Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Evidence that Teachers Unions Really Care About "THE CHILDREN"

This story about the AFL-CIO announcing a partnership with the NEA cannot be good news. But it does clarify things, doesn’t it? Time to play hard ball with these folks.

More ports

Yesterday, Senator Susan Collins released this unclassified excerpt from a Coast Guard report produced in December. You can read other stories here (AP), here (WaTi), and here (NYT).

The burden of the excerpt--a small portion of a larger report produced early in the process--is that there are questions as yet unanswered regarding security. Fair enough.

The Coast Guard says they were answered by the time CFIUS made its final decision:

At the briefing on Monday, Adm. Thomas H. Gilmour, assistant Coast Guard commandant for marine safety, security and environmental protection, said the unclassified portion of the review should be considered in the context of the full report, which is classified.

And a statement issued Monday night by the Coast Guard described the excerpt as part of "a broader Coast Guard intelligence analysis that was performed early on as part of its due diligence process." The statement said the excerpt, taken out of context, did not reflect the full analysis, which "concludes ’that DP World’s acquisition of P&O, in and of itself, does not pose a significant threat to U.S. assets in ports.’ "

Senator Collins can’t imagine that these questions were answered by the end of the 30-day process, but here’s what someone from DHS said:

"We negotiated unprecedented assurances from these two companies with respect to their security practices, assurances that I think addressed the question of what are their operations," said Stewart A. Baker, an assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

I understand what opponents of the sale gain by releasing the Coast Guard snippet, which appears, but only appears, to vindicate their concerns, both about the sale and about the approval process. Offering us partial information like this simply serves further to inflame public opinion, or perhaps to fan flames that were beginning to die down. But it doesn’t help us resolve the question of whether this is a good and safe sale.

I also note in passing that Hillary Rodham Clinton is co-sponsoring two bills, one to mandate the 45-day review of this sale and retain Congress’ authority to block it and one that would altogether "block the sale and ban companies owned by foreign governments from controlling U.S. port operations." The latter suggests that she has made up her mind and that no further information can alter her conclusions, which is not a position becoming to someone who is a member of what used to be called "the world’s greatest deliberative body." While I expect that she thinks this helps her presidential aspirations (bashing an ally shows that she’s tough on national security?), but I wonder how warm a welcome she would receive as President (shudder!) from our erstwhile allies in the Gulf.

Update: Rich Lowry smells a nativist rat.

Plastic surgery

If you have political ambitions, make yourself look more like Hillary Rodham Clinton. Don’t ever, ever make yourself look like John McCain.


Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness landed on my desk this afternoon. The publication date was moved up by a few weeks. Not good. My life will be more confused, for everything will take a back seat to this gift from the deep. I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon and took the book. As I waited for the body doctor I read randomly from the soul doctor...every sentence interesting, biting, clear, even poetic. Not a blemish on any. The book is full of he-men and man-words and ideas that build on the flat world because man’s worth has been asserted and there is blandness no more. So Mansfield asserts the worth and then proves it, as does the old man against the sea. The doctors let me go (all is well, I’m fine), so I stayed in the ante-room and read a bit more. There is Darwin, and Kipling as Darwin, in spirit if not in letter. Men can’t be indifferent to "some God of Abstract Justice." Mansfield: "Every man is his mother’s son and thus better defended by her than by himself. But he would not be better ruled by her. A woman’s disregard of justice gives her license to command but not to govern, since governing has to do with justice." There was more at the Chinese restaurant, despite the poor lighting. "Manliness is not too modest to assert itself, to tell us the value of the manly man." And later, there is Socrates showing that it is the logos in command and not he, and because philosophy is devoted to the what, it abstracts from the who, from the particulars of human life, indeed, from human life itself. Attention to human life is what we call realism, says Mansfield, "especially womanly realism as shown in the following he/she joke. He ’The trouble with women is that they always take things personally.’ She: ’Doesn’t apply to me.’" And then a reminder that teachers have to take manliness into account when they teach for sometimes their teaching calls students to manliness and not moderation. And as he moves toward his conclusion he reminds us that we have to respect the differences between male and female, yet remind ourselves that the convention in which we do this is modern liberalism, not ancient Greece. So the last chapter is called "Unemployed Manliness" I glance at it, sip more tea, and drive home in the snow storm. It will be a rough couple of days, but welcome.

Cheney to Resign after Midterms?

Insight Magazine reports that Dick Cheney will likely step down following the mid-term elections as he becomes "an increasing political liability" to the administration. Of course, it’s hard to say whether reports like this are to be taken seriously, but it does sound plausible. Perhaps more interesting than the resignation would be the appointment of a replacement. Would Bush attempt to play king-maker and name one of the candidates hoping to succeed him, or name someone widely respected but certain not to seek the 2008 nomination? (via Drudge)

Taliban at Yale

Chip Brown writes the cover article for the Sunday New York Times Magazine on Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former ambassador-at-large for the Taliban, and now a Freshman at Yale University. Do you think this is a little odd?
John Fund does. He thinks it would be something akin to Yale letting Josef Goebbels come in. I wonder if Yale alumns (which includes Bush) will be happy with this. I hope not.

Michael Joyce, RIP

Michael Joyce passed away Friday at the age of 63. I only met him once, when he spoke at the Ashbrook Center in 2001 on the New Science of Public Administration. He was congenial and smart and a man who loved his country and contributed greatly to its well being. I liked him. I’m sorry that I never got the chance to know him better. May he Rest in Peace.

John J. Miller has a nice piece on him.

Malcontents, here and in Iraq

The threat of civil war has apparently driven the Sunnis toward "moderation," says the New York Times. Instead of talking about civil war 24/7 (as the MSM has been) we will now be talking about the re-integration of the minority Sunnis (the caterpillars of the commonwealth) into "participating in the political process." This has been very interesting. It proves that the Sunnis are not the only group who know something about the disciplines of war, and the use of fear, so to speak. The controlled fury of the Shiites was impressive and useful. They have reminded the Sunnis that men are like fish: the great fish are able to eat up the little ones. The Sunnis may now get it. That reminder allows them to talk about the political process (justice) again. And the MSM malcontents are displeased again. Good.

Peace Studies

A couple of students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School want the peace studies class (taught by retired WaPo reporter Colman McCarthy) banned from the school. They’re going to fail, of course, but the article reveals much about liberal arrogance.

All ports, all the time

It looks like there’s a deal in the works that would extend the vetting period, and presumably buy time to make the case for the sale. A good thing, I think.

People need to learn more about the nature of the international shipping business. We’re not really in a position to "buy American" here, and DPW has a very substantial American presence in its senior management ranks.

Yes, there may have been some political insensitivity in the CFIUS vetting process, not to mention in the Bush Administration’s response, but much of the negative reaction smacks of pure politics.

Consider these quotes.

"This is just a screw-up," said GOP pollster Whit Ayres. "I think the base will, after some initial bluster, give him the benefit of the doubt, once they have the facts."

Gov. Mike Huckabee, an Arkansas Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, said the deal "put a lot of elected officials in an impossible situation." He said, "The visceral reaction they got from their constituents left them no choice in opposing it."

Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican and usually an administration loyalist, thinks it may be too late for Mr. Bush to win congressional acceptance of the contract.

"This may be one of those situations where the horse may be so far out of the barn that you can’t get it back," Mr. Huckabee said.

He isn’t necessarily opposed to the deal, the governor said, but thinks the president should have made his case beforehand.

"My comfort level is good, but I have 99 other United States senators who need the opportunity to ask their questions," Frist told the Lexington Herald-Leader before speaking at a Republican dinner Saturday evening in Lexington, Ky.

"We’re behind the president 100 percent," he added. "We believe the decision in all likelihood is absolutely the right one."

I’d love to say that I find it outrageous that Mike Huckabee regards it as impossible for political leaders to resist the ill-informed emotional reactions of their constituents, and then, having resisted, to educate them. But I’m merely saddened by the democratic degeneration inherent in the response: leaders follow public opinion, they don’t form and inform it. Is it something in the water in the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock that leads its occupants to think and behave that way?

And then there’s this:

"We knew that some in the administration were arrogant, but we assumed they were competent," Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said. "But to be arrogant and not competent raises real questions."

"We were told that the president didn’t know about the sale until after it was approved. For many Americans, regardless of party, this lack of disciplined review is unacceptable," Jon Corzine said.

Given what we now know about the review process, both in general and in this particular case, neither observation really holds up. Shays’s only objection could be to a certain political insensitivity, which is surely not the equivalent of the kind of policy and technical incompetence he’s alleging. And Corzine is holding the Bush White House to a standard only met on television--in the "West Wing." Given the nature of the international shipping business (see above), this looked like a more or less routine technical decision that could (and perhaps should) have been made at the Assistant Secretary level. Of course, only after it looked like it was going to be politicized was it imperative that it receive high-level attention. The Bush Administration should have gotten in front of the debate, but many shouldn’t have entered it without being better-informed than they were. There’s plenty of blame to go around. In this case, the folks in the White House were perhaps insufficiently political, while the folks outside, especially on Capitol Hill, were only too willing to pander to a short-term public outburst. You decide which is the greater failing.

Will on conservatism

George F. Will reviews two books on conservatism--Jeffrey Hart’s memoir of National Review and Bruce Bartlett’s screed against George W. Bush. Here’s his summary of the two books:

Jeffrey Hart’s "Making of the American Conservative Mind" is a relaxed amble along conservatism’s path to the present. Bruce Bartlett’s "Impostor" is symptomatic of the way many conservatives developed a thirst for fights over ideological purity during the wilderness years, and today slake that thirst by fighting one another. They do so partly because liberalism, in its current flaccidness, offers less satisfying intellectual combat than conservatives can have intramurally. Bartlett is angry as a hornet but, like a hornet, he stings indiscriminately.

Read the whole thing, as it raises some interesting questions about the future of conservatism.

Hat tip: Power Line.

Bloggers, talk radio, and the ports

Peter calls our attention to Glenn Reynolds’ argument that, had the Administration taken note of reaction in the blogosphere, it might not have been surprised when the DPW issue blew up. Fair enough and true enough.

But let’s not get blogospherically triumphalist about this. I would not be shocked if the initial hysteria in the blogosphere isn’t what set off some of the radio talkers, who then detonated the dirty publicity bomb that contaminated the White House. Yes, someone in the White House should pay at least as much attention to the blogosphere as does, say, someone working for Sean Hannity. But shouldn’t bloggers do a little more digging before they leap to the kinds of conclusions to which many apparently leapt in the immediate aftermath of the report?

Follow your mind’s habit

Is decision making best when thought through entirely, or as a gut reaction? Scientists now conclude it is the latter. I wouldn’t really dispute the outcome of the study, but I wouldn’t call it a "conscious" vs. "unconscious" mode (especially the Freudian sort, repressed desire and so on). The mind is disposed a certain way as a result of past thinking and past decisions; it has a character, a habit. So when you go with your gut, you are going with your habit of mind. If that’s good, it is likely the decision will be good. My grandmother knew this, didn’t need a study to be published in Science to know which way was better.

Bloggers and the ports

Joe is keeping us up-dated on the Dubai port issue (see below) and Glenn Reynolds nicely summarizes what bloggers have done on it, how they are an early warning system, and how the White House inexplicably is not paying enough attention to bloggers as an early warning system.

More port deal

While it’s very clear that no one anticipated the brouhaha, it’s not clear that it has staying power. Some, er, leaders continue to pour gasoline on the fire, while others would rather pour oil on troubled waters. The New York street is divided, though national public opinion is firmly (though I believe temporarily) against the deal.

My favorite line comes from Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., who is inclined to support the deal: "For those that bother to learn the facts, the comfort level has increased."

This isn’t to say that there aren’t still troubling facts, but they seem to have little to do with Dubai or Dubai Ports World.

Indeed, Robert Kaplan, second to none in his support for U.S. security, has very high regard for Dubai.

Update: This longish NYT article about port security indictates that things are better than I expected, but still worse than they need to be.

Kristol on Fukuyama

I’ve been waiting for this. Here’s a snippet:

Remember: The United States of America and its allies--regimes that seek to embody, or at least to move towards, the principles of decent, civilized, liberal democracy--did not seek this war. But we are at war, and we could lose it. Victory is not inevitable.

Does that make Bush-supporting, liberal-democracy-promoting, Iraq-war-defending neoconservative "Leninists," as Francis Fukuyama has recently charged? No. Does it mean we
believe--as Fukuyama defines Leninism--that "history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will"? Does it mean that history does not automatically move in the right direction, that justice does not necessarily or easily prevail? Yes.

"I’ll see your Fukuyama and raise you a Wittmann." Read the whole thing to make sense of this.


Coup attempt in Philippines?

A state of emergency has been declared in the Philippines. This is twenty years after Marcos was (peacefully) overthrown. I was there at that time. An interesting country, very likeable people. Eventually they will get their act together and make a deep impression on the world. But not yet, I guess. Also see this for some reflection on the problem of what I call tribes (clans, family dynasties, etc.) and democratic development. The Belmont Club is worth paying attention to as well.

Yosemite Sam politics

The WSJ’s Daniel Henninger takes our political "leaders" to the woodshed. A taste:

Our political elites, rather than recognize they are playing with a new kind of fire, instead have become pyromaniacs, lighting the fires. New Orleans even now can’t get out from under the initial crazy statements the pols were hurling over Katrina. Our politicians seem to have arrived at the conclusion that they somehow no longer bear responsibility for what they say, or that there is no consequence to what they say. But they do and there is. Yosemite Sam was a cartoon. The ability of government to function in a dangerous world is not.

Read the whole thing.


With the bombing of the mosque in Samarra, and the counterattacks by the Shiites on Sunni mosques, and everyone talking about civil war, Victor Davis Hanson is much more optimistic. He just got back from Iraq.

Defending Country

I was listening to James King and Dave Evans this morning when I came across Clinton Taylor’s defense of country music. I like it. I was in Bulgaria a few weeks after The Fall, sitting in a tavern trying to get a smile out of folks. Couldn’t do it. Then I pulled out a tape I had made especially to take with me (knowing something about the passions of Bulgarians), asked the barkeep to drop it in the machine and as soon as Merle Haggard hit his first note someone yelled a heavily accented "country music" and everyone, and I mean everyone, popped out of their chairs and started singing and dancing. It was good. Very good. It still is. (There is more at--and thanks to--Powerline)

Tom Suddes and Ohio politics

We all know that Ohio is the most important state politically (and it’s not because I live here, someone should tell my mother!). Thomas Suddes, the former chief state reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (he now writes a column a couple of times a week, but spends most his time writing a doctoral dissertation at Ohio University), is the guy that knows more about Ohio politics than any other person I have ever met. I’m not kidding. He knows the players, he knows the issues, he knows the state, its demographics, and its political history. Anyway, I did a Podcast with him this morning on Ohio politics (click on his name). It’s about 20 minutes long and therefore just an introduction, but if you listen to it you’ll begin to hear and feel how he weaves his web. I will continue these conversations with him about every two to three weeks for next many months, if he’ll let me. This is a good start. Thanks Tom. Now get back to your dissertation!

Dome blast

Was it a desperate attempt by al Qaeda to provoke a civil war or perhaps the prelude to a (more overt) Iranian intervention? I’m leaning toward the former, though not as sanguine that Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis won’t take the bait.

Big love

I just discovered that Tom Hanks has producing a new HBO comedy series based on polygamy. Sometimes even I am speechless. Mormons are upset, because it reinforces streotypes, some former polygamists are upset because it downplays the real problems people (and families, plural ?), especially women and children, have in such relationships. And the feminists have an opinion. Anyway, you get the picture. What the Hell. There was a TV comedy about Nazis, there are plenty of comedies about gays--in fact maybe all comedies on TV are about gays?--and now there is Brokeback Mountain....

So, only this, Richard II talking:

I have been studying how I may compare

This prison where I live unto the world:

And for because the world is populous

And here is not a creature but myself,

I cannot do it; yet I’ll hammer it out.

My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul,

My soul the father; and these two beget

A generation of still-breeding thoughts,

And these same thoughts people this little world,

In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented.

Vote for them

If you’re in a carpetbagging mood, and like the folks at South Dakota Politics, follow this link.

Brookhiser (or is it Bookhiser) on books

Rick Brookhiser discusses what may be the next I-Pod, the E-Book. He gets much of it write, er. right, I think, though he clearly doesn’t enjoying writing in his books as much as I do. And I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of the twenty books he gives away each month, "what with reviewer’s copies and other freebies."

Next Harvard President

While I think that Harvard as a whole is probably ungovernable, the folks at Inside Higher Ed are soliticing suggestions. I noticed that there wasn’t a conservative on the list, so, without further ado, I’ll throw my two cents’ in, and invite you, gentle (and ungentle) readers, to do likewise.

My old friend John Walters has lots of administrative experience and could certainly help Harvard address underage drinking and substance abuse problems.

Bill Kristol is a Harvard man; unfortunately, his experience in the White House probably doesn’t adequately prepare him for the Machiavellian nastiness of faculty politics.

Paul Wolfowitz has recently learned a thing or two about handling money, which would make him an exceptional steward of Harvard’s endowment.

Zell Miller knows a good bit about living in an institution with people who can’t stand him.

Your turn.

Update: It occurred to me that I wasn’t thinking inside the box enough, so here are my "diversity" candidates (taking diversity in the standard academic sense).

Condoleezza Rice is a natural, with all sorts of higher ed experience, but she may be unavailable after 2008.

John Yoo is a Harvard alumnus who has given more thought to the outer bounds of executive authority than just about anyone else.

Christina Hoff Sommers could perhaps help Harvard make certain that women are not overrepresented in the undergraduate population, as is the case at so many other elite institutions. Her problem? Look at the last name.

The ports (no big?) deal

I don’t know how this dispute will finally play out.

These two articles suggest that, for the most part, our substantial port security issues will not be greatly affected by who manages the ports (many of which are already in foreign hands, apparently).

There is one dissenter, who identifies some vulnerabilities resulting from the deal, but these strike me as remediable (though I am, of course, no expert):

Joseph King, who headed the customs agency’s anti-terrorism efforts under the Treasury Department and the new Department of Homeland Security, said national security fears are well grounded.

He said a company the size of Dubai Ports World would be able to get hundreds of visas to relocate managers and other employees to the United States. Using appeals to Muslim solidarity or threats of violence, al-Qaeda operatives could force low-level managers to provide some of those visas to al-Qaeda sympathizers, said King, who for years tracked similar efforts by organized crime to infiltrate ports in New York and New Jersey. Those sympathizers could obtain legitimate driver’s licenses, work permits and mortgages that could then be used by terrorist operatives.

Dubai Ports World could also offer a simple conduit for wire transfers to terrorist operatives in the Middle East. Large wire transfers from individuals would quickly attract federal scrutiny, but such transfers, buried in the dozens of wire transfers a day from Dubai Ports World’s operations in the United States to the Middle East would go undetected, King said.

Certainly there will be more due diligence about this deal than that undertaken in the first instance by the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S. And there will be more Bush Administration transparency and Congressional involvement.

I doubt that additional information and reasoned argumentation will have much effect in moving public opinion, which already seems quite congealed on this issue. I further doubt that many members of Congress will want to be out in front of the voters, actually leading by resisting their first, perhaps ill-informed tendencies. From the perspective of domestic politics, the easiest thing for the Bush Administration to do is cave to the pressure, though (of course) that could have diplomatic and national security consequences in the Middle East, perhaps alienating the UAE, which has, for the most part, been an ally. Some of this negative diplomatic fall-out could perhaps be allayed by resistance to domestic sentiment, even if the once-threatened veto is overridden by Congress.

A third possibility is that by temporizing through further consideration, investigation, and consultation, the Administration could lower the heat sufficiently to strike a deal whereby the sale proceeded with additional "safeguards" for American security concerns. I don’t think that any of this would do much to affect what seems to be visceral public opposition to the deal, but I’m also not yet convinced that this opposition has much staying power. I suspect that, after a while, most people will move on, leaving a small remnant passionately opposed, but unable to rally their fellows.

I’m not yet persuaded by one side or the other that it is or isn’t a safe deal, though I’m inclined to think that it can be made safe. I am certain that our port security problems are substantial, regardless of who manages them. (Focusing on and continuing to address this problem is a good that can come out of this kerfuffle.) I’m also certain that to press forward quickly with the deal now would be bad politics, handing a national security issue (bogus or not) to people like Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, at least for the short term.

It’s not sufficient for the President to say now, as he is wont, "trust me on this," especially since the word now is that he learned of it from the press. So let’s thoroughly vet this issue, both administratively and in consultation with Congress. If in the end there’s a conflict between the White House and Capitol Hill, so be it. At least the guys on the "right side" of the issue will be the ones engaging in damage control in the Persian Gulf. But I suspect that the final result will be an accommodation of some sort, once the heat has been turned down.

Update: Pieces like this, this, and this make sense, but won’t have much immediate impact. I’m becoming more of a temporizer by the minute. Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg.

Update #2: This seems to be a balanced assessment of the security issues.

UAE and the ports

James Lileks has an immediate and, as he puts it, un-edited opinion on the UAE port debate. I suspect that his opinion reflects the vast majority of citizens and therefore Bush should end this and do it more quickly than he did the Harriet Myers debacle. The only good news on this is that it seems to be the case that the White House didn’t even know of the decision unbtil just a few days before it was released. So the politically tone-deaf decision can be easily blamed on various committees just trying to do their jobs, without thinking of the political repercussions. But Bush should not fight all the good guys in the world who support him (never mind Hillary trying to out-flank him by goinbg right). This is the good Lileks paragraph: "But the specifics don’t matter; arguments about the specific nature of the Dubai Ports World organization’s global reach and responsible track records don’t matter. Because it feels immediately, instinctively wrong to nearly every American, and that isn’t something that can be argued away with charts or glossy brochures. It just doesn’t sit well. Period. It’s one thing for an Administration to misjudge how a particular decision will be received; it’s another entirely to misjudge an issue that cuts to the core of the Administration’s core strength. That’s where you slap yourself on the forehead in the style of those lamenting the failure to request a V-8 in a timely fashion. Doesn’t matter whether it was a deal struck between the previous administrators and the UAE; that’s not how the issue will be seen. And it certainly doesn’t matter once the President gets all stern on the topic and insists he’ll veto any attempt to keep the deal from going through. At that point, millions of previously resolute supporters stand there with their mouths open, uttering a soft confused moan of disbelief."

Addition: Here is the Wall Street Journal editorial everyone has brought up. It is in favor of the deal with UAE. And Michael Ramirez draws a thousand words.

Fun Times in Ohio

My goodness, the Ohio governor’s race is heating up already! According to this story in the Columbus Dispatch, Ken Blackwell is violating the 11th Commandment against speaking ill of fellow Republicans: "Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell proved that this week when he attacked his gubernatorial primary election opponent, Attorney General Jim Petro, with radio and television ads that stunned Ohio’s political establishment."

Now, from what I can see from afar, the "Republican Establishment" blocked the more worthy Blackwell for years in favor of name-brands like Bob Taft. Was this a good idea? Seems to me they are getting their just deserts. Stunned? Maybe the "establishment" will wake up.

You can find Blackwell’s radio ad here. And you can find Petro’s response here.

Multiculturalism in the U.K. and India

Amartya Sen has a long and interesting article reflecting on the successes (not so much on the failures) of multiculturalism in the U.K. and India. He emphasizes the role of reason, as well as the stress on multiple individual identities, in establishing (I use the word in a self-consciously "First Amendment" way) multiculturalism, as opposed to "plural monoculturalism." In so doing, he finesses the potential conflict between reason and revelation, which has powerful theoretical as well as practical consequences.

Still, the article is well worth reading.

Is the Blogosphere Dead?

The MSM has pronounced hoped it so. Daniel Drezner has an interesting blog entry discussing and challenging all of this. (Hat tip: RealClearPolitics.

Teacher Unions and their Death Grip

John Stossel has a brief but clear explanation of one of the many ways that teacher unions fail our kids by protecting the interests of mediocre teachers. On the same page there is a link to several other articles he’s been writing on the subject of public education and teacher’s unions. I hope all of this will result in a 20/20 special broadcast that will get some wider appeal. I find this to be one of the most difficult subjects to bridge with otherwise sensible people.

Death Row Drama

This story about convicted killer, Michael Morales, and the failed attempts by California to have him put to death is yet another example of an out-of-control judiciary. An appeal filed by Morales claimed that he might suffer pain as a result of the lethal injection procedure that California uses to inflict the death penalty. The judge ordered that Morales should receive anesthesia and be ruled unconscious before the lethal cocktail could be delivered. But the anesthesiologist refused to go through with the procedure. That delayed the execution by a day and Morales was then to be given a lethal dose of barbituate which would take longer to kill him but would assure that he was unconscious before he began to die. But no medical personnel could be recruited to confirm his state of unconsciousness and so Morales is still sucking air. I’m not sure I blame the medical personnel. Even if they suppport the execution, why should their participation in it be compulsory? It is something of a stretch to claim that this is what is required by the no "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the constitution. I fail to see how one man’s protection from cruel and unusual punishment compels a third man to participate in that punishment. I also fail to see how "feeling pain" in death constitutes something cruel and unusual when the convicted killer is guilty of a heinous crime during which the victim endured untold pain. While I agree that we should take all reasonable steps to keep executions humane--the precise and procedural measure of that should be legislative rather than judicial.

You want crunchy?

I’ll give you crunchy. Here’s the film’s website in English und auf Deutsch.

Hat tip: John von Heyking.

Summers out at Harvard

Larry Summers has resigned. His becomes the shortest tenure of all Harvard presidents. What surprises me about this is that the students didn’t come to his defense. They support him, and are offended by the soft-left-and-often silly-faculty-with-oversized-egos; they shgould have rallied to him. It would have been a good bruhaha. Here is the Crimson story. Alan Dershovitz thinks that the inmates (still in a minority) are now running the assylum.

Church and state in Georgia yet again

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is making a third effort to bring my state’s religion clauses in line with those of the U.S. Constitution.. Last year, I wrote about one of the practical political obstacles to the effort. This time, I write about why we need to make the effort. The short version: much of what we do in Georgia, both with regard to faith-based contracting and higher education tuition support, is unconstitutional if one reads Georgia’s "Blaine Amendment" in a straightforward manner. We’re lucky no one has sued. That won’t last forever.

Re-Elect Al Gore

There are two articles appearing today on the prospect that Al Gore may be emulating Nixon in the 1960s and positioning himself to run to Hillary’s left in 2008: ,this one from Roger Stone, and this one from Dick Morris.

Sounds plausible to me. Having seen Gore up close and personal back in early January, all the reports of Gore being "more comfortable in his own skin" (at long last) ring true.

The Pentagon and the media

This week’s TAE Online column develops an argument I first made here. The short version: Donald Rumsfeld understands the new media world, perhaps better than the people who write about him in the old media world.

Ohio Senate race

Now that Paul Hackett is out of the Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate against Sherrod Brown, he has disclosed some of Brown’s political weaknesses, as found by consujltants doing op-research. Example: "Brown voted to cut intelligence funding more than a dozen times before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." The latest Rasmussen Poll shows Senator DeWine leading Brown by 9%; a month ago DeWine led by only 5 points.

The Somalia Syndrome

Our friend Scott Johnson over at Powerline has a post that is not to be missed about the lessons Al Qaida drew from Somalia in 1993.

We need to get over the Vietnam syndrome once and for all. How many elections do the Democrats have to lose until this can be accomplished?

Ports of Call?

My friend and AEI colleague Michael Ledeen is calling the Dubai port deal the foreign policy equivalent of the Harriet Miers nomination. On the other hand, there have been several hints throughout the day today that perhaps we got something in return from Dubai that President Bush can’t tell us about, or that perhaps the port deal is a reward for some untellable good deeds.

Then, there is this from John McCain, who ordinarily doesn’t miss an opportunity to distance himself from Bush:

“We all need to take a moment and not rush to judgment on this matter without knowing all the facts. The President’s leadership has earned our trust in the war on terror, and surely his administration deserves the presumption that they would not sell our security short. Dubai has cooperated with us in the war and deserves to be treated respectfully. By all means, let’s do due diligence, get briefings, seek answers to all relevant questions and assurances that defense officials and the intelligence community were involved in the examination and approval of this transaction. In other words, let’s make a judgment when we possess all the pertinent facts. Until then, all we can offer is heat and little light to the discussion.”

Hmmm. Better watch this calmly over the next few weeks.

Three in Ohio indicted for terrorist activities

A Federal Grand Jury has indicted three Toledo-area men for terrorist activities. Prosecutors say the three conspired to wage a "holy war" against the United States and coalition forces in the Middle East. "The suspects are Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazloum. The indictment says all three were living in the Toledo area. Amawi is a citizen of the US and also a citizen of Jordan. El-Hindi is a naturalized American citizen who was born in Jordan. Mazloum is a legal permanent resident of the US, who came here from Lebanon."

Norwood in the news

USA Today has an article discussing the Norwood eminent domain case. Regular readers of this website know by now that the Ashbrook Center (along with former State Representative William Batchelder) filed a brief in Norwood arguing that the Ohio Constitution prohibits using eminent domain in a non-blighted area to transfer property from one private owner to another. Of course, that is the relevant legal question raised by the Norwood case: May local governments in Ohio take non-blighted private property for the purpose of transferring it to another private owner?

We know from prior cases that the Ohio Constitution permits the taking of property in blighted areas. The longstanding rule in Ohio is that the elimination of slum and blight can constitute a public use where the primary purpose for the taking is to serve the public welfare. We also know, however, that actual blight is a prerequisite to using eminent domain for the purposes of urban renewal. Thus, the Ohio Supreme Court has allowed condemnation where structures are substandard and are “detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare.”

This contrasts sharply with the homes at issue in Norwood. None of those properties is dilapidated. As you can see at this link, the disputed homes are part of a perfectly normal middle class neighborhood. Indeed, as the Ashbrook Center notes in its brief, the trial court found that the City of Norwood abused its discretion in labeling the area “blighted.”

USA Today, which states that “the neighborhood doesn’t appear blighted,” is merely confirming the obvious. According to the article, Joseph Horney purchased his Norwood home for $63,900 in 1991. The home is currently valued at more than $230,000. I wish we all lived in areas that were “deteriorating” so rapidly.    


Anyone care to summarize all these links for me? I think I can guess one line: "finally, an insider has seen the error of his ways and blown the whistle on the evil--or is it vile?--neo-con Straussians. Now let’s go impeach the Straussian-in-chief!"

Some of what the fly heard

Bill McClay generously shares some of his thoughts presented at the conference on faith and progressive politics that I noted a few days ago.

Here’s a taste of McClay’s argument:

The loss of its morally and socially conservative but politically progressive Catholics has been a calamity, then, for the Democratic Party, and has seriously undermined its claim to be the vehicle of an effective and humane progressive politics. It is often argued that the socially conservative positions of Republicans are at odds with their support for unregulated capitalism, which serves as a ceaseless engine of social disruption, and a force perpetuating social inequality. But anyone putting forward that argument has to be willing to face up to an equally serious problem on the other side—that the extreme individualism presumed by so many of the current Democratic social policies, with their disdain for tradition and their obsession with liberatory rights-talk and atomistic privacy, is at odds with any sustained effort to foster notions of mutuality, accountability, community, and social responsibility.

Christopher Lasch argued that one of the chief errors of the postwar left was its choice of cultural radicalism, which succeeded, over serious political and economic reform, which failed completely. I think he was right about that, and the loss of the socially and morally conservative Catholics, who were—in a sense—very much like the socially and morally conservative Protestants that John Dewey described, is one of the chief casualties of that error. Both groups had a religiously derived vision of the human person, a vision that is fruitfully at odds with our American liberal individualism, and that could yet enrich a progressive politics that concentrated on the right issues, and once again respected their moral outlook. Both are still available for that purpose, if progressives can to find a way back to them. And if they want to.

Read the whole thing.

Ave Maria Town again

Newsweek has picked up the Ave Maria Town story, on which I commented before (in the context of the proposed relocation of Ave Maria Law School to south Florida).

The issue in this case seems to be Tom Monaghan’s effort to limit access to contraceptives inside the town. Of course, the Florida ACLU and Planned Parenthood are concerned. The former cite this case about constitutional rights in company towns. A series of queries for the lawyers out there. First, is access to contraceptives more like freedom of speech and religion or more like access to abortions? Is there are legally congnizable difference between the two kinds of rights that might be relevant in this case? Second, if there is, and access to contraceptives is more like the latter, can either a local jurisdiction or a private corporation prohibit the establishment of an abortion clinic in its territory or premises? Can a company or institution that owns a hospital prohibit it from offering abortions? I eagerly await your answers.

All crunchy, all the time


I have an essay question, suggested by a friend: "Crunchies and South Parkers: cousins, enemies, or both?"

Midterm elections

The U.S., as we know, regularly holds national legislative elections midway through the term of its executive officer, and this is rather unusual among so called democracies. (see Andrew Busch’s Horses in Midstream: U.S. Midterm Elections and Their Consequences, 1894-1998). These so-called midterm elections are fascinating and sometimes have tremendous effects (see 1994). George Will reflects on this. Sometimes, perhaps often, his pen can be so nimble that the reader doesn’t get what he is up to. This might be one of those times. Yet, some numbers and facts are brought up, and you can just feel why some Dems are salivating at the prospect of another election in which the GOP’s toughness is tested. Since 1962 , when the president’s job approval has been between 50 and 59 percent, the presidential party has lost an average of 12 seats in off year elections. Now, when his approval rating has been below 50%, the average loss has been 43 seats. Bush’s approval is at historic lows. Yet, it is said that only 35 seats are currently competitive, and then there is the "breakwater".

Still, the Dems are hoping for an electoral tsunami in November. But, warns Will, let’s say the Dems gain 20 seat in the House, do they want this victory? I think it’s an academic question, but let him explain.

Soon to Be a Michael Moore Feature Film?

This book rates a triple "Heh" on the Instapundit Heh-Meter. (Hat tip: RedState.)

Washington’s Birthday

John J. Miller calls our attention to this essay by Matthew Spalding, which reminds us that officially, today is still Washington’s Birthday. For more on this, see last year’s post (with comments).

If you’e more interested in the man than in the day, this interview with Michael and Jana Novak offers a nice preview of Washington’s God.

Jihad Muslims

"We are ready to attack the enemies of the Prophet," and in Indonesia they attempted to storm our embassy. Sixteen are killed in Nigeria as the "cartoon riots" continue; fifteen
churches are also burned, as well as Chritian owned businesses. And ten have died in Lybia.
A poll in London shows that 40% of British Muslims "want sharia law introduced into parts of the country," and 20% have sympathy with the "feelings and motives" of the suicide bombers who attacked London last July 7. The Danish editor responsible for publishing (and commissioning) those cartoons explains why he will not submit to self-censorship. He thinks this issue has helped Denmark find moderate Muslims (i.e., those who are not interested in imposing sharia law). In the meantime,
John Howard, the Australian PM, talking about immigration policy, has hit out at "jihad Muslims." Read the whole story. You might also want to glance at Wretchard’s discussion of assymetrical warfare back in 1906 and what that has to do with a Muslim warlord he met on Mindanao in 1990 named Pershing.

Addendum: I’m really not sure what to make of this report by a Pakistani newspaper; I hope it’s wrong. It reports this: "Former US president Bill Clinton on Friday condemned the publication of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) caricatures by European newspapers and urged countries concerned to convict the publishers." There is more, read it. The "PBUH" is an acronym for "Peace be upon Him." See the BBC’s explanation of its policy regarding this.

India says yes to Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse is quite popular in India. Perhaps this is surprising to you, but not to me. Note some of the comments in the article on Indian society and humor. Also this from Orwell, in 1945: "Most of the people whom Wodehouse intends as sympathetic characters are parasites, and some of them are plain imbeciles, but very few of them could be described as immoral . . . Not only are there no dirty jokes, but there are hardly any compromising situations."

GOP, Ohio, Blackwell

Robert Novak claims that there is a GOP malaise running amok in the land, and the Bush White House better do something interesting or it will be swallowed by it. George Will takes note of four states, with four interesting (and black) GOP candidates (two for U.S. Senate, two for govs), and focuses on Ohio where Ken Blackwell will become the GOP’s nomineee for governor. He is smart and conservative, and at a good distance from the GOP establishment (which has always been lukewarm toward him) to be to his advantage. Stric kland will run against him, but will lose. Will notes that Blackwell got between 30 and 40% of the black vote the three other times he ran for a state-wide office. This is the Blackwell for Governor site.

Skype can’t be wiretapped

I use Skype to talk to my home (about three blocks from my office) and to talk to a friend in Hungary (more than a few blocks from Ashland). I would use it with more folks, but most of my friends are too primitive to download Skype into their computers; one just recently gave up his rotary phone. You Americans! The calls on the internet are free when the other person also has Skype (and if you click above, you can download it for free). So, I can talk for hours at no cost. And, by the way, the sound quality is much better than any phone I’ve ever used. Not a bad deal, huh? Skype was developed by a couple of guys in Estonia, and was recently bought by eBay. Well, it turns out that calls on Skype may be impossible to wiretap. So it might be me and four million terrorists on Skype at any one time! Too bad.

Bernard-Henry Levy & Bill Kristol

Bernard-Henri Levy & Bill Kristol may be heard in conversation (undre one hour) on matters revolving around American Vertigo, via a Podcast offered by The American Interest.

Gay marriage loophole

This is kind of amusing. From London: "Lawyers are prepared to advise potential immigrants how to gain British citizenship by signing up for ’gay marriages’ even if they are heterosexual." (Thanks to Jonah Goldberg)

Iranian pro-nuclear fatwa?

This is worrisome. I await John von Heyking’s further analysis.

Fukuyama on neoconservatism

Francis Fukuyama says he’s not a neoconservative any more.

Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

I can see why he doesn’t want the label, given the opprobrium that has been heaped on it from all sides. Of course, he doesn’t help matters by oversimplifying the "neoconservative" presecription and identifying it simply with military intervention in the name of democratization. How can anyone not recognize that there are limits to the extent that the U.S. can democratize a country by military means? Even if military intervention is from time to time necessary (he’ll grant Afghanistan, but not Iraq), it was never intended to be the only device of which "neoconservatives" availed themselves.

Consider this passage from Fukuyama’s article:

Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, the United States needs to reconceptualize its foreign policy in several fundamental ways. In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground in this fight.

He must have forgotten that neoconservatives in the Reagan Administration helped establish the National Endowment for Democracy. What’s more, there is a long-standing neo-conservative interest in "public diplomacy," articulated in articles by Carnes Lord in Commentary and Orbis (neither available online, unfortunately).

So it’s not neo-conservatism properly understood that Fukuyama rejects, just its caricature. But he’s not interested in spending time correcting the misimpression; he’d rather get on with doing what can be done with a dangerous world. I can’t complain about that, especially when he’s willing to retain almost every policy originally advocated by neo-conservatives, from occasional military intervention to various more subtle forms of democracy promotion:

If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like. The United States has played an often decisive role in helping along many recent democratic transitions, including in the Philippines in 1986; South Korea and Taiwan in 1987; Chile in 1988; Poland and Hungary in 1989; Serbia in 2000; Georgia in 2003; and Ukraine in 2004-5. But the overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can’t "impose" democracy on a country that doesn’t want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective.

This strikes me as neoconservatism properly understood, balancing its realism with its commitment to universal liberal principles.

One last point, before I finish: perhaps I’m wrong about this, but Fukuyama seems to mischaracterize his own argument in The End of History and the Last Man. Here’s what he says:

Many people have also interpreted my book "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992) as a neoconservative tract, one that argued in favor of the view that there is a universal hunger for liberty in all people that will inevitably lead them to liberal democracy, and that we are living in the midst of an accelerating, transnational movement in favor of that liberal democracy. This is a misreading of the argument. "The End of History" is in the end an argument about modernization. What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time.

"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will.

My recollection is that the engine of history for FF is the battle for recognition (see Kojeve’s Hegel), which can only be brought to an end, not by the victory of the "master" over the "slave," but by an arrangement in which each mutually respects the other (that is, liberal democracy). History "ends" when this conflict is in principle resolved, when we have an arrangement that in principle satisfies everyone. That doesn’t mean that the bare presence of the arrangement in one place or another will make it immediately universally available. Fukuyama now seems to be taking a much more materialist view of his own argument: what we really want is not recognition and respect, but flat screen televisions and blackberries, along with 2,000 calories a day. Perhaps I’m misremembering (it’s been a while since I read the book; I wrote about it
here). But it seems to me that this version of the argument serves largely to weaken the psychological and spiritual element of "democracy promotion" that has always been part of neoconservative (and President Bush’s) thinking.

I’m also not convinced that Fukuyama was in the late 80s and early 90s (or is now) so much of an historical determinist that he regarded all action to promote "the end of history"--or, more modestly, to cooperate in its direction--as folly. To criticize Kristol and Kagan for believing that "history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will" is either to attribute to them a position far beyond what they hold or to deny that applications of power can from time to time be effective. We can choose to intervene or not when opportunities present themselves. If we don’t intervene, the bad guys may be more likely to prevail. If we do, the good guys may be more likely to prevail. This isn’t "Leninism," but rather a realistic consideration of how power may be strategically and effectively applied. To refuse to consider that such interventions may be helpful isn’t realism, it’s fatalism. That surely isn’t Fukuyama’s position, just as "Leninism" isn’t that of Kristol and Kagan.

Update: Courtesy of RCP, a couple of comments. Andrew Sullivan thinks FF gets everything about right. Jack Balkin is glad that FF has finally wholeheartedly joined the company of Bush’s critics. I’d like to see a somewhat chastened and principled neoconservatism survive the all-too-easy and popular criticism now being offered. To that end, I think Fukuyama could be a relatively useful guide, were he not so willing to run away from a complex of ideas that remains preferable--by far--to the leading alternatives (isolationism, narrow-minded realism, and progressive internationalism, aka Kerryism).

Update #2: Jon Schaff has plenty of time in that long Dakota winter to think deep thoughts about Francis Fukuyama.

Wieseltier on Dennett

Leon Wieseltier writes a brilliant review of Daniel Dennett’s attempt to reduce religion to biology. There are so many good zingers that I don’t know which to single out.

O.K., here’s one:

So all of Dennett’s splashy allegiance to evidence and experiment and "generating further testable hypotheses" notwithstanding, what he has written is just an extravagant speculation based upon his hope for what is the case, a pious account of his own atheistic longing.

Wieseltier himself is a rationalist, but one who recognizes that its self-grounding character might be problematical. Dennett. on the other hand, is, by Wieseltier’s lights, no rationalist at all:

It will be plain that Dennett’s approach to religion is contrived to evade religion’s substance. He thinks that an inquiry into belief is made superfluous by an inquiry into the belief in belief. This is a very revealing mistake. You cannot disprove a belief unless you disprove its content. If you believe that you can disprove it any other way, by describing its origins or by describing its consequences, then you do not believe in reason. In this profound sense, Dennett does not believe in reason.

Read the whole thing.   

The Left, or, waiting for Katrinas

Bernard-Henry Levy lambasts the American Left for being in a "semi-comatose" state. While not hiding his own lefty opinions, he is shocked, simply shocked, that there is a "cosmic ideological void" on the Left. Worth a quick read.

Kotkin on the multiculturalism of the streets

Basing his argument in part on the past successes of the marketplace in assimilating and "Americanizing" immigrants, Joel Kotkin is sanguine about our multicultural future. I’m encouraged, but wish that he had addressed the big difference between 19th and 20th century immigration, on the one hand, and the 21st century version, on the other. What happens when it’s easy to move back and forth between the old country and the new one. When my dad moved to California from the Netherlands in 1950, he knew that getting back home would be a rare event (though, thanks to the U.S. Army, it happened sooner than he anticipated). Now, there’s much more travel and communication, which makes for a somewhat weaker incentive to give oneself wholly to one’s new home.

Churches, synagogues, and hurricane relief

This story revisits the debate over the faith-based initiative in the context of the impressive religious response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

This Santa I believe in

My college’s women’s basketball coach. Starting four freshmen and picked to finish close to the bottom of the league, the team is 19-5 going into their last regular season game. They’re fun as all get out to watch, pressing constantly and putting up threes. I’d love to see them add a biggish (this is NCAA D3, after all) inside player next year. Here’s why they call him Santa.

Rembrandt at 400

Robert Hughes discusses Rembrandt’s emphasis on the ordinary, on the mortal, on the imperfect, that is, why he was a revolutionary artist. Here are the master’s self-portraits, and Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer 

Hackett’s withdrawl

Cleveland Plain Dealer runs a story on how Paul Hackett was pushed out of the Senate primary campaign by the Democratic Party elite (both state and national). Rumors of his involvement in atrocities in Iraq were spread... plus he has a difficult personality. Mother Jones says essentially the same thing. This is an ignoble end to a very brief but promising career for this Marine Major. Sharrod Brown will end up running against DeWine.

Harvard stuff

A couple of stories out of Harvard are worth noting. First, there are rumors that President Summers might leave, and then Harvard will end up with another "namby-pamby" president. Interesting comments from Pinsker, Mansfield, et al. And the conservative student paper, The Harvard Salient, is reprinting the Danish cartoons and, no doubt, the pitchforked hoi polloi are gathering.

Is this Islam?

Mansoor Ijaz in the Los Angeles Times: "In fact, the most glaring truth is that Islam’s mobsters fear the West has it right: that we have perfected the very system Islam’s holy scriptures urged them to learn and practice. And having failed in their mission to lead their masses, they seek any excuse to demonize those of us in the West and to try to bring us down. They know they are losing the ideological struggle for hearts and minds, for life in all its different dimensions, and so they prepare themselves, and us, for Armageddon by starting fires everywhere in a display of Islamic unity intended to galvanize the masses they cannot feed, clothe, educate or house.

This is not Islam. And the faster its truest believers stand up and demonstrate its values and principles by actions, not words, the sooner a great religion will return to its rightful role as guide for nearly a quarter of humanity."

NYT on religious universities and academic freedom

For those who pay attention to such things, this is old news. For commentary more interesting than anything in the NYT article, go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Note that while the NYT article purports to be abou religious universities generally, aside from a reference to Mercer University, it’s really about Catholic universities and mostly about Notre Dame.

I can’t really improve upon the commentary offered by ND’s friends and lovers, but I will note the following. There’s a difference between activism and advocacy, on the one hand, and teaching and inquiry, on the other. It is, or ought to be, possible to engage with the "message" of The Vagina Monologues, to hear the voices it expresses, without seconding or supporting its activism and advocacy. Defending the academic study of this play is one thing; endorsing its message and providing an arena or audience for its advocacy and activism is another.


Deconstructing Climate Change Policy and Politics

I've been in the throes of getting the 11th edition of my annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators in the can for Earth Day in April, so I haven't been blogging much. But I did have time to cough up a feature for the Weekly Standard on climate change. (This link may require a subscription.)
Categories > Environment

Information, the new media, and the long war

Donald Rumsfeld spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday. In New York. Oddly enough, I can’t find a story in the Times.

The headline in most places is that the Secretary doesn’t think we’re competing effectively in the information war with al Qaeda. No one, however, quoted this example:

In this environment the old adage that: “A lie can be half way around the world before the truth has its boots on” becomes doubly true with today’s technologies.

We saw this with the false allegations of the desecration of a Koran last year. Once it was published in a weekly news magazine, it was posted on websites, sent in e-mails, and repeated on satellite television and radio stations for days, before the facts could be discovered.

And, in those first days, the false story incited anti-American riots in Pakistan and elsewhere, and human beings were killed in the ensuing riots.

Once aware of the story, the U.S. Military, appropriately, and of necessity, took the time needed to ensure that it had the facts before responding -- having to conduct interviews and pore though countless documents, investigations and log books. It was finally determined that the charge was false.

But in the meantime the lives had been lost and great damage had been done.

What complicates the ability to respond quickly is that, unlike our enemies, which propagate lies with impunity -- with no penalty whatsoever -- our government does not have the luxury of relying on other sources for information -- anonymous or otherwise. Our government has to be the source. And we tell the truth.

Rumsfeld mentioned other failures of the press, as well as the 24/7 rapid-fire news cycle that lays the foundation for them. But he rightly doesn’t connect the dots, so I will. Rushing to screen or print with inflammatory, inaccurate, and insufficiently vetted information, playing the adversarial role to the hilt, offers an opening to our adversaries that they’re only too willing to exploit. No one’s asking the press to do the government’s job for it, and no one expects the press to roll over and play dead, but we can ask news organizations to be more careful in their reporting, to check and double-check their stories, and to be aware of how our enemies are going to use them. If, as you often claim to be, you’re an essential part of our system of checks and balances, you should remember that the system is meant to enhance the functioning of all its elements, not to mention that all the elements that check and balance are themselves susceptible to being checked and balanced.

Update: Not surprisingly, while almost all the MSM reports I’ve seen mention Rumsfeld’s discussion of U.S. shortcomings, none remark on his plans for the future:

[G]overnment public affairs and public diplomacy efforts must reorient staffing, schedules and culture to engage the full range of media that are having such an impact today.

Our U.S. Central Command, for example, has launched an online communications effort that includes electronic news updates and a links campaign, that has resulted in several hundred blogs receiving and publishing CENTCOM content.

The U.S. government will have to develop the institutional capability to anticipate and act within the same news cycle. That will require instituting 24-hour press operation centers, elevating Internet operations and other channels of communications to the equal status of traditional 20th Century press relations. It will result in much less reliance on the traditional print press, just as the publics of the U.S. and the world are relying less on newspapers as their principal source of information.

And it will require attracting more experts in these areas from the private sector to government service.

This also will likely mean embracing new institutions to engage people across the world. During the Cold War, institutions such as the U.S. Information Agency and Radio Free Europe proved to be valuable instruments for the United States of America.

We need to consider the possibility of new organizations and programs that can serve a similarly valuable role in the War on Terror in this new century.

What, for example, should a U.S. Information Agency, or a Radio Free Europe for the 21st Century look like? These are tough questions.

Rumsfeld gets it. If the MSM doesn’t report your story, there are plenty of other ways of getting the word out, at least to a domestic audience and increasingly to foreign audiences:

Throughout the world, advances in technology are forcing a massive information flow that dictatorships and extremists ultimately will not be able to control. Blogs are rapidly appearing even in countries where the press is still government-controlled.

Pro-democracy forces are communicating and organizing by e-mail, pagers and blackberries.

Today, in Iraq, an energetic media has emerged from the rubble of Saddam’s police state, with nearly 300 newspapers, over 90 radio stations and more than 40 television stations. Iraqis are now accessing the Web in their homes, as well as in Internet cafes that have sprung up in towns and cities across their country.

We are fighting a battle where the survival of our free way of life is at stake. And the center of gravity of that struggle is not just on the battlefield. It is a test of wills and it will be won or lost with our public and the publics of free nations across the globe. We will need to do all we can to attract supporters to our efforts, to correct the lies being told which so damage our country, and shatter the appeal of the enemy.

Here, again, is the text of Rumsfeld’s speech. Read the whole thing.

Vietnam veterans in Iraq

They want to get it right this time.

Andrew Jackson

Dean Barnett reviews H.W. Brands new bio of Andrew Jackson. Barnett loves the story of the man with the "iron-will and fearless nature." He reminds us of this revealing story about Jackson:

"In 1806, several years after leaving the Senate and while remaining one of Tennessee’s most famous citizens, Jackson agreed to a duel with Charles Dickinson to settle a matter of honor that had arisen out of a horse racing dispute. Many observers felt that Jackson’s willingness to duel Dickinson was intemperate; most Tennesseans regarded Dickinson as the finest shot in the state. Additionally, dueling was already considered a crude way for gentlemen to settle their differences.

On his way out to the duel site, Dickinson amused his traveling party with his shooting skill, sometimes cutting a string with a bullet from 24 feet, the distance that would separate the two duelists.

For his part, Jackson spent the time traveling to the duel site settling on his strategy. Realizing that Dickinson was the better shot, Jackson figured he should let Dickinson shoot first and absorb the hit. If he tried to rush a shot before Dickinson fired, Jackson feared that his aim would suffer and he would miss the target. So his plan was to take a shot from Tennessee’s best marksman. If he survived the blow, he would then take his time and kill Dickinson.

At the duel, Jackson stuck to his plan. Dickinson fired first and grievously wounded Jackson; his bullet broke two of Jackson’s ribs and lodged close to Jackson’s heart. But it did not kill him.

Indeed, Jackson hardly flinched. Dickinson stared in astonishment and screamed, "Great God, have I missed him?" Jackson took deliberate aim and squeezed his trigger. Nothing happened. He re-cocked his pistol, again carefully aimed, and fired. This time the gun functioned properly, killing its mark. Jackson required over a month to recuperate from his wound."

That Jackson is fascinating is beyond doubt. That he is, in some measure, an entirely American man, is also beyond doubt. That he was a brave, tough, intemperate sob is true enough. The father of democracy? Maybe all those Jefferson-Jackson dinners would like us to believe that, but dog my cats, I don’t reckon that’s so. Although this superficial note on Jackson doesn’t deserve serious response, the idea that Jackson has somehow come to represent democracy does (see this, and this, never mind this). But that will have to be done another day.

Men and Women (and Ghosts)

Are they born different? Another academic row has erupted when Science refused to publish an article on the issue; the author claims this is another example of political correctness and ignores the "facts of life."

Homeschooling to the nth degree

Mark Oppenheimer considers a radical alternative to the high cost of higher education. While he’s onto something about the essence of education at any level, and about how matters peripheral to it are driving costs upward, there are more problems with his not-altogether-unserious suggestion than I have time to mention.

NSA again

These articles suggest that Democrats will not get their way--splashy hearings to expose the alleged misdeeds of the Bush Administration. On the other hand, it looks like the Administration will be a little more forthcoming in its briefings and like there may be some legislative action, perhaps on Senator DeWine’s proposal to authorize the warrantless wiretapping, subject to formal Congressional oversight.

Are you a crunchy con?

Kelly Jane Torrance reviews Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons. Here’s an excerpt, and here’s the article that started it all.

I have to confess to a little crunchiness, by Dreher’s standards. We buy organic milk and eggs; we homeschool; my wife owns a pair of Birkenstocks; we occasionally consort with what I have in the past called "Calvinist hippies"; my wife has a pretty wide green streak (mine is narrower); we’re not free market absolutists or dogmatic rationalists.

Torrance raises the following question:

But conservatives and libertarians may wonder, at times, why Dreher thinks he has so much in common with them. Crunchy Cons is mostly an inspiring guidebook to living your life with more meaning. Dreher realizes that it’s easier to change ourselves than to change society. He counsels infusing the political into your personal choices, which sometimes can be empowering, sometimes “spirit-killing,” to use the word Dreher says his detractors throw at him.

There are some policy prescriptions, however, and most of them involve bigger government. His frequent rants against modern agriculture ignore how many people those methods have fed. He also advises, “Use government, within limits, to look after the poor and the weak without creating a culture of dependency.” Politicians and social scientists have been trying to devise such programs—without success—for decades now. Dreher’s earnestness sometimes gets the better of him. Perhaps his happy medium between a free market and a cohesive but overpowering society tilts too much in one direction at times. He’s learned a lot from Russell Kirk. But he may have forgotten some of the lessons of Milton Friedman.

Earlier in the essay, she makes reference to Dreher’s conservative Catholicism, which strikes me as the correct point of departure for examining this issue. It isn’t particularly original to observe that there’s a gap between religious and non-religious conservatives, or between "traditionalists" and "free marketeers." Torrance rightly points out that religious conservatives don’t or needn’t abandon their reason and could learn from their secular counterparts. Prudence, even informed by a religious vision, requires worldly knowledge. But it seems to me that the "information’ should flow in both directions. Secular, rationalist, and free market conservatives (I realize that these adjectives describe different, but overlapping categories) have something to learn from their religious brethren, especially about the limits of their knowledge and their solidarity with others.

So? Any crunchies out there?

Gumbel on the Olympics GOP

Another busy day today, but this is irresistable. Bryant Gumbel, according to the Columbus Dispatch: "Try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the games look like a GOP convention." Newsbusters has more. Ohio’s next governor was in town yesterday.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall

Here, listening to a discussion of "faith and progressive politics in America" featuring the likes of Mark Lilla, E.J. Dionne, Jr., Todd Gitlin, Seyla Benhabib, and Bill McClay (not one of them consarned progressives, to be sure), among others. There’s one NY Sun article, available only to subscribers, and this comment from Richard John Neuhaus. If I can dig up anything else on the web, I’ll post links.

Faith-based initiative

This WaPo article summarizes this report, which provides grist for any number of mills. On the one hand, there are those who argue that what the Bush Administration’s "faith-based initiative is really all about is de-funding social programs and dumping responsibility for the poor on the charitable sector." The study shows that some categories of social spending declined from 2002 to 2004. Hence while the faith-based share of the pie remained the same (roughly 18%), the pie got some $230 million smaller over those three fiscal years.

Others could point to evidence that more groups shared in the federal largesse, indicating the increasing vitality of the grassroots and a salutary movement away from the usual suspects to smaller, perhaps more innovative groups closer to the people they help.

Stanley Carlson-Thies observes that the relatively constant faith-based share

"gives the lie to alarmists" who think the administration is funneling vast sums to churches.

"Look at the huge percentage of money that continues to go to secular organizations," said Carlson-Thies, who formerly worked in the White House faith-based office. "The image that there’s this Bush push that’s going to turn the government into a religious apparatus -- if people think that that’s what’s happening, they’re wrong."

Jim Towey, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, doesn’t like the study at all:

The study did not count grant-making programs that were created after 2002 and ignored such programs as Head Start, which he said was the second-largest source of federal funds for religious organizations, after the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 202 housing program for the elderly poor.

"They have picked rotten cherries and come up with a rotten pie," Towey said. "They took a very small sample of programs and grants and are drawing conclusions that are completely inaccurate."

Towey said the White House has been collecting growing amounts of data on grants each year, beginning with two federal agencies in 2002, five in 2003, seven in 2004 and 10 in 2005. When it issues its report for 2005 in March, he said, "we’ll look at 25,000 grants in just one year" and "will show there’s been an increase every year in the category of competitive, nonformula grants for social services."

I’ll reserve final judgment until I see the White House report, though I would take issue with those who measure the character of a government’s "compassion" (as if a government can have compassion) simply by the amount of money it spends.

And while I’m at it, here’s a commentary on the state of the faith-based initiative that doesn’t just look at money.

Hat tip: Get Religion.

New Podcasts Available

We have put out several new episodes on our various podcasts. For my "You Americans" podcast this week, I spoke to former Senator Alan Simpson who is in Ashland today to provide us with a luncheon lecture. The good senator did several interviews last night on Dick Cheney’s hunting accident. I spoke to him about it as well and I think you will enjoy the conversation. Get the MP3 here or subscribe to the podcast.

For our Ashbrook Events Podcast we have a speech from the Washington Times’ Senior White House Correspondent Bill Sammon on the presidency of George W. Bush which he gave at Ashland last February.

Finally, our Teaching American History Podcast this week is the second half of Richard Ruderman’s seminar on William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.

Judging and legislating

In my latest blathering over at TAE Online, I compare Arlen Specter unfavorably to my con law students, even the ones who hunt. Those "hillbillies" (the Atlanta suburbs are full of them) are purty dadgum smart.

There goes the neighborhood

My wife has joined the blogosphere. Pretty soon she’ll start taking shots at me too.

Update: I guess I should be more careful about my language around here. To be clear, the shots are metaphorical. We may both be descended from hillbilly stock (Scottish and Appalachian on my wife’s side, Austrian on mine), but we don’t do guns. Also, you will note, if you visit her blog, that she goes for quality while I go for quantity.

The NSA wiretap program is legal

The NSA wiretap debate is complicated, raising questions about FISA law and the Authorization to Use Military Force, as well as constitutional issues of separation of powers and the Fourth Amendment. Sometimes, even members of Congress need help interpreting these issues. When House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner needed insight on the law, he contacted Ashbrook’s own Robert Alt and John Eastman for their legal opinions. Robert’s letter to the chairman can be found on the Judiciary Committee’s web site here, and John’s letter can be found here. Robert tackles the statutory questions, showing why it is that Congress’s Authorization to Use Military Force passed in the aftermath of 9/11 gave the President all the statutory authority he needed to conduct the NSA program, and John addresses the separation of powers issues, demonstrating that the President has extensive authority in conducting intelligence operations in wartime.

Both letters are important to the current debate. In fact, Chairman Sensenbrenner wrote to the Congressional Research Service, which had previously written a memo suggesting the wiretap program was unlawful, asking them to respond to critiques of the memo made by Alt and Eastman. Interesting stuff this. Who would think that lawyers might be capable of insight?

Happiness is....

I’d be happy to read this survey report, summarized in this article, but I haven’t found the time yet.

Here is one interesting finding:

[T]he most robust correlations of all those described in this report are health, income, church attendance, being married and, yes, being a Republican. Indeed, being a Republican is associated not only with happiness, it is also associated with every other trait in this cluster. Even so, the factor that makes the most difference in predicting happiness is neither being a Republican nor being wealthy - it’s being in good health.

There seems to be no data on the relationship between wisdom and happiness, though if education is a proxy (dubious, to be sure), education and happiness are positively correlated.

Harvey C- strikes again

This article on grade inflation at Harvard brings out all the apologists and reminds us of one persistent critic.

Jim Webb running as a Democrat

Mac Owens on Jim Webb, Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate from Virginia. If he wins he would give George Allen the race of his life, Mac thinks. Some interesting insights from Mac, and a warning to the GOP. Note that Webb is also a fine novelist and author.  

Cheney derangement syndrome

I’m not a hunter, but I live in a red state with lots of them. The hysteria over Saturday’s hunting accident strikes me as resulting from a mixture of press self-importance and the demands of the news cycle on an otherwise slow news day.

For some of the liberal blog commentary, go here and here. For Power Line’s commentary, go here and here. For what it’s worth, one of my students observed in class that he and his brothers had more than once accidentally peppered one another with birdshot. I have no reason either to doubt his veracity or to suspect that he’s more reckless than most. It’s news because the VP did it, but it’s time to move on (coining a phrase).

Update: NRO has good advice for Dick Cheney.

Update #2: At the risk of further inciting the commenters, I note this Power Line post, regarding the frequency of "peppering" in South Dakota (regarding which I await Jon Schaff’s further commentary) and this column by Charles Krauthammer.

Guelzo on Lind on Lincoln

As Peter noted many months ago, Michael Lind’s book on Lincoln is simply bad. Framing his devastating criticism with kindness, Allen Guelzo shows how Lind’s effort to turn Lincoln into a racist money-grubbing capitalist (the Left’s favorite caricature of Republicans)doesn’t work.

Oh, to be young again!

I’d apply for this.

Gore at it again

Al Gore decries American treatment of Arabs post 9/11, according to this AP headline. He said bad and foolish things in the heart of Saudi Arabia. Shameful. My mind’s eye cannot see him as president. It would have been a debacle. Tigerhawk and Powerline have more.

Dangerous academics

As with many of David Horowitz’s projects, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, those who politicize their classrooms, or who think that everything is political, should neither be surprised nor indignant if there is a political response. On the other hand, I’m no more eager to see higher education politicized from the right than from the left. At the moment, I can’t improve upon these thoughts, but I will reserve judgment on Horowitz’s new book until I’ve actually read it.

Defending the West

David Warren is probably the best journalist writing regularly in Canada today. Almost everything he writes, especially on contemporary Canada and on the war against Islamic terrorism, is fresh, thoughtful, and full of good sense. One of the few times I’ve found myself disagreeing with him is in the most recent essayin his “Essays on our Times” series. After laying out how Muslims should be culturally assimilated in Canada and very nicely describing some of the ways in which Islam differs fundamentally from our Western notions, he concludes as follows:

“This is a different worldview, from our Western one. It is not less rational – it works from different premises about man and God. We cannot dismiss it, on its own terms. We can say, however, that our premises are incompatible, and insist that in Canada, ours will prevail.”

Although Warren is discussing Canada, this conclusion appears to be widely believed in many Western countries. Unless I misunderstand something, it is very dangerous. It is true that Islam works from very different premises than we in the West do; and it may be true that we cannot dismiss Islam on its own terms – how many Westerners know Islam well enough to say whether or not it has important internal contradictions? But can we really expect to prevail in our struggle with radical Islam if we admit that its worldview is “not less rational” than our own and so believe that all we can do is “insist” that in our backyard Muslims must adopt our worldview?

If that is all we have say to the radical Muslim, why should he give up his views and adapt to our ways? We tell him that his view is just as rational as ours, but in addition to that, he believes he is following the commands of God: neither reason, then, nor faith tells him he should adapt to us. What then is to make him do it?

Even more fundamentally, perhaps, why should we cling to our own ways, believing them to be no more rational than those of the radical Muslim’s? It seems that one of the West’s fundamental claims is precisely that its worldview is more rational than the alternatives, many of which are founded on some form of revelation. It is true that Christians still survive in the West, but the public articulation of our primary ideas and principles, while not perhaps incompatible with Christianity, are also not specifically Christian. We claim that the West is hospitable to all sorts of people, good Hindus, for example. If we abandon that claim to superior rationality and concede to our enemies an equal right to possess the compelling character that belongs to reason, we have already lost the war.

When Warren says that Islam is no less rational than the Western worldview, he means that once you accept certain premises, Islam is a consistently worked out system. Our worldview is equally rational in this sense, only we start from different premises. The real difference, then, lies in the premises; and Warren appears to suggest that our premises are no more defensible than the Islamic ones; this is why all we can do is insist on our premises. What we really need, however, is not so much an act of insistence, that is, of pure will, as it is a real defense of our premises – a defense that shows why our premises are truer or better than the Islamic ones.

Lincoln’s birthday

Today is Lincoln’s birthday. It seems odd that it is not a national holiday, and also odd that we don’t have a toast, as we do on Churchill’s birthday. We read and listen. You might like Allan C. Guelzo’s lecture on the Emancipation Proclamation that he gave just as his book on the same was being published (2004). Good talk. I listened to it yesterday on my two walks. Here is my review of the book. And here are a couple of fragments from Lincoln; and another. For dessert, you might taste (but aloud) the Second Inaugural.

Democrats Hoping for Gains in Governorships

This story from Reuters, seems to indicate that Dems are hoping make some big gains in the upcoming governors’ races. Following Tim Kaine’s example (see below) they might. Further, as the story notes, many of the places where these upsets are likely to occur (such as California) are blue or purple states where the Republican is not viewed as strong. As the National Democratic Party implodes, it will be interesting to watch if these state races are successful for the Dems. I doubt whether anything gleaned from these races can translate into success for the Dems in 2008. But winning a majority of state executive offices cannot be a bad thing for their party. Republicans will have to step up their game on the state and local level--as Ken Blackwell is doing--if they want to continue to hold on to Congress.

Betty Friedan RIP

Is there irony in the fact that the passing of Betty Friedan did not get as much attention this week as the passing of Coretta Scott King? Maggie Gallagher takes note of it in this article. She gives us a respectful but fair rememberance of Friedan and her legacy. Gallagher wonders whether we can finally recognize that: "The problem that feminism has never yet named is that women want to have children, and children compete with our ability to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into market production. Our children, by turning us into mothers, make us vulnerable, economically and emotionally." Can feminism or anything else ever change that?

Gov. Tim Kaine--Sane Democrat?

Virginia Governor, Tim Kaine has an interesting article at Real Clear Politics discussing how he was able to win the Governor’s race in a red state. He argues that his win has something to teach the larger Democratic party. But as you read this ask yourself whether the lesson can be applied on a larger spectrum. Kaine backed away from his liberalism and appealed to conservative ideas in so doing. For example, he denied that his personal opposition to the death penalty would keep him from enforcing it because ". . . I took the oath of office as seriously as my wedding vows." He also got to mention his religious faith and Catholic ties in the process. He talked about tax-relief for homeowners, improving roads for suburban commuters, and increasing Pre-K programs--especially appealing to the demographic of married women. Clever. It worked for him in the way "fake Republicanism" almost did for Hackett in Ohio.

But I think the days of this kind of strategy working on the national scene are over for two reasons. First, the Dems aren’t going to be able to nominate someone like this given their radicalized base. Second, I think when it comes to the larger issues in a national debate (not roads and pre-K programs!) voters won’t fall for fake Republicanism. There’s so little in it for us when we support their national programs. We don’t even get the satisfaction of seeing the programs work! We see the Dems coming with their wish-list and we hide our wallets. And as for Kaine’s most effective hammer, tax-relief, does anyone see a Democrat of national standing making that case in 2008? As Bush might say, "Bring it on!"

Peggy Noonan on the CSK funeral

She gushes about how this is democracy in action. No complaints about Joseph Lowery (who, as I said, is kinda entitled, as a preacher, to make his flock squirm). A gibe directed at JC (what the initials signify in the mind of our former President only he knows), but no real criticism. And cetainly no discussion of whether a funeral is an appropriate occasion for petty politics.

One thing PN clearly got right was her commentary on the Clintons:

The real news was how the Clintons used the funeral to unveil how they will run in 2008: Together, side by side, with beautiful hairdos. I haven’t seen them like this--both standing at the podium--since 1992, when they were new. In the years since, after the health-care failure and the Whitewater scandals, the West Wing attitude toward the president’s wife was a quiet and respectful "Get that woman off the podium!" Not anymore. All is new again. Mrs. Clinton has clearly been working on her public speaking, and attempted to use her hands as her husband uses his, now in an emphasizing arc, now resting on her chest. But his are large, long and elegant, and hers are puffed and grasping.

Both Clintons spoke in the cadence and with the imagery of the Bible. Mrs. Clinton’s first words, in which she referred to Mrs. King’s brave decision to continue her husband’s work after his murder, were steeped in religiosity. "As we are called, each of us must decide whether to answer that call by saying, ’Send me.’" She ended with, "The work of peace never ends. So we bid her earthly presence farewell. We wish her Godspeed on her homecoming. And we ask ourselves, ’Will we say, when the call comes, "Send me"?’"

Oh I think we will, Ms. Meanieface!

If you don’t understand that Mrs. Clinton was rehearsing her 2008 announcement speech, then you are a child and must go home and have a nice cup of cocoa.

This is what is coming: I have had a blessed life. And like so many people I could choose, after all these years, a life of comfort. Watch it from the sidelines, tend to my own concerns, watch the garden grow. But our nation calls out. And if we are to be Americans we must meet the call. "Send me."

With Bill nodding beside her, his hands clasped prayerfully in front of him, nodding and working that jaw muscle he works when he wants you to notice, for just a second, how hard it is sometimes for him to contain his admiration.

God I love them.

After those paragraphs, I can forgive the first part. Almost.

American Muslims and cartoon violence

This article is interesting because it surveys the reactions of a wide range of Muslim organizations and individuals. Two points stand out. Junaid Ahmad, a law student at William and Mary, makes one of them:

"This is not just a matter of being for freedom of speech and against freedom of speech," Ahmad said. "The first thing we should realize is that Muslims don’t accept the basic framework. The principal issue here is not freedom of speech, but the Islamophobic context in which such a caricaturing of the prophet is taking place. I think that’s the issue here."

Nevertheless, Ahmad said he was against laws restricting such speech. "You can’t give the state too much power. It’s better to fight hate not through laws but education and community organizing and activism."

While I don’t want to over-generalize, it’s probably fair to say that many American Muslims are not First Amendment absolutists. At the same time, if Ahmad is indicative, there is a certain sophisticated appreciation of limited government in some quarters.

The second point is a willingness to live responsibly in a pluralistic society:

"On the legal level and from an Islamic perspective, people have a choice," said Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of the Indianapolis-based Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim organization in the United States. "I don’t expect my neighbor to have the same reverence about the Prophet Muhammad. All that we are expecting is that they don’t insult a personality that’s made such a historical contribution. This is more a responsibility of living in a pluralistic society than a question of legal restrictions."

Dega Muna agrees:

To some U.S. Muslims, the cartoons of Muhammad are more a question of racism than blasphemy. "The cartoons border on hate speech. If people depicted Jews in that light, people would be very upset. If you look at them, they are very similar to cartoons drawn of Jews in Nazi Germany," said Dega Muna, 40, a Somali-born Muslim who grew up mostly in the U.S. and Canada and who coordinates a weekly "progressive Muslim" meet-up group in New York City.

"I agree it’s free speech, but with free speech comes responsibility, and knowing the consequences of your actions. They were provoking ... and this is the reaction they got. Unfortunately, it kind of proves their point, that Muslims are violent."

I wish that Muna would take her show on the road, sharing the lessons she has learned about responsible and self-restrained conduct in a pluralistic society with the people who sanctioned the publication of these viciously anti-Semitic cartoons.

Of course, the article has its faults, in part simply repeating a talking point about how the outbreak of violence stems from the fact that "the cartoons are seen by Muslims as the latest in a long line of western crimes against Muslims, he said. Those crimes include colonization and the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims to more recent images of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and perceived western Islamophobia."

There’s also an attempt at moral equivalence, comparing a firebombing of a French movie theater showing The Last Temptation of Christ to the orchestated violence and widespread violent threats in response to these cartoons. Yes, there are intolerant and even violent Christians, just as there are intolerant and even violent Hindus, Jews, and atheists. But the scope of the violent threats and the state sponsorship of the violence are, in this case, on an entirely different plane.

I admire and agree with American Muslims who speak of the importance of self-restraint and responsibility in a pluralistic society. I hope that it’s a lesson that spreads throughout the worldwide Muslim community and that is sustained and sustainable even as Muslim populations grow in numbers and influence.

New Podcasts

Some new Ashbrook Podcasts are up: Richard Ruderman on Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison; Allen Guelzo on the Emancipation Proclamation; and "You Americans" with Scott Johnson of Power Line talking about the MSM.
Have a look and pass the word.

Getting Drunk on Partisanship and Bush-Hating

This is the cause of the apparent Democratic spiral to obscurity according to Jonah Goldberg in this interesting op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times. It’s a nice overview of low-lights of their disasterous last week--which only augment the trend of decline. I liked these lines the best: "Some Democrats are furious that their party doesn’t have its own ideas. Other say they do have ideas, they’re just keeping them secret for now. That sounds a lot like the high school geek who insists that his girlfriend is really hot but lives in an undisclosed location in Canada."

Father Abraham

This book, Father Abraham: Lincoln’s Relentless Struggle to End Slavery, by Richard Striner, just landed on my desk. It is amazing how much is published on Lincoln each year, each month, seemingly each week. This looks like it is worth reading. I am also reminded that Lincoln’s birthday is coming up (the 12th) and you might want to celebrated it by reading something of his aloud, perhaps this or this.
And this is something I wrote on his birthday a few years back. Happy Birthday Old Abe!

Kelo Comes to Ohio

William Batchelder and Larry Obhof bring two cases to our attention that are before the Ohio Supreme Court. It seems that the City of Norwood has attempted to use its eminent domain power to sell private property to a private developer using some very suspicious "studies" that declare that the property in question is "blighted." Despite language in the Ohio Constitution and previous Ohio Supreme Court precedents that clearly forbid the use of eminent domain for private purposes, several courts have ruled in favor of the city. As Obhof and Batchelder explain:

The Ohio Supreme Court now has the opportunity to make history. It is the first state supreme court to address these issues following Kelo. Many more states will follow, and Ohio’s decision in Norwood will serve as a bellwether for other courts looking to protect property rights.


Stealing Souter’s home

Matt Labash writes on the wars against Supreme Court Justice David Souter and his views on eminent domain: Some people up in Weare, New Hampshire, are trying to steal Souter’s home! It’s a form of justice, isn’t it?

War-fighting and law enforcement

This WaPo article clarifies the problems inherent in the pre-9/11 law enforcement attitude I noted here. Apparently the FISA judges don’t regard evidence generated through warrantless wiretaps as admissible in making the case for a FISA warrant.

Connected with this story is this WSJ editorial, which argues for the repeal of FISA:

What FISA boils down to is an attempt to further put the executive under the thumb of the judiciary, and in unconstitutional fashion. The way FISA works is that it gives a single judge the ability to overrule the considered judgment of the entire executive branch. In the case of the NSA wiretaps, the Justice Department, NSA and White House are all involved in establishing and reviewing these wiretaps. Yet if a warrant were required, one judge would have the discretion to deny any request.

As a practical war-fighting matter, this interferes with the ability to gather intelligence against anonymous, al Qaeda-linked phone numbers. FISA warrants apply to people, and are supposed to require "probable cause" that the subject is an agent of a foreign power. But as Mr. Gonzales and Deputy National Intelligence Director Michael Hayden explained Monday, in fast-moving anti-terror operations it’s often impossible to know if someone on the U.S. end of an al Qaeda phone call is actually an "agent." That means the government must operate on a different "reasonable basis" standard.

I’d quibble with one part of this argument. In his colloquy with Mike DeWine on Monday, the Attorney General seemed to concede that "reasonable basis" and "probable cause" were equivalent terms, but he also implied that "probable cause" works differently when we’re talking about identifying agents rather than about the commission of a crime. The latter obviously deals with the law enforcement, the former with intelligence-gathering in wartime. If indeed the FISA court won’t grant warrants on the basis of information developed through this alternative route, they are operating on a pre-9/11 basis. And, by the way, if you actually read law’s documentation requirements, you’d be compelled to agree that it’s not a "nimble" instrument in a fast-moving situation, and it’s not clear that it can be revised to make it so.

Update: Hugh Hewitt has more on the FISA Court here and here. I expect that there will be more at Radioblogger later.

Update #2: This WSJ editorial comments on yesterday’s WaPo article. And here’s the transcript of Hugh Hewitt’s conversation with John Eastman and Erwin Chemerinsky about the behavior of the two FISA judges.

Cartoon violence again

Power Line calls our attention to another Amir Taheri piece, this one taking a close look at the timeline between the publication of the cartoons and the riots. Taheri notes that both Syria and Iran have an interest in putting the Danes--set to assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council--on the defensive and that both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (the chief non-governmental agitators) had reasons to postpone their indignation until after elections had been concluded.

Read the whole thing. 

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for January

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

Cindy Follick

Dorothy Fowler

David Ward

Ian Kimbrell

Lynn Sabo

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 February’s drawing.

Mohammed cartoons published last October, in Egypt

Pajamas Media reports that the offensive Mohammed cartoons were actually published in Egypt last October, during Ramadan. He has the scans top prove it. Very interesting.

Must reading on cartoon fury

Amir Taheri argues that neither images nor satire are prohibited by Islam. Two snippets:

The "rage machine" was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood--a political, not a religious, organization--called on sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood’s rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party’s 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut.

And this:

Islamic ethics is based on "limits and proportions," which means that the answer to an offensive cartoon is a cartoon, not the burning of embassies or the kidnapping of people designated as the enemy. Islam rejects guilt by association. Just as Muslims should not blame all Westerners for the poor taste of a cartoonist who wanted to be offensive, those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy.

Read the whole thing.

William Tecumseh Sherman

Apparently, today is the 186th anniversary of the birth of William Tecumseh Sherman. Rich Policz takes the occasion as an opportunity to set the record straight on Sherman’s march through the South. Sherman has been much maligned by history as a brute who unethically terrorized civilians in the South. As Policz points out:

Most history books don’t tell how bloodless the march was for both sides. Of course there were those individuals and small groups, who crazed with rage at Sherman’s men, would raise their guns only to be shot down, but by and large the Union army was very restrained in their evacuating of civilians before ripping apart their world. Furthermore, by crushing the spirit of the rebels it shortened the continued bloody collisions of the two opposing armies in other theatres of the war.

Canadian elections again

One of my only regrets in grad school was that I never took a class from Donald Forbes, who is currently visiting at the Australian National University, where his host is my old friend John Uhr.

Don gave a talk in Canberra on the Canadian election and generously shared his text with me. (It will find its way into print sooner or later, but hasn’t been published yet.) He has lots of interesting things to say and gave me permission to quote excerpts. Without further ado, I will.

[W]hat seems to be happening is that the Liberals are becoming the party of English Canada’s big cities with large recent immigrant populations, particularly Toronto, but also Vancouver and the anglophone and allophone parts of Montreal (the ‘West Island’). For the past 30 to 40 years the Liberals have been fostering two relevant beliefs, that multiculturalism is the Canadian essence or identity and that they as a party own the patent. In this election they used a variety of code words – particularly ‘Canadian values,’ ‘tolerance,’ and ‘the Charter’ – to suggest that the Canadian consensus would be irreparably damaged and the very essence of Canada threatened if they were to lose power. Their fear campaign seems to have sustained their vote in Canada’s sophisticated, ‘diverse,’ upscale urban markets, but progressive managerial multiculturalism sells less well elsewhere, even in large cities, such as Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton, where native-born Canadians and older European immigrants are more numerous. Admittedly, multiculturalism itself was not openly discussed: Paul Martin tried desperately to get his opponents to declare their opposition to ‘Canadian values,’ but they insisted on talking about other things (crime, scandals, taxes, health care, fiscal imbalances, etc.). The emotionally charged differences between Liberals and the Conservatives that were openly discussed – abortion, gun control, and gay marriage – have little or nothing directly to do with multiculturalism. Nonetheless, they seemed to be helping to create the divide between the cities of high immigration and the rest of the country that one can see in the returns.

If this division were to deepen and if the dividing line were to shift a little in the Conservative’s favour, so that they could count on winning a few more suburban ridings, the result would be a fundamentally new alignment of partisan forces. This is the alignment that I assume the Conservatives will be trying to create, without scaring anyone; that the Liberals may be powerless to avoid; and that some journalists may have been anticipating when just before the election they wrote of Canada ‘veering to the right.’

Don also writes with great subtlety and sophistication about the challenges faced by the various parties on the Canadian scene. I’m not going to give you all of it, but I will share a paragraph about the Liberals’ major challengers on their main big city turf:

In English Canada, too, the Liberals have enemies on their left in the form of Canada’s Labor party, the NDP, led by a former Toronto alderman, Jack Layton. A few years ago, when the party chose him as its new leader, it was not just abandoning an older, more doctrinaire style of ‘socialism,’ it was in effect choosing to focus on the big cities as the places where it should concentrate its future efforts (rather than trying to regain lost ground on the Prairies and in the one-industry towns where it had tended to win seats in the past) and on practical measures likely to appeal to middle-class city dwellers (rather than the old rhetoric that used to appeal to theoretically inclined farmers and workers). This new urban strategy seems to be working. If Layton’s modest success continues, the NDP could soon represent as serious a threat to the Liberal party in the big cities as the Conservatives party does now in the country as a whole, given its surprising breakthrough in Quebec.

Finally, here’s a chunk of Don’s conclusion:

Harper’s most important actions are likely to be budgetary and administrative. In parliament, the next two or three years are likely to be ones of very careful political jockeying. Canadians have had three general elections in a little over five years. No party will want the responsibility for bringing on another one any time soon, but the Conservatives, after a decent period of reassuringly moderate government, will probably be the most willing to try their luck again, in the hope of securing an absolute majority and a freer hand to make whatever transformative changes they may have on their ‘hidden agendas.’

If these bits have piqued your interest, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whole thing.

The struggling Dems

Nagurney & Stolberg’s piece in The New York Times is quite revealing. The Dems should be doing better than they are. It’s been a tough few months for them. The Democrats are "sensing missed opportunities." The party’s problems seem "tangled"; they’re "frustrated" at this "pivotal moment," while their authority "has been diluted." Of course, they have many (Dean, Pelosi, Gore) "flawed" messengers," but the "absence of one or two obvious leaders." There are some revealing quotes (see Durbin and Frost), and some shocking ones. While Nancy Pelosi is admitting that they can’t win by just not being the GOP, yet she says that there is no rush to set out a program, pointing to the Dems’ success in defeating Bush’s Social Security proposal last year. Here is Pelosi: "’People said, "You can’t beat something with nothing,"’ she said, arguing that the Democrats had in fact accomplished precisely that this year. ’I feel very confident about where we are.’" That confidence that you can beat something with nothing and two cents will get you a cup of coffee.

The Coretta Scott King funeral

While it didn’t rise, or rather sink, to the level of the Wellstone rally, two speakers tossed barbs at George W. Bush. I can almost forgive Joseph Lowery, who has the preacher’s right to make his congregation squirm in their seats, even if, like many preachers, his sentiments tend to outrun his facts.

But Jimmy Carter is another story. He still is a politician who shouldn’t be hiding behind a pulpit: if he wants to dish it out, he has to let his target respond. Fortunately, on this occasion the President showed more class than his predecessor, as his gracious remarks demonstrate: one can acknowledge past and present injustice, while celebrating a life well-lived, and, above all, without directly casting aspersions on those who are sharing as brothers and sisters in the celebration.

Here are the WaPo story, a page of links from the Atlanta paper, and this story, in particular, describing an even more political memorial service at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

If you regard my commentary as insufficiently spirited, you can go here and here.

One last point, before I leave: While his remarks aren’t as well-wrought as his successor’s (Gerson and McGurn are extraordinary craftsmen), Bill Clinton puts Jimmy Carter to shame, especially when he observes that "we’re here to honor a person" and then says this:

We’re always going to have our political differences. We’re always going to have things we can do, and I must say, this has been brilliantly executed, and enormously both moving and entertaining moments. But we’re in the house of the Lord. And most of us are too afraid to live the life we oughtta live because we have forgotten the promise that was made to Martin Luther King, to Coretta Scott King, and all of us, most beautifully for me stated in Isiah, “Fear not, I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name. Thou art mine.”

Words fitly spoken at a funeral, coming out of anyone’s mouth.

Sticks and stones and cartoons and violence

My old friend David Foster has granted my wish, responding thoughtfully and manfully to this op-ed about John Locke and the cartoon violence. Dave’s conclusion is worth emphasizing:

It may be that the creator and publisher of an offensive cartoon uncivilly insult others, but those who react with violence to that insult implicitly reject the fundamental premise of Locke’s argument for toleration, because they are acting as if they could get belief through "outward force."

According to Locke, the man who makes the demand we are considering is telling you what religion you must adopt and in effect trying to rule you. On my reading of Locke, that is not grounds for civility but manly vigilance, firmness, and action.

Dave thus fleshes out the point that Roger Kimball makes more briefly here.

But, wait, that’s not all. John Zvesper reflects on these matters from his perch on the continent destined to be the crucible of the conflict between militant Islam and liberal principles...if only our European friends remember what liberalism means. Here’s the conclusion:

The cartoon affair raises the question of how effectively Europeans—and their political descendants in the rest of the liberal democratic world—can and will clarify (to themselves as well as to their allies and their enemies) what they stand for. Is clarifying and upholding the principles of liberal democracy not essential to maintaining our self respect, and therefore of gaining and keeping the respect of allies? Is it not therefore necessary to the success of the Bush strategy of isolating Islamic warmongers from their peaceful co-religionists?

If western politics is not—like the mirrors in Wertheim Park—broken beyond repair, liberal democrats will embrace a more confident response to religious intolerance. The dogmatic skepticism that says that neither nature nor heaven can help us—that liberal democratic politics has no natural, transcultural justification—is the basis of multicultural hypersensitivity and unwarranted censorship. It is not a basis for defeating political tyranny, but for surrendering to it.

Read ’em both.

NSA surveillance

You can begin reading the transcripts of yesterday’s inquisition, er, hearings here. There are four parts, so if you’re a slow reader, you’ll never finish. Here’s the AG’s opening statement. Here is Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts’s letter to Senators Specter and Leahy, in which he defends the NSA program. And, finally, here is Findlaw’s NSA documents page.

My effort to make some sense of it all will be posted over at TAE Online by tomorrow morning. The long and the short of it is that members of Congress have long had the opportunity--and still have the opportunity--to pull the plug on the program. Why hasn’t anyone tried? Why does all the energy go into attempting to embarrass the Administration?

Update: My TAE Online column is here. I’m sure the one of the recent commenters on another one of my posts will find it particularly loathesome.


As the rest of the country remembers the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta, Los Angeles County jails are in the process of segregating along racial lines. After racial riots broke out over the weekend, even the ACLU had to admit that the segregation lived up to the standard of "extraordinary circumstances" required according to a Supreme Court ruling from last year. The riots and the lockdown continue on today. The ACLU argues that the problem is overcrowding. County supervisors argue that the problem stems not from lack of funding but from understaffing (currently they have about one deputy for every 50 inmates). I toured the Pitchess Detention Center--the subject of most of the rioting--back in 1999. It is hard to imagine how one deputy for every 50 inmates can possibly do the job there--although it was one of the most organized and efficient operations I have ever seen. The inmates there are pretty serious offenders.

John Locke on our present troubles

I’d like to read the estimable David Foster’s response to this piece.

Could the 60s Be Coming to an End at Last?

Well, probably not, but during the Super Bowl halftime last night I let my seven-year-old watch the Rolling Stones in all their decrepitude, and she said: "I don’t like these guys very much." Hope for the future.

Gipper’s Birthday

Today is the 95th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birthday. Happy birthday to the Gipper, and now let’s everybody go out and name an airport or highway or monument for him in your county.

The Ten Commandments in Georgia

This bill, likely, especially in an election year, to be adopted by the Georgia legislature, could, down the road, lead the Supreme Court to revisit and overturn its confusing Ten Commandments decisions. That’s the best possible result of the process I explore in this op-ed for the Atlanta paper.

Caricaturing Islam, everything else

Instapundit posted this Mohammed Image archive, to show that his image has been portrayed throughout Islamic history. Captain’s Quarters has more on how the Imam’s are artificially enhancing all of this. Also see this interesting op-ed by Charles Moore in the London Telegraph. A Muslim (a moderate?), Ibn Warraq, defends the publication of the cartoons in Der Spiegel. A senior Islamic cleric in Australia asks (threatens?) the Aussies not to publish said cartoons. CNN has already made clear that it will not show the cartoons "out of respect [fear?] for Islam." The BBC has done the same, but being British and sophisticated and thoughtful and all, they have deliberated and anguished over the decision.

Note this CNN story on the burning of the Danish consulate in Beirut. Note the last paragraph, wherein the Danish paper’s cultural editor said that the uproar came after "radical imams from Denmark traveled to the Middle East, deliberately lying about these cartoons," and said that the paper was owned by the government and was preparing a new translation of the Koran "censoring the word of ’Allah,’ which is a grave sin according to Islam." The fact that everyone has apologized for everything and has been sensitive to everyone has nothing to do with any of this, that is now obvious. No one is caricaturing Islam. We are all responsible for our own portraits, in the end. Note that it looks as though the Egyptian ship’s captain may have been the first to skedaddle. And thirteen Al Qaeda bad guys (including the guys responsible for the USS Cole bombing) escaped from a prison in Yemen. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has compared Iran’s nuclear policy to the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany, warning that in the past the nations of the world refused to take a stance against concrete threats, enabling some of history’s greatest catastrophes.
And here is the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, comparing Bush to Hitler: "The imperialist, genocidal, fascist attitude of the U.S. president has no limits. I think Hitler would be like a suckling baby next to George W. Bush." Nepal grinds to a halt, as Maoists call for a general strike. I could go on with the bad news. Yet, there is always some good news. A young man saves the life of the woman who saved his life seven years earlier. Amazing. But not as amazing as the upcoming Steelers victory, which I am going to go watch.

Iraqi WMDs in Syria?

Jack Kelly summarizes the evidence. Is it time to demand an inspection regime for Syria?

To be or not to be sensitive, that is the question

Nothing but honor and applause to Mark Steyn for this column. It is true, hillarious, and sobering because it is true. I don’t know how else one can talk about this latest spasm in the Muslim world. It is a comedy. No, it is a tragedy. No, it is a slice of reality that is horrifying. Try David Warren, he may shed some light on this. He thinks we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Maryland gay marriage again

Maryland Republicans seem to have failed in their effort to bring a state defense of marriage amendment to a vote. While it’s possible to complain about the high-handedness of the Democrats in the state legislature, the fact is that they have a substantial majority.

"Now everyone knows where we stand," [House Majority Leader Kumar P.] Barve said. "The Republicans can complain about the outcome, but the bottom line is, it takes a majority of votes to get something passed here, and they did not have the votes."

Perhaps so, but might the voters not begin to see this as a problem?

And then there’s this article, which notes that the next governor, incumbent Republican Robert Ehrlich or his Democratic challenger, will be in a position to nominate three judges to Maryland’s highest court. While even three "conservative" nominations would unlikely decisively change the judicial status quo in Maryland (apparently the three judges slated to retire are more or less conservative), it’s hard to image that the gay marriage judicial decision will not have an impact on the November election, with or without a defense of marriage amendment on the ballot.

The evolution/I.D. debate

This fine article covers the waterfront and includes some revealing quotes from Richard Dawkins:

Being "pro-life in debates on abortion or stem cell research always means pro-human life, for no sensibly articulated reason," he once wrote. The fact that humans think of themselves as altogether distinct from other animals -- and the biblical notion that humans have dominion over other animals -- is a sort of racism, Dawkins said. Evolution shows that fox hunters and bullfighters are tormenting their own distant cousins, which is why the biologist sends money to anti-bullfighting groups in Spain, and why he notes with pride that fox hunting was banned on the family farm. "The melancholy fact," Dawkins wrote in an essay called "Gaps in the Mind," "is that, at present, society’s moral attitudes rest almost entirely on the . . . speciesist imperative."

Darwinian ideas about natural selection are also freighted with moral import because they show that nature, while spectacularly beautiful and ingenious, requires prodigious amounts of ruthlessness and suffering to achieve its ends. The grace of the cheetah, the beauty of a butterfly’s wings and the complexity of the human brain were all achieved by the same general process that allows bacteria to evolve into a resistant strain -- they required the death of those less quick, less strong and less smart.


Dawkins believes that, alone on Earth, human beings can rebel against the mechanistic indifference of nature. Understanding the pitiless ways of natural selection is precisely what can make humans moral, Dawkins said. It is human agency, human rationality and human law that can create a world more compassionate than nature, not a religious view that falsely sees the universe as fundamentally good and benevolent. That is why, Dawkins said, he donates to disaster relief efforts -- work that is "un-Darwinian" -- and why he is a stickler for human laws, even the unimportant ones: When riding his bicycle, he stops at red lights even when there are no traffic and police officers present.

"I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to explaining how things are, but I am an even more passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics," said Dawkins, who comes close to describing himself as a pacifist. "Let us understand Darwinism so we can walk in the opposite direction when it comes to setting up society."

Alhough he says that one can’t have a "two spheres" view when it comes to science and religion, he claims that one can when it comes to science and morality or politics. I’m not sure what the ground of this "human exceptionalism" would be. How and why are we "free" to attempt to overcome our natures? What guides us in that attempt? Is "anti-Darwinian" human morality simply an act of will? Are we able thus to "play God" only after we’ve used Darwinism to dismantle any normative system that might not comport with our own personal preferences? I could ask lots more questions, but I’ll leave it at these for now.

But read the whole article: it’s thorough and fair-minded.

Finally, the Yanks are coming

This article on Romania is revealing in a couple of ways. First, it gives the correct impression, in a tender way, that Romanians are looking forward to having Americans permanenetly stationed in their country, and gives some reasons why. This will be the first U.S. base in a former Warsaw Pact country. Second, it alludes to more geopolitical relationships wherein some of the details should be more of a secret than the article allows. Too bad. The deal with Romania was signed by Rice in December, and there will be another similar deal with Bulgaria. I have spent a little time in both countries, but I’ll have to go into that at another time. Both deals are good for us, and them. This is a WaPo four-minute video on the base in Romania.

Bono’s sermon

Get Religion calls our attention to the remarks Bono made at the National Prayer Breakfast this past Thursday. While praising the U.S. and its churches for all they have done to address poverty and the AIDS crisis in Africa (which he described as a tsunami a month), he called upon the government to devote 1% of ita annual budget (amounting currently to $26 billion) to "the poorest people in the world."

Seems reasonable, no? A small price to pay, no? A drop in the bucket, no? He certainly meant it to be all these things--a tiny stretch for a nation that is already generous, a first step on the long road to dealing effectively with "the least of us" all over the world.

Of course, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Bono did speak of effective foreign assistance. I have it on pretty good authority that the money, by itself, very likely won’t make a difference. So long as African governments are mired in corruption, too much of the aid will be stolen or wasted.

I suspect that Bono knows this, which is why he used the word "effective." But he was in the business of bearing prophetic witness, not making a real policy recommendation. Real policy might require addressing Africa’s political problems before its health and economic problems can be effectively addressed. Some might say that political health flows from economic health, that the economic comes first. But if the politicians are kleptocrats, there can be no economic growth and prosperity without changes at the top.

And of course, when we’re talking about the AIDS crisis, Bono also knows that government money can’t necessarily be effectively spent, either by the government or by the various and sundry NGOs, as they’re currently configured. What to do?

Reeb on Henninger on ideology

I can’t improve upon Richard Reeb’s response to Daniel Henninger’s Friday Opinion Journal column. Where Henninger says that voters want "ideology" rather than pork barrel politics, Reeb writes about principle and prudence.

Here’s Henninger:

At a time when the Democratic elites no longer have a vibrant ideology and the Republicans in Washington are deserting theirs, the public across the spectrum seems to be screaming for recognizable signposts, shared political principles.

Here’s Reeb:

I do not believe for one minute that Henninger concedes anything to the leftist ideologues, but by putting the right’s "ideology" on a par with the left’s, he unnecessarily grants the left more credit than it deserves. What makes conservatism a wise choice for Americans is not its unanchored theories but its appreciation of what in America needs to be conserved--and extended--for the sake of "the perpetuation of our political institutions." Abraham Lincoln called our nation "the last, best hope of earth," by which he explicitly meant, as did the founders, that America is a model for the rest of the world. Rightly there is a debate about the prudence of extending self government in this or that area of our national life or in this or that region of the world, but it is always an option. Lincoln emphatically meant that America must strive always to put its own house in order so that it may be the example the world needs.

But whether it be foreign or domestic policy, true conservatism consists in doing the most good in the circumstances, holding fast to the "self evident" truths and republican habits at our nation’s foundation, without conceding non-existent virtues to any anti-republican doctrines. Prudence can thus usher in boldness no less than caution if public opinion is ripe for wise measures that "provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare."

Henninger makes the all-too-common error of identifying ideology and adherence to political principle, forgetting or overlooking the role of reason and hence of prudence in the latter. Not all compromises are unprincipled or merely pragmatic. And not all "theoretical" positions are reasonable. An "ideology" closed to experience and conversation hardly counts as principled. After all, principles ought (in principle, one might say) to be shareable with others.

The American Enterprise

Selections from the new issue are available online. They include editor Karl Zinsmeister’s latest report from Iraq (worth reading for the clarity it brings), an interesting interview with historian David Hackett Fischer, and James Lileks’s appreciation of Judge Judy.

Princeton’s James Madison Program

The quality of its conferences makes me wish I lived in New Jersey. (Well, almost. I’m pretty happy where I am.) Upcoming events include a conference on civic religion in the U.S. and Europe and one on Jewish philosophy in America. The conference held last December on conservative movement, keynoted by Steven Hayward and David Brooks is now viewable online.

Hat tip: Michael DeBow.

Jim Boehner info

A useful place to start looking into what Jim Boehner is all about. From the information I garnered here he sounds like a solid guy. My best sources assure me that is true.

Pass the Stuffing . . .

Rush read most or all of this terrific editorial by Daniel Henninger and about why "ideology" is what voters crave in their politics these days. I wouldn’t exactly call it ideology, if I were smart enough to write about this, but people certainly do seem to be searching for the real meaning of American politics--there is decidedly less policy wonk talk these days. One reason, to be sure, is that policy is boring--it can only excite the mind when it is tied to a notion of right or wrong. The problem the Dems are having with their "young intellectuals" (as Henninger calls them) who blog to the point of obscenity about their leaders in the political world stems from the fact that Dems no longer understand (or perhaps have basic awareness) of their "ideology."

These young bloggers and "intellectuals" understand that their policy preferences come from something--an idea about the good or an idea of what America should be. Leading Democrats tend to take it as a given that a majority of Americans agree with their aims--they think politicians just have to work out the details of how best to accomplish Democratic aims and prove to us that they can do it. They don’t get that the reason they’re getting defeated is that we don’t like where their policies are headed. We disagree about the aims. The emerging liberal intellectuals understand that basic point of non-conversation between themselves and us. They want Democrats to defend their ideology and engage with and rally the public behind them on that point. But the Dems can’t do it. No, seriously, they really can’t. They can’t because they’re not capable and they can’t because--even if they were capable--it would blow a cover that is at least as old as FDR. Possibly older.

I mean to take nothing away from FDR’s success as a wartime leader or suggest that he was anything other than a patriot in his intentions. But FDR was a master at disguising Progressive ideology in the clothes of American ideas of equality and liberty. Whether he did this because he actually believed that Progressivism was the true meaning of America or because he was a clever usurper of the idea, I’m not smart enough to say. In the end, his intentions don’t really matter. But I do suspect that Roosevelt may have been too clever by half if he wasn’t simply misguided. The Dems today don’t understand America because they think America is Progressivism. They don’t know that there is a competing vision of what America is out there. They don’t know that there is a still small voice in the American breast that hears the words "liberty" or "Constitution" or "Washington" or "Lincoln" or "equality" and gets in some real and deep way that Dem ideas do not exemplify them. They are not worthy of them. Roosevelt’s success may spell their doom. Perhaps he fooled his own party--but he’s not fooling us anymore. Liberal bloggers are sensing this and it scares the pants off of them.

Intelligence matters

CIA chief Porter Goss claimed in hearings yesterday that unauthorized leaks of classified information about agency activities have caused "severe damage" to the CIA’s operations and that journalists who report leaks should be questioned by a grand jury. Gabriel Schoenfeld asks if the New York Times has violated the Espionage Act. This is the New York Times report on yesterday’s Senate hearings. I saw a few minutes of it. I was not impressed with Rockefeller or Levin’s comments.

Cartoon politics

Here is a slideshow of the Danish cartoons that are causing all this Muslim anger and protest. The BBC has more.

Lawyers and friends

Scott at Powerline brings to our attention this New York Times article on the modest and reclusive

Harper Leee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), and this thoughtful comment by Wilfred McClay. He rightly connects all of this to his good essay on Lincoln as a Lawyer. Thanks to him. A nice read for the early morning.

New website worth bookmarking

David Schaefer of Holy Cross and some colleagues have started a opinion website and newsletter. Among the current offerings are a piece by Schaefer on Supreme Court nominations, one by David Lowenthal on Intelligent Design,and Schaefer’s brief commentary on Spielberg’s Munich.

Here’s part of the mission statement:

We stand for the defense of constitutional self-government in opposition to the endeavors of judicial activists, self-styled “public interest” advocacy groups, and overreaching Congressmen and bureaucrats. We recognize the need for an effective social "safety net" and government regulations to effectively protect the environment; but, remain suspicious of overregulation and reject redistributive schemes of misguided egalitarianism.

Our guide is Alexis de Tocqueville, who endeavored to show how the principle of democratic equality can be harmonized with the spirit of political liberty and individual liberty under law without subjecting a democratic citizenry to bureaucratic or judicial despotism.

Looks like it’s worth a bookmark.

And Now for Somethng Completely Different

I’m at the airport in Oklahoma City killing time before a flight, so here’s today’s diversions.

First, a rare sign of wit from the ACLU. But I think some of their nanny-state members will find it generates conflicting sentiments.

And then, for any disaffected Anglican-Epsicopalians out there, there is this apparently genuine radio ad, which gives cause for hope.

"Lo-kantian" realism

Discussing the failings of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Joseph Loconte makes a recommendation that Immanuel Kant, properly understood (see my now ancient dissertation) would have embraced: the condition for participation in an effective international organization is having what we in the U.S. would call a "republican form of government."

Loose Barbies? Lose Sales.

Mattel Inc.,(the maker of my favorite childhood toy--Barbie) announced on Monday that their fourth-quarter profits are down as a result of her slumping sales. Barbie’s sales are down about 11 percent but their American Girls brand had sales that climbed up 12 percent. This is not a new story. Mattel announced the same problem during the first quarter--but it’s been a long time coming. Back in 1997 Mattel announced that Barbie would have a "makeover" to make her measurements more "realistic" (yeah, right--although her chest is decidedly less pronounced, Mattel’s reality is apparently much skinnier than mine) and her grin became less "toothy" and more subdued. I argued then that it looked Prozac-induced. Since the time that the plastic surgeons of politcal-correctness got ahold of her we have also seen Barbie in all kinds of "non-traditional" professions and in all kinds of ethnic permutations. There were still variations on the old theme--Barbie as a princess, Barbie as a bride, etc.. I’d venture a guess based on my own field research (as a mother of a six-year-old girl) that those products continued to do well. But we’ve seen, more recently, Barbie trying to compete with the new kid on the block--Bratz.

For the uninitiated, Bratz are a kind of slut/gangster version of the fashion doll. Their exaggerated head and lip size combined with their fitting, but unflattering, name made them an unpopular item in my household before I even had the chance to ban them. But there is a segment of the population that seems to think these dolls are appropriate for their daughters (the same segment that delights in dressing their pre-pubescent girls like American Idol contestants). Mattel’s "My Scene" dolls and the accompanying slut attire--seemingly launched to keep up with Bratz--has done them no favors in my view. People who like what Bratz has to "offer" will buy Bratz. People who like the more wholesome and attractive things that Barbie has always offered have given in to purchasing Disney Princess dolls from the Disney Store--even though the quality of the hair and other features is quite inferior. Mattel should ask themselves why American Girls had a surge in sales and Barbie did not. American Girl dolls sell well--despite their $100 price tag--because they are wholesome. They are appropriate for little girls. They do not encourage them to become sassy, disobedient, and vamped-up teenagers. I used to look forward to the day that my daughter and I could enjoy playing Barbie dolls together. We do still enjoy Barbies--but it’s hard to find suitable attire for them. Between finding clothes for my daughter and finding them for Barbie, I’m getting awful tired of sewing. Mattel should get a clue.

There’s No Need to Bring Love Into It

This shocking story (at least it’s still shocking to me) about the so-called "cuddle puddle" at Stuyvesant High School (one of New York’s best magnet schools) offers some frightening insights into just how far gone things are getting in the culture wars--especially in the battle for the hearts and minds of teenagers. Of course, we’re talking about New York City. But if it’s happening there, it’s happening. The sexual ambiguity, the dabbling in homosexuality, the licentiousness and the unabashed assertion of these things in a public way have nothing over the saddest part of the story. These kids emphatically admit what I chose as the title of this post: "There’s no need to bring love into it." Mug -worthy but fill it with something stronger than coffee.

Update: I don’t know why but the link is not working well. Try this.

Hillary’s big problem

Dick Morris is concise. Hillary does better when she is quiet. She is not doing well lately. I am reminded that the other night when President Bush mentioned--in an amusing way--that two of his father’s favorite people (he and Bill) are Boomers the camera panned to Hillary and she was frowning and making faces. She should have smiled or laughed at the remark. Her political instincts are wrong. I still maintain that she cannot be stopped by another Democrat from winning the Democratic nomination, yet almost any Republican will be able to defeat her. She will not become president.

Peggy Noonan on the Democrats

Today’s PN column meanders around the topic of political polarization in a way that is poignant, amusing, and illuminating. Her observation about the Democrats is not novel, but it is well-said:

Conservatives are always writing about the strains and stresses within the Republican Party, and they are real. But the Democratic Party seems to be near imploding, and for that most humiliating of reasons: its meaninglessness. Republicans are at least arguing over their meaning.

The venom is bubbling on websites like Kos, where Tuesday afternoon, after the Alito vote, various leftists wrote in such comments as "F--- our democratic leaders," "Vichy Democrats" and "F--- Mary Landrieu, I hope she drowns." The old union lunch-pail Democrats are dead, the intellects of the Kennedy and Johnson era retired or gone, and this--I hope she drowns--seems, increasingly, to be the authentic voice of the Democratic base.

How will a sane, stable, serious Democrat get the nomination in 2008 when these are the activists to whom the appeal must be made?

Republicans have crazies. All parties do. But in the case of the Democrats--the leader of their party, after all, is the unhinged Howard Dean--the lunatics seem increasingly to be taking over the long-term health-care facility. Great parties die this way, or show that they are dying.

Humbler than thou

Today’s Washington Post offers a flattering portrait of former Missouri Senator John Danforth, who has spoken out against the religious right and on behalf of religious moderation.

In Danforth’s view, the religious conservatives are the dividers. He and his fellow moderates could get along with everyone:

[M]oderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God’s truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God’s work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today’s politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lord’s table all who would come. Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love.

This embrace of broad-thinking and toleration comes pretty close to saying that those who have other views--those who, for example, restrict the Lord’s Supper to those who have made a profession of faith in a particular denomination--aren’t genuinely following God’s word. Those who don’t share Danforth’s vision of humility and all-embracing love, and the practical consequences drawn from it, must be arrogant and un-loving.

It’s also easier to be tolerant if you can call yourself pro-life, but not see what all the fuss is about when it comes to stem cell research:

It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.
Messing with the building blocks of life--playing God, so to speak--is no big deal. Only a crabbed, purely and narrowly religious person, moved by pride, not humility, and without a shred of compassion, could hold a view contrary to Danforth’s.

It’s also easier to be tolerant if you say that you favor traditional marriage, but argue that you can think of no reason other than a mean desire to humiliate people to enshrine that opinion in the Constitution.

Perhaps the best explanation of Danforth’s position comes from
another WaPo profile, this one on the occasion of Ronald Reagan’s funeral:

If he sticks to his usual form today, Danforth, who declined to be interviewed for this article, will mention God once or twice near the end of his homily. But he can be counted on not to cause a stir by freelancing an impolitic mention of Jesus, as Franklin Graham did at George W. Bush’s inauguration. He will likely perfectly embody Washington National Cathedral’s other role, not as an Episcopal chapel but as the closest thing we have to a national church, a place where faith is present but muted, as on the dollar bill or in the Pledge of Allegiance.

"Jack will deliver a little homily," says Alex Netchvolodoff, his former chief of staff and close friend. "It’s not deep theology. He knows that funerals are for the living; they are gatherings of people to celebrate a life, that they should be upbeat, full of hope."

Official Washington likes its religion beige, interfaith, tastefully alluded to rather than shouted from a mountaintop. Danforth will oblige: "He won’t step on any toes," says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. "People who don’t have any religious sensibilities will feel comfortable with him."

Now read that last sentence again. All are welcome at John Danforth’s table, except those he perceives as intolerant.

It is of course true that there are folks on the religious right who are smug and self-righteous, just as there are on the secular right, the religious left, and the secular left. There also seem to be some in the religious center.

Sam Brownback, theocrat?

So says this hit-piece in Rolling Stone. Small prayer and support groups are revolutionary cells. Meetings where representatives from like-minded interest groups communicate and coordinate activities are somehow sinister and conspiratorial. A passage from the New Testament (Matthew 7:16) is turned into an anti-gay slur. And a theologically sound understanding of how a Christian is answerable ultimately to God is said to be anti-Democratic, an insinuation that predictably sets off the irritable Andrew Sullivan, who is rebuked by Richard John Neuhaus.

The, er, "secret" document to which the author refers can be found here, and an earlier article making much the same argument now applied to Brownback can be found here. One wonders whether Brownback and his press people did their homework.

Ashbrook Center

New Ashbrook Podcasts

We have a new batch of podcasts available. My podcast features Steven Hayward this week. Steve and I discussed a wide variety of topics, starting with Bill Clinton's claim that climate change is the biggest issue facing the world and ranging into many other things including Al Gore, Hillary, and the likely outcome of the upcoming mid-term elections.

Our Events Podcast features Judge Alice Batchelder's 2005 Constitution Day lecture, while our Teaching American History Podcast features the first in a four-part series of lectures from Gordon Lloyd on the Constitutional Convention.

As I hope you can tell, we are always doing good and interesting and new things at the Ashbrook Center. I hope our work, our students, and our cause merits your support. And, by the way, if you are one of those who hasn't given us support for the last twelve months, please know that through the generosity of a donor your gift will be matched up to $5,000. That is, you give us $1,000, we get 2,000; you give us $100, we get $200. Thanks for considering it.

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Ashbrook Center

Churchill and America

The relationship between Churchill and America is a wonderful theme, and not only because Winston once said of himself, "I am myself an English-speaking Union." The Ashbrook Center and the Churchill Centre have organized a Churchill and America National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for high school teachers. It will run from July 23 to August 5 at Ashland University. The co-directors for the program are Professors James Muller (Alaska) and Justin Lyons (Ashland). They, and the other distinguished faculty may be found here. Here is how to apply. Thirty teachers will be selected to attend. Graduate credit may be received for the course. It will be a tremendous seminar. Pass the word.
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Senate fund rasising

Senate Democrats have raised more money than the Senate GOP in 2005, $44 million to 35. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is run by Schumer, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee is run by Elizabeth Dole. Hillary Clinton "raised $21.4 million last year for her re-election campaign in New York and has $17 million in cash on hand."


I like Mona Charen and I think her critique of Bush’s speech at NRO has much to offer the Administration as a heuristic device for future speeches and policies. She argues that Bush missed an opportunity last night to shore up his conservative base to and make a reasonable argument about the limits of democracy (e.g., Hamas winning Palestinian elections and, therefore, democracy does not always equal freedom). The problem with her argument, it seems to me, is that it--while correct in a strict sense on some levels--misses the big picture. Shoring up the conservative base is important--to be sure--but it is not the most important function of a SOTU speech. Besides, we conservatives were on the heels of getting Alito and the now more or less certain knowledge that we’ll probably get at least one more before Bush’s term is out. The Dems are committing political suicide all around us. We should’ve been shored up enough yesterday to bear with him in this speech. Calm down.

The biggest political problem we face as a nation--and no one sees this more clearly than Bush in my view--is the success that Dems have had in dividing us from each other and misleading the people about our purposes in the world. Painting the Dems as new-fangled isolationists (put another way, a new take on yet another discredited idea) was a brilliant strategy. There are too many well-meaning but misguided Americans who do not support the idea that America must be engaged in this war on terror or in the world generally. Never mind the details of how we wage the war or how we are engaged in the world for now. It will be impossible to sort through all of that if we don’t have enough support for the idea that we must be in it in the first place. I am heartened that Bush seems finally to have taken Dems out on the carpet for their fool-hardy politics. He is reminding people that the Dems are the masters of stupid policies that, if followed, will get us killed (after they sink us into poverty). I think it was brilliant to link this neo-isolationism in foreign policy to its twin policy in trade--protectionism. People know on a gut level that the world is changed forever by faster communications and emerging markets. My children will have to compete in a marketplace dominated not only with the leading lights of their generation in America--but with kids growing up in straw huts somewhere in China or India. It’s a bigger, more complicated world, than the policies born out of mid-20th century labor politics can handle. The Democratic party of today is so mired in its past that it is not only incapable of leading--it is nearly irrelevant. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear, saw and heard that last night.

Mona is right that more (much more) will need to be done to make Republicans equal to the challenge. But the Democrats aren’t even in the right starting gate. A couple days of basking in this glow are in order. We need to see the big picture clearly before we move on to the harder work Mona proposes. Win the mid-terms and then get to work making our party stronger, smarter and more effective.


Caspar Weinberger is in favor of closer ties, both economic and political, with India. The transition to more freedom in India, is not simply smooth, of course. Unions (and communists) are protesting privatizing the the two largest airports in India (Delhi and Bombay).

The Hollow Dems

This National Review editorial is not fully satisfying on Bush’s speech last night. There are better opinions at this NRO Symposium. It was a perfectly good speech. Generally well delivered, even eloquent at times, and certainly hard enough, in my opinion. I watched the Dems more than I have before. I’m trying to figure out what they are up to. So to me the most revealing and interesting moment came when W. made a reference to the fact that his initiative on Social Security didn’t get off the ground last year and the Dems got up applauding and laughing. That was wonderfully revealing! What are they thinking about? That clip of Hillary standing up and grinning will be replayed during her campaign for the presidency a hundred times. It will reveal how unserious and imprudent she is because Social Security reform will be a major issue for the next decade or two, and Bush is taking it seriously. I thought that moment wrapped all the vices of the Dems in one revealing augenblick: Here we are, kind of like the leech-brain experts at best, like the last men, blinking. They are hollow to the core when it comes to the big and pressing issues, but willing to support federal benefits for soldiers who have served with honor, but shy away from talking about what they ought to be doing to serve. Oh, these are hollow politicians, these Dems. Very revealing, very discouraging, but also a great opportunity for some Democrat who is smart and decent and ambitious to have a great effect on a once great political party. I wonder if it can happen in my lifetime. It certainly isn’t going to happen by 2008.

Ashbrook Center

Higher education and civic eduation

Whatever might be the case with their peers elsewhere, folks associated with the Ashbrook Center are likely to find little that is novel or surprising in Robert George's eloquent and learned plea for genuine civic education in America's universities. A taste:

For all their academic achievement, students at Princeton and Yale and Stanford and Harvard and other schools that attract America's most talented young people rarely come to campus with a sound grasp of the philosophy of America's constitutional government. How did the Founding Fathers seek, via the institutions that the Constitution created, to build and maintain a regime of ordered liberty? Even some of our best-informed students think something along these lines: the Framers set down a list of basic freedoms in a Bill of Rights, which an independent judiciary, protected from the vicissitudes of politics, would then enforce.

It's the rare student indeed who enters the classroom already aware that the Framers believed that the true bulwark of liberty was limited government. Few students comprehend the crucial distinction between (on the one hand) the national government as one of delegated and enumerated powers, and (on the other) the states as governments of general jurisdiction, exercising police powers to protect public health, safety, and morals, and to advance the general welfare. If anything, they imagine that it's the other way around. Thus they have no comprehension as to why leading supporters of the Constitution objected to a Bill of Rights, worried that it could compromise the delegated-powers doctrine and thus undermine the true liberty-securing principle of limited government.

Good students these days have heard of federalism, yet they have little appreciation of how it works or why the Founders thought it so vital. They've heard of the separation of powers and often can sketch how the system of checks and balances should work. But if one asks, for example, "Who checks the courts?" they cannot give a satisfactory answer.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Michael DeBow.

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Straussians in Canadian politics

I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at the alleged malign "Straussian" influence on new Canadian P.M. Stephen Harper in my latest TAE Online op-ed. My conclusion? It’s basically a re-run of the same conspiracy-mongering that occurred on our side of the border, traceable on large part back to a political theorist who has made a career of "outing" Strauss and alleged Straussians. She’s making less and less sense as she goes on, and, as you can see from this commentary, never made much sense to begin with.

Still, Harper’s, er, "Straussians" (actually Voegelinians, Hayekians, and students of students of Strauss) are an interesting bunch, sure to enliven Canadian political discourse. As John von Heyking has ably shown, however, we shouldn’t look for an atheist elitist theocracy north of our border anytime soon. Disappointing, eh?