Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

"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.