Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Hibbs on Dreher

Thomas Hibbs reviews Crunchy Cons, spending some time comparing CCs to bobos, a thought once suggested to me by another wise man.

On the surface, both groups long for a kind of romantic authenticity and risk turning their way of life into a new trend in shopping, precisely the thing the crunchies profess to abhor. And yet the crunchies depart in striking ways from the bobos, nowhere more dramatically than on the topic of religion. For the bobos, religion must be measured by its contribution to the expansion of the self; thus, bobos engage in the (at best paradoxical) task of erecting a “house of obligation on a foundation of choice.”


Not all readers will be moved to imitate the sort of choices made by the crunchies, but one at least can admire the sacrifices made and especially the sense of missionary devotion to the family; for example, giving up a lucrative position in business to run a local farm or sacrificing a second income to homeschool kids. They also demand a great deal of time and imaginative energy. It is not surprising that these choices either result from, or lead to, profound changes in self-understanding. One interviewee after another speaks of realizing a “calling.” Far more than the bobos, the crunchies and their children will be prepared, to the extent that anyone can be prepared, for tragedy.

I think there’s something to this, but I wonder to what extent the choice that precedes the calling also continues to condition it. There remains a distance between someone like Dreher, an "American ’church shopper’ who’s made a stop with the Catholics and now thinking about switching over to the more incense-ridden Orthodox" , and, say, Nicholas Wolterstorff, who has written (and spoken) very movingly and profoundly about his "induction into the tradition" and would, I think, qualify as a crunchy lib with not a bobone in his body.

Hibbs offers another sharp observation:

Do the crunchies want to save America or the Republican Party or, having acknowledged the short-term irreversibility of civilized decay, do they plan to “retreat behind defensible borders”? Of course, Dreher and most of his crunchies are somewhere between these two options, just as the contemporary Republican Party is between social conservatism and libertarianism. To the extent that the crunchies aspire to opt out of the wider culture, they are vulnerable to the free-rider objection: that of creating little enclaves that are nonetheless dependent on the society that they have abandoned for services and protections. As I say, this is clearly not Dreher’s ideal, but it is a difficulty the crunchies should face squarely.

I wonder how Dreher will answer this question; Hibbs says there’s room for another book. Dreher, thus far, has just noted and quoted the second paragraph of the review, before it gets interesting.

Our Way

Rich Policz on Green Lanterns, Superman, and other American things. 


Here is my podcast with Ed Morrisey (he runs the blog Captain’s Quarters). We touched on politics and al Qaeda. Enjoy.

Coming to a School Near You

The Los Angeles Times reports this story--brewing now for a couple weeks. California State Senator and lesbian, Sheila Kuehl (whom you may remember from TV’s Doby Gilis--sp? sorry, before my time), successfully shepherded through the California legislature a bill that will require text books used in California public schools to highlight the accomplishments of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. Leaving aside all the usual objections that certainly apply here, let’s also examine the obvious absurdity of a legislature inserting itself into a subject like this when California has had to have a judge put an injunction against the schools to prevent high school seniors from having to pass the state’s exit exam (because too many people were failing). Reason #7878736 my kids won’t go to California public schools.

The worst part of it is that if Arnold signs this and it becomes law, other states will see the same text books incorporated into their schools. The largest text book market in the country is in California. What we ask for, we get and you get.

Think you’re safe in business school?

Some critics of American higher education have assumed that much of the harshest ideologues were to be found in the traditional liberal arts or in their agenda-driven progeny. Whatever may be true of sociology and cultural studies, business departments, relentlessly focused on the bottom line, and hence disciplined by the market, would be safely non-ideological.

But wait! Dean Barnett has found a Harvard B-school professor (much published and with a named chair, no less) whose political opinions and judgments wouldn’t be out of place on the Daily Kos. He’s written a novel (downloadable from this website), which is informed by the analysis (I’ll be generous and call it that) offered in this paper. Some samples:

When Albert
Gore conceded the presidential election to Bush’s son, George W. Bush, in December 2000, anger seethed in the streets of Washington, DC and cities throughout the nation. Disgust with the US Supreme Court for stopping the vote recount in Florida then ruling by fiat that Bush had won the election generated clenched fists and cries of fraud. Four years later, on election
night in November 2004, there was no solace for the once-again aggrieved. Allegations of faulty voting machines in Ohio gave many the impression that the United States could no longer hold a presidential election the outcome of which could gain the unqualified acceptance of winner and loser.


In both 2000 and 2004, our country teetered on the edge of instability, possibly even violence. A month after the Supreme Court affirmed Bush the winner of the 2000 election, Bush rode in a limousine through Washington, DC to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for his inauguration, and, it was not a
victory parade. “At times it seemed as if there were more protestors than well-wishers along the route,” Time reported. “An egg hit Bush’s limo as it reached Pennsylvania Avenue” (Nancy Gibbs, 1/29/2001 Time, p. 28, photo, p. 32). Four years later, fiery protests came in response to the news that Bush prevailed in the 2004 election. Feelings that the result of the 2004 election was tainted evoked the kind of military imagery that Sidey could
not find in Washington, DC in 1992. Sidey, mentions scuffles between police and protesters, and former President Bush’s thank you to injured NYPD Detective William Sample. ( 9/13/2004 Time).

As we look at the current political scene, a long period of uncertainty over the actual winner of a presidential election is not out of the question; nor dramatic civil conflict. The processes by which Bush became president
in 2000, and retained office after the election of 2004, have convinced many
that he is in power as the result of dishonesty. One recalls Stalin’s comment
on elections – “It doesn’t matter who votes,” he observed. “It matters who
counts the votes.”

Note that he accepts uncritically--and never questions--the claims of those who argue that the victories in 2004 and 2004 were illegitimate. He never mentions, for example, the media-sponsored recount which showed GWB extending his margin of victory, and simply accepts at face value the allegations of voting fraud in 2004, all of which emanate from the fever swamp. He’s surely right that there are some who refuse to accept the results of the 2000 and 2004 elections (and he may be one of them), but the vast majority have, as they say, moved on.

One who hasn’t, at least by Mills’s accounting, is Bill Clinton, which makes speculation about a contested election in 2008 at least entertaining. Of course, his speculation about 2008 assumes that the Republicans will be the bad guys, either rigging the elections or refusing to accept a Democratic victory. So the scenario, and the novel based on it, paint Republicans and conservatives as the villains of the piece, whereas the truth is that in 2000 and 2004 those who (rather implausibly) threatened political instability were on the Left.

Remind me not to recommend Harvard Business School to those of my bright students inclined in that direction.

Update: Mike DeBow beat me to the punch, linking to an article in the Harvard Crimson more than a week ago. I’m sorry I missed that the first time.

Will they or won’t they?

Filibuster Bret Kavanaugh? Seek to impeach the President, should they win a majority in the fall?

Democracy in action

Here. I note that the senior citizens who seem to have dominated this town meeting came from a retirement community that is Quaker-related.

Hat tip: Peter Robinson at The Corner.

NSA data mining

Here’s the USA Today article that kicked off the latest communications surveillance furor, which is described here, here, here, and here.

The WaPo article notes that some of this is old news, and the timing of the article--connected with the Michael Hayden nomination--is surely a little suspicious. Also worth noting is Power Line’s observation that this report further compromises our efforts to keep track of terrorist communications.

This Volokh Conspiracy post, together with the comments, offers a little insight. And if you read the newspaper articles carefully, it’s not clear that there’s any illegality or much of a threat to anyone’s privacy. In other words, my initial inclination, subject to change, is that much of the sound and fury about this is politically motivated, intended further to wound the Bush Administration. The incidental side effect of this is, I repeat, to give terrorists further information about what we’re doing to track their communications.

Update: A quickie poll suggests that the politics of this issue currrently favors the Bush Administration. Some portion of those polled seem to favor the program, but also approve of public disclosure of it, which defeats the program’s purpose. Oh well.

The Congressional reaction, further detailed here, is predictable. The disclosures will galvanize and mobilize the Democratic base, enable Senators to posture and pontificate during the Hayden confirmation hearings, generate bad press for the Bush Administration, and yet--perhaps--actually help the Republicans overall. Stated another way, if Democrats attempt to exploit this issue, it’s evidence not only that they’re not serious about security policy, but that they’re not capable of making sound political judgments. For more on both these points, see this article.

Update #2: Some of the complex legal issues are canvassed by Orin Kerr and his commenters here, a post I missed when I first wrote about this issue. Suffice it to say that there are plausible arguments on both sides; the issue is whether the Article II executive powers and the AUMF come into play in such a way as to overcome all the other legal subtleties.

No penalty

Jonah Goldberg put this out on The Corner with no comment. I also have no comment. Beware.

Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Bunch

This front-page story in today’s Washington Post contains this fun little nugget:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who is leading the [Democratic] party’s effort to regain majority status in the House, stormed out of [Howard] Dean’s office several days ago leaving a trail of expletives, according to Democrats familiar with the session.

Everyone knows about Dean’s "Mad How" disease, but by election day many folks will come to realize that Emanuel is just as vein-bulgingly frenetic as Dean. This won’t be the last blow-up we hear about. The interesting thing is to make book on how long Dean lasts after the election: win or lose, the party’s Capitol Hill bulls are going to force him out.

The Beast Didn’t Starve

I always enjoy reading Jonathan Rauch, because even though he often departs from the right’s policy prescriptions, his fundamental worldview remains that of the conservative/libertarian. He is at his best when he points out that certain things we support can produce consequences that we most likely do not.

In this month’s Atlantic Rauch takes on that most sacred of conservatism’s cattle, tax cuts. Ronald Reagan, of course, popularized the idea that by cutting taxes it was possible to reduce the size of government by "starving the beast." If revenues fell, the argument went, legislators would have no choice but to exercise fiscal discipline.

The problem, of course, is that this is precisely what didn’t happen. Government spending has soared in the past five years, just as it soared in the 1980s--in the wake of significant reductions in income tax rates. The missing tax revenue, Rauch argues, was quickly made up through borrowing, and as a result the whole episode sent the mistaken and dangerous message to taxpayers that it was possible to keep all of their favorite programs fully funded, but with less money. On the contrary, he claims, in the 1990s Bill Clinton raised taxes, and the ensuing years saw actual decline in the size of the federal government. This was not surprising, because now taxpayers recognized the pocketbook effect of big government.

I think Rauch tends to give the lawmakers of the 1990s too much credit--the cuts of that decade stemmed less from taxpayer outrage than the impression (mistaken, as it turned out) that the end of the Soviet Union meant that the United States could gut its armed forces. Nevertheless, in a period of runaway spending under the administration of an allegedly conservative president, we would be foolish to dismiss Rauch’s central point--it’s hard to starve a beast when it has so many credit cards.

Black Republicans, underdogs?

In a long article, Dan Balz of the WaPo asks what Blackwell, Steele, and Swann have in common. Should the Dems be worried? Balz is quick to point out that he three candidates all trail their Democratic opponents in opinion polls, etc. But I think the Dems ought to be worried, very worried.

More clarity on abortion

One of the things I liked about Ramesh Ponnuru’s book is the clarity he brings to the discussion. Here’s more clarity, in response to this Ponnuru piece, from Sharon L. Camp, CEO of Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute: "Behind almost every abortion is an unintended pregnancy."

In other words, abortion is last-ditch birth control in almost every case. All those in favor of abortion as a form of birth control, raise your hands.

Knippenberg on Ponnuru on abortion

In this week’s TAE Online column, I explain why I think very well of Ramesh Ponnuru’s The Party of Death.

The column focuses on abortion, though the book also deals with stem cell research and euthanasia. On this last topic, I have some misgivings about what he has to say, but that may be the result of my not yet having adequately sorted out my own views.

To state what I take to be Ponnuru’s position most baldly, we are never entitled to say that life is not worth living. I know that aristocrats who believe in death before dishonor can’t hold that position, but many aristocracies historically countenanced infanticide. Are the two attitudes, one of which I admire and the other of which (to say the least) troubles me greatly, intimately and necessarily connected? If they were, then I think I’d be driven in the direction of what seems to be Ponnuru’s position.

What gives me pause, however, is martyrdom, which suggests, from a point of view that Ponnuru would presumably endorse, that mere life may be sacrificed, that there are things worth dying for. I should die rather than be compelled to live in a way that contradicts (what I understand to be) God’s will. What precisely is the difference between this attitude or view and that of the aristocrat? Both are dedicated to something higher than the "mere self," though the latter might merely be devoted, from the Christian point of view, to a collection of "glittering vices."

Here’s where I’m not sure about Ponnuru. Perhaps I missed something, or perhaps his approach simply didn’t call for him to address it. Does his argument against euthanasia from natural law or public reason overlook the possibility of martyrdom because that’s only justifiable on religious or revealed grounds, because (in other words) it’s not based on a political position? What, then, does he make of the person who says "give me liberty or give me death"? How is that, on non-revealed, publicly affirmable grounds, different from the opinion that a life marked by great suffering or debility is not worth living? Must we, if we are to oppose euthanasia, also deprecate dignified patriotic self-sacrifice?

I hope not, but I’m not confident that I have an argument for the latter that can’t also be deployed on behalf of the former.

Is there anyone out there who can point me in a fruitful direction?

Update: Ramesh Ponnuru’s reponse to my query is here. He carefully states that "defying tyranny" and "witnessing" are not choices for death itself, but rather look to a higher good, presumably also not merely a personal good. Would Cato the Younger’s suicide, after failing to defeat Caesar count as defying tyranny, as opposed to dying in an attempt to resist tyranny, or could we regard it as "selfish," as there is no impetus there to be long-suffering?

What about Socrates, who chose to drink the hemlock, rather than escape? While one can understand his action in terms of accepting a just punishment or living up to his end of a contract, he is also quite explicit that, given his circumstances, the "mere life" he could lead while in exile wouldn’t be worth living. How is this not "selfish"?

Orwin on Smith on Strauss

Cliff Orwin’s review of Steven Smith’s book on Leo Strauss is worth reading, as, apparently, is the book. In Orwin’s estimation (which I regard as quite reliable, if not authoritative), Smith deals ably with the grand themes of Strauss’ work, above all, the relationship between reason and revelation. If there is a shortcoming, it is in Smith’s effort to offer up Strauss as a critic of the Iraq war:

The climax of Smith’s attempt to rescue Strauss from his critics, especially those who consider him the progenitor of neoconservatism, lies in a final discussion offering a critique of the war in Iraq delivered in the name of Strauss himself. The discussion focuses on the Bush administration’s definition of its goal as the elimination of political evil. By contrast, Smith emphasizes, Strauss always considered evil a permanent aspect of the human situation, and just as he stood against liberal illusions on this score, he would have objected no less strenuously to the illusions of present-day neoconservatives.

About the effort to pigeonhole Strauss as a neoconservative, Smith is undoubtedly right. But, to deal with last things first, his own effort to recruit Strauss to the anti-war cause is every bit as dubious. It is also an open question whether the current architects of American foreign policy have really been seized by the naive expectation of ending evil—as opposed merely to recognizing the need to fight it. Of one thing we can be sure: in politics, Strauss always insisted on calling things by their proper names. It is difficult to imagine that he would have objected to labeling 9/11 an act of evil; that is merely to call a spade a spade.

Still, as Smith is well aware, there is something futile in speculating about Strauss’s views on this or that policy. Far more important is the task of coming to terms with his thought. In this regard, Smith’s book is an excellent introduction, and can be read with profit by those already familiar with Strauss as well as by those coming to him for the first time.

Read the review and buy the book.

Hat tip: Bruce Sanborn.

Palestine Near Economic Collapse?

The international welfare state of Arafatistan is near economic collapse according to this report in the Financial Times. It makes clear that in the absence of foriegn support, there is not much genuine economic activity in the nascent Palestinian nation.

Ramirez Cartoon

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for April

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

Kevin Risner

Sharon Berger

Marsha Cosgrove

Aaron Napier

Valerie Hamilton

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 May’s drawing.

Illegal Immigration: Guest Workers vs. Amnesty

If Michael Barone is right (as Joe suggested below) and the time is ripe for some sort of immigration omnibus bill, I hope some consideration--some deep consideration--will be given to the work of Victor Davis Hanson in this piece from the Claremont Review of Books and elsewhere. He is the only author I have seen who seems to grasp the fullness of the human problem at the heart of the immigration debate. And he’s not afraid of the tough questions or the tough answers. For example:

In some sense, guest workers are far more destabilizing than a one-time amnesty. The former constantly enlarges the number of exploited and soon to be disillusioned aliens; the latter ends it. The prohibition of bilingual government documents and services, and of a racially chauvinistic and separatist curriculum in our schools and universities, would also send a powerful message that one should not come north unless he is willing to become a full-fledged American in every linguistic, cultural, and political sense of the word.

In other words, he wonders if amnesty--though hugely unpopular--isn’t in reality a better solution than an on-going "guest worker" program because "guest worker" would only extend and exaccerbate the problems associated with illegal immigration. Of course, we would have to be serious about the amnesty being a one-time thing and the border would have to be tightened up in a serious way first. Hanson takes seriously the need to assimilate immigrants in a way that few other commentators have. If you haven’t looked as his work on this subject, you should. As I recall, he also had a great essay published on this subject awhile ago in Hillsdale College’s Imprimis.

Update: Yes, he did. Here it is.

Murdoch and Hillary

This from Drudge: Ruport Murdoch, has agreed to host a political fundraiser for Hillary Clinton this summer. "Murdoch’s surprise decision to raise money for Clinton in July, on behalf of NEWS CORP., parent company of FOXNEWS and the NEW YORK POST, underlines a dramatic turn of relations between Murdoch and Clinton, who in 1998 coined the phrase “vast rightwing conspiracy” to denounce critics of her husband.

Some say the move by Murdoch reflects approval of her Senate career, notes FT’s Caroline Daniel. Others point to Murdoch’s record for picking future national leaders. Last century, he threw over the British conservatism he’d long supported to back longshot Tony Blair." Also this from CBS News. But, also note this from Markos Moulitsas.

Barone on the politics of immigration

Michael Barone thinks that the time may be ripe for an omnibus immigration measure. I hope he’s right, else more coyotes will be saying "God bless America".

Gay marriage and education in Masachusetts

I missed this article a few days ago. My favorite snippet:

Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network said gay families exist everywhere _ the only thing different about Massachusetts is that same-sex marriage makes it much harder to push them aside. Public schools must acknowledge gay families, she said, even if it upsets parents who believe same-sex relationships are immoral.

"One of the basic realities of American life," she said, "is that all of us have to deal with beliefs we disagree with."

Does that mean that it’s O.K. to criticize gay marriage and homosexuality in school settings? Or does the need to be tolerant only apply to those with whom you disagree, as the 9th Circuit held recently?

Digital lynch mobs

The WaPo’s Richard Cohen didn’t think Steve Colbert was funny. He received thousands of emails disagreeing with him.

Usually, the subject line said it all. Some were friendly and agreed that Colbert had not been funny. Most, though, were in what we shall call disagreement. Fine. I said the man wasn’t funny and not funny has a bullying quality to it; others (including some of my friends) said he was funny. But because I held such a view, my attentive critics were convinced I had a political agenda. I was -- as was most of the press, I found out -- George W. Bush’s lap dog. If this is the case, Bush had better check his lap.

It seemed that most of my correspondents had been egged on to write me by various blogs. In response, they smartly assembled into a digital lynch mob and went roaring after me. If I did not like Colbert, I must like Bush. If I write for The Post, I must be a mainstream media warmonger. If I was over a certain age -- which I am -- I am simply out of it, wherever "it" may be. All in all, I was -- I am, and I guess I remain -- the worthy object of ignorant, false and downright idiotic vituperation.

Beyond deciding that he’s unlikely to read much more of the email he gets from interested readers, Cohen has another thought:

This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That’s when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

Could Karl Rove really be that clever?

How’s This for Service?

Joe asks, I answer.

I have dispatched the following urgent letter by Western Union telegraph to the BEPE (Best Ex-President Ever):

Dear President Carter:

Even though I don’t care for you very much, and even wrote a critical book about your political career, good manners and a sense of decency compel me to bring to your attention that someone is trying to besmirch your hard-earned reputation as a man of piece by publishing drivel under your byline in the International Herald Tribune.

The person purporting to be "Jimmy Carter" suggests that the good people of Hamas are really as cuddly and peace-loving as Howard Dean, if only we’d be reasonable. in this day of hightened copyright protection and intellectual property rights, you should immediately seek a cease-and-desist order against this clever impostor. Even though his style is very good and a great imitation of your previous articles, I saw through it immediately! (It is probably your pal Little Assad, on a bender in Damascus.) But others might take it seriously. You wouldn’t want that!

Your servant,
Steven Hayward

Where’s Steve Hayward when you need him?

Jon Schaff links to this VC post, which links to this op-ed by Jimmy Carter. I’m speechless too.

Steyn on the Coalition of the Thinking About It

Mark Steyn has a devastating piece today in The Australian on the equivocation of the Left on the situation in Darfur. He applauds George Clooney and other Hollywood celebs for taking on the cause--if they are serious. But then he considers what seriousness on the subject must mean and concludes that their seriousness is, of course, to be doubted. No doubt they seriously wish for a change in Darfur. No doubt their hearts are in the right place and, I for one, give them credit for at least getting the story on the front pages (albeit somewhat late). But how to get beyond informing people of the problem? The usual "multinational" coalition of forces that they call for is not going to materialize, Steyn argues. These things always boil down to exactly what they boiled down to in Iraq--the "Anglosphere" as he calls it. And Hollywood types can’t be expected to support that! God help the people of the Sudan while this "debate" rages.

Economists Are from Mars. . .

. . . and this proves it.

Hillary’s Headache

Over at Real Clear Politics, John McIntrye offers the argument that’s been rolling around in my mind for a while a slightly different form. If’ I’m Hillary Clinton, the last thing I want is for Democrats to take over the House or Senate this fall. Better to be able to run against total Republican control in 2008, than with Speaker Pelosi at your side. (BTW, did anyone see Pelosi’s performance with Russert on MTP yesterday? If anyone ever needed the hook more desperately. . .)

Anyway, here’s McIntyre’s conclusion:

While it may not be the best thing for the Bush administration, a Democratic takeover of the House would likely be a huge assist to the overall Republican campaign in 2008. It would deprive Democrats of the very powerful campaign message that after eight years of near total GOP control it was time for a change. It would also put Speaker Pelosi and committee Chairmen like Rangel, Waxman and Conyers front and center for public view. More than anything else in 2006, a Democratic take over of the House would change the dynamic of the 2008 race and, ironically, would probably be good news for Republicans.

Gay rights vs. religious liberty

Maggie Gallagher has looked at the future of religious liberty, should gay marriage, and the attitudes supporting it, become the norm. None of the people with whom she spoke think that religious liberty will have an easy time surviving. And she wasn’t speaking with opponents of gay marriage, religious conservatives, or enemies of religious liberty.

You can find draft versions of the papers whose authors she interviews here.

November in May

Congressional Republicans seem to want to run on local issues this fall. The White House thinks it can win with a national campaign. At the moment, I think the former is a counsel of despair, and that the latter depends upon the Democrats continuing to be Democrats. If the Democrats were credible on national security (they’re not yet, and haven’t been in quite some time) and moderate on some cultural issues, the Republicans would be staring minority status in the face.

If you favor "structural" explanations of recent Republican electoral successes, you’ll like this.

McCain and Falwell reconciliation

Byron York on McCain and Falwell. Very much worth reading.   

They’re running on this, and away from this?

I too read the WaPo article Peter noted here. Did you notice that there’s nothing about immigration in this article? Does that mean they’re not going to say anything coherent about it during the election campaign? Given the salience of the issue and the unlikelihood that it will be resolved by November, this seems like a big opening through which the Republicans can drive, assuming that they can find their own voice on this question.

BTW, my excuse for light blogging this weekend was that we were finally able to find a moment to shed dog (kennel) and kids (Oma and Opa) and get away to Asheville, N.C., which seems like a little bit of Berkeley beautifully situated in a sea of Billy Graham. We arrived just after Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga were here signing their book (there seemed to be lots left; story here) and left just before Bob Dylan (and Merle Haggard) played the civic center.

Our favorite discoveries were this chocolate store, which by itself almost makes Asheville a destination, and this restaurant. We tried to extend our crunchy streak at a local winery run by Waldensians, but found the wines not to our taste.

Remembering the great Clemente

George Will praises David Maraniss’ Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero. I saw the Giants play the Rockies (with John Abramson) in Denver a few weeks ago, and the fans had nothing but contempt and boos for Barry Bonds. Clemente was never booed. He was great, and everyone knew it.

Rousseau’s Terror

David Gilmour has a fine review of two books on the French Revolution, the Terror, and Maximilien Robespierre. The books are imperfect, but the review is not. Everything Gilmour says about the Revolution is true, albeit brief. The real motor of the revolution was violence, and if there was any "ideology" in it, it stemmed from Rousseau. His concluding lines: "In fact the Revolution was the fount and origin not of our world but of the totalitarian era, an inspiration to future dictators who could adopt Rousseau’s theory of the General Will as an excuse to avoid democracy and who could label their opponents counterrevolutionaries as an excuse to murder them without trial."

Early intensity and Ohio politics

Adam Nagurney & Ian Urbina write a front-page New York Times piece on politics in Ohio, "the most contested political battleground in the nation." This is worth reading because while it wants to show the optimism (or hope) for the Dems, it ends up pointing to the unlikelyhood of any Democratic gains. Ohio is supposed to present the Dems with "their best opportunity this year," but then they have Sherrod Brown running against Sen. DeWine. The problem is that Brown is very liberal and he will define all the Dems in the state for November (even Strickland, who is slightly less liberal, will be defined by Brown). Note Brown’s comments near the end of the article where he is foreshadowing his campaign themes: gas prices, oil and pharmaceutical companies set policy under GOP rule, and then there is the loss of manufacturing jobs, not enough people have health care insurance, etc. Quite predictable stuff, and without rhetorical effect. This will not do. What the Dems are really counting on is that Blackwell will self-destruct; but he will not, and they will lose because they cannot understand Blackwell’s appeal. I look forward to Nagurney’s front page article in November trying to explain why the Dems lost. A Washington Post article notes that the Dems are "confident" of winning back the U.S. House, and are making plans, both on policy (first thing they would do is raise the minimum wage!) and investigations of the White House. I do hope Pelosi, et al, continue to emphasize the latter possibility (the "power to investigate," as Pelosi notes it) because that is in the GOP’s interest.

Atlanta in the history of American conservatism

If you’re a Weekly Standard subscriber, you can read my review of this book on "Atlanta and the making of modern conservatism" here.

If you want to learn about the history of modern conservatism, don’t read the book. If you haven’t yet had your fill of books on post-World War II Atlanta politics, there are a few things you might learn. If you get your jollies reading about how conservatism is really just racism, and aren’t too particular about solid evidence and argumentation, by all means, buy the book.

Update: The folks at The Weekly Standard were kind enough to make the review available to the general public here.