Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Dean Off His Meds Again

The inimitable Howard Dean let’s fly with this howler:

"I was recently asked about the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties," Dean said. "When it comes right down to it, the essential difference is that the Democrats fundamentally believe it is important to make sure that American Jews feel comfortable being American Jews."

Aussie uber-blogger Tim Blair comments that "This might be the most clueless and bizarre line in the history of US politics." My thought is that the Republic National Committee ought to buy TV time for Dean to freak freely in front of as many Americans as possible.

Here Comes the Snowman

I’m looking forward to Tony Snow’s first day on the job coming up next week. Much was made of his previous highly critical statements about Bush, to which he reportedly said to Bush, "You should see what I wrote about the other guy."

Which brings me to my fondest hope--that he calls on Helen Thomas first at his inaugural press briefing, and that she asks him about his previous tart statements about Bush. And Snow replies: "You should see what I’ve said about you Helen. Next question."

More likely Thomas will ask one of her typically moonbat questions, and one hopes that one of Snow’s conditions for taking the job will be to swat down media nutcases like Thomas in precisely the manner they deserve. "Helen, raise your hand again when a serious question occurs to you. Next?"

Commencement speakers

Protests at Boston College because Condi Rice is chosen as commencement speaker, and at The New School because John McCain will be the speaker. Both of them are crazy ideologues, of course, but our colleagues in the academy are rational and intelligent and thoughtful and deep and serious and hard-working...and I have some ocean front property in Ashland I want to sell you.

Another Ashbrook Marine

Here is another picture of a former Ashbrook Scholar serving as a Marine in Iraq. This one, Capt. Josh Kirk, is a JAG and a graduate of UVA Law. The throne he is sitting on was found in the Al Faw Palace and was, apparently, a gift to Saddam from Yasser Arafat.

A diabetic and his Booker

James R. Harrigan writes as a type two diabetic. Pretty good, for a political scientist, although he claims that a shot of Booker is good for know, for medical reasons. Sure.

Darwin and conservatism?

James Seaton reviews Larry Arnhart’s Darwinian Conservatism and concludes:

"It is to Larry Arnhart’s credit that, despite his own adherence to evolutionary theory, he does not call for such a rejection. Indeed, Darwinian Conservatism makes it clear that even the most wholehearted acceptance of Darwin’s ideas does not require conservatives to reject either common sense or traditional morality. Addressing himself primarily to conservatives, Arnhart does not so much try to convince his readers that Darwinian biology is incontrovertibly true as to demonstrate that its findings, if true, strengthen the case for social and political conservatism.

He does this well, and accomplishes a more difficult task achieved by only the most accomplished scientists and thinkers: He makes connections between science and human life without succumbing to the temptations of scientism."

Also see this.

Bush as worst pres?

Gerard Alexander is a bit critical of this Sean Wilentz piece on George W. Bush being the worst president in our history. I noted the Wilentz piece here.

Gas about Ethanol

There are a lot of proposals being bandied about on Capitol Hill for how to reduce America’s alleged petroleum dependence. Nearly all of them are silly, according to Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute, but the silliest is the notion that ethanol is going to be the country’s saving grace. He notes that the production of eight gallons of ethanol requires no less than seven gallons of gasoline:

Unfortunately, there is much less energy in 8 gallons of ethanol than in the 7 gallons of gasoline-equivalent needed to produce it. The Energy Department estimates the highway mileage of a Nissan Titan drops from 18 mpg to 13 mpg by switching to E85 (85 percent ethanol). That is why lavish subsidies to auto companies to produce flexible fuel vehicles are useless -- a disguised bailout at best.

The Age of Reagan

Jonah Goldberg just got around to reading Hayward’s "The Age of Reagan" and thinks it is "one of the best histories of recent American politics I’ve ever come across." I agree, but really Jonah, the darn thing was published five years ago!

An astounding comeback, 1938

Andy Busch writes the fourth in a series on midterm elections in America. This one is on the 1938 elections, when things looked especially bad for the GOP. Yet, some things happened that demaged FDR and gave the GOP some hope. And the Republicans made an astounding comeback, gaining six Senate seats and 71 House seats. This was the end of the New Deal.

Podcast with John C. Green on Ohio politics

I did a podcast this morning with Dr. John C. Green of the Ray Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. The twenty minute conversation is about the Blackwell vistory and the state of politics in Ohio. It was a very good conversation, Green knows a lot and is articulate. Be sure to listen if you want to understand why the Blackwell victory was no surprise, and why he should become the next governor.

What the Moussaoui Verdict Proves

Two things: 1. The Jihadists are not without their reasons for thinking Westerners have become weak in the face of danger and 2. War Criminals do not belong in civilian courts. Terrorism on this scale is not a criminal act--it is an act of war. Trying Moussaoui as if he were an ordinary mass murderer guilty of breaking the law was as insane, if not more insane, than the persona he presented to that poor jury. And I am not without some sympathy for them. There was some talk about jurors fearing for their safety and that of their families as a result of their service. Who could blame them? They didn’t sign up for that job as do our brave fighting men and women. The military tribunal is the place that ought to have handled Mr. Moussaoui.

Peggy Noonan writes nicely about the miscarriage of justice. But, I think, misses the larger point that no matter what happened to Moussaoui at trial, we made a grave error in giving him that trial in the first place. Still, of course, death would have been a better sentence. As regular caller to the Hugh Hewitt show, Yoni (an American/Israeli citizen) pointed out, what we’re forgetting is that his living will inspire terrorists (foolishly, but nevertheless) to try and take hostages for bargaining. Every second he sucks air he endangers more American lives.

Steve, were your ears burning?

I just came across this post over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Todd Zywicki very much liked Greatness, though some of the commenters couldn’t bring themselves to agree (though there’s no evidence that they’d actually read the book).

After Roe

Ramesh Ponnuru discusses Jeffrey Rosen’s Atlantic cover essay, which isn’t available on-line. But this interview is (hat tip: RCP).

In it, Rosen claims to be a proponent of bipartisan judicial restraint, as, he says, Justice Byron White was. White, of course, dissented in Roe for reasons that Ponnuru would, I think, applaud.

Some of Rosen’s comments in the interview are a little odd, as when he said that Sandra Day O’Connor "seemed to have a unique ability to put her finger on the pulse of the median voter with exquisite precision and express it more precisely than Bill Frist or Harry Reid" and when he suggests that Chief Justice Roberts is no "libertarian radical" willing to pull the trigger on Roe. I agree that the CJ is no libertarian radical, but libertarianism seems to me to be the essence of much of the "pro-choice," "pro-self-definition" jurisprudence committed by members of the Supreme Court. Libertarians would, I think, vote to uphold Roe, so Rosen’s choice of an appellation seems off.

Update: I stand (somewhat) corrected by John Moser’s comment below. For a summary of the libertarian case against Roe, go here. On the other hand, the, er. vulgar libertarianism of my students generally tends in a pro-choice direction, whatever may be the case with their sophisticated and officially Libertarian brethren.

Weigel on Europe’s two culture wars

Stanley Kurtz recommends this article by George Weigel. I concur.

My wife and I have been telling ourselves that, once the kids are old enough, we’ll take them to Europe. I’m getting gloomier by the day about that prospect; the Europe we want them to experience may not be there, unless the movements whose rationales are articulated in this book gain traction.

To be clear about my meaning: Europe for me is not simply a tourist destination, but an essential part of my family’s heritage (intellectually, culturally, and personally--we still have family in Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, and Scotland). The great conversation in which I take part as an intellectual has been conducted on that continent for more than the past two millenia. Some of its most horrific practical fruits played themselves out there in the last century. And I fear that an insidious strain of that conversation will have an even worse effect in the future. Having failed to kill itself by killing all too many of its people (through war, genocide, and other means), Europe may euthanize itself, having lost the will to live.

The Roberts Court

More civil, more orderly, more deliberative? Who could have predicted that? Certainly not those who voted against him!

Education reform blog

Katie Newmark calls our attention to a new(ish) education reform blog, Edspresso.


Ken Blackwell won the GOP primary for governor of Ohio, 56-43%. No surprise here. The Dems have been saying that they (Strickland is their nominee) prefer running against Blackwell. Sure they do. Jimmy Carter also hoped that a fellow named Ronald Reagan would be his opponent and look what happened to him. Blackwell, a Reagan Republican, will win in November, be the first conservative (and black) governor of the state, and have a good influence nationally on the GOP. Good for everybody.

Jean-Francois Revel, RIP

In this morning’s WSJ, the editors remember Jean-Francois Revel, one of the few European public intellectuals of the 20th century who refused to embrace totalitarianism of either the Left or the Right.

Revel’s judgments were not unfailing, and in retrospect he was overly pessimistic about the ability of Western democracies to muster the will and courage to defeat their existential enemies. But by sounding the right warnings about the nature of those enemies -- and the places where our defenses were weak -- he not only helped win the Cold War, but redeemed the reputation of public intellectuals everywhere.

A national public service university?

This, described here, strikes me as a bad idea.

Centralizing the training of our "public servants" makes the creation of a bureaucratic mandarinate--a French (not to mention Chinese) thing, which ought to be enough to sink it right there--all the more likely. Do we want a bureaucracy even more "out of touch" than it currently is? Do we want one group of professors to be that influential in the preparation of our political leaders and public servants? (My fear, of course, is that such an institution would be quickly captured by the Left. Their students would comprise our bureaucratic elite, and be even more resistant to initiatives from conservatives in the legislative and executive branches.)

But even leaving aside this political consideration, a centralized bureaucratic training institution would to some degree deprive our governmental institutions of the leaven of diversity that comes from the fact that those who comprise it are educated at a variety of different colleges and universities. It is more in keeping with the "federal" character of our country to have our leaders educated all over the place, not just at a handful of schools. They reflect regional, religious, and ethnic diversity. In their education, they encounter, not just like-minded "future public servants," but folks who plan to pursue all sorts of different careers and ways of life. This, in other words, is the federal, republican, and democratic way of educating leaders.

I am, of course, sensitive to one issue that the plan’s proponents raise: it’s harder for students to enter into "public service" if they have a high debt load. But that can be handled either through a program of debt forgiveness/repayment for those actually enter public service or by a well-funded (privately--Bill Gates, are you listening?--or publicly) program of scholarships. We don’t need, and shouldn’t have, a public service West Point, but we probably do need a public service ROTC.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely that such an institution would get off the ground. Surely Republicans would know better than to fund it. But Democrats? Hmmm.

Remember crunchy cons?

The Washington Post has gotten around to giving Rod Dreher its gentle star treatment, with a very long profile beginning on the front page of the Style section. Whether this is the beginning of the end of Rod Dreher as a conservative pundit or the end of the beginning, I don’t know.

I learned one thing: on one dimension of crunchiness, the Knippenbergs win--my wife not only bakes our bread, but grinds the wheat herself. (Fie on those who shop at Whole Foods!) O.K., O.K., we don’t have two big millstones and a running stream, but I’ll take this small victory. (Oh yes, and we buy our wheat from a business run by a home school family.)

Dreher blogs now, by the way, here.

Update: Because I know that so many of you care about this, I thought that I’d give you breadmaking supplier’s website. If this isn’t crunchy, I don’t know from crunchiness.

Rumsfeld and some generals

Mac Owens takes up the cudgels on behalf of the SecDef. His conclusion:

Retrospective criticism is easy. Rumsfeld’s detractors would be much more credible if they could point to an instance in which their ability to discern the future was substantially superior to that of the man they have attacked.

Read the whole thing.

Schools and the First Amendment

This week’s TAE Online column deals with attempts to limit student speech in high schools. As usual, the 9th Circuit is capable of raising one’s blood pressure.

Libertarians and Real ID

David Schaefer patiently explains why libertarians are wrong about the Real ID Act.

Avi Zaffini in Iraq

One year you are reading Xenophon, Aristotle, and Madison, and next year
you are in a war; I hope he is as good a Marine as he was a student.

Good man, Avi… Semper Fi.

The academic left, left behind

Former SDS-er Todd Gitlin reviews three books about the academic left, offering the following conclusion:

Professor Brennan is right that the academic left is nowhere today. It matters more to David Horowitz than to anyone else. The reason is that its faith-based politics has crashed and burned. It specializes in detraction. It offers no plausible picture of the world. Such spontaneous movements as do crop up in America — like the current immigrant demonstrations — do not emerge from the campus left. Neither do reformers’ intermittent attempts to eject the party of plutocracy and fundamentalism from power, to win universal health care, to protect the planet from further convulsions, to enlarge the rights of the least privileged. If more academics deigned to work toward reforms, they might contribute ideas about taxes, education, trade, employment, investment, foreign policy, and security from jihadists. But the academic left is too busy guarding the flame of nullification. They think they can fortify themselves with vigilance. In truth, their curses are gestures of helplessness.

While "theory" is ultimately anti-political, the partisans of leftist purity simply seethe in their impotent rage. Perhaps the blog survey is correct.

Hat tip: Stanley Kurtz.

Peter’s "Born American"

If you haven’t yet found the time to read Peter’s grateful reminiscences on his life as a new American, find it soon. It’s a wonderful piece.

My dad, a generation older, but only a few years older as an American, read it with great pleasure. For him, a Dutchman who came of age during WWII, the U.S. was the land of opportunity and freedom. In 1953, after three years here, he responded to his adopted country’s call, joining the Army for what turned out to be a 20-year hitch. He shipped out for Europe from Camp Kilmer, where Peter spent his first days in the U.S. When Peter and his family were making the trek for Austria (my mom’s home), my dad was a young soldier, beginning a family while stationed in Pisa, Italy. By the time the Schramms made it to southern California, the Knippenbergs were back in San Francisco, where I was born. While we never darkened the doors of Schramm’s Hungarian Restaurant, I’ve eaten my share of goulash and "stuffed garbage."

Peter’s essay speaks to all of us, native and immigrant, who appreciate in our bones and in our heads, the American promise.    

Una problema

John Podhoretz thinks that the organizers of yesterday’s nationwide demonstration’s are secretly in the pay of the the anti-immigration lobby. Good argument. I saw an interview of a self-identified Hispanic fellow (can’t remember what organization he was with) yesterday in which he castigated the US for slaughtering the Indians (he didn’t say native Americans), being an empire, taking Mexico’s land, etc., and now he was demanding that anybody who wanted to come to such an aweful place be allowed to do so. Period. Amazing.


Now this is inflation! And to think Zimbabwe was once a relatively free and prosperous country.

There hangs a tale

I have been reading into Paul Johnson’s Creators: from Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney this weekend. I like it. It is well written (no surprise), which makes some deeper thinking seem lighter than it really is, and I learn something from each page. Look at the chapters on Shakespeare (Falstaff and Hamlet), Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and also Bach; look not to agree, but to see into some of the great ones with Johnson’s eyes. Example:

"Indeed, if there is one area in which Shakespeare lacks moderation. it is the world of words. Here he is, in turn, excitable, theoretical, intoxicated, impractical, almost impossible. He lived in a period drunk with words, and he was the most copious and persistent toper of all."

Does the Duke Case Expose a Weapon in the Female Arsenal?

Cathy Young has an interesting article in The Boston Globe arguing that it is unreasonable to assume that women don’t sometimes lie about being raped. Without hazarding a guess about what actually happened in the Duke case, she argues persuasively that those who suggest simply questioning the credibility of a person making rape charges is somehow "blaming the victim" are off base.

This week our church bulletin had a little piece in it that cautioned readers to take very seriously any hint of a suggestion from a child about sexual abuse. I think that is probably good advice and I think that most parents would do that even without the advice. But women are not children. Oddly, those would-be feminists who suggest that women never or rarely lie about rape are giving them a rather back-handed compliment and demonstrating their own child-like naivete at the same time.

Did I say that?

I spoke with a reporter last week, leading to a quotation in this article. To wit:

Joe Knippenberg, an online columnist for the conservative American Enterprise, called Mahony a political grandstander.

"What Cardinal Mahony did there was run the risk of becoming a mere political actor and then sort of trading the prophetic voice for a mere political voice," Knippenberg said. "What’s the difference between a church worker who defies what he or she sees as an unjust law or human smuggler who defies what he or she sees as an unjust law?"


Considering that I prefaced my remarks by insisting upon the importance of the prophetic religious voice in politics and that I carefully noted the distinction between human smugglers and church workers who provided aid to those who arrived at their doorstep, I’d say that my statements were taken out of context.

Here’s what I said in
the op-ed that got the reporter’s attention:

But a Cardinal ought not to regard himself as an ordinary political actor. Mahony ought to have thought about two other consequences of his gesture. First, by implicitly comparing the Church to those at whom the law is really directed, he gives the brazenly cynical traffickers in humanity moral and political cover. They’re simply humanitarians, they can say, just like their brothers and sisters in the Church.

I also called his attention to this NLT post, in which I made the following version of my argument:

Does Cardinal Mahony think it should be a crime actually to assist people to cross the border illegally, regardless of one’s motives in so doing? It’s one thing to help out immigrants, no questions asked, who present themselves at your doorstep. It’s another altogether to help them into the country. I take it that everyone thinks the "coyotes" are despicable criminals. What if "well-intentioned humanitarians" got into the business, arguing that sneaking into the country is inevitable, that the border is a meaningless line anyway, that as citizens of the world, we should share our wealth and resources, and that decent folks would actually help, rather than exploit, the immigrants? I don’t know whether this is a fanciful scenario or not. I do know that Cardinal Mahony’s argument, surely unintentionally, worked to diminish the difference between compassionate humanitarians and human traffickers.

I think Mahony’s stance unintentionally elides the difference between humanitarians and human traffickers, providing a certain moral cover to the coyotes by offering a blanket moral condemnation of the law.

I also called the reporter’s attention to
this letter from Congressmen Sensenbrenner, Hyde, and King, which explicitly disavows the intent to go after church workers who help illegal immigrants.

Bottom line: I simply pointed out a risk in Cardinal Mahony’s statements-- in his blanket condemnation of the House bill and his threat to defy it, should it become law, he, presumably unintentionally, overlooks the distinction between humanitarians and human exploiters.

Blog reader survey results

This story summarizes some of the findings in this unscientific survey, which I think I filled out. You can find their category breakouts here and their analysis here.

One liberal crows over the results here, noting, for example, that:

Outside of academic journals, Democratic blogs almost certainly have the most highly educated audience of any news and opinion medium in the country. This is quite a contrast to the "naïve" stereotype about progressive bloggers. I would take a random sampling of progressive blog readers, with the points, against a random sampling of readers of any established news outlet in any intellectual challenge you can name. Progressive blog readers are very smart, and very highly educated.

Perhaps I’m catching them on bad days, but when I read sites like DailyKos, the first thing that jumps out at me is not the erudition of the commenters.

Hometown Endorsement of Blackwell

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but my hometown paper The Zanesville Times Recorder has come out and endorsed the candidacy of Ken Blackwell for governor. See article here. It shouldn’t surprise me, I say, because the people of Zanesville are generally decent and hardworking folks and, on every recent trip I’ve had back there, I’ve heard more than a little complaining about the problems within the leadership of the Ohio GOP. On the other hand, state Senator Joy Padgett, (Blackwell’s opponent, Jim Petro’s running mate) heralds from southeastern Ohio and Zanesville is the heart of that territory. No matter.

The TR’s endorsement of Blackwell should tell you something about why his campaign is going to be so exciting and--potentially--electric. He means to change things.

Zanesville voters will especially love the idea of requiring school districts to spend at least 65% of their budgets (it probably should be more) on classroom instruction. It’s time to call the bluff of the education establishment. If more money is needed for classroom instruction, maybe they should be the ones tightening their belts instead of taxpayers. Zanesville has had levy after levy after endless levy to pay for schools in recent years. The TR sums it up nicely: "After years of tax hikes and scandals, it’s time for Ohio Republicans to take a fresh approach. That can start on Tuesday by nominating Ken Blackwell for governor."

The Sheldon Awards

John Leo considers the many spineless college presidents in the running for the Sheldon Award. "As all Sheldon fans know, the prize is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except that the Oscar shows a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way. The award is named for Sheldon Hackney, former president of the University of Pennsylvania and a modern legend in looking the other way."

Latino boycott opposed

Many Latino groups oppose the May 1st boycott.  

Ohio politics

Although many things can be noted in this Plain Dealer piece on Ohio politics (including the anti-Republican prejudice), the most important thing is the poll that shows Ken Blackwell beating Jim Petro in the GOP primary for governor by 21%. That is about right. In my reading Petro can’t get more than 35% of the vote. This will complicate things for the GOP establishment, most of whom have been in denial about Blackwell’s popularity. Now, they will have to be quickly persuaded that the future of the GOP in Ohio depends on how well Blackwell does against Ted Strickland in November. Although the Strickland folks think it will be easier for him to run against Blakwell than Petro, they are wrong. Blackwell should win the general election in November with relative ease, I predict, and his popularity will pull the rest of the party with him, and will even help De Wine in his re-election to the U.S. Senate.

The Pres and his Id

Here is the WaPo’s account of the amusing White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night. Bush and his impersonator (Steve Bridges), apparently, stole the show. I hope C-Span plays it again; haven’t seen it yet.