residential liberal arts college setting. I’ve been on something of a tear about this myself, co-leading an honors seminar on liberal education, offering a senior seminar on liberal education and political philosophy, and writing a couple of articles prompted by John Seery’s fine and fun America Goes to College. Seery, by the way, will be speaking at Berry College on March 31st and here at Oglethorpe on April 1st (no jokes please). I’m also gearing up to lead a faculty development seminar on liberal education this summer. So I’ve been thinking about how to tell our story.

In that connection, yesterday’s senior seminar was interesting. Our text was Alan Ryan’s Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education, which I find frustratingly diffuse in its argumentation. Ryan makes a distinction between liberal education as education for life in a liberal society and "liberal-education," understood as the classical education of gentlemen for leisure and leadership (what Bruce Kimball would call liberal education in the "oratorical" tradition). Ryan argues that while the latter has no necessary connection to the former (that is, traditional liberal education is just as consistent with life in a religiously-tinged aristocracy), it nevertheless is the case that some form of it--producing Benjamin Barber’s "aristocracy of everyone"--is appropriate for a pluralistic liberal society.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell. Liberal education (in Ryan’s sense) is supposed to teach "toleration, open-mindedness, and an ability to argue for [students’] own views without resorting to coercive measures," all of which are (arguably) attributes we’d like to see in our fellow citizens. This can be accomplished, it would seem, more by the manner of presenting a curriculum than by any particular curricular content. You need seminars, rather than lectures, and a relatively small collegiate community, so that students encounter one another on multiple occasions and in multiple settings, rather than being able to hide behind the anonymity of large classes and a large campus population. Seery, by the way, would probably assent to a large portion of this, adding an emphasis on the importance of understanding this community in a non-instrumental fashion and a recognition that there are also extracurricular settings in which these virtues are developed (his favorites seem to be intramural basketball teams and jazz bands).

But Ryan does offer this concession to the advocates of "liberal-education":

There is perhaps...a case for insisting that everyone should take a program of general studies focused on history, literature, philosophy, and science.... I have some doubt whether colleges and universities can do very much to instill virtues that parents have failed to instill, but it is possible that they can do something to get students to perceive the implications of the moral ideals they have acquired. It would at the very least do something to reduce the number of young people who appear to live wholly solipsistically, utterly unanchored in their own time and place.

What he seems to have in mind here is the feature of democratic life that Tocqueville called "individualism," the withdrawal of individuals into small domestic circles largely unconnected and unconcerned with the wider world around them. Our students display great cleverness, technical facility, and native intelligence. They can address or solve any task or problem we put before them, as Ross Douthat suggests was true of his fellow Harvard undergraduates. But there is no sense that they have a history, a tradition, a larger time and place to which they belong (and of which they are the unacknowledged and unself-conscious products). If they are not inducted into a tradition of compelling questions and compelling answers, if they are not helped to see the larger whole of which they are but a small part, they are only accidentally members of any particular community. Without this sort of education, they are not capable of giving what we call "informed consent" to their membership and hence they’re not really free.

So Ryan is right: "liberal-education" is particularly appropriate as a preparation for life in what he understands to be a liberal society, but there’s more. Genuine liberation, which is the intellectual result of this sort of education (when it "takes"), is possible at any time and in any place. (Consider, in this connection, Reading Lolita in Tehran.)

Update: Welcome, Conservative Philosopher and Insider Higher Ed readers! Take a look at some of the other posts on this lively (and, in my case only, long-winded) site.

Ramirez Cartoon

Henry Clay and his horses

We, of course, know Henry Clay as either the "Great Compromiser," or, as Lincoln described the man as "him whom, during my whole political life, I have loved and revered as a teacher and a leader." (1861) Or, as Mr. Lincoln put it, in a debate with Douglas: "Henry Clay, my beau ideal of a statesman, the man for whom I fought all my humble life." (1858) Anyway, it turns out that
Henry Clay had some good horses at Ashland. The blood of his two foundation mares and his foundation stallion pulsed through the veins of not less than 12 Kentucky Derby winners. I didn’t know that. Thanks to Jay.

UPDATE: A number of people have written me about my reference to Ashland. They thought I was being clever. I was, but not the way they think. Ashland, in Lexington, Kentucky, is the name of Henry Clay’s estate. Also my city in Ohio is called Ashland. My Ashland was originally named Uniontown, and was renamed Ashland in 1822 because Henry Clay was their hero. So Ashland in Ohio is named after Clay’s estate in Kentucky. I have explained all this here.

Cuban insanity continues

Fidel Castro has announced--in a speech lasting over five hours!--that he will make available to all Cubans pressure cookers and rice steamers, in an attempt to control the economy even more so than he now does. This is an attempt to overcome (Castro) "the errors, deviations and confusions" in economic planning of the recent past.

You see, home made pressure cookers are five times less expensive than the ones folks can buy in stores, so that’s what they buy. Ergo, Castro will make avaliable 100,000 imported pressure cookers each month at the price of the home made ones. There is no reason for any initiative or private production to go on now, is there? Read the whole of this AP dispatch, and note that what little private enterprize there has been allowed in recent years, will end. Why? Note this:

Cuba was forced to allow some private business beginning in the mid-1990s amid an economic crisis in the years after the withdrawal of Soviet aid and trade. Those modest reforms were seen as temporary, but necessary, evils. But after a slow recovery, recent discoveries of oil deposits off Cuba’s coast and economic alliances with Venezuela and China, Castro clearly believes the island is strong enough to return to a more centralized economy.

Did you note that Venezuela has something to do with this. You should. See this and this.

Hezbollah and Syria

The Belmont Club has some interesting observations on what is likely to happen in Lebanon. Read the whole thing, good links. This is his last paragraph:

Yet the fear of a civil war must extend to Hezbollah and Syria themselves because they are objectively far weaker in 2005 than they were in 1975. There is no guarantee that Syria and Hezbollah would emerge victorious from a full-scale civil war and every probability they would lose it, so why start something in which you are bound to be beaten? To use a cinematic metaphor, although Nasrallah [Hezbollah’s leader] has strolled all the way down Main Street and struck a pose, he hasn’t made a move for his gun. Time was he would have cleared leather; what’s different is this time is he’s not so sure he’s the fastest draw in town. My own instinct is that unless a series of unfortunate incidents throws things out of control, no one will be particularly anxious to start fighting. Syria may have made a fundamental miscalculation in playing the Hezbollah card because it puts Damascus’ future in Lebanon in Nasrallah’s hands. One wonders if the older Assad would have done this. If -- and I have no idea how -- Hezbollah can be convinced to double-cross Syria by showing them that direction has no future, Boy Assad will be up the creek without a paddle. What do you mean we kemo sabe?

The John Bolton nomination

Senate minority leader Harry Reid is hopping mad about the John Bolton nomination to be our ambassador to the U.N.
I also note without comment that Al Jazeerah is not pleased.
Interestingly, even Jacob Heilbrunn thinks it may be a good idea to put someone in that position: "In fact, there is a rich GOP tradition of appointing critics of the U.N. as ambassadors to that body, a tradition that has proved remarkably effective." He cites Daniel Patrick Moynihan as an exmaple of someone who was critical of the UN. "Moynihan did not just display contempt for the U.N., he flaunted it."
And he got much accomplished. The New York Sun applauds the nomination. In fact they thought of it a few months ago.

Judicial Nominations

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has an excellent article today discussing judicial nominations and the use of the filibuster. In my view, the Plain Dealer hits the nail right on the head:

The privilege of talking an issue literally to death is not granted to senators in the Constitution. It’s a rule of the Senate, which the Senate may change at will . . . . Restoring some self-discipline in the judiciary - starting right at the top - is far more important to the country’s future than preserving the filibuster rule in the Senate.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for February

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

Colin Benbow

Gary Mauer

Paulette Layton

Bill Bayne

Ken Limmer

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 March’s drawing.

Golf and character

I had made a comment on the Woods-Mickelson event a few days ago. A thoughtful reader sent this:

On your posting on Tiger Woods vs. Phil M. Yes, good stuff. Someone once said that golf doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Very much like boxing. Boxers, of course, undergo direct physical risk, but if you’ve heard them talk, that’s not what scares them. It’s the fear of being exposed, of having one’s manhood stripped away in front of the world -- not because one might be beaten, but because of disgrace in how one was beaten. You can’t hide in a ring surrounded by 20,000 people. Or on a golf course surrounded by as many people, with millions watching on TV.

Golf ain’t quite up to that, but you must admire it when two gentlemen dignify themselves by how well they play and how well they behave, as at Doral. If you’ve played much golf, you’ll understand the amazing pressures, even in a meaningless game among friends, to play poorly and act even worse. It’s not completely stupid for businessmen to want to play golf with potential partners. You discover also that some players like Tiger just have "it" -- virtu, fortuna, whatever. The gods seem to be with them, or rather they seem to command the gods when it really matters.

President Bush Endangers Women

According to Hillary Clinton, President Bush endangers the lives of women.

Read about that here.

Interesting Statistics

From the pages of the latest Atlantic, here are some fascinating numbers to ponder:

For every 15-point increase in IQ score above the average, a woman’s likelihood of marrying declines by nearly 60 percent. It isn’t clear, however, whether this is the result of men being intimidated by bright women, or of smart women being less willing to put up with us.

"Every 10 percent increase in the excise tax on beer reduces the gonorrhea rate by 4.7 percent among males aged fifteen to nineteen, and by 4.1 percent among those aged twenty to twenty-four." Yes, folks, those beer goggles have now been statistically proven to work.

Within traditional (i.e, pre-industrial) societies, those that tend to be more violent (as measured by homicide rates) also have a higher percentage of people who are left-handed. "Among the Dioula people of Burkina Faso, for instance, the homicide rate is just 0.013 murders per thousand inhabitants per year, and left-handers make up only 3.4 percent of the population. In contrast, the more warlike Yanomamo of the Venezuelan rain forest have a homicide rate of four per thousand per year, and southpaws compose roughly 23 percent of their population."

The inimitable Krauthammer

Is at it again. Read the whole thing. Here’s a taste to whet your appetite:

Why now? Because until now the forces of decency in the region were alone and naked, cynically ignored by an outside world content to deal with their oppressors. Then comes America, not just proclaiming democratic liberation as its overriding foreign policy principle but sacrificing blood and treasure in the service of precisely that principle.

It was not people power that set this in motion. It was American power. People power followed. Which is why the critics of the Bush doctrine take refuge in a second Bush-free explanation. They locate the reason for this astonishing Arab spring, if not in people power from below, then in rot from above. These superannuated dictatorships, we are now told, were fossilized and frail, already wobbly and ready to fall, just waiting to be undone by the slightest challenge.

Interesting. If the rot was always there, why is it that these critics never said so before? They never suggested that we challenge these wobbly despots? In fact, they bitterly denounced the Bush doctrine for presuming to destabilize the region in pursuit of some democratic chimera?


Mansfield on manliness

Via Powerline, winner of yet another award (deservedly so), here’s a foretaste of Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.’s long-awaited book on manliness.

Teddy Roosevelt and manliness

The March issue of The New Criterion has a very fine article by

Harvey Mansfield on the manliness of Theodore Roosevelt. It is part of his forthcoming book,
"A Modest Defense of Manliness", which will be published next year. I have been teaching TR recently and this essay is very useful and rather convincing, and of course, reveals my imperfections in thinking it through. TR’s virtues--and flaws if you like--are well revealed in this piece. This is a must read.

Nothing was more obvious than Roosevelt’s manliness because he made such a point of it not only in his own case but also as necessary for human progress. It was being a progressive that made him so eager to be manly. Here is gristle to chew for liberals and conservatives, both of whom—except for the feminists—have abandoned manliness mostly out of policy rather than abhorrence.

UPDATE: Only after posting did I notice that Joe also brought this article to your attention, but because I think it very important, I’ll leave mine up as well. The Mansfield piece is a must read. Students should pay special attention. We will spend some time on this.

The FEC and the blogosphere

If you haven’t been following the brouhaha over the Federal Election Commission’s mumblings and rumblings about regulating political speech on the internet, go to Democracy Project and just keep scrolling. Win Myers has been all over this issue.

Anne Applebaum on John Bolton

Here’s a very nice defense of the nominee. A taste:

Bolton -- whom I’ve met but don’t know well -- is blunt, which is an advantage in an institution where words are more often used to disguise meanings than to elucidate. He is unafraid of being disliked, which will be an advantage in a place where everyone will dislike him. In the past he has been unafraid of arguing his points, even in Europe, where they are deeply unpopular. Most of all, though, Bolton, who has been writing about the United Nations for decades, is one of the few people in public life willing to draw the distinction between what the United Nations actually is and what everybody would like it to be.


The trouble with many U.N. defenders is that they refuse to see this fundamental problem, and demand a constantly expanding role for the United Nations without explaining how its lack of democratic accountability is to be addressed. The trouble with many U.N. detractors, in Congress and elsewhere, is that they see the corruption and nothing else. But there is a role for U.N. institutions -- in Afghanistan, or in international health -- as long as that role is limited in time and cost. And there is a desperate need for U.N. reform. In defense of John Bolton: He may, if he can get confirmed, be one of the few U.N. ambassadors who has thought a good deal about how to set such limits and make such reforms. And if he isn’t invited to a few cocktail parties along the way, at least he won’t mind.

Read the whole thing.


Religion and the Founding

Joseph Knippenberg blogged recently in praise of an article by Michael Novak and Christopher Levenick on "Religion and the Founders." At the beginning of the article Novak and Levenick criticize someone for having said that "[o]ur nation was founded not on Christian principles, but on Enlightenment ones." In response they write:

"What a strange distinction! It certainly would have been foreign to the Founders, who thought the moral precepts of Christian faith indispensable to the survival of the infant republic. And it's a distinction that remains foreign to the vast majority of Americans today."

This claim is insupportable. Most of the founders believed that a reasonable or civil religion was necessary for good government but this was not revealed religion and certainly not "the moral precepts of Christian Faith." The civil religion most Founders thought important for politics did without the first four of the ten commandments.

Toward the end of their article, Novak and Levenick return to this point:

"Every single one of the Founders believed that, at the level of both individual morality and public policy, the demands of reason and of revelation powerfully reinforce one another. They understood that with respect to the ultimate questions -- the creation of the universe, the purpose of human existence, and the hope of life after death -- faith and philosophy might differ. In the practical world they inhabited, however, the Founders believed that both Socrates and Jesus enjoined their followers to accord all persons truth, justice, and charity."

It is true that on the surface some of the dictates of reason and some of the dictates of revealed religion overlap but this does not mean that the United States was founded on the dictates of revealed religion or Christianity. On the contrary, Washington appears to have been indifferent to revealed religion and Jefferson and Franklin were hostile to it. But we can look beyond the Founders to judge the religious character of the founding. At the time of the Founding perhaps no more than 20% of Americans belonged to a Church. America became a Christian nation and religious after the Founding. Church membership increased throughout the nineteenth-century. The figure for Church membership today is several times higher than it was at the Founding.

This last point is worth pondering. It leads one to suspect that, precisely because America is now more Christian and religious than it was at its founding, some people feel the need to make the Founding appear more Christian and religious than it was.

Finally, I would like to note that on the profound difference between reason and revelation with regard to questions of morality and the foundations of politics, a wonderful guide is Thomism and Aristotelianism: A Study of the Commentary by Thomas Aquinas on the Nicomachean Ethics by Harry Jaffa. The epigraph of the book is a quote from Winston Churchill: "It is baffling to reflect that what men call honour does not correspond always to Christian ethics."

Categories > Religion

Lebanon poll

Zogby has done some polling in Lebanon, for what its worth. Because Zogby is explicitly sceptical about the Bush Doctrine, you have to read more carefully into the poll than just the first few paragraphs. He released the poll yesterday before the large Hizbollah pro-Syria demonstrations, which explains his scepticism about demonstrations, i.e., the anti-Syria demonstrations that preceded yesterday’s. The poll is divided into religious/ethnic groups. Lebanon is about 60% Muslim (both Shiite and Sunni, and others), almost 40% Christian. See the CIA Factbook.

Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima

For those of us who miss the Duke, there is always Eastwood. John Vincour (International Herald Tribune) talks to Clint Eastwood about his next movie, to be released in 2006, based on "The Flags of Our Fathers." Vincour gets all sophisticated, but Eastwood clarifies:

"This is about the spirit of those guys who fought and a whole country behind them and what happened. No delayed-stress syndrome classes. It’s something people should know about now. But it’s part of an America that people doubt is still there."

It’s perfectly clear that Eastwood is smarter than the person doing the interview, that he didn’t vote for Kerry, and....well, just read it. Revealing. No Pasaran! has a few comments.  

John Bolton to the U.N.

You’ve got to hand it to Bush, he continues to surprise everyone. He goes to Europe, does more or less what had to be done and then lined up everyone on Lebanon. He surprised. Now he proposes that John Bolton, a stand up sort of character who has always been very hard on the UN, as our ambassador to the UN. This will give the Dems an opportunity to obstruct and to clarify their lack of thought on foreign policy issues. Foreigners are also, somewhat diplomatically, being critical. Perhaps this guy from Syria, identified as a political analyst in Damascus, is a bit less diplomatic: "This is an extremely bad message that Bush has submitted to the neo-conservatives. They should have a more moderate figure representing them at the United Nations, but instead they have one of the most radical."

No Lincoln Day dinners in So. Carolina

I just heard this on CNN. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said this: "We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina. It’s nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things." Usually this stuff isn’t charming, but this one is.

More anti-religious hysteria

Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg offers some commentary on this op-ed, which equates Wahhabi Muslim extremists with Christian conservatives. If you wish to submit yourself to a longer and even more tiresome version of the same argument, you can go here.

Rather than belabor the whole piece, I’ll restrict myself to a couple of observations. First, there’s the now-hackneyed observation that there are multiple versions of the Ten Commandments, which is supposed to be an argument against their public display. If governments all over the country acquiesce in the display of different versions of the Ten Commandments, in some cases noting their variety and variability, then how could this be establishment? Not only, of course, is there no coercion involved, but the very plurality of displays militates against any exclusivity.

Of course, the most offensive portion of the op-ed has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments. Here it is:

The Ten Commandments are used as a wedge to put across what is essentially a cultural protest against social change, but in the bitter disputes that have followed these seemingly ridiculous arguments the message of the commandments is usually lost. The Christian Right pretends to be concerned about the life of an unborn fetus, but expresses little interest for the fate of the living child who emerges from an unwanted pregnancy, and is even ready to kill or at least destroy the careers of those who do not agree with them. Although the commandments prohibit killing, and Christ advised his followers to leave vengeance to God, the fundamentalists seem to delight in the death penalty, and in reducing welfare support to unwed mothers who are struggling to deal with the results of pregnancies that they could not control and never wanted to have.

You read that right: "The Christian even ready to kill or at least destroy the careers of those who do not agree with them." Say what? Aside from the ridiculous distance between "killing" and "destroying a career," I see no evidence of the first and little of the second, unless you count working hard to see that someone is not elected or re-elected (which I thought was permissible within the ordinary confines of our system) as career-destroying.

Tom Englehardt, the proprietor of the site, adds his two cents’ worth in introducing the op-ed:

We also have a President who is in the process of casting off the constraints of any presidency, while placing religion with powerful emphasis at the very center of Washington’s new political culture. He is now adored, if not essentially worshipped, by his followers as he travels the country dropping in at carefully vetted "town meetings"; and the adoration is often not just of him as a political leader but as a religious one, as a manifestation of God’s design for us. It’s in this context that the modest Ten Commandments cases are being heard; in the context, that is, of the destruction of what’s left of an authentic American republican (rather than Republican) culture.

This is, of course, also silly, flying in the face of almost everything President Bush says about religious freedom and his own humble humanity.

I suppose we should wish these members of the un-reality-based community bon voyage on their flights of fancy, were it not for the fact that not having a responsible opposition is unhealthy. So I say instead: come home, blue America; actually pay attention to what folks in the churches and Rotary Clubs are saying; don’t demonize them and they may actually be willing not only to converse with you but to consider voting for (or with) you when you offer a responsible and reasonable alternative to the Republicans.

The Bush Doctrine explained

Here is the transcript of President Bush’s speech at the National Defense University a few hours ago. This is the Washington Post story on it. Although I have yet to hear the speech, it reads well, and seems to be a continuation of the Second Inaugural, being somewhat more explicit, understandable, now that things are breaking in the the mid-East.

Even the Left wing London Independent is asking, "Was Bush right after all?" And Jefferson Morley recounts the current European persepective on the same question. Useful links. And this is Faud Ajami’s take on the "mighty storm" enveloping the Arab world.

Faith-based discrimination

Ken Masugi provides some very helpful context for my op-ed, as does this LAT piece. If all this inexplicably leaves you slavering for more, there are plenty of links in this post.

In support of religious discrimination

Joe Knippenberg, as you know, supports President Bush’s faith based initiative. In this excellent piece he explains what it means and why it is a good thing, and why "religious discrimination" is in fact central to the faith based initiative. Just a sample, but read the whole thing:

The premise underlying this particular form of "privatization," employing non-governmental organizations in order to accomplish public ends, is that our social problems are best addressed by the employment of genuinely diverse means. It�s not just a question of efficiency, based upon the generic argument that the private sector can accomplish public ends less expensively and hence more efficiently, but rather that certain organizations can in fact behave differently and hence achieve different effects than can public bureaucracies

In this connection, religious diversity clearly matters. An organization moved above all by love (rather than, say, profit) might treat its clients differently, demanding more of them but also engaging with them more intimately and intensively. Social service workers who feel a religious call to love their neighbors might form bonds of community and relationship with those they serve that are different from those developed in a secular or public social service setting.
And later:

At the core of the faith-based initiative is the recognition that a diverse nation is best served by a diverse array of organizations. And a diverse array of organizations is best preserved by permitting them to make mission-driven hiring decisions. If diversity is good, then religious discrimination in hiring is good.   

Brooks Praises Wolfowitz

’New York Times’ columnist, David Brooks, praises Paul Wolfowitz’s longstanding faith that all men in all places desire freedom and his global efforts, from the Philippines and Indonesia to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, over the last three decades.

Here is Brooks’ op-ed.

Ramirez Cartoon


Levenick and Novak on religion and the founding

Here, via Carol Platt Liebau, is Christopher Levenick's and Michael Novak's response to Brooke Allen's Nation article, on which I animadverted here.

Hat tip: The Conservative Philosopher, who also call our attention to this post on secular universities and the secular Left. It is a sad state of affairs when anyone actually has to say things like this:

University dialogue and debate on ethical and political issues in and out of classrooms should include faculty members who proceed from theistic and non-theistic perspectives. For example, theologians have thought deeply about issues of war and peace. Some are pacifists; other believe in the just war doctrine (with varying views about the conditions for a just war). In the Christian tradition, such theologians would point to scripture, but scripture is only the beginning of the inquiry for most of them. Moreover, to the extent, the debate is confined to scripture, it would be helpful for the secular left (or any informed citizen) to understand the nature of the debate. Obviously, the war and peace example could be multiplied across a broad range of issues. It is hard to imagine why university dialogue would not be enhanced by discussion from theistic and non-theistic perspectives.

But clearly, as the example of Brooke Allen indicates, even simple truths need to be reiterated from time to time.

Update: For a "balanced" view of religion and the founding, see this NYT article.

Categories > Religion

Western Civ at UNC

North Carolina’s Pope family, who have already endowed this center, are proposing a long-term series of grants, culminating, perhaps, in a major endowment to support the study of western civilization at UNC-Chapel Hill. The story is here. Seventy-one UNC faculty have signed this letter protesting the "secret" negotiations between the university and the Pope family’s foundation.

You’re not going to tell me that faculty members have never confidentially sought foundation support for their own curricular programs. So we can assume that the faculty concerns are political, driven in large part by their fear of some hidden Pope family agenda. My fear would be different--that once the endowment was in place, donor intent would be dishonored by a university, many of whose influential faculty are likely hostile to the traditional study of western civilization. My advice to the Pope family: look before you leap and make certain there are safeguards in place that prevent the perversion of your attempt to energize the study of western civilization in Chapel Hill.

Condi Rice and (her boots)

This AP story puts Condi Rice front and center and makes the small point that she is off and running as our new Secretary of State considering the massive changes taking place in the Mid-East. But Rebeccah Ramey better captures her power and authority, and her charm, by reflecting on those who have reflected on her boots and dress. Very good. Enjoy.  

Florida’s Blaine Amendment

Katie Newmark has been following the battle over Florida’s school voucher program more closely than I have. Read her post and be glad if you live in Ohio.

Liberalism, federalism, and all that

Ken Masugi does a wonderful job of dissecting recent liberal efforts at navel-gazing, principally here and here. Read the liberal pieces, and then go read Ken’s commentary, along with the links he provides. 

Bill Richardson on Mid-East developments

I saw the Katie Kuric interview with Gov. Bill Richardson this morning and was impressed with his opinions on the developments in the region. Good show, governor.

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

I am not a golfer and, as some of my students know (who are both fair golfers and excellent students), I mock golfers without mercy. C’mon, this isn’t a sport is it, walking around on a pretty day, having someone carry your bags for you, etc.? And yet I saw a golf
match (is that what it’s called?) yesterday, or at least the last hour of the Doral Open, and I must say it was almost as good as an Ali-Frazier fight. Great drama, great fun, excellence nothing but excellence, and a little luck. Just like life at its best. And Tiger pulled it out. Maybe I’m wrong. Even if it’s not a sport, it is great.

Syria and Lebanon, the beginning of the end

The Presidents of Syria and Lebanon "announced Monday that Syrian troops will pull back to Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley by March 31, but a complete troop withdrawal will be deferred until after later negotiations." Of course, this is not the end of it, it’s just the beginning of the end. There are anti-Syrian demontrations in Lebanon, and Hizbollah has said it will hold pro-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon tomorrow. In the meantime, France
has moved some commandoes to the eastern Mediterranean. As

Walid Jumblatt (the head of the Druse community who is now directly in contact with Paul Wolfowitz) has said:

"I think the Middle East is changing. The Arab people want to join the rest of the civilized world. They want freedom. I have denounced the American invasion of Iraq, but I also admit that the Iraqi people are now free."

Religion and the Supremes

Jeffrey Rosen in TNR suggests that Michael McConnell shares a "moderate" approach to the First Amendment religion clauses with Sandra Day O’Connor. If true, it might be enough to shut me up.

Here’s the offending passage:

In the Ten Commandments case, social-conservative organizations are urging the Court to abandon O’Connor’s focus on neutrality and instead ask whether a particular display coerces religious belief. They cite the opinions of Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, who have argued that government should be free to promote religion in general, as long as it doesn’t discriminate among religions. And they agree with those three that a focus on coercion would allow the government to resurrect voluntary school prayer and to post the Ten Commandments in courtrooms or schools.

But Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas’s view is historically questionable. It has been explicitly challenged by Judge Michael McConnell of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the leading conservative scholar of religious liberty, whose potential Supreme Court candidacy is being enthusiastically championed by social conservatives. In 1992, McConnell argued that the best historical evidence refuted Rehnquist’s claim that the framers of the Constitution believed that the federal government could aid religion as long as it did so ecumenically. Moreover, it was McConnell who, in 1986, proposed an emphasis on coercion as the touchstone of religious freedom--a proposal that Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas later embraced. But, as Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas puts it, "McConnell’s vision of coercion is vastly more nuanced than Rehnquist and Scalia’s." McConnell, for example, disagrees with Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas that the First Amendment allows school prayer. "It is vital to understand the concept of coercion broadly and realistically," he wrote in 1992. "I would have thought that gathering a captive audience is a classic example of coercion; participation is hardly voluntary if the cost of avoiding the prayer is to miss one’s graduation." How McConnell would rule on the display of the Ten Commandments by Kentucky and Texas is hard to guess. But McConnell’s willingness to struggle with hard questions involving public acknowledgment of religion shows that his commitment to neutrality is genuine. It’s not a strategic compromise on the path toward a larger goal of an openly religious state.

The moderate position sketched by O’Connor and McConnell [huh?] is especially important in a post-September 11 world.

But even a "nuanced" position on coercion doesn’t amount to O’Connor’s endorsement test. If establishment means coercion, then neither Ten Commandments display amounts to coercion. No one is compelled to look, nor is anyone compelled to try to divine what "the state" has in mind in arranging or permitting the display.

What Rosen succeeds in doing is showing that any effort to follow a line of thinking ascribable to O’Connor will yield any combination of possible results in the two cases before the Court. She has no principle; McConnell does have a principle. They’re not the same, though if liberals like Rosen regard McConnell as a moderate, I suppose that this is good for his confirmation chances.

The Democratic Party’s dilemma

This New York Times article is not especially good, but it cannot hide the fact that there is a growing rift among Black church leaders: More and more have become Bush and GOP supporters. Democrats are realizing this and are, in my humble opinion, in a near panic over it. Clarence Page (not a Republican) reflects on all this and says he is happy to be wooed by both parties. Both articles, interestingly enough, make reference to Bush’s faith based initiative as a "new form of patronage," (for Blacks, I presume). There is much political significance to all this, and I prophesize that the GOP will pick up more and more black voters in the next many election cycles. I don’t think that moving from 8% support to 11% among Blacks for the GOP is what scared the Dems. What shook them is that Bush got about 16% of the Black vote in Ohio (and 13% in Florida), and the fact that Blacks are ever more publicly questioning their past absolute support for the Dems by noting the appeal of the GOP based on some principle.

Blacks are not the only group within the Democratic Party that is being picked off by the GOP, of course, but this group has a greater moral and symbolic value than any other. The Demos can’t find a way to keep their factionalized Party together at a time--even more so now than in Van Buren’s time--when there has been a GOP call for a national and principled view of the Republican Party for many decades. In short, the Democratic Party, born of a need to give formal voice for the people in a way that is disciplined in a party (rather than upholding a constitutional and principled view) that acted as an intermediary between government and society, can no longer be held together as it once was. For example, FDR’s emphasis of programmatic rights and entitlements and the federal government acting as the guarantor of social and economic welfare meant that he used the Democratic Party to support the centralized welfare state, and each part of the Party would benefit. That arrangment was thought to be permanent by the Demos (and most Republicans during the last century).

The Democratic Party was useful to 20th century Progressives and Liberals as long as it supported the progress of Progressive democracy (Croly’s term); the older form of patronage was petty compared to what the new Democratic Party wrought. But this could only last as long as the older constitutional view of a political party did not reassert itself. Well, it has reasserted itself both in theory and in practice, and now the Democrats can’t figure out what holds them together as a party. The loss of those vital links is especially painful for them because they had thought--from FDR on--that those links were permanent. It should not surprise us that the debate over Social Security reform, moral issues, and the needed principled clarification of what America stands for in a post 9/11 universe, is causing havoc within the Democrtic Party. And the slow but certain movement of Blacks away from the Demos, reveals the heart of the problem.

Assad’s speech

Note in this New York Times report on Assad’s speech, and what the demonstrators in Beirut were saying as they watched his speech on a big screen:

In Martyrs’ Square here, the scene of many demonstrations in recent weeks, thousands of protesters came Saturday morning to watch a broadcast of Mr. Assad’s speech on projection screens, at times booing and jeering, or calling "Liar!" and "Bush sends his greetings!"

The protesters, many dressed in white, waved Lebanese flags and called for "freedom, sovereignty and independence."

The death of Liberalism and of neo-Conservatism

David Brooks summarizes the value and work of The Public Interest, which is about to stop publication after 40 years. The short of it is that a bunch of FDR style Liberal "social scientists" (the most important were Moynihan, Kristol, Glazer, Bell) started testing what programs worked and what didn’t and in the process began to turn against the same programs they had been advocating. Although their work was of value, they were wrong on a number of fundamental points. For example, in the Liberal euphoria of the Great Society (they started publishing in 1965) they thought that the ideological battles had all been won by the New Deal-Great Society crowd because they scoffed (or were unaware of) at the great intellectual (not only public policy) work of the Conservatives. Conservatives (of every stripe) were already hard at work on fundamental issues and made frontal attacks on New Deal Liberalism by going back to the sources and showing how the historicism of the Progressives and New Dealers were ill founded and led to more than bad public policy. The Conservatives moved toward a re-articulation of self government based on natural rights, and the necessary limits that imposed on government: They questioned the very foundations of the Progressive-Liberal mind, not only its policies.

These old-fashioned Liberals were wrong in thinking that politics had concluded with the New Deal. And then something else happened, along came "the Sixties" (the New Left) to further confuse their moral-political sensibilities. The nihilism of the New Left--the frontal attack on America (Amerikkka, as they said) and the things for which it had stood from the start--offended the sensibilities of the New Deal-Great Society Liberals, but they couldn’t defend themselves. The Conservatives came to the defense of America’s principles and virtues--based on natural rights and natural right--and, therefore, perhaps oddly, to the defense of the Old Liberals, agains the New Left.

And the Old Liberals were compelled to reconsider their own, limited, ability to defend the things for which the country had always stood. So they began to give up on their historiscism and turned toward the electric cord that binds us. And the alliance began, and the Public Interest crowd no longer voted for Democratic candidates en masse.

So, oddly these guys at The Public Interest both represented and caused the death of Liberalism as we had known it for over a generation. And, the way politics works, these old fashioned Liberals, called "neo-conservatives" by the early 1970’s, became allies of Conservatives, and then friends. And they prospered together. And the rest, as they say, is what is happening now. And the New Left, as represented in what’s left of the once-great Democratic Party, not only lost, but still don’t understand why they lost. They lost the intellectual wars, and then, eventually, the political battles. That’s why there is a realignment and that’s why the Democratic Party is now the minority party in the country.

It might be rightly said that with the end of the The Public Interest two things will have died at once, both New Deal Liberalism and neo-Conservatism. That the current post-Sixties Liberals like to call themselves Progressives is an indication of this, and so is their vitriolic attacks on neo-Conservatism. The new Progressives
think they are fighting something that doesn’t exists. No wonder they are losing.

Indirect action with Iran

Douglas Hanson writes something interesting about our work (with Germans, and others) against Iran in the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf. He explains why there will be no direct action against Iran. Interesting stuff, with many good links to follow. The Adventures of Chester has more. (Thanks to Chrenkoff.)

Bill Maher and the base Churchill

From the sublime Winston Churchill (who claimed to be also an American) to the absurd Ward Churchill (who claims many untrue things).

Jeff Jarvis saw Ward on with Bill Maher last night and has a few comments. It turns out that both Ward and Bill are both caterpillars of the commonwealth! Democracy guy also has a few choice words on the subject.

I’m glad I didn’t see it.
If you have the stomach, read Jarvis.

The Iron Curtain speech

Richard Reeb notes that yesterday was the 59th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s "iron curtain" speech in Fulton, Missouri. Here is the speech in full, it was called the Sinews of Peace.

The snowball in Lebanon begins to roll

Syrian troops will begin pulling back to the Baaka Valley on Monday, following Assad’s speech to parliament yesterday. The U.S., France, and other allies, are sceptical and say that this isn’t enough. The pro-Syrian factions in Lebanon are closing ranks in support of Syria, as Hezbollah calls for "an urgent meeting" to plan their strategy. This
identifies a few of the key leaders in Lebanon. But Assad is rattled, and that may be good enough for now. He is learning that he lacks authority; if he is unwilling to kill people to stay in power, than it is only a question of time before he is gone.
In the meantime, Egypt’s upper house voted to allow multi-party elections. Also note this blogger from Egypt.

There are elections in Moldova today, and even before the election pro-Western sentiment (anti-Russian and anti-communist) is ruling.

Fareed Zakaria reflects on all this and the whole region, and concludes that perhaps it is the Arab rulers who are strange rather than those being ruled. Remember the Arab street concern of Chritiane Ammanpour, et al? It looks as though the Arab streets are anti-bad rulers more than they are anti-American. And he also says that the "noted political scientist who has been vindicated in recent weeks is George W. Bush." The Left’s chattering classes are now forced by events to ask the question, could Bush possibly have been right? The short answer is, yes, according to Zakaria. Bush is pushing for reform in the region, and it is working. While Zakaria is not without criticism of the Bush administration, his opinion reflects
more or less the establishment standard of the day, and is therefore important. Read it all.

Slaves not freed in Niger

Here is an interesting report from the BBC:

The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom.

Acting under pressure, Niger’s parliament banned the keeping or trading in slaves in May 2003.In a ceremony in December 2003, dozens of slaves were liberated, many of them shedding tears of joy as they were given certificates showing they were free.

There are thought to be 43,000 slaves in Niger. (Thanks to Powerline).