Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Der Spiegel on Benedict XVI

Jeremy Lott shows how "uncharitable" Germany’s premiere newsmagazine is about "the first German Pope since 1048."

Unsuited to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals?

Here’s a first-hand account of the speech by Janice Rogers Brown, first reported here and here. Suffice it to say that Brown comes out looking more sophisticated and formidable in the first account.

Hat tips: Local Liberty and Patterico.

Confirm Them (a site you should bookmark, by the way) has more on efforts to smear Brown.

Update: Win Myers links to and discusses this column about Brown.

Update #2: Cynthia Tucker says that Brown is outside the mainstream. Then how did she manage to win "reelection to her state supreme court seat with a stunning 76 percent of the vote in one of the bluest of the blue states, California?" asks Steven G. Calabresi. Tucker’s mainstream is, of course, that of the Democratic Left.

Religious "discrimination" in hiring

This column takes up an issue I addressed here and here.

The principal argument is that Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurring opinion in Mitchell v. Helms is controlling in these cases: government can’t directly aid religion or even "endorse" religion, and permitting government contractors to take religious considerations into account in hiring allegedly does both.

My first response is that predicting how Sandra Day O’Connor will vote from one case to the next is an exercise in futility. She is above all dependent upon the context, which varies from one case to the next. The authors of the piece, at least one of whom is a long-time opponent of the "charitable choice" (the Clinton-era forerunner to the faith-based initiative), imply that faith-based organizations will always engage in invidious religious discrimination as opposed to merely mission-sensitive hiring, while "the facts on the ground," as they say, suggest otherwise. Most groups want simply to hire people who support their mission, which is a far cry from hiring, say, only Baptists or Catholics. While I don’t happen to think that the this distinction is material, it could well matter in securing O’Connor’s vote.

The authors also write as if the only religious freedom at stake here is that of potential employees. I would argue that, at the very least, we have to balance the freedom of potential employees and the freedom of those who comprise the organization. This sort of balancing is for the most part better left to legislators than to courts, though I’m aware that mine (unfortunately) is a minority opinion.

In short, I don’t find the arugments in the column all that persuasive.

More on Jon Bean and "Handout Hysteria"

Inside Higher Ed has more today about the plight of Jonathan Bean at SIU-Carbondale. On a hopeful note, the article calls attention to the strong support that the professor is receiving from students. The student newspaper, The Daily Eqyptian, has published a powerful editorial denouncing the attempts to silence Bean:

“Professors must be free to choose controversial material if doing so will further intellectual inquiry. The manner in which the material is presented, the discussion it generates and the conclusions drawn from it — in other words, the intellectual context — must provide the standards by which such material is judged.”

“Another troubling aspect is the insistence by some that the students who were presented with the article were not yet capable of critical thinking and were therefore susceptible to corruption,” the editorial said. “This paternalistic attitude flies in the face of all freedom. It is not the university’s mission to shield soft young minds from offensive ideas, and the ability to think critically cannot be developed when people are denied the opportunity to think in the first place.”

Frist’s Modest Proposal

Here is the short speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Frist says let all judicial nominess have an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. He doesn’t say ’allow an up or down vote or else,’ but that’s obviously what’s implied. Surely, that means he has the votes to break the filibuster and he’s giving the Dems one last chance to back off.

A good and clever speech.

Frist vs. Reid

According to Confirm Them, Senator Reid has rejected the filibuster compromise proffered by Senator Frist. Here’s Reid:

"I would say for lack of a better description it’s a big, wet kiss to the far right, ladies and gentlemen. It’s just not appropriate," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (search), who called it a "slow-motion nuclear option."

This is a classless response to a reasonable proposal. Let’s hope Frist and the Republicans succeed in capturing the high ground here.

Robert P. George on Judicial Activism

Here, courtesy of the theocrats and jihadis at the Family Research Council, is Robert P. George on judicial activism.

I note two things. First, while the folks at the FRC are, by and large, evangelical Protestants, Robert P. George is a Roman Catholic. Most theocrats I know aren’t that ecumenical. Second, Professor George’s arguments rely not at all on faith or revelation, but are accessible to any reasonable and rational human being. This is not an injection of faith into the public arena, but rather an all-too-rare injection of reason.

Fear and Loathing in Carbondale

Jonathan Bean, a self-described "libertarian-conservative" who teaches in the history department at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has gotten into hot water with some members of the administration, as well as some of his departmental colleagues. In a course that he teaches on the civil rights movement, Bean thought he’d generate discussion by having his graduate student assistants hand out an optional reading assignment--excerpts from "Remembering the Zebra Killings", an article that appeared at, about a series of 71 murders of whites by black men that took place in San Francisco in the early 1970s. Things haven’t gone well for Professor Bean since:

"It sparked what I called "handout hysteria," he said. "I handed it out on Tuesday. On Friday afternoon I’m called into the department chair’s office, with a hysterical department chair waving the handout at me."

Bean quickly backed off, issuing an apology and withdrawing the assignment (although it had always been optional). Alas, it wasn’t enough. Bean’s teaching assistants were told that they no longer had to work for him (although, presumably, they will continue to be paid), and eight of his colleagues signed a public letter accusing the professor of distributing "racist propaganda" in his class. Another of his liberal colleagues, Jane Shaw, has come to his defense:

"I think this is a really serious breach of collegiality," Adams said. "One of the things I am appalled by is his (Bean’s) reputation has been publicly smeared. That is all we have as professors."

More on this as it develops. Full disclosure: Jon Bean is a longtime acquaintance of mine, and an outstanding scholar and teacher. He does not deserve this.

Freedom From Religion Again

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been busy lately. There’s a suit against the U.S. Department of Education over funding Alaska Christian College, about which you can read here, here, here, here, and here.

At issue is about $1 million in federal funds earmarked by the Alaska congressional delegation for the college, which itself offers almost exclusively religious courses. But in addition to the coursework, along with secular coursework at a neighboring public community college, the college serves as a "bridge" to higher education, providing counseling and career advice to a largely Alaska native student body. Douglas Laycock thinks the FFRF might prevail on the merits; Richard W. Garnett thinks that it’s plausible that the "bridge" serves a secular purpose. The judge hearing the case is John Shabaz, a Reagan appointee who presided over a split decision in another FFRF suit about which I wrote here.

But, as they say, there’s more. The FFRF has also written to warn municipalities in Wisconsin that they can’t shut down on Good Friday, pursuant to a decision handed down by Judge Shabaz in another FFRF suit some nine years ago.

Hat tip: Religion Clause, a blog written by Professor Howard M. Friedman of the University of Toledo Law School.

Reagan’s diaries to be published

has announced that it will publish President Reagan’s diaries, "the most detailed presidential diaries in America’s history".

HarperCollins said it had signed a deal with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation for world rights to publish the diaries.

They will be displayed at the presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

"Each day during his eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan recorded his innermost thoughts and observations in his personal diary," said Frederick Ryan Jr, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

"Although they were not initially intended for publication, we feel that these volumes offer an unprecedented insight into the Reagan presidency."

Third Party?

Ron Brownstein, of the Los Angeles Times argues that there is an opening for a third party in this internet era. He builds on Joe Trippi’s (of Howard Dean’s candidacy fame) use of the internet as a starting point (and maybe the stopping point) for the idea. The short of it this: There is now easy and cheap entry because of the internet. Independent candidates can raise a lot of money very quickly with almost invested, and the two parties are persuing startegies that leave openings, that is both parties are ceding the middle ground. And that middle ground would be the basis of any new party or parties. Utterly unpersuasive, in my opinion. This is still thinking in old parameters, and the Bush presidency has (or at least is trying) created a new one: Stand for something, widen your base, and keep attuned to your core. Besides, Brownstein is just hoping that a GOP-Demo ticket of McCain and former Dem Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska team-up and confuse things. No chance, unless it is over an issue like illegal immigration wherin neither party is satisfying anyone (at the moment).

Andrew Sullivan’s "Crisis of Faith"

Andrew Sullivan has a BIG ARTICLE in TNR purporting to explain the fissures within the "conservative coalition." Time was, I might have expected to learn something from reading Sullivan. He was, and is, smart and learned. Time was, his energy, intelligence, and learning were not simply devoted to grinding his axes. Time was....

Here’s what we, ahem, "learn" from Sullivan. There are conservatives of faith (bad) and conservatives of doubt (good). The latter include "devout Christians who embrace a strong separation of church and state," as well as "Oakeshottian skeptics, or Randian individualists, or Burkean pragmatists, or libertarian idealists." I’m pretty sure that Sullivan studied with Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., so I’m going to interpret Sullivan’s silence. Notice who’s not included in his list of conservatives of doubt: no Jews, no Straussians, and no neo-conservatives. Of course, in contemporary demonology, all three categories overlap, so to name (or not to name) one is to name (or not to name) them all.

Interestingly enough, Sullivan doesn’t use any of these categories in discussing conservatives of faith either. The demons in that group all belong to the religious right, whose members, according to Sullivan, are sure they know the answers to all the questions and, consequently, are unwilling to "allow error to flourish--and immorality to become government policy."

These dichotomies are so oversimplied and misleading--features that might be excusable in a 600-word op-ed, but not in a 3,000+ word feature article--that I’m not sure where to begin. For the moment, I’ll pick on two aspects of Sullivan’s argument that I’m unwilling to attribute either to confusion or ignorance (I’ll leave it to my readers to decide what the cause of these problems is). First, there’s the oversimplification with respect to the opposition of faith and doubt. Everyone I know argues that faith and human fallibility are connected. In other words, a conservatism of faith leaves a good bit of room for fallibilism and for the disagreement of reasonable (and fallible) people. Yes, there are things that are certain (given by Scripture or natural law), but they are few. Of course, it may be the case that in our times, those few certainties are at the center of some people’s agendas; hence our "culture war." So to the uninformed and thoughtless (neither adjective easily applicable to Sullivan, though he may think of his audience in that way), it may APPEAR that conservatives of faith are "dogmatic" about everything. Nope. And of course anyone as well-informed as Sullivan is would also know that one can "faithfully" or "rationally" regard something as morally wrong without devoting all the resources of the state to stamp it out. There is some (fallible) prudence involved here, as then-Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in his advice to Catholic voters. So conservatives of faith are also conservatives of doubt, but not about absolutely everything.

The conservatism Sullivan prefers is problematical in other ways. Consider this pasage:

The defense of human freedom offered by conservatives of doubt, on the other hand, is founded on more accessible and less contentious arguments. Such conservatives can point to the Constitution itself as the basis of U.S. political life, and its Enlightenment concept of freedom as sturdy enough without extra-Constitutional theology. (The purpose of the Constitution was to preserve the Declaration of Independence’s right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The word "virtue" is not included in that phrase. Its omission is the single greatest innovation of the U.S. founding.) They can point to the astonishing success and durability of the U.S. experiment to buttress the notion that the Constitution is a much more stable defense of human equality than that inherent in any religion. The Constitution itself has far wider support among citizens than any theological argument. To put it another way: You don’t need an actual religion when you already have a workable civil version in place.

This line of argument comes from a man, who, a few pages earlier, was willing to deploy this contention against conservatives of faith:

[Conservatives of doubt] understand that significant critiques of human reason--Nietzsche, anyone?--have rendered the philosophical quest for self-evident truth even more precarious in the modern world.

If Nietzsche and his progeny render self-evident truths precarious and problematical, what becomes of the civil religion on which Sullivan would have us rely? If it becomes a self-conscious "article of faith" in the face of corrosive post-modern ironism, it will either wither away or become an object of weillful and passionate devotion. It will become, in other words, either an inoperative dead letter or an article of faith unchecked by any sense of human finitude and fallibility, an example of "fanatical obscurantism."

In his own terms, then, Sullivan’s sober conservatism of doubt either withers away or becomes a conservatism of faith in no way checked by any sense of a divinity who puts human beings in their place.

Amusing or interesting

Exploding toads puzzle German scientists. New Jersey casino
camera operators at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel Casino have been accused of using the equipment to ogle women. CNN is accused of "using your blog for an experimental guerrilla marketing campaign." Thief
steals dead man’s motorcycle afer he crashed. Twinkies
turn 75 years old. CBS evening news "saw its lowest viewer tally on record last week."

White House pastry chef

Roland R. Mesnier spent 25 years in the White House as the pastry chef and has written a cookbook. In an interview he says that Nancy Reagan was very demanding, first lady Laura Bush is meticulous, and Hillary "was very political - it was like having a second president in the White House."

Diversity and homogeneity in higher ed

Don Herzog likes Hillsdale College on diversity grounds. Oh, there are things he doesn’t like about it, but he’s a fan, even, of conservative difference.

He’s never been on the campus, however. Mickey Craig and Larry P. Arnn, why not invite him for a visit?

Democrats for Life

Terry Mattingly notices who did and did not cover the Democrats for Life press conference.

Bernie Sanders

Rep. Bernard Sanders has raised over $100,000 in one swoop, with the help of He hasn’t yet declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. James Jeffords, VT.

Ward Churchill in Claremont

Ken Masugi reflects on Ward Chruchill’s talk at the Claremont Colleges last night. Very good.  

Intern problems

Abbie Finfrock is an intern in Washington, and she writes about it, focusing on what it means to be in a young woman in a power-town filled with older men. Not surprising, and it turns out her father’s warnings were true.

Social Security, FDR’s card trick

William Voegeli’s essay on Social Security in today’s Wall Street Journal is a must read. It is a long piece (albeit shorter than the original published in The Claremont Review of Books) but it is, I repeat myself, a must read. It explains very clearly what Social Security was meant to be and to do, and what that has to do with the heart of the Democratic Party, and why, therefore, Democrats are doing everything to try to stop any attempt to change it. Indeed, they are trying--and I am not yet persuaded that they are being successful, despite MSM reports--to make sure that a real conversation about Social Security cannot take place.    

Moderates deserting GOP and GWB?

That may be the message of this WaPo poll and certainly is the message of this E. J. Dionne, Jr. column.

My take? As long as the Republicans stand for something and the Democrats for nothing, some of those in the middle will side with the obstructionists. But when the Democrats are forced to adopt a positive agenda, they lose, unless they themselves move to the center.

Will Democratic candidates make centrist noises? No doubt. Will the base and the donors actually put up with a concrete centrist campaign platform? Doubt. Will Republicans let the Democrats get away with only paying lip service to centrist positions? Let’s hope not.

Update:For flaws in the composition of the poll, see John Hinderaker’s characteristically perceptive post at Powerline., as well as James Taranto’s criticisms here.

I want Spirits to enforce, Art to enchant

While there is a bit of a dispute about Shakespeare’s birthday (was it the 23rd or 26th), Rafael Major thinks it’s important to note it, whatever the day. The point is that The Poet came into this breathing world, this great stage of fools, and, being wise, knew himself to be a fool. And so we see and hear him, and when we can’t, we read him, from here to Timbuktu. Happy Birthday!

Syria leaves Lebanon

It seems that Syria has left Lebanon. This includes their intel agents. And the pro-Syrian head of Lebanon’s security service
has resigned. Parliamentary
elections are due in May, and Harriri’s son has said that he will take up his father’s mantle. The U.N.
has said that it will send in a team to verify the Syrian pullout. No doubt the MSM will report all this as a sign of another defeat for American foreign policy!

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi almost captured

This is the ABC News report on the near capture of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. The near miss happened in February. Although he got away, we got his computer, with a "very big hard drive."
An interesting story.

American Catholics support new Pope

A Washington Post-ABC News Poll finds that eight out of ten American Catholics support the selection of Ratzinger as Pope, and about 73% are enthusiastic in their support. There is more. But the point is how could this be, given the extraordinarily unfavorable coverage of this man by the MSM and considering their analysis, and emphasis, on how American Catholics (that is, liberal Catholics, I guess) are not happy with a conservative as Pope given that there are disagreements over abortion, gay marriage, contrception, etc.? No wonder no one pays attention to these guys.

Justice Monday

Consider this a down payment on a longer commentary to appear later. I’ve spent part of the day gathering ammunition, er, I mean, information.

One billion plus for tsunami relief

Chuck Simmins has been keeping track of the amount of private dollars Americans have given to the tsunami relief effort: It is now over one billion dollars, and he has stopped counting. (Thanks to Instapundit).

Illegal immigration

You know that the question of illegal immigration--and not just in states bordering on Mexico--as a political issue begins to have some resonance when the Los Angeles Times runs a front-page story that seems to admit (despite the misleading title of the article) that either there is a problem, or at least there is a growing gap between the public and the policy makers. Also note that the article mentions that illegal immigration has dropped by 50% in areas patrolled by the Minutemen.

All this to the surprise of the L.A. Times, I guess. The piece is worth reading.

Some of you wrote to me asking whether Karl Rove was asked a question about immigration while at the Ashbrook Center. I can tell you that this question was asked more often than any other (but since I controlled the questions that were written on cards, I only asked it once). This is the way the question was formulated: "Would you please comment on the Bush administration’s positions on the border immigration problem?"
We just transcribed his response to the question and you can read it here.
Also note that you can listen to his speech, and to about fifteen minutes of Q & A, by going here.

America as a theocracy?

In this turbulent time (for Liberals, I mean),
it may be worth noting that one of the many things that makes them angry (that, e.g., some of us are actually questioning fundamental Liberal tenets like Social Security, the progressive income tax, etc.) is that our society is not simply a secular one. They had worked for making it that, and are a bit put out that their plans and hopes seem not to have materialized. Hence they argue that we must be nearing a theocracy.

Michael Barone thinks that we are not doing that at all. Typically good stuff from Barone, and should be read. The word on the blogs is that Andrew Sullivan has a cover story in the current The New Republic explaining the crisis within conservatism by whipping the evangelicals, or, the Christian right, as he no doubt prefers to call them. I haven’t seen it yet, but will.

Environmental doomsaying declining

Steve Hayward answers some questions about environmental issues. His latest edition of Index of Leading Environmental Indicators is out.
He claims to have spotted "a turning point." According to the Index, "It appears that public regard for environmental doomsaying is declining."

Tipper Gore, call your office

The Progressive Policy Institute has discovered a "parent gap" (7 page pdf): in the last two presidential elections, Democrats have lost married parents by 15 and 19 points. Even though Kerry won the youth vote by 9 points, here’s what author Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has to say about the future:

At the same time, however, it is also worth
thinking about where many of these voters will
be standing come 2008. Some are already
married. More will be married four years from
now. And many of the married couples will have
children. At that point, will the Democrats still look as good to them, let alone to those who
are already married with children?

How to reach these parents, a majority of whom identify themselves as moderate (45%) or liberal (16%)? Dafoe urges "progressive cultural populism",

taking the side of parents against the cultural
forces that make it more difficult to “teach kids
right from wrong.” This does not mean
censorship, of course. And it does not mean
legislation or even regulation in every case. But
it does mean that the party should use the bully
pulpit regularly and aggressively to identify with
parents’ concerns and to attack the irresponsible
marketers of violence and sleaze to young kids.

But, as Donald Lambro notes, it’s not clear that the party’s liberal base, let alone its financial supporters in Hollywood will support anything much beyond Bill Clinton’s virtually empty school uniform initiative.

Update: Great minds think alike.

Ants with cunning

is impressive: "A fierce species of Amazonian ant has been seen building elaborate traps on which hapless prey are stretched like medieval torture victims, before being slowly hacked to pieces."

Nuclear option?

Professor Brainbridge uses a nice graph from the Economist (which can only be read on line with a subscription) showing "Democrat obstructionism has meant that GWB’s circuit court judges have been confirmed at a lower rate than those of any other modern President."
He is still not convinced that ending the filibuster is a good idea, but does agree with the Economist, which he quotes extensively, that the Republicans have to get tougher. David Broder suggests a compromise, thus proving that the GOP could have its way and the Demos would end up on the short end of the stick.

CBC demagoguery on Leo Strauss

Tom Cerber, who blogs at The Politic has called our attention to this piece of propaganda, er, I mean incisive analysis, to be broadcast on CBC. Aside from implying a moral equivalence between Sayyed Qutb, a founding theorist of radical Islam, and Leo Strauss (a linkage we also find in an execrable book), the film claims that "the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organized terrorist network is an illusion."

Here’s an interview with Adam Curtis, the producer, writer, and narrator, after the documentary first aired on BBC last year. His central contention:

The attacks on 11 September were not the expression of a confident and growing movement, they were acts of desperation by a small group frustrated by their failure which they blamed on the power of America. It is also important to realise that many within the Islamist movement were against this strategy.

So, yes, Islamists are a threat, but not anything we have encountered before and certainly not sufficient to justify the extreme measures we’re taking against them. Of course, without this threat the evil neo-cons wouldn’t have the justification for building their American empire.

For more on the film(s), which will, of course, be screened at
Cannes this year (I guess Michael Moore’s next isn’t ready yet), go here.

And while I’m at it, here’s a typical distortion from an unofficial transcript:

VO: But Qutb was not alone. At the same time, in Chicago, there was another man who shared the same fears about the destructive force of individualism in America. He was an obscure political philosopher at the University of Chicago. But his ideas would also have far-reaching consequences, because they would become the shaping force behind the neoconservative movement, which now dominates the American administration. He was called Leo Strauss. Strauss is a mysterious figure. He refused to be filmed or interviewed. He devoted his time to creating a loyal band of students. And what he taught them was that the prosperous liberal society they were living in contained the seeds of its own destruction.

Professor HARVEY MANSFIELD, Straussian Philosopher, Harvard University: He didn’t give interviews, or write political essays, or appear on the radio—there wasn’t TV yet—or things like that. But he did want to get a school of students to see what he had seen: that Western liberalism led to nihilism, and had undergone a development at the end of which it could no longer define itself or defend itself. A development which took everything praiseworthy and admirable out of human beings, and made us into dwarf animals. Made us into herd animals—sick little dwarves, satisfied with a dangerous life in which nothing is true and everything is permitted.

VO: Strauss believed that the liberal idea of individual freedom led people to question everything—all values, all moral truths. Instead, people were led by their own selfish desires. And this threatened to tear apart the shared values which held society together. But there was a way to stop this, Strauss believed. It was for politicians to assert powerful and inspiring myths that everyone could believe in. They might not be true, but they were necessary illusions. One of these was religion; the other was the myth of the nation. And in America, that was the idea that the country had a unique destiny to battle the forces of evil throughout the world. This myth was epitomized, Strauss told his students, in his favorite television program: Gunsmoke.

So the fact that Strauss wasn’t a media figure, and was uninterested in being a media figure, makes him mysterious at least, perhaps secretive and conspiratorial. But the difference between a man who inspires terrorists and one whose goal is to get people to read and think carefully about the permanent questions seems to elude this filmmaker.

Update: Tom Cerber actually watched the first hour-long installment last night.

Papal politics

has what seems to be a good and detrailed account of how Cardinal Ratzinger got elected. This is the first account I have seen. It is very much worth reading (even though some of the details might not be just so). It shows that Ratzinger should not have been ruled out (as he seemed to be in 2003), and also that his great mind (and, shall we say, political skills) revealed itself at every opportunity to both Rome and the world, when John Paul II became ill. His campaign, and that of his supporters (including half the Italians, and almost all of the Latin Americans) worked so well that the so-called liberals had no chance.

I mention, in passing, that we have had about six inches of snow here, and it is still coming down strong. No riding today, just reading.

Media fragmentation

George Will considers this new age when journalism is at odds with (and losing to) media. The fragmentation of the media market, in part due to technology, and in part due to mistrust of the MSM, is now in place, and it is not clear what will replace it, if any one thing ever will. This is one reason the Liberal bias of, say, CBS and CNN, doesn’t especially bother me anymore: Fewer people are listening.

Benedict XVI

Here is the homily delivered earlier today at the Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

Hi Fritz!

I’m going to abuse my NLT blogging privileges massively to send a personal hello to Fritz M. in San Francisco, who scolded me on Friday for not blogging more. So I shall resolve to do better. Good to see you, Fritz, by the way, and keep up the good work withyour good (adult beverage) spirits!

Peter, Vindicated

David Brooks writes a typically humorous vindications of Peter’s lifetsyle (Hefto-American) in today’s NY Times. Read and enjoy.

The Hillary Meter

Twice monthly, the Rasmussen Report publishes its Hillary Meter  . The purpose of the meter is to measure whether public opinion has shifted in its view of whether Hillary is Liberal, Moderate, or, Conservative. This week Hillary is viewed as liberal by 47%, moderate by 32%, and, gasp, conservative by 8%. Hillary’s desire to be perceived as moderate has lost ground the last two weeks, as her 47% liberal rating this week is up from 43% two weeks ago. As Ben Stein would say, wow.

The poll also shows that 30% would vote for Hillary for President today and 40% say they would vote against Hillary. 23% say it would depend on her opponent. I think that means she is a polarizing figure. The unreported 7% must be from Michigan as it’s 35 degrees here today.

Who pays Rasmussen to do these things?

The Borking of Bolton

’The Weekly Standard’s’ editor, William Kristol , explains what’s really at stake in the battle over John Bolton.

Kristol argues that if Bolton is defeated that will send a message to all conservatives that if you take on the permanent bureaucracy your reputation will be destroyed, your charcter will be impugned, etc. If Bolton is defeated, Bush will get to name a replacement. The replacement will be someone more likely to defer to the permanent bureacracy, not someone as good as Bolton and someone chastened by the defeat of Bolton.

Eighteen years ago, conservatives watched as Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court was defeated. Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy in his place. The result has been 18 years of incoherent Constitutional jurisprudence which only Ted Kennedy can love.

Kristol believes the same sort of consequence could follow in foreign policy, if Bolton is defeated.

Justice Sunday

I’ve been thinking about other things, and so haven’t had the time or the energy or anything particularly incisive to say about the brouhaha stirred up by secularists and the religious Left regarding Senator Bill Frist’s participation in the Family Research Council’s Justice Sunday. But in this morning’s WaPo, Colbert King finally got to me. Here is merely the most offensive line in an inflammatory column:

They [religious conservatives] are not now and never will be the final arbiters of Christian beliefs and values. They warrant as much deference as religious leaders as do members of the Ku Klux Klan, who also marched under the cross.

I assume that Tony Perkins and James Dobson have thick skins, but this kind of invective has no place and shows only how desperate opponents of President Bush’s judicial nominees are.

The Interfaith Alliance’s C. Welton Gaddy actually goes further than the offensive Colbert King, arguing that the President’s judicial nominees are in fact incipient theocrats:

I oppose the election of judges who will, in the name of religion, make decisions that politicize religion and blunt the vitality as well as compromise the integrity of the rich religious community in this nation.

I’ll let his misstatement of the judicial nomination process pass, but not his attempt to claim that these nominees are making religious rather than constitutional or legal judgments.

In his letter, Gaddy also resurrects a meme that I thought was restricted to anti-Semites and anti-Catholic bigots, accusing religious conservatives of loving their country only when it serves their religion, i.e., of being unpatriotic (unlike Gaddy and his supporters: true patriots oppose religious conservatives, who put love of God above love of country). I could say more, but you probably don’t want an exposition of Augustine’s City of God right now.

I’ll restrict myself to saying this: all the efforts to try to intimidate Bill Frist, accusing him of fanning the flames of religious bigotry or pandering to religious bigots by appearing on the FRC program, suggest a fear that his appearance, and the program itself, will actually be effective in mobilizing those values voters. Yes, the FRC and Focus on the Family are religious groups. But what they are asking for is an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees, not a religious test for office-holding. Whatever faith or reasons move them, the position they’re actually supporting is consistent with long-standing Senate practice (actually voting on nominees). Yes, there’s a slippery slope somewhere, and the judiciary may be the only remaining bastion of secular liberalism, but the alternative is not theocracy, but rather sober constitutional jurisprudence.

Update: You can read other folks’ thoughts
here (Paul Mirengoff of Powerline), here (Win Myers of Democracy Project), and here (Hunter Baker of Reform Club).

Science education and liberal education

Also in The New Atlantis is a brilliant and provocative dissection (me know scientific jargon) of the elitist anti-elitism of a popular high school physics textbook. Here’s a taste:

The pose of anti-elitism seems to be a cover for something far more disturbing, something that is perhaps typical of elite anti-elitists. The author writes, “Sometimes the results of the work of physicists are of interest only to other physicists. Other times, their work leads to devices.... that change everyone’s life.” Are these the only two possibilities? Physicists on their mountaintop, speaking only to one another, and the rest of us in the plains, waiting for them to descend bearing magical devices? Nothing in-between? Aren’t there intelligent, curious people who are not professional physicists, but who have the patience and desire to learn? I believe it is this dichotomization of humanity into two ideal types, professional scientists and ignorant consumers, that is responsible for this book’s cynicism. The author doesn’t seem to think his readers are really capable of being educated. This is the worst sort of elitism. Paradoxically, we have here the worst of both worlds: an anti-elitist rhetoric that discredits the higher human possibilities, the very possibilities by which the author orients his own life as a scientist, together with a more substantive elitism that views students from so far above that it can’t be bothered to cultivate in them those same human possibilities.

There’s lots more, about the pernicious effects of state textbook adoption processes, about the insulting utilitarian pandering that characterizes the textbooks, and about the role of frustration and natural curiosity in genuine science education. Read the whole thing.


Aging and dependence

The prolific Peter Lawler’s latest article is an extended meditation on aging, individualism, and dependency. Read the whole thing.  

"Liberal" bioethics, er, "neuroethics"

I just came across an article by Michael Gazzaniga in an old (April 8, 2005) issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Entitled "The Thoughtful Distinction Between Embryo and Human," the article purports to bring Gazzaniga’s expertise in neuroscience and "neuroethics" to bear on the vexed and vexing debate over what the President’s Council on Bioethics has called "therapeutic cloning." Gazzaniga, one of the "liberals" on the President’s Council, left me unimpressed, not by his scientific ability (which I’m incompetent to judge) but by his capacity for philosophy (which I am competent to judge, though Brian Leiter, I’m sure, would disagree).

Another way of putting it is that I am impressed by his moral obtuseness. He writes constantly of the question of when "society should confer moral status on an embryo," as if the moral status of anything depended solely upon a social judgment. (O.K., he’s a simple-minded conventionalist or positivist, not exactly a sophisticated position.) But of course, Gazzaniga isn’t really trading on his philosophical sophistication, but upon the authority conferred by his scientific expertise.

This troubles me for the following reason. In the article, he proudly reports the following contribution to one of the Bioethics Council’s discussions:

I made an analogy comparing embryos created for stem cell research to a Home Depot. You don’t walk into a Home Depot and see 30 houses. You see materials that need architects, carpenters, electricians, and plumbers to create a house.... A fertilized embryo is not human--it needs a uterus, and at least six months of gestation and development, growth and neuron formation, and cell duplication to become a human. To give an embryo created for biomedical research the same status even as one created for in vitro fertilization, let alone one created naturally, is patently absurd. When a Home Depot burns down, the headline in the paper is not "30 Houses Burn Down." It is "Home Depot Burned Down."

We can take these "non-human" building materials, he seems to imply, and do whatever we want with them. It is scientifically impossible to say, in any way, shape, or form, when (or even perhaps if) it has a "soul."

What matters for Gazzaniga in assessing the potentiality of an embryo is "intention" of the human creator:

If we create cells for research purposes, and never intend to create a we have the moral responsibility to grow those other embryos into human beings? Of course not.

But then he goes on to argue that "intention arguments are inherently nonsensical," because we are simply hard-wired to attribute intentions, which are merely "personal beliefs," not scientific descriptions of the things to which we attribute intentions. If you separate these "personal beliefs" about "intentions" from our consideration of "these clumps of cells," what you’re left with is a clump of cells. Not a human being or a potential human being. A clump of cells with any potential we wish to give it, receptive to any intention we might have. Building materials at the Home Depot. "O brave new world that has such people in’t!"

Update: Peter Lawler offers this interesting comment on Gazzaniga:

He’s a great neuroscientist. You might remember his book being mentioned in
I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS, and the neuroscientist professor who’s initially (and in an open-minded way) impressed with Charlotte is apparently based on him. The two great influences on Tom Wolfe are Mike and another member of the Council, the psychiatrist Paul McHugh (a wonderful man), who cured Wolfe of his depression and provided the story about the cats that opens the book. Paul is a very empirical, common sensical psychological Thomist physician.

Bush on Lincoln

President Bush spoke at the dedication of the new Lincoln museum at the Lincoln Library in Springfield. It is a very good speech.

LIberals and the Pope

Andrew Busch thinks that the discussion about the selection of Pope Benedict XVI, "offered a window into the character of modern liberalism." This pos-modernist jumble called liberalism want diversity without disagreement, and heroism without conviction. Busch explains.   

Karl Rove

Karl Rove was here yesterday. He had on off the record conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars, and spoke at our annual dinner to ver 600 people. Great to have him here, the students and everyone else enjoyed it all. You can listen to his talk by clicking here.
You should also read the latest issue of On Principle, which includes articles on Rove and the election by Robert Alt, Steve Hayward, Adam Carrington & James Kresge, and me.

I was very impressed by Karl Rove. I now understand why he is disliked and feared by his political opponents. He is very smart and very balanced. His disposition is entirely normal, he does not radiate the kind of petty tyranny of those who think themselves important. He is very funny. A natural story-teller, a keen observer of all that moves around him. He misses nothing, and has very sound quick impressions of everything. His judgment is superb. It is impossible to dislike the man. He looks you in the eye, pays attention to you, and expects you to do the same. The rest is normal. All this explains why one student noted after being with him for almost an hour, "This guy is a natural teacher." After some conversation it developed that what he meant was that Rove seemed to him to be a natural student; he is interested in everything, his mind is alive and working and you can feel it, almost touch the moving gears. No wonder James Carville wrote (in Time magazine’s "One Hundred Most Influential People") that "If Rove switched parties, I’d take him up on it in a second." No chance of that. The Demos can only hope that he stays out of politics after 2006. No chance of that, in my humble opinion. And I’m glad of it.

If you can tell something about a man by who his friends and long-term associates are, Karl Rove is another reason to think that Bush is a good and smart man. I was entirely impressed. And I thank him for coming.

The War on Terror

Victor Davis Hanson ably summarizes progress in the war on terror and offers five lessons which must be remembered if that success is to continue.

Meanwhile in Iran, 440 volunteers, pledging to serve as suicide bombers, gathered at the Headquarters for Commerating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement. According to this report, the suicide bombers are given the following choice: "to train for suicide attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq; to train for suicide attacks against Israelis; or to assassinate British author Salman Rushdie, the author forced into hiding after the late Ayatollah Khomeini ordered Muslims to kill him."

I’m not done with Benedict XVI yet

Over at Get Religion, Terry Mattingly calls our attention to this essay by George Weigel, who offers us the clearest statement of the signficance of Benedict’s name that I have yet seen. St. Benedict’s monastery was built as Plato’s Academy closed and Rome went into decline.

The civilizational achievement represented by Plato’s Academy could have been lost; classical culture might have gone the way of the Mayans. That it didn’t had a lot to do with Benedict. His monks not only preserved crucial elements of the civilization of Athens and Rome during the Dark Ages; they transformed that civilization by infusing a biblical understanding of the human -- person, community, origins and destiny -- into the classical culture they preserved for future generations in their scriptoria and libraries.

The result of that fusion of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome was what we know as "Europe," or, more broadly, "the West." It was a colossal, indeed world-historical achievement. And the achievement was entirely consistent with what Pope Benedict XVI remembered in a recent interview as "a Benedictine motto: Succisa virescit -- pruned, it grows again." Thanks to St. Benedict and Western monasticism, the demise of classical civilization was the occasion for a new beginning -- and, eventually, a nobler civilizational accomplishment.

Read the whole thing.

Condi in Russia

I like this comment on Condi Rice’s Russia visit from Powerline.

White Catholics again

G. Tracy Mehan dissects this Democracy Corps analysis about which I blogged here. These are my favorite paragraphs:

Greenberg and Hogan put a lot of stock in polling data that shows a 63-point gain for a pro-choice Democrat among defectors and a 28-point gain among traditionalist Catholics when told that the Democrat "believes in a woman’s right to choose but believes all sides should come together around common goal of preventing and reducing [the number] of abortions, with more sex ed, including abstinence, access to contraception and more adoption." Here the authors are engaging in self-fulfilling prophecy, hoping to finesse such inconvenient issues as partial-birth abortion, government funding of abortion, and liberal hostility to restrictions such as parental notification. Clearly, they are making an effort to define the issue in terms favorable to prospective Democratic candidates who do not want to change their views. They are suggesting a narrative for the 2008 presidential campaign.

In politics, intensity counts for a lot. So it is hard to imagine that the thin gruel offered by the Democracy Corps memo would galvanize movement activists in the right-to-life or pro-family organizations to break a sweat for ersatz traditionalists running on the Democratic ticket. Nor will it cause these activists to decline the opportunity to defeat, say, a supporter of partial-birth abortion. This political reality undercuts the advice offered by Greenberg and Hogan. A liberal Democrat can do very little to blunt a traditionalist challenge without making a serious rightward shift on social issues.

Read the whole thing.

"The progressive agenda has come down to condoms"

For evidence that this judgment by Fr. Neuhaus is correct, go here.

More on Benedict XVI

In case you missed them yesterday, here is Michael Novak telling us that the new Pope reads Tocqueville and here is Daniel Johnson’s comparison of the Pope and Hans Kung:

I once discussed Ratzinger with Küng, his Swiss contemporary and arch-rival. While admitting that the new Pope was a clever man, Küng insisted that he had done great damage to the Church. But Küng believes that all the great world religions essentially teach the same, which is manifestly incompatible with Catholic doctrine. I came away with the impression that of these two brilliant theologians, it was Küng who had succumbed to the temptation to think he knew better, while Ratzinger had submitted to the authority of the Church. Ratzinger is no inquisitor, but Küng is a heretic.

How will Benedict XVI play in Pennsylvania?

This seems to be Howard Fineman’s big question. He’s not sure, though, as he puts it, the promotion of the candidacy of pro-life Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. to challenge conservative Catholic stalwart Rick Santorum suggests that the Democrats "didn’t want to have to take on the GOP, the White House and the Church at the same time—at least on the issue of abortion—in a state where the electorate is nearly 50 percent Catholic."

By the by, Fineman also offers a misleading characterization of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s advice to Catholic voters in the last election cycle. Here’s Fineman:

In his writings and interviews, the former Cardinal Ratzinger declared that politicians who support abortion rights should be turned away—and that it is a sin for Catholic voters to support a pro-choice candidate if their main reason for doing so is the candidate’s abortion views.

Here’s Ratzinger:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

Gee, this means that Catholics are permitted to use their prudence in weighing the pros and cons of candidates, so long as they do not make approval of abortion and euthanasia the principal reason for supporting a candidate, a much more nuanced and subtle position than Fineman wants to attribute to the new Pope.

I’m shocked!

No honeymoon for Benedict XVI

Hugh Hewitt surveys the media reaction to the election of Pope Benedict XVI and offers this observation:

The refusal of even a single day’s honeymoon for the new pope from the scribblers of the left tells us a lot about the folks who work on editorial boards, and also a lot about diversity in America’s newsrooms. Are there even five traditional, Mass-attending and confession-going writers among the five editorial boards sampled above? Is there even one who would step forward to defend the Church’s teaching on human dignity and sexuality? There are tens of millions of American Catholics full of joy at yesterday’s news, but do they have any voice within elite MSM at all?

There may be some who attend Mass and even go to confession, but traditional? Heh.

He offers a list of blogs faithful Catholics can consult, to which I would add the orthodox and ecumenical
Mere Comments.

On Being "Overweight"

I wonder why the response to the recent report by the CDC--referenced by Peter below--has been to claim that it is good to be overweight, rather than to redefine what it means to be overweight. Surely if we place the prefix "over-" in front of an adjective, it implies that we’re talking about something that is excessive. Why would we even use the term "overweight," if not to mean that someone weighs more than one ought to?

Diane Knippers, RIP

Diane Knippers, one of Time’s 25 most influential evangelicals (sorry, the article is now only available to subscribers), has died of colon cancer. As Brent Tantillo of Democracy Project notes, the WaPo obituary is not exactly fawning.

For a nice personal appreciation, go here. For the official obituary and other commentary, go here.

Update: Over at Get Religion, Douglas LeBlanc comments on "the politics of obituaries." Guess who comes off as snide?

Lileks on Benedict XVI

James Lileks has a hard time understanding all the wailing and rending of garments taking place among liberals over the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as pope.

To those who want profound change, consider an outsider’s perspective: the Catholic Church is the National Review of religion. You may live long enough to see it become the Weekly Standard. In your dreams it might become the New Republic. But it’s never going to be the Nation. And if ever it does, it will have roughly the same subscriber base.

Yes, yes, easy for me to say, it’s not my church. New age of oppression and intolerance, and all that. Write me when hot-eyed Jesuits walk into a mosque in Qom with ten pounds of Cemtex strapped to their chest.

In response to those who had hoped for a more "modern" pope, he reminds us:

Habeum pap. Note: every era is the modern era to the people who inhabit it; a “modern” pope in 1937 would have announced that godless collectivism was the wave of the future, and ridden the trains to Auschwitz standing on top, holding gilded reins, whooping like Slim Pickens.

If coffee isn’t doing it for you this morning...

Read this, a stream-of-consciousness rant from MoDo, which features an ill-mannered sliming of the new Pope as only the most offensive of its meanderings.

The politics of the papacy

Neither E. J. Dionne, Jr. nor Anne Applebaum can resist discussing the politics of this papal election.

Here’s Dionne:

Why did the College of Cardinals make such a controversial choice, and with such dispatch? The simple answer is that the 78-year-old pope is a transitional figure. Barring a medical miracle, it is likely that a new pontiff will be elected in a few years. One need not be Machiavelli to suggest that potential popes sitting in the Sistine Chapel decided they did not have the votes or the standing to make it this time, and would use a Ratzinger papacy to prepare for the next.

Dionne’s hopeful and urgent point is that Ratzinger’s age gives "moderate" and liberal Catholics the time and the occasion to prepare for something more than this short-term papacy by reasserting "Vatican II’s hopeful vision of a church that has much to teach the modern world, and much to learn from it, too."

Applebaum is thinking about the effect of this choice on European politics. Here’s a snippet:

The advent of a German pope, who in fact shares many of John Paul II’s views, may well make religion part of the European political debate again, this time on the western as well as the eastern half of the continent. At the very least, a German-speaking pope will be hard for Germans to ignore.

This will be a debate worth watching, even if you aren’t Catholic or religious (and I am neither), because it will reveal much about the direction in which European politics is heading. It might also hold clues to the future of the battered, long-suffering transatlantic relationship. While many of the cultural differences between Europe and America are vastly overstated, the religious differences are profound. It’s hard to be in politics in this country and not at least pay lip service to religion, as John Kerry can attest. In Europe, by contrast, political leaders who profess religious beliefs are derided.

Judging in purely human terms--the only terms I have--the non-Catholic Applebaum comes out looking better than the Catholic Dionne, who would seem to be closer to the European anti-clericalists than to the conclave. Both are political in their approach to this new Pope. At least Applebaum is aware that the politics involved is the the effect of the Church’s stance vis-a-vis the world in which it operates. Dionne wants this worldly politics to colonize the councils of the Church itself: a "new age Church" for a new age, so to speak.

Media take on Benedict XVI

Janathan V. Last does a quick take on the media’s reaction to Benedict XVI. I like this one from Reuters: "German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the strict defender of Catholic orthodoxy for the past 23 years, was elected Pope on Tuesday despite a widespread assumption he was too old and divisive to win election." And this from Andrew Sullivan (although there is more): "And so the Catholic church accelerates its turn toward authoritarianism, hostility to modernity, assertion of papal supremacy and quashing of internal debate and dissent. We are back to the nineteenth century."

Plump Jack, and others

Fat is good. "The new analysis found that obesity — being extremely overweight — is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight." I am only modestly overweight, in my estimation. So, there you have it. It’s over. The temptation to bring in some Falstaff, Twain, and other worthies on this issue is almost overwhelming, but, like most modestly fat people, I am able to restrain myself. But, if you are a pencil neck, beware.

Pope Benedict XVI

As you must all know by now, we have a Pope, as is said. No doubt much will be said about him in the coming weeks and months. I have heard that his reputation is that he is such a serious thinker that he may have no equal. We think we know that John Paul II knew that. Here is Michael Novak (on NRO):

Ratzinger is on the same theological wavelength, of a more quiet German, Benedictine style. Munich is the city of the monks, and Ratzinger the scholar is never happier than in the monastic life of study and prayer and quiet. For him, service to the church is onerous labor. He has taken heart in the past from the image of a bear being turned into a beast of labor. He several times tried to resign from Rome and go back to teaching. By all reports, he is a superb teacher, open and challenging, deep and memorable, and everlastingly accessible to his former students. They all still meet yearly--or when they can.

He is a shy man, who draws back when others approach. He speaks very softly. He smiles easily, but his habitual look is that of someone in thought.

E.J. Dionne, writing before Ratzinger became Pope, argues that Ratzinger’s emphasis on "the dictatorship of relativism" is too hard-line, too conservative, might even be neo-conservative. There is no question where Ratzinger lined up in the culture wars, in short. I think Ratzinger is a great choice.

Habemus papam

As I was driving home from work today, one of my favorite radio talkers was pre-empted by ABC radio coverage of the election of a new Pope,Benedict XVI. At the time I was driving, the announcement hadn’t been made. (No, I don’t keep what used to be known as "banker’s hours"; my wife and I trade off on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that she can meet her classes; I take over the home-schooling, and then work from home while the kids play with friends.) So there was lots of speculation as to the identity of the new Pope.

This brief snippet of coverage (together with a short burst of NPR a couple of days ago) gave me some sense of what to expect from the mainstream media over the next few days.

First, there’ll be all sorts of speculation as to the politics of the conclave. An ABC reporter cornered an Australian bishop in St. Peter’s Square and asked him who he favored. She wouldn’t accept his answer that his voice didn’t count, since the Holy Spirit was actually working through the conclave to select the new Pope. We all have votes, she only half-jokingly cajoled. (Finally, he allowed as to how he’d always favored Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.) In other words, the MSM will work really hard to find a Machiavellian explanation for a process that has roots in the Middle Ages and is shrouded in secrecy. With (we hope) little hard news to go on, there will no end to the scenarios of how Pope John Paul II’s right-hand man (his "enforcer") rounded up the votes to succeed him.

Second, we’ll hear from a parade of liberal Catholics telling us how this choice will simply grease the skids for the Catholic Church in Western Europe and North America. That, indeed, was the substance of the NPR report I endured. Liberal German Catholic after liberal German Catholic told the reporter how alienated they were from the current Church and how the only way to bring the back into the fold was for the Church to embrace modernity in all of its aspects--ordaining female priests, permitting contraception (at least, if not more), and accepting differences in sexual orientation. In other words, if the Church becomes indistinguishable from the secular world around it, lapsed Catholics will unlapse, so to speak. That this has not been the experience of the mainline Protestant churches that have been on the cutting edges of modernism will not cross the minds of the reporters who predict further doom for the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

And then there’s E.J. Dionne, Jr., who thinks that Cardinal Ratzinger’s "culture war" focus is largely irrelevant to Third World Catholics. I guess that’s why virtually all the Third World Anglican bishops criticized the elevation of V. Gene Robinson to bishop by the American Episcopal Church.

Let’s just say that I’ll probably tune out a lot of the MSM coverage and treat the following sources as a kind of filter: Mere Comments, which offers a spirited and ecumenical defense of orthodoxy; Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ Rome Diary; NRO’s The Corner, and Get Religion, for critical commentary (with links) on journalistic treatment of religion.

Update: Win Myers of Democracy Project has further thoughts here.

Faith-based initiative again

Back in February, former Bush Administration official David Kuo attracted a lot of attention, including mine, with this column critical of his former boss’ lackluster follow-through on the legislative proposals connected with the faith-based initiative. His argument was taken by many to imply that GWB simply wanted to reach out to religionists for merely political reasons, for which more or less empty gestures were almost as good as real efforts and real money.

Today I read a measured response to Kuo’s argument, written by Stanley Carlson-Thies, another former Bush Administration official. Carlson-Thies points to the real and substantial administrative accomplishments of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, as well as of the FBCI centers in various executive agencies. Here’s a taste:

The previous administration had dragged its feet concerning Charitable Choice, doing little to inform state and local officials—the officials who actually administer almost all of the federal funds to which the new rules apply—about the provisions. But the Bush administration has issued Charitable Choice regulations, clarifying the requirements and the extent of their application. Even more important, to guide federal, state, and local officials who expend the bulk of federal funds which are not governed by Charitable Choice, in December, 2002, the President issued a path-breaking Equal Protection Executive Order (Executive Order 13279). The presidential directive mandates equal opportunity for faith-based applicants, protects their religious character, establishes guidelines to prevent the diversion of government money from social services to "inherently religious activities" like prayer and evangelism, and protects the religious liberty of beneficiaries. These equal treatment principles have now been encoded into the general administrative rules of various federal departments, to govern all the federal funds that support social services, whether those funds are awarded by federal, state, or local officials.

This is not to say that Carlson-Thies is uniformly positive: a lot of work remains to be done, both administratively and legislatively. Indeed, he has concrete suggestions. For example, with respect to the new Access to Recovery substance-abuse treatment program, Carlson-Thies has this to say:

To win an Access to Recovery grant, states had to promise to offer recovery-support services as well as their usual clinical-treatment programs, to recruit new providers, including faith-based programs, and to institute a voucher system to give addicts a choice of provider and to enable the providers they select to offer services incorporating religion, without violating the Constitution. But federal officials have not issued detailed guidelines for states about what constitutes equal opportunity for previously excluded faith-based treatment providers nor about the freedom they must give those providers to express religion in their programs. In the absence of well-publicized and clear standards, the anti-faith bias of most states’ drug-treatment agencies and their traditional treatment partners has barely changed, so that in many states outreach efforts have been constricted, eligibility standards have been only minimally modified, and the terms of collaboration have shifted little. Robustly faith-based service providers, if recruited at all, confront restrictions on religious expression that they suspect must no longer be legal, but there are no detailed rules to which they can appeal nor, apparently, anyone in the federal government ready to hear complaints and demand change from recalcitrant state officials.

In other words, where Kuo largely offered political criticism, on grounds liberals find congenial (not enough money doled out), Carlson-Thies largely offers constructive criticism aimed at fixing some of what ails the initiative. While he clearly wishes that more money--private as well as public--would flow to worthy beneficiaries, he seems less interested in embarrassing the President than in promoting the policies to which he has devoted a good portion of his career. I guess that’s why we haven’t read much about this column in the MSM.

By the way, for my review of a book co-authored by Carlson-Thies, take a look at the latest
Local Liberty, not yet posted on-line, but available free by mail from the Claremont Institute’s Center for Local Government 

A Sad Day: Henry Hyde Retires

Henry Hyde announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2006. Hyde has served in Congress since 1974 and is the best argument against term limits I know. He will be sorely missed.

Hyde mixed gravity and levity in proper proportion. Hyde was a warrior for all the causes we associate with Ronald Reagan Republicans and no member of Congress did more for the Pro-Life cause. He also served as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment. As Chairman he once asked: "Would the gentlelady from Texas like more time to impugn the character of the Chairman of the Committee?"

Here are news reports on his retirement from the ’Chicago Sun Times’ and the ’Chicago Tribune’.

Happy Earth Day

Okay folks, it’s Earth Day on Friday (also Lenin’s birthday, for those who delight in coincidences). And the 10th edition of my Index of Leading Environmental Indicators is now up on the web at Pacific Research Institute and at AEI.

Highlights: Air pollution in 2004 was the lowest ever recorded since monitoring began in the 1950s. Also, sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants in Ohio have fallen by more than 50 percent over the last decade.

We are now gaining wetlands in the U.S., something I predicted five years ago that we’d find out the next time the government did a wetlands survey. As recently as the 1970s we were still losing 100,000 acres a year.

The U.S. has gained nearly 10 million acres of forestland over the last decade--about five times the amount of forestland as in Europe.

The environmental movement is about to expire; in fact, they are discussing amongst themselves the best method of suicide.

More on compassionate conservatism

Myron Magnet has a nice summary of the current state of President Bush’s domestic reform initiatives. Here’s a particularly telling paragraph:

Implicit in compassionate conservatism was an epochal paradigm shift that is now all but explicit. Taken together, compassionate conservatism’s elements added up to a sweeping rejection of liberal orthodoxy about how to help the poor, which a half-century’s worth of experience had discredited. If you want to help the poor, compassionate conservatives argued, liberate them from dependency through welfare reform, free their communities from criminal anarchy through activist policing, give them the education they need to succeed in a modern economy by holding their schools accountable, and let them enjoy the rewards of work by taxing their modest wages lightly or not at all. For the worst off—those hampered by addiction or alcohol or faulty socialization—let the government pay private organizations, especially religious ones, to help. Such people need a change of heart to solve their problems, the president himself deeply believed; and while a clergyman or a therapist might help them, a bureaucrat couldn’t.

Read the whole thing.

Armies (of compassion) in the war on poverty

John Fund writes today about this conference at Grove City College. Bottom line: anti-poverty programs that are tailored to individual local circumstances and challenge people to take responsibility for changing their lives are more effective than programs that simply offer people a hand-out. Shocking, isn’t it?

Even after the 1996 welfare reform bill (very successful in helping folks off the welfare rolls) and more than four years of admittedly sporadic Bush Administration efforts to change the way we think and act about poverty, Fund can still write this paragraph:

All told, there are more than 80 federal benefit programs. Like the pre-1996 AFDC program, nearly all have no limits on how long someone can remain on them. All of these programs do good, especially in keeping people fed and housed. But the impersonal government dole does nothing to cure the poverty of the soul that keeps so many mired in self-destructive behavior.

Read the whole thing.

Are we made of cotton candy?

David McCullough speaking on history to a Hillsdale College event in Arizona.

The Greeks said that character is destiny, and the more I read and understand of history, the more convinced I am that they were right. You look at the great paintings by John Trumbull or Charles Willson Peale or Copley or Gilbert Stuart of those remarkable people who were present at the creation of our nation, the Founders as we call them. Those aren’t just likenesses. They are delineations of character and were intended to be.

The whole thing is worth a read. Also see this.

American dream vs. European daydream

It is no secret that Europeans think themselves wealthy and, by and large, think they are much better off economically than the U.S. Not so, writes Bruce Bawer, for The New York Times. While his focus is on Norway, where everyone seems to think they are wealthy, yet have the lowest disposable income in all of Old Europe, there is more interesting info in this piece. And note this: "Economic growth in the last 25 years has been 3 percent per annum in the U.S., compared to 2.2 percent in the E.U. That means that the American economy has almost doubled, whereas the E.U. economy has grown by slightly more than half. The purchasing power in the U.S. is $36,100 per capita, and in the E.U. $26,000 - and the gap is constantly widening."

A second Renaissance?

New words from Sophocles , Euripides, Hesiod, and others? Photographic analysis--based on infra-red technology--at Oxford seems to say yes. "Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance."   

Stalin, killer

Writing for the WaPo Book World Leon Aron reviews two new books on Stalin and his henchmen, one by Robert Service and the other by Donald Rayfield. Great review of two worthy books. The horror is almost beyond telling.

Leon Aron also has a lengthy analysis
(PDF file, 9 pages) of the move away from liberalization in Russia under Putin.

China, oil, and geopolitics

Clearly China likes to huff and puff, note the anti-Japanese demonstrations, destruction of their property, etc. While these public displays of anger (real or other) are not without meaning, observers of Chinese politics should not be blinded to very serious issues regarding Chinese strategy and necessity.

The Belmont Club has a fine post on China, and why it is unlikely that--despite appearances and rooster-like strutting--China will act against Taiwan. China’s primary mission is access to energy.

Also pay special attention to this document, Straits, Passages and Chokepoints: A Maritime Geopolitics of Petroleum Distribution, which Wretchard brings to our attention (he notes especially page 8, but I say the whole thing is worth study; students of international affairs especially should pay attention!). Wretchard
has a short second post on China worth noting. I am betting that China is not amused with this news out of India.

Kinsley on neoconservatism

Michael Kinsley thinks he’s nailing the neocons: they criticized Jimmy Carter’s attempts to promote freedom and democracy in the 70s, and what are they doing now but promoting freedom and democracy? While Kinsley does note that there’s no more Cold War, he doesn’t say a word about the global war on terror. And as Steven Hayward has demonstrated, Jimmy Carter’s human rights campaign all too often led him, especially after his presidency, to embrace groups and individuals who actually were part of the problem we now face.

In any event, until Kinsley offers us a more realistic strategy for waging the global war on terror, I’m not buying his critique of the neoconservatives.

"Save Phil"

Has anyone out there seen this cartoon about “Phil A. Buster”? I am not sure which is worse:

(1) the factual implications that the Founders instituted the filibuster and that it has “worked pretty well for 200 years”;

(2) the apparent assertion that eliminating a procedural rule signals the death knell for our Constitutional structure; or

(3) the condescension that the cartoon shows toward its target audience.

Beginning with the third concern, I have a question. Why would anyone think it is appropriate to use a cartoon to explain their opposition to changing a procedural rule? I am fairly certain that most of us are capable of understanding the arguments for and against the use of filibusters without resorting to caricatures such as “Checks and Balanz.” Cartoons should not take the place of serious constitutional or practical arguments.

As for the former concerns, although the cartoon generally avoids making rebuttable factual assertions, the clear implications are that the Founders instituted the filibuster and that it is central to the separation of powers. Both of these implications are false. First, the filibuster is not in the Constitution and was not used for decades following the founding of the country. In fact, the current rule is only a few decades old. Second, the filibuster has hardly “worked pretty well,” unless, like Senator Byrd, one considers talking for 14 hours in order to block civil rights legislation to be a public good. Contrary to current comparisons to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the filibuster has a less-than-honorable history and, as law professor Jonathan Turley recently noted in USA today, it “is unabashedly and undeniably anti-democratic.”

None of this, of course, tells us whether the rule should or should not be changed. However, if someone has a principled defense of using unlimited debate to prevent Senate floor votes on nominees who could get as many as 58 or 59 votes, I would like to hear it.

Democrats and the culture wars

Dan Gerstein, a Lieberman campaign staffer, argues that Democrats are not well-served by their loving embrace and vigorous defense of everything Hollywood stands for and produces. Here’s a representative snippet:

[Democrats should] follow the lead of Hillary Clinton, who is making the progressive case for cultural responsibility better than anyone. Cynics tried to dismiss her recent speech on the issue as pre-presidential positioning. But the fact is that Sen. Clinton has been strong and steady in her advocacy for overwhelmed parents ever since coming to Washington. She’s been smart, too: She does not demonize cultural producers, overstate the extent of the problem, or let parents off the hook. She frames the culture’s influence as a public-health issue as much as a moral one, and cites research showing the potentially harmful effects of screen sex and violence. And she is honest about the limits of that research, which is why she has joined with Sen. Joe Lieberman in introducing a bill to fund more studies of the electronic media’s impact on children.

The problem with this argument is precisely its recommendation that moral questions be couched in terms of "public health." Not all moral judgments are consequentialist, and not all the "average mothers in the exurbs of Georgia or Colorado" to which Gerstein--himself a "regular consumer of provocative entertainment"--condescends are simply thinking about untoward behavioral and medical consequences. Though I’m not an exurban mother and though I occasionally "consume" what at least I regard as provocative entertainment (Gerstein’s level of toleration or threshold of enjoyment may be somewhat higher; I don’t know), it is precisely beliefs and not just behavior that I care about. Gerstein talks about this, but then seems to think that what should matter most is behavior, which should, I guess, be regulated by some sort of public health (that is, for the most part morally neutral) norm. If this is as close as Democrats can come to getting it--meeting cultural conservatives on a behavioral ground, while only favoring the promotion and enforcement of essentially "politically correct" beliefs--it’s going to be a long time before they get to redecorate the Oval Office.

GWB and the Catholic vote

Here’s a somewhat cynical (not surprising, given its libertarian provenance) analysis of the Bush Administration’s courtship of the Roman Catholic vote. It’s also not surprising that the author assumes (against at least some of the evidence) a secularizing trend among American Roman Catholics.


Johnny and I are off to see the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins at Jacobs Field. The game starts at 1pm, and we have some great seats down front on the left side, thanks to Marv. The Tribe is off to a slow start, but we are optimists.

Schiavo as a campaign issue

Howard Dean sauys that the Demos will make the Schiavo case into a campaign issue, right after they deal with Social Security.

Horse cloned

doesn’t surprise me. "A project to clone elite showhorses reported its first success yesterday with a cloned foal of Pieraz, an Arab endurance champion." The cloning of thoroughbreds is outlawed. Sure.

Chirac’s EU constitution show

John Zvesper has been known to hang out in France (careful with your prejudice, now!) and he had the chance to watch Chirac’s TV gig. His report is excellent. "In the light of more than a dozen recent opinion polls indicating the growing weakness of the ’yes’ vote, Chirac has probably concluded that his decision to make France’s ratification of the Constitution subject to a popular referendum was as imprudent as was the decision of Louis XVI’s ministers to ask people about their grievances." There is much more on Louis XVI, De Gaulle, and le grand Chirac and his lack of political courage, and more. It is much too good to summarize. Do read it all.

New blog worth checking out

Thanks to David Mills over at Touchstone’s Mere Comments blog, I’ve learned of the existence of the Acton Institute’s brand new Powerblog. If you’re interested in the intersection of religion, politics, and economics, check it out.

Howard Dean speaks

Howard Dean has been interviewed by USA Today, his first in a while, and he said that "Democrats must stop talking down
to voters." Good idea, I would say.

Chirac not persuasive, about to become black sheep

Apparently Jacques Chirac didn’t do too well on national TV arguing for a "yes" vote on the EU constitution. He said a rejection would make France the "black sheep of Europe.

Too bad. Also see the press reaction:
Le Figaro says: "In front of an audience in which those favoring the ’No’ seemed to be in the majority, the head of state often struggled to make heard his pro-European plea during a muddled broadcast." The
Washington Post notes: "In his remarks, Chirac sought to convince voters that irrational worries were standing in the way of the constitution, which he said would protect Europe from an ’ultra-liberal’ and ’Anglo-Saxon’ economic model, code words for American-style free-market capitalism."

Youth and religion: more anecdotes, data

I’ll comment on this later, but in the meantime, you can read this NYT article on traditionalist young Roman Catholics (hat tip: Hugh Hewitt); and these two articles on this report regarding collegiate religion and spirituality. The report looks especially interesting and does not altogether corroborate the research I discussed here and here.

Can Chirac save the European Union?

Jacques Chirac "will use a live televised debate with 80 young people to counter the forces of dissent that have swept away the early optimism of the Yes camp since the poll date was fixed for May 29." Opinion polls have revealed a shift to "No" in the last five weeks. The vote is on May 29th. Even though, France may end up voting "Yes," it is still probable that Denmark will vote "No". Only one country has to vote "No" in order for the EU constitution to fail. That failure would also mean, by the way, that the monetary union would also likely end.

Bush and Reagan on taxes and spending

A day before tax day, Andrew E. Busch reminds us of something very important: "the income tax bite felt by Americans will be considerably smaller this April 15 than it would otherwise have been. Due to the tax cuts of 2001, 2002, and 2003, tax rates are lower, families receive a larger per child credit, and even adoptions are more affordable.

The tax cuts have been the most "Reaganesque" feature of Bush’s domestic presidency thus far, and are the reason many commentators have declared Bush a worthy heir of Reagan."
Yet, Andy Busch argues that President Bush has thus far missed an important part of Reagan’s equation:

Reagan coupled his tax cuts with a serious effort to trim the size and scope of the federal government. He pushed through billions of dollars in discretionary domestic spending cuts, tried to transfer federal programs to the states, blocked the creation of new entitlement programs, and backed tougher budget rules that brought the deficit down considerably in the last half of the 1980s. By the late 1980s, under the leadership of Reagan and James Miller, his director of the Office of Management and Budget, the federal budget was growing less than 2 percent a year in real terms. Ultimately, under the pressure of the deficits, even entitlement spending slowed.

Andy reminds us that the unwillingness of Bush and the GOP Congress to restrain spending "despite having the power to do so" could be catastrophic for the country (and the GOP). Do read it all.   

Ramirez Cartoon

Florida’s Democratic Party’s fundraising takes a dive

The Florida’s
Democratic Party "has started 2005 with its worst fund-raising quarter in recent history, raising about $270,000 in the first three months of this year compared with nearly $3 million by the Republican Party of Florida."

Acting Like Free People

Here’s an interesting story out of China. Seems people rioted over . . . pollution. Well, China has plenty of pollution, which grows worse by the day in their pall-mall rush to grow their economy with obsolete energy technologies.

It might be that growing public outrage over pollution (study after study shows public tolerance of pollution drops as income rises) might be the spur to political liberalization in China. In which case environmentalism may have done something worthwhile for a change.

(Hat Tip: Instapundit.)

Gingrich on Hillary

Newt Gingrich has some comments on the candidacy of Hillary Clinton for president. She is almost certainly going to be the Democratic nominee, and that’s not only because she has "the smartest American politician" as her advisor, Gingrich said.

Senator Clinton is very competent, very professional, very intelligently moving toward the center, very shrewdly and effectively serving on the Armed Services Committee - the first New Yorker to serve on the modern Armed Services Committee since it was created in 1948. And I think any Republican who thinks she’s going to be easy to beat has a total amnesia about the history of the Clintons.

Asian issues

China has accused Japan of distorting history, by minimizing wartime abuses. Yet, China itself--surprise--distorts its own history. More anti-Japanase demonstrations are being planned in China, yet the government is becoming concerned that thosed demonstrations may get out of hand. Note the riots taking place in a southeastern city over pollution; the riot has lasted three days.

Do take note of this by the former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review

: For the first time in over 500 years, the Chinese navy is back Arabian Sea, near the Straits of Hormuz, a strategic choke point through which 40 percent of the world’s oil passes. The whole piece is worth reading, quite instructive, and this pregnant sentence is explained: "China’s search for energy security also dovetails, however, with its long-term strategic effort to expand its regional influence and box in India." China is calling Japan’s gas drilling plan in disputed waters a "provocation." Pakistan’s Musharraf
will be in India, conducting some cricket diplomacy. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, visiting Pakistan, told Musharraf, that the U.S. will meet that country’s "legitimate defence needs." Afghanistan’s Karzai seems to want a permanent American presence in Afghanistan. The U.S. has bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

Use of campaign funds to pay family members

Beltway Buzz has some interesting facts on the Tom DeLay family payments from campaign funds, how common (and legal) the pratice is, and how Much Barbara Boxer, Bernie Sanders, et al, have paid their wives or children (much more than DeLay), just in case CNN fails to mention this. Boxer paid her son $150,000 in 2002, for example, while Bernie Sanders paid his wife and stepdaughter over $150,000 since 2000.

Youth, religion revisited

There are some wonderful nuggets in this discussion (25 page pdf) of this report (52 page pdf), which I already gassed on about here. Here, for example is Bill Galston:

What we have, in short, in this study is a rising tide of godlessness, a deep ambivalence in the middle about the consequences of choice without God, and a rising fervor of the godly in opposition to a culture of choice.
This is going to be a heck of a ride, folks.

In response to a question from E.J. Dionne, Jr., Anna Greenberg, the pollster, observes that "godly" young people are concentrated in conservative or orthodox religious traditions, not in the moderate or liberal traditions. As she notes:

It bears upon the whole discussion we’re having about the Democratic
Party and progressives and the role of faith and, you know, the religious left. Because where the action is, especially
with younger people, is in more religiously conservative denominations. And so it—you know, for this whole discussion of Democrats need to become more religious, progressives need to talk about faith, it’s not clear to me in the long run who that constituency is for them.

There’s lots more there, but you’ll have to find it for yourselves.

No "Tet" in Iraq

Austin Bay argues that "Al Qaeda is desperately trying to produce an "Iraqi Tet" -- a Middle Eastern repetition of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong 1968 offensive in South Vietnam." He explains why they are failing.

"God and Man at Yale"

No, not the book, but rather a comment here on this NYT story about Yale’s decision to sever its ties with an historic congregation on its campus in order "to strengthen the growing expressions of religious and spiritual life" at Yale.

In a nutshell, a small, liberal congregation is being displaced from Battell Chapel so that the chaplain’s office can find more ways of actually serving the religious needs of students. The "Get Religion" post notes that few Yalies, except those paid to sing in the choir, actually attend the services, which seem mostly to be populated, not even by New Haven townies, but rather by middle-aged residents of other Connecticut towns.

Here’s a telling complaint: "’I am very upset that the university, in its arrogance, seeks to dissolve this affiliation, when it was the church that founded this university,’ said Dr. Michael Connair, a resident of Hamden, Conn."

Yes, Yale was founded by Congregationalists, the precursors of the United Church of Christ, but I find it ironic that members of a denomination that long ago abandoned (or "evolved away from") its own roots are complaining about the severing of "historic ties." (Here, for what it’s worth, is the official UCC response to Yale, which echoes and amplifies the complaint reported in the NYT.) That Yale doesn’t feel well-served by a denomination that embraces a certain sort of diversity leads me to wonder what will come in its place. Will Battell Chapel, for example, be as welcoming of theologically conservative Christian groups as it has been of "the Buddhists who now meditate" there? Or will we just see different, more youth-oriented versions of the "open and affirming" faith represented by the soon-to-be-displaced Church of Christ in Yale (down, by the way, to 40 worshippers the Sunday the NYT reporter visited)?

Democrats, white Catholics, and abortion

Over at Touchstone’s "Mere Comments" blog, David Mills calls our attention to this Democracy Corps analysis (pdf).

The report shows that from 1996 to 2004, the Democratic presidential candidates lost a net 20% of the white Catholic vote. The Democracy Corps analysts argue that Democrats can recapture some of these voters (who either voted for Clinton in ’96 or still identify themselves as Democrats) by adopting a position of "middle class populism" and by repeating the "safe, legal, and rare" mantra with regard to abortion. Since younger Catholics are actually somewhat mroe pro-life than their elders, I’m not sure the doubletalk will work. Indeed, I still like my proposal better: Democrats should support the overturning of Roe v. Wade, permitting states to regulate (or not) abortion as they will. If abortion isn’t a national issue, then we’ll see whether the other issues Democrats identify as their own have the kind of magnetic pull these pollsters seem to think they do.

Youth and religion, politics

Today’s Washington Times had an article about this survey report. If you can’t read the whole report (it’s a 52-page pdf), read at least the executive summary (pp. 5 - 7 of the pdf). Here’s a taste, on which I’ll offer a few comments:

Particular points of note in the report: • Most diverse generation in history. Generation Y is the most diverse generation in the nation – only 61 percent call themselves white compared to 84 percent among Americans older than 65 years. Fueled by waves of new immigration and birthrates in immigrant communities, this generation is on the vanguard of transforming the nation, which will be majority non-white by mid-century. (page 8)

Denominationalism on the decline and pluralism on the rise. The country remains majority Christian with a plurality belonging to Protestant denominations such as the Baptists or Methodists. There are important changes afoot, traditional denominationalism is on the decline and there is a concurrent rise in the number of people unwilling to align with a denomination. In fact, many young people cannot identify what faith tradition or denomination they belong to and fully 23 percent do not identify with any denomination at all. (page 9)

Faith expressed in highly personal, informal ways. While many young people continue to attend worship services on a regular basis, just as many – if not more - practice their faith informally. Young people simply believe it is possible to be “religious” or “spiritual” without belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque. On a monthly basis, 68 percent talk about religion informally with friends; 64 percent of pray before meals and 55 percent read religious books, newspapers or magazines. (page 10)

Social circles diverse. Regardless of religious tradition or intensity of religious commitment, youth are fully integrated into diverse social networks. While previous generations often lived in homogeneous religious communities, among Generation Y, only 7 percent of youth report that all of their friends are the same religion as themselves. Even the most religious youth maintain diverse networks of peers with only 9 percent of the Godly saying that all of their friends are the same religion. Among the God-less, at least half of their friends are not of the same religion. (page 12)

Religious teens are more self-aware. Despite assumptions we might make about youth’s disengagement from faith and community life, religion remains a core component of young people’s identity. Moreover, religious youth have a distinctive worldview and approach to life; they are more connected to family and community, have higher self-esteem and a sense of self and hold more traditional views about family, sex, and marriage. (page 15)

Of course, 18-25 year olds tend to be less settled and consequently less connected to any formal institutions. The question is whether the habits formed at this time will persist into adulthood. Will those who at the moment can’t identify with a denomination always be unable to do so, will they return to the churches of their parents, or will they migrate in a particular religious direction? The survey suggests that the less religiously committed include substantial proportions of young Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews, men, and immigrants, among others. In some cases (like immigrants), detachment from (old) religion may be part of assimilation and acculturation. In others, it may be the result of a failure of a denomination to communicate in a compelling way; this, for example, may be part of what’s going on in the long-term decline of liberal Protestantism. Those who are detached from mainline Protestant churches may end up either unchurched altogether or in more spiritually and morally fulfilling (and demanding) evangelical churches. And some of those men who are detached from religion may return to the pews after marriage and fatherhood (assuming that the first precedes the second).

There’s a lot to chew on in this report, and it’s easy to overreact. But it’s also worth considering what’s at stake, not only from a religious, but from a civic point of view. One of the (unsurprising) points that the report makes is that those young people who are involved in a religious tradition have greater stores of social capital: they’re more engaged in their communities and more likely to vote and to volunteer. They are inclined to give more and in a position to receive more. They constitute, the report says, 27% of the young people surveyed (as do the "Godless"). 46% are in the "undecided middle," somewhat connected with faith traditions, but more less "institutionally" or formally, much more casually and informally. If this connection between civic and religious embeddedness persists into adulthood (as I suspect that it does), then for both religious and civic reasons it is important to reach out to this "undecided middle." The report, of course, helps, describing the population and calling our attention to a variety of efforts to "speak to it."

For a slightly different view, go to this article, discussing a study about which I posted way back here. On the basis of this study, I’d suggest that one of the principal sources of the problem is the failure of denominations and individual churches to engage in any serious religious or theological education. It may be that some really have nothing signficant to say. Others may be unable or unwilling to say it. But the kids clearly need it.

Update: Here’s a transcript (pdf) of a discussion of this report, featuring (among others) E. J. Dionne, Jr. and Bill Galston, who (according to Dionne, and I agree, on the basis, most recently, of my Berry experience) "manages to speak in
whole chapters [not in mere sentences or paragraphs, like the rest of us mortals] and hold your attention throughout." This post is too long already; if there’s anything worth noting in the transcript, I’ll comment on it in another post.

Shameless Self-Promo Alert

Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard and Bloomberg News writes a nice column about my annual effort to debunk the enviro-doomsters,here..

I’ll have more today when Earth Day (Lenin’s birthday!!) arrives on April 22.

Re: politics and education

Just to piggyback a little on Peter’s post regarding the WaPo article about college counseling, here are a couple of links.

The first is from Stanley Kurtz over at NRO. His response to the WaPo article is to praise Princeton’s James Madison Program as "a model for solving the political-correctness problem in the academy as a whole." I think that the program is wonderful, but so is, of course, the Ashbrook Center. We need beachheads in the Ivy League, but perhaps what folks like Goodman should be doing as well is directing students and their parents to consider alternatives that are genuinely alternative. If market sentiment changes, departing from conventional sources of prestige, then not only might programs like Ashbrook have to beat kids away at the door (or hire piles more faculty), but places like Harvard and Columbia might have to come to their senses.

The other item is this post by Win Myers over at Democracy Project. If in fact writers for the WSJ are realizing that future CEO’s need a substantive and substantial (not fluffy or nutty) liberal education, then we actually have an opportunity to make a substantial move. Let’s, as Peter suggests, straightforwardly tell the story of liberal arts and liberal education.

Church and college

A friend sent me this article describing some of the fall-out from Davidson College’s decision to distance itself a tad from its Presbyterianism. Bottom line: some big, long-time donors are leaving the board, though, oddly enough (actually, it’s not so odd) two Presbyterian ministers on the Board of Trustees asserted that "opening the board to non-Christian members was in step with the teachings of their denomination." (I’ll refrain from commenting on the slow death, thanks to its "openness," of the PCUSA.)

I’ve posted on this subject before
here, and you might expect eventually to see something more about this here.

Update: Here’s another story along the same lines. I neglected yesterday to recommend this book by Robert Benne. Focusing on six institutions--Baylor, Notre Dame, Wheaton, Calvin, Valparaiso, and St. Olaf--Benne offers not only a persuasive typology of different sorts of institutional engagements with denominational/religious heritage, but also an account of how faith can be kept or lost.

Studying Arabic

Peter Berkowitz and Michael McFall call for a new birth of learning (and massive government and foundation investment) of Arabic, Persian and Turkish at our universities, and they don’t want it done through the existing Middle Eastern studies centers. They argue that it should be done through the ordinary departments of a university, as part of a liberal arts education, albeit also useful for national security. One is compelled to ask, at least for purposes of national security, what became of the federal money spent on the Middle Eastern studies centers (Title VI programs). Have we nothing to show for such massive efforts?

The Jewish vote

A new study confirms what exit polls seemed to show: Bush made inroads among Jewish voters, the Los Angeles Times reports. The study states that Kerry took the Jewish votes, 77-22% (the first exit polls showed 74-25%). Some interesting details in the poll, for what it’s worth: Bush carried just 16% of Jewish women, the study found, but 28% of men; Bush ran especially well with Jewish men under 30, carrying 35% of them, compared with 60% for Kerry; Jews who attended religious services weekly split their votes evenly between Bush and Kerry, while Kerry amassed big leads among those who attended less often.

A Soldier Returns

In the spirit of Jimmy Stewart’s ’It’s A Wonderful Life,’ Greg Moore explains why he appreciates his family and life in America more now after his 10-month stint in Iraq.

Wilson Carey McWilliams obit

Here,, from today’s NYT, thanks to John Seery.

Politics and education

I mentioned this Steven Roy Goodman WaPo piece on education yesterday. I want to get back to it. This Goodman piece is worth reading because he brings out (in a more public way than is normal) a great problem parents and students have in looking for a good college: they are quite fed up with the political correctness they encounter and wonder whether it is worth investing over a hundred grand to send their sons and daughters to be guided some left-wing ideologues in their formative years. It is also worth reading because although Goodman recognizes part of the problem, he has no understanding of how to get beyond it (note the bad advice he gives to the Eagle Scout!). He also spends time warning us that the sheer cost of a college education is forcing consumers to re-think the value of their investment.

Here is is his conclusion:

Maybe we can learn from recent campus incidents. Maybe we can ask ourselves what we would like our universities to actually do. Maybe university communities can engage in real soul-searching to figure out how they can benefit both their students and the country in ways that the broader public can support.

If they don’t at least try, the university as an institution may have seen the heyday of its influence.

Now, volumes can be spoken about this problem, as we know. It may be sufficient to say something quite simple and clear at this point, something which all the so-called major institutions can no longer address themselves to. It is important that students (and parents) understand that unless they have a good sense of what a good liberal education is, along with an understanding of what higher education has to do with citizenship, then they will not see what the real value of a college education is. I tell potential students and their parents the truth about the problem in general, and how my university and our work at the Center deal with it, both the good and the bad. Never mislead a student, never mislead a customer if you are selling something, tell the customer what the product is, how it will benefit him, even why he needs the product, and what he must do in order to take advantage of this, shall we say, imperfect product. I remind them of something everyone (kind of) knows: school means leisure, and during leisure you do not do the necessary since it is assumed it is taken care of (even if you or, more likely, your parents, have to pay for it), you participate in what used to be called the arts of freedom. Because necessity is taken care of through economics, you learn what it means to live well. And that is a great good, good for both you and your free country. If liberty and learning are not connected, we have a problem indeed.

PBS on The Architect

Tomorrow night PBS will run something on Karl Rove. This is their description:

President George W. Bush called him "the architect" of his reelection victory and he has been the president’s chief strategist from the beginning. But Karl Rove is much more than a political guru, he is the single most powerful policy advisor in the White House. FRONTLINE and The Washington Post join forces to trace the political history and modus operandi of the man who has been on the inside of every political and policy decision of the Bush administration, including the current battles on Social Security, taxes, and tort reform. For Rove—observers say—enactment of the Bush agenda is a way to win the biggest prize of all: a permanent Republican majority.

I’ll try to watch it right after my night class (or have it taped). Even PBS is noticing that Rove and the GOP are interested in establishing a "permanent Republican Majority." That’s called realignment folks. Does anyone smell panic? By the way, Karl Rove will be our speaker at the 21st annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner on the 21st of this month. Do attend, if you can. It should be a great night. We’ll learn something about architecture, I am betting, and it may add balance to the PBS report.

John Bolton should be confirmed

Rumor has it that the Democrats, at today’s hearing on the Bolton nomination--which had been delayed because of the Pope’s funeral-- are going to come up with some new "revelation" about Bolton that will be a bombshell. This has to do with Bolton "bullying" intelligence analysts on matters having to do with Cuba, and this will be on top of caricaturing him as a "unilateralist" (read: one who agrees with the President’s policies).

Both National Review and Bill Kristol think that Bolton should be confirmed. I can’t understand why the Demos smell blood on this one. Big mistake for them to go to the mat on this, but, then, I have overestimated their prudence before. Note this John Kerry speech in which he claims that in 2004 "too many people were denied the right to vote, too many who tried to vote were intimidated." Idle words spoken by a shallow fool.

First ride

I only ride naked bikes. My first ride of the season today reminded me why. The temperature, I’m guessing, is in the mid-seventies. But that doesn’t describe the soft air and the warm wind in your face, the smell of recently overturned fields ready to be planted. On my return I did have to clean my leather of a couple of dozen splattered yellow bugs, and wash my face and brush my teeth, but this just proves that I was moving through something coming to life. Just a hundred miles, but great fun.

I stopped at a lake to have a smoke. A lonely old fisherman just pulled in a big one as he spotted me. "Look at this big ol’ carp, I didn’t think they would bite yet." "Have you ever been wrong before," I asked. "Of course, plenty," he said as he threw the big fella back. A big fish on a soft day and the old man was happy.

I have meandering thoughts when I ride. There is the rare intense focus about something that feels like an insight during a good church service. It may be something like Aristotle’s prote philosophia, a logical axiom; the closest the moderns can come to it is in the concept of certainty, and--no suprise here--they make it trivial, a la Descartes or Wittgenstein. Or, more often, thoughts come and go--did I call what’s his name about this problem, or I wonder if a student will recover from something he thinks is awful--but those thoughts are always surrounded by the warm soft air and the reflections are always satisfying. No discord follows. Winter is over.

College admissions

I’ll just put this out here for now, and comment later. It’s a WaPo piece on college admission and why parents are "up in arms."

Romeo’s Pizza

I would like to extend my belated congratulations to Sean Brauser and Romeo’s Pizza in Medina, Ohio, for winning "Best Gourmet Pizza in America." Brauser has also won multiple awards -- including “Best Pizza in the Midwest” in both 2002 and 2004 -- for his concoction the Butcher Shop, an impressive feast that includes five different meats. Brauser and the Butcher Shop were featured in The Food Network’s "Pizza Battle," which aired nationally throughout March. I know that I speak for more than one member of NLT when I say that anyone who lives in or near Medina and has not yet tried Romeo’s should certainly do so.

Losing the Social Security battle, but winning the war

Stephen Moore admits that Bush’s scheme to save Social Security is "now officially floundering." But,

even though personal accounts may go nowhere this year, reformers can still take heart. Here’s why. First, the policy debate is completely commanded by conservatives’ ideas, not the left’s. That’s a political victory in itself. Second, if Republicans lose the fight this year, they have in many ways further imprinted in voters’ minds the message that the Democratic party is reactionary and devoid of ideas. Republicans, by pressing boldly for personal accounts, have succeeded in demonstrating again that they are the party of reform. To most Americans, the main DNC/Brookings Institution/AARP talking point on personal accounts--that the program doesn’t need fixing--is almost laughable.

Finally, and most important, losing the first round of the battle, if it comes to that, doesn’t automatically discredit the idea. Consider the transformational policy milestones of recent decades. It has taken more than 20 years from the time President Reagan announced SDI, to almost universal skepticism from the intellectual class, for the missile shield program to become a (mostly) accepted component of our defense strategy.

Read the rest.

The Next Pope

Many of the "news analysis" articles showing up in the media about the "dilemmas" facing the Catholic Church suggest what is likely to come if the next Pope is a conservative. Secular criticism of Pope John Paul II was always muted because of his great moral authority from having stood up against the Nazis and then the Communists. And then there was his enormous personal popularity.

The next Pope will not have these advantages. If the next Pope is a conservative, look for an early and ferocious attack on him from the Left. The news media is already preparing the ground for it.

Of course, this will only deepen the red-blue divide in the U.S.

Karol Wojtyla

Orson Scott Card, who is not a Catholic, explains why he honors and loves Karol Wojtyla, and why he will miss him. Thoughtful.  

A progressive Constitution?

Powerline brings to our attention some goings-on at Yale Law School. There was a conference yesterday (and they report on it at length) led by Bruce Ackerman (Yale Law) and Cass Sunstein (Chicago Law). The project, according to its organizers, is nothing less than a re-write of the Constitution. What should the Constitution look like like in 2020? Follow the links provided by Powerline, including the one to the progressives’ site, The Constitution in 2020. First line on their web site: "It is time for progressives to set a constitutional agenda for the 21st Century." Great stuff, let’s keep on eye on it; certainly Powerline will.

Intelligent Design and intelligent science education revisited

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post, responding to this column by Jay Mathews. Well, Mathews reports, most of his email was, to put it mildly, quite negative. As befits the civil tone of most NLT readers, those who took me to the woodshed for agreeing with Mathews were thoughtful about it. There was a huffy comment over at the Education Wonks, a site devoted to--what else?--education. (The comment, to be clear, was not by the bloggers, but by a reader.)

So where am I now? This morning--I’m a slow learner--I read a very long piece entitled "No Faith in Science" in today’s Globe and Mail (not available on-line for free, but once again, don’t give these guys any money). Covering three full pages in the "Focus" section, it was devoted to a litany of complaints about anything that could be remotely construed as connnected with the Bush Administration’s science policy (including, for example, abstinence education). While the author did quote some defenders of the Bush Administration (from outside as well as inside), it was not, ahem, fair and balanced, as they say on a network I don’t generally watch (I don’t watch any other network either). Among other things, it turns out that questioning the funding of research or refusing to fund research is kind of like McCarthyism. But that’s not the fish I want to fry here.

The title--"No Faith in Science"--is unintentionally telling. The headline writer wanted to call attention to the allegedly faith-based ("fundamentalist") influence on the Bush Administration’s science policy. But in the article itself, I discovered that science is also an object of faith. Here are some of the relevant paragraphs:

When the Traditional Values Coalition prepared its list of "questionable" research projects, it proudly described the endeavour as targeting a "sacred cow." That sentiment hints at a larger problem--a signficant conversion in a society that once seemed to embrace science as tantamount to a new religion.

From the Second World War to the close of the millenium, miracles seemed to spring from laboratories--moon landings, heart transplants, commercial jets, the polio vaccine, nuclear power, computers, antibiotics, and a decoded human genome (a feat Mr. Clinton likened to learning the language of God).

But now all around are mysteries it struggles to solve, from cancer to mad cow disease.... Wonder drugs have been exposed as killers. Cold fusion has flopped. Even the flu looms as an insurmountable foe. People are losing faith.

"Science is not viewed as nearly as infallible as it once was," said Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

It just so happens that the paper I delivered at the conference here touched on these themes, albeit somewhat tangentially. It dealt with Tolkien’s treatment of human finitude and the longing for immortality, focusing on his narrative of the downfall of Numenor. I suggested that Tolkien provides us with an analysis of the psychological and intellectual dynamic connected with efforts to extend life indefinitely (that is, to achieve immortality), which we’re approaching when we regard every death as a failure of medical science and hence every death as in some way "optional." (For background, go here, here, and here.) While there are economic, political, and sociological arguments against seeking immortality (arguably the modern project since Bacon and Descartes), Tolkien calls our attention to the religious dimension of this issue, i.e., the fundamental impiety of trying to play God.

To make an already too long story short, I’m tempted to argue that what the emotional reactions to Mathews’ column reveal is that many understand science as a kind of orthodoxy that they’re not willing to have challenged. This is--how shall I say it?--not a scientific attitude toward science. And those who worry about whether such issues can be handled in high school seem to me to be worrying about whether "enlightenment" is possible. If they’re right, if all we can do is indoctrinate, then science does not deserve the high (because neutral or "scientific") ground that they claim for it. What the schools are doing--if they’re right-is establishing the "religion" of science. Now, anyone who has read my Ashbrook op-eds or my posts must be aware that I’m not in principle opposed to government support for religion, but I would favor "multiple establishment," support for all religions (not just one to the exclusion of others, and only for the sake of and conditioned on legitimate government purposes). So if high school science education is in fact a form of religious indoctrination, then I’d favor teaching the conflict over merely foisting one dogma on the students.

Anyone out there provoked?

Update: Do read the comments: they’re interesting, civil, and contain a clickable link to the G & M article I excerpt above. For my own part, as far as science education is concerned, I’d actually be happy with a course in the history and philosophy of science, as a result of which students learned something about the way in which modern science and modern politics are inextricably linked, and about how both are connected with (perhaps even dependent upon) a peculiar and peculiarly unorthodox understanding of revealed religion. This wouldn’t necessarily require teaching Intelligent Design, nor would it involve even the "multiple establishment" of "religion" I mentioned above, but it would provide an understanding of science that would deprive it of any pretenses to be neutral or non-partisan. Of course, this, too, is probably too much to ask.

Update #2: Since I wrote the first update on Saturday, the tone of the comments section has degenerated somewhat, so that I’d no longer necessarily describe all of them as "civil." Read them, if you will, but beware: people’s hackles have been raised, there is some name-calling, and so on. When that begins in any weblog comment section (not only NLT), I tend to tune out.

TKC again, and while I’m at it, Columbia

Win Myers has more on The King’s College here and (for deeper context) here.

Win also posted a long "Letter to the Columbia Trustees" from Candace de Russy, the Democracy Project’s Chairman. If you scroll down the DP site, you’ll find more on anti-Semitism at Columbia.

But now let me say something positive about Columbia. Last night, Austin Quigley, Dean of Columbia College spoke to us about core curricula, arguing against exclusive disciplinary specialization and in favor of taking Great Books and liberal education seriously. We were, needless to say, a receptive audience. (I’m sure he’d rather be discussing that then the topic du jour at Columbia.) But, as many people have noted--Stanley Katz and Ross Douthat among them--it’s hard to find a voice in favor of these positions in the Ivy League. So I applaud Austin Quigley.

Literature and literary critics

Scott McLemee uses the occasion of Saul Bellow’s death to reflect on the difference between those who are formed by literature--who, as Bellow put it, "are shaped from within by these books and these writers"--and those who merely regard "texts" as grist for their hypertheoretical mills. Guess who comes out looking better? Read the whole thing.

More pies

This time, it’s David Horowitz. I am, for the moment, not accepting any speaking engagements in Indiana, unless people are willing to throw only key lime pies.

Incoherent text

The BBC reports that the French government has destroyed 162,000 copies of the EU Constitution because the phrase "incoherent text" was printed on a page by mistake.

Who are the Deaniacs?

Pew Research offers a profile of those who supported Howard Dean:

But Dean activists are far wealthier, better educated, more secular and much less ethnically diverse than other Democrats. A disproportionate number of Dean activists are white, well-educated Baby Boomers ­ fully a third are college graduates between the ages of 45 and 64, compared with just 9% of Democrats in the general public. But the image of younger Deaniacs as political newcomers has been borne out. For more than four-in-ten (42%) Dean activists ­ and two-thirds of those under age 30 ­ the Dean campaign represented their first foray into active presidential politics. And among those who were political veterans, a sizable number (36%) said they were more engaged this time than in previous campaigns.

And they "constitute an engaged group of citizens who intend to remain active in the Democratic Party and exert significant influence over its future direction."

Symposium on the Pope

NRO has a symposium on the Pope, among those contributing a few paragraphs each are: Bill Bennett, Ed Capano, Robert P. George, Rick Santorum, James Schall, et al. Also see this by Daniel Henninger, who considers the favorable and good media coverage, from Larry King on down, and asks, "Where were you people when he needed you?"

Saudi Arabia hostile to terrorism

James Dunnigan argues that al Qaeda is losing at home, in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda made a strategic blunder by attacking targets within Saudi Arabia after our invasion of Iraq, and the Saudis have responded. Previous to this, al Qaeda could hide in the kingdom. That is no longer true and they are losing to the Saudis. "Saudi Arabia drew up a list of the 26 most wanted terrorists. Only three of these are still at large."

This got the juices flowing

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Vancouver, just reading the Globe and Mail, "Canada’s national newspaper." You’d think I’d know better, having spent eight years of my life being irritated by this rag. But it was free, and I’m a sucker.

Today’s G & M contains the following column (available only to premium subscribers on-line, but please, please don’t give these people any money):

Pope’s protracted death a PR-boon for Catholicism

Pope John Paul II was the first pope to die in the era of the 24-hour cable-news network. He was not the first celebrity: The mourning of Diana, Princess of Wales, probably came close to rivalling his in terms of sheer broadcast hours. But John Paul took much longer to die than producers had planned, and his dying days pushed the constant-news medium to its conceptual limit....

This event was also the best illustration we have yet seen of how the presence of a constant visual news flow actually shapes perceptions and thus alters history. What the news channels did, out of the necessity of their schedules, was to vastly inflate both the significance of an event and the popularity of a man. [Come again?] They instantly canonized a pope who had up to that point been characterized by the secular media as at best controversial and at worst regressive. they quickly convinced themselves that they were all Catholic. And they probably changed forever how a Pope’s death will be seen and understood.

Let me stop here to catch my breath, for this is breathtaking stuff. Russell Smith, the author of this column (a self-described "skeptical atheistic urbanite"), taxes the media with altering our view of Pope John Paul II, "canonizing" him when the truth (established also by the media, i.e., by those "skeptical atheistic urbanites" like himself) is that he was "at best controversial" and "at worst regressive." O.K., here’s some more, after a brief summary of the Schiavo and Easter coverage :

It has been an extremely good month for the Catholic church, PR-wise. [Which matters to whom?] The sheer number of priests on American airwaves in the last month must itself dispel the notion of liberal media bias. [Which Smith is doing his darnedest to re-establish, bless his heart.]

Certainly, a great many of the world’s one billion Catholics seriously loved and admired the man and feel genuine grief and loss at his death. And this grief, and the gathering of great crowds in churches and public places around the world, is a genuinely newsworthy event [gee, ya think?], and provides a stock of genuinely moving imagery about the power of faith. It is also arguably good for skeptical atheistic urbanites like myself to be reminded that although we may be overrepresented in the media, we really do not represent most people.

It’s tempting to give him this last word, but the next paragraph is just too smug, stupid, and infuriating to let go:

But there are certain other facts which did not appear, at least for the first five days of the death-watch. Such as: One billion is still only one-sixth of the whole. That is, five-sixths of the world’s population--and about three-quarters of the U.S. population--is not Catholic. [Does this mean we shouldn’t care about the death of a world-historical figure, whom many non-Catholics admired immensely?] John Paul II was not, it turns out, a great reconciler and revolutionary, but a hard-line conservative whose refusal to endorse safe sex in Africa makes him complicit in that continent’s holocaust.

I can’t take any more. This guy wins the Christopher Hitchens Award, hands down. Hitchens is at least smart, literate, and witty. Russell Smith lacks any of those (somewhat) redeeming qualities. By his obtuseness, he disqualifies himself as a serious commentator on even the secular significance of the reign of Pope John Paul II.

The column continues for another four paragraphs of ranting and lamenting that religion is getting so much (too much) airtime. While we, of course, should see the Pope for what he was, as defined by the non-sensational, truth-seeking secular print media. Heh.

Update: David Mills thinks this is even worse. He’s right. And this, via Get Religion, ranks with the G & M piece.

Schiavo talking points memo

It turns out that someone in Mel Martinez’s office drafted this piece of tripe. He has resigned. Here’s the WaPo article; here’s Powerline’s commentary; here’s what Michelle Malkin has to say; and here’s Mickey Kaus’s take on the whole thing.

There’s plenty of blame to go around: Mike Allen for misrepresenting or misreporting how widely distributed the memo was; Tom Harkin for not coming forward sooner to clear things up; and Mel Martinez for apparently not reading the dog-gone memo before he handed it to someone else!!!!!!!

For the record, Powerline clearly reeled in a boot or a tire, not something more consequential, as I originally thought. My only other post on the subject was here.

Ross Douthat

One of the nice things about travel is that you have lots of uninterrupted reading time. Today, I was able to blow through Ross Douthat’s Privilege, a memoir of his recently completed undergraduate days at Harvard (he’s Harvard ’02). He is an engaging, but not terribly demanding, writer.

My first thought as I was reading the book is that I’m glad I’m not one of his acquaintances, not because he wouldn’t be an interesting companion or interlocutor (I think he might be), but because he seems to write about virtually every consequential encounter he had at Harvard. Few people come off looking good. (To his credit, Douthat is not afraid to display his own shortcomings.)

My only hope for salvation is that, had I for some reason blundered into Harvard (I think I applied for admission back in 1974, but MSU made me an offer I couldn’t refuse), Douthat and I wouldn’t likely have moved in the same circles. Like Tom Wolfe’s
Charlotte Simmons, Douthat turns out to be very status-conscious (even though he sometimes rails against the system). I wouldn’t have attracted his attention since I would likely have always had my nose in a book (not--Douthat confesses with, I think, some genuine regret--his sole mode of undergraduate being).

Douthat is, as I said, a good writer and a sharp observer, capable of ironic distance even as he plunges, sometimes despite himself, sometimes drunkenly, into what seems to be one misadventure after another. His book can profitably be read together with I Am Charlotte Simmons, plausibly qualifying and correcting Wolfe’s overemphasis on sex and bringing out more clearly the striving and climbing that characterizes what Douthat calls "Yarvton." He effectively shows that this Ivy League "meritocracy" is, by and large, old-fashioned privilege with just a few new players, who rely, yes, on native intelligence and hard work, but also on all the advantages that accrue from the opportunities and stimulations that their relatively affluent circumstances have afforded them. The book is worth reading, especially if you have a long plane ride.

BTW, Douthat blogs here.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for March

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

Peyton Randolph

Maggie Hammonds

Jacqueline Bennett

Roy Stephen

Dean Hoffman

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 April’s drawing.

Some good news

Oil prices dropped today, and this may continue. Cherry blossoms begin to bloom in Washington, D.C.
Ukranian President Viktor Yushchenko addresed Congress and gets a hero’s welcome. Harvard professor is arrested for stealing a load of manure from a Massachusetts farm.

New government in Iraq

Iraq’s Presidential Council was sworn in today and Shiite Arab Ibrahim al-Jaafari was named Prime Minister. The President of Iraq is Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader. Here is the Washington Post story on the same. The Iraqis are helping to create history, while the times conspire with them, with the help of the Bush administration. So far the Iraqis have shown both courage and prudence; may they continue. It is said that the old tyrant of Iraq watched the proceedings on television. Sweet irony.

Saul Bellow and the ol’ War between Poetry and Philosophy

Joe Knippenberg notes the death of Saul Bellow below and the good link to the ’New York Times’ obituary.

In today’s ’New York Post,’ John Podhoretz offers a very nice reminiscence of Bellow teaching with Allan Bloom at the University of Chicago. Bellow stood toe to toe with Bloom as the ol’ war between philosophy and poetry was reenacted between these two old friends, the histrionic erotic representative of philosophy and the dapper, calm and rational poet. Very nice.

Bellow’s ’Ravelstein’ is the triumph of poetry over philosophy, or, at least, of the poet, Chick, over the philosopher, Ravelstein.

Immigration Economics

There is a heated discussion elsewhere on No Left Turns concerning the economic effects of immigration. In 2002, I published an academic article on this subject in the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. The article relied on numerous economic and legal studies, including several books and peer-reviewed articles by Harvard economist George J. Borjas, as well as a thorough study published by the National Research Council in 1997.

I concluded, based on the economic studies available at that time, that the United States would benefit from more liberalized immigration laws. Among my proposals was a new guest-worker program between the United States and Mexico. I believed both then and now that a temporary guest-worker program would relieve many of the market pressures that lead to illegal immigration. That proposal turned out to be very similar to one made by President Bush in January 2004. Economics aside, I also believe that a guest-worker program could improve national security. With an effective guest-worker program, illegal immigration would decrease. Large amounts of manpower and other resources that are currently spent combating illegal immigration could then be more specifically targeted toward security threats.

Whether one agrees with my conclusions or not, I encourage readers to review some of the sources cited within the article. I particularly recommend that those interested in this area read the study published by the National Research Council, which is summarized at this link. It is a very thorough analysis that calculates the estimated taxes paid and costs imposed by immigrants, including an accounting of the estimated fiscal impact of immigrants’ descendants.     

Ramirez Cartoon

Everyone is in Rome

Or, so it seems. Some four million visitors have come to Rome, and officials are saying that they are not allowing anyone else to enter. I don’t quite see how they will do this; we’ll see. Rome is said to be paralyzed.
President Bush paid his respects today.

The 2006 Senate elections

Larry Sabato asks: Can recent history suggest anything about the 2006 Senate results? On average, the president’s party has lost three Senate seats in each of the last 14 elections (from 1950 to 2002); but this includes all midterm elections, both the first midterm election of a presidency and the second one in the sixth year of the two-term presidency.

There have been six "sixth year itch" elections in the post WWII era (1950, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1986, and 1998): The average loss for the White House has has been 6 Senate seats. And, this is the important point: "Never in modern times has a president been able to add Senate seats in the dreaded sixth-year election," for more details.

At most five or six Senate seats out of 33 will be open, without an incumbent, making party turnover harder, though not impossible, writes Sabato. There 18 Demo seats up and only 15 GOP. Tough for the Democrats to take the Senate back. And, IMHO, if the GOP picks up even one Senate seat, there is a realignment (Sabato doesn’t note this).

Note this useful Sabato lists
the 14 seats that are most vulnerable. And this is his wrap on all the Senate races, do click on "View all races."

Ignorant and stupid are we

Jake Herrera is a junior majoring in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He writes (in the UW paper) an article explaining why there are so few conservative academics on America’s campuses. His conclusion: Blame conservatives because they are anti-intellectual, they don’t read books, etc. And "the conservative voting bloc that is responsible for the Bush ascendancy has lost any connection with its once proud intellectual roots." No other comment is needed on this essay than a note from Mark Twain: "Don’t explain your author, read him right and he explains himself." This guy’s explanation of himself is not to his advantage.

A German view of Americans

looks at the German magazine Stern’s view of America through pictures (translations supplied). Amusing and useful, as No-Pasaran says, it is revealing of Europeans’ sophisticated and nuanced view of America!

John Paul II and communism

Anne Applebaum writes on how the Pope defeated communism. He didn’t need secret negotiations, she writes, he just spoke the truth in public, and allowed the people a place to meet and talk. Walking through the physical barricades naturally followed.

Bill Bennett’s morning

Kathleen Parker reflects on Bill Bennett’s radio program, how well it’s doing--116 markets, compared to 50 for Al Franken. She writes: "Thus, stumbling across Bill Bennett on the radio is like bumping into Socrates at Starbucks. In a nation accustomed to screeching screeds and foaming food fights posing as debate, hearing Bennett’s soft-gravelly voice is like dipping into a warm bath. As you listen, you think maybe civilization isn’t lost after all."

Saul Bellow, RIP

Saul Bellow has died at 89. For my money, he was one of the smartest and most cerebral novelists of his time. Here’s an unsatisfying wire service death notice. Here’s the Big Trunk’s appreciation (much less "balanced" and much closer to the mark) over at Powerline. Finally, here is the sort of long and comprehensive obituary you expect from the New York Times, and here is the WaPo’s effort.

The Chicago Tribune does us the favor of republishing this 1996 essay. My favorite part:

Our grandparents, locked up in the Pale of Settlement on Russia’s western frontier, had never so much as heard of places like Antietam or Vicksburg. But their descendants, the children of my generation, were educated to believe in the American project. It was presented to them in a language foreign to their ancestors; it encouraged them to assume that as free persons, politically and legally equal, they were parties to a rational covenant that made the history of the USA their own history. This was our naive adolescent conviction. What we learned in civics and in American history classes would have to be revised and modified, but it was never to be reversed.

I am well aware that to hard, modern thinkers, all of this will sound perversely simple-minded, sentimental, nostalgic. Modern cosmopolitans and philosophical sophisticates will remind me that the culture of Chicago, this string of industrial villages called a "city," was too ugly and clumsy to be anything but a non-culture, and that the neighborhoods where immigrant peasants and laborers lived were more parochial than the Eastern European and Balkan villages from which they came. On our side of the Atlantic, these arid, working-class neighborhoods in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, etc., were also rich in hatred and viciousness; but the higher culture developed in Germany (or Russia or France) did not keep the Nazis, and the populations of the countries their armies occupied, from participating in the murder of millions of men, women and children. Our liberal American society (bourgeois-liberal, if you like) has not been guilty of such horrors. It is obvious therefore that the USA, viewed by no small number of Europeans as a dumping ground for everyone the Old World wanted to cast out, has been extraordinarily fortunate in its politics. We have had some dum-dum presidents, but there have been no Hitlers here and no Stalins. With all its disorders, disruptions, bureaucratic idiocies, its chaotic or nihilistic state of feelings, thoughts and passions, democracy here makes more sense and perhaps is more rational than its philosophical founders might have thought possible in a country so huge and so mixed.

My thoughts and prayers to Mr. Bellow’s family and friends.

Gore TV

Al Gore unveils his new TV network, called "Current." Gore: "We’re starting something new and we’re trying to bring about a change in the way the television medium is used. We know it’s hard, but we’re excited about trying." Read this brief Reuters story and tell me if you understand what it all means. I actually don’t get it: videos shown, some as long 15 minutes (wow!), somehow tied in to Google, etc.
Gore: "We are about empowering this generation of young people in their 20s, the 18-34 population, to engage in a dialogue of democracy and to tell their stories about what’s going in their lives in the dominant media of our time." That’s helpful. Whatever it is, it starts on August 1st. Can’t wait.

Sandi Berger, more guilty

Washington Times thinks through Sandy Berger’s crimes, and is not amused that the Justice Department let him off under such lenient terms.

The Pope and the Day of the Assassins

In today’s ’Washington Times,’Arnaud de Borchgrave reminds us the attempt of the Soviet KGB and the Bulgarian DS to assassinate the Pope on May 13, 1981. The elaborate cover-up, etc. Remarkable.

You have to give the KGB credit for recognizing the danger the Pope posed to the Soviet tyranny.

Hat tip: to

The King’s College is not Columbia

John Brademas, former President of NYU and former Congressman from Indiana, seems dead set on killing off The King’s College, a small evangelical school located in the heart of Manhattan. As a new member of the New York Board of Regents, Brademas is single-handedly threatening TKC’s accreditation.

Fortunately, some good people have come to the college’s defense, including Naomi Schaefer Riley and NRO’s Stanley Kurtz.

Here’s Kurtz’s explanation of the root of the problem:

The New York State Board of Regents, which controls public and private education in New York State, is appointed by the state legislature, not the Governor. What’s more, whenever the Republican controlled Senate and the Democratic controlled House disagree on their choices for Regents (i.e. pretty much all the time), the two houses sit together and vote as a unicameral body. Since there are many more seats in the Democratic State Assembly than in the Republican state senate, the Democrats in the lower house have effective control over the appointment of Regents. So although New Yorkers generally divide their government between Republicans and Democrats, the supposedly independent and politically neutral Board of Regents is completely controlled by left-leaning Democrats beholden to teachers’ unions and other liberal interest groups.

Governor Pataki has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor to appoint most of the Regents, while also giving a number of appointments to both the majority and minority parties in the legislature. In contrast, the current system allows for no party checks, and no electoral accountability. The entire process is controlled by one party, and no elected executive officer is answerable for the actions of his appointees. This bizarre institutional anomaly has led to abuse in the past. In 2004, under political pressure from liberal legislators (and ultimately, no doubt, from teachers unions), the supposedly independent Regents refused to accredit a qualified charter school that had been approved by their own education department. Some of less political regents were appalled, though most of them knuckled under. The Brademas outrage appears to be yet another example of what happens to an institution bereft of party checks or public accountability.

Kurtz also provides information about what New York State residents can do about it.

Hat tip:
Ken Masugi.

Update: Here’s more, including an indignant response from a Brademas spokesman.

More on Sarkozy and France

While they don’t think Sarkozy is either a Reagan or Thatcher, Powerline says that he is a breath of fresh air in French politics. The Politic also has more, and is perhaps less optimistic.

General elections in Britain

Tony Blair has called for general elections for May 5th. He will seek his third term as PM. I would be surprised if Labour didn’t win.

This weekend in Vancouver, B.C.

If any NLT readers will be attending this conference over the weekend, or have some other reason for being in Vancouver, B.C., please drop me a line. Let’s enjoy some sort of adult beverage together.

Update on Ward Churchill

Brandon Crocker provides an update on the University of Colorado’s investigation of Ward Churchill.

The University has found that "the allegations of research misconduct, related to plagiarism, misuse of other’s work and fabrication, have sufficient merit to warrant further inquiry."

The University of Colorado,however, will not dismiss Churchill for saying that "more 9/11s are necessary." And George W. Bush thinks that all non-whites are "sub-human."
Brandon Crocker continues: ’While it is all well and good that the University of Colorado is taking a hard look at these allegations, why isn’t it going to touch the 800-pound gorilla -- the question of Mr. Churchill’s academic merit? "Appropriately," Chancellor DiStefano claims, "we in academe are held to high standards of integrity, competence, and accuracy" but then goes on to say that the University cannot make any judgment on Mr. Churchill’s value to the University based on Mr. Churchill’s writings or speeches (i.e. his "scholarship") -- no matter how "egregious" or "as strongly as we may reject the substance of those remarks." That would be a violation of "academic freedom." ’

In a speech at the University of Colorado,the mild-mannered and soft-spoken Rudy Giuliani explains why he thinks Ward Churchill should not be allowed to teach again.

Two More on Pope John Paul II

Here are two more fine articles on Pope John Paul II.

Pat Buchanan argues that it was the Pope’s moral clarity which made him great.

Mark Steyn argues that it is moral relativism which made it impossible for many, especially the MainStreamMedia, to understand the Pope’s greatness.

Another American

My friend, and former student, and now teacher in Colorado, Florian Hild, was born in Germany and has just passed his citizenship examination. I congratulate him. He is now friend and citizen. This, from Mark Twain (1890), is for him: "We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty."

Man and God in France, and Sarkozy

Timothy Lehmann reviews Sarkozy’s La République, les religions, l’espérance (The Republic, religions, and hope). Lehmann claims that Sarkozy (former minister of finance, and as current head of the Union for a Popular Movement, Chirac’s party, thought to be the next president) has something very interesting up his sleeve:

Sarkozy has thus far been the most visible and articulate interpreter of the question of religion and politics and his views have come into daylight with the publication of this book. La Republic vigorously challenges France’s existing laws and status quo, reinvigorates questions about the soul, and throws into doubt widely accepted and encrusted beliefs about the temporal and the eternal. While Sarkozy’s practical concern is how to improve French society and promote tolerance among Muslims, Jews, Christians, and nonbelievers in France, his overall approach to the question of religion and society has much in common with the views of many American conservatives.

Lehmann thinks that Sarkozy acknowledges the importance of religion in France, and is paying particular attention to the rise of Islam in there. He thinks that there are ways of moderating it. Sarkozy thinks there ought to be, for example, an Islam of France, not an Islam in France. Thoughtful review of an apparently thoughtful book by a fellow who is likely to run France a few years from now.

Pulitzer Prizes

Pulitzer Prizes are announced. Note that David Hackett Fischer won in History for Washington’s Crossing, a very good book, although I was rooting for Allen Guelzo’s Lincoln’s Emancipation. Note that in the Fiction category, Marilynne Robinson won it for Gilead, which I am now reading and--so far--find it good, finely textured, the quiet rhythm of a dying reverend, writing to his son about loving life. Here is an early paragraph:

I really can’t tell what’s beautiful anymore. I passed two young fellows on the street the other day. I know who they are, they work at the garage. They’re not churchgoing, either one of them, just decent rascally young fellows who have to be joking all the time, and there they were, propped against the garage wall in the sunshine, lighting up their cigarettes. They’re always so black with grease and so strong with gasoline I don’t know why they don’t catch fire themselves. They were passing remarks back and forth the way they do and laughing that wicked way they have. And it seemed beautiful to me. It is an amazing thing to watch people laugh, the way it sort of takes them over. Sometimes they really do struggle with it. I see that in church often enough. So I wonder what it is and where it comes from, and I wonder what it expends out of your system, so that you have to do it till you’re done, like crying in a way, I suppose, except that laughter is much more easily spent.

When they saw me coming, of course the joking stopped, but I could see they were still laughing to themselves, thinking what the old preacher almost heard them say.

I felt like telling them, I appreciate a joke as much as anyone else. There have been many occassions in my life when I have wanted to say that. But it’s not a thing people are willing to accept....

Michael Scott Doran on al Qaeda’s grand strategy

Here is Michael Scott Doran’s article from Jan/Feb 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs, and this follow-up dated March, 2005. Both articles consider the relationship between Iraq, Palestine, and American strategy. Doran is a protege of Bernard Lewis at Princeton, and his name has recently appeared in a more public setting for reasons this article explains (he may not get tenure for reasons you suspect). Doran recently gave a talk on al Qaeda’s grand strategy and Tiger Hawk attended the lecture and took plenty of notes; very interesting stuff. (Thanks to Charles Johnson). Because Tiger Hawk makes some references on Sayyid Qutb, you might want to read Luke Loboda’s Ashbrook Thesis by way of introduction to Qutb. Also see this by Doran on why Muslim anti-Americanism is not what it’s cracked up to be, on why it’s not a unifying force in the Arab world.

Pope John Paul II on St. Thomas More

Win Myers offers a long and thoughtful appreciation of Pope John Paul II. He includes this extract from this Apostolic Letter, proclaiming St. Thomas More "patron of statesmen and politicians":

There are many reasons for proclaiming Thomas More Patron of statesmen and people in public life. Among these is the need felt by the world of politics and public administration for credible role models able to indicate the path of truth at a time in history when difficult challenges and crucial responsibilities are increasing. Today in fact strongly innovative economic forces are reshaping social structures; on the other hand, scientific achievements in the area of biotechnology underline the need to defend human life at all its different stages, while the promises of a new society — successfully presented to a bewildered public opinion — urgently demand clear political decisions in favour of the family, young people, the elderly and the marginalized.

In this context, it is helpful to turn to the example of Saint Thomas More, who distinguished himself by his constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions precisely in his intention to serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice. His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue. Unwavering in this rigorous moral stance, this English statesman placed his own public activity at the service of the person, especially if that person was weak or poor; he dealt with social controversies with a superb sense of fairness; he was vigorously committed to favouring and defending the family; he supported the all-round education of the young. His profound detachment from honours and wealth, his serene and joyful humility, his balanced knowledge of human nature and of the vanity of success, his certainty of judgement rooted in faith: these all gave him that confident inner strength that sustained him in adversity and in the face of death. His sanctity shone forth in his martyrdom, but it had been prepared by an entire life of work devoted to God and neighbour.

This is a voice, not readily duplicated, that will be sorely missed.

Minuteman Project

There have been questions about the Minuteman Project--a volunteer citizen group which seeks to assist in preventing illegal immigration. Michelle Malkin discusses the group on her Immigration blog here, and here, and here. The Arizona Star recounts the group’s assistance of an immigrant in distress here. AP offers a story here, while the New York Times weighs in here. I have not had the time to read all of the material about the group and their activities, so I pass along the links at this point without judgment or comment for your perusal.

The Pope and his legacy

Here are a couple of articles on John Paul II and his legacy worth reading: Kenneth L. Woodward, Charles Krauthammer, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Barone, Timothy Garton Nash, Jaroslav Pelikan, William Kristol and The Belmont Club has more.

The best biography of John Paul II is by George Weigel, and here is an interview with Weigel.

Back from the OAH

I just returned last night from the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in San Jose, where I was once again reminded of why I no longer make a habit of attending the big historical conferences. This one was a disaster by just about anyone’s reckoning, attracting several hundred fewer participants than expected. This was the result of a last-minute change of venue. It was originally scheduled for San Francisco, but the hotel where it was to be held was in the midst of a labor dispute. The OAH sent a survey to its membership, asking if they’d be willing to cross a picket line, and--surprise, surprise--the members decided overwhelmingly to express solidarity with the horny-handed sons of toil. So there was a scramble to book a venue in San Jose, and we ended up sharing the local convention center with a much larger group of Bible enthusiasts. This fact elicited a great deal in the way of snide comments from the assembled historians. In any event, the decision to move from San Francisco to San Jose probably cost the organization about twenty percent of its attendees. One longtime member told me that the OAH lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, leading to speculation that this might be the end for the venerable organization.

As for the conference itself, there’s very little to report. Suffice it to say that at one point I was imprudent enough to let on to a young woman that I had voted for George W. Bush. "And yet you write books," she responded.

And yet.

Ideological Purity for (Communist) Juveniles

It appears that the Communists in China are concerned about the ideological purity of the young. Check out this news report from the ’South China Morning Post.’

CPO/Social Base: College Campuses to Get Compulsory Dose of Moral Fiber (3/30/05, South China Morning Post)

A central government campaign to strengthen the nation’s moral fiber will reach university campuses in September with the introduction of compulsory classes on ideology and morals. The new curriculum takes effect under guidelines recently issued by the Publicity Department and the Ministry of Education, and comes after a State Council circular on ideological and moral education last year. Xinhua reported the guidelines stipulated that students must take four compulsory courses: basic Marxist theory; Maoism, Deng Xiaoping Theory and ex-president Jiang Zemin’s Theory of Three Represents; modern Chinese history; and moral and basic legal studies. Teachers trained by publicity and education departments will introduce the amended curriculum to first-year students on a trial basis from September before it is formally rolled out nationwide a year later. Beijing introduced moral and ideology classes at schools in 1985 and the curriculum was revised in 1998 with greater emphasis on Marxism and Deng Xiaoping Theory. Courses on Mr. Jiang’s theory started in 2003. The central government’s recent focus on university students comes after a State Council circular issued in February last year called for efforts to improve ideological education among juveniles. Wang Sunyu, from Tsinghua University’s Education Institute, said every country was concerned about the ideological and moral education of its citizens. "Nowadays, students have much easier access to all kinds of information and they may develop different values," Professor Wang said. "If there is no positive and correct direction, turbulence could emerge and that would not good for society or the reigning authority." However, second-year Shandong University student Zou Xie said the ideology classes were boring and widely disliked. "Although they are compulsory courses and we must pass them to earn academic credits, the class attendance rate is very low," Mr. Zou said. "We usually neglect them and try to cram some knowledge in before the exams."

Papal Politics

Reuters has printed profiles of potential Papal candidates who could be considered by the College of Cardinals. Interesting stuff. However, because this is Reuters, I don’t know how much credence to give to their assessments.

The Culture of Life, the Pope and Freedom

In remembering the legacy of Pope John Paul II, Steve Hayward offers an excellent account of his contributions to the demise of Communism and hope for liberty. To his wonderful review, forgive me for adding some personal reflections that may help explain some of this Pope’s amazing powers in this regard.

In 1993 I travelled to Liechtenstein for a seminar sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute which was taught by Michael Novak, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, and George Weigel (the Pope’s biographer). There were also several of the Pope’s top theologians present as guest lecuturers. The idea was to bring together ten American students with 20 Eastern European students to help them come to grips with the ideas of democracy and capitalism. It is hard to say who helped whom. At that time (despite twelve years of Catholic "education") I didn’t know a papal encyclical from an encyclopedia and neither, by the way, did most of my American counterparts. Steeped as we were in the more conventional readings about liberty and natural rights, we were more than alittle astonished to meet all of these very bright Eastern European students who came to hold democracy and capitalism so dearly as a result of John Paul II’s teachings--particularly--with regard to his teachings about the dignity of human life. The dignity of human life is what calls upon all men to respect the natural and God-given rights of all men. Of course the culture of life would respect the ideas of democracy and capitalism! Unfortunately, democracy and capitialism have not always supported the culture of life.

Perhaps the selection of John Paul II as Pope was meant, not only to draw those nations of the former Communist bloc closer to democracy and respect for human rights, but also to draw those of us who live in nations that purport to support the principles of democracy to reflect upon the true meaning of our principles. Perhaps through his example we might all walk away from the culture of death that threatened us not only in the form of Communism--but continues to threaten us today in our own country and in the form of Islamo-facism. And perhaps, God-willing, this next Pope will be able to continue this one’s great and good work.

How many divisions has the Pope?

Stalin famously asked, "How many divisions has the Pope?" The tyrant’s successors of the Evil Empire found out when the Pole Karol Wojtyla became Pope.

Steve Hayward considers (from segments of his work-in-progress, The Age of Reagan: Lion at the Gate, 1980-1989) what Karol Wojtyla meant when he proclaimed "Be not afraid!" when he was selected Pope. The Polish Pope brought a transformation of consciousness among Poles that had massive consequences for the whole world. Poland was the first country he visited after becoming Pope, and Hayward recounts how that went, what the Soviets thought, how they were out-thought and out-gunned by the Pope. He broke the sorcerer’s spell. The rest you know.

Intelligence and Imagination

I often have conversations with students who claim to want to become intelligence agents (or analysts). More often than they will have been told that they should some something technical, something that would "prepare" them to be able to analyze; there must be some sort of information that they should get; there must be a scientific method to such a thing, they say, much like the study of accounting if want to be an accountant. I, of course, respectfully disagree. I talk with them about what they should study and why. David Brooks agrees with me:

I’ll believe the intelligence community has really changed when I see analysts being sent to training academies where they study Thucydides, Tolstoy and Churchill to get a broad understanding of the full range of human behavior. I’ll believe the system has been reformed when policy makers are presented with competing reports, signed by individual thinkers, and are no longer presented with anonymous, bureaucratically homogenized, bulleted points that pretend to be the product of scientific consensus.

The Pope on America

In December of 1997, the Honorable Lindy Boggs presented her credentials to Pope John Paul II. The Pope offered some remarks on the credebility of America policy. A few passages:

The Founding Fathers of the United States asserted their claim to freedom and independence on the basis of certain "self-evident" truths about the human person: truths which could be discerned in human nature, built into it by "nature’s God." Thus they meant to bring into being, not just an independent territory, but a great experiment in what George Washington called "ordered liberty": an experiment in which men and women would enjoy equality of rights and opportunities in the pursuit of happiness and in service to the common good. Reading the founding documents of the United States, one has to be impressed by the concept of freedom they enshrine: a freedom designed to enable people to fulfill their duties and responsibilities toward the family and toward the common good of the community. Their authors clearly understood that there could be no true freedom without moral responsibility and accountability, and no happiness without respect and support for the natural units or groupings through which people exist, develop, and seek the higher purposes of life in concert with others.

The American democratic experiment has been successful in many ways. Millions of people around the world look to the United States as a model in their search for freedom, dignity, and prosperity. But the continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation, native-born and immigrant, makes its own the moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic. Their commitment to build a free society with liberty and justice for all must be constantly renewed if the United States is to fulfill the destiny to which the Founders pledged their "lives . . . fortunes . . . and sacred honor."

. . . Your Excellency, these are some of the thoughts prompted by your presence here as your country’s diplomatic representative. These reflections evoke a prayer: that your country will experience a new birth of freedom, freedom grounded in truth and ordered to goodness. Thus will the American people be able to harness their boundless spiritual energy in service of the genuine good of all humanity.

Cars and political parties

O.K., this is deep stuff. Some great minds in market research, are trying to figure out what kinds of cars Democrats and Republicans prefer. Volvos are liked by Democrats (as are Saabs), but as Volvo stresses performance more in its advertising, more Republicans buy it. Republicans like Porches, and American made cars, except Pontiacs, which Demos like. There is more such stuff, for what its worth.

Hillary’s fund raising

New York Times reports that her campaign is gearing up in a non-surprising confrontational style: "The right wing is already getting ready, naming Hillary as their ’No. 1 target’ and boasting about their ’Swift Boat’ style ads,’ said the e-mail message, which was sent by Ann F. Lewis, the director of communications for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign committee, Friends of Hillary. ’Help us show the right wing that we will be ready and able to fight back.’"

Unnatural law and the religious right

Hugh Hewitt offers the following insight into the "recent" mobilization of the "religious right":

The speed with which issues that excite the passions of people of faith have arrived at the center of American politics is not surprising given the forced march that the courts have put those issues on. It was not the "religious right" that pushed gay marriage to the center of the public debate; it was courts in Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts. It wasn’t the "religious right" that ordered Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube removed; it was a Florida Supreme Court that struck down a law passed by the Florida legislature and signed by Governor Jeb Bush which would have allowed Terri Schiavo to live. And it isn’t the "religious right" that forced the United States Supreme Court to repeatedly issue rulings on areas of law that would have been better left to legislatures.

I suggested, not altogether facetiously, that returning the abortion debate to the political arena, where it does indeed belong (according to an understanding of the our constitutional order genuinely faithful to the document that is supposed to be at its heart), could go a long way toward "taming" the sometimes irregular passions of conservative religionists. I should find it remarkable (but unfortunately do not) that our friends on the Left, who always seem interested in giving voice to the marginalized as a way of giving them a moderating stake in the system, and who profess to understand the frustration of those who are denied a voice, are not on the forefront of those calling for a return to a genuinely deliberative democracy to pour oil on our troubled waters.

I recognize that some will say that the voice of the "religious right" is too loud, since religious conservatives are said to dominate the national Republican Party (though Jonathan Chait is not sure he agrees). Accepting for the sake of this argument their claim, what we have is a conflict between two (as yet unarmed) camps: religious conservatives "controlling" Congress and the Presidency and secular liberals "controlling" the federal judiciary. The conventional liberal wisdom would call for both sides to enter into conversations in order to facilitate moderation and compromise. My impression, however, is that the secular judicial liberals regard their judicial bastion as impregnable, so long as their guerilla forces in the Senate and the press can continue effectively to harrass their opponents. I don’t think that this is a winning strategy, since all that it is sure to accomplish is weakening the moral and legal authority of the judiciary.

All I really want is for liberals to behave the way they almost always do when faced with external opponents: try to understand the force of their ire and find a way of integrating them into a peaceful system of cooperation. If liberals are genuinely willing to engage with "reasonable" religionists (and if what they mean by a "reasonable religionist" is someone other than C. Welton Gaddy), then displaying a genuine willingness to debate these issues in the political arena is the only plausible way of accomplishing this goal.

John Paul II’s condition

The outpouring of concern and affection for John Paul II shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only has he reigned for 26 years (selected on October 16, 1978; the longest reign of any Pope, I am told), but he has shown himself from the start to be both a serious person and loving person, and one who meant to have an effect on both the spiritual and political life of the world, and he has. Over the next many days, we will hear from thoughtful observers about the man and his work, and I will try to pass them on.

You might want to check the National Catholic Reporter’s blog site for updates on the Pope’s condition, and note John L. Allen’s reporting. Also see comment.
I remember him going to Poland about a year after he became Pope, and telling his fellow countrymen, "Do not be afraid." And also, "You are men. You have dignity. Don’t crawl on your bellies." The effect was electric, and was not restricted to Poland. In gratitude, I join all others in prayer on his behalf.

UPDATE: A reader immediately wrote in to say the following regarding the length of John Paul II’s rule: "The longest reign of a pope was the first one: St. Peter for 34 to 37 years. (The exact dates are unclear.) The second longest was that of Pope Pius IX, from 1846 to 1878. (The shortest was that of Pope Urban VII, who lived only 12 days after his installation.)" See this.

Wilson Carey McWIlliams, RIP

Wilson Carey McWilliams died earlier this week. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

Update:Thanks to John Seery, here’s an obituary. The funeral is taking place as I write this (3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2nd).

Berry conference wrap-up

I promised to offer some summary comments on this conference, held yesterday on the campus of Berry College. It was the eighth edition of conferences that colleagues from Berry and Oglethorpe have organized over the years. As usual, the folks at Berry did an excellent job hosting the event, treating us guests well, feeding us well, and watering us well at T. Martooni’s, a new ornament on Rome’s quaint Broad Street downtown. Now that I’ve mentioned the important stuff, let me say a few words about what transpired.

The student panel (four from Berry, one from Oglethorpe) was as good a version of an undergraduate panel as I’ve seen. The students were all thoughtful and well-spoken. All are destined for greatness, some in law school, others in grad school or seminary.

John Seery eloquently summarized the challenges faced by residential liberal arts colleges and proved that his poetry inspires red state non-denominational evangelicals as much as it does the SoCal sophisticates of Pomona College. While I suspect that this has a lot to do with his gifts as a lecturer, I can’t overlook that fact that he was willing but (fortunately for the competition) unable to enter into a faculty cow-milking contest.

The Catholics sent to track down Naomi Schaefer Riley found her and by and large liked what they found--a journalist willing to try hard to enter into the lives of young people very different from herself.

The auditorium was overflowing for the "debate" between William Galston and Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.. Both were in excellent form, Mansfield provocative, pungent, and funny, Galston impressively systematic and pellucid. Galston is an excellent and persuasive apologist for a liberalism to which (IMHO) he alone among Democrats adheres. Mansfield made no attempt to paper over the tensions within the "conservative movement," but reminded us why, with all its problems, conservatism is preferable to liberalism as it is actually practiced.

If and when a report appears in the Berry College student newspaper, I’ll link to it. And those who have access to the April issue of The American Spectator should read Peter Lawler’s beautiful celebration of liberal education as practiced at his (non-denominational Christian) institution (not yet available on-line). Among the virtues of Berry students are the negative one of not throwing pies, as well as the positive ones of respectfully asking hard questions and genuinely appreciating intellectual stimulation. (Lest I neglect my own institution, similar virtues were on display today when John Seery walked us through Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies.)

Update: Here’s a thoughtful commentary by a smart Berry student.

Danielle Allen Speaking Live at 3:00pm

Danielle Allen, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and Professor in the Department of Classical Languages and Literatures and the Department of Politics at the University of Chicago, will be conducting a colloquium at the Ashbrook Center today at 3:00pm. The colloquium will be broadcast live on the Internet. To listen, click here.

Dr. Allen will be discussing her book, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v. Board of Education.

Wolfowitz confirmed as World Bank president

Paul Wolfowitz has been unanimously confirmed as the next president of the World Bank by the 24 member board. This is a very good thing, in my humble opinion. Six months from now we will begin to see some of the fruits of his work. This appointment will have massive consequences, all to the good, for developing nations. They will be developing toward freedom, rather maintaining their dependence on bought-off elites who rule without consent, and who also profit financially (from other countries’ money) in the meantime. Wish him the best in this difficult work.

Sandi Berger, guilty

Sandi Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, has pleaded guilty to a minor charge "will acknowledge intentionally removing and destroying copies of a classified document about the Clinton administration’s record on terrorism." But note this:

The terms of Berger’s agreement required him to acknowledge to the Justice Department the circumstances of the episode. Rather than misplacing or unintentionally throwing away three of the five copies he took from the archives, as the former national security adviser earlier maintained, he shredded them with a pair of scissors late one evening at the downtown offices of his international consulting business.

The document, written by former National Security Council terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke, was an "after-action review" prepared in early 2000 detailing the administration’s actions to thwart terrorist attacks during the millennium celebration. It contained considerable discussion about the administration’s awareness of the rising threat of attacks on U.S. soil.