Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Happy New Year!

To all.

Scalia’s wit counted

A new study concludes that Justice Scalia is good for at least one laugh per agument, and is nineteen times as funny as Justice Ginsburg; Justice Thomas doesn’t even register.

This is not via Scalia:
At night court, a man was brought in and set before the judge.
The judge said, "State your name, occupation, and the charge."
The defendant said, "I’m Sparks, I’m an electrician, charged with
The judge winced and said, "Bailiff! Put this man in a dry cell!"

Jeffrey Hart again

Apologies for my absence yesterday. I was being a tourist in my hometown, visiting the Georgia Aquarium, along with a gazillion other folks (including many clad in purple destined to be quite happy with the results of a football game later in the day), and eating at the Varsity, an Atlanta institution, also with the same gazillion people, many clad in purple. Strangely enough, we ran into acquaintances twice in our peregrinations through a downtown crawling with out-of-towners.

But on to the issue at hand. First, I’d recommend a number of these comments. Then you can read Richard John Neuhaus’ riposte, followed by this at Armavirumque, and then these posts at The Corner. If I have anything to add, I’ll update this post. Right now, I’m playing catch-up.

Update: Roger Kimball argues, effectively I think, that Hart has Burke wrong.

The funniest Supreme Court Justice

You knew it was Scalia, didn’t you?

What you write about on a slow news day

U.S. plans to invade Canada. I await Howard Dean’s claims that these plans can’t succeed, not to mention John Kerry’s reminder that he’s a veteran of the War of 1812 (another unsuccessful invasion of Canada).

Jeffrey Hart responds on abortion

Here. Two representative paragraphs:

The actuality in elective abortion is that the woman is not willing to derail her life because of an unwanted pregnancy, a life she had worked for many years to shape, perhaps studied and worked. That now is an actuality different from the situation of most women fifty years ago. The women’s revolution has happened. And in the "town meeting" the women’s voice, and that of those who understand what the women’s revolution means, will be heard and heeded.


Now, no woman is obliged to have an abortion if her convictions are opposed. The convictions of many women, no doubt a majority, are not opposed. There is the political problem for those who would outlaw abortion. And of course the women’s revolution has happened. We are living with its results. The year 1950 is not going to be restored, any more than the ancient regime was going to be restored after the Revolution. I didn’t think I needed to say that revolutions have consequences. As Burke said in effect, to resist the inevitable effects of revolution is to throw sand into a hurricane.

In his view, opinion seems to be fixed, in an almost reductive way, largely determined by interest and largely unchangeable by argument.

There’s also a rather harsh swipe at Richard John Neuhaus, who hasn’t yet responded at
his blogsite.

I’ll be watching to see how this develops.


I’m getting the picture. The famous couple--the mother having just recently retired--with their five year old twins, are just trying to slip quietly out of town, on vacation. But, hey, there are a few reporters around the terminal, and the father just can’t resist being interviewed, even though he has nothing to say. So he talks to them, and so does one of the twins: "My daddy’s famous, my mommy’s a secret spy." Then Valerie and Joe, and the twins, quietly slip away to an undisclosed location. I bet the boys knew where they were going.

Edward Larson on evolution controversies

This seems to be a partial transcript (it begins rather abruptly) of a session, sponsored by the Pew Forum, in which Edward J. Larson, a very prominent law professor and historian of science (once affiliated with the Discovery Institute, though clearly no longer on the same wavelength), answers questions from leading American journalists about the evolution controversies.

Larson knows a lot and holds nuanced views, so it’s quite worth reading.

Iraq and Afghanistan

Reuel Marc Gerecht undertakes a careful and incisive comparison of incipient Islamic democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq. The conclusion:

Iraq and Afghanistan as liberal beacons in the region never really made much sense; as democracies in which devout Muslims wrestle through difficult questions about the proper relationship between God and man, they can have much more impact in the Middle East, where religion is like oxygen. Afghanistan and Iraq are at present the Muslim world’s two most important democratic laboratories. They are not causes for despair. On the contrary, for devout Muslims who are trying to introduce concepts of popular sovereignty into political philosophy, both nations are-and the word is used correctly-progressive. This may be hard for many secularized or disbelieving Westerners and Middle Easterners to swallow-"We have gone to war for this?"-but in the context of Middle Eastern history, we should be both hopeful and proud. The real question for us now is the one posed to me in Kabul by an Italian officer, who despite his soft manner had the martial spirit of a U.S. Marine: "Will the United States run? If you do, we all will."

Read the whole thing.

Imperial Grunts again

It turns out that President Bush is reading it in Crawford this Christmas season. I’ve already recommended this interview over at TAE Online. Hugh Hewitt’s conversation with him is here.

Another enthusiastic endorsement comes from my dad (U.S. Army, 1953-73), on whom I foisted the book. He really appreciated the non-commissioned officers who make up the backbone of the U.S. Special Forces and found that much of the book rang true to his own experience (now, of course, more than 30 years old).

Red, blue, and high culture

One of the other elements of Jeffrey Hart’s WSJ piece that I overlooked yesterday was this:

Conservatives assume that the Republican Party is by and large conservative. But this party has stood for many and various things in its history. The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of "Republicanism." The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture. It is an example of Machiavelli’s observation that institutions can retain the same outward name and aspect while transforming their substance entirely.

Matthew Yglesias heartily endorses this point:

Can anyone seriously dispute that the vast majority of America’s premiere institutions of education and high culture are located in the "blue" areas? That’s not to say the South is some kind of total wasteland -- I visited the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum earlier this year and it’s first-rate, albeit a bit small -- but on the whole this stuff is primarily in the Northeast and to a lesser extent on the Pacific coast. At the same time, these institutions used to be bastions of conservatism and now -- as conservatives are wont to complain -- go the other way politically.

This is a complicated issue. I want to respond first to Hart and then to Yglesias.

Hart’s argument seems to be that the "modern" (post-1964) Republican Party--the party of Goldwater and Reagan--gained votes and power at the expense of its contact with "prudence, education, intellect, and high culture." Given the fact that these four attributes are going by and large to be the preserve of a relatively small minority, any party that gains voters, wherever it gains them, will lose some of its cultivated aspect. As recently as the brouhaha over the Miers nomination, some commentators noted tensions within the Republican coalition between the intellectuals (neo-conservatives and NR traditionalists, among others) and the base, whether it be the business class or the evangelical social conservatives. What I’ve found remarkable, however, is how well they’ve gotten along over the years. "Cowboy" that he was, Ronald Reagan provided the principal conduit for the influence of conservative intellectuals of various stripes in Washington.

Of course, Professor Hart might reply that a policy wonk or an economist isn’t the same thing as a painter, poet, or critic. But not all the conservative intellectuals in Washington, D.C. were trained at Virginia Tech or George Mason. Some came from places like Harvard, Toronto, Claremont, and Chicago. (I hasten to note, lest I offend, that these are not the only universities in the country and that the study of public choice theory does not necessarily render one incapable of appreciating the good, the true, and the beautiful, nor, for that matter, does the study of Plato and his successors render one simply unappreciative of the way in which interests are often, if not always, appropriately understood.)

Now on to Yglesias, who makes a more narrowly geographic point, but one not properly informed by history or demography. Yes, the great museums, symphonies, and universities are by and large located in blue states. When you’re settled first, established first, and start building collections and endowments a century or more before the competition, that’s going to happen.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that most of those institutions, wherever they’re located, are now essentially national in their outlook. The top figures in Atlanta’s "regional" theatre, for example, are recruited from, or leave for, other parts of the country. To take another example from my little slice of the world: my department, consisting of seven full-time faculty members, counts Ph.D.’s from Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Ohio State, Toronto, and Emory; my colleagues hail from Cambridge, Providence, Eugene, Chicago, southern California, and Paris. In other words, you have to dig pretty deeply before you find a pronounced regionalism in cultural and educational institutions in even as red a state as Georgia.

Finally, Yglesias celebrates what I would hope Hart would deprecate as a kind of "treason of the clerks": our great cultural and educational institutions by and large no longer regard themselves as transmitters of a tradition, but rather as deconstructors and ironic critics of that tradition, often in service of a political agenda. By contrast, for example, classical learning is quite alive in "classical and Christian schools", the majority of which are located in red states. Higher education and the patronage of fine cultural establishments are certainly not inconsistent with a genuine appreciation of "the permanent things," but they have long since ceased being guarantors of that appreciation.

Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg, who has more.

Update: Things are still hopping at The Corner, while this site is helpfully trying to sort things out.

Update #2: Armavirumque provides some helpful context for Hart’s WSJ essay.

NSA surveillance in court

This NYT article suggests that defense lawyers are readying evidentiary challenges in cases where their clients might have been ensnared, or have had evidence against them gathered, through the NSA program. I’m fairly confident that at least one judge somewhere will rule that we have an illegal search and seizure here. Will higher courts overrule him or her?

Unpacking suburban Republicanism

Fred Barnes calls our attention to Rep. Mark Kirk’s efforts to defend and rebuild waning Republican strength in close-in suburbs. I’m not convinced that the issues that he’s identified are sufficiently salient to overcome "image problems" the Republican Party has with the professionals who increasingly populate what Kirk calls the "inurbs" (as opposed to the exurbs). If you want to read more about Kirk’s efforts, go here and here.

Boys to men: where?

This article looks at the troubling trends regarding male participation in education, a subject I discussed from another angle here. Though not quite on the subject, we shouldn’t overlook this piece.

Presidential prerogative

My two cents worth on the NSA eavesdropping controversy is posted over at TAE Online.

A preface on gaining friends and losing wisdom

I note John Moser’s point below (and Victor Davis Hanson’s) only because I trust them more than I do, for example, Robert Kuttner, who wrote on the same theme just two days after Hanson did. Kuttner uses Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book on Lincoln, Team of Rivals, to make some points: 1) Lincoln is not Bush; 2) Lincoln was better at persuading people than Bush is; 3) Lincoln was a genius at "winning the trust and affection of rivals," and Bush is not; 4) Lincoln included in his cabinet "prominent leaders of different factions of his party who had opposed him for the 1860 nomination"; 5) Lincoln read books, Bush does not; 6) Lincoln wrote his own speeches, Bush does not. 7) Lincoln grew in office, Bush does not (and, by the way, no Republican has ever "grown in office" since Lincoln, I would add!). You get the drift. There is more. I like this sentence: "Despite civil insurrection, Lincoln resisted broad intrusions on democratic rights. Bush runs roughshod over liberties." Yet, Mr. Kuttner believes that the Union will survive the Bush presidency, although he does not tell us why. There is more to be said on these matters, and I’m working myself up to will take weeks at this pace. But I will mention, en passant, only this. Whenever a Liberal writes a book on Lincoln (Goodwin in this case, and David Herbert Donald a few years ago), the Liberal cognoscenti shout Lincoln’s perceived liberal virtues at those of us who belong to his party and who find him estimable for all of his virtues, including his steadfastness, his unbowing principles, his love of the nation and "the cause of my country," and his courage to fight the war with all his might. I find the Liberal shouting both offensive and childish. Is this the best they can do? Whine about not having enough Liberals in the Cabinet? Or whine about not being consulted enough? Where are the finely tuned Liberal minds of old, where is the brain trust, where are the best and the brightest? I see carpers only. Wesley Clark would have become a Republican if only Karl Rove would have returned his phone calls? We are to spend time reflecting on this? Sometimes this great world bores me.

The "conservative mind" today

In an effort to define contemporary conservatism, Dartmouth professor emeritus Jeffrey Hart (no slouch, he) provokes. Aside from the typical critique of GWB’s "Wilsonian" foreign policy, there’s this about abortion:

Burke had a sense of the great power and complexity of forces driving important social processes and changes. Nevertheless, most conservatives defend the "right to life," even of a single-cell embryo, and call for a total ban on abortion. To put it flatly, this is not going to happen. Too many powerful social forces are aligned against it, and it is therefore a utopian notion.

Roe relocated decision-making about abortion from state governments to the individual woman, and was thus a libertarian, not a liberal, ruling. Planned Parenthood v. Casey supported Roe, but gave it a social dimension, making the woman’s choice a derivative of the women’s revolution. This has been the result of many accumulating social facts, and its results already have been largely assimilated. Roe reflected, and reflects, a relentlessly changing social actuality. Simply to pull an abstract "right to life" out of the Declaration of Independence is not conservative but Jacobinical. To be sure, the Roe decision was certainly an example of judicial overreach. Combined with Casey, however, it did address the reality of the American social process.

Get it? Asserting a right to life is "not conservative but Jacobinical." This from a man who insists upon the importance of "religion in its magisterial forms," which is to say something like the Roman Catholic Church, which I guess is "Jacobinical" in its magisterial pronouncements on abortion. I suppose that the Roman Catholic Church--or any other--should only assert its authority in a manner consonant with "the reality of the American social process." It shouldn’t stand athwart history shouting "Stop!", but perhaps only "Slow down a tad, would you please?!?"

Professor Hart also invokes the shade of William James, whose philosophy was "always open to experience and judging by experience within given conditions." But isn’t Jamesian pragmatism an "enemy of the permanent things"?

I could say much more, but this seems sufficient to provoke some discussion. Can Professor Hart have it both ways, appealing to the power of the magisterial religious traditions and accommodating to "the reality of the American social process"? Is prudence the equivalent of Jamesian pragmatism, or is it informed by high principle, attempting to instantiate and embody it in ways consistent with "the facts on the ground."

Update: Jonah Goldberg has some thoughts. For the source of Hart’s animus, one might consider this.

Update #2: There’s lot’s more at The Corner.

Adult literacy in decline

This article summarizes the findings of this study, also discussed here. Much of the decline from 1992 to 2003 is likely due to immigration, but there are still some startling findings about higher education, discernible in these tables (numbers 11 and 12). Note that in 2003 17% of college graduates scored at basic or below in prose literacy, while only 31% scored as proficient, a 9 point decline since 1992. Also in 2003, 11% of those possessing graduate degrees scored at basic or below, while only 41% scored proficient, a 10 point decline since the last survey. These standards are not high: "proficient" is defined as the capacity to "compar[e] viewpoints in two editorials"; basic literacy requires the ability to read a pamphlet, below basic the capacity to sign a form. As Mark S. Schneider, Commissioner of Education Statistics, put it, "What’s disturbing is that the assessment is not designed to test your understanding of Proust, but to test your ability to read labels."

Let me repeat: less than half of those with graduate degrees can read (and presumably think) well enough to compare two newspaper editorials. What say you, dear readers?

How to Lose Friends and Influence People

I had meant to blog on this piece by Victor David Hanson when it first appeared, but was on the Grand Family Christmas Tour. Anyway, it’s worth our attention now, since last week’s discussions of wiretaps brought repeated reference to the precedent of Abraham Lincoln.

The entire op-ed is worth reading (and it’s brief), but his point is that wartime presidents like Lincoln and FDR were able to build consensus by appointing some of their political opponents to important positions. He notes that three recent critics--John Murtha, Richard Clarke, and Wesley Clark--could all have remained friends of the administration had they been given a respectful hearing:

There are lessons here in managing a difficult war. We must never forget age-old considerations such as pride, honor and status. Washington is a Darwinian place where the ambitious arrive, leaving friends, family and birthplace behind to calibrate their new self-worth by the degree to which they are considered important — and needed.

Happy Hanukkah!

To all our Jewish readers !

And while I’m at it, Happy Boxing Bay! (for our Canadian--and other Anglosphere--friends).

Merry Christmas!

To you and yours.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all! I hope you like "The Three Kings," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The latest Alito kerfuffle

Among the documents released by the National Archives yesterday was this collection of memos (Alito’s is the first, roughly seven pages in length), regarding this case. The issue involved Nixon Administration Attorney General John Mitchell’s immunity in a lawsuit filed regarding warrantless wiretaps he authorized in 1970. You can read the coverage in the major dailies here, here, here, and here.

At least two of the articles outrun the facts they’re reporting. The LAT reporters characterize the wiretaps authorized by Mitchell as simply "illegal," though, as they later note, "Mitchell escaped liability because the justices concluded that the law was not clear in 1970 when he ordered the wiretap." The NYT reporters characterize the argument Alito and the Reagan Administration were making as that "top officials were free to violate the law." This, of course, isn’t quite accurate: freedom from personal financial liability in lawsuits isn’t the same as the kind of carte blanche Mel Brooks claimed as Louis XIV in
History of the World, Part I.

Democrats have of course leapt on this case, trying to link it to the electronic surveillance conducted by the NSA after 9/11.

"At a time when the nation is faced with revelations that the Administration has been wiretapping American citizens, we find that we have a nominee who believes that officials who order warrantless wiretaps of Americans should be immune from legal accountability," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

To which there are several responses, such as this:

But Alito supporters noted that the memo does not defend the practice of warrantless eavesdropping, instead dealing only with the question of whether government officials who often must act quickly can be sued for damages when they err. Nor did the memo deal with the question of whether a warrant was necessary to investigate foreign threats.

"Despite Democrats’ attempts to link this memo to reports of NSA activities, the two have nothing to do with each other," said White House spokesman Steve Schmidt.

And this, from the WaPo article:

[T]he argument that the president and his top aides were entitled to absolute immunity was not a new one.

The Carter administration had taken that position in wiretapping cases stemming from the Watergate scandal, but the issue had not been clearly resolved by the Supreme Court.

And, finally, this dictum, from the majority opinion in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, cited by Alito in his memo:

For aides entrusted with discretionary authority in such sensitive areas as national security or foreign policy, absolute immunity might well be justified to protect the unhesitating performance of functions vital to the national interest.

I guess there will be lots of fun in the new year.

The President’s War Powers Include Surveillance

On June 9, 1941—six months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor that would bring the United States into the Second World War—President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order seizing an aircraft manufacturing plant operated by North American Aviation, Inc. in Inglewood, California. The seizure was necessary, wrote President Roosevelt, in order to prevent a strike by union employees from crippling aircraft production that was vital to the national defense. No act of Congress authorized the seizure, and the existing procedures for condemnation of private property were not followed, making President Roosevelt’s actions technically “illegal.” President Roosevelt also imposed 48-hour work weeks and barred payment of double-time pay for weekend and holiday pay in the nation’s manufacturing plants, all by executive order and in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, because he deemed the actions necessary to the nation’s war effort.

A decade later, on April 8, 1952, President Harry Truman ordered the seizure of the nation’s steel mills in order to avert a strike that would cripple the steel production necessary to our military involvement in Korea. Like Roosevelt before him, Truman’s order did not comply with the statutory requirements for condemnation of private property. Unlike Roosevelt’s actions, though, Truman’s seizure order was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately held in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer that none of the President’s constitutional powers—as chief executive obligated to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, or as commander-in-chief—were sufficient to sustain the seizure. Justice Jackson, in a landmark concurring opinion, found “alarming” the claim that the President could “vastly enlarge his mastery over the internal affairs of the country by his own commitment of the Nation’s armed forces to some foreign venture.”

Sentiments such as Justice Jackson’s now serve as the foundation for the claims of “illegality” being leveled against President Bush in the wake of the disclosure in last Friday’s New York Times that the President has authorized eavesdropping on international calls originating in the United States to Al Queda operatives abroad. The President’s order “violated” the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and was therefore “illegal,” assert the President’s detractors.

Before accepting such contentions, it is worth exploring a bit more the subtle nuances of Justice Jackson’s opinion, for he did not say that the President was not without authority absent statutory authorization. Obviously, the President’s authority is at its peak when he acts both pursuant to his own authority under the Constitution and by virtue of additional statutory authority given to him by Congress. Less strong, but no less certain, is when the President acts by virtue of his own constitutional powers, in the face of congressional silence. Finally, Justice Jackson even conceded that, at times, the President could act pursuant to his Article II constitutional powers even contrary to an explicit act of Congress. Congress cannot pass a law that curtails powers the President has directly from the Constitution itself. The problem for Truman, according to Justice Jackson, was not that he exceeded statutory authority, but that his constitutional war powers did not, under the circumstances, permit him to trump the mechanisms of the relevant congressional statute. Congress had not authorized the war, and the nation’s steel mills were too far removed from the “theater of war” to fall under the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief.

A careful review of the Youngstown holding in general, and of Justice Jackson’s concurring opinion in particular, yields several important distinctions that vindicate President Bush’s latest actions in the war against terrorism. First, Congress has authorized the use of force in terms broad enough to permit the President’s actions. The Supreme Court has already held in the Hamdi case that the statute was broad enough to give the President authority to detain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants; surely it is therefore broad enough to serve as authority for the much lesser intrusion on personal liberty at issue with surveillance of international calls made to our enemies.

Second, as September 11 made very clear, the United States is a “theater of war.” The agents of our stateless, terrorist enemies are here on U.S. soil, aiming to strike at our infrastructure, our citizens, and our very way of life at every possible opportunity. Even if the Use of Force Authorization was not sufficient to sustain the President’s executive order, his own powers as Commander-in-Chief and as President, derived directly from the Constitution itself, permit this carefully circumscribed effort at thwarting the next devastating terrorist attack against our nation.

In other words, the President’s legal advisors were correct in counseling that these actions were within his lawful constitutional authority, and the quick claims by the President’s detractors of “illegality” have a stench of political opportunism or, worse, demagoguery about them that is not only inappropriate but dangerous in time of war. That this war has not produced the burdens on our civilian population as wars in times past—we know nothing of the sacrifices of rationing, of a large-scale draft, or of victory gardens and war bonds that were the hallmarks of the Second World War, for example—should not lead us to forget that we are in a war as dangerous to our survival as a free people as any we have faced.

After suspending the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, an action that was believed to be authorized only by act of Congress, President Abraham Lincoln asked whether all the laws but one were to go unexecuted lest that one be violated. The preservation of the Union required the action, even if Congress had not authorized it, and Lincoln was statesman enough to understand that his own powers as Commander-in-Chief could not be circumscribed by statute, even though those actions might be claimed to be “illegal.” President Roosevelt understood this as well, and took actions that exceeded and were even contrary to existing statutes. Thank God he did, or we might not be living in a land as protective of our liberties as this is.

David Warren

David Warren on Bush and Christmas, and Methodists and Catholics and Muslims, and Canadian politics and Christmas. Nicely done. Merry Christmas, Mr. Warren. I always enjoy your essays.

NSA electronic intercepts

Is the NSA electronic intercept program illegal? Powerline doesn’t think so. Long and elaborate briefing (these guys are lawyers). File it for later review (and combat). Ted Kennedy thinks it is illegal, and defends the Constitution against "King" George.

Che’s children

Evo Morales is set to become the next president of Bolivia. This is not a good guy, from all that I can tell. He is a socialist, a race-monger, a tyrant. But, that is not much discussed, what is talked about, is that he will be the first indigenous president elected in South America. This is the continents’ poorest country, the one, remember, that Che Guevara picked for his revolution. It has had almost 200 military coups since independence in 1825. Messy place, I’m afraid. Here is the World Factbook on Bolivia. In the meantime, just to the North, Peru’s president has declared a two-month state of emergency in six central Peruvian provinces thought to be under the sway of drug traffickers. He also vowed to find the rebels who killed eight soldiers. About 70,000 people have died in Peru since the Shining Path started its war against the government in the 1980’s. Worth watching both places.

USA population growth

Census Bureau released its populations estimates: "Southern and Western states are growing so much faster than the rest of the country that several are expected to grab House seats from the Northeast and Midwest when Congress is reapportioned in 2010.

Demographers and political analysts project that Texas and Florida could each gain as many as three House seats. Ohio and New York could lose as many as two seats apiece." Nevada, by the way, grew at a faster rate than any other state for the 19th consecutive year, followed by Arizona, Idaho, Florida and Utah. See this useful chart from USA Today.

Intelligent Design

John G. West briefly argues that "intelligent design is not a religious-based idea, but instead an evidence-based scientific theory that holds there are certain features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause."


John von Heyking writes a very good (and subtle) piece on the Canadian elections by focusing on a speech by our ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins.

Cheney’s vote in the Senate

Vice President Cheney cast the deciding vote after the Senate split 50-50 on the $40 billion budget-cutting bill today. I wrote a few paragraphs on Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 ("The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.") for Heritage Guide to the Constitution, edited by Forte and Spalding, just recently published. Giving the VP this power, argued George Mason at the Convention, was a violation of the separation of powers. Roger Sherman responded: "If the Vice President were not to be President of the Senate, he would be without employment." (Obviously, this is kind of amusing, given that Dick Cheney is one of the most influential VP’s ever.) This allowed the Senate to come to a definitive result at all times, because the VP would break tie votes. And it also preserved the equality of the states in the Senate, because if a senator were chosen to preside with such power, he would have more power than the other senators. There have been over 200 votes cast by VP’s (Adams, the first to cast such votes, also cast the most).

Schall and Masugi in conversation

Ken Masugi conducts a fascinating interview with Father James V. Schall, S.J., in which they range widely over many topics (disasters, Tolkien, liberal education, to name just a few). By the by, Schall offers this implicit response to those who distinguish in too facile a manner between science and religion:

Both theology and philosophy seek to know the whole of things, including divine and human things. Their paths may be different, but they cross here and there. Just because they have two different methods and starting points, they do not deal with two different worlds. Rather there is one world and all that is in it, a world that need not exist at all. This latter implies a cause of existence that need not create the world from some necessity in Himself.(My emphasis.)

Stated another way, the alternative to Schall’s position (that if the world isn’t necessary, then there is a cause that creates it) is that the world is its own cause. Either there is a "God" (about whose relationship with and love for us this argument doesn’t give us many details, certainly not enough to identify this "God" with the God of the Bible) or, in effect, "the world," being its own cause, is "God."

Read the whole thing, which is much, much better than my blathering commentary.

Richard Posner on domestic intelligence-gathering

In today’s WaPo. Here, for those who aren’t familiar with him, is Posner’s bio. Here’s the Becker-Posner blogsite.

Why Didn’t He Ask Congress?

I’m glad to hear that at least one conservative aside from myself is bothered by recent relevations. "Why didn’t he ask Congress" is the question asked today by George Will. Will notes that the administration has defended its surveillance tactics under the president’s traditional "plenary" powers to engage in "military actions." Fair enough, but who gets to decide what the term "military actions" encompasses? Surely, had Bush gone to Congress in 2001 or 2002 and asked for authority to tap phones without a court order he would’ve gotten it. Why didn’t he? The answer, Will suggests, has something to do with "this administration’s almost metabolic urge to keep Congress unnecessarily distant and hence disgruntled." A strange attitude to take toward a Congress dominated by his own party, is it not?

It is worth recalling that the Democrats, not the Republicans, were the ones responsible for torpedoing Franklin Roosevelt’s "court-packing" plan in 1937. They did so not because they had turned against the larger New Deal project, but simply because they were tired of the administration treating Congress as a rubber stamp. This may be what we are beginning to see happen now.

Intelligent Design in the courts

You can read the long opinion in the Dover I.D. case here. Or you can just read this AP report. Those with a more voracious appetite for information can go here (the Discovery Institute’s Dover page) and here (the National Center for Science Education’s Dover page).

My piece on the Cobb County (GA) textbook sticker case will be posted at The American Enterprise Online tonight. (You know you can’t wait.)

Update: Here’s my TAE Online piece.

UpdateUpdate #2: I haven’t yet finished reading the long opinion in the Dover case, but have read enough to know that the judge may be a good lawyer (or at least may have once been a good lawyer), but that he’s a bad philosopher and theologian. Since his judgment on the law depends upon his seriously flawed opinions regarding philosophy and theology, well, you get the drift.... I have in my mind a piece entitled "Irreducible Hostility," but writing it is at least a day away. (I should also note that the Dover policy, from what I can gather, was much more ham-handed and poorly constructed than the Cobb policy.) For the moment, you can read this fine post. Hat tip: Ken Masugi.

Up to speed on surveillance

The best pieces I have read on the NSA/FISA issue are here (Byron York on the cumbersome FISA warrant process), here (Bill Kristol and Gary Schmitt on energy in the executive), here (Hugh Hewitt on some of the caselaw), and here (Orin Kerr’s careful examination of almost all the arguments and the caselaw).

For me, the bottom line is that this is a political, not a narrowly legal, question. Stated another way, the issue is executive prerogative, which is asserted and controlled politically.

The winning Bush

I did not see Bush’s news conference, so I’ll have to hold off commenting. But I did see his address to the nation last night, and I thought it was excellent. Clearly, he has left the post-Katrina doldrums behind, and is now hitting his stride in the post-Iraqi election era. He has taken the offensive. The talk was shrewd, kind to his political enemies, asked citizens for patience, yet makes clear that we must win ("we are there now"), and defeat is not an option. When David Gergen, the Solomon-like-wise-man-who-always-speaks-for-the-whole-of-the-MSM-and-you-do-know
-that-he-has-been-an-advisor-to-over-fifty-presidents-and-he-also-teaches-at-Harvard’s-Kennedy-School, yup, that David Gergen, said that Bush’s speech has "stabilized" his presidency from "near collapse", I knew what Gergen really meant was that Bush had hit a home run and that he is back on top again. Gergen, who is capable of speaking an infinite deal of nothing, has never learned that the purpose of language is clarity. John McIntyre thinks that the trap has closed for the Dems. Please read the piece, it is excellent.

Von Heyking on Ahmadinejad

John von Heyking, who has written on this theme for the main Ashbrook site, cracks the pages of the The Globe and Mail, the epitome of Canada’s MSM. We can only hope that John is nice enough to remember us little people as he climbs to the top.

But seriously, it’s another fine piece of analysis combining sensitivity to Iranian domestic politics with a call to take seriously President Ahmadinejad’s repeated threats.

Another very good GWB speech

Here. A taste:

Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost, and not worth another dime or another day. I don’t believe that. Our military commanders do not believe that. Our troops in the field, who bear the burden and make the sacrifice, do not believe that America has lost. And not even the terrorists believe it. We know from their own communications that they feel a tightening noose, and fear the rise of a democratic Iraq.

The terrorists will continue to have the coward’s power to plant roadside bombs and recruit suicide bombers. And you will continue to see the grim results on the evening news. This proves that the war is difficult -- it doesn’t mean that we are losing. Behind the images of chaos that terrorists create for the cameras, we are making steady gains with a clear objective in view.

Executive power and national security

Apropos of the conversation prompted by these posts below, Power Line calls our attention to and comments on this WaPo article.

I think Paul Mirengoff has the politics of it just right. For the Democrats actually to affirm that our security situation has improved to the point where the measures taken in the immediate post-9/11 era are no longer necessary requires that they give credit to the Bush Administration for making us safer, which they’re not about to do. By contrast, President Bush has said that we can’t drop our guard. So what responsible position can the Democrats take? Their answer seems to be...ask us when we’re back in power. No thanks.

Budapest Airport

In another sign of continued good-will between the New Europe and the Anglo-Americans, the Budapest Airport (called Ferihegyi) has been bought (for 1.2 billion pounds) by the British airport operator BAA. Note that the other serious bideer was a German company; it lost. BAA says it will make the Budapest airport (which grew by over 25% last year) the number one airport in the region. Here is the story in Hungarian, for the civilized reader.

Barbary Pirates

Joshua London writes a piece for NRO on the Muslim piracy throughout the Mediterranean from 1776 to 1815, what he calls our first war with terrorists. He argues that the similarity between then and now is obvious: the Barbary pirates were committed, militant Muslims who meant to do exactly what they said. This is an interview he had with Orrin Judd. And this is his book, just published, Victory in Tripoli : How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation.


The Washington Post runs the first of three articles on "Yemen: Exporting Democracy." It is a good read, but I am critical.
David Finkel is the author, and once again the question of tribes and anthropologists (see below) comes up. Of course, this being the WaPo, we can’t have any notions like idealism, justice, doing good in the world, or anything that smells interesting, if not positive. Nor can we have, for that matter, any historical understanding. It would be nice to be told that Yemen’s population is almost the size of Saudi Arabia’s, or that "yaman" means "right hand", etc. Or, what about Reagan’s "campaign for democracy" announced in 1982? The author thinks that democracy promotion jumped from the head of Bush unannounced and without precedent. Of course, that’s not true. There were 54 democracies in the world in 1981, and there were 99 by 1992, with another 30 or so in transition. Maybe what irks Liberals is that the campaign for democracy now has some concrete connection to national interest and strategically important places. They seemed to like the idea of human rights when Carter used the words, but then there was no hardness attached to it. We are doing the hard part now.

Finkel talks about the program of the National Democratic Institute (created under Reagan, by the way) in Yemen--run by one Robin Madrid--as a way "to reform the world", turning "democracy into something exportable, much like food aid, as a way to fight terrorism," it perfectly reflects the "momentous, even radical" notion that Bush put forward in his Second Inaugural; "democracy as commodity," "the commodification of democracy into something suitable for export," and "democracy promotion has evolved from a theory into an industry." You get the gist. Now, this doesn’t mean the story isn’t worth reading. It is, even though David Finkel is no Robert D. Kaplan. It was Kaplan who called the Yemenis warriors out of the Illiad, but with guns and cell phones.
The government is not as strong as the tribes and can only exist because the tribes are divided; and sometimes things get so bad that the tribes themselves want to put an end to revenge killings, ("suffering has brought us together"), begin to institute something like the rule of law, and that’s where the NDI program comes in. Weird stuff, I admit, female anthropologists thrice divorced using the latest social science schemes of conflict-resolution to make peace between tribes, U.S. government sluggishness and stupidity, and in the meantime hard-boiled Hobbesian men pushing and shoving and killing. Many bad guys go to ground in a fringe place like this. But there are some good guys who just keep looking for needles in haystacks, not even regime change. A little perspective, never mind depth, would have been nice from Finkel, and refreshing from the Washington Post.

Dream tribe

This is amusing. I’m guessing that the New York Times is in need of copy because this report, filed from Kenya about anthropologists researching their so-called Dream Tribe, is pretty empty. It seems that anthropologists--those who study human beings as if they were worms (that is, as if they have no rational faculties) and then call it science; or, those who study culture and cannot discover the human nature to be found therein--discovered the isolated Ariaal tribe, in the 1970’s, in Kenya and started poking at them and asking them questions. The article notes--without even the depth of a Margaret Mead--that the tribesmen have been studying the anthropologists as well, and that they are dissappointed when they get no feedback from the researchers. A chief, wearing a Boston University T-shirt and sandals made of used tires, said this: "We don’t mind helping people get their Ph.D.’s, but once they get their Ph.D.’s, many of them go away. They don’t send us their reports. What have we achieved from the plucking of our hair? We want feedback. We want development." The article notes some of the published studies to come from this research. For example, "In a study in The International Journal of Impotence Research, Dr. Campbell also found that Ariaal men with many wives showed less erectile dysfunction than did men of the same age with fewer spouses." Amazing.

Running from the past

Bruce Fein argues, persuasively, I think, that it makes no sense for Samuel Alito to distance himself from the views he held twenty years ago.

Man, Unsouled

Mickey Craig and Jon Fennell ask, "Is love possible in the age of neuroscience? Or have we unmasked human beings only to discover that love is an illusion?" They consider I Am Charlotte Simmons, how man is but a rock, and post-modern learning and the university.
Very good.

Booker T. Washington talks

I was navigating the web, as they say, and at Booker Rising I noticed that there was a link to the only recorded speech of Booker T. Washington. I had never heard his voice until now. Terrific. Link on this and give it a few seconds to load and you will hear Mr. Washington deliver the talk that made him as famous as Frederick Douglass had been (who died the year of the talk, 1895): the speech given at the Atlanta Exposition. Here is a transcription of the talk, so you can see it as you listen; it will make it easier to understand since the audio is imperfect by today’s standards (this was recorded in 1895!). If you are interested in what I have to say about Booker T. Washington (and the speech) see Jeff Sikkenga’s book, History of American Political Thought.

GWB on USA Patriot Act and NSA

President Bush gave a speech this morning in which he vigorously defended the NSA program that intercepts communications between suspected international terrorists abroad and their interlocutors within our borders. He noted the carefully delineated program and the frequency with which it is reviewed and with which members of Congress have been briefed about it. He contrasted the Constitutional basis for his authority to conduct the program and the illegality of the behavior of those who leaked information about it.

He also criticized those in the Senate who seem to be playing politics with the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act.

Good job, Mr. President!

Now I’d like to see some of the legislators who were briefed about it step up to the plate.

Hat tip: Power Line.

Update: The estimable Herr Professor Doktor Schramm beat me to it (below). I’ll add a little to the mix, from Abraham Lincoln, who deserves even more space on this issue than I’m going to give him:

I can no more be persuaded that the government can constitutionally take no strong measure in time of rebellion, because it can be shown that the same could not be lawfully taken in time of peace, than I can be persuaded that a particular drug is not good medicine for a sick man, because it can be shown to not be good food for a well one. Nor am I able to appreciate the danger, apprehended by the meeting, that the American people will, by means of military arrests during the rebellion, lose the right of public discussion, the liberty of speech and the press, the law of evidence, trial by jury, and Habeas corpus, throughout the indefinite peaceful future which I trust lies before them, any more than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics during temporary illness, as to persist in feeding upon them through the remainder of his healthful life.

The real root of the debate is how serious the threat posed by al Qaeda and its allies is. President Bush takes the threat seriously. Do his critics?

Public necessity?

President Bush gave seven minutes (live rather than his usual taped Saturday radio broadcast) to the NSA and the secret wirtapping issue. I heard it on the radio (although some TV carried it) and noted that he was tough and unrepentant. That is, as far as he is concerned he has done nothing wrong, and he has done it, i.e., re-authorized the program--as he said--"more than 30 times since the September 11 attacks". I think this surprised the CNN talking head, and, I am betting a few other folks. I also heard Senator Fiengold say something like "he is a president, not a king," and accused Bush of "playing politics" with national security. That’s helpful, isn’t it?
Here is ther Washington Post story on the speech.

Look, some of my friends are going nuts over this. One is already talking about this "Caesar," that being ever so much worse than Feingold’s "king," I guess. I say to all, calm down. You are not the only lover of liberty in the room, nor the only Constitutionalist, nor the only one who has thought about why politics isn’t as clear as mathematics. The President of the United States is saying that he knows what he did, he thought it both necessary and legal, and made sure that others knew about it, and also says that the actions were continually reviewed. That’s not bad, considering the war we are in. Even before we learn more details--and by the way we do not have to discuss all this as if we were lawyers (I know there are many in the room), let’s just pretend we are citizens having a conversation in which any citizen can participate--I want to respond to a point already raised: Would my response be the same (already leaning toward the President’s decision) if Clinton were the president? The answer is no, of course not. Why? Because I trust Clinton less than I do Bush. Would I trust Buchanan or Lincoln on a similar issue? You see my point, I think. Anyway, for now let’s leave it at that. Keep paying attention to this. Calmly.

Reflections on New Orleans

This piece, by Bill McClay, is one of the best I’ve read. A taste:

New Orleans is a city in which one has always been reminded, at every turn, in ways both banal and profound, of the degree to which existence itself is contingent, and human mastery an illusion. No one living for long in New Orleans can fail to understand this; it is a lesson that the city’s limitations, and particularly its intimate contact with the power and terror of the elements, teaches very well.

This is emphatically not the lesson, however, that has been drawn from Katrina, or that undergirds much of the debate in its aftermath. When “someone” is always to blame for calamity, it must mean that everything untoward happening in the world can ultimately be attributed to the malfeasance of some human being or human agency, and can be fixed by some other human being or agency. We are, or should be, masters of our existence, and we should never tolerate real or perceived lapses in that mastery.

Lost in this view of things, sometimes fatally, is that increases in rational mastery over the physical terms of existence do not necessarily make us happier, or safer—and may even have the opposite effect. Consider the growing rage at our medical system and pharmaceutical industry, a system that has been remarkably skillful, and more so in every passing year, at addressing a range of diseases and conditions that were formerly thought to be untreatable. Modern medicine can do many astonishing things. But it cannot banish risk, which is why the medical system is all too often a casualty of the very expectations it raises.

Joel Kotkin has also been thinking about the larger significance of New Orleans and Katrina:

By becoming mass dispensers of welfare for the unskilled, playpens for the well-heeled and fashionable, easy marks for special interests, and bunglers at maintaining public safety and dispensing efficient services to residents and businesses, many cities have become useless to the middle class, and toxic for the disorganized poor. Today’s liberal urban leadership across America needs to see the New Orleans storm not as just a tragedy, but also as a dispeller of illusions, a revealer of awful truths, and a potential harbinger of things to come in their own backyards.

Look beyond the tourist districts. Few contemporary cities are actually healthy in terms of job growth or middle-class amenities. Most are in the grips of moral and economic crisis.

If we are lucky, the flood waters of Katrina will wash away some of the ’60s-era illusions that fed today’s dysfunction. Honest observers will recognize that this natural disaster, which hit the nation so hard, was set up by the man-made disaster of a counterproductive welfare state.

Both articles deserve mugs:

Partisan reporting and tracking dirty numbers

This huge New York Times article is a must read. Print it and save it. Much will be made of this either because of what it claims or implies about Bush "secretly" authorizing the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans (never mind that the thing was published today rather than yesterday or tomorrow), or because it will be seen to be nothing strange (or illegal) at all, if you read a couple of pages into the article you will see why. Let’s assume for the moment that the title of the article (and the first paragraph) is revealing of the truth in its stark naked simplicity. Let’s assume that. How does the New York Times know this piece of information? The answer is (as Powerline notes) probably this: someone within the so-called intelligence community leaked the information. Not good. The leaker ought to be found. (Do note that the White House asked the Times not to publish the article; the Times waited one year, apparently not that concerned about civil rights for that period; odd; and then why publish it today?). Note these pregnant paragraphs and the fact mentioned later that Congressional leaders from both parties were briefed and continued to be briefed about the program, as was the FISA court (also note that no one who had been briefed--Democrat or Republican--has taken the opportunity to comment on the program). I am betting that in the public debates about Patriot Act today (so far, it is defeated, and CAIR--ever so concerned about civil liberties--applauds the defeat) no Democrat who used this article to sow doubt about the Administration had been on the intelligence committee and been briefed. Did Rockefeller participate in that debate?

What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists’ computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, they said.

In addition to eavesdropping on those numbers and reading e-mail messages to and from the Qaeda figures, the N.S.A. began monitoring others linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds were in the United States, the officials said.

Under the agency’s longstanding rules, the N.S.A. can target for interception phone calls or e-mail messages on foreign soil, even if the recipients of those communications are in the United States. Usually, though, the government can only target phones and e-mail messages in the United States by first obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which holds its closed sessions at the Justice Department.

There will be more on this, you can count on it.

What to do about Africa?

Is Africa doomed to be a perpetual basket case of kleptomaniacs, famine, disease, and war? It sometimes seems so, and there is precious little helpful thinking about the problems of that large continent. One interesting exception is this op-ed by Paul Theroux in yesterday’s NYTs. Theroux criticizes the rock star approach popularized by Paul Hewson, or “Bono”, which is now backed by the Gates fortune. This approach calls for ever greater floods of Western money, food aid, volunteers, and debt relief. But, as Theroux argues, this has been tried for many years, and it has failed. For example, large amounts of money and many thousands of volunteer foreign teachers, nurses, and doctors have not prevented Malawi from becoming a failed state; indeed, in some ways they have been an obstacle to the development of a corps of native Malawi teachers, nurses, etc. The “Bono” approach undermines the development of African self-reliance and blinds us to Africa’s most crucial need – good government. Theroux ends with the intriguing suggestion that Ireland, a place with which Africa has some surprising similarities, points to a better approach. Read the piece for details.

Teaching evolution in the schools

Yesterday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case dealing with high school biology textbooks in Cobb County, a diverse and prosperous suburban Atlanta county. You can read the district judge’s opinion here, and a useful background article here. This site has all the amicus briefs opposing the stickers affixed to the textbooks and asking the Appeals Court to uphold the district judge’s ruling. This site has links to most of the briefs arguing in favor of the stickers (except for this one), along with a number of other resources.

Having just read the district judge’s opinion, I think that he overreached in a number of ways. Here’s what the sticker says:

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

That’s all.

This is the supposed endorsement of religion that sends a message to non-religious folks that they are outsiders and those who oppose evolution are insiders. The "endorsement" language comes from Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurring opinion in Lynch v. Donnelly, the baneful effects of which I have discussed here and here. Indeed, Judge Clarence Cooper, a Clinton appointee, goes so far as to claim that there’s an analogy between the nativity scene cases (the context of O’Connor’s suggestion) and this textbook case. As he sees it, the relevant context is that the parents who sought the sticker language were motivated by their religious concerns; the fact that the Cobb County School Board adopted their language (evolution is a theory, not a fact) suffices to convey an endorsement of their position, including the religious views not at all evident in the sticker’s words themselves. Wow!

If Judge Cooper had his way, people moved by religious concerns would be stuck in the following catch-22. If they use secular language, as they did in this case, that language would be tarnished by its ultimate religious provenance. If, using the secular language, they prevail in the political contest, they still lose, because their victory leads the government to endorse religion, sending a message to the losers that they are outsiders, which violates the First Amendment, as glossed by Sandra Day O’Connor and her supporters.

It doesn’t matter that the religious parents here are acting defensively, leaving a question open, and asking for very little in the face of a biology curriculum in which evolution will be a primary subject of discussion. It doesn’t matter that they’re not asking for equal time for any competing "theory." Their views, offered in perfectly secular language, are out of bounds; they can’t be permitted to win in the political arena; the school board can’t be permitted to accommodate their concerns.

According to Judge Cooper, the religious parents are the outsiders, and there’s nothing they can do to win a place in the debate. Those who argue that religious people should regard themselves as "resident aliens" might welcome such a result, as would those committed secularists who are ultimately hostile to the public influence of religion (unless, of course, it conforms to the positions they hold). But it doesn’t appear to be either a neutral or an accommodationist position. By Judge Cooper’s lights, the Constitution seems to require hostility to religion. This is not to say, I hasten to add, that Judge Cooper himself is anti-religious. He may not have fully thought through the implications of his position. I’m just glad that the judges on the 11th Circuit panel appear to be sceptical.

Update: More criticism of the District Judge’s opinion

Bad news from Iran

Charles Krauthammer on Iran and the coming apocalypse. Not good. Also see this about the Twelfth Imam.

Iraqi elections coverage

I am not impressed by the media coverage of the elections in Iraq. It is, somehow, a ho-hum affair. They don’t know how to talk about (or don’t want to). But Pajamas Media is covering them, and so is the Belmont Club (good picture). Here is Austin Bay’s coverage. It looks as if the turnout will be above 70%. Maybe CNN will note that this is quite impressive. Maybe.

UPDATE: It is estimated that turnout was over 70%. Impressive.

Kerry, the genius

The Hotline reports that John Kerry "said last night that if Dems retake the House, there’s a ’solid case’ to bring ’articles of impeachment’ against President Bush for allegedly misleading the country about pre-war intelligence, according to several Dems who attended.

Kerry was speaking at a holiday party for alumni of his WH ’04 bid."

Glenn Reynolds thinks that Kerry is now helping Bush with his base. "What’s funny is that lots of Bush supporters would be okay with the GOP losing the House as a way of teaching the Republican House a lesson for its pork-laden profligacy -- but not if it’s going to let the Democrats bring a politically-motivated impeachment resolution over the war. (Will those who voted for the war, like Kerry, resign, too?) So by making this statement, Kerry makes a Democratic recapture of the house notably less likely, by motivating GOP’ers who might otherwise stay home to turn out.

Of course, you can count on Kerry to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, as quite a few of those "alumni" could probably attest. . . ."

ANWR as collectivism in drag

I have been in Washington for a couple of days. Good trip, glad to be back, although I was worried that it would take many days of effort to fly, given the ice and snow and rain. But, not so. Everything worked according to plan. You Americans are an efficient bunch! Well, maybe not in some things. I read this George Will column in the WaPo on the flight home. It is terrific. He cuts through the heart of the matter of ANWR with elegant precision. It is stupid not to drill; we should have done it twenty-four years ago. The oil from there would be about 20% of domestic production. He explains why the Left has opposed this with such fervor. It has nothing to do with caring for the environment. Nothing. Will says that "It is a disguised debate about elemental political matters. For some people, environmentalism is collectivism in drag. Such people use environmental causes and rhetoric not to change the political climate for the purpose of environmental improvement. Rather, for them, changing the society’s politics is the end, and environmental policies are mere means to that end."

Professors and home-schooling

Here’s an excellent little essay on professors and home-schooling. The link is temporary, so read it soon. Hat tip: Katie Newmark.

C.S. Lewis, West-Coast Straussian?

I’ve remarked previously in this space that C.S. Lewis’s remarkably prescient attack on postmodern relativism, The Abolition of Man, could easily be read as a preface to Strauss’s Natural Right and History. Well, since the movie is out right now, I’ve been reading the Narnia chronicles to my 7-year-old, and came across this passage from The Magician’s Nephew, from the mouth of the devious Uncle Andrew:

"You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad you have been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys--and servants--and women--and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny."

But Digory sees right through him, thinking to himself, "All he means is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants."

GWB speeches

President Bush delivered the last of his four Iraq speeches yesterday. (Here’s the Text of his Philadelphia speech, delivered earlier this week.)

A couple of snippets, first from Philadelphia:

The third key challenge is establishing rule of law and the culture of reconciliation. Iraqis still have to overcome longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, and the legacy of three decades of dictatorship. During the regime of Saddam Hussein, Shia, Kurds and other groups were brutally oppressed, and for some there is now a temptation to take justice into their own hands. Recently, U.S. and Iraqi troops have discovered prisons in Iraq where mostly Sunni men were held, some of whom have appeared to have been beaten and tortured. This conduct is unacceptable, and the Prime Minister and other Iraqi officials have condemned these abuses, an investigation has been launched, and we support these efforts. Those who committed these crimes must be held to account.

We will continue helping Iraqis build an impartial system of justice that protects all of Iraq’s citizens. Millions of Iraqis are seeing their independent judiciary in action, as their former dictator, Saddam Hussein, is put on trial in Baghdad. The man who once struck fear in the hearts of Iraqis has heard his victims recount the acts of torture and murder that he ordered. One Iraqi watching the proceedings said: "We all feel happiness about this fair trial." Slowly but surely, with the help of our coalition, Iraqis are replacing the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law, and ensuring equal justice for all their citizens.

Oh, I know some fear the possibility that Iraq could break apart and fall into a civil war. I don’t believe these fears are justified. They’re not justified so long as we do not abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need. Encouraging reconciliation and human rights in a society scarred by decades of arbitrary violence and sectarian division is not going to be easy and it’s going to happen overnight. Yet the Iraqi government has a process in place to resolve even the most difficult issues through negotiate, debate and compromise. And the United States, along with the United Nations and the Arab League and other international partners, will support these efforts to help resolve these issues. And as Iraqis continue to develop the habits of liberty, they will gain confidence in the future, and ensure that Iraqi nationalism trumps Iraqi sectarianism.

Noteworthy here is the President’s recognition that one of the challenges Iraqis face is reconciliation. Even after the military goals have been met, the Iraqis will face a contentious process of accounting for injustice and grievance. There are lots of folks in the world who have some experience and expertise here, and the President has just invited them in.

And now from his final speech:

Some in Washington are calling for a rapid and complete withdrawal of our forces in Iraq. They say that our presence there is the cause for instability in Iraq, and that the answer is to set a deadline to withdraw. I disagree. I’ve listened carefully to all the arguments, and there are four reasons why I believe that setting an artificial deadline would be a recipe for disaster.

First, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the Iraqis. As Iraqis are risking their lives for democracy, it would tell them that America is more interested in leaving than helping them succeed, put at risk all the democratic progress they have made over the past year.

Secondly, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the enemy. It would tell them that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run. It would vindicate the terrorists’ tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder. It would embolden the terrorists and invite new attacks on America.

Third, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the region and the world. It would tell our friends and supporters that America is a weak and unreliable ally, and that when the going gets tough, America will retreat.

Finally, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the most important audience -- our troops on the front line. It would tell them that America is abandoning the mission they are risking their lives to achieve, and that the sacrifice of their comrades killed in this struggle has been in vain. I make this pledge to the families of the fallen: We will carry on the fight, we will complete their mission, and we will win. (Applause.)

Victory will be achieved by meeting certain clear objectives: when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can protect their own people, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot attacks against our country. These objectives, not timetables set by politicians in Washington, will drive our force levels in Iraq. As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And when victory is achieved, our troops will then come home, with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)

These arguments are unanswerable, and repeated Democratic calls for benchmarks don’t really try. This WaPo analysis tries to find confusion or equivocation in the two formulas--victory or "standing down as the Iraqis stand up"--that the President has used in speaking about when troops will come home. It seems to me that the President was tolerably clear. The Iraqi business is above all with Saddamist rejectionists, who are politically marginalized but need to be defeated militarily. This is a task that, increasingly, the Iraqi military is handling. Our business is ultimately with the Zarqawi-led terrorists. So long as they are operating in Iraq, we can’t leave. So with respect to one of the military threats, it makes sense to stand down as Iraqis stand up, but not with respect to the other.

And, of course, standing down is a process: we’re standing down as we hand bases over to the Iraqi military, as we lower our profile, as we change the configuration of our forces, as we moves from providing security to providing training and logistical assistance, and as we reduce our overall numbers in the country and in the region.

These were good, compelling speeches. The Democratic response was weak and unpersuasive. The headline and lead in this story are telling. And as for Jack Murtha, Cindy Sheehan’s successor, there’s nothing better than this response.

Mark Twain on the Middle East

Readers of NLT know that tomorrow the Iraqis will become the first Arab people to choose their government in a genuinely free election. As I follow the news of this historic event, I happen also to be reading Mark Twain’s interesting account of his travels (1867) in what we call the Middle East. At one point he says that if ever there was an “oppressed race”, it is the Arabs, who were then suffering under the “inhuman tyranny of the Ottoman empire.” He develops this theme a bit, and then concludes:

These people are naturally goodhearted and intelligent, and with education and liberty would be a happy and contented race. They often appeal to the stranger to know if the great world will not someday come to their relief and save them. The Sultan has been lavishing money like water in England and Paris, but his subjects are suffering for it now.

Subjects suffering while the Sultan lavishes money in Paris? Haven’t we heard that before? But today the “great world,” or at least part of it, has come to the relief of the Iraqis; and it’s no accident that the helper is a part of the world still capable of using words like “tyranny” and “liberty”. We hope the voting goes peacefully, and congratulations to the Iraqi people.

Religion and politics on the left

Jim Wallis is speaking truth to power again today. By his lights anyway. He’s certainly entitled to his prudential judgment about how best to address the needs of the poor, but calling those who disagree with him "unbiblical"? Will Americans United chastise him for his theocratic tendencies? Will the pundits at The Nation and Mother Jones tut-tut about the diminishing difference between Jim Wallis and Osama bin Laden? Will Maureen Dowd wring her hands?

Let me repeat what I’ve said before on the subject of poverty and religion. There are reasonable disagreements about how best to assist the poor. That we have a duty to do so doesn’t mean that we have to duty to support large government programs.

Update: Here’s a largely uncritical story that lets Wallis and his supporters speak for themselves. Here’s a critical commentary on the WaPo story, with a lively debate in the comments section.

Iraq: a Marine’s view

The Washington Post runs this piece by a Marine officer about to deploy to Iraq for the third time. Here’s a taste:

We know the streets, the people and the insurgents far better than any armchair academic or talking head. As military professionals, we are trained to gauge the chances of success and failure, to calculate risk and reward. We have little to gain from our optimism and quite a bit to lose as we leave our families over and over again to face danger and deprivation for an increasingly unpopular cause. We know that there are no guarantees in war, and that we may well fail in the long run. We also know that if we follow our current plan we can, over time, leave behind a stable and unified country that might help to anchor a better future for the Middle East.

Godspeed, Major Connable! We’re grateful for your service.

Judicial matters

You might want to read my latest TAE Online column, in which I give some attention to Samuel Alito’s 1985 abortion memo and its context.

Or you might want to read Ken Masugi’s commentary on more serious matters.

Robert D. Kaplan interview

This wide-ranging interview with Robert D. Kaplan is one of the fine features in the new issue of The American Enterprise. I haven’t read the other online pieces yet, but they include an essay by Joel Kotkin on New Orleans and James Lileks’s year in review. The Kaplan interview alone deserves some mugs:    

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for November

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

Greg Wallace

Carol Drury

Tim Craig

Joel Charles

Betsey Kelly

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 December’s drawing.

Evolution vs. intelligent design

Larry Arnhart suggests that we begin by actually teaching Darwin, whose work addresses all the issues in the debate and overcomes the narrowness of "sectarian" (my word, not his) scientific and religious approaches.

Claremont’s Christmas book list...and mine

Is here. Steve Hayward needs to have a word with his former friends.

My own recommendations?

I’m partial to Robert D. Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts, for reasons I have begun to develop here: it’s an excellent and vivid account of the varied and innovative activities undertaken by the U.S. military all over the world.

Rick Brookhiser is trying to be our Plutarch. I’ve read and enjoyed his little book on George Washington and wouldn’t object to seeing his books on Alexander Hamilton and Gouvernor Morris under the Christmas tree.

The same goes for Jerry Weinberger’s Benjamin Franklin Unmasked.

Speaking of Christmas, everyone should get a copy of this book, so that they can think about how to avoid the fate described in this book.

For kids who have read Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling, I’d recommend this series, which features martial mice, formidable badgers, and rapacious rats, among others.

I could give you many more, but that’s what’s on my mind now.

Update: Ken Masugi makes amends for the Claremont oversight.

Narnia, take 2

Hunter Baker agrees with me. I, by the way, have yet to speak to anyone who didn’t like the movie, though, as they say, the plural of anecdote is not data.

Update: From the snowy steppes, where it’s always winter but sometimes Christmas, Ken Blanchard calls our attention to this NYT piece, which dances around the allegory. The author is not subtle enough by half, since she doesn’t want to concede how a good story can "baptize the imagination" without engaging in overt proselytizing.

Oil fires in England

This is the BBC (good photos throughout) coverage of the Hertfortshire oil fires, and here is the CNN coverage. Everyone is saying that there is nothing to indicate that this was anything other than an accident. Click on the photograph here to see an especially impressive satellite shot of half of England.

Riots in Sydney

The riots in Sydney are continuing, although there is not much clarity. Here is the AP dispatch from yesterday: "Thousands of drunken white youths attacked police and people they believed were Arab immigrants at a Sydney beach on Sunday, angered by reports that youths of Lebanese descent had assaulted two lifeguards. Young men of Arab descent retaliated in several Sydney suburbs, fighting with police and smashing 40 cars with sticks and bats, police said." And this is the latest Pajamas Media report.

Eugene McCarthy and the molecules

David Broder praises Eugene McCarthy, who died two days ago. Although he died a bitter and unforgiving man, in 1968 you had to agree that McCarthy was an admirable, thoughtful, and learned fellow, even if you disagreed with him, which I did. He opposed the Vietnam War and Johnson, and because he did so well in the New Hampshire primary, Robert Kennedy--by now he repudiated his brother’s war--entered the race. Kennedy won the California primary, but was killed on election eve. Powerline recalls one of the great and funny political lines of all time: A reporter asked McCarthy if he was upset that Kennedy had come in only after McCarthy had done the heavy lifting. McCarthy’s response: "You don’t blame the molecules for obeying the laws of physics."

Sex and religion in the public square

Carol Platt Liebau observes that we seem to be O.K. with salacious advertising in the public square, but not with religious symbols. If I’m offended by the former, I’m told that I can simply avert my eyes. And if I become politically activist about such things, I’m told that I’m at best a prude and at worst a theocrat. What does this say about our culture?

I made a vaguely similar point about sex and religion in schools here. We can talk about sex in the schools because it’s a public health matter, even if sex and sexuality are also fraught with religious and moral significance. But let’s not talk about religion....

Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt.

Sunnis to vote, oppose al Qaeda

Reuters reports this: "Saddam Hussein loyalists who violently opposed January elections have made an about-face as Thursday’s polls near, urging fellow Sunni Arabs to vote and warning al Qaeda militants not to attack.

In a move unthinkable in the bloody run-up to the last election, guerrillas in the western insurgent heartland of Anbar province say they are even prepared to protect voting stations from fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq." Let’s see if CNN thinks this is important.

Canadian politics

John von Heyking writes his first of several articles about the elections in Canada. In bringing our attention to our northern neighbors, John allows us to see into this giant place and its odd politics that can’t seem to produce a majority government. Useful links.

Is Bono Listening?

The Quote of the Day at Booker Rising comes from a Ghanian libertarian named Franklin Cudjoe:

It is widely reported that an African child dies of hunger and malnutrition every three seconds while in the same period African leaders steal $14,000 from their people and put it in foreign bank accounts. In the words of Milovan Djilas, they squander the nation’s wealth as though it was someone else’s and dip into it as if it were their own. Isn’t it strange that exactly two weeks after the G8 deal that wrote off 80 percent of my country’s debt, all our parliamentarians, who earn $300 per month, are to receive $25,000 each in free car loans and $60 a day in rent allowance? I call it free car loans because five years ago they each received $20,000 but have yet to pay it back. It is insulting that the bill for this lavish behavior is passed on to the disrespected poor as they struggle to pay a 40 percent tax on fuel that is used to support, among other things, government entities that consume almost one-third of the country’s fuel. One would have thought that African leaders would be better advised to use resources to build the infrastructure that will increase the volume of trade within the continent and thereby improve economic activity.

Pig country

Sure, in the latest New Yorker there is Steve Coll’s interesting piece on the young Osama bin Laden, and how he might have become a terrorist by attending an after school study group. The article I enjoyed even more (alas, not avalibale on-line) is called "Hog Wild," by Ian Frazier. It is about those damned hogs, the wild hogs, the feral hogs. Apparently there are around five million of these things in the U.S. These are smart and mean and bad critters. They eat everything, including calves and sheep, can get into any compound, and can get out of any. They’re much smarter than dogs (no wonder Churchill thought that a pig was the only animal that could look you straight in the eye as an equal), they are noses with bodies and legs appended, and they have a powerful sense of smell. They can detect odors from seven miles cross country and twnety five feet underground! And they eat and eat, even as they are bleeding to death. An amusing and well written article and, given the author’s way, also very political. It turns out that that "The presence of feral hogs in a state is a strong indicator of its support for Bush in ’04." It shouldn’t surprise us, asserts Frazier, that there are more feral-hog counties in Ohio and Indiana then in Illinois. The later state went for Kerry. And then there are the "dog guys" down in the South. These boys fight the hogs, and may be meaner. They also sport Confederate T-shirts like this: "If this shirt offends you it makes my day." Frazier is delighted that this is Bush country, and amuses himself at our expense. Anyway, you get the point. A good read, even as it offends.


This article explores the issue, citing Colby College philosophy professor Cheshire Calhoun, high profile GWU law professor Jonathan Turley, and Georgia State University professor (African-American Studies) Patricia Dixon as advocates of legalizing the practice and suggesting that there are 30,000 to 80,000 polygamous families in the U.S. right now.

While advocates of gay marriage deny that their position leads inexorably to polygamy, it’s remarkable (or perhaps not) how similar the rhetoric is:

Decriminalization of polygamy would bring shared health benefits and other legal privileges of marriage, they say, but the bigger issue is recognition.

"People assume they have the right to look down on us or treat us badly because in a lot of people’s opinions, we’re just bad," Poppa says.

"We’re consenting, nobody was forced," Momma says. "What I want is to be accepted as a wife. I want to be accepted as a family. I don’t want to be looked down upon."

There is, of course, one difference: at least some polygamists argue that their position is biblical.

More Spin on Immigration

The lead editorial in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, "Immigration (Spin) Control," uses all the rhetorical tricks normally associated with the far left in its continuing assault on those who seek enforcement of our immigration laws: Straw man argument, definitional legerdemain, playing fast and loose with statistics, mischaracterizations, false accusations, and outright lies. So who’s doing the "spin" here?

Only from its myopic perch in Manhattan could the WSJ editorial board subscribe to the view that Senator John Campbell won the California special congressional election to replace Chris Cox "in a walk." The district is one of the most solidly republican in the state, and State Senator John Campbell, a popular elected official (and a good man, too) was the party’s only candidate on Tuesday, yet he managed only 45% of the vote in a district with a 65%/35% major party registration advantage (and better than 50% Republican registration overall, even including the nearly 20% "Declined to State" number). And he received a smaller percentage of the vote in the run-off than he had received in the primary election, in which he faced 11 other republicans. Jim Gilchrist, on the other hand, running as a minor-party candidate (and not an enviable minor party at that) went from 14.8% in the primary to 25% in the run-off election, despite his party’s 1.8% registration in the district. In other words, Gilchrist drew almost all of the votes that had gone to other republicans in the primary.

Worse, calling Jim Gilchrist a "restrictionist", and falsely accusing those who supported him as being anti-immigration (rather than anti-illegal immigration, a big difference) is beneath the editorial pages of the WSJ. Using the double speak of the left is likewise. "Law-abiding businesses that happen to hire illegals"--that would make the businesses not law-abiding in most folks’ definition--is as bad as the left’s use of "undocumented" as a euphemism for illegal. And it is simply false to assert, as the WSJ does, that these businesses can’t tell the difference "between real and fake immigration documents." As surely even the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal knows, that ignorance (if it ever existed at all) lasts only as long as employers’ first quarterly filings of withholding taxes, because they receive a letter from the government notifying them that the Social Security number does not match the employee’s name. "As if anyone could tell the difference" indeed.

"But we need the labor," pleads the WSJ, and the only way to get it is via immigration. If true, then lets raise the quotas for legal immigration and streamline the process. Why is it that the WSJ is not pushing for such an easy legislative fix? My guess: legal immigration labor would not be much different than citizen labor; same wages, same workplace rules, same withholding taxes, even the same resort to the tort system. The only way to get the financial bang from immigrant labor that the WSJ seems to want is to have a slavish pool of illegal migrant workers. This is starting to bear an uncanny resemblance to John C. Calhoun’s positive good arguments for slavery, and it is making me sick to my stomach. It should make us all sick.

The Los Angeles Times, at least, is accurately reporting the growing movement in Congress to address the problem of illegal immigration. Note, though: Tamar Jacoby, of the Manhattan Institute, continues her utter ignorance of the problem, apparently afflicted by the same Manhattan myopia suffered by the WSJ editorial board. "I have never met a poor person who has his wife walk across the desert at eight months pregnant so they can wait 21 years to be sponsored by their child," she is quoted as saying. Ms. Jacoby: Let’s debate the subject, and let’s hold the debate in San Diego or El Paso. We can begin with a nighttime visit to the border, and you can "meet" some of the poor people you think do not exist. Coming across at a clip of more than 1 million a year, we should not have to wait long before we find 1 (or 100) "with child."

Calling all military geeks

This will appeal. Hat tip: Instapundit.


DOJ and voting rights

This WaPo article makes it seem as if the voting rights lawyers in the Justice Department are disinterested solons, whose advice the politicos at the top are ignoring, as in the Georgia voter ID case. My guess is that many of the non-political appointees are much more like the ex-employee quoted in the article, people committed to a particular vision of civil rights enforcement at odds with that offered by the Bush Administration. In other words, these bureaucrats aren't offering neutral expertise, which the Bush Administration is ignoring or overturning; they're pursuing an agenda that is as political as that pursued by the Bush Administration.

If you're not up to speed on this case, the page containing this WaPo article also has links to the memo some disinterested politically neutral bureaucrat leaked. Here's another WaPo article that provides crucial background (note the corrections at the top of the page). The money quote comes from Roger Clegg:

To Roger Clegg, the situation is also perfectly understandable. A former civil rights deputy in the Reagan administration who is now general counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, Clegg said the civil rights area tends to attract activist liberal lawyers who are philosophically opposed to a more conservative approach.

"If the career people are not reflecting the policy priorities of the political appointees, then there's a problem," Clegg said. "Elections have consequences in a democracy."

Categories > Race

No big tent here

The Democratic treatment of Senator Joe Lieberman tells me two things. First, the party leadership is essentially in the thrall of, unwilling to brook serious intraparty disagreement about how best to proceed in Iraq. Second, the leaders aren’t leaders, as they claim as their warrant for the position they hold the views of "the majority of the American people." While, last I checked, Nancy Pelosi was wrong about that, it is nonetheless revealing that she seems to be unwilling or unable to imagine taking a position at odds with what she perceives to be public sentiment. I guess she would have been excoriating anti-slavery Democrats in 1860.

Update: More here and here.

All things Narnia

Current plans call for at least dad and son to see the movie tomorrow morning. For commentary about the movie, the NRO site is hard to beat: Frederic Mathewes-Green, John J. Miller, Rich Lowry, Catherine Seipp, and a Q & A with a producer. If you’re left wanting more, there’s James Kushiner at Mere Comments (which will likely have more as more contributors make it to the movie), and Jonathan V. Last.

I’ll let you know what I think (and, more importantly, what other family members think) after we’ve seen the movie.

Update: My son and I saw the movie this afternoon. Both of us liked it a good deal, though not, I think, as much as we liked (and still like) the LOTR trilogy. The de rigeur cinematic bells and whistles were excellent: the natural vistas were beautiful, the CGI battle scenes were impressive, and the fantasy characters were extremely well-done. Everyone says that Tilda Swinton is a magnificent White Witch, and I’d have to agree, though she may scare some younger viewers. (We lost our viewing partners on the basis of her appearance in the trailer; my friend and his eight year old daughter were set to go until she was spooked by the witch.) The child/teen actors are very believeable and effective.

I think that children and parents who grew up with Narnia will be quite pleased with the movie, and so will some others (see John Moser’s comment below). It’s pretty faithful to the book, and captures its message of redemptive sacrifice very well. The bells and whistles don’t overwhelm the story, and (certainly in my 10 year old son’s case) may seal some people’s allegiance to the movie. (He’s already announced that he has to have the DVD when it comes out; I know which parts he’ll watch over and over again.)

Here, however, I must confess that I was not one of those who grew up with Narnia; I came to Lewis later in life, and then through his apologetic writings (which I like a good deal). (I was a Tolkien reader as a young teen, but didn’t then make the bridge to Lewis.) Perhaps that explains my relatively greater affection for the LOTR movies, despite their problems: the Tolkien story is written for a more "grown up" audience than are the Narnia tales. Coming to it as an adult, I don’t find the Narnia story as rich and rewarding as the tale of the rings. As a parent, I see how it works for my children, and I cherish it for that. But as an adult movie-goer, I’m satisfied but not blown away.

I’ll be interested to see whether my response is idiosyncratic. Will the film build an audience apart from families and those who fell in love with the story when they were young? Will it lead more mature viewers back to Lewis’s books? I’m interested in others’ thoughts.

Ridgeview Classical School, best in Colorado

How do you become the best high school in a state? Teach to state standardized tests, or read Plato, Shakespeare, and Homer? Four years after opening, Ridgeview Classical School, a charter school in Ft. Collins, becomes the best high school in Colorado, according to the Department of Education. Congratulations to the headmaster Dr. Terrence Moore, and the two former Ashbrooks who teach there. Here is Ridgeview’s web site.

Interesting upcoming conference

Those of you in hailing distance of Chicago, or looking for an interesting and congenial conference, conducted on a human scale, should consider proposing a paper or panel for the annual meeting of the Association for Core Texts and Courses. I’ll not be going this year (I have other travel plans for the Spring and promised my wife that I’d minimize my time away--with the one caveat that I’m almost always permitted to go somewhere in exchange for a contribution to the family finances), but have enjoyed the conferences in the past and expect to enjoy them again in the future.

The papers are expected to be relatively short (roughly six pages) and focused both on teaching and on core texts. This leaves lots of time for interesting conversations in the panel sessions.

The group itself is far from ideologically homogeneous, united by its interest in the idea of a common educational experience surrounding compelling works of literature, philosophy, and history, rather than by a particular cultural or political agenda. The conference provides a setting, in other words, where liberals and conservatives can find a common ground and have stimulating and productive exchanges. It’s often not clear to me what my interlocutors’ political leanings are, nor, for that matter, do I wear my political allegiances on my sleeve.

It takes a hurricane to restructure a university

Tulane University--the largest employer in New orleans--"facing significant financial shortfalls since Hurricane Katrina, announced a plan yesterday to reduce its annual operating budget by laying off 230 faculty members, cutting seven NCAA Division I programs and eliminating underperforming academic programs.

Administrators say the long-term plan -- which will ultimately reduce the annual budget by $55 million [circa 10% of its operating budget] -- is to create a stronger and leaner undergraduate school by focusing on strong programs in such areas as architecture, business, arts and sciences while jettisoning some engineering programs that were not as highly rated."

"Full-time faculty will be required to teach undergraduates, and by keeping the school smaller, officials said they will not have to lower admission standards."
The whole thing is worth reading. There is information about other colleges in New Orleans. The New York Times also runs a story on Tulane.

Federal spending

This chart shows federal spending, expressed as a fraction of GDP, that federal spending has not grown dramatically in recent years: "No, the only category where it seems clear that Bush has deliberately let the money flow freely is in defense. So if you think that the federal government’s spending has grown too fast in recent years, turn your attention to defense spending and health care. That’s where the money has been going." Useful links. (via Instapundit)

Economic growth

James C. Cooper explains with clarity and brevity why the economy is doing so well. Last querter’s growth was 4.3%, and for the year it will be circa 3.7%.

White House holidays, take 2

As I predicted, Get Religion would provide more interesting material. This time, Terry Mattingly notes that the Cooperman story may owe something to an Americans United press release. (What gives? They have a copy of the card, but I don’t! As my son once said, "What am I, chopped lumber?")

I also note that the Bushes celebrated Hannukah, which Presidents have done with some regularity since the Carter Administration.

He is president of all the people and can join in--and thereby "endorse"--the celebration of any holiday Americans celebrate. His act is an act of respect and inclusion, not an establishment of religion. The sooner we think of holiday greetings as respectful and inclusive, rather than oppressive, the sooner we can leave behind the baggage with which innocent greetings and celebrations have been weighed down.

Let’s call a Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa truce: no litigation or threat of litigation by anyone. Let people celebrate and greet one another without having to think too hard about what to say. In the unlikely event that there’s conflict, we can work it out, person to person.

Iraq matters

Yesterday, the President gave a speech on Iraqi reconstruction to an apparently unfriendly audience. You can read other accounts of the speech here and here. Democrats and NYT reporters didn’t like what he had to say, but electioneering proceeds apace.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jack Murtha wants us to pay attention to him because he talks to people in the military.

And the President’s polls are trending upward, including this one from the NYT, though the folks over there can’t bring themselves to admit that a documentable shift in sentiment over Iraq (still negative, but not as bad as it was) has anything to do with this.

Narrow-minded Christian theocrat at play


WSJ Debate on Birthright Citizenship

The Wall Street Journal this morning published my lengthy response to Tamar Jacoby’s op-ed challending my position on birthright citizenship. Letters by Northwestern Professor Stuart Meyer and Congressmen Lamar Smith of Texas and Dan Lungren of California supporting my position were published last week as well. This is an important debate, and long overdue. Comments on the exchange are welcome.

War Cabinet

Senator Lieberman calls for the creation of a "war cabinet" to provide advice and direction for the war effort.

His "Bipartisan Victory in Iraq Administrative Group," designed to take some of the political edge off the war debate, would be modeled after similar panels during the Vietnam War and World War II. Lieberman: "It’s time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he’ll be commander-in-chief for three more years," the senator said. "We undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril." Remember the rumor back in Fenruary that Lieberman would replace Rumsfeld?

Remember Pearl Harbor

As most of you probably realize, today is Pearl Harbor Day. Sixty-four years ago, early on a sunny Sunday morning, Japanese aircraft struck the U.S. Pacific Fleet as it lay at anchor. Within a few hours twelve warships were sunk or damaged, 188 planes destroyed (almost all of them on the ground), and some 2,400 American servicemen (and another 68 civilians) were dead.

This morning I was on a local radio show talking about the attack, and the host asked me what its legacy was. I told him that the country would never be the same again. In 1940 most Americans were dismayed at the German conquest of France, but did not see it as an urgent matter of national security. By 1950 Americans had become convinced that just about any nation, including South Korea, was vital to the nation’s defense. It was Pearl Harbor that brought about this colossal shift in American perceptions about the country’s role in world affairs.

For those who would like to commemorate the day by learning more about the events of December 7, I recommend the National Geographic site remembering Pearl Harbor.

Giant jellyfish

Everything you want to know is here, but Tom Cerber has even more. The only solution seems to be to eat them.

Bad Boy Perlstein

John Moser below draws our attention to Rick Perlstein’s comments at the Princeton conference on the conservative movement. I was present for the conference and can add a few details.

Perlstein, a delightful fellow in person, affects a fascination and respect for conservatives and conservatism, but he seems to relish playing the bad boy role when he appears at conservative conferences. His argument seems to boil down to this proposition: examples of bad behavior by conservatives in power suggests an intrinsic hypocrisy in the conservative movement. In the discussion period I challenged him sharply on two points: first, whether he could establish an organic link between conservative ideas and the instances of bad behavior that he cited, or whether bad behavior wasn’t endemic to politics since at least Alcibiades. (Couldn’t I, I said, compile an inventory just as long of bad behavior by liberals in power? In other words, isn’t he really just vindicating Acton, and therefore saying very little of signficance about the character of conservative ideas?) Second, I challenged him on his entirely typical use of the "southern strategy" charge against the GOP, arguing that if he was going to play that card he ought at least to acknowledge which party invented it in the first place and note instances such as Jimmy Carter’s blatant racial appeals as late as Carter’s governor’s race in 1970 (Perlstein nodded in agreement at this), and moreover that the pattern of GOP ascendence in the South (i.e., winning first in the border states and winning last in the deep south where racial sentiment was strongest--the case Gerard Alexander made so superbly in the Claremont Review a while back) suggested that the story of the political realignment in the south had more to do with broader cultural issues, such as Democratic hostility or indifference to religion. In reply, Perlstein merely repeated himself rather than grapple with my arguments. To repeat, I like Perlstein, but I wonder whether he feels the need to protect his left flank when he is slumming it with us, or whether his own ideological partisanship gets the better of him sometimes.

Europe’s Welfare-Colonialism

No Pasaran has some thoughts on this by John Vincour in the International Herald Tribune:

"If the United States has historically had more success in integrating its immigrants than Europe does nowadays, it’s because the American work ethic makes greater demands on the newcomers than Europe’s welfare societies - at the same time that America offers a job-related payback in dignity and the prospect of success."

Strategic Redeployment

The N.Y. Daily News rips Howard Dean’s comments on Iraq. Writers for the Washington Post claim that Dems are worried about Dean, Pelosi, et al, stands on Iraq. They flatter themselves into thinking that control of the House is at stake. Charlie Cook thinks that Bush’s poll numbers have stabilized, and it may even be ticking up.

Alito on parents’ rights again

This week’s TAE Online column elaborates on the analysis I began here. The decision stands as a good example of judicial circumspection, interesting for what it does and doesn’t do, and for Judge Alito’s participation in it.

Presidential Christmases

Anyone interested in how Presidents speak about Christmas can consider the documents in this list (all 846 of them, from Hoover through GWB in 2004). If you’re in Texas, you might want to see this exhibit. In D.C., there is of course this. If you’re in Illinois, this is the place to be. The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum has been there and done that, as has its GHWB counterpart.

Any teacher out there who wants a resource on White House Christmases, could do worse than downloading this.

Update: The list of Presidential documents doesn’t show up in the link (curses!). But if you do a keyword search for "Christmas" you can generate it on your own.

Update #2: Alan Cooperman has more on the Bushes’ "holiday" card this year. Here’s a White House photo essay and Laura Bush’s remarks at a holiday press event. There is a Bible verse in the White House card, taken from Psalm 28. Folks who are better connected than I am (Peter? Steve?) may know the precise verse (I have my own guess), but the whole context is nonetheless interesting:

Psalm 28

Of David.

1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.

4 Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back upon them what they deserve.

5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.

6 Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Last Update (I promise): And the winner is...
Ps 28:7.

The Christmas wars

Religion Clause points us to this article about this year’s culture clashes. At the center of the article is a story from my neck of the woods, just up the interstate, in fact. It seems that an overzealous and ill-informed elementary school principal provoked this helpful response from the Alliance Defense Fund.

For my interventions, go here (this year) and here (last year).

Get Religion has at least three good pieces, with more surely to come.

Kennedy and Bush, Vietnam and Iraq

Much talked about yesterday was this op-ed by JFK’s court historians, Theodore Sorenson and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. In case you were lucky enough to have missed it, they claim--as did Oliver Stone some years ago--that Kennedy was preparing to withdraw from Vietnam when that bullet from the book repository found its mark.

Over at Big Tent, historian Tom Bruscino finds the piece "riddled" with "distortions, hostility, and falsehoods." "What a shame," he laments, "that this is the best we seem to be able to get from two men who were serious players in the age of muscular liberalism."

Have Republicans Become the Party of Watergate?

I am not in the habit of directing people toward essays by Rick Perlstein (although his 2001 book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus is one of the best political histories I have ever read), particularly when they appear on Arianna Huffington’s blog, but this rumination on the state of conservatism strikes me at least of being worthy of our consideration. I think it’s pretty clear that many conservatives--certainly those in power--have abandoned the principles of Goldwater (and, by extension, of John M. Ashbrook) in favor of an agenda that views their own political power practically as an end in itself. Consider this:

Young Americans for Freedom distributed a pamphlet in 1965: the text of the inaugural address of their first chairman named after the Goldwater defeat. It excoriated conservatives "who abuse the truth, who resort to violence and engage in slander," and "who seek victory at any price without regard for the broken lives...incurred by those who stand in the way." That is the spirit of Barry Goldwater.... As he put it in Conscience of a Conservative--in italics: "we entrust the conduct of our affairs to men who understand that their first duty as public officials is to divest themselves of the power they have been given."

Who are the conservatives in Washington, or in Columbus for that matter, who are taking this view now? Perlstein continues by suggesting that conservatism has become "a strategy of psychological innocence":

If the first guy turns out to be someone you would not care to be associated with, you have an easy, Platonic, out:...well, maybe he’s a Republican. Or a neocon, or a paleo. He’s certainly not a conservative. The structure holds whether it’s William Kristol calling out Pat Buchanan, or Pat Buchanan calling out William Kristol.

As the Internet’s smartest liberal blogger, Digby, puts it, tongue only partially in cheek: "’Conservative’ is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives’ good graces. Until they aren’t. At which point they are liberals."

Read the whole thing. Expect to get angry. But expect to think.

The 2006 Congressional Elections

Jay Cost (he ran the valuable Horse Race Blog during the 2004 election) writes a thoroughly thoughtful piece on how you should read polls for off-year congressional races, and why they are difficult to read, even if you know how. He concludes that it is almost certainly the case--based on what we now know about the electorate’s views now--that no great changes should occur in 2006. Also see this September column by Cost on the same theme.

Is Lowell Weicker back?

Former CT Gov. Lowell Weicker "criticized Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s continued support of the war in Iraq and said that if no candidate challenged the senator on the issue in the 2006 election, he would consider running." I sent money to Liberman in 1988 when he ran against Sen. Weicker who then called himself a Republican; I may have to do it again. Weicker is not one of my favorite politicians.

Pigs fly

I agree with E.J. Dionne, Jr..

Update: Justin at Southern Appeal disagrees. I’d love to see Judge Alito defend the position he and others in the Reagan Administration took vis-a-vis Roe, because it implicates a number of other conservative jurisprudential principles. Will he? I’m less certain than I once was that he will.

India’s manufacturing sector

Do you think that India’s economy is entirely service oriented? Then consider India’s manufacturing capacity. Sebastian Mallaby, in a WaPo op-ee, argues that until the reforms of the 1990s, "India had good engineers but lousy manufacturing because high tariff walls made its firms complacent. But the opening of India’s economy has forced its manufacturers to reinvent themselves." More competition for Detroit. Yet, also see this. Also note that Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, plans to invest more than $1 billion in India to strengthen its operations in the country.

Educating boys

Here’s a piece on educating boys that speaks to our experience with our son. A snippet:

Beginning in very early grades, the sit-still, read-your-book, raise-your-hand-quietly, don’t-learn-by-doing-but-by-taking-notes classroom is a worse fit for more boys than it is for most girls. This was always the case, but we couldn’t see it 100 years ago. We didn’t have the comparative element of girls at par in classrooms. We taught a lot of our boys and girls separately. We educated children with greater emphasis on certain basic educational principles that kept a lot of boys "in line" -- competitive learning was one. And our families were deeply involved in a child’s education.

Yup. That’s one of the reasons why our kids are educated at home, rather than in school.

Public opinion on Iraq: duelling political scientists

Peter notes this article about this document. As he notes, this is political science, not rocket science: people are willing to tolerate casualties as long as they think we’re winning, something that would be news only to those who don’t want to think about winning. For more on Peter Feaver, the Duke political scientist supposedly behind the document, go here. It turns out that the Post scooped the NYT back in June. Feaver, by the way, published a number of pro-Bush op-eds and articles during the first Bush (43) Administration.

Writing in the WaPo, Jonathan Rauch offers a different reading of public opinion on Iraq, one that owes a debt to Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, who holds the Woody Hayes (??) Chair of National Security Studies (and is cited as a critic of Feaver in the NYT article discussed above). Here’s the Mueller article that prompted Rauch’s piece. By focusing on Korea and Vietnam (and not taking into account WW II), Mueller argues, in essence, that all that matters in influencing American public opinion is the casualty rate, and that, once opinion turns against the war, the slide can’t be reversed. You can see earlier and shorter versions of the same argument here and here. In general, he looks forward to the pull-out, since it would cure us of our imperialist overweening. He doesn’t seem too troubled by the conclusions the Islamists would draw, taking them more or less in stride, though he does concede that if failure in Iraq leads to terrorism on U.S. soil, the consequence would be "politically devastating." Only politically?

A note on the Shouters

Scott Shane in the New York Times tries, not very subtly, to make the point that the NSC’s document, National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, is nothing more than a PR document, written by some political scientists who have argued that the public will support the war if they believed it would ultimately succeed. Once again we are in the realm of rocket science here, only the very smart can play! So, I should decline. But some things are not to be resisted! Bush keeps making the same points about Iraq he has always made. His strategy seems the same, while the tactics vary; he doesn’t advertise the changes. This makes sense to me. His opponents--the Shouters--yell and make things up. This is part of politics, albeit not the highest part. I have been enjoying this, since Katrina, actually. Now the focus is on Iraq. Why? because something very bad has happened in Iraq? No, no. It’s merely that the bad press from Katrina, combined with the bad press on the Libby indictment, made it possible for the shouters to be heard, so they yelled even louder than normal. It’s kind of fun watching Murtha be wrong, watching the MSM misrepresent him; watching Pelosi show her real colors, watching Kerry sitting on the fence once again; and then watching Hillary the Great tip-toe in her husband’s large moderate footprints on her way to the Democratic nomination, via her re-election to the Senate. She will, in the end, do as much damage to her own party as her husband did. But no one wants to talk about that.

Bush is betting that Iraq will turn out as he said it should and would. Because he is not to be moved on this very large and consequential issue, he is prepared to be defined by it, both now and in history. I like that. And I think he is right. Do the bad poll numbers matter? Judging by the MSM coverage, the GOP will lose the U.S. Senate next year, and a couple dozen seats in the House, and perhaps all of Ohio (see Saturday’s N.Y. Times front page, "Democrats Sense Chances in Ohio for 2006 Vote"). I don’t think so. The poll numbers don’t count. Not yet. Let’s talk about poll numbers in April and May, when the numbers are going to start having some meaning. They don’t mean anything at moment. Example, the economy continues to do very well, yet most people (according to polls) think that Bush is not handling the economy well. If this means anything it only means that the MSM’s portrayal of the economy is so skewed that people aren’t getting the facts (or it takes longer). No big thing, I say. Yet, I admit that sometimes I would like the White House to come at their opponents a bit stronger and a bit more often than they usually do. The problem is that they had some bad luck in the last few months (Katrina and Libby) and made a very bad decision (Harriet Miers). That is the backdrop. The Shouters saw the opportunity, took pot shots on everything (including Iraq), but are now nearly out of bullets. Besides, the cowboys are firing back, and facts are harder to ignore over time.

New President for Ashland University

Ashland University has selected a new president. He is Dr. Frederick Finks and will take office on July 1, 2006. I have reason to think that he not only values Ashland, but understands, to praraphrase Churchill, that our students should come to the university less to learn a trade--although no one denies that we must learn to support ourselves--than to learn how to live well. Churchill: "The first duty of a university is to teach wisdom not a trade; character not technicalities." I congratulate him, and wish him the best.

Broken Army

Here is an Illinois National Guardsman’s response to Rep. Murtha’s "broken Army" comments. Short and to the point. (via Instapundit).

On messy constitution making

I like Justin Paulette’s retelling of the messy ways in which the American Constitution was ratified because the disorderly nature of the process comes through to clearly. Then he wants you to think about Iraq. Can they do it? Has it been messy, what with shouting and boycotts and revisions and killings? Yet, human nature being what it is, there is plenty of room for optimism. Or, put another way, we have opened the Pandora’s box of freedom in Iraq and the region.  

Beowulf and Angelina Jolie

I discovered yesterday while sitting in the dentist chair and thumbing through People magazine (nothing else there, really!) that Angelina Jolie will be starring in a Robert Zemeckis animated adaptation of Beowulf. As my son and I are now reading the excellent Robert Nye version of the story, I am beginning to wonder if there is some cosmic connection between the books I read to my children and the cartoons Hollywood is producing. Probably not. But I hope they keep the Nye telling of the story in mind in producing this film. Consider this beautiful description of the character of Beowulf: "Beowulf had made the best of all he had, putting each imperfection to work in the service of his integrity. Thus, his real strength lay in the balance of his person--which is, perhaps, another way of saying that he was strong because he was good, and good because he had the strength to accept things in him that were bad."

Eloise Anderson and "The Great Racial Divide"

It won’t be out for a while but NLT readers should keep an eye and an ear out for a forthcoming Claremont Institute monograph from Eloise Anderson titled, The Great Racial Divide: Why Conservatives Fail to Pesuade Blacks. Advance praise for the piece comes both from our distinguished and fearless lead blogger, Peter Schramm who said:

"Eloise Anderson’s unflinching and common sense approach to understanding this quintessentially American problem is a must read for any serious person contemplating the future prospects of the Republican party--not just with black voters but across the board. It is a must read for any serious person who wants to understand the true nature of the racial divide in America and who is looking for practical ways to encourage its healing."

and from Shelby Steele who says the following:

"In The Great Racial Divide Eloise Anderson puts her finger precisely on what is missing in the new "compassionate conservatism:" the resonant understanding that black Americans come to modern conservatism out of an experience of betrayal and exclusion. She tells us that it is not enough now to just offer blacks the great truths of the conservative movement. Conservatives must examine their own indulgence in "states rights" arguments, the "southern strategy," the creation of majority-minority congressional districts, their accommodation to identity politics at the expense of integration, their occasional openness to the notion of black intellectual inferiority, and so on. More clearly than any other black conservative, Anderson articulates the racial challenge of modern conservatism: to be deepened by a fuller understanding of the black American experience. This monograph should become a manifesto of the Republican Party."

Further, having edited the piece myself and talked at length with Ms. Anderson about it, I can tell you that I think her ideas are some of the most original and thoughtful I’ve seen in years. I will keep you posted on the publication release date.

Arnie Meltdown

And NLT readers thought Ohio GOP politics were interesting . . . In the wake of the defeat of all four of his ballot initiatives last month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made the wise decision to replace his chief of staff, Patricia Clarey (who was supposed to lead that effort). Unfortunately, he replaced her with one Susan Kennedy, a longtime committed Democrat and one who worked in the Gray Davis administration! It is, I confess, utterly baffling. Arnie claims that he wants to move beyond partisan politics. Of course he does. Word is Maria was pretty peeved about the special election. But this does not bode well for his political future. In claiming that Ms. Kennedy, who served as executive director of the California Democratic Party and executive director of the California Abortion Rights Action League, was the "best" choice available, Schwarzenneger further distanced himself from his base with insult added to injury. Also see this from the Los Angeles Times, this from, this from The Remedy and finally several posts at Local Liberty.

Alito and parental rights

From Bench Memos we learn of this decision, joined by Samuel Alito (though he didn’t write it), in a suit brought by parents regarding a survey, including questions about sex, administered to middle school and high school students. I wrote about a previous and much more inflammatory decision here.

I haven’t had time to do more than skim the decision, but my first impression is that the reasoning is much more nuanced than that of the 9th Circuit decision and that it embodies a sober and limited understanding of the place of constitutional adjudication in our political order. The school authorities here seem to have had good intentions, but to have made a hash of administering the survey (unlike in the Palmdale case, where they clearly didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag about the substance of the questionnaire).

At first glance, the decision vindicates my general line of argument that judicially-enforceable parental rights don’t extend as far as some of us parents might like and that the appropriate response is heavy parental involvement (in schools, school board politics, and in "privatization").

Judge Alito and his brethren look good by comparison with their colleagues on the 9th Circuit.

Alito update

This story suggests that Democrats will try to make an issue of this memo regarding the case I discussed here.

Here’s the relevant passage from the memo:

Our point is that,
even after Akron, abortion is not unregulable. There may be an
opportunity to nudge the Court toward the principles in Justice O’Connor’s Akron dissent, to provide greater recognition of the states’ interest in protecting the unborn throughout pregnancy, or to dispel in part the mystical faith in the attending
physician that supports Roe and the subsequent cases.

I find this approach preferable to a frontal assault on
Roe v. Wade. It has most of the advantages of a brief devoted to the overruling of Roe v. Wade: it makes our position
clear, does not even tacitly concede Roe’s legitimacy, and signals that we regard the question as live and open. At the
same time, it is free of many of the disadvantages that would accompany a major effort to overturn Roe. When the Court hands
down its decision and Roe is not overruled, the decision will not be portrayed as a stinging rebuke. We also will not forfeit the opportunity to address--and we will not prod the Court into summarily rejecting--the important secondary arguments outlined above. [Footnote omitted.]

I’ve only skimmed the memo, which strikes me (on this quick reading) as thoughtful and well-argued. The footnote I omitted above cites the law review arguments everyone cites that criticize Roe. As I noted earlier, I hope that Judge Alito doesn’t run away from this position, which is certainly defensible on legal and constitutional grounds, well within the mainstream of scholarly legal opinion, and, I expect, relatively popular with a broad swath of American public opinion.

Here’s the NYT article, which provides this interesting bit of context for the memo:

Charles Fried, a professor at Harvard Law School and the Reagan administration solicitor general in 1985, said he called Mr. Specter on Thursday to play down the significance of Judge Alito’s role in the memorandum. In an administration adamantly opposed to Roe v. Wade, Professor Fried said, Judge Alito had recommended avoiding a direct attack in favor of a piecemeal approach through lesser regulations.

There’s also this:

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and a strong administration ally, said Judge Alito’s memorandum should ease concern about his abortion views, not heighten them.

"This latest memo demonstrates that even as a government lawyer Judge Alito did not advocate a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade, which is what his critics have accused him of plotting," Mr. Cornyn said.

You can find Judge Alito’s SJC questionnaire here and other new DOJ documents here and here.

Update: Ed Whelan notes that the Sandra Day O’Connor of 1983 and 1986 was not a big fan of Roe. I’ll add that Judge Alito, in the "infamous" memo wanted to push the Court in the direction of O’Connor’s dissent in Akron. Would the Sandra Day O’Connor of the 1980s be unacceptable to PFAW et al today?

Congressional reading habits

Human Events Online talked to some members of Congress about books they’re reading. No Homer, no Plato, no Shakespeare, though many mentioned Scripture and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) mentioned Federalist #10. Biographies and autobiographies were high on people’s reading lists. Sam Brownback liked biographies of British abolitionist William Wilberforce, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) liked Barry Goldwater’s autobiography, and John Thune began with William Manchester’s magisterial biographies of Winston Churchill. Hillary Clinton couldn’t answer "on the fly"; guess her people needed to run a focus group first.

Hat tip: Katie Newmark.

Birthday Thoughts

John Andrews at The Remedy reminds us that this week marks the birthdays, not only of Winston Churchill, but also of Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis. He poses a great hypothetical question for each of these three heroes as regards our time.

I will leave it to others who have posted here and posted well about Twain and Churchill to continue in that good work. But as my daughter and I are now deep into the world of Narnia (planning to finish book 7 just in time for the release of the movie) I offer this from book 6 The Silver Chair : Prince Rilian and the children (along with Puddleglum--the strange pessimistic creature who accompanies them on their journey) are about to embark on an escape from the Witch’s lair that is most dangerous. There is some hesitation as they realize they are likely to die in the effort to save Narnia and themselves.

"Friends," said the Prince, "when once a man is launched on such an adventure as this, he must bid farewell to hopes and fears, otherwise death or deliverance will both come too late to save his honor and his reason."

The Future of Europe?

Between this story about a Belgian woman who (through her husband) became a convert to a radical version of Islam and a suicide bomber and the riots in France last month, the future of Europe begins to look bleak indeed. How can the secular culture of today’s Europe combat this kind of fanaticism? What does it offer to capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of their people? With so little to inspire them, the spread of radical Islam in Europe will become more than just an immigration problem. It seems to be becoming a conversion problem. Perhaps Ann Coulter mispoke after all when she called some years ago for stepped up Christian missionary efforts in the Islamic world. Perhaps where we really need them is in Europe.

Military recruiters in high schools

David Schaefer blows the whistle on the spokeswoman for the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools, which opposes military recruitment in high schools. Turns out there may be more than meets the eye.

Democrats and religion

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has some tongue-in-cheek advice for Democrats who don’t wish to sound overly secular.

Abortion: the road not taken

George Will summarizes and comments on this speech, which is "must reading" for anyone who wishes to think seriouly about the constitutional politics of abortion.