Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Evangelical environmentalism yet again

Here, thanks to Richard Reeb is an account of evangelical environmentalism that is both theologically and scientifically competent. Lest I be misunderstood, this doesn’t mean that Dr. John Christy has the final word, just that he’s a worthy interlocutor.

Powerline under fire, again

Fortunately, they’re using popguns, which is about all the intellectual firepower the Minneapolis paper can muster.

Here’s Powerline’s first response. Here’s that of Little Green Footballs.

I googled the author, Tamara Baker, otherwise unidentified by the Star-Tribune. In her piece, she poses as a defender of an independent and free press, against the attacks of the vicious right-wing blogosphere. In her other life, which you can glimpse here, here, here, here, here, and here, she constantly insists upon the right-wing corporate bias of the MSM. Indeed, she even accuses Maureen Dowd (!!) of being anti-Clinton and asks:

"The real question is "Why has the US corporate media, ever since 1999, treated Bush far more gently than ANY Democratic candidate of the last thirty years?"

Whew! Outside of her and her friends, there apparently is no genuinely free press.

Did the folks at the Minneapolis paper know what they were getting when they accepted this op-ed, which tells us one thing, or did they not dig at all into her background, which tells us something else? Are they malign or negligent? Or both?

Born an adult

Unfortunately, a fourteen year old killed himself. This is an especially tragic story since the boy was a prodigy. He started reading as a toddler, played piano at age 3 and delivered a high school commencement speech in cap and gown when he was just 10. He was said to be extremely bright, yet a normal child and boy. No one knows why he killed himself.

Rehnquist May Return to Court

Charles Lane speculates in WaPo that Chief Justice Rehnquist may return to the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on Monday. He offers this prospect based upon the Court’s spokeswoman’s statement that the Chief had not yet decided whether he was going to attend arguments this next week--a statement which stands in contrast to earlier releases which conclusively asserted that he would not attend. This is rather weak speculation at this point, but Lane does offer promising news as to Rehnquist’s health:

Earlier this week, Rehnquist, 80, presided over a two-hour private meeting of the Judicial Conference, a federal judges’ body that gathers twice a year at the Supreme Court. Witnesses described him to reporters as seeming in good spirits and moving without assistance.

This is good to hear, and I wish Rehnquist the best in his recovery.

ACLU Acting Outside of Its Mission

Anil Adyanthaya argues in today’s Boston Globe that the ACLU is acting outside of its mission by suing on behalf of non-American detainees who allege abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. While this is an interesting argument, I think there is an equally salient example from our own soil. The ACLU has intervened in Terri Schiavo’s case. The case shows the problem of the slippery slope in right-to-die jurisprudence. Beginning with the premise that an individual has the right to refrain from receiving lifesaving medical care, the ACLU then must make the leap that where a party has not made such intent known, and where there is colorable doubt as to 1) the individual’s true intent, and 2) the individual’s medical status, then the default should be in favor of the right to die, or in this case, in favor of the party who has economic incentives to assure that the individual dies quickly.

This case does nothing to reaffirm the right to have medical treatment withheld insofar as that right is held by the individual to whom the medical treatment is at issue--a qualification that used to be important to the ACLU. Rather, it simply reinforces what can go wrong when this "right" is applied by the court: those who are zealous to expand these "last rights" (pun intended) may be prone based on their predispositions to ignore issues such as the self-interest of the guardian that no jurist or officer would ignore if they were forced to examine a suspect death after the fact. Only then, we would call it motive . . . .

The Schiavo Barbarism

Watching the spectacle of a judge ordering the removal of Terry Schiavo’s feeding tube while calling it a "step in her death process" (or whatever the exact evasive locution was) brought back to mind Churchill’s closing peroration in his Munich speech, which went (I am quoting from memory) something like this:

"We have passed an awful milestone, when the whole equilibrium of Europe [or the morality of taking life in Schiavo’s case] has been deranged. . . And the fateful words will be pronounced of the western democracies, ’Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting. . .’"

HRC on abortion

I missed this earlier in the week.

Sen. Santorum’s "faith-based initiative"

This is interesting.

Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

What Republicans can learn from their failure in Georgia

This was supposed to be a good year for Republicans in my home state. It may still be, in some respects. But Republicans have learned that controlling the Governor’s office and both branches of the state legislature (by healthy margins) for the first time since Reconstruction doesn’t guarantee passage of their agenda.

The issue with which I’m concerned is the revision of Georgia’s Blaine Amendment, about which I’ve posted here (with links to other relevant posts). Today’s Atlanta paper has this article, which says that the Georgia Council for Moral and Civic Concerns has thrown its entire support to this alternative, which is (thankfully) a long shot to pass, given the legislative calendar.

The failed measure, which simply would have aligned the Georgia constitution’s religion provisions with the First Amendment, fell a few votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority in the state senate. So far as I can tell, no one ever made the case that opponents were voting against the First Amendment (albeit as interpreted by an essentially incoherent Supreme Court).

The substitute measure has three principal defects. First, it prohibits mission-sensitive hiring (aka religious discrimination in hiring), which I defended here. Second, it prohibits the use of vouchers at any faith-drenched program, such as Teen Challenge. And third, it explicitly rules out vouchers for elementary and secondary education, but not for the pre-k and college scholarships funded by Georgia’s lottery. Nevertheless, it does nothing to remedy the obvious constitutional problems that these programs face, which I outlined here.

As I noted before, it was the teachers’ unions’ fear of educational vouchers that derailed the measure, even though all the Governor’s proposal would have done is eliminate a constitutional barrier, which is not the same thing as enacting a law providing for them. The fact that the Governor’s proposal commanded a majority (but not a supermajority) suggests that on a straight up or down vote, a voucher proposal might have passed. But the unions didn’t have to assemble a majority to defeat a legislative proposal; they just had to hold together a minority to defeat a constitutional amendment. In other words, they’re hiding behind Georgia’s constitutional status quo because they can’t win the public policy argument in the legislature.

For the reasons outlined above, I don’t think Governor Perdue and his allies should support the alternative measure. The status quo, with all of its problems, is better than establishing still more barriers to Georgia’s version of the faith-based initiative.

On the national level, Republicans should take heed to avoid situations which put determined minorities in the driver’s seat. D’oh! They clearly shouldn’t stand for anything like this. It’s time to use that majority in the Senate to change the rules on judicial nominations and call the Democrats’ bluff on shutting down the government. Or else we (they) can permit the Democrats to decide who the judicial nominees should be.

Good blogger is back

Red State has announced that Jay Cost, who used to run "Horse Race Blogger," and quit after the election to get back to writing some silly little thesis at The University of Chicago, will be one of their writers. They are thrilled, and so are we. Jay says he will write on some of the following items:

I’ll see you next week. I’m putting the finishing touches on an in-depth article about why the South is solidly red. Some of my conclusions will surprise you. After that, I’m thinking about writing on a few topics: why Republicans should be wary of the political resurrection of Howard Dean, why Hillary is definitely not a “sure thing” in 2008, why 2006 will probably be a ho-hum election year, how the media screwed up campaign 2004, and what Bush is up to with Social Security (and whether he has a snowball’s chance at getting his way). We’ll see how things go -- if you have a suggestion, send it my way.

His first blog on Monday will be "On Dixie and the Democrats." Good.

Democratic politics

Ann Lewis (she is director of communications for Hillary’s campaign committee) takes a shot at Kerry: "ran what was basically an inconsistent campaign" last year, and had "a different message every two or three weeks."
John Kerry continues to intensify his attacks on Bush, according to the Los Angeles Times, and he has "signaled he’s considering a second presidential bid in 2008."
But Joe Biden is quite critical of Kerry’s policy (or non) on terrorism.

And John Edwards stays mum on what he is going to do in 2008, for now he just wants to fight poverty. Yet, he hasn’t ruled out running. Wesley Clark spoke at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and said this amusing thing: "We lost our adversary and we lost our purpose in the world. All Republicans and Democrats could agree on was that the armed forces were too large. We never really got an agreed strategy." Oh, well, the general is re-fighting a previous war. He has also re-launched his political web site. Russ Feingold, who hasn’t denied he may be interested in running in 2008, has registered a domain name: And, one of the most trenchant political analysts among us peasants, Eleanor Clift, thinks that Hillary Clinton is laying the groundwork for a run in ’08, and is frustrating the right by proving different from the caricature they made of her. Yet, even Eleanor sees that Condi Rice poses a real problem for any Democrat if she runs: Condi should get at least 20% of the black vote, thereby preventing any Democrat from winning. Thoughtful Eleanor, very thoughtful.

Civility in a Democracy

NEH Chairman Bruce Cole has a conversation with Miss Manners (Judith Martin) "about how standards of behavior were adapted for an American democracy." There are a few interresting passages. Here’s one on Southern hospitality:

The plantation owners thought they were being English country gentlemen, but who was teaching etiquette to their children? The house slaves. The house slaves often came from a more elevated background than the masters. They were chosen among the slaves as the people who were more refined. They had been captured and brought over from Africa, whereas, of course, voluntary immigrants came because things weren’t so great at home. The house slave, usually the mammy, taught manners to the children. So she taught them the manners she knew. The "y’all come see me" kind of hospitality is an African tradition that they brought over. Using honorary family titles, aunt so-and-so and uncle so-and-so, where there’s no relationship, but to convey something between strict formality and informality--these kinds of things crept in to become what are now known as Southern manners.

Federalism and Schiavo

Andrew McCarthy pens an interesting piece over at NRO about proposals to grant federal review in cases like that of Terri Schiavo. I commend the article to lawyers and non-lawyers alike for its clear description of how the often misunderstood federal habeas process works, and how that process changed in 1996 due to a new law enacted by the Clinton Administration. However, McCarthy was less clear about what the proposed legislation pending in Congress would do. Rather than grant habeas review--a position endorsed by some early bills (and a position which was legally erroneous given that Ms. Schiavo is not in state custody)--the version of the bill which was passed by the House permitted removal of an action to federal court where there were issues of constitutional or federal law at stake following the exhaustion of state court proceedings. Essentially, it permits a federal court to review federal questions after the state court system has completed its review. This is not the kind of serious infringement on federalism that the WaPo editorial suggests (even if the state courts are fully constitutionally capable of adjudicating federal and constitutional issues). There are interesting federalism questions to be asked of any such legislation, but the overblown comparisons made by WaPo are not among them.

George Kennan, 1904 - 2005

George Kennan, who is generally considered the godfather of realism and containment, died yesterday at 101. Powerline has some thoughts here and here, and the New York Times has an obituary here. For those wondering why he is considered the father of these schools of thought, see his famous 1947 Foreign Affairs article: The Sources of Soviet Conduct, which he authored under the pseudonym "X".

An unteachable moment

Here, via Stanley Kurtz over at NRO’s The Corner, is an account of the Harvard faculty’s reaction to its "no confidence" vote. My favorite quote:

’’I have been at two meetings so far today where all faculty are talking about is how it will be possible to get the business of the university done in this climate," Mary Waters, who chairs the sociology department, wrote in an e-mail yesterday. ’’We are all perceiving a slowdown in response time from the university, and we assume that this controversy is taking up a lot of energy that otherwise would go to moving forward things at the university."

Read the whole thing.

Arab Spring

Charles Krauthammer offers a stinging reproach of the left’s interpretation of the Arab world in his column today. While conceding that we do not yet know whether the seeds of democracy springing up in the Middle East will grow to fruition, he suggests that the early opposition to democracy in the region by the liberal elites has put them in a bad place:

Those who claimed, with great certainty, that Arabs are an exception to the human tendency toward freedom, that they live in a stunted and distorted culture that makes them love their chains -- and that the notion the United States could help trigger a democratic revolution by militarily deposing their oppressors was a fantasy -- have been proved wrong.

In case anyone missed the point, he is even more blunt (and honest) later:

It is not just that the ramparts of Euro-snobbery have been breached. Iraq and, more broadly, the Bush doctrine were always more than a purely intellectual matter. The left’s patronizing, quasi-colonialist view of the benighted Arabs was not just analytically incorrect. It was morally bankrupt, too.

Well worth a read.

Musharraf as Coriolanus

General Musharraf of Pakistan is being compared to

This is not to the advantage of either Musharraf or Coriolanus.

General Musharraf’s epic journey reminds one of that of Coriolanus, a military and political leader of ancient Rome whose career is described by the Greek historian Plutarch in his Lives. Born Caius Marcius into a rich and famous family, he earned the title Coriolanus after a major victory at Corioli in 493 BC against the Volscians, a neighbouring tribe of Rome.

Around the year 1600, William Shakespeare drew upon Plutarch’s history to dramatise the life of Coriolanus. TS Eliot considered this play to be Shakespeare’s finest tragedy yet other critics rank it below Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. Coriolanus, as a proud general, is the least sympathetic protagonist among Shakespeare’s tragic figures. This may be the reason for the mixed appraisal of the play.

Much more can be said about both Pakistan and the writer’s understanding of Coriolanus than he says in the op ed for The Daily Times, yet it is still worth reading.

Gitlin on Horowitz: Two former SDSers face off

Here, via Political Theory Daily Review (a sort of "Arts & Letters Daily" for political theorists; check it out if you haven’t before), is Todd Gitlin’s reaction to David Horowitz’s drive for an "Academic Bill of Rights," which I’ve discussed here and here.

Here’s Gitlin:

Is there a left-liberal-multicultural atmosphere at elite institutions? Undoubtedly, though the surveys on which conservatives rely probably misconstrue its pervasiveness. Academics do flock together and sometimes abuse their power. The even more intractable problem is that conformity, both the faculty’s and the students’, is self-fulfilling, lending itself to the enshrinement of the smug, the snug, and the narrow. Much of the muffling, as always, is the product of peer pressure, which is as real at liberal arts colleges as at military academies. When fundamentals go unquestioned and dissenters are intimidated, those who prevail get lazier and dumber.

How deep is the silence? Hard to know. Much cited in conservative columns is a 2002 survey by the student newspaper at Wesleyan University, according to which a full 32 percent of the students felt “uncomfortable speaking their opinion” on the famously liberal campus.

Whatever that means exactly, the pop-psych language is telling. Since when is higher education supposed to make you feel comfortable, anyway? In a largely unexamined triumph of marketplace values, college has come to be seen as a consumable product. Parents invest through the nose hoping for practical payoff. What follows is grade inflation, epidemic cheating, scorn for a common curriculum, and an all-around supermarket attitude. Consumer choice—embrace whatever turns you on, avoid what- ever turns you off—is elevated to a matter of high principle. But weren’t conservatives supposed to be fixing our minds on higher values?

Here’s the contradiction inherent in this right-wing crusade. In their sudden sensitivity to the comfort of minorities—ideological ones, in this case—the advocates of legislative intervention on campus speech discard one of the virtues that conservatives have long embraced: the insistence on standing strong. They tend to cast students as frail, helpless victims of “abuse” who need institutional muscle to defend them against forces of evil they dare not confront on their own.

Yes, encountering and dealing with arguments with which you disagree makes you stronger. This shouldn’t be just a conservative virtue, and leftists who value it should go out of their way to encourage genuine intellectual diversity on campus.

TV watching

O.K. What’s the difference between college students and everyone else? It turns out that college students watch almost four hours of TV a day, whereas everyone else averages five hours. Great.

Suggestive cheerleaders

A Texas lawmaker is filing a bill that would put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances at athletic events by cheerleaders. Everyone there seems to be in favor of it.

A woman race car driver in Iran

Laleh Seddigh, 28, (see photo) "is fast emerging as one of Iran’s foremost race car drivers, leaving the best of the men racers behind in her saloon car." Good story. 

The Euro-left and victims of oppression

As usual, Charles Krauthammer hits the nail on the head:

The international left’s concern for human rights turns out to be nothing more than a useful weapon for its anti-Americanism. Jeane Kirkpatrick pointed out this selective concern for the victims of U.S. allies (such as Chile) 25 years ago. After the Cold War, the hypocrisy continues. For which Arab people do European hearts burn? The Palestinians. Why? Because that permits the vilification of Israel -- an outpost of Western democracy and, even worse, a staunch U.S. ally. Championing suffering Iraqis, Syrians and Lebanese offers no such satisfaction. Hence, silence.

Until now. Now that the real Arab street has risen to claim rights that the West takes for granted, the left takes note. It is forced to acknowledge that those brutish Americans led by their simpleton cowboy might have been right. It has no choice. It is shamed. A Lebanese, amid a sea of a million other Lebanese, raises a placard reading "Thank you, George W. Bush," and all that Euro-pretense, moral and intellectual, collapses.

Read the whole thing.

Weigel on the European crisis

Here, via Real Clear Politics, is a brief synopsis (a 5 page pdf) of George Weigel’s forthcoming The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics without God. Here’s a taste:

Europe’s contemporary crisis
of civilizational morale thus comes into sharper focus:
Europe’s statesmen—or, at the least, too many of
them—are denying the very roots from which today’s
“Europe” was born. Is there any example in history of a
successful political project that is so contemptuous of its
own cultural and spiritual foundations? If so, I am
unaware of it.

Read the whole thing.  

Ramirez Cartoon

Support for EU constitution slips in France

Two and a half months before a national referendum, support for the European constitution in France
has slipped further and now stands at 56 percent, according to an opinion poll Tuesday, AFP reports. The opposition to the constitution is strongest on the Left.

Drilling for oil in ANWR

Christian Science Monitor is pretty clear on both the vote and the details of its meaning, the drilling site, etc. Worth a read, if you are unfamiliar with some of the details and background. Even though it will take many years to get the oil out (never mind the House vote, which almost certainly will be in favor), this is a major victory for the GOP. Note that because it was attached to a budget resolution, it couldn’t be filibustered. Maybe federal judges should be attached to budget resolutions!

Will GOP pick up North Dakota senate seat?

PoliPundit reports that (according to Rollcall, for paid subsribers only) "Republican strategists in Washington, DC are increasingly confident that Governor John Hoeven will decide to run against Senator Kent Conrad in 2006. This would be a major coup for the Republican Party. Hoeven won re-election in 2006 with 71% of the vote." Also remember that Bush won ND 62-35% in 2004.

(via Powerline.)

Did Hitler have the bomb?

This Der Spiegel article considers a new book, Hitler’s Bomb, by a German historian named Rainer Karlsch.

The author writes that German physicists and members of the military conducted three nuclear weapons tests shortly before the end of World War II, one on the German island of Ruegen in the fall of 1944 and two in the eastern German state of Thuringia in March 1945. The tests, writes Karlsch, claimed up to 700 lives.

The trouble is that the author, according to Der Spiegel, hasn’t proven this. At least the article is worth reading, even if the book may not be.

Conservatives and Libertarians

Pejman Yousefzadeh argues that although there is a difference between libertarians and conservatives, they should stick together. I generally don’t like these insider-like discussions having to do with definitions, but this one is worth noting in part because he links to this 1975 interview with Ronald Reagan, who said this:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are travelling the same pat

New York Times on restricting Senate filibusters

The Weekly Standard Scrapbook
juxtaposes these two

New York Times opionions on the the same issue. A January 1, 1995, Times editorial on proposals to restrict the use of Senate filibusters:

In the last session of Congress, the Republican minority invoked an endless string of filibusters to frustrate the will of the majority. This relentless abuse of a time-honored Senate tradition so disgusted Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, that he is now willing to forgo easy retribution and drastically limit the filibuster. Hooray for him. . . . Once a rarely used tactic reserved for issues on which senators held passionate views, the filibuster has become the tool of the sore loser, . . . an archaic rule that frustrates democracy and serves no useful purpose.

On the same issue, March 6, 2005:

The Republicans are claiming that 51 votes should be enough to win confirmation of the White House’s judicial nominees. This flies in the face of Senate history. . . . To block the nominees, the Democrats’ weapon of choice has been the filibuster, a time-honored Senate procedure that prevents a bare majority of senators from running roughshod. . . . The Bush administration likes to call itself "conservative," but there is nothing conservative about endangering one of the great institutions of American democracy, the United States Senate, for the sake of an ideological crusade.


Is retrenching, ever so modestly. The student body and faculty will shrink a little, but the college doesn’t want to let go of any students who are actually paying the sticker price. This has folks worried about "diversity":

And when people at Oberlin talk about a fear that students may end up being more “vanilla,” they aren’t just talking about race, but about style and values. While it’s easy to overstate college stereotypes, Oberlin students say there is plenty of truth to the idea that their college attracts many students who are artsy, liberal, idealistic and individualistic.

“Now it seems like the school may be looking for more students who are mainstream and from conservative or wealthy families,” said Marshall Duer-Balkind, a junior who is a member of the Student Senate. He said there is a “major, major concern” among students about how this would play out, even as they acknowledge that they can’t be sure how admissions will change. “The worry is that the college will lose the students with individuality and quirkiness.”

Why, I ask, should students from wealthy families be more "mainstream," i.e., conservative and hence boring, than others? I would think that kids who had grown up with "all the advantages," like trips abroad and after-school and summer enrichment programs, could be just as "artsy, liberal, idealistic, and individualistic" as the next guy, if not more so. Or does all the enrichment just end up homogenizing them, cranking out the cookie cutter elitists about whom
Ross Douthat complains? Or is it that many of the really interesting products of all this enrichment end up going elsewhere?

Joan Casey, a private admissions counselor in Brookline, Mass., said that while students she works with think of Oberlin as a very good college, many students “don’t want to go to school in what they would call the middle of nowhere.” (While Oberlin boasts a remarkable cultural scene, in large part courtesy of the conservatory, it is in rural Ohio, 40 miles from Cleveland.)

[How far is Ashland from Cleveland?]

Michael London, the founder of College Coach, a nationwide private admissions service, said that he too thinks of Oberlin as a very strong college. But as he looks at where counselors encourage students to enroll, he’s seen Oberlin “down a notch” from the places it aspires to compete with.

“A Vassar is an A- [high school average], 1400 SAT school, and a Wesleyan is a little higher than that, and Oberlin is more of a B+ 1300 school,” he said. “They may be guilty of thinking that they are stronger than they are.”

I’m tempted to chalk these comments up to Eastern blue state geographic snobbishness, but Oberlin apparently loses head-to-head competitions for students with Grinnell and Carleton,which are in small towns in Iowa and Minnesota, for gosh sakes! (I’m betting that the dirty little secret is that Grinnell and Carleton are offering more generous discounts, er, I mean, scholarships than is Oberlin, though this table suggests a modest reputational difference.)

Oberlin’s strategic plan

calls for increasing faculty salaries, reducing the teaching load to allow faculty members to have more time for research and professional activities, renovating student dormitories, expanding athletic opportunities at both the intramural and varsity level, and creating new programs to recruit minority students and faculty members.

This, of course, takes money, which is precisely what they seem to need. You need to have money, it would seem, in order to get money. I have a different suggestion: rather than trying to be like schools that are wealthier, Oberlin should seek to be distinctive. Not distinctive as in distinctive just like everyone else (the usual game in the top tiers of higher education), but really distinctive. Why not, say, invite the Ashbrook Center to relocate from Ashland?

Rob Portman nominated to be Trade Representative

Rep. Rob Portman has been nominated by President Bush to be the next U.S. Trade Representative. He has been in Congress for twelve years, representing Ohio’s 2nd district (southern Ohio). Portman is a good guy, smart, hard working, gets along well with everyone, but is tough. He also knows a lot about trade policy. An excellent selection! This is Portman’s statement after the President announced his nomination. Rep. Portman is the last speaker in the Ashbrook Center’s Major Issues Lecture Series for the year. He is speaking on Wednesday, March 30th.

Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols

After murdering four people, Brian Nichols is talked into a ’purpose driven life’ by Ashley Smith.

Peggy Noonan wraps up this remarkable story in her article, ’Flannery O’Connor Country’.

St. Patrick’s Day

Therefore, some Yeats.
And also this one.

Religious genes?

It seems as if religious genes have been identified. You make of this what you will; I’m just passing it along. I must say, though, that I love seeing scientists confused.

Genes may help determine how religious a person is, suggests a new study of US twins. And the effects of a religious upbringing may fade with time.

Until about 25 years ago, scientists assumed that religious behaviour was simply the product of a person’s socialisation - or "nurture". But more recent studies, including those on adult twins who were raised apart, suggest genes contribute about 40% of the variability in a person’s religiousness.

Now, researchers led by Laura Koenig, a psychology graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, US, have tried to tease apart how the effects of nature and nurture vary with time. Their study suggests that as adolescents grow into adults, genetic factors become more important in determining how religious a person is, while environmental factors wane.

Elmer Fudd and Harvard

This might be a good way to start the morning. Roger Kimball has a few thoughts on the faculty vote of no confidence in Harvard’s president:

The Larry Summers tragicomedy continues. In today’s episode, we watch as Harvard’s hapless president is once again humiliated by the faculty of Arts and Sciences, which met yesterday and returned a vote of no confidence by a margin of 218 to 185, with 18 abstentions.

It’s a bit like one of those Warner Brothers cartoons in which some pathetic character--Elmer Fudd comes to mind--goes after the waskily wabbit only to be outtwitted or at least outmaneuvered by the time the commercial break rolls around. Same thing happens in every episode, but the very predictability of the scenario adds to the comedy of the consummation. Why aren’t the girls more widely represented at the highest levels of science and mathematics? Why?

Is Bush being defeated on Social Security?

John Henke notes the intentional confusion brought about by the Demos and the MSM about Bush’s attempt to do soemthing about Social Security. He reflects on this Washington Post poll stating this: "public support for his program remains weak, with only 35 percent of Americans now saying they approve of his handling of the issue." But, Henke points out, "the public also overwhelmingly supports — by a margin of 56% - 41% — ’a plan in which people who chose to could invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market’."
He considers this question: "why does the Washington Post bury the fact that the public dislikes every part of Social Security reform except what has actually been proposed by President Bush? That seems important." He poses a few questions worth considering. Useful links. (Via

"How Serious Are Democrats?"

Asks this Christianity Today editorial.. Answer: on abortion, there’s not much beyond some pro-life lip-service:

But beware. An ad from NARAL Pro-Choice America addressed to "the right-to-life movement" would be almost humorous if it weren’t for those 1.3 million killings annually in this country. "Please Help Us Prevent Abortions," says the ad, which appeared in The Weekly Standard and other publications. Actually, the headline is misleading: The text of the ad explains better its call for support of a bill "which would reduce unwanted pregnancies." The legislation, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s Prevention First Act (co-sponsored by Democrats with 100 percent ratings from abortion-rights groups and 0 percent ratings from pro-life groups), is a pro-life nightmare. It would double federal funds to "family planning" groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL while barring funds for programs that emphasize sexual abstinence. Hospitals that get any federal funds would have to provide the morning-after pill (which prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus) on demand, and companies that oppose contraception or abortifacients would be forced to provide insurance coverage for them.

Read the whole thing.

James Madison’s birthday

Richard Reeb reminds us that today is the 254th anniversary of the birth of James Madison. It might be a good time to check out our Constitutional Convention site. Note the Notes of Debates, as well as Gordon Lloyd’s "The Constitutional Convention as a Four Act Drama" and other commentary. Also note the very accessible version of The Federalist, and his Memorial and Remonstrance.

Wolfowitz to World Bank

President Bush has nominated Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank. This is the WaPo story on the same.

Caesar beware

This from Germany:

"Let’s put it this way, I’m always particularly alert on March 15 and have always come through it fine so far," said Cajus Julius Caesar, a parliamentarian with Germany’s opposition Christian Democrats (CDU). "It’s not a real worry."

Naomi Schaefer Riley is everywhere

Win Myers called my attention to a piece by Naomi Schaefer Riley in the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, to which I don’t subscribe. (Take that, establishment media!) But I found the article here, on Riley’s GOTQ website (click on the articles button).

In the Chronicle piece, she takes issue with this list of "top ten conservative colleges" and praises ISI’s Choosing the Right College. The former, she argues, is too political, simply offering the conservative counterpoint to leftist efforts to politicize education, which echoes a concern that I expressed here. By contrast, the ISI guide:

focuses more on which institutions provide a strong core curriculum in the traditional liberal arts. Rather than looking just at conservative colleges, the institute’s guide advises students on finding strong professors and useful courses at the top 100 or so colleges in the country. Though the institute supports conservative student newspapers and helps bring conservative speakers to campuses, its guide does not seem to be searching for colleges that create young Republicans.

Good for ISI; I expected no less. But I find it perhaps a little ironic that Riley, whose book looks to the "missionary generation" educated by traditionalist religious colleges for assistance on the conservative side of the culture wars, now takes a stance that seems to be above politics. That isn’t to say that I don’t endorse her current sentiments. Anyone who tries to keep politics out of the classroom is welcome in my club. But she might have written a somewhat different book if she had taken then the stance she seems to take now.

Update:There’s also a not terribly hard-hitting interview with Riley in the same issue of the (I borrowed a communal copy to read while at the gym; you’ll find it on A28.)

Anne Applebaum on Susan Estrich’s campaign

By now, you’ve probably heard about Susan Estrich’s efforts to force the Los Angeles Times to publish more op-eds written by women (chiefly herself). I’ve posted on this subject here and there’s more here. Anne Applebaum has reluctantly added her voice to the debate. The concluding paragraph:

In the paragraph I have remaining (this, girls, is truly the hardest thing about newspaper columns: making the idea fit the space) I’m not going to discuss the thorny question of whether some affirmative action policies do some good, of whether newspapers matter anymore anyway, or even return to the subject of Sinn Fein. Those are complex, gender-neutral issues, and I’ve now used up my allotted weekly slot on a "women’s issue" instead. Happy, Susan Estrich?

Enough said. Applebaum is rapidly becoming my favorite WaPo columnist.

WaPo vs. People’s Daily

Hugh Hewitt demonstrates that the People’s Daily interview transcript--discussed here--misrepresents what WaPo managing editor Phillip Bennett actually said, at least in one instance and likely in others. I’m persuadable. Mr. Bennett ought to release his own transcript of the interview to set the record straight.

Update: Others aren’t as satisfied as Hugh Hewitt is. I emailed Bennett last night, asking him to release the entire transcript. No response as yet.

God on the Quad

Here’s a story on Naomi Schaefer Riley, whose book I’ve almost finished reviewing. Short version: interesting, occasionally provocative, but also flawed. Read Touchstone in a couple of months for the final version.

John O’Neill

This interview with John O’Neill, of Swift Boat Veterans for Bush fame, is very much worth reading. I remember O’Neill from the early seventies when, as a young man, he already went toe to toe with John Kerry. The character of neither man has changed, and O’Neill won. Honor is the subject of his story.  

Bush and Tocqueville

Yes, I’m channelling Ken Masugi, who calls our attention to this NYT article, about GWB’s references to Tocqueville. Here’s a nice bit from Robert P. George:

"Tocqueville latched right on to the idea that you can have a limited government that really works as long as you’ve got healthy institutions of civil society which perform character-shaping functions," said Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at the university, and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

"This is the idea behind the faith-based initiative," Mr. George said. "Bush wants to be an exponent of limited government but at the same time a compassionate conservative, because he’s interested in escaping the dilemma that links limited government with radical individualism. So Bush says that government just can’t retreat from the social sphere altogether; government must cooperate with the institutions of civil society in a kind of partnership that brings compassion to people in need."

Bumiller can’t resist giving a Bush critic the last word, quoting Bernard-Henri Levy in such a way as to indicate that both she and the stylish nouvelle philosophe don’t understand or don’t want to understand the transparent Texan.

Condi for president?

I saw Tim Russert press Secretary of State Rice last Sunday. He insisted that she give an airtight "no" to the question of whether she intends to run for president in 2008. I thought the thing was an embarrasment (for Russert). What’s the sense of doing this to a sitting Secretary of State who--quite naturally--will be in the position of being a candidate, even if she really is not interested? This is especially true if the Demos end up nominating Hillary, which I predict they must. What’s the point of forcing Condi to say no? Even is she were deeply interested, she couldn’t say so. After all, it may affect her current work, wouldn’t it. Yet, Russert pressed on. Foolish stuff, I thought.

Well, Wes Pruden notes that it doesn’t matter what she said, she left herself a way out. He’s right.

Scalia and natural law?

Michael McGough argues that Antonin Scalia may be morphing into Clarence Thomas, moving from a "hard positivist" position into one friendlier to natural law. This reverses the direction the influence is usually said to run. On the basis of his argument, I’m not sure that McGough has the natural law argument quite right. After all, natural law isn’t supposed to depend upon revelation, but rather upon the reason that God gave everyone. Or am I missing something?

The nanny state

run amok.

Listen to Ken Masugi

Ken will be interviewed by Laurie Morrow on True North Radio today. Ach, but it’s almost over, though you’ll be able to hear him online next week by going to this site next week, once the show has been archived.

Update: Here are Ken’s post-interview comments.

Social security reform "obituary"

Criticism all around from David Brooks.


Ken Masugi called my attention to this WaPo article, describing Walmart’s interesting circumvention of local zoning regulations in Dunkirk, Maryland, which happens to be where my parents live. Ken’s argument, which makes some sense, is that the more regulation, the more room there is for legal cleverness, such as that displayed by the lawyers representing those simple down-home capitalists from small-town Arkansas.

Here’s another example of lawyerly cleverness, relayed in an email from my father, who has been very active in resisting Walmart’s blandishments:

What happened at the latest meeting was an eye-opener! The people representing Wal Mart were elitist, overbearing, abusive, and dictatorial. At one time the Faison representative accused us, the folks with the signs, of being"anti-everything, and (were) probably anti-gay and anti-black". After the meeting I had a heated discussion with this individual, calling his remarks way out of order.

There you have it: if you’re anti-Walmart, you’re also anti-black and anti-gay, not to mention anti-everything else (anti-American?). I should tell my local anti-Walmart insurgents (actually, they must be terrorists) that they’re racist and homophobic, which in
Cynthia McKinney territory (note to FEC: I don’t support her, so please don’t count this as a campaign contribution) ought to be sufficient to drive virtually everyone straight into Walmart’s arms.

Update: Lest you think that my father is some sort of liberal anti-capitalist (well, he was born in the Netherlands!), I can’t recall a time when he didn’t vote for a Republican (a record that extends back to the 1950s, and includes a few significant votes in California gubernatorial elections in the 1960s).

Are you surprised?

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled today that "it appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners." What say our Claremont friends?

Update: For now, just this, but I am, as they say, morally certain that there’s more to come.

Demonstrations in Lebanon

Another huge anti-Syrian demonstration in Lebanon.
It will be interesting if this largest ever anti-Syria demonstration will be played up in both the MSM and the Arab press. The stimates are 200,000 and way above.

WaPo editor speaks to People’s Daily

Via award-winning Powerline, here’s an interview that WaPo managing editor Philip Bennett gave to Beijing’s People’s Daily. I won’t repeat Big Trunk’s quotations, but will call your attention to a telling juxtaposition. Here’s what Bennett says about WaPo coverage of the U.S. in Iraq:

Yong Tang: How do you think of the roles American mainstream media play in American foreign policy?

Bennett: We have a little bit different roles in newspapers compared with our counterparts in Europe and other countries. We don’t have any political point of view that we are trying to advance. We don’t represent any political parties. We are not tied to any political movement. On the news side of the paper we try not to give opinions. So I think the role the Washington Post should play is to hold the government accountable for decisions made by it.

This goes to foreign policy as well. For example, the Washington Post has a correspondent bureau in Baghdad. One of the jobs of our correspondents in Baghdad is to tell our readers what the Bush administration is trying to hide. Bush says democracy is advancing in Iraq, but our correspondents say the situation there is much more complex than that. Our job is to put that in the public domain and challenge the government and hold them accountable. We do that by having independent reporting about events, by telling our readers what the actual situation is, with as much independence, fairness and accuracy as we can.

Often that is in conflict with the government. That is why we are having a lot of pressure from the government, though not in the materials ways. We receive a lot of criticism from the government for presenting views of events which are in odds with what they are trying to present. This is very important in our system and it is one of the fundemental roles of the press.

We have seen that similar roles of the press are developing in China as media expose corruption. In any system corrupt officials are trying to cover bad things up. We may look at the press coverage of issues like SARS epidemic. At the very beginning there were efforts to cover things up. But then the news came out everywhere through the press and even the textmessaging. Then the government was forced to admit what happened. This role is quite similar with the role we are trying to play here in the United States.

Of course, we have a lot of limitations on our ability to do that. The government of the US is becoming much more secretive, much more hostile to the press in terms of giving us access to the information. So a lot of what we do here is to fight for access to the information that we think the public should have. That takes a lot of our energy and resources.

And more:

Yong Tang: But my sense is that the Washington Post is not as aggressive as it was. One example is also about the coverage of the Iraq war. Before the war started, the Post published a lot of stories saying that Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destructions(WMD). Of course this claim was found to be wrong. Late last year Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. even apologized that the Post should have published more stories from the opposite side.

Bennett: Again I think it is very important to go back to the division between the editorial side and news side of our newspaper. Our editorial page expressed opinions in favor of the war in Iraq. That has no influence on the news gathering part of the newspaper.

Where the news gathering part of the Post failed was to be sufficiently skeptical about the administration’s claims that there are weapons of mass destructions in Iraq. We never reported that there were weapons of mass destructions in Iraq. We just repeated what the government said and we did not dig hard enough to challenge those statements. That was what Downie apologized for.

As you said, we are not aggressive enough in challenging and testing the statements the government is making. For me, this episode is a good example of how difficult it is to independently verify the government’s claims when the government is lying to you. The newspaper is incapable of going to Iraq and find out for itself whether it has WMD or not. The closest that we may come is to report very closely on the UN’s effort to determine if the regime has WMD in Iraq. But in the run-up to the war in Iraq, the UN is very close to US administration’s view that there was a high probability that Iraq has WMD. We have reported that too.

This is an example of how difficult it is to get the truth on these types of subjects. If George W Bush came out tomorrow and say Iran has nuclear weapons, we would have to report that too. We have no independent means to verify the accuracy of the statement TODAY. As the time goes on, we are able to do some reporting to show how accurate that statement is. In gengeral we are in a difficult period to report on national security issues.

In other ways the Post is still very aggressive. You may read about a story of the insurgents in Iraq last week. It is very prominently placed on our newspaper and we did it very aggressively, trying to tell the inside of Iraq as much as we can. In some areas we have done better and in some other areas we have not done as well as we could. Everyone learns some lessons from the prewar coverage of Iraq. We learned that we are not as aggressive as we should be.

Here’s what Bennett says about the Post’s coverage of China:

Yong Tang: The Washington Post often describes China as a dictator communist regime without democracy and freedom. Why is the newspaper so fond of playing with such negative words?

Bennett: I disagree with that. First of all, Neither The Washington Post, nor the New York Times, nor any other big newspapers, refer to China today as a dictatorship regime. We don’t use these words on the paper any more. Now we say China is a communist country only because it is a fact. China is ruled by the Communist party.

On the contrary, we are trying to understand the complexity of China. We stayed last year in China writing many long stories about the civil society in China, about Internet, about workers, about disputes between the state and individuals over certain things. Those stories showed how complex China is.

There are many things happening now in China. Sometimes it is extraordinarily contradictory because it is a big country and it is a country which includes many many things happening at the same time. You have economic development which has put more people out of poverty over a short period of time than any other country in the world in human history. At the same time you have a single party state which dominates almost most aspects of civil society. I was in China last year to interview Primer Wen Jiabao and other Chinese officials. The top leaders of your country have spoken very often about these contradictions. How Chinese leaders will resolve them is something the whole world is waiting to see.

And more:

Yong Tang: But it seems to me that the Washington Post stories about China are still focused on such things like political dissidents?

Bennett: No, it is not true. If You look at all the stories published on the major newspapers about China last year, you would find the widest variety of stories of any time since US journalists were allowed back in China. We used never to have correspondents in China who can speak Mandarin very well. Now every major correspondent in China speak Mandarin. Our correspondents used to be in Beijing all the time. But now they travel much more. In the past the party congress is the center of journalism, but today it is no longer the center for our reporters. We are more interested in the environment, the students, the business, the corruption and all sorts of different issues. The coverage of China is becoming more and more complex.

When I became the Assistant Managing Editor for foreign news, which was the job I had before, the Post has one correspondent in China while we have three in Russia. Today we have one correspondent in Russia while we have three in China. So the importance of China is very much present. I think it is even more present to American media than to the American government, which is so dominated by Iraq and terrorism.

After all, the presence of Washington Post in China is still small. We have only three correspondents in China, a country with a population of 1.3 billion. We are trying to do our best.

Yong Tang: So you think the Post’s coverage of China is objective and balanced?

Bennett: In general, yes. Does the coverage see everything from the perspective of Chinese government? No. I think there are periods in which US government or political figures go through the moments of China bashing or very negative talking about China. But the media is more balanced than that. I don’t think we are running after those negative issues. We are trying to see the big picture, not the little points of disputes.

In other words, "complexity" requires a nuanced view of China but an almost wholly anti-government view of events in Iraq. The WaPo will cover "good news" about developments in China, but mostly "bad news" about developments in Iraq. If I had to defend Bennett here, I might say that he was trying to teach his interviewer about the adversarial role of journalists (something his question about WaPo coverage of China suggests he has a long way to go before learning). I might also argue on Bennett’s behalf that we can expect the government to broadcast the good news, so there’s less need for journalists to ferret that out and report it.

But given the generalized mistrust of government that journalists seem to cultivate and to communicate to their readers, they actually seem to work to obstruct the possibility of achieving a balanced view. We’re supposed to be highly skeptical of government claims (after all, they’re self-serving), but not so much of journalistic claims (after all, there is a rigorous editorial vetting that goes on). If it weren’t for
Arthur Chrenkoff we wouldn’t have a "fair and balanced" view of what’s going on in Iraq. By the way, is anyone sure that Chrenkoff isn’t being paid handsomely by the Bush Administration (a joke, by the way, in case you’re a humor-impaired reader)?

Democrats, out of gas

Michael Barone, in amere two pages, distills the Democrats’ problems. He says they have run out of gas, not only on issues of policy ("stuck in concrete" on Social Security), but they are, as TNR’s Martin Peretz says, "bookless." Read it all.  

Condi: "I won’t run in 2008"

On various news programs this weekend, Condi Rice says: "I won’t run in 2008".

No Condi, no Jeb, no Cheney.

"Foreign" Cars

According to this article from the Detroit News, Marine reservists may no longer park in the United Auto Workers’ lot if they "are driving foreign cars or displaying pro-President Bush bumper stickers." (In fairness to the UAW, however, the article also notes that the union is building a residential home for children of veterans who have lost their parents.)

This raises an interesting question: what constitutes a "foreign car"? I assume they are referring to vehicles that are not made by an American corporation. That does not really qualify as "foreign," does it? Honda is a foreign-owned corporation, and employs roughly 16,000 workers just in the state of Ohio. General Motors is Mexico’s single largest private employer. Doesn’t the "foreign" vs. "domestic" distinction seem somewhat arbitrary under these circumstances? In fact, given the facts noted above, it is likely that the policy actually penalizes some Marines for driving cars that were produced in other Midwestern states.

Update: The UAW has changed its policy and is once again allowing Marines to use its lot regardless of the car’s origin or bumper stickers.   

Michael Steele with Brian Lamb

A kind reader has sent me the Brian Lamb interview with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele that I referred to the other day.
Thanks very much!

A different understanding of the Arab street

Thomas Friedman uses the recently established Qualified Industrial Zones in Egypt (established in an accord signed by the U.S., Egypt, and Israel) to make the case that creating economic opportunities--especially export-oriented opportunities from the private sector--is critical to advance democracy in the region.  

Bush thinks black

Stanley Crouch thinks about the GOP’s attempt to woo conservative and Christian blacks, and what that has to do with the civil rights establishment (which, he reminds us is not the same as the civil rights movement) and its attachment to the Democratic Party.

High tech looting in Iraq

A front page New York Times states that Iraqi authorities now think that, a few weeks after the war’s conclusion, "looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein’s most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms." I don’t know what to make of this long article, why the information was released now, or even whether it’s true. But, it should be filed because this is not the end of this issue.

Ghaddafi’s surrender

Los Angeles Times runs an article on why and how Libya’s Omar Ghaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program. There is some interesting stuff here, but (and no surprise) virtually no credit is given to the Bush administration.

Linsdsey Graham’s good idea on Social Security

Over the last few weeks I have been amused by the Democrats’ mantra that Bush’s attempt to reform Social Security is dead and that polls show that folks (especially over 55) are against any reform. Of course, the MSM has come to the aid of the Demos (no surprise here). I have always thought that this mode could not possibly last, that once the President got rolling, that once some serious folks in Congress started laying out their own proposals, the thing would tip and tip in favor of some reform which would, in the end, favor Bush’s push toward private accounts. Well,

George Will thinks that Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) idea to raise the current $90,000 limit on income subject to Social Security taxes is the thing that should tip it. While I suspect that this will only be one element in the push toward reform, it is a serious one and Will lays out very clearly why it is a good idea. Good writing.

More Fukuyama

Ken Masugi in the very same fecund post I just noted also calls our attention to Fukuyama’s NYT article on Max Weber. Here’s a taste:

It is worth looking more closely at how Weber’s vision of the modern world has panned out in the century since the publication of ’’The Protestant Ethic.’’ In many ways, of course, it has proved fatally accurate: rational, science-based capitalism has spread across the globe, bringing material advancement to large parts of the world and welding it together into the iron cage we now call globalization.

But it goes without saying that religion and religious passion are not dead, and not only because of Islamic militancy but also because of the global Protestant-evangelical upsurge that, in terms of sheer numbers, rivals fundamentalist Islam as a source of authentic religiosity. The revival of Hinduism among middle-class Indians, or the emergence of the Falun Gong movement in China, or the resurgence of Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia and other former Communist lands, or the continuing vibrancy of religion in America, suggests that secularization and rationalism are hardly the inevitable handmaidens of modernization.

Here’s his conclusion:

Weber’s ’’Protestant Ethic’’ was thus terrifically successful as a stimulus to serious thought about the relationship of cultural values to modernity. But as a historical account of the rise of modern capitalism, or as an exercise in social prediction, it has turned out to be less correct. The violent century that followed publication of his book did not lack for charismatic authority, and the century to come threatens yet more of the same. One must wonder whether it was not Weber’s nostalgia for spiritual authenticity -- what one might term his Nietzscheanism -- that was misplaced, and whether living in the iron cage of modern rationalism is such a terrible thing after all.

Ken takes him to task for not giving enough attention to contemporary Roman Catholicism. I’ll ask whether "the iron cage of modern rationalism" is the only possible political alternative to "charismatic authority" of the sort exercised by Lenin, Hitler, and Osama bin Laden.

Update: Let me add two more thoughts: Fukuyama argues that Western Europe is closest to being locked in the "iron cage" of rationalism, but doesn’t acknowledge that it’s also the most vulnerable to an Islamist takeover, not just because of its geographic proximity to the Middle East and North Africa. And the current U.S. commitment to the spread of "democracy," something on which Fukuyama happens at the moment to smile, is not simply born of our rationalism.

Shake-up/dust-up at the National Interest

Ken Masugi alerts us to this neo-con/realist conflict, which likely will give birth to a new foreign policy journal. Here’s Bill Kristol:

"My father said many times, the more journals, the better," he said. "Soon there are going to be more neoconservative magazines than there are neoconservatives."

I’m sure many readers of the NYT will be enjoying the spectacle. I’ll just be enjoying the new journal.