Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Tagged Up

Okay, here’s my Tagged drill:

1. How many books? Rough guess: Over 5,000. I have two homes, both of which need well-stocked libraries. I’ve had carpenters build LARGE bookcases in five rooms total; then there’s overflow in the garage, and then there’s still more in my AEI office.

Some people might think I have a problem. But no; as Henry Ward Beecher put it, "A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life."

2. Last book bought? Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays. (Just trying to keep up with political science trends.)

3. Last book read? Joseph Stanik, El Dorado Canyon: Reagan’s Undeclared War with Qaddafi. (Most of my reading these days is connected with my ongoing Reagan book project.)

4. What five books mean the most? Only five? This is tough, though I’m tempted to repair to Chesterton’s answer about what one book he’d take to a desert island (his answer: Hawkins’ Complete Guide to Shipbuilding.) I guess I’d settle on these:

-C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. (A prologue, in many ways, to Natural Right and History.)

-Nicomachean Ethics.

-Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, for showing the style I’m trying to emulate with The Age of Reagan.

-Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. (More complete than Road to Serfdom or Capitalism and Freedom.)

-Odyssey of a Friend: Whittaker Chambers’ Letters to William F. Buckley Jr. An odd choice, I know, but more interesting that Witness in my judgment.

Now, having resisted the blandishments of chain letters my whole life, I’m not going to tag anyone, lest this thing spin out of control by geometric proportions.

Dems cry foul on Dean

Turns out that it’s the media, serving the interests of the right wing, that’s to blame for the all the attention given to Howard Dean’s outrageous statements. So says Senator Dick Durbin here. According to some of Durbin’s colleagues, other (Democratic) chairmen have made harshly partisan remarks, but they’ve gone unnoticed and, even in this case, the people don’t really care. It’s a tempest in a teapot.

I guess the lesson is that we shouldn’t pay much attention to what Democrats say among themselves about Republicans. It’s no clue to what they really think, which we should glean from what they say to the press when, unlike "Dr. Dean" (as the NYT decorously calls him), they’re on message. Heh.

Update: For an argument that the media for the most part haven’t been paying attention to Dean’s gaffes, go here.

Raiche and the New Federalism?

The folks over at Scotusblog have had a fascinating discussion of the Supreme Court’s recent Gonzalez v. Raiche decision (released Monday). Scrolling down through the site reveals a broad commentary covering lots of angles on the Court’s ruling--including Justice Kennedy’s vote, Scalia’s abandoning Thomas and Rehnquist, and the meaning of federalism as articulated in the Court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence.

From Lyle Denniston by way of summary:

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Monday that Congress had the authority to make it a crime to grow and use marijuana purely for personal medical purposes when recommended by a doctor. In an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court overturned a Ninth Circuit ruling that the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 exceeded Congress’ Commerce Clause power when applied to medical marijuana used under California law.

In practical terms, the Court’s decision will force the Justice Department to decide how aggressively it wants to prosecute individuals who grow and use marijuana for medical purposes, in the face of a spreading movement in the states to allow such uses. There are at least ten states, and perhaps 11 (if Arizona is counted) that allow such uses of marijuana. The same notion is being promoted in other states, too, and public opinion polls show that three-fourths of Americans asked support doctor-prescribed marijuana to ease pain and suffering.

For those interested in the legal implications of this medical marijuana case (no, this wasn’t just about smoking pot) Scotusblog has some great stuff up right now.


Paul Clement was confirmed yesterday on a voice vote and became our nation’s new Solicitor General. Thanks to How Appealing for pointing it out. The Senate has also confirmed Janice Rogers Brown and Bill Pryor for their respective Circuit Court posts. And two more Bush nominees, David W. McKeague and Richard A. Griffin, were just confirmed for their places on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. All good news.

The Koran at Gitmo

Max Boot notes that most of the Koran descrations were done by inmates at Gitmo.

At Gitmo, personnel receive instructions: "Do not disrespect the Koran (let it touch the floor, kick it, step on it)." They must "handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art." This means ensuring "that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet area." Only Muslim chaplains and interpreters are actually supposed to touch a Koran, and then only if wearing clean latex gloves. Moreover: "Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in a manner signaling respect and reverence."

John Hinderaker beats up on the MSM for not talking about this.

It seems that the Army--or maybe it’s the United States--just can’t win. It is almost inconceivable that the Hood report could have been more favorable to the Guantanamo guards and interrogators, yet the international and American press treated it as a confession of wrongdoing, at times with a hint that the Newsweek allegation had proven true after all. Little (frequently, nothing) was made of the fact that it was the Muslim detainees, not American guards or interrogators, who had perpetrated precisely the acts that were the excuse for anti-American riots in the Muslim world.

No matter how virtuous American conduct may be, the many members of the press raise the bar higher, with no regard for the realities of warfare, the inevitable sordidness of prison life, or the frailties of human nature. It is hard to see any purpose in this hypercriticism--no other country, except perhaps Israel, is held to such an extraordinary standard--other than to make it impossible for the United States to detain and interrogate prisoners. Or to fight a war.

Bolivia in chaos?

Is Bolivia distingrating? The sitaution looks ominous. Everything seems to be shutting down, hospitals are running out of medicine, La Paz is in turmoil, Sucre is blockaded. Spain is readying for an evacuation. Worth watching.

Ramirez Cartoon

Disposable video cameras

The CVS drug store chain is selling disposable video cameras! "The $29.99 pocket-sized digital video cameras are able to capture up to 20 minutes of video and sound.

CVS Corp. stores, which has exclusive rights to sell them, will process the camera for $12.99 and return a DVD; users also can e-mail video and video greeting cards." Also see this.

Deficit disorder

Andy Busch thinks that unless the Bush administration takes his advice, there is a good chance the Democrats will outflank the GOP on the deficit. He thinks President Bush should: 1) veto the transportation bill, 2) push hard for the re-establishment of spending caps and pay-as-you-go rules for new spending, and 3) revisit the Medicare prescription drug benefit which has already turned into a boondogle. Pretty good advice.   

Will the French sort themselves out?

This John Zvesper piece from and on France is very clear about what the French vote means for French politics. The short of it is that we should be rooting for Sarkozy over Villepin.   

College grades of Bush and Kerry

This story has been out there for a few days, and this is CNN’s
version: "Sen. John F. Kerry’s grade average at Yale University was virtually identical to President Bush’s record there, despite repeated portrayals of Kerry as the more intellectual candidate during the 2004 presidential campaign." Bush received one "D" in four years (in astronomy), while Kerry had four. Kerry’s records (part of the Navy file) were just released last month. Bush had a cumulative average of 77%, while Kerry’s was 76%. I have decided to release my records from Cal State, Northridge: My cumulative undergraduate record was about 78 (and I flunked both a physics and a Russian class), but Yale’s tougher. I understand that.

Update: A reader points out that Kerry had five D’s, not 4 (he had four as a freshman). I miscounted. I also flunked math once.

Dean and Hillary, shooting from the lip

Howard Dean defended himself and his comments about the GOP ("It’s pretty much a white, Christian party." "A lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives." etc.), as his comments continue to rankle some Democrats. Senator Joseph Lieberman said this: "I thought the comment that he made about the Republican Party being a white, Christian party was just way over the top. It was divisive and wrong, and I hope he apologizes for it." On the other hand, the Boston Globe reports that some Demos are standing up for him and they will do so at a public event today. Susan Estrich thinks that Dean is not "ready for primetime." Peggy Noonan also doesn’t think that Democratic rage is a winning approach. He drops Hillary in the rage camp. Noonan asks what this could mean, and she gives a poetic rendition of the possibilities. Imagine Bush or Mehlman or McCain talking like this. Can you? There is an "American arrangement" of civility in these matters, a kind of "political generosity" toward your opponents that is a good thing and the Demos (or anyone else) who don’t practice are the same people who start fights at litt league games. She’s right. No one likes such people. Such talk from Dean and Hillary will not serve them well, or the country, and citizens know it. I do not think this is a passing matter. I think such invective will have massive consequences, none of them to the advantage of the Democrats. Noonan: "The comportment of Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean is actually not worthy of America. Their statements suggest they are in no way equal to the country they seek to lead. And something tells me that sooner or later America is going to tell them. But in a generous, mature and fair-minded way." That is, at the ballot-box.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for May

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

Douglas Shupe

Scott Simmons

Lee Arten

Ann Carlson

Opal Baker

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 June’s drawing.

Grade inflation

This post links to an article in the Washington Post about grade inflation. The American University students it describes are much more aggressive than mine, who only occasionally and generally very politely ask about their grades. More frequently, they want to know how they can do better the next time. (I have a reputation as a hard grader, though having recently seen the overall g.p.a. for my institution, it looks like I’m not too far out of line.)

My question to colleagues: can I do anythng other than explain in letters of recommendation that we don’t hand out A’s like candy to make certain my students are appropriately assessed by graduate and professional school admissions officers?

Syria sustaining the insurgency

A revealing Washington Post story on how deeply Syria is involved in the fighting in Iraq. Also see this John Burns piece in the New York Times. And then this by Austin Bay. (Thanks to Instapundit).

Florida vouchers again

Katie Newmark brings us up to date with an account of the oral arguments in the Florida voucher case, about which I’ve posted before here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (Some of the earlier posts are about Georgia, but the issues in the two states--dealing with "Blaine Amendments"--are similar.)

What’s surprising about the oral arguments, also noted in this article, to which Katie links, is that the judges spent less time on Florida’s religious funding restrictions than on another clause of Florida’s constitution that requires the state to make "adequate provision...for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require." Taken together with another constitutional reference to a "state school fund," whose principal and interest may only be used to fund free public schools, this provision may serve as the basis of an argument that the state cannot support any form of private education, religious or secular. This is a very clever argument, which if successful would likely make support of public schools the only constitutional option in Florida. And since it doesn’t in any way discriminate against religious schools in particular, it wouldn’t be subject to any 14th Amendment equal protection or 1st Amendment viewpoint discrimination challenge. Saving Florida’s voucher program under these circumstances would probably require a constitutional amendment, which would be portrayed by its opponents as an assault on public education. Whew!

There is one possible loophole identified by one of the program’s legal defenders, Barry Richard. He suggests that the Florida legislature could appropriate money for its voucher program separate from the so-called "school fund," and that, even if the money for the voucher program reduces dollar for dollar funds available to public schools, the legislature would have met its obligation to provide for a free public school system. Here’s his argument:


Of course, someone could take up the challenge and argue that the legislature isn’t in fact making adequate provision for public schools, which seems to be what happened last week in Kansas and also elsewhere. This could end up driving the costs of education through the roof, with or without vouchers, as judges predictably succumbed to the temptation to legislate from the bench.

Hat tip (for the oral argument transcript): Religion Clause.

Update: Howard Friedman thinks that my worries might be misplaced. Here’s his quick and helpful response:

Many state constitutions require the state to furnish a "thorough and efficient system of common schools". Florida’s provision just seems to be a more elaborate version of these. These clauses have been used to reform the financing system for public schools, but I do not know of any cases that have said they mean that states cannot support private schools. See Ohio’s DeRolph case for an example of a school funding case.

Of course, that it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that the Florida court won’t try it.

Tagged, Dag-Nab It!

Okay, now Schramm has tagged me. Here goes:

1. How many books do I own? Just a ballpark figure, but I suppose about 500 at home and twice that many packed into my office, so let’s say 1500. Not as many as some, but I’m still in my thirties.

2. What’s the last book I bought? Chuck Thompson, The 25 Best World War II Sites, European Theater, for strictly utilitarian reasons--I’m planning a WWII-themed student junket to Europe for next May.

3. What’s the last book I read? Equality, Decadence, and Modernity, a collection of essays by Stephen Tonsor, edited by Gregory Schneider. I was asked to review it.

4. What are the five books that mean the most to me? Well, I guess in a literal sense they’d be the ones I’ve written, but that’s probably not in line with the spirit of the question. So let’s try this:

Goethe’s Faust

Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

Orwell’s 1984

Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man

F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

My five tag-ees are Bob Lawson at Division of Labour, David Beito at Liberty & Power, Lynne Kiesling of Knowledge Problem, Stephen Tootle of Rebunk, and Tyler Cowen of The Volokh Conspiracy.

Book blogger tag

Knippenberg has tagged me.

1. How many books do I own. I own over 4,000 books. Stopped counting long ago. I used to hide them, first from my father, then from my wife. Had to stop living a lie, so I owned up to it like a real man. Mischief ensued. I stood firm, retreated to my library to look, touch, and smell my books. It was worth it. I could buy a new motorcycle if I stopped buying books (or stopped smoking). Life means chosing. I live.

2. What’s the last book I bought? Just got David Rothkopf’s Running the World, Paul Johnson’s George Washington, Richard Holmes’ In the Footsteps of Churchill, and Robert Service’s Stalin: A Biography.

3. What’s the last book I read? Johnson’s Washington; I liked it. Into Service’s Stalin; impressive study of cool tyranny, but doesn’t read as well as Montefiore’s bio.

4. What are the five books that mean most to me? From age to youth:
Plato, Phaedrus;
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics;
Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided;
Strauss, Natural Right and History;
F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.

The five bloggers I tag are Steve Hayward, Jeff Sikkenga, Robert Alt, John Moser, and David Tucker.

Hillary, Revealing

The New York Times reports on a Hillary fund raiser. She dropped her "moderate" stance, and even the reporter seems surprised by how "starkly partisan" she was. Samples:

There has never been an administration, I don’t believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda.

I know it’s frustrating for many of you, it’s frustrating for me. Why can’t the Democrats do more to stop them? I can tell you this: It’s very hard to stop people who have no shame about what they’re doing. It is very hard to tell people that they are making decisions that will undermine our checks and balances and constitutional system of government who don’t care. It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth.

So, let’s see. Howard Dean doesn’t speak for the party, neither does Hillary. I get it.

Downing Street Memo

For all of you posting comments demanding to know "WHAT ABOUT THE DOWNING STREET MEMO?!?!" on the NLT comments pages, take a valium and read Jim Robbins takedown of the non-news behind this story.  

Bill Clinton, Sinking

Ever since Clinton left office I have been waiting for liberal revisionists to begin recognizing him for the disaster he has been for Democrats. After all, it was during the Clinton years that Democrats began their slide into the wilderness, and for what? If Clinton had got universal health care, gay marriage, or peace in the Middle East, it might have been worth it. Instead they got welfare reform, a balanced budget, the first capital gains tax cut in 20 years, and a Republican Congress.

Today, Richard Cohen unloads on Clinton in the Washington Post-Democrat, calling Clinton a "third-tier" preisdent. Moneyt quote:

Reading John Harris’s new book about Clinton "I could hear the air going out of the balloon and a soft, weary voice of Peggy Lee singing, ’Is that all there is?’ In Clinton’s case the answer apparently is yes."

Get used to this. Much more of this is on the way. 

John Kerry’s Grades

Big news this morning from the Boston Globe. During the campaign John Kerry had consistently refused to release his records from Yale University, along with his records of...well, just about everything. Today, however, we understand why: his grades were on par with--if not actually somewhat lower than--those earned by George W. Bush.

The transcript shows that Kerry’s freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class.

Imagine that.

The living wage: my speculations

Yesterday, I wrote about the progressive agenda for local politics, and made some comments about the "living wage" campaign. Here’s what I said:

The consequences of such a policy seem to me obvious: fewer companies will bid for municipal contracts, resulting in less competition and higher overall costs, which will result in greater expenses for the municipal governments and higher taxes for city residents. Faced with higher taxes in exchange for essentially the same services, some city residents will flee to the suburbs. Those who stay will likely be those who, in effect, can’t afford to leave (because they lack transportation or live in subsidized housing) and those who are willing to pay any price, bear any burden, to live "where the action is" (affluent urban sophisticates of every sexual orientation). Because it is, in effect, hostile to the middle class, the living wage program actually contributes to the sprawl "progressives" deprecate.

Shep Barbash, who blogs at
Mistaken Optimist, challenged me in an email: "That’s quite a causal chain. Are there any empirical studies documenting
that any of these effects actually occur (fewer bids, higher costs, higher
taxes, middle-class-flight-to-suburbs, increase sprawl)?"

I wish I had a pat answer in my hip pocket, but I don’t. The best site for academic studies seems to be
this one. Here’s a study that suggests that job losses will follow from Miami’s "living wage" ordinance:

This study reaches three broad conclusions.
First, such minimum wages would result in
approximately 131,000 to 222,000 workers losing
their jobs. Second, Florida employers would
see their wage costs skyrocket in the range of
$4.9 to $8.8 billion. Third, many of the projected
wage gains would go to low-wage workers
in higher income families rather than to those
most in need.

It follows, it seems to me, that higher wage costs will mean lower profits, which will mean that fewer companies will likely bid on contracts. Less competition need not mean higher bids and higher costs, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. To the extent also, that the living wage requirements applied not only to contractors but to local government, the cost of government would go up regardless of whether contractors raised their prices.

Since local governments can’t run deficits, they have to get the money from somewhere (either sales taxes or property taxes). Here’s a paper that suggests that higher property tax rates generally encourage sprawl. Here’s an argument that people with the wherewithal to do so are influenced by and migrate following lower proerty tax structures.

So no one has put it all together the way I have, which gives me some cause for pause. But each step in my argument is at least plausible. And while there are ways, perhaps, of mitigating the flight occasioned by the higher levels of taxation caused by the higher costs imposed by the living wage requirement, the fact remains that any increase in labor costs (without a concomitant increase in labor productivity) has to be borne by someone, and at some point (don’t ask me what it is), companies that can’t pass those costs on to consumers (that is, taxpayers) will get out of the business. And, of course, governments that voluntarily pay a "living wage" immediately pass the cost of that wage on to taxpayers. If the result is a lower demand for government services (since folks with more income presumably have less need for public assistance), perhaps it’s a wash, with costs going up in one area and down in another. But most of the studies at which I glanced suggested that the living wage is not the most narrowly targeted means of assisting the working poor. Costs are likely to go up more than any conceivable savings will go down.

For more accessible articles on these issues, go here and here.

Book blogger tag

I don’t know if this exercise originated in Canada, but one of our Canadian friends, Tom Cerber, passed along a request to answer five questions about my reading habits.

Here goes.

How many books do I own?

I dunno. My wife says too many. I say not enough. If I had to guess, somewhat north of a thousand.

What’s the last book I bought?

I just opened a lovely package today, containing a bunch of religion and higher ed books recommended in this essay. The two near the top of my reading pile are Nick Wolterstorff’s Educating for Life and his Educating for Shalom. He’s one of the smartest Calvinists I know and while I don’t always agree with him, I learn from arguing with him. And David Mills has graciously permitted me to work our some of my disagreements in a future issue of Touchstone (where my review of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s God on the Quad will appear next month).

What’s the last book I read?

The answer to that question comes in several categories. I just now read a couple of chapters of Brian Jacques’s Mossflower to my son. Then there’s my summer school-related reading: if it’s Tuesday, it must be St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. I’m also currently sitting in on a faculty seminar on human rights rhetoric. Today we discussed Mary Ann Glendon’s A World Made New; tomorrow, it’s on to Carol Anderson’s Eyes Off the Prize. If I had any spare time at the moment, I’d be working my way through Daniel Dombrowski’s Rawls and Religion, which attempts to show how JR isn’t hostile to revealed religion. On the agenda for later in the summer are some books on religion and liberalism, like Marci Hamilton’s God vs. the Gavel, Greg Forster’s John Locke’s Politics of Moral Consensus, and George di Giovanni’s Freedom and Religion in Kant and His Immediate Successors.

What are the five books that mean the most to me?

Plato, The Republic

Leo Strauss, The City and Man

St. Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans

Rousseau, Emile

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

I am very indebted to my Auseinandersetzung with Kant for my current outlook on the world, but I’ve basically been led away from him as a result. While I wouldn’t recommend that anyone retrace my path, I do think that the three Critiques-- especially the "transcendental dialectic" in C1, the discussion of the highest good in C2, and the critique of teleological reason in C3--are worth pondering, as are Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, The Conflict of the Faculties and all the little essays on history and politics.

The five bloggers I tagged are Peter Schramm, David Mills, Ken Masugi, Win Myers, and Mike DeBow. Others I might have tagged are Gideon Strauss, any of the other Ashbrook folks, especially the redoubtable but all too reticent Dave Foster, and any of the contributors to Get Religion.

Kansas Supreme Court adopts the Nevada Gambit

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Kansas legislature to increase funding for education by $285 million, holding that the $142 million increase actually adopted by the Legislature was not enough to meet the mandate in the Kansas Constitution that the Legislature shall "make suitable provision for finance" of schools. The case is Montoy v. State, and the good folks over at Powerline have compared the case to one in Nevada in 2003 in which the Nevada Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to adopt taxes for increased education funding by a simple majority vote rather than the 2/3 vote required by the Nevada Constitution. The Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence obtained a restraining order against implementation of the Nevada ruling long enough to let political opposition to build, so that the Legislature ultimately chose to negotiate to a bill that obtained a 2/3 vote rather than ignore the constitutional requirement. Full description of the Nevada case is available here. Kansas Legislators, who are you ’gonna call? Or are you willing to sit by and let this violation of basic constitutional principle of separation of powers go unanswered?

Deep Throat Still Tough to Swallow

I shouldn’t be amazed that with all the media chest-thumping about their heroism in the Watergate story, made possible by the brave Mark Felt, that no one has mentioned the irony that Charles Colson went to prison on the charge of leaking a single FBI file. Felt was leaking confidential information, and raw files, not once, but repeatedly over a period of months. No wonder Felt wanted to keep his secret all these years; indeed, one wonders whether he would have done so now if he still had his full mental faculties available to him (or if there were no statute of limitations.)

The other aspect that has only been touched obliquely in the last week is that there have long been theories of CIA or intelligence community involvement in creating the Watergate scandal as a means of bringing down Nixon (Jim Hougan first theorized this in 1984 in a book whose title I forget, and then Colodny and Gettlin advanced it further in Silent Coup), because Nixon hated the CIA and the CIA feared Nixon’s intentions to get control of them. (A variation holds that people opposed to arms control and detente conspired to remove Nixon through a scandal; this was the view the Soviet Union took, by the way.) Well, now we learn that this theory is partly right, just with the wrong agency. Part of Felt’s motivation was bureaucratic: he didn’t like Nixon appointing an outsider to run the FBI after Hoover. This should cause everyone, even Nixon-haters, to pause and reflect on the nature of the power held by our permanent government.

"Urban Archipelago"

The current issue of The Nation has two articles devoted to urban politics and policy. This one, by Joel Rogers, is available only to subscribers, though I wonder if this gives a pretty good picture of what he’s thinking. Here I note only the irony of a national movement to take over state and local government in the name of (allegedly) local prerogatives.

The other article, by Nation Washington correspondent John Nichols, is available in full on-line, even to interlopers like me. It makes for interesting reading, showing something about the bankruptcy of "progressive" policy on the only level at which it currently claims to have much influence.

One of the policies Nichols touts is the so-called "living wage," which requires corporations that contract with a city government to pay wages of up to $12/hour. The consequences of such a policy seem to me obvious: fewer companies will bid for municipal contracts, resulting in less competition and higher overall costs, which will result in greater expenses for the municipal governments and higher taxes for city residents. Faced with higher taxes in exchange for essentially the same services, some city residents will flee to the suburbs. Those who stay will likely be those who, in effect, can’t afford to leave (because they lack transportation or live in subsidized housing) and those who are willing to pay any price, bear any burden, to live "where the action is" (affluent urban sophisticates of every sexual orientation). Because it is, in effect, hostile to the middle class, the living wage program actually contributes to the sprawl "progressives" deprecate.

This blindness to the middle class--indeed to families of all classes--is evident as well from the article’s stunning silence regarding education (save for a single mention of "decaying schools"). Any realistic urban policy--"progressive," conservative, or moderate--has to have at its center an approach to education. As I noted, Nichols says nothing, though what he and the people he describes want is clear enough: more money, which presumably will come from the federal government.

Indeed, the article makes it very clear that what interests Nichols about local government is the capacity of locally-organized populations to influence state and national policy:

"It’s more clear than ever that decisions made in Washington affect my ability to do my job," says Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, who has worked with the Institute for Policy Studies to develop the Cities for Progress network. "I can’t fix things in the neighborhoods of Chicago unless I do my part to make sure Washington does the right thing."

Here’s more of the same:

Leaders of the Cities for Progress movement want to institutionalize that pressure by getting cities to pass resolutions calling for an end to the war and development of a universal healthcare program. By providing organizing assistance to progressive local officials and then linking these projects to one another, Cities for Progress hopes to create a resurgence of urban activism. "We want people to get rid of this idea that working on the local level and working on the national level are somehow different," says Malia Lazu, its national field director.

Rather than really addressing issues, like education, that mean something to parents of all classes and races, "progressives" are engaging in symbolic politics in an arena where a small number of well-organized activists can carry the day. The article, of course, speaks in terms of the Davids of community activists facing the Goliaths of big corporate (conservative) money. But in urban politics, well-educated and affluent "progressive" activists are the Goliaths, at least when compared with poor minority and immigrant communities. When I see "progressives" support something like school choice, which continues to have a great deal of support in minority communities, I’ll begin to be convinced that they’re actually listening to, and not merely using, urban voters.

Update: Katie Newmark, Win Myers, and Ken Masugi pile on.

Florida’s Blaine Amendment litigation again

The ever vigilant Katie Newmark calls our attention to this op-ed, which suggests that other state courts may (but of course need not) follow whatever leadership the Florida judiciary provides.

India’s energy

This New York Times on India’s hunger for energy is useful in reminding us that India, now that it is not run by socialists, is a very dynamic place. It is the world’s fifth-largest consumer of energy; it’s need for energy will double by 2030. India importans about 70% of its oil, and that will rise to 85% in twenty years. It is, therefore, interested in buildings some pipelines from (and through) some interesting places, and wants to use nuclear power as well. Some in the government think that all this means greater cooperation with China. All this has geo-political implications, to say the least. Indian PM Singh will visit Bush in July. This report of a few months back thinks that Indian economic policy is turning to the left.
India and Pakistan
have begun talks on a natural gas pipeline that would through Pakistan from Iran.

Europe in Crisis?

Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, doesn’t think so. Der Spiegel runs a lengthy excerpts from an interview.

This is the first time in German history that we are embedded in a peaceful Europe without any threat from outside and without threats from us to our neighbors. It’s the first time that we are in a sustainable and structurally peaceful situation and this offers new opportunities. 60 years of peace also means 60 years of wealth accumulation and we are in a situation where we can, and must, reduce the role of the state. But on the other hand, we have a tradition where the state guarantees much more than it does in the Anglo-Saxon tradition.... It’s about very deeply rooted traditions. And to break up these traditions in a peaceful way is the new challenge we are facing.

The Telegraph reports that Tony Blair "has given up on Europe as an issue worth fighting for, senior allies of the Prime Minister have told The Sunday Telegraph.

A leading Blairite cabinet minister made the admission last night as the European Union descended into deeper turmoil, with doubts surfacing over the future of the single currency." Christopher Caldwell tries to explain what the French and Dutch "no" votes mean. He explains that both the far Right and Left benefit from this, and may end up prospering. Good paragraph:

The problem at present is that mainstream politicians, national and European, have no credible lines of communication to their publics. The E.U. has taken on so many responsibilities, especially regulatory and economic ones, that the capacity of individual nation-states for full self-government has atrophied. This has spread the E.U.’s so-called "democratic deficit" (the thing that this constitutional plebiscite was meant to fix) to national governments. Consider the Netherlands. There, nearly two-thirds of the voters repudiated the E.U.--but 85 percent of national legislators were firm (often sanctimonious) supporters of the treaty just a few short weeks ago. This gap is the hot political topic in Europe right now. It will be redressed through national elections across the continent over the next couple of years.

In the meantime, The Guardian publishes an extract from Dominque de Villepin’s book, The Cry of the Gargoyle. Can this be of possible help to M de Villepin? Note this lucid paragraph (thanks to The Atlantic Blog):

Some people have been tempted to look back on these old shortcomings and stir the fantastical cauldron of nation against the outside world, poor against rich, French against immigrants, liberty against solidarity, local organisations against the state. They want to ignore the fact that the world today is no longer a binary world, that the implacable workings of dialectics have ceded their place to something more complex and chaotic, to progress made in leaps and bounds, and thus to something more questioning and humble. The challenges with which we are confronted today can therefore only be addressed if we accept the diversity, the unexpected and the change at the heart of our society, inherited from a time when we thought that politics, like science, was governed by eternal laws that conformed to human reason.