Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Old vs. New Europe, 20 Years Before Rummy

The Rumsfeldian theme of Old vs. New Europe is a bit long in the tooth by now, but in the course of doing background research on events in Poland in the 1980s I came across this prescient passage from the late Leopold Tyrmand written in 1982, shortly after martial law was declared in Poland:

A time may come when America will understand that if European civilization means not only the majesty of European culture, but also the burning courage in defense of the most fundamental values of humanness, then Western Europe is no longer heir to European civilization--Eastern Europe is.

The India Factor

Over at Powerline, John Hinderaker writes about the strikingly pro-American attitudes found in India today. I recall an international poll shortly after 9/11 showing that India had some of the highest number of people who supported the U.S. going to war for retribution. Of course, this may be pure opportunism, since our war on terror is bound to box up Pakistan, India’s mortal enemy, to some extent. But it might also have something to do with India becoming an English-speaking democracy.

I also had a conversation with an American diplomat from the region more than a year ago, who told me of the significant support India is giving to the U.S. effort. Since India can’t sent any troops to Pakistan or Afghanistan because it would be unacceptable to the Paks, etc., India’s navy is doing things such as providing harbor guard for our ships in Singapore (to prevent another Cole-style bombing). But I also get the impression that if things went bad in Pakistain, India would gladly help clean the place out.

This is a happy turnabout since, as John points out, India was for all practical purposes on the other side during the Cold War.

Catholics and evolution

Proponents of evolution have made much of Pope John Paul II’s statement, which "noted that the scientific case for evolution was growing stronger and that the theory was ’more than a hypothesis.’" Well, if they had read the whole statement, they would have noticed this as well:

Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.

And then they would not have been so surprised by this op-ed, which contains the following statement:

The [International Theological C]ommission’s [2004] document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul’s 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe."

Furthermore, according to the commission, "An unguided evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence - simply cannot exist."

The commission, I should note, was headed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

There are, of course, complicated issues here, far beyond my theoligical and scientific ken, but one thing seems clear: those evolutionists who do not leave room for a designer cannot find any comfort in anything Pope John Paul II said or in anything the Roman Catholic Church teaches.

Rick Garnett has more.

Stem cell legislation

This article suggests that the current stem cell bill, which makes it easier to create new stem cell lines from "leftover" embryos may be in trouble, in part because of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s competing legislation and this initiaitve.

SCOTUS matters

This WaPo article tries, not very successfully in my view, to show that there’s a division between business and social conservatives in the upcoming nomination fight. Yes, business conservatives were much happier than were social conservatives with Sandra Day O’Connor, but that doesn’t mean that GWB has to appoint another O’Connor to please them. Birnbaum and Edsall to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s entirely possible for a jurist to favor some national business legislation (under the commerce clause, for example), while arguing that matters like abortion fall under state jurisdiction.

E.J. Dionne, J.r thinks we should have a political fight over the Supreme Court nominees, because, if you look at the numbers, Democrats didn’t really lose the last few elections, so they deserve to have their voices heard. Mr. Dionne, please read the Constitution! His other reason--that politicizing the nomination process is preferable to the politics of personal destruction, which is all opponents are left with if they can’t make political points--would be persuasive if political argument didn’t almost always include personal destruction as well. Last I looked, electoral politics included personal attacks as much as, if not more than, policy debates. If he really wanted to elevate the tone of the nomination process, he would urge Democrats to act like a loyal opposition, essentially giving the President the nominee he wants and then fighting the next election in part over differences in judicial philosophy.

Finally, the appellate decision in this case only serves to turn the heat up more. Howard Bashman covers it here and here.

Update: Professor Bainbridge addressed the business vs. social conservative issue quite effectively about a month ago. He recommended Michael McConnell as a nominee who would appeal to both sides.

Son as hero

The father of a Navy SEAL, Danny P. Dietz, Jr., whose body was recovered in Afghanistan on the Fourt of July mourns his son.

Top sellers at Amazon

J.K. Rowling tops the list of its 25 best selling authors that Amazon has put together to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Shakespeare came in 26th. But I say not marble, nor gilded monuments of princes, nor amusing fantasies of a monographist, shall outlive the Bard’s powerful rhyme. He taught me language; and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse. O heavy ignorance! O plague and madness! O withered truth! Ancient damnation on these soulless mortals!

McConnell and SCOTUS

Scott Johnson at Powerline offers an extended defense of Judge Michael McConnell against this vicious hit from the right. Everything I know about McConnell (whom I have known for 30 years) suggests that Johnson is right and the author of the hit piece is wrong and misguided.

Update: There’s more here and here. As bonus the latter includes Ken Masugi’s choice comments on this revealingly nasty piece by Jonathan Chait.

Update #2: Andrew Hyman, with whom I engaged in a long colloquy in the comments section, has posted the relevant passages from McConnell’s Appeals Court confirmation hearings here. Read them for yourself and then read the comments. Hyman persists in placing the most damaging possible construction on McConnell’s testimony, which is rather carefully phrased. And note that he persists in a post made after he said (comment # 10, at 7:24 p.m. Sunday evening) that he had received "some pretty solid assurances about Judge McConnell from other people I’ve communicated with, so I don’t expect to be opposing his nomination." I can’t understand how he thinks offering his construction of the evidence doesn’t amount to opposing a McConnell nomination. Did something happen between 7:24 p.m. and 11:11 p.m. Sunday evening? Is this confusion, a genuine change of mind or heart, or something less savory?

As for the polygamy issue, I’ll say only this: It does not amount to a constitutional right to legally-recognized and supported polygamy (analogous to the constitutional right claimed by proponents of gay marriage), but merely the right (at most) to be left alone on religious freedom grounds. A defender of an anti-polygamy law would have to--and perhaps could--offer a "compelling state interest" rationale for sanctioning this behavior, but, as McConnell notes, we’ve acquiesced in so much private "immorality," at least to the extent of leaving it alone, that it’s hard to explain legal proscription of polygamy as anything other than the product of an animus against a particular religion. But again (let me repeat this for those prone to misconstrue), leaving polygamists alone is not the same as approving them or extending the legal privileges and immunities of "one man, one woman" marriage to them. I should also say, so that I’m clear, that I am not speaking for McConnell here, but offering a speculative defense, in my own name, of what I take to be McConnell’s understanding of religious freedom (especially as articulated in his 1986 article "Accommodation of Religion").

Eat what you want

I have always known this, but now modern scientific research has shown that dieting is bad for women (and, I happen to know, also for men). Surprise, health is what is important. After a nice conversation with a student who is working on a thesis on Hector, I’m off to a big lunch. I’m happy and healthy.

Defining the Pursuit of Happiness

Darrin McMahon, in "A Right, From the Start" (Wall St. Journal, July 1), writes a deft essay on the meaning of "the pursuit of happiness," even highlighting its possible meanings from Christian, classical, and Lockean writings. Alas, he is too clever by half when he claims that Locke "never employed the specific phrase ’life, liberty, and property.’" In addition, he fails to point out that the pursuit of happiness was understood within an ordered, moral context. Here’s my letter to the editor:

Contrary to Mr. McMahon’s claim ("A Right, From the Start," July 1) that Locke never used the phrase ’life, liberty, and property," one finds this statement about why men join civil society in Locke’s _Second Treatise of Civil Government_: "for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, _property_" (emphasis in original). I dare say this statement or some variation thereof is probably the most repeated claim of Locke’s most famous writing on the principles of government and from which Thomas Jefferson lifted phrases verbatim in drafting the Declaration of Independence.

I agree with Mr. McMahon that the American founders believed the pursuit of happiness entailed virtue or "furthering the public good." But a more obvious definition of virtue for the founders was simply good character. The pursuit of happiness did not mean licentiousness precisely because it presumed an orderly or moral use of one freedoms, whether publicly oriented or not.

The new al Qaeda?

This analysis suggests that al Qaeda is less an organization than a brand, mindset, or ideology. Thomas Friedman is singing from the same hymnbook, drawing this conclusion:

The double-decker buses of London and the subways of Paris, as well as the covered markets of Riyadh, Bali and Cairo, will never be secure as long as the Muslim village and elders do not take on, delegitimize, condemn and isolate the extremists in their midst.

Since I’m not a Hobbesian, I’m attracted to his "cultural" solution (which of course must be coupled with the most effective security measures possible, and continued vigorous prosecution of the GWOT). The question he doesn’t answer is how we "persuade" the Muslim leadership to condemn the jihadists.
Here is an account of the response offered by leaders of the British Muslim community, which is described in
this portrait.

Update: I was reminded of this smart piece, written last year.

Update #2: Powerline (naturally) has lots more, including this article about Islamist networks in the U.K., this one on radical Islamic preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri, who formerly led the Finsbury Park mosque that is widely regarded as the center of Islamicist radicalism in Great Britain, and these two columns by Christopher Hitchens, both of which are so full of choice nuggets that I dare not provide excerpts. But this quote from another article is worth highlighting:

We assume that Tony Blair has been with us on Iraq, and Britain has a robust counterterrorism strategy. But the British have a notoriously liberal perspective in interpreting laws on monitoring their radical Islamist elements," a terrorism expert, Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council, said yesterday.

Tom Cerber reminds me that the analyses published today have been around for awhile. Osama bin Laden is the Colonel Sanders of Islamic terrorism: even if he were killed or captured, his franchisees would continue doing their bloody business. Cerber notes the risk in a strategy aimed at eliminating the franchisees:

The danger to this newer strategy is that it would likely entail widening the net of operations, jeopardizing the other dimension of the fight against al-Qaeda: the propaganda war that it’s a war against extremism, not against Islam. Going after mid-level operatives is still a matter of going after extremists. However, by going after a larger group - and one further embedded in Muslim societies - one necessarily makes it more difficult to signal to the Islamic world that one is simply going after extremists.

Permit me this analogy: attacking bin Laden is like hunting sharks with harpoon guns. Hunting mid-level operatives is more like hunting smaller fish with nets. The danger with nets is that you also catch “innocent” fish like dolphin.

Update #3: Ken Masugi has more, including this from Daniel Pipes.

Last Update: Here’s a piece on the silence of the Imams since the London attacks. And another, asking "where is the Gandhi of Islam?" The best bit from the latter:

It is only when you start thinking about what we are not getting from leaders of British Muslims, and indeed Muslim religious leadership throughout the world, that you start to see how much needs doing. The moderates are not pressed hard for anything more than a general condemnation of the extremists.

When did you last hear criticisms of named extremist groups and organisations by Muslim leaders, or support for their expulsion, imprisonment or extradition? How often do you see fatwas issued against suicide bombers and other terrorists, or statements by learned men declaring that people who commit such deeds will go to hell?

When do Muslim leaders and congregations insist that a particular imam leave his mosque because of the poison that he disseminates every Friday? When did a British Muslim last go after a Muslim who advocates or practises violence with anything like the zeal with which so many went after Salman Rushdie?

Why is not more stigma attached to the Muslims who are murdering other Muslims every day in Iraq and the Middle East?

What communal protection is offered to those Muslims who really are brave and confront Islamist violence, or the poor treatment of women, or call for democracy in the Middle East? How much do mainstream political parties with Muslim councillors and candidates really insist on their religious moderation and co-opt them to extrude the bad people lurking within their communities?

I understand and accept that there are many moderates among British Muslims, but I want to know why Britain gets so pitifully little to show for their moderation.

Read the whole thing.

G8 not so Gr8

As everyone knows, Tony Blair picked "climate change" as one of the two key issues (along with Africa) to discuss at the G8 meeting going on right now. Blair’s science adviser, Sir David King, last year said that "In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today--more serious even than the threat of terrorism."

I wonder if King (or Blair) would say that now.

James Stockdale, RIP

I was on the road out in California and out of keyboard range for the last two days, and so wasn’t able to respond promptly to the sad news of the passing of Admiral James Stockdale. I recall reading some of his first writings on his prison camp experience in the late 1970s and early 1980s and thinking to myself, "This man should be be in public office."

Of course, eventually he did seek public office of sorts, as Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992, where he was thought not to have done well.

I had the privilege of sharing a couple rounds of drinks in a bar with Stockdale in the fall of 2001 (a few weeks after 9/11) at a conference where we were both speakers, and I got up the courage to ask him for his account of the infamous vice presidential debate. It seems he was mostly ignored by Perot and his campaign staff (such as it was) throughout the whole thing, to the point that about two weeks before the vice presidential debate, Stockdale called Perot and said, "Well, Ross, I haven’t heard anything about doing the debate, so I guess I’ve dodged this thing."

Perot says to him, "Oh, sorry Jim, we accepted the invitation for you. Guess we forgot to tell you." So Stockdale had no "debate prep" or rehearsals or help from Perot’s people, and little time to prepare.

I can’t help but think that Stockdale is the man Jahn McCain ought to be, but isn’t.

WSC on London

Someone on a Churchill listserv (you can sign up at posted the following quote from the Great Man today:

"London is like a pre-historic monster into whose armoured hide showers of arrows may be shot in vain"

English notes

This is an amusing, and very short, history of the English language. And this shows the difficulty of pronouncing English. Do read it aloud, and imagine a Frenchmen or a Hungarian trying it.

London Calling

Having spent the day picking blueberries and then watching news, I have nothing to add to the commentary available here and elsewhere on the terrorist attacks in London. (If it’s terrorism in London, it’s terrorism in Baghdad, Mosul, and elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan.) My condolences to all who suffer and grieve and my warmest wishes for success to all who are on the frontlines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Alberto Gonzales on Constitutional construction

We need Alberto Gonzales as a strong Attorney General in the war on terror. We do not need him on the Supreme Court, if this article is to be believed. Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

Unexploded bombs found

ABC News reports that British authorities have recovered two unexploded bombs from the scene of the terror attacks in London.

Rumsfeld on the London attack

This is Donald Rumsfeld’s statement on the terrorist attacks in London. Some lines:

Though it is not yet known with certainty precisely who is responsible, we do know terrorists’ intentions. They strike without warning and without regard for human life in the hope that they can frighten and intimidate free people -- to change our way of life. And they won’t stop until their side or our side has prevailed.

But if these terrorists thought they could intimidate the people of a great nation, they picked the wrong people and the wrong nation. For generations, tyrants, fascists, and terrorists have sought to carry out their violent designs upon the British people only to founder upon its unrelenting shores.

Before long, I suspect that those responsible for these acts will encounter British steel. Their kind of steel has an uncommon strength. It does not bend or break.

Why We Love the Brits

London Mayor, Ken Livingston, an avowed British Liberal, came out strong this morning against the terrorists and vowed that this would be no victory for them. They will lose in the ultimate objective. Good, manly statement from him. Kudos also to Tony Blair. But where are their American Liberal counterparts? It is time for American Liberals to take a lesson from the Brits. This is no game and we can little afford their silly partisan preening.

London, update

ABC News reports that there are 33 people confirmed dead and 300 injured in the the London attacks. But AP says 40 have died, and 350 injured. The Counterterrorism has most of what you need to keep up with the awful news. Also see Arthur Chrenkoff, and Tim Blair.

Animated U.S. historical atlas

This animated historical atlas of the U.S.A. is pretty good. Simple, but useful. Follow the simple instructions. It is ten minutes long.

London back in business

London transportation will be back in business by late this afternoon, with the underground running by tomorrow morning. Impressive.

High Court poker

Robert Novak is hard on President Bush. He writes that Bush is showing a "school boy" attitude in defending his friend Attorney General Gonzales, and he is the biggest obstackle to a conservative Court. And, more importantly, Novak thinks that if Bush nominates Gonzales to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, he will be doing Senator Kennedy’s bidding. My view of all this is that Bush will not nominate Gonzales to this slot (or even Rhenquist’s slot, and Novak thinks that will happen by the end of the week). The Gonzales baloon is just a gambit by the White House. Novak, and apparently everyone else, is underestimating Bush, again. This is just the first card dealt, Bush is holding the rest of the hand close to his boots. Advantage Bush, so far. It is revealing that the Democrats have adopted O’Connor as a role model for a Supreme Court justice; they cannot get anyone more liberal than her on the Court, and they know it. This is their next to the last card. Their last card will be a vehement objection to a more conservative nominee (I won’t list these aces, there are at least four) and that will be on the Judiciary Committee, and will be televised nationally. Ron Brownstein thinks that a conservative nominee will be a "deal braker," that is, the Democrats will filibuster. Even if they don’t filibuster on the Senate floor (and I hope they do),

as Hugh Hewitt says, just wait until the people get a week of Kennedy, Leahy, Schumer, et al, screaming and yelling and carrying on as they sit on the Judiciary Committee. This will be very revealing, and will have a direct effect on the 2006 (and 2008) elections, and it will not be to the Democrats’ advantage. This will be especially true if they filibuster.

Terror in London

Many people are covering the latest horror, including Instapundit, the BBC, The Belmont Club. P.M. Blair says that it is "reasonably clear" that terrorists are behind the attack. He sounded steadfast. According to Der Spiegel, al Qaeda is claiming responsibility. There is a map of where the attacks took place in London at this site (three cliks down). CNN International has a minute by minute account of the explosions.


Nice article on former Ashbrook Rebeccah Ramey in her home town newspaper, the Mount Vernon News (Ohio). Oddly, I was down in Mt. Vernon today visiting a friend (and seeing his 1929 SS100 Brough motorcycle, and the 1957 Square Four Ariel motorcycle). Amazingly, he offered to let me ride his Ariel, but I declined; the darn thing is too beautiful, too precious. Very lovely thing to offer, though. But I got to ride his Moto Guzzi! Good man, great machines.

More SCOTUS stuff

Here, via Southern Appeal, is a summary of what many of the possible nominees have said about abortion, which Michael Barone regards as "yesterday’s issue."

Filibuster deal dead?

This article suggests that a number of the Democratic signatories have interpretations of "extraordinary circumstances" that include "extreme" ideology or "activism," both of which could be attached to any number of potential Bush nominees. Here are the relevant quotes:

"In my mind, extraordinary circumstances would include not only extraordinary personal behavior but also extraordinary ideological positions," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), a moderate the White House has been hoping to enlist to give bipartisan backing to the nominee.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 14 who fashioned the agreement, said through a spokesman: "A nominee’s political ideology is only relevant if it has been shown to cloud their interpretation of the law. . . . A pattern of irresponsible judgment, where decisions are based on ideology rather than the law, could potentially be ’extraordinary.’ "

Sen. Ken Salazar (Colo.) rejected Republican assertions that he and other Democratic signers must accept a nominee as conservative as Janice Rogers Brown, now confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, because the agreement allowed her confirmation. "It didn’t set a standard" for Supreme Court confirmations, Salazar said. "We would leave it up to each person to define what extraordinary circumstance means."

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), however, said judicial activism concerns him more than ideology. "Are they going to be an activist?" Nelson asked rhetorically in discussing what might cause him to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. "Their political philosophy may not bother me at all if they’re not going to be an activist."

That’s four of the seven Democratic compromisers who have signalled that they might abandon the deal. That leaves Robert Byrd, Daniel Inouye, and Mark Pryor as not yet on the record as potential waverers. Has anyone out there read or heard anything about their positions? Can at least three of the seven Republican signatories be counted on to support what seems to be the inevitable need to change the Senate rules? (Which ones? Chafee? Warner? McCain? Snowe? Collins? DeWine? Graham?)

The article also has extended quotations from Karl Rove, including a reference (unlikely merely a misstatement) to "Justice" Gonzalez. (To be clear, I take this as either a trial balloon or mindgames, rather than as a straightforward revelation of the direction of the Bush Administration’s thinking.)

For more, go

Update: Mark Pryor never says never in this article:

A test case of the agreement is whether a nominee as conservative as Janice Rogers Brown, confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, could get past a filibuster threat for the Supreme Court. Senator Pryor says it’s not clear. "Every nomination is different.... I would hope that Janice Rogers Brown would not ever be considered for the US Supreme Court. But I’d like to reserve judgment on that. I may be wrong about her. She may get on the D.C. circuit and be a wonderful surprise. I may change my mind on her over time. Let her have some time to develop there and show what sort of judge she may be," he said.

There’s also more from Ben Nelson:

"I’m leaving open my judgment as to what ’extraordinary circumstances’ involves," says Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska. He says there will be "no surprises," and that members of the Gang of 14 have ongoing discussions on this point.

Stay tuned.

Term limits?

Bruce Bartlett thinks that we ought to limit Supreme Court justices to one 18 year term (longer than the historical average), with appointments staggered so that one is made every two years. This would diminish the intensity of the appointment battles without compromising the independence of the justices, he argues. What think you, gentle readers?

O’Connor’s jurisprudence

Bruce Fein offers a brief explanation of what’s wrong with Sandra Day O’Connor’s jurisprudence.

The President Turns 59 Today

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! Your service to the nation has restored honor to our greatest institutions and ideals. In so doing, you have honored the American people. Like Lincoln, may you continue to look to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as the "apple of gold" in a "picture of silver" that holds the greatest earthly hopes for this nation and the world.

Academic ethics

Win Myers calls our attention to this essay on ethics in higher education. I can’t help but agree with this paragraph:

We would argue that, like elementary schools, universities have an obligation to ethically nurture undergraduate and graduate students. Although the earliest years of life are most important for the formation of ethical habits, universities can influence ethics as well. Like the Greek polis, universities become ethical when they become communities of virtue that foster and demonstrate ethical excellence. Lack of commitment to teaching, lack of concern for student outcomes, false advertising about job opportunities open to graduates, and diploma-mill teaching practices are examples of institutional practices that corrode rather than nourish ethics on campuses.

The authors indeed identify some campus practices that may corrupt all members of the community, students, faculty, and staff alike. But there’s more to it than that, and I’m not convinced that the authors have their fingers on what more there is and what, if anything, we can do either to promote virtue or to avoid its corruption.

Let me start with something obvious, whose full import isn’t noted by the authors. Students come to us not quite fully formed, but nevertheless pretty far down the moral path they’re going to take. They are in some measure products of their families, churches (and other religious institutions), communities, and schools. There are real limits to what we in the universities can do. We can do our darndest to undermine the commitments and character our students bring to campus. Or we can strengthen them at the margins, helping students critically to engage with and discern a wider and more diverse culture and society than the one that "produced" them. (I had promised to say no more about God on the Quad, but Riley does a good job describing efforts at various religious institutions to help students with that sort of discernment.)

Let me state this last point in both secular and religious ways. The secular way of putting is that, the authors to the contrary notwithstanding, philosophy is indeed necessary, not in order logically to derive moral principles, but rather to defend them against relativist and nihilist doubts. Aristotle himself works within a moral horizon, offering the most systematic possible account of gentlemanly virtue, but not deducing it from non-moral first principles. A latter-day Aristotelian can offer a defense of sound common sense against the inventions of theory.

From a religious point of view, the college and university experience can help students become more articulate and thoughtful defenders of their faith, open to the larger world, but not vulnerable and defenseless in the face of its challenges.

To wrap this longish post up, the two things most needful for ethics in higher education are religion and philosophy, the one not mentioned in the column, the other more or less dismissed. Campus practices can indeed avoid undermining and reinforce the common decency a good number of our students bring with them, but our students do need practice in moral discernment, whether offered in explicitly religious terms or in the language of natural law.

Welcome home, Mrs. Reilly

Robert Reilly, an old friend, writes a lovely piece on his wife taking the oath to become an American citizen. Please read it.   

The Nationals and "W"

Now, being an Indians fan (they’re playing pretty good ball, don’t you think?) I don’t pay much attention to other teams, especially in the other league. But the Washington Nationals are doing very well, I must say. This WaPo story on the cap problem is amusing. Some Nationals fans are buying caps with "DC" on them instead of "W". I wonder why?

Robert Alt at NRO

For those who are lax in the internet surfing habits because of the lazy, hazy days of summer, here’s Robert Alt’s explanation of why the Chief Justice should resign sooner rather than later.

The same section of the NRO website contains Senator Jon Cornyn’s omnibus response to much blathering. Both are worth reading.  

God on the Quad for the last time

I received my copy of the July/August issue of Touchstone in the mail today. The least of its treasures is my review of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s God on the Quad. Here’s the Table of Contents, which includes links to on-line versions of a few of the articles, including this one by J. Budziszewski on natural law and sexual morality. A taste:

Sex is like applying adhesive tape; promiscuity is like ripping the tape off again. If you rip it off, rip it off, rip it off, eventually the tape can’t stick anymore. This probably contributes to an even wider social problem that might be called the Peter Pan syndrome. Men in their forties with children in their twenties talk like boys in their teens. “I still don’t feel like a grown-up,” they say. They don’t even call themselves men—just “guys.”

Now, in a roundabout sort of way, I’ve just introduced you to the concept of natural law. Although the natural-law tradition is unfamiliar to most people today, it has been the main axis of Western ethical thought for 23 centuries, and in fact it is experiencing a renaissance.

Read the whole thing. And subscribe to the journal, which you can do

Haudenosaunee and the Constitution

Fred Bills, a former Ashbrook now interning at The Claremont Institute, has something to say about this New York Times op-ed (on the Fourth, no less) by Charles C. Mann, who brings up (again!) the Iroquois confederation and what (if any) influence its Great Law of Peace had on the U.S. Constitution. Note that Mann responds to Bills’ blog. There will probably be more.

Update: Fred Bills responds to Mann; a few clicks down.

Books and politics

The new issue of the Claremont Review of Books is out, and Charles Kesler’s, short essay to introduce the issue, "Bookless in America," is very much worth reading. John Kenneth Galbraith to the contrary, conservatism is not bookless in America. And yet, Kesler warns us, we have to be careful. It is one thing growing up on Hayek, Buckley, et al, and participating in the epic battles with liberalism, and another watching Bill O’Reilly. "Nonetheless, the danger of taking our precepts for granted—of forgetting the thinkers and arguments that made possible the epic confrontation with liberalism—grows greater as American conservatism moves farther away from its own founding age. We need to recur to first principles if we are not to lose sight of our purposes."

Another thought on Kelo

John Hinderaker, perhaps surprisingly, argues that it is far from clear that the Kelo decision was wrongly decided. You be the judge of his reasoning, but also see Richard Epstein.


Ken Masugi responds to Hinderaker, with some good links.

Eminent domain again

John Tierney writes about the use of eminent domain to destroy neighborhoods and build useless edifices in Pittsburgh, his hometown. For even more on this, go here.

Mark Steyn on recent Supreme Court decisions

As usual, Mark Steyn is irresistibly funny. Here’s a taste:

How does that banned-in-Kentucky Commandment go? "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his ass." However, if thy neighbor is an ass and thou hast financing for a luxury hotel, covet away.

Read the whole thing.

Judicial matters

This article suggests that Anthony Kennedy is "evolving" in a leftward direction, which makes the O’Connor replacement all the more important.

This article indicates that the filibuster deal may make it difficult for liberals effectively to resist any Bush nominee, though they may try.

And here’s my nomination for the least well-informed statement of the weekend, by Sen. Charles Shumer:

"[T]he courts have been the protectors of individual rights since the Republic was founded."

Someone remind the good Senator about Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Buck v. Bell, to name just a few. Send him a copy of The Federalist Papers.

1776, Year One

George Will thinks that David McCullough’s new book 1776 is "a birthday card to his country on this Independence Day. He writes to "inspire gratitude for what a few good men, and one great one, did in the nation’s Year One." Will:

What is history? The study of it -- and the making of it, meaning politics -- changed for the worse when, in the 19th century, history became History. When, that is, history stopped being the record of fascinating contingencies -- political, javascript:doP();
New Paragraphintellectual, social, economic -- that produced the present. History became instead a realm of necessity. The idea that History is a proper noun, denoting an autonomous process unfolding a predetermined future in accordance with laws mankind cannot amend, is called historicism. That doctrine discounts human agency, reducing even large historical figures to playthings of vast impersonal forces. McCullough knows better.

Solid, unpretentious narrative history such as "1776" satisfies the healthy human thirst for a ripping good story. McCullough says that E.M. Forster, the novelist, efficiently defined a story: If you are told that the king died and then the queen died, that is a sequence of events. If you are told that the king died and then the queen died of grief, that is a story that elicits empathy.

Using narrative history to refute historicism, McCullough’s two themes in "1776" are that things could have turned out very differently and that individuals of character can change the destinies of nations.

As a friend of mine recently said, there are three documents--in this age of civic illiteracy--that all Americans know. The first, thank God, is the Declaration of Independence. This is Lincoln’s eulogy
of Henry Clay, July 6, 1852. Take note of this section:

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.

Take a deep breath

In the pages of the Sunday Times, I found two sensible efforts to remind us all of what the judiciary is supposed to be. Here’s Stephen L. Carter, of whose work on religion and politics I’m fond:

Confirmation hearings for nominees to the high court only make matters worse, for the would-be justices are forced to sit before the cameras, under oath, as senators ask them questions they cannot ethically answer, on how they would vote on cases that might come before them. This process began not in the early Republic but in the battle over Jim Crow. In the 1950’s, the Southern Democrats who controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to require every nominee to appear in person in order to grill them about Brown v. Board of Education. Before Brown, it was almost unheard-of for a nominee to testify. When the Dixiecrats changed the rules, the liberal position was that inquiries about such matters as judicial philosophy posed a threat to the independence of the judiciary.

The left of that era was correct. The spectacle we have made of confirmation hearings reinforces the public notion that the justices exist to decide cases the way political movements want them to. Liberals think the right started it, and conservatives think the left started it, but the important question is not who started it but who is going to stop it.

And here’s
Ann Althouse, one of Glenn Reynolds’ favorite bloggers, reviewing a book arguing for the election of Supreme Court justices:

If we really thought constitutional formalities needed to change to reflect real practice -- Davis’s bedrock assumption -- we would have to argue for the abolition of judicial review altogether.

I’m tempted to agree: those on the Left and the Right who regard these principally as political appointments ought to argue for the abolition of judicial review altogether. Mere result-oriented jurisprudence, whoever practices it or urges it, aims at the overthrow of our constitutional system, for it rests ultimately on the insistence that there is no limit to politics, either in the constitution or in our natural rights.

Mark Helprin

"I am compelled to elaborate," says the writer Mark Helprin, in this profile in the Harvard Magazine. He also says this: "For every word I speak, I see a picture." The whole long piece on him is worth reading since Helprin, surely, is one of our great writers, and, the fact that the high and mighty don’t much like his politics indicates he is worth reading. His hero is Winston Churchill. I think his best book is A Soldier of the Great War. Also see this essay by Helprin,
"Let Us Count the Ways to Win the War on Terrorism."

Live 8

Gideon Strauss, a smart and thoughtful South African expatriate living in Canada, has this to say about yesterday’s musical extravaganzas (scroll to the July 2nd entries, as the permalink function doesn’t seem to be working). Here’s a taste:

I am all for pop culture celebrities using the cultural leverage they enjoy to bring attention to this kind of issue, even when the actions they recommend are simplistic, and even though an event like this probably feeds the therapeutic politics of the modern North Atlantic, in which people strive harder after feeling compassionate than after actually improving the circumstances of those people toward whom they ostensibly are extending their sympathies.

He also offers a series of very sensible provisos before aid can be effective. Here’s the first:

African poverty cannot be alleviated without African governments that abide by the rule of law and that seek to establish a peaceable order with a significant degree of public justice within their territories. No external power, neither political nor economic, is responsible for this task. African governments must emerge that take up this responsibility themselves, conscious of the historical difficulties they face, but no longer hiding behind the legacy of colonialism to shirk their own duties.

Read the whole thing.

Please Nominate an "Extremist"

At the time of the O’Connor nomination in 1981, George Will wrote:

Recent Republican presidents have been notably incompetent at selecting Justices faithful to the presidents’ professed judicial values. Justices Warren, Brennan, Blackmun and Stevens have been among the, well, surprises. . . That [O’Connor] supported Reagan against Gerald Ford in 1976 may prove to Reagan her civic virtue, but it reveals little about how she will handle the "equal protection" clause. Having shown little inclination toward jurisprudential theory, she is unlikely to supply what this Court most needs.

There were other voices at the time (including Terry Eastland) who doubted that O’Connor would turn out to be a good selection, even though she was vetted at the Justice Department by none other than Kenneth Starr. Eastland was concerned that “O’Connor’s views on the Constitution and her understanding of judicial review are largely unknown.”

This is why it is essential that President Bush nominate someone that the Left regards as an "extremist," as only an "extremist" can be relied upon to defend the Constitution rather than regard it as a plaything for social engineering.

West Coast Notes

I’m transplanted for the summer out on the central coast of California (cooler and less humid than Washington), where I hope I’ll pick up the laggard pace of my blogging. I’m in San Luis Obispo County, one of the few coastal red counties in California, though my little beach town (Cambria) is, regrettably, deep blue. A new bistro has just opened, advertising its cuisine as "progressive American," which the French would find an oxymoron, I think.

I think I can answer the question of how high has prices need to be to get people to reduce their driving. Answer: higher than they are now, at least judging by the holiday traffic here and elsewhere I’ve driven lately. I got into a traffic jam in Paso Robles yesterday--only the second tie up I’ve seen of this dimension in 20 years. (I was also on I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas a few days ago, where the Vegas-bound traffic was bumper-to-bumper . . . for 100 miles.) And keep in mind that California gas prices are about 25 cents a gallon higher than the national average, thanks to our regulators.

Even at these prices, gasoline is still cheaper, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970, and is still cheaper than bottled water, which seems to have become a necessity for everyone to have these days.

Dems Used Religion Too

Next time you hear a liberal moan about the way the GOP uses religion to motivate voters, refer them to an old memoir of the 1948 election by Jack Redding, entitled Inside the Democratic Party. In a passage on p. 17-18 describing the excruciating election night that year, he observes that Massachusetts was solidly within the Truman column, Redding explains:

[Democratic Chairman Howard McGrath:] “We’ll sweep Massachusetts. I knew it. We were bound to win with that vote.” He was referring to the referendum on the Massachusetts ballot as to whether state health authorities should be allowed to give out birth-control information. The Catholic Church in Massachusetts had waged a holy war to have its members at the polls to vote against the question. The vast outpouring of Catholic voters, largely Democratic, meant we had every right to expect the Democrats, out to vote on the birth-control referendum, to stay and vote in the presidential and gubernatorial elections. Our hopes had proved right. Massachusetts was ours.

Hat tip: As the Skeptic comments, "Imagine. Utilizing a referendum on a sensitive social issue to mobilize religious voters. Who are Democrats. In Massachusetts."

Africa as Bleak House

Niall Ferguson is not optimistic--mass musical concerts to the contrary--about Africa. He weaves together a character from Dickens, Bob Geldof, and David Livingstone, to make his point about missionaries, singers and explorers, and Africa. The problem will not be solved by more aid from the G8 countries. Note the good paragraphs on China (and India).

Saudis get a big one

Younis Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hayari, al Qaeda’s leader in Saudi Arabia, has been killed. Also note this interesting report from Syria:
"Syria says security forces have killed a Muslim extremist and arrested dozens of others trying to illegally cross into neighboring Lebanon."

Praising France: Alliance Base and counterterrorism

Dana Priest praises the French, and the heretofore undisclosed top secret center in Paris, code-named Alliance Base, set up by trhe CIA and French intelligence services in 2002. This organization is unique because it is multinational and "actually plans operations" instead of just sharing information. Other countries also participate.

Funded largely by the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, Alliance Base analyzes the transnational movement of terrorist suspects and develops operations to catch or spy on them.

Alliance Base demonstrates how most counterterrorism operations actually take place: through secretive alliances between the CIA and other countries’ intelligence services. This is not the work of large army formations, or even small special forces teams, but of handfuls of U.S. intelligence case officers working with handfuls of foreign operatives, often in tentative arrangements.

Such joint intelligence work has been responsible for identifying, tracking and capturing or killing the vast majority of committed jihadists who have been targeted outside Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to terrorism experts.

The former acting CIA director, John E. McLaughlin, described the relationship between the CIA and its French counterparts as "one of the best in the world. What they are willing to contribute is extraordinarily valuable." There is some detail on the arrest of Christian Ganczarski and Ahmed Mehdi, as well as Ahmed Ressam and Zacarias Moussaoui. There are other nuggets of interesting information in the article, and all of it is worth reading. Note the last line in the article, a quote from French Interior Minister Sarkozy.

Related to the above story is this: Italy
"seethes" with anger over the CIA’s apparent abduction of an Islamic militant cleric.