Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Marriage, family, and "natural law"

If you haven’t yet bookmarked Mere Comments, the place where the Touchstone editors blog, you need to. These are smart people who unfailingly have interesting things to say.

Today, David Mills was nice enough to post and expand upon my email response to this post on gay marriage. I think he’s right about cousins, by the way (I’ll leave it to you to pursue the links to see what cousins have to do with gay marriage. My kids are blessed with eleven cousins, six within easy driving distance, and two of those just the right ages for close friendships.

But back to gay marriage. When I teach Locke’s Second Treatise (as I did last week in summer school), I spend a good bit of time discussing his re-envisioning of the family into a series of contractual or pseudo-contractual relationships, undertaken for the sake of child-rearing. I ask students whether new reproductive technologies and new means of social provision, all of which are conceivable in Lockian terms (since nature is in a way the enemy) make it possible to widen our "Lockian" definition of what constitutes a family. If we’re facing a situation where men are dispensable even for the sake of reproduction and where anyone can be a wage-earner, why, according to Locke, must a family consist of a male husband and a female wife? And it of course goes without saying that if the family doesn’t necessarily exist for the sake of reproduction, there’s no obvious Lockian reason to discountenance gay marriage, polygamy, and polyandry. At this point, my conservative students are scandalized and my liberal students are embracing this suddenly very attractive dead white male. I then ask if there’s a non-Biblical, non-religious argument for the position Locke actually takes, favoring the two-parent household with male and female partners. If the biological and economic arguments are not determinative, having apparently been overtaken by events, what’s left? That’s when I ask about learning how to be a man in relation to other men and to women and to be a woman in relation to other women and to men. The family is our first, best, and indeed irreplaceable school in these matters, and male and female children both need male and female parents, regardless of what they might discover about their own orientations later in life. This inevitably leads to all sorts of other interesting conversations.

But enough for now, I have two summer school classes for which I must prepare, having spent the better part of the evening in the rain watching children and teenagers swim. For the record, the Vermack Vikings beat a much larger Garden Hills Cool Sharks team. My nine year old son, Liam, swam a credible breast stroke leg of a medley relay and a respectable 25 free race, nearly overtaking an arch-rival on the team; he was awaiting his 25 breast heat when the meet was called. My seven year old daughter, Charlotte, looked good swimming her first ever competitive butterfly leg in a medley relay and took second place to an eight year old Amazon in the 25 free. Let’s hope next week’s meet takes place without rain and with temperatures above about 68 degrees.

Update: The always interesting Tom Cerber has more here.


Mark Felt has long been a leading candidate to be Deep Throat, and I recall once reading somewhere that one of his kids, I think, told another kid at summer camp about 15 years back that his dad was Deep Throat. I’ll have to go back and see if I can track this down.

Meanwhile, what if, as popular theory has it, there was more than one W & B source that they called "Deep Throat"? That would complicates matters, because somewhere out there, one of the other persons who think he’s Deep Throat (John Sears? Fred Fielding???) will be really pissed off if W & B confirm Felt.

Deep Throat

MSNBC claims this: "W. Mark Felt, who retired from the FBI after rising to its second most senior position, has identified himself as the ’Deep Throat’ source quoted by The Washington Post to break the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation, Vanity Fair magazine said Tuesday." The article states that Bernstein and Woodward would neither affirm or deny the fact. But should’t they do so, if he is indeed the man? Here is the whole
July 2005 Vanity Fair story.

Steyn’s Memorial Day

Here is Mark Steyn’s note on Memorial Day. Very good.  

New Masters program

I don’t think I have had a chance to mention our new Masters in American History and Government program at Ashland. This unique program is an intensive Summer program, intended primarily for teachers. Take a look at it, I think you’ll like it. This is the course of study, and these are the classes offered this Summer. This is the faculty.

A long walk to freedom

As a young liberal from northwest Ohio in the 1960s, Keith Thompson was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words to become active in what was then called "progresssive" politics. But now, he says in a striking essay in the San Francisco Chronicle, "I walk away from... the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos."

An estrangement had been growing for Thompson since "a dinner party on the day Ronald Reagan famously described the Soviet Union as the pre-eminent source of evil in the modern world. The general tenor of the evening was that Reagan’s use of the word "evil" had moved the world closer to annihilation. There was a palpable sense that we might not make it to dessert.

When I casually offered that the surviving relatives of the more than 20 million people murdered on orders of Joseph Stalin might not find "evil’" too strong a word, the room took on a collective bemused smile of the sort you might expect if someone had casually mentioned taking up child molestation for sport."

Another decisive moment, he says, happened after Sept. 11, when "I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their premise was straightforward, almost giddily so: When the number of civilian Afghani deaths surpassed the carnage of Sept. 11, the war would be unjust, irrespective of other considerations.

Stated simply: The force wielded by democracies in self-defense was declared morally equivalent to the nihilistic aggression perpetuated by Muslim fanatics."

The final break occured on the day of Iraq’s first free elections: "I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq’s democratic experiment might yet implode." As a liberal, he had to leave the cultural Left because of its fundamental hostility to freedom, which is summed up in its terrible response to the courage of American soldiers in defeating tyranny and of ordinary Iraqis in defying terror.

There is still a long road ahead in places like Iraq, but Thompson’s piece brings to mind a passage from another essay, this one written in 1787. The Federalist says everything Thompson has learned and we must not forget, especially on this Memorial Day:

"From the disorders that disfigure the annals of those republics, the advocates of despotism have drawn arguments, not only against the forms of republican government, but against the very principles of civil liberty... They have indulged themselves in malicious exultation over its friends and partizans. Happily for mankind, stupendous fabrics reared on the basis of liberty, which have flourished for ages, have in a few glorious instances refuted their gloomy sophisms. And, I trust, America will be the broad and solid foundation of other edifices not less magnificent, which will be equally permanent monuments of their errors."


The license plates on one of the two new Mercedes carrying Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones’ banner here in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Memorial Day parade.

The Congresswoman didn’t make an appearance, allowing the cars, banners, and well-chosen vanity plates to speak for her.

Memorial Day ride

Because today is Memorial Day, I will ride to a cemetery in honor of those who have sacrificed their all. I have always gone by myself, but today I will ask my youngest--Johnny is now 17--to go with me on this one. It may be good for the "small man," as I call him, to see his father shed tears of gratitude. This is a piece I wrote after such a ride on Memorial Day in 1997. God bless the soldiers ad patres.


This article on Der Spiegel’s English site is rambling and not altogether coherent, but, then again, so was the whole EU debate. What lies behind the French rejection is backward-looking wishful thinking, a fear of changing the unproductive "French way of life."

Here’s a summary, in English, of German opinion and analysis. For more English-language reaction from the continent, drop by Davids Medienkritik (German blogger), Zacht Ei (Dutch blogger), and No-pasaran (French blogger). They’re all happy with the result, as, I might add, am I.

Update: Davids Medienkritik calls our attention to this post:

Given the prominence of the anti-American and anti-market French "left" in the "no" campaign, even many a "euro-sceptical" pundit will be inclined to say that the French voted "right for the wrong reasons". But there is much post-referendum evidence to suggest that in fact a very large portion of the French electorate, cutting across ideological boundaries, recognized in time the threat to their liberties that Dr. Joseph Fischer’s monster represented.

Ceausescu’s revenge

Anthony Daniels writes in the paper version of National Review (only the first few paragraphs are available on line) about the Casa Poporului (people’s house), the colossal edifice built by Ceausescu, then the Commie tyrant of Romania. The thing is monstrous both in size and appearance, and very badly built. It contains 1,000 rooms and halls and 20,000 people worked on it (with about 400 architects). The Romanians employ 200 people for its upkeep, and the Parliament meets there now. I bring this to your attention because I have seen the thing itself in all its horror, it is indeed a monstrosity. I was in Romania for a few weeks about three months after the revolution (the tyrant was killed on Christmas Day, 1989, as I recall), and while I spent most of my time in Transylvania, I did spend a few days in Bucharest (where I dined on black bear, by the way; I don’t recommend it). The proportions are gargantuan.
The Guiness Book of World Records lists the building in second place according to its 330,000 sq.m. surface, that is after the Pentagon. Here is a photo
of the thing, and another.
And this photo
is of the ballroom; it is 200 feet high, with a plaster niche at each end that was supposed to bear colossal portraits of the tyrant, but they were never painted. I couldn’t find a photo of the spiral staircase, which must have been twenty feet wide and--so I was told--had to be rebuilt once Ceausescu saw it because he wanted it shifted over by two meters. That took another year. This is another shot of the inside.
Daniels calls the building, "Ceausescu’s revenge."

Chaos in Europe?

This is the New York Times account of the "no" vote in France, and here is the WaPo’s account. Tim Hames of The London Times calls the EU Constitution a mystery: "It is a cross between the Berlin telephone directory and the prophecies of Nostradamus." Katrin Bennhold thinks that the French political landscape is scarred forever. The Left is fractured, and Chirac is dead. And the far right may prosper. It will be interesting to see what Sarkozi ends up doing about this. Bronwen Maddox, also writing in the The London Times thinks that "for France, this is turmoil," and he notes that in large part Tony Blair is responsible: Chirac agreed to a referendum after Blair said he would go to one. The Dutch vote on Wednesday, then later the Danes, then the Brits will all vote "no." It will be the end of it, and the increasing distance between the European elites and the ordinary folks will become an unbridgeable chasm. Ironically, Woodrow Wilson’s democracy of experts (i.e., non-democracy) will have come to a completion in Europe (unless the New Europeans can, somehow, save it all because they may yet understand the connection between sovereignty and democracy). George Will thinks that "Europe’s elites -- political, commercial and media -- may learn the limits of their ability to impose their political fetishes on restive and rarely consulted publics." Or, they may not. The people have many concerns, not the least of which is Turkey, which, when it becomes a member, will become the most populous country in the EU; there are implications to this. The oddest thing is that despite the rejection by France--exactly how isn’t clear to anyone--the EU system will continue to muddle through with most members (vide France and German’s ignoring of certain financial provisions already) and the movement away from real democracy in Europe will continue apace. Tony Blair, who is to become the president of the EU this fall, may have the opportunity to be statesmanlike. Let’s see if he takes it. Do note that the Euro
slipped to its lowest level this year against the Dollar. And Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, reassures a waiting world that "the EU will continue to be an actor" on the world stage. : "We’ll continue to work 24 hours (a day) with the same energy that we’ve done before." That must be reassuring to the still-born Europeans of the twenty-first century, these last Europeans, as they keep looking for their virtues because they believe they still have some.

Judicial filibusters

If you read this and this, you’ll understand why the agreement to forgo them, except in "extraordinary circumstances," can’t last.

Mark Steyn on Europe and America

In a typically funny column, Mark Steyn why Eurocrats misunderstand the United States and why, by implication, we should be heartened by yesterday’s E.U. vote in France.

Here’s a taste:

It would be more accurate to say almost all European nations subscribe to a broad family of ideas that are statist. Or, as Mr. Hutton has it, "the European tradition is much more mindful that men and women are social animals and that individual liberty is only one of a spectrum of values that generate a good society."

Precisely. And it’s the willingness to subordinate individual liberty to what Mr. Hutton calls "the primacy of society" that blighted the Continent for more than a century: Statism -- or "the primacy of society" -- is what fascism, Nazism, communism and now European Union all have in common.

In fairness, after the first three, European Union seems a comparatively benign strain of the disease -- not a Blitzkrieg, just a Bitzkrieg, an accumulation of fluffy trivial pan-European laws that nevertheless takes for granted that the natural order is a world in which every itsy-bitsy activity is licensed and regulated and constitutionally defined by government.

Read the whole thing.

Memorial Day

Enough said.

The Bush Administration, African-American pastors, and Africa

Hugh Hewitt calls our attention to this article about the Bush Administration’s attempts to coordinate African aid policy with African-American pastors. Two choice quotes:

"We did not want these ministers to be in a position where they come to Washington, meet with the White House and just pass the black caucus," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)

"We’re losing ministers every week," [Rev. Timothy] McDonald [who is heading a group opposed to Bush Administration policies] said.

Read the whole thing.

Student self-esteem

I missed this when it first appeared, but caught it in today’s Atlanta paper. My favorite passage in this biology professor’s despairing account of her students’ unfounded confidence in their mastery of the material:

In the face of all evidence to the contrary, my students exhibit an unswerving confidence in their own abilities. They earnestly assure me that despite test scores in the single digits and an inability to answer questions posed by their teaching assistant, they really know the material: "It just doesn’t show in my grades."

Read the whole thing.

French Reject the EU Constitution

Here’s an early report from the ’Washington Post’ on France’s rejection of the EU Constitution.

The vote was 56% to 43%. This is said to be a major defeat for Jacque Chirac.

I don’t know much about this but it seems a good thing. The EU Constitution is about 300 pages which means the rule of bureaucrats not self-government. And, a major factor seems to be that many Frenchmen believe they are losing control of their country to immigrants and that approving the EU Constitution would further that loss.

The decisive factor was that Schramm has been out of town for a week.

Ashbrook Center

Philanthropy note

I am back home. The family is fine, and the kids didn't burn it down or eat the dogs, although one of the dogs bit the leg of a young man, a friend of Becky's who happens to be a professional dancer. He can still dance, so it will be OK. Just a quick note on Joe's note below on conservative philanthropy. I agree that Piereson and Olin did great work. More on that later. Joe's right, I knew Henry Salvatori. He was a very fine man, one of Reagan's original "kitchen cabinet" guys. He was a very smart patriot who loved his country not only because it was his, but because it was good. He gave much money to CMC, Heritage, even the University of Pennsylvania. He was essentially responsible for getting The Claremont Institute started: We asked him for a million dollars, and he gave us $50,000 back in the late 70's. After all, we were just students. The organization now has a budget of about 3 million, and does great work, including the publishing of The Claremont Review of Books, the best journal in the country. I agree that the Olin Foundation did great work. My only criticism of the Olin (and some other foundations) is that they are too drawn to name brand institutions. They should pay more attention to those organizations who produce serious students, and have a very sound effect on the body politic even though they may not be located in Cambridge or Chicago. Of course, I count the Ashbrook Center among those (although there are other worthies). Note that we have established (with the Department of History and Political Science at Ashland) an extraordinary Summer Masters program in American History and Government. Take a look at the curriculum and the professors teaching it and tell me if you know of any better. And no foundation has given us big bucks to do it with. It starts in a few weeks. More on these matters later. I have to go home to mow the lawn and take out the trash and feed the dogs....I never said my children were perfect!
Categories > Ashbrook Center

Mitt Romney

Terry Eastland offers a very sympathetic portrait of Mitt Romney, who may well be the second Mormon (after Orin Hatch) to seek the Presidency. Eastland devotes a lot of time to explaining the doctrinal differences between Mormons and the "Judaeo-Christian" tradition.

Several things seem clear from the article. First, Mormons in general, and Romney in particular, are well inside the mainstream when it comes to participating in the complex dance of religion and politics in America.

Romney hasn’t felt compelled to regard the church’s guidance to its members as sufficient in matters of public policy. He emphasizes his independence in assessing issues. He points out that he doesn’t drink, consistent with what his church advises, yet he signed a bill permitting liquor sales on Sunday because "there is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol if you do it properly and responsibly." He notes, too, that he doesn’t smoke, again as his church counsels, but that it was public-health arguments that caused him to approve a ban on smoking in public places.

On a more momentous issue, abortion, Romney told voters when he ran for the Senate in 1994 that he was personally opposed to abortion but that abortion should be "safe and legal in this country," and that "we should sustain and support" Roe v. Wade because it had been law for 20 years. When Romney ran for governor in 2002, he maintained his position on Roe, but also indicated that he didn’t want to be known as "pro-choice." He promised voters that he would honor a "moratorium," meaning he would not try to move state abortion law in one direction or the other, and he’s kept his word. Romney speaks of the moratorium as an act of deference to "an overwhelmingly pro-choice state" and not as reflecting any commitment he might still have to a pro-abortion rights position. "I recognize the right for a state to choose its own course," he says. Romney describes himself as "pro-life," but his own moratorium has prevented him from moving abortion policy in that direction, were he inclined to do so. On abortion, Romney’s church is in favor of life but permissive of abortion in cases of incest or rape or when the mother’s life or health is threatened (that last a very roomy loophole). Suffice to say, Romney has not seen fit to advance his church’s policy.

In other words, like other religious conservatives, Romney (and his church) recognize the distinction between the moral and the legal, between the laws that ought to govern the behavior of individuals and church communities and the laws that are or can be enforced on everyone by the power of the state. (In the interest of brevity, I won’t say more about this here, though, I’d be happy to elaborate in response to queries. In the meantime, consider this: Romney doesn’t drink, because his church forbids it, but he’s not a prohibitionist.)

Second, while many conservative religionists have made common cause with Mormons, and may even support a Mormon candidate, this doesn’t mean Romney’s Mormonism would be a non-issue in an election:

Someone willing to go on the record was Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship. Notwithstanding his "fundamental" theological differences with Mormonism, Colson said, "I could in very good conscience support Romney," calling him "a first-rate guy in every respect" and "a social conservative on most of the issues we care about." Colson obviously wasn’t declaring for Romney, but simply indicating that he would not in religious principle, so to speak, be opposed to Romney and indeed could find political reasons to support him. Whether he would actually do so, of course, would "all depend on what the lineup is" and "where each person stands." The other evangelical leaders I contacted took the same view. Colson offered the likely correct forecast: Romney’s appeal to evangelicals might slacken if a competent evangelical or Catholic with social views similar to Romney’s were in the race; on the other hand, Romney’s stock with evangelicals might go up if he were pitted against candidates holding more liberal social views, regardless of their religion. One evangelical leader offered this succinct take on whether Romney’s faith would hurt him in the primaries: "Against Giuliani, no. Against Frist, yes. Against [Rick] Santorum, yes. Against Arnold [Schwarzenegger, who is ineligible], no."

Eastland notes that Romney’s political opponents have in the past reminded voters of the social conservatism of the LDS church. Would they do so again? Not likely in a Republican primary. In a general election, who knows? I wonder how much of this we’d see.

My thanks to the John M. Olin Foundation

I once met James Piereson, the Executive Director of the John M. Olin Foundation, whose article on conservative philanthropy from the May issue of Commentary was reprinted Friday in the WSJ’s Opinion Journal. It was 25 years ago, at the University of Chicago, and the venue was a seminar funded by the John M. Olin Foundation and organized by Allan Bloom. I’d hadn’t heard of the Foundation before, but I was very grateful for the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Hyde Park reading some interesting books and talking to lots of interesting people. I never met Mr. Piereson again, though I did profit once more from the Foundation’s largesse, spending a year as a Visiting Scholar at Boston College’s Department of Political Science. I’m sad to see the Foundation go, but understand why it must, as it fulfills its founder’s wishes by spending its resources before it can be captured (as many other foundations have) by fashionably liberal philanthropocrats.

Piereson’s article provides a nice summary of the institutional and intellectual history of post-World War II conservatism, though I must note one omission--Henry Salvatori, about whom others (that means you, Peter) can speak much more authoritatively than I. Piereson insists upon the importance of the investment in conservative ideas, which distinguished his foundation and its "allies" from their liberal counterparts, which were so convinced of the unassailability of the liberal consensus (and of the stupidity of their conservative opponents) that they spent most of their resources in recent years on advocacy and activism. The result is a Left that isn’t all that good at waging the war of ideas, at least not on the level of ideas. They’re good at invective and at the pseudo-Marxist impugning of motives, but not at the rigorous and systematic analysis of theoretical issues.

Here’s Jason DeParle’s summary, from a long article in Sunday’s New York Times:

Feeling outmatched in the war of ideas, liberal groups have spent years studying conservative foundations the way Pepsi studies Coke, searching for trade secrets. They say that Olin and its allies have pushed an agenda that spread wealth at the top and insecurity below, and that left market excesses unchecked - and that they have done so with estimable skill.

"The right has done a marvelous job," said Rob Stein, a former official in the Clinton administration who has formed an organization, the Democracy Alliance, to develop rival machinery on the left. "They are strategic, coordinated, disciplined and well financed. And they’re well within their rights in a democracy to have done what they’ve done."

Mr. Piereson says that one Olin secret is plain to see: its interest in abstract ideas, removed from day-to-day politics. With conservatives in power, he worries that foundations and donors will focus too heavily on "public policy sorts of things," like school choice or anti-tax campaigns; by contrast, Mr. Piereson spent millions on the Olin Center for Inquiry Into the Theory and Practice of Democracy at the University of Chicago, where a typical conference examined the legacy of Rousseau.

As a result, Mr. Piereson is spending his last months in office promoting a route to political influence - intellectual armament - as unlikely as it has been effective. "The ideas have to be tended to," Mr. Piereson said. "Only after that can you tend to the policies."

Piereson concludes his article by discussing the next phase of conservative philanthropy:

That next phase will necessarily be different from those that have gone before. For one thing, conservative philanthropy will likely be based more on individuals than has been the case till now. The prosperity of the past few decades, along with the success of conservative groups and ideas, has created a cohort of such individuals, few with enormous wealth but many prosperous enough to make significant gifts to conservative enterprises. At the same time, some conservative foundations--Olin pre-eminently among them--have spent themselves or intend to spend themselves out of business in accordance with their founders’ wishes, and others have begun to shift their priorities.

The reason for this shift has to do with the fact that conservatism has become a governing philosophy, and governance leans toward the practical. This is a natural evolution in a movement that has assumed national responsibility, and that needs workable agenda items--school vouchers, personal retirement accounts, legal reform, elimination of the estate tax and so forth--to propose and enact. In addition, various conservative donors have themselves become involved in promoting one or another specific policy, and see the passing of a piece of legislation, or the implementation of a reform, as the most tangible measure of their success.

There is a temptation here, Piereson notes, to focus on the practical at the expense of the theoretical. If conservatives and their philanthropic supporters neglect to tend the latter garden, as did their liberal counterparts in the past generation, we could, after perhaps a generation of more or less successful conservative governance, be close to where the liberals are today, albeit with fewer resources that can deployed to assist an intellectual recovery. As DeParle notes:

no group is poised to fill Olin’s niche as a benefactor of big ideas. Hoping to encourage one, Mr. Meyerson organized the dinner in New York to celebrate Olin’s achievements, prompting coverage in National Review, The New York Sun and The New York Observer. In the last year, Mr. Piereson has published essays in The Wall Street Journal and Commentary magazine, summoning donors to the "battle of ideas."

But ideas can be a tough sell. "It can take 20 years to have a serious impact," Mr. Meyerson said, and many donors want quicker success.

As for ideas, Mr. Piereson has a new one. He is hoping to start an initiative to counter liberal influence in academia. Liberal academics "don’t like American capitalism, American culture, and they don’t like American history - they see it as a history of oppression," he said. "There are some people who are prepared to spend large sums of money to address this problem."

I can’t help but wish Mr. Piereson as much success in his next endeavor as in the one he is bringing to a conclusion this year. Perhaps he should take a closer look at what’s going on
here and here. At the moment, I have a bit of a soft spot for this enterprise.

Update: As usual, where things conservative and "Straussian" are concerned, Brian Leiter manages to show how not to elevate the tone of the conversation.

Religion and higher education

This is, on the whole, a hopeful survey of developments at the intersection of religion and highere education. The author, Michael S. Hamilton, argues that there have been some successful efforts to push colleges and universities up the slippery slope of secularization. In some cases, "presidential Christianization" has been successful; in others, there have been efforts to "[empower] Christian faculty to be leavening agents at their schools" that have had an impact. He’s not sure about Baylor, but a little hopeful about Wake Forest, which recently hired Nathan O. Hatch as its President.

Religion and politics in Canada

Tom Cerber calls our attention to this article about conservative Christian activists gaining a share of political influence in Canada. What’s noteworthy is that some of the candidates who have gained nominations are recent immigrants, who in previous generations would likely have found a home in Canada’s Liberal Party, rather than with the Conservatives.

For more on religion and politics in Canada, go here, here, and here.

Hypocrisy, double standards, and the religious Left

Read more about it here. Hat tip: Get Religion.

Heading home

I went up to Fort Collins yesterday to visit Terrence and Jennifer Moore (and their two month old boy Samuel) at Ridgeview Classical Schools. It was great to see them both. They have been there for four
years, and while I knew that the school (K-12) was terrific, it was good to actually see the place. It is a public charter school with a great curriculum, it follows the Hirsch Core Knowledge Sequence in grades K-8. There are about 600 students in the school, and they are impressive. It is amazing what can be done with a good curriculum and a fine faculty. Education at its best. If you don’t know the place, have a look. I’m flying home this morning.

What’s the matter with the middle class?

Here’s a story about a report that argues that Democrats have lost the votes of the white middle class.

Among the five principal findings are that white middle-income voters supported President Bush by 22 percentage points. The study concluded that the "economic tipping point -- the income level above which white voters were more likely to vote Republican than Democrat -- was $23,700."

The federal poverty guideline for a family of four is currently $19,350, so I don’t think of $23,700 as middle class. I’d put it this way: the moment you get out of what might reasonably be defined as poverty, you become likely, if you’re white, to vote Republican.

I can’t find the whole report on-line, but here’s the website of the group that apparently sponsored it.

Colleges in Colorado

This is a front page, above the fold, story in the Denver Post today: "Colleges miss the mark on basics." The point is this:

More than a third of the core classes Colorado public colleges and universities submitted to the state for review have deficiencies that are likely to require a warning that they might not transfer to other schools because they do not meet state standards.

The schools submitted 320 courses that are taught as core classes designed to offer students the basics. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education coordinated a group of 100 faculty members from different schools and disciplines to review class descriptions. The commission is scheduled to vote on the recommendations Thursday.

I am not exactly sure what core classes are, but the categories (arts and humanities, mathematics, etc.) are mentioned in the box at the end of the article. A course on the "History of Rock’n’Roll" passed, while "General Physics" did not. It seems that the various state schools nominated the classes to be "core"; such classes "allows students to demonstrate critical thinking and competency in the subject." Someone explains that the Rock’n’Roll class was approved because it shows "the rock music of the era reflected the society and politics of the time." Perfectly pedestrian stuff, is it not? The physics prof said that his class may not have passed because "the course was too in-depth to be considered a basic class."
That may explian why the Rock’n’Roll class passed. I am perplexed why a front page article like this doesn’t explain in any detail what makes a class core (or basic). Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education takes it seriously, at least regarding the transfer credit issue.

More on the Filibuster Deal: Graham and DeWine Off the Hook?

Last night, Major Garrett reported on ’Special Report with Brit Hume’ that Lindsay Graham and Mike DeWine were dispatched to join the twelve Senators who were trying to avoid the showdown on judicial filibusters by the White House and Majority Leader Bill Frist. Why? The White House and Frist weren’t sure they had the fifty votes to change the rules. Why? According to the report, they didn’t know how Arlen Spector would vote. Without Spector’s vote they didn’t have the fifty votes needed to allow Vice President Cheney to cast the tie-breaking vote. So Graham and DeWine were sent to cut the best deal they could get.

Go here to see the Fox News Report. Once at, you have to go over to the right hand side of the screen to ’Fox News Access Free Video’ and click on ’Politics’ and then click on the ’Behind the Scenes’ story.

Spector still says, in the report, that he will not reveal his position on the Constitutional or Nuclear option.

DeWine indicated that part of the deal was that filibustering Saad and Myers is not a deal breaker.

So I think Hayward is right that the GOP is stronger following the 2004 election but they still don’t seem to have a reliable 50 votes when it comes to judicial nominations. Remember Spector voted against Bork.

An Exercise in Moral Equivalence

Near the end of our trip to Europe we crossed the Channel and visited a few of the sites associated with the Normandy invasion. The American cemetery, with its thousands of simple white crosses, moved me deeply, as everyone told me would happen. Then we stopped at a museum in Caen, ostensibly devoted to World War II, but with a substantial exhibit on the Cold War as well. I was intrigued, but what I found in the accompanying museum guide was particularly interesting:

The Dark Side of the Cold War

Each bloc [i.e., the U.S. and the Soviets] had hidden sides. Both camps had their dissidents and their protesters, and so developed repressive policies.

On the American side, there was the problem of the blacks and social equality, alongside the anti-Communist hysteria that was unleashed in 1949 when news of the first nuclear explosion in the USSR was released.

The Soviet side features the Gulag: thousands of deportees worked and died in the countless Siberian work camps.

Sure, the Russkies had slave labor camps, but, hey, America didn’t have social equality!

So Much for Equality

So, New York City is now going to require a two-to-one ratio of women’s to men’s rest rooms in stadiums, etc. Doesn’t this violate the equal protection clause, not to mention the premise behind much of feminism?

Belmont Club moves, again

The Belmont Club is at a new location, again. He is having trouble with Blogger. His comments on just about everything are always worthy. Note this on the acceleration of operations in Iraq.


A nine year old boy, a second grader, gets his way, and will place flowers on all the graves of veterans at his local cemetery. He will remove them on the day after memorial Day. He didn’t like the idea that some veterans have flowers on their graves, while some don’t (only family members are normally allowed to place flowers on graves). The boy, Collin Kelly, said "I think it’s nice if they have something to remember them by, so they won’t seem that lonely."

Polynesians as warriors

The Iraq war death rate per one million population is almost as high for

American Samoa (86.4 per million) as for the 10 highest states combined (e.g., Vermont, 16.1; North Dakota, 14.2; Wyoming 11.9). The national rate is is about 5 per million. (The chart is not shown in the on-line article). This is the World Factbook on American Samoa.

Hillary favored by majority

Hillary Clinton is now, for the first time, favored by a majority of Americans for president in 2008, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll. 53% said they are likely to vote for Sen. Clinton. "In the poll, 29% were ’very likely’ to vote for Clinton for president if she runs in 2008; 24% were ’somewhat likely.’ Seven percent were ’not very likely’ and 39% were ’not at all likely’ to vote for her.

Her strong support has risen by 8 percentage points, and her strong opposition has dropped by 5 points since the same question was asked in June 2003."

States get more money

Yesterday’s USA Today reports that state government revenues are soaring, ending a period of budget shortfalls. "Tax collections rose to a record $600 billion in the states last year, up 7.2% over 2003, the biggest increase since 2000. The money is rolling in even faster this year as many states report double-digit revenue increases through April." In 2003 Massachussetts faced a $3 billion shortfall. Now, Gov. Romney (R) wants to use about half the surplus to cut the state income tax to 5% from 5.3%. This windfall is already affecting politics in the states and in many the more conservative candidates for governor will benefit in the primaries for 2006. In Ohio there are calls for reducing the state income tax, and in California Gov. Arnold wants to use the windfall to borrow $1.9 billion less.

Leaving the Left

Keith Thompson explains why he has left "the house the left has built." A paragraph, but the whole thing is worth reading:

I’m leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq’s democratic experiment might yet implode.

Thanks to Arts & Letters.

David Brooks on liberals and evangelicals

Today’s NYT Brooks column makes an argument regarding the possibility of an alliance between evangelicals and conservatives:

The natural alliance for antipoverty measures at home and abroad is between liberals and evangelical Christians. These are the only two groups that are really hyped up about these problems and willing to devote time and money to ameliorating them. If liberals and evangelicals don’t get together on antipoverty measures, then there will be no majority for them and they won’t get done.

But, he argues, we can’t have both a war on poverty and a culture war. The evangelicals, he says, are broadening their agenda:

And when I look at the evangelical community, I see a community in the midst of a transformation - branching out beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage, and getting more involved in programs to help the needy. I see Rick Warren, who through his new Peace initiative is sending thousands of people to Rwanda and other African nations to fight poverty and disease. I see Chuck Colson deeply involved in Sudan. I see Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals drawing up a service agenda that goes way beyond the normal turf of Christian conservatives.

As I argued
in this book review, there’s something to this phenomenon: evangelicals are very active in "anti-poverty" work. And they’re even willing to reach out to folks who aren’t their natural allies.

But while Brooks concedes that "[s]erious differences over life issues are not going to go away," he seems to imply that evangelicals are the ones who are and ought to be doing all the reaching out and changing. If they’re too insistent on things like abortion and stem cell research, he seems to suggest, if they aren’t "embarrassed by the people held up by the news media as their spokesmen" (who does he have in mind? Falwell and Robertson or Dobson, Land, Colson, and Mohler?), then secular liberals won’t want to work with them. The war on poverty can succeed only if--am I right about this, Mr. Brooks?--evangelicals soft-pedal the "culture of life issues." That would be quite a price to pay, and one that I’d urge them to not to pay.

Another consideration that Brooks overlooks is that evangelical and liberal approaches to fighting poverty are not quite the same. The former focus more heavily on the individual and "characterological" sources of poverty, as opposed to those found in the structure of the economy. The two can, I think, be complementary. I don’t see anything in evangelicalism that would lead them necessarily and absolutely to resist addressing structural problems. But they would continue to insist, I think, that in many cases the causes of poverty are to be located in the souls of the needy. If they get their souls in order, they’ll get their lives in order, and if they get their lives in order, they’ll very likely be more successful in everything they attempt. Yes, they need opportunities and training, but they also need help becoming disposed to take advantage of those opportunities and training. So, yes, evangelicals can work with secular liberals. And there is, as I said, nothing in evangelicalism itself that necessarily requires that they prefer the conservative over the liberal approach to dealing with poverty. (This is, as I have argued many times, less a matter of theology than of social science.) But I would hope that the evangelical emphasis on "soulcraft" is non-negotiable. And if I were sitting at the negotiating table, I would insist that my secular liberal brethren make room for this soulcraft as a means of dealing with poverty. I’d also, needless to say, be unyielding on "culture of life" matters. If the price of cooperating with secular liberals on goals we have in common is surrender on abortion, stem cell research, and so on, the price is too high to pay. I’d want to see some give on their side as well.

And, above all, I’d want David Brooks using his bully pulpit on the editorial pages of the New York Times at least gently to suggest that more cooperation would be forthcoming if secular liberals (1) stopped demonizing and insulting theologically conservative evangelicals and (2) showed some willingness to recognize that individuals have responsibilities as well as choices, that the role of government is not simply to maximize human autonomy and power, but also to leave as much room as possible for an individual’s (and a church community’s) recognition of its dependence upon a deity.

Travel note

I’m in Denver, just returned from the "Trail Dust," a great big honky-tonk with a good fiddle player and another fellow giving a pretty good rendition of Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Good conversation with Tara and John Abramson, and even their two-and-a-half year old Isaac. I spent many hours in Boulder earlier today in good conversation with two wise guys. They were telling me about, well, let’s call it the anthropology of Boulder, and they were certain that there is something like a "subculture of normalcy" in this goofy town. I’ll take their word for it. San Francisco was good for a day, drove down to Monterrey and saw David and Ellen Tucker. Also had a great visit with Rhea and Elsie Wheeler. Rhea was 100 on her last birthday, and is as smart, congenial, and enlivened as ever. She noted in one conversation that she had forgotten someone’s name the other day and was concerned that she might be getting old! Well, by that standard I have been old for thirty years. She looked great. My mother is doing well; she just turned 80. On Sunday we had lunch in Malibu, and she regaled me with her latest effort to confront the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Her license needed renewing, so she was forced to take the written test. Not good, since her English is poor. Well, by hook and crook and on the third try, she got a 100% on it. She was very pleased with herself. On Monday I had a surprisingly pleasant day. Went to the L.A. Yacht Club with a friend who took me out on his lovely 32 feet Beneteau sloop named the "Spirit."
We were out about four hours. Pure delight! I’m told that I’m a sailor now! The conversation wasn’t bad either, by the way.
Previous to that I was in Dallas, spent most of my time with some former students and even got a chance to get into it with some of the faculty at UD. Worth the trip. Good people. I’ll be home Saturday, and get back to work.

A question

Imagine the situation if the man described in this article had written about racial or ethnic groups what he apparently wrote about religious believers. Would anyone be defending him? Would he deserve to be defended? Would his at least somewhat plausible explanations be heard sympathetically or skeptically?

You make the call.

The Deal

I’ve been digesting the filibuster deal slower than a Philly cheesesteak, and much as I deplore the weakminded Republicans who caved, I think the deal in the end will work out worse for Democrats. First, it makes their hypocrisy more obvious; having found the filibuster sacred after trashing it a few years ago will make them look ridiculous when they try to get rid of the filibuster next time that have a small and frustrated majority; second, allowing votes on the three judges they deemed "too extreme" to be confirmed makes them look insincere and petty. This will become more obvious to voters who pay attention.

The Dems are hoping Bush will send a moderate up for the Supreme Court. He is more likely to send them Bolton. Above all, remember that bad as this compromise is, it came about because of GOP electoral progress. The co-called "nuclear option" was wholly implausible a year ago, and the GOP had no leverage at all to get Owen, Pryor, and Brown through. Now they are through, and the Dems ability to block future nominees, though not eliminated, is somewhat constricted. In other words, it was Republican political momentum that brought us to this point, not Democratic strength.

More on the Filibuster Deal and 2008

Hugh Hewitt offers a reasonable assessment of winners and losers in this recent deal struck by the 14 Senators to avoid a showdown on filibusters.

Hewitt argues that the biggest loser is John McCain. McCain has angered conservative Republican activists and that will cost him in 2008. Other big losers are Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Mike DeWine of Ohio.

Winners, according to Hewitt, are George Allen, John Thune, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney.

Of course, the biggest winners are Priscilla Owen and the other judges who will soon be confirmed. Frist will be a loser in all of this, if he doesn’t bring all of the judges up for a vote and, if necessary, put the Constitutional/Nuclear option on the table

Peggy Noonan offers some caustic comments on the narcissism of the 14 Senators. It was nauseating to listen to these fourteen talk about how they had saved the Republic. I’ve always found Lindsay Graham charming in a blow-dried Huey Long kind of way.

Ohio distinguished itself in the 2004 election by delivering the Electoral College majority to President Bush by 60,000 votes. Since the election, Ohio’s two Senators have embarassed the state, Voinovich on the Bolton nomination (Does Voinovich really believe that Bolton will endanger his grandchildren?)and DeWine on the Seante deal. Hewitt points out that DeWine has probably cost his son, Patrick the upcoming primary election in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District.

Republicans in the House and White House

In a typically ahistorical fashion, this WaPo article portrays as sinister efforts in the House to strengthen the body’s leadership and in the White House to gain effective control over the federal bureaucracy. Here’s the most over-the-top line:

Bush created a top-down system in the White House much like the one his colleagues have in Congress. He has constructed what many scholars said amounts to a virtual oligarchy with Cheney, Karl Rove, Andrew H. Card Jr., Joshua Bolton, himself and only a few others setting policy, while he looks to Congress and the agencies mostly to promote and institute his policies.

Anyone who had more than a nodding familiarity with the scholarly literature on Congressional leadership or on the President’s efforts over the years to live up to his Constitutional responsibility to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" would take a more nuanced and much less partisan view of these developments. Such an observer would understand, for example, the difficulties faced by House leaders in much of the 20th century and recognize that the realistic alternative to the current situation are either the Congress where committees were the personal preserves of their chairs or the Congress where individuals were so "empowered" that almost everyone had a tiny bit of turf to call his or her own. The latter is not democracy, it’s decentralized chaos. A non-partisan observer would also know that Congressional leadership of the sort described in the article actually exists only at the sufferance of the majority of the majority party. The current House "regime" serves the electoral and policy interests of the Republican rank-and-file, just as any House controlled by the Democrats would serve the electoral and policy interests of the Democratic rank-and-file.

On the Bush Administration’s approach to the use of executive power, I can’t improve upon this book, which I reviewed here (the third review). Here are the first two paragraphs of my review:

Like many of its modern predecessors, the Bush administration has been evaluated, in roughly the middle of its term, by a group of distinguished scholars, whose essays have been collected in this volume. Readers whose acquaintance with George W. Bush comes largely through press reports and other political commentary might be surprised by some of the conclusions.

For example, John P. Burke paints a picture of a thoughtful, well-considered transition from campaigning to governing, despite the extraordinary circumstances of the election’s aftermath. The Bush administration, others note, assembled a much more experienced and disciplined team than did its immediate predecessor. The result was an exceptionally focused and politically successful ’first hundred days’.

Political scientists who don’t let party get in the way of professional judgment would take a somewhat different view tha the authors of the article. (I am not, by the way, accusing the distinguished scholars quoted in the article of doing so. I suspect that their remarks to the reporters were massaged to fit a predetermined story line.)

Why judicial appointments matter

Over at Southern Appeal, Michael DeBow calls our attention to an article about the American Constitution Society’s Yale conference, which was also discussed extensively over at Powerline.

The conference was intended to help develop "a progressive constitutional vision that is intellectually sound, practically relevant, and faithful to our constitutional values and heritage."
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the very existence of the ACS is testimony to the effectiveness of the Federalist Society.

The most interesting thing that Michael notes in his post is that some folks at the ACS are actually thinking that their agenda may be better promoted in the legislature than in the courts, which for them is something of a novel thought. It is, I submit, a concession to the expectation (which I fervently hope is fulfilled) that the Bush Administration will ultimately prevail in this year’s judicial nomination battles. If those who wish to enact a "progressive vision" actually have to enact something, rather than legislating it from the bench, they stand a very good chance of losing.

Priscilla Owen confirmation

Priscilla Owen was confirmed by a 56-43 vote, with Democratic Senators Landrieu and Byrd voting for her and Republican Senator Chafee voting against. I agree with this press release:

Liberal pressure groups and Senate Democrats ranted for months and years that Justice Owen was an ‘extremist’ whose confirmation must be prevented at all costs. Well, now she’s been confirmed by a bipartisan majority, proving that all the Democrat bluster was a fraud.

"The Senate will now move on to the rest of President Bush’s judicial nominees, and one thing is clear: each and every nominee is entitled to an up-or-down vote, just as Majority Leader Frist and the Republicans have said all along. The confirmation of Justice Owen also confirms that her judicial philosophy, like that of the rest of the President’s nominees, does not constitute an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ under the terms of the compromise agreement entered Monday evening by 14 Senators.

For more, go
here and, of course, here and here.

Britain’s Yob Problem

I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks of shepherding a group of 27--mostly college students--around Great Britain. Having spent some time watching television news there, I can only say that I was surprised by how weak it was. Whether it be the BBC or SkyNews, there was no meaningful coverage of foreign events. There was a great deal of talk about American billionaire Malcolm Glazer’s acquisition of Manchester United (was that even a story here?), and talk about the opening of Parliament (we got to watch the procession of the Queen back from Westminster). George Galloway’s performance before Norm Coleman’s Senate subcommittee briefly made news, but faded almost immediately from public notice.

The biggest news story--one that the networks went back to again and again--involved "yobs." Apparently the term derives from the word "boy" spelled backwards, but according to the American Heritage dictionary a yob is "a rowdy, aggressive, or violent young man." They are, it seems, so much of a problem that many shopping centers have passed rules against the wearing of the hooded sweatshirts ("hoodies") that have become so important to "yob culture" (another term that popped up again and again). A representative of Scotland Yard characterized them as "feral gangs" prowling the streets of English cities, menacing the innocent locals. Tony Blair wants to dedicate his third and final term as PM to dealing with the threat of the yobbos.

The strange part is that, from what I could see, the yob phenomenon is being tremendously blown out of proportion. Youth crime in Britain has actually dropped quite a bit in the past ten years--by something between 25 and 30 percent. But a few headline-grabbing stories from the past few weeks, including the tragic episode of a father of four who was beaten nearly to death by a gang of yobbos, have served to create something bordering on a sense of panic.

Supreme Court to Hear Abortion Case

The Supreme Court will hear an abortion case for the first time in five years. Here’s a brief news report on the upcoming case.

Senate deal on judicial nominations

Details here. Reactions here and here.

Everyone in the Senate is, of course, spinning, but the ability of the Democrats to filibuster judicial nominees hasn’t been definitively broken. They regard themselves as the winners: "We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the radical right of the Republican party an undeniable message ... the abuse of power will not be tolerated."

If I were doing the spinning on the Republican side, here’s some of what I’d say. Democratic happiness over this deal gives the lie to the rhetoric of extremism they have used to smear three worthy nominees--Priscilla Owen, William Pryor, and Janice Rogers Brown--and which they will of course use to smear others. Their principal goal all along has been simply obstructionist, not a matter of principle. Since their charges of extremism were in this case so lightly abandoned, no one ought to take them seriously again. Let’s portray the Democrats as they are: not principled defenders of judicial activism (a position we’d love to debate and put in its place), but opportunistic and unprincipled partisans, willing to go to any lengths to stymie a President, for whose person and office their contempt knows no bounds. We have for the moment preserved the forms, but not the substance, of Senate procedure. We will hold the Democrats to their side of the agreement, which we think will take some doing, given their record. And we will continue to remind them of the "flexibility" they displayed today regarding their judgments of judicial extremism. If a judge like Janice Rogers Brown, someone who allegedly would have taken us back to the 19th century, deserves an up-or-down vote, so does any conceivable Supreme Court nominee.

This doesn’t quite make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear, but I might be able to sleep soundly tonight.

Update: This response is troubling:

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said her group was "heartened that the crisis has been averted and the right to filibuster preserved for upcoming Supreme Court nominations. We are confident that a Supreme Court nominee who won’t even state a position on Roe v. Wade is the kind of ’extraordinary circumstance’ this deal envisions."

If she’s right, then the appearance of being had will be replaced by the reality of being had. One can only hope, probably in vain, that the Republican signatories of this deal will rejoin their party, should even one of their Democratic counterparts contemplate filibustering a Supreme Court nominee.

I note also in response to Fung (comment # 12 below) that had the filibuster been as "normal" and "traditional" (my words, not his) a response to judicial nominations as he claims, Clarence Thomas would surely have been filibustered. The willingness of his vitriolic and underhanded opponents to accept a narrow defeat, when they appeared to be willing to go to any length to stop his nomination, points to the extraordinariness and unprecedentedness of the current Democratic tactic.

I also note that there are two "advice and consent" clauses in the

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors....

The treaty-making power is "seamless," with the implication that the Senate’s advice and consent be sought throughout (which is perhaps as it should be since treaties function somewhat as laws). But the President shall nominate and then seek the advice and consent of the Senate in the appointment, which is also as it should be, since nomination is by and large an executive function. Treaty-making is a shared executive and legislative function; appointment is an essentially executive function, qualified by Senate participation. The agreement crafted by the fourteen "moderates" seems to overlook this constitutional distinction.

No showcase for "Awesome God"

This is unfortunate, but fortunately actionable. For more, go here and here.

This is, most likely, overzealous avoidance of any whiff of endorsement, which is an unfortunate byproduct of the the "subjectivism" encouraged by Sandra Day O’Connor’s First Amendment jurisprudence. When my son was in first grade, his teacher tried to persuade him that on his Thanksgiving poster (to be displayed in the hallway), he shouldn’t say that he was thankful for his church. I almost went nuclear (since "private" religious expression in response to an assignment is clearly permissible), but the teacher was sensible enough to consult the principal and the principal actually was at least vaguely familiar with U.S. Department of Education guidelines.

I don’t see the ADF losing this case, though it is sad that they even have to litigate.

The Angry Humorist Strikes Again

Garrison Keillor goes the the full Moonbat about right-wing talk radio in The Nation.

Pryor opponents grasping at straws

Here’s a passage from the Interfaith Alliance’s document supporting its opposition to William Pryor’s Appeals Court nomination:

Even though Mr. Pryor properly executed a court order demanding the removal of a controversial
monument dedicated to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building, it would be severely
misguided to extrapolate this action by the chief law enforcement officer of the State of Alabama as a
change in philosophy and temperament on the proper separation of religion and government.

Despite Mr. Pryor’s compliance with a court-ordered injunction, nothing has changed in regard to Mr.
Pryor’s personal feelings on the public display of the Ten Commandments. As a matter of fact, in an
August 23, 2003 statement regarding the removal of the monument, he closed with the following
sentence, “The rule of law means that when courts resolve disputes, after all appeals and arguments, we
all must obey the orders of those courts even when we disagree with those orders. The rule of law means
that we can work to change the law but not to defy court orders.” It is exactly this type of judicial activism
from a Justice Pryor that we seek to avoid.

Gee, what more could they ask? Pryor’s recognition of the difference between adjudication and legislation (an understanding that is the very antithesis of "judicial activism") is turned against him, fueled by an unspecific fear, backed by no real evidence (and indeed controverted by the evidence), of how he would behave as a judge.

For more on the Interfaith Alliance, go here and here.

Update: For the record, here is part of an email I received today (Tuesday, May 25th, after the, ahem, compromise) from the Interfaith Alliance:

As you know by now, the US Senate reached a compromise last night around the pending “nuclear option” and several of the president’s judicial nominees. The Senate compromise is a victory for the rules of the Senate and the separation of powers. While I am pleased that this deal takes the unprecedented “nuclear option” off the table, I am very disappointed that it still allows some of President Bush’s most extreme judicial nominees such as William Pryor to move forward.

The Interfaith Alliance will continue urging Senators to thoroughly examine the merits of each judicial nominee and to oppose those who are a threat to religious liberty in America. Using the language of the compromise itself, I hope a majority of senators will reject Mr. Pryor’s nomination because he represents an “extraordinary circumstance” through his failure to support religious diversity and his lack of commitment to maintaining the institutional separation of religion and government.

I hope this compromise ensures that the integrity of future Supreme Courts remains protected from the undue influences of a vocal, radical faction of the right that is completely out of step with mainstream America.

I am particularly pleased that the senators involved in the compromise specifically cite the U. S. Constitution’s requirement that the President must seek the advice and consent of the Senate. Along with those Senators, The Interfaith Alliance will encourage President Bush to return to the time-honored, constitutional process in which the President of the United States consults with Republican and Democratic Senators and considers their advice before making nominations.

The Interfaith Alliance will also continue to urge the president to realize that nominees who are clearly out of the mainstream of our nation’s judicial philosophy will fail to inspire trust and confidence in the American people.

In other words, the Interfaith Alliance will provide cover for any Democratic Senator who goes back on his word and defies an agreement that in other respects the Interfaith Alliance welcomes. I guess honesty and integrity are not virtues of people of faith, at least as represented by the Interfaith Alliance. I seem to recall something in chapter 18 of Machiavelli’s The Prince about this.

Evangelicals and Republicans

Ken Masugi calls our attention to this essay by Richard Reeb. Here’s a taste:

Undoubtedly, religious enthusiasm has energized our politics, even as it has increased votes for Republicans. Its healthy influence owes much to our Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and, in this land of multiple denominations, its official non-sectarianism. Moreover, revealed religion made common cause with practical wisdom in the Declaration’s affirmation of the equal rights of all. America’s common political language, therefore, arises from the "self-evident" truths that Tom McClintock, following Lincoln, draws upon in his political rhetoric.

Read the whole thing. 

"Atheists are not joiners"

So says Ellen Johnson, national president of American Atheists, quoted in this article (hat tip: NRO’s The Corner).

I was reminded of this passage from Edmund Burke’s Thoughts on French Affairs:

Boldness formerly was not the character of Atheists as such. They were even of a character nearly the reverse; they were formerly like the old Epicureans, rather an unenterprising race. But of late they are grown active, designing, turbulent, and seditious.

The article examines the organizational challenges faced by atheists as they "advocate for godlessness."

"Still, it’s a great time to be an atheist," said [David] Fitzgerald, who was raised a Baptist in Fresno. "Five hundred years ago, we’d be burned for what we were thinking. Fifty years ago, we’d lose our jobs. But today, we’re free to be atheists.

"Our thing is that we’re just not that organized," he said. "It’s our strength and our weakness."

It makes one think about the importance of religion as
"social capital." Perhaps there’s something, er, "providential" going on here.

J.D. Crouch and North Korea

The Washington Post features J.D. Crouch, the #2 man on the National Security Council, and our response to N. Korea’s recent saber rattling.

This is moral reasoning?

Here’s an op-ed that appeared in today’s WaPo:

First, do the embryos used for stem cell research and therapy have rights? They are clumps of a few dozen cells, biologically more primitive than a mosquito. They have no consciousness, are not aware that they exist, and never have been. Nature itself creates and destroys millions of these every year. No one objects. No one mourns. In most cases no one even knows. If my life is worth no more than the survival of one of these clumps, then it is terribly unfair that I can plead my case on the op-ed page, and they can’t. But I have no trouble feeling that the government should value my life more than the lives of these clumps. God may disagree. But the government reports to me and to other adult Americans, not to God.

I don’t know where to begin. The author, Michael Kinsley, suffers from Parkinson’s, and so has both my sympathy and an interest in finding a cure. To justify satisfying his interest by means of stem cell research, he has to find some way of denying the potential of the blastocysts. Is it the lack of consciousness, the lack of sophistication, the lack of relationship with other conscious beings? Of course, if they were "endangered species," none of these considerations would be dispositive. We’d have to preserve them. But "endangered species" is a human label, one that can be withdrawn almost as easily as it was given. We, then, are the sources of value and protection, which is pretty much what Kinsley concedes in the closing sentence of the paragraph. In matters of assigning moral value, worth, and protection (at least by government), it doesn’t matter what God thinks; it only matters what we think.

Gee, I wonder who would have appreciated that line of argumentation during the slave era?

And then there’s Kinsley’s "sensitive" medical ethics catch-all:

I guess it’s not cricket to use a woman’s unwanted eggs to cure dreadful diseases without her permission. But if this is what alarms Kass, the solution is a simple release form.

You can’t use my "stuff" without my consent. Not exactly deep and profound thought.

Update: Ken Masugi has more.

NYT on Rick Santorum

This article is long and full of the kind of off-hand political and policy judgments you’d expect from the New York Times, but Santorum’s character and principles do come through.

Update: Jeff Sharlet thinks that the piece was insufficiently critical. I’ll go part of the way with him on his characterization of the Founding (not as Christian as Santorum would have it, nor as "deistic" as Sharlet would), but will quarrel mightily with him on the relationship between absolutes and prudence, not to mention apologetics and the oft-demanded "public reason":

A moral absolute can only derived from an absolute authority, beyond the realm of argument. Santorum "rejects" the very absolutes he claims to uphold by offering reasons -- i.e., the non-absolute work of human minds -- in their behalf. Once Santorum engaged in the debate over gay marriage by suggesting that one reason for opposing it was that it could, in his imagination, lead to bestiality, he abandoned the concept of a moral absolute, a truth so self-evident it requires no explanation.

An absolute authority need not be inexplicable; it can be accompanied, explained, and illustrated by other arguments. And when absolutes are not universally acknowledged, one may have to engage in "apologetics" to procure understanding. What’s more, of course, absolutes, as any good student of St. Thomas Aquinas would acknowledge, still have to be applied to particulars, which requires the fallible application of prudence. God might know what’s right in every instance. Human beings can know the universal rules (natural law), but not necessarily what’s right in any given instance.

Update #2: Get Religion generally agrees with me, arguing that "Sokolove’s tone suggests a certain admiration for — but clearly not agreement with — Santorum’s passion for prolife issues and faith-based assistance to the poor."

National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

As Lucas Morel notes below,President Bush spoke to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast yesterday. It is a relatively short talk. Bush touched on many of the themes mentioned in Joe Knippenberg’s blog below.

You only have to look at the first line of the talk to see why there is peace in the United States and war in the Middle East. Bush opened: "Thank you for that warm reception -- especially for a Methodist." And the Catholics roared with laughter. When an Israeli can draw laughter from an Islamic crowd like that, then we will have peace in the Middle East.

Just one additional note, the President of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast is Hillsdale College alum, Joe Cella.

Star Wars: ROTS

Here’s a review of the movie I saw today with my son, my friend, and his son. The adults appreciated some of the action but loathed most of the incredibly stilted and pretentious dialogue; the boys, of course, cared mostly for the action. This movie isn’t as bad as the first two, but it serves really only to explain how we get to the only movies that really matter.

I’ve read many of the claims regarding the political dimension of the movie, which is as unsubtle and simple-minded as can be. What interests me more is the germ of a meditation on "technology": Palpatine/Darth Siddius seduces Anakin/Darth Vader to the Dark Side of the Force by promising him the ability to conquer death. Later on, Yoda tells Obi-Wan that Qui-Gon, who had been "killed" by Darth Maul in the first movie, had found a way to achieve a sort of immortality, which Obi-Wan can learn from him on Tatooine. Of course, the shade of Alec Guinness seems to be the result in the later movies of this "good" path toward immortality. Perhaps President Bush ought to appoint him to his Council on Bioethics.

Bush at Calvin: the Commencement Address

The President’s critics must be disappointed. His speech was pitch perfect, focusing heavily on Tocquevillian themes that are not specifically religious, mostly reading religion through Tocquevillian lenses, and also offering the inevitable (for Calvin) reference to Abraham Kuyper.

Those concerned about "theocracy" should consider this characterization of Kuyper’s thought:

The most characteristic feature of Kuyper’s political thought is the principle of soevereiniteit in eigen kring, usually referred to in English as...simply "sphere sovereignty." Sphere sovereignty implies three things: (1) ultimate sovereignty belongs to God alone; (2) all earthly sovereignties are subordinate to and derivative from God’s sovereignty; and (3) there is no mediating earthly sovereignty from which others are derivative.

I am no Kuyper expert, but even this very strong statement implies a separation of various earthly institutions, and not the "church" ruling "the state." Indeed, it could be taken largely as a "pluralistic" gloss on Romans 13:1.

Here is Bush on Kuyper:

Kuyper was a Dutchman who would be elected his nation’s prime minister, and he knew all about the importance of associations because he founded so many of them -- including two newspapers, a political party, and a university. Kuyper contrasted the humanizing influence of independent social institutions with the "mechanical character of government." And in a famous speech right here in Grand Rapids, he urged Dutch immigrants to resist the temptation to retreat behind their own walls -- he told them to go out into their adopted America and make a true difference as true Christian citizens.

The President reads Kuyper through a Tocquevillian lens, emphasizing his pluralism and reliance on separate social institutions, over against government.

The most that can be said is that President Bush implicitly responded to his critics by reminding them that the (Kuyperian) principles of Calvin College call them to active service in support of their fellow human beings, not to relying solely on a monolithic, "mechanical" government. The anticipatory criticisms of Bush were more "political" than his response, which put the ball squarely back in the courts of those who are called by their college and their denomination
"[to offer their] hearts and lives to do God’s work in God’s world."

For more on the speech and its reception, go here and here.

Update: Here’s a "neo-Calvinist" endorsement of Bush’s remarks on Kuyper. Note also the last photo in the slide show you can find here.

Update #2: This WaPo article suggests greater support for Bush at Calvin than had previous press accounts. Elizabeth Bumiller suggests that the anticipated protests cut a 45 minute speech to a non-partisan fifteen. I’m dubious. As a professional commencement attender, I’ve never seen anyone exceed about 25 minutes, and people start squirming at 20. Bush speechwriters would know this and wouldn’t be so insensitive as to damage the cause of their employer, right?

Last Update: Here’s CT’s wrap-up, as well as a "conspiracy theory" I don’t quite buy. What I do believe is that Jim Wallis took advantage of his talk, just a couple of weeks before the President’s scheduled commencement address, to make sure the glowing embers burst into flame. No more on this now, I promise.

George Galloway

Christopher Hitchens writes a fine long piece on George Galloway and his appearance before the Senate subcommittee. Excellent.   

Saddam’s Picture

I think that picture of Saddam must be fake.

Conservative meet up?

In his signature article as new First Things editor, Joseph Bottum posits a conservative meet up against all the talk--most of it from the logorrheic Andrew Sullivan--of a conservative crack-up. Here are the central paragraphs (and no, I haven’t counted):

Down somewhere in the deepest understanding of what America is for—somewhere in the profound awareness of what it will take to reverse the nation’s long drift into social defeatism—there are reasons that one might link the rejection of abortion and the demand for an active and moral foreign policy. Things could have fallen into different patterns; our current liberal-conservative divisions are not the only imaginable ways to cut the political cake. But neither are they merely accidental.

The opponents of abortion and euthanasia insist there are truths about human life and dignity that must not be compromised in domestic politics. The opponents of Islamofascism and rule by terror insist there are truths about human life and dignity that must not be compromised in international politics. Why shouldn’t they grow toward each other? The desire to find intellectual and moral seriousness in one realm can breed the desire to find intellectual and moral seriousness in another.

Read the whole thing.

Saddam’s No Clinton

Well, at least now we have the answer to the question Clinton straddled: "Boxers or briefs?"

Top Ten Streaks in Sports History

FOX Sports provides a top ten list of the greatest individual streaks in sports history. Topping the list, of course, is Joe D’s 56 game hitting streak. Lance Armstrong gets short shrift , receiving only honorable mention.

A small break from judicial filibusters, Bolton, etc.

GWB at Calvin again

This article covers the run-up to tomorrow’s commencement address nicely and even-handedly. I’m not at all surprised that David Hoekema is one of the signatories of the much-ballyhooed letter.

For more coverage, go here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Two thoughts: first, some of the brouhaha (far from all of it, to be sure) was stirred up by a Calvin alumna with connections to John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. So the Bush Administration’s "outside agenda" isn’t the only one on the ground in Grand Rapids. Let me ask those who were paying closer attention back then (or who have better memories) whether the President’s Notre Dame commencement address of a few years ago also stirred up such a hornets’ nest. Presidents give commencement addresses all the time. That GWB is only giving two this year suggests to me not that he isn’t willing to give more or that he’s simply politically calculating about this one, but rather that most prominent colleges and universities are likely more willing to countenance this sort of performance than any sort of speech by the current President.

Second, it is worth remembering that both Calvin College and the wider world of evangelicals are divided politically, which is as it should be. I expect tomorrow’s speech to acknowledge that and to celebrate what people of faith (and not just theologically conservative "Judeo-Christian" faith) have or ought to have in common. The speech, I predict, will be statesmanlike, not crassly political.

There apparently is another open letter ad, signed by students, alumni, and staff, in today’s Grand Rapids Press, but I can’t find its text on-line. If anyone does stumble across it, please send it my way.

Update: Here’s the letter:


Dear President Bush:

We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin
College who are deeply troubled that you will be the
commencement speaker at Calvin on May 21st. In our
view, the policies and actions of your administration,
both domestically and internationally over the past
four years, violate many deeply held principles of
Calvin College.

Calvin is a rigorous intellectual institution, and a
truly Christian one. Since its inception in 1876,
Calvin has educated its students to use their minds
and hearts to transform the world into a "beloved
community" where no one is an outcast and all of God’s
children are cared for. Calvin teaches its students to
work for peace and justice, and to be good stewards of
God’s creation.

By their deeds ye shall know them, says the Bible.
Your deeds, Mr. President--neglecting the needy to
coddle the rich, desecrating the environment, and
misleading the country into war--do not exemplify the
faith we live by.

Moreover, many of your supporters are using religion
as a weapon to divide our nation and advance a narrow
partisan agenda. We are deeply disappointed in your
failure to renounce their inflammatory rhetoric.

We urge you not to use Calvin College as a platform to
advance policies that violate the school’s religious
principles. Furthermore, we urge you to repudiate the
false claims of supporters who say that those who
oppose your policies are the enemies of religion.

I count myself a friend of Calvin College, but, needless to say, could not have signed the letter. To be most charitable, we have here a case of the pot calling the kettle black, especially when it comes to using religion to advance a political agenda. The principles articulated in the letter may be those of the College, but the judgment about how to apply them and about whether the Bush Administration has in fact violated them is a matter of dispute. There’s a certain moral arrogance in the letter that I don’t like to see in anyone, religious or secular, conservative or liberal. It doesn’t provide an opening for conversation and serves only as an attempt--one that I think will fail--to embarrass the President. There are more effective ways to bear witness than to engage in this kind of posturing.

Red, purple, and blue

A former student stopped by my office for a chat. Back in the day, she was a prominent campus Democrat, working at the state legislature and moving in state party circles. She went to law school here, an experience that, if anything, should have confirmed her party affiliation, despite the presence of this guy on campus.

Not one to beat around the bush, so to speak, I asked her if she was still a Democrat. She chuckled and said, "well, I’m a Zellocrat." She voted for GWB last fall, for reasons that are perfectly intelligible to anyone who pays attention to these matters. She has two handsome and lovely children, ages six and eight, so the "parent gap" comes into play. And she attends this church. So, in addition to the other cultural sticking points that make it difficult for her to return to the Democratic fold, there’s abortion and gay marriage. She might have voted for Joe Lieberman, she said, so she’s not exactly a "theocrat."

But until the Democrats can appeal to the Zellocrats on these perfectly obvious grounds, they’re playing a losing hand, not only (I think) in my part of the country, but all over.

Bush Remarks at 2nd Annual Catholic Prayer Breakfast

This morning President Bush spoke briefly at the 2nd Annual Catholic Prayer Breakfast. The president’s remarks demonstrate his clear understanding of the connection between the nation’s founding principles and the religious convictions of the American people. While some may be troubled by his appearance before a sectarian religious group (a Roman Catholic prayer breakfast), his remarks show he understands the need to speak to a nation of many faiths. That said, he also is not ashamed to speak as a man of faith to a nation that includes citizens with little or no faith. Here’s a sampler:

This morning we also reaffirm that freedom rests on the self-evident truths about human dignity. Pope Benedict XVI recently warned that when we forget these truths, we risk sliding into a dictatorship of relativism where we can no longer defend our values. Catholics and non-Catholics alike can take heart in the man who sits on the chair of St. Peter, because he speaks with affection about the American model of liberty rooted in moral conviction.

God and man at Yale again

Naomi Schaefer Riley picks up on a story I noted here. Riley, it seems, would prefer the maintenance of historic ties to even a liberal denomination that clearly commands next to no support in the student body. The alternative, she thinks, is "a vague, ’inoffensive’ spirituality." I think that theologically serious students, conservative and liberal, orthodox and unorthodox, can demand access to the chapel and its facilities. Neutrality or "benevolent neutrality" is probably preferable to the status quo. But we have to make certain that Yale indeed remains neutral.

I like Riley’s other point better:

If Yale is interested in strengthening religious expression on campus, it might want to think more about dorm policies, for instance, than about chapel affiliation. It was eight years ago that five orthodox Jewish students there sought to live off-campus because the co-ed dormitories forced them to encounter in the hallways half-naked members of the opposite sex. The students were denounced for being judgmental and told that, if they did leave campus, they would still have to pay the $7,000 dorm fee. (They lost a subsequent lawsuit.)

At the time, a Yale spokesman explained that co-ed dorms were just one "aspect of the Yale educational experience." Yes, of course. But it is one aspect that might be taken up by a committee charged with figuring out how to make religious students at Yale feel more welcome. Maybe the committee should meet again.

Riley is to be commended for keeping Yale’s feet to the fire.

Dean and Mehlman

Jill Lawrence writes in USA Today about the differences in purposes between the DNC and RNC chairman. Howard Dean is merely trying to shore up the Demo base, while Ken Mehlman is wooing blacks and Hispanics. Dean is shoring up his base, Mehlman is trying to expand it. One Dem says that "Mehlman is playing in our sandbox." Everyone is eagerly awaiting Howard Dean’s weekend TV appearance with Tim Russert. The question is, will Dean do on a national stage what he does in untelevised meetings around the country where he calls Republicans corrupt, brain dead, mean, and "not nice people"? N.Y. Post wonders if Demos will be up in arms after his Russert appearance.

Murder Your Sister: Win Honor

Here’s a report from ’Der Spiegel’ about what happens in some Islamic families to daughters who assimilate to liberal democracy. The youngest son kills the daughter and wins honor in the community.

The Rehnquist Years

Stuart Taylor, a left of center reporter, offers this lengthy summary of William Rehnquist’s 35 years on the Supreme Court.

"Theocracy" at the Air Force Academy?

Jonathan Chait argues that that is an apt description of life at the Air Force Academy, and perhaps a preview of life in the U.S., should the religious right get its way. Unsurprisingly, he accepts, without question, the MSM portrayal of events in Colorado Springs. Here’s a different take:

In other words, at the heart of this controversy is the traditional Christian teaching that salvation is found through Jesus Christ alone and that believers are supposed to witness to other people about this belief.

This is, in other words, an offensive-speech case. It is highly likely that there are macho born-again types who are witnessing to other cadets and making them upset. If that gets out of hand, they need to be slapped down. But they are allowed — under faith-in-the-workplace rules — to talk about their faith. Others have an equal right to tell them to shut up.

Terry Mattingly, the author of this commentary, took the Pew typology questionnaire, and discovered that he was a "conservative Democrat", not some sort of religious right fanatic.

Other interesting results, by the way, from the comments section of Mattingly’s post on the Pew Survey are that Jeremy Lott is "disaffected" and that Rod Dreher is a "social conservative."

For other well-informed (unlike Chait’s) commentary on the USAFA situation, go here.

Update: Ken Masugi has still more here.

Janice Rogers Brown and affirmative action

Buried in this article about Janice Rogers Brown is this statement:

[Bishop Harry] Jackson, who led the pro-Brown rally Thursday, said [that in writing an opinion striking down a minority contracting program] Brown was just interpreting the law [Proposition 209] passed by California voters. But [Rev. Amos] Brown of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco said it demonstrated hypocrisy because "she got to where she is" because of affirmative action.

Rev. Brown’s "logic" demands not only results-oriented jurisprudence, but requires every alleged beneficiary of affirmative action to support its perpetuation. There is no time at which any such person would be permitted to oppose it. Should his side win,
Sandra Day O’Connor’s opinion in Grutter, which at least foresees a time when affirmative action wouldn’t be necessary, would be consigned to the dustbin of history. May I not live so long.

Hat tip: the indispensable How Appealing.

Cheerleading for Michael McConnell

This article suggests that Michael McConnell is the "most confirmable" of the Bush Administration’s potential Supreme Court nominees. Doubtless those who are out of the mainstream themselves would call him (and likely any other Bush nominee) out of the mainstream, but he had a distinguished roll of liberal supporters when he was nominated to the Court of Appeals.

Update: For a preview of the opposition to McConnell, should he be nominated, go here. Hat tip: Religion Clause.

Cowboys ain’t easy to love?

French cowboys, or at least a celebration of American country music and culture, is alive and well in France. No Passaran has a bit more.

Movement toward democracy in Kuwait

Largely unnoticed last week, the New York Times reported that the Kuwaiti Parliament unexpectedly voted to grant women full political rights over the objection of the Islamists in Parliament. According to the Times:

"The State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, welcomed the new legislation, calling it "an important step forward for the women of Kuwait and for the nation as a whole."

The vote climaxed an extraordinary turn of events, just two weeks after the Parliament had thwarted a measure allowing women to take part in city council elections."

Why did this happen? According to the Times:

"The prime minister, Sheik Sabah al-Jaber al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s ruling family, has been under growing pressure to allow women’s suffrage and is believed to have forced the measure through ahead of a planned trip to Washington. He is widely expected to appoint a woman as minister of health in coming weeks."

P.S. Sorry, but no active link to the story because it’s archived.

On smoking

Each trip to California reminds me how pleasant life is in Ohio. Dine on some exquisite fare here, then step outside for a smoke. Stand on a corner, with other aficionados of the art, reflect on what is noble and what ignoble, what pleasure is worth the having, and what the habit might reveal about the man, never mind Lauren Bacal. Is this the end of the sublime art of smoking?

A.S. Hamrah asks, does the apparent triumph of smoking bans from Boston to Bhutan prove that if the 20th century was a century of smoking, the 21st will end up smokeless? Not necessarily he argues, note how smoking was outlawed in Japan in 1629 (along with kabuki, with which it was associated), but smoking did not stop. And this from King James I in 1604: Smoking was "a custom lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse." So he increased the tobacco tax by 4,000%. His subjects, however, continued to smoke. A worthy essay. Note the few good books on smoking he mentions.

The 2006 mid-term elections for the House

Larry Sabato writes a few prosaic paragraphs on the 2006 elections for the U.S. House, focusing on Delay’s problems and how that may (or may not) affect the midterm elections. Nothing much there, but his analysis of the "fifteen districts particularly likely to host hard-fought barnburners in 2006" is more interesting. Among those districts: Texas (22nd), Indiana (9th), Illinois (8th), and Ohio (6th).

Flushed Korans, Desecrated Statutes, etc.

Amen to Peter’s comment below about keeping in mind that the Islamofacists in Afghanistan are the real bad guys in this episode, much as media sloppiness as deplored. I’ve been waiting in vain for someone to make the observation that the same kind of people who rioted in Afghanistan over the purported desecration of a Koran are likely the same kind of folks who cheered the Taliban’s destruction of those 1,000 year old Buddhist mountain carvings a few years back. At least a Koran can be reprinted. . .

Ashbrook Center

Blue campuses

The Leaderhsip Institute puts out a study, based on FEC reports, comparing political donations (Bush/Kerry). While we all know that the so-called premier colleges are predominantly Liberal or Democratic, having the figures in a row is rather dramatic I must say. For example: "Employees at Harvard University gave John Kerry $25 for every $1 they gave George W. Bush. At Duke University, the ratio stood at $8 to $1. At Princeton University, a $302 to $1 ratio prevails." Follow the rest, and over a couple of cups of coffee, meditate on why it may not be worth your while to send your children to such places, never mind giving them any money. You might want to go another step and become a donor to the Ashbrook Center. Thank you for considering it.
Categories > Ashbrook Center

Refocus on the enemy

Just because I haven’t commented on the apparent connection between the Muslim riots here and there and the Newsweek article claiming that pages from the Koran were flushed down the toilet at Gitmo doesn’t mean that I wasn’t angry at the mag for saying something like that.

David Brooks reminds us to refocus our animus against the bad guys, rather than the editors or the MSM in particular. He doesn’t want us to lose our focus: it is the rioters who are the real enemy. He quotes from a sermon delivered by a Sheik which ran last weekend on the Palestinian Authority’s oficial TV station:

"The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world - except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquillity under our rule because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew."

Forthcoming Knippenberg rant, er, article

David Mills has kindly posted the table of contents for the June issue of Touchstone, which contains an article I adapted (thanks to David’s kind encouragement and excellent editing) from this post. The new (and exceedingly clever, no thanks at all to me) title is "Muddle America: On Why Red & Blue States Are Really Just a Purple Haze.”

Of course, the real reason to track down a hard copy of the journal is that it contains articles by such luminaries as
Robert P. George, Francis Beckwith, and the impressive stable of Touchstone regulars. You can also subscribe on-line by clicking on the TOC link above.

I should add, for the literarily (and "commentarily") inclined, that David is a wonderful editor, always looking for new voices to add to his mix.

Sowing the seeds

Donald Lambro has an interesting article about Ken Mehlman’s attendance at a fund-raiser for a city councilman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The city councilman is Otto Banks, a young African-American who voted for John Kerry but then switched parties in March. Read the whole thing.

Los Angeles

I’m in a good hotel in Los Angeles--the carpet is thick, a gopher can get lost in it--and the big news here is that Antonio Villaraigosa has been elected mayor by a decisive majority. Everyone is very excited, not because he can do anything about the traffic (it took me over an hour to drive twenty five miles), but because he now gets the national presence he deserves, at least according to Liberals. One professor of Chicano studies said "he almost becomes an effective prime minister for Latinos of the Southwest." I bet Bill Richardson and Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado, never mind the mayors of San Antonio, San Jose, and Miami, may think a bit differently. Besides, prime minister has connotations that may need be explained later. Here is another paean to him.
The other state news has to do with the mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown, who is about to be married
married. He will spend his honeymoon campaigning for state attorney general. The Democratic speaker of the Assembly Fabian Nunez calls Gov. Arnold dishonest, as they are gearing up for a fight over elements of a special election expected this year. Meanwhile, buried deep in the L.A. Times, is this about a hero of World War II, Jose M. Lopez. Mr. Lopez died. He was 94 years old. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for single-handedly killing more than 100 German soldiers in a skirmish during the Battle of the Bulge. RIP.

Karl Rove on Michael Gerson

Get Religion calls our attention to a profile of Michael Gerson in National Journal, but (unfortunately) available only to subscribers. My favorite line:

One of the best remarks in the piece comes from Karl Rove: “The shorthand, political way to say it is that Mike is the one always wondering how we can achieve liberal goals with conservative means.”

I’d love to know precisely what Rove meant by that remark. Is it just another way of saying "compassionate conservatism"? What does it mean to trade conservative for liberal goals in government? What differences between liberal and conservative goals do Rove and (apparently) Gerson have in mind? If conservative goals aren’t "good enough," is it because they’re theoretically or morally deficient, or because they’re politically problematical? If I weren’t so doggone tired and preoccupied with my seminar, I might actually begin to venture some answers to these questions. For the moment, however, I’ll cede the field to you, dear readers.

Here’s the whole article, thanks to Joel Rosenberg and Hunter Baker.

Ursinus’ freshman core

Jay Mathews has a very nice article in the Washington Post about Ursinus College’s "Common Intellectual Experience" or freshman core course. My old James Madison College acquaintance Paul Stern is prominently featured, as well he should be.

Ursinus’ course seems to have evolved in much the same way as the current version of Oglethorpe’s core curriculum did. I describe the development of Oglethorpe’s core in this paper.

Relieved or disappointed?

It may not seem like it, but I’ve actually resisted blogging over the past couple of days, especially in response to this provocation and this one, though I may take a whack at the latter once I get through my preparation for tomorrow’s seminar.

My busyness has to do with a faculty seminar on liberal education that I’m currently leading. Here’s the reading list:

Monday, May 16

Bruce Kimball, Orators and Philosophers, chs. I – III, V

Plato, Apology of Socrates

Isocrates, Antidosis

Seneca, Epistle LXXXVIII

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Vol II, Bk. V, ch. 1, Pt. III, 2nd Article (“Of the Expence of the Institutions for the Education of the Youth”)

Tuesday, May 17

Kimball, Orators and Philosophers, chs. VI – VII, Afterword

Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. I, Pt. I, ch. 3; Vol. II, Pt. II, chs. 9 – 11, 13 – 15 (pp. 46 – 52, 428 – 443, 445 – 452, Mansfield/Winthrop ed.)

Pangle and Pangle, The Learning of Liberty, chs. 1, 2, 8

Wednesday, May 18

Leo Strauss, “What Is Liberal Education?”, “Liberal Education and Responsibility,” in Liberalism Ancient and Modern

John Seery, America Goes to College, Introduction, chs. 1, 4, 8, 12

Eva T. H. Brann, “The American College as the Place for Liberal Learning”

Michael Oakeshott, “A Place of Learning,” “Education: the Engagement and Its Frustration,” “The Idea of a University”

Thursday, May 19

Martha Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity, chs. 1 - 4

David L. Kirp, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line, “Conclusion”

Colleague Selections

We’ve had spirited and collegial discussions, which have included strong contributions from a university trustee (who, among other things cited
this essay from the Claremont Review, to which he subscribes[ No, you can’t have him! He’s ours, I say, ours!]). More later, when I recover from the excitement of it all.

"Ripeness is all"

In "Living Life’s End," Gilbert Meilaender considers the principles and particulars with end-of-life care as he aims
"to think through a few of those puzzles—not so much to solve them as simply to seek increased clarity about where and why we are puzzled." He notes that "To the degree that [he has] a thesis to assert, it is captured in the words of Edgar in King Lear: ’Men must endure / Their going hence, even as their coming hither; / Ripeness is all.’"

For those wrestling with the recent happenings in Florida and how we might think about such issues, Meilaender offers a clear, reflective, and balanced analysis of our moral obligations as he recognizes:

We come to our deliberations about end-of-life care with some principles in hand, but we also form judgments about particular cases. There are bound to be instances in which our principles suggest one course of action, while our sense of the particulars of the case inclines us in a different direction. In such instances neither the principles nor our response to the particulars always holds trump in moral reasoning. To be sure, some principles we would be reluctant to change: they are so fundamental to everything we believe that changing them would be akin to a conversion. Likewise, there are some cases about which we can hardly imagine changing our mind. But our deliberations always move back and forth between principle and particular response, and adjustment can take place on either pole.

A long, but quality read available in First Things.


Federalists in Exile?

For Jesse Jackson, Bush’s ten most "radical" judicial nominees stand (or sit) ready to jeopardize "Our entire way of life." This rhetoric adds nothing new to the debate over the nominees, and I might even be willing to accept it as part and parcel of partisan politics. But I can’t overlook this mischaracterization:

Bush isn’t nominating conservative judges as his father did; he’s nominating radicals, vetted by the right-wing Federalist Society, and dedicated to advancing the movement’s agenda through the courts .... The Federalist Society is dominated by an obscure sect that believes in the "Constitution in exile." Essentially, adherents argue for a return to the 19th century jurisprudence of the Gilded Age -- calling on judges to overturn the New Deal jurisprudence that empowered Congress to regulate the economy, defend workers, protect the environment and consumers, and hold corporations accountable. No, I’m not kidding, and neither are they.

The "Constitution in exile" tag is becoming a favorite and derisive label of the left that practically no one on the right takes seriously enough to dignify it with a response. But someone at the Federalist Society might want to update the mailing list, I didn’t get the "we-believe-the-Constitution-is-in-exile" memo, but evidently Jesse did.

"Safe, legal, and rare"

E. J. Dionne, Jr. shines the spotlight on a "courageous" Democrat. Nassau (N.Y.) County executive Thomas R. Suozzi appears to have given a thoughtful speech, described by Bishop William Murphy as "important and, on the whole, very helpful." As Dionne notes, however, "Abortion rights groups were more ambivalent, worrying, wrongly I think, that anyone suggesting abortion is a problem somehow undercuts the pro-choice position."

My problem is precisely with the language of choice and what it implies about the relationship between mother and child. And while I’m all for any measure that will make it more likely that women carry their babies to term, I will not be persuaded of anyone’s bona fides on the "safe, legal, and rare" position unless he or she is willing legally to involve parents when an underage minor is pregnant and to give a voice to the father of the baby. My suspicion is that these rather modest requests will be sticking points for most of those who use the "safe, legal, and rare" language, in large part because they really think that the woman’s choice is what matters most of all.

GWB at Calvin College

The President is scheduled to deliver a commencement address at Calvin College this weekend. Fully one-third of the faculty have signed an ad protesting his visit. I don’t think Karl Rove expected this.

A couple of thoughts: First, I’m not altogether surprised that a significant portion of the Calvin faculty (not a majority, from what I can tell) doesn’t support the President. The most neutral way of stating it is that Calvin’s denomination--the Christian Reformed Church--is theologically conservative (though not quite as much as it once was), but not necessarily politically conservative. Yes, there are serious, theologically conservative Christians who oppose the war in Iraq and who think that our social welfare policies aren’t generous enough.

But that leads to my second thought. I haven’t seen the ad, so I don’t know whether the signatories are simply and politely noting their disagreements with the President or telling him he’s not welcome at Calvin. One can civilly and hospitably note that an invitation doesn’t imply an endorsement of the political positions held by the invitee and also welcome the occasion for a conversation. Or one can uncivilly and inhospitably tell the invitee that he isn’t welcome. I hope it’s the former. If it’s the latter, I’ll be very disappointed in my colleagues at Calvin and will say so.

I write this as someone who once composed and read from the platform the honorary degree citation for then-Senator Max Cleland, when he was Oglethorpe’s commencement speaker. Respectfully to welcome someone and to celebrate his genuine accomplishments doesn’t require that one agree with all or any of his views.

Update: First, here are some samples of student and alumni opinion, including a letter from prominent Ohio State professor (and Calvin alum) Dale van Kley, who does himself and his alma mater little credit by offering the following pearls of conventional academic wisdom:

In need of no introduction, George W. Bush’s chief achievement before becoming president is to have given up drinking, although the whole world would perhaps be better off were he still on his back in a Texas saloon. In his self-styled role as the Lord’s Anointed, he has launched the country on a bloody crusade without a plausible semblance of a cause. While George H. W. Bush may have killed his thousands, George W. has killed his tens of thousands.

How are students as students to be “challenged” by someone who, having had privileged access to some of the nation’s finest educational institutions, learned absolutely nothing from them and moreover takes pride in that fact? And how, except negatively, are they going to be “motivated to renew God’s world” by someone who has set out with ideological malice and aforethought to squander its remaining resources?

The benefit that will accrue to George W. Bush and his junta from this event is clear enough. It will lend additional credibility to his blasphemous claim to be the leader of an American Christendom.

But let’s not dwell too much on the negativism, which is meant to besmirch the President and to demonstrate (in an un-Calvinistic way, I might add) the superior righteousness of the protestors. Most of the letters are much more civil than that written by Professor van Kley, who (perhaps) has been away from Calvin for too long (having left for OSU in 1998); those opposed to the President’s policies apparently plan to indicate their opposition in a non-disruptive way, which wouldn’t likely be the case on most major college campuses. And then there’s the fact that only one-third of the faculty have signed the protest ad. Any guess what the percentage would have been at, say, the University of Michigan, Harvard, Amherst, or Berkeley?

Finally, any reader of pre- or post-election polling data should know that evangelicals, even theologically conservative evangelicals, do not form a political monolith. A
reliable post-election survey found that 22% of evangelicals opposed President Bush. In other words, it would be surprising if voices of dissent couldn’t be mobilized on the Calvin College campus.

Update # 2: Win Myers has more, including the text of the open letter, which is respectful but quietly strident. I’m now curious about who among those I know at Calvin signed it.

NARAL fishing expedition

Powerline calls attention to this Robert Novak column about an attempt by political operatives employed by NARAL to get the financial records of numerous federal Appeals Court judges, many of whom are mentioned as potential Supreme Court nominees. Why, you ask?

Nancy Keenan, who has been NARAL’s president some five months, told this column her organization is concerned about "out of touch theological activists" becoming judges. Why seek financial information from them? She said the disclosure information might help identify the "character" of judicial nominees.

The Powerliners note that this sounds like the much denied "religious test" about which some of the Justice Sunday folks were complaining. I’m certain that the NARAL activists can’t conceive of opposition to abortion that isn’t, in their view, impermissibly "theological." And I suspect that the Democrats who used to employ these operatives (like Sen. Harry Reid) agree.

NY Times Review of Revenge of the Sith

Just read a review of the new Star Wars movie "Revenge of the Sith." It contains a paragraph (included below) highlighting the political lesson of the movie. Think you know who becomes Darth Vader? Think again. Or, at least try to guess--before reading the paragraph below--who George Lucas alludes to as the Darth Vader of the real 21st-century world.

"This is how liberty dies--to thunderous applause," Padmé observes as senators, their fears and dreams of glory deftly manipulated by Palpatine, vote to give him sweeping new powers. "Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy." Obi-Wan’s response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." You may applaud this editorializing, or you may find it overwrought, but give Mr. Lucas his due. For decades he has been blamed (unjustly) for helping to lead American movies away from their early-70’s engagement with political matters, and he deserves credit for trying to bring them back.

That paragraph began promising enough, for citizens of our republic do well to be vigilant for the erosion of our constitutional institutions and any departures from our founding principles. But that the dark side of the force would be indicted for its "thinking in absolutes"? If this is what passes for cinematic "engagement with political matters," I’ll stick with the Lord of the Rings.

Supremes Rule on Interstate Wine Sales

Have no time to comment, but for those who are interested, the Supremes just ruled on state action on interstate wine sales. See Granholm v. Heald. Kennedy ruled that "both States’ laws discriminate against interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause, and that discrimination is neither authorized nor permitted by the Twenty-first Amendment" (quote taken from case syllabus). Thomas’s dissent (joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, and O’Connor) can be found at the aforementioned website.

Florida’s Blaine Amendment

Here’s a nice op-ed by one of the attorneys defending Florida’s school voucher program. I’ve posted about this matter here (on the same issue in Georgia), but the real Florida Blaine Amendment champ is Katie Newmark.

Hat tip: Religion Clause.

Update: Katie Newmark has more.

The Poor Republicans

Here is David Brooks’ take on recently released Pew Research report, "Beyond Red vs. Blue." Brooks says the report shows that the lower middle class votes GOP because they believe that America is the land of opportunity. " According to the Pew study, 76 percent of poor Republicans believe most people can get ahead with hard work. Only 14 percent of poor Democrats believe that. Poor Republicans haven’t made it yet, but they embrace what they take to be the Republican economic vision - that it is in their power to do so. Poor Democrats are more likely to believe they are in the grip of forces beyond their control.

The G.O.P. succeeds because it is seen as the party of optimistic individualism." Bush’s increase in domestic spending is well received by these folks, Brooks argues. "Poorer Republicans support government programs that offer security, so long as they don’t undermine the work ethic. Eighty percent believe government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt. Only 19 percent of affluent Republicans believe that."

Containing China

Robert Kagan explains why "the rise of China cannot be managed," as the common parlance nowadays has it. He writes that we shouldn’t kid ourselves. We are already trying to contain China, and should treat it as a prospective enemy. Good article with historical exmaples of how the rise of Germany and Japan were "mismanaged."

Today we look back at those failures and ruminate on the mistakes made with the usual condescension that the present has for the past. But there is no reason to believe we are any smarter today than the policymakers who "mismanaged" the rise of Germany and Japan. The majority of today’s policymakers and thinkers hold much the same general view of global affairs as their forebears: namely, that commercial ties between China and the other powers, especially with Japan and the United States, and also with Taiwan, will act as a buffer against aggressive impulses and ultimately ease China’s "integration" into the international system without war. Once again we see an Asian power modernizing and believe this should be a force for peace. And we add to this the conviction, also common throughout history, that if we do nothing to provoke China, then it will be peaceful, without realizing that it may be the existing international system that the Chinese find provocative.

The security structures of East Asia, the Western liberal values that so dominate our thinking, the "liberal world order" we favor -- this is the "international system" into which we would "integrate" China. But isn’t it possible that China does not want to be integrated into a political and security system that it had no part in shaping and that conforms neither to its ambitions nor to its own autocratic and hierarchical principles of rule? Might not China, like all rising powers of the past, including the United States, want to reshape the international system to suit its own purposes, commensurate with its new power, and to make the world safe for its autocracy? Yes, the Chinese want the prosperity that comes from integration in the global economy, but might they believe, as the Japanese did a century ago, that the purpose of getting rich is not to join the international system but to change it?

Mark Lilla ought to know better

Small wonder that Andrew Sullivan ate this column by Mark Lilla with a spoon. Here’s his conclusion:

The leading thinkers of the British and American Enlightenments hoped that life in a modern democratic order would shift the focus of Christianity from a faith-based reality to a reality-based faith. American religion is moving in the opposite direction today, back toward the ecstatic, literalist and credulous spirit of the Great Awakenings. Its most disturbing manifestations are not political, at least not yet. They are cultural. The fascination with the ’’end times,’’ the belief in personal (and self-serving) miracles, the ignorance of basic science and history, the demonization of popular culture, the censoring of textbooks, the separatist instincts of the home-schooling movement -- all these developments are far more worrying in the long term than the loss of a few Congressional seats.

No one can know how long this dumbing-down of American religion will persist. But so long as it does, citizens should probably be more vigilant about policing the public square, not less so. If there is anything David Hume and John Adams understood, it is that you cannot sustain liberal democracy without cultivating liberal habits of mind among religious believers. That remains true today, both in Baghdad and in Baton Rouge.

What if it is, so to speak, "no accident" that liberalism is failing, if its precepts and nostrums are unsatisfying, not because human ignorance and credulousness are ultimately insuperable, but because they offer spiritual gruel too thin to satisfy the longings of the human spirit, i.e., because, ultimately, liberal teachings are inadequate to nature and human nature? This is a theoretical possibility that Lilla doesn’t want to confront, so he follows
Stephen Macedo in an effort to procure by coercion and coercive civic education what he can’t win theoretically or--dare I say it?--rationally. It’s not clear to me, in other words, that more or less secular liberals have the better theory, that the intellectual, moral, and spiritual heft is all on the secular liberal side of the debate, Lilla to the contrary notwithstanding.

By raising the spectre of contemporary parallels to the collapse of Weimar Germany into Nazism, Lilla seems also to have joined the confraternity of fever swampers thus far largely populated by members of the secular Left. I can think of many differences between our situation and that of interwar Germany, but the one most salient for our purposes is that revealed religion is a much bigger force now. That is, it seems to me, a strength, so long as religionists adhere to the belief that faith cannot be coerced, which is central to Christian doctrine, if not always to Christian practice. (It goes without saying that it isn’t necessarily central to the doctrines or practices of other faith traditions.) This is something that Locke highlighted in Christian doctrine, and so can serve as part of an "overlapping consensus" between a liberalism respectful of faith and a faith chary of coercing consciences. But it’s not just the "liberal" churches and denominations that hold to this position; the fever swampers are wrong to assume that those committed to evangelization are willing to make use of coercion. As I argued here, conservative evangelicals have by and large embraced the spirits of 1776 and 1787, if not necessarily of 2005.

For more, go here, where Tom Cerber points us to an article by Cliff Orwin, and here.

Lunch with friends

I had a lovely lunch with seven Ashbrooks today (I mean Ashbrook alumns, but, as with the Marines, once an Ashbrook, always an Ashbrook) at a Greek restaurant near DuPont Circle. I haven’t seen most of them in years. They work at think tanks, for senators, for congressmen, for congressional committees, for the White House; and the successful one is a banker! What a great bunch of folks. Still smart, still enlivened, still meaning to do the good in the world.

I want to make clear that I take no real responsibility for their education, although I am proud to have been associated with them in their youth. They are--to speak truly--all self-educated in the best and oldest sense of that term. My colleagues and I may have introduced them to a few good things while they were in college, but they are the ones that tasted and chewed the food. We just placed it in front of them, after lighting the fire. Their opinions were formed--to paraphrase Churchill--through those processes of youthful discussion that takes place at the Ashbrook Center, and should take place at any good university. They were always ready to learn (although sometimes didn’t like being taught!). They continue to think and talk and act according to their best lights and they do it all in a friendly and open and amusing way. They are tough and persitent and smart and know that in the end all will be well. I love them. And I thank them.

Nebraska ruling again

Here’s the best the Washington Post can muster in its attempt to calm the outcry after Judge Bataillon’s decision in the Nebraska case. Conceding that the case "is weak in critical respects and will be vulnerable on appeal," the unsigned editorial suggests only that the amendment may be overbroad, But here’s the kicker:

Even if Judge Bataillon’s opinion were entirely frivolous, however, it would still be a lousy argument for writing discrimination [an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman] into the federal Constitution. The American judiciary has a process for correcting its mistakes: two layers of appellate review, culminating at the Supreme Court of the United States. In the American system, the Constitution shouldn’t be changed to reverse a single judge in Nebraska.

Two thoughts: First, the Constitution has yet another process for correcting judicial mistakes; it’s called the amendment. Second, the Democrats, supported by the Post, would likely seek to appoint judges (such as Bataillon, appointed by President Clinton), who would not correct, but rather embrace such "mistakes." The judiciary is part of a larger constitutional system, not simply and solely self-correcting, but also corrigible by the people and their representatives, through the processes of nomination and appointment, impeachment, legislatively altering jurisdiction, and constitutional amendment. The problem with awaiting final judicial settlement of this case is that (and the editorialists at the Post surely know this) the appeals process takes a long time, so that "correction" may not occur for a decade or more (at which point a Democratic President may have altered the balance on the Supreme Court). What’s more, if the courts happen to embrace rather than reject this opinion, the Post’s line of argument would have us accept it as the final word, with the full "moral authority" of the highest court, which would make it much more difficult to overturn by amendment.

In other words, the actual effect of the Post’s argument is to favor the supremacy of the very judiciary to which gay rights advocates constantly turn in the fond and often well-founded hope that they can win in court what they can’t win at the ballot box.

The Reagan years

Steve Hayward reviews two books on Reagan and his era in the latest Weekly Standard

The Air Force recruiter

I’ve received a lot of comments on my post a few days ago on the Marine and Air Force recruiter. Not all the comments were public, many were e-mail notes to me, and some are angry, thinking that I denounced or disparaged the Air Force. I did not disparage the Air Force. I have absolutely no reason to disparage any of the branches. I hope that’s clear. And John is free to sign up with any one of them. I did think the story was worth telling. Now, it is also true that I have always been prejudiced for the Marine mode of recruiting because it emphasizes manliness and the martial virtues and, therefore, a kind of exclusivity that appeals to some young men. Enough with the e-mails already!

No excuses: serious schools close the achievement gap

The Washington Post reports on Amistad Academy, a school in New Haven, Connecticut that is successfully challenging inner-city kids to academic excellence. Not surprisingly, the school works because it demands results and doesn’t tolerate nonsense.

My mom and dad worked for many years in inner-city public schools, so I know the challenges they face. I also know that there are a lot of cultural, social, and economic reasons for the achievement gap between African-American/Latino youngsters and white/Asian kids. But every time a school like this succeeds, there is one less excuse for not having the courage to confront the need for real education reform. There is no question that academic rigor, student discipline, and passionate teachers can close the achievement gap.

Japan’s military

Harold C. Hutchison considers Japan’s military potential, including going nuclear: "Japan could have a working nuclear weapons capability in one year should they decide to." All this is interesting, given the rise of China. Also see Hutchinon post on the Japanese navy,
"arguably the second-best navy in the Pacific, trailing only the United States Navy." Again, I bring to your attention again Robert D. Kaplan lengthy article on china in the current The Atlantic (not avaliable on line). Also see this
and this.

Huffington Parody

Huffington’s Toast is a good parody of Arianna’s latest attempt at fame by becoming the unchallenged Queen of the internet. Amusing.

Another bad guy gets it

ABC News reports:

A senior al Qaeda operative was killed by a missile fired from a CIA Predator aircraft on the Pakistani side of the remote area near the Afghan border earlier this week, U.S. intelligence officials told ABC News.

The CIA refused to confirm or deny any operational matter.

Haitham al-Yemeni, a native of Yemen known for his bomb-making skills, had been tracked for some time in the hope that he would help lead the United States to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, intelligence officials said. But with the recent capture in northwest Pakistan of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, thought to be al Qaeda’s No. 3 man, officials worried al-Yemeni would soon go into hiding, and decided to take action.

Al-Yemeni was in line to replace al-Libbi, intelligence analysts said.

WaPo culture critic settles some old scores

Philip Kennicott (Yale College ’88) must have gotten a bad grade from Donald Kagan. How else to explain this WaPo hit piece on Kagan’s Jefferson lecture, which Peter describes here?

Kennicott manages to demonstrate, first, that he has no real interest in ideas or in education: he dismisses Kagan’s argument as "boilerplate," asking "who really cares whether poetry or philosophy or history sits at the top of the humanities heap? Is it really a contest?" Anyone who takes education or philosophy (Kennicott’s major at Yale) seriously cares. A "culture critic" ought to care.

Then Kennicott tries to hoist Kagan by his own petard, accusing him of partisanship. We go from a dismissal of Kagan’s pedagogical and intellectual concerns to an attack on his politics. If you don’t care about the former, isn’t the latter all that’s left (the double entendre is intentional, by the way)? In other words, Kennicott offers a partisan attack on Kagan’s alleged partisanship, all the while arguing that partisanship gets in the way of "sane evaluation of real threats."

His example of Kagan’s failing in this regard was his worry, in a book published in 2000, about WMD in Iraq. It seems to me that in 2000, worrying about WMD in Iraq was a bipartisan and multinational activity. Only when it became convenient to claim that Bush and Blair "lied" about WMD did people on the Left forget what they had thought just a few years earlier.

It is instructive, by the way, to contrast Kennicott’s fawning portrait of Columbia University Middle East Studies Professor Rashid Khalidi, who "straddles a difficult line between academic historian and political commentator," with his treatment of Kagan, whose straddling clearly doesn’t meet with Kennicott’s approval.

U.S. Senate as a paradise for bullies

John Podhoretz crushes not only Sen. Voinovich for his abuse of Bolton, but the whole Senate as well. How about discussing some issues for a change, rather than engaging in character assasination? Rebeccah Ramey is also a indignant at how Bolton is being treated. She says its not a Mr. Rogers we need as our ambassador to the U.N. I agree. There are a lot of folks hopping mad about this, I have to tell you. One of them wrote this: "Voinovich is lucky he just got re-elected. I know of ten people who would love to run against him!"


George Will praises, and goes a long way toward understanding, Paul Wolfowitz. Note this line: "He [Wolfowitz] says, however, that to the very limited extent that ’academic thing’ shaped him, they were classes on America’s Constitutional Convention and Lincoln’s political thought, classes stressing that ’the foundations of liberal democracy are about a helluva lot more than elections.’"

Why GOP dominates

This Washington Post article on a Pew Survey is very interesting. It reports on the Pew Survey (called "Beyond Red vs. Blue"): "The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, helped redraw the political landscape in America, giving President Bush and the Republicans an advantage over the Democrats." Two major points: people like Bush, and they think we ought to go hard against those who want to hurt us. The survey also shows this: "The survey underscored how important the issues of terrorism and national security and Bush’s personal appeal were in helping the GOP put together a winning coalition of voters in 2004. The findings suggest that Bush’s reelection depended not just on motivating the Republican base but also on his success in attracting swing voters and even some Democrats." Read the whole thing.

Donald Kagan

I attended the NEH’s Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities tonight. Prof. Donald Kagan defended history. Fully aware of both poetry’s and philosophy’s claims, he used manly words to defend the particulars that history has to offer. One need not agree with him to fully sense his pith and eloquence and his attempt to get the modern (post-modern especially) ear to listen to Sophocles injunction:
"Reason is God’s crowning gift to man." Kagan argued that a liberal education is possible, that wisdom and virtue are not dead things, that history understood wrongly as no nature, no human nature, teaches nothing, can study nothing, is blind to its own ineptitude and
has inhuman consequences. His eloquence was as a painting of his thoughts. Glad I went. Kagan’s lecture will be avaliable on line by Monday.

Federal court decision on gay marriage ban

Here is Eugene Volokh’s discussion of this decision, striking down Nebraska’s attempt constitutionally to define marriage as between a man and a woman. According to Volokh, the decision is bizarre and sweeping:

But in any event — and here I return to what I said in point 1 — if the court is right about the Romer analysis, then it must be because there is no legitimate government interest in favoring opposite-sex long-term relationships over same-sex ones. Likewise, if the court is right about the intimate association analysis, then it must be because the right to intimate association guarantees same-sex couples the right to equal government benefits with opposite-sex married couples, rather than just a right to live together. And if the court is right about bills of attainder, then its analysis equally applies to state law rules that preempt contrary marriage provisions at the city level. (Imagine Portland or San Francisco trying to set up its own marriage rules, over the objections of the rest of Oregon or California.) And if that’s so, then despite the court’s protestations, its reasoning necessarily means that states are constitutionally required to recognize same-sex marriage (or, under the bill of attainder analysis, at least are required to let any locality recognize same-sex marriage).

So this isn’t just a battle over state constitutional amendments, and what voters can do and what they must leave to the state legislature. The court’s decision, if upheld, would be a Massachusetts Goodridge (or at least its Vermont civil-union cousin, Baker) for the whole nation. I don’t think this is at all required by Romer, Lawrence v. Texas, or any other Supreme Court decision. I’m pretty sure that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will reverse the decision; and if it doesn’t, I’m pretty sure that the U.S. Supreme Court will — and should.

The judge, by the way, is a Clinton appointee. I agree with Volokh that the decision is likely to be reversed. But it is "timely" in another way: it cannot help but add to the pressure on the Senate to overcome Democratic obstructionism on the President’s judicial nominees. When the ACLU and its allies on the bench overreach, as they have in this case, they will provoke a backlash. Under the circumstances, how can Ben Nelson continue to support a filibuster?

Stanley Kurtz weighs in and Ben Nelson was "unavailable for comment."

Condi Rice on guns

Although she has said this before, it is worth noting again that Secretary of State Condi Rice said some good things on the Second Amendment on Larry King’s show. How can one not like this woman!

What the mainline churches seem to mean by sin

Rayond J. Keating offers a very nice discussion of these two statements, one on the environment, the other on the Bush Administration’s FY 2006 budget proposals. Keating rightly asks why these organizations are ready, willing, and able to use the language of "sin" with regard to the environment, but much less willing to do so when it comes to issues connected with abortion and marriage. 

Hat tip: PowerBlog.

Greatness in a Democracy

It was nice to see Hayward in the AEI palace. Good lunch, great conversation. Even over lunch the man is thinking (I can’t think while I eat!). I learned much from him as I always do. Most of the conversation had to do with the necessity of going back and understanding the heart of the Progressive movement in American politics; you understand "progress" and the removal of nature from politics, and you understand what’s left of contemporary Liberalism, or, as Howard Dean now says (since the word Liberal no longer excites the many) contemporary progressives. And, best of all he gave me the page proofs for his latest book, Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders, which, although it will not appear until early October, you can already purchase through Amazon (click on the title). This will be a wonderful read during the rest of travels, which will go on for two weeks. It should sell very well because it is a fine book on an eternal subject (why greatness is needed in a democracy) and also because it is published by Crown Forum (Macmillan) and should get very wide distribution. Buy your Christman presents early, let’s make this a best seller! Thanks much Steve, now get back to work on the second Reagan volume!

I like this quote from Churchill at the start of Chapter 2: "In politics a man, I take it, gets on not so much by what he does, as by what he is. It is not so much a question of brains as of character and originality."

Export boom

I’m on the road. In DC for the next few days, so I pick up the Washington Times coming our of Hayward’s office. Front page above the fold story on how a record surge of exports and unexpected fall in imports in March enabled the economy to grow faster than expected. There is a 9.2% drop in the monthly trade deficit. And crude oil price dropped to below $49 per barrel for the second day; Chinese demand is down.

New development on the faith-based front

Representative Mark Green (R-WI) has introduced H.R. 1054 (pdf), the "Tools for Community Initiatives Act," which would institutionalize the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, as well as the department- and agency-based centers. By setting these offices in legislative concrete, the bill would make it highly unlikely that they would depart when President Bush leaves. The bill also would offer "sense of Congress" support for the more controversial elements of the faith-based initiative, like the co-religionist exemption in hiring.

I applaud Rep. Green’s proposal, but expect that Democrats will throw roadblocks in front of it.

Church and politics

Christianity Today’s weblog sheds a little light on the, ahem, big story about political conflict in a N.C Baptist Church. You know the one getting headlines for supposedly expelling Kerry voters. Here’s a side of the story you probably hadn’t heard:

As it turns out, though, the debate is more about the new demographics of the congregation than it is about IRS standing.

"The storm that hit the church … divided it along generational lines," The News & Observer’s Yonat Shimron explains. "Many of the older members are traditionally Democrats, though some have voted Republican in recent elections. Many of the newest and youngest members have always been Republicans. In this, the church reflected Southern voting habits that have dramatically embraced the Republican Party in recent decades."

Chandler, by the way, is 33. Those reportedly "kicked out" of the church are about twice his age, and they’re not crazy about these kids today, what with their conservative ideas and such.

"A lot of these young people had not been in the church more than a year," Maxine Osborne, 70, told The News & Observer. Chandler and his wife, she said, "brought in a lot of young people, but they also brainwashed them."

Chandler, by the way,
resigned, apparently taking a number of church members with him.

Gee, generational conflict in a church? Never heard of such a thing! No wonder it was front page news!

Pew Center survey

I’ve just started reading this survey report, which is (inadequately, I think) summarized in this article. The allegedly big take-away from the survey is that both parties are more complicated than the simple "red vs. blue" storyline would have it.

Here are a few interesting snippets from the executive summary:

Republicans also have much in common beyond their overwhelming support for a muscular foreign policy and broad agreement on social issues. Voters inclined toward the Republican Party are distinguished from Democrats by their personal optimism and belief in the power of the individual. While some voting blocs on the right are as financially stressed as poorer Democrats, Republicans in this situation tend to be more hopeful and positive in their outlook than their more fatalistic counterparts in the Democratic Party.

Clearly, there is more than one kind of conservative. The Republican groups find common ground on cultural values, but opinions on the role of government, a defining feature of conservative philosophy for decades, are now among the most divisive for the GOP.

While the Republican Party is divided over government’s role, the Democrats are divided by social and personal values. Most Liberals live in a world apart from Disadvantaged Democrats and Conservative Democrats.

I took the
typology questionnaire, which is supposed to help me identify myself. Turns out I’m an "Enterpriser"; this "extremely partisan Republican group’s politics are driven by a belief in the free enterprise system and social values that reflect a conservative agenda. Enterprisers are also the strongest backers of an assertive foreign policy, which includes nearly unanimous support for the war in Iraq and strong support for such anti-terrorism efforts as the Patriot Act." My "defining values" are:

Assertive on foreign policy and patriotic; anti-regulation and pro-business; very little support for government help to the poor; strong belief that individuals are responsible for their own well being. Conservative on social issues such as gay marriage, but not much more religious than the nation as a whole. Very satisfied with personal financial situation.

I guess I didn’t know that my satisfaction with my financial situation was a "value," and, since, as my wife is fond of saying, I’m not a real doctor, I’m not sure that "very satisfied" describes me in that respect anyway. Gentle readers, what do you think? Am I rightly described as an "enterpriser," or am I a "social conservative," "pro-government conservative," "upbeat," "disaffected," "bystander," "liberal," "disadvantaged Democrat," or "conservative Democrat"? This LAT
"Info Box" might help a little. And you should take the questionnaire yourselves, to see how satisfied you are with the distinctions the Pew Center asks you to make.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for April

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

Andrew Willis

Stefanie Smith

Paula Fentnor

Mark Favazza

Harold O’Keefe

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 May’s drawing.

Bioethics Council again

Via Instapundit, we learn that James Q. Wilson has resigned from the President’s Council on Bioethics. The Reason post manages to both to say nothing about Wilson’s motives for resigning and to insinuate that his departure was welcome, while also insulting our friends Peter Lawler and Diana Schaub, neither of whom I would regard as "tractable." Considering that Wilson effusively defended Kass and the Commission publicly less than two months ago (click on the "Q." above), I don’t think Wilson was encouraged to leave.

The Marines

I took a young man to an Armed Forces recruiting station yesterday to meet with an Air Force recruiter. He had made the appointment, and just wanted to hear the recruiter talk about the Air Force and why he should consider signing up. The young man, let’s call him John, has been thinking about joining up for a while, and--for reasons I can’t quite fathom--showed interest in the Air Force. The twenty minute conversation went like this. The recruiter began by saying that there are great educational benefits (it turns out that all the branches have the same educational benefits). And finally, when pressed as to why a young man should consider the Air Force over another branch of the military, the fellow said this (my paraphrase is close to a quote): "Being in the Air Force is least like being in the military. It feels more like a regular job, you come to work at eight, and you leave at five." I could see that John wasn’t exactly swayed by this reasoning, so he had no more questions. We left his office, passing the Marine recruiter’s office on our way out.

We were both disappointed by the meeting. I asked John if he thought the Marine recruiter would talk the same way. He said he hoped not. I said, why don’t we find out?
So we walked back inside into the Marine’s office. Clearly, we had interrupted him, but he saw us anyway. I asked him a simple question: "Why should a young man consider joining the Marines over another branch?" This was his response (again, a close paraphrase):

"All the branches offer the same tangible benefits. But we offer the intangibles. Pride, honor, patriotism. When your signing bonus runs out after joining another branch, you still have to look yourself in the mirror every morning. I do that. And I see that I am the tip of the spear. We go in first, and we have been doing this since 1775. We are always ready. We protect our embassies abroad, and all the other hard work. We are Marines."

The Lance Corporal kept talking, and our hearts were lifted. It was five o’clock exactly as the Air Force recruiter passed us in the hallway on his way home. Soon after that we had to put an end to the conversation--the Marine wanted to keep talking--and stepped out into the sunlight. Well, John, what do you think? That was more like it, said his faster beating heart. On our drive home, we heard a news report that over one hundred bad guys were killed in heavy fighting near the Syrian border, and three Marines met their maker. Good ratio, we said. My wet eyes made it hard to see the road ahead.

Bush Apologizes for Yalta

For many, the Yalta agreement, forged by FDR, Staliln and Churchill was a terrible concession to the Soviet tyranny.

Anne Applebaum writes about the apology George Bush issued on his recent trip to Europe to the nations of eastern Europe for the Yalta agreement.

More religious extremism

The Interfaith Alliance, about which I’ve written before, says that it works "to promote interfaith cooperation around shared religious values to strengthen the public’s commitment to the American values of civic participation, freedom of religion, diversity, and civility in public discourse and to encourage the active involvement of people of faith in the nation’s political life."

Of course, when the wrong religious people get involved, the Interfaith Alliance becomes concerned, issuing sententious pronouncements like this one:

Neither religion nor democracy is well-served when religious leaders try to define an individual’s faith and religious commitment by how it fits their political posturing. Playing the religion card divides people rather than unites people. No one’s religious conviction should be attacked as anti-faith just because that person doesn’t agree with destroying a tried-and-true democratic process. This kind of litmus test signals a redefinition of religion that is blasphemy and a redefinition of democracy that is scary.

But the other face of the Interfaith Alliance is shown

Religious groups critical of Sen. Ken Salazar’s support of the Senate filibuster for judges were denounced Tuesday by clergy and political leaders as crackpots, American Taliban and the Gestapo.

The intent of such groups, said the Rev. Bill Kirton of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, is to impose their religious values on others.

"This, my friends, is the Gestapo," said Kirton, a United Methodist minister. Later, Kirton defended his description saying, "I said Gestapo, and I meant it."

Kirton was among speakers who rallied behind Salazar at a news conference at the state Capitol. In a supportive letter to Salazar, the group condemned "the pursuit and abuse of earthly power," which was driving religious groups to support an up-or-down vote of President Bush’s court nominees.

"These are the actions of an American Taliban, of reactionary, religious zealots," said the Rev. Peter Morales, head of the public policy commission of the Interfaith Alliance.

Whatever happened to the commitment to civility in public discourse? Will C. Welton Gaddy repudiate the extreme statements of his supporters and subordinates? Or will he by his silence endorse those whose stock in trade seems to be the demonization of those with whom they disagree?

Offensive in western Iraq

There’s good analysis here and a detailed report of some of the fighting here.

Jim Wallis and the Democrats

Here’s a nice article on the Democrats’ favorite evangelical.

A guide out of the fever swamp

My old acquaintance Mark Hall wrote this op-ed for the Portland Oregonian. He effectively makes the case for the "normality" of most evangelicals.

An excursion into the fever swamp

The good folks at the Acton Institute’s PowerBlog called my attention to this rather feverish post by Max Blumenthal, who seems of late to have made it his personal business to reveal to the world the insidious character of conservative evangelicals and their fellow travelers. Here’s an example of the silliness Blumenthal takes seriously:

By emphasizing God’s grace over free will, right wing Evangelicals also grant themselves permission to dictate what everyone else’s moral decisions should be. It also allows them to grant themselves permission to use immoral means to accomplish their ends and bear false witness against those who disagree with them. Since God’s grace does not depend on good works, being born again gives them the freedom to impose theocracy through duplicitous, deceitful and sinful actions.

If you haven’t read them already, Stanley Kurtz’s two articles at NRO offer a good place to begin tracking your way through the fever swamp.

Of course, Blumenthal is tame and sensible by comparison with some of the folks Kurtz has read. (If you click on this last link, you’ll discover that Leo Strauss, "the father of the neo-conservative movement," offers us clues as to the plans of the Dominionists. I guess it does pay to read old books.)

Multiple Choice Prediction

Senator Richard Lugar predicted on the Sunday talk shows that John Bolton would be confirmed when the Foreign Relations Committee meets on Thursday. Lugar predicts that all ten Republicans will vote for Bolton and that all eight Democrats will vote against Bolton.

What do you think? Pick One.

A)Bolton wins approval of the Committee.

B)Hagel decides to vote no.

C)Chaffee decides to vote no.

D)Voinovich decides to vote no.

E)The vote is postponed.

I think the temptation to become a media darling will be too great for one or more of these Republicans.

Asia rising

is on the cover of Newsweek. The big fat question is posed: "Does the future belong to China?" Fareed Zakaria’s essay is very much worth reading, despite some problematic points. Of course he talks about China’s size, it’s phenomenal economic growth, including its internal politics and stability. But it is paragraphs like this that make you ruminate:

There have been two great shifts in global power over the past 400 years. The first was the rise of Europe, which around the 17th century became the richest, most enterprising and ambitious part of the world. The second was the rise of the United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it became the single most powerful country in the world, the globe’s decisive player in economics and politics.

For centuries, the rest of the world was a stage for the ambitions and interests of the West’s great powers. China’s rise, along with that of India and the continuing weight of Japan, represents the third great shift in global power—the rise of Asia.

Of course, to simply say
the rise of Asia" doesn’t tell us everything. It doesn’t tell us that Japan will have something to say about China’s rise, and we are allied with them and are encouraging them to rearm. It doesn’t tell us that India is now an ally, and much freer than it has ever been. India is a natural geopolitical opponent of China, as are Korea and Vietnam; and one could hope that both Indonesia and the Phillipines will become stronger actors.
And, do not fail to note that President Bush was called a guest of "special importance" by
Russia’s Putin.
Russia will continue to show interest in China’s power-surge. I also note in passing our especially good relations with Mongolia.

Huffington blog

I watched CNN inteview Arianna Huffington this morning about her new site, which includes a blog, written mostly by Lefties from Hollywood.
I couldn’t figure out what thew big deal was. Why interview a blogger, indeed, a would be blogger? Well, I guess it turns out that if you have some sort of gimmick, and are on the Left, CNN will get sloppy friendly with you and push your product, even if you haven’t proven yourself. Her site is
called the Huffington Post. You may want to check it out. It’s pretty cool looking, but I don’t see how much of Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Brown I can read without having a stiff drink!

John Podesta and the religious Left

Here’s a transcript of an event sponsored by the Pew Forum, in which John Podesta, who runs the Center for American Progress, discussed his ideas for mobilizing the religious Left. His issues: health insurance, third-world debt relief, and the living wage. Only when he was pressed did he--an observant Catholic--discuss abortion, and then only in terms of which HRC could approve.

This is perhaps the most revealing passage in the whole long transcript:

On the candidate side, I think if you’re authentic [in your religious expression] and it’s part of who you are and you express your conviction in those terms, then I think that the secular wing of the Democratic Party is unlikely to have a problem with you expressing a moral vision of the country that at least in policy terms they generally agree with.

In other words, progressive Democrats will welcome religious voices so long as the religious voices tell them what they want to hear. But don’t think of offering a position regarding abortion that strays far from the "safe, legal, and rare" evasion. And be very, very careful what you say about the "coarsening" of our culture.

I’m not convinced that Podesta can offer the Democrats the "salvation" they need, nor that progressive religionists can provide the same sort of additional support for Democrats that religious conservatives provide to Republicans. (Aren’t their numbers dwindling, and aren’t they already voting?)

More on Lincoln

Mac Owens

criticizes Peter Lawler’s piece on David Brooks New York Times op-ed on Lincoln, which both Lucas Morel and Joe Knippenberg have already noted. All that seems a little complicated, doesn’t it? The point is this. Owens lectures Lawler (a dangerous move, by the way), on an important point he claims Lawler overlooked: Lincoln knew that the key to ending slavery where it existed lay not with the national government but with the states. I also made this point
last year regarding the virtue of Allen Guelzo’s book on the emancipation.

Blair’s victory

Bill Kristol points out that with Blair’s victory (see results here) "The electorates of the major democracies--at least the English-speaking ones--have thus shown a willingness to support the
leaders who took them to war." Yet, he warns that the Bush administration must get better at
making its case for its foreign policy in the Middle East.

Whatever happened to English Departments?

No summary or one-liner could do justice to this unself-conscious revelation of the decline of a discipline through the embrace of political activism.

Forgetting our history

Victor Davis Hanson: "Our society suffers from the tyranny of the present." He bemoans our lot. Perhaps this should be especially noted on May 8th. On this day the Germans laid down their arms in 1945. Hanson:

We rarely mention our forebears. These were the millions of less fortunate Americans who built the country, handed down to us our institutions, and died keeping them safe.
Such amnesia about them was not always so. Public acknowledgment of prior generations characterized the best orations of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, who looked for guidance from, and gave thanks to, their ancestors.

Bruce Cole, the Chairman of the National Andowment for the Humanities, has also addressed the amnesia problem.

Of course, we at the Ashbrook Center also understand this problem. Along with the Department of History and Political Science, we work at making sure that our students do not have such amnesia and they understand the things for which we stand. We have taken our work one step further. We have established a Masters degree in American History and Government. The work for this degree will be done entirely in the Summer for it is intended for high school teachers. It is a very intensive
program, with a great core curriculum, with outstanding professors
teaching them. Have a look at this unique program. Classes will begin this next month; there are four sessions each Summer.

Presidential politics

John McCain thinks that John Kerry would like to run for president again; McCain advises against it. Robert Novak thinks that Mitt Romney is gearing up for a presidential run. Novak also notes that Howard Dean is failing to raise money for the DNC: The Demos have raised a disappointing $16.7 million raised in the first quarter of 2005, compared with $34 million reported by the Republicans. John Edwards is making plans to run; he is calling his advisors and big donors together for a meeting in North Carolina. There is more evidence that Evan Bayh is going to run. Joe Klein thinks that Hillary run would be a disaster "on many levels." Some are guessing that Virginia SenatorGeorge Allen is the "drak-horse front runner" for the GOP nomination.

How we would fight China

Robert D. Kaplan writes the cover story for the June issue of The Atlantic on the next Cold War, or our fight with China. You will have to get a hard copy, because it is not available on line. It is worth reading. He points out that the functional substitute for a NATO (which had a great role in the Cold War but is now dead, our invasion of Afghanistan killed it) of the Pacific is already in place, and is up and run ning. It is the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). There is much more.

Tom DeLay and Congressional Ethics

Rich Lowry puts the Tom DeLay scandal in its proper context.

Left, right, and judicial restraint

This article surveys the debate and makes a few interesting points, some of which we may have forgotten or did not know.

First, the argument against judicial overreach has decades-old roots, and hence (though the author doesn’t say this) is not a product of the religious right (which seems to be the burden of this article).

Second, arguments to limit the scope of judicial decisions are not exclusive to the right; there’s a "popular constitutionalism" movement on the left. If left and right can join in insisting that the three branches are actually all entitled to interpret the Constitution as they carry out their constitutional responsibilities, we’re making some progress.

For more on these issues on the left, go here, here, and here.

Credit where credit is due

Win Myers links to an essay by William Schambra on the manner in which blogs can shine light on the role ostensibly neutral but actually left-leaning foundations play in the public policy debate. Schambra rightly credits Win with helping break the story of the "philanthropic" role in generating the astroturf roots of agitation on behalf of campaign finance reform, though I think he mischaracterizes him as a "scrappy, individualistic insurgent" "relatively unfamiliar" with the field of philanthropy. I’ll grant him the scrappy, but not the other descriptors, at least not without qualification.

Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt.

Update: Here’s an on-line version of Schambra’s article.

Oglethorpe’s commencement

I’m always sad on these occasions, for reasons John Seery describes so eloquently in his book. One of my favorite of this year’s seniors is Catherine "Cat" Lawler, only daughter of Peter and Rita Lawler. Cat won (and deserved to win) the James Edward Oglethorpe Cup as the female graduate who best exemplified the ideals of Oglethorpe University. Demonstrating the old adage that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the oak, as President of the Senior Class, Cat gave one of the best speeches ever given from the podium in our quad. Is anyone surprised that the central figure in her speech was Alexis de Tocqueville? Great job, Cat! And thanks, Peter and Rita, for sharing your daughter with us for four years.

Among the other graduating seniors I’ll miss are Ashish Bohringer, a Jesuit-educated Indian who’s off to law school; Carlissa Carson, who will be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant after she completes law school; Lisa Pettee, who I’m sure will be reading Plato to the baby she delivers later this summer; Philip Jones, who will take his upper Midwestern political street smarts into a public policy program somewhere; Linda Dreilinger, the most deserving Jack Kent Cooke nominee I’ve assisted; and Amy Lester, known to my son and many of her friends as "Snake," who wants to be a filmmaker or screenwriter.

"Government schools"

That’s what the dean of Atlanta’s radio talkers calls them. And here is one of the reasons why I’ll be spending the afternoon here. Good teachers aren’t permitted to use their independent judgment. Political power is deployed to protect mediocrity. But you’ve heard this all before.


This is hard to resist. John J. Miller at NRO puts Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia out as word of the day. It means fear of the number 666. Miller thinks that even Bill Buckley has never used it. I propose this as the word of the day: idiolect, which the OED defines as "The linguistic system of one person, differing in some details from that of all other speakers of the same dialect or language." Or maybe this word, considering Joe’s note below, inveiglement. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands!

Deprogramming David Brooks

Lucas Morel called our attention to this column by David Brooks. Now, joining Morel and Richard Reeb, Peter Lawler is piling on. A snippet:

Brooks doesn’t let us see clearly or dwell upon the fact that while the abolitionist evangelicals may well have been imprudent, they were clearly to the left of Lincoln and on the right side of history on the slavery issue. Brooks only alludes to this best example for his otherwise vague conclusion that "the evangelical tradition is deeply consistent with the American creed." The abolitionist evangelicals, in their enthusiasm, thought the principles of the Declaration should trump even the Constitution.

That example also shows us that Lincoln and Brooks are right to add that "evangelical causes can overflow the banks defined by our constitutional documents." The abolitionist evangelicals were at war with what our Constitutional actually said.

Brooks then goes on to compare their abolitionist enthusiasm with "the social conservatives’ attempt to end the judicial filibuster." But doing away with the filibuster won’t produce a civil war. The filibuster isn’t in the Constitution or any of our constitutional documents. It is merely part of the way the Senate regulates itself and has no constitutional or founding status at all.

Like Reeb and Morel, Lawler is, of course, right. Brooks seems to have been inveigled into believing that threatening the judicial filibuster is the same as threatening the constitution, which is what the Democratic obstructionists want us to believe. As Peter says, "Don’t be seduced!"

Update: Let me take this opportunity also to invite readers to take a look at my
op-ed on some of these matters over at the main Ashbrook site.

Law schools and student groups again

Ken Masugi takes us back to first principles with respect to a case on which I posted here. Ken admits that his arguments are unlikely to prevail in the courts, which I agree is unfortunate. But perhaps it’s time, not just for legal pressure but also for political pressure. I wonder what California (and other) state legislators think about law schools that in effect take sides in the culture war? While positive support for traditional religion and morality might be "too much to ask," couldn’t state legislators tell public universities to cease and desist from effectual hostility?

Political diversity in the Congressional Black Caucus

This article notes that members of the Congressional Black Caucus no longer vote in lockstep for progams only a liberal Democrat could love:

The changes have played out on a series of votes this year, such as passage of the Republican-led bankruptcy bill, which 10 members of the caucus voted for, and elimination of the estate tax, which drew eight votes from the 41-member caucus.

Five members, all Democrats, voted for both measures: Reps. David Scott and Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia, Albert R. Wynn of Maryland, Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee and William J. Jefferson of Louisiana.

The key seems to be representing districts that aren’t racially homogeneous and having ties to or experience in small business. Whatever the appeal of the faith-based initiative to some African-American pastors and voters, this hasn’t yet translated into legislative support. None seem to have supported the Job Training Improvement Act, the only legislation connected with the faith-based initiative in this session.

My tentative conclusion: the bankruptcy and estate tax votes are more about "economics" than "politics" for these legislators, while the faith-based initiative actually does pose a political threat to the Democratic Party. Support for the former pieces of legislation might help keep wealthy African-Americans in the Democratic column; support for the latter helps Republicans recruit African-American support.

France as a seagull

Dominique de Villepin has a new book out, The Shark and the Seagull. This book, and others he has written, is taken for an elaborate manisfesto that he hopes will help him become France’s leader. No Passaran! has a few choice words about the author and other related matters. Very informative with good links.

Greenspan’s warning

Fed Chairman Greenspan: "I’m getting increasingly disturbed about some of the pressures of protectionism that are emerging in the world because, were we to get a rigidifying of international market forces, I’m fearful of what the implications could be to the American economy and, of course, to the world as a whole."

Russia never annexed Baltics

Russia denies annexing, or illegaly occupying, the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) in 1940.

Other Baylor news

Whatever the meaning of the appointment of William Underwood as interim President means, this surely is good news:

Regents today also approved [a] new academic [program] - a doctorate in political science.... The political science doctoral program, while focusing on the history of political thought, issues of citizenship and democratic theory, will emphasize the traditional political science fields of political theory, American politics and constitutional law, international relations and comparative politics.

Not only is this a straw in the wind regarding the Regents’ support of Baylor 2012, but it also means that my friend, the indefatigable Mary Nichols, once again has a venue for training excellent graduate students, like Denise Schaeffer, Natalie and Flagg Taylor (Flagg, your webpage needs some work!), and David Alvis, all of whom taught at Oglethorpe at one time or another, thanks in large part to Mary’s good offices.

Arnold and the teacher union

Governor Arnold wants to do away with tenure for school teachers in California. If the Democratic legislature won’t act, he says he will go--again--straight to the people.

Bad guy captured

This is good news: The Lybian, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, has been arrested in Pakistan. He was the number 3 guy in al Qaeda. Note that he doesn’t look that good in the photo. Chrenkoff
has photos showing the consequences, as he says, of pissing the U.S. off. This is the Washington Post story on the capture.

Liberalism vs. religion

J. David Velleman makes a couple of revealing admissions in the course of a longish post deprecating conservative "people of faith."

First, there’s this:

Although I don’t think that moral seriousness requires religious belief, I do think that it requires faith.

What he means here is that moral seriousness requires faith in reason.

Second, there’s this:

I now consider myself an atheist, not because I think that I have conclusive reason for denying the existence of a personal God, but because I take His nonexistence, as it were, on faith. My willingness to embrace this indemonstrable vision of the universe is of a piece, to my way of thinking, with my commitment to the incommensurable value of persons as ends in themselves, the value that underwrites my moral code.

It turns out that his atheistic faith in reason is intimately connected with his "commitment" to human dignity, i.e., a kind of Nietzscheanized Kantianism. But is it not possible--just possible--to regard human beings as having dignity because they are created in God’s image? If that’s possible, then liberalism and religion are not inimical and Velleman’s atheism needs another explanation, since his isn’t sufficient.

David Brooks "Stuck in Lincoln’s Land"

NY Times columnist David Brooks reminds us why Lincoln remains, at least for most Americans, the lodestar of political principle and practice in today’s op-ed entitled, "Stuck in Lincoln’s Land". Perhaps it is just a sign of the times, but Brooks feels compelled to tout Lincoln’s moderate credentials as the genius of his statesmanship, even as he affirms Lincoln’s devotion to the Declaration of Independence. Somehow, "Lincoln the Moderate" doesn’t quite do justice to the traditional (and correct) appellation, "Lincoln the Great Emancipator." One hopes we can agree that there were a few things Lincoln was not moderate about, and foremost among these was his belief in human equality.

Benedict XVI a Straussian?

Asks Ken Masugi. He quotes an article in French about a debate between Habermas and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, where the latter cited Strauss. He also provides this link to the opening statements in German. I’ll read and translate bits of the latter when I finish all my grading.

All of this persuades me that Karl Rove--who I am said (at least by bibulous Oglethorpe alumni in a bar in Austin, Texas) to resemble--is behind the election of Benedict XVI. The next step is for Paul Wolfowitz to convert to Roman Catholicism, win ordination (I hear the church needs priests), and be appointed Cardinal so as to be in line for succession.

Update: My, er, I mean our, plot has been revealed by the self-admitted oenophile Win Myers, who confesses to drinking wine from a country at least nominally (perhaps only nominally, if George Weigel is to be believed) Catholic.

Another excellent review of a bad book

Clifford Orwin’s scathing review of Anne Norton’s bad book is posted here. In case you’ve forgotten, my review is here. Orwin elegantly wields a stiletto in slicing and dicing the hapless Norton. By contrast, I am merely an earnest hacker.

Thanks to the folks at the Claremont Review of Books for posting the review.

Defining the mainstream

A typical move on the part of those who oppose conservatives is to claim that they, not the conservatives, are in the mainstream. Here courtesy of RealClearPolitics is someone who thinks this is dirty pool and that folks like James Dobson are a lot closer to the mainstream than, say, Al Franken is.

A new kind of red army

Win Myers calls our attention to the lawless actions of "a shadowy group of extremist producers known as the Crav, Comité Regional d’Action Viticoles (Regional Action Committee of Wine-growers)," who destroy perfectly good Spanish red wine.

Win, however, enjoys a good bottle of wine now and again, though he’s paying too much for the privilege.

Pigs fly

On the WaPo op-ed page, John McCandlish Phillips, a former Timesman, questions the WaPo/NYT orthodoxy concerning conservative evangelicals and Catholics. While reading MoDo is, he confesses, "one of life’s guilty pleasures for me," she, Krugman, Rich, and others have gone off the deep end in their columns about religion in America.   

Baylor’s interim president

Baylor has an interim president, William D. Underwood. Some aren’t sure this is good for Baylor 2012, about which I’ve blogged here, here, here, and here. You can read news reports here and here.

Here’s an account of a debate between Underwood and Provost David Lyle Jeffrey, a strong supporter of Baylor 2012. Let’s just say that neither seems to have convinced his opponent to rethink his position.

Update: One of the perils of being the man of the hour at Baylor, as Underwood now is, is that articles like this one can be written. It seems that he sent his children to and financially supported this program, sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Central Texas and co-sponsored by his church, which is affiliated with the liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I wouldn’t as the leader of a Christian institution want to have to defend the book, It’s Perfectly Normal, that was sent home with the kids. For criticisms of the book, go here and here. Underwood’s response to all this is to say that "he is aware of the book but hadn’t examined it or used it with his children." I don’t read everything that comes home with my kids, but I think I would have taken a look at a book that (a) discussed human sexuality and (b) was at the center of a heated controversy. Not that it matters, but Underwood loses points with me here. I could have respected a straightforward defense of his family’s privacy or even (for its honesty) an endorsement of the book’s content. But an evasion? Come on!

Religion and politics in the U.K.

I wrote about this a while ago, but Jeremy Lott brings us up to date.

Hispanic armies of compassion

Jason DeParle has an interesting article on Hispanic groups that are benefiting from the Compassion Capital Fund. While some critics regard the faith-based initiative simply as a political slush fund, DeParle is a bit more even-handed.

Hat tip: Religion Clause.

Germany’s SDP

David’s Medienkritik reflects on Germany’s Social Democratic Party’s full blown attack on capitalism. Note the poster and the good charts. The truth is Germany is in a deep economic slump (GDP growth under 1%) and they are not getting out of it soon, and the SPD is preparing itself for a loss of power and a scapegoat. Then, when they lose the next election, they can become full blown leftists again. That will make them feel better about themselves.

European weird

This is a very good Newsweek column by George Will on the interesting and dismaying facets of the European mind. It begins with Putin’s incrediable statement of a week or so ago on the collapse of the USSR: "The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." Chirac’s weirdopinions are also noted, and Will notes John Paul II’s contribution, as well Benedict XVI’s nearly impossible task.

Europe’s spiritual malaise

George Weigel reflects on the spiritual, and demographic, decline of Europe. It is a summary of his new book, The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God.

Europe, and especially Western Europe, is suffering from a crisis of civilizational morale. The most dramatic manifestations are not Europe’s fondness for governmental bureaucracy or its devotion to fiscally shaky healthcare schemes and pension plans, its lagging productivity or the appeasement mentality that some leaders display toward Islamist terrorism. No, the most dramatic manifestation is the brute fact that Europe is depopulating itself.

Europe’s below-replacement-level birthrates have created situations that would have been unimaginable when the European Common Market was being created in the 1950s. As recent demographic studies show, by the middle of the 21st century, 60% of Italians will have no personal experience of a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle or a cousin; Germany will lose the equivalent of the population of the former East Germany; and Spain’s population will decline by almost one-quarter.

Newspaper decline continues

Newsspaper circulation has dropped 1.9 percent at major U.S. newspapers in the six-month period ending in March, marking one of the worst declines in recent years. The circulation of the Los Angeles Times dropped 7.9 percent from the prior year. Drudge has the stats on the top 20 papers. Only USA Today went up slightly. Wall Street Journal also reports on the phenomenon. In the meantime, Pajamas Media is being organized. Also see this.

President of Ashland University retires

G. William Benz, the 27th president of Ashland University, has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2005-06 academic year. By the end of his tenure he will have served thirteen years. He announced his retirement at a meeting of faculty and staff yesterday morning, and was honored for his service by a heartfelt and well deserved standing ovation.

Shocking News: Laura Bush Has a Sense of Humor

This is news among the MainStreamMedia. Laura Bush has a sense of humor, she can laugh at herself, make fun of her husband, her friends, and colleagues. Gee, are people of faith allowed to do that? So wonders this reporter in today’s "New York Times.’

Reality-based commentary on the faith-based initiative

My long-awaited review of these two books is on-line here.

Liberal and conservative think tanks compared

Katie Newmark links to and discusses a paper that compares the organization and behavior of liberal and conservative think tanks. The conclusion? Conservative think tanks are winning the "war of ideas" because they’re more politically adept and nimble, not because they have the better ideas. Since the author seems to be in the business of advising "progressive" think tanks (in the guise of neutrality, of course), I guess that’s not a conclusion he’d venture.

V***** but No P**** Monologues at Roger Williams University

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry when reading this. Where’s Aristophanes or Shakespeare (Tom Wolfe won’t quite do) when you need him.

If you are sending a child to college soon, you should read this. If you are sending a child to college soon, you’re more likely to cry after reading it. In any event, it seems College administrators at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island who give every kind of support to sponsorship of the ’Vagina Monologues’ and related workshops and advertising, can’t tolerate the ’Penis Monologues’ as an alternative. Here’s Christina Hoff Sommers report from ’National Review OnLine.’

Roger Williams University is only one of hundreds of Colleges who sponsor the ’Vagina Monologues’ and related activity across the country.


I’m back from a three day stint in Miami. Spoke on a panel at the Heritage Resource Bank meeting; most enjoyable and useful. I learned much from the hundreds who attended. They represented a variety of good organizations, think tanks, etc., all on the right side of most issues. Good program, well executed. I also attended the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Society, of which I have been a member for many decades. The theme was "What is an American?" This topic, as you know, is both important and dear to my heart and mind. There were some good papers, and some good conversations. On the other hand, there was a much too visible inclinination of some to talk as if the U.S. was an ordinary nation, as one wag said, based on our common soil. Another said he found no references among our "Founders" (he couldn’t use the that term, or "Founding," because we don’t have one, hence the quotation marks) to natural rights or natural right. It was not clear what he found, but he thought it was worth looking. Most such at the meeting just talked about "culture," in more or less the old fashioned way (habit, growth), but some made very clear that there is only culture, no politics, nothing for which we have stood, and may continue to stand. And all men love what is their own, and so do we. No difference. Human nature and creed were nasty words for some. Not clear what the Constitution is, according to this understanding, although some favorable references were made to it; I guess because it’s ours. Most such people confused themselves by collapsing the French Revolution with the American, and in thinking that the progressive revolution in American politics is different from the regime established by the Founders. I say all this more in sorrow than in anger.

Student groups and university regulations

Howard Friedman has a useful report on the questions raised by the Christian Legal Society’s lawsuit against Hastings College of Law.

Here’s how Friedman states the question that is still to be resolved:

Is student body diversity, an aspect of academic freedom, just as compelling as the interest in eradicating racial discrimination? If so, law schools would be able to do what broader state governmental units, like the state of New Jersey in Boy Scouts, cannot do.

But student body diversity is consistent with homogeneity in student groups, is it not? If so, then compelling student chapters of the CLS to be as "diverse" as the student body as a whole is not the "least restrictive means" of accomplishing the university’s end.

Southern Appeal has more.

Update #2: There’s more here.

African-Americans and Republicans

Here’s another piece suggesting that African-Americans may migrate in the direction of the Republican Party. Beyond the now usual suggestions regarding the role of moral issues and the faith-based initiative, this columnist argues for the importance of school choice.

Fifty years ago...

A young American G.I., himself a recent immigrant from Rijswijk, a suburb of The Hague, married a lovely young Austrian woman in this church outside Salzburg, which you might recognize from the opening scene in this movie.

Within the next twelve hours or so (it’s roughly 10 p.m. EDT, on May 1st), they’ll be renewing their vows at the same church and then celebrating with the remaining European relatives from both the Austrian and Dutch sides of the family.

Happy 50th, Mom and Dad!

Tone Deaf at the NYT

This article in the NYT suggests increasing energy savings by dropping the speed limit to 55. Leave it to the NYT to find a solution that I would guess will be even more unpopular than raising the excise tax on gasoline.

Break out your burqas

Here’s an article about this conference, which purports to examine "the real agenda of the religious right." Here’s the program and speaker bios, and here are some of the websites they operate. Still, the whole conference wasn’t altogether "fever-swampish":

If we are going to ask the Christian right to stop engaging in demonization, we need to inspect some of our own language," Chip Berlet of the human rights watchdog Political Research Associates said in his talk Friday night.

"I’m uncomfortable when I hear people of sincere religious faith described as religious political extremists," he said. "What does that term mean? It’s a term of derision that says we’re good and they’re bad. There is no content."

Afterward, in an interview, Mr. Berlet added: "The Democrats do just as much name-calling as the right. It’s great for fundraising. [But] it’s a heck of a way of building a social progressive movement."

I couldn’t agree more. For more on Berlet and the conference, go

Update: There’s more from Powerline and Michael DeBow at Southern Appeal.