Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Paul Gigot writes on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and his "idealism." Wolfowitz actually thinks he can do something about the misery in Africa.

Nanny State Chronicles

I’m traveling out in the Pacific northwest this week, where people will be happy to know that the city of Portland, Oregon, has this week banned cigarette smoking at outdoor bus stops. They want to protect people from the hazard of second-hand smoke, naturally. Another reason for getting your smoke first-hand.

Ashbrook Center

Patriot’s History today

Larry Schweikart is speaking at today's Ashbrook Center Colloquium (3 p.m.) on his recently published book, A Patriot's History of the United States. You can listen to it live by clicking on his name. It should be fun.
Categories > Ashbrook Center

Warren Beatty at his best

Warren Beatty attacks Gov. Arnold. You know, the standard stuff: Arnold is governing by spin, photo ops, is trying to impose Bush’s policies in California, hates unions, and is a fascist. It is rumored that he may run against Arnold.

Oglethorpe University

I’m proud of my school.

Good news

After this morning, I’ll likely not be blogging for the remainder of the weekend. I’ll be in Charleston, South Carolina on a camping trip with my son’s paramilitary organization. We’ll be staying here (notice I didn’t say "sleeping," though some of us might actually be able to accomplish that in the crew quarters) and doing this.

Faith-based hiring

The House yesterday passed a bill updating the Head Start program. The biggest bone of contention was the bill’s extension of the co-religionist hiring exemption (first written into the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, and unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in Corporation of Presiding Bishop v. Amos).

I’ve written about the issues here.

Trading in pork

Nancy Pelosi says she has found $70 million in highway bill earmarks (aka pork) in her district that she’s willing to give back to the treasury in order to defray the cost of Katrina recovery. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis has proposed a moratorium on all non-defense related earmarks in FY 2006. I’m guessing that close to 10% of the $27.3 billion in FY 2005 pork (as identified by the Citizens Against Government Waste comes from Congressional earmarks for colleges and universities. Here are a few examples. Are we in higher ed willing to do our share in helping to offset the cost of Gulf Coast recovery?

Ginsburg rules

Edward Whalen is not impressed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s intervention in the judicial nomination process. Neither am I. The only good to come of this is her refreshingly frank admission that gender matters less than substantive commitments that, according to "her" rules, judicial nominees aren’t supposed to make before they’re appointed. We all knew that, for her, substance mattered more than process. Now we know it even better.

Conspicuous Gallantry

Tibor Rubin, Holocaust survivor, immigrant, Korean War hero, will receive the Medal of Honor tomorrow, a half a century late. Good story.  

Molly Yard, RIP

Former National Organization for Women President, Molly Yard, has died at the age of 93. The link provided relates an interesting irony. Yard always claimed that she was "born a feminist" because her birth (as the third of four daughters in Shanghai, China to missionary parents), was greeted by the family’s Chinese friends with a gift of a beautiful brass bowl to ease the pain of having yet another daughter. Yard, rightly, took offense at that. But she went on to devote much of her life to working for abortion rights (leading the fight against Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court). One can’t help but wonder what strange Orwellian logic leads a person who very easily might have been the victim of abortion because of her sex support radical abortion rights and then claim to be a champion of women.

Batchelder on C-SPAN

C-SPAN will run Judge Alice Batchelder’s Constitution Day speech this Saturday at 7 p.m. You should watch it. She may well be the person replacing Justice O’Connor.

Mark Lilla, "up from Pentecostalism"

Over at Get Religion, Douglas LeBlanc calls our attention to this interesting confessional piece by Mark Lilla, one of our leading public intellectuals.

LeBlanc and his commenters nail one of the points that I would have made against Lilla: when he complains about the intellectual shallowness or anti-intellectualism of contemporary evangelicals, he compares their current literary, theological, and philosophical output to the likes of Reinhold Niebuhr and John Courtney Murray in the 1950s. But, rather unfairly, he looks only at relatively shallow contemporary popular writers, rather than the serious academics to whom LeBlanc and his commenters point. I’d add some more names to the list, but will rest content with their suggestions.

Lilla’s complaints about popular evangelicalism center on what to him seems to be its shallow dogmatism (which seem to me equally characteristic of contemporary popular secularism). In many cases, he may be close to the mark, but he clearly isn’t familiar with the best that has been thought and written. His own preference seems to be for the world of skepticism, but his conclusion offers an interesting opening back into the world of thoughtful (and self-critical) faith:

It took years to acquire the education I missed as a young man, an education not only in books but in a certain comportment toward myself and the world around me. Doubt, like faith, has to be learned. It is a skill. But the curious thing about skepticism is that its adherents, ancient and modern, have so often been proselytizers. In reading them, I’ve often wanted to ask, "Why do you care?" Their skepticism offers no good answer to that question. And I don’t have one for myself. When my daughter and I discuss her budding thoughts about the cosmos and morality, or when my students come to my office inspired or baffled by a book, something quickens within me. The Greeks spoke of eros, the Christians of agape and caritas. I don’t know what to call it, I just know it is there. It is a kind of care. It is directed toward others, but also, perhaps, toward that young man lying on his bed, opening the Bible for the very first time [a reference to his own first religious experience].

Here is an issue or question on which he and his religious contemporaries could seriously engage, a "datum" about human nature that deserves further consideration, and about which generalized skepticism often has little or nothing penetrating to say.

Senate and Governor contests

Larry Sabato takes an early look at the 2006 Senate and Governor contests. Note his paragraphs on what it might take to produce Democratic gains or even a take over in the Senate. Also note that you can click on the states for more information. Useful.

Sen. Specter’s latest outrage

Has anyone else noticed this from Arlen Specter? Bloomberg reports that Sen. Specter has urged Bush to delay the nomination for O’Connor’s seat on the Court because O’Connor is prepared to stay on for a while longer. The senator knows this because he has talked to O’Connor. Isn’t this an outrage, for a number of reasons? On the most human level, I thought that O’Connor needed to resign so she could take care of her ailing husband. This means nothing to Specter. Also, what right does Specter have to negotiate with a sitting justice about these matters? Also note this: "Specter said the delay would give Congress and the rest of America more time to know John Roberts as chief justice. ’When we know a little more about Judge Roberts it’s going to be easier with the next’ nomination, Specter said." Am I wrong to think that all this is outrageous?

Global Warming--on Mars?

Now this is interesting. According to the latest information coming back from the Mars Global Surveyor, the red planet has been getting warmer over the past three years. Which obviously means one of three things:

1. Earth’s evil corporate polluters have found a way to beam their greenhouse gas emissions to other planets, or

2. Dick Cheney and his Halliburton buddies are intercepting the signals from the orbiter and are putting their own spin on it, or

3. Global warming is taking place on a solar-system-wide level, and has something to do with the strength of the sun, and not the presence or absence of something in the earth’s atmosphere.

Leahy to support Roberts

I can’t help but see this as the opening move in the battle over the next nomination, something that becomes even clearer when you consider Leahy’s speech, which lays down a number of markers regarding this and future nominations.

Interestingly, the Times headline writers can’t bring themselves to announce the news, nor can the editors bring themselves to run the whole AP story.

Ken Masugi links to the NYT piece that gets matters right.

Update #2 This NYT piece examines the political maneuvering in the Democratic Party. This WaPo article brings us up to date on what the Bush Administration seems to be thinking, which makes it hard to imagine Leahy supporting the next nominee.

Mark Helprin

Keith Morgan calls our attention to Mark Helprin’s website, which is a trove of bibliographic information. You can, for example, keep up with his political commentary, albeit without actual links to the pieces he has written. (Mr. Helprin, if you’re reading, we’d love links, not just lists.)

Katrina vouchers

I’ve mentioned before that President Bush’s recovery plan includes education vouchers, but, as this article makes clear, the scope of his proposal is larger than first indicated: if the President has his way, vouchers will go, not just to families whose kids were in private and religious schools before Katrina, but to any displaced family that wants to take that option now.

Clarence Page and Rich Lowry both like the idea. Here’s Page:

In fact, the president does not even have to try to imitate how liberals behave to come up with good ideas to help poor Americans improve their lives. Some of the market-friendly conservative ideas on his agenda show a lot of promise in helping poor folks in New Orleans and elsewhere rebuild their lives.

For example, nothing helps you build a better life more than a good education . Where there is space in good schools, public or private, the government should give the parents of New Orleans’ 77,000 displaced public school students full tuition vouchers so they can enroll their children in better schools.

Here’s Lowry:

The education vouchers, meanwhile, make private school available to kids who had suffered in the atrocious New Orleans public system and help preserve the choice many families had already made. Out of 248,000 students in the broader New Orleans area, 61,000 went to private schools. Opponents of the voucher proposals want to say to bereft families of those private-school students, "Congratulations, you lost everything, and we hope your children now get trapped in public schools on top of it."

I support it for the reasons they offer, and for one other as well: by leveraging private resources (those of the schools and families involved), it actually saves states and localities money. The voucher proposal offers up to $7,500 (90% of the state’s average per pupil expenditure), exactly the same as the impact aid. In the case of students attending public schools, the states and localities have to make up the difference. In the case of private and religious schools, either the families or the schools will cover the balance. In other words, as they always have, education vouchers empower recipients and save taxpayers money. And because the money follows the students, the per capita public school budget is in no way affected. Who could oppose this? (A rhetorical question: we know who can and will oppose it.)

Update: Katie Newmark (one of my best sources on voucher issues) has more.

Update #2: This WaPo editorial offers a limited endorsement of voucher plans, but suggests that maybe they shouldn’t be called vouchers. The reasoning behind the support is that individual cases require individual responses, which is, of course, true of every student everywhere all the time. The camel’s nose is peeking in.

Some good news

A pretty good story on the elections in Afghanistan. Here is another, the more banal AP version. It seems to me that this should be more broadly reported. It is a significant event for the Afghans, and much good will come of it.

It seems that North Korea has agreed to stop building nuclear weapons and allow international inspections. Bush cautiously welcomes
the news.

Former president Clinton , like a shark smelling Bush’s low poll numbers, is slamming many of Bush’s policies. This is a new development in American politics, as Powerline makes clear. I’m guessing that Bill is trying to clear the way for Hillary, and this, he thinks, is a good time to hit Bush. Maybe, but note this Rasmussen Poll: In a hypothetical 2008 matchup surveyed by Rasmussen, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) by 8 percentage points, 47% to 39%. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) holds a 4-point edge over Clinton, 47% to 43%. Not yet a walk in the park for Hillary.

This Really Bites!

Thomas "T-Bone" Quinn has witnessed more than his fair share of bureaucratic nightmares this month. After surviving the ravages of hurricane Katrina, "T-Bone" was evacuated to the Los Angeles area and has been housed at the LA Dream Center. Grateful for the outpouring of generosity, "T-Bone" graciously offered to capture an illegally dumped alligator from Machado Lake free of charge. The 7-foot gator known as "Reggie" has eluded authorities ever since it was discovered more than a month ago. Los Angeles Councilwoman, Janice Hahn (sister of ousted mayor, Jim Hahn) enthusiastically agreed to "T-Bone’s" proposal. But poor "T-Bone" had hardly begun his efforts before the lawyers got to him. Since "T-Bone" had no proof of insurance or identity, he was called off the job. You can read more here.

While I understand the motivation of city attorneys worried about potential lawsuits in the event of possible harm to Mr. "T-Bone" it is hard not to long for a simpler time when such matters were handled in the common-sense, business-like manner of regular Americans.

New Orleans

Jim Stoner is the best and most sophisticated apologist for New Orleans that I have read. But what, we may ask him, is the relationship between the spirit of America that leads to the rebuilding of New Orleans, and the somewhat anti-capitalist spirit of New Orleans, which he also seems to cherish?

Update: Here’s Jim Stoner’s quite justified response to my post. I was too hasty and intoxicated by his Walker Percy intro to take adequate account of the "hard-headedness" that marked much of his essay.

I was a little taken aback by having my ’apology’ called anti-capitalist,
since the thrust of the essay was about what would be needed to rebuild New
Orleans, not as a big federal welfare project or a tourist trap, but as a
great commercial port, as it once was. To be sure, I’m from the old ’two
cheers for capitalism’ school, since I think there are things like family,
faith, culture, and learning that are poorly understood if analyzed only in
terms of self-interest and free exchange -- and I haven’t figured out how
to add the principles of free gift and sacrifical love to an indifference
curve. Still, New Orleans was from its foundation a commercial city --
okay, maybe more mercantilist than capitalist -- and my ’apology’ was to
suggest a return to its first principles (leaving out, of course, those
forms of commerce now properly suppressed). As for the ’third cheer,’ I
would reserve it and remind my conservative friends that our state is
consistently one of the mostly staunchly pro-life in America.

But having reread his essay, I have more questions. Of course, as others have pointed out, restoring the "mercantile" elements of New Orleans’ economic infrastructure, and providing for the population employed by them, may well leave us with a different and smaller city than before. Would its charms be those that have figuratively and--I’ll admit it--literally intoxicated me in the past? And would those charms be those of a living city or of a museum or amusement park? The risk accompanying too much money, arriving too quickly, even if (or especially if) its expenditure is more or less centrally controlled is that what comes back bears too many obvious marks of artifice to command our affection or allegiance. Can the re-animated New Orleans capture something of the distinctive spirit of the one that grew "organically"? Will Jim Stoner still find something in his adopted city to love?

More Speculation About Batchelder

The New York Sun [subscription required] quotes a source close to the White House as saying that the President will be meeting with Judge Alice Batchelder this week. Of course, the White House continues its closed-lip policy, and there was a lot of misreporting last time around about who actually got interviews, so take a "source close to the White House" for what it’s worth. For those who didn’t get to hear Judge Batchelder’s excellent Constitution Day speech on Friday, it is available for listening here.

German elections

Those who are sometimes critical of our constitutional (and two-party) system should note the results of the German elections. Forming a majority is not an easy thing, never mind the character of that majority. Also see this.

Back home

I’m home. Three weeks in a hospital bed have made me weak. During the last two weeks I have had to learn to walk, shave, and so on. A new world. But, I’m doing fine, still weak, moving slow, with that determined half speed you have seen aged men shuffle through long hallways. I’m told it will be another month before I am strong.

There isn’t much more to be said about this war my pancreas started. Most of you know more about the medical issues than I do. It was rough, although some of the roughest parts are better known by my fine doctor Dr. Robert Israel, and my loving family and noble friends who stood with me in the battle. Apparently, I came close to buying the farm, to use one of Dr. Israel’s technical medical terms. At some point, the good doctor and chief general decided that defense could not win the war, so he attacked. The offensive was enirely dependent on my lungs, which had been dormant because a machine had been doing my breathing. The lungs responded better than anyone thought possible; the counterattack was successful. In an attempt to pay back the debt I owe them, I have stopped smoking (maybe a good Cuban once or twice a year will be allowed!). My debt to Dr. Israel, of course, cannot be repaid, so I kindly and honestly thank him for his goodness and excellence, for his art.

I still find it amazing that my family and friends stood by me during this long period of horror. They did everything. They held my hand, whispered hope in my ear, told me that they loved me, took care of everything, prayed for me, cut into their own lives to help. Hundreds sent me their good wishes and prayers, and I thank them all. It is overwhelming when the affection is so open, so forthright. I am deeply grateful, and, you should know, very happy to be in this breathing world.

Face Transplants?

It sounds like science fiction or a plot from a spy novel at first, but this fascinating article details many of the medical and ethical questions involved in a potential face transplant operation to be performed at the Cleveland Clinic.

Privacy in the Constitution

Robert P. George intelligently and succinctly goes over the old ground, explaining what he hopes John Roberts meant.


David Brooks has measured the ambition of President Bush’s Katrina recovery plan, further elaborated here, here, and here. I think that Brooks has hit the nail on the head: this is GWB’s true experiment in compassionate conservatism. Traditional Republicans and Democrats have different reasons to be concerned, but I think Bush will seize the moment and push this plan very hard.

Update: Stephen Moore has many serious reservations about the plan, some more convincing than others. He can’t, for example, be serious in comparing the costs of rebuilding Chicago, San Francisco, and Galveston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the costs of cleaning up toxic muck and restoring transportation and communications infrastructure today. But waste, fraud, and mismanagement are a sufficiently serious risk that the President ought to appoint someone--please let’s not call him a czar and give him another layer of bureaucracy--to spearhead the reconstruction effort. I nominate J.C. Watts, whose support was central to the Bush Administration’s domestic policy initiatives in 2001, who has demonstrated the capacity to work well with non-profit and faith-based groups, and against whom it would be next to impossible to play the race card.

Update #2: The folks at the Heritage Foundation have some good ideas about how to make this program work.

Last update: Paul Mirengoff’s measured comments are always worth reading, as are Ken Masugi’s.