Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

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.